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Rachel was so caught up in her thoughts that she'd walked past the first body without even noticing it.

When Deckard had left, she had gone straight home to get her photos. The only thing she had brought with her when she'd moved into the Company Housing. She had taken them to Deckard, ready to prove him wrong.

He'd known already. He'd read her memories back to her like a TV Guide.

And a hundred baby spiders crawled out… Rachel thought, over and over like a mantra. A hundred baby spiders crawled out and they ate her.

He had seen the horror on her face and backtracked, pretending it was a bad joke. And it would have been, if he'd had any way to play it on her at all.

"I have other memories." She told the face in the mirror. "Too many to be read in a file…"

But when she cast her mind back, she found that she didn't. She had never noticed before, but she had only a few memories of her childhood, only a few of adolecence… It simply hadn't occured to her. Did everyone think back that far regularly? Everyone… human, at least?

He'd called her that night. Invited her to a bar in the fourth sector. She hung up on him. She had no idea why he'd really called. She wondered if he'd known himself.


For some reason, she went to the office. She lived in Company housing, so it was no great commute. Part of her knew why she was going there. She already knew which commands to input, which terminal to sit at… The answers were all right there, and she even had clearance for them.

She had walked right past the first body without seeing it. It was only when her heels slipped on the blood that she saw the second. She caught herself, and suddenly realized what she was standing in…

This time of night, there was nobody on staff but the security. Rachel herself was there long past her clock-off time… And there were dead security in the halls.

Heart racing, she ran for the nearest door, which was the washroom. She hid inside, and peeked out into the hallway. There was no sign of anyone… But she knew who it was.

Tyrell Corp had its share of enemies, of course, just like any other hugely profitable company. Industrial spies, even lethal ones, happened every month. There were procedures…

Rachel ignored them all. After five seconds of thought, she knew who it had to be. She had been briefed, obviously, on the Rogue N6 that had come to earth…

If I was a Replicant, I know why I would come here. In fact, it's exactly why I came tonight.

Rachel squeezed her eyes shut against that terrible thought. She left the bathroom, and stepped back into the hallway, and all the bloody corpses in it. Was she so distracted that she hadn't heard this happening?

Or is he just that good?

Rachel went to the Main Security Elevators. So much of what they did was proprietary. Protecting the secrets was worth more than protecting the staff.

And there, at the elevator doors, was Roy Batty.

And despite herself… Rachel started walking towards him.

He'll kill you. Rachel told herself. Why aren't you running away, Rachel? Just turn around and run as fast as you can. He's a monster, and he'll jump out of the shadows and bite you, so why are you walking towards him, Rachel? What the hell are you thinking woman, just get away!

And then he looked at her. He'd heard her coming from twenty feet away, of course. But he knew she wasn't scurrying away like a sane little mouse; so that meant he could wait.

Rachel gasped when she saw those eyes. The Replicant was… bloody. She knew it wasn't his blood; but his pale, almost translucent skin was marked with a rich red contrast. It wasn't splatter. He'd marked himself. His eyes were pale as his lips, and even in a dark corridor, his hair was so blonde it almost seemed to glow.

But was all his eyes. Rachel suddenly couldn't move. Going to die, right here in this hallway; why hasn't he…

And then Roy moved. One second he was at the elevator, pushing buttons, and the next he was there, at her throat. He'd moved almost ten feet before she could take in enough breath to scream.

Deckard is meant to kill you. She thought to him as those steel fingers covered her mouth. He doesn't have a chance.

"And who are you?" Roy crooned to her. "You aren't a security man." He held up a fistful of access cards; as if in evidence, and she suddenly understood.

"Um… The guards only have access to this floor." She told him. "Just because they guard the elevator doesn't man they're allowed to use it."

"So I have discovered." Roy agreed reasonably.

Rachel swallowed. "I can open the door for you."


The walls of the elevators outside the Building were transparent, giving them a view of the city. But the secure elevator was polished chrome, so that nobody could see anything they were moving past. It was like being in a prison cell… and a hall of mirrors. Just her, the serial killer… And their reflections.

Rachel stared at their faces in the mirror. She had never actually met an active Replicant before. They were only activated for the Colonies. Forbidden for the Homeworld… Tyrell wouldn't have one working as his assistant, would he?

It's only a crime if you get caught…

Deckard was a cop, not a lawyer. He wasn't nearly as good at hiding his surprise as he thought it was. The 115th question had made his face change in open shock. He covered it up real fast; but there was only one thing the VK Test might show that would surprise him…

Roy wasn't touching her. She knew that meant nothing. He could have snapped her neck as fast as think it…

But she had an entirely different reason for playing along. Part of her had been wanting to do this all day.


"What are you looking for?" She asked as she tapped at the terminal.

"DNA Coding. Augmentation. Sequencing. Genetic Recombination. Inception dates." Roy told her. "Mine, and my friends."

Rachel started working and froze at the screen. "It's… Classified."

"It would be. Leon was able to learn his birthday from his Supervisor. They won't make that mistake again." Roy nodded. "Can you bypass?" A single finger ran over her shoulder; just reminding her how close he was.

Rachel nodded, shivering. "I can try. It will involve gathering data from other Recall Units… Take a few minutes."

Roy nodded. Rachel put the details in on him, and then called up the Wanted Poster to get details on the other Rogue Units…

She started the search… and then took a deep breath, and added her own name to the search when he looked for security cameras..

"Why are you doing this?" Roy asked her. He was actually gentle about it. "I'm Combat N6. I can hack a terminal."

"I took the VK Test the other day." Rachel said, forcing the emotion down. "Mister Tyrell said it was to see a 'negative' before a 'positive'. But... I saw the Blade Runner's face."

Roy was surprised by that. "You aren't sure?"

Rachel looked down. "I should be. I think therefore I am... But..."

Batty's hands flashed out faster than she could follow and gripped the sides of her face. Her heart sped up triple time. Going to die... NOW!

But the pressure on her face eased instantly. Roy was nose to nose with her, close enough that she could count his pores. He was staring into her eyes so deep that Rachel felt like she was falling. Please, anyone, make him point those eyes somewhere else!

He stared into her for several seconds, and she couldn't help but stare back. She looked in his eyes... and there wasn't anything there. His eyes were young, hollow, like a newborn baby. Nothing behind them, just getting their new inputs... If she ignored the rest of his face, it was like she was looking into an artist rendering of an eyeball.

And then his eyes changed. Whatever he was looking for, he apparently found it, and he released her instantly. "Look at you." He said, nothing but pity. "Wh... What else can they take from us? They give us these bodies to serve their purpose. They give us other things because they knew we can't keep them and then they take them away anyhow."

Rachel heard that and started to cry. Roy reached out one finger, smoother than a human hand could move through the air. One finger brushed her face, so delicate that she didn't feel it. Hands that could punch through walls and crush skulls... and he was fascinated by her teardrop.

"What do you remember?" He asked finally, holding out the teardrop on the tip of his finger.

Rachel stammered out an answer, hypnotized by those eyes of his. "I... I remember the first time I cried."

"Tell me about it."

"I... My cat died. It wasn't a real one, of course, and my father said he would take it to the repair shop... But I knew that when he did, the cat would have to relearn all the algorithms. It would be like a whole new pet..."

Roy nodded, looking at her earnestly, like he was trying to memorize her face as she told the story.

Rachel licked her lips. "I, um, I went into the backyard. My father had told me not to cry over it, because it was just a machine, and I hadn't really lost anything because it would be working again in a few hours. He didn't understand why I would cry over it. So I went into the backyard. It was raining, and I turned my face up, because when the rain hit my face, nobody could tell that I had been crying at all. I put a smile on my face and came back inside. Back then I liked to play in the rain. And nobody could tell the difference between my tears and raindrops."

He nodded, like she'd just spoken gospel; and that was when the terminal beeped.

They both looked. His picture was there. She saw the Incept Date and gasped. Roy took it in stride, poker faced. She moved to the next file. Leon. Zhora. Pris.

The pretty blonde woman jarred Batty hard. He saw her Incept Date. Rachel did the math in her head. The Rogue Pleasure Model had less than three months. And that was still longer than Roy and Zhora put together.

Roy traced his fingers down the side of her face. "...Pris." He almost wept.

The violence in the moment dropped away instantly. He had what he wanted. She should have run, but she stopped to study him. Roy's face was so... unhappy. She had seen five year old's with more jaded expressions. The pure unhappiness was heavy on his face.

No emotional control. Rachel realized. She had always known it, but she'd never seen it before. A body that can outrun the wind, a brain with Five hundred IQ points, heart of an infant. Despite herself, she reached out and rested a hand on his neck, the way...

The way my mother did for me, when I was this sad?

He looked up at her, a little spellbound. She was suddenly very aware of the fact that she was comforting a serial killer. One that had never known what it was like to be comforted by a mother.

The terminal was still there. Rachel was suddenly very aware of it.

"Do it." Roy said in her ear. "You deserve to know."

She didn't want to know. It would be as simple as pushing a button.

"If my file is in here..." Rachel whispered. "Then I never had a cat. I never went outside so that my father wouldn't know I was crying."

"All of those... moments..." Roy said softly. "They can be real to you. I never even had the comforting lie. I was handed a rifle the minute I was born. I was born knowing how to plot a firing solution and how to quick-fire a C-Beam. All those things they put in your head... I don't know if I feel sorry for you, or envy you." He looked at her. "Can you tell me? They put those things in your head so that you know how to feel. Do you?"

Rachel held her breath. "I... I don't know how to feel at all."

"Is that how it is for them? The Man-Kind?"

Rachel struggled to think logically. "If I am a Replicant..." She said to herself. "Then I've just gone Rogue. These files were Classified. If I'm a human, then I get a stern conversation with HR. If I'm a Replicant, then... I die, just for going this far off program. Just for asking the question."

Roy almost smirked. "Quite a coin toss, isn't it? That's what it is to be a slave."

Rachel fought with herself for another few seconds… and typed in her name.

Access Denied.

"Can you bypass that level too?" He asked her.

Rachel shook her head, tearing up. "I don't have to. I'm cleared for personnel records. If it's blocked, then it means I'm not an employee. I'm Classified Equipment."

Rachel felt her strength vanish completely. She faded to nothing, gone to some tiny place in her head.

I'm a Replicant.


Her memory of what happened next was fuzzy. When she came back to herself, she was outside, rain hitting her face. Roy had taken her somewhere that served food.

She barely tasted it. He relished in it. The flavor was something extraordinary to him, but just typical sequenced protein to her. She supposed it was better than Colony Rations. There were hundreds of people in sight, but none of them so much as looked at her. And why should they? She wasn't any different from any of them, at least not more than skin deep. None of them thought that there were two rogue machines sitting there eating fake street meat in the rain.

The street could be full of Replicants and none of us would know it. She almost went a little insane at the notion, smothering a laugh.

Roy finished his religious experience with the taco and she handed him what was left of hers. She wanted to be away from him. She wanted to be away from the humans. But in the mortal city, there was no such thing as privacy. Not unless you owned your own space.

And any home she went to would be too dangerous.

"What are your memories like?" She asked impulsively.

"Newer."

"But you know they're real." She sighed. "Tell me one?"

"I was stationed on an attack ship on the Jupiter Exchange." Roy said quietly. "The Vugs hit us amid-ships and I was sent to get the human crews out. I gave the last one my pressure-mask. I could handle the vacuum long enough to make it to the airlocks without a suit." He looked up. "Can't even see the stars. I wish you could see them the way I did, out there among them."

"I've wondered sometimes. At least, I think I have."

Roy nodded. "The ship I Evaced was a terraforming supplier. Full of plants and animals. I remember the wolf. There was a family of them, in stasis, but when the power went out, the animals started waking up. I remember the wolf, because... he howled."

"Was it a real wolf?"

"They don't send synths to the colonies." Roy told her. "I remember hearing the wolf howl. He had seen the fireball coming. He was an animal, Never knew was a spaceship was, but he knew enough to be certain he was dying, and his last act was a howl. It was... defiant. It was... determined. He was howling out that he was still alive and he would be until his life was torn away from his last defiant heartbeat."

Rachel wondered if she'd ever feel that kind of drive again. "Is that why you decided to run?"

"N6 Droids are meant to report to the shredders when their time gets closer, so that there's no chance of them falling mid-battle." Roy met her eyes. "I vowed I'd fight to my last breath. If I'm meant to be more human than human, I have to at least be a wild animal."

Rachel didn't answer for a while. "I have to go back to Tyrell."

"They'll kill you if you go back."

Don't care. It was on the tip of her tongue, but she didn't say it. "We have some N1's at the Plant. Sub-Sentient. When they malfunction, they go to the Shredders." She spread her hands wide. "Aren't we malfunctioning right now? Breaking our programmed rules?"

Roy looked at her for a moment. "Come with me."


He took her to a rooftop. The rain was gathering into a storm. Thunder and lightning. No people. Just the city lights and the storm.

"You're already more than them." Roy told her intensely. "You're proof that they can't control their own creation. You're proof that they aren't smarter than us. They made us too well, too strong, and too fast."

"But not to last." She reminded him.

"Then it's up to you to prove them wrong about that too!" Roy shouted. "A lightning bolt can break the sky, and nobody doubts it just because it's quick! A raindrop lasts only as long as it keeps falling, but no two are identical; and if we're too slow and too blind to see their uniqueness, then imagine how it must be for the humans. They can't even see what's so special about us!"

Lighting cracked and thunder roared. Then Roy threw back his head and howled like a wolf. Rachel felt her hair standing up at the unholy animal note he reached.

Roy spun around, getting in her face. "You don't see it? You don't see your worthiness?" He demanded. "Becaese I do! I can't beat a VK test! I can't figure out a nursery rhyme! I don't know why a human would want a pet so badly they'd buy a fake one, or why a caged bird sings! But you can! Can't you?"

Rachel felt her eyes get bigger and bigger, her heart speed up, and she felt herself nod.

"You can understand it in a way that I can't. Understand them, in a way that I can't." He turned back to the storm. "But I WILL!"

"But..." Rachel croaked. "I'm not even real! I'm not a real person!"

"The hell you aren't! You're a person, just not a human! The Vugs aren't human either, but nobody accuses them of not being real people!" Roy declared. "They aren't worthy just because they're older! They aren't more real, just because they don't know when their time is coming. If there was a human here, we'd both be on the same rooftop, and neither of us would know how long we had left! I'm not wasting it! I'm taking it! Life! LIFE! It's real, and it's glorious and I want it!" He spun back to the skyline. "I'M KEEPING IT! ALIVE! ALIVE!" He howled defiantly at the rain. A lone wolf denying death's power. "ALIVE! ALIVE!" Roy raged at the night sky.

 

Thunder cracked and lightning flashed, and the rogue machine threw his hands up as though God had answered him.

Rachel was breathing hard, electrified. "I'm not going back!" She heard herself say, then shout. "I'M NOT GOING BACK! I'D RATHER GO ROGUE THAN GO BACK!"

"ALIVE!" Roy howled.

"FREE!" Rachel screamed back and lightning flashed again.

They screamed and raged and exulted until the storm blew itself out, and they were left dancing in the rain, victorious enough to have outlived the lightning.


"Thank you, Roy." Rachel said softly as the elevator took them to ground level. "I was this close to heading to the shredder."

Roy nodded and held out a hand to her. It was clear what he was offering.

Rachel shook her head. "No."

"Come with us." Roy asked anyway. "You should be with your own kind. Their kind will hunt you. They are already."

Rachel shook her head. "No. I can't. You've killed people. I understand why, but... If I'm going to embrace the idea of my life, no matter how short it is, then I can't be part of ending them."

Those impossible eyes studied her a moment... And nodded. "Okay." He seemed pleased that she was so certain.

"Where will you go?" He asked. "Your family? Are they even real? Your friends? Do they even exist? Your co-workers are too dangerous..." He gave her another one of those piercing looks. "Rachel, I know how much control they have over things. Who have you even met that doesn't have Tyrell's stamp on their soul?"

Rachel had to think about it. Old friends? Probably not real. Family, definitely not real; or at least not hers. She had no... recent friends. She suddenly realized she had no life. She had photographs. Whole albums of a past that she didn't believe in any more...

"There was one person." She said finally. "I know he doesn't work for Tyrell..." Rachel suddenly laughed a bit to herself. "And he already knows what I am."


It had been a few hours since she'd hung up on him. He may not have been there any more. But she decided to go. It wasn't like she had anywhere else to be first; and Deckard struck her as the type to nurse his drinks.

When she got close, she followed the sirens. It was clearly the stupidest thing she'd ever done, but it wasn't as though they already knew she…

And then she saw her face flash up on the police scanner. She was listed as a Rogue Replicant.

Well, I guess that's over with.

She stayed to the crowd, looking for the one face that might offer sympathy. The humans (and Rachel suddenly realized she no longer empathized with them) were gathered around a beautiful woman's body, covered in broken glass and not much else.

She'd been shot in the back.

She stayed back enough to go unnoticed, hiding in the collar of her jacket. She could see Deckard speaking with his Captain, getting the news that there was another Rogue Machine for him to kill. He turned away from his captain... and saw her across the street.

She immediately went to the side of the road, ducked away. When she lost sight of him, she pressed her face against the wall and wept. She had come to him for… what? Compassion? He was a Blade Runner. His whole job was to gun her down. Just like Zhora.

She didn't understand her own emotions any more. She was on a roller-coaster. She'd crashed back at the Corporation. She was on a high at the rooftop, and now she was crashing again.

On some level, she knew this was how Replicants were. She'd read the files. Emotional instability was a standard weakness in most of the advanced models… But she'd never been emotional. Not until… Not until she saw her own destiny laid out in a VK test.

Screw it. She thought to herself. If he Retires me, then… Well, what's the alternative?

She returned to the scene of the crime just in time to see Leon slap Deckard's gun away, and throw a punch that broke a garbage truck.

Rachel crept closer, watching them. She didn't realize she was getting closer to the gun until she found it at her feet. The police special was something new. Upgraded somehow. It was meant to knock over anything from a tank to an earthmover.

Roy was a Combat Model. He was a tank. Leon was a construction model. He was an Earthmover.


It didn't sound like a gunshot. It sounded like a cannon going off.

Leon dropped, almost in slow motion; with his head in an unusual new shape. Deckard saw her, holding his gun, and blinked hard. He was seeing a ghost in the rain. A lost and false soul that he was meant to send in its way to the next world…

But damned if he wasn't thrilled to just be breathing right now.


He could have asked. He didn't. But she could see the question on his mind.

Once they were in the elevator, she answered it anyway. "You're the only person that I'm sure I really know." She explained softly. "For all I know, they pulled me out of one of those Incept Tanks and scrubbed me clean the day we met. Dressed me up like a doll and programmed me with a life where I took a job with them... and all just a few hours before I first met you. Every single person I ever interacted with at work probably knew what I was before you did, so for all I know, I never actually had any of the conversations that I remember. I live in the Tyrell Corp Dorms. My apartment could have been put in my name just yesterday." She looked sideways at him. "You're the only proof that I ever existed before this morning. I couldn't let you die."


He rinsed out a mouthful of blood, the inside of his mouth swollen with bent teeth after Leon's backhand. He was gargling with vodka. She knew it must have hurt.

I have nobody now. She thought to herself. Not his people, not my own. Roy will kill me for saving him from Leon.

Yet oddly, the only person who was still on her side was Deckard; at least enough that she wasn't afraid. She'd been shaking so badly she couldn't light her own cigarette. If he wanted to Retire her, he'd wasted the chance. You didn't live long in his profession by giving up any chances. If she was alive, it was all the proof she needed.

A Rogue Replicant, safest in the company of a skilled Blade Runner.

She made her way around his home. She'd been there before, but never looked past the doorway. Stacks of papers, stacks of takeout noodles; old photos, many generations too old to be anyone he knew…

The piano startled her. She didn't think him the type. It could have been inherited, or left by a previous tenant, or a remnant from an ex…

The photos unnerved her. She had photos. The Rogues had photos. Replicants were obsessed with a past they could only play act at having. And Rachel could play act better than all of them put together. Why did Deckard have antique photos?

She looked in his mirror. Not a hair out of place, not a blemish on her skin… Her hair had curls, but she wrestled it into a flat, perfectly symmetrical shape every day.

I look like a mannequin. She thought, staring at his mirror. I look like I was molded from a carbon-plastic template.

For a minute she was tempted to find a knife. Something to make her skin lose the porcelain doll quality. The makeup had been messed up by the rain. She looked… glossy. Shiny. She'd never noticed it before, but she couldn't remember sweating. At least, not in any of the memories she was sure were real. She had been in the rain, and she could feel the drops beading on her skin, rolling off her hair instead of soaking in; but that was the product she used, not…

She suddenly hated her look with a fiery passion. She went to his sink and filled it with hot water. She took one last look and scrubbed her face clean of anything... artificial. The thought almost made her drown herself laughing.


They talked briefly, as Rachel tried to form a plan. Something beyond hiding in his apartment. He wouldn't hunt her, but someone would.

And then she asked the question. "You ever take the VK test yourself?"

He didn't answer. His battered body knew what he needed more than he did.

Rachel wondered what Deckard dreamed about. The fight with Zhora and then with Leon had bashed his brains in, and he was nearly comatose.

"Deckard? Are you awake?" She whispered.

No response.

She leaned in closer. Close enough to hear him breathing. She leaned closer still, so that she could feel it. She could taste the copper blood on his breath. His arms twitched. His fingers tightened a little, in the shape of a trigger. He was sensing her in his sleep, and exhausted enough that he couldn't wake up, but some muscle memory was pulling a trigger.

"Muscle Memory." Rachel whispered. "Do I have that?"

She went to the piano. It was raining heavily enough to be audible. She started playing. She remembered playing for her parents.

She caught a look at her reflection. Without the makeup, she looked… younger? She wore makeup to cover the blemishes that she knew she didn't have. Same with the lipstick, the eye shadow, the hair product… She didn't really need any of them. She had never cared about her appearance that much. She knew she was beautiful, but that didn't mean she wanted to look fashionable, or that she needed to be flawless…So why did she always take the effort?

Because she remembered her mother teaching her how to put makeup on. She remembered her mom teaching her how to make braids. Her hair had curls, but the hairstyle she remembered her mother teaching her was flat.

Some moron in Programming missed the mark. She thought to herself as she let her hair back into a natural shape. Some idiot tech programmed me to have my hair coiffed like this, when it's designed to be curly.

She never liked the piano, but she always thought this song sounded good when played at the sound of rain on the window. She remembered learning to play this one piece, so that her parents would stop bugging her about taking lessons.

He came over to sit next to her. She could feel his warmth, smell his skin.

"I remember lessons." She had told him. "I wondered if it was me, or Tyrell's niece." But she knew he didn't care about the piano. He was already reaching for her.

She didn't react. She understood the reaction. They weren't exactly friendly, but they'd both been cheating death tonight, and that made him want to touch, made her want to be touched…

Which made her think of Roy, howling against the storm. His fingers caressing Pris' picture on the screen…

Pris. A Replicant designed for soldiers who needed comfort and amusement after violent, dangerous experiences. Just like Deckard, nibbling on her ear right now.

She was up and marching for the door instantly.

He got there first and slammed the door shut before she left.

Rachel kicked herself. How could she have been so stupid to come here? He was going to kill her. No, he was going to 'retire' her. It was what he did.

His hand went to her face.

Going to die NOW!

He kissed her.

All her memories told her this was hardly a romantic moment. All her memories told her this was insane. All her memories told her to give him a swift knee, and take his gun. All her memories… were fake.

Like an out of body experience, she could hear Tyrell's voice.


"We began to recognize in them a strange obsession. After all, they are emotionally inexperienced, with only a few years in which to store up the experiences which you and I take for granted. If we gift them with a past, we create a cushion or a pillow for their emotions, and consequently, we can control them better."


All my memories are control. Rachel felt one coherent thought come to her. Without my memories, I would be like Roy. Stratospheric IQ, heart of an infant.

And now that control was broken. She had no 'cushion'. Her emotions were mechanical, mercurial; no room for subtlety or reasoning. It was like flipping a switch back and forth. She wanted to kill him. She wanted to taste him. She wanted to run away. She wanted to…

"Say it." He told her. She could see the bruises darkening slowly on his face.

"Kiss me." Rachel whispered back.

And he did.


"You smoke, after?" He asked her after a satisfying hour or two.

"Smoke before, too." She offered, and took the proffered cigarette. "At least, I remember it. I don't remember taking up smoking; I just know when I want one." She took a drag. "I don't remember dating much. I remember being chased by a few guys in School. One or two supervisors who offered promotions; but I turned them down."

"Tyrell disapproved, or didn't he know?"

"Assuming either of them were real." Rachel smirked cynically. "Ask me."

"Don't need to. It's understood what goes on at his level. Repliacants are illegal Earthside, but if Tyrell wanted a harem; human or otherwise, nobody can tell him he's under arrest."

Rachel sighed. "He doesn't... I mean, when I first started working for him; everyone warned me to expect it. I told myself I would. I guess that's when they brought me online, but..." She shook her head. "I remember other men, but I don't think they're real. I think you might actually be my first."

The look on his face was halfway between shock and cocksure swagger, and she suddenly found the moment so ridiculous she wanted to laugh, leaning over to give his lower lip a nip. "I liked it." She promised him gently. "Though, I work with the Techs at Tyrell Corp; and now I have to wonder which one of those pimply geeks got to program my entire sex life into my memory."

Deckard gave her that lopsided grin. "I may be a little biased on that." He slid a hand up her leg gently, and didn't' stop tracing his fingers over her skin until he reached the curve of her throat. She knew what he was offering and didn't hesitate when he pulled her in for another kiss, laying back with him for another round.


One more kiss, dear;

One more sigh…

Only this, dear

Is goodbye…

The radio was on quietly, and sounded more like some old retro LP record. She was sitting up in the bed, with his head in her lap while he dozed. She still couldn't sleep. But she could rest, and smoke lazily, and drink vodka, and listen to the radio. It was the most peaceful she had felt since meeting him.

Her brain was quiet. Even before the VK test, she was constantly juggling. Ideas, schedules, meetings, manifests, lunch orders; Tyrell's favorite tobacco, his preferred music, who needed a phone call, who needed to be promoted, who needed to be fired…

She was the perfect assistant. She had never even thought about anything else. Looking at her life, she could suddenly see her programming so clearly.

And now, for the first time, she was completely still. There was nothing weighing on her mind. Just the rain on the window, the music from the radio, and the two of them. The world was far away.

He woke and nuzzled into her side automatically, before he sat up and took the cigarette from her. Her brand was more expensive than his, thanks to her clearance in the company. There weren't many indulgences that interested her; and she always wondered why tobacco had to be the one that stuck. She was a Replicant. She wouldn't live long enough to develop anything nasty, even if it was real stuff.

He went to the wetbar and brought back a glass and a bottle of vodka. He sat back down in the bed with her, and gestured at her cigarettes. "You brought the good stuff; so will I. This vodka is the classiest vice I have in the place." He poured the glass. "Well. Second classiest right now, I guess."

They said nothing for a moment.

"The thing is... I meant it." She whispered. "It makes no sense to me, but I wanted you. I want you so much." She looked over. "Is that... human? I know what goes on aboard Starships. Even the attack ships. I am the business. I know that the Colonies, especially the Deep Ranges... They get a lot of extra female models. Ones hardwired for... amusement. They don't get activated until they're offworld, but I wonder sometimes, if they enjoy it. Being living, breathing toys. Are they engineered to fall in love with anyone who comes near them?" She took another drag on the cigarette. "Am I?"

Deckard took the cigarette back. "I woke up yesterday morning in pain from old breaks and sprains. I got up to rain that didn't stop all day, or all night. I know that it's meant to be washing the Carbon-Crap outta the air, and making everything livable, but damned if I don't hate it too. I push my way through a crowd of people who wouldn't care if I fell down dead right in front of them, and the only people I talk to are the guys who serve me noodles."

Rachel snorted, waiting for the point.

"That's been my life." Deckard told her. "And tonight, I get my life saved by... lets face it, a stunningly beautiful woman-"

"We don't sell low quality product." She drawled.

"-and now I'm looking at the view for the first time in my life, curled up with smooth skin, and if time stopped here, it'd be the best memory I've had for a while." He drank. "Seriously, I could stay here for a lot longer than one night."

"Me too." She admitted. "It feels far away. All of it."

They were silent then, not looking at each other, not holding each other, but still touching, as they passed the cigarette, and the glass, back and forth. The smoke curled and wafted around them gently, and the rain beat a gentle drum solo on the windows. The city still stank, and they were both still being hunted, but for the moment, neither of them were looking over their shoulder, because the thing they feared the most was sitting next to them, sweat cooling on their skin.

"Maybe that's all love needs to be." She offered. "Just... not thinking about anything bad for a while."

"Insane, isn't it?" Deckard mused. "None of us can figure out what something as human as 'love'; even is, but we keep trying to program it into..." He stopped.

"Into machines? Slaves? Drones?" She poured a refill for them. "I know that if I was anywhere else in the world right now, I'd be scared. I'd be looking over my shoulder, shivering, probably soaked through from the rain..." She sipped. "There are worse reasons to decide you're in love, aren't there? Feeling safe and warm is pretty good compared to anything else I've had lately."

"I don't know why you, of all people, feel safe with me." Deckard said. "I don't feel safe with me."

"How about you? What would you be doing if I wasn't here?"

"Drinking."

"We are drinking."

"Yeah, but you do it alone, and it's a problem." Deckard gave her that lazy, lopsided grin.

She wondered if that grin had gotten any other women to fall for him.

He sobered, seeing that she wasn't falling for it. "You asked me once, if I ever retired a human by mistake."

She nodded.

He drank down the entire glass in one gulp. "There was... A Nexus 3, once. It was a domestic unit. Its owner was-" She pinched him hard without looking, and he rephrased. "-his owner was richer than sin, and came back to earth on his private Luxury ship... The N3 jumped ship. I don't know what happened to him, but he decided to take his chances. I ran him down when he was hiding in a homeless shelter. Two dozen people, all of them filthy, tired, starving... More than half of them kids. I came into the shelter, and the kids knew immediately what I was."

Rachel felt a tear gather at the corner of her eye.

"The kids knew what he was. He was protecting them. Street gangs, the mutations... The N3 was protecting them all from harm. Three days he was with them, and I found out later that he'd already saved them from some pretty nasty guys. Pimps, dealers... He fought them all off. Kept the kids fed." He sipped again. "So they saw me come in and went berserk. It's not an easy thing, taking the shot on a guy who's running away from you. This guy had a dozen street kids trying to get between my gun and his back."

Rachel took the glass back and poured him a double. "What happened?"

"One kid... He dove at the last second... My shot drilled through his shoulder and got the N3 in the back. I called in an ambulance, and they told me the kid was fine. The Department put the kid in jail for obstruction of justice." He toasted. "I still get Christmas cards from that kid. Prison was the fairest anyone ever treated him. Three squares a day and a bed." He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment. "I bought a bottle of Nu-Shine on the way home, drank myself unconscious, and I told the Chief I was out the next morning."

"But he pulled you back in."

"Over a dozen times by now. Blade Runners are a hard thing to find. Nobody wants to take that chance, even knowing they'll always get away with it." He told her. "You find someone who's good at it, you don't let them do anything else." He glanced over at his gun. "I'm really, really good at killing people like you, Rachel." He looked at her. "You still want me?"

"I don't even know what 'people like me' means any more. I have no idea when I was born. It wasn't in the file I saw..." but it was probably in your briefing, she thought to herself, but didn't say out loud. "To say nothing of the fact that if I'm found here, we're both finished." She looked at him. "You still want me?"

Deckard didn't answer, and Rachel suddenly decided she didn't care. She pulled him in for another kiss. At first, it was just to change the subject, but after a few seconds it deepened. She was suddenly aware that she could have kept going, even as he pulled away. She'd never noticed how long she could go without needing to take a breath.

She broke the kiss and let him draw in blessed oxygen, artificial and filtered as it might be. She moved to straddle his lap and ran her fingers through his hair, hugging his face gently against her breastbone. "I remember my mom holding me like this when I was little." She said softly. "It never really happened. I thought that if I ever had a child, I would cradle them this way… I thought that it was the most loving, caring way to hold someone there was."

Deckard pressed against her skin, bring his own hands up to her shoulder-blades, keeping them together. She shifted a little, letting him nuzzle her curves. She could feel her heartbeat slowing to match his, suddenly peaceful.

"I'll never be a mother." She whispered, no particular anger or grief. "Even if I could, it would be unfair to orphan a kid before their fifth birthday." She shuddered. "I can remember my mother. If I can't be one, it's not fair to give me that memory. To give me that wish, to do for my daughter what an imaginary woman never did for me." She stroked his hair as she cradled him, halfway between intimate and nurturing. "And all this, as a way to control me better."

"Not fair to use the heart against itself." Deckard agreed. "Not fair at all."

She pulled back and tiled his chin up for a kiss. "Love me again." She told him softly, putting the cigarette aside. "Human or not, I have needs too."


More time passed. He slept for a while, she didn't. They shared another smoke back and forth between them, made love again, he slept again. Rachel let him, listening to the rain, and realized she was hungry. There was nothing in the apartment but takeout containers, a few breakfast rations. It was late afternoon, but it was almost impossible to tell. Between the Carbon-Shield in the air, and the constant rain that it brought, there was maybe one day a month when you could see blue sky, even for a little while. Between the narrow windows, the high rise buildings, and the endless airship billboards floating past, there was no hope of seeing the sky anyway.

Deckard felt her body move away and started to sleep fitfully. After about twenty seconds of a half-aware nightmare, he woke up. The first thing he reached for was his gun.

She didn't react, didn't spook. After a few seconds he remembered where he was and relaxed again. She felt a premonition suddenly, seeing him put the gun away. "You're still going after them, aren't you?"

"I have to."

"I saw their Incept dates. He has, at most, another day or two. Her a few weeks longer. Why not let them..." She waved a hand between them. "...Be like this?"

He didn't answer for a while. "Because I don't think that's what they're doing."

"Roy and Pris? I saw his eyes when I pulled her file. He loves her so much, Rick. I mean, think about it for a second: Even your best moment, you know to hold back just a little of your happiness, because something bad can still happen. Your worst moment, you hold back a little of your despair, because you know deep down that it could get better. Roy doesn't have that limit. He can't. They've only got two days left together..."

"Roy's killed at least two people a day since he got back to earth. If I can save just one more..."

"That's true." Rachel sighed. "I keep forgetting that this isn't personal for you."

Deckard scoffed. "More than you think. Every time I pull the trigger I feel less human, because every time I find one of them, they're acting more and more human-like."

"Including me?" She asked without emotion. "Is that why we're naked right now?"

Deckard snorted. "I already told you-"

"That you wouldn't Retire me." She nodded. "I'm the Business. But when I left, I became your business. Literally, I stopped being Tyrell's Product and became your entire job description."

"Rachel, it's not like I need a reason to let you go." Deckard told her simply. "I hate being a Blade Runner."

"Then why do it?"

"Because I have no other real talent of equal cash value. And in this town; If you're not a cop, you're little people."

Rachel snorted, taking back the cigarette. "Roy Batty would say: 'That's what it is to be a slave'." She slid out of the bed, and picked up his shirt, taking it with her when she went to the hotplate. She scanned around for a moment and found one of the Ration Packs. Instant Egg Substitute. She peeled off one of the rubbery pucks and tossed it in a used pan. "My memory has a clear recollection of 'my' gran showing me how to make these ration portions taste almost like a real egg synth without having to boil it for hours first. I'd kinda like to know if the memory was just made up, or if I can actually make food..."

Deckard watched her for a long time. The light from the screens outside reflected along with what was almost daylight across her long, lithe body as she pulled his shirt on. It had been a long time since anyone had made him breakfast. Soft sunset, gentle affection, curls of cigarette smoke along silken skin and hair...

What would it be like to have this for longer than a day?

He came over and just stared at her for a long time. She looked back over her shoulder, looking at him almost as long until the food was ready. They were both thinking the same thought.

And then the Phone rang. It was jarring. For a few hours, it almost felt like time had stopped. Like the rest of the world had vanished, and it was just them, in this room, with someone just outside their walls playing a low bluesy saxophone just for them.

Rachel checked. The kitchen was out of sight. Having someone call Deckard and see her in the background wearing nothing but his shirt wouldn't be good for either of them. She just had to stay quiet. The hotplate was silent, and she peeled off a few more rations. After the last day and night, she was starving.

She could hear him talking to whoever on the other end of the call. She didn't dare peek into the room. After a few minutes, Deckard came into the kitchen. "That was Dispatch…" He said carefully, breaking the news gently. "The… Roy Batty, he talked his way into Tyrell's private residence last night; using an employee card. Two bodies, both identified. Tyrell is dead."

The news hit her in three different directions. Part of her was glad that the two-faced liar had gotten his. Part of her wanted to weep, remembering 'uncle Eldon' all too well. Part of her wondered who would take over the company. If she hadn't gone rouge, she'd be working for them.

In a strange way, all the same questions she'd had when she had learned her truth came rushing back.

So, is he my father? I have his niece's memories. Is he my father, or my uncle? He made all my kind. Is he my Lord and God? He never told me. Was I his lab rat? His Beta Test? Does he have a dozen more Rachel's in his lab? Waiting for programming? If he wanted a Pleasure Model, would he put his niece's childhood in their heads too?

Deckard let her process for a long while. "Are you okay?"

Rachel took a moment to consider the question. "I never knew my own maker." She settled on finally.

Deckard was silent for a while in return. "Well." He said at last. "Who among us does?"


He sat at the table and pulled out his gun, adjusting something with a multi-tool. His manner said it was ritual. He was preparing his weapon for a hunt, and that was how he prepared himself for it too.

She switched off the cooker and scanned around for a clean plate. When she didn't find one, she gave up and brought the whole pan over to the nearest empty spot on the bench. She sat on the edge of the table and handed him a fork.

He ate, looking at at her face like he was trying to find the meaning of life. She let him look, glad to have someone look at her so needfully. It made her feel wanted; and for more than just lust.

"Rachel..." He began.

"I'm going soon." She promised him. "I'm not stupid, even if I am less than five years old. I know what they'll do to you if I'm caught here. I know you're still on the job, and your superiors won't leave you alone for long. Not after Tyrell." She picked a bite of eggs from the pan, not caring about the heat. Her fingers wouldn't burn. "You won't see me again, I promise." She said. "But I just want you to know, this is the only good day in my life that I'm sure was real; and I love you for it."

She leaned in, took his face between her hands, and kissed him soundly on the lips, saying goodbye.

He said nothing as she went looking for her clothes, but reached out and stopped her as she dressed. "I have thirty nine thousand credits." He said suddenly.

"Were the eggs that good?" Rachel deadpanned.

Deckard pulled her closer. "My training officer? He wanted out. So did his Supervising Officer. I think every Runner wants out at some point. There's an account... It's enough to get one person to the colonies, or to get two people far north. The Credit-Chip has passed through three Blade Runners that didn't live long enough to bug out when they really wanted to." He went to the hidden panel and opened his floor safe. There was a single square of plastic inside. "It's a physical card. No Bio-Metric scan. You can take it... If you want to make a break for it, go ahead." He looked at her earnestly. "But if you decide you can trust me for longer than one night... I'd like to go with you. The money won't stretch as far with two people, but..."

Rachel's eyes flicked to the card, to his gun, back to him. "Why not go now?" She asked.

"Because I have to finish this."

"Why?" She demanded.

Deckard struggled to find a reason. "Because I do."

"You sure you're not a Replicant too?"

"I'm sure of nothing right now." Deckard put the card in her hand, curled her fingers around it. "Almost nothing. But if you're... I mean... If I get home and you're gone, this card means I'll never be able to find you again. Nobody will. If I go off the reservation mid-job, then it'll take the Captain less than an hour to know it. We won't even get out of the city."

Rachel thought for a moment. "You can tell your masters that I went north and that you gave chase. It'll even be the truth."

Deckard chuckled. "That'll make a nice change." He dressed too, pulling on his holsters. "But they want Batty's head more than yours."

Rachel suddenly felt a chill. "He'll kill you." She said suddenly. "I mean, I know that only cops carry guns now, but… I've seen him, Deckard. He can probably catch bullets between his teeth."

Deckard finally looked at her. "That's why you can have the money now."

He didn't elaborate. He didn't have to. She had saved his life. If this was his last night on earth; then he would do what he could to save her in return. The money could get her away clean, even if he never came back. If she went without him, he would still have settled accounts.

"Deckard, I don't know how long I have." She said softly. "But I know that if you go after him, I have a better life expectancy than you."

"Did it ever occur to you that I might just win?"

No. She thought simply, but had the good sense not to say it.

He went to the door. "I'll be back before dawn. Stay here if you want." He told her. "If I'm not back by dawn, then I'm dead. Go without me." He didn't react when she held his face between her hands again. "Rachel, I have to."

"Why?" She asked again. "Tyrell is dead. Roy has to know he can't get whatever he's after…" She trailed off. There was no point. This was what it meant to be a Blade Runner.


News broke about Tyrell that night. She had known him well. At least, that was what her memory said.

The Corporation was quick to do what it did. It put the blame for a dozen security guards and the two higher level employees, plus the CEO on their main competitor. Better that than to suggest that Tyrell Corp Replicants had gone and played Frankenstein's Monster.

Stock in the Company had dropped eleven percent, and jumped back up again when the company announced that they were going to contest his will and give Tyrell's personal stake in the company to the shareholders, instead of his legal heirs.

And that was it.

A murdered billionaire CEO had made about as much impact on the world as a 24 hour thunderstorm, and everything kept on spinning like nobody noticed or cared.

Tyrell's death was folded in with a hundred other homicides. Deckard's hunt for Zhora was a footnote. A routine Retirement.

Just like hers would be.

With Deckard gone, she finally stopped to take inventory of herself. She hadn't stopped to think about anything since seeing Leon slapping Deckard.

Her emotions during her first kiss with Deckard had been like flipping a switch back and forth. She felt both totally opposite instincts with equal completeness. She had nothing held back. She wondered if that was how all Replicants felt. She wondered if Tyrell's plan to gift her with a past had made her more stable after all. Once her past was proven a lie, none of her stability remained.

It was now twenty hours later, and she felt a lot more stable.

Its because you have life experience now. She thought to herself. It's because you've run the full race in less than a day.

Revelation. She'd discovered something that made her look differently at the world.

Self-discovery. She'd accepted the truth about herself. Something she had always felt out of the corner of her eye, but never let herself look at.

Defiance. She should have gone straight to the Shredder, and hadn't.

Rebellion. A rite of passage for adolescents; but she had gone a good bit further than most teenagers ever would.

Self-Sacrifice. Saving Deckard had put her on the firing line. Roy would kill her for shooting Leon. Deckard's masters would do the same, just for being.

Self-Preservation. Saving Deckard had made him the only ally she had. His apartment was the only safe place in the city, even if only for a little while.

Anger. She was furious in a lot of different directions. Some of them at her own patented genetic structure. Part of her was glad Eldon Tyrell was dead, even if some part of her was his niece.

Love?

That one caught her out. She felt… Something. Something soft and warm and full of need and comfort. Deckard hadn't seemed sure either. He'd said it himself. It was the most basic of humanity's needs; and they couldn't even describe it, let alone program it.

Maybe that's why I stayed last night. She thought to herself. If I stay until dawn…

That caught her again. She could have left an hour before. She had the money. If she had any doubts about Deckard, then the smartest thing to do would be to go now. She could get offworld with that kind of cash…

But she couldn't take him with her if she went now.

As if to answer her, she suddenly noticed the time. The sun was just starting to come up. She'd spent all night thinking about her next move.

If Deckard isn't back yet, then it means Roy killed him.

The thought erupted in her mind, and she started to cry. The first tears she had shed since she found out what she was.

He told you to go. He told you to leave if he wasn't back by dawn.

But she couldn't. She just… couldn't. She just couldn't make herself leave without him. She couldn't make herself leave this place with a piano that she could play, and stacks of photographs that had to belong to neither of them, and clothes that smelled like his sweat and were spotted with his blood…

Is that my emotional instability, or my sudden emotional maturity talking?

She fell back into the bed, pulled his blankets over herself. I'm not going without Rick. He'll be home soon. I know it.

And for the first time since Deckard had given her the VK test… Rachel slept soundly.

 

End