Authors: K. W. Jeter
Copyright © the Philip K. Dick Trust 1996
Blade Runner is a trade mark of, and is being used under licence from,
The Blade Runner Partnership
All Rights Reserved
The right of K.W. Jeter to be identified as the author of this
work has been asserted by him in accordance with the
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
First Published in Great Britain in 1996 by
Orion Books Ltd
Orion House, 5 Upper St Martin's Lane, London WC2H 9EA
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available
from the British Library
ISBN 1 85798 420 X
Typeset by Deltatype Ltd, Birkenhead, Merseyside
Printed in Great Britain by
Calys Ltd, St Ives plc
For Russ Galen
By whom was I cast into the suffering of the worlds, by whom was I brought to the evil darkness? So long I endured and dwelt in this world, so long I dwelt among the works of my hands.
Ginza: Der Schatz oder das Große Buch der Mendäer
, trans. M. Lidzbarski, Göttingen, 1925
Wake up. . .
He'd heard those words, that voice, before. Deckard wondered, for a moment, if he were dreaming. But if he were dreaming-
I'd be able to breathe
, he thought. And right now, in this segment of time, all he could feel were the doubled fists at his throat, the tight grip on the front of his jacket that lifted him clear of the Los Angeles street's mirror-wet and rubbled surface. In his vision, as he dangled from the choking hook of factory-made bone and flesh, all that remained was the face of Leon Kowalski and his brown-toothed grin of fierce, delighted triumph.
The other's stiff-haired knuckles thrust right up under Deckard's chin, forcing his head back enough to make him dizzily imagine the passage of air snapping free from the straining lungs in his chest. He could just make out, at the lower limit of his vision, his own hands grabbing onto Kowalski's wrists, thick and sinew-taut, more like the armatures of a lethal machine than anything human. His hands were powerless, unable to force apart the replicant's clench.
"Wake up . . ."
The same words, a loop of past event repeating inside Deckard's head. An echo, perhaps; because he knew the other-the replicant, his murderer-had said it only once. But he'd known it was coming. Those words . . . and his own death. Everything had to happen, just as it had before. Just as he knew it would.
Echo, dream, memory . . . or vision; it didn't matter. What was important was that there had been a gun in Deckard's hands, in the hands that were now clawing to let desperate air into his throat. His gun, the heavy black piece that was standard issue in the LAPD's blade runner unit, a piece that could blow a hole through the back of a fleeing replicant and an even larger, ragged-edged hole through its front.
And that had happened as well. Echo of time, echo of sound, the impact of the gun's roaring explosion travelling up Deckard's outstretched arms, locked and aimed, as it had so many times and so many replicants before. While the sound of death itself had slammed off the city's close-pressed walls, the intricate neon of
and corporate logos shivering as though with a sympathetic fear, the honed leading edge of the shot and its lower-pitched trail rolling over the street's crowded, incurious faces. All of them as used to death as Deckard was, just from living in L.A.; he knew they could watch him being pulled apart by Kowalski with the same indifferent gazes they had swung toward the replicant Zhora's bullet-driven terminal arc.
When he'd still had the gun, he'd walked with the black piece dangling at his side, its weight pulling down his hand the same way it'd dragged rocklike the shoulder holster strapped beneath his long coat. Rivulets of L.A. 's monsoon rains and his own sweat had oozed beneath his shirt cuff, across the back of his hand, into the checked, death-heated grip inside the aching curve of his palm. He'd walked across spearlike shards of glass crunching under his shoes. The frames of the store windows through which Zhora's dying body had crashed were transformed into gaping mouths ringed with transparent, blood-flecked teeth. He'd walked and stood over her, his sight framing a vision of empty hands and empty face, eyes void as photo-receptors unplugged from any power source. All life fled, leaked from the raw hole between her hidden breasts, dead replicant flesh looking just the same as human. The furious energy, the animal grace and fear, that had impelled her dodging and running through the streets' closing trap, spent and diluted by the drops of tear-warm rain spattering across the pavement's red lace. Deckard's energy, that of the hunter, also gone. The chase, from the moment Zhora had wheeled about in her dressing room at Taffy Lewis's club down in Chinatown's First Sector and nailed him with a hard blow to the forehead, then all the weaving among crowds and dead-run stalking over the metal roofs of the traffic-stalled cars-that hadn't exhausted him. It'd been the end of the chase, the shot, his own will inside the bullet. That had struck and killed, a red kiss centered on her naked shoulder blades. That had seemed, for a moment, to kill him as well.
Exhaustion had made it possible for the other escaped replicant to get the drop on Deckard, to pull him between two segmented refuse haulers, then smack the gun out of his grip like swatting a fly and send it spinning out toward the street. So exhausted that he hadn't been surprised at all when Kowalski, eyes maddened by the witnessing of the female's death, had picked him up like a rag doll and slammed him against the side of one hauler, spine leaving a buckled indentation in the carapacelike metal. And words, spat out angry and sneering, something with which Kowalski could hammer the killer.
How old am I?
My birthday's April 10, 2017. How long do I live?
Deckard had told him the answer, gasped it out with the last of his breath.
. That was how long all the Nexus-6 replicants had been given. They carried their own clock-ticking deaths inside their cells, more certain than any blade runner's gun.
The answer hadn't been to Leon Kowalski's liking, though he must have known it already. His eyes had gone wider and even more crazed.
More than you
. More than the man dangling from his fists had to live . . .
But that's wrong
, thought Deckard. The other's face, mottled in his sight with the black swirling dots of oxygen starvation, grinned up at him. The operating remnants of his brain could remember what had happened before. Kowalski hadn't shouted the words, not that loud; he'd mouthed them softly, as though savoring their taste between his teeth. Those words, and the words that'd come after.
And he didn't lift me so far off the ground
. . .
"Wake up! Time to die!"
He could feel himself dangling in air, could hear the replicant's voice, the words shouted or whispered-it didn't matter now. It hadn't mattered before. All that mattered was the crushing pressure on his throat, the weight of his own body against Kowalski's fists squeezing off the city's humid air from his lungs. The other's words roared inside his head, each syllable a pulse of blood against his skull's thin shell of bone. Now the voice, the shout, seemed to hammer right at his ears.
Maybe that's why it sounds so loud
, thought a cold, abstracted part of Deckard, watching himself die.
Because I know
. . .
He knew what happened next. What would happen, had already happened; foreordained, scripted, bolted to the iron rails of the past, unswerving as those of the rep train that rolled in the darkness beneath the dark city.
Time to die
. . .
He wondered what was taking so long.
Where is she?
She was supposed to have been here by now
. . .
Kowalski's fists lifted him higher, his spine arching backward. The sky wheeled in Deckard's sight, needles of stars and gouts of flame penetrating the storm clouds above the L.A. towers. Police spinners drew distant, slow-motion traces of light, while the hectoring U.N. advert blimp cruised lower, seemingly within reach of his hand if he could've taken it away from the replicant's choking grasp. Emigrant vistas swam across the giant screen imbedded in the midst of the blimp's spiked antennae; an even larger voice boomingly cajoled him to seek a new life in the off-world colonies.
What a good idea
, that other part of him mused. His old life was almost gone.
The city's faces roiled across his sight; all of them, indifferent or hostile, eyes hidden behind black visor strips or magnified and glittering behind chrome-ringed fish-eye lenses. Chemical-laced tears ran down pallid cheeks, laughter broke past doubled ranks of filed teeth; a row of Taiwanese Schwinn clones jangled the bells on their handlebars, to cut through and then be swallowed up by the two-way rivers of foot and motor traffic. The black dots in Deckard's vision had grown larger and started to coalesce. Beyond them, he could see another face, made of a grid of photons. A woman in
-lite drag, Euro-ized kabukoid makeup and perfect black-shellac hair; she smiled with ancient suavity at the Swiss pharmaceutical capsule on her fingertips, then swallowed it, her coquette smile and glance turning even more mysterious. He didn't know her name, or even what she was selling; he had never known, during all the time he had walked and lived and killed inside the traplike city, and the woman had floated above him like some anonymous, disdainful angel. In his anoxic delirium, he could imagine that she was about to lean down from the ad-screen and bestow a kiss upon him . . .
The Asian woman's face disappeared, replaced by the only one that mattered. Kowalski pulled him close, not for a kiss but to snap the vertebrae at the hinge of Deckard's neck. He'd be paralyzed before he was dead, but only for a few seconds, until Kowalski finished him off.
"Wake up! Time to die..."
Deckard heard the words again, but knew it was only memory. He saw Kowalski's smile and nothing else, as the replicant jabbed two fingers toward Deckard's eye sockets.
Maybe they finally got it right
, he thought.
This time it'll be different
. . .
But it wasn't. Even as he looked down at the other's face, time started up again, the loop running as it had before. As it had so long ago. The replicant's expression changed to one of stunned bewilderment. The light behind Kowalski's eyes dwindled to a spark, then died out, as the life that the Tyrrell Corporation had given him rushed from the red flower, torn flesh and white thorns of bone splinters, that had burst from his forehead. The bullet had passed all the way through and vanished, tumbling somewhere beyond Deckard's shoulder.
The thing that had been Kowalski crumpled forward, falling onto Deckard and trapping him against the shining wet pavement. Deckard clawed out from beneath him and stood upright again, regaining his balance and his breath. His vision shifted, from blurred to focussed, close to medium distance; Rachael stood at the mouth of the alley, swathed in high-collared fur, the gun that Kowalski had knocked away now clasped in both her hands-it must have landed right at her feet-and trembling from the shock of its firing, the slight motion of the trigger that had placed the steel-jacketed bullet like a quick finger tap at the back of Kowalski's head. She looked dazed, lips parted to draw in her own held breath; just as though she had never killed anyone before. As though this were the first time this had happened.
His gaze went back down to the dead replicant at his feet. Or supposedly dead.
He's doing a good job
, thought Deckard. Kowalski looked as dead as a real corpse.
"Come on, get up-" Deckard kept his voice lowered, so that none of the on-set microphones would pick it up. "It's a wrap, they got it all on tape. You can get up now."
Blood welled from the hole in Kowalski's shattered brow.
Then Deckard knew it was real.
"What the hell . . ." At the edge of the soundstage, where the fake streets, the re-created Los Angeles, gave way to bare dry concrete and steel, the flooring laced with thick power cables and data conduits like black snakes-Deckard stood up, angrily ripping the headphones away from his ears. The folding chair toppled over as he threw the 'phones at the central monitor, the one that had shown the view from the eyes of the other Deckard, the fake one, the one that had been dangling from the now-dead replicant's fists. Across the smaller screens, the angles of all the other video-cams unfolded like a magician's pack of cards.
"Now what?" The close-up on the fake Rachael showed her dropping out of character, the look of shock on her face transmuted to that of a disgusted professional as she let the heavy gun hang at the end of her arm. She sighed wearily. "Christ, this shoot's taking
Deckard ignored her, striding past the cameras on their automated tracking booms, the skeletal apparatuses of light and event. The drizzle from the overhead rain gantry ran off his jacket sleeves, the grid underneath the soundstage sucking away the excess from the glossily photogenic puddles. He pushed aside the
Deckard, the actor playing him, and stood looking down at Kowalski. At what was left of the replicant, the bleeding artificial flesh.