What fresh hell is this! An update? Perchance, a new chapter?! Preposterous! When was the last time there was one of those things?

Too long ago. For which I apologize profusely. And I'm afraid that updates won't be very fast-coming in the future, either, due to the fact that I shall be going to college. Which is not a very conducive environment to fic-writing. It's easy when you can ignore 70 percent of what's going on in your high school classes and just scribble ficcage in your notebook, but college classes? Not so much. Even so, this fic is most assuredly not dead, don't worry.

Be that as it may, to any of you who are interested in this fic and who have NOT Story Alerted it, you probably should. I'm worried that something horrible might happen, like you'll forget about the story before the next update, which would make me sad. Oh, so sad.

In regards to Art Contest Stuff, we've now got, like, half a dozen-ish entries. Yay. Consider it still ongoing, just for the heck of it.

And now... a chapter! Huzzah and hallelujah! Woot! Squee! And other such exclamations! Here we go.

xxxxx

In Short Supply

Resisty Rebels

xxx

Two transcripts from a server on Callnowia that has been hijacked by a black market organization:

WELCOME to BLACK MARKEPALOOZA! We are Server 366543 and we are happy to help you in all your illegal needs. Please note that all questions we ask are for your own benefit, because if the Control Brains someday access this server and its transcripts, anything you say could be used to clear you of guilt. If you choose to leave any question blank, we will helpfully fill it in with the default answer, "I like to kill smeets."

What is your name? INVADER ZIM!!

We are sorry, but the name "Invader Zim" is not in our databases. Perhaps you mean "Exile Zim"? foolish server-fool! i'll break your spine for your rudeness!

We cannot help you unless you help us. Is your name "Exile Zim" or not? feh. whatever.

Yes? fine.

Are you a dealer or a customer? DEALER!!

What is the contraband product you wish to sell on the black market today? HYDROXYLIC ACID!!

For what purpose do you wish to bring hydroxylic acid into the Irken Empire? MONIES!!

You have given the answer "monies." Is this the only reason, or is it your hopes that your customers do something treasonous with the hydroxylic acid? treasonous? as if i, ZIM, would ever do something treasonous to my empire or my tallest!

Are you aware of the fact that there is a 96 percent chance that anyone who purchases hydroxylic acid will use it to attempt assassination on the Almighty Tallest? shut up. you're stupid.

Processing your request. ... Thank you for using Black Markepalooza. We look forward to further business with you, Exile Zim. I AM INVADER ZIM!!

Sure you are.

xxx

What is your name? Frylord Sizz-Lorr.

Are you a dealer or a customer? A customer.

What is the contraband product you wish to purchase from the black market today? Hydroxylic acid.

You are in luck, Frylord Sizz-Lorr. We received a new shipment today. For what purpose do you wish to use hydroxylic acid? Merely for the benefit of my customers whose biology requires hydroxylic acid.

Do your customers include, or have they ever included, Irken traitors, anarchists, defects, or xenophiles; alien rebels, resistance forces, slaves, or scientists; or any other individual malcontents that may have a vendetta against the Tallest? No to all of the above except alien rebels and resistance forces, and members of those factions are not allowed to purchase hydroxylic acid at my establishment.

Are you aware of the fact that should you mistakenly sell hydroxylic acid to a member of the aforementioned factions, there is a 96 percent chance that they will use it to attempt assassination on the Almighty Tallest? I am aware and prepared. I am confident in my abilities to neutralize any such threats before they arise, and willing to face the consequences should I fail in my duties.

Processing your request. ... Thank you for using Black Markepalooza. We look forward to further business with you, Frylord Sizz-Lorr. Thank you for your services.

Have a nice day.

xxx

Sizz-Lorr did not discriminate against his customers. He would serve everyone—Irken, Vortian, Blorchian Rat, whatever—with the same quality of food and service, just as long as they paid. Admittedly, while this policy had made Shloogorgh's one of the most popular restaurants on Foodcourtia, it had also caused him some trouble from time to time. About a half-year ago, Tallest Purple had threatened to shut him down upon discovering that he occasionally served Planet Jackers, and if Tallest Red hadn't intervened, he'd probably be out of business. And he would be in even more trouble now if anyone found out that for the past third-year or so, several of his regulars had been members of the Resisty. He had a compromise with them: they would not be allowed to purchase hydroxylic acid and would be kicked out if they started plotting revolution in his restaurant, and in return Sizz-Lorr would not call in a swarm of Soldiers to arrest them.

He didn't like to think of himself as tolerant of alien lifestyles, because who would want to be tolerant, of all things? Yuck. He thought of himself merely as a good restaurateur. And, if anything else could be said of him, he was probably one of the least bored Irkens in the empire, considering the freaks he dealt with on a daily basis.

For example, there was Dwicky.

Sizz-Lorr was watching the news on a screen behind the counter while Mofo took orders at the register. Today was a slow day. Sizz-Lorr didn't know why, of course; with all the completely incomprehensible feeding patterns of his customers, it was beyond him to calculate the rise and fall of lunchtime crowds. All he could rely on was his carefully-honed Frycook senses to warn him when a rush was coming, and the long-term schedule of Foodening cycles generated by Foodcourtia Control Brains 1 and 3. He wished the Control Brains would warn him when he was about to have a boring day, but he knew better than to question the Control Brains. Far be it for him to think he might know what it took to run a restaurant that catered to aliens better than a bunch of Control Brains stuffed with the data of the Paks of Irkens that had died long before Operation Impending Doom ever started...

But when things were this slow—the restaurant was only populated by a handful of regulars who liked to camp out in the booths—and his Frycook senses were as dead as a lake, it was safe to say things would stay slow for a while. So he was watching the news, waiting for the advertisements.

Between every news piece were two ads, and Sizz-Lorr had recently purchased some ad time through the Control Brain of Amillionchannelsia. On channel 2, the general empire-wide news channel, every seventh ad was going to be for Shloogorgh's. (All the slots on channel 1, the pure ad channel, were too expensive for him.) He'd seen one of his ads already, and then five ads for other, less important things. As soon as this story about an attempted terrorist attack on Vootdealershipia was over, there would be a sixth unimportant ad, and at last, there should be another one of his ads. He was watching to make sure that his order had actually processed correctly.

While he waited, he harassed his customers about the news. "Hey, Vortian," Sizz-Lorr shouted. He twisted the screen around so the mismatched pack of rebels could watch the news item, about a terrorist attack on Vootdealershipia. (The Resisty rebels were camping out in the booth nearest the front counter. Again.) "Was this your work?" Not that he cared—he didn't own a Voot—but he liked staying on top of what his customers were up to.

"Huh?" Lard Nar stood on his seat, squinting at the screen. "What, that attack on Vootdealershipia? I would never plan an attack there! Too many of my dear friends and relatives poured their minds into the construction of Voot Cruisers for me to think of willingly damaging their products!" He sat back down, head tipped up haughtily. "We were aiming for Videogamia, actually. Someone put in the wrong coordinates."

"I said I was sorry," Spleenk muttered.

"I hope you are!"

"I am!"

"No you aren't!"

Sizz-Lorr turned the screen back around as the Resisty members bickered amongst themselves. It looked like the Announcer was wrapping up this story. Almost time for a commercial break...

"HIII, Sizz-Lorr!"

"Uh." Sizz-Lorr looked towards the door, along with most of his other customers. (With the exception of those watching Lard Nar berate Spleenk.) And here was another regular. "Hi, Dwicky."

The weird alien practically skipped up to the front counter, grinning so widely that Sizz-Lorr could see where his carnivore teeth ended and his herbivore teeth began. Omnivore mouths looked so... wrong. "I've got monies," he said brightly. "And that means I can eat!"

"Yes, it does," Sizz-Lorr said patiently. The first few times Dwicky had come in (stranded here by Plookesians, he claimed), he'd had to beg food off of other customers. Apparently he'd finally found a job on Foodcourtia, because he'd started buying his own. "Order from Mofo."

Dwicky turned just as happily to the shorter Irken behind the register. "Hi, Mofo! How you been lately?" he asked. "Hey, how'd that party you and Taffee threw last night go?" Taffee was Mofo's roommate outside of work hours.

"Oh, that. Pretty good. Taffee hired some high-price Dancers, you know," Mofo said. Dwicky hadn't been invited to the party, of course, since he was an alien, but that didn't stop him from asking about it. Sizz-Lorr knew by now that Dwicky loved gossiping with his employees, no matter what the subject was. He had the oddest feeling that Dwicky was studying them, sometimes.

"Oh, really? You mean they were tall?"

"Even better: green-eyed."

"Oooh." Dwicky nodded appreciatively. "I've always been partial to green eyes, myself..."

The idea of Dwicky being even remotely attracted to any physical features that Irkens embodied quickly killed Mofo's enthusiasm for the conversation. He flattened his antennae, and said, in monotone, "What do you want."

"Let's see. I think I want..." Dwicky stared up at the menu. And stared. He did this every time he ordered.

Dwicky was an odd one, and not necessarily in a good way. He'd explained his story to Sizz-Lorr once, during a slow period. He hailed from a planet outside the empire, Earth—an ill omen, considering who else was currently on that planet. He said that over half of his body consisted of hydroxylic acid. He claimed to be fascinated by all things non-Earthen, despite the fact that he'd been living off his home world for quite some time now; obviously a xenophile in the making. Yeesh. And to top it all off, he claimed to be a therapist, which was kind of like a psychiatrist, which probably meant his job was to work with... er, suicidals. But given all these negatives, he was still a good customer. That was all Sizz-Lorr cared about.

"This time I'll get..." Dwicky trailed off again. "Maybe I'll try..." He frowned, stroking his chin with one hand. "What haven't I tried before?"

"Only the poisonous foods," Mofo said, his voice flat. "Try the Vort dogs." Sizz-Lorr would have to compliment Mofo later for the suggestion. They had a surplus of Vort dogs.

"Okay! I'll have the Vort dogs! And a cup of... uh... hydroxylic acid, you call it?" he asked. Mofo nodded. "Do you think you could put some ice in that?"

Mofo blinked. "Uh. Some what?"

"Ice? Little cubes of frozen hydroxylic acid?"

Sizz-Lorr and Mofo looked at Dwicky like he was crazy. Mofo slowly shook his head. "We're fresh out of... ice," he said.

"All right. Just the cup of water, then." Dwicky sighed. "It's like traveling in Europe all over again..."

The argument at the Resisty's table had apparently started to subside, because the tin ice-cream cone—Slinkypoxy or something—finally noticed the new arrival. "Heeeey!" he squealed.

Dwicky whirled around. "Oh my God!" he screeched. "It's Shloonktapooxis! Hi, Shloonktapooxis!"

The tin cone screeched right back. "Oh my Xlophmogger! It's Dwicky! Hi, Dwicky!"

"Oh, hells..." Lard Nar muttered.

"How ya been man?" Shloonktapooxis asked.

"I been cool! How 'bout you man?"

"Aw man, right on! You been keepin' it real?"

"Fo sho! You?"

"You know it dawg!"

It was as if they were speaking an alien language and the translation software in Sizz-Lorr's Pak had spontaneously imploded.

Shloonktapooxis suddenly turned to Sizz-Lorr. "How 'bout you? What up dawg?"

The software was still imploded. "Uh... come again?"

"What's the news, dude?"

"The...? Oh, Slark!" He turned back to the screen showing channel 2. A new article was on. He'd completely missed the ads. "Shoot!"

Shloonktapooxis hovered, uninvited, behind the counter, to look at the screen. "Heeey, the news," he said. "I wanna hear this!" He tapped the volume button with the tip of his cone, turning it up. Dwicky leaned over the counter to try to see the screen.

"...while the rumors are still unconfirmed, we have now heard from several unofficial eyewitnesses who claim that the Massive is, indeed, flying without a Tallest aboard," the Announcer said. "Almighty Tallest Red has been on a scheduled vacation for the past few days. However, Almighty Tallest Purple's whereabouts are still unknown."

"Typical," Mofo muttered, coming out of the back room holding a basket of Vort dogs and a cup with a toxic chemicals warning on the side. He set them on the counter. "This is just what we get. I've always said you can't run one empire with two Tallest."

"You've never said that before," Sizz-Lorr said.

Mofo looked puzzled. "Well... I should have."

"Other witnesses claim that when Tallest Purple left, he ordered all Irkens aboard the Massive to not tell Tallest Red anything," the Announcer continued. "These witnesses spoke with the assurance that this network would keep their identities secret. However, as always, we are willing to accept bribes." She smiled deviously. "The Control Brain Triumvirate has informed us that Tallest Red is at this time returning to the Massive. There is still no information about Tallest Purple."

Sizz-Lorr gave Lard Nar and his rebels a hard look. The Vortian shook his head emphatically. "We don't have him. Really!"

By this time, nearly everyone in Shloogorgh's had left their booths to listen to the news. Sizz-Lorr had turned the screen sideways so everyone could see. This was disturbing information indeed.

"What's the difference between Red and Purple?" Dwicky whispered to Shloonktapooxis.

The cone replied, "Red is a primary color, but you have to mix red and blue together to get purple."

"I meant the Tallest."

"Uh..." Shloonktapooxis twitched a little. "By the way, that was a shrug of cluelessness." Sometimes Sizz-Lorr wondered about his customers' mental facilities.

An odd feeling suddenly seized his squeedilyspooch. He looked up, alarmed. His Frycook senses... was it a lunch rush coming? No, something bigger... a food critic? No, no... it had to be...

"You!" Sizz-Lorr barked, pointing at Lard Nar. "And you!" At Shloonktapooxis. "All of you Resisty things! You have one degree to get out of my restaurant before I kick you out so hard, you'll land back on your home planets. Get going!" He was not going to have members of the Resisty happily having lunch (or, angrily having lunch, or whatever it is they did) in his restaurant when the imminent arrivals... arrived. He would be in a world of trouble.

"S-sir!" Lard Nar snapped off a fearful salute. Even the most hardened rebels cower before the wrath of an experienced Frylord. "Everyone, move out!"

There was a stampede of disorganized Resisty aliens racing for the door. Shloonktapooxis hesitated. "But, me an' Dwicky—"

"Hurry up, conebutt," Lard Nar snarled, grabbing him by his tip and dragging him out the door.

"But, but—why?" he wailed. The door shut before Sizz-Lorr could hear Lard Nar's answer.

Sizz-Lorr said, "Mofo, go find Gashloog and tell him to start cleaning—You going to pay for that, Earthen?"

"Eep?" Dwicky froze halfway between the counter and a booth, holding his Vort dogs and water. "Er, right, right." He put his food on the table and came back, searching through his pockets for his monies.

Sizz-Lorr turned back to Mofo. "Tell Gashloog to start cleaning the restaurant. I want it spotless."

"Yessir," Mofo said, giving him a puzzled look. But a few steps into the back room, he stopped, and asked. "Er, sir? What was that all about?"

"You can't feel it?" Sizz-Lorr asked.

Mofo shook his head.

Sizz-Lorr sighed. "You need more training. We're going to have a special visit soon," he said. "The Almighty Tallest."

Mofo's eyes widened. "The Al... wh-which one?!"

"Both."

"Both?!" Mofo extended his Pak-legs. "I'll tell Gashloog right away, sir!" he shouted, skittering back to find him.

Dwicky finally found his monies, and set them on the counter. "Both Tallest will be here? I take it that's a big deal to Irkens?" he asked.

"The biggest," Sizz-Lorr said.

He wondered why they were coming. Considering the recent news... The Massive unpiloted, the Resisty allowed to get away with attacking Vootdealershipia, Tallest Purple missing...

Whatever was going on, Sizz-Lorr was willing to bet it wasn't going to be pretty.

xxx

Zim had been surprised when, the morning after their dance, Purple had insisted they should be anywhere on Earth but in the base that day.

"But my Tallest, our eggs are going to hatch today!" he'd protested. "All six of them!"

"One of them has YY chromosomes, Master," the computer pointed out.

"Shut up! I am Zim!"

"I know they're going to hatch today," Purple said testily. He was sitting slouched on the couch on the main level of Zim's base, devouring a bag of cheese puffs. (Odd, Zim thought; they'd just danced the night before, he wouldn't have thought that Purple would need to snack so soon after that.) "That's why we're not going to be near them."

"What?! But why wouldn't you want to watch... Oh." Zim nodded knowingly. "I understand perfectly, my Tallest. After watching my amazing egg-laying skills, you're still uncomfortable to be around them. Right?"

Purple squinted an eye at Zim. "Uh... kinda? I wouldn't call that 'amazing skills,' but—"

"No need to explain!" Zim said, holding a hand up. "You're simply jealous that I have demonstrated the miracle of spawning new life, and you wish now that you had been layer and I had been fertilizer so you could be capable of such a miracle yourself. That's it, isn't it? Right?"

"N-no. Not... not really." Purple was starting to look slightly nauseous.

"Your envy is understandable," Zim said cheerfully. "However, I would never take the opportunity to gloat, even if my biological functions are now automatically superior to those of the rest of the Irken Empire. After all, you know, it's not every Irken who has both the mental facilities to be a superior Invader and the physical capabilities to—"

"Zim!" Purple snapped. "Cut it out! I thought you didn't even like being a l—uh... you know!"

"Yes, it is a terrible burden," Zim said. "But it's my duty to the empire. So it's still honorable, right?" After a moment, he thoughtfully added, "Actually, come to think of it, I suppose I'm the only Irken with the physical capa—"

"ZIM! Can we talk about something else, please!"

"Of course, my Tallest!" He leaped onto the couch next to Purple. (It was nice to be skinny again. He could leap on stuff much more easily.) "So, Pur. What are we gonna name them?"

"Ugh." Purple grimaced. "Later."

Zim frowned. "If you say so... Pur." He'd been looking forward to naming the smeets. He already knew he wanted to name one of them Jittar. He'd known a smeet named Jittar once, during his initial Soldier training. To this day, nobody believed Zim when he claimed that he'd had nothing to do with the tragic accident that killed Jittar, even though they'd been working together on a sparring drill with lasers and the hole through Jittar's head looked suspiciously like the hole that sparring lasers made when someone deliberately took off the restraining bolt that kept them from being fatal. No, Zim had nothing to do with the death. Although if he had, he would have liked to point out that he must have made one good shot, to get such a perfect hit.

"So, what are we gonna do, Pur?"

"I don't know," Purple whined. "Why do I have to come up with something, huh? Can't you think of something? I know you can think of something, you're always coming up with crazy ideas for your world domination plans..."

Zim's antennae stood straight up. "The plans!" He jumped to his feet. "Thank you for reminding me, my Tallest! I'd nearly forgotten! I need to collect some supplies for my greatest plan ever! We need watermelons!"

"Your what?" Purple stood up and watched as Zim ran into the kitchen, putting on his contacts and wig as he went. "What plan? When did this happen?"

"It's brilliant!" Zim said, opening the refrigerator door. He'd hidden Purple's disguise in there, the coat and hat; he pulled them out and hurried back into the living room, where he got on his Pak legs and held the clothes in Purple's face. "Utterly ingenious! Once it's implemented, every Invader in the empire will be emulating my plan! You'll make them pay me royalties, won't you, Pur?" Not that Zim needed the monies. He would gladly supply his blueprint to his fellow Invaders if it meant furthering the cause of the Irken Empire. But he'd still prefer if his genius were recognized.

"Roya-whatties?" Purple said, taking the clothes. "Hey, I told you not to work on any of your plans until after the egg mission, Zim!"

"You gave this one your personal approval, my Tallest!"

"I did not!"

"You would have if you knew what it was." Zim quickly stretched out to his full height on his Pak-legs, so that he was slightly taller than Purple. Reckless as it was, he had used this trick once before already on Purple—trying to make himself look physically taller than the Tallest, and using that psychological advantage to his... er... advantage. "I'll show you my plan later, Pur. You'll see how amazing it is. I mean it!"

"Uh..." Purple lowered his gaze. As Zim had expected he would. It was hard for most Irkens to bring themselves to look up at another Irken. Unless, like Zim, they were used to it. "I'm... sure it's... great, Zim, but I ordered you not to..."

It was a psychological trick that worked on almost all Irkens—even, apparently, the Tallest. Irkens had a near-genetic predisposition to lapse into automatic submissiveness when faced with an Irken apparently taller than themselves. "Oh, don't blame yourself for that. Almost everyone makes mistakes," Zim said dismissively, raising himself a fraction of a unit higher. "Come! I will show you how amaz—aghkk!"

Purple had wrapped one hand around Zim's torso and him jerked down. "M-my Tallest. Squeedilyspooch. Pain. Please—"

"Do not," Purple growled, "ever raise yourself to eye-level with me again, Zim. In fact, I never want to see your eyes at Pak-height to me. Understand?" So perhaps Purple wasn't entirely susceptible to the trick.

"Y-yes... sir!"

Purple let go of Zim, who promptly retracted his Pak-legs and fell to his knees, clutching his abdomen. "If you try to do that just one more time, Zim, I'll..." Purple trailed off, and then tried again. "I..."

Honestly, Zim wasn't very interested in what Purple would do if he tried to do that just one more time, because he was still trying to recover from what Purple had done this time. As amazing as Zim was, even he was rather sensitive when he'd laid a bunch of eggs less than a day earlier.

"Voids," Purple muttered. "Come on, Zim, get up. I know you've taken more damage than that in the past, haven't you?" To Zim's utter astonishment, Purple actually bent over to hook his hands under Zim's arms and lift him to his feet. The Tallest had bent over—made himself shorter—in order to help Zim stand up. "Well?"

Zim looked up at Purple. "Whuh?" He was too surprised for articulate speech.

"Were you going to go get the stuff for your stupid plan or not?"

"My..." His mind slowly focused again. "Oh. That. Of course not! Zim has no stupid plans! We are gathering supplies for my brilliant plan!" He hurried to the door, and then turned to look at Purple. "Onward to triumph!"

"Yeah, yeah..." Purple activated his disguise hologram and followed Zim to the door. "This had better be good."

"If it is, you'll approve it, won't you?"

"After the egg mission."

"Hah! I'll have that silly mission done in two weeks tops!" Zim bragged, smirking. "Prepare to be dumbfounded!"

"Uh-huh."

They were out of the base for the next several degrees as Zim collected all the supplies that he thought would be necessary to construct his latest machine.

Consequently, they were both gone when Tallest Red contacted the base.

xxx

"So what are we gonna do now, huh?" Shloonktapooxis asked brightly, pirouetting around Lard Nar's command chair. "We gonna do something soon, right? Huh? Or are we just gonna float out here doing nothing? Because if that's what we're going to do, just let me know, and I'm totally down with that! You and me and the crew, floating in space and doing nothing! Just hanging out and being chill, dawg. Because the Resisty, it so does chill, ya know? It does chill like nobody's business, even when it's not gonna do something soon. It—"

"Shloonktapooxis," Lard Nar said wearily.

"Yeees?"

"Shut up before I tape your mouth closed."

"All right! Now we're doing something!" And thus, Shloonktapooxis happily shut his mouth.

Lard Nar sighed with relief.

Technically, yes, they should have been doing something. Probably planning their next big attack. And, as both the leader and the brains of the Resisty, it was Lard Nar's responsibility to make sure that the attack happened.

However.

He didn't feel like it.

It wasn't just that getting kicked out of Shloogorgh's had thrown off his groove for the day. They weren't allowed to plot their subversive rebellious attacks in there anyway.

And it wasn't even that their latest attack had been such a failure. Although it really had been a failure. A fifth-year of planning (by the Irken calendar), a tenth-year of minor raids on smaller Irken colonies in order to store enough fuel for a full-out attack, weeks of sleepless nights and frantic preparations for their attack on Videogamia... all ruined in less than a degree. By the time Lard Nar had discovered that they'd accidentally attacked Vootdealershipia instead of their target... he couldn't even imagine how much destruction he'd caused to the ships that his Vortian brethren had so lovingly designed.

But no, that wasn't why he didn't feel like planning an attack. Honestly, he was just uninspired.

In all the time since the Resisty had formed, what good had they done? Had they made any progress? Well? Had they? No, they had not. And it was because every single one of their plans ended up being nothing more than a big, stinky, useless pile of...

"Piss-rocks," Lard Nar muttered. Now he was bored. He pushed up his goggles to rub his eyes. "Shloonktapooxis?"

The cone nodded vigorously.

"You can talk again."

"Woo-hoooo! All right! You da man, dawg! Give it up for the big LN!"

"Uh-huh." Lard Nar sighed as Shloonktapooxis resumed bouncing around the bridge of the Resisty's ship, chanting Lard Nar's initials as enthusiastically as if he'd just liberated Untitled Irken Colony No. Five. (Lard Nar would be happy to leave Untitled Irken Colony No. Five until last on their quest of world-liberation. Formerly named Skwiggawigga Pow-Wow Ploof, it was Shloonktapooxis's home planet. Rumor had it that Shloonktapooxis was unusually sedate for his race, so Lard Nar wasn't looking forward to meeting anyone else of his species.)

Well, Lard Nar wasn't bored anymore. Just annoyed. Which wasn't helping him feel any more inspired.

"LN! LN! L—Gasps and exclamations!" Shloonktapooxis said. "I could call you Ellen! Can I? Can I please?"

"Oh, I would be delighted," Lard Nar muttered.

"I acknowledge your sarcasm and discard it as irrelevant! You're da bomb, Ellen."

Lard Nar groaned as the pace of Shloonktapooxis's bouncing increased. "Can't somebody make something interesting happen around here?!" he griped.

Their view screen was shattered by a gigantic crate of pretzels.

xxx

Smikka Smikka Smoodoo had no idea how long he'd been trapped in a box. Surely it had been days since he'd crawled into the package that he hoped would take him far away from the Conveyor Belt Planet. But even if he should die in that package, this escape plan was the only hope he had. If he did die, at least the Irkens who received the box would be in for a nasty surprised.

Nobody wanted to find a dead Screw-head in their delivery of pretzels.

At least he had been well fed, albeit deprived of light to the point that he hardly wanted to eat. And it didn't help that he was getting pretty darn tired of pretzels, either. But where could he go? Outside? Hah! No, he didn't want to end his life quite yet. And there was still the hope that he could spoil some Irkens' snacks.

He was understandably surprised when, after countless days of random and weightless floating in space, he felt his box suddenly slam into something.

The box shuddered, cracked open, and Smikka Smikka Smoodoo fell face first on a cold metal floor. He heard a monstrous roaring whoosh, and wearily lifted his head to look for the source of the sound. Maybe he'd landed on a really windy planet?

But no, he seemed to be inside a... a spaceship of some kind, probably. Smikka Smikka Smoodoo had never been in a spaceship before. And the whoosh was probably coming from the big glass window of the ship, which had been shattered.

Somebody was shrieking that they were all going to die. Someone else was screaming, "Where's the automatic emergency shield? Why hasn't it activated yet?!" Smikka Smikka Smoodoo watched as a gray alien with really pointy legs ran past. "Why isn't our automatic emergency shield automatic?!"

The pointy-legged alien ran back and forth several more times, pounding randomly on various control consoles. At last, it pushed down on a giant button with both hands, and a metal screen slid down over the ship's big glass window, stopping the whooshing sound.

The pointy-legged alien leaned wearily against the control console, its legs trembling and its mouth wide open as it panted. (It had very sharp teeth, Smikka Smikka Smoodoo noted. He didn't like that.) Finally, it said, "Why... does the button for the automatic emergency shield say 'donut'?" It looked around suspiciously. "Spleenk?!"

"It wasn't me!"

"Oh, wasn't it?!"

"No!"

"Yes it was!"

From directly over Smikka Smikka Smoodoo, a voice chirped, "Hey, look at this thing! Can I keep him?"

He gasped and jumped to his feet. A large metal... cone was floating over him. "Who are you? What are you?"

"I'm..." The cone blinked at him, and an expression of panic crossed its face. "Wait. Which one do I answer first?" It looked at the pointy-legged alien. "Boss?"

"I'll handle this." The alien dragged a chair from one of the control consoles over to Smikka Smikka Smoodoo, and sat as it began to interrogate him. "I think you owe us some answers first. Who are you, what are you doing here, and what's that thing in your head?"

Smikka Smikka Smoodoo hesitated, considering the pointy-legged alien and his crew. These aliens, whatever they were, certainly weren't Irkens... and he couldn't see signs that suggested Irkens would be somewhere in the ship, either. There wasn't even a surface marred with a sigil of their empire. Perhaps he could trust these aliens with the truth. What did he have to lose?

"I am Smikka Smikka Smoodoo, one of the subjugated people of the... ugh... the Conveyor Belt Planet." The Irkens' name for his home planet still disgusted him. "I made a desperate attempt to escape from subjugation by sneaking into this package of snacks you see here. My only wish is to see my people liberated and the Irken scourge wiped from my planet." He gulped, hoping that these aliens were sympathetic. "Oh, and this thing in my head is a screw."

The pointy-legged alien gave him a considering look, crossing its legs as it thought. "You seen to be telling the truth," it finally said. "You're in luck, Smikka Smikka Smoodoo. Your wish is shared by every member of the Resisty. I'm the leader of the Resisty, Lard Nar. We'd be glad to—"

"Wait! You are the Resisty?" Smikka Smikka Smoodoo said, his eyes widening. "My people thought you were only a legend. I can't believe you actually exist!"

"Well, yeah. I guess we are the stuff of legends, aren't we?" Lard Nar said proudly.

"No, I mean, we thought that if you were real, you would have saved us by now," Smikka Smikka Smoodoo said. "What's taking so long?"

"Oh. Well... It's tough work, fighting a revolution against a huge empire, you know," Lard Nar said.

Smikka Smikka Smoodoo nodded. He knew that from personal experience.

"We've, uh, encountered a lot of... little difficulties along the way. We have to collect supplies, recruit others to our cause, evade Irken authorities—"

"And come up with plans," the metal cone said cheerily. "We have no idea what to do next!" Lard Nar shot the cone a dirty look.

"Well, that should be obvious," Smikka Smikka Smoodoo said. "My people have spent much time discussing a possible rebellion, and we all agree that if we ever had a spaceship, we would attack the Massive!"

"Hey, that's a good idea," said the alien Lard Nar had called Spleenk. "Why didn't we think of that?"

"Because we did think of that, and we ended up having to self-destruct our own ship when we tried," Lard Nar said, gritting his teeth. "The Massive is off-limits. As long as it's got the Tallest on board, we won't be able to touch it."

"Oh... I see." Smikka Smikka Smoodoo bowed his head, defeated. Then what was left? Had he fled his planet for nothing? True, he hadn't expected much more than dying out in outer space, but...

"But Ellen, it doesn't have the Tallest on board," the metal cone said. "Remember?"

Lard Nar snapped, "Stop calling me Ell—" His eyes shot wide open. "Wait a minute... Shloonktapooxis, you're a genius!"

"You bet I am!"

Lard Nar leaped out of the chair and skittered up to a higher, larger chair. "Everyone, battle stations! Set a course for the Massive. Spleenk, you'd better get the coordinates right this time."

"I will, I will!"

"Smikka Smikka Smoodoo?"

"Yes?" He looked up hopefully. "Can I help?"

"What can you do?" Lard Nar asked.

"I used to be a world-renowned classical singer!" he said. "I can move packages, too."

"Great. Move your crate of pretzels to our food storage compartment. We'll need those supplies later," Lard Nar said.

"Yes, sir!" Smikka Smikka Smoodoo grabbed one edge of the box and started dragging it laboriously towards the only doorway he could see. Moving packages, he discovered, was much more difficult without conveyor belts.

As he dragged the box, he heard Lard Nar declare, "Onward to victory! To triumph! To the doom of the Massive!"

xxxxx