Really Screwed Up Future

It Starts

They ran through the night. Over the rugged and wasted terrain they practically glided, such was their speed. One in front of the other, they looked to all the world like a pair of specters moving single file under the ever-darkening sky.

Of course, if all the world knew they were here, then their journey would come to an abrupt end. For the grounds they now tread were forbidden; everyone knew that. It was one of the many rules that had been imposed on them since Then, since the final fall of their world. But this rule was different. When it came to breaking the other rules, it was only a question of who was the more daring, who was more willing to push their dictator as far as he would go before he snapped. But this rule was far more than that, for to step on these grounds was to ensure a slow and painful death.

But, apparently, death did not faze the two specters, who showed no sign of fear or hesitation as they ran. Once, one of them came to an abrupt halt under the twilight-touched sky, watching it change slowly from the iron gray of day to the black of night. Gray to black. The one specter kept staring, looking as if it was going to say something poetic, but the other thought better of it, grabbed its companion's arm, and continued to run, dragging the other behind.

Dusk had finished its run and the night was cloaked with black before the two runners reached their destination. Stopping together this time, they squinted up at the huge, gnarly metal contraption they found before them. It towered over their heads, as high as a mountain, a mountain of twisting and talon-like metal, reaching up for the night sky. At the very top of he structure (they saw as they squinted) was perched a tiny spire that looking almost like a slanted, cartoon-like house, its lopsided windows lit with an eerie red glow.

Both runners got over their staring and approached the wall of the structure. Now that they had stopped running, one could get a better look at them and see that they were not really specters at all. Just people. Ordinary people dressed from head to foot in black. It was also possible to distinguish that both carried bundles under their arms. The one who had stopped to stare at the sky had a large and heavy looking bundle on a strap around their shoulder. The other was carrying something that looked much lighter.

They stopped in front of a blank, flat expanse of wall, long enough and high enough for both runners to be able to stand with their backs pressed against it. While the other waited, the one with the heavier bundle, now revealed to be a large, rectangular bag, crouched down and opened it, taking out a short, skinny metallic device of some sort. The runner with the device stood back with its arms outstretched and pressed a button. A bright blue laser shot out of it, casting the two figures in sharp relief. The one with the smaller bag looked around, apparently anxious that the light would give away their position. But no one came, and as the other watched, the one with the laser quickly yet carefully carved a curved rectangular shape over the wall, squinting through the bright light as it did so. As soon as a line was etched all the way around the shape, the runner walked up to it, and pushed it down with one finger. The section it had outline fell away with a heavy clang, revealing a large hole where the wall had been. Then, the runner put away the laser, nodded to its partner, scooped up its bag, and the both of them ran inside.

As soon as they set foot within the structure, an alarm bell went off, and a searing red light flooded the metal lab they now found themselves in. They shot one another the quickest of glances, before breaking into another run. Neither was fazed by the sudden onslaught of light and sound. Both had been expecting this.

Only seconds after the alarm had started to go off, a chorus of eerie pulsating lights was added to the dull red glow. The sound of explosions and the smell of charred metal were added to the confusion. The scene of the room was constantly changing. First it was pitch black, then searingly bright. First, it was silent, then the lasers would fill the silence with the screech and sob of death. First the air inside was still, then it seemed to shimmer with smoke and light. First everything had been calm, then there was chaos. The two runners seemed to have been sucked into a whirlwind of psychotic color and hellish sound.

Even though neither one of them could see, and they could both scream at the top of their lungs without hearing each other, neither of them stopped. If they kept running it was only highly likely that they would die. If they stopped, they would be killed for certain.

Though the metal hall was long and though everything in it seemed to be trying to kill them, by some miracle both runners managed to make it to the other side alive. The door that awaited them there was thicker and heavier than solid iron and firmly sealed shut. It was clear that no amount of force would be able to knock it down. But no matter. Both had prepared for this, too. As soon as they reached the door, both reached into their bags. The one with the lighter bag flipped open the cover and took out a laptop that had been sitting inside. The one with the heavier bag pulled out a small handgun and opened it, double-checking to make sure it was loaded. The gun was ancient, over fifty years old. Its accuracy was laughable, and it used as ammunition bullets, not lasers. But it had been the only one of its size that the two had been able to find.

As the room around them flashed and exploded, the runner with the laptop plugged it into an interface on the wall near the door, while the other stood guard over him. Occasionally, the one with the gun would fire a shot if it looked like one of the many guns lining the walls came just a little too close to their mark. But the gun was really only a comfort item. There was no real way to aim through all the smoke.

As soon as the laptop's screen began to glow, the runner set to work. He hastily punched in a few keys. As the bright lines and screens raced across the laptop's face, there was a whirring sound and the door slide open. The runner held up his hand: five fingers. The other nodded and ran through the door. The runner quickly unhooked the laptop, yanked the wire out of its side, and then ran through, tossing the wire to the ground as he went. The door slammed shut behind them, exactly five seconds after it had opened.

There was a sharp contrast between this room and the room they had just left. Where the other room was bursting with color, heat, and smoke, the room was pitch black and completely silent. As advanced as this technology was, it was obvious that their presence here had not, for the moment, been detected.

The minute they were through, the first runner pulled off its black mask with a jerking motion and gasped. Underneath was a young woman with long black hair and yellowish eyes. She sucked on the air in the room and rubbed the sweat from her forehead with her gloved hand. "Dear God," she wheezed, "I can't breathe in these damn things!"

The other reached up and pulled the bottom of his own mask up to the top of his head, revealing a young man who also had black hair and wore a pair of goggles over his eyes. Underneath the goggles was a visible red scar that ran behind the left lens and up over his brow. He frowned. "Westenra, what the hell do you think you're doing?" he hissed. "Leave your mask up."

"Look, I'm sorry, Dib, but I need to breathe," she hissed back. "God knows what kind of shit I inhaled back there."

"Hey!" he snapped. "What did we talk about? I told you to call me by my codename while we're in here."

Westenra rolled her eyes. "I don't see what the point is," she said. "He's going to know that it's us. Especially you. I think he knows you better than-"

"Westenra!"

Westenra sighed. "Very well, Mothman," she said impatiently. "But I'm telling you, it won't make a difference."

"Oh come off it," he snorted. "You really think that after all these years, that moron's gonna-?"

"HALT."

Both Westenra and Mothman jumped and looked up. A large robot eye was staring at them from the ceiling, surrounded on all sides by ammunition. "INTRUDERS DETECTED," the voice sounded again, "IN ENTRANCE HALL D. SURRENDER AND BE ELIMINATED."

"Shit!" shouted Westenra. Both she and Mothman hastily got to their feet and ran to the right, pulling their masks on as they went. Yet another wall stood in their way, and the two went through the same routine, Mothman on the floor with another cable and the laptop, and Westenra standing up with the gun. Only this time, Mothman typed so fast that his fingers were practically a blur, and Westenra moved freely throughout the room, firing her gun randomly at the ceiling, trying to draw the laser fire away from Mothman. Eventually, the wall slid open, and Mothman shed the cable. "Westenra!" he screamed. She heard and ran towards him, tossing her handgun to the side. Both slid through the door just as it clanged shut. Once again, neither of them had been hit.

This time, there was no chance to rest. The guns in the corridor were ready and they began firing as soon as the two runners were through. Neither of them stopped or slowed their pace. As she ran, Westenra reached into her bag and pulled out a machine gun, much larger and even more precious than the handgun. She threw it to Mothman, who just barely caught it. She then pulled out one of her own, and both of them began firing, the staccato of their weapons adding to the cacophony all around them. These weapons still used bullets, so they were primitive, but there was one key difference between these and the handgun Westenra had used before: these were actually capable of doing some damage.

Debris rained down from the ceiling with every shot the two fired. The entire time they ran through the corridor, door after door slammed shut behind them. The very space of the hall itself was closing in behind them, trying to kill them, and still they kept running, running until they felt their lungs were jelly. And even then they couldn't stop, as sharp turn after sharp turn appeared in front of them, with lasers blazing at them from every angle…

As they ran, Mothman, kept an eye on the left wall, constantly repeating numbers in his head. Every time the two passed an indention in the wall, he would add one more. 5, 5, 5, 5, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 7, 7… Finally, he grabbed Westenra's shoulder and abruptly skidded to the side. "Nine!" he announced. "We're here!"

"What?" she yelled. "I can't hear you!"

"I said we're here!" yelled Mothman, hooking up his laptop.

"What?" she yelled, still firing.

"We're here!"

"What?"

"We're here!"

"WHAT?"

"HERE!"

Once again, the wall slid open. Mothman collected his laptop and yanked Westenra inside. They collapsed in a heap on the floor, Mothman cringing from where the laptop's corner had jabbed into his ribcage. Westenra blinked and looked around.

"Oh look at that," she observed. "We're here."

Mothman glared but offered no comment. Once again, the noise and smoke was behind them. The two runners sat up, pulled off their masks, and gazed around the room they now found themselves in.

It seemed to be a kind of storage room. All throughout the interior, every imaginable size and shape of machine was stacked haphazardly up against the walls, across the floor, hanging from the ceiling. Some of them were stuffed into huge, vaguely toy-like square crates, but these too were strewn around the room apparently randomly, and it was obvious that whoever had put all these machines in here didn't care one way or the other. Everywhere Mothman and Westenra looked there were claws, rivets, wires, cables, tubes, and other mechanical pieces clumsily sewn (so it seems) on the clunky forms of the obviously obsolete technology, all of it stained in varying shades of red and purple. Everything in the room was clearly old, although how exactly this was clear was a bit of a mystery because none of the machines were coated with any type or amount of rust and there wasn't a speck of dust anywhere. Perhaps it was merely the smell, that musky, decayed smell that accompanied any place where no living thing had tread in years.

Apparently, not even the security system wanted to come in here.

Both Westenra and Mothman lay on the floor for a moment, apparently lost in awe. But the moment soon passed. Mothman shook his head as if to clear it, frowned, then stood up, brushing ash from his pants as he did so. He headed toward the back of the room, brushing back piles of metal, looking for something.

Westenra cast a glance behind her. "Hey Di- er… Mothman?"

"Yeah?" he asked, not turning around.

"How long do you think we have in here?"

"I don't know," he answered. "Probably a few minutes." He paused, then added: "If they knew where we were they'd be in here already."

"Yeah," she said. "I guess."

"Well? Don't just lay there. Help me look for it."

"Sure."

Westenra got up, tucked her mask and gun into her bag, and moved to the opposite corner from where Mothman was searching. She too began moving piles of machinery out of the way, occasionally, opening a crate and glancing inside of it. "So," she began, peering behind a stack of crates "What exactly does this thing look like again?"

"Well, I never really saw a picture of it," Mothman answered, "But I saw some blueprints and a description from the files. Apparently it's some sort of huge donut-thing, with screens all around it."

"Huh," mused Westenra, smirking to herself. "Didn't think we'd be able to miss a thing like that."

"I know; that's what's bothering me!" Mothman complained, shoving his arm into a narrow gap between a metal claw and a broken glass tank. "I mean, if it's that big, shouldn't we be able to… Hello!"

Mothman paused and pushed his arm further into the gap. Just for a moment, he thought he'd seen… Yes! There it was. He brushed his fingers over the opposite wall. While the walls all around the room where smooth and grimy, this portion was rigid, full of little crevices and buttons. A panel? Mothman's face lit up.

"Hey, Westenra!" he shouted. "I think I found something!"

"What? Seriously?"

There was a series of tumbling and crushing sounds as Westenra shoved her way through to Mothman. Mothman waited patiently.

"Yeah?"

"This panel here, on the wall. See where my hand is touching?"

"Yeah. Okay, I got it."

Westenra walked over to the panel and brushed her own hand against it. There were twelve buttons on it, arranged in a three by four formation. All twelve buttons were completely identical, round and glowing with a dull pink light. Westenra thought for a moment, then rapidly pressed seven of them. The panel flipped over into the wall, and the wall slid to the side, revealing another room.

"Wow," said Mothman, peeking through the gap where his arm was. "How did you know the code?"

"The Network went over it with me before we left," she answered. "All the keypads use the same code." She carefully stepped over the piles of debris in her way and walked into the chamber.

"Hey, that's great," Mothman said appreciatively. "Now could you come here and help me out of this… Hello? Hey!"

But Westenra had already walked on. Mothman narrowed his eyes and sighed. "Ugh, never mind," he groaned. "I got it." He took a deep breath, flexed his fingers, and yanked his arm out in one motion. Some of the glass scraped past his arm as he pulled it out. It didn't break any skin, but he still felt the sting. He winced and stepped around the machines, grumbling to himself as he went.

He found Westenra a little distance away, standing perfectly still. "Hey!" he shouted as he approached her. "I know I went over this with you! When you hear me calling for help, you're supposed to… Are you even listening to me?"

She wasn't. Westenra wasn't even looking at him. She was too busy staring. Staring into the distance, mouth slack, eyes wide… Mothman frowned and then looked up himself, if only to see what it was she was gaping at.

He gasped.

The room the pair now found themselves in was huge and in much better condition than the storage room. And where before there had been piles and piles of machinery, all lumped and thrown together as if by random, this room held only one machine. But the sheer size and scale of it made up for that. It took up the entire back wall of the chamber, and it possessed all sorts of massive wires and tubes that ran behind it and all the way up the walls like the threads of a spider web. The machine consisted of a ramp, leading up to a circular archway of some sort. The archway was surrounded on all sides by what looked like a cluster of television screens, grouped in hive-like formations around the structure. Its form made it hideous, and yet the severity of its design and the scope of its technology made it beautiful in its own right. Hideous and beautiful. Just like everything else.

"Is that it?" Westenra asked, awe-struck.

"Yup, that's it," answered Mothman gravely. "The Space-Time Object Replacement Device."

There was a pause as they both contemplated it.

"Wow. It does look like a doughnut."

Mothman frowned at Westenra's lack of class, but offered no comment. "C'mon," he said. "We better get started." He shouldered his laptop and headed toward the Device's control panel, which was attached to the archway by some of its many tubes and wires.

"Yeah, alright," said Westenra. "I'll contact the Network, see if everything worked out on their end."

She went back into the storage room and fetched out her bag, which had grown a bit lighter since she had brought it in. She rifled through it and pulled out an old-fashioned walky-talky. She spent a few minutes fiddling with it, trying to get the right channel.

"Seems like a lot of trouble to go through," Westenra observed. "To hide this thing, I mean. Putting it in a hidden room behind the wall of another room? Isn't that a little excessive?"

"Yeah, well, he's all about excess isn't he?" said Mothman, taking out his laptop. He didn't look up at Westenra as he spoke.

"You don't think… You don't think he considered that we would try this, do you?" she asked. There was a soft tone of concern in her voice that Mothman picked up on.

"No way," answered Mothman, still not looking up. "There's no way he'd be able to predict this scenario exactly. He's paranoid, sure, but he doesn't have the foresight to think ahead this much. He's too…" His voice trailed off.

"Too what? Too what, Mothman?" asked Westenra, pointedly.

"I don't know. Too…"

"Too stupid, right? That's what you were going to say, right?"

Mothman sighed. "Westenra, please."

"Too stupid to build all this, right? Too stupid to plan ahead, right? Too stupid to conquer the whole damn world and everyone on it, that's what you were about to say, right?"

"Shut up." Mothman's hands froze on the keyboard. They were shaking. "Westenra, just shut up."

"I'm sorry." Westenra shook her head, almost as if to scold herself. "You're right, I'm sorry. It's just… I think he's changed. Since then, I mean. All these years, they've changed him. He used to be more… more…"

"More what?"

"More… I don't know. More…"

"More stupid, right?"

Westenra chuckled weakly. Just then, the walky-talky crackled. "Hello?" it sputtered. "Hello? This is Agent Tuna Ghost. Report in."

Westenra held the walky-talky against her ear. Her tone changed. It deepened, became more brisk, more professional. She had been training a long time for this moment. They both had. "Yo, Agent Tuna Ghost. This is Agent Westenra. I'm here with Agent Mothman. We're in. Mothman's hacking into the Device right now. How's it going on your end?"

"Everything go on this end," answered Agent Tuna Ghost. "We've reconnected the power lines to hall D7-9. Power surge should begin in approximately one minute. All agents are accounted for."

"Great," answered Westenra. "Nothing's gone wrong so far. This should be a snap."

"We'll see," said Tuna Ghost. "How are the coordinates coming?"

"Hang on; I'll check." Westenra covered the mouthpiece with her hand. "Dib, how's it coming?"

"It's Mothman!"

"It's going to be Mud if you don't answer!"

Mothman sighed and adjusted his goggles. "This is the most complex system I've ever seen," he said, resuming his typing. "It would take a genius to be able to break through it."

Westenra looked concerned. "Are you going to be able to get in?" she asked nervously.

Just then, there was a tiny series of beeps emitting from Mothman's laptop.

"Like I said," said Mothman, smirking. "It would take a genius."

Westenra frowned, but she was smiling again when Tuna Ghost received her answer. "They're coming along perfectly. Mothman's already in the system. Everything's going according to plan."

"Excellent," said Tuna Ghost. "We'll call again in about a minute for a status update. Long live Earth!"

"Long live Earth," murmured Westenra, nodding. The walky-talky crackled again then was silent.

Once the walky-talky was off, Westenra seemed a bit lost. She put it carefully back into the bag, making sure to rearrange everything inside the way it had been before. Then she fetched her gun out of her bag and walked over to the storage room. She stood in front of the door for a little while, contemplating it. She walked back into the room where the Device was, walking around in circles, studying the walls, the machinery, the dim red lighting coming from nowhere. She tapped her foot on the purple and red stained floor and listened to the sound it made. All the while, Mothman's eyes remained glued to the screen of his laptop. Only when Westenra leaned over his shoulder to watch the screen with him did he finally react. "Westenra," he sighed, "Could you not breathe over me like that when I'm working?"

"Oh, I'm sorry," she said meekly. She took a step back. There was a short pause before she spoke up again. "Um, how long do you think it will be?"

"Tuna Ghost said a minute, didn't she?" Dib said impatiently. "Until then, I can't even lock the coordinates in." He looked over his shoulder, inspecting her shrewdly. "Don't tell me you're bored. We're infiltrating a hostile alien's base and you're bored?"

"I know. I know," said Westenra, her eyes downcast. "But I hate waiting around like this. I feel like any second something else is going to pop out of the ceiling and try and murder us. And sitting around is just…" she sighed. "I hate it."

"I've spent most of my life hating stuff, Westenra," said Mothman. "Can't do anything but sit and bear it."

"And infiltrate a criminally insane alien's base?" Westenra asked slyly.

Mothman smiled. "And that," he said.

There was another pause. Without all the smoke, the laser blasts, and the lights pumping all around them, the silence in this forgotten room seemed immensely deep and foreboding. There was a sense of anticipation all around, of things waiting, watching. Westenra shuddered and eyed the ceiling nervously.

"You do realize," said Mothman, his eyes back on the screen. "Once the power comes on, they're going to know we're here." He smiled again, but the eyes under his goggles stayed narrow. "Things should get real interesting then."

Westenra leaned her back against the wall, the gun held loosely at her side. "Yeah, but the plan was that we'd be out of here by then."

"You sound disappointed."

"I'm not."

"You're lying."

Westenra didn't answer. She kept her eyes on the floor, the gun spinning through her fingers, round and round.

"If we do make it through-" she began quietly.

"When we make it through," Mothman corrected her.

"Whatever," she said. "What will happen, you know, to us?"

Mothman looked up at her. He seemed confused. "To us?"

"Yeah, I've been thinking about that a lot," she continued. She seemed unaware of Mothman's presence. "I mean, if we really do change everything, will we exist? In an alternate world? Or will we just… poof… vanish. Out of existence. Well?"

Mothman stared at her, then snorted. "I don't know," he said. "And honestly, I don't think it matters at this point."

"You don't?" murmured Westenra. Mothman felt a small alarm go off inside him. Westenra didn't seem to be talking to him anymore. She was looking off at somewhere distant, somewhere he couldn't reach.

"Why?" he asked uneasily. "Do you?"

Westenra looked further down still, and her eyelashes hid her eyes like curtains. "I don't know," she said softly. "I-"

Just then, the walky-talky crackled. Both agents jumped, Westenra apparently broken free of whatever trance she was in. "Th-that'll be Tuna Ghost," she said hastily. She stumbled over to the bag and yanked it out to her ear. "Hello?" she said, still a little shaken. "This is Agent Westenra."

"Hello, Westenra," the walky-talky sputtered. "This is Agent Tuna Ghost. Everything is all set up. The power should be coming your away any second now."

Just then, as if on cue, a distinct roaring sound resonated from everywhere: the walls, the Device, the hidden gears and mechanisms in the ceiling, everything. Westenra felt the rumbling of thousands of tiny vibrations in the floor against her feet. There was a great humming added to the roar, an ever-increasing frequency that seemed to beckon in a light that brightened in sync with the hum. Through the entire spider web of wires, tiny clicks and crackles could be heard, chattering with the energy searing through them. The power travelled through the floors, the walls, and finally, into the Device itself. The control panel that Mothman's computer was hooked into came to life with a series of blinking lights and tiny beeps. The monitors all around the gateway glowed white before settling into a display of black and white static. Finally, in the middle of the archway there was a sound of rushing, as if all the energy in the room was focusing itself on one single point. There was a crackle, some flashes of lightning, and suddenly, strung from rim to rim of the gateway was a purple and blue vortex, which swirled continuously, its strange lights all focused in its exact middle. As it spun, ghostly, indistinct shapes swirled within its intangible currents.

It was marvelous. It was as if some great creature had come to life after a long slumber within that room. Or, rather, that the room itself was the creature, stretching and yawning before the two agents.

Mothman turned his eyes back to his monitor. The screen grew brighter, and a series of alien symbols flashed across it. For the first time since they had arrived, he looked delighted.

"Ha ha!" he cheered. "It worked! We're in!" He then adjusted his goggles and resumed typing with doubled speed.

Westenra grinned then went back to the radio. "All systems are go," she said proudly. "Mothman's typing in the coordinates right now. We should be departing any second."

"Then there is nothing more to be done here," Tuna Ghost answered gravely. "Only one step remains. I wish good luck to both of you. Farewell." Then the radio crackled again and was silent.

Westenra removed the radio from her ear and held it out in front of herself, studying it quietly. "Farewell," she repeated softly.

She turned back to Mothman. "So that's it," she said. "They cut us loose. The only thing left to do is go through."

"Uh-huh," said Mothman, nodding. "Almost done with the coordinates." He jerked his head in the direction of the monitors. "Does that look right to you?" he asked.

Westenra turned around. A series of images was flickering on each of the Device's monitors. "Yeah," she said. "That's it."

"Alright then," said Mothman. "Let me just pick the objects to switch with. This might take awhile. Do you have the tickets?"

Westenra nodded. "Got 'em right here," she said, bending down to pat her bag. "Glad you reminded me. I might have forgot them." She set down the radio, reached inside the bag, and pulled out two small objects, one of which she tossed to Mothman, who caught it.

"Great," he said, pocketing it. "Put it away until we get there."

"I know," said Westenra. "You don't have to tell me everything, Mothman." She unzipped her jacket a placed the object in the inside pocket, just as Mothman had done.

For a moment there was no sound in the room except for the clicking of Mothman's keyboard and the quiet hum of the lab.

Suddenly the radio jumped to life. It began to crackle and hiss violently, practically rumbling with the sound emanating from it. Westenra froze and stared down at it, startled. Mothman turned from his laptop and faced her, looking perplexed.

"What's that?" he asked. "They're not supposed to call us again."

"I… I don't… I mean… Hang on, I'll check," Westenra stammered. Slowly she picked up the radio and raised it in front of her face. She couldn't hold it against her ear like before; the racket it was making was much too loud. "Uh, hello?" she asked nervously. "Agent Tuna Ghost? It's Westenra. We're still here. Ah, is there something you want to tell us? Hello?"

But if any words came out of the speaker, they were unintelligible. Mothman and Westenra listened, both with increasing anxiety, as the jagged noises continued. There were blasts of sound at random intervals, erratic increases and decreases in volume, and several other noises that neither Mothman nor Westenra could really describe.

Then finally there was a voice. "Ge…. Ah… Heh…"

"What?" Westenra yelled. "What? What is it? Hello?"

Nothing. More violent sound.

Still nothing.

Then suddenly:

"HE'S HERE! HE KNOWS WHERE YOU ARE! GET OUT OF THERE! GET OUT OF THERE NOW!"

Then the radio went dead and only static sounded.

There was one single second where Mothman and Westenra stared at each other, truly panic-stricken.

Then it hit.

"Why are you just sitting there?" cried Westenra. "Finish those coordinates! Hurry!"

"Okay, okay!" Mothman's fingers flew over the keyboard. His computer beeped. "It's done!" he shouted. "Let's go!" He reached down for his laptop, but Westenra yanked him away.

"Leave it!" she screamed. "There's no time!" She wrenched him to his feet and they bolted.

Or at least, they tried to. But before they had taken two steps, the red light in the room grew deeper and began to pulsate. A shrill alarm bell sounded, along with a familiar voice from the ceiling.

"INTRUDERS DETECTED IN SUB-ROOM D7-9."

"No!" yelled Mothman furiously. A thousand silver lights were beginning to flash from the ceiling, their sources slowly lowering themselves into the space below. Mothman whirled on Westenra. "Grab your gun!" he yelled.

Westenra gaped at him. "But," she stammered, her eyes shifting meaningfully toward the gate. "The door!"

"We're not gonna make it!" he snapped. "Grab your gun and start firing!"

Westenra's eyes flickered back and forth between the Device and Mothman before she nodded. She quickly turned on her heel and ran back to the corner where she had left her machine gun, her body seemingly going back to its old rhythm again. Action, it seemed, was where Westenra was most comfortable.

She rolled into a crouch, sweeping the gun onto her shoulder as she went, and paused there on the floor, the gun pointed straight upward. Mothman followed after her and also crouched down, trying to make himself as small as possible. She pulled the trigger, and the rounds inside sailed out, scraping past the alien turrets on the ceiling. But for all the noise and apparent destruction it caused, the gun was actually doing very little damage to the machinery, not even slowing it down as it lowered itself from the many hidden crevices in the ceiling, like larvae out of the hive.

"Go!" Westenra shouted as the bullets screeched and sang overhead. "Mothman, just go without me!"

"I can't!" he yelled back. "I've already programmed the machine to accept two objects! If I go without you, I won't be able to get back!"

The larvae in the ceiling had stopped hatching. They sensed the presence of the two and began to pulsate with raw energy. Some of the blasts had already started raining down.

"We'll have to run for it!" Mothman shouted. "If you keep firing that the whole way, we might have a chance!"

"Okay!" yelled Westenra, nodding.

"Ready?"

"GO!"

Both of them took off, Westenra in front, blazing away, Mothman directly behind her. Smoke was beginning to fill the room, and the temperature was growing higher every second. Jet after jet of light sailed by each of their heads as they bolted. It couldn't be such a long distance; it was only a few feet, and yet every step they ran the room seemed to be stretching in front of them and the seconds seemed to be ticking by slower and slower…

And then they were there. They were directly in front of the Device. They were running up its ramp to the gateway. Westenra could actually see the ghostly images swirling in its vortex…

And then she gasped as something cold grabbed her around her middle and yanked her clean into the air, her finger still sending the bullets flying erratically all over the ceiling. Mothman let out a snarl of frustration as he felt the same sensation, a sudden cruel yanking upward, with a force that dug into his abdomen and made him grunt in pain, his head rushing from the sudden speeding downward of air. Bursts of color were popping in both of their eyes as they wildly looked around, trying to grasp what had happened.

They had been caught; that's what had happened.

They both knew it, too, knew it from the second they felt their feet unplugging themselves from the ground. They were caught, they were had, it was over, all over.

Maybe.

They looked around. They were dangling above the ground, their feet swinging below them. Two large metal tentacles had burst out of the ceiling and snared them. Both agents could see them wrapped tightly around their stomachs. They had left their arms free, but what good was that? The tendrils were thick, thicker around the middle than Westenra's arm, and strong, impossible to cut through. They were helpless. All they could do was dangle uselessly and wait for the thousand laser blasts to come screaming their way.

But it didn't happen. The turrets were all pointing at them, they could see down the barrels to the dark tunnels inside, but nothing fired a single shot. For all the chaos that had reigned earlier, there was only silence now.

"Hey, what gives?" asked Westenra irritably, cringing from the growing pain in her stomach. "Aren't you going to kill us?"

"QUIET HUMAN," answered the voice. "THE MASTER APPROACHES."

Westenra's expression immediately changed. "Here?" she whispered, startled. "He's actually coming here?"

Mothman, however, didn't seem so surprised. "Of course he is," he said darkly. "He's going to want to see who got past his impenetrable defenses or whatever."

"What are we going to do?" she asked. "He knows who we are! He's going to recognize us!"

Mothman rolled his eyes. "Westenra, I already told you. There's no way he's going to remember us! It's been way too long."

"Dib, you keep saying that, but I don't think-"

"QUIET."

Mothman and Westenra both cringed; the voice had been much more insistent this time. They remained silent, waiting, waiting for him to walk through the door.

They didn't have to wait long. Past the entrance to the lab, behind all the broken tech piled behind, there was the sound of the metal wall sliding out of place. A shaft of pink light briefly flashed into the room and disappeared. Mothman and Westenra waited, their breath held in anticipation, waiting to see the classmate they hadn't glimpsed in years…

But he didn't appear. Mothman and Westenra eyed each other. He wasn't the type to miss a big entrance.

"Uh, I don't get it."

"Did he come in?"

"I don't know. It looked like it, but…"

"Wait, you hear that?"

Mothman listened. At first, there was nothing. But then he heard it. Rather, he more felt it than heard it; it was so soft. It weaved in and out of his hearing like a fly's buzz. It was a kind of rustling, a vaguely robotic skittering sound. Coupled with the silence, it had a vaguely chilling feel.

"I… I think he's on the ceiling," said Westenra.

They both quickly looked up, but among all of the metal hanging from the ceiling, they could spot nothing. Yet still that soft clicking sound persisted.

"I don't see him."

"I can still hear it. Man, that sound's really getting on my nerves."

"Hey! I think it stopped."

And so it had. Mothman and Westenra looked at each other.

Then they heard another sound, unidentifiable. It reminded Westenra vaguely of water sliding down the side of a wall.

Then, as if by instinct, they both slowly craned their necks behind them.

And came face to face with a giant green bug.

"Boo," it said, grinning.

Westenra screamed and swung the butt of her machine gun at it. It swiftly swung out of the way, cackling, and propelled itself downward. Four long mechanical spider-legs stretched themselves out behind it, sprouting from a metal shape on its back. These, the two knew, are what the monster had been using to hang from the ceiling.

The creature landed on the ground and rolled into a halt, its mechanical limbs sending up sparks as they braced it against the floor. "Too slow human," the creature sneered. "It will take more than that fancy stick to deal with ME."

"ZIM!" hissed Mothman.

"But of course!" ZIM answered, retracting his spider-limbs. "Who else would it be?"

From the back of the room came a high-pitched squeak.

"Oh, besides you," snapped ZIM.

Mothman and Westenra looked up in the direction of the sound. A small, round purple moose-looking creature was hovering above the floor, slowly floating nearer to ZIM. It was proportioned like a squeak toy, and there was a little smile on its face. Its appearance contrasted rather sharply with everything else in the room.

"I presume you've met Minimoose?" ZIM asked. "No? Well, this is Minimoose." He gestured toward the purple creature.

Mothman and Westenra glared at ZIM, not amused.

"Hmph," snorted ZIM. "How disrespectful. And after Minimoose and I were able to get such joy out of the both of you." A mocking smile broke over his face. "I must say, we both found a lot of amusement in the looks on you two's faces!"

ZIM laughed uproariously and pointed at the two agents, who were getting more and more annoyed by the second. "Seriously!" he shouted. "Seriously, it was great! She was all like 'EEEAAAAAUGH!'" And he demonstrated and resumed laughing again. He actually seemed to be doubling over in pain, he was laughing so hard. Minimoose squeaked again, apparently laughing too, but it was hard to tell.

Mothman glared down at the creature in front of him, all of the old feelings of hate rising up inside him. This thing, ZIM, looked exactly the way Mothman remembered. The green skin, bright magenta eyes, and smug grin that he had obsessed over for a brief period of his life. Even his height was the same; he was tiny, he childlike stature unchanged since their days in school. It was as if ZIM had been frozen, preserved by time, while the world aged around him. The only change that had occurred over the years was that now ZIM was wearing an ornate (and incredibly tacky, Mothman thought) purple cloak over his old uniform. Of course. A wardrobe change. Why was he not surprised.

"Is that the whole reason you kept us alive?" Mothman yelled angrily. "Just to gloat?"

"Of course!" ZIM shouted again, grinning up at the two. "It's been years since anyone has tried to get inside my base! I wouldn't want to miss an opportunity like this!"

"You sick monster!"

"Oh what a wait it's been!" ZIM went on, ignoring Mothman. He turned around, as if addressing the storage room. "Five years. Five years it's been since a human set foot inside this place. Oh sure, they have reason enough, but even so, how strong can an invader be without enemies?" ZIM turned back around and flashed a delighted smile at Mothman. "Honestly, I was starting to worry that you would never show up, Dib!"

Mothman's eyes widened. "You… you remember me?"

"Remember you!" ZIM seemed insulted by the question. "You were my nemesis! What, the entire earth is mine for the taking and you don't do a thing about it! You disappoint me, Dib! I expected more from you after all these years, much more!"

Mothman stared at ZIM, shocked. Westenra shot a look at him from the side.

"Imagine my delight," ZIM went on, "When I found out that you and that little girl had worked up the nerve to come in here again!"

"Hey!" piped up Westenra, peeved. "What, you can't be bothered to remember my name, too?"

ZIM waved his hand absently in her direction. "Yes, yes just a second. And I must say I'm impressed," he resumed while Westenra sulked. "You human-dirt-things went through a lot of trouble to get in here. Reactivating the power, dodging your way through security, distracting Bugger, oh yes, very impressive. Very thorough. BUT FUTILE." And here he began laughing again.

Westenra stared, horrified. "Bugger?" she repeated fearfully. "You mean you found them? All of them?"

"I should think so," he said smugly. "There were quite a few. A lot more than I would like, anyway. It would have been better if it had just been you two, don't you think?" His attention was focused on her now, and his eyes were narrowed with gleeful anticipation. "Still, they were brave. Brave and stupid. How typical. They tried to fight back, of course. A fatal mistake. Tell me, human," ZIM paused, leering into Westenra's face. "Would you like to know how many of your friends died today? Oh, it was quite a sight. I honestly thought they wouldn't ever shut up! They just kept screaming and screaming! By the time Bugger got in there, why, he was practically starving-"

"SHUT UP!" Westenra screamed. Mothman looked over at her, alarmed. There was a wild, hunted look in her eyes that he had never seen before. Her breath was coming out in heaving gasps. Before anyone could say another word, Westenra ripped her machine gun from her side and crushed the trigger. A swarm of bullets clattered out, all speeding straight towards ZIM.

But ZIM had been anticipating this. His spider-limbs stretched out of their metal shell, sharpening themselves into two short metal rods. A blue force field erupted from both ends and encircled him, all in the span of less than a second. The bullets, instead of going through him, rebounded off the surface of the field and rocketed off towards the walls. Both Mothman and Westenra cringed as the bullets sailed past them.

"Minimoose!" called ZIM, his eyes still locked on his two captives. "Relieve the Earth female of her weapon."

Minimoose squeaked and opened his tiny mouth. A green tractor beam shot out and radiated slowly towards Westenra. Westenra grasped her gun and tried to clutch it close to herself, out of the beam's way, but it was no use; she felt the gun being yanked out of her hands by an irresistible force. The gun floated slowly downwards, back to Minimoose who shut off the beam and hovered underneath it just in time to catch it between his antlers.

"No!" shouted Westenra, struggling violently.

"Yup," said ZIM back. "What can I say? Sometimes that's just how it goes. You risk everything for one final chance… and you fail miserably and your friends die. Such is life." He raised his voice to the ceiling. "Computer!" he shouted, looking very pleased with himself. "Search the entire floor and collect any other Earth toys you can find!"

"YES, MASTER." Answered the voice. There was a sound of rushing, a sound of data running through circuits as the order was being carried out. While Mothman and Westenra watched, two silver claw arms unhooked themselves from the ceiling and extended downward. One grabbed hold of Mothman's laptop. The other hooked onto the strap of Westenra's bag. Once both claws had grabbed hold of their desired objects, they raised themselves back up to the ceiling and vanished into it. Outside, there was a vague, muffled noise of something moving, no doubt the computer collecting the cables that Mothman had dropped.

Westenra stopped struggling and glared at ZIM, humiliated. There were tears coming into the corners of her eyes. "Damn you," she choked. "Damn you."

Mothman, however, wasn't paying attention to ZIM anymore. He was gazing rather mournfully at the Device's control panel, lamenting the loss of his laptop. But as he turned to look back at ZIM, his eyes happened to fall upon Minimoose. He stopped and stared in surprise. Minimoose was still holding the gun, despite ZIM's orders for the computer to collect everything. Mothman raised an eyebrow. He looked down towards his legs and began swinging his right foot back and forth experimentally.

"Of course," ZIM went on, not noticing Mothman. "While that's being taken care of, there's still the question of what to do with you."

Tears flowed down Westenra's cheeks. "Why don't you just kill us, too?" she snapped. "You've already killed everyone else."

"Oh, I don't think so," answered ZIM, shooing the idea away. "You see, if I did that, then you both would be dead, and I'd be bored again! After all that waiting you put me through, it seems a little anticlimactic, don't you think? Oh no, I'll have to punish you both properly, but how? I supposed I could…"

He kept talking, apparently forgetting their presence. Westenra continued to glare at him, teeth gritted, her tears still shining on her cheeks. Mothman, meanwhile, continued to swing his foot back and forth, back and forth, each time with a different intensity. He frowned and shook his head; something wasn't working quite the way he wanted. Then he turned over to Westenra, looked at the position she was in, shifted his eyes back to Minimoose, then decided it could work after all. He reached over and pushed his foot against Westenra's shin.

"Ah!" she hissed in surprise. She looked over at Mothman. "Wha-?"

Mothman shushed her and anxiously looked back at ZIM. He was facing away from them, saying something about exploding weasels. Mothman turned back to Westenra and mouthed something to her. She rose an eyebrow. His eyes flicked to Minimoose and back, and he swung his leg back and forth to demonstrate. Westenra stared for a moment longer, then her eyes widened and she gasped. She nodded comprehendingly.

"Hey!" ZIM suddenly snapped, his attention refocused on the two. "What are you two whispering about?"

Westenra jumped a little and looked taken aback by the question, but Mothman grinned smugly. "Sorry, ZIM," he said. "We were just wondering… We're not the only ones who are missing somebody, are we? Where's your little robot, ZIM? Did he finally break down?"

For the first time since he had entered the room, a spark of irritation flashed in ZIM's eyes. "I'll be the one asking the questions, Dib-pig," he snapped. "It's not really any of YOUR business what happens to MY minions."

Westenra took the moment to carefully wriggle her foot out of her shoe while Mothman sneered at ZIM. " 'Your minions?' " he jeered. "Oh, please. The way you say that, you make it sound like you own them. Like you're their master or something."

ZIM scowled. "Fool!" he snapped. "I am their Master!"

"Don't make me laugh." Mothman smirked, and his eyes were mocking underneath his goggles. "You've only ever been as good as those things you surround yourself with. Back in the day when all you had was that one crappy house and that idiotic robot, you were nothing more than a blabbering idiot yourself. But now that you've got all these new gadgets, a moose, a demonic insect, all of a sudden you're the badass king of the world. You need those things all around you, ZIM. You're nothing without them. In reality, you belong to them more than they belong to you."

For a moment ZIM glared at Mothman, a look of pure hatred on his face. Then his spider legs shot out of his back and lifted him above the ground. He moved across the floor, and as he moved, his spider legs continued to extend, pushing him upwards so that by the time he finally stopped, his face was inches from Mothman's. Westenra opened her mouth as if to call out, to who, she didn't know, but she thought better of it and closed her mouth again.

As Westenra watched anxiously, ZIM lifted one spider leg off the floor, using the other three to maintain his balance. He reached up with his free leg and placed the sharp tip of the foot on Mothman's cheek. He traced the tip down slowly to Mothman's chin, using his spider leg as a scalpel. A line of blood appeared along the path ZIM traced and began to trickle down Mothman's face. Mothman's smirk didn't fade, but Westenra saw him cringe slightly with the pain.

"You have no idea how much you annoy me," ZIM hissed.

Mothman stared right back into ZIM's magenta eyes. "Still bored? Spaceboy?" he asked.

ZIM growled. "I've spent far too long fantasizing your demise, Dib." He spat Mothman's name. "Now that I've been presented with this opportunity, I am not going to waste it. I'm going to finish you off slowly and painfully." ZIM paused, then smiled mockingly. "Maybe I'll leave the female alive for me to play with," he taunted.

"Yeah, I think I'll pass on that," said Westenra, and she swung her right leg as hard as she could, sending her shoe flying off at a ballistic speed.

ZIM saw the projectile and instinctively flinched back, but the shoe sailed right by him, not even coming close to hitting him. Actually, Westenra wasn't aiming for ZIM at all. Instead, the shoe zoomed straight towards the lab floor.

And conked Minimoose square in the face.

Minimoose uttered a squeak, either of surprise or pain, and fell backwards, hitting the ground hard. And as Minimoose fell, the gun fell too. It slid off of his head and slammed into the metal floor. And as soon as it hit the floor, it went off.

Mothman smirked. Two shots. It had only fired two shots. But it was enough.

The bullets were not enough to do any serious damage to the ceiling's machinery. But as soon as the shots clanged against the ceiling, the room went berserk. Immediately, the room was submerged in the same pulsing red light, and the alarm bell seared the room. "ENEMY FIRE DETECTED IN ROOM D7-9," the computer chimed. "ABORT OPERATION IMMEDIATELY. PREPARING TO RETURN FIRE." The thousand weapons in the ceiling began to arm themselves, pulling themselves from the ceiling and pointing in every direction. ZIM, at first completely confounded, now seemed to comprehend what was happening. "No!" he shouted. "No! Ignore it! I command you!"

But either the computer could not hear ZIM or chose to ignore him. A thousand white-hot pulses of light shattered the air, filling it with the familiar debris and smoke. Except this time, ZIM was in the middle of it. And, for the first time since he had entered the room, he didn't know what to do. He stared, completely dumbfounded, as the lab literally exploded all around him.

Just then, both Mothman and Westenra felt a ripple in the cables around them. They were beginning the thrash, back and forth, perhaps in reaction to the madness happening around them. Mothman laughed. "You lose, ZIM!" he sneered. "Again!" And then, with a final crack, both cables slammed them down onto the ground. Mothman took the moment to sweep his leg under himself as he fell, knocking against ZIM's spider legs as he did so. The metal buckled under ZIM and toppled him, screaming, to the ground.

ZIM slammed sideways into the hot, smoky floor and tried to scramble to his feet, cringing. "Stop them!" he screamed. "STOP THEM!"

Too late. Mothman and Westenra landed, Westenra a little more shaken, nodded to each other, and jumped through the vortex. The swirling light inside of the Device flashed white for an instant, and bolts of lightning crackled across its arch. Then, suddenly, it calmed, the lightning stopped, and it returned to its normal shades of blue and purple, the smoky images in its surface no longer visible, the monitors flashing with static.

They were through. They were gone.

Immediately, the room calmed down. The lasers stopped firing; the turrets put themselves away. The smoke in the lab cleared, wafting away into various vents aligned throughout the room. The alarm bell became silent, and the lab returned to its normal lighting. All the while ZIM stared at the Device from his position on the floor, trying to process what just happened.

Just then, the vortex lit up again. As if by one, final insult, two pebbles careened out of it at mach speed and flicked against ZIM's face.

It was only then that he realized they were gone. "No," he whispered. Then, louder. "NO!"

He got up and ran over to the Device, racing up its ramp, stopping just in front of the swirling vortex. He stared into it, mortified, perhaps hoping that if he stared long enough then this wouldn't be real. That somehow it would reverse itself.

The computer chose this moment to give a status report. "INTRUDERS NO LONGER PRESENT," it said. "BASE SECURE."

"I KNOW THAT!" ZIM snapped. "The point was to try to STOP them from leaving, you fool!"

"FORGIVE ME, MASTER," the computer chimed automatically.

"How could this happen!" ZIM demanded to no one in particular. "How! Everything was going so perfectly!"

He whipped his head around wildly, looking for the cause. His eyes stopped on Minimoose, who was still lying on the floor, Westenra's machine gun lying to one side. He walked over to where he was and picked up Westenra's shoe, which was lying just to the side of Minimoose's head. He held it up to his face and examined it closely.

"A shoe?" he asked blankly. Then his expression hardened. "A shoe!" he shouted. "A SHOE! INVADER ZIM, defeated by a SHOE! UNNACCEPTABLE!"

He whirled on Minimoose. "Minimoose, this is your fault!" he screeched.

Minimoose squeaked.

"Don't you dare give me any excuses!" ZIM snapped. "Because of your shoe-weakness, everything I've worked for could be in jeopardy!"

Minimoose squeaked again. ZIM snarled furiously and whirled on the computer. "Computer, get them back! Bring them back, now!"

"COMMAND IMPOSSIBLE," said the computer. "COORDINATES HAVE BEEN RESET."

"Reset!" ZIM repeated angrily. "Then there's no way to get to them! Unless…"

ZIM placed his gloved hand on his mouth, thinking. Then, it occurred to him. "Computer!" he shouted. "Bring me the Earth boy's primitive computer!"

The room whirred, all the circuits processing his command. Then a metal arm extended from the ceiling, clutching Mothman's laptop. It lowered it down to ZIM, who grabbed it. He flipped open the lid and glanced at the screen. There, in large white letters, were the coordinates Mothman had typed in earlier.

ZIM smiled, the confidence he had lost earlier quickly returning to him. "Oh, you did well to plan ahead, Dib. But you didn't plan hard enough! Computer!" He snapped his gaze back up to the ceiling. "Hook this computer into the Space-Time Object Replacement Device's circuits and enter in the coordinates!"

"WHAT WILL YOU SEND IN TO RETRIEVE THEM?"

ZIM scowled. In his head, Mothman's voice still echoed, sharp and mocking. "Don't make me laugh." "You've only ever been as good as those things…" "You belong to them…" "Just a blabbering idiot…" "You're nothing without them."

"You lose, ZIM."

"Myself, of course!" shouted ZIM, slamming his hand against his chest. "Since this equipment has proven to be so unreliable, I will go back and personally bring the humans here. If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself, I say!"

Minimoose squeaked.

"Since always, Minimoose. What are you talking about?" Replied ZIM, straightening his robe.

He was about to step in right then and there, but at the last second he hesitated.

"Wait," he said out loud to himself. "I can't just jump in there. I don't have any way to return! What if I end up stuck back there, and the entire planet's business continues without me?"

He stood in front of the gateway, his hand on his chin. "Now, think," he said to himself. "They wouldn't have risked going in if they didn't have a way to get back."

The computer beeped. "MASTER," it said.

ZIM looked up. "What is it?"

"THIS OBJECT MAY BE OF INTEREST TO YOU."

At these words, a mechanical arm unhooked itself from the ceiling and reached up into one of the many crevices above. The claw at the end of the arm caught hold of something and swung it down so that it dangled directly in front of ZIM. ZIM stared at the object curiously for a second before taking it. It was Westenra's bag.

He tore open the zipper and peered inside, probing his arm around in its contents. There honestly wasn't much left inside of it; Westenra's mask was tucked inside as well as an extra pair of human gloves, a bottle of water, some empty food wrappers, all illegally obtained of course. There was nothing terribly interesting, and ZIM was about to irritably throw the bag down when something caught his eye.

Buried deep under the trash and cloth was a brilliant purple light, which pulsed with a slow, calm rhythm. ZIM reached inside the bag again and brushed away all of the clutter. Now that it was partially revealed, ZIM could see that the light was emanating from some sort of metal object. Gingerly, ZIM grasped the thing with two fingers and set the bag down.

The thing in question might have reminded a human of a piece of jewelry, but ZIM only stared at it, baffled. It was a long, soft strap, with a crude buckle on each end. Clearly it was meant to be fastened around something, but it was too small to be a belt. The light was coming from a circular pendant like shape in the center, perfectly round and flashing with the same bright purple light. ZIM could make nothing of it, but one thing was perfectly clear to him. This thing was out of place. There was something, distinctly inhuman about it. Humans could not have made this.

Not without help.

ZIM reached into the metal shell on his back. A hole opened in the top of it, from which ZIM took out a device like a jagged metal frame. He held it in front of the thing, watching the device closely. A rotating diagram and strings of alien writings appeared across it. ZIM analyzed these closely for a moment then started in surprise. He placed the frame back inside of his shell and then gently ran his thumb over the strap's pendant. He applied just a tiny bit of pressure onto it and felt the surface give way under the weight. A button. The pendant was actually a button. ZIM smiled.

"So this is how they did it, eh?" he asked quietly. He looked up, grinning into the vortex. "Very well, Dib-pig. I'll play with you one last time."

A claw extended out of his shell, grabbed hold of the strap, and pulled it in, closing the hole it made behind it. He stood in front of the gateway, one hand on its edge. "Computer!" he ordered. "Enter in the coordinates, now!"

"YES, MASTER."

ZIM turned to face Minimoose and grinned, and the shape of him was cast black against the ghostly lights of the vortex. "Farewell, Minimoose," he said. "I won't be long."

Then he stepped through the gateway, and, with a flash of white light, he was gone.


Author's Note:

Hello all! Welcome to the doom that is Really Screwed up Future. I've this idea in my head for a while, but only recently did I really get serious about writing. Ironically, right after I started this thing again, I found out about Operation Head Pigeons and their quest to get the show back on air. Fate? Maybe. We'll see, won't we? We'll see.

I feel like I'm supposed to talk about the story at this point, but really, I don't have much to say. Maybe I'll come up with more ramblings in future chapters.

I like to imagine ZIM making his entrance hanging upside down, like Spiderman.

Also, I read somewhere a few years ago (I think it might have been ) that Irken names are supposed to be spelled in all caps. I assumed that was true, since that's the way they're spelled on the back of the DVD covers, so that's how I'll spell it here. You know, just in case you were wondering.

And why is Minimoose's name not in all caps? Because... I didn't feel like it. Also, I didn't want the page to constantly be screaming MINIMOOSE MINIMOOSE MINIMOOSE at you while you're reading it. Though some people might find that kind of funny...

I think that's all I want to say for now. I think I'm gonna have a lot of fun with this one. Enjoy!