DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP
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- using 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 we're going to do instead of fussing and fretting around about those last three Nexus- 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 forepart 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 absent1y 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 last 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 personally -- 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-6 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 again and eventually the association has a type that can't be distinguished."
"Do you know of the Boneli Retlex-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 you leave here --" She gestured in dismissal. "I'll stay behind and sleep 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 1 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."
"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, rolled over to fumble for her glass, accidentally 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. 1 don't care 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 1'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.