a meditation on the cost of love, Invader Zim style
by J. Random Lurker

I wonder if Dib ever even considered the possibility that Zim was bullshitting him. I mean, it's the first thing I thought of when I saw his transmission. Dib's so fucking gullible anyway. All you'd have to do is rig up a convincing looking graphic, some flashy planet explosions and some Photoshopped space ships, and the idiot would totally lose his mind.

That was what I thought it was when I first got here anyway. Figured it was Zim pulling some shit. Figured I could slap some sense into Dib- like I was ever scared of Zim or his 'mighty Irken weapons'? -Please-. The moron doesn't have enough fire in his brain to light a candle.

I'm not willing to say I was wrong. Nothing's proven otherwise yet. But... daaaaamn.

This street is a mess. Cops are everywhere. Fire fighters pump massive amounts of water into the ruins. People are milling around on the street, in bathrobes or standing behind opened car doors, staring at the huge pillar of sick black smoke pumping out into the sky from the lot that used to be Zim's. The air is hazy, brown and dirty. The street's turned into a spiderweb, huge cracks torn up in the ground, house faces splintered in a radius all around. And yet, people are trying to slide nearer to get a better look at the damage. Why do people always move TOWARD accidents instead of running away from it? What genius programmed that instinct into us? Makes me think God is a miserable designer with a bad sense of humor.

There's Dib's car, all right; I recognize that clunky black piece of shit parked across the street from Zim's old place. It's tipped over, and the windows are blown out. It's inside the cordon zone, and I don't feel like arguing with a cop to try and get to it. Too many questions, that would be:

Yeah, hi, Officer Dumbass, my stupid brother probably caused that explosion, do you mind if I search his car? No, don't arrest me...

The hell with THAT. Dib probably either left nothing useful behind or it was ruined in the explosion.

Another fireball- ooh, pretty!- goes off fresh in the house next to the burning lot that used to be Zim's. I hear screaming, some girl's voice. Firemen split off, rush over that way. Some uniformed asshole with a bullhorn is shouting something to the crowd about a gas main exploding and that the area is dangerous. No shit. Does that explain the miscolored purple metal shrapnel blown all over everyone's yards and rooftops too?

Staying here is pointless. If Dib's at the bottom of that thing, they'll find him eventually. For all I know, Dib blew up the thing himself, then ran like hell and is hiding out somewhere. The next time I see him, I'll punch his goddamn teeth in for messing up my Friday morning.

I have to get to work.

- - -

Stupid, stupid, stupid Dib, my brain is chanting, while I drive myself to the east wing of Membrane Labs, wave my electronic key past the eyespy, park in the usual spot- 7G- and get the body armor out of the trunk.

Best. job. ever. Yeah, I work security here. Back when we were kids, on Career Day I met up with a security guard type from the Organization. You could even hear the capital letter when he talked about it. I guess that's what the machine picked for me. Damndest thing, it turned out to be EXACTLY my kinda job. I get to wear cool armor, bark orders at people- and they have to listen to me unless they like getting their faces blown off by the experiments around here.

Nothing sweeter than having people OBEY. Not that I EVER abuse the power or anything. Heh. Nah, really- if I pulled crap like that Creppler- he's the Sector Chief for this wing- would pop a cap in me, so I toe the line. But I've got keys to the weapon cache...cue the evil laughter.

Time to go report in at East Ops.

Stupid Dib, this is Zim we're talking about. ZIM.

Like he'd ever be a threat.

- - -

When I get to Ops, there's some kind of commotion. I notice a bunch of the squad - my squad, I notice, Zik and his brother Zak and that swarthy Mendez and Croy and Blue- all clustered around the big doors leading to the Ops center, where we monitor the cameras that guard the grounds. There's a lot of talking, loud talking. I can't help but speed up my pace. The last time we had this much excitement at Ops was when we had the naked protestors trying to barricade the complex entrance...

And Creppler's there. I hear him barking, sounding hoarse and angry. "Back off! Back off! Someone run an intercept on Gaz..."

"Intercept me on WHAT?" I demand, pushing up- since when do I, the goddamn subsector chief, get the run around treatment on ANYTHING?

Almost everyone turns at the sound of my voice. They look pale, and in various states of confusion. Mendez and Blue step over and block me from getting into Ops or looking at the door.

Oh fuck, I think to myself, something's happened to Dad. These guys are bad asses- it's what I like about them. They don't get mushy, they don't get emotional, they don't take it seriously. They wouldn't be acting like this unless...

Like I'm gonna sit here and let them coddle me while something's happening to Dad! No way; I start pushing on them. "Get the FUCK out of my way," I hiss, feeling my heart start inching up my chest.

Zak shakes his head. He looks kinda green, actually. And the pity I see in his eyes feels like fishhooks in my chest. "You don't want to see this."

I give him the old glaring eye, damn near kick him in the balls, and repeat. "Get. the. fuck. out. of. my. way." I am GOING to doom you ALL if you don't tell me what's going on right NOW!

And Creppler sighs. "Blue, Mendez, let her in." To hear that sound in his voice... I've seen the man under stress. I've seen the man mad enough to bite through steel pipe- he probably could, with those metal teeth and all-.. but I've never heard ... pity.

This is bad. This is really bad.

Murmuring uncertainly, looking at each other, they let me through.

And I see what's on the screens.

- - -

He's here. On every screen. Pale and bruised and looking right at me, at the human race, strapped to a table. Surrounded by tiny little green things in a white operating room.

He's looking at me.

"My name is Dib. They want you to see what's going to happen to me. They want you to believe this is going to happen to all of you. They want you to see this and be afraid."

And the Irkens rip him apart. Tighten the straps across his back and start cutting. He's still conscious. Screaming. They show him every fucking organ they cut out of him. I think they ask him what it is in that stupid babble of theirs.

He's still trying to save us while they disembowel him. He shouts instructions with his last breaths.

"Hide underground. Water hurts them. Two days. There's still time."

He knows they're filming him. I guess they figure anything he could say wouldn't make a difference.

When he dies, they turn his head toward the camera, so that he's looking at us. They take his blank eyes out.

I hear someone vomiting.

It takes me five minutes before I realize it was me.

- - -

A/N: Wheeeeee!

jrandomlurker (at) yahoo dot com