Okay, Coniine here. Thank you Illisandria Carthain for volunteering to beta this story! -cheers-

Disclaimer: I don't own Zim ;~; or Dib...or the Tallests...or Earth...or anything really. Jhonen Vasquez does. -runs away crying-

Okay, you may proceed now.

Questionable Futures

Four years. Four miserable, stink-filled, germ-infected, acidic years on a ball of dirt with the Dib-human. Even if he did gain some height, the amount of time he spent here pissed him off.

His days were filled with advancing through the meaningless ranks in the horrid skool system, and attempting to enslave the miserable excuse of a dominate species on the backwater planet he was forced to accommodate for the time being. The Dib was his primary threat and hindrance but eliminating him was proving to be harder than he first thought.

When he had the time to (in-between the manic rages that accompanied failing and his next brilliant idea) he experimented to improve his chances at succeeding. He mainly attempted to upgrade his PAK, though he was always very careful, even if he knew his insides very well the possibility of him actually crippling himself were always present and terrified him. The tinkering of and upgrades to his PAK had done some good in the end. For instance, he came across a mysterious chip that he removed to make room for a new laser, which upon first inspection seemed to do nothing but take up space so he left it out. After much study in his lab however, he found it was programmed to regulate growth so that Irkens would not grow erratically due to gravity differences throughout the universe. The effect caused by the removal of the height regulation chip came some years later, when the prolonged exposure to Earth's lighter gravity made him able to gain an increase in his small stature. He grew to a full 5' 3" and caught up with the Dib, which was very satisfying. Zim was proud of his new height and only wished he could have impressed his Tallests but the Tallests hadn't stayed to see the results.

Three years ago was the night his Tallests got bored of their never-ending fa ade. He learned of his eternal banishment, and of the ridicule he suffered at the hands of not only his Tallests but his people. He was to follow new orders. He was to stay, but not conquer or attempt to do anything outside of his Food-drone encoding. It was his last warning, because they said they would not tolerate any more disobedience. The next time he tried to pull a stunt like he did with his Foodcourtia banishment they would terminate his existence and trash his PAK so his essence would never live on.

The depression that followed this news had hit first and it hit hard. It shook his frame down to his very bones. He wouldn't leave his base for weeks. The Dib had come knocking often, shouting about how he was not going to get away with anything, but he just sat in his base and thought to himself 'SSSTtupid Dib. There is nothing to get away with. I've already lost.' He wouldn't like it, but he would obey because it was an Irken's duty to obey their Tallests.

Following the depression came the denial. Surely the Tallest must be joking, he was ZIM! He was an asset they couldn't afford to lose, an Invader on a secret mission. He started planning again, and went outside. 'Pretend everything is okay, and it will be.' He survived a whole week like this, until the Dib had taunted him.

"Hey, alien scum! Where's your Armada now? Hm? You'll never conquer Earth! Not while I'm around!"

That triggered the anger. He was ZIM dammit! Zim unfurled all the emotions he had bottled up to pretend everything was okay. All the sadness and hurt. Betrayal. Insignificance. Defectiveness. They all came out the only way he knew how: in a blind rage. Dib had barely made it home alive.

Zim had stormed back to his base, destroyed it and ended up deflated and hysterical on the floor of his lab in the lowest level. The onslaught of emotions threatened Zim's already questionable sanity. In a last ditch effort, his PAK reset. It took what an Irken was supposed to feel according to the Invader training that was installed, and regulated Zim's emotional spectrum to fit the picture. Zim had literally shut down, and rebooted.

Awake, rational, and stabilized, Zim started returning to school and pretending to be the old Zim for the Dib's sake. The fights were a bit more brutal, and no more was said about the races they belonged to. It was between Zim and Dib now, not Humans and Irkens. Dib didn't know about Zim's mission abortion, but what Dib didn't know wouldn't hurt Zim in this case.


"Incoming Transmission from the Tallests." The computer droned.

It took a minute to process what exactly that meant. He had not gotten a call in years. It suddenly shocked something deep in the Irken's mind and he jumped up off the couch and into the labs to patch through the line to his main screen.

The Tallests faces appeared up on the monitor, looking tired and worn.

"Zim. Been awhile. You're...Taller." Tallest Red gave a lame, small, almost guilty smile as Tallest Purple waved half-heartily from behind him. Zim's eyes narrowed, but he saluted nonetheless.

"My Tallest. How nice to hear from you again. I wasn't expecting it." After all, he was still an Irken, and had to follow the order of height, but he didn't have to pretend to be okay with what they did. He felt it was his right to be a bit bitter. Red frowned, catching on to the under toned meaning.

"Listen, Zim, I know that we were hard on you, but you are still a part of the Empire and the Empire needs you. The Resisty has gained a surprising amount of power and is waging war on us. We had gathered our forces around the Massive, and in the near areas, but they are intercepting our transmissions somehow and can plan measures against our attacks before we make them. We can't contact our forces on the outskirts of the Empire or the registered Invaders."

Zim's eyes widened. Anyone going up against the Irken Empire must be strong to have survived this long, and for the Tallests to have trouble was rare. This was serious; they had underestimated the Resisty when they had made their first stand and were paying for it. Red continued.

"Right now, they don't care about you on Earth and you're still registered as a Food-drone. We need you to join the war and start gathering the other Invaders and allies to the Empire. We only have a few more minutes before this transmission is no longer safe and we will not be able to have contact again. We're sending you all the maps and where Irkens were last recorded. Zim, the Irken Empire may not be able to win this war without those masses." Red's eyes narrowed, scrutinizing the smaller Irken, trying to impose on him how big a deal this mission was.

In the background, Purple scoffed. "We're all doomed."

Zim knew the importance of this task. The fate of the Irken Empire rested in his capability. Feeling an overwhelming sense of defensiveness over his homeland and a strong determination, he saluted again, completely serious, surprising both Tallests. There was no declaration of being the best, or angry ranting at the stupidness of the enemies, or even a mention of being reinstated as an Invader and being needed or important. "Yes, My Tallests, you will have your secret army ready. I will head out immediately."

The transmission was cut, and the computer started processing the information streaming in from the Massive. The Irken watched the data upload, letting the relief from being a part of the Empire again swell in his chest, and slumped back into a chair. He would allow himself this moment of weakness, but then it was off to the war, which held no room for such things. He remembered all too well the difference between the Irken life and the Human life, and come morning, he would be in war mode, killing any feeling of attachment or resentment he might have for this place. He would be indifferent to anything else, and he would be focused. He would not tolerate failure from anyone, especially himself.

The Empire before all, and all for the Empire.

Reviewwww~ It gives me more want to continue this story, or else I'll give up and you wont get to read any more. Also, I'm thinking of updating on Fridays for now.