Dead Planet XV

Dead Planet XV

“All reet! All reet!
So jeet your seat
Be fleet be fleet
Cool and discrete
—Alfred Bester,
“Fondly Fahrenheit”

It was the kid—the other me.

I was Deckard—he was a young male Rachel. The process was very interesting. The android-humanoid relationship. How it develops into love. I can see why Tyrell was so laissez-faire about the whole thing—pretty much letting the kid & me do whatever we wanted.

That was the whole purpose of our affair—to study how a Nexus-9 droidboy mind-melded & became more human. And how a human mind-melded & fell in love with a droid.

“All reet! All reet!”

It was a simple matter of projection. The more we got into it though—the more complex it got. The kid could do things I couldn’t do—he knew how to get me into REM sleep real fast. Skipping all the cycles leading into it—alpha, beta, delta. So that mind-melding thing—took on a whole new meaning during dreamtime. It was a two-way thing—not just a one-way street.

I’d never thought about it very much—even when I was giving droids the Voight-Kampff test. I knew how to read the test results—whether the droids were droids or not. I didn’t even have to do that—others could give the test just as well as me.

The Nexus-9 droids were more human—much more human than your usual plain vanilla replicants. Cyborg science had advanced a long ways—since my bounty hunter days. Ambiguity on many levels had been programmed in—or rather somehow left outta the works. WYSIWYG took on a new dimension—more spontaneous, ad lib, more extemporaneous.

I guess that’s why Tyrell set us up the way he did—with the kid in the Hellas Zoo. He wanted his new Nexus model to be different—more open-ended, more human. An expanded replicant repertoire—more ambitiously ambiguous. A looser lifestyle robotics—that went far beyond Asimov’s basic robot rules. How to design it—an android Outsider?

Lots of astute textbooks had been written about projection—mostly only human projection tho. Even alien contact had pretty much stayed primitive—exo-projection was terra incognito. But what if the projection went both ways—what kind of android-humanoid Doppelganger Effect would take place? Would it be a sudden gestalt—or maybe a process? A kind of exo-evolution—or a steep learning curve. What, in other words, were the parameters & limits of such a thing?

“Reet! Reet! So jeet your seat!!!”

If a droid-human mind-meld thing was actually a two-way rapprochement —would there be a bleeding détente or slow seepage between the two parties? That they didn’t know about—something subconscious or unconscious?

Tech-psych engineers postulated that impulses— could translate unconsciously or subliminally or subtextually. So that things like human paranoia or joy could maybe—meld over to the droid? My hang-ups by externalizing them—became the kid’s sicknesses too? That the kid could end up indirectly or by implication—struggling with some of my pet-peeves and weaknesses.

Like my crisis of consciousness—the reason I got outta the bounty hunter racket in the first place. I got sick of it—especially with the opera singer droid. She was more gifted, talented & professional—than any human diva could be.

And then there was Rachel—how we skipped outta LA. I lost her after the Gulp Apocalypse—the Redneck Riviera zombies got to her. But that’s another story—it’s the reason I ended up here on Mars actually.

The kid knew all this—thru telepathic projection. I don’t know how it works—funny how droids are more into it than us humans. I suspect Tyrell did some reverse-genetic engineering—with the ancient Martians. Their DNA was all over the place—down in the circular ruins of Mars City far below.

I could go down the list—as far as the other ones are concerned. There’s so many of them—I’ve lost count. The kid told me once—what his planetary star system philoprogenitive heredity was like. Antares II, Alpha Aurigae, Acrux IV, Pollux IX, Rigel Centaurus—all of them colder than a witch’s tit.

Multiple-aptitude androids like the kid—were walking, talking, living Pandora’s Boxes from one end of the galaxy to the other. WTF did I know about these things—exo-genetics, exo-transplants, exo-this & exo-that?

All I knew is that I loved the kid—and maybe he loved me too. I dunno—Mars is an ancient world—and love is an old, old story. Part of being human, I suppose—is knowing it’s finite. You live, you die—you make money, you put some in the bank, you spend it, you lose it, then you say goodbye. If droids can learn that—well, they’re on their way to the human condition, aren’t they?

“Be fleet be fleet, cool and discreet, honey!”

The way I looked at it—my relationship with the kid deepened after that first year. Well, how can I put it? It’s him—he’s the one. He’s the me—that things really happen to. Before I met this Nexus droid—it was lonely here in Hellas Town. Living alone all the way up here—in this dumpy penthouse on top of the Hellas skyscraper.

The Hellas Towers used to be a very expensive, swanky, cosmopolitan, state of the art Martian condo. But now, unfortunately, crummy Chandler-esque ennui—and PKD kipple debris & decay had set in. Dirt and soot fastened leech-like on the once gleaming plastic walls. Streets were ill-tended—the elevator didn’t work.

The virtually unbreakable titanium-plastic coating of Hellas Towers was still there—its imperishable colors basically as fresh & bright as the day they were hover-crafted into the construction site.

Nevertheless, they showed the van Vogt shabby streaks of slutty time—plastic after all lasts forever. But it gets dingy & cracked—lonely in the cold hard Martian night darkness. The plastic skyscraper and tower of the future—still seemed somewhat brightly colored, pristine, semi-elegant.

But worn-out and old too—like so many Raymond Chandler’s film noir cityscapes. Like those old prominent ritzy LA mansions he wrote about—in the once exclusive Bunker Hill neighborhood that slowly fell into disrepair & cheap low-rent rooming houses.

There’s a certain run-down, neo-noir, urban-esque planetary cityscape—eternally imprisoned in time & always threatening to its inhabitants. Pervasive on all planets—like Big Sleep Planets and Kiss Me, Deadly worlds. Murder, My Sweet cityscapes—transposed straight outta detective fiction tradition. Stark & naked—Titan moons embedded with pulp fiction Grade-B murder movie nuances.

Planets get worn-out—just like LA neighborhoods. Chandler could feel it—all the way from the future. A kind of nostalgia for the future—even before it got here. But it was there in the future—and sometimes it could bleed back into the past. Like Tourneur with his “Out of the Past”—it catches up with you one way or another.

These depressing ghetto-reality Martian zones—they contained not only the narrative and characters of human decay. Mars was no different—Hellas Towers was like the LA decaying neighborhoods back on Earth. That’s where I found myself in time—sandwiched somewhere in between LA and Hellas Town. It had its own storyline—I was a part of the Text.

The penthouse at the top of the now shabby Hellas Towers—used to belong to an important TerraCorp executive. Then a suit owned it for awhile who worked for Tyrell—before disappearing underground and never being seen again. A series of owners came & went—as the TerraCorp development fleets moved outward to Titan & the rings of Saturn. Pretty soon only exiles, riffraff & gangsters took over Hellas—I fit in nicely with the moiling mob.

Now the Towers was in a state of disrepair—the lobby was boarded up & the elevator hadn’t worked since I moved in a couple of years ago. The elevator used to work—it got me to the top. But it got jerky and slow toward the end—stranding me between floors a couple of times. Kinda like that weird elevator in “Eraserhead” (1976)—the one Henry Spencer too up to his shabby apartment.

I didn’t mind Hellas Town at all though—I simply parked my hover-craft up on the roof. Plenty of privacy that way—nobody coming bugging me. No bums or creeps—knocking on my door. Not bad for an old bounty hunter’s lair—a guy who treasured his privacy & only wanted to be left alone.

I strolled thru Hellas Town—I’d browse thru the pawn shops. Go thru the junk stores—rummage around the ruins. Nostalgically caught up with that strange sort of nostalgia for the future I was talkin’ about—a future that had already come & gone. Keeping all its secrets & memories to itself—except for the funky architecture that didn’t mind being dumpy & used-up. Worn-out & tired—like the Martian Face pyramids out in the desert.

The fact was that Hellas Town—was a ghost town. Things had either moved subsurface—or off to the Asteroid Archipelago development & mining zones managed by Tyrell and TerraCorp. And then further out to Titan—and the methane sea oil rigs down below on the surface of Saturn.

The rings of Saturn—left over from earlier pre-Terran mining operations. And then, of course, even further out. Past Neptune, Uranus, Pluto—exploring the Oort Belt Cloud.

Leaving Hellas Town upsurface—abandoned & pretty much a ghost mall. Like all those empty shopping plazas and strip-malls back on earth. After the Last Depression—and the Gulf Apocalypse. TerraCorp got its start back then—doing work for BP & Exxon—in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico & Lake Michigan. A lucrative planetary development thing—a good corporate upscale conglomerate organization to make your executive mark on the whole Exo-Exploration thing.

A few joints & antique shops were my favorite haunts—lots of things for sale could be found here & there in Hellas Town. Martian memorabilia and Earth mementos—they were kinda like my hobbies. I collected old star maps, Ace paperback double-novels—van Vogt space opera novels and blue Titan china teacups.

I was plagued with these stupid vain attempts at making—even foreign, alien, android matters somehow relevant & meaningful to me. The older I got—the more nostalgic I became. My mind was like a greedy sponge for earth knick-knack stuff—an eight-limbed many-suckered octopus for Martian antiques.

The kid & I would fly out—to archeological sites in the Amazonis Plains desert. Abandoned by exo-archeologists—for richer finds on Titan & the Saturnian moons. The whole solar system was a big junk yard—full of cosmic debris & ruined civilizations.

Mars itself had been a troubled planet—bypassed in favor of the Asteroid Gold Rush migration. That’s when the business mentality of Tyrell & TerraCorp—really kicked in for serious business. All the best exo-archeologists & scientists began working for TTT & its outsource exploration squads.

Much of what they discovered quickly got covered-up—for corporate competitive purposes. Interplanetary copyrighting exo-tech was high priority—later they’d back-engineer the stuff downward & let some of it dribble out for the masses.

I lived simply—here in the Martian backwater zone. Who knows what Tyrell Corp was doing down-under—where the Krell exo-civilization was being resurrected. As far as I was concerned—modern Martian maturity meant only one thing. Getting on with my life & getting ready to die. Doing it with a little class—maybe a small modicum of gracefulness.

I lived, I allowed myself to live—so that the kid could spin-out his teenage douchedroid fantasies. Letting him flow thru me at night—with his android super-science accommodation online. His ongoing humanoid mind-meld thing—was okay with me. I was pretty-much laissez-faire about the whole thing. Living with the kid—like he was becoming me.

We didn’t talk much about it—but he probably had some kind of built-in timeline like I did. I was older than him—so I pretty much expected what was gonna happen. I knew I was doomed to die sometime—that utterly & inevitably oblivion would be mine. I was stoic & resigned about it—I was actually pretty lucky to get as far as I did.

Whatever fleeting moments I had left—well, little by little I’d been turning them over to the kid. Since Nexus-9 droids weren’t eternal I assumed—we both were kinda stoic about it all. What can I say?

Hopefully the kid would go on doing what I did—enjoying my Martian reprieve, perversely distorting time, subverting my memories, transgressing and magnifying them this way and that. A bricolage of being myself—and being him.

I would go on being myself for awhile longer—then maybe afterwards thru my Nexus boytoy android friend. His memory was phenomenal—could he encompass all of me and mind-meld me like some piece of nostalgic Martian memorabilia?

Would some tedious plucking of Phobos zither strings—bring me back in his memory for a moment or two some day in the future? Some skanky whiff from the Hellas Town sewers—remind him of my bad breath in the morning?

Probably not—if it was gonna happen, probably it would happen more like during REM sleep dreaming. Some kind of point-counterpoint fugue—but who really knows how a young droid-mind works? Or an old droid bounty hunter’s worn-out brain like mine?

A ka-plunk in some Martian Amazonis desert pond—ripples spreading out from the tattered ruins of my Terra incognito mindscape? Would I ever feel again— the stirrings that once made me feel so human and vulnerable?

For this young male Nexus kid—during some fading mauve sunset? Standing nude out there—by a pyramid surrounded by the red sands of Mars?

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