“Scientifically enhanced grape juice! Please, help yourselves.” Ema places the tray on the table with a flourish, looking immensely proud of herself.
Maya leans over to peer at the juice; it looks normal. “‘Scientifically enhanced’?”
“You know, the works! Distilled, mixed with some additives, spun at centrifugal force until— oh, basically, I modified the taste to reach maximum tastiness!” Ema fiddles with her pink glasses and smiles proudly at her. “All without upping the sugar content. How’s that for homemade?”
“That’s amazing, Ema!” Maya claps her hands together excitedly, even though she caught absolutely none of that— the other girl’s enthusiasm is just contagious.
“Why isn’t anybody asking why Ema’s serving us drinks in glass beakers?” Nick looks as constipated as always, eyeing said beakers with suspicion. “And are those thermometers? Why would we need—”
“Nick, we’re guests here! Don’t be rude.” Maya shoots him a glare. Picking up one of the beakers and taking a sip, she finds the grape juice doesn’t actually taste much different to the regular kind. But she’s not a scientist, so she wouldn’t know. Maybe the spinning at centrifugal force gave it secret health benefits?
“I— you—” Nick clamps his mouth shut when Maya continues to glare at him. Grumbling, he sighs. “Okay, whatever… I, I appreciate it, Ema, but…”
“Oh, the Luminol you needed, right?” Ema adjusts her pink glasses, unfazed. Her eyes are trained solely on the beaker in Maya’s hand; she must be really proud of that grape juice. “I have some at the back! Right this way.”
Nick follows after the small scientist to the storeroom in the kitchen, and Maya trails a ways after them, looking around the place. Though filled with scientific oddities and textbooks, Ema’s apartment-turned-laboratory is tidy and well-kept, if nothing else. (Tidier than Nick’s desk, anyway.) Ema hasn’t gone full mad scientist just yet— though Nick has said that she will be in about a decade if she keeps this up.
Maya brings her beaker with her to the back, following Nick and Ema, but stops short of entering the storeroom to gawk up at the wall to her left. A rainbow plethora of liquids, held in test tubes, jars and bottles had caught her eye; they’re all lined up high on shelves, gleaming curiously in the light. They look like potions or concoctions she’d see in a witch’s house on TV.
Maya sets her drink down on the kitchen countertop to inspect some of the concoctions on display more closely. A particular beaker catches her eye, its contents a bright blue. Curiously, the stuff even appears to glow— meaning that as a self-proclaimed professional paralegal-but-also-detective, she simply has to check this out! Maya has to jump to reach it, but manages to grab the glass without spilling anything. It emits a soft blue glow onto her hand, like a lava lamp. Maybe she could borrow this thing from Ema and make her own? Maya recalls asking Nick to get a lava lamp for the office’s reception desk, but he’d whined about being broke.
Speaking of Nick, she can hear his whining now, audible even from the kitchen. “Oh god. Are those pickled...?”
Ema titters. “I never knew you were so squeamish, Mr. Wright!”
Maya rolls her eyes, taking another sip of juice.
An unfamiliar taste meets her tongue, and a dizzying sensation overtakes her almost immediately. Maya sets the beaker down before she can drop it. Legs wobbling, she presses her elbows to the counter, rubbing her temples. She feels like she’d suddenly been hit by a truck. Maya squeezes her eyes shut in an attempt to block out the overhead lights and the pounding headache suddenly wracking through her brain.
The world grows dark, and for a moment, she feels like she’s fainted.
But then she blinks open her eyes…
...only to see that the world had just gotten a thousand times bigger.
Maya falls over in shock, landing on her rump. The ceiling lights overhead are blindingly bright, and the marble countertop is suddenly a sprawling landscape that stretches as far as the eye can see. On the other hand, she can’t see the floor anymore, partially because the glass beakers on the counter tower over her like tall glass pillars.
It’s only when she looks into the reflection of one beaker does she finally see herself— perfectly fine, aside from being very, very small.
“W-what?! What’s going on?” she asks the empty room, but her small voice seems to disappear into the air. The air conditioner in the adjacent living room, previously silent to her ears, now rumbles and rattles lowly in the background, its sounds travelling through the walls and making Maya feel paranoid. The droning sounds are making gathering her thoughts increasingly difficult, but it’s not like she can go over and switch off the air conditioner in this state. Meanwhile, Nick and Ema’s conversation also carry over from the back, but Maya’s too panicked to concentrate on what they’re saying. Will they even be able to find her after this?
Maya holds out one of her hands, so miniscule compared to the kitchenette around her. Though her headache has largely subsided, leaving her body tingling, she can’t help but feel fragile. She’s only a fraction of her original size, after all. Just a tumble off this countertop would leave her looking like a splotch of strawberry jam.
“This isn’t good...” Maya mumbles to herself, getting to her feet and straightening out her little robes. “Nick’s gonna lose his mind, too.”
Swift footsteps come into earshot.
“Hey Maya, I got the Lumi—” Nick walks into the kitchen area, only to pause and look around. “...Maya?”
Maya’s heart sinks; she’s so small that he can’t even see her! She hops up and down on the counter, waving her arms.
“Nick! Over here!”
Nick doesn’t seem to hear her at first, and he trods into the kitchenette with loud steps, looking around in confusion. “Maya? Where’d you go?”
He nears the counter, and she runs over to him, yelling his name. Her voice is smaller and squeakier, but she can only hope it’s not too small that he can’t hear her. After all their time investigating crime scenes together for evidence, there’s no way he can miss her, right?
Nick looks around a little bit more, and be it be by luck or by chance, he suddenly looks downwards, where she hops and flails her arms at him. He takes one look at her before squawking like a dying parrot.
Good god, he’s loud. As if his courtroom voice wasn’t already booming, being a fraction of her normal size has her feeling actual vibrations in the air as Nick drops the bottle of Luminol. Maya covers her ears to block out the noise and prevent it from rattling her brain.
“Nick! Don’t yell!”
“S-sorry… but Maya, what happened?!” Nick bends over so that his face is level with hers, hovering over the countertop with worried eyes. Maya jumps, taken aback at how overwhelming he looks up close. The attorney’s practically a giant, his face taller than her whole body, and she can feel a warm breeze from his breath blowing across the counter. “You’re all… how...? A-are you okay?”
She tentatively reaches out to touch the tip of his nose, petting his skin, just to make sure this is all real. Nick immediately goes cross-eyed to look at her hand, and she can’t help but laugh despite her situation. Leave it to her silly friend to make her smile at a time like this.
“I’m fine, Nick. Just a little dizzy. And a little… little, as you can probably tell.”
He stares at her for another moment. Then he lets out an exasperated sigh, a gust of wind across her legs, billowing her robes. “Jeez… I can’t leave you alone for a minute, can I?”
Maya pouts. “I didn’t mean to shrink. I was already short...”
“Hey, what’s— whoa! Maya!” Ema runs over at the sight of Maya, whipping her notebook out of her lab pocket and nearly crashing into the counter in her excitement. The brunette looks down at her with huge, sparkling eyes. “What did you drink?! Where did you get it? How much of it did you ingest? I need cubic millimeters!”
Nick makes an exasperated face. “Is that the first thing you ask when you see someone shrink down to the size of a mouse?”
“Well, I can’t assess what’s going on if I don’t know how she got like this in the first place!” Ema nods at Maya. “So? What happened?”
“Um, I just drank the grape juice— oh.” Maya looks around her, only to see the beaker with her drink still half full, and another nearly empty beaker, with glowing blue liquid at the bottom. Looks like she hadn’t been paying attention to what she’d been drinking.
Maya gives the two giants a sheepish grin. “Whoops. Looks like I got them mixed up.”
“I told you to watch what you put in your mouth...”
“Things could’ve been worse!” Ema is scribbling away furiously in her notebook, looking up intermittently to stare intensely at Maya’s small form, then back to note-taking. “Like, it’s a good thing your clothes shrunk with you!”
Maya taps her cheek thoughtfully. “Yeah, that’s pretty convenient. I didn’t know science could go that far.”
Nick shakes his head, sighing. “I think you two are missing what’s important right now… Ema, can you turn her back?”
Ema’s frantic scribbling into her notebook comes to a halt. Her troubled expression only seems to make Nick panic.
“Um, well, how do I put this…” The girl smiles apologetically. “That solution Maya drank was a one-off experiment. So I don’t have anything that reverses the effect. But!” Just as Nick looks like he’s about to have a heart attack, and Maya’s own head is whirling at the thought of being shrunken forever, Ema holds up a finger. “I can totally make one! No problem!”
Maya lets out a sigh of relief. “Oh, that’s good, then.”
“Oh my god. Thank you, Ema.” Nick deflates, leaning on the counter for support. “We’ll wait here while you get to it.”
“And… about that. It might take a while.”
“A while... as in...?” Maya asks, watching Ema quietly counts off scientific processes on her fingers while murmuring under her breath.
“A couple days at best.” Ema replies. “Lots of steps to follow, you see! Haha.”
Nick looks lost, his eyes darting from the young scientist to Maya.
Maya shakes her head. Just a couple days. That’s not too bad. “It’s fine, Ema. I’m actually just really sorry for causing you trouble like this.”
“Oh, but it’s no trouble at all! I never thought my chemical solutions could ever be so effective, but you’ve proven that to me today.” Ema beams. “Now I’m totally gonna ace my Chemistry tests!”
Maya scratches her cheek; that’s a bit of an understatement. Ema would be passing more than just Chemistry at this rate...
“In fact, I wouldn’t mind you staying over while I work on the cure, Maya!” Ema pulls her pink spectacles down over her eyes, scrutinising Maya’s tiny form through ominously gleaming lenses. “While we’re at it, I could run a few tests on your internal organs to examine the finer effects of the solution.”
“...What?” Maya asks.
“Oh, sorry, I know that sounds bad!” Ema leans in closer. “But trust me, they won’t hurt. I promise!”
Maya urgently bats Nick on the cheek to get his attention. “Hey Nick, uh, we had that appointment to go to, didn’t we?!”
“Huh— oh, w-we sure did! Heck, we’re late!” Nick scoops her up into his palm, taking her by surprise. It’s warm and soft. Kinda sweaty. “Sorry Ema, gotta run!”
Peering through Nick’s fingers, Maya watches as Ema pouts, tucking away her notebook. “Aw man, really? Well, don’t let me keep you guys.”
“Thanks for the Luminol!” Maya says as Nick retrieves the bottle from the floor.
“Let us know about any updates on the cure!” Nick calls out as he springs out of the apartment, Maya clinging to his fingers.
Even at a brisk walk, Nick’s pace has Maya’s hair flying behind her as he descends the stairs. On top of that, the sight of the bottom of the stairwell, so far below them, is enough to make her dizzy with vertigo. She drags her gaze away from the ground; this is going to take a while to get used to for sure.
She turns around to look at Nick instead, holding onto his thumb to balance herself. Though most of his face is obscured by the bottom of his chin from her angle, she can tell the corners of his mouth are pulled into a worried frown.
Maya chews her lip. Maybe she’s really messed up this time…
He peers down at her. “Yeah? You alright?”
“I’m fine. I just wanted to say sorry.”
“What do you mean? Ema says it’s reversible anyway.”
Maya twiddles her fingers. “Well… I kinda got us sidetracked. Now I’m like, four inches tall, but we still have an investigation to do!”
“Hey, I’m just glad you didn’t manage to poison yourself by accident.” Nick smiles. “Don’t feel too bad about it, okay? We did a lot of work this morning anyway. Let’s go back and have some lunch, and then we’ll think about the case.”
He’s always quick to offer her food whenever she’s feeling down, and Maya can’t help but smile back at him. She hugs his thumb. “Oh, alright.”
The gesture seems to remind him of something. “I guess I’ll be carrying you around for a while. Until you’re back to normal, anyway,” Nick says. “Hope you don’t mind.”
Maya hums thoughtfully. “I wouldn’t mind… but your palms are really sweaty, Nick. It’s kind of gross.” Nick sweats like nobody’s business, especially when nervous, but it’s even worse when she’s this size and it’s all over her bare legs and making her robes wet. “If you’re gonna be handling me, I hope you start bringing a napkin around.”
Nick rolls his eyes, though he’s still smiling. “Okay, sure, princess.”
The whole shrinking fiasco had Maya feeling a little uneasy. After all, there’s no telling what kind of problems she’ll run into with her tiny new body; she’d probably be eaten by a stray animal or something like this! But knowing Nick will have her back is enough to reassure her that she’ll be fine. He’s always protected her.
Nick checks his watch on his free wrist. “At this rate, we’ll be back home just before lunchtime. On the way, we should probably think of what to tell Pearls...”