"Just Another Job"
A Short Story
Logan T. Hoffman
Early in the 21st century, THE TYRELL CORPORATION advanced Robot evolution into the NEXUS phase— a being virtually identical to a human— known as a Replicant.
The NEXUS 6 Replicants were superior in strength and agility, and at least equal in intelligence, to the genetic engineers who created them.
Replicants were used Off-world as slave labor, in the hazardous exploration and colonization of other planets.
After a bloody mutiny by a NEXUS 6 combat team in an Off-world colony, Replicantswere declared illegal on earth- under penalty of death.
Special police squads- BLADE RUNNER UNITS- had orders to shoot to kill, upon detection, any trespassing Replicant.
This was not called execution.
It was called retirement.
It was raining that night in the city of Los Angeles. Not that that had made Fred Wilson's day any better. He'd just spent three hours filling out paperwork following the "retirement" of two illegal replicants. According to his superior, Harry Bryant, four Nexus 6 androids had escaped from a colony on Mars via a cargo transport. Which meant one of two things: they were either stow-aways or they murdered the pilot and flew the ship to earth themselves.
Now as far as Fred knew, there hadn't been any reports of a murder recently. Though that didn't necessarily mean anything; its possible the "skin jobs" dumped the body in orbit.
Fred looked out at the city streets, inquiring as to where the two remaining replicants were. His eyes passed over a sushi stand, a car wash, then finally stopping at an apartment complex. Reps usually take refuge in apartments, Fred said to himself. Though judging from the bustling activity outside the complex, he doubted they would stay anywhere near a location with so much attention.
Thunder could be heard in the distance. The rain began to pour down harder. Fred groaned as he briskly ran across the street toward the sushi stand. I might as well get something to eat while I'm on the job.
It was dark in the apartment, save for the light being projected from the television screen in the living room. Mortimer didn't care, however. The darkness wasn't bothering him any. He didn't even have the TV on to watch. It was merely a way of breaking the silence. He hated the silence.
It had been almost a week since the other three went their separate ways. He hadn't heard from them since then. Even though he could've cared less whether they survived, he was in need of some conversation. He found himself contemplating if he should find a bar and try to make some friends. On the other hand, I might not want to draw attention to myself. They've probably already learned of our escape and have blade runners out looking for us.
Blade runners. He had heard stories of them back on the Mars colony. It was said that not a single android, be it an obsolete McMillan Y-4 or an advanced Nexus 6 replicant, could escape a blade runner's pursuit once it was found. Although that could be colony propaganda spread to discourage replicants from trying to escape. He could even recall hearing about a blade runner running off with some replicant into the mountains. He laughed in his mind. The idea was as unlikely as it was absurd.
As he rested on the couch, his eyes focused on the vibrant colors projected on the television screen. He studied every detail of the images. Then, as if snapping out of a trance, he blinked his eyes rapidly and rose to his feet.
"Time for a drink," he said with a sense of finality. He went over to the coat hanger next to the door and put on his jacket.
He left the television on.
Fred Wilson punched in the number to Harry Bryant's office with his car phone. The view screen quickly filled with the image of a worn-out man. He was much older than Fred, with a mustache and little to no hair on the sides of his head. "Wilson," his superior acknowledged.
"Bryant," Fred replied. Wilson could see the chief inspector pouring himself a glass of Bourbon. "Any leads?" Bryant asked just before downing his drink.
"No. Not yet anyway." Wilson paused a brief moment, as if preparing to take a deep plunge into cold water. "Where exactly was the first report made of the rep called Mortimer?"
Bryant stroked his chin in thought. "Hang on a second, Fred. I think I have the report here in my office." Fred waited as Bryant shuffled through various folders, eventually finding a creased sheet of paper with the information the blade runner desired. "Okay, here it is. It was last seen with the other skin jobs at Martini's Strip Bar on April 14th at approximately 7 p.m. The address is 113—"
"I'll call you back when I've retired the rep." With that, the conversation with Bryant ended. Fred turned on the ignition to his car and drove on to Martini's.
Mortimer sat at a booth in the corner of the bar. He had ordered himself a beer already, though he found himself still waiting for it to be brought to him. He looked out toward the stage that was at the center of the bar. Bright lights swiveled and shone on a young lady who walked out onto the stage.
The waiter came into Mortimer's line of vision, carrying a tray with several mugs of beer resting on it. He finally stopped at Mortimer's table, setting one of the beverages down in front of him. With a toothy smile, the waiter moved on to other customers.
Mortimer turned his attention once again toward the woman on stage. At this point the audience was cheering and clapping, as the woman was wearing no clothing whatsoever. Mortimer, however, was rather puzzled at the whole thing. Although replicants shared the same biological characteristics, such as physical attraction through the use of pheromones, perhaps it was his child-like mind that could not completely grasp the meaning of attraction itself.
It was no time at all before the young lady's performance was over. Mortimer had found himself still drifting in his own thoughts, yet he could find no answer in the vast chambers of his mind. Perhaps I should ask her, he wondered to himself. It might seem rather odd for a man she doesn't know to be asking her questions about sex, but he found his own curiosity overwhelming.
He rose from his seat and headed in the direction where the woman left.
Fred parked his car in Martini's lot, preparing himself for a possible confrontation. That is, if the replicants are even hiding here, he thought to himself. He gathered the information sheets on Mortimer and his accomplice, Isabelle. He stepped out of his vehicle and walked into the bar.
After asking where the young lady's dressing room was located, Mortimer finally stood at the door of Miss Gloria Welling. A rather dignified-sounding name for someone in an undignified profession. He gently knocked on her door. For a moment he thought he had heard a voice, but no one opened the door to receive him. He knocked again, this time a little more loudly. "Come in," a female voice replied. Mortimer entered the room to find Gloria Welling wearing a velvet gown. "Can I help you?" she asked as she took off her earrings. Mortimer paused for a brief moment, considering what sort of story he could come up with at the top of his head. "I'm Dr. Mortimer Klaus, I was sent by the city to conduct a survey on the city's highest-paid performers." Gloria laughed, and raised an eyebrow at his statement. "I'd hate to see the amount of money the lowest-paid are given. What kind of questions are on this survey, Dr. Klaus?"
"Oh, you needn't call me that. I go by Mort."
"Okay then, Mort. Would you like to come in and discuss this?"
Mortimer walked into the room, noticing a unique distinction from every other private dwelling he had seen before. He breathed deeply, taking in the wondrous scent filling the room. He could not place it, though he honestly did not recall having ever smelt it before. It was so sweet. He imagined it originating in the jungles of South America, where exotic plants would have flourished. Before the war… before man's creations destroyed the beauty of Nature and her plentiful children.
Mortimer's series of thoughts shattered as Gloria Welling asked, "Would you like a drink?" He gave a thoughtful smile before replying, "Yes, that would be splendid."
"Have you seen either of these people?" Wilson asked, holding two printout photos of Mortimer and Isabelle to the bartender.
The bartender shrugged. "Don't look familiar. But I don't work here everyday. You might try asking some o' the waiters."
Wilson frowned. He wasn't ready to give up the search here. Not just yet, anyway. "Is the owner here by chance? Could I speak with him?"
"Just missed him, buddy. Left about five minutes ago."
Wilson's frowned deepened. He mumbled a "thanks" before moving on to find a waiter.
"How would you define love?" Mortimer asked Gloria without hesitation.
Gloria Welling was at a loss of words. "That's a rather odd question. I would of thought the survey dealt with my occupation."
Mortimer gave an understanding nod. "That's the usual reaction. We give various surveys dealing with one's private life. Its meant to inform us on the quality of living among higher-paid citizens."
"To what purpose?"
"The California Institute of Psychology was given a grant to conduct a survey for educational reasons."
Gloria nodded, silently mouthing the word "Oh," in response.
Mortimer took a sip of the wine Gloria gave him, his eyes following her every move. He smiled, relaxing in the chair and folding his hands. "Take your time, Miss Welling. Would you like to skip to the next question?"
"No," Gloria quickly answered, her mind obviously searching for the answer. Her eyes darted about the room, trying to avoid the eerie gaze of Mortimer Klaus. Finally it came to her. "I believe love is the desire to care for someone no matter what happens."
Hmm. Mortimer thought to himself. In a few moments, he conjured up yet another question for Miss Welling. "How do you feel that love is best expressed?"
Sex. The word immediately popped into the replicant's mind. He was absolutely certain that would be her response.
"Words of encouragement. Honesty. Friendship. I can't really narrow it down to just one thing," she explained.
Mortimer swallowed hard. He hadn't anticipated that response. He leaned forward and continued. "What about sex? Do you believe that sex expresses true love?"
"No," Gloria answered immediately. "I don't think so. Not anymore, anyway. To tell you the truth, Dr. Klaus-"
"Mort," she corrected herself. "I don't think the world understands love anymore."
Mortimer raised an eyebrow. "Why do you think that?" he inquired, his interest in the conversation heightened.
Gloria sighed deeply and rose to pour herself another glass of wine. "We live in a hostile environment. Everybody here needs something. I can guarantee most people here aren't afraid to stab someone in the back in order to get that something."
Most people. Mortimer wondered if perhaps there was much more to this woman than appeared. "A rather cynical statement," he retorted.
"Well," she said as she poured him another glass of wine. "We live in a cynical world."
It was then that Mortimer understood. Family. She has an attachment… a reason to care. "Have you any family, Miss Welling?" he asked her, although he already knew.
"Yes—I mean no. Well, I suppose you could call my child family, I guess."
"You have a child?" This is most interesting. Perhaps it is the mentality of the child that has allowed her to retain feelings of love. Mortimer wasn't certain. After all, he was only a lower-class surgeon on the Mars colony. He had acquired little, if any, sort of knowledge on sociology in his time.
"A little girl. Abby," she recited the name to herself, smiling as she thought about her daughter.
"Do you love her?"
Wilson had spent nearly a half hour asking Martini's staff if they had come into contact with either of the two replicants. And it had taken just as long for him to turn up with nothing. When I finish this job, he assured himself, I'm gonna take a long vacation.
Then it suddenly occurred to him: he had not yet spoken with any of the performers. Heck, he wouldn't have been surprised if the replicant Isabelle had dyed it's hair just to throw off any blade runners coming after it.
Wilson made his way down the hallway where the performers' rooms lie. An odd feeling came over him as walked through the narrow hall. It was a feeling that Fred Wilson had experienced before, and he recognized it instantly. Hunter's instinct, he reminded himself. He slid his hand under his jacket and placed it firmly on the grip of his gun. Slowly, he removed the blaster pistol from his holster.
He had finally figured it out. "Empathy," Mortimer whispered to himself. Empathy is the key to experiencing love.
He had never understood how a living being could experience this rather foreign state of mind. But he understood that it was through one's relating of a painful experience that humans connected. Words of encouragement. Honesty. Friendship. These things were products of empathy. Gloria Welling's words all came together.
Mortimer was uncertain if he wanted to experience love. Yet he experienced loneliness, a feeling he wanted to purge. It was so painful. Painful…pain.
Of course. It made sense now. If he was capable of experiencing pain, then it should be possible for him to love.
He would find his fellow replicants. He had no idea where they were, but he would find them and help them in any way he could.
The blade runners would find them. He had no doubt of that. They were going to die anyway. But before they retired him, he would end his existence knowing that he was capable of love.
A warm smile spread across Mortimer's lips. He rose from the chair in which he sat and calmly said, "Thank you, Miss Welling. That will be all."
Upon speaking those last words, Mortimer went to the door. They have to know. All of them. He opened the door, a new future awaiting him.
Joining that future was a blade runner standing at the doorstep.
Fred Wilson recognized the man immediately as Mortimer. Quickly, and without hesitation, he pulled the trigger on his blaster pistol.
The replicant staggered backward, a large gaping hole in it's chest. Blood gushed out of the wound.
Wilson fired another shot into Mortimer. This time, the force of the blast knocked the replicant to the floor. Fred moved cautiously toward it, his gun at the ready. "Where is Isabelle?" he asked impatiently.
Mortimer gagged, blood spewing from his mouth. "I…don't know," he managed to choke out.
Then the replicant known as Mortimer expired.
Fred had been so caught up in the moment; he hadn't even realized that there was a woman in the room. "Are you okay?" he asked, though there seemed to be no genuine concern in his voice.
"Who—Who are you?" she inquired, shakily.
"I'm a blade runner. Fred Wilson. I.D. number 11435," he recited as though he were in a spelling bee.
"That…that was an android?"
"Yes," he replied, taking a cigarette from out of his jacket pocket.
"But isn't there some sort of…test or something?" she asked reluctantly. "You know…to make sure he's not human?"
She was right. Wilson had found himself so carried away with retiring the replicant that he had forgotten to administer the Voight-Kampff empathy test. Not that it really mattered, he assured himself.
"They'll administer a bone marrow test at the morgue," he informed her as he looked over the dead body. Without looking up at her, he asked, "Did he say anything to you?"
The woman, finally starting to relax a little, sat down in a chair. "He said he was taking a survey for the CIP," she said.
"He asked me how I would define love. Then it developed into an odd conversation."
Hmm. Love? I wondered what motivated the rep to ask about love? As long as he had worked as a blade runner, he had never come across any androids that would have had use for love.
He took a long drag from his cigarette, hoping a good smoke would put his body at ease.
He put the cigarette out on his jacket sleeve. I suppose the wife wouldn't want me smoking anyway.
With a sense of finality, Wilson holstered his blaster pistol. Then, with a combined grown and sigh, started out of the room.
"Wait!" the woman cried out. She rushed out of the door to follow the blade runner. "Where are you going?"
Slowly, Wilson turned around to face her. He took a moment to look her over. Handsome thing, he admitted to himself. But the lifestyle isn't flattering. Then with a half-smile, he replied, "There's still one replicant left to retire. That's means I have work to do."
Fred Wilson once again turned and walked away, a retired android and a frightened woman left behind him. Three down, one to go. Hopefully, he'd have Isabelle retired by the end of the day. His body was tired, but his lust for bounty money wasn't. "Just another job," he assured himself.
It's just another job.