ANTI-MAN by Dean R. Koontz

I think he blushed.

I moved back to the crossways and started to turn back to my smashed vehicle when I remembered the police and the ambulance would be there, or soon arriving. They would take me into custody, and I would never get out. I would not be able to go to Cantwell. Even the slim chance I had against Him would be destroyed. I walked into another side passage instead, and plodded along it, moving more slowly than I had when He had been hot on my tail. Now that I could relax a little, I was aware of the pain in my ankles, hands and face. I would have to get out of the system and find someplace to buy bandages and antiseptics.

“You are approaching an exit foyer,” the computer said. “Do not proceed further, or I will have to initiate a deterrent until police can arrive at the same foyer.”

I kept moving. It was good to know that a foyer lay ahead and that I would reach it before any police could be there. Indeed, I could see the circular-membrane hatch at the end of the tubeway. I walked faster. A few more cuts would not bother me.

Then the computer’s deterrent was thrown at me. The wires in that area made perfect conductors for a localized shock. The electricity bounced through me, standing my hair on-end, then flushed away. I had gone down, ramming a wire into my hand. I plucked it free and stood.

“Sabotaging the public transportation system is punishable by no less than one year and no more than—” the computer began.

I ran now, the wires whining and waving about me, gouging me, hurting me. Twenty feet from the diaphragm, another shock hit me. I managed to keep on my feet, but I could barely see. My eyes were watering and stinging, and I was certain I had burst a small vessel on my right eyeball. I felt cold inside my stomach, cold down through my intestines. My bones ached and spurted fire through my body. I put my head down, hugged my suitcase against my chest with both hands in the event I fell forward, and plunged on.

The damned computer shocked me again.

“Halt!” it demanded. “You will not be bothered if you come to a full stop.”

I had not fallen this time either. Indeed, the electricity had seemed to shoot up through me and keep me erect. Another shock came, but none of the wires were touching me anywhere except on the bottoms of my feet. I could feel the power humming beneath my shoes, but it did not reach me. Then I was through the membrane, into the exit foyer.

“You are directed to halt,” the computer said. It began repeating the sentence for sabotaging the public transportation system.

I moved out of the foyer and into the station platform. There was an open corridor beyond, lined with shops on both sides, a great number of people on the pedways. But no police. I walked out, trying to look as natural as possible, but not succeeding too well, considering my slashed face, torn clothes and limp (my feet felt as if something wicked and sharp-toothed had been chewing on them). I was on the first pedway, the slowest outer one, half a block from the Bubble Drop station and trying to get into the innermost pedway, the other slow-moving belt, when the WA police siren wailed out ahead of me . . .


Coming along the emergency belt on the other side of the street, half a dozen WA police searched the belts for anyone who looked suspicious. They must also be looking for anyone bleeding and in torn clothes, for they would certainly know what a stroll through the tubeways would do to a man. They kept their hands on their black holsters, ready to draw and use their narcodart weapons if they spotted their quarry. Everyone around me began chattering about the excitement and trying to see what the police were after. It would only be a few seconds before the cops were even with me—and would see me—and even if they overlooked me, the people on the pedwalks would notice my blood and ripped clothes.

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Categories: Koontz, Dean