Case goes to the Chat, a Japanese expatriates' bar owned by a mechanically-armed Russian named Ratz. Yep, it's going to be one of those futures.
He orders a beer and overhears a drunken Australian say the Chinese are the best at nerve-splicing. Case believes that particular worldview is factually inaccurate—or "bulls***" in his words (1.15)—since everyone knows the Japanese are the best neurosurgeons.
Case gets introspective on us. He thinks about how he's been in Japan for a year, but he's no closer to becoming a console cowboy (future slang for hacker) again. He now lives day-by-day as a low grade hustler.
Ratz mentions he saw Case's girlfriend last night. Case says Linda Lee isn't his girl, which Ratz thinks is sad since Linda makes Case smile more.
Another beer, more introspection. Apparently, Case was the best console cowboy back in the day and was even trained McCoy Pauly and Bobby Quine, a.k.a. the best of the best. Then one day, he got greedy and tried to steal from his employers. He was caught and given a Russian mycotoxin that damaged his nervous system, rendering him unable to hack into cyberspace again.
Afterward, he left America to find a cure in the Japanese black market clinics. But all of his examinations and consultations led to nothing. Now, all he can afford is a small "coffin" room in a capsule hotel in Night City.
(By the way, all the places Case mentions in the first thirty pages can get a tad confusing, so don't forget you can head over to our "Setting" section for more information and discussion.)
Case heads to the Jarre de Thé and downs some speed with an espresso. He considers his recent suicidal tendencies as he waits for the pill to take effect.
As the pill hits him, he thinks about the time he met Linda Lee at the arcade and the time they spent together. And who should walk in right as he finishes his coffee? Linda Lee of course.
The two have a casual chat, and Linda brings up the fact that Wage wants Case dead for some money he owes. You know, just shooting the breeze.
Case walks Ninsei Street taking in the sights. He decides to go see a guy named Julius Deane to help him figure out what to do about the Wage situation.
Julius, a 135-year-old man who uses genetic therapy to stay alive, invites Case in but can't, or won't, tell him anything.
Case's night just gets better and better once he discovers a woman tailing him. He tries to rent a gun from a guy named Shin, but Shin won't have an available one for two hours. Instead, Case buys a cobra—an extendable knife—from one of the street vendors.
Case continues looking for Wage to straighten things out, but he picks up his tail again. He ducks into the arcade and heads for the back of the building. He manages to lose the woman by jumping out a window into an alley and hiding amongst the piles of discarded computer junk.
Shin's gun is a knock-off of a knock-off of a Walther PPK (which is the gun James Bond uses so it's a classy knock-off, at least). Case rents it and pops another pill before heading to his "coffin" room at Cheap Hotel. Once there, he tries to sell three megabytes of stolen RAM to a buyer but to no avail.
Geek snack: RAM (random access memory) is a set of integrated circuits used to store data read by the CPU (central processing unit). Unlike a hard drive, RAM is volatile data, meaning anything stored there is lost when the computer shuts down or breaks. The advantage is that the CPU can read data from RAM much faster than it can from the hard drive.
At Dawn, Case returns to the Chat to get information from Ratz. Wage shows up with his joeboys—i.e. muscle—but Ratz and a fellow bartender named Kurt have Case's back.
Wage says he's there to collect the money Case owes him, but he never wanted to kill the guy. Case realizes he's been had but squares away some of his debt with Wage with some pituitary glands all the same.
At his coffin hotel, Case finds that Linda lifted his RAM and is gone. He also finds the woman tailing him earlier is there waiting for him. The woman's name is Molly. Turns out, she's not there to kill Case. Instead, her employer just wants to have a talk with him.
Oh, and did we mention Molly's fingernails extend into blades like Lady Deathstrike? Because, yeah, they do.