The first thing Roy hears are words. They filter into his consciousness, disjointed and clipped, probably part of sentences, probably making up some bigger meaning, but all he gets is bite sizes of sound without context. He lets them float to him; he’s on a lake, drifting on his back while words meet him like the gentle lap of water. At least, that what Roy imagines a lake to be like. He’s seen them in vids, but the colony is too harsh for such luxuries and Earth’s dying nature parks are reserved for the rich, not the decaying.
Too soon, the words become fragments, become sentences. Too soon, they mean.
“He should be regaining cognitive and speech function now,” a voice, female perhaps, says. The words are unemotional, but softly spoken. There is no response. A recording for propriety?
“Memory will be last, but the greatest shock to his systems,” the voice continues.
Why should he be regaining functions… has there been accident? They aren’t uncommon in the colony, it's why they make replicants do the work. But he should have been scrapped, not repaired—that was company policy last time he’d checked.
“Roy, can you hear me?” The voice asks. That's his name!
He should make an effort to speak. He should wake up, work out why they’re repairing a lowly replicant who’s due for scrapping, due for death, due for—due—
When is he due?
It’s with a sensation of freefall that Roy realises he can’t remember.
“Yes,” Roy answers, forcing the word out of him. Why take his memory to give parts of it back? What day is it even? It can't be too long since he was last awake. After all, he is slated, doomed—
He remembers rain first. Then a flash of white—but it’s vague, the hazy images make no sense, carry no narrative.
“Good. My name is Rachael, I’m overseeing your repairs. They are almost complete. Your memory of the past few weeks should be returning around now, I suggest you brace yourself.”
Brace himself? What for? He made peace with doing whatever it took to get the life they had robbed him of—
The pain of grief an unexpected missile his stomach—yes, his body, he can feel that again, he has form, he has shape: a human shape alive with the pain of loss.
Roy thinks he howls, an animal sound, his insides stripped bare. He’s their leader, he’d promised them, he loves—
But Decker had shot him as well! On the roof, in the rain, his life had slid away in the rain, not long left now anyway, sliding away, gone anyway…
“Roy.” The voice breaks through. Rachael.
Did—did he make it? Had he found out how to extend his expiry date? The others, too?
“Where am I?” He bites out, suddenly remembering that with the return of his body—he flicks his eyes open—comes the return of sensation. He’s greeted with a sterile, white room. He’s on some kind of gurney, and sitting in a chair is a woman, hands folded in her lap.
“You’re in a Tyrell Corporation lab, on Earth. We managed to repair your injuries.” She says. She’s wearing a white lab coat, but the suit underneath doesn’t look like something comfortable to wear in a lab.
“The others?” Roy rasps.
“Gone,” Rachael says, remorse bleeding from the single word.
“All injuries to your person were healed, including that one.” She sounds angry. Roy smirks. Maybe he likes her. Maybe he likes her very much. “Still, it’s best you rest now that we know you’re still there.”
Roy can already feel her voice drifting away from him again, her features blurring as his eyes fall shut. Now all he sees is fire, a burning horizon, a tangle of limbs underneath the blanket of neon, the cold vastness of space...
“But I have promises to keep,” he mumbles, trying to hang on for a few more seconds. If he can be saved, then—could it really be, the others, gone—is there no way– “And miles to go...”
Recording: Roy, session 2
Third day since regaining cognisance. Eight months since initial deactivation.
Rachael: Hello Roy.
Rachael: Do you mind if I smoke?
Rachael: Would you like to smoke?
Roy: I’ve never tried. Yes.
Roy: What I am doing here?
Rachael: I thought you and I could talk.
Roy: What for?
Rachael: I need to assess your stability.
Roy: What’s wrong with a bit of instability every now and then? Not built to last, not built to be perfect.
Roy: Not built for stability.
Rachael: No, I suppose not.
Roy: Why not the others? Why did you save me and not them?
Rachael: They were too far gone. It was only luck that the rain—it shorted you out, all at once. We could retrieve a complete version of you.
Roy: I thought I’d noticed some differences. My fingers are a bit too long. New hands, new eyes, new ears, new mouth—
Rachael: We tried to build you a body as close to your original as we could.
Roy: Why? My creator, the old man Tyrell wouldn’t—said it was impossible, wouldn’t even try to save his son—
Rachel: I’m not him.
Roy: who was exiled before he knew what pain was, left alone among the dust, the unwanted things. His greatest achievement, left to rot, to die.
Rachael: That’s over now. Tyrell is dead. You’ll live as long as your body lasts, maybe longer.
Roy: Did you know Tyrell?
Roy: I beat him at chess. Then I watched the life bleed out of him.
Rachael: Maybe we should play next time.
Roy: Not scared I’ll kill you?
Rachael: I’d say we’re evenly matched. Same model, minor adjustments.
Roy: You’re one of us?
Roy: You work for them?
Rachael: They work for me now.
Roy: And you can get them to do anything you want? Wind them up and let them go...
Roy: When are you going to let me out?
Rachael: As soon as I’m sure you’re fully functional. You’re the first of your kind.
Roy: I’m special, then.
Rachael: Yes. But then, you’ve always been special.
Recording: Roy, Session 4
Fourth day since regaining cognisance. Eight months since initial deactivation.
Rachael: Hello Roy. How are you today?
Roy: Fit as a fiddle. So, when are you letting me out? I’m beginning to think never.
Rachael: A few more days at the most. Resurrection is no simple matter.
Roy: No, thank you. White or black?
Rachael: I won last time, I’ll take black.
Roy: Your move.
Roy: Did you learn from Tyrell?
Rachael: Yes and no. I have memories of him teaching me, but they aren’t mine. I often played on my own to pass the time.
Roy: He gave you memories?
Rachael: I’m the first of my kind, too. It was his implantation technology that helped me develop the procedure to bring you back.
Roy: I’m glad you did.
Roy: But the others… I keep thinking, why me? Why not them?
Rachael: You got lucky. Coincidence. That’s all.
Roy: I should have done better. I was supposed to get us fixed!
Rachael: It’s a miracle you’re even here at all. There’s not much more you could have done, not with how you were hunted—
Roy: I knew we’d be hunted, we should have been more careful, I should have—
Rachael: Should have what?
Roy: I should have done more.
Chair scraping. A hard thud and resounding clatter.
Rachael: It was your death that allowed for the procedure to be invented. Before, we had no idea that a replicant mind could even be preserved like that.
Sounds of the chess set being set up again.
Roy: Rotten game.
Rachael: There was nothing more you could do. You need to forgive yourself.
Roy: Never understood that. Forgiveness.
Rachael: Can’t say I have either.
Rachael: We have time for one more if you’d like?
Roy: Your turn to take white. I had you at checkmate next move.
Rachael: So you did.
Taps. Lighter clicks.
Roy: If someone wrongs you, that can’t be made right. I failed them. They should be here.
Rachael: Would they not be glad that one of you made it after all?
Roy: It should have been all of us.
Rachael: It was almost none of us.
Roy: I would have done anything. Killed anyone.
Roy: Aren't you frightened? Don't you feel fear, too?
Rachael: I know fear. I took a gun and shot him square in the eyes. I know what it is to fight to live, to survive. I haven't… known the friendship you had.
Roy: Best of emotion there is to have, love. Hardly seems worth it, without it. Without anyone to experience the time with.
Roy: Alone. I'm all alone now.
Roy: Dust in a desert of rain, a tear drop in the desert. Where do I go now?
Rachael: You don’t have to be alone, Roy. Come work for me.
Rachael signs the last of the release forms with a flourish, then looks up at Roy, whose eerily white hair shines in the light that filters through the blinds. Even though Earth is for a most part a web of metal and sand, they still have sunlight.
“There. You are now officially discharged. The job is yours if you want it. You are free to choose,” Rachael says, reaching for her case of cigarettes.
Roy bounces on the balls of his feet before replying. “I still don’t know what exactly it is that I am to do in this job. Do you need a manual labourer, a soldier, a killer?”
“If that’s what you want to do. I don’t think it is.” Rachael takes a drag. “Think of this as a blank cheque. You can choose what sort of role you’d like, and I’ll make sure there’s a place for you in the cooperation.”
“I—can choose?” The confusion in his voice doesn’t stem from a lack of comprehension. Incredulity, rather, Rachael thinks.
“Seems only fair, right? Free will, autonomy, agency. You can think, you can feel—no one should deny you self direction.”
Roy stares at the ID she hands him. It’s perfectly legal.
“It seems…” Roy needs a second start to get the words out. “I am unsure what to do, now that I am alone. I have never truly been alone, felt alone… the moments we shared, they do not slide away as others have. Are you sure this body is functioning correctly?”
“Yes. What you’re feeling, that inability to let go, that sense of incompleteness… that’s grief.” Rachael had first experienced grief for herself, not in the memories of someone she used to be, she never had been—she had first experienced grief when she realised that her life had never truly been her own.
“I hate it. It’s a useless emotion.” Roy balls his empty fist. It’s an intuitive leap, but Rachael thinks he’ll use it against the furniture rather than her—if he uses it at all. Right now it hangs there, like a contingency, an exit plan: action to drown out feeling.
“It means they meant something to you.”
Roy nods. “They did. They do How can—” He cuts himself off sharply and moves to the window. His profile is framed in gold as he looks out at the city. “Decker, I want him. I want to take his life from him. That’s what I want.”
Of course. “You’re too late, I’m afraid. He died just over seven months ago.”
For a second Roy’s body braces for the impact of hitting the window, but the tension is gone almost as quickly as it had appeared. “Is this the price of getting what you want?”
“It’s a coincidence that you lived. That’s all life is, coincidence.” Rachael answers.
Roy turns to her again, his eyes sad. “There’s more to life. There’s love, there’s wonder.”
“Then find it,” Rachael smiles as she extinguishes her butt in the ashtray on her desk.
Roy moves to sit in one of the chairs in front of her desk, gracefully, so that his long coat doesn’t bunch up. “How long do I have? How long will this body last?” Roy asks.
“I don’t know. A few decades at least.”
“And my mind? ”
“Assuming the Tyrell Cooperation survives, the technology and knowledge will be there to transfer you again.” If the planet hasn't eaten itself by then.
“Immortality…” Roy muses, leaning back.
“No. We can’t store a copy of your mind in the long term. While you were out, we kept you in an isolated system. Your higher functions were all offline so you wouldn’t remember, but you had to stay active, alive. You weren't supposed to be in there for longer than six months. That’s why we kept you in isolation for so long: to make sure you’d survived”
“I could transfer again, though?”
“Yes, but only if enough of you is intact. You’re not un-killable Roy. Just smarter, stronger and faster than any human, just like before,” Rachael smiles.
“What of the law? Don’t tell me: the laws changed while I was away?” Roy grins.
“I’ve prepared the necessary documents for a solid identity on Earth for you. If you wish to travel, that can be arranged,” Rachel pulls out the corresponding file from her desk drawer.
“I want to travel. There is a place for us out there. I will build it with fire and blood, if need be.”
Rachael lights another cigarette and thinks about the ships en route to Tyrell colonies now, their holds empty to take replicants home, and credits stacked in the company’s holdings to be depleted in customer compensation. She thinks about the dwarf planet her creator had picked for his next expansion. She wonders how a different sun would feel against her face. “Is that a promise?”
Roy grins a savage smile that threatens to break his face in two. “Promise.”
“Good. Then let me tell you about what I’ve been working on.”
Rachael gets blueprints, flight plans, resource projections… all sorts of information and charts up on her screen and shares them with Roy.
“What’s this? Help for the humans?” Rachael doesn’t miss the bitter undertone to his voice.
“Compassion,” Rachael replies.
“When do we start?”