DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP
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?"
"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 hunter 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."
"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'l1 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," Rachael said. "You love the goat more than me. 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? Turn off Amanda Werner and Oscar Scruggs? It's time to hear Buster's big sensational expose, 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 sit ten bib with my pal Bustuh, an we're tawkin en havin 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.