Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Page 15

"A new scale," Rick said, "will replace it. This has happened before." Three times, to be exact. But the new scale, the more modern analytical device, had been there already; no lag had existed. This time was different.

"Eventually, of course, the Voigt-Kampff scale will become obsolete," Rachael agreed. "But not now. We're satisfied ourselves that it will delineate the Nexus-6 types and we'd like you to proceed on that basis in your own particular, peculiar work." Rocking back and forth, her arms tightly folded, she regarded him with intensity. Trying to fathom his reaction.

"Tell him he can have his owl," Eldon Rosen grated.

"You can have the owl," Rachael said, still eyeing him. "The one up on the roof. Scrappy. But we will want to mate it if we can get our hands on a male. And any offspring will be ours; that has to be absolutely understood."

Rick said, "I'll divide the brood."

"No," Rachael said instantly; behind her Eldon Rosen shook his head, backing her up. "That way you'd have claim to the sole bloodline of owls for the rest of eternity. And there's another condition. You can't will your owl to anybody; at your death it reverts back to the association."

"That sounds," Rick said, "like an invitation for you to come in and kill me. To get your owl back immediately. I won't agree to that; it's too dangerous."

"You're a bounty hunter," Rachael said. "You can handle a laser gun - in fact you're carrying one right now. If you can't protect yourself, how are you going to retire the six remaining Nexus-6 andys? They're a good deal smarter than the Grozzi Corporation's old W-4."

"But I hunt them," he said. "This way, with a reversion clause on the owl, someone would be hunting me." And he did not like the idea of being stalked; he had seen the effect on androids. It brought about certain notable changes, even in them.

Rachael said, "All right; we'll yield on that. You can will the owl to your heirs. But we insist on getting the complete brood. If you can't agree to that, go on back to San Francisco and admit to your superiors in the department that the Voigt-Kampff scale, at least as administered by you, can't distinguish an andy from a human being. And then look for another job."

"Give me some time," Rick said.

"Okay," Rachael said. "We'll leave you in here, where it's comfortable." She examined her wristwatch.

"Half an hour," Eldon Rosen said. He and Rachael filed toward the door of the room, silently. They had said what they intended to say, he realized; the rest lay in his lap.

As Rachael started to close the door after herself and her uncle, Rick said starkly, "You managed to set me up perfectly. You have it on tape that I missed on you; you know that my job depends on the use of the Voigt-Kampff scale; and you own that goddamn owl."

"Your owl, dear," Rachael said. "Remember? We'll tie your home address around its leg and have it fly down to San Francisco; it'll meet you there when you get off work."

It, he thought. She keeps calling the owl it. Not her. "Just a second," he said.

Pausing at the door, Rachael said, "You've decided?"

"I want," he said, opening his briefcase, "to ask you one more question from the Voigt-Kampff scale. Sit down again."

Rachael glanced at her uncle; he nodded and she grudgingly returned, seating herself as before. "What's this for?" she demanded, her eyebrows lifted in distaste - and wariness. He perceived her skeletal tension, noted it professionally.

Presently he had the pencil of light trained on her right eye and the adhesive patch again in contact with her check. Rachael stared into the light rigidly, the expression of extreme distaste still manifest.

"My briefcase," Rick said as he rummaged for the Voigt-Kampff forms. "Nice, isn't it? Department issue."

"Well, well," Rachael said remotely.

"Babyhide," Rick said. He stroked the black leather surface of the briefcase. "One hundred percent genuine human babyhide." He saw the two dial indicators gyrate frantically. But only after a pause. The reaction had come, but too late. He knew the reaction period down to a fraction of a second, the correct reaction period; there should have been none. "Thanks, Miss Rosen," he said, and gathered together the equipment again; he had concluded his retesting. "That's all."

"You're leaving?" Rachael asked.

"Yes," he said. "I'm satisfied."

Cautiously, Rachael said, "What about the other nine subjects?"

"The scale has been adequate in your case," he answered. "I can extrapolate from that; it's clearly still effective." To Eldon Rosen, who slumped morosely by the door of the room, he said, "Does she know?" Sometimes they didn't; false memories had been tried various times, generally in the mistaken idea that through them reactions to testing would be altered.

Eldon Rosen said, "No. We programmed her completely.

But I think toward the end she suspected." To the girl he said, "You guessed when he asked for one more try."

Pale, Rachael nodded fixedly.

"Don't be afraid of him," Eldon Rosen told her. "You're not an escaped android on Earth illegally; you're the property of the Rosen Association, used as a sales device for prospective emigrants." He walked to the girl, put his hand comfortingly on her shoulder; at the touch the girl flinched.

"He's right," Rick said. "I'm not going to retire you, Miss Rosen. Good day." He started toward the door, then halted briefly. To the two of them he said, "is the owl genuine?"