"His name is Bill," the girl said from behind him. "Bill the raccoon. We acquired him just last year from a subsidiary corporation." She pointed past him and he then perceived the armed company guards, standing with their machine guns, the rapid-fire little light Skoda issue; the eyes of the guards had been fastened on him since his car landed. And, he thought, my car is clearly marked as a police vehicle.
"A major manufacturer of androids," he said thoughtfully, "invests its surplus capital on living animals."
"Look at the owl," Rachael Rosen said. "Here, I'll wake it up for you." She started toward a small, distant cage, in the center of which jutted up a branching dead tree.
There are no owls, he started to say. Or so we've been told. Sidney's, he thought; they list it in their catalogue as extinct: the tiny, precise type, the E, again and again throughout the catalogue. As the girl walked ahead of him he checked to see, and he was right. Sidney's never makes a mistake, he said to himself. We know that, too. What else can we depend on?
"It's artificial," he said, with sudden realization; his disappointment welled up keen and intense.
"No." She smiled and he saw that she had small even teeth, as white as her eyes and hair were black.
"But Sidney's listing," he said, trying to show her the catalogue. To prove it to her.
The girl said, "We don't buy from Sidney's or from any animal dealer. All our purchases are from private parties and the prices we pay aren't reported." She added, "Also we have our own naturalists; they're now working up in Canada. There's still a good deal of forest left, comparatively speaking, anyhow. Enough for small animals and once in a while a bird."
For a long time he stood gazing at the owl, who dozed on its perch. A thousand thoughts came into his mind, thoughts about the war, about the days when owls had fallen from the sky; he remembered how in his childhood it had been discovered that species upon species had become extinct and how the 'papes had reported it each day - foxes one morning, badgers the next, until people had stopped reading the perpetual animal obits.
He thought, too, about his need for a real animal; within him an actual hatred once more manifested itself toward his electric sheep, which he had to tend, had to care about, as if it lived. The tyranny of an object, he thought. It doesn't know I exist. Like the androids, it had no ability to appreciate the existence of another. He had never thought of this before, the similarity between an electric animal and an andy. The electric animal, he pondered, could be considered a subform of the other, a kind of vastly inferior robot. Or, conversely, the android could be regarded as a highly developed, evolved version of the ersatz animal. Both viewpoints repelled him.
"If you sold your owl," he said to the girl Rachael Rosen, "how much would you want for it, and how much of that down?"
"We would never sell our owl." She scrutinized him with a mixture of pleasure and pity; or so he read her expression. "And even if we sold it, you couldn't possibly pay the price. What kind of animal do you have at home?"
"A sheep," he said. "A black-faced Suffolk ewe."
"Well, then you should be happy."
"I'm happy," he answered. "It's just that I always wanted an owl, even back before they all dropped dead." He corrected himself. "All but yours."
Rachael said, "Our present crash program and overall planning call for us to obtain an additional owl which can nate with Scrappy." She indicated the owl dozing on its perch; it had briefly opened both eyes, yellow slits which healed over as the owl settled back down to resume its slumber. Its chest rose conspicuously and fell, as if the owl, in its hypnagogic state, had sighed.
Breaking away from the sight - k made absolute bitterness blend throughout his prior reaction of awe and yearninghe said, "I'd like to test out the selection, now. Can we go downstairs? "
"My uncle took the call from your superior and by now he probably has - "
"You're a family?" Rick broke in. "A corporation this large is a family affair?"
Continuing her sentence, Rachael said, "Uncle Eldon should have an android group and a control group set up by now. So let's go." She strode toward the elevator, hands again thrust violently in the pockets of her coat; she did not look back, and he hesitated for a moment, feeling annoyance, before he at last trailed after her.
"What have you got against me?" he asked her as together they descended.
She reflected, as if up to now she hadn't known. "Well," she said, "you, a little police department employee, are in a unique position. Know what I mean?" She gave him a malice-filled sidelong glance.
"How much of your current output," he asked, "consists of types equipped with the Nexus-6?"
"All," Rachael said.
"I'm sure the Voigt-Kampff scale will work with them."
"And if it doesn't we'll have to withdraw all Nexus-6 types from the market." Her black eyes flamed up; she glowered at him as the elevator ceased descending and its doors slid back. "Because you police departments can't do an adequate job in the simple matter of detecting the minuscule number of Nexus-6s who balk - "
A man, dapper and lean and elderly, approached them, hand extended; on his face a harried expression showed, as if everything recently had begun happening too fast. "I'm Eldon Rosen," he explained to Rick as they shook hands. "Listen, Deckard; you realize we don't manufacture anything here on Earth, right? We can't just phone down to production and ask for a diverse flock of items; it's not that we don't want or intend to cooperate with you. Anyhow I've done the best I can." His left hand, shakily, roved through his thinning hair.