John Isidore is driving his hovercraft from his job. At the apartment building where he lives, he calls to Pris Stratton, his new neighbor. He tells Pris that he’s brought food to cook for dinner. Pris tells John that he sounds more adult and mature than before.
John has a friend, seemingly for the first time. He’s no longer limited to the empathy box for human contact, but now has a real person to empathize with. The irony, of course, is that Pris isn’t a “real” person at all.
Inside the apartment building, John tells Pris that he feels sorry for her, since she seems to have no friends. Pris explains that she had friends, but bounty hunters have killed many of them—she may be the only one left. John doesn’t understand what this means. He wonders if Pris might be delusional or psychotic.
John doesn’t have any friends either, so he manages to feel real empathy for Pris’s situation. Although John doesn’t understand Pris’s explanation, we do, and it’s now made explicit that she’s one of the Nexus-Sixes.
John proceeds to cook dinner—peaches, cheese, bean curd, etc. As John works, Pris—much to John’s surprise—puts her arm around John’s waist. Then, she begins to cry. Pris tells John that she used to live on Mars, where she befriended a group of androids. On Mars, an android named Roy supplied her with a powerful painkiller, silenizine, which made her somewhat happier. She also developed an interest in “pre-colonial” fiction—i.e., stories about Mars and other space colonies, written before there was any space exploration. These stories are hugely popular on Mars, because they show how life could have been, had things turned out better. In the end, Pris and her new android friends decided to leave Mars because it was so barren and cold.
This is a very interesting section for a number of reasons. First, it shows that Pris wants to become fully human (like Luft did), even though she’s an android. To this end, Pris ingests drugs (like every human in San Francisco, it seems)—furthermore, she shows signs of emotional weakness in front of John. Pris also shows signs of being interested in the past, another recognizable human behavior. This part is Dick’s homage to his profession—the “pre-colonial fictions” are, of course, sci-fi novels. The difference between one of Pris’s novels and the one we’re reading, however, is that the pre-colonial fictions are celebrated for their naïve optimism, while Dick’s books are anything but optimistic.
There’s a knock at the door. A voice says, “It’s Roy and Irmgard. We got your card.” Pris quickly writes a note, telling John to go to the door at once to confirm these people’s identities. John opens the door and finds a small woman and a large, intelligent-looking man. The man and woman walk into the apartment at once. The woman embraces Pris, while Roy, who’s very quiet and somber, smiles darkly.
This scene shows that Pris has a community of friends after all—a small one, but real. More subtly, it also shows that Pris (and, presumably, other androids) doesn’t have a very good ear for distinguishing other people’s voices—this will become important in the final chapters of the book.