Dead Planet XXIV

Dead Planet XXIV

“The perception of time is a
categorical perception that
identifies the plenum of events
as broken into cause & effect.”
—John C. Wright, Null-A Continuum:
Continuing A. E. van Vogt’s World
of Null-A

Rick: "Okay Rick,” I said to myself. “You're a tough guy. You've been zapped twice, downloaded, beaten silly with a droid gun, got drunker than a couple of dizzy Uranian bi-droids. Now let's see you do something really tough—like putting your pants on."

Rick: “I’d caught the blackjack right behind my ear. A black hole opened up at my feet. I dived in. It had no bottom. It felt pretty good down there—hangin’ around in void like an amputated leg.”

Rick: “My throat felt shitty. But the fingers I was feeling it with—they didn't feel anything. They were just a bunch of bananas—that looked like fingers.

Rick: “Rachel was still a beautiful Nexus dame. She looked down at me. I knew my face looked like a bucket of mud. It felt that way anyway. She gave me a drink. I was the kinda guy who needed a drink right then & there so bad—I’d take a drink, if I had to knock you down to get the bottle.”

Rick: “It was a nice little prison ship. Cozy, okay for the average Klingon convict. Only you'd need a sub-atomic raygun & anti-grav compass to get the fuck outta there. The prison ship was all right, I suppose. Was it big enough? It was fuckin’ big as Buckingham Palace.”

Rick: [about my zoid-gun] “That's just part of my clothes. I hardly ever shoot anybody with it. But I feel naked without it. So, where is it, Rachel?”

Rachel: “You're the detective, you tell me.”

[She wasn’t the lovey-dove Nexus sweetheart type anymore. But I lost the original Rachel a long time ago—back on earth. The Gulf Apocalypse Zombies got her—down there on the Redneck Riviera. But that’s another story. Who knows how many production models were out & about now anyway. The one in front of me was just a slot machine. She’d just as soon slit my throat—for a lousy C-note plus tax.]

Rick: “Now it was all beginning to make sense—in a screwy sort of a way. I get dragged in and get the Lizards shoved at me. I get pushed out and get the Lizards shoved at me. Everybody pushes me around—then everybody pushes out again. Nobody wants me to DO anything—not really. Okay, so put my check in the mail. I cost a lot—for just doin’ nothin’. I’m just a burned-out useless—retired bounty hunter that’s all. Throw in a vacation trip to Titan Falls—won’t ya, while you’re at it?”

Rachel: “You shouldn't kiss a girl when you're wearing that zoid-gun... leaves a bruise.”

Tyrell: “Okay, Deckard. Let's get it on the record... from the beginning.”

Rick: [I’m starting to remember now. Tyrell & Company teleport some Creepazoid Shock Troops into the Hellas Towers. They overcame the kid’s bodyguards down below. They storm my condo—smashing down the shield-doors. The kid & the Predictress—make a break for it. They use some kinda—droid-dimensional doorway to escape. I get left behind passed out—floating in my anti-grav Lazy-boy chair. The kid & Predictress couldn’t sober me up in time—without being sober the zeit-phaseout would’ve offed me. Now I’m with Rachel the Lizard Queen—and her Creepazoid bodyguards. I can think of better places—I’d rather be than here right now. Oh, it was about seven o'clock. Anyway it was dark.”]

Tyrell: “Tell us, Deckard. What were you doing at the pyramid back there?”

Rick: “Me? I'm just a crummy homing pigeon. I always come back to the stinkin’ coop—no matter how much it stinks. I'd been out poking around some old Martian ruins, you know—lookin’ for some fuckin’ old Martian antique or something like that. So I could sell it at the pawn shop—you know the one. The Hellas Town Junk Shop? Run by a guy named Dominick—whose wife ran out on him. WTF—I don’t know what I’m doin’ here. I forget why. Only reason I took the job was—‘cause my bank account was trying to crawl under a duck.”

Rick: “What were you saying, Tyrell?”

Tyrell: “I made no remark.”

Rick: “Remarks want you to make them. They got their tongues hanging out waiting to be said.”

Tyrell: “I'm afraid I don't like your manner.”

Rick: “Yeah, I've had complaints about it. But it keeps getting worse.”

Tyrell: [Effeminately] “How would you like a swift punch on the nose?”

Rick: “I tremble at the thought of such violence.”

[Rachel slides & slithers around the room. She contemptuously pushes aside the Creepazoid shock troops. She glares at them—and glares at me too.]

Rick: “You used to have a better figure, Rachel. A pretty face—a really beautiful smile. But look at you now—you’ve gotta a face like a Sunday School picnic. All messed up & angry. You have any idea what kind of face that is, Tyrell?”

Tyrell: “I wouldn't know.”

Rick: “I try to picture her in love with somebody—but it just doesn’t work anymore.”

Tyrell: “They change a lot. Nexus droids tend to really “kipple” pretty bad on us. It’s a stage she’s passing thru—I’ve got a development team working on it, Rick. You should’ve seen her when she was fresh outta the droid-tanks. All pink & pretty—your Rachel was the first experimental droid-diva we came up with. She was cute wasn’t she—in her lace pants?”

Rick: “I don’t suppose there’s enough murders these days—without TyrellCorp being able to come up with some cute Nexus chick or guy just right for the job. Making detecting her—as an attractive murderess real difficult, hmm Tyrell? How many young men has she fooled—with a droid femme fatale name like Rachel, here? Most young men wouldn’t be able to even find out in time—before it was too late.”

[Tyrell frowns. Rachel snarls. A Creepazoid shock trooper gets ready to cover me on the way to the rapid transit underground.]

Rick: “I seem to stir up trouble don’t I?”

Tyrell: “You know, I think you're nuts. You go barging around Mars—without any clear idea of what you're doing. Everybody beats the shit outta you—they smack you over the head, fill you full of truth-scans. And you just keep right on—hitting between tackle and end. I don't think you even know—which SIDE you're on.”

Rick: “I don't know which side anybody's on anymore. I don't even know who's playing today. I could care less.”

Rachael: “Sometimes I hate men. ALL men. Earthmen, Mars men, Lizard men, Creepazoid men, young men... Men like you Rick. Private dicks like you who runaway from life. Hiding here on Mars—with your droid boyfriend. What a loser, your are.”

Rick: “The story of my life…”

Rachael: [hiding in the closet, laughs—then she comes out into the light] Oh, I'm sorry, darling, I couldn't help laughing; but you should know by now how Lizard queens play rough. They soften you up, throw you off guard—and then they gobble you privates.”

Rachael: “That was a dirty trick—absconding with the kid. But maybe it'll teach you not to overplay a good hand. Now he doesn't like you. He hates men like you.”

Rick: “That’s not what he says. I’m on his wavelength. You think he loves Lizards like you? Get real, Miss Snake.”

Rachael: “That was only the first half of the speech. The rest of it goes like this: I hate Earth women, too—especially the "big league blondes." Beautiful, expensive babes who know what they've got... All bubble bath, and dewy morning, and moonlight. But inside: blue steel, cold—cold like that... Only not that clean.”

Rick: “Your slip shows, dear.”

Rachael [after Rachael points with Rick’s gun] You know, this'll be the first time I've ever killed anyone I knew so little—and liked so well. What's your first name?”

Rick: Rick, for short.

Rachael: Rick Deckard... named for a dick. You're such a nice private dick. I've got a name for a duchess: Rachel Lockridge Grayle. Fake tho. Just a couple of mugs you & me—we could have got along.”

The kid: [via telepathy] “How are you feeling?”

Rick: “Like a duck in a shooting gallery.”

The kid: “I saw Tyrell’s body in the bunker. He was doubled up on his face in that bag-of-old-clothes position—that always means the same thing. He’d been killed by a bunch of Lizards. Or, by somebody who wanted it to look like a Lizard job. Nobody else would hit a man that many times with a sap.”

Rachael: “It's a long story and not pretty.”

Rick: “I got lots of time and I'm not squeamish.”

Rachael: “I find young Nexus-droids—*very* attractive.”

Rick: “I imagine they can meet you halfway.”

Rick: “Tyrell died in 2025, in the middle of a Lizard Invasion. His droid-wife Rachael finished him off.”

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