Okay, everyone, welcome to the world of Defective Magic! Before we begin, I'll clarify a few points.
First of all, in this au, the main setting is Earth, but humans already co-exist with aliens. The other planets will be constantly mentioned and may even appear later on, but that will depend on how the story flows.
Secondly, Irkens don't depend on PAKs to live. They are more like an intelligent phone connected neurally to their hosts, except they aren't phones (though communicators are integrated) and have lots of accesories such as the limbs, cannons, weapons, or anything their owners install on them. PAKs are exclusively used by the Irken Military, the Tallest and high-ranking or influential Irkens who can afford them. Irken witches and wizards don't use them.
Thirdly, this AU is sort of a mixture of Harry Potter and Little Witch Academia, so you'll find references to both series, though it's mostly influenced by the former.
Well, I hope you enjoy!
Defective Magic of Spooky Doom
Chapter 1- Of Lions and Orphaned Irkens
It all started with two Irkens born on the same day, yet who had very different fates. Both were born on November 8th, with several hours in-between. Still, this time-lapse would make a considerable difference in their lives when the time came.
One of the smeets was a little girl. She was born on a cold, clear night. The first thing she saw when she opened her eyes was the loving gaze of both her parents. Her mother held her warmly against her chest. The smeet laid her head on her chest, soothed by the familiar heartbeat as her father tenderly stroked her cheek. Curious, she reached out her arm to grab onto his finger with an inquisitive squeak.
"How will we call her?" The smeet's tiny black lekku twitched as her father spoke.
"I was thinking… How about Ilk?" The smeet looked up at her mother. That was the voice she had heard inside the dark, safe place! She giggled and reached out her little hands up to her face, wanting to be closer to her.
The tall, male Irken smiled. "She likes it," that said, he kissed his wife's forehead. "Ilk it is, then."
Meanwhile, a few streets away from the heartwarming scene, another smeet came into the world, this one a male. Born a few hours earlier than his female counterpart, the first thing he saw was the cold, unfeeling robot arm that brought him out of his warm, safe place. Almost immediately, he began to shriek, wanting his mother to hold him, but she couldn't bring herself to look at him.
The smeet continued to cry for hours afterward. The Irkenette didn't dignify him with a word as she put him into a basket and carried him away to an orphanage. It was known as 'The Miserable Place for the Miserable, Parentless Kids,' or MPMPK for short. The irkenette placed her charge on the front door's steps. For a few brief seconds, as she glanced down at her smeet, she hesitated. Eventually, though, she forced herself to walk away from the scene, leaving her wailing child behind.
At that hour, most of the orphanage's residents were asleep. The only person roaming the halls was a female Vortian with peachy skin known as Hecate. Since the orphanage couldn't afford to pay human employees, it had taken to hiring non-humans, though currently, Hecate was the only alien working there. At that moment, she was doing her rounds to make sure all the children were inside their rooms.
It was thanks to this that she heard the wailing coming from the door. Curious, Hecate made her way to the door through the dimly lit corridors of the building. As she pushed it open slightly, she found no one there, but the wailing continued. As she lowered her gaze, Hecate gasped upon finding the basket with a tiny Irken smeet tucked in it. The poor thing was crying his lungs out.
Hecate quickly unlocked the door and picked up the crying smeet. As soon as he realized he was being held, the Irken's cries diminished into sniffles as he snuggled against her chest, looking for warmth. The Vortian looked around for his mother but found no one.
"You poor thing…" Hecate whispered as she picked up the basket and carried it inside, holding the smeet in her other arm. "It's cold out there. It will be warmer in here, little one."
The smeet, happy to be held for a change, gurgled and started suckling on his thumb.
As she made her way to her room, she saw a note amongst the blankets.
Hello, my name is Zim.
12 years later…
Zim was abruptly awakened by the loud sound of a bell. It rang at seven a.m. every single day of the week. His frustrated groan was soon joined by a multitude of murmurs coming from the adjacent rooms to his. Rather than waking up like the rest, Zim tried to go back to sleep, but the bell wouldn't allow it: it was programmed to keep ringing until all the children were out of bed.
"Stupid hyoomans," Zim growled, putting old an old gray shirt and pants. The clothing was old and with a few holes in them, but he couldn't afford anything better. No one there could.
Zim made his way towards the (literal) mess hall, where all the other orphans had already taken their single bowl of cold soup, hard bread, and taken their seats. They eyed Zim warily, avoiding any sort of contact with him. Nobody liked the alien. He was not only weird in his attitude, but also in certain other… aspects. Though most were likely to avoid him, others liked picking on him to let him know just how hated he was.
Being the only Irken in that place, Zim was always picked on by the other kids. It didn't help that Zim had quite a bad temper, and the slightest provocation, be it accidental or intentional, was enough to send him into a yelling fit. This always gave them more fuel to their fire.
Zim grabbed his tray of food and went to his usual place in the farthest empty table, right next to the window. Despite the warm, clear day on the outside, the atmosphere was anything but enjoyable in that place. Zim quietly took sips from his soup, glancing through the window every now and then. He always scowled resentfully at the children who passed by with their parents. How dare they be happy when he was as miserable as possible?
Ouch! Something came into contact with his head. It was an empty soda can. The reaction was immediate. "Who did this?!" Zim yelled, clutching the can and holding it up as he jumped onto the table. "Who dares throw an empty drink container at my head?!" This caused the rest of the children to burst out into laughter, angering him even more.
"Zim, sit down!"
Zim and all the children went quiet when a tall, pale woman dressed in black slithered into the room. Miss Bitters was the orphanage's director. As her name implies, she is a dark, foul-tempered, and unhappy woman who did her best to make the children just as miserable as she was. Even Zim tried not to cross her. He'd never admit it, but she freaked him out.
"Okay, you little brats, as you know, the orphanage doesn't have enough dungs to waste on giving you a proper field trip," Miss Bitters growled. "However, this year, someone was foolish enough to make a donation, so the orphanage will take you to the zoo." She announced in an unpleasant voice, further scowling when the children whooped and cried in joy. "We'll be leaving in half an hour, so be ready, or you'll be left behind."
Zim was amongst the first to dash to the door, only to be knocked down by a large boy with orange hair.
"Out of the way, weirdo!" The boy had snapped.
Zim glared at the perpetrator. Torque, the orphanage's official bully and his tormentor from a long while back. He would have responded with a fitting insult, but right now, his main concern was to get ready for the trip. The kids rarely got to leave the orphanage unless they were adopted or turned eighteen, whatever happened first.
"Out of my way! Zim coming through!" The twelve-year-old Irken dashed through the corridor, avoiding ramming into children or merely pushing them out of his way, as was the case with Zita.
He quickly made his way outside, where an old, worn down yellow bus was waiting. Zim came to a stop right at the closed doors. This may seem dumb, but Zim always wanted to be at the front, so he still got ahead to save his place. So he stood there for the past twenty minutes despite the heat and the sweat running down his body.
"Zim? What are you doing?" His lekku perked up.
"I am merely reserving my place ahead of time, Hecate!"
Hecate laughed. She wondered if most Irkens spoke like that during their youth, or if only Zim did. "Here, let me lend you some shade." She held out an open umbrella to cover herself and Zim.
Hecate was perhaps the only friend Zim had in that place. Being a fellow non-human and the one who raised him since his arrival, she knew him better than anyone and understood how he felt.
"Are you excited? This is the first time you're going on a field trip."
Zim nodded his head. "Indeed. Finally, I can get away from the pesky hyoomans children!"
"Hum, Zim, you do know they are coming too, right?"
"As long as they stay out of my way, I don't mind. Especially Torque! Curse you, Torque!" Zim waved his fist up in the air.
"Zim, watch your language," Hecate said with a slightly stern tone. She knew it was futile, though. Trying to convince Zim to drop a habit was like wanting to persuade a chicken to fly.
Finally, the bus door opened. Zim was the first to climb up and claim a seat in the front row like he wanted. Hecate sat down next to him just as the rest of the children trickled in, or rather rushed to get in like wild animals. Zim laughed at them, earning annoyed glares. Once everyone was accounted for, the driver closed the doors and departed, ignoring the yells from the kids who didn't make it in time.
The ride to the zoo lasted half-an-hour thanks to the lack of traffic. It was Sunday, so most people were enjoying the weekend in their homes. Zim, in particular, enjoyed the city's landscape. It was his first time out of the orphanage, so naturally, he was very excited.
As they arrived at their destination, however, his mood soured yet again when Hecate cried out once they got off the bus. "Everyone make pairs! Nobody can be without a partner!"
Zim didn't even bother to try and just stood there as the other children made pairs. Aki with Alex. Brian with Melvin. Zita with Poonchy. In the end, he was the odd one out. Nobody wanted to pair up with the 'Irken freak.'
Hecate noticed Zim had been left without a partner again. This always happened in the orphanage's courtyard when he was excluded from games and the mess hall where he was never allowed to sit with the other kids. In the end, he only had her.
"Well, Zim, it looks like I'm going with you again."She offered him her hand and a sympathetic smile.
Zim said nothing as he grabbed her hand. It was always the same, anyway. The rest of the children left him out of activity groups. They made sure to let him know they didn't like him, not only because he belonged to an alien species, but also because of his… quirks.
This 'quirks' started since his seventh birthday. They mostly happened whenever he got angry or frightened, usually against Torque or whoever had messed with him. Zim had no control over it and had no idea of why it happened, it just did. Like that time Sara threw a piece of hot pizza at his head. Zim imagined she was eating cockroaches, and her pizza inexplicably turned into a big group of roaches that swarmed all over her. Zim was the only one who laughed as the bugs attacked everyone but him. This made them realize it must have been his doing somehow.
The orphanage could only afford the cheapest tour, so the only areas they got to visit were the African Savannah and the penguins. As they arrived at the Savannah, the group split up despite Hecate's attempts to keep them together. Zim snuck away and went over to the lions ́s cage, where an old male was resting.
"Stupid big cats…." Zim muttered. "All they do all day is sleep and eat, and sleep, just like filthy hyoomans."
To his surprise, the lion opened its eyes and turned to him, baring its teeth and twitching its tail. It hadn't reacted to the insult, had he?
"Wait, you understood what I just said?" Zim felt a shiver down his spine when the lion bared his teeth again, growling loudly this time. "Okay, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings, big cat!"
The lion snorted.
Zim took a look at the plaque on the wall. "So you were raised in captivity, huh? If it makes you feel better, I kind of know the feeling. You could say I live in captivity too, surrounded by brainless hyooman monkeys and a scary old lady who gives me the creeps." Zim added quickly. "Don't tell anyone I said that."
The lion winked. Wow. That didn't just happen, did it?
"Hey, everyone, look at the lion!" Zim was caught entirely off guard when Chunk roughly pushed him out of the way, throwing him to the ground.
"How dare you push Zim, filthy hyooman!" Zim snapped.
"Shut up, freak! Why don't you go bother someone your own size?"
"I was here first!"
"Oh, what are you going to do about it, alien!" Chunk laughed at him. "Whine and cry like the baby you are?"
"Children, that's enough!" Hecate scolded, looking only at Chunk.
"Why don't you make us all a favor and get eaten by a crocodile, Zim!"
The other children voiced their agreement. "Yeah, one mouth less to feed!"
"SILENCE!" Zim yelled. His eyes were getting humid. Damn it, not now.
"Oh, look, the baby wants to cry! Baby wants his mama!"
"Children, stop it!" Hecate cried out, but her scoldings went on deaf ears.
Zim cursed himself for showing weakness. He tried wiping his eyes, but it was too late as the tears started trickling down his cheeks. He was surrounded by his tormentors. The Irken grabbed his lekku, closed his eyes shut, and tried to block their taunting little song as much as he could.
Stop it! Stop!
"Zim is a baby! Zim is a baby!"
"Not even your mama wanted you!"
Suddenly, the mocking laughter turned into screams of terror that were deafened by a loud roar. Zim opened his eyes.
The lion was not in its cage anymore. It had leaped out of the now barless confinement and curled protectively around him. His paw sent Chunk flying into a pond, prompting the other children and everyone in that are to flee. Hecate was frozen in fear, pressing her back against the wall.
"Zim, be careful with that animal!" she cried out.
Once it was sure they were alone, the lion looked at Zim.
"Thank you, little green man." Zim blinked. It just spoke. The big fucking cat talked.
"Err… you're welcome." He said awkwardly.
That said, the lion sprinted out of the room, disappearing amongst the trees outside.
Hecate rushed to check on her charge when the animal left. "Zim! Zim, are you okay?!"
"Zim is fine, Hecate," Zim snickered when he saw Chunk's agonizing shape. "And fortunately, Chunk-monkey is not."
The air in the orphanage was agitated that night. Nobody understood what exactly happened, how the lion escaped from its cage, or how it managed to break the bars.
But what everyone was sure of was that Zim was somehow behind it. The animal hadn't hurt him. On the contrary, it was protecting him. It even looked like he was speaking with the lion. Zita saw him talking to the animal, and was responded with small growls and snorts. It must be yet another of his 'perks,' they said. This event further strengthened their fear of the Irken.
After Hecate rounded up the children and took them back to the orphanage, she had no choice but to tell Miss Bitters what had happened. The children tried to pin the blame on Zim, but the old woman didn't care and sent them all to their rooms.
"Zim had nothing to do with the event, Miss Bitters," Hecate said nervously. She hated being with Miss Bitters alone; she had nothing against her, but her presence was… intimidating.
"So, you say the bars just disappeared like magic?" Miss Bitters scowled. "Next, you'll tell me that the kids will sprout wings, fly away, and I'll finally be free of them."
"I wouldn't say it's magic-magic! I mean, we all know it doesn't exist, right?" Hecate stuttered. She didn't really believe her words, she just wanted to get on her boss's good side. If she had any, to begin with. "Surely there's an explanation, but the point is Zim is not responsible for this. The children just want to pin the blame on someone."
Hecate excused herself and finally left Miss Bitters's office. Once out of earshot, she sighed in deep relief at the newfound distance from the old woman. Sometimes she wondered what had happened to her that turned her into… this.
Hecate made her night rounds around the orphanage's dimly-lit halls. The eerie silence and the dominant shadows made it feel like a haunted house, as there wasn't enough money for better illumination. That or miss Bitters didn't feel like giving the children any glimmer of hope in any way. A few times, she heard some whimpers coming from some rooms.
When she found Zim's door half-open and the room empty, she didn't panic. Whenever Zim was upset or wanted to be alone, he left his room and made his way up to the rooftop. It was supposed to be off-limits to keep children from falling off the roof, but Miss Bitters never bothered to put a lock on it. She was that careless about the children's well being.
Hecate walked up three flights of stairs, down a corridor and then up a metal snail staircase towards a door to walk into the rooftop's terrace, if it could be called that. The distant lights of the city's more urban area could be seen from here, as well as the nearby buildings and streets. The sky only had a few stars accompanying the crescent moon, the latter of which was partially hidden behind some clouds.
As she expected, Zim was sitting on the edge of the rooftop, hugging his knees as he gazed into the distance. Hecate couldn't help but recall the first time she found him here as a smeet, crying over being rejected for adoption. Soon it became a sort of safe haven.
"Zim?" she called as she took some tentative steps forward. "Are you okay?"
Zim didn't bother to look at her. He quickly but subtly wiped his eyes. The Irken didn't want anyone to see him cry, not even Hecate. He learned a long time ago that he should never let people know that they had gotten to him, this made them think he was weak and could be picked on more quickly.
"I'm fine, Hecate-miss." His hoarse-sounding voice betrayed him. Curse his voice!
He didn't look at the Vortian as she came to sit next to him, letting her legs dangling on edge. "Zim, it's okay to cry. Tears purify your soul and allow your wounds to heal."
"Zim's not crying! I just got something in my eye!" Thankfully, Hecate didn't press the issue any further.
They just sat there, watching the distant city lights and the colorful traces of cars moving through the streets. Despite the urban environment, their area of the city was pretty calm. Zim was continually staring at any Irkenettes that passed beneath them, some of them carrying or holding smeets' hands.
"What is it?"
"Do you think I'm a freak?"
Hecate stared at Zim in surprise. "Why do you say that?" She inquired.
She noticed he was hugging a worn-down stuffed dragon, dubbed Mr. Scales by its owner. Hecate recognized it. It was the toy that she found in his basket when he was left in the orphanage's doorsteps. Probably a present from his… mother. Zim would often carry it around when he was a smeet, and to this day, he always held it close to him.
"Why else would my mama leave me here? Maybe she just… maybe she realized there was something wrong with me…" Zim cursed himself as he felt tears welling up in his eyes again. He tried to hide his face into his arms again, but instead, he hugged his stuffed dragon tighter.
"Or maybe she couldn't afford to take care of you. Have you thought of that? What if she didn't have enough money, or what if she were ill?"
"That's a lame excuse! Many mothers in those situations still take care of their smeets! The truth is that she didn't want me because I'm a freak!"
"Zim, you are not a freak," Hecate said, a bit more sternly this time. "What happened today wasn't your fault."
"That's what you always say, but they always blame me for everything. And I don't know why, but a part of me knows it is my doing somehow!"
Hecate didn't know what to say to that. She had been a witness to the strange events that sometimes happened when Zim was around, but she refused to believe it was his doing. There was no way he could have made metal bars disappear out of nowhere!
"Zim, you're not to blame for what happened. It's just that people are afraid of what they can't understand and try to fill the gaps with made-up stories or blame people for things that are out of their control."
"But they always put the blame on me. Is it because I'm the only Irken here?" Zim insisted. "I hate hyoomans! They mistreat me only because of that!"
Hecate was sympathetic in that sense. Humans weren't precisely tolerant of aliens. Vortians, Irkens, and many other non-humans often suffer discrimination for being different. She had trouble finding a job herself; the only reason she had this one was that she was the only willing applicant.
"I admit they aren't… nice, but not all humans are like that. There are. Few decent humans out there."
Zim was pensive for a while. "Hecate, can I ask you something?"
"What is it?"
"Have you ever interacted with my kind before?"
She knew where this was going. "Yes."
"How are they like? How am I supposed to be like? Am I normal in Irken standards?"
"Well… Irkens are a proud race of warriors. They'd rather be with their own kind than other species. Most of their culture revolves around height. The taller you are, the better you are treated, and the more respected you are." Hecate explained. "You have the common traits of an Irken. You are proud, you don't like being with humans because you consider them inferior, and you show quite an obsession with height."
Hecate smiled teasingly. "Zim, I've seen you tip-toeing in your room and trying to measure your height with marks on the door."
"You're making it up!" Zim snapped indignantly, but his pink face said otherwise.
Hecate laughed. There was the Zim she knew and liked so much. "Okay, Zim, we should go to bed. Tomorrow's a new day, after all."
Zim groaned. He didn't really want to go to sleep, but his heavy eyes and already irritated mood said otherwise. Besides, he knew he'd need all possible energy for dealing with what happened at the zoo.
"Fine." He said as he begrudgingly got to his feet. As he followed his Vortian caretaker back downstairs, he quickly added. "Just for the record, this conversation never happened, okay? Zim has a reputation to maintain!"
"What conversation? I don't know what you're talking about." Hecate said with a wink.
Well, here we have the first chapter! See the Harry Potter reference? Like I said, there will be many.
Man, poor Zim. Hopefully, things will get better from here and out.