Disclaimer: Own not, do I, Invader Zim

For Johnen Vasquez created him.

Author's note: Well, this is late. I'm not terribly surprised, I am me, after all. Been waitin' to do this chapter for a long time, though. After all of these years I still remember the most important detail of the following chapter. You'll see.

'The day got off to a pretty good start,' Gaz thought. The movie had actually been fantastic, and Gaz was impressed that Zim had made a decent decision. More impressive, though, was the fact that Zim had been mostly able to appreciate the film's finer moments. She'd honestly expected him to ruin the experience by complaining about something, well, stupid.

"Given the usual quality of entertainment on this wretched dirt clod," said Zim, grabbing a handful of what was left of their movie popcorn, "that film was phenomenal."

"Dirt clod?" asked Gaz, raising an eyebrow.

"Eh, old habits," said Zim. "The point is, it was thoroughly enjoyable. I especially enjoyed the part when-"

"Hey!" said Gaz, covering his mouth. "No spoilers!"

"Fine," said Zim, muffled. She took her hands from his mouth. "But why the concern? Is this movie not a prequel or reboot to an existing franchise?"

"Granted," said Gaz, "but it's a totally different thing now." Zim shrugged his shoulders. "So what else do you have planned?"

"I believe there is an arcade nearby, if you wanted to check that out," said Zim. Gaz grinned evilly.

"Sounds good to me," she said.

It didn't take long between getting to the arcade and playing a few games to make Zim somewhat regret the decision. In the name of competition, he had challenged Gaz to a number of games that were made to pit one player against another. And, wether it was a fighting game, racing game, or even a nefarious dancing game, she beat him each time.

Eventually, he found a game that was co-op: Area 51 of the Dead 2: This Time It's Personal. Zim called her attention to it.

"What is this game?" he asked.

"That's the sequel to one of the most popular arcade games of all time," said Gaz. "It's only real competition is Jurassic Carnival: Attack of the Dino-Specters."

"And what is the object of this one?" asked Zim, eying the gun peripheral attached to the machine.

"Well, in the last one, you fought undead aliens who had crash landed on Earth. In this one, the aliens are also infecting humans and turning them into zombies as well."

"Alien zombies?" asked Zim. "That is nonsense. Still, this may prove entertaining." They put in their tokens and started. The game progressed amazingly. If there was one thing Zim was good at, it was fighting. He kept pace with Gaz, even passing her once or twice in score. She may have been the ultimate gamer, but it turned out that he was no slouch as a marksman.

She and Zim got further in the game than she'd ever gotten on just two tokens. In what felt like no time, they were on the final level.

"You ready for this?" asked Gaz.

"I would say that I was born for this," said Zim, "But that feels too cliché."

"Learning that one-liners aren't everything?"

"Sorta," he answered. "Now shoot!"

The entire arcade crowd gathered to watch the final confrontation. None of them had ever gotten this far. Gaz and Zim worked flawlessly in tandem, switching between shooting the giant cyborg-alien-zombie and the missiles it shot wordlessly, each knowing when it was appropriate to switch. It was almost like watching a dance, if that dance was supposed to include explosions, goo, and the occasional flamethrower power-up.

In the end, Zim's and Gaz's eyes met, and they nodded, smiling. They shot simultaneously, perfectly timing the pull of their triggers, which gained them the 5X bonus multiplier. They watched as their foe burst into goo and smoking machine parts. The game started congratulating them, and they turned to each other to shake hands.

"Excellent work," said Zim.

"Likewise,' said Gaz. To Zim's surprise, the machine began spitting out tickets.

"What's this, then?" he asked, grabbing the end of the ticket ribbon and examining it closely. "These do not normally come out of these machines."

"Area 51 of the Dead 2 is the only arcade shooter currently on the market that gives them out," explained Gaz, "and only when you beat it."

"Why's that?"

"It's the hardest one they've ever made," said Gaz. "So they decided to reward the only players awesome enough to finish it." At long last, the ticket machine quit belching out tickets. A quick calculation told Zim that there were upwards of 1,000. That, and a message on screen telling him that there were, in fact, 1,500. He scooped them up.

He'd been on Earth long enough to know what to do with them, so he and Gaz went to the prize counter. Zim took a look at the offerings available at this amount of tickets, and found it lacking. However, he did notice that Gaz was staring intently at something. It was some kind of accessory for the Game Slave 2, and was also compatible with the soon to be released Game Slave 3. It appeared to be a carrying case. Upon seeing the price, he knew it would cost all of their tickets.

"You want it?" asked Zim.

"Half the tickets are yours," answered Gaz. "Gimme my half and I'll just save up for next time." Zim thought about this for only a second. He handed the tickets to the counter-monkey, and pointed to the case.

The sullen teenager nodded and retrieved the item, handing it to the weird green kid. Gaz'z eyes widened in surprise. Zim then handed it to her without a word, with a brief hint of a smile on his face.

"Are you serious?" she asked.

"Yep," said Zim. "There is no prize here which peeks my interest. So, it makes more sense to just use the tickets on that."

"...Thanks," said Gaz, surprised by his display of generosity.

"No problem," said Zim. "Now what do you wanna do?" Gaz shrugged.

"Head back to your place, I guess." Zim nodded, and they set off.

They chatted on the way back, not talking about anything particularly important. They discussed the game they'd played, Zim asking where they might find the others she'd mentioned, and wether or not they had a home version. He resolved to get any and all he could, noting that the two had displayed an uncanny level of teamwork.

They entered Zim's door, still talking and laughing. The mood soon took a sharp, unwanted turn.

"Zim look out!" yelled Skoodge. Zim turned to look into the living room only to be immediately shot in the face with something. Zim went crashing to the ground. He attempted to get up, his hand moving to his head. As Gaz moved to help him, another, more sinister voice addressed them.

"So, you have finally returned, Zim," said Gir, discarding a blaster-looking object. Zim made to retort, to demand what was going on, but found he couldn't. He couldn't open his mouth. He felt around his face, and discovered something there that wasn't there before.

A metallic band now wrapped around his head, keeping his mouth completely closed! His eyes widened in horror. It was then that he was able to take in the scene inside the house. Several pieces of furniture had been knocked over, and Skoodge was taped to a wall

"Gir!" exclaimed Gaz. "What are you doing?!"

"What does it look like, human?" asked Gir. "I am eliminating the threats to the mission. Both of them." His eyes glowed a bright red, and he charged forward, clearly bent on destroying them both with his bare hands.

Long mechanical spider-legs burs forth from Zim's pak, and before Gaz knew what was happening, he had picked her up, and they were off running. Gaz almost lost her cool when Zim first ran towards the attacking robot, only to then veer off to the right. They were in the kitchen in no time, and before Gir could turn himself around, they were in the fridge.

Slamming the door shut, Zim then accessed a hidden keypad. After hitting a few keys, the elevator activated, and they began moving quickly down towards the lab.

"This is not good," said Gaz, echoing Zim's thoughts. "With your mouth shut, we can't over-ride Gir. We need to get that thing off!" Zim nodded. Gaz grabbed the band and began pulling. The thing did not budge, and a moment later they had even bigger problems. The elevator suddenly stopped, and the lights flickered and dimmed. They could hear the tell-tale sounds of systems shutting down.

'Not good,' thought Zim. 'Gir must have access to the power grid of the house. That means he can control everything. He's got us trapped now, and it's only a matter of time before he's able to bring the elevator back up to his level.' He looked over at Gaz, who seemed to have deduced as much, which was fortunate, because he had no way to explain.

"How do we get out of this mess?" asked Gaz. Zim thought for a few seconds, before bringing forth a tool from his pack. Motioning for Gaz to stay back, he pointed it at the back wall of the fridge. He pushed the button, and out came a laser. He began cutting through the back of the fridge, and in seconds he was done.

Gaz then kicked out the back of the fridge. Fortunately, there had also been a vent behind the fridge, and Zim had cut into that as well. Zim wordlessly scooped her up again, his mechanical legs popping out once more, and he took off down the fairly sizeable vent. A series of twists and turns later, as well as what felt like a mile, he stopped.

"Alright," said Gaz, brushing herself off as Zim let her down, "what do we do now?" Zim's only response was to point at the band on his mouth as he took off his eye lenses, his hairpiece having fallen off quite some time ago.

"We need to get that off, obviously," said Gaz. "You're the only one who knows the... wait, why not just write down the over-ride command? Write it down, and I'll use it." Zim closed his eyes and shook his head. "Why not?"

Using his spider-legs, Zim scratched a message into the wall of the vent. Squinting her eyes, gaz read, It only responds to my voice. Gaz glared at him, causing him to continue writing. It was an oversight, I was in a hurry. I meant to update it with your voice today if I got the chance. Gaz sighed.

"Should have done it from the get go," she said. Zim shrugged, having no other way to express he was sorry beyond scratching the word into the wall. "So what now?" Zim scratched his head, and then wrote Lab on the wall. Gaz nodded. She let Zim pick her up again, and they went off into the vents once more. Zim momentarily froze however, upon a sudden and disturbing noise. It was the sound of power returning, and the distant, echoing sound of the elevator moving back up.

'We don't have much time,' thought Zim. He took off at full speed, knowing he needed to get to the lab before Gir did. With any luck, the robot would search the vents before going to the lab to head them off, hoping that he thought Zim to stupid to think to go there. It wasn't much of a hope, but it was the best he had at the moment.

It wasn't long before they went through the vent-cover. The second they landed on the floor, Zim began looking for something, anything at all to help him get the band off. A spider-leg tugging at it just in case, he began rummaging through tools.

Gaz also looked, having a feeling that she knew what sort of thing they needed. They hoped they could find something before Gir crashed in.

"Computer!" exclaimed Gaz. "Is there anything in here that can help us. And how is Gir doing this? Don't you have control?"

"BZZT-No," replied Computer, voice filled with static. "Gir-zzzt-shut out my-krsh-override. Can't-zzt- Minimoose operational, not captuuuu..." Computer's voice faded out. Gaz thought quickly, then called out.

"Minimoose! MINIMOOSE!" she cried, looking all around. She heard a terrified "squeek" come from under a pile of equipment. She ran to it and moved it all to the side, revealing a quivering Minimoose hidden underneath. "Minimoose, are you ok?" Minimoose looked up, and upon seeing Gaz seemed to calm down a bit. In response to her question, he nodded. "Minimoose, we need your help." She motioned around the lab. "Is there anything down here that might be able to help us get that thing of Zim's mouth?" she pointed at the aforementioned alien.

Zim seemed to have ceased his efforts, at least momentarily, to remove the band. He'd made his way to the main lab door, and was fiddling with the control panel. Before Gaz could as him what he was doing, he'd pressed a few buttons, causing the lights to flicker. Annoyed, he struck the panel with one of his spider-legs, destroying it. While he had no quick way to communicate that he was trying to buy them time, Gaz understood.

"Now he'll have to physically bust through the door, right?" she asked. He nodded. "Or at least he'll have to follow the vents like we did." Zim nodded again. She turned back to Minimoose. Anything yet? Luckily, the answer was yes.

Minimoose quickly floated over to her, carrying a tool that she's seen Zim working with before. It was a low-power laser cutter.

"Zim! Get over here!" Zim was by her side in an instant, and it turned out to be not a second too soon. They heard pounding on the door, and screams of rage from what they knew to be Gir. Zim quickly grabbed the laser and, summoning a mirror from his pak, began working.

He had all but cut through the band when Gir unexpectedly burst through the door.

"AAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGH!" roared the tiny, enraged robot, charging towards them. Zim immediately put himself between the oncoming Gir and Gaz, tearing at the band as he did. He finally released it as Gir jumped at him. Time seemed to freeze.

"WAFFLES!" screamed Zim. Gir immediately turned blue, a dopey look returning to his face. He was still in the air, though, and went crashing into Zim. "UGH! My Spine!"

Gaz angrily pulled herself out of the resulting pile-up. "WAFFLES!?" she raged. "THAT was your big mysterious over-ride command!?"

"He never would have guessed it!" said Zim, defensively. "Furthermore, he didn't."

"And what's the big deal not giving me equal access to the over-ride, huh!?" demanded Gaz. "We're supposed to be in this together!"

"I know, and I'm sorry," said Zim. "It was obviously never supposed to come to this. I didn't allow for your voice to work for the same reason I didn't tell you what the command was. I couldn't risk the possibility of Dib learning what it was, and with two voices instead of one, he had a better chance of being able to exploit it."

"That barely justifies it," said Gaz. She massaged the bridge of her nose. She didn't know what was worse: the fact that Zim's oversight had nearly killed them, or the fact that she kinda felt hurt that she hadn't been allowed to do anything to prevent it. "We need to work on this, ok? As a team this time?"

"Yes," said Zim, looking down shamefully at his feet. "Yes we do. I should have let you in on it from the beginning, as you said. This next phrase will be better." He looked over at Gir to see him happily rolling back and forth along the floor for the first time in far too long. "And you will be in on it. If one of us becomes compromised, it is imperative that the other is able to stop Gir."

Without warning, he felt arms close in around him. He braced for an attack, but it did not come. It took Zim a few moments to realize that Gaz was hugging him. He, at that moment, couldn't recall being more confused.

"Uh..." he mumbled, unsure of what to say.

"Thanks," said Gaz. "You sorta saved my life. Good job." She ended the hug, and then punched him on the arm for good measure. "Don't let it happen again, dude." Zim rubbed his arm, ready to retort, but decided against it when he saw that Gaz had a small smile on her face. He smiled back.


"Now let's go get Skoodge down off the wall," said Gaz.

"And after that we can get Computer back up and running," said Zim. "And get this mess cleaned up."

"Can we make muffins?" asked Gir.

"Yes Gir, we can make muffins."


Tada! Thanks for sticking around, true believers. This chapter was a long time coming, and I hadn't meant to work on it yet, but inspiration hit and I knew I needed to roll with it, or be doooooooomed. So, things got a little hairy there. Hope you enjoyed the change of pace, and hope I can get this updated in a somewhat timely manner.

Will Gaz and Zim find a way to make duty-mode Gir safer? Will Skoodge develop and then overcome duct tape phobia? And what kind of muffins will they end up making?

Tune in next time and find out!