The sounds of the party began to drift in through Janny’s second floor window. The sun had set as the Hub’s mechanical rotation took effect. Janny wasn’t sure why it had to rotate, but it was nice to have a day-night cycle again after so long in the darkness of the Endoleon ship. He was sat on the end of hsi springy white hotel bed and wondered what it would be like to go to sleep here tonight, so far away from anyone else he knew.
“Janny! Get down here!”
Janny poked his head out the window and saw Birt on the ground below, with his hand cupped around his mouth.
Janny grinned. “I’m on my way!”
He sprang up, giving himself a headrush. He’d found a few items in the wardrobe labelled ‘Captive Benefit’. He selected a neat olive short-sleeved button down, some loose fitting black trousers and a red and yellow hat. It was round and floppy, and as he looked at himself in the full-length mirror, he realised the red was exactly the same shade as his skin. It made it look like random swirls of yellow were balanced on top of a rather oddly shaped head. But his legs itched to get moving she he twisted it around, putting a large section of the yellow at the front, and headed downstairs.
A few doors opened and shut behind and in front of him on the way, and he nodded to his fellow hotel guests, realising after a while that he was smiling widely. Once he set eyes on Birt again he sprinted forward, waving rapidly. Birt grinned back and put a hand around his shoulder as he arrived.
“Welcome, Janny,” he said,pointing towards the centre of the plaza and slinging his arm around to encompass its entirety. “This is how we do it on the Official Flexies Branch of Hub Six!”
The water from the fountain was flashing all sorts of colours, but Janny couldn’t see any beams of light shining on it. The benches had been raised high in the air on long ladders and there were already a few Hub guests lounging around up there, viewing the ground below. And that ground was a dancefloor.
“Don’t worry - it’ll fill up,” Birt said. As of yet there were very few beings on the dancefloor. Some disco lights were coming from somewhere and the music, though Janny didn’t recognise the buzzing sound of the instrument being played, could only be described as ‘smooth’.
Fill up it did. After another hour or so, it was becoming difficult to walk. The high-pitched, excited voice of a DJ was booming down into the plaza from somewhere, but Janny couldn’t see the DJ anywhere. This DJ seemed to be encouraging jumping rather than walking.
As they jumped around, Birt introduced Janny to pretty much every being they found themselves facing - other Finsets, whose skin it turned out came in all sorts of colours and patterns, and some were incredibly tall. There were a few Daerians - mostly Fladians in similar clothes to the ones that had been left for Janny. There were also plenty of Endoleons, with the dull greys of their skin brightened up by flowing fluourescent clothes, and their eyesight carefully guarded by dark glasses, even though the sun had long since set.
“Ah, always good to go back to the classics!” the DJ shouted over the fadeout of a song that at least two thirds of the crowd had been singing along to. “That was for fans of Finset Party-bok! Now, I see some of you may need some time to recover from reliving your childhoods so we’re going to take a quick break. Grab a drink - here’s the news this hour.”
The bright dancing lights from the sky turned to a cool ice blue and stopped moving about. Janny jumped as a giant rectangular projection appeared above the fountain in the middle of the plaza. It featured a thin green being of Odela’s species sitting at a desk with a computer.
The being adjusted some black plastic on her knuckles, which Janny couldn’t fathom the purpose of, and said, “The recent spike in SRA abduction activity is beginning to become a more documented phenomenon. Negotiations are soon to take place for the fate of a Fladian named Horlen Doal. Elsewhere, a dozen as yet unnamed Fladians are believed to be on board a single Scentian drifter.” An image flashed of a large drifter ship - almost as big as trade ships - with little stick figures overlayed above and a label to indicate that they signified the numbers of Fladians estimated to be on board. “Still, the majority of Flexies are as yet unaware of this step up in operations. Please do warn any citizens you know or meet to be vigilant.”
Suddenly Janny felt as if his back was totally bare, and he remembered how far he was from the TS Daer-Ta and its crew. His eyes locked onto Birt, who had bounced to a stop several metres away, with closely packed layers of beings in between. Janny made to move towards him, but found his legs moving in the complete opposite direction. His breath caught and he glanced desperately around. He could just see the top of a thin orange head that might have been Birt’s, but really, he hardly knew the guy and the rows of beings were closing behind Janny as his legs took him through the crowd.
He tried to shout for help, locking eyes with as many strangers as he could, but his mouth wouldn’t open. There was some pressure holding his lips together but it didn’t stick out far enough from his face to see what it was. He got a few funny looks from the people who passed him, but nobody stopped to help. He just kept striding further, until he was right at the edge of the crowd.
At least he could see now. There were tight grey cuffs around his ankles, made of two bands stuck together of about an inch thickness each. He tried to put his hand up to whatever was on his mouth but couldn’t move his hands from his sides - there were cuffs around there too.
His legs seemed to be taking him back to the hotel, but at the last moment they veered to the right and took him down a narrow alley. His vision was for a moment completely useless as he was plunged into darkness after the blue glow of break time at a Flexian disco. But his eyes were Daerian, and quick to adjust. Besides, it wasn’t hard to recognise the wide grey form of an Endoleon.