Sometimes, you have to push forward. I'm so tired of staring at this chapter, revising, erasing, starting over. If I keep working on it, I'll come to hate this damn story, and that'll be the end of it. So I did the best I could. I hope it doesn't disappoint you folks too much. Sorry for the long delay. I am really, truly sorry.
Anyway, as to the problem of dealing with SO MANY NEW characters, I kinda cheated. Basically, I characterized a core group that were important, and then pulled a Lost. You know the series Lost, how there are like 40 survivors, but you only really know about the core group?
That's kinda what I did. Some of them might become important as time goes on, and they DO exist, but...
Sigh. I know. Lazy.
I already know the next chapter will be better. I just... needed to get over the hump I guess.
Anyway, as usual, reviews, criticisms, and comments fuel my work. I appreciate your consideration.
"One man come in the name of love. One come and go. One man come he to justify. One man to overthrow. In the name, of love. One more, in the name of love. In the name of love. One more, in the name of love. One come on a barbed wire fence. One man he resist. One man washed on an empty beach. One man betrayed with a kiss. In the name of love. One more, in the name of love. In the name, of love. One more, in the name of love." -Pride(In the Name of Love), U2
So here we have it, folks and folkettes. The moment of truth, the real live deal. The moment you've all been waiting for.
All of the trevails and trials that I've gone through, all of the hopes and dreams, and the pain, the misunderstanding, the fear, everything that is me is contained in these crabbed and stilted pages. I have not spoken terribly much of my time before coming to this planet. It took me a long time to figure out why.
I'm not the same person I was when I landed. That me, the me from before, is dead. He died a very long time ago, and sadly, there was no one around to mourn him. Life is like that, unfortunately.
I have learned one universal truth, and it is simple, bleak, and stark as a bone bleached by the sun. The universe does not care. The universe grinds on, and there is no justice in it. It is cruel and selfish, and sometimes good people die, and bad people live.
I garner strength and hope from this. A fierce sort of defiance, you understand. I spit into the wind and it flies back in my face, and I laugh at the futility of it all.
There is no justice in the universe, so Man, Irken, every species that exists, must provide it. The good that exists in this cold uncaring existence... we put it there. Every spark of hope, every bit of decency, every cherished notion and kind deed... every sacrifice exists because a sentient being would not follow the path of least resistance, the easy path. Justice and Hope are not replenishable resources. They exists only as long as we do, and they gutter out in the absence of decency.
The Irken archive has not been taken away from, it has simply been added to. Vic and I argued about this for a long time. You see, the program I wrote, and which Vic subsequently uploaded, some six weeks ago, all it did was provide an open editor and a very simple premise. Simple, but amazingly complex; the Irken species never thought of it. Never even considered the possibility. Which was why their logical, empire building paradigm, at least in the context of this ruined ship on a forgotten planet, all came crashing down with a single statement. Not a truth, not a fact, but the possibility of error. We knew we were successful when the AI apologized and simply disappeared. We haven't seen her since, which I suppose, for now, is for the best.
She likely has alot of thinking to do. Vic chides me for applying human motivations to a machine, and an Irken one at that, but I do not agree with her. There's alot more going on with those ones and zeros than anyone, especially her, can know.
The SIMA was something of a test run. If we couldn't even get a message through to a machine, how could we do so with a living, breathing, and thinking, being?
As much as it still pains me to admit it, we haven't seen the last of SIMA. Not if we want to get off this trashpile.
But what, you ask, is this great, mysterious premise?
What statement could be so powerful as to change an AI so completely, you ask?
You already know the answer to that. It is at the very core of your being. You are here, you exist, you are seperate from the machine that gave you birth, because of it.
Surprisingly, it is the exact same phrase that most good storytellers use every time they create something out of the aether.
It boils down to a simple phrase.
That's it. Simple, isn't it? But remember... the Irkens live by facts. By figures. The Irken brain is a linear construct that follows a simple cause/effect rationality. Zero, or one. Yes or no. Black or white.
Now you throw in a two. A maybe. A grey.
A world of endless possibilities in which facts are no longer strict constructs that force the world to bend around them, but hollow reeds that bend as perceptions and new evidence is introduced.
Is it any wonder SIMA disappeared?
Now, as to why, with such a simple premise, it took six weeks to reach this point, that's simple. The answer is a question: who are you, and why are you reading this?
Despite the view point presented, and despite my rantings to the contrary, you are not the long dead ghosts of humanity come to haunt me. The narrative you have been reading, to this point, was never originally intended for ANYONE to read. It was something to do. A way to pass the time, so that a certain human didn't take a long walk off a short cliff, possibly with a data cable attached to break his fall... and his fragile neck. Looking back, I considered editing it, but that would have been wrong. The temptation to soften the hatred I felt towards Irkens, the whining, the futility of my early plight, would have been too great. I felt it important for you to understand that I CHANGED, that people change, and sometimes, giving up a long cherished, or at least suffered, idea is the best thing one can do. I can honestly say that I no longer hate the Irken race, and I suppose by extension that means I no longer hate Zim. Still, that hate existed once, it was real, and to deceive you into believing that it never existed would make me no better than your wouldbe Tallest overlords.
So the narrative remained untouched, simply transferred over to a digital medium.
That's still not why it took so long. Even transferred over, it wasn't complete. It wasn't done until the viewpoint, the reality of our situation was whole. I am not the only survivor, the only being responsible for your existence. In a very real way, any telling of my time here would be half complete without the other side of the viewpoint.
It is a matter of course that I take things that Dib says with a bit of faith. Irkens are hardwired to do so from birth, but we do not call it faith. We call it obediance. It is a subtle distinction, but an important one. We are taught not to question. We are taught to follow. Faith, as I understand it, is to believe in something despite a lack of evidence, indeed, in some cases, to believe despite all evidence to the contrary.
Admittedly, I do not understand this concept very well. It seems foolish, and yet, it is exactly what the Tallest would have us do. Where in the instance of faith, there is blind belief in something evidence says to be untrue, in our blind obediance we let the Tallest change the evidence to suit their findings. We then called these findings facts, and believed ourselves to be logical.
It was a ship built upon lies, generations of lies, and it could not fly forever.
There comes a time when one must set aside one's childhood. Childhood. This is a human concept, and one which I still find hard to understand. It is, as I have had explained to me, a state of not knowing one's place, a state of learning, searching for one's place, and eventually, growing to fit the frame which one has set for one's self. Irkens are created knowing their place, their world, and everything around them. They do not LEARN, they simply know. Those that show signs of learning are either culled, or taken aside and given tasks which keep them out of the lime light, blind, but still useful, propagating and pacifying the Irken Race by spreading the comfortable lie that there are exceptions, there are the elite, even amongst the downtrodden.
There are no Irken Elite. Only those quarantined for having ideas.
Irkens have no concept of immaturity, and yet, ironically, we are always immature. Willing to be led, willing to take our leaders beneficence at face value, even when it is demonstratably nonexistant.
I trust Dib, because in all of my time with him, even when we were enemies, he has never ceased to question, to second guess himself, and he forced these habits on me as well. Indeed, he always encouraged me to THINK. To come up with my own conclusions, even when they did not meet his expectations, or worse, were completely opposite the conclusions he himself had arrived at. One would think this would lead to frustration, but Dib seems to find great joy in being proven wrong...
Especially by me. I think that by demonstrating my independence of thought, by demonstrating that I am learning, with every argument and disagreement, I create a victory for him.
There was a time when I could not have done so.
I was, as he said, resistant to this document at first, but not because I felt that it would have no value. Indeed, part of this newfound independance of thought is enduring what humans call curiousity, a need to know what one does not know, to continue learning; growing. You can imagine what I might garner from the human's musings, having experienced them yourself. No, the reason I was resistant, was because of the cost.
I can endure pain. What I find, maddeningly enough, that what I CANNOT endure is his pain.
Allow me to explain.
I am coming to understand that there is a great pain inside of Dib, one that he does not speak of. He came to this world immature, he grew up, but in the course of that growing he was bent, and was stressed, and finally, snapped. A tool, a device, cannot be stressed and broken and be the same as it was. However, a person is not wholly a tool, nor a device. A person is a living, breathing thing, that continues to grow throughout its life. When a bone breaks, if it is set right again, it grows back stronger. In Dib, the bone was set right again. He has grown stronger for his pain.
I acknowledge that I have some part in this, thought I rarely understand that part.
Somehow, I muddled through.
Dib is stronger than he was before, but I fear for him, because he will take on burdens that would break lesser beings in a heartbeat.
But if he did not do so, he would not be the Dib that I...
Even now, I cannot say it. One cannot make a declarative statement about something of which one remains ignorant.
I still have much to learn.
Make no mistake, young Irken smeets. This document was painful for Dib. Humans do not have perfect recall, but this does not make them inferior in that respect. It makes them different. They recall things so very differently than we do. When told to remember something, an Irken simply looks into the machine and sees what he saw that day. He will recall those images with perfect, crystal clarity no matter how much time has passed, but he will view it through the eyes of a machine. The meat, the animal perception of the memory is gone, wiped clean by the sterility of the machine that replays it.
Humans do not recall this way. They do not see every detail, they cannot exactly recall the minutia, but they can FEEL it.
They recall the fear, the pain. They recall the sadness, the joy, the triumph, the shame and the anger... they recall how it FELT.
It is a great mercy, another human term, and one which I cannot fully explain, that we do not remember the exact sensation of pain, only that pain occurred. This spares us madness, for to perfectly remember the exact sensation of agony would be to cease to think.
Sadly, no such mechanism exists for the pain caused by feelings. There is no defense against emotional pain. I would have spared him that, young smeets. He would have none of it. Ultimately, his was the right choice.
That does not mean that I have to like it.
The document that he speaks of, his own words, did not exist in physical form. It was simply a story he'd told himself so many times that he'd memorized every bit of it. I was not surprised to hear this, it has often struck me that Dib views things in a pecularly speculative way. I do not know if this is a human idiosyncrasy or merely one of Dib's. Either way, it is undoubtedly unique.
Question, analyze everything... even that which defies analysis.
What DID surprise me was his request that I add my own account to his, to mingle it even, so that a certain degree of Irken context could be discerned. I thought this a pointless exercise, as I stated above, Irkens recall things differently, so I assumed that you would immediately understand my viewpoint. Irkens are not individuals.
I was wrong. As I read back what I had written, I realized the scope of my time here. As I delved into my own recordings, my Pak archive, with a fervor only a newly converted hacker can apply, I realized again what Dib had done.
I have evolved. I am no longer Irken, in that my thought processes are no longer Irken.
But I am not human, and neither are you.
As we watch the completion graphic slowly fill, a strange sense of apathy falls on me. Whether or not you are what we hope you are, whether or not our words reach you, it doesn't really matter. We have done what we set out to do, Vic and I.
We have created an environment in which, in your thinking at least, you have the potential to be free. Free of both Irken enslavement and human prejudice, by the simple expedient of mixing them both so thouroughly that one is forced to choose what one believes.
You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. The story, and the archive, is there. You have read it yourself, as you lie there, waiting to be born. Your first memory will be the cold, forcefed words of an archive of Irken propaganda, softened with a simple concept.
What if it isn't the whole truth? Even more importantly, what if it isn't YOUR truth?
What follows is a story, a combination of two viewpoints, both from beings very very far from home, who somehow, some way, came together and each made the other stronger by doing so.
The rest is up to you. Who do YOU want to be?
I didn't think I'd be continuing this. I figured this was the end, and I'm pretty sure Vic thought the same thing. The need for others to know, for someone to hear it... well... it didn't seem to matter as much anymore. I mean, there are more Irkens... well, people actually, to carry on the story now...
Then a curious thing happened. Several of the young Irkens now busily scrabbling about the hulk of the ship we call home expressed a strange sort of longing.
They wanted to read more. They missed having the events described to them from this perspective.
At first, I was catagorically opposed to it. It seemed... I don't know, kind of like a crutch. A lingering vestige of the Irken need to have reality dictated to them. I didn't want to do anything that might set a precident... after all, these kids were going to outlive me by centuries. What the hell were they going to do when I was gone?
Two things changed my mind. One was Vic's, very logical I might add, standpoint that some sort of official log would be helpful. Despite how much she's grown as a person, there are some aspects of her personality that she clings to. One of those things is the inalienable right to be a busybody. The Irken civilization isn't quite so dependant on paperwork as the human one was, but they have their share. There is a such thing as a ship's log, and the way the ship is set up, some sort of entry HAS to be made by the Tallest and Subcommander positions on the ship, otherwise certain protocols get activated internally, and you get a mess.
At least, that's what Vic says. I believe her, I really do, it's just not in her to lie about anything.
I'll tell you a little secret. I think she honestly enjoys writing. I think I may have created a monster. She keeps a journal now, you know.
I know, isn't that crazy? A little HARDCOPY journal. This from someone who had to be convinced to even DICTATE a viewpoint, who saw it as mostly a waste of time. Incidentally, I still think it's just plain WRONG to have a journal with plastic pages. Call me crazy, but...
I indulge her, but someone should. She's been having a rough time of it lately.
More on that later.
The other thing that changed my mind? Oh yeah, this is classic. Vic and I initially set this whole thing up as something of a democracy, in as much as everybody has input into a final decision.
It... didn't work too well. Well, it did, but it didn't.
That... came out a little hazy... I'll try to clarify.
See, when the "kids" first started waking up, they weren't like any Irkens I'd ever seen, but they weren't experienced. Here you have a bunch of little people who know everything there is to know about the Irken civilization, know that they are Irken, but then also know that most of what they know is a bunch of bullshit. Add to this a rambling, schizophrenic, time distorted mess of a document, and you get a bunch of very confused individuals...
AhAAA! key word, individuals!
So basically I sat them down and gave them this speech about how they were each important, but that they would decide what they wanted to be on the ship. How this was a democracy, which meant that they each got a say in how things worked.
Of course, I'd like it if that's how it worked. The thing is, they really wanted direction at first. They'd ask about something, Vic or I would answer, then they'd act. So basically before long, they came to the conclusion, on their own mind you, that since we were the most experienced, we should keep the positions of Tallest and Subcommander, since a democracy is no way to run a ship anyway.
I argued, but the little buggers...
They defeated me with LOGIC. I was dead set against it, but they OUTVOTED me. I couldn't very well go against that, not after how long I went on about how it was their choice.
Still, it was a little gratifying I guess. If they respected us enough to want us to make the major decisions, well... I guess that was ok. We weren't automatically in charge.
But they also decided, unanimously, that they wanted me to continue the story, so... I am.
We started off with a group of five. Ven, Zem, Ged, Sev, and Kre, and before you ask, no, I had no hand in naming them. Irken names are given clinically and cold, on the day of their birth, by a random generator in the Pak. Weirdly, it's an intrinsic part of the Pak firmware, so there's no way to change it.
Five, because that was the maximum number of Irken kids that can be "initialized" (Vic's word, not mine) at any given time, due to the amount of equipment we have onboard. It sounded manageable, and would basically, you know, give us a starting point.
On a sidenote, have you ever seen a factory where they build cars? You know, the modern ones with the little mechanical arms that fly around at breakneck pace, turning a bunch of random bits of metal into a car? Imagine that, only with little green men on the conveyor belt, and you have a pretty good idea of what Irkens being born looks like.
Kinda threw me for a loop the first time. I mean, at one point it even makes that noise you hear all the time when a pneumatic wrench takes off a tire in a racing movie, you know that "WuVRRRT" kinda noise?
Vic looked at me like I'd grown another head when I started laughing my ass off, but she couldn't know that I was remembering a looney toons cartoon I'd seen once, I think one with Marvin the Martian in it, where he grew these weird birdy things with these furry tutu's and little umbrellas on their heads, and they...
Oh nevermind. I'm probably remembering it wrong anyway.
So here we have these five quiet little Irkens... Irklings? I've never really asked Vic what they call Irken kids. Anyway it doesn't matter much, they grow to full size in like a week, so calling them anything other than Irkens is probably pointless.
So here they are, three boys, Zem, Ged, and Sev, and two girls Ven and Kre. It's really hard to tell them apart at first. I mean, REALLY hard. Well, Kre was pretty easy to pick out, since she had violet eyes, and was a little darker than the others, but the other four? Red and green, the lot of them.
I'll let you in on a little secret. After awhile, because I didn't want to make them feel bad, I cheated a little. I put a little paint mark secretly on their shoulders to let me know which was which. I felt bad, because I couldn't tell them apart, and they never got upset with me when I called Zem while looking right at Sev, or god forbid, Ven when I was looking at Ged. Vic certainly wasn't any help. I think the whole affair secretly amused her. In any case, after about four or five days they started to look different enough that I was able to tell them apart without the little paint marks.
Vic, of course, never had a problem telling them apart, but I think she was a little intimidated by them. I don't think she really grasped the reality of THINKING Irken kids, at least, not until they started asking questions.
Invariably she'd get this kind of helpless look, then look at me with that endearing, but also exasperating, "help me" kind of look, and Papa Dib would gather the kids around and explain to them as best he could why water hurts, or why you shouldn't push your brother into a power converter even if he made funny noises when you did, or the reason why Dib didn't have antennae...
That's what they called me, right from the beginning. Not Papa, (thank god) not Subcommander, and definately not slavebeast, just Dib. With Vic is was always Vic, sometimes Victoria... but there was none of that, "you can do no wrong" servitude you see with the Tallest.
Which isn't to say they didn't respect us, only that the REASON they respected us was because we'd been around longer, and we looked out for them.
We earned their respect.
I'll let you in on another little secret. There are 152 little Irkens running around fixing like mad right now, but those five...
Those five, I'm only really close to them.
Sounds terrible doesn't it? I mean, Vic and I brought them all into this world, in a way, this is as close to kids as I'm ever going to get. What kind of parent doesn't love all their kids equally?
I'll do you one better. What kind of parent has to think for a second or two which one of his kids he's talking to at any given moment?
I know its humanly impossible for me to be that close to all 152 of them. There's just no way... even knowing all their names is hard. I know a little bit about most of them... for instance, I know that Tab is really good at moving around in the tiny little engineering spaces, I know that Cen can fix anything on the ship with little more than some adhesive and a spanner, I know that Taz was a tad clumsy when she was little, and so over compensates and moves like she's a dancer now...
Ok, so maybe I know more about them than most. I'll admit I DO care.
But nothing can really compare to the relationship I have with those first five.
Zem was a stolidly curious gentleman. Gentleman is really the only word that describes him... it's as though some english commodore from the 19th century possessed him at birth. You know, stiff upper lip, kind of guy who will cheerfully deal with the worst sort of conditions just as long as he gets his tea, but a little too conservative and obsessed with propriety, if you get my meaning. Really, he's a cheerful kid, really amazing with his hands and... you know, pak... extremities. Him and his little team of deckrats (that's the nickname I gave 'em, since they keep to the engineering spaces and always look at you like you let in too much light if you invade their territory) moved into the engineering spaces and the living quarters around said location, and pretty much work day and night to get the engines up and running. Zem was as delighted with my solution to the power core problem as Vic was horrified by it. If the kid has any fault, it's that he's one of those... build a better mousetrap kinda guys...
Hmm... how to explain it.
Remember that old game where you had to put all these crazy pieces together to make a mousetrap, only when you set it was like, five minutes worth of mechanical activity to accomplish something that a regular mousetrap will do in a millisecond? Well that's Zem all over. I call it needlessly complicated, he calls anything else boring. The two of us get into little arguments about form versus functionality, but really, he's the one who understands how it all WORKS, so anything I say about the subject is academic.
And he knows it too, the little shit.
Sev is a little bit taller than his brothers, and I swear he's eight weeks going on a hundred and fifty years old. Zem calls him boring, Sev thinks that Zem is more than a little fruity, but you can tell there's a lot of respect between them. It's really... odd. They grow up so fast...
Sigh. Anyway, he's a realist, pragmatic, and blunt. He's the guy that points out why your plan will fail, why you can't do this, or can't do that. If he were even the least bit arrogant about it, he'd be an insufferable little git, but he's got no ego, at least, not excessively so. The kid is scary with a laser rifle... hell, anything he picks up. It's like if it was made to kill, he knows how to use it like he's been at it for decades.
He's definately a better shot than me. The parts of the story he really liked were the tactical portions.
He might have been scary if I didn't know him a little better.
See, he was a quiet kid, at least were the "adults" were concerned. I think he just didn't like to be a bother or something. Still, you get to living with Irkens long enough and you start to notice when things are bothering them. I still remember the conversation I had with him. I sat down with him, lunch you understand, legs dangling over the rusted aft of the ship, staring out into the burning afternoon sun. He was munching stolidly on the remains of some long expired snack food, and I was dipping dry nachos into greenstuff, and all of the sudden he looks down and shakes his head.
"I just don't get it." He said quietly.
I could have asked what he meant, or something else, but instead I looked at him, set down my lunch, and tried to look receptive.
He looked down at his hands. "I can't build anything... I don't invent anything... the only thing I do is break things down. Zem's ideas... it's like... I'm only really good at destroying things."
I raised an eyebrow. "You can field strip a laser rifle in twenty seconds and all you think you can do is destroy?"
He shook his head, his antennae drooping slightly. That's another thing... something Vic hasn't even picked up on yet. Human body language. The kids all do it, unconsciously... and at the same time, the little clues you get from the antennae are there too. They're all really expressive that way.
"It's not the same. It's like... I can see the flaw in anything... everything... and how to exploit it. It's kind of..."
He looked at me.
I frowned. "Scary?"
He nodded quietly.
"Sev..." I paused for a moment, thinking about my response. After awhile, I turned away from the view overlooking the huge scrape mark this ship left when it crashed and sat crosslegged, looking at him.
"The others... they know you don't mean anything by it. They look up to you, you know."
He looked surprised at this. At a hint of protest I raised a hand.
"Hear me out. You ever notice when Zem gets an idea, the first person he talks to about it isn't me or Vic, it's you?"
"That's right. He knows that you'll give him an unbiased view, which I can't always do, and complete break down of why it can't work, or why it will work. All of 'em come to you first with new things, kiddo. That's called leadership."
I sighed. "Also... The universe is a pretty nasty place. Sooner or later we're gonna get off this hellhole, and when we do, I for one, am glad that at least one scary mother is sitting right next me, on my side."
I grinned. "If it makes you feel any better, look at it like this. You know that you're capable of some scary shit... and it concerns you. If you weren't scared, THEN I'd be concerned. The thing is... this is your family... and there isn't a damn thing wrong with protecting your family. Anybody tells you different, you tell them to see me. I'll set them straight."
He nodded very solemnly, and we didn't say anything other than that. Still, when he announced that he was taking over as head of security, nobody gainsayed him.
I know his priorities are straight. His heart is in the right place.
Ven is... a little firebrand, frankly. She gets into so much goddamn trouble it's amazing. Chances are, if I had to sit them down to have a talk about WHY you shouldn't do something, it was Ven I was directing that conversation at. There wasn't any malice in it, I think she's just an eternally curious sort. She tries everything, never quite settling on any one discipline. As a result, she can pretty much do anything passably. She's not a great engineer like Zem, but she can fix most normal problems. She's no warrior like Sev, but she can hold her own, and unlike Sev, she fights dirty.
I'll put it this way, there is no way in hell I'm ever going to spar with that girl. I have too many things I don't want to be missing after the fight.
Ged is an easy going sort, a slippery little repairman. Ged is a master at fixing things quickly, not very inventive, but if it had a function, he will find a way to restore it. I hardly ever see him nowadays, but you know he's around. Nothing upsets him, really... but I get the impression that he's a little frustrated. Of all of them, he's the most interested in human culture. He pesters me about it quite a bit, but... I just don't feel right reminiscing about it. It hurts too much, you know? Anyway, his line is that I have a duty to record as much of that information as possible, since it is a part of the young Irken's heritage and one that they will lose if something ever happens to me. Most of the others don't listen to him much, or at least, aren't as interested in the dead past as he is. Still, one of these days I'll sit down and write it out, it's just...
Well, so many things in human culture have to be experienced to understand. Like music, for one. I can't carry a tune worth a crap, and I never bothered to learn to play any intruments. How would I even begin to explain to the Irkens, who have no native musical discipline, what music is?
What about the parts of human culture that aren't so happy. What about racism, sexism, classism, and extremism? Those were parts of human culture, should I exclude them because they were bad, or include them for the full picture?
What about religion?
So I guess it'll be awhile before that document comes to be.
Kre is the little mother of the group. She really took the moments of Vic and I working together to heart. All she's ever wanted to be is a caregiver, and being a medic is all she's ever really cared about. After the second week, her's was the face that every Irken child saw first, when they were born. Oh Vic and I still met with them, but we had other duties to deal with. Kre kept it running. If someone gets hurt, and let me tell you, during large construction jobs injury is an inevitablity, if Vic isn't right on hand, chances are Kre is the one who fixes them up.
She a sweet, gentle soul. I wonder how that happened. Not that I'm complaining, but... what part of Vic or I caused her to be that way?
I don't know.
I could go on and on about my new family, but there are so many... and I'm so busy all the time... unfortunately, since I'm not as familiar with Irken technology as the kids are now, I get relegated to doing heavy lifting and planning, mostly. Sometimes, the only thing that'll get a job done is alot of stubborn muscle, and that's what I do. Stubborn, mostly, although the last few weeks have toned an already rugged physique into a scary sort of fighting trim.
I look in a reflective surface now, and I see none of the wild eyed kid I was before. If I don't shave, a scraggly beard starts to grow. None of the kids likes that facial hair, so I get rid of it. I think it reminds them that I'm not one of them, and that makes them a little uncomfortable.
22 years old. I think that's a pretty good estimate. It doesn't really matter much, anyway. What is my life expectancy now? More, because I have access to Irken biotechnology, which is way beyond anything earth dreamed up? Less because of some vital nutrient or element I'm not getting anymore? Or some hazardous chemical I'm absorbing with all this alien food that I don't even know about?
What about the disease that killed mom? It's hereditary, you know. She died at the age of 24, only four years after having me, and 2 after having Gaz. I don't FEEL sick, but how much time do I really have left?
It doesn't matter. All I can do, all that I have done since then, it take the time day by day. Work towards a goal.
That about sums it up.
Oh wait a sec... I said something about Vic having problems didn't I? Well, I'll just drop back into the narrative and tell it like a story, since I'm pretty sure all this summarizing is getting boring.
I press my back against a heavy piece of armor plating and push with all my might to get it into place, holding it patiently, sweating in the hot sun while five Irkens crawl around and on top of me welding it into place. There are no mechanisms for heavy lifting in gravity on the Dreadnought, since it was never intended for atmospheric landing, let alone repair. So alot of the gear has to be muscled into place. I muse about things as I pretend to be a brace.
Kre taps my shoulder. It startles me, and Zem hisses in irritation.
"You have to hold it steady, Dib... it can't be a hair out of position, or it'll rattle loose if we manuever."
"Sorry, kiddo... what's up, Kre?" I turn my head, and nod to her, curious. Kre doesn't interrupt work unless it's really important.
"Sorry Dib, it's Vic... she-"
I step away from the armor and look at Kre sharply, all my attention on her slightly nervous face. Several Irkens curse and swear, taking up the sudden slack. Fortunately the armor plate was already have welded into place. Zem shakes his head irritably, but in truth, he's half concerned as well. I see one of his antennae perk up and towards Kre's position.
"What's wrong with Vic? Where is she?" I demand.
Kre blinks. "In her quarters, she won't come out. I think she's sick... she's been eating so much..."
I'm already moving by the time the word sick comes out. Kre scuttles along on her little mechanical pak-limbs like a startled daddy longlegs.
I reach the Tallest quarters and knock politely. If there's any place on the dreadnought that could pass as "lavish" this is it, only since it's Irken, it doesn't look all that cushy. It's a little sleeker, a little more starkly alien.
Definately more spacious.
There's no answer.
"Vic..." I yell through the door. "Are you ok in there?"
Again, no answer.
I open the door. It is not locked. The light is extremely low. An Irken wouldn't have a problem, but it's pitch black to me.
Kre waits by the door. While not affected by the Irken mindset that the Tallest chambers are sacrosanct, she is nevertheless hesitant to intrude on Vic's personal space.
It occurs to me that I haven't seen her in a couple of days. How could I have missed that?
I've just been so busy.
If she's hurt, and I missed it, I'll never forgive myself...
I step into the gloom reach for the light control. A weak voice hisses from the darkness.
"Do not... please."
"Vic? What's wrong? Are you-"
An intake of breath. Something moves in the shadows.
"I think... something is wrong with me, Dib. I can't stop... eating... and I feel..."
I raise an eyebrow. "Vic? Are you ok?"
"Everything hurts, and-"
"Vic, it's ok... we'll get you down-"
"It is NOT OK! I CAN'T STAND THIS!" Her voice is harsh and decidedly un-Vic-like. I take a startled step back.
"O-oh Tallest... I don't know why I-I'm so angry..."
I step determined into the chamber and to the resting couch. Can't call it a bed, because Irkens don't sleep. Found that out, when I explained dreams to a couple of the kids. I wonder why Vic never told me.
"Vic, calm down... whatever it is, we'll figure it out..."
Something hits my chest, harder than I expected. I am surprised, and so I wince a bit and sit down heavily at the bedside. It slithers up my chest sinuously and caresses the side of my neck. I shudder involuntarily, and not entirely out of surprise. There is something very familiar, even suggestive, about that touch.
I know those hands, but there's something wrong...
A pair of eyes gleaming in the very slight light from the doorway, like two burning red globes. Slowly, they turn to half-globes as Vic narrows her gaze in my direction.
"I-I don't know what..." She stammers.
The eyes are too high... way too high...
They come closer. I am spellbound... closer...
Too tall, she's too tall to be-
She bends closer to my neck, so that I can feel her breath on my skin. She whimpers very slightly.
"I don't know what's happening to me..."
The sound of Kre scuttling away at top speed catches my ears, I throw my gaze desperately in that direction. Where is she going? What the hell is going on!
The door slides automatically closed.
-83.06.45- Miyuki protocol completed. Registering... error. No Irken Control Brain within maximum hyperbroadcast distance.
-83.06.45- Initializing subspace message beam. Beam initialized. Tallest compliment will be updated in 92 days.
-83.06.45- Process completed.