Wednesday, November 13, 2019

No choice, pal

It went on like that. Six months. Until the night Gaff showed up at the sushi bar.

This time, he was really standing behind me.

He whacked me on the shoulder with his cane. Tried to bullshit my way out of it, but he marched me back to his aircar, back to work. Gaff didn't like it, but I took my dinner.

Hardly felt the lift-off. Brand new model 2020 Spinner flew like a dream. Immaculately clean. I ate what was left of my noodles in the car. And made a point of spilling some sauce on the seats.

We docked at RepDetec. I practically kicked Bryant's door in.

"You wouldn't have come if I'd just asked you to," he said. "Sit down pal."

I didn't sit down. Just stood there shaking with rage.

"C'mon don't be an asshole, Deckard. I've got four skin jobs walking the streets. They jumped a shuttle off world -- killed the crew and passengers. They found the shuttle drifting off the coast, so we know they're around."


"No sir. Not embarrassing, 'cause no one's ever going to find out they're down here. 'Cause you're going to spot them, and you're going to air them out."

"I don't work here anymore. Give it to Holden, he's good."

Holden's pic was on the wall. Most kills for November 2019. A big gold star.

"I did. He can breathe okay as long as nobody unplugs him."


"He's not good enough, not good as you. I need you, Deck. This is a bad one, the worst yet. I need the old Blade Runner, I need your magic."

"I was quit when I come in here, Bryant, I'm twice as quit now."

I'd made this speech before. Practiced it front of my mirror.

I turned around and walked out.

"Stop right where you are."

Something about the way he said it. I stopped.

"You know the score pal. If you're not cop, you're little people.

"No choice, huh?"

"No choice pal."

No choice. That always simplified the decision making process.

Braynt took me down to the vid room. Punched up the show-and-tell.

The shit went down few hours ago. 4:17 in the afternoon, though afternoon looks like night now with all the dust and rain in the air. Holden was over at the Tyrell Corporation, running the VK on this Leon Kowalski and trying like hell to keep his cool. Leon was fucking with him. He didn't look that advanced. He looked like a dumbass. But his questions were smart. Damn smart. Playing a mental chess game. Ten moves ahead of Holden.

Leon: I already had an IQ test this year, I don't think I've ever had one of these-

Holden: Reaction time is a factor in this, so please pay attention. Answer as quickly as you can.

Leon: Yeah, sure.

Holden: 1-1-8-7 at Hunterwasser.

Leon: Yeah, that's the hotel.

Holden: What?

Leon: Where I live.

Holden: Nice place?

Leon: Yeah, sure I guess--

Bryant paused the vid. He gave me a look like he'd taken a sip of punch and found a turd in the punch bowl.

"This Leon. Where'd he come from and why were you looking for him?"

"Like I said, there'd been an escape from the off-world colonies."
It didn't make the papes. Bad for biz. Bryant knew it, I knew it. Why say it?

"Five replicants, two male, three female. They slaughtered twenty-three people and jumped a shuttle. An aerial patrol spotted the ship off the coast. No crew, no sight of them. Three nights ago they tried to break into Tyrell Corporation. One of them got fried running through an electrical field. We lost the others. On the possibility they might try to infiltrate his employees, I had Holden go over and run Voight-Kampff tests on the new workers. Looks like he got himself one."

He started up the vid again.

Holden: So you look down you see a tortoise. It's crawling towards you.

Leon: Tortoise, what's that?

Holden: Know what a turtle is?

Leon: Of course.

Holden: Same thing.

Leon: I've never seen a turtle.

"Enough," I said. "Leon fucks with Holden some more, then shoots him. I don't need to see it."

Bryant killed the vid.


"I don't know ..."

"What don't you know?"

"Well ... I don't get it. What do they risk coming back to earth for? That's unusual. Why -- what do they want out of the Tyrell Corporation?"

"Well you tell me pal, that's what you're here for."

"How? I've got nothing to go on."

"Not yet. But I've got the incept logs."

"Holden didn't."

Bryant looked insulted for a microsecond. Then smiled.

"No he didn't, Deck. The reps started out at a military base, forward staging area off Prox. They’d laid it to waste, no survivors, no data. Holden was stuck with general descriptions while military intelligence put the pieces together. When these files finally came through, he was lying in a respirator. You wanna see the files or not?"

Bryant whacked on the keypad with his stubby fingers. A face popped up. Male. Blonde and blue-eyed and perfect. Too damn perfect.

"What's this?"

"Nexus Six."

"New model?"

"New model, pal."

"You could've mentioned it."

"Hell, Deck. Just figured you knew it. You're the expert, right? Slipped my mind you've been out of the loop for six months. Stuff changes so fast these days, huh? Just a few short months, you sure do miss a lot."

Bryant killed the vid and let me take it in.

Nexus-6.  More human than human ...

Not just a slogan anymore.

I'd heard rumors about these things just before I quit. The Nexus-6 generation. The Tyrell Corporation's new pride and joy. Not available to the colonists yet. Strictly military, tasked to high level exploration and combat teams. Launched less than a year ago. Cutting-edge but they didn't say how.

"Holden was administering the Voight-Kampff test when one nailed him."


"No. Leon, dumbass."

"Leon's a Six? Sorry. Stupid question."

Ugly bastard. Leon didn't look advanced, but he had to be. A Five would never get the drop on Holden.

Bryant punched up Leon's file just to put salt in the wound. Nexus-6. Leon Kowalski.

"OK, OK. Go back to the first one."

He punched up the blue-eyed wonder again.

"Roy Batty. Incept date 2015. Combat model. Optimum self-sufficiency. Probably the leader."

Hitler youth type. A face you'd see on a Nazi poster about the joys of exercise.

He moved on to the next contestant.

"This is Zhora. She's trained for an off-world kick-murder squad. Talk about beauty and the beast, she's both."

I rolled my eyes, didn't ask him about that hard-boiled detective novel he always claimed to be writing. Bryant moved on.

Contestant number four. Face like a living doll

"The fourth skin job is Pris. A basic pleasure model. The standard item for military clubs in the outer colonies."

"A basic pleasure model. Yeah, that’s what they do. I’m no rookie, stop feeding me shit."

Bryant squirmed.

“The Nexus Six generation. Some are prettier, some just as damn ugly. What’s the upgrade? What’s the difference?”

"Bigger, stronger, faster, pal."

"Bullshit. It's more than that. They're smarter, right?"

"Hell, Deck. You could say that about your damn phone."

"So what's the upgrade? The uniquely human quality?"

I could see him thinking. The wheels turning. What do I tell him? What do I not tell him.

He sighed and spilled it.

"They were designed to copy human beings in every way except their emotions. The designers reckoned that after a few years they might develop their own emotional responses."

"Emotional responses?"

"You know, hate, love, fear, anger, envy."

“Hate, love, fear, anger, envy. Oh, you mean feelings. Right.”

“Yeah. Feelings. Emotional responses. What’s the difference?”

Bryant had all the subtlety of a first time shoplifter who thought he could walk off with a six-pack in front of the owner because he wouldn’t believe his eyes.

More bullshit. Bullshit in plain sight. He'd been shoveling it all night.

I called him on it.

“Come on Bryant, Hell, the Fives had emotional responses. You know that. You’re taking sophisticated emotional responses. Theory of mind, right?"

He nodded his head.

“You’re talking empathy.”

He nodded. He didn’t want to say it out loud.

Neither did I.

Empathy was the thing we used to tell the difference between replicants and people. It was the basis of the Voight Kampf test. Empathy. It’s the thing that made us human. And OK to kill them. We had it and replicants didn’t it. If they had it, we were Nazis in flying cars.

Bryant tried to talk around it. Fed me some bullshit to the effect that empathy isn't a single trait, it's a function of developmental complexity based on the mind's ability to map itself and create a theory of mind for others. An emergent phenomenon ...

"That's what it says in the brochure, right?"

"Don’t worry about it, Deck. Empathy's not a problem. They don’t have time to develop it, asshole."

"Why not?"

"They built in a fail-safe device."

"Which is what?"

"Four-year life span."

"Great. OK, so we got this thing's last address ..."

"It can wait."


"We locked it down. The evidence isn't going anywhere. You got someplace else to go."

"This is not how it works."

"Forget it, OK? Now, there's a Nexus-6 over at the Tyrell Corporation."

"Demo model?"

"Demo model. I want you to go put the machine on it."

"And if the machine doesn't work?

Bryant gave me a dirty look. If the machine didn't work we were screwed. Killing them would be morally wrong, obviously. But how the hell would we kill them? If the Nexus-6 was beyond our ability to detect, the human race was up shit creek.

"Do your job, pal."

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