ANTI-MAN by Dean R. Koontz

This was not going to help my case on the other charges I had sustained in my flight with Him to Cant-well. Here was Jacob Kennelmen, probably the most timid, law-abiding citizen in North America, and he was involved in his seventh crime in less than two weeks. Leonard Fenner would have one helluva time explaining to the judge and jury just how basically good a man I was. Even if I did escape Him and this entire mess were settled somehow, I would end up spending some seventy-odd years in a WA prison.

Three hundred feet beyond the second capsule, there was a third blocking the way. As I was squeezing around it, trying to smile at the matronly woman inside who cringed against the far wall, He shouted to me from the other car a hundred yards back. “Jacob!”

“Go to Hell,” I said.

“Look what I can do, Jacob.”

As I squeezed, I looked back through the wires that partially cut off my vision. He had taken off His shoes, and had formed His feet into large, gray blocks. He trod the wires down without care. His feet were iron-hard, and He could walk almost as fast here as He could on a concrete corridor floor. He moved quickly after me.

I tore around the car, slashing shallow grooves in my left cheek. Ahead, there was a crossways, I moved to it, plunged into the tunnel to my right. Ahead, seven or eight feet, there was another motionless Bubble waiting for the system to become operational again. I slid by it, snagging my clothes on the wires, my hands bleeding now. On the other side, I found another Bubble car only a dozen feet ahead of the last. I moved around it. There was a kid inside, maybe ten or eleven-years-old. He watched me with obvious fascination until I had reached the front of his Bubble.

“Hey!” he called loudly through the plastic. “You crazy?”

“No!” I said, nodding my head. “Being chased.”

He looked absolutely elated.

I stood there, panting, and realized I did not have very much more strength in me—not nearly enough to keep up this pace more than another five minutes. As soon as I slowed down, He would gain, and gain fast, if He was hot already gaining now on His hard, reformed feet. Ahead lay another Bubble car, only nine feet away. I was not even sure I could make that. The thought of squeezing around yet another Bubble with the wires gouging me was not at all pleasant. Then I had the idea. It came to me from sheer desperation.

“The authorities have been alerted and will arrive with the ambulance,” the computer said. “You are urged to stop and make things easier on yourself. The sentence for sabotaging the public transportation system is no less than one year and—”

I paid no attention to the machine-mind’s ramblings. I moved around to the opposite side of the kid’s Bubble and dropped to the floor, hunched at the corner next to the tube wall, nestled back in among the wires. Hopefully, when He squeezed by on the other side, He would not see me through the plastic. I should be shielded by the kid’s body. Then, when He went on, I could double-back and be rid of Him.

“What are you doing?” the kid asked.

“It’s a trick,” I said. “Will you help me?”

“Who’s the good guy?” he asked.

“The one coming wants to kill me. He is not a policeman.”

The kid nodded.

Just then, I heard him coming up behind the kid’s capsule, the wires singing as he leaped through them. I tried to huddle even deeper into the wires, did not mind that they prodded me mercilessly. On the other side of the Bubble, He pressed between the plastic and the wall. I could see His dark form.

“Hey!” the kid said, “you chasing a fellow with a suitcase?”

“That’s right,” He said.

My heart came up into my throat. That rotten kid, I thought.

Then the kid said, “He went up past that Bubble.”

He nodded, kept going, did not look back. I slipped past the kid’s Bubble, looked in at him and mouthed, “Thanks.”

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Categories: Koontz, Dean