Robin Hood the One Who Looked Good in Green Read online

  We are surrounded by STARS.

  Since the sun doesn’t rise or set over Delta Z, night and day are relative concepts. When he took over, the commander chose to align our noon and midnight with the planet below us. To tell the difference, all the lights dim at night, and are on full blaze during the day. Since I can’t sleep due to my whole life apparently no longer existing, I’ve spent most of the last ten hours wandering the dark station and now the bright lights seem like a cruel joke. I’m currently shooting off virtual arrows into virtual targets because I can’t deal with going to real-life school today, no matter the consequences.

  “There you are, Robin!” Will says, running up behind me. “I’ve been looking all over for you. I haven’t seen you for more than a few minutes since class yesterday.”

  “I’d have thought this would be the first place you’d check.” Swoosh! I let an arrow fly. “Do you know I don’t have a last name?”

  “Huh?” Will asks as my arrow hits the virtual bull’s-eye, as they almost all do. This game is probably rigged in favor of the player so we’ll keep feeding it tokens.

  “I don’t have a last name,” I repeat. “You’re Will Stutely, Finley is Finley Harlon, Shane is Shane McAllister, and I’m Robin. Just Robin.”

  Will doesn’t say anything for a minute, then blurts out, “Not so. You’re Robin of Locksley!”

  I consider his answer, then shake my head. “That’s not a name; that’s a place.”

  “Why can’t it be both?”

  “It doesn’t matter anyway,” I tell him, reloading my quiver of virtual arrows. “I don’t exist anymore.”

  “Did you stick your head out an airlock without a helmet? You’ve been acting very weird.”

  So I tell him about the DNA results, and that quiets him down.

  “But that’s crazy,” he says. “Of course you exist.”

  “Do I?” I ask, only half kidding. “How do we know?”

  “I could kick you in the shin. If you say ow, we know you’re real.”

  “Okay, let’s assume you did that, and I passed the test. Why would all records of my family be gone?”

  He shakes his head. “I don’t know, but tell my dad and maybe he’ll have an idea.”

  “He’s been through enough these last few days, and he’s busy trying to find the boxes.”

  Will shakes his head again. “No, he got back in the middle of the night. He found them! They’re in quarantine!”

  I turn off the game. “Quarantine?”

  Will nods. “Apparently no one can get into the boxes, so they had to put them there in case they contain an unknown substance that could be dangerous. But that’s not all! The commander said you couldn’t have the boxes anyway. They don’t become yours until you’re seventeen.”

  “Why? And how does he know that?”

  Will shakes his head. “That’s what he told my dad, who’s at work now, by the way. He’s trying to make sure he doesn’t get fired and shipped off to Earth.” He gives a little shudder. “Probably better if we wait till his shift is over to ask about it, okay?”

  “Don’t worry,” I assure him. “I’m not going to bother him. I’m going straight to the source.” Then I storm out of the arcade, which has started to fill up with early-morning patrons. I’m tired of people knowing things about my life that I don’t.

  I’ve never been inside the quarantine room, which is all the way at the bottom of the spaceport. I have to pass by waste disposal on my way and make sure not to make eye contact with anyone through the window. I have a feeling after today they’re going to be my new best friends.

  KEEP OUT is emblazoned over the quarantine room in big letters, which normally I would ignore, but something about the skull and crossbones painted on the door gives me pause.

  I’ve heard stories about the shipments that have wound up in this room over the years. Things that slither, things that make fire, things that give off noxious odors. Those are sent right back off the station. The items that are questionable, have been mislabeled, or have no label at all are subjected to various tests. I’d really like to see what they’re doing to my boxes.

  I knock. No answer. Well, no one can say I didn’t try. So I push open the door and let myself in. To my surprise, no one is in there. The lights are on, though, and I can see three different stations set up around the room. The Locksley boxes have been evenly divided among them. One table holds a tub of water, another an X-ray scanner, another has jars of fluid that say Poison, Do Not Ingest on them. The whole thing is creepy, and I don’t like being here. Perhaps I do need Uncle Kent to help me.

  I start to back out of the room. I’ve almost reached the door when that most dreaded of contacts happens — the firm grip on the shoulder by a large, strong hand.

  “Hello, Robin,” the commander says. “When your teacher reported you absent I figured I would find you here. Your uncle told me what happened with your parents, and I see you’ve found your boxes. Are you doing okay?”

  Like I said, the commander is a pretty decent guy. I’m about to say something like Robin of Locksley is always okay, but instead I shake my head. “I’m pretty confused, actually. Maybe you can tell me why my boxes are being drowned and x-rayed and poisoned?”

  He removes his hand from my shoulder. “Yeah, sorry about all this. But the packages didn’t come with the necessary paperwork. We have no idea of their origins. Allowing them to be opened without testing them would be irresponsible. Do you understand?”

  “I guess.” I glance at the closest stack. “They’re all still locked, though?”

  He nods. “They all require the same combination.”

  “What is it?” I ask.

  “We have no idea,” he admits. “Our assumption is that when you turn seventeen you will receive the code somehow.”

  “Yeah, about that. Why do I have to be seventeen?”

  To my surprise, he replies with “That’s what your uncle told me. Your parents apparently gave him that instruction.”

  “Oh. So you haven’t gotten into any of them?”

  He shakes his head. “No. Now let’s get you to class. I promise we’ll take good care of your belongings. And if everything is deemed safe, they will be returned to you. And if one of the locks happens to be loose and you happen to peek inside, well, I never saw anything.”

  I give him a half smile, which is half a smile more than I’d been able to pull off since yesterday afternoon.

  As the commander walks with me (or should I say, escorts me) back down the hall, I gather up the nerve to tell him about what Robo-teach’s experiment pulled up for me. I figure he’ll hear about it sooner or later, so it may as well be from me.

  “What do you think it means?” I ask when I’m through.

  His expression grows very serious. “I think it means that whoever erased the records of your family is trying to protect themselves. I think you should let them. Just put it all behind you and let it go.”

  I nod, because I know that’s what he wants me to do. And because I think he’s right. My parents probably paid someone to wipe out the records of their lives after their deaths, not even thinking about how it might affect me. But they left in the first place without thinking of me, either, so why am I surprised?

  “Stay here and collect yourself for a minute,” the commander tells me. “Then get up to school, okay?”

  I nod. He starts to pat me on the shoulder when his watch buzzes and flashes red. “Commander here,” he says, then hurries off on official business and leaves me alone in the hallway. I take a few breaths, look around, and dart right back into quarantine. Like he said, I’ll put it all behind me — right after I get a look inside one of these boxes! I snatch the closest one — a medium-size box that was waiting to be submerged in water. I stick it under my arm and dash back out. It doesn’t matter that I can’t open it. Just having it makes me feel a little more in control.

  When I get up to the Central Plaza, I’m surprised to see it’s full of people.