Wade sends a request to the Oology Division for a “very specific item” to be delivered in two days’ time. He disables his security anklet and earpiece, then logs out of the IOI intranet. He retrieves a vacuum-packed IOI maintenance-tech uniform and puts it on. Telling his earpiece that he needs to use the bathroom, he enters an elevator and requests the lobby. As he is going down, he thinks about Sorrento and the other Sixers watching scrutinizing the security camera footage in the wake of his escape. He looks directly at the security camera, smiles, and gives the finger.
Wade’s behavior in this passage is remarkable considering that up until recently, he spent most of his time inside the OASIS and thus all his adventures and rebellions were confined to the virtual realm. Wade’s ability to escape IOI headquarters suggests that the skills he gained in the OASIS can be transferred to physical reality.
Wade exits the lobby tensely, hoping that no one will notice he is still wearing the indents’ plastic slippers. A woman touches his shoulder and points out that his ear is bleeding profusely. He thanks her and keeps walking outside. Outside in the fresh air, Wade drops his security anklet in the trash. Before his arrest, Wade rented a mailbox at an outlet four blocks away from IOI Plaza and had an OASIS rig shipped to it. He logs into the OASIS for the first time in eight days—a personal record.
This is a triumphant moment for Wade. It is the longest time he has ever spent outside the OASIS, and in this period he has proven that he is ingenious, courageous, and quick on his feet. However, it remains to be seen whether this ingenuity will translate into success when he returns to the OASIS to complete the hunt.
Art3mis, Aech, and Shoto have all written to ask Wade where he is. Wade replies to Art3mis first, warning her about the Sixers’ plan to abduct her. He tells her to leave for a safe place immediately, adding that he thinks she is “even more beautiful in real life.” He sends similar emails to Aech and Shoto. Soon after, he sees that IOI have already reported Bryce Lynch as a missing indent. Wade erases everything to do with the Bryce Lynch identity and puts his own fingerprints and retinal scans back on his citizen profile. He hails an autocab and is relieved when his thumbprint brings up the identity Wade Watts instead of Bryce Lynch.
On top of his other skills, Wade also appears to have gained a new charisma in the way he communicates with Art3mis. Perhaps now that he has the confidence of someone who can pull off major rebellions in real life as well as in the OASIS, he is more certain of his ability to woo Art3mis and regain her respect.
The autocab pulls up to a clothing store called Thr3ads. Wade purchases clothing that are wired for connection to the OASIS, along with outerwear, as he is freezing. Afterward, he purchases a flak jacket, a gun, bullets, and a can of mace. It is the first time Wade has ever touched a real gun. Finally, Wade heads to an OASIS parlor called the Plug, which he chooses because it is not owned by IOI. He asks to hire a deluxe rig for 12 hours. The cashier warns him that if he leaves vomit, urine, or semen in the bay he won’t get his deposit back. Wade enters the bay and inserts the data drive into the computer slot. He awakens Max and tells him they have “a lot of work to do.”
The Plug may not be the ideal location for Wade to reenter the OASIS, but luckily—as the book has shown us so far—people’s real-life surroundings hardly matter once they are inside the simulation. Furthermore, it is arguably safer now for Wade to be in an anonymous booth at a public OASIS access point that in his apartment, given how desperate the Sixers will be to. hunt him down and kill him.
Wade emails every major news channel with evidence of how IOI killed Daito and attempted to kill Wade. He also attaches the memo ordering the abduction of Art3mis and Shoto, and a text transcription of his conversation with Sorrento, although he blacks out his own name. He then drafts an email to every OASIS user, but doesn’t send it yet. Finally, he logs into the Basement, where Aech, Art3mis, and Shoto are waiting.
Whereas before it was imperative that Wade maintained his privacy, at this point he chooses to leverage his fame and influence in order to bring IOI and Sorrento to justice. At the same time, Wade is still careful to keep his own identity secret—understandable given the kind of scrutiny he will soon be under.