Wade works in a cubicle inside the IOI’s Technical Support call center. He is not permitted to access any part of the OASIS except his work account on the IOI intranet. He addresses the needs of customers, and when he tries to respond to their queries with “You’re a complete fucking moron,” the software forbids it. There is no way Wade can distract himself during his shifts: the only things he can look at are the clock and the IOI stock ticker, which cannot be removed from view. He gets three five-minute bathroom breaks per day and one half-hour lunch break. He eats lunch alone at his desk, as he hates the other indents.
Once again, Wade’s situation at IOI hardly seems conducive to rebellion or success in the Easter egg hunt. If the IOI software is so restrictive that it controls what he says while working at the help desk, how is there any hope of Wade escaping his indenturement and returning to the Easter egg hunt inside the OASIS?
Wade regularly falls asleep during his shift, to the point that IOI have started giving him narcolepsy pills to keep him awake. He saves them and takes them after his shift has ended, when he is back in his sleep capsule. Wade turns away the security camera and recording devices on his body and in his capsule. Every night, he taps the entertainment screen to play Tommy Queue; however, he is not actually watching it, and nor is he sleeping. Instead, he has been surviving on only two hours of sleep per night.
The fact that Wade saves his narcolepsy pills and takes them after his shift ends is the first sign readers see of successful rebellion within his life in the indenturement center. Suddenly, it becomes clear that while Wade is making it seem as though he is passively giving into his life as an indent, in reality he is up to something quite different.
Seven months ago, Wade bought a set of IOI intranet passwords on the OASIS black market from a former IOI contract programmer. He hadn’t done anything with them until the Sixers installed the force field on Castle Anorak, at which point he’d hatched a plan to purposefully get himself indentured and infiltrate the IOI database. The plan’s potential to work relied on the fact that it was “clearly insane.” Wade logs into the IOI intranet using the passwords, which he’d memorized prior to his arrest. He spends his nights “digging deeper and deeper” into the IOI network until he reaches the Oology Division Database.
Here Wade’s plan finally comes to light. He has purposefully gotten himself indentured in order to utilize the IOI passwords he bought on the black market and hack into IOI’s database from the inside. Once again, Wade’s nerdiness and underdog status allow him to get a massive advantage. Furthermore, the fact that he is courageous enough to pull off a plan that is “clearly insane” comes from an absolute desperation to win.
Finally, the night comes when Wade is ready to explore the Oology database. He plans to download the data and smuggle it out with him when he escapes IOI headquarters. Most of the database is made up of information about Halliday, some of which Wade didn’t know existed. He copies vital information about the Sixers’ force field around Castle Anorak and the artifact they are using to generate it. Wade then finds the “jackpot”—recordings of the Sixers’ attempts to open the Third Gate. Although the Sixers have found the Gate, they cannot figure out how to open it; simply inserting the Crystal Key does not work.
Up until this point, Wade thought that he knew pretty much everything there was to know about Halliday. However, this passage serves as a reminder that no matter how much effort Wade put in personally, it is difficult to compete with the resources possessed by IOI. On the other hand, Wade is currently demonstrating qualities that the IOI can never hope to possess: moral principles, selflessness, and bravery.
While Wade waits for the information about the Third Gate to copy to his flash drive, he finds a folder called “Threat Assessments” featuring information about himself, Art3mis, Aech, Shoto, and Daito. He sees that after he fled to Columbus they lost track of him and that his current location is listed as “unknown.” Wade opens Art3mis’ folder, where he sees a picture of what she looks like in real life for the first time. She looks exactly like her avatar, except for the fact that in reality, a giant birthmark covers almost half of her face. Wade thinks that she looks even more beautiful in real life than in the OASIS. To his horror, he realizes that IOI have had her house under surveillance for months.
This is a moment at which the gulf between illusion and reality suddenly becomes smaller. Wade realizes that Art3mis looks just like her avatar, implying that—contrary to her claims—Wade perhaps does know the “real” Art3mis after all. On a darker note, IOI also know the “real” Art3mis, and have been spying on her for months. The implication of this is that her life, as well as the lives of Wade, Aech, and Shoto, are in immediate danger.
Both Shoto and Daito don’t look anything like their avatars. There is no photo and little information in Aech’s file, and Wade can tell that the name listed is fake. Daito’s file, meanwhile, contains a video of Daito being thrown to his death. Wade copies the information from all five files and then opens another folder called “Mission Status.” He reads a memo instructing Sixers to kidnap Art3mis and Shoto, force them to help the Sixers open the final gate, and then kill them. The memo was sent only five hours ago. Before his arrest Wade had arranged a timed transfer into his IOI credit account that would clear his debt; however, that transfer isn’t coming for another five days, and that will be too late. He must escape as soon as possible.
While Wade’s plan may have been ingenious, he didn’t account for the turn of events that have now presented themselves. Of all the top gunters, only Aech has successfully concealed his location and identity from IOI—all the others are known to the Sixers and thus could be killed at any minute. Wade no longer has any time to waste living his secret double life as an indent. He must escape immediately.