ANTI-MAN by Dean R. Koontz

I dressed quickly, threw everything back into my suitcase, and stopped before the door into the corridor, trying to outline a course of action before I plunged on. He had evidently followed my helicar and had known I checked into the Colossus. How He found my room number was a mystery, but it could be worked out by someone determined enough. To lose Him, I would have to change vehicles again and again, move like the pea in that old walnut-shell con-game, move and move until He had no idea where I was.

And then what? I thought. Sit in some sleazy hotel, waiting for the world to end. Watching the streets through my windows, trying to see if the battles between men and androids had begun- yet? That did not particularly excite me. Running was necessary if I were to stay alive to think. But, in the end, what good would thinking do? I had already thought it out, and I had already decided He was unreachable. All right, then. I would lose the android self that now tailed me, then take a trip to Cantwell, go back up to Harry’s cabin. I might not be able to do a thing, but it was my only chance.

I stepped into the hallway, expecting a spatter of bullets, hurried to the elevator, dropped. Too fast. By the time we were down ninety floors, my internal parts were frantically trying to crawl back to their proper locations.

Next, I went to the Bubble Drop station on that floor, punched out a midtown destination, and stepped forward, sat down on the chair, and was moving into the departure foyer where a Bubble would be sprayed up around me by the automatic equipment. Another capsule was just leaving the foyer and entering the tube-ways. I slipped in behind it, and barreled after it. A quarter of a mile later, I became aware of the fact that the rider of the other Bubble had turned around in the seat and was looking back. He waved at me. It was the android . . .

He must have been waiting outside my room when I was planning what to do. Or perhaps He had been near me at some other point on my trip to the Bubble Drop station. Somewhere along the line, He had been close enough to read my mind, to pick out my plans. But why hadn’t He killed me when He was close? Why wait until now and do it this way? But if He was a sadist, if He was a deranged, antagonistic creature rather than God, He would act just like this. He would be enjoying my terror as we barreled down the tubeways, both of us going for the same departure point. He would know that I would realize He would be waiting for me when I came out of the exit foyer. Waiting to kill me . . .

He wanted to terrorize me. He was succeeding.

I looked behind my Bubble in the wild hope that there was someone behind me who was coming to the same station; but there was only empty space back there. I turned around again, saw that He was still waving. I could not bring myself to wave back, for I could see that twisted grin, that leer that He had shown me over the phone in my hotel room. We had as much as three or four minutes before the high-speed Bubble would pull into the station I had punched for. This gave me no more than two minutes to think of something.

We whizzed through an intersection, and another Bubble whined past my back end on the cross-tube, missing me by inches. If only, I thought, it would have struck me. The computer would have shut down these tubeways and sent help of some sort. And from that impossible wish grew my idea. What if I were to wreck myself? The computer would stop everything just as thoroughly as if another vehicle had struck me.

Perhaps a minute left.

He was still grinning.

I lifted my suitcase, picked a spot on the side of the Bubble to my left, and smashed the hard edge of the case into the shell. There was a resounding thwack! that stung my ears, but the shell held. I drew the case back as far as I could, and let go with as much force as I could muster. The shell cracked, webbed with a hundred lines radiating out from the impact point. The Bubble kept moving. Frantically, I swung, again and again. The last blow made a hole in the shell and spread the cracks out until they covered most of the Bubble. I swung once more, was rewarded with a horrendous crashing sound, as the pieces of the shell fell away to both sides.

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Categories: Koontz, Dean