BEFORE YOU READ, CHECK THE AUTHOR'S NOTE BELOW. Or else you'll be all sorts of confused. This is a sneak peek at my ZADF (Zim and Dib Friendship) fanfic that'll basically retell the story of The Iron Giant but placed in an AU where Zim's ship crashes when he first comes to Earth and it damages his PAK. READ BELOW FOR DETAILS. Don't say I didn't warn you. By the way, if you haven't seen or remember The Iron Giant and DO NOT WANT SPOILERS, it might be best for you to not read this. It's a bit of a telling scene.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: In this AU storyline, Zim's spaceship upon his assignment/banishment to Earth didn't quite make it all the way. Malfunctions cause it to crash in the woods near a suburb, and his PAK is damaged in the wreckage. When Zim wakes up, he has no memory of where he came from or what his purpose here is. All he remembers is very basic functions like maneuvering his PAK legs and the native Irken language. The first human he encounters is indeed junior paranormal investigator, Dib - who can hardly believe his eyes or his luck. He originally formulates a plan to expose the alien to society - but as he begins to spend time with the amnesiac creature, he finds an unlikely friend in his otherwise friend-less life. Before too long, Dib finds himself potentially giving up years of his hard work to protect his alien friend from harm. And as the human boy is the only creature he knows, Zim willingly returns the favor. However, it turns out Dib wasn't the only paranoiac mind in the world smart enough to realize when an alien's about. And unfortunately for the new friends, that paranoiac mind - in the form of spiteful, vixenish FBI agent, Alara Ota - is now knocking on the door of the Membrane household with a few questions…

And those of you who have seen and remember The Iron Giant should recognize what scene this is a parallel to, but hopefully I've strayed from the script enough to keep it original. Let me know. Enjoy!

"Surprise, Dib."

It took only a minute to recognize the voice and Dib's blood ran cold when he did, bidding his legs to sprint for the basement door as fast as possible. He lunged at the door, only to have it slam up against his hands by the familiar and powerful hand of the FBI agent. Alara glared at him, bolting said door so he couldn't slip out.

"Parent teacher week, Dib," she smirked out from under a jet-black bang. "Professor Membrane and your little sister are off for their one-on-one with her teacher. And your dad requested that I stick around and keep an eye on you. So it's just us tonight. And while we're at it, you and I are gonna have a little chat about your green friend."

Rather abruptly, she grabbed him by the back collar of his shirt and began dragging him to the center of the lightless basement.

"Let go, LET GO!" Dib screeched in demand, struggling and kicking with all his might.

"Sit DOWN!" Alara ignored him entirely, instead shoving him forcefully into a crude fold-up chair, almost knocking it over. When Dib looked up again, he found he was sitting at a makeshift white card table. And with a bright flash, a glaring ceiling lamp completed the sudden scene shift to an interrogation room.

"I am not playing around anymore, little lab rat," she glared fiercely. "I will remind you that I hold a position far more influential to the government than your ignorant father. And I know for a fact you've met that alien and you're hiding him somewhere."

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Dib stated calmly, resolutely crossing his arms in front of his chest.

At that, Alara only chuckled to herself. "You know why you'd make a horrible paranormal investigator, Dib?" she sneered. "You're an awful liar." Standing straight, she began to file carefully through some files in his hands. "Let's review what we know, shall we? Agent Mothman?" She casually slid a familiar-looking laptop across the table to the boy and Dib's heart momentarily sunk. The symbolic eyeball seemed to stare him down.

"The Swollen Eyeball Network," she recited. "Did a bit of research. Seems that the habit of pursuing aliens is not a new prospect to you, Dib."

After a moment of panic, the boy steeled again. "That doesn't prove anything!"

"It PROVES...that you have a history of extraterrestrial paranoia and that you actually own the equipment to study and know how to handle an extraterrestrial being if and when you ever met one! Oh," she smirked. "Want to know the best part?"

Fearing where this was going, Dib lashed out to run the emergency deletion process with a press of a button, yet was stopped on a dime by the iron grip of Alara's hand. The boy shot her an acid glare, streaking out the other hand. Alara seized that one as well, and this time a couple of her nails dug into his skin. "Ow, oww!" His arms were yanked to the side, and the two sat and glared each other down between Dib's grasped wrists.

"I have handcuffs, you little monster. That laptop is government property during this investigation." Her voice became condescending. "And I think you'll find it rather hard to protect your little friend while in them, don't you think? So be a good little boy and cooperate."

Dib felt like his glare at the woman like ice, yet found himself inwardly admitting that what she was saying was true.

"Exhibit B," she pulled up the very files Dib had hoped he wouldn't. Pictures flicked across the screen - diagnostics and notes of Zim's PAK, incomplete studies of the Irken alphabet, studies of noted Irken biology... "And the coup de gras!" Alara flipped to one more picture that made Dib's stomach turn. There - clear as day, no denying it - was the night-vision photo he had taken the night he first discovered him, propped up on his spider legs in the middle of the woods, red eyes alert and searching. And of all the times to remember to take the lens cap off!

"Got a little too excited, didn't ya, lab rat?"

"H-How did you...? B-But my camera was destroyed!"

"Government-class technology, Dibby," she smirked. "Yes, in fact, we are still one step ahead of you happy-hackers."

"...S-So what?" Dib's glare hardened again.

"So as soon as the army sees this photo, the whole FLEET will be out here to get your pet."

"Fine then." Her young opponent spat challengingly, confident enough to give a sidelong smirk of his own. "Go ahead and call them. What's stopping you now?"

"You KNOW what!" Alara practically snarled at the end of her mental rope, knocking the lamp aside and slamming her fist on the table. "So WHERE IS HE?!" she grabbed a two-hand hold of the boy's jacket near the collar, yanking him up so they were nearly nose-to-nose, looking each other straight in the eye - warm brown meeting ice blue. Dib winced, conscious of the seat of his pants barely touching the chair anymore. For a moment, he felt a streak of panic and fear give away on his face as she lit into him with a spitting whisper through her teeth. "He's a vicious being from a world none of us have ever known, Dib, you CAN'T protect him!" A glare, then a thoughtful smirk. "You can't protect him anymore than you can protect your little sister."

Dib knew as well as any how his sister could hold her own, but something about that threat make him feel sick to his stomach for her. "...Gaz...?"

"You think I don't know?" Alara sneered cooly. "Living with this pitiful excuse of a family for the past few days?" She released the boy back into his seat, quite abruptly. "Your poor father, single parenting is so hard… He's just always so busy… So busy, he doesn't even give a second thought about leaving an eleven year-old and an eight year-old all alone in the house in a sketchy neighborhood. Hours out of the week. We pull the right strings and…well, we could technically charge him on account of child negligence and take you and your sister from his custody."

That hit Dib like a brick. Was she honestly, genuinely serious?! "...What...? Y...You can't DO that, we're all he's got left...! A-And Gaz and I have nowhere else to go!"

"A foster home," Alara passed off casually. "Good chance they'll be separate ones too, so you'd never even see her again."

"I..." Dib could hardly speak. "You have no idea what that'll do to my family!"

"Well then... The difference between your semi-happy family and that horrible future all depends on what you decide to tell me now, lab rat..."

This had to be a nightmare… It had to be… He never meant for his family to get pulled into this. Especially Gaz. She was a tough and dark little cookie that could well take care of herself surely enough, but her brother and father were the only ones to really remotely understand her. And with Membrane out working so much, especially after the his wife passed, Dib had pretty much been the only one looking out for her up until she chose not to listen to him anymore. Even if she did somehow appeal to a foster family enough to take her in...somehow...Dib just knew that that would be her breaking point… Stuck with a family that didn't understand her, that didn't know her and she didn't know them...

And if anyone understood this better than Dib, it had been their mother. She knew how busy her husband could get. And if there was one thing he had promised his mom, it was that he'd look out for his sister and stick with her in whatever came up.

Whatever came up...

His elbows sank against the table, his face lowering into his hands. "...Z-Zim' McClaire's Art Lot... Off Whittaker Road..."

"Good boy!" Alara chimed in a sickeningly sweet manner. She continued her calm pace before the table, yet this time seemed to go and retrieve something from the shadows. "See Dib, this is what happens when children try to get involved in these sort of matters... And really...don't worry about your little friend. This isn't real... This is just one of those...delusions of yours, sweetie. Just a nightmare... And you will not interfere with my work again."

With those words, Dib suddenly felt a sweet-smelling, wet cloth being held forcefully over his nose and mouth. He tried to scream and squirm away from it, to no avail. Numbness and exhaustion washed over him in seconds until he lost the strength to push anymore. The last thing he felt was his head flop back against the chair, and Alara hoisting him up into her arms like he had simply fallen asleep...

("What's this, Faith? You're writing Invader Zim now?" Yeah, I came in kinda late to this party, but I've come to really love the Invader Zim character, especially Zim and Dib and their epic rivalry/bromance. ((ZADF all the WAY, guys.) So no telling WHEN I'll be able to get this out given the pace of my life at the moment. I'm working on it little by little, however, and it feels good to be writing again after so long. :) Be sure to keep an eye on my Deviantart as well! I've already started on some concept work for this story, and I hope to add more as it develops.)