The Title

by David Caldwell

When Shiva Starts to Dance: Part 01.


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,
Replicants were 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.

Los Angeles 2021

The plump dark drops of filthy rain left discoloured streaks down the curved polymer cover of the spinner's cab. Rick Deckard shifted restlessly in the driver's seat attempting to find a position for his legs that would allow him to sleep. He asked for the time: the silky, female voice of the on-board replied that it was 5.00 am.

He had been parked here on the outer fringes of the megalopolis in a monotonous landscape of derelict plants and abandoned houses for four hours. A faded sign proclaimed this had once been the town of ... something that looked like Sant…arb.a.

He had an indistinct memory that when he was a child he had visited a relative somewhere near here. Was it his relative? Was it his memory? He couldn't know.

Why was he waiting here, what was he waiting for? Two days earlier he had found himself heading south towards Los Angeles with absolutely no purpose in mind. He made instinctive choices to turn here, to stop there. He avoided any thoughts that might draw him back to the time two days earlier when Rachael had stopped.

They had been sitting on the roof of the old hotel watching the smudgy sunset. They were looking from the island of Berkley, where they had lived alone for the past year, out over the dull expanse of the Francisco Inland Sea.

Deckard had just been able to make out the pointed, tumble of the pyramid miles out in the water. He had made an observation about the drowned city and turned when Rachael had not responded. She was sitting motionless staring at the palm of her right hand. She looked up at Deckard her face bearing an expression of unbelievable sadness, opening her mouth as if to speak…….. She stopped.

Deckard had no other word for it, one moment she was an animated being whose physicality seemed inextricably linked to her emotions, the next an object of such profound stillness and immutability she might have been a sculpture.

They had never discussed this possible eventuality. They both knew that the Tyrell Corporation had built a chronological failsafe mechanism into all the replicants that it produced. A mechanism that would allow these marvellous frauds to be "more human than human" for four years and then to be betrayed by their own bio-mechanical systems.

Deckard had only seen this process enacted once before when Roy Batty, a rogue Nexus 6 had sat down quietly in the rain and..stopped. So different to the slaughterhouse scenes at the retirement of the other replicants that Deckard had hunted in his time as a Blade Runner.

They had never known for sure if Rachael had been spared the sentence of a four-year lifespan. If this wasn't one of the ways in which Rachael was "extraordinary", as Tyrell had once described her to Deckard. After Tyrell's murder and Rachael's escape it had been impossible to get access to any information from the Corporation, if Rachael was subject to the four year limit they had no way of finding out her incept date to calculate when the end would come.

They formed an unspoken pact never to speak of it; they lay it away with the other unasked question. Was Deckard himself a replicant?

The viscous rain eased somewhat, allowing Deckard to make out the thin grey band in the eastern sky that was what passed for a shrouded sunrise in 2021. Deckard told the on-board to activate the drive and set the spinner in the direction of the centre of the city. It would take at least three hours to get there and by then he may have worked out what he was going to do next.

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