Steven knelt into the shadows beside the locked door and inserted his lock pick into the keyhole.
“You are in direct violation of the law, Steven. If you do not cease your current unlawful acts I will be forced to stop you.”
“You won’t lay a hand on me, Bolts,” Steven said confidently, caressing the tumblers with the pick.
“I did not say that I would touch you. As your Guardian I am forced to inform you of the laws and the punishments for breaking them. In this case—”
“—I get it!” Steven snapped, stopping for a moment to stare over his shoulder at his identical twin in every way. Except for the fact that Bolts was a robot. “You don’t have to remind me every time.”
“Actually it states in my programming that I must remind you. Failure to heed my warning will result in the authorities being contacted.”
Steven’s patience disappeared and all of the progress he had made inside the lock disappeared. He pulled the lock pick out and threw it at the ground. “Oh. My. God. Will you please just shut up?”
“Your illegal activities have been halted so I am able to stop reminding you of the law up until the time at which you see fit to attempt to break the law again. May I suggest that you find something lawful to fill your time this evening?”
“No, you bloody well may not suggest anything. You can tell me how long I will have before the police arrive if you decide to report me,” Steven said, picking the pick back up and holding it near the lock.
“You are currently not conducting any illegal activities that require me to notify the authorities.”
“Just tell me.”
“I am unable to provide information on the whereabouts or reaction times of officials of the New London Police Department.”
“In your opinion would I have time to unlock this door, get what I want from inside and flee the scene before they arrive.”
“I cannot provide guidance that would lead to you conducting further illegal activities other than what I have already witnessed.”
“You always want to give me advice.”
“That is because you are usually not trying to break the law, Steven.”
Steven glanced over his shoulder as he pushed the lock pick into the lock. “Do I get another warning before you contact the police? Because technically I stopped breaking the law and now that I’ve started again you really should give me your whole speech on what laws I’m breaking and the punishment for doing so.”
Without hesitation Bolts started to reel off a long and complicated warning but Steven chose to ignore him and focussed on the lock instead. Within thirty seconds the lock clicked open and he turned and smiled at Bolts who was still talking in technobabble. He reached for the door handle while staring at Bolts.
As soon as the door opened a millimetre Bolts changed what he was saying mid sentence. “…I have contacted the authorities and they will be here imminently.”
“What the hell Bolts?” Steven said, springing to his feet and pulling the door open. “Don’t I get a warning?”
“I have been warning you for the past thirty seconds, Steven.”
“Whatever,” Steven said, too pre-occupied to argue and knowing that he didn’t have long before the police arrived. “Just follow me.” He stepped into the house and started to make his way towards the light at the far end of the dark hallway.
“I cannot be complicit in illegal activities,” Bolts called as Steven got further away and he remained outside.
“Is it a higher protocol for you to protect me at all costs, or for you to obey the law,” Steven asked in a forceful whisper, turning his head for just long enough to speak and then moving forward again. He heard Bolts’ approaching footsteps on the floor and smiled ruefully.
Steven stepped into the lit room and approached the table. He quickly peered into the cloth sack that sat alone in the centre of the table. Happy with what he saw inside he sprinted out of the door while tying the hefty sack to his belt. He turned down the alleyway away from the main road and ran as fast as he could. Bolts easily kept stride, his footsteps falling exactly where Steven’s feet had landed only a half second before.
Before they turned out of the alley Steven glanced backwards and saw a police officer and his Guardian running towards the crime scene. They were in the light of the main road and Steven and Bolts were in the dark shadows, so he was certain that they’d remained unseen.
Steven navigated through a maze of alleyways, getting deeper into the slums and closer to freedom. They stopped running when they entered a gypsy camp and Steven pulled his jacket up over his head and hunched his shoulders. He ducked behind a concrete pillar and started to slowly catch his breath as Bolts stood beside him calm and composed. The night was eerily silent, so as his breathing relaxed it became obvious that running footsteps were approaching.
“Why does it sound like they’re on our trail, Bolts?”
“I’m updating them with your location, Steven.”
“What! Why the hell are you doing that?” Steven gasped and took off running again; not that it would do any good with Bolts directly behind him all the way.
“You have broken thirteen laws in the last eight minutes. You must be detained by the authorities and receive your punishment.”
“Thirteen! I can only think of four.”
“Possession of break-in instruments. Forcible entry. First degree burglary. Indecent act. Vandalism. Trespassing. Invasion of privacy. Resisting arrest. Making a Guardian implicit. Hostage taking. Extortion. Possession of stolen property and breach of trust,” Bolts reeled off at super speed.
“I don’t even know how to respond to that,” Steven said. “Wait did you just say breach of trust? Really? You cannot be serious.”
“I know no other way than to be serious, Steven.”
“Don’t I know it,” Steven said drily. “Is there a way that you will stop informing to the police without me handing myself over to them?”
“If you were to die it would no longer be necessary for the authorities to locate you for punishment. However, I would continue to lead them to your body so that you could be properly looked after.”
“If you were joking I wouldn’t feel quite so freaked out right now.”
Steven continued running until he saw a crowd of homeless men gathered around an oil drum fire. Seeing an opportunity he rushed forward and threw a punch at one of them, intentionally just grazing his face. The man instantly lunged at Steven with rabid ferocity. Steven jumped backwards trying to stay out of his grasp and called, “Protect me, Bolts.”
Bolts immediately grabbed the man by the back of his shabby winter coat and slammed him beard first into the ground. As soon as Steven was out of Bolts’ line of sight he turned and fled into the night. It seemed like the only way he was going to get away from the police was to abandon Bolts.
Steven froze before turning the first corner and looked out of the shadows towards Bolts who had already subdued the man and scared the others away. Bolts was looking around frantically to locate Steven without finding his hiding place.
For the first time in his entire life Steven stepped behind the wall and lost sight of Bolts. It was a freeing feeling but also completely frightening. Since his birth he had never been somewhere without Bolts knowing exactly where he was. He didn’t know what would happen without having his Guardian there to protect, advise and guide him. But he couldn’t afford to be locked in jail.
So he ran as fast and as far as he could into the unknown. When he was well and truly lost in a part of the city he had never ventured he stopped. He found a dark alcove to hide in and pulled himself as close together as he could while untying the sack. He carefully rested the sack between his bent legs and held the top of it open with both hands. There wasn’t anywhere near enough light for him to see inside the sack so he pulled out his mobile phone and used the backlight as a dull flashlight. He looked at the object for a few seconds and then reached inside and wrapped his fingers around it.
“NLPD, don’t move,” a stern voice commanded from beside him.
His hand froze on the object and he stared at the face of the police officer. It was the same officer who had been pursuing him earlier and he had somehow managed to approach unnoticed. The officer was standing in the light of the moon so Steven was able to easily see his face and recognise that the man who stepped up beside him was his Guardian. Another figure stepped out of the darkness beside the officer and Steven swore under his breath.
“What the hell Bolts? How did you find me?”
“He won’t respond to you,” the police officer said. “Guardians aren’t programmed to talk in the presence of police officials unless directed to do so. Now hand over what you stole and give yourself up. This is over.”
Steven adjusted his fingers on the outside of the object in the sack and smiled at Bolts. “You’re right that this is over, but I’m not giving myself up.” He squeezed the object and his entire body started to shimmer. “I expected more from you, Bolts.”
Steven knelt into the shadows and moved the lock pick towards the keyhole. A sense of deja vu stopped his hand and he was hit with a flood of memories from the moment he attempted to break into the house until the moment he used the object inside the sack to return.
He placed the pick back into his pocket and looked over his shoulder with a knowing smile at his double. “I expected more from you, Bolts,” he said and called a halt to his first test.