- "We're an information economy. They teach you that in school. What they don't tell you is that it's impossible to move, to live, to operate at any level without leaving traces, bits, and seemingly meaningless fragments of personal information. Fragments that can be retrieved, amplified..."
He underwent a cosmetic surgery at Under the Knife, but the girl nurses were big fans of Sony Mao, and they insisted on adding the chic suggestion of epicanthic folds. Looking at his reflection before entering the Drome he saw himself as a basic sharp-faced Caucasoid with a ruff of stiff, dark hair. It is not known how much of it was natural or artificial; it is possible that he changed his appearance either for aesthetic reasons, or in order to approach Ralfi.
During his time in The Pit he changed his appearance again, including transplanting teeth, and he didn't look any more like Eddie Bax.
He has undergone cybernetic surgery to have a silicon data storage system implanted in his amygdalate, where he stores digital encrypted data too sensitive to risk transmission on computer networks; the data are fed in through a modified series of microsurgical contra-autism prostheses and then stored in a special chip in his brain. It seems that this affects his own memories.
The data can be unlocked by a password known only to the intended recipient: Johnny enters a trance-like "idiot savant" state. The procedure he always expects to be more abrupt than it is: He slowly loses conscience, persons become hazy and movements blur like insect-quick ghosts, then all fades to cool gray static and he mechanically recites the text in technical language. While the data is being transferred or the password is being set, he is unaware of the contents and unable to retrieve it, even when drugged or tortured. The only way to recover the password is with Squids.
He is a young data trafficker in the Memory Lane of the Sprawl who makes a modest living by physically transporting sensitive information for corporations, underworld crime rings or wealthy individuals. He considered himself "technical", so he pretended to be "crude" to confuse the adversaries.
It is possible that he had visited Paris once, at the road to Notre Dame, with electric Mercedes and Japanese tourists, where perhaps he met Shinji; but the context is not clear enough to determine if it is a memory or some fantasy.
He was hired by Ralfi Face and had hundreds of megabytes stashed in his head. However Ralfi later learned that this sensitive data was stolen from the Yakuza and didn't came back for it, and even wanted to put out a contract on him. Wanting his money (and the astronomical charge for overtime storage) Johnny arranged to meet him in the Drome, as Edward Bax, clandestine importer, late of Rio and Peking. He bought pointed black shoes for this guise, and had changed his facial features at Under the Knife.
He was equipped with a sawed-off shotgun. He turned two 12-gauge shells from brass stock, on the lathe, and then dug up an old microfiche with instructions for hand-loading cartridges; he had to build a lever-action press to seat the primers, and had the triggers wired together.
Preparing for the meeting he put his gear in an Adidas bag and rode the tube 3 stops past the closest platform and walked back so that he'd lose any pursuers.
He found Ralfi at his usual table and sat before his bodyguard Lewis could react and said that he has an antique firearm in his bag, sliding his hand in it. Ralfi explained the situation to him, and Lewis then triggered a neural disruptor they'd taped under Johnny's side of the table, immobilizing him. He could feel the metal and the foam-padded tape but couldn't wrap around the stubby grip, despite putting all his strength to move his index. He hoped Lewis would foolishly go for the gym bag and snag his rigid trigger finger, but he didn't. Then came Molly Millions, looking for a job, incapacitating Lewis. She released Johnny, who quickly offered her 2 million in order to hire her as a bodyguard, to which Ralfi didn't respond.
Molly talked with the Magnetic Dog Sisters while Johnny ushered Ralfi through the door, holding the bag with the weapon behind him. As they exited, maybe because he never got used to the soaring arcs of light and the shadows of the geodesics above him, he glanced up, out of some passing reflex. Maybe this saved him because Ralfi continued walking when an assassin showed up; Johnny looked down just in time to see Ralfi cut to pieces. Johnny lifted his gym bag and shot with his hidden shotgun (the recoil almost broke his wrist), but he missed thanks to the assassin's enhanced reflexes. He and Molly crouched while the police investigated.
Molly suggested to hide in the Pit of Nighttown. As he explained the situation and technology implanted to his head, Molly thought bringing him to Jones a cyborg dolphin equipped with a Squid, living in the abandoned Funland. Through symbols, he made Johnny understand Ralfi's password: "Christian White and his Aryan Reggae Band" and wrote it on a paper for Molly (as he would be unable to say or hear it). They also bought 2 records.
The pair visits the office of a broadcast pirate and persuade him to break into the Yakuza Comsat in order to blackmail Yakuza. He put the records in 2 desks and, when Molly read the phrase, he automatically recited the stolen program for the following 3 hours. They sent a copy to a storage space in Sydney.
After that Molly guided him to The Pit as she thought it would be easier to confront the assassin there. The sentry Dog, an old friend of hers, offered him a Yihehuan cigarette, and guided them through the platforms and ladders. He was tired, his wrist hurt, and felt his shoes losing their purchase, threatening to carry him down the Nighttown; but the menace of the assassin kept him moving, although he didn't know where Dog and Molly led him, and for what. Holding the now-useless shotgun under his jacket brought him comfort. He realised that he wasn't a player in the game: most of his life he blindly received information he didn't understand, only to be drained.
Right when they reached the vicinity of the Killing Floor, a special area for the outcasts, the assassin showed up. He met Johnny's eyes and a memory of Paris clicked into place for him. Johnny felt shutters behind the assassin's eyes whirring, as they locked on him. The assassin, bowed, removed his sandals and stepped down to the Killing Floor and calmly walked towards Johnny, who saw no trace of Molly. Then she stepped on the Floor, attempting to disorient the assassin with the sound and movements, and they started fighting, making the Floor screaming in apocalyptic sounds.
He cupped his hands over his ears and knelt in a vertigo of sound, thinking that everything was detached and were falling down to Nighttown. But nothing like that happened. Molly moved thge Floor in such a way that made the assassin amputate himself; humiliated, he plunged to his own death.
After realising how hollow he was, he decided to stay with the Lo Teks. He let Molly take care of his new appearance, with a local anesthetic, and got new teeth. Almost every night he climbed down to visit Jones with whom he partnered. He provided him with a bigger tank with steady replenish of seawater, and a new display screen.
With Jones's help, and the new screen, they started a business of reading the traces of everything he ever stored, learning a lot about his ex-clients, running on tape and started blackmailing them. Molly was his guard and bagman. Almost a year passed like this without any news form Yakuza.
They amassed money in Swiss orbital accounts, and were living in a high-security converted factory space like many comers from Sense/Net; their house was full of gadgets and accessories. They were thinking that they had enough and could quit, and perhaps go to Freeside or Europe, although with no plans what to do there. He also planned to have a surgeon remove his implants and live with his own memories.
But the Yak didn't forget them; when Molly was absent, a second assassin came, cloned to become a ruthless cold killer like a monk. Johnny was sitting in a chair by the window where he was killed. Molly returned as the assassin was leaving and saw him there, with his mouth a little open as if he was saying something.
Years later, Molly thought that Case reminded her of Johnny, and told him about their relationship.