ANTI-MAN by Dean R. Koontz

I stood there for a moment, panting, trying to regain my composure and shake off the seething animal blood-lust that was trying to take control of me. When my heart slowed a little, I took out my pin-gun and put half a dozen darts in his legs. Then I dragged him to his patrol car and was about to get him inside when I had a better thought. I turned, struggled him back to the auto-taxi, got the passenger-side door open, and muscled him onto the back seat. Closing the door, I went around to the driver’s side and got in. Just then, another car pulled into the recharging station and the driver climbed out.

I held my breath while he went about his business. It took him one helluva long time, or maybe it only seemed that way. He cleaned his windshield without bothering to plug his battery in first. Then he went inside, got something to eat, and brought it out to the car. He started on it while he plugged in the battery. Twice, he looked our way but made no show of interest and did not appear to be going to approach us. When the battery light flashed a soft blue, he disconnected the leads, closed the panel on the side of the car, and got in, still eating. When he departed, I started the patrol car and drove it around to the phones, then farther, completely behind the building and out of sight.

I left the taxi running and set to work securing him. I took off his uniform jacket and put it on over my arctic coat. Sitting down, behind the wheel of his patrol car, I would look a little more authentic. Then I stripped off his trousers and split them up the crotch. Using the two separated legs, I bound his hands and feet as securely as I could. I closed the taxi door and waited there a moment, making certain I hadn’t forgotten anything. The car would not be noticed back here, not until the proprietor of the station made his daily check of the premises. The cop would not freeze, for the taxi had enough power to run until tomorrow afternoon sometime, and the heater would keep him comfortable. Satisfied, I walked out front, back to the patrol car.

It was a luxurious tank, built for speed and reliability, yet not without such comforts as a small refrigerator in the dash for keeping something cold to drink, a little circular heating plate for warming cold coffee. I got down on the floor of the front seat and searched for the wires leading to the communications box to the right of the steering wheel. I found nine of them and spent twenty minutes tracing their connections before I felt confident enough to rip three of them loose. If I had examined the setup carefully enough, the communications box now lacked a visual pickup. That would make it easier to fool any central headquarters that might want to talk with the officer who should be in the patrol car.

I drew the car over to the charging posts and made certain the battery level was up to the top. When the blue light flashed, I disconnected, jumped behind the wheel and swung out of there, back onto the highway, bound for Cantwell, the park, the cabin, and Him.

For the first forty miles, I held the big car at slightly over a hundred, which was nowhere near its top speed, it being a much swifter vehicle than my auto-taxi on the trip down to Anchorage. I could have used the robot mechanism for even greater speed. The highway was eight lanes wide and equipped with auto-guide for robot vehicles. Somehow, I did not feel safe with a computer driving me in these circumstances: a fugitive running directly into the same forces he was trying to get away from. True, the computer system under the hood could have compensated for the slick roadway much more easily than I, could have maintained a speed probably in excess of fifty percent more than I now traveled. There was one drawback that bothered me enough to keep me from relinquishing the car’s control. A robot vehicle is attuned to a “siren” carried on all World Authority police wagons. When said siren wails, all robot vehicles in the immediate vicinity will curb and stop, will lock so that manual control cannot be restored. On the other hand, with me driving, even that slim chance of apprehension would disappear, for I would rather kill myself than submit to an easy catch after all that I had gone through.

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Categories: Koontz, Dean