DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP
Looking down, John Isidore saw his own hands; they gripped the twin handles of the empathy box. As he stood gaping at them, the lights in the living room of his apartment plunged out. He could see, in the kitchen, Pris hurrying to catch the table lamp there.
"Listen, J .R.," Irmgard whispered harshly in his ear; she had grabbed him by the shoulder, her nails digging into him with frantic intensity. She seemed unaware of what she did, now; in the dim nocturnal light from outdoors Irmgard's face had become distorted, astigmatic. It had turned into a craven dish, with cowering, tiny, lidless eyes. "You have to go," she whispered, "to the door, when he knocks, if he does knock; you have to show him your identification and tell him this is your apartment and no one else is here. And you ask to see a warrant."
Pris, standing on the other side of him, her body arched, whispered, "Don't let him in, J.R. Say anything; do anything that will stop him. Do you know what a bounty hunter would let loose in here? Do you understand what he would do to us?"
Moving away from the two android females Isidore groped his way to the door; with his fingers he located the knob, halted there, listening. He could sense the hall outside, as he always had sensed it: vacant and reverberating and lifeless.
"Hear anything?" Roy Baty said, bending close. Isi.dore smelled the rank, cringing body; he inhaled fear from it, fear pouring out, forming a mist. "Step out and take a look."
Opening the door, Isidore looked up and down the indistinct hall. The air out here had a clear quality, despite the weight of dust. He still held the spider which Mercer had given him. Was it actually the spider which Pris had snipped apart with Irmgard Baty's cuticle scissors? Probably not. He would never know. But anyhow it was alive; it crept about within his closed hand, not biting him: as with most small spiders its mandibles could not puncture human skin.
He reached the end of the hall, descended the stairs, and stepped outside, onto what had once been a terraced path, garden-enclosed. The garden had perished during the war and the path had ruptured in a thousand places. But he knew its surface; under his feet the familiar path felt good, and he followed it, passed along the greater side of the building, coming at last to the only verdant spot in the vicinity -- a yard-square patch of dust-saturated, drooping weeds. There he deposited the spider. He experienced its wavering progress as it departed his hand. Well, that was that; he straightened up.
A flashlight beam focused on the weeds; in its glare their half-dead stalks appeared stark, menacing. Now he could see the spider; it rested on a serrated leaf. So it had gotten away all right.
"What did you do?" the man holding the flashlight asked.
"I put down a spider," he said, wondering why the man didn't see; in the beam of yellow light the spider bloated up larger than life. "So it could get away."
"Why don't you take it up to your apartment? You ought to keep it in a jar. According to the January Sidney's most spiders are up ten percent in retail price. You could have gotten a hundred and some odd dollars for it."
Isidore said, "If I took it back up there she'd cut it apart again. Bit by bit, to see what it did."
"Androids do that, " the man said. Reaching into his overcoat he brought out something which he flapped open and extended toward Isidore.
In the irregular light the bounty hunter seemed a medium man, not impressive. Round face and hairless, smooth features; like a clerk in a bureaucratic office. Methodical but informal. Not demi-god in shape; not at all as Isidore had anticipated him.
"I'm an investigator for the San Francisco Police Department. Deckard, Rick Deckard." The man flapped his ID shut again, stuck it back in his overcoat pocket. "They're up there now? The three?"
"Well, the thing is," Isidore said, "I'm looking after them. Two are women. They're the last ones of the group; the rest are dead. I brought Pris's TV set up from her apartment and put it in mine, so they could watch Buster Friendly. Buster proved beyond a doubt that Mercer doesn't exist." Isidore felt excitement, knowing something of this importance -- news that the bounty hunter evidently hadn't heard.
"Let's go up there," Deckard said. Suddenly he held a laser tube pointed at Isidore; then, indecisively, he put it away. "You're a special, aren't you," he said. " A chickenhead."
"But I have a job. I drive a truck for --" Horrified, he discovered he had forgotten the name. "-- a pet hospital," he said. "The Van Ness Pet Hospital," he said. Owned b-b-by Hannibal Sloat."
Deckard said, "Will you take me up there and show me which apartment they're in? There're over a thousand separate apartments; you can save me a lot of time." His voice dipped with fatigue.
"If you kill them you won't be able to fuse with Mercer again," Isidore said.
"You won't take me up there? Show me which floor? Just tell me the floor. I'll figure out which apartment on the floor it is."
"No," Isidore said.
"Under state and federal law," Deckard began. He ceased, then. Giving up the interrogation. "Good night," he said, and walked away, up the path and into the building, his flashlight bleeding a yellowed, diffuse path before him.
Inside the conapt building, Rick Deckard shut off his flashlight; guided by the ineffectual, recessed bulbs spaced ahead of him he made his way along the hall, thinking, The chickenhead knows they're androids; he knew it already, before I told him. But he doesn't understand. On the other hand, who does? Do I? Did I? And one of them will be a duplicate of Rachael, he reflected. Maybe the special has been living with her. I wonder how he liked it, he asked himself. Maybe that was the one who he believed would cut up his spider. I could go back and get that spider, he reflected. I've never found a live, wild animal. It must be a fantastic experience to look down and see something living scuttling along. Maybe it'll happen someday to me like it did him.
He had brought listening gear from his car; he set it up, now, a revolving detek-snout with blip screen. In the silence of the hall the screen indicated nothing. Not on this floor, he said to himself. He clicked over to vertical. On that axis the snout absorbed a faint signal. Upstairs. He gathered up the gear and his briefcase and climbed the stairs to the next floor.
A figure in the shadows waited.
"If you move I'll retire you," Rick said. The male one, waiting for him. In his clenched fingers the laser tube felt hard but he could not lift it and aim it. He had been caught first, caught too soon.
"I'm not an android," the figure said. "My name is Mercer." It stepped into a zone of light. "I inhabit this building because of Mr. Isidore. The special who had the spider; you talked briefly to him outside."
"Am I outside Mercerism, now?" Rick said. "As the chickenhead said? Because of what I'm going to do in the next few minutes?"
Mercer said, "Mr. Isidore spoke for himself, not for me. What you are doing has to be done. I said that already." Raising his arm he pointed at the stairs behind Rick. "I came to tell you that one of them is behind you and below, not in the apartment. It will be the hard one of the three and you must retire it first." The rustling, ancient voice gained abrupt fervor. "Quick, Mr. Deckard. On the steps."
His laser tube thrust out, Rick spun and sank onto his haunches facing the flight of stairs. Up it glided a woman, toward him, and he knew her; he recognized her and lowered his laser tube. "Rachael," he said, perplexed. Had she followed him in her own hovercar, tracked him here? And why? "Go back to Seattle," he said. "Leave me alone; Mercer told me I've got to do it." And then he saw that it was not quite Rachael.
"For what we've meant to each other," the android said as it approached him, its arms reaching as if to clutch at him. The clothes, he thought, are wrong. But the eyes, the same eyes. And there are more like this; there can be a legion of her, each with its own name, but all Rachael Rosen -- Rachael, the prototype, used by the manufacturer to protect the others.. He fired at her as, imploringly, she dashed toward him. The android burst and parts of it flew; he covered his face and then looked again, looked and saw the laser tube which it had carried roll away, back onto the stairs; the metal tube bounced downward, step by step, the sound echoing and diminishing and slowing. The hard one of the three, Mercer had said. He peered about, searching for Mercer. The old man had gone. They can follow me with Rachael Rosens until I die, he thought, or until the type becomes obsolete, whichever comes first. And now the other two, he thought. One of them is not in the apartment, Mercer had said. Mercer protected me, he realized. Manifested himself and offered aid. She -- it -- would have gotten me, he said to himself, except for the fact that Mercer warned me. I can do the rest, now, he realized. This was the impossible one; she knew I couldn't do this. But it's over. In an instant. I did what I couldn't do. The Batys I can track by standard procedure; they will be hard but they won't be like this.
He stood alone in the empty hall; Mercer had left him because he had done what he came for, Rachael -- or rather Pris Stratton -- had been dismembered and that left nothing now, only himself. But elsewhere in the building, the Batys waited and knew. Perceived what he had done, here. Probably, at this point, they were afraid. This had been their response to his presence in the building. Their attempt. Without Mercer it would have worked. For them, winter had come.
This has to be done quickly, what I'm after now, he realized; he hurried down the hall and all at once his detection gear registered the presence of cephalic activity. He had found their apartment. No more need of the gear; he discarded it and rapped on the apartment door.
From within, a man's voice sounded. "Who is it?"
"This is Mr. Isidore," Rick said. "Let me in because I'm looking after you and t-t-two of you are women."
"We're not opening the door," a woman's voice came.
"I want to watch Buster Friendly on Pris's TV set," Rick said. "Now that he's proved Mercer doesn't exist it's very important to watch him. I drive a truck for the Van Ness Pet Hospital, which is owned by Mr. Hannibal S-s-sloat." He made himself stammer. "S-s-so would you open the d-d-door? It's my apartment." He waited, and the door opened. Within the apartment he saw darkness and indistinct shapes, two of them.
The smaller shape, the woman, said, "You have to administer tests."
"It's too late," Rick said. The taller figure tried to push the door shut and turn on some variety of electronic equipment. "No," Rick said, "I have to come in." He let Roy Baty fire once; he held his own fire until the laser beam had passed by him as he twisted out of the way. "You've lost your legal basis," Rick said, "by firing on me. You should have forced me to give you the Voigt-Kampff test. But now it doesn't matter." Once more Roy Baty sent a laser beam cutting at him, missed, dropped the tube, and ran somewhere deeper inside the apartment, to another room, perhaps, the electronic hardware abandoned.
"Why didn't Pris get you?" Mrs. Baty said.
"There is no Pris," he said. "Only Rachael Rosen, over and over again." He saw the laser tube in her dimly outlined hand; Roy Baty had slipped it to her, had meant to decoy him into the apartment, far in, so that Irmgard Baty could get him from behind, in the back. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Baty," Rick said, and shot her.
Roy Baty, in the other room, let out a cry of anguish.
"Okay, you loved her," Rick said. "And I loved Rachael. And the special loved the other Rachael." He shot Roy Baty; the big man's corpse lashed about, toppled, like an overstacked collection of separate, brittle entities; it smashed into the kitchen table and carried dishes and flatware down with it. Reflex circuits in the corpse made it twitch and flutter, but it had died; Rick ignored it, not seeing it and not seeing that of Irmgard Baty by the front door. I got the last one, Rick realized. Six today; almost a record. And now it's over and I can go home, back to Iran and the goat. And we'll have enough money, for once.
He sat down on the couch and presently as he sat there in the silence of the apartment, among the non-stirring objects, the special Mr. Isidore appeared at the door.
"Better not look," Rick said.
"I saw her on the stairs. Pris." The special was crying.
"Don't take it so hard," Rick said. He got dizzily to his feet, laboring. "Where's your phone?"
The special said nothing, did nothing except stand. So Rick hunted for the phone himself, found it, and dialed Harry Bryant's office.