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Underpromise; overdeliver.

Zodijak Gemini
Pol Muškarac
Poruke Odustao od brojanja
Zastava 44°49′N - 20°29′E
mob
Apple iPhone 6s
9

   In the enormous whale-belly of steel and stone carved out to form the long-enduring old opera house Rick Deckard found an echoing, noisy, slightly miscontrived rehearsal taking place. As he entered he recognized the music: Mozart’s The Magic Flute, the first act in its final scenes. The moor’s slaves—in other words the chorus—had taken up their song a bar too soon and this had nullified the simple rhythm of the magic bells.
   What a pleasure; he loved The Magic Flute. He seated himself in a dress circle scat (no one appeared to notice him) and made himself comfortable. Now Popageno in his fantastic pelt of bird feathers had joined Pamina to sing words which always brought tears to Rick’s eyes, when and if he happened to think about it.


Könnte jedar brave Mann
solche Glöckchen finden,
eine Feinde würden dann
ohne Muhe schwinden.


   Well, Rick thought, in real life no such magic bells exist that make your enemy effortlessly disappear. Too bad. And Mozart, not long after writing The Magic Flute, had died in his thirties—of kidney disease. And had been buried in an unmarked paupers’ grave.
   Thinking this he wondered if Mozart had had any intuition that the future did not exist, that he had already used up his little time. Maybe I have, too, Rick thought as he watched the rehearsal move along. This rehearsal will end, the performance will end, the singers will die, eventually the last score of the music will be destroyed in one way or another; finally the name “Mozart” will vanish, the dust will have won. If not on this planet then another. We can evade it awhile. As the andys can evade me and exist a finite stretch longer. But I get them or some other bounty hunter gets them. In a way, he realized, I’m part of the form-destroying process of entropy. The Rosen Association creates and I unmake. Or anyhow so it must seem to them.
   On the stage Papageno and Pamina engaged in a dialogue. He stopped his introspection to listen.

   Papageno: “My child, what should we now say.
   Pamina: “—the truth. That’s what we will say.”

   Leaning forward and peering, Rick studied Pamina in her heavy, convoluted robes, with her wimple trailing its veil about her shoulders and face. He reexamined the poop sheet, then leaned back, satisfied. I’ve now seen my third Nexus-6 android, he realized. This is Luba Luft. A little ironic, tile sentiment her role calls for. However vital, active, and nice-looking, an escaped android could hardly tell the truth; about itself, anyhow.
   On tile stage Luba Luft sang, and he found himself surprised at the quality of her voice; it rated with that of the best, even that of notables in his collection of historic tapes. The Rosen Associaion built her well, he had to admit. And again he perceived himself sub specie aeternitatis, the formdestroyer called forth by what he heard and saw here. Perhaps the better she functions, the better a singer she is, the more I am needed. If the androids had remained substandard, like the ancient
   q-40s made by Derain Associates—there would be no problem and no need of my skill. I wonder when I should do it, he asked himself. As soon as possible, probably. At the end of the rehearsal when she goes to her dressing room.
   At the end of the act the rehearsal ended temporarily. It would resume, the conductor said in English, French, and German, in an hour and a half. The conductor then departed; the musicians left their instruments and also left. Getting to his feet Rick made his way backstage to the dressing rooms; he followed the tail end of the cast, taking his time and thinking, It’s better this way, getting it immediately over with. I’ll spend as short a time talking to her and testing her as possible. As soon as I’m sure—but technically he could not be sure until after the test. Maybe Dave guessed wrong on her, he conjectured. I hope so. But he doubted it. Already, instinctively, his professional sense had responded. And he had yet to err … throughout years with the department.
   Stopping a super he asked for Miss Luft’s dressing room; the super, wearing makeup and the costume of an Egyptian spear carrier, pointed. Rick arrived at the indicated door, saw an ink—written note tacked to it reading MISS LUFT PRIVATE, and knocked.
   “Come in.”
   He entered. The girl sat at her dressing table, a much-handled clothbound score open on her knees, marking here and there with a ball-point pen. She still wore her costume and makeup, except for the wimple; that she had set. down on its rack. “Yes?” she said, looking up. The stage makeup enlarged her eyes,, enormous and hazel they fixed on him and did not waver. “I am busy, as you can see.” Her English contained no remnant of an accent.
   Rick said, “You compare favorably to Schwarzkopf.”
   “Who are you?” Her tone held cold reserve—and that other cold, which he had encountered in so many androids. Always the same: great intellect, ability to accomplish much, but also this. He deplored it. And yet, without it, he could not track them down.
   “I’m from the San Francisco Police Department,” he said.
   “Oh?” The huge and intense eyes did not flicker, did not respond. “What are you here about?” Her tone, oddly, seemed gracious.
   Seating himself in a nearby chair he unzipped his briefcase. “I have been sent here to administer a standard personality-profile test to you. It won’t take more than a few minutes.”
   “Is it necessary?” She gestured toward the big clothbound score. “I have a good deal I must do.” Now she had begun to look apprehensive.
   “It’snecessary.” He got out the Voigt-Kampff instruments, began setting them up.
   “AnIQ test?
   “No. Empathy.”
   “I’ll have to put on my glasses.” She reached to open a drawer of her dressing table.
   “If you can mark the score without your glasses you can take this test. I’ll show you some pictures and ask you several questions. Meanwhile—” He got up and walked to her, and, bending, pressed the adhesive pad of sensitive grids against her deeply tinted check. “And this light,” he said, adjusting the angle of the pencil beam, “and that’s it.”
   “Do you think I’m an android? Is that it?” Her voice had faded almost to extinction. “I’m not an android. I haven’t even been on Mars; I’ve never even seen an android!” Her elongated lashes shuddered involuntarily; he saw her trying to appear calm. “Do you have information that there’s an android in the cast? I’d be glad to help you, and if I were an android would I be glad to help you?”
   “An android,” he said, “doesn’t care what happens to any other android. That’s one of the indications we look for.”
   “Then,” Miss Luft said, “you must be an android.”
   That stopped him; he stared at her.
   “Because,” she continued, “Your job is to kill them, isn’t it? You’re what they call—” She tried to remember.
   “A bounty hunter,” Rick said. “But I’m not an android.”
   “This test you want to give me.” Her voice, now, had begun to return. “Have you taken it?”
   “Yes.” He nodded. “A long, long time ago; when I first started with the department.”
   “Maybe that’s a false memory. Don’t androids sometimes go around with false memories?”
   Rick said, “My superiors know about the test. It’s mandatory.
   “Maybe there was once a human who looked like you, and somewhere along the line you killed him and took his place. And your superiors don’t know.” She smiled. As if inviting him to agree.
   “Let’s get on with the test,” he said, getting out the sheets of questions.
   “I’ll take the test,” Luba Luft said, “if you’ll take it first.”
   Again he stared at her, stopped in his tracks.
   “Wouldn’t that be more fair?” she asked. “Then I could be sure of you. I don’t know; you seem so peculiar and hard and strange.” She shivered, then smiled again. Hopefully.
   “You wouldn’t be able to administer the Voigt-Kampff test. It takes considerable experience. Now please listen carefully. These questions will deal with social situations which you might find yourself in; what I want from you is a statement of response, what you’d do. And I want the response as quickly as you can give it. One of the factors I’ll record is the time lag, if any.” He selected his initial question. “You’re sitting watching TV and suddenly you discover a wasp crawling on your wrist.” He checked with his watch, counting the seconds. And checked, too, with the twin dials.
   “What’s a wasp?” Luba Luft asked.
   “A stinging bug that flies.”
   “Oh, how strange.” Her immense eyes widened with child-like acceptance, as if he had revealed the cardinal mystery of creation. “Do they still exist? I’ve never seen one.”
   “They died out because of the dust. Don’t you really know what a wasp is? You must have been alive when there were wasps; that’s only been—”
   “Tell me the German word.”
   He tried to think of the German word for wasp but couldn’t. “Your English is perfect,” he said angrily.
   “My accent,” she corrected, “is perfect. It has to be, for roles, for Purcell and Walton and Vaughn Williams. But my vocabulary isn’t very large.” She glanced at him shyly.
   “Wespe,” he said, remembering the German word.
   “Ach yes; eine Wespe.” She laughed. “And what was the question? I forget already.”
   “Let’s try another.” Impossible now to get a meaningful response. “You are watching an old movie on TV, a movie from before the war. It shows a banquet in progress; the entrée”—he skipped over the first part of the question—“consists of boiled dog, stuffed with rice.”
   “Nobody would kill and cat a dog,” Luba Luft said. “They’re worth a fortune. But I guess it would be an imitation dog: ersatz. Right? But those are made of wires and motors; they can’t be eaten.”
   “Before the war,” he grated.
   “I wasn’t alive before the war.”
   “But you’ve seen old movies on TV.”
   “Was the movie made in the Philippines?”

   “Why?”
   “Because,” Luba Luft said, “they used to cat boiled dog stuffed with rice in the Philippines. I remember reading that.”
   “But your response,” he said. “I want your social, emotional, moral reaction.”
   “To the movie?” She pondered. “I’d turn it off and watch Buster Friendly.”
   “Why would you turn it off?”
   “Well,” she said hotly, “who the hell wants to watch an old movie set in the Philippines? What ever happened in the Philippines except the Bataan Death March, and would you want to watch that?” She glared at him indignantly. On his dials the needles swung in all directions.
   After a pause he said carefully, “You rent a mountain cabin.”
   “Ja.” She nodded. “Go on; I’m waiting.”
   “In an area still verdant.”
   “Pardon?” She cupped her ear. “I don’t ever hear that term.”
   “Still trees and bushes growing. The cabin is rustic knotty pine with a huge fireplace. On the walls someone has hung old snaps, Currier and Ives prints, and above the fireplace a deer’s head has been mounted, a full stag with developed horns. The people with you admire the decor of the cabin and—”
   “I don’t understand ‘Currier’ or ‘Ives’ or ‘decor,”‘ Luba Luft said; she seemed to be struggling, however, to make out the terms. “Wait.” She held up her hand earnestly. “With rice, like in the dog. Currier is what makes the rice currier rice. It’s Curry in German.”
   He could not fathom, for the life of him, if Luba Luft’s semantic fog had purpose. After consultation with himself he decided to try another question; what else could he do? “You’re dating a man,” he said, “and he asks you to visit his apartment. While you’re there—”
   “O nein,” Luba broke in. “I wouldn’t be there. That’s easy to answer.”
   “That’s not the question!”
   “Did you get the wrong question? But I understand that; why is a question I understand the wrong one? Aren’t I supposed to understand?” Nervously fluttering she rubbed her cheek and detached the adhesive disk. It dropped to the floor, skidded, and rolled under her dressing table. “Ach Gott,” she muttered, bending to retrieve it. A ripping sound, that of cloth tearing. Her elaborate costume.
   “I’ll get it,” he said, and lifted her aside; he knelt down, groped under the dressing table until his fingers located the disk.
   When he stood up he found himself looking into a laser tube.
   “Your questions,” Luba Luft said in a crisp, formal voice, “began to do with sex. I thought they would finally. You’re not from the police department; you’re a sexual deviant.”
   “You can look at my identification.” He reached toward his coat pocket. His hand, he saw, had again begun to shake, as it had with Polokov.
   “If you reach in there,” Luba Luft said, “I’ll kill you.”
   “You will anyhow.” He wondered how it would have worked out if he had waited until Rachael Rosen could join him. Well, no use dwelling on that.
   “Let me see some more of your questions.” She held out her hand and, reluctantly, he passed her the sheets. “‘In a magazine you come across a full-page color picture of a nude girl.’ Well, that’s one. ‘You became pregnant by a man who has promised to marry you. The man goes off with another woman, your best friend; you get an abortion.’ The pattern of your questioning is obvious. I’m going to call the police.” Still holding the laser tube in his direction she crossed the room, picked tip the vidphone, dialed the operator. “Connect me with the San Francisco Police Department,” she said. “I need a policeman.”
   “What you’re doing,” Rick said, with relief, “is the best idea possible.” Yet it seemed strange to him that Luba had decided to do this; why didn’t she simply kill him? Once the patrolman arrived her chance would disappear and it all would go his way.
   She must think she’s human, he decided. Obviously she doesn’t know.
   A few minutes later, during which Luba carefully kept the laser tube on him, a large harness bull arrived, in his archaic blue uniform with gun and star. “All right,” he said at once to Luba. “Put that thing away.” She set down the laser tube and he picked it up to examine it, to see if it carried a charge. “Now what’s been going on here?” he asked her. Before she could answer he turned to Rick. “Who are you?” he demanded.
   Luba Luft said, “He came into my dressing room; I’ve never seen him before in my life. He pretended to be taking a poll or something and he wanted to ask me questions; I thought it was all right and I said okay, and then he began asking me obscene questions.”
   “Let’s see your identification,” the harness bull said to Rick, his hand extended.
   As he got out his ID Rick said, “I’m a bounty hunter with the department.”
   “I know all the bounty hunters,” the harness bull said to Rick as he examined Rick’s wallet. “With the S. F. Police Department? “
   “My supervisor is Inspector Harry Bryant,” Rick said. “I’ve taken over Dave Holden’s list, now that Dave’s in the hospital.”
   “As I say, I know all the bounty hunters,” the harness bull said, “and I’ve never heard of you.” He handed Rick’s ID back to him.
   “Call Inspector Bryant,” Rick said.
   “There isn’t any Inspector Bryant,” the harness bull said.
   It came to Rick what was going on. “You’re an android,” he said to the harness bull. “Like Miss Luft.” Going to the vidphone he picked up the receiver himself. “I’m going to call the department.” He wondered how far be would get before the two androids stopped him.
   “The number,” the harness bull said, “is—”
   “I know the number.” Rick dialed, presently had the police switchboard operator. “Let me talk to Inspector Bryant,” he said.
   “Who is calling, please?”
   “This is Rick Deckard.” He stood waiting; meanwhile, off to one side, the harness bull was getting a statement from Luba Luft; neither paid any attention to him.
   A pause and then Harry Bryant’s face appeared on the vidscreen. “What’s doing?” he asked Rick. “Some trouble,” Rick said. “One of those on Dave’s list managed to call in and get a so-called patrolman out here. I can’t seem to prove to him who I am; he says he knows all the about hunters in the department and he’s never heard of me.” He added, “He hasn’t heard of you either.”
   Bryant said, “Let me talk to him.”
   “Inspector Bryant wants to talk to you.” Rick held out the vidphone receiver. The harness bull ceased questioning Miss Luft and came over to take it.
   “Officer Crams,” the harness bull said briskly. A pause. “Hello?” He listened, said hello several times more, waited, then turned to Rick. “There’s nobody on the line. And nobody on the screen.” He pointed to the vidphone screen and Rick saw nothing on it.
   Taking the receiver from the harness bull Rick said, “Mr. Bryant?” He listened, waited; nothing. “I’ll dial again.” He hung up, waited, then redialed the familiar number. The phone rang, but no one answered it; the phone rang on and on.

   “Let me try,” Officer Crams said, taking the receiver away from Rick. “You must have misdialed “He dialed. “The number is 842—”
   “I know the number,” Rick said.
   “Officer Crams calling in,” the harness bull said into the Phone receiver. “Is there an Inspector Bryant connected with the department?” A short pause. “Well, what about a bounty hunter named Rick Deckard?” Again a pause. “You’re sure? Could he have recently—oh, I see; okay, thanks. No, I have it under control.” Officer Crams rang off, turned toward Rick.
   “I had him on the line,” Rick said. “I talked to him; he said he’d talk to you. It must be phone trouble; the connection must have been broken somewhere along the way. Didn’t you see—Bryant’s face showed on the screen and then it didn’t.” He felt bewildered.
   Officer Crams said, “I have Miss Luft’s statement, Deckard. So let’s go down to the Hall of Justice so I can book you.”
   “Okay,” Rick said. To Luba Luft he said, “I’ll be back in a short while. I’m still not finished testing you.”
   “He’s a deviant,” Luba Luft said to Officer Crams. “He gives me the creeps.” She shivered.
   “What opera are you practicing to give?” Officer Crams asked her.
   “The Magic Flute,” Rick said.
   “I didn’t ask you; I asked her.” The harness buff gave him a glance of dislike.
   “I’m anxious to get to the Hall of Justice,” Rick said. “This matter should be straightened out.” He started toward the door of the dressing room, his briefcase gripped.
   “I’ll search you first.” Officer Crams deftly frisked him, and came up with Rick’s service pistol and laser tube. He appropriated both, after a moment of sniffing the muzzle of the pistol. “This has been fired recently,” he said.
   “I retired an andy just now,” Rick said. “The remains are still in my car, up on the roof.”
   “Okay,” Officer Crams said. “We’ll go up and have a look.”
   As the two of them started from the dressing room, Miss Luft followed as far as the door. “He won’t come back again, will he, Officer? I’m really afraid of him; he’s so strange.”
   “If he’s got the body of someone he killed upstairs in his car,” Crams said, “he won’t be coming back.” He nudged Rick forward and, together, the two of them ascended by elevator to the roof of the opera house.
   Opening the door of Rick’s car, Officer Crams silently inspected the body of Polokov.
   “An android,” Rick said. “I was sent after him. He almost got me by pretending to be—”
   “They’ll take your statement at the Hall of Justice,” Officer Crams interrupted. He nudged Rick over to his parked, plainly marked police car; there, by police radio, he put in a call for someone to come pick up Polokov. “Okay, Deckard,” he said, then, ringing off. “Let’s get started.”
   With the two of them aboard, the patrol car zummed up from the roof and headed south.
   Something, Rick noticed, was not as it should be. Officer Crams had steered the car in the wrong direction.
   “The Hall of justice,” Rick said, “is north, on Lombard.”
   “That’s the old Hall of Justice,” Officer Crams said. “The new one is on Mission. That old building, it’s disintegrating; it’s a ruin. Nobody’s used that for years. Has it been that long since you last got booked?”
   “Take me there,” Rick said. “To Lombard Street.” He understood it all, now; saw what the androids, working together, had achieved. He would not live beyond this ride; for him it was the end, as it had almost been for Dave—and probably eventually would be.
   “That girl’s quite a looker,” Officer Crams said. “Of course, with that costume you can’t tell about her figure. But I’d say it’s damn okay.”
   Rick said, “Admit to me that you’re an android.”
   “Why? I’m not an android. What do you do, roam around killing people and telling yourself they’re androids? I can see why Miss Luft was scared. It’s a good thing for her that she called us.”
   “Then take me to the Hall of Justice, on Lombard.”
   “Like I said—”
   “It’ll take about three minutes,” Rick said. “I want to see it. Every morning I check in for work, there; I want to see that it’s been abandoned for years, as you say.”
   “Maybe you’re an android,” Officer Crams said. “With a false memory, like they give them. Had you thought of that?” He grinned frigidly as he continued to drive south.
   Conscious of his defeat and failure, Rick settled back. And, helplessly, waited for what came next. Whatever the androids had planned, now that they had physical possession of him.
   But I did get one of them, he told himself; I got Polokov. And Dave got two.
   Hovering over Mission, Officer Crams’s police car prepared to descend for its landing.
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Capo di tutti capi


Underpromise; overdeliver.

Zodijak Gemini
Pol Muškarac
Poruke Odustao od brojanja
Zastava 44°49′N - 20°29′E
mob
Apple iPhone 6s
10

   The Mission Street Hall of Justice building, onto the roof of which the hovercar descended, jutted up in a series of baroque, ornamented spires; complicated and modem, the handsome structure struck Rick Deckard as attractive—except for one aspect. He had never seen it before.
   The police hovercar landed. And, a few minutes later, he found himself being booked.
   “304,” Officer Crams said to the sergeant at the high desk. “And 612.4 and let’s see. Representing himself to be a peace officer.”
   “406.7 the desk sergeant said, filling out the forms; he wrote leisurely, in a slightly bored manner. Routine business, his posture and expression declared. Nothing of importance.
   “Over here,” Officer Crams said to Rick, leading him to a small white table at which a technician operated familiar equipment. “For your cephalic pattern,” Crams said. “Identpurposes.”
   Rick said brusquely, “I know.” In the old days, when he had been a harness bull himself, he had brought many suspects to a table like this. Like this, but not this particular table.
   His cephatic pattern taken, he found himself being led off to an equally familiar room; reflexively he began assembling his valuables for transfer. It makes no sense, he said to himself. Who are these people? If this place has always existed, why didn’t we know about it? And why don’t they know about us? Two parallel police agencies, he said to himself; ours and this one. But never coming in contact—as far as I know until now. Or maybe they have, he thought. Maybe this isn’t the first time. Hard to believe, he thought, that this wouldn’t have happened long ago. If this really is a police apparatus, here; if it’s what it asserts itself to be,
   A man, not in uniform, detached himself from the spot at which he had been standing; he approached Rick Deckard at a measured, unruffled pace, gazing at him curiously. “What’s this one?” he asked Officer Crams.
   “Suspected homicide,” Crams answered. “We have a body—we found it in his car—but he claims it’s an android. We’re checking it out, giving it a bone marrow analysis at the lab. And posing as a police officer, a bounty hunter. To gain access to a woman’s dressing room in order to ask her suggestive questions. She doubted he was what he said he was and called us in.” Stepping back, Crams said, “Do you want to finish up with him, sir? “
   “All right.” The senior police official, not in uniform, blue-eyed, with a narrow, flaring nose and inexpressive lips, eyed Rick, then reached for Rick’s briefcase. “What do you have in here, Mr. Deckard? “
   Rick said, “Material pertaining to the Voigt-KampfF personality test. I was testing a suspect when Officer Crams arrested me.” He watched as the police official rummaged through the contents of the briefcase, examining each item. “The questions I asked Miss Luft are standard V-K questions, printed on the—”
   “Do you know George Gleason and Phil Resch?” the police official asked.
   “No,” Rick said; neither name meant anything to him.
   “They’re the bounty hunters for Northern California. Both are attached to our department. Maybe you’ll run into them while you’re here. Are you an android, Mr. Deckard? The reason I ask is that several times in the past we’ve had escaped andys turn up posing as out-of-state bounty hunters here in pursuit of a suspect.”
   Rick said, “I’m not an android. You can administer the Voigt-Kampff test to me; I’ve taken it before and I don’t mind taking it again. But I know what the results will be. Can I phone my wife?”
   “You’re allowed one call. Would you rather phone her than a lawyer?”
   “I’ll phone my wife,” Rick said. “She can get a lawyer for me.”
   The plainclothes police officer handed him a fifty-cent piece and pointed. “There’s the vidphone over there.” He watched as Rick crossed the room to the phone. Then he returned to his examination of the contents of Rick’s briefcase.
   Inserting the coin, Rick dialed his home phone number. And stood for what seemed like an eternity, waiting.
   A woman’s face appeared on the vidscreen. “Hello,” she said.
   It was not Iran. He had never seen the woman before in his life.
   He hung up, walked slowly back to the police officer.
   “No luck?” the officer asked. “Well, you can make another call; we have a liberal policy in that regard. I can’t offer you the opportunity of calling a bondsman because your offense is unbailable, at present. When you’re arraigned, however—”
   “I know,” Rick said acridly. “I’m familiar with police procedure.”
   “Here’s your briefcase,” the officer said; he handed it back to Rick. “Come into my office I’d like to talk with you further.” He started down a side hall, leading the way; Rick followed. Then, pausing and turning, the officer said, “My name is Garland.” He held out his hand and they shook. Briefly. “Sit down,” Garland said as he opened his office door and pushed behind a large uncluttered desk.
   Rick seated himself facing the desk.
   “This Voigt-Kampff test,” Garland said, that you mentioned.” He indicated Rick’s briefcase. “All that material you carry.” he filled and lit a pipe, puffed for a moment. “It’s an analytical tool for detecting andys?”
   “It’s our basic test,” Rick said. “The only one we currently employ. The only one capable of distinguishing the new Nexus-6 brain unit. You haven’t heard of this test?”
   “I’ve heard of several profile-analysis scales for use with androids. But not that one.” He continued to study Rick intently, his face turgid; Rick could not fathom what Garland was thinking. “Those smudged carbon flimsies,” Garland continued, “that you have there in your briefcase. Polokov, Miss Luft … your assignments. The next one is me.”
   Rick stared at him, then grabbed for the briefcase.
   In a moment the carbons lay spread out before him. Garland had told the truth; Rick examined the sheet. Neither man—or rather neither he nor Garland—spoke for a time and then Garland cleared his throat, coughed nervously.
   “It’s an unpleasant sensation,” he said. “To find yourself a bounty hunter’s assignment all of a sudden. Or whatever it is you are, Deckard.” He pressed a key on his desk intercom and said, “Send one of the bounty hunters in here; I don’t care which one. Okay; thank you.” He released the key. “Phil Resch will be in here a minute or so from now,” he said to Rick. “I want to see his list before I proceed.”
   “You think I might be on his list?” Rick said.
   “It’s possible. We’ll know pretty soon. Best to be sure about these critical matters. Best not to leave it to chance. This info sheet about me.” He indicated the smudged carbon. “It doesn’t list me as a police inspector; it inaccurately gives my occupation as insurance underwriter. Otherwise it’s correct, as to physical description, age, personal habits, home address. Yes, it’s me, all right. Look for yourself.” He pushed the page to Rick, who picked it up and glanced over it.
   The office door opened and a tall fleshless man with hard-etched features, wearing horn-rim glasses and a fuzzy Vandyke beard, appeared. Garland rose, indicating Rick.
   “Phil Resch, Rick Deckard. You’re both bounty hunters and it’s probably time you met.”
   As he shook hands with Rick, Phil Resch said, “Which city are you attached to?”
   Garland answered for Rick. “San Francisco. Here; take a look at his schedule. This one comes up next.” He handed Phil Resch the sheet which Rick had been examining, that with his own description.
   “Say, Gar,” Phil Resch said. “This is you.”
   “There’s more,” Garland said. “He’s also got Luba Luft the opera singer there on his list of retirement-assignments, and Polokov. Remember Polokov? He’s now dead; this bounty hunter or android or whatever he is got him, and we running a bone marrow test at the lab. To see if there’s any conceivable basis—”
   “Polokov I’ve talked to,” Phil Resch said. “That big Santa Claus from the Soviet police?” He pondered, plucking at his disarrayed beard. “I think it’s a good idea to run a bone marrow test on him.”
   “Why do you say that?” Garland asked, clearly annoyed. “It’s to remove any legal basis on which this man Deckard could claim he hadn’t killed anyone; he only ‘retired an android.”‘
   Phil Resch said, “Polokov struck me as cold. Extremely cerebral and calculating; detached.”
   “A lot of the Soviet police are that way,” Garland said, visibly nettled.
   “Luba Luft I never met,” Phil Resch said. “Although I’ve heard records she’s made.” To Rick he said, “Did you test her out? “
   “I started to,” Rick said. “But I couldn’t get an accurate reading. And she called in a harness bull, which ended it.”
   “And Polokov?” Phil Resch asked.
   “I never got a chance to test him either.”
   Phil Resch said, mostly to himself, “And I assume you haven’t had an opportunity to test out Inspector Garland, here.”
   “Of course not,” Garland interjected, his face wrinkled with indignation; his words broke off, bitter and sharp.
   “What test do you use?” Phil Resch asked.
   “The Voigt-Kampff scale.”
   “Don’t know that particular one.” Both Resch and Garland seemed deep in rapid, professional thought-but not in unison. “I’ve always said,” he continued, “that the best place for an android would be with a big police organization such as W.P.O. Ever since I first met Polokov I’ve wanted to test him, but no pretext ever arose. It never would have, either … which is one of the values such a spot would have for an enterprising android.”
   Getting slowly to his feet Inspector Garland faced Phil Resch and said, “Have you wanted to test me, too?”
   A discreet smiled traveled across Phil Resch’s face; he started to answer, then shrugged. And remained silent. He did not seem afraid of his superior, despite Garland’s palpable wrath.
   “I don’t think you understand the situation,” Garland said. “This man—or android—Rick Deckard comes to us from a phantom, hallucinatory, nonexistent police agency allegedly operating out of the old departmental headquarters on Lombard. He’s never heard of us and we’ve never heard of him—yet ostensibly we’re both working the same side of the street. He employs a test we’ve never heard of. The list he carries around isn’t of androids; it’s a list of human beings. He’s already killed once—at least once. And if Miss Luft hadn’t gotten to a phone he probably would have killed her and then eventually he would have come sniffing around after me.”
   “Hmm,” Phil Resch said.
   “Hmm,” Garland mimicked, wrathfully. He looked, now, as if he bordered on apoplexy. “Is that all you have to say?”
   The intercom came on and a female voice said, “Inspector Garland, the lab report on Mr. Polokov’s corpse is ready.”
   “I think we should hear it,” Phil Resch said.
   Garland glanced at him, seething. Then he bent, pressed the key of the intercom. “Let’s have it, Miss French.”
   “The bone marrow test,” Miss French said, “shows that Mr. Polokov was a humanoid robot. Do you want a detailed—”
   “No, that’s enough.” Garland settled back in his seat, grimly contemplating the far wall; he said nothing to either Rick or Phil Resch.
   Resch said, “What is the basis of your Voigt-Kampff test, Mr. Deckard?”
   “Empathic response. In a variety of social situations. Mostly having to do with animals.”
   “Ours is probably simpler,” Resch said. The reflex-arc response taking place in the upper ganglia of the spinal column requires several microseconds more in the humanoid robot than in a human nervous system.” Reaching across Inspector Garland’s desk he plucked a pad of paper toward him; with a ball-point pen he drew a sketch. “We use an audio signal or a light-flash. The subject presses a button and the elapsed time is measured. We try it a number of times, of course. Elapsed time varies in both the andy and the human. But by the time ten reactions have been measured, we believe we have a reliable clue. And, as in your case with Polokov, the bone marrow test backs us up.”
   An interval of silence passed and then Rick said, “You can test me out. I’m ready. Of course I’d like to test you, too. If you’re willing.”
   “Naturally,” Resch said. He was, however, studying Inspector Garland. “I’ve said for years,” Resch murmured, that the Boneli Reflex-Arc Test should be applied routinely to police personnel the higher up the chain of command the better. Haven’t I, Inspector?”
   “That’s right you have,” Garland said. “And I’ve always opposed it. On the grounds that it would lower department morale.”
   “I think now,” Rick said, “you’re going to have to sit still for it. In view of your lab’s report on Polokov.”
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   Garland said, “I guess so.” He jabbed a finger at the bounty hunter Phil Resch. “But I’m warning you: you’re not going to like the results of the tests.”
   “Do you know what they’ll be?” Resch asked, with visible surprise; he did not look pleased.
   “I know almost to a hair,” Inspector Garland said.
   “Okay.” Resch nodded. “I’ll go upstairs and get the Boneli gear.” He strode to the door of the office, opened it, and disappeared out into the hall. “I’ll be back in three or four minutes,” he said to Rick. The door shut after him.
   Reaching into the right-hand top drawer of his desk, Inspector Garland fumbled about, then brought forth a laser tube; he swiveled it until it pointed at Rick.
   “That’s not going to make any difference,” Rick said. “Resch will have a postmortem run on me, the same as your lab ran on Polokov. And he’ll still insist on a—what did you call it—Boneli Reflex-Arc Test on you and on himself.”
   The laser tube remained in its position, and then Inspector Garland said, “It was a bad day all day. Especially when I saw Officer Crams bringing you in; I had an intuition—that’s why I intervened.” By degrees he lowered the laser beam; he sat gripping it and then he shrugged and returned it to the desk drawer, locking the drawer and restoring the key to his pocket.
   “What will tests on the three of us show?” Rick asked.
   Garland said, “That damn fool Resch.”
   “He actually doesn’t know?”
   “He doesn’t know; he doesn’t suspect; he doesn’t have the slightest idea. Otherwise he couldn’t live out a life as a bounty hunter, a human occupation—hardly an android occupation.” Garland gestured toward Rick’s briefcase. “Those other carbons, the other suspects you’re supposed to test and retire. I know them all.” He paused, then said, “We all came here together on the same ship from Mars. Not Resch; he stayed behind another week, receiving the synthetic memory system.” He was silent, then.
   Or rather it was silent.
   Rick said, “What’ll he do when he finds out?”
   “I don’t have the foggiest idea,” Garland said remotely. “It ought, from an abstract, intellectual viewpoint, to be interesting. He may kill me, kill himself; maybe you, too. He may kill everyone he can, human and android alike. I understand that such things happen, when there’s been a synthetic memory system laid down. When one thinks it’s human.”
   “So when you do that, you’re taking a chance.”
   Garland said, “It’s a chance anyway, breaking free and coming here to Earth, where we’re not even considered animals. Where every worm and wood louse is considered more desirable than all of us put together.” Irritably, Garland picked at his lower lip. “Your position would be better r if Phil Resch could pass the Boneli test, if it was just me. The results, that way, would be predictable; to Resch I’d just be another andy to retire as soon as possible. So you’re not in a good position either, Deckard. Almost as bad, in fact, as I am. You know where I guessed wrong? I didn’t know about Polokov. He must have come here earlier; obviously he came here earlier. In another group entirely—no contact with ours. He was already entrenched in the W.P.O. when I arrived. I took a chance on the lab report, which I shouldn’t have. Crams, of course, took the same chance.”
   “Polokov was almost my finish, too,” Rick said.
   “Yes, there was something about him. I don’t think he could have been the same brain unit type as we; he must have been souped up or tinkered with—an altered structure, unfamiliar even to us. A good one, too. Almost good enough.”
   “When I phoned my apartment,” Rick said, “why didn’t I get my wife?”
   “All our vidphone lines here are trapped. They recirculate the call to other offices within the building. This is a homeostatic enterprise we’re operating here, Deckard. We’re a closed loop, cut off from the rest of San Francisco. We know about them but they don’t know about us. Sometimes an isolated person such as yourself wanders in here or, as in your case, is brought here—for our protection.” He gestured convulsively toward the office door. “Here comes eager-beaver Phil Resch back with his handy dandy portable little test. Isn’t he clever? He’s going to destroy his own life and mine and possibly yours.”
   “You androids,” Rick said, “don’t exactly cover for each other in times of stress.”
   Garland snapped, “I think you’re right; it would seem we lack a specific talent you humans possess. I believe it’s called empathy.”
   The office door opened; Phil Resch stood outlined, carrying a device which trailed wires. “Here we are,” he said, closing the door after him; he seated himself, plugging the device into the electrical outlet.
   Bringing out his right hand, Garland pointed at Resch. At once Resch—and also Rick Deckard—rolled from their chairs and onto the floor; at the same time, Resch . aimed a laser tube and, as he fell, fired at Garland.
   The laser beam, aimed with skill, based on years of training, bifurcated Inspector Garland’s head. He slumped forward and, from his hand, his miniaturized laser beam rolled across the surface of his desk. The corpse teetered on its chair and then, like a sack of eggs, it slid to one side and crashed to the floor.
   “It forgot,” Resch said, rising to his feet, “that this is my job. I can almost foretell what an android is going to, do. I suppose you can, too.” He put his laser beam away, bent, and, with curiosity, examined the body of his quondam superior. “What did it say to you while I was gone?”
   “That he—it—was an android. And you—” Rick broke off, the conduits of his brain humming, calculating, and selecting; he altered what he had started to say. “—would detect it,” he finished. “In a few more minutes.”
   “Anything else?”
   “This building is android-infested.”
   Resch said introspectively, “That’s going to make it hard for you and me to get out of here. Nominally I have the authority to leave any time I want, of course. And to take a prisoner with me.” He listened; no sound came from beyond the office. “I guess they didn’t hear anything. There’s evidently no bug installed here, monitoring everything as there should be.” Gingerly, he nudged the body of the android with the toe of his shoe. “It certainly is remarkable, the psionic ability you develop in this business; I knew before I opened the office door that he would take a shot at me. Frankly I’m surprised he didn’t kill you while I was upstairs,”
   “He almost did,” Rick said. “He had a big utility-model laser beam on me part of the time. He was considering it. But it was you he was worried about, not me.”
   “The android flees,” Resch said humorlessly, “where the bounty bunter pursues. You realize, don’t you, that you’re going to have to double back to the opera house and get Luba Luft before anyone here has a chance to warn her as to how this came out. Warn it, I should say. Do you think of them as ‘it’? “
   “I did at one time,” Rick said. “When my conscience occasionally bothered me about the work I had to do; I protected myself by thinking of them that way but now I no longer find it necessary. All right, I’ll head directly back to the opera house. Assuming you can get me out of here.”
   “Suppose we sit Garland up at his desk,” Resch said; he dragged the corpse of the android back up into its chair, arranging its arms and legs so that its posture appeared reasonably natural—if no one looked closely. If no one came into the office. Pressing a key on the desk intercom, Phil Resch said, “Inspector Garland has asked that no calls be put through to him for the next half hour. He’s involved in work that can’t be interrupted.”
   “Yes, Mr. Resch.”
   Releasing the intercom key, Phil Resch said to Rick, “I’m going to handcuff you to me during the time we’re still here in the building. Once we’re airborne I’ll naturally let you go.” He produced a pair of cuffs, slapped one onto Rick’s wrist and the other around his own. “Come on; let’s get it over with.” He squared his shoulders, took a deep breath, and pushed open the office door.
   Uniformed police stood or sat on every side, conducting their routine business of the day; none of them glanced up or paid any attention as Phil Resch led Rick across the lobby to the elevator.
   “What I’m afraid of,” Resch said as they waited for the elevator, “is that the Garland one had a dead man’s throttle warning component built into it. But—” He shrugged. “I would have expected it to go off by now; otherwise it’s not much good.”
   The elevator arrived; several police-like nondescript men and women disemelevatored, cracked off across the lobby on their several errands. They paid no attention to Rick or Phil Resch.
   “Do you think your department will take me on?” Resch asked, as the elevator doors shut, closing the two of them inside; he punched the roof button and the elevator silently rose. “After all, as of now I’m out of a job. To say the least.”
   Guardedly, Rick said, “I—don’t see why not. Except that we already have two bounty hunters.” I’ve got to tell him, he said to himself. It’s unethical and cruel not to. Mr. Resch, you’re an android, he thought to himself. You got me out of this place and here’s your reward; you’re everything we jointly abominate. The essence of what we’re committed to destroy.
   “I can’t get over it,” Phil Resch said. “It doesn’t seem possible. For three years I’ve been working under the direction of androids. Why didn’t I suspect—I mean, enough to do something?”
   “Maybe it isn’t that long. Maybe they only recently infiltrated this building.”
   “They’ve been here all the time. Garland has been my superior from the start, throughout my three years.”
   “According to it,” Rick said, “the bunch of them came to Earth together. And that wasn’t as long ago as three years; it’s only been a matter of months.”
   “Then at one time an authentic Garland existed,” Phil Resch said. “And somewhere along the way got replaced.” His sharklike lean face twisted and he struggled to understand. “Or—I’ve been impregnated with a false memory system. Maybe I only remember Garland over the whole time. But—” His face, suffused now with growing torment, continued to twist and work spasmodically. “Only androids show up with false memory systems; it’s been found ineffective in humans.”
   The elevator ceased rising; its doors slid back, and there, spread out ahead of them, deserted except for empty parked vehicles, lay the police station’s roof field.
   “Here’s my car,” Phil Resch said, unlocking the door of a nearby hovercar and waving Rick rapidly inside; he himself got in behind the wheel and started up the motor. In a moment they had lifted into the sky and, turning north, headed back in the direction of the War Memorial Opera House. Preoccupied, Phil Resch drove by reflex; his progressively more gloomy train of thought continued to dominate his attention. “Listen, Deckard,” he said suddenly. “After we retire Luba Luft—I want you to—” His voice, husky and tormented, broke off. “You know. Give me the Boneli test or that empathy scale you have. To see about me.”
   “We can worry about that later,” Rick said evasively “You don’t want me to take it, do you?” Phil Resch glanced at him with acute comprehension. “I guess you know what the results will be; Garland must have told you something. Facts which I don’t know.”
   Rick said, “It’s going to be hard even for the two of us to take out Luba Luft; she’s more than I could handle, anyhow. Let’s keep our attention focused on that.”
   “It’s not just false memory structures,” Phil Resch said. “I own an animal; not a false one but the real thing. A squirrel. I love the squirrel, Deckard; every goddamn morning I feed it and change its papers—you know, clean up its cage—and then in the evening when I get off work I let it loose in my apt and it runs all over the place. It has a wheel in its cage; ever seen a squirrel running inside a wheel? It runs and runs, the wheel spins, but the squirrel stays in the same spot. Buffy seems to like it, though.”
   “I guess squirrels aren’t too bright,” Rick said.
   They flew on, then, in silence.
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   At the opera house Rick Deckard and Phil Resch were informed that the rehearsal had ended. And Miss Luft had left.
   “Did she say where she intended to go?” Phil Resch asked the stagehand, showing his police identification.
   “Over to the museum.” The stagehand studied the ID card. “She said she wanted to take in the exhibit of Edvard Munch that’s there, now. It ends tomorrow.”
   And Luba Luft, Rick thought to himself, ends today.
   As the two of them walked down the sidewalk to the museum, Phil Resch said, “What odds will you give? She’s flown; we won’t find her at the museum.”
   “Maybe,” Rick said.
   They arrived at the museum building, noted on which floor the Munch exhibit could be found, and ascended. Shortly, they wandered amid paintings and woodcuts. Many people had turned out for the exhibit, including a grammar school class; the shrill voice of the teacher penetrated all the rooms comprising the exhibit, and Rick thought, That’s what you’d expect an andy to sound—and look—like. Instead of like Rachael Rosen and Luba Luft. And—the man beside him. Or rather the thing beside him.
   “Did you ever hear of an andy having a pet of any sort?” Phil Resch asked him.
   For sonic obscure reason he felt the need to be brutally honest; perhaps he had already begun preparing himself for what lay ahead. “In two cases that I know of, andys owned and cared for animals. But it’s rare. From what I’ve been able to learn, it generally fails; the andy is unable to keep the animal alive. Animals require an environment of warmth to flourish. Except for reptiles and insects.”
   “Would a squirrel need that? An atmosphere of love? Because Buffy is doing fine, as sleek as an otter. I groom and comb him every other day.” At an oil painting Phil Resch halted, gazed intently. The painting showed a hairless, oppressed creature with a head like an inverted pear, its hands clapped in horror to its ears, its mouth open in a vast, soundless scream. Twisted ripples of the creature’s torment, echoes of its cry, flooded out into the air surrounding it; the man or woman, whichever it was, had become contained by its own howl. It had covered its ears against its own sound. The creature stood on a bridge and no one else was present; the creature screamed in isolation. Cut off by—or despite—its outcry.
   “He did a woodcut of this,” Rick said, reading the card tacked below the painting.
   “I think,” Phil Resch said, “that this is how an andy must feet.” He traced in the air the convolutions, visible in the picture, of the creature’s cry. “I don’t feel like that, so maybe I’m not an—” He broke off, as several persons strolled up to inspect the picture.
   “There’s Luba Luft.” Rick pointed and Phil Resch halted his somber introspection and defense; the two of them walked at a measured pace toward her, taking their time as if nothing confronted them; as always it was vital to preserve the atmosphere of the commonplace. Other humans, having no knowledge of the presence of androids among them, had to be protected at all costs—even that of losing the quarry.
   Holding a printed catalogue, Luba Luft, wearing shiny tapered pants and an illuminated gold vestlike top, stood absorbed in the picture before her: a drawing of a young girl, hands clasped together, seated on the edge of a bed, an expression of bewildered wonder and new, groping awe imprinted on the face.
   “Want me to buy it for you?” Rick said to Luba Luft; he stood beside her, holding laxly onto her upper arm, informing her by his loose grip that he knew he had possession of her—he did not have to strain in an effort to detain her. On the other side of her Phil Resch put his hand on her shoulder and Rick saw the bulge of the laser tube. Phil Resch did not intend to take chances, not after the near miss with Inspector Garland.
   “It’s not for sale.” Luba Luft glanced at him idly, then violently as she recognized him; her eyes faded and the color dimmed from her face, leaving it cadaverous, as if already starting to decay. As if life had in an instant retreated to some point far inside her, leaving the body to its automatic ruin. “I thought they arrested you. Do you mean they let you go?”
   “Miss Luft,” he said, “this is Mr. Resch. Phil Resch, this is the quite well-known opera singer Luba Luft.” To Luba he said, “The harness bull that arrested me is an android. So was his superior. Do you know—did you know—an Inspector Garland? He told me that you all came here in one ship as a group.”
   “The police department which you called,” Phil Resch said to her, “operating out of a building on Mission, is the organizing agency by which it would appear your group keeps in touch. They even feel confident enough to hire a human bounty hunter; evidently—”
   “You?” Luba Luft said. “You’re not human. No more than I am: you’re an android, too.”
   An interval of silence passed and then Phil Resch said in a low but controlled voice, “Well, we’ll deal with that at the proper time.” To Rick he said, “Let’s take her to my car.”
   One of them on each side of her they prodded her in the direction of the museum elevator. Luba Luft did not come willingly, but on the other hand she did not actively resist; seemingly she had become resigned. Rick had seen that before in androids, in crucial situations. The artificial life force animating them seemed to fail if pressed too far … at least in some of them. But not all.
   And it could flare up again furiously.
   Androids, however, had as he knew an inn—ate desire to remain inconspicuous. In the museum, with so many people roaming around, Luba Luft would tend to do nothing. The real encounter—for her probably the final one—would take place in the car, where no one else could see. Alone, with appalling abruptness, she could shed her inhibitions. He prepared himself—and did not think about Phil Resch. As Resch had said, it would be dealt with at a proper time.
   At the end of the corridor near the elevators, a little store-like affair had been set up; it sold prints and art books, and Luba halted there, tarrying. “Listen,” she said to Rick. Some of the color had returned to her face; once more she looked—at least briefly—alive. “Buy me a reproduction of that picture I was looking at when you found me. The one of the girt sitting on the bed.”
   After a pause Rick said to the clerk, a heavy-jowled, middle-aged woman with netted gray hair, “Do you have a print of Munch’s Puberty?”
   “Only in this book of his collected work,” the clerk said, lifting down a handsome glossy volume. “Twent-five dollars.”
   “I’ll take it.” He reached for his wallet.
   Phil Resch said, “My departmental budget could never in a million years be stretched—”
   “My own money,” Rick said; he handed the woman the bills and Luba the book. “Now let’s get started down,” he said to her and Phil Resch.
   “It’s very nice of you,” Luba said as they entered the elevator. “There’s something very strange and touching about humans. An android would never have done that.” She glanced icily at Phil Resch. “It wouldn’t have occurred to him; as he said, never in a million years.” She continued to gaze at Resch, now with manifold hostility and aversion. “I really don’t like androids. Ever since I got here from Mars my life has consisted of imitating the human, doing what she would do, acting as if I had the thoughts and impulses a human would have. Imitating, as far as I’m concerned, a superior life form.” To Phil Resch she said, “Isn’t that how it’s been with you, Resch? Trying to be—”
   “I can’t take this.” Phil Resch dug into his coat, groped.
   “No,” Rick said; he grabbed at Phil Resch’s hand; Resch retreated, eluding him. “The Boneli test,” Rick said.
   “It’s admitted it’s an android,” Phil Resch said. “We don’t have to wait.”
   “But to retire it,” Rick said, “because it’s needling you give me that.” He struggled to pry the laser tube away from Phil Resch. The tube remained in Phil Resch’s possession; Resch circled back within the cramped elevator, evading him, his attention on Luba Luft only. “Okay,” Rick said. “Retire it; kill it now. Show it that it’s right.” He saw, then, that Resch meant to. “Wait—”
   Phil Resch fired, and at the same instant Luba Luft, in a spasm of frantic hunted fear, twisted and spun away, dropping as she did so. The beam missed its mark but, as Resch lowered it, burrowed a narrow hole, silently, into her stomach. She began to scream; she lay crouched against the wall of the elevator, screaming. Like the picture, Rick thought to himself, and, with his own laser tube, killed her. Luba Luft’s body fell forward, face down, in a heap. It did not even tremble.
   With his laser tube, Rick systematically burned into blurred ash the book of pictures which he had just a few minutes ago bought Luba. He did the job thoroughly, saying nothing; Phil Resch watched without understanding, his face showing his perplexity.
   “You could have kept the book yourself,” Resch said, when it had been done. “That cost you—”
   “Do you think androids have souls?” Rick interrupted.
   Cocking his head on one side, Phil Resch gazed at him in even greater puzzlement.
   “I could afford the book,” Rick said. “I’ve made three thousand dollars so far today, and I’m not even half through.”
   “You’re claiming Garland?” Phil Resch asked. “But I killed him, not you. You just lay there. And Luba, too. I got her.”
   “You can’t collect,” Rick said. “Not from your own department and not from ours. When we get to your car I’ll administer the Boneli test or the Voigt-Kampff to you and then we’ll see. Even though you’re not on my list.” His hands shaking, he opened his briefcase, rummaged among the crumpled onionskin carbons. “No, you’re not here. So legally I can’t claim you; to make anything I’ll have to claim Luba Luft and Garland.”
   “You’re sure I’m an android? Is that really what Garland said?”
   “That’s what Garland said.”
   “Maybe he was lying,” Phil Resch said. “To split us apart. As we are now. We’re nuts, letting them split us; you were absolutely right about Luba Luft—I shouldn’t have let her get my goat like that. I must be overly sensitive. That would be natural for a bounty hunter, I suppose; you’re probably the same way. But look; we would have had to retire Luba Luft anyhow, half an hour from now—only one half hour more. She wouldn’t even have had time to look through that book you got her. And I still think you shouldn’t have destroyed it; that’s a waste. I can’t. follow your reasoning; it isn’t rational, that’s why.”
   Rick said, “I’m getting out of this business.”
   “And go into what?”
   “Anything. Insurance underwriting, like Garland was supposed to be doing. Or I’ll emigrate. Yes.” He nodded. “I’ll go to Mars.”
   “But someone has to do this,” Phil Resch pointed out.
   “They can use androids. Much better if andys do it. I can’t any more; I’ve had enough. She was a wonderful singer. The planet could have used her. This is insane.”
   “This is necessary. Remember: they killed humans in order to get away. And if I hadn’t gotten you out of the Mission police station they would have killed you. That’s what Garland wanted me for; that’s why he had me come down to his office. Didn’t Polokov almost kill you? Didn’t Luba Luft almost? We’re acting defensively; they’re here on our planet—they’re murderous illegal aliens masquerading as—”
   “As police,” Rick said. “As bounty hunters.”
   “Okay; give me the Boneli test. Maybe Garland lied. I think he did—false memories just aren’t that good. What about my squirrel? “
   “Yes, your squirrel. I forgot about your squirrel.”
   “If I’m an andy,” Phil Resch said, “and you kill me, you can have my squirrel. Here; I’ll write it out, willing it to you.”
   “Andys can’t will anything. They can’t possess anything to will.”
   “Then just take it,” Phil Resch said.
   “Maybe so,” Rick said. The elevator had reached the first floor, now; its doors opened. “You stay with Luba; I’ll get a patrol car here to take her to the Hall of justice. For her bone marrow test.” He saw a phone booth, entered it, dropped in a coin, and, his fingers shaking, dialed. Meanwhile a group of people, who had been waiting for the elevator, gathered around Phil Resch and the body of Luba Luft.
   She was really a superb singer, he said to himself as he hung up the receiver, his call completed. I don’t get it; how can a talent like that be a liability to our society? But it wasn’t the talent, he told himself; it was she herself. As Phil Resch is, he thought. He’s a menace in exactly the same way, for the same reasons. So I can’t quit now. Emerging from the phone booth he pushed his way among the people, back to Resch and the prone figure of the android girl. Someone had put a coat over her. Not Resch’s.
   Going up to Phil Resch—who stood off to one side vigorously smoking a small gray cigar—he said to him, “I hope to god you do test out as an android.”
   “You realty hate me,” Phil Resch said, marveling. “All of a sudden; you didn’t hate me back on Mission Street. Not while I was saving your life.”
   “I see a pattern. The way you killed Garland and then the way you killed Luba. You don’t kill the way I do; you don’t try to—Hell,” he said, “I know what it is. You like to kill. All you need is a pretext. If you had a pretext you’d kill me. That’s why you picked up on the possibility of Garland being an android; it made him available for being killed. I wonder what you’re going to do when you fail to pass the Boneli test. Will you kill yourself? Sometimes androids do that.” But the situation was rare.
   “Yes, I’ll take care of it,” Phil Resch said. “You won’t have to do anything, besides administering the test.”
   A patrol car arrived; two policemen hopped out, strode up, saw the crowd of people and at once cleared themselves a passage through. One of them recognized Rick and nodded. So we can go now, Rick realized. Our business here is concluded. Finally.
   As he and Resch walked back down the street to the opera house, on whose roof their hovercar lay parked, Resch said, “I’ll give you my laser tube now. So you won’t have to worry about my reaction to the test. In terms of your own personal safety.” He held out the tube and Rick accepted it.
   “How’ll you kill yourself without it?” Rick asked. “If you fail on the test?

   “I’ll hold my breath.”
   “Chrissake,” Rick said. “It can’t be done.”
   “There’s no automatic cut-in of the vagus nerve,” Phil Resch said, “in an android. As there is in a human. Weren’t you taught that when they trained you? I got taught that years ago.”
   “But to die that way,” Rick protested.
   “There’s no pain. What’s the matter with it?”
   “It’s—” He gestured. Unable to find the right words.
   “I don’t really think I’m going to have to,” Phil Resch said.
   Together they ascended to the roof of the War Memorial Opera House and Phil Resch’s parked hovercar.
   Sliding behind the wheel and closing his door, Phil Resch said, “I would prefer it if you used the Boneli test.”
   “I can’t. I don’t know how to score it.” I would have to rely on you for an interpretation of the readings, he realized. And that’s out of the question.
   “You’ll tell me the truth, won’t you?” Phil Resch asked. “If I’m an android you’ll tell me?”
   “Sure.”
   “Because I really want to know. I have to know.” Phil Resch relit his cigar, shifted about on the bucket seat of the car, trying to make himself comfortable. Evidently he could not. “Did you really like that Munch picture that Luba Luft was looking at?” he asked. “I didn’t care for it. Realism in art doesn’t interest me; I like Picasso and—”
   “Puberty dates from 1894,” Rick said shortly. “Nothing but realism existed then; you have to take that into account.”
   “But that other one, of the man holding his ears and yelling—that wasn’t representational.”
   Opening his briefcase, Rick fished out his test gear.
   “Elaborate,” Phil Resch observed, watching. “How many questions do you have to ask before you can make a determination?”
   “Six or seven.” He handed the adhesive pad to Phil Resch.
   “Attach that to your cheek. Firmly. And this light—” He aimed it. “This stays focused on your eye. Don’t move; keep your eyeball as steady as you can.”
   “Reflex fluctuations,” Phil Resch said acutely. “But not to the physical stimulus; you’re not measuring dilation, for instance. It’ll be to the verbal questions; what we call a flinch reaction.”
   Rick said, “Do you think you can control it?”
   “Not really. Eventually, maybe. But not the initial amplitude; that’s outside conscious control. If it weren’t—” He broke off. “Go ahead. I’m tense; excuse me if I talk too much.”
   “Talk all you want,” Rick said. Talk all the way to the tomb, he said to himself. If you feel like it. It didn’t matter to him.
   “If I test out android,” Phil Resch prattled, “you’ll undergo renewed faith in the human race. But, since it’s not going to work out that way, I suggest you begin framing an ideology which will account for—”
   “Here’s the first question,” Rick said; the gear had now been set up and the needles of the two dials quivered. “Reaction time is a factor, so answer as rapidly as you can.” From memory he selected an initial question. The test had begun.

   Afterward, Rick sat in silence for a time. Then he began gathering his gear together, stuffing it back in the briefcase.
   “I can tell by your face,” Phil Resch said; he exhaled in absolute, weightless, almost convulsive relief. “Okay; you can give me my gun back.” He reached out, his palm up, waiting.
   “Evidently you were right,” Rick said. “About Garland’s motives. Wanting to split us up; what you said.” He felt both psychologically and physically weary.
   “Do you have your ideology framed?” Phil Resch asked. “That would explain me as part of the human race?”
   Rick said, “There is a defect in your empathic, role-taking ability. One which we don’t test for. Your feelings toward androids.”
   “Of course we don’t test for that.”
   “Maybe we should.” He had never thought of it before, had never felt any empathy on his own part toward the androids he killed. Always fie had assumed that throughout his psyche he experienced the android as a clever machine—as in his conscious view. And yet, in contrast to Phil Resch, a difference had manifested itself. And he felt instinctively that he was right. Empathy toward an artificial construct? he asked himself. Something that only pretends to be alive? But Luba Luft had seemed genuinely alive; it had not worn the aspect of a simulation.
   “You realize,” Phil Resch said quietly, “what this would do. If we included androids in our range of empathic identification, as we do animals.”
   “We couldn’t protect ourselves.”
   “Absolutely. These Nexus-6 types … they’d roll all over us and mash us flat. You and I, all the bounty hunters—we stand between the Nexus-6 and mankind, a barrier which keeps the two distinct. Furthermore—” He ceased, noticing that Rick was once again hauling out his test gear. “I thought the test was over.”
   “I want to ask myself a question,” Rick said. “And I want you to tell me what the needles register. Just give me the calibration; I can compute it.” He plastered the adhesive disk against his cheek, arranged the beam of light until it fed directly into his eye. “Are you ready? Watch the dials. We’ll exclude time lapse in this; I just want magnitude.”
   “Sure, Rick,” Phil Resch said obligingly.
   Aloud, Rick said, “I’m going down by elevator with an android I’ve captured. And suddenly someone kills it, without warning.”
   “No particular response,” Phil Resch said.
   “What’d the needles hit?”
   “The left one 2.8. The right one 3.3”
   Rick said, “A female android.”
   “Now they’re up to 4.0 and 6. respectively.”
   “That’s high enough,” Rick said; he removed the wired adhesive disk from his cheek and shut off the beam of light. “That’s an emphatically empathic response,” he said. “About what a human subject shows for most questions. Except for the extreme ones, such as those dealing with human pelts used decoratively … the truly pathological ones.”
   “Meaning?”
   Rick said, “I’m capable of feeling empathy for at least specific, certain androids. Not for all of them but—one or two.” For Luba Luft, as an example, he said to himself. So I was wrong. There’s nothing unnatural or unhuman about Phil Resch’s reactions; it’s me.
   I wonder, he wondered, if any human has ever felt this way before about an android.
   Of course, he reflected, this may never come up again in my work; it could be an anomaly, something for instance to do with my feelings for The Magic Flute. And for Luba’s voice, in fact her career as a whole. Certainly this had never come up before; or at least not that he had been aware of. Not, for example, with Polokov. Nor with Garland. And, he realized, if Phil Resch had proved out android I could have killed him without feeling anything, anyhow after Luba’s death.
   So much for the distinction between authentic living humans and humanoid constructs. In that elevator at the museum, he said to himself, I rode down with two creatures, one human, the other android … and my feelings were the reverse of those intended. Of those I’m accustomed to feel—am required to feel.
   “You’re in a spot, Deckard,” Phil Resch said; it seemed to amuse him.
   Rick said, “What—should I do?”
   “It’s sex,” Phil Resch said.
   “Sex?
   “Because she—it—was physically attractive. Hasn’t that ever happened to you before?” Phil Resch laughed. “We were taught that it constitutes a prime problem in bounty hunting. Don’t you know, Deckard, that in the colonies they have android mistresses?”
   “It’s illegal,” Rick said, knowing the law about that.
   “Sure it’s illegal. But most variations in sex are illegal. But people do it anvhow.”
   “What about—not sex—but love?”
   “Love is another name for sex.”
   “Like love of country,” Rick said. “Love of music.”
   “If it’s love toward a woman or an android imitation, it’s sex. Wake up and face yourself, Deckard. You wanted to go to bed with a female type of android—nothing more, nothing less. I felt that way, on one occasion. When I had just started bounty hunting. Don’t let it get you down; you’ll heal. What’s happened is that you’ve got your order reversed. Don’t kill her—or be present when she’s killed—and then feel physically attracted. Do it the other way.”
   Rick stared at him. “Go to bed with her first—”
   “—and then kill her,” Phil Resch said succinctly. His grainy, hardened smile remained.
   You’re a good bounty hunter, Rick realized. Your attitude proves it. But am I?
   Suddenly, for the first time in his life, he had begun to wonder.
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Pol Muškarac
Poruke Odustao od brojanja
Zastava 44°49′N - 20°29′E
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Apple iPhone 6s
13

   Like an arc of pure fire, John R. Isidore soared across the late-afternoon sky on his way home from his job. I wonder if she’s still there, he said to himself. Down in that kipple-infested old apt, watching Buster Friendly on her TV set and quaking with fear every time she imagines someone coming down the hall. Including, I suppose, me.
   He had already stopped off at a blackmarket grocery store. On the seat beside him a bag of such delicacies as bean curd, ripe peaches, good soft evil-smelling cheese rocked back and forth as he alternately speeded up and slowed down his car; being tense, tonight, he drove somewhat erratically. And his allegedly repaired car coughed and floundered, as it had been doing for months prior to overhaul. Rats, Isidore said to himself.
   The smell of peaches and cheese eddied about the car, filling his nose with pleasure. All rarities, for which he had squandered two weeks’ salary—borrowed in advance from Mr. Sloat. And, in addition, under the car seat where it could not roll and break, a bottle of Chablis wine knocked back and forth: the greatest rarity of all. He had been keeping it in a safety deposit box at the Bank of America, hanging onto it and not selling it no matter how much they offered, in case at some long, late, last moment a girl appeared. That had not happened, not until now.
   The rubbish-littered, lifeless roof of his apartment building as always depressed him. Passing from his car to the elevator door he damped down his peripheral vision; he concentrated on the valuable bag and bottle which he carried, making certain that he tripped over no trash and took no ignominious pratfall to economic doom. When the elevator creakily arrived he rode it—not to his own floor—but to the lower level on which the new tenant, Pris Stratton, now lived. Presently he stood in front of her door, rapping with the edge of the wine bottle, his heart going to pieces inside his chest.
   “Who’s there?” Her voice, muffled by the door and yet clear. A frightened, but blade-sharp tone.
   “This is J. R. Isidore speaking,” he said briskly, adopting the new authority which he had so recently acquired via Mr. Sloat’s vidphone. “I have a few desirable items here and I think we can put together a more than reasonable dinner.”
   The door, to a limited extent, opened; Pris, no lights on in the room behind her, peered out into the dim hall. “You sound different,” she said. “More grown up.”
   “I had a few routine matters to deal with during business hours today. The usual. If you c-c-could let me in—”
   “You’d talk about them.” However, she held the door open wide enough for him to enter. And then, seeing what he carried, she exclaimed; her face ignited with elfin, exuberant glee. But almost at once, without warning, a lethal bitterness crossed her features, set concrete-like in place. The glee had gone.
   “What is it?” he said; he carried the packages and bottle to the kitchen, set them down and hurried back.
   Tonelessly, Pris said, “They’re wasted on me.”
   “Why?”
   “Oh. She shrugged, walking aimlessly away, her hands in the pockets of her heavy, rather old-fashioned skirt. “Sometime I’ll tell you.” She raised her eyes, then. “It was nice of you anyhow. Now I wish you’d leave. I don’t feel like seeing anyone.” In a vague fashion she moved toward the door to the hall; her steps dragged and she seemed depleted, her store of energy fading almost out.
   “I know what’s the matter with you,” he said.
   “Oh?” Her voice, as she reopened the hall door, dropped even further into uselessness, listless and barren.
   “You don’t have any friends. You’re a lot worse than when I saw you this morning; it’s because—”
   “I have friends.” Sudden authority stiffened her voice; she palpably regained vigor. “Or I had. Seven of them. That was to start with but now the bounty hunters have had time to get to work. So some of them—maybe all of them—are dead.” She wandered toward the window, gazed out at the blackness and the few lights here and there. “I may be the only one of the eight of us left. So maybe you’re right.”
   “What’s a bounty hunter?”
   “That’s right. You people aren’t supposed to know. A bounty hunter is a professional murderer who’s given a list of those he’s supposed to kill. He’s paid a sum—a thousand dollars is the going rate, I understand—for each he gets. Usually he has a contract with a city so he draws a salary as well. But they keep that low so he’ll have incentive.”
   “Are you sure?” Isidore asked.
   “Yes.” She nodded. “You mean am I sure he has incentive? Yes, he has incentive. He enjoys it.”
   “I think,” Isidore said, “You’re mistaken.” Never in his life had he heard of such a thing. Buster Friendly, for instance, had never mentioned it. “It’s not in accord with present-day Mercerian ethics,” he pointed out. “All life is one; ‘no man is an island,’ as Shakespeare said in olden times.”
   “John Donne.”
   Isidore gestured in agitation. “That’s worse than anything I ever heard of. Can’t you call the police?”
   “No.”
   “And they’re after you? They’re apt to come here and kill you?” He understood, now, why the girl acted in so secretive a fashion. “No wonder you’re scared and don’t want to see anybody.” But he thought, It must be a delusion. She must be psychotic. With delusions of persecution. Maybe from brain damage due to the dust; maybe she’s a special. “I’ll get them first,” he said.
   “With what?” Faintly, she smiled; she showed her small, even, white teeth
   “I’ll get a license to carry a laser beam. It’s easy to get, out here where there’s hardly anybody; the police don’t patrol—you’re expected to watch out for yourself”
   “How about when you’re at work?”
   “I’ll take a leave of absence!”
   Pris said, “That’s very nice of you, J. R. Isidore. But if bounty hunters got the others, got Max Polokov and Garland and Luba and Hasking and Roy Baty—” She broke off. “Roy and Irmgard Baty. If they’re dead then it really doesn’t matter. They’re my best friends. Why the hell don’t I hear from them, I wonder?” She cursed, angrily.
   Making his way into the kitchen he got down dusty, long unused plates and bowls and glasses; he began washing them in the sink, running the rusty hot water until it cleared—at last. Presently Pris appeared, seated herself at the table. He uncorked the bottle of Chablis, divided the peaches and the cheese and the bean curd.
   “What’s that white stuff? Not the cheese.” She pointed.
   “Made from soy bean whey. I wish I had some—” He broke off, flushing. “It used to be eaten with beef gravy.”
   “An android,” Pris murmured. “That’s the sort of slip an android makes. That’s what gives it away.” She came over, stood beside him, and then to his stunned surprise put her arm around his waist and for an instant pressed against him.
   “I’ll try a slice of peach,” she said, and gingerly picked out a slippery pink-orange furry slice with her long fingers. And then, as she ate the slice of peach, she began to cry. Cold tears descended her cheeks, splashed on the bosom of her dress. He did not know what to do, so he continued dividing the food. “Goddamn it,” she said, furiously. “Well—” She moved away from him, paced slowly, with measured steps, about the room. “—see, we lived on Mars. That’s how come I know androids.” Her voice shook but she managed to continue; obviously it meant a great deal to her to have someone to talk to.
   “And the only people on Earth that you know,” Isidore said, “are your fellow ex-emigrants.”
   “We knew each other before the trip. A settlement near New New York. Roy Baty and Irmgard ran a drugstore; he was a pharmacist and she handled the beauty aids, the creams and ointments; on Mars they use a lot of skin conditioners. I—” She hesitated. “I got various drugs from Roy—I needed them at first because—well, anyhow, it’s an awful place. This “—she swept in the room, the apartment, in one violent gesture—” this is nothing. You think I’m suffering because I’m lonely. Hell, all Mars is lonely. Much worse than this.”
   “Don’t the androids keep you company? I heard a commercial on—” Seating himself he ate, and presently she too picked up the glass of wine; she sipped expressionlessly. “I understood that the androids helped.”
   “The androids,” she said, “are lonely, too.”
   “Do you like the wine?”
   She set down her glass. “It’s fine.”
   “It’s the only bottle I’ve seen in three years.”
   “We came back,” Pris said, “because nobody should have to live there. It wasn’t conceived for habitation, at least not within the last billion years. It’s so old. You feel it in the stones, the terrible old age. Anyhow, at first I got drugs from Roy; I lived for that new synthetic pain-killer, that silenizine. And then I met Horst Hartman, who at that time ran a stamp store, rare postage stamps; there’s so much time on your hands that you’ve got to have a hobby, something you can pore over endlessly. And Horst got me interested in pre-colonial fiction.”
   “You mean old books?”
   “Stories written before space travel but about space travel.”
   “How could there have been stories about space travel before—”
   “The writers,” Pris said, “made it up.”
   “Based on what?”
   “On imagination. A lot of times they turned out wrong. For example they wrote about Venus being a jungle paradise with huge monsters and women in breastplates that glistened.” She eyed him. “Does that interest you? Big women with long braided blond hair and gleaming breastplates the size of melons?”
   “No,” he said.
   “Irmgard is blond,” Pris said. “But small. Anyhow, there’s a fortune to be made in smuggling pre-colonial fiction, the old magazines and books and films, to Mars. Nothing is as exciting. To read about cities and huge industrial enterprises, and really successful colonization. You can imagine what it might have been like. What Mars ought to be like. Canals.”
   “Canals?” Dimly, he remembered reading about that; in the olden days they had believed in canals on Mars.
   “Crisscrossing the planet,” Pris said. “And beings from other stars. With infinite wisdom. And stories about Earth, set in our time and even later. Where there’s no radioactive dust.”
   “I would think,” Isidore said, “it would make you feel worse.”
   “It doesn’t,” Pris said curtly.
   “Did you bring any of that pre-colonial reading material back with you? “ It occurred to him that he ought to try some.
   “It’s worthless, here, because here on Earth the craze never caught on. Anyhow there’s plenty here, in the libraries; that’s where we get all of ours—stolen from libraries here on Earth and shot by autorocket to Mars. You’re out at night humbling across the open space, and all of a sudden you see a flare, and there’s a rocket, cracked open, with old pre-colonial fiction magazines spilling out everywhere. A fortune. But of course you read them before you sell them.” She warmed to her topic. “Of all—”
   A knock sounded on the hall door.
   Ashen, Pris whispered, “I can’t go. Don’t make any noise; just sit.” She strained, listening. “I wonder if the door’s locked,” she said almost inaudibly. “God, I hope so.” Her eyes, wild and powerful, fixed themselves beseechingly on him, as if praying to him to make it true.
   A far-off voice from the hall called, “Pris, are you in there?” A man’s voice. “It’s Roy and Irmgard. We got your card.”
   Rising and going into the bedroom, Pris reappeared carrying a pen and scrap of paper; she reseated herself, scratched out a hasty message.


   YOU GO TO THE DOOR.


   Isidore, nervously, took the pen from her and wrote:


   AND SAY WHAT?


   With anger, Pris scratched out:


   SEE IF IT’S REALLY THEM.


   Getting up, he walked glumly into the living room. How would I know if it was them? he inquired of himself. He opened the door.
   Two people stood in the dim hall, a small woman, lovely in the manner of Greta Garbo, with blue eyes and yellow-blond hair; the man larger, with intelligent eyes but flat, Mongolian features which gave him a brutal look. The woman wore a fashionable wrap, high shiny boots, and tapered pants; the man lounged in a rumpled shirt and stained trousers, giving an air of almost deliberate vulgarity. He smiled at Isidore but his bright, small eyes remained oblique.
   “We’re looking—” the small blond woman began, but then she saw past Isidore; her face dissolved in rapture and she whisked past him, calling. “Pris! How are you?” Isidore turned. The two women were embracing. He stepped aside, and Roy Baty entered, somber and large, smiling his crooked, tuneless smile.
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Zodijak Gemini
Pol Muškarac
Poruke Odustao od brojanja
Zastava 44°49′N - 20°29′E
mob
Apple iPhone 6s
14

   Can we talk?” Roy said, indicating Isidore.
   Pris, vibrant with bliss, said, “It’s okay up to a point.” To Isidore she said, “Excuse us.” She led the Batys off to one side and muttered at them; then the three of them returned to confront J. R. Isidore, who felt uncomfortable and out of place. “This is Mr. Isidore,” Pris said. “He’s taking care of me.” The words came out tinged with an almost malicious sarcasm; Isidore blinked. “See? He brought me some natural food.”
   “Food,” Irmgard Baty echoed, and trotted lithely into the kitchen to see. “Peaches,” she said, immediately picking up a bowl and spoon; smiling at Isidore she ate with brisk little animal bites. Her smile, different from Pris’s, provided simple warmth; it had no veiled overtones.
   Going after her—he felt attracted to her—Isidore said, “You’re from Mars.”
   “Yes, we gave up.” Her voice bobbed, as, with birdish acumen, her blue eyes sparkled at him. “What an awful building you live in. Nobody else lives here, do they? We didn’t see any other fights.”
   “I live upstairs,” Isidore said.
   “Oh, I thought you and Pris were maybe living together.” Irmgard Baty did not sound disapproving; she meant it, obviously, as merely a statement.
   Dourly—but still smiling his smile—Roy Baty said, “Well, they got Polokov.”
   The joy which had appeared on Pris’s face at seeing her friends at once melted away. “Who else?”
   “They got Garland,” Roy Baty said. “They got Anders and Gitchel and then just a little earlier today they got Luba.” He delivered the news as if, perversely, it pleased him to be telling this. As if he derived pleasure from Pris’s shock. “I didn’t think they’d get Luba; remember I kept saying that during the trip?”
   “So that leaves—” Pris said.
   “The three of us,” Irmgard said with apprehensive urgency.
   “That’s why we’re here.” Roy Baty’s voice boomed out with new, unexpected warmth; the worse the situation the more he seemed to enjoy it. Isidore could not fathom him in the slightest.
   “Oh god,” Pris said, stricken.
   “Well, they had this investigator, this bounty hunter,” Irmgard said in agitation, “named Dave Holden.” Her lips dripped venom at the name. “And then Polokov almost got him.”
   “Almost got him,” Roy echoed, his smile now immense.
   “So he’s in this hospital, this Holden,” Irmgard continued. “And evidently they gave his list to another bounty hunter, and Polokov almost got him, too. But it wound up with him retiring Polokov. And then he went after Luba; we know that because she managed to get hold of Garland and he sent out someone to capture the bounty hunter and take him to the Mission Street building. See, Luba called us after Garland’s agent picked up the bounty hunter. She was sure it would be okay; she was sure that Garland would la him.” She added, “But evidently something went wrong on Mission. We don’t know what. Maybe we never will.”
   Pris asked, “Does this bounty hunter have our names?”
   “Oh yes, dear, I suppose he does,” Irmgard said. “But he doesn’t know where we are. Roy and I aren’t going back to our apartment; we have as much stuff in our car as we could cram in, and we’ve decided to take one of these abandoned apartments in this ratty old building.”
   “Is that wise?” Isidore spoke up, summoning courage. “T-t-to all be in one place?”
   “Well, they got everybody else,” Irmgard said, matter-of-factly; she, too, like her husband, seemed strangely resigned, despite her superficial agitation. All of them, Isidore thought; they’re all strange. He sensed it without being able to finger it. As if a peculiar and malign abstractness pervaded their mental processes. Except, perhaps, for Pris; certainly she was radically frightened. Pris seemed almost right, almost natural. But—
   “Why don’t you move in with him?” Roy said to Pris, indicating Isidore. “He could give you a certain amount of protection.”
   “A chickenhead?” Pris said. “I’m not going to live with a chickenhead.” Her nostrils flared.
   Irmgard said rapidly, “I think you’re foolish to be a snob at a time like this. Bounty hunters move fast; he may try to tie it up this evening. There may be a bonus in it for him if he got it done by—”
   “Keerist, close the hall door,” Roy said, going over to it; he slammed it with one blow of his hand, thereupon summarily locking it. “I think you should move in with Isidore, Pris, and I think Irm and I should be here in the same building; that way we can help each other. I’ve got some electronic components in my car, junk I ripped off the ship. I’ll install a two-way bug so Pris you can hear us and we can hear you, and I’ll rig up an alarm system that any of the four of us can set off. It’s obvious that the synthetic identities didn’t work out, even Garland’s. Of course, Garland put his head in the noose by bringing the bounty hunter to the Mission Street building; that was a mistake. And Polokov, instead of staying as far away as possible from the hunter, chose to approach him. We won’t do that; we’ll stay put.” He did not sound worried in the slightest; the situation seemed to rouse him to crackling near-manic energy. “I think—” He sucked in his breath noisily, holding the attention of everyone else in the room, including Isidore. “I think that there’s a reason why the three of us are still alive. I think if he had any clue as to where we are he’d have shown up here by now. The whole idea in bounty hunting is to work as fast as hell. That’s where the profit comes.”
   “And if he waits,” Irmgard said in agreement, “we slip away, like we’ve done. I bet Roy is right; I bet he has our names but no location. Poor Luba; stuck in the War Memorial Opera House, right out in the open. No difficulty finding her.”
   “Well,” Roy said stiltedly, “she wanted it that way; she believed she’d be safer as a public figure.”
   “You told her otherwise,” Irmgard said.
   “Yes,” Roy agreed, “I told her, and I told Polokov not to try to pass himself off as a W.P.O. man. And I told Garland that one of his own bounty hunters would get him, which is very possibly, just conceivably, exactly what did happen.” He rocked back and forth on his heavy heels, his face wise with profundity.
   Isidore spoke up. “I-I-I gather from l-l-listening to Mr. Baty that he’s your n-n-natural leader.”
   “Oh yes, Roy’s a leader,” Irmgard said.
   Pris said, “He organized our trip. From Mars to here.”
   “Then,” Isidore said, “you better do what h-h-he suggests.” His voice broke with hope and tension. “I think it would be t-t-terrific, Pris, if you 1-l-lived with me. I’ll stay home a couple of days from my job—I have a vacation coming. To make sure you’re okay.” And maybe Milt, who was very inventive, could design a weapon for him to use. Something imaginative, which would slay bounty hunters … whatever they were. He had an indistinct, glimpsed darkly impression: of something merciless that carried a printed list and a gun, that moved machine-like through the flat, bureaucratic job of killing. A thing without emotions, or even a face; a thing that if killed got replaced immediately by another resembling it. And so on, until everyone real and alive had been shot.
   Incredible, he thought, that the police can’t do anything. I can’t believe that. These people must have done something. Perhaps they emigrated back to Earth illegally. We’re told—the TV tells us—to report any landing of a ship outside the approved pads. The police must be watching for this.
   But even so, no one got killed deliberately any more. It ran contrary to Mercerism.
   “The chickenhead,” Pris said, “likes me.”
   “Don’t call him that, Pris,” Irmgard said; she gave Isidore a look of compassion. “Think what he could call you.”
   Pris said nothing. Her expression became enigmatic.
   “I’ll go start rigging up the bug,” Roy said. “Irmgard and I’ll stay in this apartment; Pris you go with—Mr. Isidore.” He started toward the door, striding with amazing speed for a man so heavy. In a blur he disappeared out the door, which banged back as he flung it open. Isidore, then, had a momentary, strange hallucination; he saw briefly a frame of metal, a platform of pullies and circuits and batteries and turrets and gears—and then the slovenly shape of Roy Baty faded back into view. Isidore felt a laugh rise up inside him; he nervously choked it off. And felt bewildered.
   “A man, “ Pris said distantly, “of action. Too bad he’s so poor with his hands, doing mechanical things.”
   “If we get saved,” Irmgard said in a scolding, severe tone, as if chiding her, “it’ll be because of Roy.”
   “But is it worth it,” Pris said, mostly to herself. She shrugged, then nodded to Isidore. “Okay, J .R. I’ll move in with you and you can protect me.”
   “A-a-all of you,” Isidore said immediately.
   Solemnly, in a formal little voice, Irmgard Baty said to him, “I want you to know we appreciate it very much, Mr. Isidore. You’re the first friend I think any of us have found here on Earth. It’s very nice of you and maybe sometime we can repay you.” She glided over to pat him on the arm.
   “Do you have any pre-colonial fiction I could read?” he asked her.
   “Pardon?” Irmgard Baty glanced inquiringly at Pris.
   “Those old magazines,” Pris said; she had gathered a few things together to take with her, and Isidore lifted the bundle from her arms, feeling the glow that comes only from satisfaction at a goal achieved. “No, J.R. We didn’t bring any back with us, for reasons I explained.”
   “I’ll g-g-go to a library tomorrow,” he said, going out into the hall. “And g-get you and me too some to read, so you’ll have something to do besides just waiting.”

   He led Pris upstairs to his own apartment, dark and empty and stuffy and lukewarm as it was; carrying her possessions into the bedroom, he at once turned on the heater, lights, and the TV to its sole channel.
   “I like this,” Pris said, but in the same detached and remote tone—as before. She meandered about, hands thrust in her skirt pockets; on her face a sour expression, almost righteous in the degree of its displeasure, appeared. In contrast to her stated reaction.
   “What’s the matter?” he asked as he laid her possessions out on the couch.
   “Nothing.” She halted at the picture window, drew the drapes back, and gazed morosely out.
   “If you think they’re looking for you—” he began.
   “It’s a dream,” Pris said. “Induced by drugs that Roy gave me.”
   “P-pardon?”
   “You really think that bounty hunters exist?”
   “Mr. Baty said they killed your friends.”
   “Roy Baty is as crazy as I am,” Pris said. “Our trip was between a mental hospital on the East Coast and here. We’re all schizophrenic, with defective emotional lives—flattening of affect, it’s called. And we have group hallucinations.”
   ‘I didn’t think it was true,” he said full of relief.
   ‘Why didn’t you?” She swiveled to stare intently at him; her scrutiny was so strict that he felt himself flushing.
   “B-b-because things like that don’t happen. The g-government never kills anyone, for any crime. And Mercerism—”
   “But you see,” Pris said, “if you’re not human, then it’s all different.”
   “That’s not true. Even animals—even eels and gophers and snakes and spiders—are sacred.”
   Pris, still regarding him fixedly, said, “So it can’t be, can it? As you say, even animals are protected by law. All life. Everything organic that wriggles or squirms or burrows or flies or swarms or lays eggs or—” She broke off, because Roy Baty had appeared, abruptly throwing the door of the apartment open and entering; a trail of wire rustled after him.
   “Insects,” he said, showing no embarrassment at overhearing them, “are especially sacrosanct.” Lifting a picture rom the wall of the living room he attached a small electronic device to the nail, stepped back, viewed it, then replaced the picture. “Now the alarm.” He gathered up the trailing wire, which led to a complex assembly. Smiling his discordant smile, he showed the assembly to Pris and John Isidore. “The alarm. These wires go under the carpet; they’re antennae. It picks up the presence of a—” He hesitated. “A mentational entity,” he said obscurely, “which isn’t one of us four.”
   “So it rings,” Pris said, “and then what? He’ll have a gun. We can’t fall on him and bite him to death.”
   “This assembly,” Roy continued, “has a Penfield unit built into it. When the alarm has been triggered it radiates a mood of panic to the—intruder. Unless he acts very fast, which he may. Enormous panic; I have the gain turned all the way up. No human being can remain in the vicinity more than a matter of seconds. That’s the nature of panic: it leads to random circus-motions, purposeless flight, and muscle and neural spasms.” He concluded, “Which will give us an opportunity to get him. Possibly. Depending on how good he is.”
   Isidore said, “Won’t the alarm affect us?”
   “That’s right,” Pris said to Roy Baty. “It’ll affect Isidore.”
   “Well, so what,” Roy said. And resumed his task of installation. “So they both go racing out of here panic-stricken. It’ll still give us time to react. And they won’t kill Isidore; he’s not on their list. That’s why he’s usable as a cover.”
   Pris said brusquely, “You can’t do any better, Roy?”
   “No,” he answered, “I can’t.”
   “I’ll be able to g-g-get a weapon tomorrow,” Isidore spoke up.
   “You’re sure Isidore’s presence here won’t set off the alarm?” Pris said. “After all, he’s—you know.”
   “I’ve compensated for his cephalic emanations,” Roy explained. “Their sum won’t trip anything; it’ll take an additional human. Person.” Scowling, he glanced at Isidore, aware of what he had said.
   “You’re androids,” Isidore said. But he didn’t care; it made no difference to him. “I see why they want to kill you,” he said. “Actually you’re not alive.” Everything made sense to him, now. The bounty hunter, the killing of their friends, the trip to Earth, all these precautions.
   “When I used the word ‘human,”‘ Roy Baty said to Pris, “I used the wrong word.”
   “That’s right, Mr. Baty,” Isidore said. “But what does it matter to me? I mean, I’m a special; they don’t treat me very well either, like for instance I can’t emigrate.” He found himself yabbering away like a folletto. “You can’t come here; I can’t—” He calmed himself.
   After a pause Roy Baty said laconically, “You wouldn’t enjoy Mars. You’re missing nothing.”
   “I wondered how long it would be,” Pris said to Isidore, “before you realized. We are different, aren’t we?
   “That’s what probably tripped up Garland and Max Polokov,” Roy Baty said. “They were so goddamn sure they could pass. Luba, too.”
   “You’re intellectual,” Isidore said; he felt excited again at having understood. Excitement and pride. “You think abstractly, and you don’t—” He gesticulated, his words tangling up with one another. As usual. “I wish I had an IQ like you have; then I could pass the test, I wouldn’t be a chickenhead. I think you’re very superior; I could learn a lot from you.”
   After an interval Roy Baty said, “I’ll finish wiring up the alarm.” He resumed work.
   “He doesn’t understand yet,” Pris said in a sharp, brittle, stentorian voice, “how we got off Mars. What we did there.”
   “What we couldn’t help doing,” Roy Baty grunted.
   At the open door to the hall Irmgard Baty had been standing; they noticed her as she spoke up. “I don’t think we have to worry about Mr. Isidore,” she said earnestly; she walked swiftly toward him, looked up into his face. “They don’t treat him very well either, as he said. And what we did on Mars he isn’t interested in; he knows us and he likes us and an emotional acceptance like that—it’s everything to him. It’s hard for us to grasp that, but it’s true.” To Isidore she said, standing very close to him once again and peering up at him, “You could get a lot of money by turning us in; do you realize that?” Twisting, she said to her husband, “See, he realizes that but still he wouldn’t say anything.”
   “You’re a great man, Isidore,” Pris said. “You’re a credit to your race.”
   “If he was an android,” Roy said heartily, “he’d turn us in about ten tomorrow morning. He’d take off for his job and that would be it. I’m overwhelmed with admiration.” His tone could not be deciphered; at least Isidore could not crack it. “And we imagined this would be a friendless world, a planet of hostile faces, all turned against us.” He barked out a laugh.
   I’m not at all worried,” Irmgard said.
   ‘You ought to be seared to the soles of your feet,” Roy said.
   “Let’s vote,” Pris said. “As we did on the ship, when we had a disagreement.”
   “Well,” Irmgard said, “I won’t say anything more. But if we turn this down I don’t think we’ll find any other human being who’ll take us in and help us. Mr. Isidore is—” She searched for the word.
   “Special,” Pris said.
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Underpromise; overdeliver.

Zodijak Gemini
Pol Muškarac
Poruke Odustao od brojanja
Zastava 44°49′N - 20°29′E
mob
Apple iPhone 6s
15

   Solemnly, and with ceremony, the vote was taken.
   “We stay here,” Irmgard said, with firmness. “In this apartment, in this building.”
   Roy Baty said, “I vote we kill Mr. Isidore and hide somewhere else.” He and his wife—and John Isidore—now turned tautly toward Pris.
   In a low voice Pris said, “I vote we make our stand here.” She added, more loudly, “I think J.R.’s value to us outweighs his danger, that of his knowing. Obviously we can’t live among humans without being discovered; that’s what killed Polokov and Garland and Luba and Anders. That’s what killed all of them.”
   “Maybe they did just what we’re doing,” Roy Baty said. “Confided in, trusted, one given human being who they believed was different. As you said, special.”
   “We don’t know that,” Irmgard said. “That’s only a conjecture. I think they, they—” She gestured. “Walked around. Sang from a stage like Luba. We trust—I’ll tell you what we trust that fouls us up, Roy; it’s our goddamn superior intelligence!” She glared at her husband, her small, high breasts rising and falling rapidly. “We’re so smart–Roy, you’re doing it right now; goddamn you, you’re doing it now!”
   Pris said, “I think Irm’s right.”
   “So we hang our lives on a substandard, blighted—” Roy began, then gave up. “I’m tired,” he said simply. “It’s been a long trip, Isidore. But not very long here. Unfortunately.”
   “I hope,” Isidore said happily, “I can help make your stay here on Earth pleasant.” He felt sure he could. It seemed to him a cinch, the culmination of his whole life—and of the new authority which he had manifested on the vidphone today at work.

   As soon as he officially quit work that evening, Rick Deckard flew across town to animal row: the several blocks of big-time animal dealers with their huge glass windows and lurid signs. The new and horribly unique depression which had floored him earlier in the day had not left. This, his activity here with animals and animal dealers, seemed the only weak spot in the shroud of depression, a flaw by which he might be able to grab it and exorcise it. In the past, anyhow, the sight of animals, the scent of money deals with expensive stakes, had done much for him. Maybe it would accomplish as much now.
   “Yes, sit,” a nattily dressed new animal salesman said to him chattily as he stood gaping with a sort of glazed, meek need at the displays. “See anything you like?”
   Rick said, “I see a lot I like. It’s the cost that bothers me.”
   “You tell us the deal you want to make,” the salesman said. “What you want to take home with you and how you want to pay for it. We’ll take the package to our sales manager and get his big okay.”
   “I’ve got three thou cash.” The department, at the end of the day, had paid him his bounty. “How much,” he asked, “is that family of rabbits over there?”
   “Sir, if you have a down payment of three thou, I can make you owner of something a lot better than a pair of rabbits. What about a goat?”
   “I haven’t thought much about goats,” Rick said.
   “May I ask if this represents a new price bracket for you?”
   “Well, I don’t usually carry around three thou,” Rick conceded.
   “I thought as much, sit, when you mentioned rabbits. The thing about rabbits, sit, is that everybody has one. I’d like to see you step up to the goat-class where I feel you belong. Frankly you look more like a goat man to me.”
   “What are the advantages to goats?”
   The animal salesman said, “The distinct advantage of a goat is that it can be taught to butt anyone who tries to steal it.”
   “Not if they shoot it with a hypno-dart and descend by rope ladder from a hovering hovercar,” Rick said.
   The salesman, undaunted, continued, “A goat is loyal. And it has a free, natural soul which no cage can chain up. And there is one exceptional additional feature about goats, one which you may not be aware of. Often times when you invest in an animal and take it home you find, some morning, that it’s eaten something radioactive and died. A goat isn’t bothered by contaminated quasi-foodstuffs; it can eat eclectically, even items that would fell a cow or a horse or most especially a cat. As a long term investment we feel that the goat—especially the female—offers unbeatable advantages to the serious animal-owner.”
   “Is this goat a female?” He had noticed a big black goat standing squarely in the center of its cage; he moved that way and the salesman accompanied him. The goat, it seemed to Rick, was beautiful.
   “Yes, this goat is a female. A black Nubian goat, very large, as you can see. This is a superb contender in this year’s market, sir. And we’re offering her at an attractive, unusually low, low price.”
   Getting out his creased Sidney’s, Rick looked up the listing, on goats, black Nubian.
   “Will this be a cash deal?” the salesman asked. “Or are you trading in a used animal?”
   “All cash,” Rick said.
   On a slip of paper the salesman scribbled a price and then briefly, almost furtively, showed it to Rick.
   “—too much,” Rick said, He took the slip of paper and wrote down a more modest figure.
   “We couldn’t let a goat go for that,” the salesman protested. He wrote another figure. “This goat is less than a year old; she has a very long life expectancy.” He showed the figure to Rick.
   “It’s a deal,” Rick said.
   He signed the time-payment contract, paid over his three thousand dollars—his entire bounty money—as down payment, and shortly found himself standing by his hovercar, rather dazed, as employees of the animal dealer loaded the crate of goat into the car. I own an animal now, he said to himself. A living animal, not electric. For the second time in my life.
   The expense, the contractual indebtedness, appalled him; he found himself shaking. But I had to do it, he said to himself. The experience with Phil Resch—I have to get my confidence, my faith in myself and my abilities, back. Or I won’t keep my job.
   His hands numb he guided the hovercar up into the sky and headed for his apartment and Iran. She’ll be angry, he said to himself. Because it’ll worry her, the responsibility. And since she’s home all day a lot of the maintenance will fall to her. Again he felt dismal.
   When he had landed on the roof of his building he sat for a time, weaving together in his mind a story thick with verisimilitude. My job requires it, he thought, scraping bottom. Prestige. We couldn’t go on with the electric sheep any longer; it sapped my morale. Maybe I can tell her that, he decided.
   Climbing from the car he maneuvered the goat cage from the back seat, with wheezing effort managed to set it down on the roof. The goat, which had slid about during the transfer, regarded him with bright-eyed perspicacity, but made no sound.
   He descended to his floor, followed a familiar path down the hall to his own door.
   “Hi,” Iran greeted him, busy in the kitchen with dinner. “Why so late tonight?”
   “Come up to the roof,” he said. “I want to show you something.”
   “You bought an animal.” She removed her apron, smoothed back her hair reflexively, and followed him out of the apartment; they progressed down the hall with huge, eager strides. “You shouldn’t have gotten it without me,” Iran gasped. “I have a right to participate in the decision, the most important acquisition we’ll ever—”
   “I wanted it to be a surprise,” he said.
   “You made some bounty money today,” Iran said, accusingly.
   Rick said, “Yes. I retired three andys.” He entered the elevator and together they moved nearer to god. “I had to buy this,” he said. “Something went wrong, today; something about retiring them. It wouldn’t have been possible for me to go on without getting an animal.” The elevator had reached the roof; he led his wife out into the evening darkness, to the cage; switching on the spotlights—maintained for the use of all building residents—he pointed to the goat, silently. Waiting for her reaction.
   “Oh my god,” Iran said softly. She walked to the cage, peered in; then she circled around it, viewing the goat from every angle. “Is it really real?” she asked. “It’s not false?”
   “Absolutely real,” he said. “Unless they swindled me.” But that rarely happened; the fine for counterfeiting would be enormous:two and a half times the full market value of the genuine animal. “No, they didn’t swindle me.”
   “It’s a goat,” Iran said. “A black Nubian goat.” “Female,” Rick said. “So maybe later on we can mate her. And we’ll get milk out of which we can make cheese.”
   “Can we let her out? Put her where the sheep is?”
   “She ought to be tethered,” he said. “For a few days at least.”
   Iran said in an odd little voice, “‘My life is love and pleasure.’ An old, old song by Josef Strauss. Remember? When we first met.” She put her hand gently on his shoulder, leaned toward him, and kissed him. “Much love. And very much pleasure.”
   “Thanks,” he said, and hugged her.
   “Let’s run downstairs and give thanks to Mercer. Then we can come up here again and right away name her; she needs a name. And maybe you can find some rope to tether her.” She started off.
   Standing by his horse Judy, grooming and currying her, their neighbor Bill Barbour called to them, “Hey, that’s a nice-looking goat you have, Deckards. Congratulations. Evening, Mrs. Deckard. Maybe you’ll have kids; I’ll maybe trade you my colt for a couple of kids.”
   “Thanks,” Rick said. He followed after Iran, in the direction of the elevator. “Does this cure your depression?” he asked her. “It cures mine.”
   Iran said, “It certainly does cure my depression. Now we can admit to everybody that the sheep’s false.”
   “No need to do that,” he said cautiously.
   “But we can,” Iran persisted. “See, now we have nothing to hide; what we’ve always wanted has come true. It’s a dream!” Once more she stood on tiptoe, leaning and nimbly kissing him; her breath, eager and erratic, tickled his neck. She reached, then, to stab at the elevator button.
   Something warned him. Something made him say, “Let’s not go down to the apartment yet. Let’s stay up here with the goat. Let’s just sit and look at her and maybe feed the goat something. They gave me a bag of oats to start us out. And we can read the manual on goat maintenance; they included that, too, at no extra charge. We can call her Euphemia.” The elevator, however, had come and already Iran was trotting inside. “Iran, wait,” he said.
   “It would be immoral not to fuse with Mercer in gratitude,” Iran said. “I had hold of the handles of the box today and it overcame my depression a little—just a little, not like this. But anyhow I got hit by a rock, here.” She held up her wrist; on it he made out a small dark bruise. “And I remember thinking how much better we are, how much better off, when we’re with Mercer. Despite the pain. Physical pain but spiritually together; I felt everyone else, all over the world, all who had fused at the same time.” She held the elevator door from sliding shut. “Get in, Rick. This’ll be just for a moment. You hardly ever undergo fusion; I want you to transmit the mood you’re in now to everyone else; you owe it to them. It would be immoral to keep it for ourselves.”
   She, was, of course, right. So he entered the elevator and once again descended.
   In their living room, at the empathy box, Iran swiftly snapped the switch, her face animated with growing gladness; it lit her up like a rising new crescent of moon. “I want everyone to know,” she told him. “Once that happened to me; I fused and picked up someone who had just acquired an animal. And then one day—” Her features momentarily darkened; the pleasure fled. “One day I found myself receiving from someone whose animal had died. But others of us shared our different joys with them—I didn’t have any, as you might know—and that cheered the person up. We might even reach a potential suicide; what we have, what we’re feeling, might—”
   “They’ll have our joy,” Rick said, “but we’ll lose. We’ll exchange what we feel for what they feel. Our joy will be lost.”
   The screen of the empathy box now showed rushing streams of bright formless color; taking a breath his wife hung on tightly to the two handles. “We won’t really lose what we feel, not if we keep it clearly in mind. You never really have gotten the hang of fusion, have you, Rick?”
   “Guess not,” he said. But now he had begun to sense, for the first time, the value that people such as Iran obtained from Mercerism. Possibly his experience with the bounty hunter Phil Resch had altered some minute synapsis in him, had closed one neurological switch and opened another. And this perhaps had started a chain reaction. “Iran,” he said urgently; he drew her away from the empathy box. “Listen; I want to talk about what happened to me today.” He led her over to the couch, sat her down facing him. “I met another bounty hunter,” he said. “One I never saw before. A predatory one who seemed to like to destroy them. For the first time, after being with him, I looked at them differently. I mean, in my own way I had been viewing them as he did.”
   “Won’t this wait?” Iran said.
   Rick said, “I took a test, one question, and verified it; I’ve begun to empathize with androids, and look what that means. You said it this morning yourself. ‘Those poor andys.’ So you know what I’m talking about. That’s why I bought the goat. I never felt like that before. Maybe it could be a depression, like you get. I can understand now how you suffer when you’re depressed; I always thought you liked it and I thought you could have snapped yourself out any time, if not alone then by means of the mood organ. But when you get that depressed you don’t care. Apathy, because you’ve lost a sense of worth. It doesn’t matter whether you feet better because if you have no worth—”
   “What about your job?” Her tone jabbed at him; he blinked. “Your job,” Iran repeated. “What are the monthly payments on the goat?” She held out her hand; reflexively he got out the contract which he had signed, passed it to her.
   “That much,” she said in a thin voice. “The interest; good god—the interest alone. And you did this because you were depressed. Not as a surprise for me, as you originally said.” She handed the contract back to him. “Well, it doesn’t matter. I’m still glad you got the goat; I love the goat. But it’s such an economic burden.” She looked gray.
   Rick said, “I can get switched to some other desk. The department does ten or eleven separate jobs. Animal theft; I could transfer to that.”
   “But the bounty money. We need it or they’ll repossess the goat! “
   “I’ll get the contract extended from thirty-six months to forty-eight.” He whipped out a ball-point pen, scribbled rapidly on the back of the contract. “That way it’ll be fifty-two fifty less a month.”
   The vidphone rang.
   “If we hadn’t come back down here,” Rick said, “if we’d stayed up on the roof, with the goat, we wouldn’t have gotten this call.”
   Going to the vidphone, Iran said, “Why are you afraid? They’re not repossessing the goat, not yet.” She started to lift the receiver.
   “It’s the department,” he said. “Say I’m not here.” He headed for the bedroom.
   “Hello,” Iran said, into the receiver.
   Three more andys, Rick thought to himself, that I should have followed up on today, instead of coming home. On the vidscreen Harry Bryant’s face had formed, so it was too late to get away. He walked, with stiff leg muscles, back toward the phone.
   “Yes, he’s here,” Iran was saying. “We bought a goat. Come over and see it, Mr. Bryant.” A pause as she listened and then she held the receiver up to Rick. “He has something he wants to say to you,” she said. Going over to the empathy box she quickly seated herself and once more gripped the twin handles. She became involved almost at once. Rick stood holding the phone receiver, conscious of her mental departure. Conscious of his own aloneness.
   “Hello,” he said into the receiver.
   “We have a tail on two of the remaining androids,” Harry Bryant said. He was calling from his office; Rick saw the familiar desk, the litter of documents and papers and kipple. “Obviously they’ve become alerted—they’ve left the address Dave gave you and now they can be found at … wait.” Bryant groped about on his desk, at last located the material he wanted.
   Automatically Rick searched for his pen; he held the goat-payment contract on his knee and prepared to write.
   “Conapt Building 3967-C,” Inspector Bryant said. “Get over there as soon as you can. We have to assume they know about the ones you picked off, Garland and Luft and Polokov; that’s why they’ve taken unlawful flight.”
   “Unlawful,” Rick repeated. To save their lives.
   “Iran says you bought a goat,” Bryant said. “Just today? After you left work?
   “On my way home.”
   “I’ll come and look at your goat after you retire the remaining androids. By the way—I talked to Dave just now. I told him the trouble they gave you; he says congratulations and be more careful. He says the Nexus-6 types are smarter than he thought. In fact he couldn’t believe you got three in one day.”
   “Three is enough,” Rick said. “I can’t do anything more. I have to rest.”
   “By tomorrow they’ll be gone,” Inspector Bryant said. “Out of our jurisdiction.”
   “Not that soon. They’ll still be around.”
   Bryant said, “You get over there tonight. Before they get dug in. They won’t expect you to move in so fast.”
   “Sure they will,” Rick said. “They’ll be waiting for me.”
   “Got the shakes? Because of what, Polokov—”
   “I haven’t got the shakes,” Rick said.
   “Then what’s wrong?
   “Okay,” Rick said. “I’ll get over there.” He started to hang up the phone.
   “Let me know as soon as you get results. I’ll be here in my office.”
   Rick said, “If I get them I’m going to buy a sheep.”
   “You have a sheep. You’ve had one as long as I’ve known you.”
   “It’s electric,” Rick said. He hung up. A real sheep this time, he said to himself. I have to get one. In compensation.
   At the black empathy box his wife crouched, her face rapt. He stood beside her for a time, his hand resting on her breast; he felt it rise and fall, the life in her, the activity. Iran did not notice him; the experience with Mercer had, as always, become complete.
   On the screen the faint, old, robed figure of Mercer toiled upward, and all at once a rock sailed past him. Watching, Rick thought, My god; there’s something worse about my situation than his. Mercer doesn’t have to do anything alien to him. He suffers but at least he isn’t required to violate his own identity.
   Bending, he gently removed his wife’s fingers from the twin handles. He then himself took her place. For the first time in weeks. An impulse: he hadn’t planned it; all at once it had happened.
   A landscape of weeds confronted him, a desolation. The air smelled of harsh blossoms; this was the desert, and there was no rain.
   A man stood before him, a sorrowful light in his weary, pain-drenched eyes.
   “Mercer,” Rick said.
   “I am your friend,” the old man said. “But you must go on as if I did not exist. Can you understand that?” He spread empty hands.
   “No,” Rick said. “I can’t understand that. I need help.”
   “How can I save you,” the old man said, “if I can’t save myself?” He smiled. “Don’t you see? There is no salvation.”
   “Then what’s this for?” Rick demanded. “What are you for?”
   “To show you,” Wilbur Mercer said, “that you aren’t alone. I am here with you and always will be. Go and do your task, even though you know it’s wrong.”
   “Why?” Rick said. “Why should I do it? I’ll quit my job and emigrate.”
   The old man said, “You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go. It is the basic condition of life, to be required to violate your own identity. At some time, every creature which lives must do so. It is the ultimate shadow, the defeat of creation; this is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life. Everywhere in the universe.”
   “That’s all you can tell me?” Rick said.
   A rock whizzed at him; he ducked and the rock struck him on the ear. At once he let go of the handles and again he stood in his own living room, beside his wife and the empathy box. His head ached wildly from the blow; reaching, he found fresh blood collecting, spilling in huge bright drops down the side of his face.
   Iran, with a handkerchief, patted his ear. “I guess I’m glad you pried me loose. I really can’t stand it, being hit. Thanks for taking the rock in my place.”
   “I’m going,” Rick said.
   “The job?”
   “Three jobs.” He took the handkerchief from her and went to the hall door, still dizzy and, now, feeling nausea.
   “Good luck,” Iran said.
   “I didn’t get anything from holding onto those handles,” Rick said. “Mercer talked to me but it didn’t help. He doesn’t know any more than I do. He’s just an old man climbing a hill to his death.”
   “Isn’t that the revelation?”
   Rick said, “I have that revelation already.” He opened the hall door. “I’ll see you later.” Stepping out into the hall he shut the door after him. Conapt 3967-C, he reflected, reading it off the back of the contract. That’s out in the suburbs; it’s mostly abandoned, there. A good place to hide. Except : or the lights at night. That’s what I’ll be going by, he thought. The lights. Phototropic, like the death’s head moth. And then after this, he thought, there won’t be any more. I’ll do something else, earn my living another way. These three are the last. Mercer is right; I have to get this over with. But, he thought, I don’t think I can. Two andys together—this isn’t a moral question, it’s a practical question.
   I probably can’t retire them, he realized. Even if I try; I’m too tired and too much has happened today. Maybe Mercer knew this, he reflected. Maybe he foresaw everything that will happen.
   But I know where I can get help, offered to me before but declined.
   He reached the roof and a moment later sat in the darkness of his hovercar, dialing.
   “Rosen Association,” the answering-service girl said.
   “Rachael Rosen,” he said.
   “Pardon, sir?”
   Rick grated, “Get me Rachael Rosen.”
   “Is Miss Rosen expecting—”
   “I’m sure she is,” he said. He waited.
   Ten minutes later Rachael Rosen’s small dark face appeared on the vidscreen. “Hello, Mr. Deckard.”
   “Are you busy right now or can I talk to you?” he said. “As you said earlier today.” It did not seem like today; a generation had risen and declined since he had talked to her last. And all the weight, all the weariness of it, had recapitulated itself in his body; he felt the physical burden. Perhaps, he thought, because of the rock. With the handkerchief he dabbed at his still-bleeding ear,
   “Your ear is cut,” Rachael said. “What a shame.”
   Rick said, “Did you really think I wouldn’t call you? As you said?”
   “I told you,” Rachael said, “that without me one of the Nexus-6s would get you before you got it.”
   “You were wrong.”
   “But you are calling. Anyhow. Do you want me to come down there to San Francisco?”
   “Tonight,” he said.
   “Oh, it’s too late. I’ll come tomorrow; it’s an hour trip.”
   “I have been told I have to get them tonight.” He paused and then said, “Out of the original eight, three are left.”
   “You sound like you’ve had a just awful time.”
   “If you don’t fly down here tonight,” he said, “I’ll go after them alone and I won’t be able to retire them. I just bought a goat,” he added. “With the bounty money from the three I did get.”
   “You humans.” Rachael laughed. “Goats smell terrible.”
   “Only male goats. I read it in the book of instructions that came with it.”
   “You really are tired,” Rachael said. “You look dazed. Are you sure you know what you’re doing, trying for three more Nexus-6s the same day? No one has ever retired six androids in one day.”
   “Franklin Powers,” Rick said. “About a year ago, in Chicago. He retired seven.”
   “The obsolete McMillan Y-4 variety,” Rachael said. “This is something else.” She pondered. “Rick, I can’t do it. I haven’t even had dinner.”
   “I need you,” he said. Otherwise I’m going to die, he said to himself. I know it; Mercer knew it; I think you know it, too. And I’m wasting my time appealing to you, he reflected. An android can’t be appealed to; there’s nothing in there to reach.
   Rachael said, “I’m sorry, Rick, but I can’t do it tonight. It’ll have to be tomorrow.”
   “Android vengeance,” Rick said.
   “What?”
   “Because I tripped you up on the Voigt-Kampff scale.”
   “Do you think that?” Wide-eyed, she said, “Really?”
   “Good-by,” he said, and started to hang up.
   “Listen,” Rachael said rapidly. “You’re not using your head.”
   “It seems that way to you because you Nexus-6 types are cleverer than humans.”
   “No, I really don’t understand,” Rachael sighed. “I can tell that you don’t want to do this job tonight—maybe not at all. Are you sure you want me to make it possible for you to retire the three remaining androids? Or do you want me to persuade you not to try?”
   “Come down here,” he said, “and we’ll rent a hotel room.”
   “Why? “
   “Something I heard today,” he said hoarsely. “About situations involving human men and android women. Come down here to San Francisco tonight and I’ll give up on the remaining andys. We’ll do something else.”
   She eyed him, then abruptly said, “Okay, I’ll fly down. Where should I meet you?”
   “At the St. Francis. It’s the only halfway decent hotel still in operation in the Bay Area.”
   “And you won’t do anything until I get there.”
   “I’ll sit in the hotel room,” he said, “and watch Buster Friendly on TV. His guest for the last three days has been Amanda Werner. I like her; I could watch her the rest of my life. She has breasts that smile.” He hung up, then, and sat for a time, his mind vacant. At last the cold of the car roused him; he switched on the ignition key and a moment later headed in the direction of downtown San Francisco. And the St. Francis Hotel.
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16

   In the sumptuous and enormous hotel room Rick Deckard sat reading the typed carbon sheets on the two androids Roy and Irmgard Baty. In these two cases telescopic snapshots had been included, fuzzy 3-D color prints which he could barely make out. The woman, he decided, looks attractive. Roy Baty, however, is something different. Something worse.
   A pharmacist on Mars, he read. Or at least the android had made use of that cover. In actuality it had probably been a manual laborer, a field hand, with aspirations for something better. Do androids dream? Rick asked himself. Evidently; that’s why they occasionally kill their employers and flee here. A better life, without servitude. Like Luba Luft; singing Don Giovanni and Le Nozze instead of toiling across the face of a barren rock-strewn field. On a fundamentally uninhabitable colony world.

   Roy Baty (the poop sheet informed him) has an aggressive, assertive air of ersatz authority. Given to mystical preoccupations, this android proposed the group escape attempt, underwriting it ideologically with a pretentious fiction as to the sacredness of so-called android “life.” In addition, this android stole, and experimented with, various mind-fusing drugs, claiming when caught that it hoped to promote in androids a group experience similar to that of Mercerism, which it pointed out remains unavailable to androids.

   The account had a pathetic quality. A rough, cold android, hoping to undergo an experience from which, due to a deliberately built-in defect, it remained excluded. But he could not work up much concern for Roy Baty; he caught, from Dave’s jottings, a repellent quality hanging about this particular android. Baty had tried to force the fusion experience into existence for itself—and then, when that fell through, it had engineered the killing of a variety of human beings … followed by the flight to Earth. And now, especially as of today, the chipping away of the original eight androids until only the three remained. And they, the outstanding members of the illegal group, were also doomed, since if he failed to get them someone else would. Time and tide, he thought. The cycle of life. Ending in this, the last twilight. Before the silence of death. He perceived in this a micro-universe, complete.
   The door of the hotel room banged open. “What a flight,” Rachael Rosen said breathlessly, entering in a long fish-scale coat with matching bra and shorts; she carried, besides her big, ornate, mail-pouch purse, a paper bag. “This is a nice room.” She examined her wristwatch. “Less than an hour—I made good time. Here.” She held out the paper bag. “I bought a bottle. Bourbon.”
   Rick said, “The worst of the eight is still alive. The one who organized them.” He held the poop sheet on Roy Baty toward her; Rachael set down the paper bag and accepted the carbon sheet.
   “You’ve located this one?” she asked, after reading.
   “I have a conapt number. Out in the suburbs where possibly a couple of deteriorated specials, antheads and chickenheads, hang out and go through their versions of living.”
   Rachael held out her hand. “Let’s see about the others.”
   “Both females.” He passed her the sheets, one dealing with Irmgard Baty, the other an android calling itself Pris Stratton.
   Glancing at the final sheet Rachael said, “Oh—” She tossed the sheets down, moved over to the window of the room to look out at downtown San Francisco. “I think you’re going to get thrown by the last one. Maybe not; maybe you don’t care.” She had turned pale and her voice shook. All at once she had become exceptionally unsteady.
   “Exactly what are you muttering about?” He retrieved the sheets, studied them, wondering which part had upset Rachael.
   “Let’s open the bourbon.” Rachael carried the paper bag into the bathroom, got two glasses, returned; she still seemed distracted and uncertain—and preoccupied. He sensed the rapid flight of her hidden thoughts: the transitions showed on her frowning, tense face. “Can you get this open?” she asked. “It’s worth a fortune, you realize. It’s not synthetic; it’s from before the war, made from genuine mash.”
   Taking the bottle he opened it, poured bourbon in the two tumblers. “Tell me what’s the matter,” he said.
   Rachael said, “On the phone you told me if I flew down here tonight you’d give up on the remaining three andys. ‘We’ll do something else,’ you said. But here we are—”
   “Tell me what upset you,” he said.
   Facing him defiantly, Rachael said, “Tell me what were going to do instead of fussing and fretting around about those last three Nexus-6 andys.” She unbuttoned her coat, carried it to the closet, and hung it up. This gave him his first chance to have a good long look at her. . Rachael’s proportions, he noticed once again, were odd; with her heavy mass of dark hair her head seemed large, and because of her diminutive breasts her body assumed a lank, almost childlike stance. But her great eyes, with their elaborate lashes, could only be those of a grown woman; there the resemblance to adolescence ended. Rachael rested very slightly on the fore-part of her feet, and her arms, as they hung, bent at the joint. The stance, he reflected, of a wary hunter of perhaps the Cro-Magnon persuasion. The race of tall hunters, he said to himself. No excess flesh, a flat belly, small behind and smaller bosom—Rachael had been modeled on the Celtic type of build, anachronistic and attractive, Below the brief shorts her legs, slender, had a neutral, nonsexual quality, not much rounded off in nubile curves. The total impression was good, however. Although definitely that of a girl, not a woman. Except for the restless, shrewd eyes.
   He sipped the bourbon; the power of it, the authoritative strong taste and scent, had become almost unfamiliar to him and he had trouble swallowing. Rachael, in contrast, had no difficulty with hers.
   Seating herself on the bed Rachael smoothed absently at the spread; her expression had now become one of moodiness. He set his glass down on the bedside table and arranged himself beside her. Under his gross weight the bed gave, and Rachael shifted her position.
   “What is it?” he said. Reaching, he took hold of her hand; it felt cold, bony, slightly moist. “What upset you?”
   “That last goddamn Nexus-6 type,” Rachael said, enunciating with effort, “is the same type as I am.” She stared down at the bedspread, found a thread, and began rolling it into a pellet. “Didn’t you notice the description? It’s of me, too. She may wear her hair differently and dress differently—she may even have bought a wig. But when you see her you’ll know what I mean.” She laughed sardonically. “It’s a good thing the association admitted I’m an andy; otherwise you’d probably have gone mad when you caught sight of Pris Stratton. Or thought she was me.”
   “Why does that bother you so much?”
   “Hell, I’ll be along when you retire her.”
   “Maybe not. Maybe I won’t find her.’
   Rachael said, “I know Nexus-6 psychology. That’s why I’m here; that’s why I can help you. They’re all holed up together, the three of them. Clustered around the deranged one calling himself Roy Baty. He’ll be masterminding their crucial, all-out, final defense.” Her lips twisted. “Jesus,” she said.
   “Cheer up,” he said; he cupped her sharp, small chin in the palm of his hand, lifted her head so that she had to face him. I wonder what it’s like to kiss an android, he said to himself. Leaning forward an inch he kissed her dry lips. No reaction followed; Rachael remained impassive. As if unaffected. And yet he sensed otherwise. Or perhaps it was wishful thinking.
   “I wish,” Rachael said, “that I had known that before I came. I never would have flown down here. I think you’re asking too much. You know what I have? Toward this Pris android? “
   “Empathy,” he said.
   “Something like that. Identification; there goes I. My god; maybe that’s what’ll happen. In the confusion you’ll retire me, not her. And she can go back to Seattle and live my life. I never felt this way before. We are machines, stamped out like bottle caps. It’s an illusion that I—I—personary—really exist; I’m just representative of a type.” She shuddered.
   He could not help being amused; Rachael had become so mawkishly morose. “Ants don’t feel like that,” he said, “and they’re physically identical.”
   “Ants. They don’t feel period.”
   “Identical human twins. They don’t—”
   “But they identify with each other; I understand they have an empathic, special bond.” Rising, she got to the bourbon bottle, a little unsteadily; she refilled her glass and again drank swiftly. For a time she slouched about the room, brows knitted darkly, and then, as if sliding his way by chance, she settled back onto the bed; she swung her legs up and stretched out, leaning against the fat pillows. And sighed. “Forget the three andys.” Her voice filled with weariness. “I’m so worn out, from the trip I guess. And from all I learned today. I just want to sleep.” She shut her eyes. “If I die,” she murmured, “maybe I’ll be born again when the Rosen Association stamps out its next unit of my subtype.” She opened her eyes and glared at him ferociously. “Do you know,” she said, “why I really came here? Why Eldon and the other Rosens—the human ones—wanted me to go along with you?”
   “To observe,” he said. “To detail exactly what the Nexus does that gives it away on the Voigt-Kampff test.”
   “On the test or otherwise. Everything that gives it a different quality. And then I report back and the association makes modifications of its zygote-bath DNS factors. And we then have the Nexus-7. And when that gets caught we modify it again and eventually the association has a type that can’t be distinguished.”
   “Do you know of the Boneli Reflex-Arc Test?” he asked.
   “We’re working on the spinal ganglia, too. Someday the Boneli test will fade into yesterday’s hoary shroud of spiritual oblivion.” She smiled innocuously—at variance with her words. At this point he could not discern her degree of seriousness. A topic of world-shaking importance, yet dealt with facetiously; an android trait, possibly, he thought. No emotional awareness, no feeling-sense of the actual meaning of what she said. Only the hollow, formal, intellectual definitions of the separate terms.
   And, more, Rachael had begun to tease him. Imperceptibly she had passed from lamenting her condition to taunting him about his.
   “Damn you,” he said.
   Rachael laughed. “I’m drunk. I can’t go with you. If leave here—” She gestured in dismissal. “I’ll stay behind and steep and you can tell me later what happened.”
   “Except,” he said, “there won’t be a later because Roy Baty will nail me.”
   “But I can’t help you anyhow now because I’m drunk. Anyhow, you know the truth, the brick-hard, irregular, slithery surface of truth. I’m just an observer and I won’t intervene to save you; I don’t care if Roy Baty nails you or not. I care whether I get nailed.” She opened her eyes round and wide. “Christ, I’m empathic about myself. And, see, if I go to that suburban broken-down conapt building—” She reached out, toyed with a button of his shirt; in slow, facile twists she began unbuttoning it. “I don’t dare go because androids have no loyalty to one another and I know that that goddamn Pris Stratton will destroy me and occupy my place. See? Take off your coat.”
   “Why?”
   “So we can go to bed,” Rachael said.
   “I bought a black Nubian goat,” he said. “I have to retire the three more andys. I have to finish up my job and go home to my wife.” He got up, walked around the bed to the bottle of bourbon. Standing there he carefully poured himself a second drink; his hands, he observed, shook only very slightly. Probably from fatigue. Both of us, he realized, are tired. Too tired to hunt down three andys, with the worst of the eight calling the shots.
   Standing there he realized, all at once, that he had acquired an overt, incontestable fear directed toward the principal android. It all hung on Baty—had hung on it from the start. Up to now he had encountered and retired progressively more ominous manifestations of Baty. Now came Baty itself. Thinking that he felt the fear grow; it snared him completely, now that he had let it approach his conscious mind. “I can’t go without you now,” he said to Rachael. “I can’t even leave here. Polokov came after me; Garland virtually came after me.”
   “You think Roy Baty will look you up?” Setting down her empty glass she bent forward, reached back, and unfastened her bra. With agility she slid it from her, then stood, swaying, and grinning because she swayed. “In my purse,” she said, “I have a mechanism which our autofac on Mars builds as an emer—” She grimaced. “An emergency safety thingamajing, -jig, while they’re putting a newly made andy through its routine inspection checks. Get it out. It resembles an oyster. You’ll see it.”
   He began hunting through the purse. Like a human woman, Rachael had every class of object conceivable filched and hidden away in her purse; he found himself rooting interminably.
   Meanwhile, Rachael kicked off her boots and unzipped her shorts; balancing on one foot she caught the discarded fabric with her toe and tossed it across the room. She then dropped onto the bed, roiled over to fumble for her glass, accidently pushed the glass to the carpeted floor. “Damn,” she said, and once again got shakily to her feet; in her underpants she stood watching him at work on her purse, and then, with careful deliberation and attention she drew the bedcovers back, got in, drew the covers over her.
   “Is this it?” He held up a metallic sphere with a button-stem projecting.
   “That cancels an android into catalepsy,” Rachael said, her eyes shut. “For a few seconds. Suspends its respiration; yours, too, but humans can function without respiring—perspiring?—for a couple of minutes, but the vagus nerve of an andy—”
   “I know.” He straightened up. “The android autonomic nervous system isn’t as flexible at cutting in and out as ours. But as you say, this wouldn’t work for more than five or six seconds.”
   “Long enough,” Rachael murmured, “to save your life. So, see—” She roused herself, sat up in the bed. “If Roy Baty shows up here you can be holding that in your hand and you can press the stem on that thing. And while Roy Baty is frozen stiff with no air supply to his blood and his brain cells deteriorating you can kill Roy Baty with your laser.”
   “You have a laser tube,” he said. “In your purse.”
   “A fake. Androids”—she yawned, eyes again shut—”aren’t permitted to carry lasers.”
   He walked over to the bed.
   Squirming about, Rachael managed to roll over at last onto her stomach, face buried in the white lower sheet. “This is a clean, noble, virgin type of bed,” she stated. “Only clean, noble girls who—” She pondered. “Androids can’t bear children,” she said, then. “Is that a loss?”
   He finished undressing her. Exposed her pale, cold loins.
   “Is it a loss?” Rachael repeated. “I don’t really know; I have no way to tell. How does it feel to have a child? How does it feel to be born, for that matter? We’re not born; we don’t grow up; instead of dying from illness or old age we wear out like ants. Ants again; that’s what we are. Not you; I mean me. Chitinous reflex-machines who aren’t really alive.” She twisted her head to one side, said loudly, “I’m not alive! You’re not going to bed with a woman. Don’t be disappointed; okay? Have you ever made love to an android before?”
   “No,” he said, taking off his shirt and tie.
   “I understand—they tell me—it’s convincing if you don’t think too much about it. But if you think too much, if you reflect on what you’re doing—then you can’t go on. For ahem physiological reasons.”
   Bending, he kissed her bare shoulder.
   “Thanks, Rick,” she said wanly. “Remember, though: don’t think about it, just do it. Don’t pause and be philosophical, because from a philosophical standpoint it’s dreary. For us both.”
   He said, “Afterward I still intend to look for Roy Baty. I still need you to be there. I know that laser tube you have in your purse is—”
   “You think I’ll retire one of your andys for you;”
   “I think in spite of what you said you’ll help me all you can. Otherwise you wouldn’t be lying there in that bed.”
   “I love you,” Rachael said. “If I entered a room and found a sofa covered with your hide I’d score very high on the Voigt-Kampff test.”
   Tonight sometime, he thought as he clicked off the bedside light, I will retire a Nexus-6 which looks exactly like this naked girl. My good god, he thought; I’ve wound up where Phil Resch said. Go to bed with her first, he remembered. Then kill her. “I can’t do it,” he said, and backed away from the bed.
   “I wish you could,” Rachael said. Her voice wavered.
   “Not because of you. Because of Pris Stratton; what I have to do to her.”
   “We’re not the same. I don’t can about Pris Stratton. Listen.” Rachael thrashed about in the bed, sitting up; in the gloom he could dimly make out her almost breastless, trim shape. “Go to bed with me and I’ll retire Stratton. Okay? Because I can’t stand getting this close and then—”
   “Thank you,” he said; gratitude—undoubtedly because of the bourbon—rose up inside him, constricting his throat. Two, he thought. I now have only two to retire; just the Batys. Would Rachael really do it? Evidently. Androids thought and functioned that way. Yet he had never come across anything quite like this.
   “Goddamn it, get into bed,” Rachael said.
   He got into bed.
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Pol Muškarac
Poruke Odustao od brojanja
Zastava 44°49′N - 20°29′E
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Apple iPhone 6s
17

   Afterward they enjoyed a great luxury: Rick had room service bring up coffee. He sat for a long time within the arms of a green, black, and gold leaf lounge chair, sipping coffee and meditating about the next few hours. Rachael, in the bathroom, squeaked and hummed and splashed in the midst of a hot shower.
   “You made a good deal when you made that deal,” she called when she had shut off the water; dripping, her hair tied up with a rubber band, she appeared bare and pink at the bathroom door. “We androids can’t control our physical, sensual passions. You probably knew that; in my opinion you took advantage of me.” She did not, however, appear genuinely angry. If anything she had become cheerful and certainly as human as any girl he had known. “Do we really have to go track down those three andys tonight?”
   “Yes,” he said. Two for me to retire, he thought; one for you. As Rachael put it, the deal had been made.
   Gathering a giant white bath towel about her, Rachael said, “Did you enjoy that?”
   “Yes.”
   “Would you ever go to bed with an android again?”
   “If it was a girl. If she resembled you.”
   Rachael said, “Do you know what the lifespan of a humanoid robot such as myself is? I’ve been in existence two years. How long do you calculate I have?”
   After a hesitation he said, “About two more years.”
   “They never could solve that problem. I mean cell replacement. Perpetual or anyhow semi-perpetual renewal. Well, so it goes.” Vigorously she began drying herself. Her face had become expressionless.
   “I’m sorry,” Rick said.
   “Hell,” Rachael said, “I’m sorry I mentioned it. Anyhow it keeps humans from running off and living with an android.”
   “And this is true with you Nexus-6 types too?”
   “It’s the metabolism. Not the brain unit.” She trotted out, swept up her underpants, and began to dress.
   He, too, dressed. Then together, saying little, the two of them journeyed to the roof field, where his hovercar had been parked by the pleasant white-clad human attendant.
   As they headed toward the suburbs of San Francisco, Rachael said, “It’s a nice night.”
   “My goat is probably asleep by now,” he said. “Or maybe goats are nocturnal. Some animals never sleep. Sheep never do, not that I could detect; whenever you look at them they’re looking back. Expecting to be fed.”
   “What sort of wife do you have?”
   He did not answer.
   “Do you—”
   “If you weren’t an android,” Rick interrupted, “if I could legally marry you, I would.”
   Rachael said, “Or we could live in sin, except that I’m not alive.”
   “Legally you’re not. But really you are. Biologically. You’re not made out of transistorized circuits like a false animal; you’re an organic entity.” And in two years, he thought, you’ll wear out and die. Because we never solved the problem of cell replacement, as you pointed out. So I guess it doesn’t matter anyhow.
   This is my end, he said to himself. As a bounty hunter. After the Batys there won’t be any more. Not after this, tonight.
   “You look so sad,” Rachael said.
   Putting his hand out he touched her cheek.
   “You’re not going to be able to hunt androids any longer,” she said calmly. “So don’t look sad. Please.”
   He stared at her.
   “No bounty bunter ever has gone on,” Rachael said. “After being with me. Except one. A very cynical man. Phil Resch. And he’s nutty; he works out in left field on his own.”
   “I see,” Rick said. He felt numb. Completely. Throughout his entire body.
   “But this trip we’re taking,” Rachael said, “won’t be wasted, because you’re going to meet a wonderful, spiritual man.”
   “Roy Baty,” he said. “Do you know all of them?”
   “I knew all of them, when they still existed. I know three, now. We tried to stop you this morning, before you started out with Dave Holden’s list. I tried again, just before Polokov reached you. But then after that I had to wait.”
   “Until I broke down,” he said. “And had to call you.”
   “Luba Luft and I had been close, very close friends for almost two years. What did you think of her? Did you like her?
   “I liked her.”
   “But you killed her.”
   “Phil Resch killed her.”
   “Oh, so Phil accompanied you back to the opera house. We didn’t know that; our communications broke down about then. We knew just that she had been killed; we naturally assumed by you.”
   “From Dave’s notes,” he said, “I think I can still go ahead and retire Roy Baty. But maybe not Irmgard Baty.” And not Pris Stratton, he thought. Even now; even knowing this.
   “So all that took place at the hotel” he said, “consisted of a—”
   “The association,” Rachael said, “wanted to reach the bounty hunters here and in the Soviet Union. This seemed to work … for reasons which we do not fully understand. Our limitation again, I guess.”
   “I doubt if it works as often or as well as you say,” he said thickly.
   “But it has with you.”
   “We’ll see.”
   “I already know,” Rachael said. “When I saw that expression on your face, that grief. I look for that.”
   “How many times have you done this?”
   “I don’t remember. Seven, eight. No, I believe it’s nine.” She—or rather it—nodded. “Yes, nine times.”
   “The idea is old-fashioned,” Rick said.
   Startled, Rachael said, “W-what?”
   Pushing the steering wheel away from him he put the car into a gliding decline. “Or anyhow that’s how it strikes me. I’m going to kill you,” he said. “And go on to Roy and Irmgard Baty and Pris Stratton alone.”
   “That’s why you’re landing?” Apprehensively, she said, “There’s a fine; I’m the property, the legal property, of the association. I’m not an escaped android who fled here from Mars; I’m not in the same class as the others.”
   “But,” he said, “if I can kill you then I can kill them.”
   Her hands dived for her bulging, overstuffed, kipple-filled purse; she searched frantically, then gave up. “Goddamn this purse,” she said with ferocity. “I never can lay my hands on anything in it. Will you kill me in a way that won’t hurt? I mean, do it carefully. If I don’t fight; okay? I promise not to fight. Do you agree?”
   Rick said, “I understand now why Phil Resch said what he said. He wasn’t being cynical; he had just learned too much. Going through this—I can’t blame him. It warped him.”
   “But the wrong way.” She seemed more externally composed, now. But still fundamentally frantic and tense. Yet, the dark fire waned; the life force oozed out of her, as he had so often witnessed before with other androids. The classic resignation. Mechanical, intellectual acceptance of that which a genuine organism—with two billion years of the pressure to live and evolve hagriding it—could never have reconciled itself to.
   “I can’t stand the way you androids give up,” he said savagely. The car now swooped almost to the ground; he had to jerk the wheel toward him to avoid a crash. Braking, he managed to bring the car to a staggering, careening halt; he slammed off the motor and got out his laser tube.
   “At the occipital bone, the posterior base of my skull,” Rachael said. “Please.” She twisted about so that she did not have to look at the laser tube; the beam would enter unperceived.
   Putting his laser tube away Rick said, “I can’t do what Phil Resch said.” He snapped the motor back on, and a moment later they had taken off again.
   “If you’re ever going to do it,” Rachael said, “do it now. Don’t make me wait.”
   “I’m not going to kill you.” He steered the car in the direction of downtown San Francisco once again. “Your car’s at the St. Francis, isn’t it? I’ll let you off there and you can head for Seattle.” That ended what he had to say; he drove in silence.
   “Thanks for not killing me,” Rachael said presently.
   “Hell, as you said you’ve only got two years of life left, anyhow. And I’ve got fifty. I’ll live twenty-five times as long as you.”
   “But you really look down on me,” Rachael said. “For what I did.” Assurance had returned to her; the litany of her voice picked up pace. “You’ve gone the way of the others.
   The bounty hunters before you. Each time they get furious and talk wildly about killing me, but when the time comes they can’t do it. Just like you, just now.” She lit a cigarette, inhaled with relish. “You realize what this means, don’t you? It means I was right; you won’t be able to retire any more androids; it won’t be just me, it’ll be the Batys and Stratton, too. So go on home to your goat. And get some rest.” Suddenly she brushed at her coat, violently. “Yife! I got a burning ash from my cigarette—there, it’s gone.” She sank back against the seat, relaxing.
   He said nothing.
   “That goat,” Rachel said. “You love the goat more than you love your wife, probably. First the goat, then your wife, then last of all—” She laughed merrily. “What can you do but laugh?”
   He did not answer. They continued in silence for a while and then Rachael poked about, found the car’s radio, and switched it on.
   “Turn it off,” Rick said.
   “Turn off Buster Friendly and his Friendly Friends? Tum off Amanda Werner and Oscar Scruggs? It’s time to hear Buster’s big sensational exposé, which is finally almost arrived.” She stooped to read the dial of her watch by the radio’s light. “Very soon now. Did you already know about it? He’s been talking about it, building up to it, for—”
   The radio said, “—ah jes wan ta tell ya, folks, that ahm sitten hih with my pal Bustuh, an we’re tawkin en haven a real mighty fine time, waitin expectantly as we ah with each tick uh the clock foh what ah understan is the mos important announcement of—”
   Rick shut the radio off. “Oscar Scruggs,” he said. “The voice of intelligent man.”
   Instantly reaching, Rachael clicked the radio back on. “I want to listen. I intend to listen. This is important, what Buster Friendly has to say on his show tonight.” The idiotic voice babbled once more from the speaker, and Rachael Rosen settled back and made herself comfortable. Beside him in the darkness the coal of her cigarette glowed like the rump of a complacent lightning bug: a steady, unwavering index of Rachael Rosen’s achievement. Her victory over him.
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Zodijak Gemini
Pol Muškarac
Poruke Odustao od brojanja
Zastava 44°49′N - 20°29′E
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Apple iPhone 6s
18

   “Bring the rest of my property up here,” Pris ordered J. R. Isidore. “In particular I want the TV set. So we can hear Buster’s announcement.”
   “Yes,” Irmgard Baty agreed, bright-eyed, like a darting, plumed swift. “We need the TV; we’ve been waiting a long time for tonight and now it’ll be starting soon.”
   Isidore said, “My own set gets the government channel.”
   Off in a corner of the living room, seated in a deep chair as if he intended to remain permanently, as if he had taken up lodgings in the chair, Roy Baty belched and said patiently, “It’s Buster Friendly and his Friendly Friends that we want to watch, Iz. Or do you want me to call you J.R.? Anyhow, do you understand? So will you go get the set?”
   Alone, Isidore made his way down the echoing, empty hall to the stairs. The potent, strong fragrance of happiness still bloomed in him, the sense of being—for the first time in his dull life—useful. Others depend on me now, he exulted as he trudged down the dust-impacted steps to the level beneath.
   And, he thought, it’ll be nice to see Buster Friendly on TV again, instead of just listening on the radio in the store truck. And that’s right, he realized; Buster Friendly is going to reveal his carefully documented sensational exposé tonight. So because of Pris and Roy and Irmgard I get to watch what will probably be the most important piece of news to be released in many years. How about that, he said to himself.
   Life, for J. R. Isidore, had definitely taken an upswing.
   He entered Pris’s former apartment, unplugged the TV set, and detached the antenna. The silence, all at once, penetrated; he felt his arms grow vague. In the absence of the Batys and Pris he found himself fading out, becoming strangely like the inert television set which he had just unplugged. You have to be with other people, he thought. In order to live at all. I mean, before they came here I could stand it, being alone in the building. But now it’s changed. You can’t go back, he thought. You can’t go from people to nonpeople. In panic he thought, I’m dependent on them. Thank god they stayed.
   It would require two trips to transfer Pris’s possessions to the apartment above. Hoisting the TV set he decided to take it first, then the suitcases and remaining clothes.
   A few minutes later he had gotten the TV set upstairs; his fingers groaning he placed it on a coffee table in his living room. The Batys and Pris watched impassively.
   “We get a good signal in this building,” he panted as he plugged in the cord and attached the antenna. “When I used to get Buster Friendly and his—”
   “Just turn the set on,” Roy Baty said. “And stop talking. He did so, then hurried to the door. “One more trip,” he said, “will do it.” He lingered, warming himself at the hearth of their presence.
   “Fine,” Pris said remotely.
   Isidore started off once more. I think, he thought, they’re exploiting me sort of. But he did not care. They’re still good friends to have, he said to himself.
   Downstairs again, he gathered the girl’s clothing together, stuffed every piece into the suitcases, then labored back down the hall once again and up the stairs.
   On a step ahead of him something small moved in the dust.
   Instantly he dropped the suitcases; he whipped out a plastic medicine bottle, which, like everyone else, he carried for just this. A spider, undistinguished but alive. Shakily he eased it into the bottle and snapped the cap—perforated by means of a needle—shut tight.
   Upstairs, at the door of his apartment, he paused to get his breath.
   “—yes sir, folks; the time is now. This is Buster Friendly, who hopes and trusts you’re as eager as I am to share the discovery which I’ve made and by the way had verified by top trained research workers working extra hours over the past weeks. Ho ho, folks; this is it!”
   John Isidore said, “I found a spider.”
   The three androids glanced up, momentarily moving their attention from the TV screen to him.
   “Let’s see it,” Pris said. She held out her hand.
   Roy Baty said, “Don’t talk while Buster is on.”
   “I’ve never seen a spider,” Pris said. She cupped the medicine bottle in her palms, surveying the creature within. “All those legs. Why’s it need so many legs, J.R.?”
   “That’s the way spiders are,” Isidore said, his heart pounding; he had difficulty breathing. “Eight legs.”
   Rising to her feet, Pris said, “You know what I think, J.R.? I think it doesn’t need all those legs.”
   “Eight?” Irmgard Baty said. “Why couldn’t it get by on four!’ Cut four off and see.” Impulsively opening her purse she produced a pair of clean, sharp cuticle scissors, which she passed to Pris.
   A weird terror struck at J. R. Isidore.
   Carrying the medicine bottle into the kitchen Pris seated herself at J. R. Isidore’s breakfast table. She removed the lid from the bottle and dumped the spider out. “It probably won’t be able to run as fast,” she said, “but there’s nothing for it to catch around here anyhow. It’ll die anyway.” She reached for the scissors.
   “Please,” Isidore said.
   Pris glanced up inquiringly. “Is it worth something ?
   “Don’t mutilate it,” he said wheezingly. Imploringly.
   With the scissors Pris snipped off one of the spider’s legs.
   In the living room Buster Friendly on the TV screen said, “Take a look at this enlargement of a section of background. This is the sky you usually see. Wait, I’ll have Earl Parameter, head of my research staff, explain their virtually world-shaking discovery to you.”
   Pris clipped off another leg, restraining the spider with the edge of her hand. She was smiling.
   “Blowups of the video pictures,” a new voice from the TV said, “when subjected to rigorous laboratory scrutiny, reveal that the gray backdrop of sky and daytime moon against which Mercer moves is not only not Terran—it is artificial.”
   “You’re missing it!” Irmgard called anxiously to Pris; she rushed to the kitchen door, saw what Pris had begun doing. “Oh, do that afterward,” she said coaxingly. This is so important, what they’re saying; it proves that everything we believed—”
   “Be quiet,” Roy Baty said.
   “—is true,” Irmgard finished.
   The TV set continued, “The ‘moon’ is painted; in the enlargements, one of which you see now on your screen, brushstrokes show. And there is even some evidence that the scraggly weeds and dismal, sterile soil—perhaps even the stones hurled at Mercer by unseen alleged parties—are equally faked. It is quite possible in fact that the ‘stones’ are made of soft plastic, causing no authentic wounds.”
   “In other words,” Buster Friendly broke in, “Wilbur Mercer is not suffering at all.”
   The research chief said, “We’ve at last managed, Mr. Friendly, to track down a former Hollywood special-effects man, a Mr. Wade Cortot, who flatly states, from his years of ex-perience, that the figure of ‘Mercer’ could well be merely some bit player marching across a sound stage. Cortot has gone so far as to declare that he recognizes the stage as one used by a now out-of-business minor moviemaker with whom Cortot had various dealings several decades ago.”
   “So according to Cortot,” Buster Friendly said, “there can be virtually no doubt.”
   Pris had now cut three legs from the spider, which crept about miserably on the kitchen table, seeking a way out, a path to freedom. It found none.
   “Quite frankly we believed Cortot,” the research chief said in his dry, pedantic voice, “and we spent a good deal of time examining publicity pictures of bit players once employed by the now defunct Hollywood movie industry.”
   “And you found—”
   “Listen to this,” Roy Baty said. Irmgard gazed fixedly at the TV screen and Pris had ceased her mutilation of the spider.
   “We located, by means of thousands upon thousands of photographs, a very old man now, named Al Jarry, who played a number of bit parts in pre-war films. From our lab we sent a team to Jarry’s home in East Harmony, Indiana. I’ll let one of the members of that team describe what he found.” Silence, then a new voice, equally pedestrian. “The house on Lark Avenue in East Harmony is tottering and shabby and at the edge of town, where no one, except Al Jarry, still lives. Invited amiably in, and seated in the stale-smelling, moldering, kipple-filled living room, I scanned by telepathic means the blurred, debris-cluttered, and hazy mind of Al Jarry seated across from me.”
   “Listen,” Roy Baty said, on the edge of his seat, poised as if to pounce.
   “I found,” the technician continued, “that the old man did in actuality make a series of short fifteen minute video films, for an employer whom he never met. And, as we had theorized, the ‘rocks’ did consist of rubber-like plastic. The ‘blood’ shed was catsup, and “—the technician chuckled—the only suffering Mr. Jarry underwent was having to go an entire day without a shot of whisky.”
   “Al Jarry,” Buster Friendly said, his face returning to the screen. “Well, well. An old man who even in his prime never amounted to anything which either he or ourselves could respect. Al Jarry made a repetitious and dull film, a series of them in fact, for whom he knew not—and does not to this day. It has often been said by adherents of the experience of Mercerism that Wilbur Mercer is not a human being, that he is in fact an archetypal superior entity perhaps from another star. Well, in a sense this contention has proven correct. Wilbur Mercer is not human, does not in fact exist. The world in which he climbs is a cheap, Hollywood, commonplace sound stage which vanished into kipple years ago. And who, then, has spawned this hoax on the Sol System? Think about that for a time, folks.”
   “We may never know,” Irmgard murmured.
   Buster Friendly said, “We may never know. Nor can we fathom the peculiar purpose behind this swindle. Yes, folks, swindle. Mercerism is a swindle!”
   “I think we know,” Roy Baty said. “It’s obvious. Mercerism came into existence—”
   “But ponder this,” Buster Friendly continued. “Ask yourselves what is it that Mercerism does. Well, if we’re to be1ieve its many practitioners, the experience fuses—”
   It’s that empathy that humans have,” Irmgard said “—men and women throughout the Sol System into a single entity. But an entity which is manageable by the so called telepathic voice of ‘Mercer.’ Mark that. An ambitious politically minded would-be Hitler could—”
   “No, it’s that empathy,” Irmgard said vigorously. Fists clenched, she roved into the kitchen, up to Isidore. “Isn’t it a way of proving that humans can do something we can’t do? Because without the Mercer experience we just have your word that you feel this empathy business, this shared, group thing. How’s the spider?” She bent over Pris’s shoulder.
   With the scissors Pris snipped off another of the spider’s legs. “Four now,” she said. She nudged the spider. “He won’t go. But he can.”
   Roy Baty appeared at the doorway, inhaling deeply an expression of accomplishment on his face. “It’s done. Buster said it out loud, and nearly every human in the system heard him say it. ‘Mercerism is a swindle.’ The whole experience of empathy is a swindle.” He came over to look curiously at the spider.
   “It won’t try to walk,” Irmgard said.
   “I can make it walk.” Roy Baty got out a book of matches, lit a match; he held it near the spider, closer and closer, until at last it crept feebly away.
   “I was right,” Irmgard said. “Didn’t I say it could walk with only four legs?” She peered up expectantly at Isidore. “What’s the matter?” Touching his arm she said, “You didn’t lose anything; we’ll pay you what that—what’s it called?—that Sidney’s catalogue says. Don’t look so grim. Isn’t that something about Mercer, what they discovered? All that research? Hey, answer.” She prodded him anxiously.
   “He’s upset,” Pris said. “Because he has an empathy box. In the other room. Do you use it, J.R.?” she asked Isidore. Roy Baty said, “Of course he uses it. They—all do—or did. Maybe now they’ll start wondering.”
   “I don’t think this will end the cult of Mercer,” Pris said. “But right this minute there’re a lot of unhappy human beings.“ To Isidore she said, “We’ve waited for months; we all knew it was coming, this pitch of Buster’s.” She hesitated and then said, “Well, why not. Buster is one of us.”
   “An android,” Irmgard explained. “And nobody knows. No humans, I mean.”
   Pris, with the scissors, cut yet another leg from the spider. All at once John Isidore pushed her away and lifted up the mutilated creature. He carried it to the sink and there he drowned it. In him his mind, his hopes, drowned, too. As swiftly as the spider.
   “He’s really upset,” Irmgard said nervously. “Don’t look like that, J.R. And why don’t you say anything?” To Pris and to her husband she said, “It makes me terribly upset, him Just standing there by the sink and not speaking; he hasn’t said anything since we turned on the TV.”
   “It’s not the TV,” Pris said. “It’s the spider. Isn’t it, John R. Isidore:’ He’ll get over it,” she said to Irmgard, who had gone into the other room to shut off the TV.
   Regarding Isidore with easy amusement, Roy Baty said, “It’s all over now, Iz. For Mercerism, I mean.” With his nails he managed to lift the corpse of the spider from the sink. “Maybe this was the last spider,” he said. “The last living spider on Earth.” He reflected. “In that case it’s all over for spiders, too.”
   “I—don’t feel well,” Isidore said. From the kitchen cupboard he got a cup; he stood holding it for an interval—he did not know exactly how long. And then he said to Roy Baty, “Is the sky behind—Mercer just painted? Not real?”
   “You saw the enlargements on the TV screen,” Roy Baty said. “The brushstrokes.”
   “Mercerism isn’t finished,” Isidore said. Something ailed the three androids, something terrible. The spider, he thought. Maybe it had been the last spider on Earth, as Roy Baty said. And the spider is gone; Mercer is gone; he saw the dust and the ruin of the apartment as it lay spreading out everywhere—he heard the kipple coming, the final disorder of all forms, the absence which would win out. It grew around him as he stood holding the empty ceramic cup; the cupboards of the kitchen creaked and split and he felt the floor beneath his feet give.
   Reaching out, he touched the wall. His hand broke the surface; gray particles trickled and hurried down, fragments of plaster resembling the radioactive dust outside. He seated himself at the table and, like rotten, hollow tubes the legs of the chair bent; standing quickly, he set down the cup and tried to reform the chair, tried to press it back into its right shape. The chair came apart in his hands, the screws which had previously connected its several sections ripping out and hanging loose. He saw, on the table, the ceramic cup crack; webs of fine lines grew like the shadows of a vine, and then a chip dropped from the edge of the cup, exposing the rough, unglazed interior.
   “What’s he doing?” Irmgard Baty’s voice came to him distantly. “He’s breaking everything! Isidore, stop—”
   “I’m not doing it,” he said. He walked unsteadily into the living room, to be by himself; he stood by the tattered couch and gazed at the yellow, stained wall with all the spots which dead bugs, that had once crawled, had left, and again he thought of the corpse of the spider with its four remaining legs. Everything in here is old, he realized. It long ago began to decay and it won’t stop. The corpse of the spider has taken over.
   In the depression caused by the sagging of the floor, pieces of animals manifested themselves, the head of a crow, mummified hands which might have once been parts of monkeys. A donkey stood a little way off, not stirring and yet apparently alive; at least it had not begun to deteriorate. He started toward it, feeling stick-like bones, dry as weeds, splinter under his shoes. But before he could reach the donkey—one of the creatures which he loved the most—a shiny blue crow fell from above to perch on the donkey’s unprotesting muzzle. Don’t, he said aloud, but the crow, rapidly, picked out the donkey’s eyes. Again, he thought. It’s happening to me again. I will be down here a long time, he realized. As before. It’s always long, because nothing here ever changes; a point comes when it does not even decay.
   A dry wind rustled, and around him the heaps of bones broke. Even the wind destroys them, he perceived. At this stage. just before time ceases. I wish I could remember how to climb up from here, he thought. Looking up he saw nothing to grasp.
   Mercer, he said aloud. Where are you now? This is the tomb world and I am in it again, but this time you’re not here too.
   Something crept across his foot. He knelt down and searched for it—and found it because it moved so slowly. The mutilated spider, advancing itself haltingly on its surviving legs; he picked it up and held it in the palm of his hand. The bones, he realized, have reversed themselves; the spider is again alive. Mercer must be near.
   The wind blew, cracking and splintering the remaining bones, but he sensed the presence of Mercer. Come here, he said to Mercer. Crawl across my foot or find some other way of reaching me. Okay? Mercer, he thought. Aloud he said, “Mercer!”
   Across the landscape weeds advanced; weeds corkscrewed their way into the walls around him and worked the walls until they the weeds became their own spore. The spore expanded, split, and burst within the corrupted steel and shards of concrete that had formerly been walls. But the desolation remained after the walls had gone; the desolation followed after everything else. Except the frail, dim figure of Mercer; the old man faced him, a placid expression on his face.
   “Is the sky painted?” Isidore asked. “Are there really brushstrokes that show up under magnification?”
   “Yes,” Mercer said.
   “I can’t see them.”
   “You’re too close,” Mercer said. “You have to be a long way off, the way the androids are. They have better perspective.”
   “Is that why they claim you’re a fraud?”
   “I am a fraud,” Mercer said. “They’re sincere; their research is sincere. From their standpoint I am an elderly retired bit player named Al Jarry. All of it, their disclosure, is true. They interviewed me at my home, as they claim; I told them whatever they wanted to know, which was everything.”
   “Including about the whisky?”
   Mercer smiled. “It was true. They did a good job and from their standpoint Buster Friendly’s disclosure was convincing. They will have trouble understanding why nothing has changed. Because you’re still here and I’m still here.” Mercer indicated with a sweep of his hand the barren, rising hillside, the familiar place. “I lifted you from the tomb world just now and I will continue to lift you until you lose interest and want to quit. But you will have to stop searching for me because I will never stop searching for you.”
   “I didn’t like that about the whisky,” Isidore said. “That’s lowering.”
   “That’s because you’re a highly moral person. I’m not. I don’t judge, not even myself.” Mercer held out a closed hand, palm up. “Before I forget it, I have something of yours here.” He opened his fingers. On his hand rested the mutilated spider, but with its snipped-off legs restored.
   “Thanks.” Isidore accepted the spider. He started to say something further—
   An alarm bell clanged.
   Roy Baty snarled, “There’s a bounty hunter in the building! Get all the lights off. Get him away from that empathy box; he has to be ready at the door. Go on—move him!”
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