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Author's Note:

Invader Zim is -c- Jhonen Vasquez! Only the events of this story, characters specific to the story, and character tweaking (heh) are mine. :3

~Jizena~

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Dib's Records

I walked with silent, heavy strides back to the main building. My mind was buzzing and my temper was shot. To be honest, yes—yes, it did bother me that I had grown up to be such an angry person. I realized that I was a lot to handle, and that I was a little set in my ways, but I had damn good reason to be angry. I just couldn't help feeling that everyone around me was put off by that. Tenn hadn't deserved the shit I'd just thrown at her. Gaz needed more emotional support. Nacea had come right out and told me that she didn't like me being angry and violent, and Lex probably had the most justified reaction to me being a dick just by being a bitch right back. Mid-adolescence is no time to try running a Corporation. It's no time to pretend so Goddamn hard to be something you're not.

Especially when you've never known what you are.

At the ten year mark, I couldn't hide it anymore. Deep inside me was a kid who missed his mother. Who missed out on childhood, who spent several nights alone wondering where she could be, what she was like, who she was, and if she ever thought about us in return. Because Dad and I were always at odds, I'd wondered on and off if perhaps Mom really had been the one more like me, a scientist of the paranormal, someone with vision and drive.

At the ten year mark, I wanted answers. I needed answers.

So I trudged onward, past the front room, past the dorm hallway, back into the grand hall through which I planned to beeline it to Professor Haynsworth's office. I wasn't going to take "You'll know soon enough" anymore. At fourteen, a kid shouldn't have to be lied to. I deserved to know the truth. Everything. I deserved to know who my parents were, and, therefore, who I was supposed to be.

And wouldn't you know it, I was destined to find out. Just not the way I'd planned.

Before I could reach any of the other rooms in the grand hall, I noticed that there was a door wide open. It was the door that had, until that night, been closed and locked at all hours. Oh, I'd tried to sneak in there once or twice, since it was such a Pandora's Box to me (a locked door in my own damn building, of course I'd try to break into it), but now it was open. Inviting.

My questions for Professor Haynsworth could wait.

Cautiously, I crept forward, afraid that the door could swing closed and bolt itself shut if I made myself known. It was a good thing I was using caution, too, since I realized upon approaching that the room was not empty. Two distinct figures stood inside, toward the far wall. Before I could be noticed, I slunk off to the side and hid myself against the outer wall, to the left of the doorframe. Questions were racking up in my mind, but I had to shut my brain up and focus on the present, for fear I might miss something.

A dull murmur came from within. The two figures were engaged in conversation, and the voices were both ones I knew all too well.

"It's a little... conspicuous, don't you think?" The voice belonged to Agent Cthulhu, and he sounded, oddly enough, a bit confused. Cthulhu was a man who seemed constantly sure of himself, ever in the present, always aware of everything and everyone around him. To hear him hesitate, even knowing so little about the man, was strange.

"Well," said another voice, this one belonging to none other than my own spokeswoman, Charlotte Baudelaire, an awkward, lilting laugh added to her inflections, "you knew them as well as I did. Maybe even better. Would they have wanted it any other way?"

"Ugh," Cthulhu grunted, "don't make it sound like we're still friends. We fell out a long time ago."

"You still have the tattoo, Rico. We all do."

"Hmf." There was a long pause, and I held my breath this time, hoping the thundering sound of my heart thudding nervously inside my chest wouldn't give away my location. Then, just as things couldn't get any more foreboding, the Senior Agent recited: "The die is cast."

"Let's hope it's a lucky roll," Charlotte sighed. "God knows we all need it."

"I've got more faith in Dib than his father," said Cthulhu, as if in argument. I clamped my mouth shut so I wouldn't accidentally react.

What the hell? I thought, wanting something, anything to come into the light for me. First Charlotte and the Professor, now even Cthulhu? Dad, who the hell are you..?

"It's his birthday, though," Charlotte pointed out. At that point, I really wanted to scream. Couldn't risk anything now, though. I had no clue whether or not I was supposed to be hearing this conversation, but something told me not to fuck with it. All I could do was hold my breath and wait. "I hate to say it, but Richard's passing couldn't have come at a better time."

"The old man would've resigned, anyway," said Cthulhu. "At least around this year."

Okay. Facts. I had to piece this together. Richard meant Richard Dyer, better known to me all these years as Agent Darkbootie, from whom I'd inherited the Swollen Eyeball as a whole. Charlotte and Cthulhu—Rico, to her and probably everybody else—always had been in on some bigger picture, holding secrets from me until some unmentionable time. As for all the signs—the door being wide open, the two talking so obviously about me, and even my father... I could only assume that 'that time' was now.

The evening before my fourteenth birthday.

I closed my eyes and took in a deep, silent breath, trying to remember this exact date ten years prior. It didn't do much good. I'd shut out memories from 'before' for so long, it was like watching someone else's life. Using a Meekrob trick for heightened concentration, I breathed deeply again, and made myself focus on one thing.

Her.

Where was she, that night? Figure out where she'd been, I'd know where we all were...

Evening. Late. My father pulled into the driveway. None of us had spoken, the entire drive. Gaz was too tired, and had fallen asleep on the seat beside me in the back. I sat quietly, watching my feet as I dangled them over the black leather car seat.

Dad turned off the ignition, and the silence continued another minute. "Come on," he said finally, his voice straining to sound composed, "let's put the kids to bed. We'll talk about it more inside."

"Charles." The sweet, sonorous lilt belonged to her. To my mother. My mother, who set her left hand on my father's shoulder before he could exit the car. I saw the flash of the diamonds in her engagement ring on her long, thin ring finger. "We need to talk to them, as well," she advised. "They have every right, dear."

Dad forced a sigh. "I know that. They just shouldn't have to find out like this. It shouldn't have to be their burden."

"Mom?" I asked from where I sat listening. "What's a burden?"

My mother patted Dad's shoulder a couple of times, then got out of the car. I heard her heels clack on the paved driveway as she walked around to open my door. With utmost care, she undid my seatbelt and hoisted me out of the car, then held me close. "It won't come for a long time, yet, love," she tried to assure me.

Much later into the evening, after a patch in my memory, I recalled walking down the stairs a bit when I overheard my parents talking in the kitchen. I hid from view, but made little sense of their words.

"It's the way things are, Charles!" my mother was shouting. "Things are as they must be! It must happen this way. You need to realize this."

"Nothing 'must be,' all right?" Dad snapped back. "You've been talking that way for years. Take responsibility as a parent first! Dib and Gaz need a mother!"

"And so they will have one, when I'm needed again."

"What about what I need? You can't just come and go as you want. That's not how things work."

"But it's—"

"How things 'must be?' Do you have any idea how irritating that sounds?"

"Just make this time count," my mother pleaded. "It won't be long until—"

"She's coming tonight, isn't she?" Cthulhu's words snapped me out of my memory, and this time I drew in an audible gasp. My eyes snapped open, and it took every last ounce of willpower to get me to not barge into the room at that second. "She's always kind of rubbed me the wrong way. Hope I don't have to talk to her."

"That's polite," Charlotte reprimanded. "But don't worry, Rico." The voices were getting closer, so I flattened myself against the wall. "I have a feeling she only wants a word with Dib."

"This is going to change everything, isn't it?"

Charlotte was silent, then said, as the two walked out of the room, "Come on. Victor will know what to do."

I slunk in through the open door before Charlotte and Cthulhu could see me. Strange, I thought, that they were heading to the precise location I still planned on visiting once I'd seen what was so damn great about this room that it had to be locked all the time. Of course, now that they were gone and I could breathe, I started growing tense.

There was no way they were talking about anyone but my mother. And based on the memory I'd just had, the real answer really did seem like the split had been an argument. Not a death. Mom was alive.

No time to think about it, though, since the second I straightened and began to get my bearings, several sets of eyes were on me. Eyes of oil. Paintings. Dozens of them.

"JEEZ!" I yelped, stumbling backwards. "What the hell?"

Charlotte, Cthulhu, and probably several others were bound to have heard me, but nobody came. The door was wide open, but I was very much alone. Alone in a room full of portraits. Portraits, yes... and empty frames.

A large plaque hung on the far wall, under which I noticed the portrait of a familiar face. A smaller plaque was fixed underneath it, and I approached closer to read it. "Richard Dyer," it read in gold enamel. "Codename: Darkbootie." The portrait depicted him exactly as I remembered him, in his old age, white hair thinning but still wild, eyes hard and focused. Underneath his name and codename were displayed his birth and death dates, as well as the years during which he served as leader of the Network.

"What the hell is this room..?" I wondered aloud, as I am wont to do from time to time.

No sooner had I asked the question than the door swung shut and slammed behind me, causing me to turn out of alarm yet again. As if on a timer, the lights clicked out, then came on again at a much dimmer setting, making the portraits much more difficult to see. I took in a deep breath, and asked forth a ball of light by extending my left palm. My heightened concentration, thanks to the Meekrob gift, allowed me to borrow energy from the air for the purpose I needed, and soon I had a light source bright enough to make the portraits more visible.

The larger plaque read, "Swollen Eyeball Network, est. 1986. Board Memberships..." And then lines of names were listed, but the portraits spoke for themselves. I recognized so many of the faces, and I followed them down the wall, taking very slow steps, so as not to miss a detail. The faces were younger, of course, but I knew them.

Charlotte Baudelaire. Joined, 1987. She still wore those rose-tinted glasses in her portrait, but her hair, still dyed blue, was a bit longer, spiked out but reaching her chin, rather than clipped quite short.

Federico Trujillo. Joined, 1989. Anita Trujillo. Joined, 1989. Harrison Brakem. Joined, 1995. And so on. And so forth. Everyone. And then, as I was getting close to the end of the wall:

Victor James Haynsworth. London Branch Founder, 1988. His portrait looked so different, and yet so similar to the man I was dying to learn more about... the man I was desperate to learn much more from. In his younger years, he was clean-shaven, did not require glasses, and had a slightly more mischevious look about him. His daughter Lex was practically his mirror. His green eyes had hardly changed, though. They had seen more now than they had at the time of this painting, but were just as earnest.

And then the final two portraits on the wall. Something told me I should have been prepared to see this coming, but all the same, my heart skipped, I choked, and I stumbled backward, aghast, afraid. "No..." I heard myself saying as I raised up my left hand for a better look. "Impossible... impossible! That's not—can't be—"

Oh, but it was. I read the plaque underneath for confirmation:

"Professor Charles Membrane. Founder of the Swollen Eyeball Network, 19-"

I couldn't read the rest. My eyes had welled up with tears. "DAD?" I exclaimed, hardly believing it.

Sure, I didn't want to believe it, but standing there, frozen, I realized I had to. The name proved it all, even though the portrait looked strange to me. It was well over a decade old, but still... it showed my father's face. It proved that my ambiguous father was human after all. In that still memory, my father looked very young... there was personality there, and not just the dryness I'd known him to exert while I was growing up. More than anything, he looked real. More real in an oil painting than he ever seemed to be in real life.

I dropped my hand and sat down heavily. My mind was far more than blown. Even in the darkness that had closed in when I had dismissed the light I'd created, I could clearly see the image in that portrait. It was a portrait, well-done, of a rather young man, and one whose features could, at a quick glance, be confused with my own. For a minute or two, I remained there in silence, burying my face in my hands, my eyes glued open.

"Dad..." I repeated to myself in a loud whisper. "Dad founded the Network... Dad did this... he set this whole place up, he... is... such... a fucking... IDIOT!" I then found myself shouting. "You hypocritical, life-stealing asshole!" I shouted at the portrait. "This doesn't make any sense! You—you bastard, you—" I was out of words. Out of profanity already. Out of my fucking mind.

My father, 'real science' extremist, the man who was too busy to give me the time of day, the man who shrugged off the supernatural as figments of the imagination, had once loved that forbidden subject so much, he'd created a worldwide organization to study it.

So, for the love of God, why?

Why give it up? Why try to turn me against it?

"Why didn't you tell me?" I hissed up at the portrait. No wonder he had known people like Charlotte and Professor Haynsworth. No wonder Lex had thought he'd be in charge. Still. No wonder she was so angry at me for 'not knowing...' not knowing that, maybe, my name really was something to be proud of. That 'Membrane' had once stood for something so much more driven, so much more important... "Why did you stop? When did you..?"

Wait. My mother. More answers would come if...

I gulped and, not getting up, conjured up another orb of light and raised my hand again, looking at the portrait to the right of the one of my father. My eyes widened when the subject was illuminated. Within the frames was painted the likeness of a beautiful young woman, with high cheekbones, thin, expressive green eyes, and a dark but winningly curved mouth. Her long, light purple hair fell carelessly over her shoulders; the light from my palm seemed to give her life.

"Mom..." I whispered.

I sat back and looked up at my mother's portrait for a moment. Doing so, I began to miss her as much as I had when I was a small child. Gaz really was starting to look like her. I continued staring up at the portrait, giving it a much more thorough look than the photograph Gaz had shown me mere minutes ago, trying so hard to remember what my mother had been like. She was kind, I remembered that. She loved music and ballet... hadn't she gone to the theatre once or twice with friends of hers and Dad's? What were their names..?

The corners of my mouth twitched upward a little on their own, and I sighed, wishing more than anything at that moment that I could've known Mom better. I remembered Dad being at least tolerable if not fun when she was around. He read to her, didn't he? And she to him. They acted like newlyweds right up until Gaz turned three. And Mom always, always made me feel better, no matter how bad a day I could have had.

Her portrait was lovely, and well done, and yet I felt that it barely did her justice. In my memory, Mom was beautiful. Her bright green eyes didn't shine in the painting as they had so long ago. Her smile was just oil on canvas.

"Mom..." I choked out.

I closed my eyes and brought myself back, as best I could, to another of the last days I'd spent with my mother, ten years before. We were outside, with a large journal she'd been making records in for what I assumed were years prior to my birth, complete with illustrations of the most wonderful sort. It was a reference book (which sometimes, I now remembered, my father had added to), containing information on paranormal activity the world over. It was Mom's life work, and my old obsession.

"How many of these have you seen?" I asked her, marveling over the pages, not daring to turn them for fear they would break.

"Quite a few, dear," she answered, turning the page. "One day, you'll know more than I do, I'm sure. You have a very bright future, Dib."

"I know what this is," I announced, pointing to an intricate illustration of a black dog. "Gwareth Anwyn."

My mother laughed. "Yes. You learn so fast, Dib." Kissing me on the forehead, she added, "You'll be grown up before I know what to do."

I laughed, because I was innocent.

"Show me more," I begged, flipping through the pages.

"All right, my love. Would you like to hear a poem?"

I hardly knew her, I realized. I'd never even known her name. Now, years after her unexplained disappearance, I wanted to know. Moving my hand a little, I told myself to read the plaque under her portrait.

"Miyuki Isomäki."

My heart skipped, and a lump formed in my throat.

I read the plaque again.

"Isomäki." A Finnish surname. Right. Yes. Mom was Finnish. That was the story. Mom was from Finland. Mom's parents were from Finland. Mom spoke Finnish.

Mom also spoke Japanese. And Italian. And French, and Portuguese, and Greek.

"My mother was from Finland," I said aloud. Only a cracked whisper came out. "My mother was from Finland." I closed my eyes, breathed deeply, let it out, then opened my eyes again to confront the plaque. I had to convince myself that I'd read her first name wrong. So I read it yet again.

And it read, in gold enamel, plain as day: "Miyuki."

My mother's name was Miyuki.

So help me God, my mother's name was Miyuki.

"WHAT THE HELL?" I screamed. I stumbled backward, and as I caught myself on the ground, the light from my hand went out, leaving me in the dim light of the room. The air around me felt heavy and strained. I couldn't feel my heart beating, and I was struggling to breathe. "No, no, no, no, no, no, no," I said to myself, rushing the syllables together as I shook my head. "L-look, it's a Japanese name. M-maybe Mom was half-Japanese? Yeah. Yeah. That's it. My mother isn't—"

"Hello, Dib."

I yelped and whipped around, terrified. It was her voice.

It was my mother's voice.

Shakily, I lifted my head, gasping when I saw the figure before me. It was a woman, her features shadowed by darkness, a soft light surrounding her.

"It's been a while," she said.

I scrambled to my feet and conjured up an orb of energy in each hand, preparing to fight. "Who are you?" I demanded. "What do you want?"

The woman stepped further into the room from the doorway through which she had come. "Please," she requested, "lower your hands." I did as she asked, but backed away from her all the same. "My name is Miyuki," she said, smiling. The overhead lights in the room flickered and popped back on, as if she'd cued them with a verbal key. She was suddenly illuminated, her face in full view. Yes, it was a face I knew. It was a face I hadn't seen in person for ten years. "I am your mother."

I paused for a moment, lost in the want for her to really be that amazing woman from my past, the one who loved me unconditionally, but left too soon. She looked to be the right age, in her late thirties or early forties; she was wearing a long blue dress with strapped sleeves; a sash of a lavender hue was tied round the empire waist, and the ribbon flowed back, blending with the color of her hair. Tied mostly up in a large, loose bun, her hair was indeed the same shade as that in the portrait, though one streak of grey ran throughout, beginning just above her left ear. Her eyes were a perfect, sparkling green.

A part of me had always wondered what I would do if I ever saw her again. As it turned out, I became defensive, and angry. The portrait and plaque certainly had not helped. After confused, I was just plain enraged. I was right: I did not know my parents. All my life, I had been shielded. Dad, I realized, had never outright lied to me, but he had ignored me, avoided me for the sake of never having conversations about the past. About his old work. About his wife.

"NO!" I shouted, backing away from her. "Don't say that. If you're my mother, where have you been? Where the FUCK HAVE YOU BEEN?"

"Away," said Miyuki, sadly, in that unmistakable, lovely, lyric tone. This voice had read to me. This voice had consoled me as a child, when I'd been afraid. This voice had haunted me throughout my continued childhood and into adolescence, a ghost in my memory. "It is a long story, but I was unable to reach you."

"Dad got so screwed up!" I hollered at her, not letting up despite my inner desire to let go and cry. "If you're really my mother, as you claim you are, why did you leave? Dad got so unstable he forgot about us! Gaz and I raised ourselves! I don't have a mother! Especially not one whose name is—whose name is—"

"Is the same as another you surely know by now?" she guessed, to finish my thought.

Miyuki was incredibly, terrifyingly calm. I felt frozen. I'd never been so afraid. All of a sudden, I had no idea of what I should do. There were no answers. I felt like I had nothing. That everything I'd ever wondered was for nothing. That all my years of Irken research were nothing.

"What," I demanded, my voice shaking to show my fear, "is going on? Who and what are you?"

Miyuki attempted to take another step closer to me, and I responded by backing away once again. She looked hurt, but she persisted, until she had walked me into a corner. I found my back against a wall, and had nowhere to look but her unfaltering emerald eyes. "I," she began as an answer, her voice chilling me much more than it soothed, "am your mother. The story of how I came to be here, of how I came to know and love your father, is a long one, and one that you will learn over time." I had no idea if she was meaning to be that creepy or what, but she was definitely succeeding in making me feel uncomfortable, and even nauseous.

"Get away from me," I commanded, forcing my eyes to narrow.

"You are my son," said Miyuki, as if that was answer enough, "and you are hours away from being fourteen. Fate took me from you, Dib, ten years ago, but this, at last, is the year you will begin to learn everything. Isn't that what you want, love? To know the truth?"

"Nope! Not anymore!" I snapped at her. "I'm kinda fine being confused now, thanks. Get the hell out of my way. You aren't my mother. You're... you're... I'm just going crazy!" I shouted, pushing past her.

"Why do you say that? Why be content with no answers?"

"I won't take answers from someone named MIYUKI!" I hollered back at her, pushing onward toward the door. After all, I still had a destination to reach. This room was nothing but trouble. This room was a mirage. Had to be. I had to get out of there and talk to someone I knew was real. Talk to Professor Haynsworth. Talk to Charlotte. Suck it up and call Dad.

Just then, there was a blast of blue light in front of me. Check that, a blast of blue light was shot at the spot in front of me. When it hit, I yelped and jumped back. The source was obvious. I turned, shaking yet again, to see that Miyuki's right hand glowed blue, and that she was repositioning herself from having dealt the strike. I stared, wide-eyed, at the woman, whose expression had turned somewhat guilty. The blast was not like the Meekrob bursts of energy I had been practicing; it was more precise, like a straight shot from a laser. Like a shot I'd seen come from an Irken PAK.

"What are you?" I demanded of the odd, terrifying, familiar woman.

She tried to smile again. It lacked the meaning that had been captured in the photograph, and hinted at the beauty caught in the portrait, but it still gave me chills, because I knew it, in the recesses of my memory, so well. "I have stories to tell you," she said. That intoxicating accent, that melodic voice... it was her; it was her, but... "I'm sad that it seems your father never did."

"Yeah," I said testingly, holding my ground, "well, as I said, Dad went kind of completely insane when I was a kid. All right. You've got answers? Fine. Tell me, just..."

Miyuki changed her stance, so that she stood tall—and she was quite tall; taller than I was at the time, anyway—with her thin shoulders squared, her hands clasped where they fell lightly in front of her. The light of the room seemed to reflect off of her smooth, pale skin. I saw my sister in her. I saw myself, as well. I also saw something around her: a soft aura the likes of which no other human I had come across possessed. Hers was more like a mix between the average energy I read from other humans, and the quirkier one I got from Tenn.

"I was 'fourteen' when I was found and adopted, here on Earth," the woman began. "I had a rather, as one would say, 'normal' upbringing... but for the fact that I was still tied to the life I had led until then."

"Don't..." I tried. My voice barely sounded. All these years being shielded from the truth... no wonder. No wonder I wasn't told when I was younger. I could never have handled this then. I was barely keeping hold now.

"In that life, I was presumed dead. I was succeeded. I had nowhere to go... nothing to do but to start again. And then," she said, "I was brought here. And—"

"Give me the whole life story later!" I said, finally able to yell again. I was glaring at her. I could act as unfazed as I wanted, but my feet wouldn't move. My heart was drumming against my chest. I wanted to run from the truth a little longer, but... "I'm asking who you are! I mean it! What 'other life?' Why do you share a name with that ex-Irken Tallest?"

"Because, dear," Miyuki answered solemnly, her eyes attempting to show pity, "I am that ex-Irken Tallest."

"SHUT UP!" My vision started to cloud. My eyes were tearing up. I was losing my grip. I had spent my life researching the supernatural, embracing the impossible. But this was further than I had ever wanted to go. "I've gotta get out of this room. This is an illusion. This is a lie. You shut up and take that back."

"I can't," said Miyuki. "It is a part of who I am. And a part of who you are, too."

My heart stopped.

It just... stopped. I wanted the whole damn world to stop. I lowered my head and tried to make myself stop breathing. The words echoed in my head, ripping me apart, freezing my core. And to make things worse, Miyuki spoke again. "You and your sister were both passed traits from your father, and from me," she said. "I carried you, body and soul human—"

"That isn't possible," I hissed. My hands clenched into fists, but weakly. I did not look up at her. "Irkens are clones. They can't even reproduce on their own, let alone cross-breed. Sorry, Miyuki, your story doesn't add up."

Driving the damn blade deeper, so to speak, she replied, "Not Irkens, no. But every race has a counterpart." That got me to lift my head and stare at her again. Hadn't Nacea said something like that? The sister race to the Meekrob had been destroyed, but every planet had, yes, a counterpart. Then that meant...

...Fuck...

We were on the brink of war with our own..?

The Invasion went so much deeper than I'd thought, indeed. Were Zim and Tak aware of this? Were their Tallest? Was Tenn? Furthermore, what about my Board? Charlotte, Cthulhu... the Professor..?

...Dad? How much did he know? How much was that man hiding?

"Every race has a counterpart," Miyuki repeated, "and I was fortunate to find my own. And to find love, and be granted a soul." She brought her left hand to her chest. The diamond was still there on her finger. "I earned my soul for the right to be human, but my past never left me, so I am torn. That is why, Dib, this must be your time to step forward. For you and your sister to finish the plan I started, so many years ago."

"Plan..?" I wondered. "Plan of what..?"

Miyuki dropped her hand and approached me yet again. This time I didn't back away. "Irken liberation," was her answer. "That entire race falls slave to the machines we created to govern society. Even as Tallest, I had very little power. Even I had a life in servitude to them. It was my plan to end it."

I was now shaking. Everything she was saying was interesting, to a point, but this all boiled down to one thing. And it was one thing I just could not accept. "Shut up..." I found myself saying. "I'm not finishing anything for you. I have too much to do here. We're going to war with the Irkens—"

"But there is no reason you could not use your inner abilities to bring an end to two conflicts at once," Miyuki insisted. "You're the son of an Irken Tallest, Dib, and an intelligent, influential human as well. What does that tell you?"

"That my life is more fucked up than I ever thought and we are so done talking!" I shouted. "I'm human, all right? I live here. I have to protect Earth. I have to raise up this Corporation so that others can learn, and we can win this fight."

"Yes," said Miyuki. "And I can help you. Dib, you need to train your abilities or one day they will catch up to you, and the result could be awful. I realize that I have been gone these many years, but you must believe me when I tell you that I was unable to be at your side.

"This is your time to awaken your potential," she went on. "Believe what you will, dear, but the truth is that you, you and your sister both, have exactly what it takes to keep peace between sides. I can teach you all you need to know. I can tell you everything behind who you are."

"Great," I muttered. "Wait... what did you say there, before? About things catching up to me and..?"

Miyuki's expression turned grave, and that, God knows how, solidified everything she had been telling me as the truth. That look made me believe her. That was an expression I'd seen on other women before, and even on my own mother, far into the past: the look that a mother gets when her children are threatened. That look told me that this woman cared about me, whether we connected or not. "I am not," she said somberly, "going to let the machines take my son." My heart skipped again, and I choked on my breath. "You have Irken blood in you. The Brains will try to find you. Please, come with me. Let me train you before the parasite can take premature hold. It will benefit you in more ways than one."

I shook my head in disbelief. "I... I'm... not... Irken..." I managed to fumble out.

"Not entirely, dear, no," said Miyuki, "but enough to be called to arms if the machines wanted you."

Machines. Irken machines... "Miyuki..." I found myself saying, "is it... i-is it possible for Irken robots, SIR units, to be made from the same controlling pieces as the Brains..?"

"It is not impossible."

MiMi.

Tak had, at her side, all this time, a remote, active part of the Control Brains. And she had already tried to take me once. Whether or not Tak knew was debatable. But MiMi did. She knew what I was. What we were. And she'd come after us, bringing the Armada with her. The Invasion really was about Earth. About taking down the counterpart and becoming the victors.

I clinched and ground my teeth. Goddammit, this was resolve. I was submitting. But I was not about to let Tak win. Something now told me, too, that Zim was sure to oppose her, sooner or later. Especially if he were to learn about Miyuki.

About my mother.

Wouldn't he be pissed.

But then, of course, he'd been human, once, too. Fuck, fuck it all, if he were on our side again, I had to admit it, we'd have yet another advantage.

"What about Gaz?" I asked Miyuki. "Aren't you going to train her, too?"

"Your sister's time will come. Tomorrow, you are fourteen." Miyuki—my mother, the Tallest—extended her right hand. "Come with me. I promise, you will not be gone long."

"Where are you taking me?" I demanded.

"Someplace less distracting, to begin your training. You have known your father's lineage. Now, I must awaken you to mine."

"I..."

"Don't you want to protect what you can? I can help you."

I did. And it wasn't even that I wanted to protect everything. I had to. On the condition that I wouldn't be gone long, I had to take this opportunity. Oh, yes, my mind was still one big buzzing clusterfuck of confusion, but the threat of the all-powerful Irken machines was enough to make me at least give this a shot. During the Incident, MiMi had weaseled a piece of an Irken parasite into me for a brief moment of time. It had terrified yet exhilirated me; it had been a chill and a rush. But a human mind can't withstand an Irken parasite. I had to trust that Miyuki could shake me of that weakness.

I had to trust that my mother knew what she was doing. I had to bite back my fury, and accept what I was.

Hesitantly, I took her hand.

As I felt a wind rise up, I realized... she was teleporting me. In the midst of it all, I realized that everything I'd always stood for might have been a lie. I realized that my life was definitely changing. I realized that, to some extent...

...This was the end of my humanity.

-To be continued-

-in-

Part Two:

Transitions

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Author's Note:

...And we're off! :3 That's the end of Part One!

And I am soooooo excited to get into Part Two! ^^ There's still so much of the story to tell, and things really heat up from here. (There are so many different plots and arcs in this story, but I just love writing and connecting them all~~)

Thank you all, so, so much for sticking with me through Part One! Everyone's reviews/comments always, really, make my day, and I love hearing all of your reactions as the chapters build!

RavenFollower13: Don't worry, Zim gets the first chapter in Part 2! ^^ I'm excited to get back into his arc~

Surrogate-Reality: Your observations are always so awesome and spot-on! :3 And now I, too, have that image of Dib using the stealth suit in my head... XD Love it~

acebrainbuster: I hope this was a good cliffhanger...! ^^

kenkosan: Thank you so much for finding me on dA~! 3 (I'll start being around more there, too, I swear...)

Whiiiiich actually brings me to my next note. Due to an insane schedule, it is seeming most likely that I will be taking a hiatus next week, in order to build up a buffer for Part 2. If all goes as planned, The Mandylion Saga, Part Two: Transitions will begin on Friday, July 15th. Who knows, though? I may start posting next week, but do keep in mind that it will be as a new story, just so I can keep the parts separate. :3 In the meantime, I hoooooope to start actually updating my dA (link on profile) with sketches from this world, as well as TWFF and Changes in their original .pdf formats (because I'm addicted to fonts). If anything in my schedule changes, I'll put up an announcement on my profile here. ^^

I hate to leave you guys so up in the air with this ending for a while, but please do come back for Part Two! More secrets will be answered, we'll see just how those poor Tallest feel about their situation, and there may be a reunion or two coming right up... :3 Again, thank you all so much for your readership and support~! To everyone who reads this: you are awesome. ^^

See you soon, with Part Two! 3

~Jizena~

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Update: Part Two has begun, check for the link in my profile! ^^