Robin Hood the One Who Looked Good in Green Read online

  “You okay?” Robin asks. “We’ve almost cleared the wake zone around the station. We’ll be able to switch on the autopilot and accelerate soon.”

  His voice sounds calm, but his face is as pinched as mine.

  I nod as we slip alongside, and then quickly past, the Royal Horizon. Our ship looks like something the Horizon sneezed out.

  “Okay,” he says. “Ready?”

  I nod, or at least, I try to. I’m not sure my head actually moves. His finger presses the button beside the words To Destination. He then places his hand on top of my clenched ones and holds it there as the stars around us suddenly begin zooming past. It takes a few seconds for my brain to catch up and realize we’re the ones moving faster, not the stars. Faster, even, than the trip here in the Horizon. At this rate, we’ll get to Earth in no time.

  After a few minutes where we haven’t exploded or gotten an angry message from the commander demanding our return, we both visibly relax. We even joke about how it’s a good thing we’re going so fast because this thing has no bathroom.

  Robin shows me how to trick someone into picking whatever card you want them to from his plastic card deck. I’ve never heard of a magic trick before, so it takes me a while to catch on to what he’s doing. Then I laugh with delight as he makes one of the cards disappear and reappear in my messy half braid.

  More time passes, and when I don’t see the sun approaching, I start shifting in my seat. I notice Robin glancing back and forth between the coordinates and the view outside.

  “Hmm,” he finally says.

  I don’t like the sound of that hmm. “Everything okay?” I ask, trying to keep my voice light.

  “I’m sure it is. I mean, I hope so. About how long did it take you to get to Delta Z in the Royal Horizon?”

  I can only guess. “Maybe a few hours? I was kind of stuck to the window.”

  “Hmm,” he says again. It sounds even worse the second time. “If this ship goes faster than the Horizon, we should have gotten to the inner solar system a while ago.”

  “Guess we didn’t pass it by mistake?” I ask.

  “Not a chance,” he says. “Even though I’ve never seen it before, pretty sure we’d notice the giant yellow ball of gas in front of us.”

  “We must have gone off course, then,” I suggest. “Maybe while a jack of clubs was being pulled out of my hair.”

  “Glad you still have your sense of humor.” He checks and double-checks the coordinates in comparison with our current location. “Still heading to our destination.”

  We grow quiet.

  After a few more minutes without the scenery changing, he asks, “When you overheard Prince John, did you definitely hear him say that King Richard was on Earth?”

  “I certainly thought so,” I reply.

  Robin takes one more look out the front, sides, and behind us before saying, “I don’t know where your coordinates are taking us, but it’s not Earth.”

  The next hour feels like ten. I’m trying my best to comfort Marian, but I’m not sure it’s working. She keeps clenching and unclenching her hands, and every few minutes she checks her face in the reflection of the dashboard when she thinks I’m not looking. She shouldn’t worry; she’s just as beautiful in the middle of outer space as she was on Delta Z.

  Oh man, even Will would make fun of me for being so corny.

  Everything has moved so quickly since her arrival that I haven’t had a second to think about the hugeness of what I’m doing. Now we have plenty of seconds. Too many seconds. And all I’m doing is thinking. What if Prince John wrote down fake coordinates that don’t actually lead anywhere? Or, worse yet, will lead us out of the galaxy, where even our full tank of Aloxxite won’t be able to get us back? The other option — that they’re real — isn’t much better. Going to Earth — a planet I’d always been grateful not to live on — was crazy enough, but at least it was close by, and I’d be going with a native. None of the other known habitable planets have fared much better than Earth. Sure, some still have a few patches of land where things grow, and some managed to escape the devastation of wars, but most places these days don’t take kindly to strangers.

  I reach out and take Marian’s hand in mine again. She squeezes back.

  Finally, FINALLY, something changes outside the window. The darkness around us is lightening up ever so slightly. I check the dashboard screen. We’re out of light speed! With no warning, a brightness the likes of which I’ve never seen surrounds our tiny ship, instantly blinding us.

  We fling our hands in front of our eyes. I press my palms down hard, trying to quell the searing pain. “Wha — what was that?”

  “It was a star,” she replies. “We flew extremely close to it. Space lit up like that on the Royal Horizon when we passed the sun, but not nearly as bright. The ship must have had shields up to protect our eyes.”

  “Is it bright like this on Earth?” I ask, unable to move my hands away. If she says yes, it’ll be a good reason to be glad we’re not landing there.

  “No,” she says. “It lights everything up, but as long as you don’t look right up at it, the sun is only a small yellow ball in the sky. I mean, that’s what it’s like on Earth, at least …” Her voice trails away at the end, and I’m guessing she has the same worries that I do about where we’re heading.

  “We’re past it now,” Marian tells me, resting her hand on my arm. “I think you can open your eyes.”

  Slowly, I lower my hands and blink away the black spots floating across my vision. My eyes still ache, but the brightness has dimmed enough that the pain is bearable. The light illuminates the scene around us, and I realize the view has changed again. Our ship whizzes by a large planet, and then a series of tiny ones. None of these constellations look like any I’ve learned about, and my teacher is very thorough. “I don’t think this part of space has been explored yet,” I tell her.

  “I’m so sorry, Robin,” she says miserably. “The coordinates were obviously wrong, or fake, or don’t mean what we think they mean. Maybe Prince John just wanted to trick his staff into thinking he was holding King Richard somewhere. Maybe it’s just a bluff to show how much control he has. Whoever had me steal the coordinates was fooled, too.”

  Her theory made sense. I wish I’d thought of it before suggesting this trip. I’ll bet she did, too. “It’s not your fault,” I assure her.

  We’re slowing down further. We stare, transfixed, as a planet appears in the distance. Then the not-so-far distance, as we are suddenly nearly on top of it. The ship banks to the right and begins a trajectory to the dark side of the planet.

  “We’re going to land!” she exclaims. Then she gulps and adds, “On a planet that no one has heard of, hundreds of light-years away from our own solar system, where we may not be able to breathe the air.”

  We reach for each other’s hands as the Solar Hammer 2000 slows once again. The planet is still much too far away to reveal any surface details, but I don’t see any control tower beacons, grids of city lights, or any satellites in orbit that we’d have to avoid smacking into. If there are people below us, I don’t think they have technology yet.

  “Don’t worry,” I tell her in as brave a voice as I can muster. “The autopilot will get us down to the surface safely. Then we’ll simply activate the homing device to bring us right back to Delta Z. You’ll be able to continue your journey with your classmates to Earth Beta, and I’ll … well, I’ll come visit you there.” I grin. “I’m getting the hang of this space travel thing.”

  She smiles back, her face relaxing for the first time in hours. “Quite the adventure, at least, right?”

  “Definitely,” I reply, my mood also lifting considerably. “Everything is going to be fine.”

  “Yes,” she agrees. “Better than fine.”

  Then the autopilot shuts off.

  Turns out that a strange calm overtakes you when faced with your almost certain death as your tiny airship plummets toward the ground at two thousand miles per