Immediately after the events of the last chapter, Roy, Irmgard, and Pris vote on whether or not to stay in the apartment. Roy votes to kill John. Irmgard votes to stay in the apartment. Finally, Pris votes to stay with John. She adds that Roy’s mistake is to trust in his own intelligence and superiority too greatly—they should place a little trust in another human being in order to survive.
Irmgard balances out Roy’s point of view in an interesting way. Roy is arrogant, and thinks that he can survive on his own. Irmgard, on the other hand, thinks it’s important to rely on other people. This could be interpreted as a primitive form of empathy on Irmgard’s part, showing that the distinction between empathetic androids and psychopathic humans isn’t really so great.
Meanwhile, Rick Deckard finishes a day of work and flies to the animal store. The department has paid him his bounty of three thousand dollars. A salesman at the store offers to sell Rick a goat—a luxurious animal. Rick agrees to buy the goat, and he pays his entire bounty as a down payment.
Rick questions some aspects of his life—the distinction between humans and androids—but doesn’t question other parts at all, such as the need to buy real animals. He’s still a mindless consumer, indoctrinated in the fiction that he can only be happy if he buys the right things.
Rick returns to his home, where he finds Iran waiting for him. He tells his wife that he retired three androids that day, and bought a goat. Iran seems confused by the goat, and she asks whether it’s real. Rick assures her that goat is real, and Iran kisses him, overcome with pleasure. Iran tells Rick that to show gratitude for their good fortune, they should “fuse with Mercer.” It would be immoral, she adds, to keep so much pleasure to themselves.
It’s telling that Iran doesn’t show gratitude toward her husband until Rick tells her that the goat is real. In other words, there’s nothing discernible about the goat that makes it desirable—just the fact that it’s real. We see that Iran and Rick are Mercerists too, just like John. This makes sense, since Mercerism itself is a form of consumer culture (as we’ve already seen).
Rick and Iran grip the handles of the empathy box. As Rick does so, he realizes what Iran gets out of Mercerism. He tells Iran that his meeting with Phil Resch, a sadistic bounty hunter, has made him realize a few things—most importantly, that he (Rick) has viewed androids just as callously and sadistically as Resch. Rick admits that he’s beginning to empathize with androids—something he never thought possible. Perhaps he’ll be able to transfer to a desk job, so that he’ll never have to retire another android again.
Rick is beginning to see the connection between the disparate parts of his own culture. Society needs Mercerism because it needs a way to celebrate its common humanity. By the same token, society needs to persecute and retire androids, because in doing so, it confirms its own humanity, based on a definition of human nature grounded in empathy.
The phone rings, and Iran answers it—it’s Harry Bryant. Bryant tells Rick that he’s tracked down two of the remaining androids: Rick needs to go to the address as soon as possible. Bryant also congratulates Rick on retiring three androids in only one day—he’s impressed. Rick tells Bryant, “Three is enough.” Bryant refuses to accept this, however, and he orders Rick to go to the address immediately.
Rick shows every sign of being done with bounty hunting—and it seems that he’s no longer able to deal with the psychological ramifications of such work—but his duty forces him to continue on.
Rick hangs up the phone and grips the empathy box with Iran. He sees a vision of Mercer, an old and frail man. Mercer tells him, “There is no salvation.” It’s a basic condition of life, Mercer insists, to violate one’s principles—this is the curse of life.
It’s telling that we’re only now getting a sense for what Mercerism actually teaches, other than “empathy is good.” Mercer’s job, we can sense, isn’t to pass on specific religious beliefs, but rather to forgive people for doing evil.
Rick stops gripping the empathy box and leaves his home. He mentally prepares to retire the androids, and realizes that he’ll probably fail. On the way to the address, he dials Rachael Rosen’s number, and asks her to come to San Francisco as soon as she can—he needs her help in order to retire the androids. Rachael is reluctant to help Rick retire more androids. She points out that Rick is obviously reluctant to retire anyone—in other words, he wants Rachael to discourage him from continuing with his assignment.
As Rick becomes more and more unsure about the efficacy and the morality of his mission, he becomes more likely to communicate with Rachael. This shows that he’s beginning to think of Rachael—and all androids—as free entities with independent thoughts and feelings. Interestingly, Rick treats Rachael as a moral guide—because he’s having doubts about the rightness of his mission, he turns to her.
Rick changes his approach slightly: he tells Rachael to come down to San Francisco to “rent a hotel room” with him. He explains that he’s heard “something” about human men interacting with android women—if Rachael comes to him that night, he’ll give up on the remaining androids for good. Rachael agrees to fly to San Francisco.
Rick is also sexually attracted to Rachael. This is a clear sign that Rick thinks of androids as people—if he didn’t, he’d never be able to “get a room” with her.