Robin Hood the One Who Looked Good in Green Read online

  My brain has a hard time assigning words to the images I’m seeing in the pictures. A house, I think. An ocean. An egg? Or is that what they called an umbrella? Beasts with four legs, two legs, eight legs, wings! The images begin to slow, and then stop at a photo of a bird with shockingly bright blue, yellow, and red feathers. The letters below it spell out MACAW. This must be where my feather came from! Not this specific bird, of course, but one of that type. I could look at this macaw creature all day, but Robo-teach’s screen has one last image to pull up, and this one is even odder.

  A man with light brown hair, a square jaw, and bright green eyes is leaning against what looks like a real tree. Trees haven’t existed for ages on the planet below us, or on any planets in the known star systems. The man — wearing a pointy brown hat — is holding a red feather with one hand and a piece of stiff fabric with his other.

  “Long before digi-pens were invented, people used to dip the ends of feathers — called the quill — into ink to write with,” Robo-teach explains. No one is paying attention. He continues anyway. “They originally made the ink from eggs, ash, and honey.” When we continue to stare mutely at the screen, he adds, “Honey is a sticky material that is secreted from bees. Bees were flying, stinging creatures that —”

  “Okay, okay, we get it,” Toby interrupts. “Can the history lesson wait?”

  We’re not interested in the feather, the ink, the honey, the bees, or the fabric that Robo-teach will no doubt get to. We’re looking at the man and the tree, and at the glowing yellow ball visible behind him, the one that’s spilling light across the image. But we’re mostly looking at the man.

  Little Lisbeth gasps and throws her arms around my neck. “Robin! How did you get in that holo-picture?”

  My mouth has gone dry. The man really does look like me. Or I look like him. Or what I’ll look like in twenty years, anyway. I didn’t time-travel into the past, age twenty years, and then pose for that picture, right? Or could I be related to this man somehow? I know nothing about my parents, or if I even have parents at all. Uncle Kent never speaks of how I came to live with him and Will, and I never question him. He and Will are all the family I need.

  Lisbeth begins to cry, so I pull her on my lap and assure her, “It’s not me, Lissy. Don’t worry. I’m much more handsome than that dude, right?”

  She sniffles, then smiles and nods. Will rolls his eyes, but I can tell by the straight line his lips have become that he’s a little worried, too.

  “Hmm,” Robo-teach says. “A sample of your own DNA must have gotten on the feather and was picked up by my sensors.”

  This has our attention.

  “DNA is a unique code in your body’s cells,” he explains. “This is how our nurse knows exactly how to cure you when you’re hurt. If your DNA pulled up this image, this man is either you — which is impossible — or a long-ago relative along your father’s line.”

  Now all the kids start talking at once, holding up their fingers or a strand of hair, asking him to take a sample of their DNA, too.

  “Our lesson is done for the day,” Robo-teach says, shutting down the program and handing me back my feather. “Time for lunch.”

  I stash the feather in my pocket and grab my hoverboard from where it had been leaning against the wall. Time travel isn’t real, so I know that wasn’t me in that picture. There’s got to be another explanation for our uncanny resemblance. I just don’t know what it is.

  Another way I know that wasn’t me?

  I’ve never seen the sun.

  Earth, AD 2336

  I have never seen the stars.

  If I was ever going to spot them, it would be now, in the dark of night, when my toes are frantically gripping onto this slippery marble ledge, eighty-two stories above the grandest (and only) city left on Earth.

  But no. Even up here the blinding lights shining from the one hundred skyscrapers that make up The City wash out any sign of the heavens. Add in the glowing lights of the airships’ launchpads and the headlights of the hovercars, and I can almost fool myself into believing the stars are below me, instead of above.

  I’ve never been this high up before. Not outside, anyway. With all the tunnels connecting the buildings every few floors, there’s not much need to step outside at all. In fact, all the balconies on these upper floors are restricted, even to my family.

  Next only to being stranded outside the city gates in the Dead Zone, standing here now is literally the very last place I ever thought I’d be. But I only have one chance to get what I came for before my chip shows up on the Citizens Monitoring Grid … and I’m not going to miss it.

  Unless I slip and plunge to a very messy death. But I’m trying not to think about that.

  I grasp for the ledge to steady myself against a sudden gust of wind. As I crouch, shivering in my totally-inappropriate-for-the-situation dress, another gust whips through my hair, untangling it from the elaborate braid Grandmother spent so long on just this morning. That seems like a lifetime ago now.

  My day began like every other in my fourteen years. The lights clicked on at exactly eight o’clock. My list of activities scrolled across the holo-screen that floats in the middle of my room, and my hands began to shake. Sometimes they go numb, or I feel like the walls are closing in and have to splash water on my face to relax. Every day my itinerary is a little different, depending on what my mother and teacher set up for me the night before. There is always school, always shopping, always etiquette class, and never, ever any free time.

  Whenever I’m not scheduled for an activity, my duty is to follow closely at my mother’s heels while she attends luncheons, charity balls, and political meetings, or is visited by all the top clothing designers, who flatter and charm her so she will select one of their outfits. As the wife of one of the highest officials in Prince John’s royal cabinet, she must set a good example at all times. She must demonstrate loyalty to the government and possess a sharp intellect, but should never question the laws of the land. She is always the best-dressed woman in the room.

  As my father’s daughter, the same high standards are expected of me.


  In the days before King Richard left on his mission to broker trade agreements in a nearby star system, things were different. Better. More fun. Without the grid, we were free to roam The City without being tracked all the time. Now people mostly stay within the few buildings where they live and work or go to school. Richard was kind. He told corny jokes, and he used to play peekaboo with me when he and my father took breaks from the important work of running our city. He was the first one to tell me that my voice has a soothing, melodic tone to it that people seem to like. Personally, I can’t hear it.

  Richard’s younger brother, Prince John, is totally different. He’s been in charge these last five years, and everyone is afraid to make one wrong move. To cross him is to lose your job or your home, or worst of all, be tossed into the Dead Zone, the area outside The City where there’s only scorched earth and the memories of a time many centuries ago when something called nature thrived. Even though it would be treason to say it aloud, I secretly pray for the return of the king.

  But back to this morning. I got out of bed and waited for my maid, Ivy, to come dress me and do my hair. I know at my age I am perfectly capable of doing these tasks myself, but I’d be late for my first activity every day if I had to make my own choices. Just the idea of picking out the right clothes sends me into a panic of indecision. Perhaps if I were given a chance to make even one of my own decisions, I’d be better at it. This is another thing I don’t say.

  Instead of Ivy showing up today, though, my grandmother came instead. This made me happy — Ivy is efficient and sweet, but caring for me is her job. Grandmother chooses to care, and that is a very different thing. Grandmother is the only person who wraps her arms around me and holds me tight. She is the only one who can see that sometimes I’m just going through the motions of my life without actually living it.