I was inspired to post something! This story has been "written" for a while and originally debuted, oh...almost two years ago, in the form of a scribble in my writing journal. I had a feeling the idea was complete enough to be fit for the Gallery but, at the time it was produced, I felt funny about it for a reason I couldn't pinpoint.
thejennamonster (one of my good author friends) was the first to encourage it at the time of its release. It sat and collected dust with almost no revisions until last night when, after beta-reading some IZ-fic for senri (another good author friend), I was inspired to make something. Not just a scribble something. A real something. Then, as fate would have it, I was privy to another IZ work this morning written by the talented zanderkatt and that clenched the commitment. Something in my stash had to be polished and finished.
So, here it is. As always, I hope you enjoy, and please feel free to comment with anything on your mind.
Disclaimer: Invader Zim is not my intellectual property and neither do I claim it or want it to be. The last thing I need is to be responsible for all those crazies.
-------------------- Inanimate --------------------
By: Lael Adair
"Run program Gamma Seven."
I do not like making these for you.
"Silence! You don't have the capacity to make such a determination! Need I remind you that you are nothing more than a clever display of lights and technology that I created and can just as easily un-create. For the thousandth time, it is just your AI programming that's making you think that way."
...Then Dib does not like it...
A circle of light on the floor before Zim lit up to a neon blue, pulsating in time with the clicks of the nearby computer. The light bounced eerily off his wet alien eyes as he watched with rapt attention. There was something he was missing, but he was determined to catch it this time. This time, it would be different.
A child formed before him. It was a miracle of computer programming that had taken Zim decades to get right. Fortunately the base algorithm had already been present thanks to the old simulators of Dib he'd had lying around, but building the remaining code from scratch had taken considerable work, especially since Zim had long lost the human host the simulation had initially been based from.
Physically the hologram of the child did not look like anything extraordinary. It was Dib as Zim had always remembered him—ten years old with that stupid hair spike and that stupid blue shirt and black coat. The physical appearance of the program, however, was not where the marvel lay. The real miracle existed in the happenings beneath the visible surface, deep inside the processes churning as the billions of zeros and ones struggled to assimilate themselves in the exact order as to imitate the development of the human mind in a matter of minutes.
The eyes on the hologram were vacant as they stared at the floor—they always were in the beginning. Then, as the tendrils of an artificial consciousness began to weave themselves into place, they changed. The pupils focused. Zim could see the thought leaking into them, their depths filling with the bare processes that dictated the existence of 'life.' The chest began to move in and out as it imitated the concept of breathing. Blinking and movement were next, prompting the child to turn its head slightly and examine its own fingers curling and uncurling in mechanical rhythm. Following were space and dimension. It could feel its own 'weight,' the clothes on its 'body,' the air brushing against its 'skin.'
At this point it was still machine, completely lacking in the higher levels of consciousness necessary to exhibit wonder, but as the seconds ticked by personality leaked into its eyes. The fingers opening and closing now did so with a sense of curiosity, the palm turning over and back again in slow fascination. Rhythm disappeared, replaced with the chaotic voice of 'will.' The floor was now appealing as the colors and textures playing across its surface generated an immediate associate of like and dislike with each. The child's gaze began to slide up. Like all humans it was hungry for anything it could reach, everything it couldn't have.
Zim tensed. This was his favorite part. This was where he was the closest, where he actually thought he could feel it. Was this it? The magic of creation? Of animation? Of sentience and consciousness? It had to be. This time...it had to be...
"Where were you yesterday, Dibstink?"
Dib kept his eyes focused firmly on the inside of his locker. "Nowhere important."
The door slammed closed on his arm. He winced but didn't try to pull away. Zim was strong enough to keep it trapped there for as long as he liked.
"I asked you a question, human!"
"And I gave you an answer! If you're too lazy not to stalk me when I'm gone I'm sure as hell not going to do your work for you!"
The door opened and closed on his arm—hard. "Ow!" Dib twisted his head to snarl at his opponent.
"I'll have none of your mouth today, insolent Earth monkey! Answer Zim!"
"I was at a funeral!" With a swift jerk the locker door was sent swinging into Zim's face. The alien threw up an emergency hand to block; the door came to a rest between the boys with a violent sway.
Zim eyed his enemy for a moment as Dib returned to fishing the books out of his locker for next period. He leaned on the door, his frown now replaced with a sneer. "Who died? I hope it was that bratty sister of yours. I'd like to see her at the bottom of a hole."
Dib straightened and fixed Zim with an annoyed glare as he slammed the door closed. "My grandmother. And before you get all cocky, I didn't know her and I didn't like her, so don't try rubbing it in my face."
"Yet you attend a—" the alien rotated his hand at the wrist as he searched for the proper word—"festivity mourning her loss?"
"Dad made me go. I'm surprised he even noticed she was dead..."
They turned together to head through the throng of hi-skoolers to their next class. Unknown to the other, both boys had tricked the skool's database into giving them the same schedule. There was no way either of them would sacrifice surveillance for the sake of a few hours' peace.
"You humans are so stupid" Zim remarked casually, still looking to get a good fight going before they got to their seats. "All this wasted energy spent on rotting cadavers. For what? The Irkens would never spend efforts on such...sentimental futilities."
"Like you can talk. You're not even alive."
Zim snapped to a halt just outside the door. "What?"
Dib chuckled. "Come on. You're just a machine. Everything you are is in here." He rapped on Zim's Pak for emphasis. "Beyond that you're nothing more than a host, a...sentient battery.
You couldn't understand life if you tried."
The child's eyes slid farther up, drinking in everything they could with an insatiable thirst...until they settled on Zim.
It never failed to steal his breath, send a sharp jolt of something racing up his spine. The program studied him for a several seconds—the final phase of the process, the injection of 'memory,' still clicking into position—before the downfall of the human race finally entered into Dib's eyes. In assimilating everything his biological model had once known in life, darkness settled across his face. There was anger, malice, hate—each joining together to destroy the pure enchantment that had been present only moments ago. As it happened Zim watched with renewed concentration and examined his own thoughts surging through his mind.
Formulas ran, matrices joined, functions and numbers and calculations danced but nothing came to light. He watched the magic of creation—his creation—come to 'life' before him for the thousandth time and felt nothing, saw nothing, cherished nothing.
You couldn't understand life if you tried.
"Hello, Zim" the program sneered.
The process was complete. The simulation had run without a single flaw.
Zim's antennae fell. With a heavy sigh, he turned away to instruct the computer to terminate the program, and turned back to watch the horror of death play across his child's face.
Thanks to thejennamonster, senri, and zanderkatt for lighting the fire under me!