The Lab Ray Experience
"This is a terrible idea."
The owner of that line, a person by the name of Henry, said it reluctantly. Henry was a short and thin-framed owner, with short-cut red hair and freckles and a pair of glasses perched on his nose. His neopet, George, paid the owner little heed. "Please," the yellow Zafara said calmly, "I'm just getting zapped by the lab ray. Other neopets have done it, so it must be safe, of course! Surely the Defenders of Neopia would've shut it down by now if it were truly dangerous."
Only a week ago did George's owner invest in a laboratory map. For years George whined that he was tired of his yellow base color, and was in desire of a new paint job. The problem was that he couldn't decide which color exactly he wanted to be painted. Henry had only recently been able to afford anything in the price range of the lab map, neopoints accumulated from finally mastering the Neopian stock market. For his neopet's birthday, he promised to buy him anything his heart desired, so long it fell in the price range he had. George had failed to decide which color he wanted, and instead requested to buy the lab map. It would decide for himself, he thought. When he presented his wish to Henry, who had been positive his neopet would want a paint brush of some sort, was taken aback.
He attempted to deny the request, but George reminded his owner that he did say that he could have anything he wanted provided it fell into his range of affordability. After some arguing and failed attempts to make him turn away in fear from the idea of getting a lab map, he gave in and bought the map. Now, finally, they followed the map which lead them to the ray that would change everything.
"If everyone all ran into the Lair of the Beast and made it out, would it make it any safer?" Henry inquired, raising an eyebrow. George scoffed.
"Don't be ridiculous. If everyone ran into the Lair of the Beast and claimed they made it out, then obviously most were lying about going in in the first place."
"That's not quite what I meant--"
"Yeah, yeah... just trust me on this, best owner in the world. In return I'll let you play Dice-A-Roo as long as you want without complaining! I promise!"
The attempt to butter his owner up failed, but it did manage to make him sigh in exasperation and abandon his useless trying to convince his neopet to turn around and never look back. George's finger trailed along the map, humming to himself idly. They walked for a little longer in silence, until they finally found what they were waiting for. They could see a giant telescope on a steel hooded building a short distance away, followed by an enormous line of neopets and owners waiting to go inside. The line extended from where they stood all the way into the building, where the line kept going. A bright red, glowing sign that said AVERAGE WAIT TIME TO ACCESS LAB RAY hung over the doorway, glaring at all those getting into line.
The sign exacted its revenge by changing from it being five hours to six hours. The line groaned, but no one budged from the line. Henry, feeling his hopes grow once more, turned to George. "Worth it now?"
George's mouth had been hanging open like that of a fish before closing it and nodding. "Yeah, it's for a dream; it's worth it." Begrudgingly, the owner and the neopet got into line. The first two hours waiting were silent. George had pulled a book from a brown bag he had slung over his shoulder and was reading. He had offered another book to his pet, who merely said "No, thank you," and seemed to stare off at the ocean that was below the lab.
Finally, the Zafara began to speak again. "I wonder what I'll be zapped into," he murmured, "perhaps a majestic Maraquan, a fabulous Faerie, a perfect purple..."
"Stinky skunk, perhaps?" Henry remarked dryly. George glared and nudged his owner.
"Very funny. Perhaps I'll just think to myself for now..."
As the next few hours passed, they moved along from the outside to the inside of the building, which was surprisingly chilly. The walls were covered in nothing but wires, steel, and bolts, which inhaled and exhaled the cold. Finally, when five hours passed (contrary to the six hours predicted by the sign,) the door leading into the room with the lab ray was present. To the left there was another door, with a sign sitting next to it that said LAST CHANCE TO LEAVE!
A few had fear take control at the last minute and forced them to leave, at which George sneered. He thought them to be cowards. Finally, they reached the door, first in line. Within a few seconds, a yellow Scorchio with wild hair and crazed eyes appeared in the doorway, smiling deviously. "This way, this way," he ushered them.
They were lead through the hall, which, to their surprise, was much longer and much darker than it had appeared from the outside. Finally Henry spoke up nervously, pressing his glasses he could not see in the dark up against his face as a nervous habit. "Why is the hall so long?"
"Ah! Very good question," the Scorchio said, "you see, for anyone who decides to change their mind at the last minute, they can leave and not be affected by the gamma radiation, which is what these thick cement walls are for."
"Hold on... gamma radiation?!"
"Aren't those the radioactive waves that scramble DNA?!"
"Exactly, my dear boy! Specifically, the lab ray shoots pure gamma radiation at your neopet, refined to cause mostly desired effects! How did you think I got neopets to change color and turn into different species? Magic? I haven't had any neopets have serious adverse effects from the ray... yet, anyways. However, if you do get adverse effects, please let me know. It'd be fascinating to hear about. Oh, we're here!"
They walked into a poorly lit room with a small room to the side with all sorts of controls. A giant ray hung over a large, empty dais. Burn marks decorated the dais. "Alright, now you go there, what's-your-face Zafara, and the owner comes with me to the operation room."
The neopet happily hopped up onto the dais while the owner was toted off helplessly with the mad scientist. The Scorchio played with the controls for a few minutes and pressed some buttons, and the ray began to glow. No one had a split second to react as the ray sprayed George, blinding the whole room with bright light.
When the light faded, George heard his owner gasp and the scientist scratch something down on paper. "What? How do I look? I can't wait to see how I appear now! I feel alive!" The neopet opened his eyes, which he had previously been closing, looked into a mirror on the wall that the scientist brought up... and gasped.
George, the yellow Zafara was now... still a yellow Zafara. The scientist clicked his tongue. "Tsk, such a shame. Sometimes the ray just decides to do nothing. Ah well! Begone from my lab and visit another day if you wish!"
"Why, you--!!" The Zafara's face filled with rage, but Henry just grabbed onto his wrist and pulled him out with him.
"Thanks!" he called to the lab scientist, who waved at their departure. George yelled things at the scientist which fell upon deaf ears as the next neopet was brought into the lab.