I have always wanted to do a fanfiction with Sara. She is the girl from "Room With a Moose" that calls Dib a weirdo at several points in the episode. She's also the girl who eats her eraser in "Tak the Hideous New Girl." I have no clue why I wanted to work with her so badly. Maybe because she strikes me as a strong female character, or maybe because I like her voice. But, for whatever reason, here she is.

Thank you very much to the Scary Monkey Show website and their "A to Z Bios," which helped me a lot in sorting out the kids. Also, a big big thanks goes out to the badbadrubberpiggy website for their "Super Obsessive Gallery of Doomy Doom" that has screenshots taken for every second of every single Invader Zim episode (even the unaired ones). I use that extensively to help me with descriptions. It's an awesome resource.

As always, the extra features for this fanfic will be up on my livejournal within a day or two following this post. So, if you want to check out some fun facts and production notes about the fic I invite you to head on over there. The link can be found at the bottom of my ffnet profile. Beyond that, I just hope you have a grand 'ol time reading my stuff, and I hope that if you have anything to say about it, positive or negative or otherwise, you'll drop me a email, IM or review letting me know what you think.

I know, I know, blah, blah, do the disclaimer and shut up.

Disclaimer: These characters aren't mine. Alas, I can mess with their minds and their souls but I can't collect a penny.

Of all the things about this short story, I have to admit that I like the summary best. It's the combination of the two phrases that really makes it sing, I think. In and of themselves, the proverbs are telling, but not significantly profound. "Knowledge is power" and "Ignorance is bliss" are simple mathematical equations—A equals B. But if you take them from their respective places and suddenly stick them next to one another, the meaning mutates into something entirely different. Knowledge is power, but there is no guarantee it will ever be bliss.

-------------------- Status Quo --------------------
By: Lael Adair

Stop it.

Sara curled her lips defiantly and reached her fist back again to slam it into the glass. Her knuckles met the surface with a dull thud, refusing—as had all her other attempts—to make any sort of crack in the prison holding her. This was the last time she ever took a dare from Torque. Whenever she got out of here, he and Zim were both dead.

I said stop it, human. Do you have a hearing problem or something? That's really annoying.

"Not as annoying as your stupid voice!" she shot back.

Four hours. Trapped in this stupid tube for four hours and all she'd had to listen to was that stupid computer. She had no clue where the machine was located or how it could watch her. She'd seen enough sci-fi movies to know what the body of an all-knowing computer looked like and there wasn't one around that she could see. She'd had four hours to look. The whole machine just seemed to be some detached voice that had no source and yet was able to monitor her every move—monitor, and comment.

Stupid? I'll tell you who's stupid. That's the four hundredth and fifty second time you've hit the polycarbonate flexide. I told you already—SEVERAL times—a digestor couldn't break out of there. Your skinny little arm isn't going to do anything. I'll bet there's barely enough muscle in it to pick your own "nose."

"Hey! I didn't ask you to put me in here!"

You were the one trespassing and bearing arms—

"It was a TOILET PAPER ROLL! Haven't you ever heard of wrapping a house!"

No. Did I forget to mention that I don't care? Now sit and be quiet. I don't want to deal with you. Zim should be back soon from...wherever he is, and he can do...whatever it is he does to humans.

"Some computer."

You know it responded snidely. I wonder how long you'd live if I—

It cut off. Sara listened to see if the computer would finish its sentence but it seemed to have left her...for the moment. Frustrated, she kicked the inside of her cylindrical prison and sunk against one of the sides. It took a bit of maneuvering to find a place to sit that wasn't super-heated by one of the four lamps set into the base of the tube. Unknown to her, she was actually seated in a specimen tank that was meant to hold subjects in a vat of thick colored liquid for study and analysis, not to serve as a temporary prison.

Her head fell down into her knees, sending her long purple hair draping over the sides of her face. To think all of this had started with a prank...


"All right, Torque, it's your turn."

Sara, Rob, and Carl gathered around the considerably-sized jock and watched in anticipation of what he would pull out of his shirt. Enjoying the attention, Torque waited a moment to allow the suspense to build. At his feet lay a box of pancake mix, a bottle of ketchup, and one small bag of dried dog food, all quickly soaking up the water leaking from the ice machine sitting a few feet away. The middle skoolers had to meet around the back of the local convenience store in the alley so Mr. Anderson, the owner, wouldn't see the results of their little contest.

"Come on!" Rob spoke again. "We didn't skip class today to waste time standing around!"

But Torque wouldn't be rushed. When he was finally satisfied he had stretched the moment to its limit, he reached behind his back and, after fumbling dramatically within his shirt, pulled out an entire 36-count package of Squishy's Extra-Squishy toilet paper. Rob and Carl rose up in a cheer while Sara, owner of the once-winning bag of dog food, crossed her arms sullenly.

"That's awesome!" Carl exclaimed, giving Torque a congratulatory punch on the arm. "Definitely the biggest thing jacked from Anderson, maybe even for a new record!"

"Of course it wouldn't have worked if you hadn't been so fat" Sara snapped. Torque glared at her but forgot to comment when Rob suddenly asked:

"So what do we do with it?"

Silence fell as all four pairs of teenaged eyes shifted to the large package still resting in Torque's hands. It didn't take words for each of them to instantly match the activity that went best with stolen toilet paper. But the target...that was a greater dilemma.

Dib's house would have been the natural first choice, except that it had an army of robots that maintained the outside. Dozens of prank-pullers before them had come to discover that damage done to his house never stayed up for more than an hour—two if there was spray paint involved. There just wasn't any pride to be had in it. Of course there were other houses to victimize on the same block, but they all looked alike; once you papered one of them, you papered them all. The same went for the houses on the surrounding streets.

The four stood quietly for a few minutes, each trying to wrack his or her brain with a target worthy of their skipped day of classes. And then someone got a great idea, possibly the best one ever.

"What about Zim?"

On the middle skool social ladder Zim was in a unique position. On one hand, when compared to Dib, he could be seen as the scapegoat "runner up," the second to the bottom rung. But on the other he may actually have been lower than Dib in the respect that he was completely ignored. Most kids went out of their way to give Dib attention, negative as it was, but Zim hardly received anything. He was Dib's territory, since Dib was the only one willing to give him the time of day, and as such Zim's house had been grossly overlooked in the pranks department. It was still an uncharted land waiting to be claimed, a clear space of wall just begging for a magic marker to brand it with a signed picture of a penis that could live in infamy.

An evil grin spread between the four. It sounded like a plan.

A half hour later found them standing in front of the house. Sara had seen it in passing before but had never stopped to actually look at it. Being uncool was a disease that transferred faster than a cold in a kindergarten class, and it was universally understood that the chances of catching it increased with the number of infected things that were nearby. As such, she had always made sure to walk very quickly past Zim's oddly-shaped house, which just happened to sit a few blocks down from her own. This was the first time she'd ever had an acceptable excuse to stop and give it a good stare.

The dwelling was a painful example of gaudy decorating—green walls, a dark magenta roof, pink tinted windows with clashing purple frames. About the only things actually color-coordinated on the property were the grass and the cement, and even then a variety of weird lawn ornaments made sure to mess that up. The "I heart Earth" sign and the pink flamingos weren't too bad, but the puffer fish and the lawn gnomes pushed it over the edge. Every ornament seemed to be purposefully constructed with an eerie, unsettling stare, as if they had once been real creatures that were lobotomized and skewered on sticks to serve as decorations. The longer she looked at them, the more Sara came to think that they were watching her in return.

"This place is creepy" Rob muttered. No one bothered to move from the sidewalk into the actual yard. Setting foot in there might look like they were interested in Zim's house or something and then they'd be uncool. As if endowed with a common mind, the four simply began throwing toilet paper from where they stood, looking to hit anything within reach. Most of the rolls ended up bouncing off the side of the house to land on or around the doorstep, but a few throws sent toilet paper dangling from the sides of the window sills, and Torque even got one to stick on the roof. When Rob accidentally hit one of the flamingos and knocked it over the contest became a shooting gallery. Within minutes not a single decoration was left standing in the yard except the gnomes which, for some reason, remained firmly in place no matter how hard they were hit.

"Stupid things!" Torque grunted as he wound up another powerful pitch to try and knock one down. It bounced harmlessly off of the ornament's blank face and ricocheted into a bush. For a moment, Sara could have sworn she saw its eyes move towards them...just a little. "They must be stuck in the ground" she said, grimacing at the ugly things. She didn't notice the sudden smirk Torque shared with the other boys behind her back.

"I dare you to run in there and steal one."

She glanced over and narrowed her eyes in response, causing the natural shadows beneath them to deepen against her pallid skin.

Torque wasn't intimidated. He leaned backwards on his feet and crossed his arms, grinning smugly. "You heard me."

"Why don't you steal one" she shot back.

"Nuh-uh. I dared first."

"I'm not going in his yard! Zim's a freak!"

"I think you're afraid."

"Of what! They're just stupid lawn ornaments. They're not even—"

A chorus of mocking laughter cut her off. Sara valiantly tried to bolster up another defense, but the three boys were already turning away, tired of the game. She grit her teeth as she watched them go, then turned her gaze back to the house.

"I'll show you."

After checking thoroughly to make sure no one was watching, she placed her foot with great caution onto the dry, spiky grass. She almost withdrew it with a start when she thought she saw movement from the corner of her eye, but she quickly decided it was her imagination. Steeling her will, Sara grit her teeth, set her eyes on a gnome standing only a few feet from the gate, and lunged towards it.

She didn't get far. Before she could come within arm's reach of her prize the ornament snapped around, rooting her to the spot with its empty stare. She gasped in shock and staggered backwards but it was already too late. A dozen red pointy hats had formed a circle around her and were closing in fast. Sara screamed as she felt the gnomes press their tiny balled fists against her body from all sides, holding her helpless between them. Then something gripped her long purple hair from behind and she was on the ground being dragged towards the gate.

Her hands flew instinctively to her hair, pulling back so the tension was placed on the strands and not her scalp. Though she was terrified at what was happening she had enough sense within her to be relieved. It seemed the gnomes were not going to hurt her, just throw her out of the yard. The thought had no sooner left her mind, however, when the twisted procession came to an abrupt halt. The gnomes stopped and stood silent for several seconds, many with their heads cocked to the side as if listening to some invisible voice. Then they abruptly turned as a group and began to drag Sara the opposite way, towards the house!

She renewed her thrashings with earnest, now frightened and desperate enough to aim a few kicks at the gnomes themselves. But she couldn't break free, and no one was around to help her. She was dragged with pitiful ease through the front door into a gaudy living room guarded by a disturbing painting of a green, wide-eyed monkey. Before she could process anything else she felt herself thrown forwards into some kind of pipe where she slid for several seconds before landing hard on her stomach. A booming voice was quick to greet her:

Oh goody. A smelly human.


Sara pulled her knees closer to her body. She wasn't the type to lose her head easily but she was getting increasingly anxious as time stretched on. What would Zim say when he found her? What would he do?

Ordinarily the thought of the little green weirdo from her class would not have worried her. The more she surveyed the room beyond her tube, though, the more she began to think Zim wasn't a normal kid. For one, the inside of his basement, or wherever she was, was made of a dark metal colored an unnatural shade of black that seemed to eat light rather than reflect it. The cheerless, windowless walls blocked all signs of life from above—noise, sunlight, even cell phone signals, as Sara had discovered to her dismay. The dim lamps overhead gave her little visibility, but from what she could tell she was sitting at the far end of an oval-shaped room that was so long and narrow it almost looked like a hallway. Several tubes similar to her own were set into the walls every few feet, each one filled to the top with a watery purple liquid that gave off a feint neon glow.

Aside from those and the lights overhead there was little left to see. She could tell from a beeping sound that some kind of machinery sat half-concealed in shadows far along the left wall, and a dark blob in the center of the floor far in the distance may have indicated at a piece of furniture, perhaps a table. Beyond that, darkness swallowed the rest of the room, successfully hiding everything from view. Sara could not help but notice the shadows seemed to be strategic—complete in some places, lax in others; almost as if they were somehow conscious. In fact, everything about this freaky house felt eerily conscious.

She quickly stood to her feet when she realized she was scaring herself. She hated the sound of that annoying computer, but even listening to its voice was better than drowning in disconcerting silence. Winding up her aching fist, she landed yet another punch to the sturdy side of her prison. This time, however, the computer did not speak up to tell her to stop, and in a few moments Sara came to realize why.

Her eyes snapped upward as a sudden whirring noise flared up in the silence. A sluggish blur of movement brought her attention to a dark segment of the ceiling a few yards in front of her. When she finally managed to distinguish the shadows from one another, she screamed in surprise and backpedaled, causing her to trip on her own feet and fall to the floor.

The ceiling was moving! Hundreds of dark metallic cords were slithering in a mass across the entire length of the room, making it appear as if a colony of worms were writhing over her head!

An explosion made her jump, then another and another. Sharp pings that sounded like gunfire ricocheting off of metal sounded from above her in the top level of the house. There was a hard SLAM on the floor, like a giant mallet smashing to the ground, and then a brief yelp of either surprise or pain.

She gasped aloud. Someone was upstairs! That's why the computer had left her!

Hopeful, Sara strained her ears to follow every movement of what she now understood to be a fight. Maybe Torque or one of the others had grown worried and come back for her! Maybe it was the police!

Footsteps began to distinguish themselves in her ears. It was difficult following them through the echoes bouncing in the oval room, but even with the distractions Sara could tell they were deliberate and nimble. They obviously knew what they were doing. They seemed to be fighting their way towards a specific area of the house—a corner in the back on the far right side. It was a long time in coming, but eventually a triumphant shout of "Take that!" was heard before a crackling sound of agitated electricity surged through the walls. When the hissing receded, all was quiet. If the intruder went anywhere else Sara was unable to hear them.

She waited for what seemed like years, her ears straining painfully to detect the slightest noise, every muscle in her body tensed. At one point it occurred to her that she could try yelling to gain attention, but eventually she thought better of it. From what she'd seen with the gnomes nothing in, on, or around this house was to be trusted, especially if she couldn't see it.

The years stretched into decades. A cramp began to form in Sara's leg from being curled underneath her. She was just beginning to think the trespasser might have left when a sharp clank echoed in the air, followed by the sound of a squeaking hinge. A grate at the far end of the room had just been kicked out.

She shifted to her hands and knees and crawled to the side of the tube, looking out into the shadows where the noise had come from. Her breath hovered in her throat as deft footsteps began to make their way towards her. They stopped and shuffled for a moment, distracted by something, then began moving again towards the left, this time with quick purpose. Within seconds the purple glow from one of the distant holding tubes caught a figure in its light, and Sara got her first view of the intruder.


The feeling that rushed through her was no different than if the figure had turned out to be a giant rat. She was disgusted and repulsed, and angry that he should be the one to show up now of all times. She couldn't ask Dib to let her out! He was even more of a freak than Zim was! Not only would she have to talk to him, she'd probably have to touch him...the very thought made her shudder convulsively. She groaned to herself and slammed her fist into the ground. She wanted badly to get out, but she'd rot in this damn tube before she ever called him over.

She slumped back against the glass, sulking and feeling generally sorry for herself. Dib couldn't see her through the dark, and even if he could, he seemed far too involved in what he was doing to pay any attention. He was kneeling on the floor near the left wall, fiddling with something in his hands that looked like a small laptop. The screen of the computer bathed his face with a pale blue glow, highlighting an expression of intense concentration as he dragged his finger over the touch screen. When he was finished, he pulled a cord from the depths of a worn backpack slung over his right shoulder and connected one end to his computer. The other end went straight into the wall directly above his head.

As she watched him, Sara couldn't help but notice how different he seemed. Having absolutely no contact with Dib outside of skool, her only idea of him was that of a meek, submissive thirteen-year-old shunned by every social group in existence—including the geeks. But the person she saw now kneeling on the floor was a far leap from the awkward Dib she was accustomed to seeing. This one was confident and deliberate, at ease. And, strangest of all, he was smiling—he was happy.

She supposed it had never occurred to her before that Dib rarely looked happy. It wasn't that she cared. Far from it. It just surprised her at how different it made him look. He was hardly recognizable.

The laptop suddenly gave a soft beep which she assumed meant it had finished whatever it was doing. Cackling like a moron, Dib pulled the cord out of the wall and gathered it in his hand so he could tuck the computer under his arm. Then, whistling a little tune to himself, he started to stroll in a diagonal across the room.

Sara's heart beat faster as she realized he was going to walk right past her. This was perfect! Unless he was blind and stupid, he would see her on his way out and undoubtedly come to her rescue. She'd be released and wouldn't have to say a word!

She scurried to get herself ready before he passed by. She shifted to a more relaxed sitting position on the floor to make herself appear comfortable instead of uneasy. The worried expression she had worn without care for the past few hours was forced expertly beneath a bored, brooding scowl. She took to examining her nails as the footsteps grew closer, determined not to be the first one to make eye contact. Then, when she heard Dib skid to a surprised stop a few feet in front of her, she lifted her eyes, making sure to keep them dark and aloof.

"Hi nerd" she sighed, crossing her arms and trying to look as if being trapped was little more than an annoyance.

Dib was staring at her with his head cocked to the side, one arm holding the strap on his shoulder. "Sara? How did you get down here?"

"I flew" she snapped. "You gonna stand there and stare at me all day?"

He blinked a moment, glancing up at the ceiling and then all along the wall as far as he could see. "I didn't know these tanks were connected to the defense systems. The cell blocks are three levels down, wonder why you didn't end up there? Maybe a glitch in Zim's computer system." He snorted, as if the idea was beyond obvious, and crouched down on his heels to examine the base of the tank. "Anyway you're pretty lucky. Anywhere else and I wouldn't have seen you...and I doubt Zim would have let you out."

"You sure all of this is Zim's?" she asked with a wary glance at the ceiling. "It seems kind of weird for just a kid."

She realized immediately that she had made a mistake. Dib's eyes snapped up, practically illuminated with an innocent hope that was all too familiar to those who knew him.

"Everything about Zim is weird! Haven't you noticed! I mean what kind of kid doesn't like kumquats, huh! It's insane! And what about all those little soldiers he makes out of paperclips and puts in random places around the skool? Friendship dolls? I don't think so! I tried to tell all this to Principal Stayler, you know, but she thinks they're cute. Well I'm telling you, I got four of them and they are definitely not cute. Especially with the little fangs drawn on their little paperclip—"

"Shut up, Dib!" Sara snapped impatiently. "Just shut up!"

He lapsed into silence, his expression hovering somewhere between a blank stare and a hurt frown.

"God, can you just go five minutes without breaking out the rambling crazy! And are you finding anything interesting in the dirt down there! Because I'm pretty sure the latch for this three-hundred pound glass tank is not underneath it on the floor!"

"...Well normally there are hydraulics to lift it, but the computer's turned off so I—"

"Then think of something else! You're supposedly this great 'genius' or whatever."

Dib pulled back, cowed. "...Kay..."

He shuffled around to the back of the tank and placed his hand on the wall, tapping gently with his fingernail every few inches. After three tries he must have heard what he needed, for he gave a sharp rap with his knuckles and a small panel fell downward, exposing a hidden circuit box. In a few quick motions the laptop was plugged in and Dib was sitting cross-legged on the floor, his fingers typing away furiously. Neither teenager spoke as they fixed their eyes on the cerulean screen.

"All right" Dib said quietly after a few minutes of work. "If I've done this right, when I press Enter it should—"

"Don't tell me how it works. Just do it."

He frowned but stretched his finger towards the key, ready to do what he was told...then he stopped as a thought apparently came to him.

"Well! What are you waiting for! Let me out!"

"...What if I don't want to?"

He seemed surprised at himself, as if the question had escaped before his conscience could stop it, but now that it was free his expression grew harder, drawing strength from his own words.

Sara stared, caught off guard. She hadn't been expecting a debate about this. Dib was...Dib! He was one of those goody-two-shoes geeks that always did the right thing and helped everyone, no matter who they were. He actually cared about other people. He actually thought other people were worth something and gave a damn about him. He was a clueless nerd.

"What do you mean, you don't want to?" she demanded. It was the only thing she could think to say.

He turned towards her, fear and yearning fighting for control over his face. "What if...for once, I want to go to bed knowing that at least one of you understands the horrible things Zim will do if I'm not here to stop him."

He sounded as if he was trying to convince himself, but Sara instantly recognized the danger she was in. With a great effort she ignored the anger boiling in her veins and forced her voice to sound calm, even a little sympathetic. "I understand."


She recoiled, startled at the sudden change in Dib's voice. He was glaring at her now, anger and bitter frustration reflecting in his eyes. His fists were clenched so tightly the knuckles were a brilliant white. "But I want you to understand" he insisted. "Is that so bad? Maybe I've been doing it the wrong way. Maybe this is what it takes."

"Or...maybe people won't believe you regardless, but so what?" she ventured. "That never seems to stop you. You're...well...you're...strong, like that...I guess. You don't, you know, need other people. I mean, you believe what you say, right?"

He blinked, his amber eyes softening. "Yes."

"And you stick by it, no matter what, because that's what you believe in."


"Well there you go. You know how to be yourself. In some stupid middle skool where everyone else needs their friends telling them what to do, you're your own person. And you stay your own person no matter what anyone else says. Most people can't do that, you know...I can't do that."

Too far, too far!

Sara snapped her mouth closed when she realized she had said too much. A dark glower hurried to cover the damage that had been done.

Dib didn't notice. He gave her a small smile and stood to his feet, the laptop in his hands. "I guess you're right" he said thoughtfully, pressing the Enter key on the keyboard. "I am good at being my own person."

Sara coughed uncomfortably. "Yeah, well, I guess." Her voice lowered. "Even if you are crazy."

An ugly pang shot through her stomach when she realized with horror that Dib had heard her. His head snapped to the side, the glare in his eyes heated enough to melt the glass that still held her prisoner. It was a look that was familiar with betrayal, yet was no less injured for knowing it so well. Before she knew what was happening he had packed the laptop in his bag and was walking away.

"No! Dib! Wait!"

"You deserve whatever Zim does to you!" he shot back nastily. "Enjoy it!"

"You can't leave me here! You wouldn't do that!" She was whining now, her voice wavering, but she didn't care. He was really going to leave her. "Please let me out, Dib...I'm scared..."

He stopped. Sara pushed herself up hopefully against the glass as his head fell slightly. She wanted to yell at him, scream her heart out telling him to get on with it, but she kept her mouth shut. She wasn't stupid.

Decades stretched into eons. Her stomach twisted in knots, practically eating itself as it tried to guess what was going on in Dib's head. Finally, after an eternity of suspense, he spoke:

"Computer. Reactivate under protocol Dib Nine."

There was a grinding whirr that rippled throughout the room before a familiar voice answered the command:

I'll get you for this, human.

He turned, glaring at the ceiling in a way that, to Sara, was a stark comical contrast to the display from only moments ago. "Hey! For now that's 'master' to you. Open specimen tank 62X572."

Yeah, yeah.

Immediately, a shudder passed through the lighted platform beneath Sara's feet and the glass finally began to rise, allowing fresh, cool air to replace the sterilized oxygen in the tube. When the wall was high enough, she gratefully scrambled out into the open and laughed in glee...until she remembered who was standing only a few feet away. She glanced to Dib reluctantly, unsure of what he would have to say to her, but if he was upset he didn't show it.

"Come on" he said, readjusting the backpack on his shoulders. "I'll lead you out. Stay close and follow me."

They wound their way through the rest of the house in complete silence. Sara tried at first to form a mental map of the countless metal hallways, pipes, air ducts, and elevators they were forced to travel though, but she inevitably lost her sense of direction and had to give up. For the most part Dib ignored her except to help her around certain obstacles and to glance back once and a while to make sure she was still following. She couldn't say how long they spent walking together in the dark. She just knew that, when she finally poked her head through a hole in Zim's living room and saw the sunlight streaming through the odd-shaped windows, tears nearly came to her eyes.


She wanted to dash to the door but Dib seemed cautious, so she stayed behind him. He surveyed the living room closely as they walked it, checking everything from the ceiling to the floor. It turned out to be unnecessary. They crossed the room without trouble and were just about to go through the front door when Sara suddenly remembered...

"The gnomes!"

She grabbed Dib's arm without thinking, stopping his hand from turning the knob.

"Hm?" he looked to her, uttering the first words since their exchange in the basement. "Oh, you don't need to worry about them. They'll chase me. Just run towards the sidewalk as fast as you can and they should leave you alone. I'll go out first and then stay behind until you're safely across." He gripped the straps of his backpack and bent into a slight crouch. "Ready?"


In one quick motion, he flung the door open with a violent heave and leapt onto the porch, ducking fluidly to the left as a chorus of plastic eyes glowed crimson red and dashed after him. Once Sara was sure they were gone she held her breath and ran madly for the sidewalk. Just as Dib promised, no gnomes came to stop her. A few seconds later she heard someone running to the fence and saw Dib vault over with one hand, a huge grin on his face. He landed gracefully on both feet and immediately pulled out his laptop, supporting it with one hand while he navigated the screen with the other.

Sara stood next to him awkwardly for a moment, desperately wanting to flee but feeling she had to say something. Dib wasn't paying attention to her at all now. He was back in his element, eyes focused intently on the blue screen as he scrolled through what looked like several menus to check their contents. Once satisfied, he gave a small nod and an evil chuckle and snapped the computer shut, returning it to the bag. He seemed surprised when he looked up and found Sara still standing there.

She glanced away the second they made eye contact. "Thanks" she muttered under her breath, crossing her arms and adding an eye roll for good measure.

Dib waved disinterestedly. "Sure." He was already leaving.


He turned, obviously shocked that she was continuing this conversation of her own free will.

"I mean it, you know" she insisted. Her eyes fell to the cement as she struggled internally with herself over what she was going to say next. "Look, I—I know Torque picks on you...a lot. You shouldn't let him hit you. I'll...tell him to lighten up a bit."

When she received no answer, she brought her eyes up. Dib's face was coolly blank. He was studying her, but it was with a distant look, one no teenager should have known how to make.

"No you won't."

Just like that. No anger. No derision. No regret or sorrow or amusement. Simply fact. And then he walked away.

Sara stood baffled for a moment as she considered following him, but her cell phone quickly rang, saving her from any further compassion. It was Torque.

"Hey, ho" he snapped. "We were going to hang out at the mall later today, remember? What happened to you?"

Her eyes trailed to the boy walking away from her, his black trench coat hunched heavily on his shoulders. Shaking her head, she turned her back on him and answered into her phone.

"Ugh, it was Dib. The dork was bothering me all afternoon—"