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Part 6 of 9
Shades of Gray
Author: Brian Kay

Gray barged into Inspector Brion Young's office without knocking and slammed the door shut behind him. He then slumped into the chair in front of Inspector Young's immense desk, cigarette dangling out of the side of his mouth.

Inspector Young was the same age as Eddie Gray, but whereas Gray was barely six-feet tall and thick, Young was six-foot five and slightly built. He looked up from the various papers and folders that cluttered his desk. He stared at Eddie Gray for quite some time before speaking, trying to quell his anger.

"Its about damn time you finally dragged your sorry-ass in here. Where the hell is Starke?"

Eddie Gray pulled the cigarette from his mouth and said, "Not here. I guess she had things to do."

Young scratched his unshaven face and said, "Is that right? Things to do, Hmmm."

"Well, not exactly those words, but I don't think you want me to repeat what she said, verbatim."

Inspector Young slowly got up from his chair and made his way over to an antiquated filing cabinet, pulling open a drawer, two glasses and a bottle clinking together in his hands as he slammed the drawer shut with his hip. He set the glasses down and poured generous amounts of scotch into both glasses. Eddie took his and drained half of the contents, before putting the glass back on the desk. Brion Young chuckled to himself and said to Eddie, "You thirsty?"

"Parched." was the hoarse reply.

"OK then. Since you're now hydrated, hear this my friend, you're on the road to ruin if you keep this shit up." Young drained his glass in one pull, causing Eddie to arch his eyebrow in amazement.

"I don't know what you're up to, Eddie, I can only surmise that these little 'side gigs' of yours are an attempt to pad your pension or whatever the hell it is you're scheming. Be advised, your continued association with known criminals is raising some red flags. Forewarned is fore armed, pal."

Eddie went to protest, but Young cut him off.

"Listen, friend. Listen to me real good. I'm giving you a heads-up because we were in the academy together, hell, we were in the same company, and I don't want to see you get jammed up to the point where your ass is where your head should be." Young poured himself another scotch and continued his lecture. "We both were rising stars in the P.D. and we got shot down. I know my situation pales in comparison to yours. How the hell was I supposed to know that bimbo was a chief's daughter?" Young cracked a smile and droned on. "I've been stuck here for three lousy years and I've finally made some serious inroads back into the good graces of the NYPD hierarchy. I don't plan to be here much longer. And, I think, neither do you. So, I don't want any of my people getting busted in some kind of sting operation when they are cavorting with some criminal lowlifes. The people you've been 'working' for are under surveillance by the NYPD's Intelligence unit and your friggin' name and mug keeps popping up. I have a buddy of mine in that unit and he gave me the heads-up. I told him you were doing some sensitive investigative work and that should be enough. For now." Young exhaled and sank further into his chair.

Eddie Gray stubbed the cigarette into the ashtray on Young's desk, wisps of bluish smoke sliding out of the corners of his mouth. He was digesting what his boss had told him. He knew that it wasn't going to last forever, and that something like this was bound to happen. He had made sufficient money, but still needed some more. He would have to take on some more cases that other repdetects didn't want, or couldn't handle anymore. His head began to throb, causing him to squint, eyes watering.

"Hey, Eddie, you okay?" Young asked, his concern not as genuine as Chow Woo's earlier expression of sympathy.

"Yeah, I'll live, unfortunately."

"Look, Eddie, I know you've been working your ass off. You've cleared an exceptional amount of cases. I also know that other repdetects have been farming out cases to you, splitting the productivity incentive awards. That's not quite up to snuff, administratively, but I don't care if it gets the job done. Hell, you've been a one man killing machine, Gray. And that's what I'm afraid of." Young finished the rest of his drink. "I'm afraid that you're losing your humanity."

Eddie grunted and said,"My humanity? What kind of bullshit is that?"

It ain't bullshit, pal. It's the truth. And you know it. Every time you pull that trigger, you spend a little piece of your humanity. Your humanity is like that spent shell casing from your gun. You know what happens to that spent casing, right?

Eddie shrugged no.

"It falls into the gutter and that's where you're headed."

"Lovely metaphor Brion, anything else you care to comment on?"

"Sure tough guy. Now that I got the friendly chit-chat out of the way, I got lots to comment on. And you shut up and listen."

"That's what I've been doin', boss."

Young shot him an annoyed glance and spoke. "I got back from a conference in Chicago a few days ago, where most of the C.O.'s from the bigger metropolitan blade runner units met to discuss current events and disseminate new information. The hot topic of discussion was the influx of a new, heretofore unknown generation of Replicants from former communist China. It seems that the red Chinese were busy developing new prototypes of Replicants, based on the Nexus 6 model and made some significant improvements or hazards, depending on how you look at it."

"And.....?" Gray said.

"And," continued Young, "they seem to have overcome the mutation that prohibited Replicants from having a longer life span of four years. Seems that they have infused human genetic material into the synthetic Replicant DNA strand that retards the virus that used to cripple the reptechs ability to create Replicants with a longer life-span."

Eddie Gray whistled.

"Yeah, pal that's right. There's more, too. It seems they have also developed more sophisticated neural net paths in the skin-job's brain, allowing for deeper memory and emotional, that's right, emotional implants. There is also information that some of these skin-jobs don't know they're Replicants. I guess they figured if they thought they were human, you would get more bang for your buck, or Chinyen. That the skin-jobs wouldn't want to flee the off-world colonies, you know, live their lives to the fullest, that sort of crap."

Eddie sat silent for a moment, contemplating the startling news his commanding officer had given him. "So, what's the life-span of these Replicants, Brion?"

"Eight to ten years." Young said flatly.

"That's going to make them more aggressive, if they know that they are Replicants in the first place and that they have an extended life-span. Violently desperate may be the more precise analysis." Eddie fell silent. He then reached for the glass on the desk and drained the rest of the scotch.

Young continued. "We got some intelligence from the New Hong Kong security bureau that a small percentage of these nextgen Replicants have made their way to this country. In fact there is one here in NYC, according to the detailed information we have received from them. It confirms our intelligence as well."

"Here's your new assignment, Eddie." Young said as he tossed the thick folder to him.

Eddie began to sift through the voluminous amount of paper that was contained in the folder. His heart sank as he continued to read. Young could read the expression of disappointment on Eddie's face.

"Sorry pal. It's legit. There is a Replicant by the name of John Chen, who has successfully managed to elude authorities for quite some time. He is employed by your buddy, Chow Woo. I want you to go over there, administer a brief Voight-Kampff test, just a preliminary screen, just so we dot our i's and cross our t's so we don't solely rely on foreign intelligence."

Eddie cursed under his breath and said, "Negative Brion, farm this one out. Give it to Starke or Paull. I can't do this one." He felt like his head was going to explode any minute.

"Sorry, old friend. You are the only one who can get into Chow's and not spook him. You're it and that's final." Young began to organize the clutter on his desk.

Eddie stood up and yelled, "Bullshit, Brion. There are some good repdetects who could do the job. I'm asking you as a friend, please give this to someone else."

Young ignored the pleading tone of his detective and said bitterly, "Listen up, Gray. I've been letting you slide for a long time. It's payback time, Eddie. The productivity incentive award is pretty high on this one and the New Hong Kong security bureau is kicking in some substantial Chinyen on this as well. That should make up for any lost revenue from Chow Woo. That is all." Young began to gather his coat.

"I'm not doing it, Brion." Eddie said defiantly.

Inspector Young slowly walked over to Eddie Gray, towering over him, and said, " You'll do it or I'll be forced to suspend you. Take your ID card and gun, then you won't be able to earn a living, hoarding your paycheck for whatever it is you're doing." Young walked away from him, heading for the door.

Eddie Gray said through clenched teeth, "I guess I have no choice then, if I'm gonna be suspended."

Inspector Young whirled around and faced his dejected friend. He sighed heavily and said, "Let me give you a piece of advice that applies to your situation. I sat next to a salty, hairbag blade runner C.O. named Harry Bryant and we were shooting the shit about this and that and you know what he said to me, Gray?"

"No."

"If you ain't cop, then you're little people."

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