Saving Zim by Dib07
When you had it all. When old age forces you to change. When life isn't what you'd imagined. When you aren't prepared to be so powerless.
When a soldier's undetermined future remains his greatest fear.
I do not own the IZ characters. However this story and this idea is mine.
Cover art beautifully made by TheCau! All credit goes to her, please do not use without his permission, thank you :)
Character angst. Blood. Swearing.
Dib07: Hi all! Welcome to the first few chapters that have had a good dollop of polish on them, and in many cases a full rewrite in some sections, and a few new scenes or even chapters. Please feel free to review or comment, I always reply to every single one!
And thank you Piratemonkies64 for the youtube audio chapters!
For all those who are new to this story, this novel is for the adults who have grown up with these characters, and want something a little darker.
I thank everyone who supported my first story. If you're new to my stories then I welcome you!
Please review, same as always, it might make new chapters appear faster!
Chapter 1: The Call
In the dark and cold, with snowflakes settling on his shoulders, he leaned against the icy railings of the balcony, looking up at the wheeling constellations twinkling above. A cigarette hung from the bony tips of his index and middle finger, and dusty ashes of ember would whip into the darkness, carried by sharp and sudden gusts. The stars filled the lenses of his glasses, their celestial ambiguity never failing to fascinate him, or fuel his insignificance as they bled a strange and frosty shine.
When it was a clear, cloudless night, with the moon shining cold, he'd stand on the balcony in the security of his own solitude, never minding the cold, but too often he'd arrive here every night to reminisce on days long gone. His childhood was a kaleidoscope of barely survived events, but the majority of his memories were the aftermaths of battle. Desperation gave events and struggles a blurry coating, as one strived for the surface to breathe, but there were moments of calm between the skirmishes where he would poke his nemesis for questions about space travel, asking if he'd been to Andromeda, what did black holes look like, but most of all: what was it really like, up there?
Zim would routinely respond with a chuckle, followed by a cold and mocking smile. On his better days, he'd answer with less of the splendour and mystery that Dib had been seeking, and more of a conventional logic that made him realize that space and the universe was merely one big devourer of life.
He had been a brief passenger in Tak's ship, seeing the stars in their crystal-cut millions when he had taken that fateful voyage into the dark of space, almost to defy Zim's cold and undiscerning explanations. His eyes had ached from looking at so many celestial balls of light, but he had quickly discovered that there was nothing enchanting so far above the skies of home, where the odious reach of death had never been closer.
He looked down towards the black velvet of road, and Dib's glass lenses reflected the light from the nearby streetlamps and less of the starlight.
His home was situated on the edge of town where not very much happened. His neighbours couldn't be seen over the brow of the hill that turned in towards Eave Street, and flanking the house was a large forest whereas opposite him was a seemingly endless cornfield. He liked it here, and enjoyed the serenity outside the city. He had grown sick of city life after awhile, and only drove into Lincoln to fill a corner of his nearly-empty fridge, and to work behind a desk, answering calls that usually led to disappointment and not real events of the paranormal. Zim's culdersack was exactly three miles behind him, as if, after all these years, they still couldn't live very far from the other.
In the downstairs parlour the TV's light enveloped an empty sofa and a room that was cluttered with piles of TV dinner leftovers, gaming controllers and clothing. Countless UFO magazines were haphazardly strewn over the coffee table – a table littered with old liquid stains. Popcorn kernels had been distributed over the rug, and the book shelves were cluttered with memorabilia that had gathered dust, with the occasional cobweb making its debut in the parlour room corners.
Living as a fulltime bachelor had made him increasingly indolent and lazy with his housekeeping. When it came to his job, he carried professionalism around with him as if he had coined the term, but when it came to humble living, he stopped caring as soon as he entered the threshold to his domain. He sometimes surveyed his clutter with vague indifference whenever he happened to notice it, promising himself that he would tidy up come tomorrow, but in due time the clutter became part of the scenery, and he'd go to bed without ever lifting a dust pan and brush.
As he was inching a fresh cigarette from its packaging, he caught the flashes of the bedroom lights flickering from the corner of his lenses, and the sounds of the TV from downstairs had become a distorted slur of noise. Dib spun round; back pressed against the railings. The bedroom was bathed in white for a singular moment before the lights dimmed in chorus, filling the room with a solid blackness. He rummaged hastily for the lighter he habitually kept in his left jacket pocket. With icy fingertips he pulled it out and flipped open the lid. The small orange flame bloomed upwards like a flower, dousing his pale face in a lambent glow.
His eyes tried to scan the dark for any intruders hulking around. The room seemed to silently glare back, as hushed as a sealed tomb.
It was not unusual for rural areas to suffer blackouts on occasion, but Dib had reservations when suspicious things started happening to him.
The flicking lighter flame could not reach very far. He left the balcony and entered the consuming dark with his little flame, shuffling step by step and trying to remember where the furniture was so that he wouldn't stumble and fall into everything. His hand found the wall as he hunted for the light switch he knew was there. Encountering the switch nodule, he flicked it. Nothing happened.
The fuse box was down in the basement. It was the last place that hadn't been renovated, for he never liked going down there. He used the large, drab place to store and stockpile alcohol, fitting the rattling boxes of beer in and around the countless cardboard boxes crammed full with old childhood memorabilia bursting with CDs he had never been able to quite toss out, hundreds of VHS tapes, toys, and 'Zim' memorabilia.
It's just a blackout. He told himself, aware that ordinary circumstances might not be the case when he had unfortunate associations with a kooky alien soldier who knew where he lived. "Zim?" He called into the dark, his voice strangely loud in the silence. "Zim, are you in here? If you are, this is not funny!" He wasn't sure what he preferred, an actual thief who had broken in, or a kooky alien. When in doubt, it was better to sound mad-angry, that way you conveyed a certain show of confidence, but it was hard to keep his voice from rattling despite his best efforts.
He blundered into a table, coughed out a groan, and held his shin one-handed, the lighter almost tumbling from his shaking hand. He hated the dark and hated being vulnerable. Zim didn't usually strike this close to home, but not everything the alien did was particularly coherent or rational.
"Zim!" He yelled, expecting a pair of magenta eyes to open in the darkness, followed by a flashing pink smile. "Come out this second or I'm calling the cops!"
As if by magic the lights came back on, suffusing Dib's vision with white, and he threw a hand in front of his face. As if the TV was part of the conspiracy it sprung back to life and a female reporter was highlighting the recent rise in food prices.
Dib peered around the parlour, the lighter flickering away: creating twin embers in the centre of his glasses. He clumsily put the lighter away while his attention remained on high alert. Every shadow was marked, every place behind the furniture a potential threat until he gave it the all-clear. "Zim?" He called with less confidence. "Zim? You there?" He could distinctly hear car alarms going off outside, and the creak of the floorboards as he cautiously trod forwards.
He strayed towards the kitchen, thinking about grabbing a knife from the utensil drawer, and a noise, real or imagined, made him spin round, eyes flashing for the threat, only to see the emptiness of the kitchen. He felt like an intruder in his own home, the rooms possessing an unwelcoming solemnity even with the lights back on. In this hunched and tense way, he floated from place to place, ready for whatever he would find. Each time he came to a room and swung the door wide, ready to take a swing, he'd confront just another cluttered room. The windows were all shut tight, and the back and front doors were still locked, the outside porch light revealing only solemn quiet, but windows and doors had never posed much of a problem for a little alien invader.
He decided that the whole thing was nothing more than a blackout, and that he had scuttled around for nothing when the phone started to ring in the parlour, causing him to jump sky-high, the knife flying from his hand and landing onto the carpet with a solid thump.
The phone kept chiming away, its pitch drilling into his eardrums.
No one he knew would normally ring at this hour, but sometimes his dad happened to ring this late when he couldn't hold in his excitement over some new invention or project. He ignored the first few rings, relying on the answering machine to follow through and have the caller leave a message. But the caller left no message, and in the span of ten seconds it started ringing again. With a sigh, he walked over and picked it up. "Yeah? Hello?"
"Urm... yes, hello?" The voice sounded tinny, and very familiar. "Urm... is this Dib?" The caller sounded like he was struggling with plain and simple words.
Dib frowned. "Yes. This is he. Who's this?"
"It's me!" Came a shrill and happy cry.
"Gir? Zim's robot dog thingy?" It was rare for Gir to have anything to do with him, let alone coherently make a phone call.
"Urm... you need to come over. My Master spilled his sauce everywhere. I'm worried. Someone could slip on it."
"Sauce? Jesus Gir! Is that all? Just clean it up!"
"I... I can't!" Now Gir was beginning to sound frustrated, if robots could even be frustrated. "It keeps coming out!"
"Look, is Zim there? Can I talk to him?" What Gir had to say was usually drivel anyway. Talking to him was like trying to reason with a mad man and it just gave him a headache.
"Yes..." Then: "No..."
"Gir, just clean it up. I have better things to do."
He hung up, trudged back up the stairs and walked through the open door to the balcony where he promptly went to light another cigarette, but a combination of icy gusts and ice cold fingers had the cigarette bounce free as he made to grab it, and he watched it disappear over the railings.
Gir's tone had begun to worry him, and he could not entirely disregard the panic he was sure he had heard.
Sauce. What a load of baloney. I can't keep going over there every time Gir rings me up about something stupid.
His mind toyed with the idea of going over, just to see if one of Zim's plans had combusted, perhaps showering sauce or ignition fuel everywhere. It would come as no surprise. Zim rushed through his plans as if his biological clock was on the brink, and his final products would end up as catastrophic failures that tended to leak or burn all over the place.
The trip would take me just fifteen minutes. Less if I take the shortcut.
He looked back to the phone in the parlour when soft unease had started in his heart. Before he knew it, his body was in motion and he was grabbing his coat and his car keys.
~ A little earlier ~
"Stupid, stupid machinery!" He was down on his PAK, which was never good practise, and though his base was kept as sterile as possible from unhealthy obsession, the floor still proved to be less than savoury for an Irken, and he was forced to lie on it. The planet presented copious amounts of dust, and though his base was sealed tight against the airborne spores of humanity and all they produced, dust still made its way down into the catacombs through the ventilation system, or was carried on his clothes from above.
Using his receptor grapplers, he sought the problem in the dark beneath the console and set about to fixing it. The wires were sheathed in rubbery ploxum, an Irken material much like rubber, but thicker and more resilient against damage. He slit some of it away to get at the delicate and coiled fibres within. One of the wires wasn't connecting properly. There might have been a fault when the machinery was installed, or a power surge in the past had caused something to rupture.
He squinted a fuchsia eye at the problem even though he had no trouble seeing in the dark.
The faulty wire in question had been easy to spot. The silvery trim was blackened and slightly bent out of shape amongst the others. Zim cut away the damaged section with careful precision and let the piece fall onto his uniform before slipping in a new piece of wire after cutting it to fit. Then he backed up, sliding along the floor on his PAK; a bad habit that would cause Irken Elites to frown.
He coasted back into the light and rolled over onto his side. Folding up his knees from under him, he went to stand. Grabbing the edge of the console for support, he levered himself back up, feeling the pressure ease from his joints. "Computer!" He barked, "Re-establish connection and run the drives!"
Maintaining daily repair and mechanical management was an invader's toil. A soldier had to be an established engineer to be able to make and fix whatever he could, sometimes out of very limited resources. It was not advised to rely entirely on machines, machines that could break down and leave him vulnerable when he lived a solitary and isolated existence.
"Re-establishing link." Droned the computer.
Zim leaned on the console, watching the screen as Irken symbols rolled up it in streams. His antennae, one crooked with its tip shredded, the other perfectly smooth, flickered once before falling down from their rigid posts. His body remained stiff, a habitual posture he had held almost all of his life.
His happy, go-lucky S.I.R unit, plodded into the chamber holding an armful of supermarket products. "I gots the shampoo! Let's turn the taps on!"
Zim, who had become a reluctant expert on understanding Gir's mangled speeches, answered with bitter promptness: "Does it look like I need a bath, Gir? Go and watch TV or something!"
There was once a time when he had rebuked him in Irken when there was no need to hold pretences of the vulgarity that was the human language, but over time he had steadily abandoned his native tongue in place of English. He thought in English, and had begun writing in English too. It was another unsavoury deviation. Without hearing a fellow Irken speak, he was slowly losing touch with the ways of his kind.
He jerked himself out of the brief reverie. Fleeting regret was but an ocean to drown in. The Empire had taught him that all reveries and regrets were dangerous. "Computer! Download a diagnostic report!"
There was a loud hum as the computer powered down, and power drained from the lights, the screens, the hubs nearby, and all the processors. The air in the ducts was suddenly cut off, and Zim was left to contemplate the sudden absence of energy. His repairs had been minor, and he had been nowhere near the main power circuits.
There was an alarming buzzing noise coming from his PAK, and something excruciatingly hot filled his spine.
The power outage fazed Zim only a little, the lack of lights even less, for he could see and feel his way in the dark perfectly, but it was the deviation in his PAK that caused alarm. The pulsing, warm pinks bathing the metal dome on his back dimmed before fading entirely. Heart suddenly racing, chest overly tight, he turned to see Gir standing quietly in the dark, his eyes a strange and milky cyan.
"Gir! Help me! The power is out! I need the base back online!" Just as Zim started to make his way over to the robot, Gir's eyes were suddenly bright with renewed intensity, but they were an encompassing battle-ready crimson. "Gir! Stop staring and help your master! I need you to go back to the power core and see if it's still online! We have ten minutes!" Ever the hard worker, he was already on the next task. Employing the mechanism that held his PAK in place inside his spinal column with cognitive kinesis, he lodged it free to disengage it from his body. This telekinesis was rare for Irkens, and some possessed higher abilities than others. Zim's telekinesis was weak at best, but it was just strong enough to manually manipulate his PAK to and from his body whereas Irkens like Tak had a far higher mental capacity for psychic and telekinetic management.
Before the PAK could drop to the floor he grabbed it with both hands and brought it over to his console to begin diagnostics. The laser gun had been charged this morning, or he may not have been able to use it at all.
Gir seemed to have other things on his mind. He casually approached the Irken without a sound. Zim was not paying any attention. He was disengaging the top mantle of the PAK to get at its circuitry, and saw the robot from the corner of his periphery. "Yes, Gir? I gave you an order."
Gir contracted his metal fingers together to form a blade and punctured Zim's side with it. The bladed fingers went through muscle and flesh within seconds, and before Zim had even realized what had happened, Gir had tugged his hand back out again, allowing dark green liquids to drench the floor. Blood spurted down his uniform and over his polished boots. The Irken stood there, staring at the suddenly appearing deluge, too dumbfounded to do much else. The lights abruptly flickered back on, the main console came online, and the computer system hummed into life. On the console, the PAK lit up, the three ports shining incandescent pink.
Gir's narrowed red eyes turned back to their warm cyan counterparts. "Master? What you do? You got icky sauce all over yous!"
Zim swallowed and felt his breath run back down his throat where his lungs started to hitch out wheezes. He staggered backwards, pressing a gloved claw to his side. Hot, iridescent blood glugged out between his fingers with each beat of his heart.
Before pain and shock could undo him, he turned round and clawed for his PAK as panic burst through his carefully laid walls. It lifted upward, its flat inner disk facing his spine. Tubes extended from its base like twin roots and these interconnected with the tubes from his spine as they protruded outwards to greet it. Once whole again, his body enduring the shock of realignment, the PAK's neuron functions became one with his biological system and started sending out electric signals to his body to begin biological repair. Shivering from a sudden chill, Zim squatted to the floor, both hands pressed to his side as blood continued to ooze between his claws.
Gir stood by him, voice light with concern. "Master! Where's all that sauce coming from? Should I help? I know you like pancakes. That'll help you feel better!"
Zim stared, wide-eyed at him. He was so shocked and pain-induced that he had hardly given Gir much consideration beyond the necessity to bond with the PAK. The S.I.R unit's act of untoward aggression had to be a mistake. Gir had never done anything of the like before, except for that one time when he had tried to keep him permanently locked in Duty Mode many years before.
"Gir." His words were beginning to slur, his brain floating in a haze of absolute pain. His PAK was busy filling his chemistry with pain blockers and the like, and it was making him tired and disorientated. If a human underwent the same treatment, they would be feeling pretty drunk at this point. "Do you recall the last few minutes? Activate your memory banks."
Gir thought for a moment. This idle posturing was more suited to something with sentient qualities than robotic.
Zim watched, squatting awkwardly on the floor. It was much too painful to sit or lay down, and much too painful to stand again. He wasn't sure how deep Gir had managed to go in. Was his spooch in jeopardy, or was it just a flesh wound? His PAK was burning with activity as it hastened to still the blood loss, arrest the pain, and secure the site from infection, but it would take longer for the actual wound to close. First it had to coagulate, and that could take several minutes.
"Nope. Sorry. Nothing there." The robot concluded at last.
Zim took a moment to breathe out. It felt like he had a thousand stingy bees loose inside him. Warm viscous fluids slathered his fingers. As he lifted a gloved hand to peer disbelievingly at his own fluids, the lights in the chamber began to pale, with the rest of the world blurring and fading. There was a heaviness descending over him as if a giant metal hand was forcing him down. Gir's figure, once crystal clear, was now turning into a fuzzy outline.
"Could... c-could you just... m-maybe..." He felt his heart stagger and lurch as if the very blood it was trying to pump had become thicker than molasses. The base around him was falling into swathes of dark snow where not even the gentle, comforting pulses of light could be seen winking through.
"Master?" Gir whinnied, tugging on his salmon-pink sleeve. "Master? Master, open your eyes! Don't be sad! I'm... I'm sorry!"
It was the last thing he heard as he tumbled forwards, chin hitting the metal of the floor. In order to save energy to protect its host, the PAK sent him to sleep.