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The Sixers initially try to blockade the planet, but are spread too thin and have to resort to setting up a bunker around ten of the identical locations on the south pole of Frobozz. Wade continues to ponder the clue but is interrupted when Sorrento moves to first place on the Scoreboard, having found and completed the Second Gate. Wade becomes desperate and tries to contact Aech, Art3mis, and Shoto, but no one answers.
Two days later, Sorrento has found the Crystal Key. Wade knows that the Sixers are now several steps closer to winning the contest than anyone else. Eventually the Scoreboard Top Ten are all Sixer accounts, as their avatars complete the Second Gate and acquire the Crystal Key. Wade thinks about how he might jump off the roof of his building if the Sixers win the contest. Shoto contacts Wade and says that he needs to visit Wade’s avatar in his stronghold. He says that he has something that Daito left him in his will. Wade is confused, as Shoto could hold all of Daito’s belongings until he created a new avatar, but Shoto says that Daito will not be creating a new avatar, and that he can only explain when they meet.
Shoto arrives at Wade’s stronghold and is visibly upset. Wade welcomes him inside and Shoto tells him the story of he and Daito were on Frobozz, trying to obtain the Jade Key. While Shoto completed the Zork game, Daito was outside fighting the Sixers, even using the Ultraman Beta Capsule to transform into a giant alien to smash their ships. When Shoto finished, the two tried to reach their ship, but Daito became frantic and told Shoto that he thought someone was breaking into his apartment. Shoto tells Wade that the Sixers pulled Daito from his haptic rig in the real world and threw him over his balcony from the forty-third floor. Shoto plays a Japanese newsclip for Wade that shows an apparent suicide. Shoto explains how he had never met Daito in real life, but the two had become friends online in a support group for isolated teens. Shoto says that he is no longer as interested in winning the contest as he is in revenge. He gives Wade the Beta Capsule and tells him that Daito would have wanted him to have it. They both agree to keep trying and part as friends.
Wade spends more time trying to figure out the next clue, and after some inspiration, he realizes that the “test” referred to in the clue is the Voight-Kampff test from the film Blade Runner. He travels to the nearest recreation of the Tyrell Building from the film (which there are many copies of throughout the OASIS, due to the film’s popularity) and fights his way through the armed security inside. Once he reaches the conference room, his Jade Key opens the Second Gate and he is again immersed in a field of stars. Instead of entering another film, as with the First Gate, he is instead transported to a bowling alley where he must enter the 1987 arcade game Black Tiger. Wade is prepared, having known that it was one of Halliday’s favorites. Once he completes it, he is rewarded with his choice from an array of giant robots. He sees that some of the robots have already been taken by the eleven Sixer accounts who are ahead of him on the scoreboard. He immediately selects the Leopardon robot from the 1970s Japanese show, Supaidaman. He also immediately recognizes the next clue (for the Crystal Key): a five-pointed red star.
Wade returns to his ship and starts going through his notes on Rush, James Halliday’s favorite band. On the jacket sleeve for the Rush album 2112, Wade finds the exact same red star. With his notes and a bit more research, he heads to the planet Syrinx, which is dedicated to that album. There are many copies of the same region on the surface, much like the recreated Middletown, OH or the Zork house. He finds a digital recreation of Rush bandmember Alex Lifeson’s guitar in a cave. Before leaving the cave, Wade plays part of a song from the album 2112, admitting to the reader that he has never played a guitar outside the OASIS. He is rewarded with a hint that the Third Gate “cannot be unlocked alone.” He is sure that the Sixers did not receive this clue.
After trading the guitar for the Crystal Key, Wade’s final clue leads him to Castle Anorak, the stronghold that James Halliday built for himself. Unfortunately, when he arrives, the castle is surrounded by Sixers. The Sixers have employed a new barrier that is invulnerable, so long as the account that owns the artifact remains logged in and has it activated. Wade sends a message to Art3mis, Aech, and Shoto with instructions to find the Second Gate and Crystal Key. Wade tells the reader that he is formulating a dangerous plan.
Wade’s despair and resignation both conflict with his desperate desire to win. Wade descends into despair as he resigns himself to the fact that Halliday’s hunt likely won’t have a happy ending. When Sorrento moves into first place on the Scoreboard, it shakes Wade’s confidence, and he realizes that his hubris was misguided and that the good guys do not always win. Wade’s isolation exacerbates his despair when Aech, Art3mis, and Shoto are all unavailable to comfort him. Wade’s hopelessness is further emphasized by suicidal ideation. However, his thoughts of suicide show that the OASIS is the very thing that gives his life meaning, and the thought of the Sixers taking it over makes Wade fearful of what his life would become. Finding the egg means so much that Wade would rather die than live a life where IOI controls the OASIS. Throughout the book, Wade has believed that he could beat the Sixers, but now his loss of hope threatens to be his downfall.
The theme of reality versus illusion is explored during Shoto’s visit to Wade’s stronghold. The shock Shoto experiences when Daito is killed by the Sixers in real life compels him to put aside fantasy and be authentic with Wade. Wade and Shoto’s choice to share their true names and identities suggest that they are willing to embrace reality, which allows them to experience much-needed personal connection. The illusion that death in the OASIS is temporary has been replaced by the reality that the Sixers are willing to kill in the real world to secure their chances of winning Halliday’s prize. Another reference that emphasizes the novel’s blurring of the distinction between reality and illusion is the “test” in the clue for the Second Gate. The Voight-Kampff test from the 1982 film Blade Runner determines whether an individual is a human or a “replicant” of a human. In Blade Runner, it is almost impossible to tell the difference between humans and robots, but the Voight-Kampff test emphasizes that there will always be a difference, no matter how small.
Throughout the novel, intelligence, skill, and research have proven to be more important than wealth or physical strength. Wade’s extensive knowledge of 1980s pop culture gives him an advantage in opening the Second Gate with the Jade Key. His ability to complete the Black Tiger video game with relative ease emphasizes the parallels between Wade and Halliday as people who leverage intelligence to get ahead. They both used video games to ignore their unpleasant lives and, as a result, developed great skill. Wade’s extensive research allows him to instantly recognize the clue for the Crystal Key. His knowledge of Halliday’s favorite things serves him again as he quickly finds the red star from the Crystal Key clue on a Rush album cover. Again, it seems like the worthiest gunters who know the most about Halliday have the chance to succeed, not just those who have the most wealth, resources, or strength.
When Wade learns that he cannot unlock the Third Gate alone, this signals a shift in the hunt. Until now, Wade, Aech, and Art3mis have successfully worked alone, but the new clue signals that teamwork will be necessary going forward. This knowledge gives Wade an advantage, but any hope that he receives from this knowledge is overshadowed by the fact that the Sixers can easily regain the lead if they also find this clue. The requirement for teamwork gives the Sixers a natural advantage. Wade, on the other hand, worries about trusting others. This new requirement for teamwork will force Wade out of his comfort zone and require him to take a leap of faith by trusting his friends.