Today is the day. I will catch him. I swear.

I've watched him every day that I can. I know his every move, his every twitch, his every turn of phrase.

I haven't been able to do anything though. Zim got smart. I don't know how. He took me to court—an earth court! The nerve—and had a restraining order sworn against me. He came in his new disguise, some whacked-out human hologram so far-fetched I almost laughed.

He slunk into the room, red eyes darting everywhere. Dressed in baggy jeans and a bright orange t-shirt, he certainly stuck out in the crowd, his pale skin contrasting with his neon green Mohawk. His ears were lined with piercings. He looked like some kind of Goth freak, but the second he glanced up at me, I knew it was him.

He must have paid the judge off, there's no other explanation why all my evidence was dismissed and I was slapped with a restraining order while the eventual cause of mankind's downfall walked out the door free. I couldn't legally come within a hundred yards of him or his base.

I waited for years. I sat across the street from his hideous base. Watching. For a few days every week, he would storm out and scream at me to stop watching him, but eventually he gave up.

As the years passed, I found new reasons to be anxious. He hadn't made any major moves toward world domination, but a sign went up on the front of his house.

Green Angel Orphanage

I did everything I could to shut it down. I sent police to investigate his papers, but everything was in order. I called child protection services, but a week later the "orphanage" was still running. I called the freaking Alien Watchers convention and they didn't believe me.

I had to watch for seven years as he took in kids. Street kids, abused kids, forgotten kids. Nobody came to adopt them, and whenever they were outside they were with Zim, so I couldn't come near to ask questions.

All I can think is that he's been experimenting on them, like he'd done to Nick. Years ago I'd finally managed to get Nick free and extract the evil alien probe. Soon after, he fell into a deep depression and hung himself. Evil alien scum ruined him. Zim will pay.

I've shredded the restraining order. I don't care. I'm sick of waiting. Zim is going down, and I'll finally get the recognition I deserve.

Maybe then I'll stop talking to myself.

………………………………………………………………………………………………

That night, Dib crept to the side of the house. The gnomes were busy playing volleyball with a live, and rather bewildered, chicken, and ignored him. He checked his watch. "8:00. Good." He pulled a grappling hook off his utility belt, swung it a few times, and let it fly. It latched onto the second story windowsill with a clank. He flattened himself against the wall, expecting Zim to investigate, but nobody came. Gripping the cable, he pulled himself up hand over hand. The base hadn't changed much, so the climb was short and easy. The cold metal Alien Zapper he'd built bumped against his thigh, reminding him of the power he now had over Zim.

He reached the ledge and peeked in the window. Zim was sitting on a couch, still in that freakish disguise. On either side of him sat a wide-eyed toddler. He was holding a datapad up and reading aloud from it.

"Scum!" Dib whispered fiercely. "Your evil corruption of children's minds ends tonight."

Zim picked up the little girl in one arm and helped the boy up with the other hand. He led them to the stairway, past a group of middle-school kids playing cards. Dib quickly slid back down to watch. Zim continued downstairs with the children and entered the kitchen, entering the toilet, and flushing down.

"I knew it!" Dib exclaimed. "That goes to his labs, he's experimenting on them!" He glanced around the first floor. A couple kids stared slack-jawed at the TV. Others were finishing what looked like a meal.

Zim returned through the toilet without the toddlers. He struck a pose and made a brief, but loud, announcement, as Zim was apt to do. He was answered by a chorus of groans, but Dib couldn't hear what they were complaining about.

The back door slammed. Dib unhooked himself from the cable and hurried towards the back, peering around the corner. There he was, in all his holographic oddness. He moved slowly toward a large stone slab, covered in strange, foreign engravings. Dib's eyes widened as he realized it was a grave.

Is this the grave of that girl he killed?

He remembered it vividly. Zim had suddenly left his base, undisguised. Dib had called attention to this in the middle of a huge crowd—which had promptly commended Zim on his incredible costume. He'd slipped away, and by the time Dib had caught up with him, he had beaten a human girl to death. The evidence was all there, Zim was holding her battered corpse just as Dib arrived!

Is this where he buried her?

Anger rose in his chest. Zim knelt in front of the grave, chanting something in his sinister, alien tongue. Dib's mind raced. Zim was probably gathering the children for some horrible alien ritual that had to do with his experiment, and the grave had something to do with it.

"No!" Dib exploded from his hiding place, yanking out his zapper and aiming. The Irken's reflexes were fast, and he hurled himself to the side, rolling and standing in a defensive posture. But one arm hung limp where Dib's ray had hit. His eyes narrowed.

"You're not welcome here."

Dib grinned. "I was in the neighborhood and decided to end your little plot."

Zim gritted his teeth. "I will press charges. You don't know what's going on, and you don't know what you're doing."

Dib raised the gun. "I know exactly what I'm doing." He fired again, and Zim crumpled to the ground, enveloped in an electric cloud. Instantly his PAK functions were disabled, and he was paralyzed. Dib laughed loudly at his pain and bewilderment as the hologram flickered, sputtered, and died. Zim's eyes fixed on a spot behind Dib and widened in shock. Dib turned and there stood a crowd of about thirty five children, from ages five to eighteen. Drawn from the house by the noise, they stood in the backyard, dumbstruck. Zim closed his eyes, defeatedly.

Dib, however, crowed victoriously. "Look! Look, you don't have to be his test subjects anymore, you're free from his alien evil!" He smiled, waiting for their cheers.

Silence. Dib faltered. Why aren't they cheering? They're free!

One by one, the kids walked past Dib and surrounded Zim—then turned to face Dib. With shock, he realized they were protecting Zim from him!

"How dare you!" He seethed at Zim. "How dare you brainwash helpless kids! You will pay! Soon the world will know—" Furiously he pushed the kids aside and reached out to grab Zim. He was so close, just an arm's length away—

Blinding light exploded in his vision and he reeled backward. Shielding his eyes, he squinted as the light coalesced into a small, floating, glowing girl. She stared at him piercingly. He gaped. There was no doubt that this girl was a ghost, and he felt as if he'd seen her before, but couldn't be sure. Licking his lips nervously, he stammered, "Who… who are you?"

The ghost raised a glowing hand and again, light blinded him. He staggered back further, clutching his eyes. He opened them, but saw only spots. Stumbling around, he shouted, "This isn't over, Zim. I'll get you, I will! And these kids won't be the lab rats anymore, you will!"

Zim's voice came faintly through the hazy spots. "You just don't get it." Dib stumbled off, cursing as he tripped and bumped into the lawn decorations on his way out.

………………………………………………………………………………………………

Zim raised his eyes to the glowing figure. "You."

The girl stared at him tenderly, and leaned over, brushing his forehead. Her silvery tone was clear and soft as she whispered, "You… my green angel." She planted a soft kiss on his forehead, and melted away.

Zim's eyes filled with an odd liquid. He blinked it away and realized he was covered by a worn, tattered blanket. His eyes rose to meet Tiana's. Tiana, who was never separated from her safety blanket, but had laid it over him. The others crowded around, some in concern, some in awe. None had seen the ghost, but all now saw Zim as he really was.

"Well." Zim croaked. "Now that you know, do you want to leave?"

In answer, the oldest kid, a burly seventeen year old named Tom, bent down and scooped Zim up. Followed by the crowd of orphans, he carried Zim back in the house, down through the toilet, and entered what used to be Zim's labs. They had long since been converted into comfortable, vaulted rooms with featherbeds and down quilts. The two toddlers were already fast asleep in the first two beds. Tom laid Zim down in the third bed and pulled the covers up.

"Ya done good by us." He muttered awkwardly. "I'd'a still been on dope if'n ya hadn't cleaned it outta my system."

Jane stepped forward. "Daddy would'a beat me dead if ya hadn't stopped 'im."

Joey lisped, "You ga' me safe place from mean people."

"Ya done good by us." Tom reiterated firmly. "So we do good by you. No matter what. 'Sides," he grinned, "Think yer eyes're cool."

Warmth spread in Zim's chest and more liquid filled his eyes. The effects of Dib's ray were wearing off, but he was tired, and he needed energy to fix his PAK. His eyelids drooped as he pulled Tiana's blanket closer. The children moved off to get ready for bed, leaving Zim to rest.

Eat meat, Tallests. You fight and war and stuff your faces. In a thousand years you'll never find the warmth I found on this backward, Irk-forsaken rock.

And he slipped into sleep, surrounded by the warmth he still couldn't name.

Love.