White Roses

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The morning sky was brighter than usual, as I followed dad, briskly maneuvering around sidewalk rubble. "So of course, there is the global food and water shortage." Dad loved to talk as if I'd just asked him a burning geopolitical question.

"Turns out robots can't drink salt water either. The corporations whine that they are so dangerous, but why get rid of them all? Are they worried that robots own private property? Or is it just that they can't be easily manipulated? They don't want the liability of anybody, robot or not, who doesn't fall into line." A tall man in a suit and trim, grey beard walked past us. My dad motioned with his eyes, and we followed the stranger. We tailed him from about a block away.

"Dad, am I just cover for you?"

He looked down and smiled, then shook his head emphatically, his eyes locked on me. "It's only a bonus Son, only a bonus."

The tall man stopped where a woman was selling flowers out of a large white bucket. He rubbed a petal between thumb and forefinger, bent sharply at the neck, and breathed in. Dad guided me by the shoulder, and we pretended to look in a shop window. The man bought a dozen white roses and continued walking. Stopping near the flowers, he pulled gently on my collar, "Did you notice anything weird?"

"No. He just likes roses."

"But these red flowers are so much nicer. He chose the white roses and all the white ones are a bit spent."

"Are the white roses cheaper? Maybe he's on a budget?"

"No. He's dressed too well."

The man entered a large decaying apartment building.

"Quick! This is our chance."

My father started running. He whipped out his electronic pick and scanned the door controls. The old double doors clicked open. With a quick turn of the head, he commanded me. "Throw the marbles!" They scattered as Dad fell forward pretending to trip. They clattered against the hard, cold floor, dispersing throughout the lobby and catching up with the bearded man. He quickly and precisely stepped around each one without looking down or even slowing his pace.

"Son, how many times have I told you to watch where you're going?" My father's tone, loud yet flat. "Stay here and pick those up." The bearded android held the elevator door, and my father stepped inside.

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