Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Page 24

"You're not Polokov, you're Kadalyi," Rick said.

"Don't you mean that the other way around? You're a bit confused."

"I mean you're Polokov, the android; you're not from the Soviet police." Rick, with his toe, pressed the emergency button on the floor of his car.

"Why won't my laser tube fire?" Kadalyi-Polokov said, switching on and off the miniaturized triggering and aiming device which he held in the palm of his hand.

"A sine wave," Rick said. "That phases out laser emanation and spreads the beam into ordinary light."

"Then I'll have to break your pencil neck." The android dropped the device and, with a snarl, grabbed with both hands for Rick's throat.

As the android's hands sank into his throat Rick fired his regulation issue old-style pistol from its shoulder holster; the .38 magnum slug struck the android in the head and its brain box burst. The Nexus-6 unit which operated it blew into pieces, a raging, mad wind which carried throughout the car. Bits of it, like the radioactive dust itself, whirled down on Rick. The retired remains of the android rocked back, collided with the car door, bounced off and struck heavily against him; he found himself struggling to shove the twitching remnants of the android away.

Shakily, he at last reached for the car phone, called in to the Hall of Justice. "Shall I make my report?" he said. "Tell Harry Bryant that I got Polokov."

"'You got Polokov.' He'll understand that, will he?"

"Yes," Rick said, and hung up. Christ that came close, he said to himself. I must have overreacted to Rachael Rosen's warning; I went the other way and it almost finished me. But I got Polokov, he said to himself. His adrenal gland, by degrees, ceased pumping its several secretions into his bloodstream; his heart slowed to normal, his breathing became less frantic. But he still shook. Anyhow I made myself a thousand dollars just now, he informed himself. So it was worth it. And I'm faster to react than Dave Holden. Of course, however, Dave's experience evidently prepared me; that has to be admitted. Dave had not had such warning.

Again picking up the phone he placed a call home to his apt, to Iran. Meanwhile he managed to light a cigarette; the shaking had begun to depart.

His wife's face, sodden with the six-hour self-accusatory depression which she had prophesied, manifested itself on the vidscreen. "Oh hello, Rick."

"What happened to the 594 I dialed for you before I left? Pleased acknowledgment of - "

"I redialed. As soon as you left. What do you want?" Her voice sank into a dreary drone of despond. "I'm so tired and I just have no hope left, of anything. Of our marriage - and you possibly getting killed by one of those andys. Is that what you want to tell me, Rick? That an andy got you?" In the background the racket of Buster Friendly boomed and brayed, eradicating her words; he saw her mouth moving but heard only the TV.

"Listen," he broke in. "Can you hear me? I'm on to something. A new type of android that apparently nobody can handle but me. I've retired one already, so that's a grand to start with. You know what we're going to have before I'm through?"

Iran stared at him sightlessly. "Oh," she said, nodding.

"I haven't said yet!" He could tell, now; her depression this time had become too vast for her even to hear him. For all intents he spoke into a vacuum. "I'll see you tonight," he finished bitterly and slammed the receiver down. Damn her, he said to himself. What good does it do, my risking my life? She doesn't care whether we own an ostrich or not; nothing penetrates. I wish I had gotten rid of her two years ago when we were considering splitting up. I can still do it, he reminded himself.

Broodingly, he leaned down, gathered together on the car floor his crumpled papers, including the info on Luba Luft. No support, he informed himself. Most androids I've known have more vitality and desire to live than my wife. She has nothing to give me.

That made him think of Rachael Rosen again. Her advice to me as to the Nexus-6 mentality, he realized, turned out to be correct. Assuming she doesn't want any of the bounty money, maybe I could use her.

The encounter with Kadalyi-Polokov had changed his ideas rather massively.

Snapping on his hovercar's engine he whisked nippity-nip up into the sky, heading toward the old War Memorial Opera House, where, according to Dive Holden's notes, he would find Luba Luft this time of the day.

He wondered, now, about her, too. Some female androids seemed to him pretty; he had found himself physically attracted by several, and it was an odd sensation, knowing intellectually that they were machines but emotionally reacting anyhow.

For example Rachael Rosen. No, he decided; she's too thin. No real development, especially in the bust. A figure like a child's, flat and tame. He could do better. How old did the poop sheet say Luba Luft was? As he drove he hauled out the now wrinkled notes, found her so-called "age." Twenty-eight, the sheet read. Judged by appearance, which, with andys, was the only useful standard.

It's a good thing I know something about opera, Rick reflected. That's another advantage I have over Dave; I'm more culturally oriented.

I'll try one more andy before I ask Rachael for help, he decided. If Miss Luft proves exceptionally hard-but he had an intuition she wouldn't. Polokov had been the rough one; the others, unaware that anyone actively hunted them, would crumble in succession, plugged like a file of ducks.

As he descended toward the ornate, expansive roof of the opera house he loudly sang a potpourri of arias, with pseudo-Italian words made up on the spot by himself; even without the Penfield mood organ at hand his spirits brightened into optimism. And into hungry, gleeful anticipation.