The Risks of Empathy, a Novella
Since Karen's arrival at the ranch, she had been working in the rodent houses. She had continued her relationship with Ratty, the large black rat Sarah had introduced her to on that first day so many weeks ago.
Karen was lying on the grass among the rat buildings; the large rat was nuzzling through her hair and sticking his nose in her ear.
Karen laughed and tickled the rat on his side. She figured he was laughing in the high pitch that people could not hear. She sat up and the rat crawled into her lap and up the sleeve of her shirt. With her attention on the Ratty, she did not notice the young-looking man who walked up and sat down on the grass next to her without an invitation.
"Aren't you the woman from the lab?" he asked.
"That's right. Who are you?"
At the ranch, Stan and Earnie had become legends. Everyone knew that it was they who had invented TEs and who had first thought to find out what animals were thinking with the experience recordings.
"Stan and Earnie?"
"Yep. One of the famous guys," he answered. "Who's your friend?"
Ratty was sticking his head out of Karen's sleeve wiggling his nose and feelers trying to get a fix on the new voice. "This is my friend Ratty. Ratty, say hello to Earnie," and she held her arm over Earnie's lap.
Ratty turned around in Karen's sleeve, but finally stepped down and began sniffing out this new human.
"So, do you still like science?" asked Earnie as he gently stroked Ratty's paper-thin ears.
"You mean, do I hate science now after realizing the torture I was helping commit in the name of science?"
"Yeah, I guess that's what I mean."
"I love science. I just hate cruelty. Why?"
"Well, we could use some help in our lab, and I wanted to know whether you'd like to help us. We are working on something new."
"What is it?"
Earnie laughed, "It's hard to say exactly, but you won't be bored. You'll have to see for yourself. Listen I gotta go, if you want the job I'll tell Mr. Selling and he'll let security know. Come by the main house in the morning around nine. OK?"
Karen thought for a millisecond and said, "OK."
"Here's your friend back, and he set Ratty back into Karen's lap. As he walked away, he thought that she might be the prettiest girl he had ever seen.