Dib pounded at the glass with his fists. The pink liquid he was floating in slowed the impact, and the glass resounded with a sharp *Bink, Bink!* that only furthered his frustration. With effort, he sucked more of the liquid into his lungs--there was no air in the cylindrical glass chamber he was suspended in, but somehow this pink stuff was keeping him alive. For now. He stopped trying to pound his way out and sunk to the bottom of the stasis tube, his hope sinking with him.

"Comfy, Dib?" Zim called from a control panel. He was fingering buttons and knobs and the word "CONNECTING" flashed in irken on the control screen. Dib couldn't respond; he only pressed himself against the glass and glared at him. "Good. You're going to be here for a while. Now that I've got you where I want you, I figure it would be waaaay too easy to just liquefy you outright. So instead, I'll just keep your miserable weakened frame alive down here so you can see everything that happens when the Armada arrives..."

Zim turned and approached the tube. "Which shouldn't take too long."

A tone at the console caused Zim to turn back to the transmission screen. "Ahhh, just in time." He straightened his antennae. The screen flickered on, showing two very tall irkens, one in red armor and one in purple armor. They were turned away from the screen.

Red glanced behind him, and turned grudgingly towards the screen. "Aw, now what?" Purple looked and turned as well. "Zim?"

"Yes, my Tallest." Zim bowed, left claw to right shoulder. "I have called to give a progress report, and to report a great leap ahead in my efforts to prepare the planet for invasion. The greatest threat to my mission has been neutralized." Zim pointed to the angry 13-year-old inside the stasis tube. "Here he is, my Tallest. My greatest nemesis, bottled up like so many Devastian tail worms: Wrinkled and slimy, and perpetually swimming." He patted the glass. "You like?"

Red and Purple looked at each other. "THIS is what you wanted to show us? An ugly big-headed monster boy in a bottle?" Purple chortled.

Dib sneered.

"…Um, yeah! I mean, he's been my greatest threat. Now that he's out of the way--"

"They'll be no stopping you from taking over that dirtball, yeah, we know." Red mocked. He glanced over at Purple, who nodded at him and turned towards the off-screen tech officers. "...Actually, Zim, Purple and I have been talking, and we don't really need you to try to take that planet anymore."

"What? I'm being reassigned? In my moment of triumph??" Zim said quizzically.

"No, Zim, you're being sentenced."

"Hurry up! Crack his code!" Purple blurted to the techs.

"…My Tallest? Sentenced?? W-what code?" Zim stammered.

"Oh, just a safeguard in case you ever decide to come back." Red filled in.

"What?" As though on cue, the rumbling machinations of his base ceased altogether, leaving behind an eerie silence. The lights went out, replaced by the dark glow of red emergency lights. The computers and screens were still on, and provided most of the illumination in the room. "What's going on!?" Zim stumbled to the nearest console and started to frantically push buttons. "What happened? Where's the guidance program? My spaceship manufacturing schematics? The Voot Cruiser's navigation systems!? What have you done!?!" Zim screamed at the transmission screen. "I won't even be able to return home, without those systems!!"

"That's the whole idea." Red said smugly, sitting back in his chair. "Checked your Voot Cruiser lately, Zim?"

Zim's eyes widened into perfect red circles. "You wouldn't…"

"DO IT!" Purple yelled to the techs again. An innocent beep drifted over the speaker, but it was echoed by an explosion that rocked Zim's entire base. One of the two electrode plugs attached to Dib's holding tank dislodged, and shattered the tank, allowing glass-laden suspension fluid to flood everywhere.

"What did you do?" Zim yelled, standing back up from the tremor.

"Blew up your ship." Red said matter-of-factly. "C'mon, you don't think we'd actually raze all that software and leave your Cruiser behind, do you? That'd defeat the entire purpose."

"But, I'm an invader! What possible purpose could I have besides invading?"

"We never SAID you were an invader." Purple said flatly. "We said we'd send you to a planet. We were reassigning your exile."

"No!" Zim yelled. "Y-you're leaving me here!?"

"Well, we figured it was either that, or send you out an airlock if we ever saw you again. But that would require you to come near us…"

Zim stood there, his crimson eyes pleading, looking pathetic before his rulers.

"I couldn't have said it better, Pur. Oh, and don't take this too hard, Zim. After all, you didn't actually fail us…" Red began.

"Not this time, anyway." Chimed in Purple.

"We're just tired of you. Bye, now!"

The maniacal laughter of the Tallest ended with the transmission. Zim stood there, staring at the screen. Overcome with a sudden surge of panic, he started mashing in the buttons on the communications panel. Each time, an error symbol of a stylized irken with its tongue out flashed on the screen. "No! My Tallest, do you read me?? Come in!! Don't do this to meeeee!!" He slammed his fists into the panel, and stood there, doubled over the control panel, shaking his head silently.

On the glass-strewn floor, coughing and gasping, Dib managed get up all the fluid in his lungs. He looked up and blinked in the poorly-lit communications room. Zim was still standing there, shattered glass and thick pink fluid in puddles around him. Dib couldn't see his face, but he could hear everything inside that tank. "Didn't... quite go as planned... did it, Zim?" He managed to croak out. Zim made no motion that he even heard him. Before Dib could repeat his jeer, however, he walked out of the communications room, stopping only once to let GIR hydroplane by on a large shard of glass.

The house looked like an unfinished computer model. The roof had been blown completely off. The holographic poles were bent and toppled, causing some of the walls to flicker like a poor TV transmission, and others just to fade to nothing halfway up the side of the house. Chunks of unintelligible metal alloys were strewn everywhere. The buildings on either side of the house were relatively unscathed, though the windows were blown out. The lockdown containment system that kept undesirables away from the VootRunner also contained the explosion, fortunately. That still didn't change the fact that the base was a mangled shell of what it was. And it wasn't showing any signs of rebuilding itself.

Dib stumbled over a pile of debris into the living room, and GIR happily sprinted in front of him and dove into it, squealing. Zim was slumped on the couch, and his antennae twitched towards them when they entered, but that was the only indication that he knew they were there.

"What are you doing?" Dib asked.

"What does it look like?" Zim replied sharply. "'Invader' Zim..." He began, showing his newfound contempt for the title, and then allowing all the false melodrama to drain from his voice. "has been betrayed by his own Tallest. I can't even get home, now. I'm stranded on a hostile planet. The repair systems for the base are obviously fried. What am I supposed to do? All I can do is wait, and eventually the stink humans will show up to piece out the explosion." Zim blinked his red eyes slowly. "They'll get more than they bargained for…"

"So that's it, then? You've been eluding me for the past two years. You've lost your ride home, and now you're just gonna give yourself up?"

Zim looked at him. "Stupid human." He began coldly. He touched the cuff of his sleeve, which widened into a metal bracer with a large red button. "I always hoped I wouldn't have to use this. Well, I'm as good as dead anyway, so I may as well take a few out with me. I don't care if YOU leave: They'll know you were right, whether or not I kill you." He turned away from Dib. "You win, Dib. Now let me be."

Dib looked up at the clouds through what was the living room ceiling. "Where'd you put my laptop, Zim?"

Zim turned and blinked at him. "In the kitchen foody thingy. Why?"

Dib stumbled over a random piece of something in the kitchen doorway. There were only two walls left of the kitchen, and there was rubble and indistinguishable metal scraps everywhere. His laptop had fallen from the counter in the explosion, and was lying on the floor, halfway buried. Hoping desperately that nothing was damaged, he dug it out and stuck the IO plug into one of the remaining ports in the wall. He sat on the floor and turned on the computer, and it whirred to life.

"C'mon, Dib. You've done this before." Dib mumbled to himself. typing furiously. He sighed in relief as a one-eyed Irken symbol flashed onto his screen. "Okay. System files… Self-repair, self-repair program… Yes! It's still there! All I have to do is modify it…and… Activate!"

He punched the enter key. The remains of the base rumbled violently underneath him He stood up shakily, adjusting his glasses. The rubble started to disappear, or rather, evaporate. In a matter of seconds, the tubular edge supports began to reconstruct themselves, growing new segments like a kind of oversized metallic vine. In between the supports, glaring pink lasers began to crisscross with a dull humming sound. The static charge in the room made it feel like the air itself would combust any second. As the laser mesh solidified into more familiar form, the humming sound lessened. Dib looked up, and could see the walls still developing above him. The second floor was practically finished when the ceiling closed up above him like a camera aperture. Darting through the back door, he looked up just in time to see the roof close up above the same, weird-looking "house" as before. Everything looked exactly like it used to.

That's good. No evidence.

Dib ran back into Zim's house. He made his way into the living room, where Zim stood, dumbfounded, his back to Dib. "I thought the Tallests had deleted the repair programs..." He boggled.

"I wanna delete something!!" Gir babbled sitting on the living room floor, and quickly took off towards the kitchen.

"They didn't, it was the execute files that were erased." Dib answered as GIR skipped by him. Zim, surprised, turned to face his old enemy. "I used the ones from my Crash Blast'em game to replace it. I'm surprised it even worked."

Zim blinked at him disbelievingly. "Why are you helping me?" He said. No drama, no contempt was in his voice. Just a question. It was the most "real" he had ever sounded.

"The same reason you didn't just kill me out of spite a few minutes ago. Besides, I heard everything that happened down there." Dib answered, producing a wig and a pair of lenses from his coat pocket and shoving them in Zim's arms. "All bets are off. You'd better get this stuff on." He urged. "We'll have some debunking to do in a couple of minutes. Everyone'll SWEAR that they heard an explosion." Dib glanced out the window and smirked at the irony. "Mass hallucination, probably..."

Zim stared at Dib, and unexpectedly started to chuckle. "Or swamp gas..." He added. "You can always blame it on swamp gas."

Dib started to laugh. "Yeah. Stupid humans will believe it, too!"