Drats were something terrible. Small, deformed rats with wings, gills, and a venomous bite. The mutant rodents hadn’t even had the courtesy to replace the rat population because drats mostly ate inedible garbage and drank toxic waste. They were a nuisance that no one had been able to get rid.
Now Brenda was stuck in a room, trying to have a conversation with one.
This drat was three times bigger than most. Its wings were fully formed, which was unusual. Its red and blue fur had a few missing patches. It huddled in the corner, pulling its hat over its face to hide from the lights.
It was the hat that had brought her here.
She had them turn down the lights so that she could still see, but the drat wasn’t blinded by them.
“It’s okay,” she said. “I’m just here to talk.”
The drat bared its teeth at her and hissed. She wasn’t too worried about it biting her. Drat venom stung like hell, but it was usually only fatal to mutants. She wasn’t one. Not today. Who knew about tomorrow?
She pulled a candy bar from her pocket, opened it, tossed the wrapper to the drat. The creature gobbled it down. Its long, bent tail uncoiled. She ate her candy bar, despite the drat’s stench filling the room, as a gesture of friendship.
It put the small hat on its head, adjusted the brim so that it sat at an appealing angle. The hat must’ve belong to a child’s doll, Brenda guessed.
“I don’t suppose you can talk?” she asked. “This is so much easier if you can talk.”
The drat twitched. She tried measuring the intelligence in its beady red eyes.
“Nice hat,” she said.
The drat clutched the hat to its chest, and Brenda smiled. It wasn’t indicative of full sentience, but it was a start.
“Do you know why you’re here?”
The drat shook its head. It might have been mere imitation, a sophisticated reflex triggered by her tone and body language. But it might have been something more.
“Here’s the situation,” she said. “You bit someone, and that someone is very sick. Might even die. If you’re an animal, you’ll be put down. If I prove you’re more than that, you’ll probably get jail time. But after that, you won’t have to live in the sewers. Not if you don’t want to.”
The drat twitched. It cautiously skittered forward and held out its paw. She shook it. It offered her its hat, its only possession in the world, as payment.
“You keep it,” she said with a smile.