The Blade Runner adventure continues in this dark and stylish novel of nonstop futuristic suspense as ex-blade runner Rick Deckard must cross the most dangerous line of allthe line between human and android.
Rick Deckard had left his career as a blade runner and the gritty, neon-lit labyrinth of L.A. behind, going to the emigrant colony of Mars to live incognito with Sarah Tyrell. But when a movie about Deckard's life begins shooting, old demons start to surface. The most bizarre and mysterious is a talking briefcasethe voice belonging to Deckard's most feared adversary. The briefcase tells Deckard that he's the key to a replicant revolution back on Earth. Deckard must deliver the briefcasethe secret contentsto the replicants of the outer colonies before he is tracked down and killed. Is the briefcase lying? Who is really after Deckard? And who is the little girl who claims her name is Rachael? Once again Deckard is on the run from a sinister force determined to destroy himand already closing in.
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Wake up . . .
He'd heard those words, that voice, before. Deckard wondered, for a moment, if he were dreaming. But if he were dreamingI'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 otherthe replicant, his murdererhad 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 kanji 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 carsthat 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? ThenMy 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. Four years. 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 whisperedit 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 . . .
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