Robin Hood the One Who Looked Good in Green Read online

  After he recovers from the shock and hears my explanation, he sits unmoving for quite a while. “Have you opened any of the others?”

  I shake my head. “They’re still in quarantine.”

  “We need to talk to the commander about releasing them. And you’ll need his permission to leave the station on your own — not that he’d try to stop you, but there’s a process.” He scratches at the stubble on his chin. “Boy, you go years without much happening up here and then suddenly everything changes.”

  I swallow hard. “I know.” Then I add, “Is it okay if I talk to the commander myself?”

  He looks surprised. “You sure?”

  I nod. “Plus, it’s almost your shift, and I’m pretty sure Vinnie is going to beat you up if he winds up on the ceiling again.”

  “Guess you may as well start practicing taking care of your affairs.”

  I want to reassure him that I’m not going to be gone forever, but the way these last few days have gone, I’m starting to doubt my ability to predict anything anymore.

  Finley is in the command center with the commander when I walk in. He startles a bit when he sees me, his eyes darting to his father and back. He doesn’t need to worry; I have no plans to reveal any part of his family’s history.

  “I’m sorry to bother you, Commander. Can I talk to you for a minute?”

  The commander presses a few buttons on his massive control screen, adjusting the lighting levels to the nighttime setting. He then turns toward me. “Ah, it’s Robin. Twice in one day I get the pleasure of your company. Lucky me.”

  “I’ll be quick,” I tell him. “First, I want to give you this.” I pull a strand of gold out of my pocket. “You’ve always treated me fairly and with kindness, and I know I didn’t always deserve that.”

  He takes the chain and lets it dangle from his hand. Finley looks like someone who just won the intergalactic lottery.

  “It was inside one of my parents’ boxes,” I continue. “I’m sorry I took it from quarantine and opened it, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t release a deadly virus onto the spaceport. The box contained only the necklaces and an inventory of a bunch of random items from the other boxes.”

  Since neither of them has found their voices, I keep going. “Plus, I would like permission to ask the next ship heading to Earth if it would take me and Marian with them.”

  “Who’s Marian?” Finley asks, still mesmerized by the swinging chain.

  I feel like I’ve known Marian forever, but of course it’s only been a few hours. “She’s the yellow-haired girl from the Royal Horizon. She needs to go back home, and her own ship must continue its course. So do I have your permission?”

  The commander clears his throat and hands the chain back to me. “I did not think you’d be able to resist opening the boxes. I’m surprised you stopped at one.”

  I chuckle. I should have figured him leaving me behind outside the quarantine room wouldn’t have gone unnoticed.

  The commander sits down in the large chair by the main security control unit. “Your uncle has given his blessing?”

  “Yes, sir.”

  Now it’s his turn to laugh. “After fourteen years I finally get a sir out of you.”

  I try to hand him back the necklace, but he shakes his head. “Keep it. You may need it.”

  Finley opens his mouth as if to argue, but his dad shoots him a look and he closes it again.

  “Thank you again, sir,” I say. I honestly believe my voice is sounding more respectful by the minute. “I know it might be a while, but will you let me know when the next ship heading to Earth arrives?”

  The commander nods. “It may be more than a while, I’m sorry to say. Prince John has just put a halt on interstellar travel to or from Earth for any ship that didn’t originate from there. That will lessen your chances by a considerable amount.”

  My stomach twists as he flicks on a digi-pen and a screen fills the space between us. “There are only two Earth-based airships off-planet currently. One is the Royal Horizon, which as you know is headed out of the solar system. The other is currently in the Gamma Quadrant and won’t be back this way for six months.”

  “Six months!”

  “ ’Fraid so,” he says. “I’ll let you know if anything changes.”

  I mumble a thank-you, and as I pass by, I drop the necklace into the commander’s coat pocket. Consider it my final magic trick.

  I then walk slowly from the room. I’m not in any hurry to tell Marian about this giant setback. She may as well still go on her trip to Earth Beta. She’d make it back home quicker that way.

  I haven’t made it more than a few yards down the corridor before Finley comes rushing up behind me. He pulls me aside and whispers, “I have a way to get you to Earth. I said I owed you one, so this will make us even.”

  “That would make us more than even, Finley.”

  He leans closer. “Your only chance will be to leave while the Royal Horizon is still docked here. It will block the view in case anyone is looking, and their signal will block the radar, too.”

  I glance back at the command center to make sure the door is shut. “I appreciate the help, Finley, but you heard your dad. There aren’t any Earth ships heading toward us, and the only other ship on Delta Z besides the Royal Horizon is Shane’s shuttlecraft, and I already asked him.”

  Finley shakes his head. “That’s not the only other ship on Delta Z.”

  The guest quarters here aren’t as fancy as my bedroom at home, but they’re comfortable enough, with soft blankets and a holo-picture over the dresser of an ocean lapping against a beach. I find myself entranced by it, admiring how the water leaves imprints in the sand as it roars in and retreats, over and over. At home all of the images of how the earth used to be have been destroyed, or at least hidden away. No one wants the constant reminder of what we’ve lost. Up here, though, they must not think of it that way.

  Sarena knocks on my door and comes in without waiting for my reply. Lying to my classmates wasn’t easy. I couldn’t tell them the real reason, though, and risk them getting in trouble simply for their knowledge. Gareth and Asher tried to convince me that I’ll get over the homesickness as soon as our journey continued and we got busier. Sarena was quiet, watching me steadily with her dark eyes.

  “I know why you’re really not coming with us,” she says now, plopping down on the edge of the bed.

  I keep unpacking my large suitcase, trying to keep my hands steady. “You do?”

  She nods. “It’s because of Robin.”

  I rest my pajamas on the pile and look up. “Robin?”

  “I’ve seen how you two look at each other. Like love at first sight.”

  I laugh at that. “He tried to grab my suitcases at first sight. That’s hardly love.”

  “Believe me,” she says, “I remember. My arm still aches. And look!” She pushes up her sleeve to reveal a widening splotch of purple and blue on her skin.

  I gasp. “What is that?”

  She smiles. “It’s a bruise! Without the medi-bots, this is what happens when we get hit — or, in my case, when someone backs into us!”

  Fascinated, I reach to touch it with one finger. “Look at all those colors!”

  Sarena pulls back. “It’s pretty, but it does hurt a little.”

  “Sorry!” I say.

  She twists her arm around to see it better. “Actually, I think it’s kind of interesting.” She rolls down her sleeve and looks up at me. “It’s not so bad up here, you know, where our every move isn’t monitored?”

  I nod in agreement. “I’d miss the medi-bots, but I wouldn’t miss the grid, that’s for sure.”

  “Marian,” she says, turning serious. “Whatever you’re doing, be careful.”

  I don’t answer. How can I? I can’t promise anything.

  “When are you leaving?” she asks.

  I shake my head. “It could be a while before the right ship comes along.”

  “You sure you’ll