Armitage is (apparently) the main patron of the crew in Neuromancer. Formerly a Green Beret named Colonel Willis Corto, who took part in a secret operation named Screaming Fist. He was heavily injured both physically and psychologically, and the "Armitage" personality was constructed as part of experimental "computer-mediated psychotherapy" by Wintermute which is actually controlling the mission.
He has a cropped brown hair and his blue eyes were pale glitter, almost bleached. His face has blandly handsome, inexpressive features, a tanned mask like a combination of the past decade's leading pop media, as offered by the cosmetic boutiques. In this manner he resembles Wage. Combined with his beyond-normal eyes, his face looks like an artificial mask, an unusual blankness.
He is no taller than Case, but he has a military posture with a broad chest, muscular and hairless, his stomach flat and hard. He wore an angular gold ring of the Special Forces and a heavy gold bracelet on his wrist.
In the Sprawl he is seen with a somber Italian suit without his Special Forces earring.
When he travels he prefers big hotels near airports. Molly noticed that he has no personal life when he is alone; he just stares at the wall until he starts doing his job. He maintains a private database in the London grid of the matrix.
During the war he lost his eye, legs and most of his jaw, which however were reconstructed and replaced by the government after the war. Despite this, Case recognised him in an old image just from the eyes.
As Willis Corto he was the leader of a team trained for an operation involving cyber warfare even 3 years before the War.
During the War, as a colonel, he led the Screaming Fist operation in Kirensk, flying a Nightwing microlight. They were devastaded by unexpected Russian defenses, EMP and lasers. With his console man dead, his craft fell down. He was one of the few survivors who comandeered a Soviet helicopter and reached Helsinki only to be shot. Finnish paramedics sawed him off the twisted debris, seriously crippled, having lost his eyes, legs and most of his jaw.
The war ended 9 days later, and Corto was shipped to a military facility in Utah. 11 months later a Congressional aide found him there and told him the political developments, with a Congressional investigation focusing on Screaming Fist. He offered him a total repair and cosmetic work. Corto said he was read to testify, but the aide explained that the trials were televized and they needed to reach the voters.
5 months later Corto was now repaired with new legs and eyes, and was extensively rehearsed to a fake testimony provided by a Congressional cabal. It was designed to save particular portions of the Pentagon infrastructure, and the careers of 3 officers responsible for the suppression of EMP reports about Kirensk. He testified in Washington and the trials were over.
- "One day, everything had gone gray."
- —Corto, during a taped chemical interrogation
In a cool September day he was in an M Street restaurant with the aide explaining the terminal dangers involved in "talking to the wrong people". Understanding that he is "unwanted" now, Corto strangled him with his right hand in the restaurant.
Then he disappeared, but there were vague and fragmentary police reports, corporate espionage records, and news files about him. He worked for corporate defection in Lisbon and Marrakesh, but loathed the scientists and technicians he was involved with, becoming obsessed with the idea of betrayal. In Singapore he got drunk and beat a Russian engineer to death in a hotel and set fire to his room. In Thailand he was an overseer of a heroin factory. In California he worked as an enforcer for a gambling cartel. In the ruins of Bonn he was an assassin. In Wichita he robbed a bank.
In France he was caught without identification and taken to a Paris mental health unit, diagnosed as schizophrenic and became catatonic. He was sent to a government institution near Toulon where he was able only to eat, extret and masturbate; he became an experimental subject for cybernetically-assisted cure of schizophrenia. He was one of the randomly selected patients provided with microcomputers and encouraged, with help from students, to program them. It is when Wintermute got to him; Wintermute had assembled a file about him in the London grid and utilizing his obsessions with the Screaming Fist, his betrayal and the Congressional hearings, it was able to balance him. He was the only success in the entire experiment, and was cured.
Armitage became the first of Wintermute's team for its plans. He appeared to become rich suddenly and continued becoming richer with time. He hired Molly Millions who noticed his eccentric character, lack of personal life, and enigmatic past. They did unforewarned travels: while in Los Angeles he told her to get ready for Macau; while there, he crossed over into Zhongshan; next day they where in Chiba City.
He took an interest in Case, watching and tracing his moves, also for each of his aliases. Building up a detailed model of his suicidal moves, and running the skim through some military software, they projected that he will kill himself within a month, and his pancreas will fail within a year. Molly was told to track and fetch him.
Molly brought him Case in his Chiba Hilton suite. Seeing him, Case threw against him his cup of coffee which Armitage easily dodged. Armitage said he knew everything about him, and offered to correct his neural damage. He offered the revolutionary technology to an unnamed clinic which performed the surgery on Case, putting them 3 years ahead of the competition.
Together they flew to Europe. while in Amsterdam he left the pair for some cryptic foray. back in the Sprawl, he showed up with a calf suitcase, and revealed to Case that he is dependent on him as he has installed mycotoxins in his organism. Then he supplied them with equipment necessary for their job: an Ono-Sendai Cyberspace VII; next year's most expensive Hosaka computer with a Sony monitor; disks of corporate-grade ICE... Armitage had only waited for Case's approval of each piece. Molly persuaded him to hire the Finn as their tech. But when he left to his hotel, the two went secretly to the Finn in order to be scanned for implants and discuss about their mission, Dixie Flatline's construct, Sense/Net and Peter Riviera, and the mystery behind it and Armitage, instructing him to research.
For the operation of stealing the construct, Armitage had Case to study and map the Sense/Net ICE within a week. It took him 9 days instead but Armitage couldn't hide his satisaction. The extraction operation ended up more chaotic that he expected with Molly injured, and when the Panther Moderns leader Lupus Yonderboy came to the loft to receive his payment, Armitage (wearing a an expensive-looking trench coat with dark glossy folds) complained about the events and that he still doesn't have the object Molly stole. Case insisted that he should pay him nonetheless. Lupus semi-threatened him saying that "Mr. Who" would rather pay well if he doesn't want to become "Mr. Name".
Suddenly, he notifies the pair that they must leave for Istanbul, where Terzibashjian has tracked Peter Riviera and read off flight numbers and departure times, telling Case that the Finn will bring his equipment. In the Hilton Istanbul he calls them one morning before the arrival of Terzibashjian. Case meanwhile had learned about his past and says that they must discuss about it, to which Armitage replies that he already knows more than he needs.
After the capture of Riviera, he was waiting the pair in their room and said Case to get ready to pack, handing him a brochure to Freeside. He reassured him that Riviera was fine and Finn already left for home. He prodded Case in the chest, reminding him that the sacs already wear out. He pressured Riviera to join their team.
After booking their flight, they were in the lobby of the Hilton. Armitage, his trenchcoat draped over his shoulders like a cape, stood in the entrance of glass-walled gift-shop where Riviera was browsing. 3 Japanese tourists bustled into, nodding politely and smiling to Armitage, who crossed the shop as fast as he could, to stand beside Riviera. Riviera turned and smiled.
On the THY liner to Paris, they sat together in First Class, Riviera and Armitage sitting on the aisle. Molly threatened Riviera when he started doing tricks with hallucinations, Armitage ordered him to stop.
By that time Wintermute was not able to hold the delicate balance of his personality for long and considered contacting Case to do his job.
When they came to the L-5 archipelago, he unexpectedly changed the plan and instead of docking to Freeside, they took a taxi and docked at Zion cluster. He glided loose-kneed through a hatch, Riviera behind him, where Molly and Case assembled a maze of plastic sheets to inspect it. He said that they should acclimatize themselves in zero-g practicing for the 80 hours they would stay there.
Once Armitage sent Case to the maze to call Riviera for a meal but he was stoned. He was also worried that zero-g and Case's stress would affect his operation in the matrix, and as they didn't have time for the SAS to wear off, he should learn to work from there and practice in the freefall corridor.
Using a Braun hologram projector, Armitage tried to explain them the geography of Freeside and brief them on their mission, with his usual utter seriousness, and focused on the empty final segment of the station's spindle where Villa Straylight was. Riviera made appear 4 tiny figures near his finger, which he slapped, and said to him that he will enter there first, and should learn the streets. While Armitage recited the names of Freeside avenues, Riviera made appear bright rose pustules on his face. Hearing even Molly laughing, he regarded them all with his cold empty eyes, and Riviera apologised.
Armitage had booked for Case and Molly a luxurious room in the Intercontinental. The next day he and Riviera hired a JAL taxi and met the pair on the roof garden of the hotel. In tailored khakis he looked as his regimental patches had just been stripped. Riviera demanded his "medicine" from Molly. His eyes cutting to Armitage and back, Armitage ordered her to give it to him; reluctantly she did, saying to Armitage that he could off himself. He notified Case that that afternoon he would have 3 hours to go to Marcus Garvey, get himself fitted for a vac suit, spacewalk out to the boat. Case complained why he and Molly came in a shitcan and those two came with a taxi. Armitage said that it was a suggestion from Zion as a good cover. He does have a larger boat standing by. He then told to Molly to hike up the far end to the axis, work out in zero-g, and the next day perhaps hike in the Straylight direction. Case met his pale stare to ask how soon and Armitage said it will be "soon".
Armitage arranged for them a dinner in Vingtième Siècle to watch Riviera's dreaming real show. He wore a dark suit, too formal for the place, and a white silk shirt and had ordered steaks of real meat for them. He noticed that Case didn't seem well (having after effects from betaphenethylamine) and lied that it was hystamine reaction from something he ate; Armitage wanted him to be checked out by a medic. As the show was starting, a waiter placed a lit candle in the center of their table and removed the dishes. Case asked what was happening and Armitage ignored him. During the show Case, and then Molly, left and Armitage sat alone, still staring at the stage sipping from his wine glass. Case returned asking for Molly and he just said that she was gone. Unwillingly he broke the stem of his wineglass, holding its bulb; Case took it from him. Case inquired where she went and Armitage just said the she is preparing and Case won't see her until the run. Case asked why Riviera did the show after he, but Armitage just stood and told him to sleep. He ignored Case's question if the run was the next day, gave his meaningless smile and exited.
As the novel progresses, Armitage's personality slowly disintegrates. He soon believes that Case is his subordinate during Screaming Fist, and attempts to escape imagined Russian forces using the escape pod on the Marcus Garvey. He is killed when he ejects into space with the airlock still open.