Robin Hood the One Who Looked Good in Green Read online

  Gareth’s hand immediately went out to grab his ponytail. He may have emitted a little whimper.

  It’s now six minutes later, and I’m standing in a spaceport. I’ve heard of them, of course, but never thought about what it might be like to go to one. In my head, I’d pictured them looking like our buildings on Earth, or like the building-shaped airship that brought us here. But it’s nothing like that at all. It’s round, for starters, and made of materials that I’ve never seen before. And the clothes! They are simple and utilitarian, and they are all green!

  The crowd smiles at us as we enter, and a few of the younger kids wave their arms in greeting. It’s obvious from their wide, expectant expressions that they’re as curious about us as we are about them. How strange it must be to live up here.

  My eyes land on a boy around my age, maybe a little older. He has nearly black hair and the greenest eyes I’ve ever seen. They seem to be boring a hole straight through mine. The color reminds me of the jewel in the headpiece Grandmother gave me. I’m now very glad she made me take it. It’s a little piece of her so very far away from home.

  I can’t pull my gaze away from his for what feels like a really long time. Long enough for Sarena to make a little “ahem” sound and nudge me. I force myself to turn my attention toward the man in uniform striding toward us. Seeing how the crowd parts for him, he’s clearly the captain of the station.

  “Welcome, visitors, to Spaceport Delta Z.” He spreads his arms wide. “She isn’t much to look at, but we’re mighty proud of her. I’m Commander Harlon. Please make yourselves at home while your ship is being repaired. We have the finest mechanics this side of the Milky Way. And don’t worry about your teacher — he’s in good hands with our nurse. She’ll fix him right up.”

  “Let me guess,” Asher says. “She’s the finest nurse this side of the Milky Way?”

  The residents laugh, and the commander grins. “As a matter of fact, she is.” From anyone else, Asher’s comment would have come out sounding obnoxious. I steal a glance at the black-haired boy in time to see him roll his eyes. Guess Asher’s charm doesn’t work on other teenage boys. Or at least, not this one. I stifle a laugh.

  The commander gestures for one of the older boys to join him. “This is my son, Finley. He’ll take you all to the arcade to relax with some old-timey video games. Collecting them is a hobby of mine.”

  He beams, clearly proud of this. I’m not entirely sure what a hobby is, or what an old-timey video game would even look like, but I feel a stir of curiosity. It’s different than the awe I feel at being here in this foreign place, as the stars stream around us. The curiosity comes from that part of my brain that is hungry all the time, and I don’t mean for vita-squares.

  “Let’s go,” Finley says, waving for us to follow him. His voice is not yet as commanding as his father’s, but it will be soon.

  The green-eyed boy suddenly rushes toward me and lunges for my big suitcase! I instinctively pull back, stepping on Sarena’s toes in the process.

  “So sorry!” I gasp as she lets out a small yelp.

  “You look like you could use some help,” the boy tells me, reaching for the handle again.

  I jerk back farther the second time, knocking into Sarena again and apologizing as she rubs her upper arm this time. I’m not entirely sure why I’m reacting this way. The suitcase really is big, thanks to that abandoner Ivy, who insisted I should be prepared for any situation. Bet she hadn’t been programmed to consider this one! And it’s true that I have little experience (okay, none) lugging heavy objects, but Grandmother’s headpiece is packed in there, and I will never forgive myself if it went missing. Gareth offering to carry it to my room on the airship was different. I simply cannot entrust this treasure to a stranger. And he is definitely strange, with his green clothes and eyes like emeralds and black hair so deep it almost looks purple.

  “I’m fine,” I snap.

  The boy doesn’t reply, only tilts his head up at me. Then he seems to find his voice. “The arcade is on the other end of the spaceport, and I’m stronger than I look. Stronger than you, certainly.” He grins a bright, wide smile that’s lost on me.

  “How do you know how strong or weak I am?” I tighten my hold on the suitcase. A boy a little younger than him is trying to get his attention by pulling on his shirt, but he’s ignoring him. In my ear, Sarena hisses, “Let him take it! He’s flirting with you.”

  My eyes widen at that. Insulting me is his way of saying he likes me? Maybe that’s how it works and I’m simply clueless. I have no experience meeting a new boy my own age. I’ve known all the others on my rung of society’s ladder my whole life. I’m certain this boy would not be a suitable match, so why bother?

  Sarena hisses at me again. “For goodness sake, Marian, you don’t need to marry him, just give him your suitcase so we can all move on!”

  “Cousin, you’ve got no game!” Will says, shaking his head at me as we join the large group now headed toward the arcade. I fold my arms over my chest and scowl. Both my arms are free to fold because I’m not the one carrying the pretty girl’s suitcase, Will is. Apparently she deemed him the safer bet just because he didn’t lunge at her like her suitcase was the last vita-square in the galaxy.

  “I’ve got plenty of game,” I argue. Although admittedly today’s events are making me question my skills. I can usually charm anyone into anything. A compliment about the lunch lady’s hairstyle always ensures an extra square is tossed my way. At dinner Uncle Kent no longer asks me to clean the dishes, not after I “accidentally” dropped them so many times. Even the commander doesn’t yell at me for riding my hoverboard in restricted travel lanes because I can always tell him what playing card he’s holding and he loves magic tricks.

  But the truth of it is, I’ve never spoken to a girl my own age who I felt this way about, let alone one with flowing hair the color of the corn in our birthday meals. And her eyes! Blue like the sky in the image of my ancestor in the photo that has now disappeared without a trace. And she’s smart! It shone through when she looked at me. I know that sounds sappy, but it’s the truth.

  But the coolest thing about the girl is her voice. She’s said only twelve words to me, but they came out like notes of a song. An angry song, sure, but one I can still hear playing in my head. When I first heard her talk it rendered me unable to speak and I probably looked like a dork, just staring at her mutely.

  Okay, clearly I’m in trouble.

  “Maybe you’re right,” I grumble to Will out of the corner of my mouth. The last thing I need is for the girl to hear me. She’s sticking very close to her suitcase, only turning away briefly to gawk at the observation deck as we pass by it. “Tell me what I’m supposed to do,” I whisper. “How do I get her to like me?”

  He glances over at me. “How many days since you’ve changed into fresh clothes?”

  I follow his gaze. My shirt is stained, a hole has popped up over one knee, and a string dangles from the hem of my sleeve. I don’t reply.

  “Go to our home unit and change your clothes. Maybe wash your face and comb your hair, too. Girls like a boy who looks put together.”

  I stare at him. “Where do you get this stuff?”

  He rolls his eyes. “It’s common sense.”

  “Fine.” I sigh. “I’ll meet you at the arcade.”

  It only takes me five minutes to get to our home unit, which is one of the closest ones to the Central Plaza. One of the perks of being here so long.

  I scramble through my drawers, pulling out, then discarding, shirt after shirt until I find one that only has a slight stain. If I wear it backward, she shouldn’t even notice it. The pants are more difficult. I never considered how shabby my wardrobe had become.

  I wind up taking a pair of Will’s pants instead. He’s a little shorter than me, so I push down the waistband a few inches and tighten my belt so my ankles won’t peek out. I run the risk of them falling down on me, but at least they’re clean and in one piece.