Robin Hood the One Who Looked Good in Green Read online

  But the message wasn’t from a classmate. Or if it was, they were masking their identity very well. After a long, encrypted series of letters and symbols, the following words flashed on my screen:

  Marian Fitzwalter, these instructions will disappear in thirty seconds. Tonight at midnight, the grid will be off-line for exactly twenty-eight minutes. This will give you enough time to get over to your father’s office building and retrieve a small brown notebook from his locked desk drawer. The key will be waiting for you, taped beneath the desk chair. Inside the notebook you will find one page with writing on it. You are to capture the contents with your digi-pen, and then neatly rip out the page of the notebook. On the next piece of paper, you will write the following letters and numbers, so memorize them well:

  RA 28h 31m 29.49400s

  DEC –90° 50' 03.3738"

  DIST 6.37 ly

  You will then bury your pen in the dirt by the tree outside Tower 42B, tear up the piece of paper, and rinse the shreds down the drain in the office bathroom. Many people have risked their lives for this. Do not let them down and do not speak of this to anyone.

  I could not have been more surprised by these words if they’d jumped off the screen and bitten me in the face. I had time to read them once more before they faded into nothing and the screen turned black. All I could see was my own shocked expression in the reflection. My head swam as I tried to reason it out, but I couldn’t. Nor could I disobey.

  And that is why, five hours later, I am crouching here on the ledge outside my own father’s office, buffeted by wind and rain, having snuck through six tunnels, dodged three couples out for late-night strolls, ran up four back stairwells, taken two freight elevators, slipped out an emergency door onto the roof, and climbed down the fire escape ladder to this ledge. I have never done even ONE of those things before.

  I take a deep breath and prepare to drop down onto the balcony when the light switches on in the office and two men rush inside. I freeze and press myself lower onto the ledge until I’m almost lying down.

  “Where do you think he hid it?” one man asks. I don’t recognize the voice, or the bottom half of him that I can see, but I do not dare to lift my head higher.

  “Don’t know, don’t care,” the other replies. “We only need to ransack the place, make it look like someone was searching for it. When King Richard turns up dead, Prince John’s hands will come up clean and he can blame his enemies.”

  “But he doesn’t have any enemies,” the first guy points out as he pushes over chairs and pulls out the few unlocked desk drawers. “None who’ll admit to it, anyway.”

  “Hey, you know the old saying: ‘An enemy is just a friend you haven’t double-crossed yet!’”

  The first guy booms with laughter, then stops. “We better watch our backs, then.”

  They flip a few more couch cushions, toss out the contents of the cabinets behind the desk, then leave, not bothering to switch off the light.

  Aren’t they worried about the grid finding them here? They wouldn’t know it’s temporarily turned off. As soon as the thought crosses my mind, I know the answer. They’re not worried because Prince John has ultimate control over the grid.

  I don’t have time to dwell on the unfairness of it all, because I have four more minutes until the grid turns back on. There is no chance at all that I can follow the instructions and make it back home in time. I will be caught for sure.

  Is this whole insane mission a trap? Maybe I’m no different than those men, brought here as part of the prince’s plan to frame his enemies. Maybe I’m being set up to take the fall. Or my father is.

  Three minutes left. I have a big decision to make. Whoever sent me here must not know me well. They have left me no choice. I take a deep, ragged breath.

  And jump.

  Judging by the horrid taste of the broccoli-flavored vita-square that the food replicator spewed out for dinner today, the original vegetable must have been barely edible. I would spit it out in protest, but I need all the energy I can get right now. I have a mystery to solve.

  I have to admit, with the arrival of the mysterious boxes, the feather now tucked safely under my mattress, and Robo-teach’s bizarre photograph, this is turning into an exciting day. Usually the most exciting things that happen up here are an occasional spontaneous dance party in the plaza, or maybe a newbie to the station will get claustrophobic and run around in circles shouting “GET ME OUT OF HERE!” at the top of their lungs. But that’s rare. Mostly we make our own fun and don’t have too many rules to follow. My only real responsibility is attending school and not breaking anything. This leaves plenty of time for other pursuits.

  All around me my classmates are still buzzing over the resemblance between the guy in the dorky hat and me. I pretend that it’s just a coincidence, matching DNA or not. I don’t want people to think it bothers me.

  “How about a magic trick?” I ask, knowing that will get people off my case. I’ve been working on a new one, and this is as good a time as any to try it out. I slip my hand in my pocket and hide a round glass disk in my palm.

  Gabriella leans across the table eagerly.

  “Anyone have a token?” I ask.

  “That depends,” Toby says. “Will we get it back?”

  I grin. “Can’t promise that.”

  Gabriella digs into her pocket anyway and eagerly hands over what must be her last token.

  “Why do you keep falling for this?” Finley asks her.

  I generally stay away from Finley, even though he’s closest to me in age. He’s the commander’s son and a bit of a buzzkill.

  I drape my napkin (really an old piece of cloth that doubles as a napkin) over my empty water glass, then hold up Gabriella’s token so everyone can clearly see it. I slide it under the napkin and wait for the clink it makes as it hits the bottom of the glass. Only the token is still in my hand — the clink was really the clear glass disk I had hidden in my palm. The disk fits exactly into the bottom of the glass, totally blending in so it’s invisible. I snap my fingers and whisk away the cloth, revealing what looks like an empty glass and an empty napkin. Where’d the token go?

  Everyone claps and hoots. Gabriella is so delighted she doesn’t even complain about losing her token. While everyone is oohing and aahing over the seemingly empty glass, I ball up the napkin with the token that I’d never actually let go of and stick it all in my pocket.

  Finley rolls his eyes, and that’s my signal to leave. Quick as a flash, I flip the disk out of the glass and make a mental note of slight adjustments to make the next time I perform the trick. Then I hop on my board and zoom out of the dining hall. I may be able to fool the others into thinking I don’t care about that photograph, but I’m having a hard time fooling myself. I have questions, and I know just the person to ask for answers.

  With so few of us living in such a confined space, you learn to tell each person apart by the oddest traits. Like right now, I can tell that Will is trailing about twenty feet behind me because when he exhales, a faint whistle zips through his front teeth. It’s so perfectly even that I swear you could use it to tell time. When I was younger, the rhythmic huuh-huuh-fweee, huuh-huuh-fweee used to lull me to sleep. Now between his whistling and Toby’s singing, it’s a wonder I get any sleep at all.

  I pretend I don’t know he’s following me as I speed up, looping around the winding hallway that leads down to the lower level of the station.

  Uncle Kent can usually be found in one of three places: Either he’s playing cards in the back of Shane’s garage, he’s at his job monitoring the gravity generator, or he’s staring out into the darkness of space on the Central Plaza’s observation deck.

  Since by all rights he should be in the middle of his shift at work right now, that means he’s either playing cards at Shane’s or on the deck. I head to the Central Plaza first. My lack of faith in my uncle’s work ethic is rewarded when I easily spot the back of his head.

  The glass dome that houses the obs