Navigator Flork was not having the best of days. Almighty Tallest X was not the easiest to work under, and he had served under Purple. Almighty Tallest X's sole purpose on the Massive seemed to be to argue with the Chief of Agenda and whenever they fought, Almighty Tallest X would be in the worst mood when she made it to the bridge. She would bark out orders, half of which they couldn't obey due to laws put in place by her predecessors, and then she would get mad and just start yelling at anyone who was close by.

Today, that unlucky soul had been Flork who was just minding his own business tracking the Massive's progress back to Irk when X had stormed in upset about some communication arrays being offline, and sent him out to take a look. He wasn't even a mechanic. He was a Navigator. He didn't really know how to fix the arrays, but he would not argue with his Tallest.

Instead, Flork would find one of the mechanics and report back only when he was sure everything was safe and back online. He made his way through the maintenance tunnels, the labyrinthine, twisting halls that were home to most of the engineers that were on board the Massive. They were hard to Navigate (even for a Navigator) and so at the entrance, there was always a little call buzzer. Of course, the one at the entrance he had chosen was down. So here he was trying to figure out if he was anywhere close to an actual engineer when he nearly tripped over a smaller Irken bent over on the ground.

"Oi! Watch it will you?" The Irken on the ground called out to him, quite annoyed at having been disturbed. "I'm workin' here!" She had the accent of a Northern Irken to be sure.

"My apologies, Engineer Flip." A quick scan of her PAK gave him everything he needed to know. She was an engineer, worked on Irk proper in the Science Labs before being promoted to a Massive Engineer; at three foot nine she was considered a smaller (meaning at four feet, Flork should be able to give an order unquestioned), but her service had excelled her to the top. "But we have a situation."

"It's always a situation with Tallest X, innit?" Flip wiped some of the oil off of her cheek. "I am assuming that's why your here?"

"You assume correctly." He watched her close the hatch she had been working under, he could see various wires still sticking out. "This seems important, I am sure, but my orders come directly from the top."

"Yeah yeah. " she didn't argue as her PAK legs extended out and gathered her remaining tools. "Just another thing to put on my list if ya know what I mean. Somethin's been scurryin' around in the tunnels chewin' up wires. Prolly some kinda Pryxelec Infestation. X'll have our heads on a platter if she sees it."

"So she has you all running rampant too?" It was almost relieving to realize that it wasn't just the Navigators under fire.

"You bet! She's got everything movin' like a well-oiled machine though. Can't even be mad. Haven't seen the Massive this efficient since Purple took that week of sick leave and we only had Red." She had finally collected the rest of her equipment as she turned back to face Flork. "Whatchya got for me?"

"Array on the outer armor of the ship is offline. Tallest X says it's one of our communication lines."

"Really?" She blinked tilting her head to the side, antennae perking up slightly. She looked at the gauntlet on her wrist and pressed a button on the side that drew up a very detailed hologram of the massive with an over-lay display of all the wiring. There was a small, blinking section right where Tallest X had been pointing on her own version of the map up top. "Wouldya look at that... it is offline. First I'm hearing of it."

"Think you can fix it?"

"Well Phooch is s'posed to be on exterior maintenance today. Not me. I'll ping him in." The map vanished as she began pressing more buttons on the gauntlet. It was now Flork's turn to blink, confused.

"Ping?" Maintenance Irkens had their own lingo, that he knew. But this one was harder to understand as there weren't too many Northern Irkens in the Navigators.

"PAK Inter-Network Gateway. Ya know: PING." She specified. He nodded.

"Right, call him through his PAK." Now he just felt silly. She was quiet for a moment before looking annoyed.

"He's ignoring me! Rodammit he's always slacking off but he's tall so we just ignore it." She took a deep, frustrated breath in. "Guess I'm fixin' it." She looked back to Flork. "You know your way back out?"

"I can pull up a map, but I'm not planning to go back until this is solved. I am not going to be the one to face Tallest X again."

"Fair 'nuff. I'll come getchya when I'm done. Till then I'll give ya a ping so we can chat." She grinned at him before scurrying off through the hall. He sat down by the half-repaired panel in the narrow, metallic halls of the Massive's underbelly. It always seemed to be devoid of life, though he knew that these tunnels were actually teaming with mechanics. There was a buzzing sensation from his PAK that alerted him of someone trying to directly communicate through the Collective. This was the most direct way to talk to other Irkens and could cover far more distance than even regular communicators. It was the closest thing Irkens had to telepathy.

"I am heading outside the Massive now, I'll let you know it looks like none of the routine maintenance has been done. But Phooch's Mothra-damned suit is gone so that little fuck must be work-dodgin' again!" He could hear Flip loud and clear in his own PAK.

"Maybe that's why the array went offline: lack of maintenance." he suggested, not really knowing if that were the case or not. He didn't know much about mechanics. He was a pilot on a ship that only went straight.

"Maybe, but I doubt it." She sounded unconvinced. Then she was quiet again as Flork imagined she was more focused on her work.

"Well the sooner we get this done, the better. I don't want to go back to Almighty Tallest X empty handed." She was terrifying, which wasn't necessarily a bad trait for a Tallest, but it certainly made her harder to talk to when things went awry.

"Makes me wish for Tallest V's safe return even more. I think she's jus' upset he got abducted by the Syndicate. Bunch o' paperwork lovin' bastards from what I hear."

"Murderous too." He didn't necessarily mind all the small talk. It made the halls feel a little less isolated. "But I trust Tallest X will make them pay dearly for what they have done to Irk."

"Good on her." Silence fell again before Flip let out an angry cry. "Oi! The array isn't just offline! It's fuckin' destroyed! Did you Navigators hit somethin' again!?"

"What!? No! Of course not!" Flork replied defensively. He would remember if they had collided with anything large enough to damage the ship. "And even if we did, we can't do much navigating until Tallest X abolishes the 'always go straight' rule."

"Nah you hit something for sure." Flip retorted. "This thing's obliterated!"

"No. We didn't." He insisted. "Maybe it just collapsed from neglect from your taller."

"This isn't 'neglect' damage this is 'taking a direct hit from a blunt-force object kind o' damage. It's all scratched up around the array too. What did you guys crash into, eh?"

"I keep telling you there was no crash!" He didn't want word getting to Tallest X that this was somehow the fault of the Navigators. The sound of footsteps brought his attention to a taller Irken in the same uniform as Flip, crossing his path just a few feet away. "I think I found your boss." He felt a bit of relief. "Hey Phooch!" The taller turned to look at him when he heard his name, antennae perking up.

"You found him, huh? Tell him to move his fucking ass to the array and give me a hand."

"Flip is out fixing an array for Tallest X, she needs your help." Phooch nodded, turning to head out. "She's really upset about you shirking on your duties, so be prepared." Flork gave an awkward laugh. Phooch smiled, shaking his head. "And for your information, we did not hit anything. So, don't listen to Flip if she tells you we did." Phooch nodded and turned back to head out.

"Is he comin'?"

"Yeah he's leaving now."

"I'll patch him into our channel so you can hear from him exactly how you hit somethin'."

"I keep telling you we didn't hit-" Flork was cut off by the friendly beep alerting him to another Irken joining their secure connection. "Welcome Engineer Phooch." He greeted the taller appropriately but was instantly met with a soft but very clear sound of static.

"Oi Phooch what'dya do to your PAK?" Flip confirmed that Flork was not the only one suddenly experiencing connection issues with Phooch. "You don't sound right, maybe you should talk to a PAK-Technician. I can handle these repairs. Just send Rix out to give me a hand."

"Yeah I think something's wrong..." Flork saw that Phooch had stopped moving. He was now standing perfectly still, facing away from him. "Phooch?" He switched back to his regular speech. "Are you having some sort of error?" He carefully stepped forward. Phooch didn't move, no twitch of his antennae- nothing. He stood there as if frozen. For a moment, Flork started to feel uneasy. He tried to look past Phooch in the hall, to see what might have caused him to seize up.

He didn't see anything unusual.

"Flork? Everythin' okay with Phooch?" Flip had gone from sounding angry to genuinely concerned. "I'm not getting anything from him, even in the Collective. It's like he's totally offline..."

"He's right here, but he's just kind of... standing..." Flork trailed off. "I think I am going to head back out and get a PAK-technician."

"Good idea." Flip now sounded genuinely concerned. Something wasn't sitting right with Flork. He could feel his cardiac-spooch pounding in his thoracic cavity with an elevated rhythm. His own PAK whirred softly trying to return him to his calmer state. He started to back away from Phooch, feeling along the wall behind him to try and navigate. He tripped over the unfinished panel Flip had been fixing before she left. He looked down for just a moment as he caught himself and when he looked back up, Phooch was staring at him. Except, Phooch's body was still facing forward. His head was turned completely around, locking eyes with Flork.

"Flip, something is very wrong," Phooch's mouth began to stretch into a smile, so wide it started severing his face in two. The top of the head flopped backward as the tongue turned into a slender tentacle. Flork's PAK legs extended. "I need to get out of here I-" he cut off. Phooch was gone. Looking up he saw seven red eyes above him.

"And that's the end of the feed Engineer Flip was able to provide." Xia frowned as she looked over the footage again. The twisted form of an Irken staring, frozen, back at her. She looked back over at Sym who had brought her the tape.

"This is an emergency. We should take it to the Control Brains." Xia had expected... not... this from M. She wasn't sure what she had wanted M to do exactly, but she knew it wasn't this. "It's clear the Parasite has escaped."

"Shouldn't we evacuate?" This. This right here was why she didn't like Sym. The only thing that could make her worse is if she did- "Rule 158 Omega Subsection 28 b suggests in cases of a Parasite we should evacuate and contain." That. Xia wanted very much to go through Ven's report on Sym, but this had come up first.

"That protocol sounds outdated. Plus, they're shape-shifters. How would we know we're not evacuating it with us?"

"Have all Irkens communicate only via PAK, constantly scan for organic life. The Parasites are rare but not unknown to us, we cannot be affected by their telepathic abilities."

"We aren't running from a former prisoner like we're a bunch of cowards, Sym." Xia drummed her fingers on the table. "An evacuation of the Massive would make me look incompetent. You don't want me to look incompetent, do you?"

"This ship is old, with all due respect, My Tallest. I can easily spin this as us tossing it aside to represent our future. I can make you look like a forward-thinking innovator." It was true, Sym had a great deal of sway with the Irken media, Xia had seen it all in action before.

"No evacuation. It's unnecessary. A Parasite can't even feed on Irkens. These attacks, tragic as they are, are probably just a pathetic attempt to escape by a dying creature."

"I don't think so." Sym contradicted her yet again. "This sort of behavior is incredibly unnatural for the Parasite. That's why I'm concerned." Her brown eyes scanned the footage, worry evident in her thin features. "Logic dictates it should try to escape with minimal damages, sliding beneath our notice. This... horror show isn't at all in line with our research."

"Oh, so on top of being our legal expert, you are also our leading authority on Parasites? Is that it, Sym?"

"What, no." Sym seemed taken aback by Xia's caustic tone.

"Well then perhaps," Xia stood, slowly. She stretched herself out as tall as she could, "you better step the fuck back then, hm? No evacuation. Your Tallest has spoken. We are Irken, not Vort. We will deal with this by fighting. Jon," she gestured to her Rising Tallest and snapped her fingers together, making him stand up perfectly straight.

"Yes, My Tallest!?"

"You're with me."

"Of course, My Tallest."

"Jon?" Sym blinked, "isn't your name V-"

"Sym, I want every security detail you have scouring our ship for anything abnormal."

"Y... yes, My Tallest." Sym looked very much as if she wanted to say something to Xia, but smartly kept her mouth shut. It seemed she valued her life after all. Xia wasn't in the best of moods at the moment and having Sym on her back like a defective PAK was making everything worse.

The plan hadn't been thoroughly discussed with M, but perhaps, it should have been; as it seemed the Parasite was taking things to quite an extreme. Xia would definitely have some notes when they crossed paths again. Things were bad enough for Sym to go crying for an evacuation, surely this would be considered dire enough for the Control Brains. "Listen, Ben," Xia finally spoke again. "In times like these a Tallest must make difficult choices. However, we are never truly alone. The Control Brains are there for us to bounce our brilliant ideas off of. They listen and give only logical feedback. They are our greatest asset."

"Oh, okay. I would have thought it was Irken ingenuity and drive- but Control Brains is way better." He nodded obediently.

"We it's all of that too." Xia waved it off. "But there is just so much great about the Irkens that if I listed everything, we would be here all day. Is that what you want? Me to waste my time making lists to appease you while our Massive is under attack?" She asked, smiling sweetly.

"No, Almighty Tallest X, I do not want that at all." The young Elite looked truly sorry for his interruption. Good.

"Very well. I want you to stand guard as I communicate these issues with the Control Brain on the Massive. Don't let anyone near me. They could be a Parasite in disguise."

"I will do as you command!" He pulled a small tube off of his belt and it extended into an electrified staff as he took a battle stance.

"That's the spirit." Xia appreciated both his enthusiasm and his blind obedience. This could have been Vero if he had not been such an obstinate fool. Maybe she could call this Rising Tallest: Good-Vero. No. That wouldn't work because she was supposed to still be sad about the kidnapping of her Tube-Mate. (She had seen the footage of the prison break. Somehow her asshole co-ruler had ended up in the spa of all places, which everyone knew was so colossally in the wrong direction that she was embarrassed for him.) She walked through the sliding metal door into the room where the Control Brain was waiting.

"Hello, Almighty Tallest X." The emotionless voice sounded almost pleasant this time. "What brings you here?"

"You already know, don't you?" He lifted an antenna, eyes narrowed.

"I have scanned your PAK for recent memory, that is correct. You wish to initiate the Emergency Protocol."

"This is correct. A Parasite has escaped onto the Massive, Irkens are going missing, etcetera, etcetera. So clearly it is time to authorize Alpha-Theta-09." She placed both hands on her waist triumphantly.

"If that is the case, then you must get Sym to authorize it."

"Excuse me?" Xia lost a bit of her luster. "Why? I am the Tallest. I should be able to authorize it myself."

"Affirmative. However, continued refusal from Sym would oust her as a traitor, would it not? Has this not been your concern?" The lights pulsed so smoothly. The dimming and brightening almost relaxing in a sense when compounded with that monotone voice. Xia hesitated. She recalled the footage, the fear in that Navigator's voice.

"It has, but M is doing real damage. Is it worth risking Irken lives to put a stop to Sym?"

"Having a traitor that is not going to put the Tallest first, could be a bigger threat to the Irken people than a simple rogue Parasite. You were quick to deal with Almighty Tallest V; why do you hesitate now?"

"With Vero, there was proof." Xia had caught him in cahoots with those who were better off dead. Sym was a pain, but Xia lacked true evidence.

"And with Sym this will be your proof." The Control Brain insisted. "After all, it is not truly you, putting Irken lives at stake- but rather Sym herself. If she had just been cooperative, you would never have needed her to prove her loyalty." Xia was deep in thought.

"No, you're right." If Sym had just not been a pain then Xia wouldn't have needed to unleash M at all. This could all have been handled with dignity and they would be halfway to decimating the Syndicate by now.

"If she is truly an ally to Irk, then she will activate Alpha-Theta-09."

"She thinks we should evacuate." Xia almost spat the words.

"That seems like a coward's way out. What sort of message would it send to the Syndicate if we evacuated our war ship over one alien escapee?"

"Exactly! Irkens are not weak! We need to stand strong now, more than ever!" The Control Brain clearly understood her perspective. And why wouldn't it? It was a being only capable of logical thought. It was bound to know she was right. "You know what? No. We are going to have Sym prove herself. If more Irkens get hurt then she will have to live with those consequences. She should have been a better Chief of Agenda."

"Good. Once the order is in place, you can initiate Alpha-Epsilon-01. It will take care of your Parasite problem."

"And we can't do that right now... because...?"

"Technically it can be done now. But it will not prove your suspicions about Sym."

"Then no, it can't be done now." Xia turned on her heel. "Thank you, Control Brain."

"I live only to serve, my Tallest." Its voice echoed behind her as she opened the door to see her Rising Tallest had barely moved a muscle. He blinked, seeing her come out and jumped to attention. Standing with him, was none other than Sym.

"She has been trying to get in, Almighty Tallest X but I haven't let her through!" He saluted with pride.

"Good smeet, Pen."

"His name is Ven, I believe." Sym had her eyes narrowed, she was standing tall, looking almost judgmental of her superior- which was almost proof of treachery in and of itself. However, Xia was willing to give Sym the benefit of the doubt as Sym's default, resting expression just looked overall bitchy.

"What do you want?" Xia's own crimson eyes narrowed with disdain.

"Complaints from the kitchens, My Tallest. Employee-of-the-Month-Chef Dan has come to us with concerns of unusual behavior from his fellow cooks."

"We will need to investigate that, I suppose." Xia sighed. "And how do I change the Employee of the Month? Dan has had that title for way more than one month. I mean I've been Tallest for way longer than that. "

"There is a whole system to it, My Tallest." Sym waved the concern away. "But that hardly seems pressing at the moment. We are losing Irkens at an alarming rate. I would, again, like to offer the idea of an evacuation."

"Oh Sym, Congratulations." Xia laughed, putting a hand on the Chief of Agenda's shoulder.

"E-excuse me, My Tallest?"

"Well, by the way you are talking to me right now I just assumed you got promoted to my Second Tallest."

"I-well... no... it's just-"

"Are you a General then, Sym? Because all of this sounds like stuff a General should deal with."

"Your Generals were thrown into Space by Almighty Tallest V; however, our communications indicate they have safely returned to Irk." That made sense they weren't all that far when Vero had had his weird little mental breakdown of treachery. "I would offer you to communicate with them, but as you know our main communications are offline. This is probably because of the Parasite."

"Ah yes, right. I forget that you know this because you are a Parasite expert." Xia tapped her finger against the side of her head.

"You are upset with me."

"Sym, activate Alpha-Theta-09."

"Shouldn't we see what the chef Irkens are complaining about?" Sym was visibly hesitant.

"So, you're willing to go ahead with an evacuation, but activating a protocol I specifically instruct you to activate is too much?" Xia folded her arms. "Time is valuable, Sym, evacuating takes time. Irken lives are lost if we delay. Those lives would be on your hands."

"We could do it quickly and safely if we-"

"Flyn, what do you think?"

"Huh? Oh." The Rising Tallest was watching the two tall Irkens bicker, his head following each in turn as they spoke. It looked like the constant back-and-forth was about to give him whiplash. "That's me. Okay." He looked thoughtful for a moment. "I think we should probably check on the chef's either way, right? I mean, no matter what course of action we decide to take we know something is amiss there..." he looked to Xia for her approval. "I... was that right?"

"Technically the correct answer would have just been to say: 'whatever you think, Almighty Tallest X', however since it was my suggestion to check on those bumbling smallers, I'll accept it." She snapped her fingers together, striding forward with purpose. "Come along now, both of you."

"Yes, my Tallest." Both replied in unison, heads bowed. It was evident that Xia's words had the intended effect on Sym. She was much quieter as they made their way to the kitchen. The kitchen was a large room only, mostly silvery in color with large ovens, lots of various tools, and a central drain in the middle of the room. There were only about four chefs at the moment which didn't seem like enough. She also noticed an absence of Employee-of-the-Month-Chef Dan. She watched as the Irkens scurried about doing their part to prepare a great feast. As a Taller, Xia had a very high metabolism. She required more food than most other Irkens (and Irkens, in general, did tend to eat a lot of high calorie food as the PAK took a great deal of energy). Xia knew there had to be more than four Chef Irkens on duty at one time; it was just logic.

"Where is Employee-of-the-Month-Chef Dan?" Her voice echoed through the kitchen making her realize just how unnaturally empty it felt- especially when compared to her last visit. It felt a little... barren? One of the chef's turned to look at her and pointed to a cabinet. Xia walked over, opening the door and seeing Dan tumble out looking a great deal paler than she remembered.

"My Tallest!" He spoke, alleviating some of her immediate concern. "Thank Mothra you've arrived!"

"See Sym? This is how you should act when I enter a room." Xia gestured to Dan in demonstration. "Now what seems to be the problem."

"This!" Dan gestured all around himself. This isn't right! Nothing here is right!" He was visibly shaking, even the mood stabilizers in his PAK seemed unable to help calm him.

"You'll need to be more specific..." Xia trailed off. She watched the chef Irkens. They were moving around, pretty much ignoring Dan (who quickly scurried away), but something was... off. She scanned each one trying to get their names from their PAKs but the signal was almost non-existent- as if the PAKs were powering off. That was when she noticed how perfectly in synch the four Irkens moved. "Everyone, stand back." Xia readied her gauntlets. "Jim, grab my battle ax from the display in the hall. We have a Parasite problem." All at once, the four Irkens turned, moving their heads in perfect unison to stare at her. The Rising Tallest immediately followed her orders, running toward the exit. Sym pulled out an energy pistol, pointing it at one of the make-shift Irkens. The smallers began to twitch as Sym fired. The head of one, splitting open to circumvent the shot. As the skull re-fused, the two red eyes of the Irken merged into one. The other three Irken bodies began to be drawn in toward the one-eyed Irken. Strands of flesh connected between the four bodies, pulling them together, the color practically draining from the abomination with every move. The only features that remained as Irken faces melted together, were the eyes. Seven of them. Soon the colorless mass of eyes and skin began shaping itself into the form of M. Sym used her free hand to pull a small cylinder from her belt. Pressing a single button caused a glowing, blue scimitar blade to appear. She fired at M again who split herself in two and lurched forward with her tendrils. Sym sliced at the tendrils, using her PAK legs to jump back. Xia fired her gauntlets at M who dodged with ease. One of the tendrils got around Xia's gauntlet, crushing it. She was able to draw her hand back quickly.

"My Tallest!" Sym sounded legitimately concerned. Xia's own PAK legs were out as she used her still-in-tact gauntlet to fire at the tendril that had struck her.

"Can we authorize that protocol NOW, Sym?" Xia gave her underling a dirty look. "Or should I actually get my arm ripped off next time?"

"Perhaps between us we can contain it." Sym rushed forward, launching herself with the legs of her PAK, firing the gun before spinning with the blade to get a good slice on M who recoiled looking a tad offended. Sym sliced again but this time M withdrew into herself before springing forward, crashing into Sym. Sym desperately slashed at the tendrils of flesh trying to bury themselves into her body. Xia fired at M. She had to be careful where she aimed, M was so fluid in her dodging that should Xia miss, she would certainly hit Sym. Sure enough, M's body parted the shot found a mark in Sym's shoulder. M made a motion as if laughing as Xia fired again. Seeing M's distraction, Sym wedged her energy blade into M's core. Again, the Parasite looked taken aback, withdrawing off of the wounded Chief of Agenda. The seven-eyed monstrosity collapsed back, splattering like a liquid on the ground and vanishing.

"She's pretending to be the fucking floor! If she goes through that drain, we'll never be able to catch up with her!" Xia fired at the ground and a part she hit recoiled in pain, turning temporarily back to white. "Can we use the protocol now!?" Sym was firing at the ground as well. Xia could see M moving- it looked as if the metal floor was rippling.

"It's just... I have concerns, My Tallest! This whole situation with you and Almighty Tallest V- even Red and Purple-" she hit M who very quickly slid over that central drain, practically dripping through the grate to her escape. "It... reminds me of Tallest Miyuki..."

"I... what?"

"She got away." Sym ran to the grate on her PAK legs before dropping to the floor to examine the escape route.

"What the fuck was that stuff you were saying about Tallest Miyuki?" Xia had expected the escape. She had not expected Sym's reaction.

"Before her death there was a similar set of circumstances... Irkens disappearing, erratic behavior from others, she would constantly talk about these... protocols. But... not like you do. She was very against them."

"So, you risk Irken lives because you still hold a dead Tallest in such high regards that you think of her wishes before those of your current, living Tallest?" Was this Sym's hang up? Yes, Tallest Miyuki was beloved but she was also dead. Xia was beloved too, and she was alive. Sym's choice should be very much apparent and the fact that it wasn't, was concerning.

"That's not it at all... I am just concerned, my Tallest."

"I am too, Sym. Concerned that you let a Parasite escape because of your loyalty to Miyuki."

"Why do you want to fight this so badly!? Why not evacuate?!" This was the most emotional Xia had ever seen Sym. She looked genuinely scared. Perhaps the purging of the Parasite's toxins from her body was causing her to be a little freer with her feelings. Sym had taken quite the blow, her PAK was clearly doing its best to cure her of every wound.

"The Syndicate are traitors who must be eliminated."

"But they-" the ship suddenly lurched before coming to a stop all together. The lights began to flicker.

"Fuck! She got in the power core." Xia couldn't believe the damage M was able to cause by herself on a ship of top-of-the-line Irkens. Sym and Xia's PAKs quickly put helmets over their heads as the life support systems on the Massive began powering down. Xia's PAK legs dug into the metal floor, anchoring her down against the sudden loss of gravity.

"We can't even evacuate now..." Sym was anchored down as well. She looked to Xia; her expression was... sad. Defeated...

Or maybe that was just the reflection in the glass of her helmet.

Sym pulled out her little reader, typing on the screen. "Request authorization for Alpha-Theta-09, my Tallest." She held the screen forward. Xia pressed her hand to the button and it gave a happy little green light before vanishing.

"Now," Xia handed the screen back. "Time for Alpha-Epsilon-01." Sym looked very much like she wanted to protest but simply typed on her screen and offered it back. Xia pressed the button and all at once the back-up power surged to life, filling with the same, dim red lights as the Control Brain's Room. Xia went to hand the reader back to Sym, but she didn't take it. Xia looked over. Sym was staring, vacantly forward, unblinking.


"You have done well, Almighty Tallest X." Sym was talking but the tone and inflection of her voice was almost robotic.

"C... Control Brain...? It that... you?" Xia felt instantly very cold. But perhaps that could be blamed on the slowly restoring power.

"Indeed. We are working to repair M's damages as we speak." Sym's body stood up, PAK legs clambering across the floor as the gravity had not fully returned.

"I see." Xia followed the Control Brain through the halls.

"This was a great first step, Almighty Tallest X."

"First Step?" Xia didn't particularly like the way that sounded.

"Of course. Those aboard the Massive are now a part of something much greater." Sym stopped walking but was instantly replaced by a security Irken who had been standing off to the side. The security Irken continued still in the Control Brain's even tone, despite using their own voice. "But the limit of Alpha-Epsilon-01 is the Massive. This needs to be Irken wide to succeed. And you will do that." Xia reached the main deck, at once all the Navigators were staring at her with the same, glassy expression. "And it is you who will bring that glory to Irk proper." All the Navigators spoke at once in that same tone.


"Of course," the many voices of the Control Brain continued from the Navigators' mouths. They were still all seamlessly doing their jobs. However, they never once stopped staring at her. "Alpha-Theta-09 authorized you to activate the war protocol. That, once activated on Irk proper, will begin the mandatory re-coding that will allow all Irkens to reach their fullest potential."

"This is... only temporary... right?"

"Of course, Almighty Tallest X."

The door burst open and the Rising Tallest ran in with M close at his heels. Xia blinked.

"I found your ax!" He was clutching the weapon for dear life as M seemed to be toying with him, lashing out at his feet causing him to trip. He might have fallen on the ax if his PAK had not been so quick to catch him.

"You can cool it, M." Xia glared at the Parasite who shrugged and sat back on one of the many snack tables stationed around the main hall.

"Woah!" The Rising Tallest's eyes widened. "A Parasite listens to you!? You are that commanding!?"

"Of course, I burst in and showed my skill and M was so threatened that she actually switched sides and works for us now." Xia replied, as-a-matter-a-factly. M made a motion as if rolling all seven of her eyes, but Xia let it slide as she was fairly certain the Rising Tallest had not noticed. (And also, M had done enough damage to the ship today, Xia didn't feel much like chasing her down.)

"Amazing!" He seemed thoroughly convinced.

"Hey wait..." she looked at the Navigator-Control-Brain as realization hit. "Why isn't he part of you?"

"He was not yet connected to the Massive's server in the Collective. It seems as if Sym had it on her to-do list but never quite finished the task."

"Wow!" The Elite watched the Control Brain talk through the mouths of everyone in the room. "That is incredibly unsettling!"

"We can switch him over now, if you would like."

"Oh no! No thank you!" The boy took a step back.

"The question was not for you." All eyes were instantly on Xia.

"Oh!" Xia looked around her at the many eyes of the Control Brain, then back to her Rising Tallest. He looked... queasy? Almost as if something were making him physically ill. His skin looked paler than she remembered, though that may have just been the emergency lighting. "No, I don't think that will be necessary. He needs to still learn, after all."

"Very well. He can be added at a later date." The Control Brain took her response without further questions. Xia looked at her companion. It might not be too terrible to have another Irken around to witness her amazing revenge.

"Bob, can you go put the ax back? I no longer need it."

"Right away, My Tallest!" He bounded back out of the hall.

"Now, you." She looked to M who was lying upside down, hair falling away from her pale face as she hung halfway off the table. She blinked. "I suppose you want your ship." M blinked her eyes one at a time.

"She cannot speak to you without a proper host and an Irken will not be able to serve as one." The Control Brain spoke pointedly.

"...Right..." Xia sighed, handing over her reader to M who took it and began tracing strange characters along the screen. The language was unrecognized. She blinked and tried again, this time in Vortion. The language instantly switched to Irken as each word was finished.





















Scale of 1-10: How badly do YOU think Xia screwed up?