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Wade describes being taken from his apartment by the IOI Indentured Servant Retrieval Transport. He tells the reader that he knew this day was coming. The IOI security force tells him, through the intercom outside his apartment, that Bryce Lynch has missed payments on his IOI credit card and owes over 20,000 dollars. His property will be sold and he will be put into a mandatory work program until the balance is paid. While the security team uses plasma torches to cut through his metal door, Wade checks the Scoreboard to make sure the Sixers have not made any more progress. He sees that Aech, Art3mis and Shoto have all cleared the Second Gate and acquired the Crystal Key. He has ignored their messages since he emailed them their instructions. He states that they cannot help him and would have probably just tried to talk him out of his plan. He starts a sequence that erases all the data on his computer. After breaching the metal door, the IOI agents strip him of his haptic suit and give him a gray jumpsuit. They gag and handcuff him and take him to a transport with other “indents” to transport him to his new work assignment.
Wade watches out the window of the transport and sees rampant poverty and refugee camps. When he reaches the IOI headquarters in Columbus, he is transferred to the Indentured Employee Induction Center and is given a battery of tests to gauge his aptitude. He makes sure to perform well on OASIS software, hardware and networking, but makes sure to perform poorly on any tests related to Halliday and the contest. Wade does not want to be put in the division run by Sorrento. He is fitted with a metal anklet that can deliver shocks or tranquilizers, and with an ear tag that has a camera.
Wade’s new life is like a prison, with poor-quality cafeteria food, a monitored bathroom break, and a “hab unit” cell shaped like a large coffin. Wade comments that no one ever escapes indentured life with IOI. He reiterates that he has a plan, and that all of this was part of it. In his hab unit, there is a screen and visor, but he only has access to IOI-N, a single channel with IOI news and propaganda. Knowing that he is being monitored, he watches training videos until he falls asleep. He starts to feel doubt and wonders why he would take such an idiotic risk.
Wade describes working for IOI customer service in a small, empty cubicle, where his sarcastic responses to customers are filtered out. He regularly falls asleep while working, because he stays up all night in his hab unit, working on his plan. Before ever being arrested, Wade secured IOI intranet passwords and administrator account information from the same online black market that helped him change his identity. Using the entertainment panel in his hab unit, he is able to subvert the cameras and give himself administrator access.
Wade obtains a storage drive and installs it into his hab unit’s maintenance port, so that he can download any information that he finds while searching through Sorrento’s files. He sees that the Third Gate is inside Castle Anorak, but the Sixers haven’t figured out how it works. He discovers footage of Daito’s murder as well as a plan to kidnap Shoto and Art3mis and force them to solve the Third Gate. He sees a picture of Art3mis, who looks like her avatar, except a birthmark covering half her face. He finds her beautiful. His original escape plan was a delayed funds transfer that would clear his debt, but it is still several days away. In an effort to save Shoto and Art3mis, he decides to escape sooner than he originally planned.
In stark contrast to the novel’s futuristic setting, a form of modern-day slavery is used to settle and handle debts. Indentured servitude is a system in which debtors are bound to work for another to pay off debt. It is unclear if “Bryce” really owes money on his IOI credit card or if it is a ploy by the Sixers to get him out of the game. Wade seems prepared for his arrest, giving rise to the possibility that he thought that IOI would arrest him to take him out of the game. Wade’s knowledge of IOI’s system of indentured servitude indicates that he thoroughly researched it and may have gotten arrested on purpose. However, Wade mentions that no one ever escapes an indentured life with IOI, making it suspicious that he would intentionally put himself in this position, even if it is part of a larger plan.
Due to Wade’s arrest, he loses his entire identity and becomes another cog in IOI’s machine. Throughout the novel, Wade has leaned on his individuality, but now he is part of the corporation that he hates. His loss of identity is further emphasized by his loss of access to the OASIS. Losing access to the OASIS is akin to losing the only identity that really matters, especially to someone who is participating in Halliday’s Easter egg hunt. Wade finds himself forced into the identity of an IOI customer service agent, which is how IOI attempts to control everything about their indentures. Still, Wade rebels against this loss of identity by executing his plan when he’s in his cell.
Wade’s underdog status comes into play again as he pulls off his unlikely, risky master plan. Wade thinks many steps ahead of his opponents, much like a chess master. Wade’s plan would seem far-fetched, but he has already proven throughout the novel that he is able to complete seemingly impossible tasks. However, although Wade’s plan may seem perfect, he is unable to anticipate that the IOI knows so much about Art3mis, Aech, and Shoto, and their lives are in immediate danger. As an underdog, Wade remains agile and decides to pivot and change his plan to selflessly help his friends.