Robin Hood the One Who Looked Good in Green Read online

  “This one is empty of data,” she explains, turning it over in her hand. “My old one is … well … I had to leave it on Earth.” She scrolls through some settings and then holds up the tip of the pen. It’s glowing white-hot!

  “Mine definitely doesn’t do that!” I exclaim. Shane has some tools at the garage that heat up, but I hadn’t thought of using them to melt the lock. It’s a brilliant idea. “Can you show me how to use it?”

  Marian adjusts the temperature setting until I can actually see waves of heat rising from the tip of the pen. Careful to face it away from us, she holds the pen up to the box and traces a circle around the lock. Whatever material the box is made of sizzles. A few seconds later the lock falls off, right into my hand.

  We lock eyes and beam at each other. I throw open the lid, and we bend our heads to look inside.

  Well. I certainly didn’t expect that!

  Sitting on a bench in the middle of outer space and talking to a boy I only met this morning is already strange enough. Doing it while draped in three shimmering gold chains is a whole other level of bizarre. No gold has existed in Earth’s crust for hundreds of years, nor on any other planet known to us. This is a treasure beyond measure.

  Robin hasn’t spoken in the last ten minutes. I’m not even certain he has blinked. He just keeps staring back and forth between the necklaces, the now-empty box, and the data chip in his palm. I’m pretty sure he’s in shock, and I can’t say I blame him. I reluctantly return the chains to him before anyone else comes into the observation deck. He stuffs them in his pockets.

  Before opening the box, he was much easier to talk to than I would have expected due to my utter lack of experience. I suppose all those etiquette classes on “how to make conversation in various social situations” have paid off. I should probably see if I can help him recover his wits.

  I move my hand toward him, pull it back, then reach forward again until my fingertips are gently resting on his forearm. “Um, Robin? Do you want me to use my digi-pen to read the chip? Maybe it’s a letter explaining this. Or maybe you want to do it alone, in private? I’d understand. You hardly know me.”

  Wordlessly, he hands me the tiny chip. I guess I proved my trustworthiness by not running off with the gold. Not that there’s anywhere to run in a spaceport!

  I slide the chip into the slot on the side of the pen, and face the tip away from us. Instantly a holo-screen appears, filling with words and images of items I’ve only seen in classroom videos of the past. Much of it I’ve never seen before at all. More jewelry, cups, bowls, clothing, a folding chair, drawings, coins, a pocket-sized golden statue of a large-bellied man, two swords, a dagger, a pair of sky-blue elbow-length gloves, clear and brown glass bottles labeled OINTMENT and CREAM, and on and on.

  “It’s an inventory,” I say, stating the obvious. I point to the left side of the screen. “I think it’s telling us what objects are in each box.”

  He nods in agreement, but he still isn’t speaking. I turn off the pen and the screen disappears with it. Then Robin is on his feet, his words tumbling out.

  “What am I supposed to do with this? First, my parents totally disappear from my life, then they — or possibly someone else — sends me all this after they die? How did they possibly get all this stuff? What good does it do me? How am I supposed to feel?” He throws up his arms and takes a breath. Then he sits back down. “Sorry. Got a little carried away there.”

  “It’s a lot to process,” I assure him. “What are you going to do with it all?”

  He stares down at the box, then shakes his head. “I have no idea. I could sell or barter it, I guess, but there’s nothing I need up here that I don’t already have. How about I just don’t think about it? That’s worked for me in the past.”

  “Me, too,” I admit. “Although it catches up with you sooner or later. At least you know your parents were thinking of you, right? I mean, better late than never?”

  “I guess so. I’ll never get a chance to thank them, though.” He runs his fingers through his hair, knocking his hat to the floor. “Ugh, forgot I was still wearing that.”

  I pick up the hat and place it back on his head, adjusting the feather so it sticks out at an angle. “It suits you.”

  He smiles gratefully. I smile back. We sit there like that and I wait for it to feel awkward, but it doesn’t. Finally, I clear my throat. “Now that you’ve shared this treasure with me, I feel like it’s only fair if I show you something. It isn’t made of gold, but it’s a treasure, nonetheless.”

  “You don’t have to,” he says. “Not if it’s something you want to keep private.”

  “I want to.”

  He stands up and waits for me to join him. When I remain seated, he says, “Isn’t it in your suitcase? You seemed very attached to that.”

  I shake my head and reach for my boot. I wiggle my finger down far enough until I feel the folded piece of paper, then slide it out and hand it to Robin.

  “What is this?” he asks, rubbing it between his fingers. “I’ve never felt anything exactly like it before.”

  “It’s paper,” I whisper. “Real paper.”

  His eyes widen. Slowly, he unfolds it and spreads it out on his palm. “What do these letters and numbers mean? It looks like some sort of code.”

  I hadn’t planned what to say about it; I’d just wanted to show him. But of course he’d want to know. “I think — but don’t know for sure — that if we can figure out the code it will tell us what happened to King Richard.”

  His eyes widen again. “King Richard? Didn’t he leave Earth years ago on some kind of mission?”

  “That’s what everyone thinks. But he may never have left at all.” I do my best to recite the confusing conversation I’d overheard. I tell him I stole the code after scanning it into my old digi-pen and writing a fake one in the notebook. I run my finger over the middle of my palm. If that accident happened now, without the medi-bots, I’d have a painful blister. What a strange thought.

  Robin tilts his head at me, his eyes twinkling. “Well, well, Marian. Aren’t you the little sneak? It seems there’s more to you than just a pretty face.”

  I punch him on the arm and he laughs. Okay, so it was my first punch and he probably barely felt it.

  “Have you tried to decipher it yet?” he asks.

  I shake my head. “I hadn’t even thought of that.”

  “Isn’t that why you took it?” he asks.

  I realize this is a reasonable question, but I shrug. “I just wanted the paper.” It sounds lame, even to my ears. I wait for him to express some kind of disappointment that I hadn’t tried to help somehow, but Robin only says, “I don’t blame you. You don’t want to mess with Prince John. He’s not a good guy from what we hear up here. Why get involved with other people’s troubles?”

  So now I’m the one left with the vague sense of disappointment.

  “Sorry to interrupt you beating up my cousin,” a voice says from behind us. It’s the boy who introduced himself earlier as Will. “I punch him a lot, too.” He turns to Robin. “You should have seen their airship! That kid Asher who likes to hear himself talk gave us a tour. It was unreal! There were fifteen floors and —” He breaks off when he sees the paper in Robin’s hand. “What is that?”

  Robin glances at me, and I nod permission. Will snatches the paper and I wince, but it doesn’t rip.

  “It’s a code,” I tell him. “Before you ask, I have no idea how to break it. I couldn’t, even if I wanted to. We are not taught those kinds of skills where I’m from.”

  “We are,” Will says. “But you don’t need code-breaking skills to read this. It’s not a code.”

  “What do you mean?” I ask, taking the paper from him and looking harder at what’s written there.

  “These are coordinates,” Will says. “Sometimes the pilots let me and Robin hang around in their cockpits when they come to the station.” He points down at each line as he speaks. “It pinpoints a place relative t