The Lab Rat - Part 1 (By EzPete)

“So, what is these images supposed to be showing me anyway?” the short man in the dark grey suit asked. Thomas inhaled slightly as he prepared to go over it again. He tried his hardest to hide his displeasure at this assignment; he went into sciences to avoid dealing with idiots, but of course he was in fact the expert in the matter at hand and he had the vague suspicion his bosses would find busywork to punish him if he refused. He would do anything to keep collecting a paycheck, as long as he didn’t have to attend meetings and fill out pointless paperwork.

The room they were in was about thirty feet by sixty feet. A bit big for its normal use but perfect for the current situation. Along the far wall were a series of stainless steel Kennels, beside them, several steel tables with various equipment, a small centrifuge, plexiglass tank, beakers with water and food dye. All of this was expertly staged like a Disney attraction to create the idea of a busy lab.

A low wall divided the room about halfway with swinging gates to keep any escaped lab rats from getting to the side he was presently on. Six desks were arranged orderly, a fine layer of dust on four of them. He had turned off half the overhead fluorescents to make the pictures in front of them brighter.

In front of them were two side by side MRI scans, one of a dog brain, and one of the company’s main product. “Essentially, senator” gesturing at the part of the brain directly behind the forehead of the dog “this part of the brain is where we do all our thinking.” It was glowing with activity. “Here” moving his finger over to the fluffy’s MRI “You can see that part of the brain isn’t utilized at all.”

“Which means?” The senator asked yet again. Thomas clenched his teeth for a split second, this man had graduated Harvard law, but it may as well have been his brain they were looking at. “Which means they aren’t conscious; they don’t have feelings.”

Thomas was half lying. The methodology was flawed but it was basically the only data he could collect with the funding his bosses provided. What he was saying may have been true, but it was surprisingly hard to conduct any test on a fluffy without something screwing up the data.

The most obvious example was the fact that a fluffy completely lost its shit, figuratively and literally, when strapped into an MRI machine and reverted to its base ‘reptile brain’ under fight or flight circumstances. That part of the brain was glowing intensely in the image in front of him.

“I think I get what you’re getting at.” the senator replied. “Well, I was already thinking against voting for the SRA but some of my constituents were a bit concerned about the sanctity of life and all that.” Thomas smiled, hiding his frustration as much as he could, “I’m glad I could get you to see our side of things. If you don’t mind, my assistant Julia can show you out.” Thomas made a show of grabbing the medical images and sliding them into folders then moving over to carefully deposit them in a random file cabinet before grabbing a few vials from a medical refrigerator.

As soon as the door shut behind the senator, he immediately put the vials back, returned to his desk and collapsed into his ergonomic black pleather chair. That was the last senator his bosses had persuaded to visit their lab and the bill would go to vote tomorrow. He had hoped the former brain surgeon would be the easiest to explain it to, but they kept asked questions that were thirty years out of date and kept calling parts of the brain by incorrect names.

He looked at his reflection in his unpowered computer screen. He looked stupid, he had a fresh haircut and shave to impress the guests they had all week. This reinforces the youthfulness of his late twenties and the lack of respect that men older than their fifties afforded him. Normally an electric razor was enough for his facial hair, and he let his black hair grow enough to look like he didn’t earn six figures.

The SRA or Sentient Rights Act was a bill put forward to limit abuse of fluffies. Of course, he had already fallen into the habit of calling it the Shit Rat Act. He did his part in blocking the bill and in preventing, among many other things, the department of Agriculture regulating the mistreatment of fluffies as lab animals. No cameras to film him dicking off in his office, no mountains of forms to fill out for each fluffy euthanized, and no managers checking in at random times to assuage the concerns of the legal department.

*don don* Thomas looked over at the glass tank with his lab rat knocking on its plexiglass walls. “hewwo” a muffled voiced called out. “wewe nyo daddy go” the brown foal pleaded. “He wasn’t your new dad. He was visiting me.” “hu hu hu, nee daddy” it immediately started to cry. Thomas only ever saw brown fluffies down here, they didn’t move well enough as merchandise, so from a corporate level they were able to cut down on costs by funneling surplus stock to R&D.

The last time he saw a fluffy that wasn’t brown was when accounting wanted them to fix the color ratios of newborn foals. The pigmentation genes were too random to prevent the expression of multiple colors simultaneously. To avoid producing hideous combinations they made clear dominant and recessive colors. The only way to guarantee specific colors was to start from scratch and engineer entire breeds of color specific fluffies. Corporate was obviously not going to pay for hundreds of labgrown fluffy strains just to have a guaranteed color combinations. The single color pattern herds also did very poorly with target audiences, ‘Too artificial’, but that was advertisement’s problem, not his.

“hu hu hu” the foal continued, these were not the cries for attention of an entitled best baby but one of a genuinely sad fluffy. Thomas didn’t like having them in his office but it gave his managers the semblance of an idea he was doing work. He figured he should shut it up so he could go back to doing nothing in peace. He lifted the lid on the animal tank and scooped up the foal. “calm down lab rat” Thomas spoke softly to the distressed foal. “Nyo name is Wab Wat? Wab Wat soo happy!” ‘Shit!’ Thomas thought to himself, this happens every time. “Yes, Lab Rat” He reassured the foal, stroking its head. He knew better than to argue with a fluffy, let alone a foal. They were incapable of reasoning, and he figured he could replace it with a new, less attached, lab rat before his monthly report was due.

He thought for a moment of twisting the foal’s neck. That was the quickest solution, but then he would have to fudge a report about an autopsy to justify destruction of corporate property, and worse, it would void its bowels immediately after death too. He hated the smell; his sister had a pet ferret when he was a kid. The smell of fluffy shit reminded him of that. It was too acidic and runny and carried far too well in the air.

Julia came back in just then, “playing with the product?” She asked. “Name not Pwoduk, name is Wab Wat!” the foal squeaked out. Julia giggled at that and sat down at her desk. “Naming them too. I thought you were the one that told me not to get attached.” She jokingly chided. She grabbed a pen and marked another tally on a sheet pinned up next to her calendar. This was of course how many different fluffies they had named Lab Rat. Twenty Seven now, at least since she had been there.

Thomas didn’t scold her for the disrespect. They were both in on the con, he worked very hard to not work. So hard that his bosses decided to hire him an assistant. She of course immediately caught on and decided to help, for a price. It didn’t matter since he made seven times what she made, and she didn’t like lab work either. Her major was animal psychology. Julia killed her fair share of rats, real ones, in college but when they called her mommy, she lost her stomach for it. For a while at least. She got use to the occasional euthanasia, just not the amount of an active lab. Thomas felt the other way about fluffies. He felt bad about all the rats he had killed. Rats were smarter than fluffies, cleaner, and more compassionate too. He wondered briefly what it would be like if rats talked instead of fluffies.

Julia still took her job seriously, there was something, Thomas noticed, about women still putting in extra effort at work even when it was apparent their job was dead end. She looked the same as she always did, the slightest amount of makeup, brown hair neatly in a ponytail. Clothing dry cleaned and ironed like she was going to be in a corporate board meeting in the next half hour. Thomas both respected her for this but also could never understand her reasoning behind all the extra effort.

He looked at the other desks in the room, the original team that developed the fluffies had all been laid off or moved to other departments. Downsizing. Only he remained, brought on due to experience in cancer research to stabilize the rapid development of fluffies. There was a day when half his paycheck went to charity. He went into cancer research to help people, there was never any funding for his work and ninety percent of his work involved ‘raising awareness’. Nowadays the only thing keeping him from jamming a piece of broken glass into the throat of men like the senator that just left was the knowledge that he would get the lethal injection while men like that got replaced with men twice as corrupt and twice as dumb.

One thing Julie did help with was their internal company paper on fluffy instinct inheritance. Contrary to popular belief, fluffies were not programmed to know core phrases. The obsession of even isolated fluffies with spaghetti was allegedly proof of this. Genetics was far too messy for that, however. But of course, it didn’t matter what the general public believed.

Instead, Julie noticed a few pregnant mares mumbling in their sleep. A few microphones later, and they were able to determine that speaking under their breath was loud enough for foals to hear in the womb. Scientifically the phenomenon was called subvocalization. The reason that it became so hardwired in a fluffy’s brain was simply that it was the first thing a fluffy ever heard, even before they were born. Like playing Mozart for a pregnant mother.

This helped in the production department since staff were trained to avoid specific words and behaviors that the breeding mares would learn and pass on to their foals. Afterwards they reported a thirteen percent decrease in smarty foals. This didn’t help with certain behaviors however since they were already too deeply ingrained in the company’s breeding stock.

Julia rolled her chair over and scooped Lab Rat out of his hands, “there there, aunty Julie has you.” The foal stared up with big watery eyes, ready to cry with joy over the attention it was receiving. “Wab Wat hab nyo daddy an mummy!” It seemed fluffies would never learn that word, auntie. Julie let Lab Rat suck on her thumb as she dug through a drawer with her other hand. She quickly retrieved a few wooden blocks, gently gnawed on by the last twenty six lab rats and placed him back in his tank, carefully explaining to him how to play with them. “Wab Wat has best nyo mummy ever! Gib Wab Wat bwokies and huggsies!” She entertained Lab Rat before explaining that she needed to leave and would be back the next day.

After work, they met at a bar. An upscale enough place. The lighting and furniture evoked some bizarre mixture of everything from prohibition to the golden age of flight in the 1960s. Piano lounge music played gently across the room.

Officially the company forbade relationships between coworkers. Unofficially, it was an unenforceable policy unless HR followed everyone home. Even more unofficially, the CEO spent over two hours a day with his door locked during ‘private meetings’ with his secretary.

“I have an idea for our next report.” Julie whispered excitedly. She let her hair down outside of work and it just barely draped over her shoulders. “Do we really have to talk about work?” Thomas asked with exasperation. “It’s a genius idea, just hear me out. Cognitive Behavior Therapy.” She held her hands up, fingers splayed, with a look as if she had just yelled surprise to someone coming home on their birthday. Thomas rolled his eyes, “I’m going to need a bit more explanation from you before I submit a report on mindfulness and positive thinking in fluffies to HR, you know those things aren’t smart enough to change their own minds.”

Julie smirked at him, “They don’t need to, we can get them to by just telling them all the things they hate are actually good, then they just repeat what their wonderful daddies and mommies tell them. Our marketing departments already do it but to a much less extreme extent. If we can improve temperament, then sales will go up compared to feral adoption.” Thomas ceded, “Yea sure, that’s your field anyway. We can talk about it tomorrow”

Thomas thought briefly about Lab Rat and what he suspected Julie was going to do to him. He smiled at her and took sip of his drink.


My first time contributing. I know this first bit is a little dry but I have an idea for a longer arc and a later story and it needs some set up first.


Welcome to the community! Great intro and setup, I hope we get to read more about Lab Rat XXVII in the future!

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