Wow, I am sorry. It's been a while. But I keep thinking back to this story and I truly do wish to finish it, you just have to bear with me. College has started. Without further ado.
The main area of the base was destroyed, but the area that branched from it simply reeked of inactivity. Dib wandered with young Dib scowling at his heels and every room he entered was dark, dusty, ringing with silence. Eventually the sharp clinks and bangs of Zim working on the monitor faded away to less than background noise. And then it was merely Dib, injured arm and broken CD player.
He searched every room for bandages but found nothing. There were drawers, and places he could look, but no bandages and soon enough he was frustrated. Frustrated, bordering on pissed, and his searches grew louder, clamoring, as he grew more and more careless in his anger. Until finally, young Dib had to tell him to stop, calm down before he broke something. Dib glared at him, threw a drawer to the floor, sucking air sharply between his teeth as it rattled his arm.
"Godammit," he raged and kicked the drawer until it collided hard with a wall. He stormed out the door, across the hall, into another dark and musty room. He reached for the nearest set of drawers and yanked them all open and rolled his hand around inside until his fingers suddenly touched something soft. He pulled out a white roll of bandages. This somewhat appeased his anger; he found a rusty stool and sat down. He had begun to doubt the existence of bandages at all.
Young Dib stood with his arms crossed and expression criticizing. I'm glad you seem to be over your hissy fit.
Dib cast him a withering look over his glasses as he grabbed a thin metal rod from one of the closest tables. Who does that stupid space barbarian think he is, he mentally snarled. He placed the cold rod along his forearm and did his best at bandaging it together as a shoddy splint ― the rod was stained and rusty and caught on his skin a bit as he pulled the bandaging tight. Shoving me off when…fuck. The bandage was tangled and the roll fell off the table.
I'd help but I don't exist, young Dib quipped. And even you have to admit that you were being pretty annoying back there.
Fine, whatever, Dib retorted. He was bending over in half, stretching his arm beneath the table to get the bandages. It doesn't mean I can't be angry. Young Dib watched coolly as he just barely grasped at the roll and pulled it back, working again on bandaging his arm. Y'know, it's probably his fault we're stuck down here. And he has the nerve to act like it's mine or something.
Young Dib was chuckling. He's always done that.
It doesn't make it any less aggravating! Dib snapped. He reached his wrist and began looping the bandages around his palm, circling his thumb, up to his knuckles. He looked around for something to cut the bandages with but couldn't find anything, so he attempted to chew through them. Young Dib rolled his eyes, kicked at the drawers. Dib found something like a blade.
If it's been less than fifteen minutes trapped with Zim and you're already close to losing it, I'd say you were in some deep shit, young Dib said to him. Unless you want to go absolutely batshit insane I suggest you learn some anger management. Let's start here: Zim is an idiot.
Dib tucked the frayed end of the bandage in against his palm. I already knew that.
Young Dib continued as if the teen hadn't said anything. Remember also: Zim has no idea what he's talking about half the time.
More than that.
Three quarters of the time.
Dib clicked his tongue.
Eighty-five percent of the time.
What I'm trying to say is don't get mad. It'll cause nothing but agony and agony is the last thing we need right now. Dib sighed and looked away, rubbing the back of his head and feeling an immensely reluctant acceptance of what his conscience was telling him. Take this like you were going to take this project ― get it over with.
Yeah, look how well that turned out, Dib muttered. The stool squeaked as he stood up and started rooting through more drawers, picking out random items, throwing them onto the table. He pulled out his CD player and tossed it onto the pile of things he'd collected. It sprung open, the CD clattered to the floor. Dib leaned against the table and absentmindedly stared at its rainbow-streaked underside. Do you think it would technically be murder if an alien was the victim?
Technically, said young Dib and his voice was scorning, you wouldn't have a fourth of the guts required to kill someone.
Dib looked offended for half a second, opened his mouth, then closed it and ducked his head as he bent to pick up his CD. He sat down on the stool and dragged the tools towards him, slowly picking them up and beginning to investigate the player. He didn't say anything and eventually young Dib faded away out of utter boredom. Being a conscience wasn't any fun if the host didn't bother to listen anymore.
Just go. Get it over with.
Y'know, I'm getting really tired of hearing you say that.
Dib tightened his fingers on the CD player and the plastic creaked in his hand. He swayed from foot to foot, shoulder touching each side of the doorway, watching Zim pull at wires and rearrange circuitry. Young Dib was starting to look frustrated and Dib found he really didn't care; he just wanted to turn around and hide in some dank, distant corner. Or burrow his way out of this very real and sudden hell.
Stop being a wimp! young Dib shouted. Dib jumped, shuffling a bit into the room. He saw a single thin antenna twitch at the scrape of his shoes over the floor but Zim didn't turn, didn't stop his repairs.
What was worse was he didn't say anything.
Dib floundered a bit in the silence, throat muscles tensing each time he went to say something and relaxing again when he didn't, fist clutching at the hair in the back of his head. Young Dib glared at him. Dib glared at Zim's back. This would be so much easier if Zim were still as short as he used to be, wouldn't it. Talking down at someone was so much simpler than talking eye-level.
"So," he said and winced; his voice cut the silence much too sharply, "is it fixed?"
Young Dib was rolling his eyes and flapping his hand in a hopeless matter. Fuck consciences.
Zim barely paused ― a disorganized slew of wires jutted from the open panel, worthless innards shoved off to the side as Zim prodded at the circuit board. The Irken's head rotated slightly and Dib caught sight of a sardonic maroon eye. "Does it look fixed, Dib-thing?" he asked plainly. He finished with the board and moved to the wires, weeding through them with his claws and separating them all into fragments Dib couldn't begin to comprehend.
"No…" Dib murmured lamely, voice trailing off into nothing, and Zim turned away from him. Stopped speaking to him, stopped acknowledging his presence. Now young Dib was waving energetically at him and Dib could feel the words at the back of his throat, and he slumped against the wall. "Look," he said and he slid slowly down to sit on the floor. Zim's antennae perked up so he knew the alien was listening. "I don't like you. You don't like me―"
"These are simple equations, human. Say something worth my time." The Irken clipped a wire a tad sharply.
"I was getting to it; chill," Dib snapped. He saw Zim's thin shoulders tense and he sighed in frustration. "Don't interrupt me. Just talking to you is difficult enough. What I'm trying to say is…this sure as hell isn't going to be a party. But if, if we at least attempt to be civil towards one another―"
A tool clanged hard onto the floor, and Zim yanked harshly at some extra wires with more vehemence than needed. "Stupid, filthy human!" the Irken barked, spinning on him and Dib figured that maybe this might not work out so well. Zim's liquid red eyes blazed with anger and he said, "You talk to Zim of civil?"
Dib let his mouth hang open for a split second in complete confusion before he suddenly understood.
"Considering my complete and utter loathing for you, disgusting meat-sack, I was trying to be civil."
Funny thing was, Dib hadn't had any idea that Zim had the ability to be offended. But every rigid line in the alien's lithe frame spoke of injury. The crack of his knuckles around a fistful of wires was enough. Dib pressed himself back against the wall, young Dib watching silently, and Dib was starting to wonder why his conscience was always utterly unhelpful in these kinds of situations.
"Okay," said Dib softly, "okay. So maybe I was a jackass that first time. But if it's going to somehow smooth this…"
He couldn't find a word to describe this adventure. Young Dib said, torture? Agony? Hellish hayride?
"…whole thing out, maybe we should just give it one more try?"
Zim seemed momentarily placated but at the same time, his brow lowered in suspicion. His fist loosened on the wires and he slowly turned back towards the monitor, reconnecting a few more wires and lapsing back into silence. Dib fidgeted uncomfortably in the quiet and went pathetically, "Would it help if I said I'm sorry?"
The cool, calm look that Zim gave him was almost scarier than the anger. "Sorry means nothing to an Irken soldier," Zim said. "So no, it doesn't help, despite how high your foolish human customs hold the meaningless word." He closed the panel with a hard bang that echoed, carelessly kicking aside his tools. He reached over to turn the monitor on and paused with his claw on the button, seeming to consider something. Then he said almost too low for Dib to hear:
"However, I accept."
The button clicked as it was pressed, and the room was filled with the loud and startled hum of machinery coming back to life. Dib felt an unidentifiable thing rise with the sound and young Dib was clapping, but he shoved the small figment to the side and stood.
Zim shoved some scraps of metal off of a nearby stool carelessly and dragged it over, sitting down as Dib approached and watched unfamiliar symbols flash by on the screen. The images were fuzzy and indistinct and occasionally disappeared completely before blinking back on, and Zim was furiously struggling with the knobs and clacking at buttons. Dib watched by his elbow and almost didn't want to say anything considering the pact they had was extremely fragile. But eventually he went, "So…what're you doing?"
"Contacting my leaders," Zim said to him, said it like it was common knowledge that Dib should be aware of. The Irken banged the heel of his palm to the monitor in an attempt to make things work better.
"Why?" Dib asked. He heard something clunk within the machine.
Zim was looking annoyed now and he muttered something underneath his breath. "Because they're the ones with the main switch for all Irken Procedural Information Defense Maneuvers." He twisted a knob sharply and then sat back and tapped his boot a few times, hitting one more button. "And they're the ones with the power to do so anyway ― a signal!"
Before Dib even knew what was happening Zim was shoving him off to the side and he was colliding with a table, sending tools scattering and hissing through his teeth as he landed on his poorly bandaged arm. "What the hell," he barked, but Zim was waving his arms frantically and so was young Dib.
"Get out of view of the screen; they'll see you!" Zim snarled in a rare state of panic and although Dib's arm was throbbing and horribly sore he did as told and scrambled away.
Zim frantically stabbed at the keys to bring the signal in more clearly, one hand reaching back to pull nervously at his antenna ― something that Dib had seen him unconsciously begin to do at his house out of nervousness but stop once he realized there was nothing there. There was a roar of static and Zim's hand flashed through the air in a sharp and respective salute.
"Zim?" said a voice, just barely heard amongst the scrambled airwaves.
"My Tallest," the Irken replied politely, if not a bit curtly, and his hand tried to reach for his antenna before he caught himself. Protocol. He opened his mouth but the voice cut through again.
"Zim, you haven't called in a while," they said and didn't sound like they particularly cared. Dib stood holding his arm and watching as Zim momentarily quailed, squirming on the stool.
"I…I realize this," Zim eventually forced through his jagged teeth, and his hand darted forward to twist a knob as the static grew. "But I'm calling now because, I, well―" What it was he had to say was nearly forbidden for lowly Invaders: "I believe there has been a mistake, my Tallest." And Zim sat back, waiting for some sort of reprimand; it wasn't right to question the Tallest or their motivations.
But he got something he'd least expected.
"No, no mistake."
Dib felt his jaw go slack, his fingers gripping at the bandages on his arm. Zim's antennae ducked dramatically before he wrestled them back into the air, and the Irken was seeming to have trouble with all the minor points of formal speaking today. He swallowed, said softly, "W-what?"
The voice said, a tad irritated, "No mistake, Zim."
"But…but it has to be―"
Zim was degenerating into a mild form of shock; he continued to open his mouth and make sounds as if to speak but he never actually said anything of any intelligent worth. He wasn't even attempting to keep the signal in line anymore and it whistled and whined on the monitor as he sat with his claws limp at his sides. There was the sound of a tongue clucking. "Is that it, then? Because we'd really like to go."
Before anything else could happen Dib waved a hand out. "Wait!" he snapped, storming forward and Zim glanced at him, standing from his stool as if ready to block Dib's view of the screen. Or the other way around. "Wait," Dib said again and he shoved Zim aside, "wait just a godamn minute here. I'm here too; you can't leave me down here."
The slender Irken on the screen narrowed its ruby eyes in a brief display of surprise while the image flickered weakly in and out. Behind him, another sat forward with his antennae perked in mild interest. "Do I look like I particularly care, insubordinate human thing?" the red one clipped and it had Dib gritting his teeth, setting his hands against the keyboard, leaning forward.
"Some leaders you are." He wasn't sure where he was going with this, just that he was mad, he wanted out of there and the only way was in their crooked claws. "If what Zim told me earlier was true and an Invader needs to be dead for the defense thing to be necessary, then why lock him up while he's still alive?" Mr. Red Eyes was about to say something, but Dib cut him off, "And don't tell me it's just because he's annoying."
There was nothing but silence from the other end. Zim looked steadily crestfallen ― his head bowed, turned away, the elegant curves of his antennae dropping further. Dib stared at the Tallest, startled. "Shit," he murmured.
And Dib almost, almost felt bad for Zim.
Don't, warned young Dib.
"He was just doing the job you assigned him," Dib said, and young Dib raged at being so callously ignored. It was then the leaders' faces grew distasteful, and one clacked his claws together, making an eerie sound over the transmission.
"No," Red told him, "he was going off to be banished like we assigned him."
There was a humongous crash and Dib whirled to see Zim trying to stand on shaking legs, bent against a table. His eyes were wide and glistening, antennae completely flattened against his skull. "What?" he whispered, barely heard, but then his chest shuddered and it came out more like a shattered bark: "What?" His claws scraped desperately at the surface of the table.
Dib turned back and glowered at the screen. "You guys are worse than our leader."
But then Zim piped up, voice small and needy. "You can't leave me here!" he said, a reed of honest fear in his tone. "You can't abandon me like this!"
The red one glared through the monitor and Dib was sure that it was the most hateful look he had ever seen in the short span of his teenage life. "Yes we can," the single Tallest said. "Observe example one." And the screen went completely and utterly black. Dib felt all the warmth in his chest expel as the transmission flickered out, his stomach heaving like he was about to vomit. Zim's leaders weren't going to help, he was really stuck here―
There was a suffocating silence for a few terrifying seconds. Zim stood with his shoulders slumped, staring like he was trying to process what'd just happened.
Then he curled his fists, back rigid, opened his mouth. Dib shuffled back, hands poised halfway to his head to cover his ears. But Zim didn't roar, or scream or shout or do anything Dib had been expecting him to. Instead a small and single whine streamed out, forming eventually into words. "You…you can't leave me here." And Dib took another step back when he realized that the Irken wasn't talking to him at all.
"You can't leave me here," Zim said again, louder, stepping forward and beginning to blindly tap at some buttons like he could bring the dead signal back, "you can't, you can't you can't―" Just like that, the calm front disappeared and Zim thrust a fist through the screen, ignoring the glass that cut into his glove. "I did everything you said! I did my training I survived Devastos I served in your Elite I did everything you told me, I do not belong here!" He fell back into his stool, gripping at his head.
Dib hovered uncertainly in one spot with young Dib chattering at him to keep himself together, don't get sympathetic, but it was a very hard thing to do. The teen could do nothing but stand, chew on his lip.
Don't you dare, young Dib growled at him.
You'd think his leaders would have handled this a bit more professionally than that.
"Zim…" Dib found himself uttering, and he gulped as the Irken just shook his head in response. Shoulders shaking slightly as if he were crying but Dib didn't think he even had the capacity to actually weep. "It…well, it's not so bad, right? We can still find a way out of here."
Zim kept slowly shaking his head. He'd stopped shaking and all the lines in his body were rigidly straight like he was on the verge of snapping in two.
Dib was floundering. "Forget about them," he ventured. "They're bastards anyway."
Just what the hell are you doing? Young Dib was beginning to rage. It only added to Dib's agitated state, he was shaking with the effort to mentally push young Dib away.
Dib was opening his mouth to say something else but that was when Zim snapped straight, and he brought his hands down onto the computer keyboard with a loud and startling smash. Zim's face twisted into a frightening snarl. "Get out," the alien clipped in a quavering voice. Dib pursed his lips.
"But Zim, we need to figure out a way to―"
A large, heavy metal tool zinged past Dib's left ear, flying with a force that could have smashed the front of his skull to something unrecognizable. He ducked, shouting unintelligibly over the clanging of the tool crashing to the floor.
"Get out!" Zim screamed. His throat sounded raw and painful. And that was when he began to screech words that Dib couldn't process, a language that he couldn't understand, and Dib had time to only think, his native tongue before more tools began to fly. But they weren't flying at Dib; they were going through computer screens, bouncing off the metal plating that had clapped down over the walls, all the while Zim repeating something in Irken, over and over.
Dib ran away.
He didn't look to see where he was going, he simply ran. Down a dark hallway and past some rooms until he reached something of a dead end, collapsing into a corner and realizing that he was shaking. He clutched at himself and tried to breathe. Zim's shouting had become small and minute from the distance, and Dib could hear it slowly degenerating into something that sounded almost like sobbing.
Dib covered his eyes.
What! Dib snapped, frightened. You know, it's in the natural human function to feel sympathy―
But not for him.
God, just… Dib felt almost ready to break down. He wasn't getting out of here, there was no plan, Zim was currently catatonic when he was the only one who could understand the alien technology. Dib plugged his ears. Just…
He couldn't see young Dib but that didn't stop it. I'm inside, you buffoon. You can't ignore me.
And it might have been the graveness in his voice or how hard his hands were shaking. But young Dib did as ordered. Dib felt the presence of him start to recede, fading faster, and then nothing but a cold and empty mind left in its place. There was nothing but the dark room of technology and the distressed alien left in the sealed house.