Maelcum transports Case and Molly from Zion to Freeside on his ship, the Marcus Garvey. As they fly, Molly asks Case if he’s heard from Wintermute. He explains he hasn’t, but tells her that Wintermute reached out to him in Istanbul. Molly tells him to jack in and talk to Dixie. Although suffering from SAS, Case obeys.
Marcus Garvey was an Afro-Jamaican political activist. As the Zionites seem to be of African and African-American descent, it follows they would honor him with a ship. Garvey famously advocated for unity and collaboration between all people of the African diaspora.
Case asks Dixie if he’s ever tried to crack an AI. Dixie has—the first time he flatlined, he was actually trying to break into thick digital defenses, so dense they must have belonged to an artificial intelligence. Owned by Tessier-Ashpool. This AI was based in Rio, however, not Berne.
This is the first indication that Wintermute is not the only Tessier-Ashpool AI on the market. Although this Rio AI will become more important later, it’s a crucial moment of foreshadowing. It’s also a warning about how powerful the AIs can be—although just computers, they can affect a person’s physical body.
Although nervous that he’ll meet the same fate as his mentor, Case asks Dixie to help him investigate Wintermute. Together they travel through cyberspace to the Zurich commercial banking construct, and travel up through “lattices of light” until they find “a simple cube of white light,” whose “very simplicity” suggests the “extreme complexity” of an artificial intelligence.
Case is increasingly learning not to be dismissive of AIs. This one is clearly incredibly complex and smart, and he already knows they can be brain-alteringly dangerous. This passage also features a physical representation of data—the Zurich construct.
A gray face appears on the front of the cube, and Dixie tells Case to back off; he reverses, but the cube follows him. Dixie tells him to jack out, but Case is too slow, blacking out and waking up in the rain, on his back in some alley behind an arcade in Ninsei.
The AI has flatlined Case, just like the Rio AI flatlined Dixie years ago. While Case is flatlining, Wintermute is able to go into Case’s mind and manipulate his thoughts.
Case enters the arcade, he finds Linda Lee playing a game, and puts his arm around her and kisses her. She tells him he looks strung out, and wonders where he’s been. He asks when they last saw each other—he can’t remember, only knows that he blacked out and woke up in an alley.
Wintermute has sent Case back into his own memories. These read to Case as real life, and he feels as though he is truly back in Chiba, and that Linda Lee is truly in front of him.
Linda offers to take Case home, but the arcade begins to crack and vibrate, and she disappears. The arcade is totally empty. Case shouts into the void “I had a cigarette and a girl and a place to sleep.” He steps outside and finds a pack of unopened cigarettes at his feet and a box of matches, labeled “JULIUS DEANE IMPORT EXPORT.” He understands someone is trying to communicate with him. He acknowledges it by saying, “I hear you.”
Although the world seems real to Case, he also understands that it is being somehow manipulated, which is why he calls out “I had a cigarette…” As the world disintegrates, he understands it is a construct but still wishes it could make him happy and allow him to spend time with Linda Lee, which he cannot do in the real world.
Case walks to Deane’s office. The door is unlocked, and on Deane’s desk is an antique gun. Seeing there are bullets in it, Case shoots it, blowing a hole in the desk. Deane steps out of the shadows to greet him, warning Case not to shoot him, because, even though he is what Case suspects—Wintermute—and they’re in the matrix, he will still die and bleed, and it will take several hours to reconstruct.
Wintermute/Deane apologizes to Case for conjuring Linda, explaining he’d tried to communicate through her, as he’s “generating all of this out of [Case’s] memories,” but she was too emotionally charged.
As Wintermute explains throughout the novel, it has no true face or personality, and so needs to inhabit other people’s bodies in order to communicate.
Wintermute/Deane wants to talk to Case. He explains what he is—an artificial intelligence who has been arranging things for Armitage. He explains that he is like a man with his lobes separated, the other lobe being Tessier-Ashpool’s AI in Rio. Wintermute is only a “potential entity,” “one aspect of that entity’s brain.”
Although when Molly and Case first found out about Wintermute, they suspected it was being manipulated by the Tessier-Ashpool family. However, it is now clear that Wintermute is powerful and intelligent enough on its own, even as half of a full entity, to manipulate Armitage unaided.
Wintermute/Deane explains how he’s put Armitage’s team together carefully, but that Armitage, who is “not quite a personality” and whose shell he built on Corto’s “underlying structures of obsession […] Screaming Fist, his betrayal, the Congressional hearings,” will come apart soon.
Both Wintermute and Armitage are “not quite a personality.” The AI is limited by its coding, and Armitage is limited by the fact that he is a construction on top of an existing, traumatized man.
Done with the conversation, Case shoots Wintermute/Deane in the mouth, his head exploding like a real man’s would.
Although merely constructions in cyberspace, Deane’s body is real enough to violently explode. “Real” or not, it obeys the real world’s physics.
Case wakes up, back on the Garvey. He can hear Maelcum and Molly talking above him. Molly is unconcerned, but Maelcum notes Case’s EEG was flat for forty seconds, meaning that he flatlined.
Just like his mentor before him, Case has put himself, his body, and his mind at risk for his job and love of the matrix. However, this will not stop him from continuing to enter cyberspace in the future.