***Disclaimer: I do not own Zim, Dib, Gaz and/or any other characters of "Invader Zim". I do not make money with this.***
Chapter 6: Run, Dib-stink, Run
When Dib later remembered the five seconds following Zim's statement, they were nothing but a blur. He remembered tackling the Irken, trying to get at his big green head with both fists. Zim nimbly sidestepped the assault. A storm of metal, fingers, claws, broke loose about the human boy and raged for about three seconds.
Then everything was – silent.
Gingerly, Dib opened his eyes. He found that Zim had driven the sharp points of his artificial legs right through Dib's trench coat and into the bedposts. Dib was pinned with Zim's spider legs all around him. The alien definitely had too many limbs at his disposal. There was Irken all over Dib and – he realized as Zim flashed his shining teeth only three inches from his prisoner's nose – Irken might be drawing blood any time, and at leisure. The fact that Zim was successfully matching his own weight against Dib's shifting, struggling mass to keep them both in perfect equilibrum proved that he was completely back in control of his body.
'Now, what exactly do you think, you're doing?' hissed Dib.
'I was planning to eat some waffles,' Zim snarled. 'When you freaked out!'
'Does that surprise you? After all you put me through these last three days?'
'Liar!' Zim yelled. 'It's Tuesday!'
'Thursday,' Dib corrected. 'Sorry, but your oh-so-superior inner clock is missing two days.'
'Liar!' Zim repeated. 'Dib-thief!'
'And just how would I steal days? Even you should be aware of the fact that -'
Zim cut in, 'Where are my contact lenses?'
'You ask me? If I were to take a guess, I'd say you flushed them!'
'And my hair? Tell Zim! Where is my hair?' Zim screamed.
'Your wig, you mean?' Dib screamed back. 'You used it as a towel or worse...Gaz certainly did!'
'And my glove?'
Dib heaved a sigh. There was just no way of beating Zim for sheer volume. 'Let go of my arm, and I'll give it back to you!'
Reluctantly, Zim released Dib'd left arm. Even more reluctantly, Dib produced the black glove from a secret pocket in his trench coat. He fervently wished, he'd gotten down to conducting the tests he had had in mind for this particular piece of cloth. Not for the first time, he cursed the necessity to waste precious time listening to Mrs. Bitters speeches on how Doom was waiting for each and every one.
Zim snatched the glove from Dib's hand and, sitting back on the haunches of his spider legs, put an arm's length between them as he slipped the glove back on. Dib put his feet against the bedpost and tugged at his still immobilized right arm.
Thus, for some seconds, each of them went about his business, mumbling nasty words in his own native language.
His glove back on, Zim pulled his spider leg out of the bedpost. Dib's arm came free and the boy tumbled onto the bed. By the time he had sat up, Zim's artificial limbs were positioned to his left and right like banisters preventing him from falling off the bed.
Dib was unable to move very far - but so was Zim when it came down to it.
It was one of those 'So, what do we do now?' situations nobody really knows how to handle.
Dib was the first to break the silence.
'Zim, I don't know, how to put this,' he began. 'I mean, I've been thinking about how to say it for the last few days. But I didn't know, Agent Thinpatience would want your information for – for his own purposes.'
Zim's eyes narrowed. Now, they no longer looked blank and almost innocent. Now, partly covered by the drooping lids, they looked square. And, especially in combination with the slicked-back antennae, they looked malicious.
Dib felt pushed to make a point, and fast. 'I am trying to save the world, Zim. My world. But I don't plan to go out and conquer others just for the sake of – of conquest.'
'Hm,' Zim said, cocking his head.
'It would make me no better than you are. Morally, or something...'
'What I am trying to say is – Zim? Are you listening?'
'Your head,' said Zim. 'I could have sworn, last night it was green. And bigger.'
'My head is not - ! Zim! For Goodness' sake!'
Zim grimaced. 'Yesss, Dib-thing. Much bigger!'
'But that's completely beside the – darn it, Zim! Don't you see?' Dib drew a deep breath and screamed, 'This was – a moment! Maybe THE moment!'
'Er, yeah – and that's a moment, too.' Zim looked genuinely puzzled. 'And another one passing, as you try to pull out your filthy quiff. Er. Doesn't that hurt?'
'I KNOW that. I mean, yes, it – aarrrgh!' Dib tore at his scythe-like strand. 'Zim, you moron! I was trying to tell you something!'
'Me too,' Zim said, smoothly. 'Your head was terrifying. And green.'
Dib turned away and talked to the ceiling. 'Oh! Ohhh! I shoulda known! Of all the ingrates - '
'Of all brothers and their friends,' Gaz said, 'it had to be the two of you!'
No one had heard her coming. But she was standing in the door. Her dangling left hand held the inevitable Game Slave 2 console.
'Gaz!' Dib felt the blood rush into his face and started fighting the alien's artificial limbs. 'This is not what it looks like! Zim! Get your stilts off me!'
Zim retracted his spider legs, but he did not deactivate them altogether. He continued staring at the Dib-sister, whom he knew to be way more sinister and dangerous than the Dib himself.
'Do you know how long this infernal noise of yours has been going on?' Gaz asked.
'Funny you should mention the point - ,' Dib began, casting Zim a mean glance.
'No time has passed,' Zim said quickly. 'According to my PAK, it's Thursday. But I know, it's Tuesday, so we haven't been shouting at all.' He checked with his PAK again and frowned. 'Actually we shouldn't be home from skool yet.'
'And I tell you again, space monster, you have lost count!' Dib shouted.
'Impossible! Zim does not lose count!'
'Oh, Zim recently loses quite a lot of stuff,' Dib said acidly. 'Battles, consciousness, the knowledge of how to handle a bathroom door...'
'You are lying!' spat Zim.
'No, you've just decided to ignore the obvious and blame me instead!' Dib yelled. 'You're missing Wednesday, because you slept right through it! In, as I would like to point out , my bed! Nursed by me, fed by me - '
'LIIIIES!' Zim jumped to his feet, his spider legs trailing. 'Irkens don't sleep! Pathetic, weak humans sleep! Irkens do not need to indulge in such inferior processes of recreation!'
'But you will learn all about nightmares,' Gaz said. 'Because I promised I'd make you suffer for locking the bathroom door. Face my revenge! I've spent an excruciating hour in your crazy robot's presence preparing for it.'
Gaz stepped into the room, revealing GIR, who was standing behind her and carrying a tray full of waffles. The staple was so high, it nearly blocked the robot's view. But it immediately spotted its master, alive and awake, and happiness overwhelmed it.
'Yaaay! Master wants waffles!' GIR tackled Zim, hugging him, clinging to him, smearing grease and waffles all over him.
Zim started to race in circles, screaming, dodging, trying to shake the robot off. His spider legs whipped and flailed. 'NO! NOOO! Get off me, GIR!'
'Zim!' Dib yelled in panic. 'Watch, where you're sticking that! Watch, where you - '
One of the long metal legs smashed Dib's bedside lamp. Another pierced the surface of the main computer screen.
Electricity all around the room, the floor, the house went wild. Sparks hissed, lights flickered. Down in the kitchen various machines came alive. GIR cheered, 'Pyjama-paaarty!', and danced to the chaos. Zim screeched on top of his voice, jerking spasmodically.
The first floor bathroom door shook, as if under attack. Over the whirring noise of hair-dryers, shavers and electric tooth-brushes there was the unmistakable sound of something howling and yelping.
'I'll be right with you!' Dib screamed. 'Just stay away from the drains and the water, you hear me? I have to – I just – '
He tried to get to his computers, but the keyboard would not respond. Sparks erupted from the keys. Smoke welled from the back of the central unit.
'Destruction,' gasped Dib, swivelling his chair this way and that, pushing buttons. 'Total destruction!'
Gaz went over and kicked Zim in the butt. Apparently, her heavy boots were perfectly insulated, when the rest of the house, including a certain Irken, was not. Zim's spider leg fell away from the destroyed lamp, thus disrupting the electric circuit.
'Nooo,' wailed Dib. 'My experiments!'
Zim sat up. He looked at the broken screens, the sparks, the smoke. It didn't seem an unusual, disturbing sight to him. In fact he wore that slightly annoyed look of a human taking in the results of a pot of milk boiled over. Something to clean up and start again, when all you wanted to do was enjoy a quick cocoa during commercial break.
Dib, however, wasn't used to electric havoc, and he turned, his face white. His throat worked, but no sound came out.
Zim met his gaze, raising his shoulders in an intergalactic standard gesture signifying the complete dismissal of any personal responsibility.
Then he got up and jumped out of the window. Standing on the curbstone he screamed for GIR to follow him. GIR yelled his consent and, flapping two hands full of waffles like wings, activated some kind of thrusters that propelled it right through the window and towards its master. Zim yelled, as he was run over, flung up into the air and caught again by his robot. Then, sitting on GIR's back and holding on for dear life, he could be seen rocketing in the general direction of his house.
Dib allowed himself the luxury of heaving a deep sigh. 'Gaz? Can I use your computer?'
She had her Game Slave console in front of her face, working the buttons with both thumbs.
'Whatever,' she growled.
Dib slid onto the chair in front of his sister's computer and established internet connection.
'I'm not stupid, Zim,' he said aloud. 'I knew you'd be up to something. So I transferred backups of my scans to secondary storage facilities. I can access them online and retrieve all the information I collected about you - '
The website of the external storage provider loaded.
'Hah! Here we go! It's minutes till victory! You, space monster, are – a squirrel?'
Dib stared, as the display underwent remarkable changes. The advertisements vanished, the log-in area closed. The screen was filled with the image of a squirrel, wiggling its muzzle at Dib. Then he was offered a bird's view on a labyrinth. It was a crudely programmed maze, two-dimensional and using a minimum of colours like some old-fashioned arcade game.
And just like in those arcade games, there were stylized characters to be steered through the maze. One looked like an image of Dib himself – or rather: an image of his face in a head that was too large and overlapped the lines of the narrowly drawn corridors. It left a trail of peanuts as it moved. The only other character in the game was the squirrel. It followed the trail of peanuts, eating them, leaving only mangled, emply nutshells. Closing in on Dib's head.
A textbox opened onscreen, while Dib stared at the images. A line was typed as he watched. *Like my squirrel?* it read. *As I said, breaking into your system is peanuts.*
Dib found a button marked "Send Instant Message to other players", and hit it.
*Zim?* he wrote. *Where are you? You can't be home already?*
*Using a portable unit,* came the answer. *Uh-oh. Have to give earth-worm behind drive-thru-window payment for burritos and slushie. Hang on.*
There was a short pause, then another message, *No, GIR. Eat your burrito. Slushie's mine.*
Angry, Dib wrote, *Zim! Keep your mind on the fight, will you?*
*No fight, Dib-stink. It's a game. If squirrel gets you, you get eaten. If squirrel reaches exit first, data gets eaten.*
*How do I kill the squirrel?*
There was a pause in their communication. Then, Zim's next mail, *What do you mean, kill the squirrel?*
'So you didn't include this option. But that's unfair!' said Dib aloud. He didn't bother typing and sending it. Better to get on with the game. Zim had not said anything about what happened when Dib reached the exit first, without getting caught by the squirrel. So that was what Dib would do. He put his fingers on the keys and started to move his character that had so far been dawdling in pause mode.
A textbox popped up, *Run, Dib-stink, run!*
And Dib ran. It was not really a challenge, once he'd figured out the controls. But his character's bloated head got stuck every three or four seconds, and the squirrel moved erratically, changing speed and directions seemingly without any plan or motivation. Either Zim was a lousy player, or he didn't really make an effort - or it wasn't him playing at all, but his crazy robot sidekick.
Suddenly, an 'incoming mail' sign popped up: message from the Network.
'Not now,' said Dib, closing the box.
It popped up again: urgent message from the Network for Agent Mothman.
'Not now, not now,' repeated Dib. Sweat beaded on his forehead. His fingers raced.
Closer came the squirrel...
Incoming communication from the Network.
'I. Can't! Care about you guys right now!' screamed Dib. He was typing for his life, hitting the keys in a machine gun staccato.
*Nearly there,* mailed Zim. *You're not trying.*
'I am trying!' yelled Dib. 'I really do! But - '
A blue pop-up appeared onscreen, blotting out Zim's text box. An instant message, sent via the Network's own intern service. It read, *Agent Mothman, if you read this – we've been trying to contact you. Check your mails.*
Giving a scream that mixed anger and fear alike, Dib hit the "close pop-up window" button. Then he tackled the control buttons, driving his character forward, forward, the squirrel hard on his tracks. He reached the exit, typed the password that would allow him to access his personal files.
The labyrinth dissolved. The desktop displayed folders. They should contain his collected data.
Dib put security settings on "high". Then he clicked on the first folder. 'But -?'
Opening the folders one by one, he found: a) A list of ingredients of Poop-dog's chocolate bars, statistically related to occurences of spontaneous combustions in Mrs. Bitter's classes, as reported during the last two decades. b) Quotations from some B-movie celebrating alien supremacy, printed in letters that consisted of chihuahua dogs fighting for lumps of meat (the capital 'Q' being particularly disturbing to look at). c) A sheet music of the skool kids' favorite "rain" song for string quartet and one oboe. d) A cubistic realization of Earth's sun (five-color print on a background of the brightest headache-red). e) A psychedelic variation of the same subject, accompanied by a recording of GIR's voice intoning a steady note of "Aaaaah" that rose and fell with the spiraling movement of the animated image.
Dib quickly opened the next folder.
The screen went blank. There was only a sound effect, and one that Dib had come to recognize: a recording of the soft, regular noise of an Irken breathing in deep slumber.
Whatever outbursts of drunken creativity Zim had meant to commit to this particular section of computerized memory, the effects of the sleeping drugs had once more caught up with him first.
There was nothing left here to save. Dib faced it, even though he couldn't help a deep sigh. But somehow - somehow he'd known. Hadn't he?
He clicked the "instant message" button. He wrote, *Zim, why didn't you tell me you had already hacked into my system?*
*I did. I told you it was peanuts.*
*Then what was the use of the labyrinth? The game?*
*Had to keep GIR interested.*
Dib stared at the reply. Suddenly, it all seemed so surreal, sitting in front of a snoring screen. Fighting with an alien who was somewhere loose in town, riding a robot and drinking a slushie, as he typed his instant messages on a portable unit.
A textbox opened on his screen. *Hey? HEY!* wrote Zim, somehow managing to get his obnoxious tone of voice across in his typing. *Dib-human? You still there?*
'Yes, Zim. I am still here. As are you, obviously.' Dib said softly. He closed the window.
Then he opened his mails, wanting to see what the Network had to tell him that was so important that it couldn't wait for one level of good old jump'n run.
The evening came and Dib still sat at the computer desk.
He did not respond to Zim's messages that kept popping up. He did not react to Gaz walking in and out, commenting and threatening, should he still be there by the time she wanted to turn in.
He just sat, thinking, So that's why they didn't come after us. That's why they didn't care. I left it on the table! I friggin' left it on the autopsy table!
Staring at Agent Thinpatience's note.
'This is the report on the autopsy of the object "alien/normal boy" submitted by Agent Mothman. We have conducted all possible tests and the results allow but one interpretation. We therefore describe the object as being of the Pinkest Pinkness, combined with Rubbery Surface and Cubular Outline. It is surrounded by Cuteness, using it in an aggressive way. We checked our files carefully and found a remarkable match to the data describing the strange flying force that attacked this Agent Thinpatience's holografic image during a visit at the Crazy House for Boyz last Wednesday. We herewith name it: The Flying Pinkness.
Whether it is of alien origin, remains yet to be proven. Unfortunately, the object has passed away or something...in death it looks just like any other rubber piggy.'
+The End +
A/N: Now then. That's the wrap. Thank you so much for reading and reviewing! I'm so happy that you liked the story and I do feel sort of sorry that things had to draw to a close. But it wouldn't work, prolonging just for the sake of going on, and on, and on. Better to finish now and return with something new, if and when the inspiration comes to me again. My thanks to you all! So long!