The next day, Aech placed third on the Scoreboard, and two other names, Shoto and Daito, appeared beneath his. Wade puzzled over his new clue for a number of days. At this time, he accepted a number of promotional offers, which would pay him for his endorsement of different products. He accepted all of these on the condition that his identity stayed private. Wade also received 5,000 propositions from the Sixers and IOI, offering a “highly lucrative business proposition” (132). Within the message came the warning: “Please be aware that if you choose not to accept our proposal, we intend to approach each of your competitors” (132). Wade decided that he would take the meeting for an opportunity to meet the leadership of the Sixers and turn them down in person.
The meeting took place through chatlink, which took Wade to a massive IOI waiting room where he was to meet with Nolan Sorrento, the Head of Operations for IOI. Wade refused to shake Sorrento’s hand, and the avatar led him to another room, where they boarded a ship and headed towards IOI-1, “the Sixer homeworld” (135). Wade received his offer from Sorrento: IOI wanted to recruit him as a consultant.
Wade turned down the offer. Sorrento’s next offer was five million dollars to give them a walkthrough of the First Gate, but Wade refused to sell out to the Sixers. So, Sorrento threatened Wade by exposing his real identity to the world. He threatened to blow up his aunt’s trailer and kill everyone inside.
Wade said no and logged off. From his hideout, he heard the explosion when it hit. Wade, in shock and grief, logged back on to Ludus in order to contact Aech. They agreed to hold a meeting with all five of the top gunters at the time in Aech’s chatroom that night. Art3mis decided they should be called the “High Five” (151).
As they met, the Sixers began to swarm Ludus. They put up a barricade in front of the entrance to the tunnel, blocking anyone from entering behind them. Wade knew from his visit with IOI that the company had a high ability to cheat. They realized that if the Sixers beat them to the second key, they would barricade that one as well, and then they would have just as well as won the game.
The Scoreboard began to fill up with the names of Sixers. The list expanded to accommodate new names, and within days, the board was full of hundreds of names. Some gunter clans attacked the Sixer’s forcefields, many lost their lives to the Lich, but many others were able to enter the tomb and place on the Scoreboard as well. Wade looked for news of the aftermath of the explosion in the stacks. His family did not survive. IOI planted drug equipment in the home before it exploded, so the police quickly considered it an open-and-shut case.
Wade traveled to Columbus, Ohio. On the way, he created a new identity: Bryce Lynch. With his new money, he was able to access a hacker site through which he erased himself from the database. He also rented himself a new apartment in Columbus. He vowed to abandon the real world altogether until he found the egg.
In these chapters, the reader gains more information about the massively dangerous force that is the IOI. Their headquarters were massive and luxe, and it was clear in Sorrento’s meeting with Wade that they wanted to give him an impression of wealth and power. Sorrento was a dangerous man, but his manners with Wade were cordial and polite. Wade had a significant amount of power at this point, which meant that he was given access to this company and its facilities, access that no one like him had ever gained before. Wade also gained insight into how IOI thought of itself: namely, that it wasn't evil, and that it held the same goal as many of the Sixers. Wade didn’t buy it. When Sorrento asserted that they intended to make OASIS a better place, Wade thought instead that IOI wished to turn the OASIS into “a fascist corporate theme park where the few people who can still afford the price of admission no longer have an ounce of freedom” (139).
When Sorrento threatened Wade’s life, his physical safety was in jeopardy for the first time. This broke the illusion of anonymity and immortality in his avatar and brought every dangerous implication of the OASIS into view. Wade had always known that the OASIS was more than a game, but it can be argued that this is the first moment he realized that the IOI was also more serious than it looked. It was massive, powerful, and did not play according to the same rules as everyone else in the OASIS. IOI believed Wade was powerless against them, living “in some ghetto-trash rat warren in Oklahoma City” (143). This is a crucial eye-opening moment for Wade, and he realized: “IOI had actually tried to kill me. To prevent me from winning a videogame contest. It was insane” (147).
In the days following the explosion, IOI avoided blame for the murder of innocent people by framing the deaths on the explosion of a meth lab. As soon as the cops found the planted drug paraphernalia, they “didn’t bother to investigate any further” (162). This passage demonstrates how little the state regarded poor people in this dystopian future. In a society ruled by companies like the IOI, the common person has less access to basic human rights, such as the right to security and justice under the law.
As Wade traveled to Columbus, he would spend portions of the ride with his visor off, watching the American landscape. His view was not a beautiful one: “the view was perpetually bleak, and each decaying, overcrowded city we rolled through looked just like that last” (164). In contrast to the rest of the city, Columbus is still a prosperous place: “We arrived around sunset, and already there were more electric lights burning in the city than I’d ever seen at one time” (165). This is because Columbus was where the IOI headquarters were, so the city had the best internet speeds in the country. It was command central for gunters and Sixers alike.