ANTI-MAN by Dean R. Koontz
ANTI-MAN by Dean R. Koontz
It was really too much to hope for, but we seemed to have lost them. We had jumped from Knoxville to Pierre, South Dakota, from that drab terminal to Bismark, North Dakota, and on to San Francisco. In the City of the Sun, we had walked unknown with our hands in our pockets and our faces open to the sky, feeling less like fugitives than we had any right to, grabbing a day of much needed rest and a moment to collect our thoughts before dashing on. We had spent the day buying gear for the last leg of our escape, eating our first decent meal in two days, and sitting through some atrocious toto-experience film just because it was dark in the theater and, therefore, safer for the two most wanted men in the world. At midnight, we had bought tickets and boarded the next Pole-crossing rocket flight that would take us over Alaska. As the high-altitude craft flashed above Northern California and into Oregon, I took Him into the bathroom at the end of the First Class compartment (fugitives should always travel First Class, for the rich are always too concerned with the way they look to notice anyone else) and locked the door. “Take off your coat and shirt,” I told Him. “I want to see that wound.”
“I tell you, it’s hardly anything at all.” He had been telling me that for a day and a half, stalling me, keeping me from looking at it. Right from the beginning, He had been somewhat indecipherable. Part of His personality was a closed door beyond which might lay a room or a mansion. I could not tell which. Now, again indecipherable, He seemed willing to risk infection, blood poisoning, maybe even death rather than let me examine the wound! But I had seen the World Authority copper shoot in the Pierre terminal, and I wasn’t going to let Him go until I had given Him some sort of care. I had seen the blood, lots of blood, fountain up from His shoulder when the pin had torn into Him.
Him. Not much of a name, but what do you call the first android? Adam? No, too trite. Anyone who would have seriously suggested something like that would have been drummed right out of the laboratories, wrapped in a coat of tar and chicken pluckings. And would have deserved every bit of it. So, then, how about Harry? Or George? Leo? Sam? Actually, He was a scientific milestone of the first order, one of Man’s most brilliant achievements. Somehow, naming a milestone Sam did not seem right to any of us. I had a dog once that I had never called anything but Dog, and I guess the situation with Him was much the same. The dog was totally doggy, everything a dog should be, the archetype of all canines, an oddly true stereotype of Man’s Best Friend. He could hold no other name but Dog. To have called him Prince or Rover or Blackie would have been a gross indignity. And our android, flawless as a hydroponics apple, was the archetype, so it seemed, of Man. He: a fitting title.
“You’ve been putting me off now for—” I tried to argue.
“Don’t worry about it,” He said, His eyes blue-white and penetrating. It had always been His eyes that had upset the senators who came to investigate the project as a publicity boost for their sagging political reputations. Later, they would remember other peculiarities about Him and begin to question those too, but it always started with His eyes. Imagine a sky reflected blearily in a heavily-frosted pane of milk glass. Cut out two circles of that rimed blue and paste them in two globes of veinless white marble as alabaster-like as the skin of a Greek statue. Those were His eyes. There was no denying them, no escaping. They gleamed like ice in the sun, a droplet of mercury mirroring the ocean.
“Strip anyway,” I said. He knew I was stubborn. Everyone that knew me could attest to that. “I want to see it. I’m the doctor around here.”