Alone, Isidore made his way down the echoing, empty hall to the stairs. The potent, strong fragrance of happiness still bloomed in him, the sense of being - for the first time in his dull life - useful. Others depend on me now, he exulted as he trudged down the dust-impacted steps to the level beneath.
And, he thought, it'll be nice to see Buster Friendly on TV again, instead of just listening on the radio in the store truck. And that's right, he realized; Buster Friendly is going to reveal his carefully documented sensational expose tonight. So because of Pris and Roy and Irmgard I get to watch what will probably be the most important piece of news to be released in many years. How about that, he said to himself.
Life, for J. R. Isidore, had definitely taken an upswing.
He entered Pris's former apartment, unplugged the TV set, and detached the antenna. The silence, all at once, penetrated; he felt his arms grow vague. In the absence of the Batys and Pris he found himself fading out, becoming strangely like the inert television set which he had just unplugged. You have to be with other people, he thought. In order to live at all. I mean, before they came here I could stand it, being alone in the building. But now it's changed. You can't go back, he thought. You can't go from people to nonpeople. In panic he thought, I'm dependent on them. Thank god they stayed.
It would require two trips to transfer Pris's possessions to the apartment above. Hoisting the TV set he decided to take it first, then the suitcases and remaining clothes.
A few minutes later he had gotten the TV set upstairs; his fingers groaning he placed it on a coffee table in his living room. The Batys and Pris watched impassively.
"We get a good signal in this building," he panted as he plugged in the cord and attached the antenna. "When I used to get Buster Friendly and his - "
"Just turn the set on," Roy Baty said. "And stop talking. He did so, then hurried to the door. "One more trip," he said, "will do it." He lingered, warming himself at the hearth of their presence.
"Fine," Pris said remotely.
Isidore started off once more. I think, he thought, they're exploiting me sort of. But he did not care. They're still good friends to have, he said to himself.
Downstairs again, he gathered the girl's clothing together, stuffed every piece into the suitcases, then labored back down the hall once again and up the stairs.
On a step ahead of him something small moved in the dust.
Instantly he dropped the suitcases; he whipped out a plastic medicine bottle, which, like everyone else, he carried for just this. A spider, undistinguished but alive. Shakily he eased it into the bottle and snapped the cap - perforated by means of a needle - shut tight.
Upstairs, at the door of his apartment, he paused to get his breath.
" - yes sir, folks; the time is now. This is Buster Friendly, who hopes and trusts you're as eager as I am to share the discovery which I've made and by the way had verified by top trained research workers working extra hours over the past weeks. Ho ho, folks; this is it!"
John Isidore said, "I found a spider."
The three androids glanced up, momentarily moving their attention from the TV screen to him.
"Let's see it," Pris said. She held out her hand.
Roy Baty said, "Don't talk while Buster is on."
"I've never seen a spider," Pris said. She cupped the medicine bottle in her palms, surveying the creature within. "All those legs. Why's it need so many legs, J.R.?"
"That's the way spiders are," Isidore said, his heart pounding; he had difficulty breathing. "Eight legs."
Rising to her feet, Pris said, "You know what I think, J.R.? I think it doesn't need all those legs."
"Eight?" Irmgard Baty said. "Why couldn't it get by on four!' Cut four off and see." Impulsively opening her purse she produced a pair of clean, sharp cuticle scissors, which she passed to Pris.
A weird terror struck at J. R. Isidore.
Carrying the medicine bottle into the kitchen Pris seated herself at J. R. Isidore's breakfast table. She removed the lid from the bottle and dumped the spider out. "It probably won't be able to run as fast," she said, "but there's nothing for it to catch around here anyhow. It'll die anyway." She reached for the scissors.
"Please," Isidore said.
Pris glanced up inquiringly. "Is it worth something ?
"Don't mutilate it," he said wheezingly. Imploringly.
With the scissors Pris snipped off one of the spider's legs.
In the living room Buster Friendly on the TV screen said, "Take a look at this enlargement of a section of background. This is the sky you usually see. Wait, I'll have Earl Parameter, head of my research staff, explain their virtually world-shaking discovery to you."
Pris clipped off another leg, restraining the spider with the edge of her hand. She was smiling.
"Blowups of the video pictures," a new voice from the TV said, "when subjected to rigorous laboratory scrutiny, reveal that the gray backdrop of sky and daytime moon against which Mercer moves is not only not Terran - it is artificial."
"You're missing it!" Irmgard called anxiously to Pris; she rushed to the kitchen door, saw what Pris had begun doing. "Oh, do that afterward," she said coaxingly. This is so important, what they're saying; it proves that everything we believed - "
"Be quiet," Roy Baty said.
" - is true," Irmgard finished.
The TV set continued, "The 'moon' is painted; in the enlargements, one of which you see now on your screen, brushstrokes show. And there is even some evidence that the scraggly weeds and dismal, sterile soil - perhaps even the stones hurled at Mercer by unseen alleged parties - are equally faked. It is quite possible in fact that the 'stones' are made of soft plastic, causing no authentic wounds."