The neon glow filtered through the tattered blinds in my rundown apartment, casting a prismatic pallor across the room. A low humming emanated through the crumbling walls as the city churned outside. That indigo light accentuated the deep shadows that hid away the filth and general disarray of my less-than-humble abode. I’d never been too picky when it came to decor, and after years of chasing down replicants, I found that most of my furniture was made up of locked file cabinets and tech in various states of disrepair.
I took a long drag from my cigarette, the paper peeling slightly away from the slightly damp tobacco. The rain had been beating down on the city for days, and the resulting humidity made everything a little worse for wear.
A soft chime rang out from the corner of the room. My AI assistant, Bev, let me know that I had a new message from my wife.
**My darling, why don’t you come to bed? You’ve been up for hours. I worry about you.**
I allowed myself the smallest of smiles. She always seemed to know when I was in deep thought. Her presence was a light in the darkness that surrounded me these days.
“I’ll be there soon,” I told her, voice rough from the smoke and fatigue. “Just finishing up a few things.”
I tapped at my worn keypad, pulling up my latest assignment. A new model replicant had gone rogue—missing for weeks, and suspected of infiltrating powerful positions within the city’s underground syndicates.
My head throbbed, the weight of this latest case gnawing at me like an unwelcome rodent. The load that rested so heavily on my shoulders wasn’t just the result of one case, but also the years spent in this grimy underbelly of humanity’s trash heap. The lines blurred between what was right and what was necessary.
I tossed the cigarette in a tray, watching it smolder among the ashes of its fallen brethren. With a soft groan, I rose from my chair and shuffled towards our bedroom. As I walked past my wall of past replicant captures, I regarded their faces with a mixture of disdain and pity. They were artful facsimiles of life, built for purposes ranging from the mundane to the despicable.
And yet, beneath those flawless exteriors lay a desperate yearning for validation, a desire to be more than just tools in the hands of their creators. It was a heart-wrenchingly human trait that they clung to—even as I hunted them down.
I opened the bedroom door, and my weariness seemed to fade the moment my eyes met hers. She was sitting on our bed, her legs tucked up beneath her. The room was awash with moonlight that sparkled off her long hair like stardust. The soft contours of her face held an ethereal beauty, making her almost otherworldly.
“I love you,” she whispered with a gentle smile that managed to chase away the shadows within me.
“I love you too,” I replied without missing a beat.
As I lay next to her, my arms wrapped around her delicate form, I couldn’t help but allow my thoughts to drift back to the replicants in my past—the lives I had destroyed, the desperate questions that flashed across their faces as I pried them away from stolen lives.
And for a brief moment, before sleep finally claimed me, I marveled at how similar those expressions were to the one that sometimes haunted my wife’s eyes.