ANTI-MAN by Dean R. Koontz

For a moment, I felt good.

Then bad luck returned.

The watchman patrolling the taxi lot via closed-circuit television must have spotted some of the action. It was pure bad luck, for if he had been occupied with any of the other dozen cameras that scanned other portions of the port, he would not have found anything until we were long gone. Overhead, the big arc lights came on so that filming could proceed. If there was to be a court case, the film, taken by sealed cameras, would be admissible. I dropped behind the taxis and laid panting, trying to think. In minutes, that watchman would have sent someone out to investigate, someone with weapons, and we would have to handle them too if we expected to get out of here as free men. But our luck could not continue forever, not as it had through all the narrow escapes of the last week. So what was I mad about? Why not just give up? I could say to Him, in way of explanation: “Well, you know how luck changes. You can’t expect luck to stay good for long.” And He would smile, and that would be that. Like hell! I didn’t fancy going back with World Authority guards to some trial where my chances were, simply put, miserable. Still, I wasn’t a fighting man. I would make a mistake when I came up against the professionals. Several mistakes. One mistake too many. Then it would be all over. Perhaps forever . . .

“Jacob!” He called in a loud whisper.

Staying behind cars and away from the line of sight of the two mounted cameras, I hurried back to Him where He crouched at our taxi. We would have to move damned fast now. The watchman might know who had been causing the trouble, but the stranger in the greatcoat would most definitely have an alarm out for Dr. Jacob Kennelmen and His Fearsome Android within five minutes of his revival.

Rotten luck, rotten luck, rotten luck, I cursed to myself. If we could have left that lot unnoticed, we would have been perfectly in the clear—at least for a few months, long enough for Him to develop into a complete creature. Now World Authority would have police and soldiers swarming over Cantwell by morning. Yes, I could have killed the elegant stranger lying there on the steps, pressed the barrel of the narcodart pistol against his eyeballs and shot pins into his brain. But that was not the purpose of kidnapping Him and giving Him a chance to develop. The purpose was to eventually save lives. There was no sense in starting out by destroying a few with the excuse that He could make up for it later. We climbed into our taxi and were about to scoot out of there when I thought of something.

“Wait here,” I said, slipping out of the car.

“Where are you going, Jacob?”

I didn’t take time to answer. There were police on their way, perhaps only a minute or two until they would be on us. I moved quickly among the three nearest taxis, opening their doors, slipping five cred bills into their pay slots and punching out random destinations on their keyboards. When they started to purr and pull away, I ran back to our car, jumped in, slammed the door before the automatic closing device could do the job for me, and punched the keyboard for Mount McKinley National Park—and held my breath until we were out of the parking area.

Snow pelted the windscreen, and wind moaned eerily along the sides of the teardrop craft. I was reminded of my childhood in Ohio with drifts mounting against the windows, being tucked in bed where I could look out and watch the snow pile up and up as if it would never cease. But memories could not hold me for long. We were in the clear—for now, at least—and we had many things to do if we were to continue to enjoy our freedom.

We changed clothes as we drove until we were both decked out in insulated suits, gloves, goggles, boots, and snowshoes lashed across packs that we carried strapped to our backs.

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Categories: Koontz, Dean