Through the chatlink session, Wade appears on a grand observation deck on IOI-1, the planet that serves as IOI headquarters. Chatlink sessions allow an avatar to appear in limited form in a different location and interact with their surroundings, and are mostly used to conduct business. Wade is greeted by a receptionist seated at a desk emblazoned with IOI’s logo. While he waits for Sorrento, Wade tries to turn on his vidfeed recorder, but it is disabled. Sorrento appears and introduces himself, telling Wade it is an honor to meet him. Wade responds in a skeptical and aloof manner.
IOI are putting on a show of kindly welcoming Wade. However, Wade is clearly skeptical of this show of good faith. The fact that IOI have stopped him from recording the chatlink session arguably confirms that there may be darker motives lurking beneath their supposedly friendly and generous gesture.
Wade believes he is the first gunter to be given a tour of IOI-1. Gunters have dreamed of blowing it up before, but have never been able to get past the planet’s defense systems. Wade asks if the OASIS version of IOI’s headquarters is a replica of the real headquarters in Columbus, and Sorrento confirms that this is true. IOI is based in Columbus because it has a better power system that doesn’t suffer blackouts like other US cities. GSS is based in Columbus too, and for this reason the city has become a “high-tech Mecca.”
There is something unlikely and humorous about the fact that in this imagined version of the future, Columbus, Ohio is the “high-tech Mecca” in which superrich corporations choose to base themselves. Indeed, the seemingly arbitrary status of Columbus is testament to the enormous impact of Halliday’s legacy on the world, as it was Halliday who chose to base GSS in his home state.
Sorrento brings up Wade’s newfound fame, and Wade tells him to get to the point, pretending not to be intimidated. Sorrento brings Wade to the Oology Division, which Wade sarcastically calls “Sux0rz Central.” When Wade points out that IOI’s tactics for finding the egg are “cheating,” Sorrento disagrees, saying the hunt has no rules and calling Halliday an “old fool.” Sorrento then offers Wade the position of “Chief Oologist,” Sorrento’s second-in-command. The position comes with a million-dollar-a-year salary, with an extra million bonus to start and a $25 million bonus if Wade finds the egg.
Rather than pretending to be older and wiser than his years during his meeting with Sorrento, Wade chooses the opposite route—embracing his own childishness and behaving in a rude, mischievous way. This helps him mask his own intimidation and undermines Sorrento by refusing to take him, his offer, and IOI seriously.
Wade asks if he can have a few days to consider, but Sorrento refuses. Sorrento gives a long speech disputing the negative impression gunters have of IOI. He argues that, contrary to popular belief, IOI wants to “make the OASIS a better place.” Wade agrees, but asks for $50 million if he finds the egg and says that he wants Sorrento’s job, Chief of Operation. He continues that Sorrento gives him “the creeps” and that he wants him fired. After a moment, Sorrento tells Wade that his bosses have agreed to his demands and that they are willing to hire him immediately.
Sorrento’s claim that IOI wants to “make the OASIS a better place” is a typical example of corporate doublespeak, as IOI’s plans for the OASIS are the opposite of making it a better place. Wade continues to antagonize Sorrento, leveraging his sudden position of power in order to undermine the power of Sorrento and, by extension, IOI.
Suddenly, Wade changes his mind and tells Sorrento and IOI to go “fuck a duck.” Sorrento gives him one final offer. When Wade refuses, Sorrento reveals that IOI knows Wade’s real name, his birthday, and his location. He then explains that IOI has been spying on Wade and that they have wired Aunt Alice’s trailer with explosives. If Wade leaves the chatlink session, Sorrento will press the detonator and Wade and his family will die. Sorrento explains that he learned this information through Wade’s OASIS school record. Wade considers for a moment, reflecting that IOI has no reason to keep him alive after he helps them win, and that they might be bluffing. He tells Sorrento that Halliday was “smarter than all of you put together” and that IOI will not win. Then he logs out.
This passage is a perfect example of the precariously thin line between courage and foolishness. Faced with the terrifying extent of IOI’s power and the real, life-and-death stakes of its impact, Wade stays calm enough to realize that he might as well risk death, seeing as the company has no reason to keep him alive anyway. Of course, his decision-making process may well have been different if his relationship with Aunt Alice was closer; in this sense, Wade’s isolation proves to be an advantage.
Wade sits in his hideout. At first nothing happens, but after a minute he hears a massive explosion, and sees that the stack containing Aunt Alice’s trailer has collapsed, bringing the adjacent stacks down with it. With horror, Wade realizes that Aunt Alice, Rick, Mrs. Gilmore, and everyone who lived in Aunt Alice’s trailer are now dead. He considers calling the police within the OASIS, but realizes that no one would believe him. He decides to “lay low” until his first endorsement check comes through and then flee. First, he needs to warn Aech.
This is a major turning point in the novel. Suddenly, it becomes clear that IOI are not only willing to kill Wade’s avatar in order to win the hunt, but also Wade himself. Furthermore, despite the difficulties in his relationship with Aunt Alice, she and his neighbors were the only people Wade knew in real life. Thanks to IOI they are dead, and he is now more alone than ever.