Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Page 56

"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?"