Patreon reward for Zeelo. Zeelo starts a new job doing some experiments with lab rats and mazes… But no one seems to be at the lab on his first day.
The Littlest Lab Rat
When Zeelo arrived for his first day of work he found the lab completely abandoned. He turned the lights on and looked around for any signs of anyone else here. Absolutely nothing.
“Hello?” Zeelo called out as he crept through the lab. There was something eerie about it when it was abandoned. Everything was just so sterile and shiny. White walls, white floor and a gray counter and gray cabinets full of empty vials and flasks so clean it was as if they had never been used. Zeelo felt as if he didn’t belong… Which was weird, because he worked here now. Perhaps he should have dressed better? He was simply wearing a blue sweater, a pair of cargo pants and sneakers. He hadn’t even bothered to properly comb his unruly brown hair straight. They had told him there wasn’t a dress code and to just wear what was comfortable… But he felt like he didn’t belong in the lab.
He approached the counter, waking up a few rats as he did. They were solid white creatures, the kind usually found in labs. There were about three of them in a small terrarium sitting on the counter. One of them blinked hazily and stared up at Zeelo.
“Hey there little guy.” Zeelo awkwardly waved down at the little rats. “We get to work together today.” At least he assumed that was the case. He had been hired on to assist with the rat trials. It apparently just involved a few things like running mazes for an experiment that involved something about motivations. It seemed like it would be easy enough. He just wished that his new boss or at least one of his coworkers would show up.
Zeelo leaned against the counter and began to fidget as he tried to think of a way to pass time. As he did, the rats in the terrarium seemed to become more active. Two of them had gotten up and disappeared into a plastic tube Zeelo couldn’t see into. The third was standing with his forepaws pressed against the glass and was looking up at Zeelo.
“Curious little guy, huh?” Zeelo smiled, until a series of loud grinding and whirling noises began to come from inside the tube. “What are those other two up to?” Zeelo knelt down to try to peer into the tube, worried about what could be making so much noise.
The two rats chose to reappear at that moment. They crawled out from the tube carrying what looked like screwdriver with a bunch of electrodes and wires on it. One rat carefully held the tip in his mouth while the other one had the handle perched on his back.
“Um, should you guys have-“ Zeelo started to ask but was interrupted as the glass wall of the terrarium fell outward towards him. The rat that had been watching him earlier instead of falling forward, now stood balanced on his hind legs as if it were a natural posture.
“Alright, he’s in position! Give it a shot!” The rat on two legs shouted. Zeelo didn’t even have time to process this had happened before the screwdriver the other two held lit up with bright green energy. The energy leaped from the tip of the screwdriver, arcing across the room like lightning before striking Zeelo right in the face!
“GAH!” Zeelo let out a shout and then everything started to swell all around him. The counter and the rats seemed to be moving away from him at incredible speeds while the floor was rushing up to meet him. And then something landed on top of him and everything went dark. Zeelo squirmed around, trying to comprehend what had just happened and what had just landed on top of him… And… Why was he naked!?
Zeelo’s clothes were just gone. He struggled around beneath the tarp or whatever trying to find where they had been, but there was no sign of them. Clothes didn’t just disappear like that! And… What if his coworkers showed up now? How was he going to explain this!? He struggled and began to dig around beneath the strange fabric as he tried to find a way out. Maybe if he could get out from under this tarp he’d find his clothes nearby.
“I think he’s over here.” Zeelo heard a voice nearby outside the tarp. Were the other employees here? That was bad. He slowly backed away from the sound of the voice hoping that they hadn’t noticed him. “Think he’s underneath the underwear.” Zeelo wasn’t sure what the voice meant that time… But suddenly the tip of the tarp was lifted up and light flooded into the room.
“Look I can explain!” Zeelo blurted out quickly as he did his best to cover himself. But, then what he saw before him stunned him to such a degree that modesty was completely pushed from his mind. Standing before Zeelo was a massive rat, far larger than any creature he had ever encountered before. By comparison, Zeelo would only be about as tall as the rat’s ankle.
“There you are.” The rat reached out a paw for Zeelo. Zeelo tried to back away, but didn’t move fast enough before he found himself lifted into the air and then resting on the rat’s palm. He got a glance of his surroundings in the process. The canvas he had been stuck underneath looked a lot like the boxers he had been wearing… Except a hundred times bigger than they should have been! And there were other giant clothes nearby! Meanwhile, the floor and walls in this place were the same sterile white as the lab. From this perspective he couldn’t see anything, but a large cliff wall in the distance was likely the counter. Zeelo had shrunk. There was no other possible explanation. He had shrunk, and he was so small he was practically a rat to a rat.
The rat closed his paw around Zeelo cutting off his view of the room before running back to the counter. He slowly climbed up the counter, trying not to jostle the tiny human held in his paw. He was partially successful, but a few times Zeelo found himself thrown against the wall of the rat’s fingers before they had reached the top where the other two rats waited. Once at the top, the rat opened his paw again allowing Zeelo to see as all three rats entered the terrarium. From there they headed through the cardboard tube, and whatever Zeelo has expected it wasn’t this.
On the other side of the tube was the insides a purple plastic dome, the kind many people might put in a terrarium for a pet to have a quiet place to sleep. It gave the light that managed to shine through the plastic a purple hue as it lit up the wood chips on the floor. But those were the only normal things there. Scattered around inside this dome were what appeared to be several tables covered in a mess of papers. There were also several test tubes, beakers and flasks, many filled with bubbling liquids sitting on different tables. It was a lab, and one that looked to be very busy. However, unlike the lab outside this lab and everything in here was sized for rats. Of courses, that meant that even a single test tube was something small enough to contain Zeelo.
He didn’t find himself thrown into a tube or even a flask though, instead Zeelo found himself gently set down atop a table. The three rats then vanished for a moment, only to reappear later all wearing fitting lab coats and goggles. Zeelo was so overwhelmed he couldn’t even find his voice to ask what was happening.
“He seems really nervous…” One of the rats spoke, it was one of the two that had aimed that strange screwdriver at Zeelo. He appeared to be shorter than the other rats.
“Why should he be nervous?” A second rat spoke up. He was the other who had aimed the thingy! This one had strange scratch marks all over its paws for some reason. “I mean, he answered the ad right? So he knew what was happening.” He crossed his arms.
“Hey! Be easy on the little guy!” The third rat was the one who had stolen Zeelo from out of his own underwear. When he spoke, he did so with authority that seemed to make the other two pay attention. “Even though he did sign up for this, I’m sure Reduction must be an overwhelming experience till you’ve had time to get used to it.”
Zeelo tried to speak but words failed him. Instead he just scooted back from them on the counter. He watched all three of them unsure of what they were going to do to him. They were just enormous Titans towering over him, he could barely tell them apart. In his head he found himself unconsciously assigning names to the three rats to keep them apart. Junior, Scratch and Boss. He would have considered Shorty for Junior… But given the height comparison to himself it felt inappropriate.
“Well, let’s get the experiment started.” Boss spoke as he stepped away from the counter. “I’m quite curious as to what results we’ll get. Let me just fetch the apparatus.” Zeelo cowered on the table, he had no idea what strange machine they were about to test on him. Considering their previous device had shrunk him, who knew what would happen next!
But, when the apparatus was revealed Zeelo was stunned by the how simple the reveal was that he completely forgot to be scared. Boss had dropped what appeared to be a giant (from Zeelo’s point of view) box into the table next to Zeelo. While it had no roof, it had several walls throughout it. Zeelo couldn’t see much of it from here, but he recognized it as a maze; the same type of maze he thought he was going to watch rats run through today.
“What?” He managed to say flatly.
“Alright I’ve got the stop watch.” Junior chittered excitedly. “Ok little guy go!” Zeelo just stared up at the giant rat in disbelief.
“He’s not going…” Scratch muttered.
“Maybe he’s just thinking about how to get through the maze first?” Junior suggested.
“Or maybe the problem is just motivation.” Boss spoke up. “That is what this experiment is about after all. Right now we haven’t given him any reason to run. But…” Boss stepped away from the moment and came back carrying the biggest M&M Zeelo had ever seen. The rat broke a piece off that was small enough for even Zeelo to hold in one hand and set it on the counter next to him. Then he stared at Zeelo expectantly.
“Uhhhhh.” Zeelo stared back. Were they expecting him to eat it? He kind of saw much bigger problems right now.
“He’s not taking it.” Junior motivated.
“Maybe he’s defective?” Scratch suggested.
“Or perhaps candy isn’t an adequate motive for someone of his age.” Boss shrugged. “He does appear to be an adult human male, and while our research does not shove adult humans as having any adverse reaction to various candies it does show that we get far more enthusiastic reactions from younger specimens.”
“So if he was younger he might be motivated now?” Junior suggested.
“Now there’s a hypothesis worth testing!” Boss grinned. “Quick fetch the Immortality Serum!” At this Scratch disappeared, and then reappeared holding an eyedropper directly above Zeelo.
Zeelo tried to get up to his feet to run, but by that point a single droplet had already fallen. The drop was enough to knock Zeelo down onto his stomach as it hit him. He felt disoriented as he tried to stand back up. Then the room seemed to start growing bigger. It wasn’t as dramatic as last time, but there were other changes for Zeelo than just getting smaller. He grew a little thinner as muscles faded. He was getting younger. After a few seconds, he was a mere thirteen years of age. He just stared in awe down at himself. Somehow this felt even more unbelievable than the shrinking.
“He’s still not going for it. Give him another drop.” Boss spoke up.
“W-wait!” Zeelo tried to cry, but it was too late. Another drop splashed down on top of him, and again he began to regress younger. This time his body become rounder and squatter in general as baby fat began to form. Now Zeelo was somewhere around six years of age.
“Ok, let’s see if he goes for it now.” Boss spoke. Zeelo stared at the giant rat, then stared at the candy and then stared up at the eyedropper.
Zeelo had a pretty good idea of how this would go down if he did nothing. So he quickly scrambled towards the small piece of candy and devoured it. It was actually really good. He had no idea if it was being smaller or being younger that made it taste better than normal. Maybe a combination of both.
“There we go! We have out motivation!” Boss clapped his hands. “Perfect now…” Boss reached behind the maze where Zeelo couldn’t see. “I’ve placed the rest of that candy at the end of the maze. So if you want it all you have to do is get to the end.”
Zeelo wasn’t exactly sure how he felt about this, but he was scared of what would happen if he didn’t cooperate so he decided to try. He crept slowly into the maze and looked around. There were at least three different passages he could take from here and no possible way to know which one would get him to the end. He needed a strategy. He stopped to think for a few seconds as to the best way to approach this.
“He’s going really slow.” Junior muttered.
“But we have proven that making him younger increases motivation! So if he’s even younger, he’ll likely move faster!” Scratch happily moved the dropper over the maze.
“Oh are you kidding me?” Zeelo was hit with the droplet a third time making him even younger. This time the deaging left him at a mere two years old. He began to wobble back and forth on his legs. After a few seconds he fell forward onto all fours. “Just great…” He muttered. But he also realized he risked becoming a newborn if he didn’t get going. He had at least come up with a plan! He’d just hug the left wall till he got to the end. He started to crawl forward as fast as he could keeping an eye on the wall.
“I think perhaps we made him too young.” Boss shook his head. “He can’t really walk properly now.”
“But he does seem more motivated!” Scratch replied excitedly.
“True but maybe you should have been a little less eager with the Immortality Serum.” Junior tilted his head to the side as he stared down at Zeelo. “There’s no way to get him back to his previous age now. Even if we waited ten years now he’d still be like that.”
“WHAT!?” Zeelo shouted at that. He was going to be a little toddler forever!?
“Hmmm, this does bode a problem.” Boss spoke up. “He is awfully slow like this, but we can’t reverse it… So perhaps we should modify something else to make this faster.”
Zeelo could only dread what that would mean and tried to hustle, but of course as a small toddler he could only move so fast. He gulped nervously when he saw the eyedropper above him again. Once more, a drop came down on him. He didn’t get any smaller this time. Instead, brown fur began to grow in on his hands and feet. This gave Zeelo pause as he stared at them for a moment. Pads grew on the palms of his hands, and tiny claws formed on the edge of the hands and feet. Meanwhile the hair, or fur as it was this point had spread all the way up to his elbows. He also felt his center of weight change, and suddenly found that instead of crawling on all fours, he was now standing on four paws like most animals.
“Huh…” Zeelo trotted forward, realizing that he could move a lot easier on these paws now. In fact, he felt like he could even run on them. Just to see if he could, he burst into a sprint going forward as fast as he could. It turned out, it was pretty fast! Unfortunately, even with the traction provided by his claws it turned out he wasn’t good at making turns yet, and so crashed into the wall before falling back on his back.
“He’s having a little trouble getting around it seems.” Junior wrote down a few notes on a clipboard.
“Perhaps he needs some kind of counter-balance for his body?” Scratch suggested.
Zeelo didn’t get a chance to wonder what this meant. He was still picking himself up off the ground when another droplet hit him. This time the changes started at his spine. A long tail exploded out from the tip, growing in length to just as long as the rest of his body combined.
“Huh…” Zeelo sat up on the ground and pawed at his new tail. “This I kind of like…”
“You know, it occurs to me he might corner faster if he had more than one tail.” Junior suggested.
“Capital idea!” Boss responded and again a drop of liquid was dropped onto Zeelo.
The second tail, equal in size to the third sprouted up. Zeelo could only stare at them, completely mesmerized. They seemed to have a mind of their own, just slowly twitching in anticipation.
“Why stop at two?” Scratch asked and administered another drop of potion.
“Gah!” The droplet hitting him got Zeelo’s attention again. The third tail sprouted, and he really just wanted to play with the tails, but remembered he was supposed to be running this maze. The goal was to get that candy.
Wait no… The goal was to stop them from experimenting on him. That was why he had to get to the end! He wasn’t buying into this or enjoying it! He quickly climbed to four paws and took off running trying to find the end of the maze.
“Look at that he’s moving a lot faster now!” Junior squeaked happily. “And not crashing into corners. But… He’s going completely in the wrong direction.”
“Perhaps human senses are not fine tuned enough for this?” Boss suggested.
“Makes sense.” Junior nodded. “He’s got those little tiny ears, I bet they can’t hear anything! Let’s see if we can upgrade those.
Part of Zeelo hoped he could outrun the droplet before it landed on him this time. And another part of him, one that he hated to admit was growing stronger by the second, wanted to dive into it on purpose to see what would happen. Regardless of his own choice, Junior used the droplet with expert precision. Zeelo was at least able to brace himself this time to avoid being knocked down.
Now his ears were growing, and the tips were becoming points. Zeelo sat down on his bottom and felt around his head trying to get an idea of what was going on. From the feel, it was shaped like he had cat ears… Except they were still growing. The ears stretched out, maintain their catlike points, but soon were as long as a rabbits, while still being as wide as a cat’s. They perked up, listening for every sound, and when Zeelo let them droop the tips could touch the ground.
“How is that supposed to help!?” Scratch demanded. “Is he supposed to hear the candy?”
“I thought we wanted to improve his senses…” Junior whined.
“His sense of smell!” Scratch moaned before grabbing a new eyedropper and releasing a new droplet onto Zeelo before the tiny creature had time to move.
This time the changes were much less drastic. Zeelo’s nose turned black, and pushed out from his face slightly. Immediately he noticed the difference. He could smell the candy all the way from the other side of the maze now and tell which direction it was in.
“Ok I got this…” Zeelo broke into a sprint, he was getting excited. That M&M was bigger than he was. No doubt that’s be a great treat. Yet, he felt like there was something else he was forgetting now. After a few seconds though he hit a dead end. He knew the chocolate was in that direction, but he was going to have to find another route around.
Zeelo looked down at his claws. They looked pretty sharp. He wondered… He pressed a paw against the wall of the maze and dug in. The wall seemed to be made of cardboard and tore slightly, but remained intact. Zeelo then placed his second forepaw, dug his claws in and lifted himself up off the ground. The wall held his weight.
“Yes!” Confident in his new ability to climb, Zeelo started right up the wall. He could just go in a straight line now.
“Hey that’s cheating!” Junior shouted.
“Is it?” Boss asked. “This is an experiment about human motivation and behavior. If this is how a human naturally acts, it doesn’t ruin the experiment… But I worry he’s going to get dirty or scratched up tearing pieces of cardboard out like that…”
What Boss was referring to was the fact that as Zeelo climbed the wall bits of it ripped out and got stuck in his hair or on his body. They didn’t bother him that much, but it did look odd.
“You know, the human body is kind of naked…” Boss mused. “The cardboard is harmless, but in a real environment he could get cut up pretty easy. I think he needs some kind of protection.” Boss fetched a new dropper.
Zeelo was less irritated by getting hit by a new droplet, and more annoyed that they didn’t at least let him finish climbing the wall. The drop knocked him off the wall and sent him plummeting back to the ground. The fall was really only about two inches, but from his view that was a lot! At least he did find the changes relatively favorable. The brown fur that covered his hands and feet was growing in over his entire body. His fur was soft, yet thick, providing a layer of protection and warmth for his skin. Zeelo stood up on two legs for a moment and looked himself over. He was… Pretty cute actually. He looked like some kind of bunny-cat-fox thing.
“Wait, the candy!” Zeelo remembered what he was after and jumped onto the wall and began to climb again.
“Look at the little guy go, he’s really motivated now!” Junior beamed. “This experiment is yielding all kinds of data.”
“Yeah but if he’s just going to climb walls it might take him a bit, he’ll have to get past more than one.” Scratch muttered.
“Yeah but once he’s up top he can just run along the walls, so it won’t be that bad.” Junior was unconcerned.
“Unless he falls in. Then he could hurt himself.” Scratch rubbed the bottom of his muzzle. “I’ve got an idea. I think we can speed this up and make sure he doesn’t hurt himself.”
At hearing this Zeelo sighed and released himself from the wall. He wasn’t even going to bother trying to get up until the changes were done. He just let the droplet hit him.
This time the changes were along his back. A pair of feathered wings sprouted from him, with dark brown feathers and light brown tips. Zeelo experimentally flapped them. He was so small it was easy to lift off into the air.
“So I guess it’s a bunny-cat-fox-griffin now.” Zeelo shook his head. He had no idea what he was supposed to be at this point. But he was pretty sure if he saw one, he’d want to keep it as a pet.
But that wasn’t important. He could fly! Zeelo quickly soared up and over the wall. He was free of the maze! He could easily fly away and try to escape these rats. But that was the last thing on his mind. Instead, he flew straight for the M&M, crashing into it with manic glee and clinging to its side once he had arrived.
“MINE!” Zeelo shouted as he tried to bite into it.
“Well, I think we’ve learned a lot about humans and what drives them.” Boss nodded. “I think that’s enough for today’s trials.”
Junior reached over towards Zeelo’s candy. Zeelo hissed, a noise he just now learned he could make and clung to the chocolate trying to protect his prize. There wasn’t much he could do though as the candy was lifted up, with him still clinging to it. The rat then walked across to the other side of the plastic dome where there was another table. Atop it, there was a terrarium nearly identical to the one they were all in, but much smaller. Junior dropped Zeelo into the terrarium and quickly shut the lid before he could get out. That idea though hadn’t even occurred to Zeelo. Instead, he had climbed atop his candy and was making vicious but high-pitched barking noises, warning the rat not to try to take it again.
“Excitable little guy aren’t you?” Junior grinned. “But I imagine you’re going to get bored in there all by yourself. Don’t worry though! We’ve got new employees coming in every day this week, so you’ll have some friends in there soon!”
With that, all three rats removed their lab coats and goggles, dropped down to all fours and scampered out of the tunnel. Zeelo was left alone where he began to greedily devour his prize. He knew there was something more important he should have been concerned with… But right now he was mostly wandering what kind of friends they were going to bring him.