John Isidore has the idea to cook dinner for himself and Pris so that she will hopefully warm to him. He finds her odd; the fact that she has never heard of Buster Friendly and the fact that she doesn’t consider Mercer to be the most important figure in the world. But, John reflects, others have said the same thing. According to his boss, Mr. Sloat, Mercer “is an archetypal entity from the stars, superimposed on our culture by a cosmic template.”
John begins his shift as a driver for an electric animal repair shop. He picks up a mechanical cat from a customer and begins to drive it back to the shop. Isidore is amazed at how real these electric animals can be. He tries to turn off the animal, but cannot find its circuitry. He reflects on how emotional even this dying of fake life makes him. This doesn’t seem to bother anyone else at the shop, so he believes that perhaps it is something in him, that “Maybe when you deteriorate back down the ladder of evolution” that these base feelings enter into a person.
As he drives, he listens to the “aud” version of Buster Friendly’s show. John is puzzled by how Buster could constantly produce both an “aud” and “vid” version of his show, seemingly simultaneous, and how his guests could appear over and over up to 70 hours per week. John is upset by Buster’s dislike of Mercerism. He decides that both Mercer and Buster Friendly must be “fighting for control of our psychic selves; the empathy box on one hand, Buster’s guffaws...on the other.” John tells his boss, Mr. Sloat, of this and Sloat answers that if this is the case, then Buster Friendly is winning the fight and that he is surely immortal. John remarks that Wilbur Mercer will eventually win the fight between the two because Mercer “is always renewed.”
Isidore takes the defective cat from its cage and Mr. Sloat, the owner of the animal repair shop who is too old to emigrate to Mars. Sloat realizes that the cat is not mechanical but is, in fact, real. Isidore is horrified that he let a real animal die. Mr. Sloat begins to blame John for the cat’s death saying that he could not tell the difference between a real animal and a fake one. “To him they’re all alive, false animals included.”
Sloat forces John to call the cat’s owner and John is afraid because he hates to use the vid phones. He reaches one of the owners who is heartbroken over the cat’s death. She decides that she will have a mechanical cat built to replace the dead cat so that her husband will never find out that the cat died. Milt, the shop’s repairman, says that the husband will know instantly that the cat is fake and that fake animals can never fool an animal’s real owner. Mr. Sloat tells Isidore to call Wheelright & Carpenter to have the mechanical cat built.
Rick returns to San Francisco and meets with Inspector Harry Bryant. Bryant tells him that the first andy he is to go after is the one that shot Dave Holden - Polokov. Polokov works as a trash scavenger, one of the most important industries in the post World War Terminus age, and can mimic an “anthead.” Bryant also tells Rick that a Soviet cop will be joining him to observe Rick’s of the android.
Rick goes by Polokov’s work place, but the android is not there. He then goes to Polokov’s apartment building where he uses a Penfield wave transmitter to freeze every living thing in its vicinity. He enters Polokov’s apartment with an Infinity Key, but no is there. Rick assumes that Polokov left soon after shooting Dave Holden. A phone call from Rachael Rosen comes in from Seattle and Rachael offers to help Rick retire the Nexus-6 androids, logically arguing that a Nexus-6 would be more likely to talk to another android then to a human. Rick declines the offer and Rachael warns that “one of them will get you before you can get it.”
Rick is joined by the Russian cop, Kadalyi, who works for the W.P.O., a police organization that represents Russia. Rick notices that Kadalyi has a rather strange looking laser gun and Kadalyi tells him he got it on Mars. While Rick is handling the weapon, he realizes that Kadalyi is really Polokov and the two men begin to tussle in Rick’s hovercraft. Polokov attempts to fire a laser at Rick, but Rick has used a Sine wave to diffuse the laser’s beam. Rick fires a shot from his standard pistol and the bullet shatters the android’s head. Rick calls Bryant to tell him that Polokov has been retired.
He then turns his attention to the next andy that he will retire, Luba Luft. Miss Luft is an opera singer with the San Francisco Opera. Rick knows quite a bit about opera and believes this will be his in with the android. He calls his wife, Iran, to check on her and to tell her that he had just made $1000 on the bounty, but Iran is mired in a deep depression caused by the mood organ. He angrily hangs up on her and secretly thinks that he should leave her because she doesn’t care about life or if they ever get an ostrich or not. Rick begins to think about Luft and other female androids and realizes he has a secret physical attraction to some of them. He takes off in his hovercraft towards the San Francisco Opera House.
Rick makes his way to the Opera House and enters during a performance of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Rick loves this particular opera, and sits to listen for a while. The opera makes him think about the finiteness of life, how, once everything is gone, the “dust will have won, and how Mozart died in his thirties and whether his own life would come to such a premature end. Rick realizes that he “is part of the form-destroying process of entropy.” The opera continues and Rick sees that one of the opera’s characters, Pamina, is being played by Luba Luft. Luft has quite a beautiful voice and Rick knows that he will be a part of destroying that particular form.
Rick goes to Luba Luft’s dressing room, enters, and confronts her with the Voigt-Kampff test. She appears nervous, but submits to the test anyway. Rick hooks her up to the machinery and begins to ask her the same questions that he had asked Rachael Rosen, to test the woman’s empathy. Luft, however, avoids answering most of the questions because she is German and cannot quite understand all of the English terms that Deckard is using. She uses several rhetorical twists and turns to confuse Rick and frustrate his test.
Luft accidentally tears off the wire attached to her face, and when Deckard goes to retrieve it, she pulls a laser tube on him. She takes away his questionnaire and after reading over the rest of the questions accuses him of being a sexual deviant. Luft puts a call in to the police to send an officer.
Rick thinks that she must not know she is an android and that by calling the police she has started her ultimate undoing. When the officer, Officer Crams who Rick calls a “harness bull,” shows up he tells Rick that he knows all the bounty hunters in the department and that he knows Rick isn’t one of them. Cram gives Rick a cephalic and then Rick puts a vidphone call into Inspector Bryant to help clear up the confusion, but loses the connection. When the harness bull calls the department he’s told there is no bounty hunter named Rick Deckard and no inspector named Bryant. The harness bull arrests Deckard and goes up to the roof to take him to the police station.
As the police hovercraft takes off, Rick notices that the vehicle is heading in the wrong direction - away from the Hall of Justice. The harness bull tells him that he is taking him to the new Hall of Justice and that the old one that Rick claims to always go to has been empty and unoccupied for years. As they fly to the new Hall, Rick begins to understand what the androids are doing and that they will probably kill him shortly. Officer Crams tells Deckard that maybe he is an android with false memories.
J.R. Isidore’s character represents the good of human life, just as Rick Deckard’s character begins by representing the basest desires of humanity. Isidore’s very deficiency, the fact that he is a “chickenhead,” is what gives him his greatest humanity. Unlike Deckard, he is unaffected by the powers of consumerism and industry. He is able to keep kipple out of his life, for instance. This gives him a true and raw emotional empathetic response to other living things and, in the case of Pris Stratton, things that are not living as well.
These raw emotions are the basis of humanity and the reader is given a glimpse at their power in Isidore’s predicament with the dead cat. After failing to keep a real cat alive, Isidore is faced not only with his own horror at having let an animal die, but is now required to break the news to the animal’s real owner who, it is assumed, will be even more horrified at this loss of life. Instead of dealing with the grief of the loss, however, the cat’s owner decides to have a replacement android cat built. Dick is calling into question here the value of life and how easily humanity attempts to deal with loss by simply consuming some kind of replacement. Only Isidore, in his childlike state, is able to truly experiencing human emotion.
The reader is also first introduced to Buster Friendly, a talk show host that is on the radio and on television for almost twenty-four hours a day. Buster Friendly represents the power of mass media. Buster creates an alternate reality that no one is able to escape. The novel builds with Buster’s tease that he will make a world changing announcement on his show. Many of Dick’s novels and stories deal with the issue of media and what it means for intellectual and emotional character in humanity. Buster does not simply symbolize a distraction from reality but a transformation of reality into what he makes it.
In Chapters 8 and 9, Dick contrasts perspectives of beauty and violence in the character of Rick Deckard. There is a callousness that perpetrates Rick’s entire character and that is shown clearly in his killing of the android Polokov. Rick does not hesitate to take the androids life, approaching his job in a “kill or be killed way.” He has no sympathy for Polokov nor does he care to find out what crime Polokov committed in order to be put on Rick’s retirement list. The reader is left to wonder what difference there is between the bounty hunter that kills to make a living and the android that kills in an attempt to stay alive.
Yet, another side to Rick’s character is seen in his appreciation of classical music. This appreciation of beauty is, perhaps, unusual at first but becomes one of the dividing lines of real/unreal that Dick explores in the novel. Humans, it is assumed, would be able to appreciate beauty because of their empathetic ability. Rick, therefore, can tell that he is human because he enjoys opera. Yet, Luba Luft, the opera singing android, seems to love the opera as much as Rick. Why, for instance, would she risk being discovered and retired if she did not hold some deep love of singing. This fact begins to close the divide for Rick Deckard between who is real or unreal.
The opera that Luft is performing, Mozart’s The Magic Flute is another instance of Dick’s motif of decay and renewal. Mozart’s opera represents the Enlightenment's vision of a heavenly kingdom on earth, accomplished through human advancement and ingenuity. According to this idea, humanity would be able to perfect itself and its society through science, art, and government. This is ironic since the world of Dick’s novel is the antithesis of such an idea; it is a world that has undergone utter destruction and decay because of the flaw of the human condition. Yet, the survival of art and opera also represents the will of living things to survive. Androids and opera share a parallel meaning in Dick’s story.