Wade broke out of the IOI headquarters and used an OASIS rig he had sent to a post office box to notify Art3mis, Shoto, and Aech to meet him in the Basement as soon as possible. He bought himself defense technology to use in the real world and made his way to a private OASIS bay. He uploaded all of the information he stole from IOI. He emailed all the news sources a detailed account of how the IOI had tried to kill him, how they had killed Daito, and the plans they made to attack Art3mis and Shoto as well. He also released the video footage of his original meeting with Sorrento at IOI.
Wade then entered Aech’s chatroom. Art3mis, Aech, and Shoto were already logged on, waiting for him. He caught them up on everything he had learned about the Sixers' operation so far. Wade then let them in on the rest of his plan. Because of a bomb he left behind in the IOI system, the shield would drop in 36 hours. When the shield fell, they would be ready with every available gunter to fight against the Sixers and make their way to the Third Gate. Wade read them the draft of the email he planned to send every to citizen that night, which invited them to fight alongside them at 12 noon.
They began to stress about the fact that they were all on the run, in public terminals, and that this is no situation to be in when picking a fight against an entity like the Sixers. Behind them, the voice of Ogden Morrow rang out: “I think I might be able to help you guys out” (312). Morrow revealed that he had been eavesdropping on the four of them for quite some time. He offered them his home in Oregon as a base as they worked to put in motion the last stages of their plan. Aech would pick up Wade in Columbus and drive them both to Morrow’s home.
When Aech picked up Wade, Wade learned why Aech had been so secretive about his identity. He learned that while Aech’s avatar was a white boy similar to himself, Aech in real life was black and fat. She told Wade her real name was Helen Harris, and that she had been kicked out of her parents' home a few years earlier for being gay. Wade felt as though they were as good friends as ever. They arrived at Morrow's and he brought them into his immersion room, where he set them up with OASIS rigs.
In the OASIS, Wade accessed the Leopardon robot he had won in the Second Gate and traveled in it to Anorak’s castle. As he approached the planet, he saw that a large number of ships had answered his call, although he did not yet know whether these gunters were there to participate or merely to watch. In the area around the castle, a “concentrated, pulsing mass of ships and avatars covered the ground and filled the air” (329). Although the Sixer army was large, it seemed to be outmatched by the multitude of gunters that had arrived.
At the gate of the castle, Wade reminded his companions they would have to wait until noon for the shield to drop. At six minutes to noon, Sorrento emerged from the castle. He and ten Sixers activated the robots they had won from the Second Gate. At noon, the program Wade had left behind inside of IOI worked, and the shield dropped.
Morrow’s superuser access to the entire simulation, a perk he gained during the early days of the OASIS and his partnership with Halliday, could have turned the contest in the favor of non-IOI gunters much earlier. Although Morrow had been almost as powerful as Halliday, and although he had been openly anti-IOI in the past, he had refrained from participating in the Contest up to this point. He revealed that he had promised Halliday before he died that he would “do everything I could to protect the spirit and integrity of his contest” (314).
Morrow’s offer gave the four gunters an opportunity they had never expected: to meet each other in person for the first time. All four must face the fact that they looked nothing like their avatars in OASIS, and meeting these friends implied a new kind of honesty about who they were. The walls of the OASIS that separated the virtual world from reality finally seemed to be tumbling down. These characters who spent almost their entire lives, as different characters suddenly had to face who they were in the real world.
As Wade came to realize about Aech, even though he never knew the base elements of her identity, including her race, age, and gender, he knew the other parts of his friend well. He realizes that their friendship was as valid as it could have been, that they’d “known each other for years, in the most intimate way possible” (321). For Wade, this connection is infinitely more important than anything else, that he “understood her, trusted her, and loved her as a dear friend,” and none of that “could be changed by anything as inconsequential as her gender, or skin color, or sexual orientation” (321).
Art3mis thought it would be best to postpone their meeting until after the fight, so as not to distract each other. As Wade approached Anorak’s castle, he thought that it was fortunate that they finally got to meet in real life, and that no matter what happened in the game, she would be there to meet after it was finished. This caused Wade to feel a sense of calm, as “everything I’d risked had already been worth it” (329).