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Isidore knocks on the door of the newly inhabited apartment. An attractive but frightened-looking girl opens. She moved into the vacant apartment without any belongings of her own and is, for the moment, living with the clutter left by the last occupants. Isidore discovers that the girl doesn’t know common slang, hasn’t heard of the world-famous TV comic Buster Friendly, doesn’t have an empathy box, and doesn’t embrace the Mercerist religion. When Isidore lets slip that he is a special, the girl’s demeanor changes. She becomes cold and dismissive, telling Isidore she will not socialize with him but may need his help scavenging furniture from other apartments. The girl gives her name as Rachael Rosen. When Isidore connects the last name with the android manufacturer, she abruptly declares that the only name she ever goes by is Pris Stratton.
Isidore is a pickup and delivery driver for a false-animal repair shop that poses as a veterinary hospital. He was late for work that morning but has now made his first stop of the day. In his truck is a sick cat, abruptly thrust into his hands by an owner who had no time to talk. The cat acts very much like a real dying cat, and it stops functioning before Isidore can find the control panel or the battery terminals. He is, in a way, relieved, since even simulated animal suffering bothers him. When he brings the cat’s remains into the shop, however, the proprietor, Hannibal Sloat, determines that the cat is real. Disgusted that Isidore can’t tell a real cat from a fake one, Sloat orders him to make the vidphone call to inform the owner of the cat’s demise. The owner’s wife answers. She believes that her husband could not bear to lose the cat, and so she agrees to Isidore’s suggestion that the shop pay for an identical-looking replica. Isidore is relieved when the call is over, but he is pleased at how he handled it.
With his new neighbor, Isidore’s social overcompensations and invasive questions reveal the need for companionship as a major motif in the novel. It becomes clear that the girl is an android, since she knows nothing of Mercer, Buster Friendly, or any other of humanity’s odd contrivances. But Isidore’s need for companionship blinds him to these obvious clues. Pris Stratton exemplifies the emotional profile of the “andys” in the novel, in turns cold, aggressive, paranoid, and disenchanted by her life’s purpose. But she does not immediately dismiss Isidore even though he’s a special, perhaps as hungry for companionship as Isidore himself. She becomes more trusting, and this excites Isidore, again blinding him to the obviousness of her status. She gives her name first as “Rachael Rosen,” an obvious mistake on the part of the android in hiding, but Isidore forgives her mistakes in his desperate yearning for companionship.
Isidore’s day at work further blurs the line between authenticity and artificiality through the symbolism of animals. Isidore continues to show an overly empathic nature in trying to rescue what he assumed was an artificial cat, but what turns out to be a living one dying a real death. When it is revealed that the cat’s owner has mistaken the Van Ness Pet Hospital for a real animal hospital, it’s clear how difficult it can be to distinguish between living things and androids. But as the cat’s owner decides to purchase a robotic facsimile of the cat, Isidore’s co-workers express cynicism about the quality of the replacement. The cat’s owner hopes her husband won’t be able to tell the difference, but it seems that organic life cannot be perfectly replicated. While Deckard bets his life on knowing the difference, Isidore’s workplace shows the mundane side of a world that struggles between authenticity and artificiality.