I don't know what chapter this even IS. Is this forty? WHO AM I? Where am I? Why am I sitting at a computer with a bunch of angry people screaming at me to write some fic named Meta-Morphine I don't remember jack shit about?
Ugh. Sorry. Maybe after this is done I'll take a break from the IZ fandom (Yes, another break!) I guess you may be happy to know that I'm batting around the idea of a sequel. None of these characters would be involved, though, Just a dude right now. On Earth. He's not even named yet.
I want to finish up Amnesia: Clarice and this before posting anything new, and I DO have other fics I want to start.
Anyway, I'm sorry, I love you all, and here you go:
"You've grown two inches since you boarded the ship. Two months." Zim clarified.
"Oh." Skoodge replied, "Cool."
"Not feeling under the weather?"
"That's good." Zim put away the syringe and Skoodge rolled down his sleeve again, "That makes, what, four inches taller total, or five? Five. It's five."
"You seem under the weather." Skoodge told him flatly, "What's wrong?"
"It's been, about seven months now?"
"Oh, yeah, a little more than fourteen more years and you'll see Earth again." Skoodge sounded cheerful. He put on a zipper-tooth smile for a moment, and when he saw Zim was not going to catch on, he stopped, shrugged, and said, "Look, I'm sure everything going fine."
"What if there is a flaw in the shelters I built?"
No one could, in good conscience, dismiss that concern. They could not dismiss any potential flaw as the harrows of working under pressure, he could not say it would be okay because it was expected for Zim to screw up. Skoodge said nothing. When he left, feeling a bit awkward because he had not been much help, Zim remained where he was seated, slouched over and leaning on the lab counter.
Well, the best thing to do was to go see Gaz. He shut off the lights and locked the lab door behind him. Gaz would set him straight. He did not even have a valid reason—okay, yes he did but he should know better than to let one in a line of many failures bring him down. Of course, how many times had his actions and stupidity led to the destruction of an entire race? Surely this was not the first time.
He should just stop thinking about it.
And that was not too difficult, considering Gaz was apparently making all unoccupied SIR units on the ship dance spastically. Zim stepped around a few who were spinning around on their backs in the hallway, but she must be able to use them as remote eyes, because they seemed to flock to him and shuffle about like a million tiny ravers, only to suddenly stop when he entered the hallway leading to their room. He found her sitting upright in a chair, eyes closed, radiating a little. She did not even so much as twitch when the door opened. He pulled up another chair and waited for a moment, until he heard loud, distant swearing.
It sounded like it was coming from the bridge.
It must be Red.
He got up again and made his way there, to find that the SIR units had formed a mosh pit around the leader's robotic ankles. Well, anything that bothered Red while still allowing the ship to run smoothly was good enough for him. A little smile on his face, he crossed his arms and watched the spectacle. Purple seemed pleased, and the other were chuckling softly. Red, naturally, knew it was Gaz, and knew she was just working to spite him, so his face was darkening and his voice was cracking as he tried and failed to order the SIR units to stand down and return to their posts.
He pointed directly at Zim and he jumped back.
"You tell her to stop or when she's done her job I'll throw her in the airl—"
"You do realize I can hear and see through these things, don't you?" one of the sir units said. It must have been Gaz speaking, but it still sounded like a SIR's voice.
"Oh, talk, I can talk through them, too." Another spoke.
"Ooooh, multiple ones. That's neat." She chose another SIR unit as her mouth piece, "I wonder—"
And then they started singing and dancing. It was the most monotone and disturbing thing Zim had seen all afternoon, and it was hell on his antenna. It felt like a train wreak was happening in his skull. Everyone seemed to be having the same reaction, covering their antenna and doubling over, cringing in pain.
Despite that, Zim laughed. "Gaz, those SIR units have jobs to do, you know. You really should stop."
"It's not like they mind."
"Well, yes, but Red minds, and he's got the power to throw you in the brig. Although, I don't think the Massive has a brig, but I still don't want to have to visit you in an isolation chamber."
As suddenly as they must have started, they stopped and filed out of the room in a single line, like ants. Zim stepped aside to let them pass the doorway, and the bridge was left with a strange, ringing silence. Red turned his back and said, "You are not needed here."
Zim, still fending off giggles and feeling much lighter, followed the SIR units until he had reached the right hallway, then he reunited with Gaz, who looked a little worn after her escapade, but she looked thoroughly pleased with herself, despite the dark under her eyes and the constant yawning.
"You really shouldn't do that too much you know."
"It's just Red that I bother. Even if he did throw me in the airlock, I could always just make the doors malfunction. I can easily break out of isolation, too. Red can't hurt me, because he only fights with technology. If he pulls a knife I'll just take control of the hand with the knife." She stopped to think for a moment, then she grinned, "I could easily make your entire race my slaves."
"Yes, well, you'll have me, Gaz. And I suppose right now we should have the agreement that you can only control my PAK on Tuesdays."
"I can live with that."
"And suppose you're sleeping? I don't think you can use your powers in your sleep."
"Oh, that's true. Well, I can trust you'll wake me."
"Of course," Zim clarified, "I was actually referring to physical exhaustion, not exactly what Red would do."
"Ah, well..." Gaz ran her fingers through her dark and got hung up on a stubborn knot. She frowned and raised her other hand to try to break it up, Zim reached back and his sharp claws made quick work of it. She let her hands drop and leaned against him, giving his free reign over her hair.
"Just a little tired; give me ten, maybe fifteen minutes." She yawned again, "What's on your mind?"
"Nothing in particular, really." He tried to sound casual, "I just got caught up in thinking about Earth."
"Oh, yes, I have found myself wondering about it from time to time." Gaz confessed. Her face fell, "I hope everyone's doing well, or, as well as they can be."
"It didn't seem like such a long time when they first told me. The kids will be twenty nine."
"How long have we been on this ship?"
"Oh, that long?" she asked. She rubbed her eyes, "Does not feel like it, does it?"
"Or maybe I've just forgotten how long two months really are. I suppose being on a spaceship so much I would learn to lose track of time."
Zim chuckled a bit.
"So, we'll be on Dirt, soon?" She asked.
"Twelve hours or so, maybe a little more."
"Maybe I should sleep." Gaz joked casually. She looked more alert now, her light brown eyes aglow. She turned to him, "I had been pretty much frozen the first time, if you recall."
"You know, I don't think I've actually seen dirt from a distance. Have I?"
"No, I suppose you haven't. It's not very exciting. It's just dirt—quite literally, of course, we should be getting up to it, so perhaps we could see it from the front windows, in the cafeteria just below the bridge."
"That would be a nice."
Gaz looked strange and out-of-place on board the ship. The hallways were large enough for her (not for her exactly, but for the Tallests, who rarely came down to the crew's mess hall) but it was the light. The Irkens saw best in red light, it relaxed them, put them in the mood to eat and rest, where as white made them tense and alert. The exterior hallways were lit with white light, so that any irken walking through them (and there were plenty) would see incoming threats just as quickly as the radar could. They even flickered slightly, constantly bugging him, so Zim could see planets revolving around even the furthest stars. She could not, but she could still see the stars.
He could just barely see her sun from this distance. He knew she could not, so he did not say anything about it.
The passageways leading to the dining halls and the rest areas were all lit with red lights, they turned Gaz a strange shade of orange, and her hair an almost unattractive maroon. He looked down at his hand, it had turned an odd shade of brown. Red really probably not the best light for him, either.
He and Gaz waded through the sea of dining Irkens and he had never before felt like such a giant. Judging from Gaz's face, she felt exactly the same way. They took the stairs to the upper balcony two at a time, because the steps were so small taking them one at a time just felt silly. The lights there were white, like the outward-facing hallways, with a sheet of clear glass before them and a panel of red at their backs, and it stretched all the up and down, sharing its ceiling with the floor of the bridge, and its floor with the ceiling of the cargo bay. The only entrance was through the dining hall, and it was not the safest place to be.
It was a tight, almost romantic, squeeze, considering it was made for Irkens, but soon the two of them were standing side-by-side looking out into an endless expanse of black, without the levels above or below obstructing their view of endless blackness and stars.
Gaz frowned, "Zim, you liar, I see nothing."
"Oh. Right. You're human. Here, hack into my PAK—"
She laughed, "I don't think it's Tuesday yet—"
"I'll make an exception."
Gaz casually placed her hand on his back, saying, "Well, I don't see why it—Holy SHIT! Is this how you see things out here?"
She must be seeing the planets around the stars now, seeing the trees and not the forest, so to speak.
"I'm looking right at it. It's that large, very boring brown dot."
"Oh. I see it. It is boring. Hey! Look at that!"
"AH!" Suddenly, his entire head turned upwards and he was looking at a comet shooting by. He had seen several in his lifetime, but this must have been the first time she had seen one like this. It was like looking through a lower-grade telescope, perhaps, "Well, if you leave me absolutely no choice."
This was why he did not like her messing around in his PAK. He felt like a puppet.
She kept using him to look at various things until she had seen everything she could. It was about an hour later and Zim swore she had made him pull a muscle in his neck, but he did not say anything, because she was so covertly thrilled by this, and as much as she tried to hide it, he knew. She was just radiating excitement.
And it was an exciting thing for a human, to be able to see in such detail. It was only out in space, though. Once he was back in the real world, he saw things pretty much just as she did. He could see Ultra violet light, and that was only difference. He would let her discover that on her own.
"Twelve hours, huh?" Gaz asked, "I should turn in for a while."
She rested her head on his shoulder as the two walked back through the red hallways and into the white-lit one overlooking the void. She placed her hand on his PAK and he felt her jump in at once, right back to his eyes, "It is pretty," she confessed, "When you're seeing it like this. I had never thought much of stars before, you know."
"No. Just little dots, but this... well this is something else entirely."
She waved her hand to the clear panels and Zim saw that her eyes were closed. It would make sense. Her eyes had received no upgrade, she would be seeing double if she did not close her eyes.
"Don't you think you should stop?" he asked, "I mean, the shenanigans with the SIR units already did a number on you.
"That's true." Gaz shrugged. She removed her hand and it was like some crucial part of his electronics had been pulled away with it, "But I'll have about forty-eight hours to sleep."
"Don't you think—just this once?—you should study for a bit? Review what you have to do?"
"Zim, the thing is, I don't even know what I did the first time!" she reminded him, "So, really I should just be prepared for anything, and you know the best way to do that is to prepare for nothing."
She was right. Sort of.
And they had come this far already. It was too late in the game for failure. Of course, he knew just as well as anyone that it did not matter how close you were, there was always a chance of failure.
By the time Gaz had fallen asleep, she really only had nine hours to rest up, and then the real trouble would start.
Getting to Dirt is damn near impossible. Zim remembered that from the last time. Surrounding the planet was—of course—a ring of dirt stretching from pole to pole. Just, a cloud of it, not quite in the atmosphere, but close enough to count. It filled the sensors and scrambled sonar. It would have been a simple matter of steering the ship straight, but the dust cloud was dense and expansive, so say the very least. There is no accurate measure of how thick, exactly, because the particles were constantly in motion, pulled in orbit by Dirt's gravitational field. They were constantly churned as well by asteroids and other natural satellites hidden in the dense cloud. These varied in size to small enough to lodge in a vent and make the ship explode to ploughing into the massive and making a side buckle, leaving at least a hundred soldiers to be sucked into the dusty void. It was easier to go through in a smaller vessel, which would be tossed about by the asteroids like a ship in a bad storm, and eventually make it through.
In the Massive?
Well, just thinking about it, Zim now knew what it felt like to be a very large fish in a laughably small barrel.
Of course, it was only 'damn near' impossible. It was not 'completely' impossible. It was just a might foolhardy to attempt, and perhaps tedious and risky. Manning the fighter ships and sending them out as an escort for the shuttle was a much better alternative, which, thankfully, was exactly what Red and Purple planned on doing from the very start of the voyage.
So he just had to play solitaire. For nine hours. It would take another four, maybe three, to get through the cloud of dirt, and then it would take maybe thirty minutes, or an entire day, if they were unlucky, to find a safe place to land. The storms were horrible on Dirt, powerful enough to take off skin, sometimes. They only got really bad once every four of five months, of course, this could just be the fourth of fifth month. There was just no telling.
Zim shuffled the cards again and looked at Gaz. He had gotten too good at solitaire.
"I don't know what I'm worried about." Zim confessed softly, "I really don't. She's always pulled through."
Zim could not think of anything to say back to that, so he just resumed shuffling, not playing, just shuffling, and instead he tried to busy himself with figuring out all of the possible combinations he could come up with just one deck of cards and how many solutions he could—
Gaz, always the perfect distraction, turned over in her sleep. She may have interrupted his thoughts, but he did not really mind too much. Face it, statistics just paled in comparison to her, even when she was sleeping. She stirred again, but did not wake, fading from one state of sleep to the next. He set the cards down and left the room, because he knew that Gaz knew better than to fly into a panic when she woke up and he was gone. The first place she usually looked for him was his lab, but Zim found himself in the library, and he wondered how far down on her "places he might be" list. He would find out soon enough.
He killed a significant amount of time simply trying to find something to kill time with. It dawned on him that he really was far gone if he could not even find a book, of course, he realized right after that Irken literature had gone downhill eons ago, so not only was he restless, he was also an idiot. He might as well just read the history of bricks.
Well, he had four hours now. He feet hurt and he felt like a moron, but he had nothing better to do.
"I have too much free time." He told the door to his cabin, "I have way too much free time."
"Squeak." The door replied.
Or, Minimoose, but he was in no mood to be specific.
What distressed him even more was when he sat down to draw yet another picture of Gaz sleeping (he really did just do that to pass the time, he often crumpled them up and threw them away when she woke) was that he did not want to. His pen hovered above the page, he thought about drawing, but he could not bring himself to do it.
It was not that he did not want to (well, there was no real want, but no strong aversion) and it was not that Gaz even cared if he did. He just could not find it in himself to care, and that was almost distressing. Almost. He was too restless to be properly distressed.
And he did not even care if that made any sense or not.
"I'm worried." He confessed.
And at this point going into his office and shooting pencils into a cup really seemed like the best option, but he did not exactly want to do that either. He rested his chin on his hand and sighed heavily, then he gave up, kicked off his boots, and stretched out beside Gaz. He did not close his eyes at first. He just laced his fingers behind his head and watched the ceiling for twenty, maybe thirty minutes, and then he zoned out.
"Zim." Purple's voice grabbed him and pulled him back, "Come on, its time."
"The shuttle." He answered, pulling him to his feet, giving him a little slap, and stepping back, "It's time to go."
He did not answer.
Zim gave Gaz a shake and her eyes opened at once and focused on him. He nodded towards Purple and the door as he pulled on his boots again. She seemed to understand. She crawled out of bed and splashed water on her face, grumbling about how she was groggy not and sleep and been and terrible idea. She raked her fingers through her hair, and Zim distinctly heard her say, "Fuck the brush, let's go."
They followed Purple down the docking bay, which still looked a little shabby. Zim frowned. Reminders f what had happened on earth still seemed to be everywhere. Were they going to send them down in the very same medical shuttle that Dib had been brought back in?
Well, he hardly remembered what it looked like.
Theirs was a thin, fast craft, that fit Zim, Gaz, the Tallests, and a medical team of two. Zim did not know why exactly they brought such a small medical team. If emergency treatment was necessary, it was a big emergency, much more than just two doctors could handle.
He had miscalculated the time. It took about two hours to drift through the dirt, and it was fairly easy to find an access elevator to the planet's core. Perhaps they had done a little work behind his back. It was not surprising. Finally, all the dirt made sense. It had been shuffled around by janitorial squads for ages, hiding the entrances inside, now, of course, there was no need to hide it.
He went down first with Gaz. The elevator was a tight fit, so many Irken things were a tight fit for him now. It dropped quickly, the blood rushed to their heads and Gaz's skirt flew up. A little flicker in his eye, he smoothed it down for her. It was the first thing he had been enthusiastic about in a while.
It was smaller than he had remembered it. Maybe it was smaller than Gaz had remembered it. Of course, when Zim looked at Invader Tenn siting at the table, she was so small, and it was so small, everything seemed bigger, but he looked away from her again, and towards Gaz, who was rolling up her sleeves and walking towards Mothercontrol.
It took up an entire wall, with just one keyboard and one screen. Or, maybe it was actually very small and it just looked big. It was so much smaller now, just like everything else. It was strange to be standing there. Hell, it was horrible. He had nearly been killed here. Dib had nearly been killed here.
"Hello again." Gaz said to the monitor, hands on her hips, "What seems to be the problem?"
Then, plain as day, a raspy, tough little girl's voice responded, "Go away. I'm in the Zone."
If I say but one thing on the changes that have occurred on this site in my absence, let it be this:
Now that our profile pictures are featured next to our fics, I have the overwhelming urge to take a picture in a bright green swimsuit and see if it has an impact on reader input.
I'm not serious. A picture of cheddar biscuits is curious enough.