ANTI-MAN by Dean R. Koontz

On each of the fence posts, there was a small red plate with a number stamped into it. I checked the number on this one: 878. Now all I would have to do when I returned was get on this park access highway and follow the fence posts down or up until I came to 878. I felt proud of my ingenuity, so proud that I almost stepped out onto the road before I noticed the low, rumbling sound of an approaching jeep.


I was standing in the snow bank that the plows had thrown up. I had not yet broken through to the road, and now I dropped quickly until I was snuggled down in a hole that would be invisible to the WA searchers. The sound of the jeep engine grew louder until, finally, I knew it was just beyond the bank. A powerful light swept over the snow as the vehicle moved slowly past. Could they know? Could they already know that I was leaving the park? Had they captured Him and—no, no. This was probably just a routine patrol. They would be looking along the perimeters of the park for any place where the snow bank might be broken, any place where we might have exited behind their backs.

When the engine was sufficiently distant, I stood up and looked after the jeep. It was a heavy, truck-bedded vehicle carrying half a dozen armed WA troops. Then it turned a bend and was out of sight. Quickly, I broke through onto the road, then turned around to look at the hole I had made. It would do no good for them to see this, investigate, and discover the sled. I’d come strolling back, confident about fooling them, and they would be sitting in the trees with their guns ready, grinning with a satisfaction of their own. I set to work scraping snow off the front of the bank and packing it into the exit I had made. When the spot was well enough hidden to pass searchlight inspection, I crossed to the other side of the road, broke through the snow wall there, packed it behind me. Then, paralleling the road, but hidden by the wall of snow, I began walking back toward Cantwell.

When I reached the town proper, the banks of snow along the roads disappeared, for full snow-removal operations were in effect in the city limits. Now I would have to walk in the open, out where I could easily be seen, recognized, and apprehended. Except they did not expect me by myself, but were looking for two men. Also, they would not think to search here in the town where hundreds of WA cops and troops milled.

That was what I hoped, anyway.

Soon, I had a chance to try the theory. Three blocks from the Port, a group of half a dozen uniformed men came out of a low, lighted building and started my way, talking animatedly among themselves.

I hunched my shoulders and lowered my head, even though I still wore the mask. The goggles had seemed too conspicuous for a walk in the city, so I had stuffed them in a jacket pocket. Then, the closer I got to the group, the more I began to think that hunched shoulders and lowered head would draw more attention than a straightforward, shoulders-back approach. I unhunched and raised my head. When we passed, I said hello and they said hello, and we left each other without any nasty physical encounters.

At the edge of the Port area, I stopped to consider what my next move should be. True, they would not expect me to brazen my way up to the desk and buy a ticket on the next rocket out. But that still might be idiotic. Earlier, the Port employees would not have been thinking about Jacob Kennelmen and an android. Now, we would be on their minds. The chances of being recognized were correspondingly higher than they had been the night before. And there wouldn’t be just the ticket seller to get by. There would be the crew of the rocket, the other passengers, the debarking officer . . . No, that was out. What, then?

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Categories: Koontz, Dean