In the tomb, Wade found thousands of coins that he was able to collect and transfer into credit, which not only provided him with more credit than he had ever had but also many experience points. Wade also obtained many magical items from the tomb that he was able to add to his inventory. But not everything was going to be so easy. As he entered the throne room—supposedly empty according to the module—he encountered the Lich, who was sitting on the throne and glaring at him. Because of a suspicion that the Lich was hiding the Copper Key, Wade approached the undead being.
The Lich suggested a joust, which frightened Wade until he realized that the being wanted to joust with him through an old videogame from 1982. It was one of the many that Wade had studied obsessively, and although he lost the first game, he won the second two after asking to play on the left side instead of the right. Upon losing, the Lich endowed Wade with the Copper Key. Immediately, he rose to a level ten and gained fifty thousand experience points.
When Wade read the clue on the Copper Key, he immediately understood its meaning. The clue, “What you seek lies hidden in the trash on the deepest level of Daggorath,” pointed Wade to Halliday’s childhood home (84). The "trash" referenced the first kind of computer Halliday got as a kid, and Daggorath referenced a game that was created only for that platform. In OASIS’s early days, Halliday built a planet that included a multitude of replicas of his childhood home. Wade was sure that the first gate would be hidden inside the game in Halliday’s childhood home.
On his way out of the temple, Wade was interrupted by another avatar. It was Art3mis, his cyber-crush. Art3mis revealed that she had been returning to the tomb nightly to try to beat the Lich at Joust, but that she had been unsuccessful for the past five weeks. They flirted and exchanged calling cards. Wade tried to conceal the fact that he had just won the Copper Key, but his refusal to stay behind and strategize with her tipped her off. She pulled up the Scoreboard and for the first time, Wade saw his name, the only name on the board, at the top. He had a score of 10,000 points. Wade checked the news and realized that he had just become famous.
In response, Art3mis trapped Wade in the tomb until midnight. At midnight the tomb would reset and he would have to fight his way back out. This would ensure that if she won the game that night she would be close behind him in search of the First Gate. Art3mis then warned Wade of the implications of his newfound fame, that he would reignite a public obsession with the Hunt, and that his life itself was now in danger.
Wade made his way toward Halliday’s home planet, Middletown. As he arrived, trumpeting and a change in the Scoreboard announced Art3mis’ victory against the Lich. She was close behind. Wade entered Halliday’s childhood bedroom and found the console where he expected it would be. He played Dungeons of Daggarath for a long time until the layers between reality and this game-within-a-game slipped away. He won the game and opened the First Gate. It opened to an endless field of stars, into which Wade dived.
He found himself immersed inside of the world of the movie WarGames, playing the main character, David Lightman. The game was to act out the movie as accurately as possible, staying true to the original character’s lines and movements. The movie-turned-interactive-simulation awarded Wade points for every action done according to the original. Once he passed this challenge, Wade received his next clue: “The captain conceals the Jade Key in a dwelling long neglected / But you can only blow the whistle once the trophies are all collected” (112).
Wade reappeared in Halliday’s room. His new score was 110,000 points, and a gate icon appeared next to his name. He went home to sleep, and he slept for so long that he missed school entirely. He checked the Scoreboard and saw that Art3mis had been able to pass the first gate as well. Ogden Morrow appeared on an interview in order to warn both Wade and Art3mis to stay anonymous, lest they be discovered and exploited by Sixers working for IOI. Wade called Aech, who was extremely excited about the developments. Aech revealed that he had realized that the key must be on Ludus, and that he had found the tomb. Wade hinted that he should work on his jousting skills before the tomb reset at midnight. They decided to meet in the Basement to talk once Aech cleared the first gate.
At the beginning of this quest, Wade came across a significant amount of resources that would be able to positively affect the rest of his endeavors. In many ways, this levels the playing field which had been biased against him thus far, and by finding these items Wade was propelled into a league much more competitive than the one in which he had previously been. What was notable about these goods was that they were won with few setbacks. With his module in hand, Wade knew where to benefit and what to avoid. In many ways, by reaching the tomb, Wade had already advanced significantly even before obtaining the Copper Key.
When Wade was playing Joust against the Lich, it occurred to him that he was actually playing against Halliday himself. This thought threatened to be distracting to him, so he abandoned it in order to focus. It offered an interesting perspective on the nature of Halliday’s contest and suggested that to win the competition, one must be better than Halliday himself.
Wade’s interaction with Art3mis brought the narrative out of the character’s head. Although Art3mis’ avatar was as virtual as his own, it was programmed to follow her natural expressions closely. She seemed to be a symbol of human connection in a completely artificial world. Art3mis was the one who suggested that they work together, and who also attempted to heal Wade after his alleged failure against the Lich. The characters established that they can be both competitors and friends. These actions inspired Wade to share that it helped him to play on the left side (as player one) rather than the right. Although Wade had the upper hand on Art3mis, she was able to turn the situation on him and make sure that she kept close behind. She lacked Wade’s raw skill, but she was equally as intelligent and driven as our protagonist. This interaction lied the foundation for a key relationship in the game, borne from rivalry but due to blossom into something that transcended the borders of OASIS itself.
Before he left the tomb, Art3mis and Wade discussed what they would do with the money if they won it. Wade confided in Art3mis that he dreamed of building a ship on which he would place a sampling of humanity and “get out of Dodge”—abandon the dying earth. Art3mis condemned this idea and told Wade that she would use the money to feed the billions of starving people in the world. These passages remind the reader of the dire state of the world, and also emphasize how important it is for a person with good intentions to win Halliday’s massive prize.
In Middletown, Wade wondered why Halliday spent so much effort memorializing a childhood that he claimed to hate so much: “I knew that if and when I finally escaped from the stacks, I’d never look back” (103). This passage is key because it highlighted how little Wade could appreciate his situation from within it. Wade at this time believed that there were good things and bad things, and little in-between. He was not ready to forgive his childhood or to appreciate any part of it—except, that is, his time spent in the OASIS.