Kevin Milner
Los Angeles 2021
"I'm Nick Reinhardt, a blade runner. Some people say I'm
the best, some say I'm the worst. All I'll say is that I'm
still alive, when most others aren't."

 Reinhardt 's spinner was heading for the apartment district.  The police chief, Bryant, put him on a new case that morning.  Right off, Reinhardt wondered why a Blade Runner would be working a normal case.

Yellow tape had cordoned off the elevators.  There was a body on top of the main elevator, with it's neck broken.

The lights in the shaft bathed the body in a sickly dim shade of red.  The light panels in the elevator were flickering on and off when Reinhardt entered it.

He looked around for the access panel, and seeing it was too high in the ceiling for him to get to alone, he returned to the lobby to fetch a chair.  He almost had to shoot the clerk to get the piece of furniture.

With the chair in place, Reinhardt climbed up through the panel to the roof of the elevator.  He took out a voice-recording device.

"Caucasian female, approximately twenty four years old.  Cause of death..." Reinhardt paused to examine the body closer.  By the angle of the neck he concluded she'd died of a broken neck.

Donning gloves, Reinhardt examined her neck more closely, revealing finger marks on her neck. Reinhardt looked up to the top of the shaft, where it was believed the young woman was pushed from.  She was dead when she hit the elevator, Reinhardt concluded.

"Cause of death is snapping of the second and third vertebrae.  Replicant involvement is suspected." Reinhardt finished the report.

Returning the recorder to his coat, Reinhardt withdrew the DNA analyzer module from his mini-esper.  He took a small sample from the dead woman's arm,  and then one from where the handprint was, hoping to get some sort of ID on the perpetrator.  The analyzer began to hum softly as it's high resolution micro-scanner charted the DNA structure of both samples. Reinhardt put the device in the pocket of his trenchcoat.

"These little tests take just this side of forever, so I took my time
paying my visit to Bryant.  I didn’t like it when my superiors went out of their way
not to give me all the facts from the beginning. When I arrived at Bryant's office, he was swallowing a ton of ant-acids."

Reinhardt walked into Bryant's office, the older police chief hid the bottle of MOM and leaned forward in his chair. Reinhardt sat in front of him, resting his back on the seat's cushions.

"I don’t like going into a case blindfolded." Reinhardt said.

"Yeah? Well, I've got a litter of homicidal skin-jobs on the streets.  This is the third victim this week.  First two were a woman and then a man, both with their necks snapped like a pencil. So don't mind if your needs aren't on the top of my list." Bryant said.

"When did they get on-world?" Reinhardt asked.

"They never left the planet.  Last week they escaped from the Tyrell Corporation's genetic assembly plant.  Five of them are on the streets, and I don’t know who their going to target next. That's why I gave this case to you.  You can solve the murders by airing out the replicants before they can do any more." Bryant began.

"If we found out why the replicant's are killing, we could....."

"No, your job is not to get into their heads.  You just retire them.  Go to the Tyrell building so the new head of it can brief you on the escapees." Bryant said, pouring himself a drink.

Reinhardt stood and left the police chief to his whiskey.

Once Reinhardt was back to his spinner, the DNA scan was done.  As he closed the doors, he surveyed the results.

"The DNA of the victim matched half the DNA of the skin
flakes left on her neck.  At first I couldn't make the connection,
but I stumbled across it at the Tyrell building."

        An automated receptionist greeted Reinhardt with a mechanical smile.

        "Mr. Reinhardt, Brent Toliver has been waiting for you. You may go right into his office." The mechanical voice said in all to perfect English.

        "Thanks" Reinhardt returned out of habit.

        "Welcome, Blade Runner." Toliver said when Reinhardt entered.

        "I understand your security let out five replicants that have started killing off citizens." Reinhardt said, deadpan.

        "Yes, but the escapees aren't normal replicants.  You see, these are the next generation.  I've improved over Tyrell's nexus six, creating the nexus seven.  We built in a longer life span so they would serve well in the off world colonies. Come with me and I'll introduce you to your quarries."

        A large monitor came alive.  The first image was a woman.

        "Our brand new distraction model.  Perspective buyers can choose one other set of function to program in.  Sadly, our testers trained this one for assassinations.  Rated A class physical and b class mental. Incept date 2021. We believe she calls herself Tanya."

        The next image was another woman.

        "This model is designed to be a personal bodyguard. “A” class physical, “A” class mental.  Incept date 2021.  This one is called Lauren."

        The third image was that of a man.

        "Designed as a heavy load lifter for work in the mines on the off-world colonies.  A class physical, but only a class “C” mental capacity.  Inception is also set for 2021.  This one is named Ian."

        The fourth image was a man, this one had a look of pure mean.

        "Our combat specialist model.  This one is trained in weapon to weapon fighting.  He'll give you a shootout if you cant find a way to take him out before he knows you are after him.  “B” class physical,  “A” class mental.   Incept date 2021.  Named Steve."

        The final image showed.  This was most presumable the leader.  The features seemed extremely blank, and nondescript.

        "Of all, this will prove the hardest for you to find. He is our Mimic model, designed to take the place of any important human who is suffering from terminal illness.  He is the most expensive, because the memory transfer procedure gives him the mind of who he mimics.  Until he chooses someone to imitate, he or she will have these plain features.   A revolutionary genetic program will allow for this model to look like someone it has seen, male or female.  Another problem for you is that he or she can change form twice.   Physical ratings will change with form, but the original mind of this replicant is “A” class.  Incept date is 2021."

        "Hold on, this Mimic replicant, how does he acquire the knowledge to change his form to that of the one he is copying?"

        "Generally through touch.  But if he could tap into information resources, he could assume the identity from a picture if enough information is present. The name programmed for it, was Alpha."

        "Thanks, at least I know what I'm up against." Reinhardt said.

        "If you can, please try to bring Alpha back alive." Toliver said.

        "As I walked away from Toliver, I debated if he was worse then Tyrell.
I also wondered why Tyrell's will placed this man in charge instead of the vice
president.  As I was leaving, I took advantage of the lax security to slip into
the records department in the Tyrell Building."

        A row of fifteen humming mainframes were cramped into a small dark room with one small glowlamp to provide light. The mainframes were marked for easy access by Tyrell employees, and luckily they trusted their security guards enough that they didn't use passwords on many files.

        Reinhardt sifted through the only files regarding replicants that were un-classified. Before the system locked down, he was able to pull out a file regarding the creation of Nexus-7 replicants.

       Reinhardt made a hasty exit as the security guards began to wake up from their naps.

        "It was in those files that I learned the Nexus sevens were made from the
Dna of living people.  Paired strands created this new evolution of replicants
the same way normal babies are made, only the growth of the replicants
was accelerated.  Granted, Toliver had the technicians put the final touches
on the replicants, making them more like Bio-droids than people, but
they were basically the children of humans, making them human themselves.
Like all Blade Runners, I prided myself on never retiring a human, could I bring
myself to retire Replicants that were more human than not? "

        The busy streets of Chinatown, which occupies most of Los Angeles in 2021, are crammed with people.  This makes it hard for witnesses to remember a name, let alone a face.  It is these streets Reinhardt traverses on foot to attempt to locate information on the whereabouts of the walking skin-jobs.

Reinhardt is shoved from behind.  His hand is instinctively on his pistol as he spins to face the clumsy person.  It's only a young kid, but he's one of Reinhardt 's best resources for information.

        "Watch it, Niro, I'm a jumpy man." Reinhardt joked.

        "And I'm a kid with ears.  I heard about fakers on the street."

        "Did you hear anything else?" Reinhardt asked.

        "Yeah, they killed a guy and a couple of ladies. The dead people used to work for Tyrell. That's all I know." The kid said.

        "That's enough.  Thanks." Reinhardt said, giving the young man a small roll of bills.

Reinhardt found himself in what some people call the Network.  For the right price, hackers can break into confidential files that are held in cyberspace.

Reinhardt waits untill he sees a familiar face.  A man called Jollo is one of the best hackers, and in debt to Reinhardt for his looking the other way a while back.

        "Hello, Jollo." Reinhardt said, following the other man into a small booth.

        "All I do is data entry for Tyrell, I don’t hack anymore, please don’t arrest me."

        "I need some information on former Tyrell employees." Reinhardt said.

        "That's illegal." Jollo corrected.

        "That never stopped you before.  Besides, who saved your life when the replicant that worked for you as cover tried to cut your life off early?"

        "What're the names?" Jollo said, keying his way into the system with one hand while he lit an ersatz cigarette with the other.  He deeply inhaled some smoke and then continued keying in the data.

        "Ashley Roll, Cassidy Fent, and Jane Wroe." Reinhardt said, guessing how the results would turn out.  A moment later his suspicions, luckily, were proven correct.

        "Tyrell employees, they were granted early retirement after volunteering for a DNA analysis test.  The test was designed to screen Tyrell employees for disease. All three are dead now, you know." Jollo said matter of factly.

        "I know.  How many more were in this program?" Reinhardt asked.

        "Hundreds.  Some stayed on, some left. Shoot! The system's locking me out, that can’t happen." Jollo said, feverishly working his keypad.

        "I'll leave you to your disaster, thanks for the info." Reinhardt said, walking away from the hacker's station out onto the street.

        "So the Tyrell Corporation had taken these people's DNA.
Which meant the Nexus-7’s were made of the same human DNA.
Why would the replicants want to kill their... parents?"

        Reinhardt stopped at a public phone booth.  He slid his ID card through the reader and keyed on the vid-screen.  He dialed local information.

        "Hello, this is operator 119, what number please?" The attractive operator said in her pleasant voice.

        "Not a number, I need a couple of addresses.  Ashley Roll, Cassidy Fent, and Jane Wroe."

        "Hold one moment, please." The operator said.  In the vid-screen, Reinhardt could see the operator sifting through files on a terminal to her right.

        "Okay, you may want to write these down, sir." She came back.

        "The first two lived shared the same address.
There was nothing special there.  But at the third residence,
Jane Wroe's place, I stumbled across a replicant."

        In the small appartment, the replicant called Ian is on the phone with one of the others.

        "I came here, like you said, but her boyfriend wasn't home.  No I don’t want to wait here.  Yes, Aplha, I'll stay" Ian slammed the phone down.

         Reinhardt was outside the door to Jane Wroe's.  He turned the knob and the door opened. In a neighborhood like this, doors should be locked.  Seeing signs of recent occupation, Reinhardt drew his blaster.

        He heard a guttural cry from his right, but by the time he'd turned to face his attacker, his pistol was knocked away.  He felt the sledgehammer fists pounding into his stomach.  He tried to tighten his muscles to take the brunt, but it felt as if the replicant was going to punch a hole right through him.

 Reinhardt 's knees drew to his chest as Ian knocked him onto his back.  The replicant released him long enough to get a better grip, but Reinhardt 's coiled legs sprung outward, forcing the replicant off of him.
        As Reinhardt got back to his feet, he threw a lamp at Ian.

        "I'll break your neck for interfering!" The replicant shouted.

        "Why are you killing your DNA donors?" Reinhardt asked, hoping to stall the replicant.  He’d had spotted his gun and hoped he could make it back to the pistol before Ian could get on top of him again.

        "We can!" The other shouted, as he was smacked in the face with a chair thrown by Reinhardt, who had rolled across the floor to retrieve his weapon.

        Reinhardt dropped to one knee and got his sight picture.  The replicant lept for him, but by the time he landed he was dead, with three new large holes burned through his thoracic cavity.

        Steve and Tanya made their way into the tech district.  They had been told, though it was hard to believe that the best hacker around was in this pigsty.  Following their only lead, they tracked down the best in the area and his name was Jollo.

        "Jollo." Steve demanded, stepping into the dark room.
        "Yeah, you wants what?" Jollo asked.
        "Information.  I want the list of DNA donors for the Tyrell corporation." Steve stated.

        "Popular document. A guy came by this morning looking for some info on people from that list.  I owed him a favor while you I don’t owe anything, so you will need to pay up front if you want to look at those files.  "

        "How about if I do a favor for you? Would that be as good as money?" Tanya asked Jollo.

        "As it turned out, Jollo thought it would be.  I learned from passerby’s
that after Jollo gave them a hardcopy of the files, Tanya occupied him for a
while, and then killed him.  I wish I had the foresight to get a printout, but it was
too early for me to think straight.  I had hoped that I hadn't blown the case
only a day in.”
        "My only lead was that the Replicants were killing those that were basically
there parents.  I still didn't know why, so I decided to go back to the new
head of the Tyrell corporation."

        "Mr. Reinhardt, this is your second visit today. Daylight is waning, and time is coming for me to retire for the evening."

        "It's funny how the word retire can have different meanings.  I retired one of your skin-jobs an hour ago, now you are about to retire for the evening while three people who retired from your
corporation are now dead." Reinhardt said bluntly and matter of factly.

        "You are a resourceful man, detective.  I suppose you have some questions then." Toliver said, settling into his large chair.

        "I do have a couple. First;  Do you know what a Voight-Kamph test is?" The policeman asked rhetorically. "Doesn't matter, because your about to take one."

        "I put the machine on him, and asked fifty selected questions.
Toliver was human.  But I still didn't trust him, and now he
knew I didn't trust him either."

        "Have I passed your little test, Mr. Reinhardt?"

        "With flying colors.  Now, I want to know about how the Nexus Seven's were created, and why they are killing the people who donated the DNA to create them." Reinhardt said, putting the VK machine back into it's carrying case.

        "The Nexus line has always been the best in Replicant production," Toliver began explaining as he poured himself a drink from his bar. " We had gone as far as we could with genetic engineering, so we tried another route.  Direct human donors  gave more humanity to the Nexus sevens, plus we were able to program them much easier by encoding the information on certain DNA strands and not on others.  This would let us tailor the replicants to their buyers easier then ever before. "

        "Well, the secret's out now.  But why are they hunting the donors down?" Reinhardt asked.

        "That, even I don’t know.  These perfect beings risk death to kill, it is beyond me."

        "I'm sure." Reinhardt said, walking away.

        "Ask the receptionist for the files you need. And get this over with as soon as possible." Toliver said, his words following Reinhardt out into the foyer.

        "The receptionist gave me all the files I needed on two mini cd’s.
I sifted through the first one as I piloted my spinner for the only club in
town that doesn't screen applicants.  It was my guess that the distraction
model would find work as a dancer or waitress in order to blend in better.
It was a long shot, but the time for the people on the donors
lists was running out."

        Loud music greets those who wish to gain entry even before they reach the door.  Once inside, Reinhardt 's eyes had to adjust to the bright lighting.  The green floor was ugly, and the brightness of the lights made it more so. Reinhardt had used the Esper in his car to get hard copies of the replicant's portraits, so he began to show Lauren's around.

        "Yeah, she works here.  The dancers start in about an hour, you can wait or comeback."

        "I'll stay here, thanks." Reinhardt said, retrieving the picture from the man.

        It didn't take Reinhardt long to spot the door to the dressing rooms.  A few dollars to a couple of regulars helped cause a disturbance to draw the guards away, and then Reinhardt slipped backstage, his hand steady on the pistol in his coat.

        The first door he opened led to an empty room. The second to a woman who wasn't who he was looking for.

        "Sorry, I'm looking for my girlfriend.  She may be using the name Lauren." Reinhardt said, showing the picture.

        "Oh, you must be Steve, Lauren said you would be coming by to watch the show.  She's in the next dressing room." The woman said, incredibly pleasant.

Steve stood in the doorway of the small kitchenette of the pseudo apartment, looking disgustedly at Tanya.
        "Tanya, how could you let Alpha wander off? You were assigned to guard him!" Steve barked at the other replicant.
        "I know, but he told me to stay here.  I have to obey the commands of whom I am assigned to."

        "Remind me to tell Toliver about the programming flaw that let's the guarded put themselves in danger when he catches us.  I'm late for Lauren's club, so just stay here."  Steve said, pocketing a pistol from the table before crossing the span of the small apartment and leaving.

       Tanya was so confused.  She was having feelings, not just what she was programmed to feel, but other emotions as well.  She knew Alpha was the whole reason for the escape, but she had still let him escape.  Maybe it was because she had seen the man who was after them.  She had been in the apartment too when Ian died.  Though the man who murdered her fellow Replicant was her enemy, she felt something for him that puzzled her.

        Soon after Steve had left, Tanya exited the apartment also.

       Reinhardt slowly opened the door to Lauren's room.  She wasn't in yet.  The dressing room was just like that of the other dancer.  For someone who didn't know, these Nexus-7's would be impossible to find.  All the mistakes the earlier models made had been corrected.  These could have disappeared into the population if they hadn't started murdering people.

        As the door opened, and Lauren stepped in, Reinhardt 's hand held his gun on her under from his trench coat.

        "I told the manager not to let people in here for autographs anymore.  What do you want me to sign?" Lauren asked.

        "A death certificate." Reinhardt said, coldly drawing his pistol.  Before he could get a shot off, Lauren leapt over him and out the window.

"That had to be the hardest thing I'd ever done in my life, drawing on a fenale replicant.
My stomach still turns when I think about it.  I had to move fast if I were to catch her.
I ran out onto the street and followed after her down the busy street.
She was frantically trying to hail a taxi, running down the middle of the street,
attempting to stop them by blocking their paths.  So occupied with escaping,
she never saw what came next.  A ground truck, commercial type, struck
her doing about 30 kph.  Her shattered and now limp body flew through the air,
skidding to a stop in the flooded gutter.”

        Reinhardt approached, he heard her moaning in agony.  She sounded like a wounded animal that knew it was going to die.  She was losing her ability to talk, but she managed a few broken words.

        "Stop the pain, please..." her voice died yet her lips mouthed the finish to the request "help me."

        "I'm sorry." Reinhardt said as he pressed the barrel of the pistol to her head. With one loud gunshot, her body snapped to one side, and her suffering was over.

        "In her last seconds of life, she smiled as I pressed the gun to her forehead.
In a way, I was helping her to get away from her pain, but that brand of
medicine is forever, and I didn't want to have to administer it ever again,
but then again, there were three left. One of them had found me, her
boyfriend had watched me put her out of her misery.
Now he wanted to put me out of mine."

        The bullets tore by, dangerously close to Reinhardt 's head.  Diving for cover behind a pile of industrial rubble, Reinhardt called to the other man.

        "She was hit by a truck, she asked for help."

        "And you killed her?!" Came the response, punctuated by more gunfire.

        "She wanted me to." Reinhardt said.  He didn't want to fire on the grieving replicant, but he wasn't ready to give it up himself.

        "Liar! She loved life."

        "She was already dying.  She asked for me to finish her, to help her. I did that." Reinhardt said, his voice beginning to crack.  He was supposed to be a cold killer, but the tears that welled up in his eyes began to drip, gently.

        "Maybe the replicant understood what I did to his lover, maybe not.  But all that he wanted to do now was to kill me."

        Reinhardt stood from behind his cover to find Steve gone.  As he walked out, further into the open, he wondered where Steve had gone.  The chain dangling from one of the above signs clicked his mind into action. Reinhardt rolled across the ground as a volley of bullets ripped at the ground where's he'd just been and returned fire, taking the sign out instead of the replicant.  Steve yanked hard on the chain, swinging it into Reinhardt’s arms, knocking his weapon away.  Steve threw his pistol away, it's clip empty, and slid down the chain.

        He rushed Reinhardt, holding him by his lapels.  Steve may have been only a “B” class physical, but he was still strong.  He lifted the blade runner to his feet.

        "You killed her." Steve screamed into Reinhardt 's face.

        "I stopped her suffering." Reinhardt replied.

        "You caused it." Steve countered.

        "You caused it, when you people went on your vendetta against the DNA donors.  If you'd played it cool you could have avoided all of this." Reinhardt responded.

       Steve spit in his face and kicked his knee, hard.  As Reinhardt fell back, Steve's foot was on his throat.

        "It wasn't us.  It was Alpha. He has no identity of his own, so he had Ian start killing those that created him. We're all basically sixes with human DNA, except for Alpha, he's the Nexus-7. The DNA used to create him was an amorphous, made of all the donor’s genetic gifts to him."

        "How true." Another voice came.  A loud bang followed the voice, and Steve pitched over, dead from the bullet of the unseen assassin.

        "Who the hell are you?" Reinhardt asked, retrieving his weapon.

        "My name is Alpha." The Nexus Seven said before disappearing into the fog that clings to the lower levels of the city.

        "There were only two left.  I didn't foresee having any problems
retiring Alpha, but the woman who remains, Christ, I didn’t
want to have to retire another one."

        When Reinhardt made it back to his spinner, he found the woman replicant called Tanya, waiting.  He though about going for his gun, but self regret would slow his reflexes, and she was already holding a gun.

        "Mr. Reinhardt?" She asked, her voice plaintiff and drawn.

       "Yeah?" He responded.

        "I need your help.  The Alpha is losing it's mind." Tanya said.

        "Can we talk in the car?" Reinhardt asked.

        "I still don’t understand why this young woman, I can’t call her a
replicant, wanted my help.  All she could know me as was a butcher of her friends.
What she asked was that I would destroy the Alpha so the Tyrell Corporation
would be unable to produce more. It was the prototype, now it made sense why
Toliver had asked me to catch the Alpha alive."

        "Do you hate us?" Tanya asked as she and Reinhardt ascended to the upper traffic ways in the spinner.

        "I do my job. I don’t have any feelings for or against your kind."

        "Until tonight. The man I saw murder Ian and the man who put Lauren out of her misery were two different men." Tanya said, holstering her weapon for the first time.

        "I'm the same man, I just...  Wait, you've been at all my kills?" Reinhardt asked, surprised by the fact that a replicant could witness the murder of it's own kind and not want to avenge the fallen.

        "I was with Ian in Wroe's apartment, I hid while you two fought.  I knew Steve and Lauren were coming here, so I figured you would too." Tanya said.

        "I don't know if I should be honored, or frightened. I've never been stalked before." Reinhardt said, having to swerve the spinner to avoid another of similar design.

        "The Alpha has to be stopped.  I can’t kill it because I was assigned to protect it.  When I saw you retire Ian, I knew you could do this." Tanya said, staring out the windshield.

        "I could do it.” Reinhardt said.

        “So we’re partners?” Tanya asked.

        “As much as a replicant and a replicant hunter can be I guess.” Reinhardt quipped without any expression.

        “As we flew along, I couldn’t help but wonder if there’s much of a
future for a blade runner and a replicant bodyguard.  Me, the consummate
hired killer of artificial life, falling for the target that he hunts.  It seemed
absurd.  But it has happened to the best of us, as an ex-RepDetect named
Deckard could testify to that. The only thing that troubled me was that
Tanya didn't hide her intentions.  She was using me to off a threat to
life, and not just hers.  I always thought the only lives replicant's
cared for were their own."

        "I can take you to him." Tanya said, snapping Reinhardt back to the job at hand.

        "How?" He asked, bringing the spinner to rest on an abandoned building.

        "I was programmed with a sort of sixth sense to find the person or thing I am supposed to guard.  Shall I drive, or will you follow directions?" Tanya asked, almost smiling.

        Alpha, The Nexus-7,  had assumed Steve the dead replicant's form.  Alpha’s brain figured no one would search for a Replicant that had already been retired.  As he made his way down an alley, he heard a whistle from behind him.  It was Reinhardt, and he had his pistol trained on the homicidal replicant.  Reinhardt squeezed the trigger, the Alpha jerked as the bullet tore through it's abdomen.
        The Replicant wasn't dead yet, and had just enough life left to ruin any happy endings for Reinhardt or Tanya. The replicant's last words before being silenced by another shot from Reinhardt 's pistol were directed to his bodyguard.  They were her activation code.

        Tanya seized Reinhardt with amazing speed and bounced him off of both walls in the alley before he realized he still had possession of his blaster.  But before he could bring up the barrel and finish her, he found himself slammed to the ground with Tanya's right foot stomping down on his gun hand, forcing it to relinquish the firearm.  It was amazing, her body was like one giant weapon, stomping, kicking and hitting the police officer.  Then the female replicant that had seemed so attractive only minutes before now made a fatal mistake.  She lifted him by his throat, preparing to snap his neck.  In this position, he had access to the holster on the inside of her outfit witch contained a laser cutter.

        The second before he fired, he looked into her eyes.  The young woman who had wanted Reinhardt to stop the Nexus-7 so as to protect all life, was gone.  Replaced now by a murderous automaton. He squeezed the trigger, and part of her head jerked back.  Her grip on his throat loosened, and she collapsed dead to the ground.

“I’d finished the job.  Differently than what I’d expected,
but as Bryant once told me; a job done was a job done.
I stood there over her lifeless corpse until the meat wagons arrived.
All that future that I had thought I’d seen in her eyes when
we were alone in the spinner was gone.  All that was left in those black orbs as
I squeezed the trigger of her weapon was death.  Witnessed and partaken.
In the end though it really doesn’t matter.  Dead is dead, and even when you’re
a replicant hunter, death isn’t much of a future to bear witness to."