Author's Notes: I am a Dib fan. While I do like Zim, Dib is my favorite character and the one I root for (usually unsuccessfully) when I watch the show or read a fic. Now recently, I wrote a story where Dib defeats the Irken Armada and saves the Earth. A friend of mine (a Zim fan) commented that she was "a little disgusted" by that part of the story; and this comment, added to the fact that I've been reading some more "serious" IZ stuff lately (much of it by Dibsthe1) sent my mind a-whirlin', and as a special...let's say "gift" to my friend and other Zim-should-win fans, I wrote this: a story set post-Dib-loss with Zim ruling the Earth. I hope you enjoy (he said, with grim, sardonic humor).
Sandra O'Neil stumbled and fell, the huge platter of nachos in her hands spilling all over the ground.
Her daughter Zita was quickly kneeling beside her, pulling her to her feet. "Hurry, Mom, get up. The guards are---AIGH!"
The mother and daughter both let out screams of pain as a whiplash of energy seared across their backs. They fell on their faces, gasping for air, while above them two voices snickered.
"Get up," the first Irken snapped, glaring down at them with her malicious red eyes.
"Yeah," her sidekick, a purple-eyed male, said, pulling back the laser-whip to dangle lightly from his three-fingered hand. "We're not not-paying you to not work, you know."
He laughed, and suddenly the whip snapped forward again, slashing across their backs. Zita and her mother had just managed to force themselves onto their hands and knees, then gasped and fell on their faces again. The two Irkens laughed, walking around them; the female kicked a few of the nachos into Sandra's face.
"And go get a new platter for the Invader," she snapped. "We Irkens don't eat trash off the floor."
She and the male snickered again, walking away.
Sandra put her face in her hands and began to sob. Zita turned pale, rubbing her mother's back. "Don't cry Mom," Zita whispered, as she felt tears build up in her own eyes. "It'll be okay."
But Sandra couldn't stop crying. She couldn't take this; she wasn't used to work; Sandra had been a rich society woman, she was used to fancy parties and giving orders to her maids, not twenty-hour work days building machine parts and baking pizza after pizza for the insatiable Irkens to shove down their maws. She was used to a loving husband doting on her, of living in a big house with her pretty daughter Zita and her adorable baby son. She couldn't stand these rags that had once been her favorite dress, her hair dirty and greasy, the memory of her husband vaporized before her eyes and her son dragged off to be a subject for some kind Irken experiment, alive or dead she didn't even know...
Zita sniffled, looking up from her mother for a moment, trying to force back her tears. And that's when she saw him watching her from across the room, and felt her heart stop in chest.
He was working at the conveyor belt along with at least a dozen other human slaves, but he somehow stood out, apart, in his own bubble of space that none of the others dared entered. He had stopped his own work to stare at her, his light brown eyes like burning ice from behind his long, greasy bangs and cracked glasses. He had been watching, she knew, the entire incident, the whole humiliating attack by the Irken guards. He was always watching, Zita or somebody else. Always watching, always apart.
His eyes held no pity. They almost challenged you to ask for pity.
Pity?! Dib's eyes asked, and Zita could actually hear Dib's voice laughing in her head. You want pity from me, Zita?! Did you give me pity, when I warned you this would happen? Did you give me any pity when I came to class bruised and sore, scratched in bleeding, because I spent the previous night trying to prevent this while you were off shopping with your friends? Or did you laugh at me, tear into me, call me crazy in front of everyone just for the cheers and jeers of your adoring fans, huh?! And now that you're the butt of the joke, what do you want? Sympathy? What, I didn't deserve it when I was trying to save your lives, but you get it now? Huh? HUH?!
Dib's eyes narrowed; his lip curled into a sneer. Zita began to tremble, tears once again threatening to spill.
And then suddenly she jumped, as an Irken guard appeared behind Dib and stabbed him with his staff. The weapon was electrified; Dib let out a gasp and fell to the ground with a crackle of electricity, twitching horribly. The guard laughed.
"Get back to work, Dib," the guard---a big stupid one---sneered; Dib was the only one they ever referred to by name. "Invader Zim expects you to work, and you have about..." He grinned his big, stupid grin. "Ten thousand more parts to get through before you've reached today's quota."
Dib didn't answer; he just rose to his feet silently, not looking at the guard or anyone around him, just down at the conveyor belt as he went back to work, body spasming every few seconds from the electrical shock. The workers on either side of him kept their eyes turned away; they had stiffened at the guard's attack but other than that allowed no other reaction.
The guard chortled as he walked away. Zita watched for another moment, and suddenly Dib looked up again, glaring.
Zita's breath caught in her throat. She looked away, tears spilling from her eyes as she bent down to help her sobbing mother to her feet once more.
She heard him like that, talking in her head whenever she saw him, every time she saw his eyes burning at her like that. She knew he hated her. She knew exactly what he thought of her, of all the rest of humanity.
But she had never heard him say it.
After all, nobody ever talked to Dib anymore.
"Oh man," The Letter M muttered, a bead of sweat running down his face as he fumbled with the pieces, trying to get them to stick together. "What are we supposed to do?!"
"You snap them together like this," Torque muttered, putting the two parts together.
"Hell if I know. Just do it! The guard's gonna pass."
The Letter M snapped the pieces together, catching them as they flew by on the conveyor belt, hoping someone down the line would get the ones he was missing. He fumbled, trying to get the metallic parts together, and suddenly one snapped in two. His eyes went wide. "Oh man!"
"Is there a problem?"
The Letter M spun around; a tall female Irken with purple eyes was glaring down at him, her electrified staff in her hands. The Letter M quickly hid the broken parts behind his back.
"No! ...No problem, sir. Ma'am!"
The Irken chuckled, then marched away. The Letter M let out a breath he had been holding, feeling like he was going to be sick.
"Oh man, I don't know how to do this," he whispered, turning back to the conveyor belt, hands shaking as he reached for more. He didn't even know what these were---spaceship parts or whatever, plasma-this or energy-reactor-that. All he knew was that he was supposed to snap this-piece into that piece, and if these things weren't done right, the Irkens were gonna be steamed. They'd kill him if they saw him messing up---or somebody else, if they just found a bunch of parts thrown together wrong and couldn't figure out whose fault it was. He needed help!
His eyes wandered away from his task down the conveyer belt, to the person next to him. He felt himself trembling again.
Dib---his hair still standing on end and sparking from the last Irken's energy staff---was standing there, eyes down on his hands, which moved mechanically over the parts, grabbing, snapping and putting them down in seconds, no sign of a struggle on his face, no doubt or difficulty apparent. The Letter M tried to copy him---snap that part into this part, or was it that part, Dib's hand was blocking---and crap, he already sent it down to vanish along the belt, already on another one, his fingers nimble and quick even as the bags under his eyes threatened to hang past his chin. He was supposed to be some kind of a mechanical genius, after all---that's what The Letter M had heard, anyway. And of course that fit, his father was that brilliant scientist; Professor Membrane had been so smart that Zim had ordered him taken right to the Tallest so they could force him to design more weapons (The Letter M also thought it was probably so they could also torture Dib with the fact that he had no idea where his only living family member was; his sister, he recalled, had been killed in one of the initial attacks. Apparently Invader Zim saw her as a legitimate threat to his plans.)
The Letter M opened his mouth to speak. He wanted to call to Dib, ask him what he was doing, what they were supposed to be doing, what these pieces were and how to put them together so that the Irkens would just be happy and leave them alone.
He started to ask...but then Dib's eyes seemed to turn slightly, still downcast, glaring at him. The breath caught in The Letter M's throat; Dib's eyes seemed to beckon, mocking. Go ahead, ask for help, The Letter M. See what Dib says.
Help? You want my help?! Did you ever give me help, huh, The Letter M? All those times I told you---I told everyone---about Zim's evil plans, about what he was planning to do to the world, did you ever help me try to stop him? Or even when I was just getting beaten up, mocked, thrown into the crazy house, did it ever occur to you to help me, huh? Do you remember the last time?! That last time, Zim's plan that finally brought this brave new world we're in, huh? I ask you all to help me. What did you do? You helped hold me down so that Torque could beat me half to death! If you hadn't done that, I could have gone after Zim and maybe stopped this from happening! You helped Zim take over this entire planet, and now you have the balls to ask me to help you?!
The guard was passing by again; The Letter M quickly turned away, his eyes back on his fumbling hands. He felt Dib's eyes slide away from him as he concentrated completely on his own work, oblivious once again to anyone around him.
He turned back to Dib after a few moments, carefully avoiding his face, concentrating just as hard as he was on his hands, working with a feverish expertise over the aliens' machanical parts. The Letter M did his best to copy Dib, wishing he could ask Dib what to do. He wondered if Dib really did know what he was doing, or if he, The Letter M, was copying someone just as incompetent as he was. Hell, he wondered sometimes if Dib was doing it wrong on purpose, as part of some secret plot to undermine the Irkens from within or something.
The Letter M never asked Dib these questions, though.
After all, nobody ever talked to Dib anymore.
Dib always had the highest quotas to fill. Like, ridiculously high; no one could have made those quotas, everyone thought, which was, of course, the point. When everyone else got to shuffle off for their measly three hours of sleep, Dib would get jabbed with an Irken's staff as the guard chuckled that had another thousand parts of put together.
At least most of the time. Sometimes---if his fingers danced just as fast across the conveyor belt as they could, and he skipped the two five-minute breaks they got during the day, sometimes, Dib could just make it as the official work day ended. His eyes would be as hard as ever, his mouth just on the verge of breaking into a grim, triumphant smile. Some people thought he must enjoy beating their little test, proving that he was able to do whatever insane task they threw at him.
Of course, this just made the Irkens madder. Which is why he would, inevitably, be asked to stay a bit longer to "discuss" something with one of the guards.
People didn't have houses anymore; those that hadn't been destroyed by the invasion had mostly been torn down to make room for more Irken restaurants, more Irken spaceyards, more Irken bases and weapons and porno theaters, while all the humans who worked in these places were just shoved into overcrowded buildings attached to each place. One long room served as quarters for at least fifty people; the lucky slept on beds, others on meager blankets, a few on nothing but bare spots in a corner where they could hope to avoid being stepped on. Everyone rushed to their sleeping spots instantly once they were released from work (well, after the bathroom, where people were liable to fall asleep sitting on the toilet). Needless to say, it didn't take long to fall asleep.
BANG! The door flew open; several people jerked awake, but most, smartly, stayed laying in their beds and pretended they hadn't.
"Here ya go, Dib," an Irken said, sending him flying through the air and skidding across the concrete floor. "'Sleep' tight," he said, with air quotations around the disgusting hyuman word.
"And quick," the other guard added. "Work begins again in two hours!"
The two laughed, closing the door behind them. Dib lay there for a moment, panting, then slowly climbed to his feet, dragging himself across the room, holding one shoulder and wincing with every step.
Every waking boy watched Dib as he made his way across the room to his bed (there were only boys; apparently even Irkens weren't going to let teenagers sleep in co-ed rooms, if only to make this whole "slavery" thing even less enjoyable). He paused when he reached it, tottered, almost fell, then steadied himself, leaning against the railing and blinking with all his might. He took another moment, another deep breath, then stripped off his ragged coat and shirt, letting them fall onto his bed. The room was filled with quiet gasps as Dib's naked torso became visible in the dim light...ribs sticking out, so thin his bones looked liable to collapse in on themselves, and just about every inch covered in bruises, burns, cuts, stab wounds...Brian felt sick as he took in the huge, crudely-stitched slash across Dib's stomach, apparently opened by a PAK-leg and clumsily closed by some untrained hand. Keef, laying in the bed above Dib's, groaned and trembled at the sight of an Irken insignia burned into Dib's flesh right over his shoulder blade.
Dib leaned over his bed for a moment, struggling with something; he finally managed to dig out what he was looking for, and ripping open his pillow, poured out an assortment of ointments, bandages, salves, bottles...Rob gasped softly, while Melvin moaned, thinking how just one of those painkillers would work on the new injuries that had been keeping him up all night. Nobody had any clue where Dib had gotten these, and nobody asked; they merely watched as Dib got to work, swallowing a pill dry, rubbing ointment on his arms, wincing at he applied something foul to a huge laser-burn on his chest...he wrapped his torso in bandages, then sat on his bed and pulled off his pants, applying the same treatment to his bloody legs, examining a foot that looked broken and limp...
Everybody watched as Dib worked, quiet, alone, muttering to himself and hissing in pain; people shook in anticipation, a dozen questions on a dozen different lips. Where did you get those supplies?! How often do you do this?! And, most of all, where did you get all those marks?! What are the Irkens doing to you?
Dib would have had to be deaf not to notice the quiet commotion around him, the quiet mutters, the other boys literally shaking in their beds; he worked silently, and then, finally finished, he stood, sending one quick glare over his shoulder at all of them, Keef, Brian, Rob, Torque...each one froze as those eyes swept over them, freezing in terror before this small, broken creature clad in nothing but underwear, glasses and a few hastily-tied bandages as though they were being glared at by the Invader himself. And each one could read the message those eyes sent.
You want to know where I got these marks? You all know---you all have them too, just not as many, and why do you care now, when there's nothing you can do about it, huh?! I told you for years where I was getting these marks, YEARS! You think this is new to me?! I've been doing this since I was eleven, ever since I first started to tell you people about Zim and how hard I had to fight just to keep him at bay. You want to ask me now about my medical supplies? You want to challenge me, ask me to share with you, or indignantly demand that I give them up since you're all suffering too? Fat chance. Plenty of you have given me scars of your own, and when Zim gave them to me before none of you gave a damn. You think you've earned a band-aid?! That's crap, and you know it! You never did a thing to prevent yourself from getting those marks, while I worked my ass off for years and just get beaten up more and more for my efforts! What right do you have even THINKING I would share them with you?
Dib's eyes swept around, then down at the floor again as he fumed silently for a moment. He pulled back on his pants, then his shirt as he crawled into bed, putting his cracked glasses down carefully on the floor and sliding them beneath the bed where they wouldn't get stepped on. It took him a minute to fall asleep, but only a minute. Once everyone else sensed his slow breathing they all turned in their beds and fell asleep too, one by one, images of Dib's broken body haunting their dreams.
They wanted to ask Dib questions. They wanted to find out what he, specifically, was going through as punishment for ever standing in the way of Invader Zim's wrath. They wanted to know how he was getting medical supplies, if they could get some too, to help their own damaged bodies. And a small few, like Keef in the bunk bed above him, even wanted to reach out, comfort Dib, show him compassion for his black-and-blue body and try to make it okay.
But nobody did it that night, and nobody brought it up later.
After all, nobody ever talked to Dib anymore.
The Irkens forbid them to talk about it; they brutally beat or executed anyone they heard, but word still got around. Within a day everybody knew how Dib had escaped.
They had been taking him on a Voot Cruiser, up to Zim's spacestation; they did this a lot, nobody quite knew why, but the fact that he usually came back unconscious gave some indication of what the Invader was doing to him up there. Dib must have sensed one of the guards was sloppy this time; or maybe he was planning this, just banking on surprise, because somehow, just as they were about to march him aboard the ship, Dib had spun around and managed to snatch one of the guards' laser-whip, using it to fight off or kill all the others before anyone could stop him and run aboard the ship, pausing only to say a single quiet word over his shoulder, the first word anybody had ever heard him say since the Invasion began.
And with that he had leaped aboard the ship and taken off before anyone could stop him, flown away from the planet at top speed even as the entire orbital blockade had moved to stop him. They had nearly shot him down, too, in the end; the story went that Invader Zim himself was in pursuit, about to give the final shot when Dib managed to activate the hyperdrive and get away, flying off into the stars.
Nobody knew where he went. Some people believed he was going off to find some way to save the Earth; that he would sneak back to the planet when he could, infiltrate Zim's spacestation and kill him, or come back to the surface and lead a revolt with alien weapons he was gathering somewhere. Many believed he had gone off to join the Resisty, that secret rebellion they heard whispers of but knew almost nothing about, and that soon he would lead a fleet of Vortian warships to liberate the planet and end the Irkens' reign once and for all. Nobody knew for sure; after all, nobody had had a chance to ask Dib what he would do.
A lot of people---and a lot of people that had known Dib, too---didn't believe these stories, though. They believed that Dib had simply flown off into space to find some other planet, far away from the Irken Empire, and that he would just stay there for the rest of his life and leave the Earth to rot.
After all, nobody had ever talked to Dib since the Invasion.
Which meant that nobody had ever asked for his forgiveness, either.
A/N: Yeah, sorry, I couldn't help but give a somewhat happy ending for Dib, and a hopeful (at least if you don't believe in karma) ending for everybody else. I kind of regretted that Zim didn't really show up in this story, but then, perhaps that helps make my point better: Irken rule might not seem as nice with Draco and his leather pants out of town for this fic. And if you think this is unrealistic, consider Smikka Smikka Smoodoo and his fellow Screwheads. Or the Blorchians, for that matter.
Anyway, I hope the Zim-wins future was everything you all hoped for. Please review!