Jason awoke to bright light caressing his face, though it felt like a slap to his senses. The light had a natural glow, not the odd yellow of incandescents or brilliant white of those new environmentally friendly bulbs. No, it was the same quality of light one would expect from a clear morning sky.
Morning!? he thought hastily. In sudden urgency he exited the train car, the doors of which were wide open.
The platform was unfamiliar, and for a few moments Jason was determined that he had woken up in the depot where trains are kept overnight.
But don't they check the cars for stow-aways before they leave? Seems kind of irresponsible. Wait, am I trespassing? Is this illegal?
A flood of questions, and a few curses, ran through Jason's mind until he saw other people at the far end of the platform. They didn't have the look of transport officials, and in fact didn't look quite like anything Jason could assign a name to; their fashion was entirely foreign.
I must be in one of the more rural stations, I guess, Jason thought. These aren't the cosmopolitan urbanites. Or maybe these are what morning people look like.
He walked slowly toward them, hoping they could help him with directions. As he walked down the platform he scanned the walls for signs or maps, anything to tell him where he was. He was an experienced transport user, and could probably recognize any of the lines based on the station name.
If only I could find a bloody sign board around here. Is this part of the brand new line? In their haste to open it did they forget about putting up the station names and line maps? Or maybe that's phase two or something like that. Wouldn't want to open a perfectly functional service, oh no! That would be too easy.
As he approached the cluster of people Jason came to realize that the foreign appearance wasn't limited to their style of dress. The pair of women were almost feline, their gentle curves and lithe limbs wrapped in what looked like silk and leather. The three men with them were similarly cat-like, though their built bodies could hardly be described as lithe. Something in their faces bore a chilling similarity to lions. They, too, were clad in delicate looking fabrics that clashed with the rough-looking leather vests and boots.
Where the eff are you, Jason? His thoughts were slow but panicked. Still sleeping, that's what. I'm still on the train, coming back from Jesse's. I've probably missed my stop and will have to walk now. You're an idiot, Jason. You really are. Now, wake up!
The five strangers were now looking at him, mild surprise showing in their faces. He was standing a few paces away from them, pinching the skin of his arm incessantly.
One of the women walked up to him, speaking in a language of gibberish he could not understand.
Definitely dreaming, kid. Would you wake up already?
When he didn't respond the woman looked back to her companions, eyes wide and questioning. One of the men strode forward to stand beside her, and looked intently at Jason. When the young man looked up from his useless pinching, he began to speak. This time, Jason could understand every word.
“You are under arrest for trespassing in the Imperial Railyard, human.”
The voice was deep and strong, but sounded almost muddled to Jason's ears. Underneath the words lurked a faint ambiance, which was distractingly similar to the earlier gibberish.
Jason was so engrossed in the strangeness of the man’s speech that the statement took a few moments to settle in. By that time, he had already been flanked by the two remaining men.
“Wait, under arrest?” he exclaimed as his arms were pinned forcefully to his back. Jason felt a cold pressure against his wrists followed by a series of clicks: he had been cuffed.
The foreign man shook his head and turned to his comrades, more of the earlier gibberish sputtering from his mouth. After receiving an answer and curt nods from his fellows he returned his gaze to Jason.
“Your pathetic attempts at speech are wasted on us,” he said flatly. “The King may be more receptive to your bestial groans.”
“I don’t even know–”
Jason was interrupted by a swift slap from one of the women that left his cheek stinging.
“Quiet,” she hissed. “There’s no protocol for dealing with your kind. We could deliver you half dead, for all the King cares,” she finished with a cruel smile.
Thoughts about the identity of this unknown king raced through Jason’s mind, though they brought him no closer to understanding what was going on. Or where he was, for that matter.
“Move,” one of the imposing men beside him growled. Jason was again reminded of his earlier association with lion.