Wade sleeps for 12 hours, missing school. He wakes up to find that Art3mis has also cleared the first gate, although she remains 1,000 points behind him. He hears news commentators speculate that he and Art3mis are working together as members of the same gunter clan. The news program then interviews Ogden Morrow at his home in Oregon. Morrow says that it is exciting to finally see avatars on the Scoreboard, and if Parzival and Art3mis are smart they will keep their real identities secret. He adds that the Sixers will likely “use every dirty trick at their disposal” to find the Copper Key and First Gate.
We don’t yet know much about Ogden Morrow or his relationship to the hunt. However, his brief comments to the news channel indicate that he is on Wade and Art3mis’ side—at least insofar as they are positioned against the Sixers. Although Morrow doesn’t address Wade and Art3mis directly, his comment about keeping their identities secret is a subtle, indirect form of advice.
Wade smiles as he realizes that Morrow knows more about the hunt than has been widely assumed. In the mid-1990s, Morrow moved in with his high school girlfriend Kira Underwood, a “quintessential geek girl,” who gave Halliday the nickname Anorak. Kira was one of GSS’s first employees, although after marrying Morrow she resigned from her position as an artistic director. Five years later Morrow resigned too, later writing in his autobiography that he was disturbed OASIS had gone from being a game to a “self-imposed prison.” There were rumors that Morrow and Halliday had big argument at this time and that their friendship was subsequently over.
Morrow’s life story begins in a rather utopian manner. He gets together with the “quintessential geek girl,” works as a videogame designer with his best friend, and achieves huge success at a young age. However, as this passage makes clear, this story also has a darker edge. Unlike Halliday, Morrow was skeptical about whether the OASIS truly had a positive effect on society, and felt that the simulation was more dystopian than utopian.
Morrow and Kira founded a software company called Halcydonia Interactive, which produced free educational games for children. In 2034, Kira died in a car accident, and Morrow led a private life, running Halcydonia Interactive alone. When Halliday died, reporters hassled Morrow, convinced that he had information about the Easter egg hunt. Morrow claimed that he and Halliday had fallen out, although the fact that Halliday left Morrow his collection of coin-operated videogames seemed to contradict this. Morrow said he didn’t know about the hunt, and that he thought Halliday had designed it because he wanted people to share his obsessions.
This passage further illustrates the tragedy that came to color Morrow’s life. The two people he was closest two are now dead, leaving him alone and isolated. Furthermore, he must deal with aggressive attention from people who hope to use him in order to learn more about Halliday’s hunt. This information suggests that it is little wonder Morrow retreated into obscurity.
Wade has received 2 million emails since clearing the First Gate, but only two are from his contacts: one from Aech, and one from Art3mis. Aech insists that Wade call him immediately, which Wade does. Aech exclaims: “Congratu-freak’-lations, man!” He then reveals that he is outside the Tomb of Horrors himself, having figured out that the Copper Key was probably on Ludus. Aech asks for tips and Wade refuses to give any; Aech smiles in response, unsurprised. Aech warns Wade that I-r0k has been telling people that Parzival is a student on Ludus. Wade wishes Aech luck, and before hanging up, advises him to practice his jousting skills.
This passage proves that Wade and Aech have a deep, genuine friendship. It would be easy to imagine Aech being jealous and angry at Wade for having passed the First Gate, particularly considering Wade did it without telling Aech first. However, instead Aech warmly congratulates his friend. Once again, readers see the difficulty in balancing friendship and rivalry as Wade at first refuses to give Aech any tips; the fact that he eventually does is further testament to the importance of their friendship.
Wade then opens the email from Art3mis. She thanks him for the tip and says it was “an honor” to meet him. However, she adds a PS warning that he won’t be in the top spot for long. Wade replies that she now owes him a favor, adding a winking face, and tells her that he thinks he’s figured out the next clue already. He offers to hang out in a chat room if she ever feels like it. After sending the email, Wade tries to concentrate on the Jade Key clue, but he cannot stop thinking about Art3mis.
Wade and Art3mis’ relationship has moved quickly from acquaintanceship to rivalry to flirtation, with the possibility of friendship still hanging uncertainly in the air. While Wade clearly enjoys their dynamic, the fact that he is so distracted by her arguably does not bode well for his future success in the hunt.