Author's Notes:

1. Happy Mother's Day.

2. UPDATED: Corrected some grammar mistakes and typos. Summary changed to make more sense.


Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or plot elements from Invader Zim.


Purple eyes flashed with indignation.

"I told you! We should have asked them to find some way to make the donut holes smaller! But no-oo! You wanted them to try making these stupid robots to help us with our invasion! And look where it got us!"

Red eyes squinted in annoyance. True, they could simply blast any form of resistance into oblivion. No need for control robots… unless you had a frustratingly stubborn partner who adamantly refuses to share his portion of snacks.

"This useless thing can't even work right! You've wasted my donut-holes-becoming-smaller time! Compensation! I demand compensation!"

"Oh, shut up! Who says this is a waste of time? It's going to provide us with many hours of entertainment!"

"Huuh? What do you- Oh. Ohhhh. You're going to send it to him, huh?"

"Of course! What's more fitting than to send a defective to a defective?"

"Wow! You sounded pretty smart there!"

Their laughter resounded through the massive spaceship. They may not be capable of sharing their hoard of snacks, but they sure could share the joys of torment.


[ MAY, FRIDAY ]

Just a little more… a little more… NO!

The pencil tipped dangerously left. I quickly prodded it back up to its former perch upon my lips. The puny stationery continued to teeter violently, blatantly spurning my attempts to keep it nicely balanced… attempts from an outstanding Invader such as myself no less! The AUDACITY!

I narrowed my eyes fiercely at the wobbling object. Be still… you impertinent thing! How DARE you disobey my commands? No one disobeys Zim!

The pencil attempted another bodacious move to the right. I growled in frustration as I hastened to put this… this INSOLENT object in its rightful position.

So focused I was in this arduous battle of control that I barely paid any heed to my surroundings.

"… makes humans weak."

The antennae hidden under my wig perked up immediately upon catching hold of that juicy bit of discourse. I leapt onto my desktop, pencil clattering on the floor.

"What makes humans weak? Tell me! Tell meeeeee!"

The human information dispenser (which the humans refer to as a Teacher) regarded me with a rather resigned sigh. My overwhelming presence was not one easily ignored after all!

"For those of you who weren't paying attention – and that means the whole lot of you worthless doomed children – it is the deadly, terrifying emotion called LOVE that makes humans weak. And Zim, take a seat before I send you down to the underground class."

Satisfied with her answer, I quickly settled back down into my chair, eager to hear the rest of her explanation.

"LOVE makes people do stupid things that only hasten their doom," the Teacher said. "Which brings me to the focus of today's class – Mother's Day.

"Mother's Day is a day when all you doomed children succumb to your LOVE, offer your sacrifices to your mothers and toil mindlessly to their commands. As part of the school tradition, you will spend today's class preparing your LOVE sacrifices. You can create anything - a bottle of your blood, one of your worthless fingers or anything else that will represent your abhorrent LOVE for your mothers."

Most of the skoolchildren responded with an excited cheer. I myself was giddy with the excitement of this newly gained knowledge. This nervous energy propelled me to leap onto my desktop once more.

"YESS!" My triumphant cry resounded through the classroom. "LOVE makes humans WEAK!"

Such a glorious moment! I could feel all the ideas rushing into my head now. Magnificent! A tremendous weakness to exploit! I allowed myself to revel in this exuberance, and soon my little fits of sniggering exploded into gleeful cachinnation.

It was only after a few minutes later, when the pervasive euphoria was encroached by a more solemn self-consciousness, did I begin to notice the heavy silence permeating the classroom and the undivided attention trained onto me.

I gave a nervous chuckle.

"Only an alien trying to take over our planet would be overjoyed at hearing how love makes humans weak!" a kid clad in a black trench coat yelled. His coiffure was that of a scythe's curve jutting out from his ridiculously huge head. He had a pallid complexion, a telling clue of the hours spent before flickering monitors within his human base while attempting to thwart my ingenious plans. He was annoyingly persistent, annoyingly meddlesome, and annoyingly competent enough to be credited as my arch-nemesis… that much I will admit. But still! He was ANNOYING, and his competence relegates before my overwhelming superiority! Dib Membrane was nothing but an inferior, ANNOYING human filth!

Before I could come up with a suitable enough objection, a shrill voice from the back cried out, "Are you saying that Miss Bitters is an alien?"

The teacher in question growled. Her chalk snapped cleanly and incinerated in her bony hand.

The Dib spluttered, "What? No! Of course not! I'm talking about-"

"He's crazy!" another kid declared, which was followed by a chorus of approvals from the rest of the class.

Dib-stink was soon resigned into shamed silence with a lovely mark of detention slapped across his forehead. How wonderful – he shall not interfere with my after-skool plans that way! I allowed myself to whistle a cheerful tune as I settled into a more comfortable position in my seat. Trust the stupid humans to be so adamant on helping me protect my identity!


Class was over and I was now free to put my ingenious plans into action… if not for the fact that said plans were still nonexistent!

How does one exploit this LOVE emotion? If I could make all the humans fall in LOVE with me, I would have them completely obsequious to my every whim and command! But, therein lies the most sickening problem. Filthy, revolting humans… infatuated with the almighty ZIM? I am not ignorant. I have seen the ways these stinking Earth-scums express their devotion. I would not have their loathsome grubby hands all over me, nor their putrid sloppy mouths pressed against my face. The idea sickens me to the core and my squeedly-spooch revolts at the mere notion of these pig-smellies swarming all over me.

There must be another way.

Perhaps… an intermediary would work? If I could direct humans and their LOVE to another medium under my control, it would be the same as having those stink-monkeys directly obeying my iron fist!

This brings to mind my hypnotising pimple Pustulio. It was effective while it lasted – I had almost the entire skoolchildren (indirectly) serving me like slaves! But once was enough. Pustulio had compromised my no-filthy-human-scum-touchy zone, and lasted barely two days.

What then?

My deep rumination inadvertently brought me to the skool foyer, and right into the back of some hulking mass in a red jacket.

The opposing force knocked me down with a loud clang as my metallic PAK struck the floor. My posterior was not spared the painful encounter.

"You FOOL!" I hollered. "How DARE you obstruct the path of the almighty ZIM!"

When I opened my eyes to glare at the impudent thing, I was greeted by the sight of a slobbering bulk of muscle and fat towering before me. I recognised this pig-smelly to be one of the many that relished in inflicting pain upon those of a shorter stature… not that this knowledge intimidated me or is of any relevance to the greatness that is me anyway.

"W-WOOL?" The hulking pig monster roared. "You called me WOOL? Me will beat you so bad for calling me WOOL!"

"I said FOOL you FOOL!" I slowly backed away as the hulking filth took a menacing step forward.

"You called me WOOL twice. Me will never forgive!"

The homicidally furious waves caused my antennae to vibrate warningly. A hasty glance around - Too late. I had backed myself into a narrow interstice between the skool lockers. A cul-de-sac I had trapped myself in.

I muttered a nervous apology and held up my hands in a placating gesture, but the dull angry eyes of the hulking pig monster before me prepared me for the imminent beating.

His fleshy fist raised to strike, my scrawny arms instinctively went above my head as years of Invader training took over. My eyes darted about for an opening to escape once the pig-monster attacked.

His fist went down. There was no time for contingency plans. I shot forward.

Curses!

To my utmost chagrin, I found myself wedged between the filthy corpulent pig and the lockers. A tight grip found its way around my throat and I was lifted up like a ragdoll, my legs and arms dangling helplessly in the air.

"Let go of me, you stinking stupid earth-pig! Let go or suffer the Zim wrath of ZIM!" I started to flail, my sharp claws leaving little red lines on the putrid monster's skin.

He roared out more gibberish and made a move to strike at me again. I was highly tempted to utilise my robotic arms despite the crowd of curious onlookers, but a strange miracle occurred.

A stern female voice called out, her voice piercing through the excited din of the crowd. The insufferable pig monster immediately released his grip on me, and my sharpened reflexes allowed me to land gracefully on my two feet.

I was still a little disorientated from the attempted strangulation, but that did not deter my astonished self from satisfying my curiosity.

Why was I spared?

I watched in amazement as the massive pig monster transformed into a subservient harmless thing before a female human. With a single beckon of her hand, she had the previously hulking fool trotting after her meekly like a stinking Earth dog.

This demands an explanation.

"YOU!" I grabbed the collar of the nearest dirt-child (who had a stature slightly shorter than mine). "You will tell Zim who that filthy female was!"

The halfwit gave me a beaming smile. "That was Charlie's mama!"

"His… marr-mah?"

"Yep!" Another beaming smile. "And there's my mama!"

I watched inquisitively as the fool ran up to another female stink-monkey.

"Keef!" she said in a chiding tone. "My vegetracker tells me that you didn't eat your veggies during recess!"

Earth-boy's infuriating smile faltered a little, but never left his horrid little face.

"Aww… but mama, the skool's veggie always jumps up from my tray and sticks to the ceiling whenever I try to eat it!"

I nodded in silent empathy. This notorious veh-jee that they serve at the cafeteria was a defiant green monster. There used to be this inter-class competition whereby the fools would try to catch and consume this abomination. The competition ceased when someone actually accomplished it. No one had seen the victorious fool ever since then, though I do recall seeing his portrait on one of those large grey human-information-paper thingy.

This marr-mah human shook her head and gave the smiling idiot a stern glare. "No, Keef. You will eat your veggies, and that is final."

There was a collective gasp from the crowd. The smiling fool merely nodded his head, gave a jaunty chirp of "Yes, mama!", and proceeded to the cafeteria. My survival instinct warned me against following the dirt-child and to instead remain in the safety of the foyer, which I complied to without resistance. After all, as the puny humans say, curiosity killed the cat-monster.

There was a ghastly scream, followed by banging and crashing sounds of a ferocious struggle. I unwittingly flinched as a diabolical roar tore through the fearful silence of the foyer. More sounds of conflict ensued, only to end a few minutes later with a final crash and a terrible whine. The smiling fool emerged from the cafeteria with a victorious pose, bruised all over, with what could only be a squirming tendril of the defeated veh-jee dangling out of his mouth. He slurped it up and swallowed.

"I- I did it, mama!" And then his face turned a nasty shade of purple, froth spewed from his mouth and pus flowed from his ears before he collapsed.

All this, just because of a female human scum. Was it because she was taller? My curiosity could not be contained any longer.

"Why?" I asked him, as the marr-mah human dragged his convulsing form away.

A distorted smile.

"Because I love my mama!"

There. That phenomenal word once more. LOVE.

I continued to ruminate on this as I made my way back to my base of operation.

I could see it now - my ingenious plan. If I was not mistaken, this marr-mah was synonymous to the human mother or mum – a female human parental unit that I had learned of during my initial reconnaissance of this stinking planet. What I had not known, was the interesting fact that these marr-mah units exploited the LOVE of their offsprings in order to make them loyal slaves.

A grin broke out without volition.

Perfect. I had been seeking an intermediary for my plan to exploit humans and their LOVE.

It would seem that I need not seek any further.

I allowed myself a triumphant outburst before moving onto the next problem - how to have these mothers under my control.

... With technology perhaps?

Aha! The timing could not have been more impeccable! Just yesterday I had received a parcel from the Almighty Tallests, in which contained their latest piece of technological wonder – the Control Bug. This intelligent robot had been alleged to be able to take over their target's nervous system and allow its master full control of said target. It was the lab's first prototype, and I was given the glorious honour of being the first Irken to ever possess it. The Almighty Tallests must have finally seen my innate talent in world domination!

But first, I shall return to my lab and test out the full capabilities of this Control Bug. If it meets my expectations, I shall mass produce it and proceed to give these unsuspecting marr-mahs a lovely, lovely present this Mother's Day!

The unadulterated exhilaration of conceiving such a flawless master plan! Once again I am filled with an ineffable thrill that would consume me entirely if not given some form of release -

"NO ONE SHALL STOP THE GREAT ZIM!"

No one indeed! This time, this pathetic excuse of a planet shall meet its doom under the hands of the greatest Invader of them all –

The sky received my dauntless declaration and I noted the absence of those deceptively innocuously fluffy looking yet disgustingly wet greyness in the dusty red expanse. Moments like this when I stare up at the polluted atmosphere of this filthy planet never fails to ignite a pungent loathing for this miserable chunk of rock and its revolting inhabitants. Yet, now I am completely relaxed. This pervasive feeling of laziness has numbed my motor functions and is making it… rather… difficult… to… think…

I stared up at the sky. Someone obstructed my view. Some female… earth human… thingy…

"Hellooo Zimmeey booyy." My antennae struggled to pick up her… slurry… sounding… words? She continued to… speak… but this laziness induced me to… ignore… her…

My Tallest…! Her head was blocking… my… sky… view…

Ughh...

Her head!

"Yoouuu dooo reaalisee whoo I aam riighht?"

I narrowed my eyes instinctively.

That… insufferable smirk…!

The familiar hatred surged into me and for a moment that foggy laziness left me.

"Yess," I hissed. "Of course I'd recognise that enormous head anywhere."

And then... the overwhelming laziness took… hold…


I woke up to a blinding glare.

"Aww. You're awake so soon? I haven't even started tweaking your PAK yet! Give me another 5 minutes alright?"

What…? I vaguely recalled the claret sky, inexplicable sluggishness, a female…

TWEAKING MY PAK?

"My PAK!" I lashed out – or attempted to. My arms! They were restrained along with my torso and legs – strapped to a…

A cold terror seized my squeedly-spooch. I could not believe it, prayed it was all a deluded fallacy. But it was too real – the cool, immaculate, white examination table. The cruel elastic straps that only allowed for the most marginal of struggles. The beeping, monitoring machines. The trolley of dreadful implements that promised of incisions and anatomy. The dazzling light that made me feel terribly exposed.

My worst nightmare had become reality.

It was one thing to be the one wielding the scalpel.

It was an entirely different matter to be the one prostrated on the examination table.

I panicked.

"Release me at once, you incorrigible earth scum! RELEASE ME!"

I thrashed wildly, but the nasty straps kept me restrained. Curse you, insolent straps! CURSE YOU!

"Woah! Calm down Zimmy-boy-"

"YOU EXPECT ME TO CALM DOWN? FOOL! YOU FILTHY WORTHLESS FOOL! RELEASE ME! RELEASE MEEE!"

"Stop shouting and quit struggling, or I will have to shoot you again!"

A female stink-human appeared in my field of vision. Her ridiculously large head immediately caught my attention and fomented further recollection. The sky. The woman. The laziness.

"YOU!" I roared with indignance. "WHAT DID YOU DO TO ZIM?"

She sighed and rubbed her temple. It was then did I notice the peculiar purple gun in her hand. She saw my stare and gave me a cheeky grin.

"This baby here is my Double-I ray gun." She ran a black gloved hand across the barrel of the gun tenderly before she cocked it upwards with an expert grip. Double-Eye. A strange and utterly meaningless name that only pathetic earth-pigs would think of. "Double-I meaning Irken Immobilisation."

A sudden melange of loathing, weariness and alarm filled me.

"You know about us?" I hissed. I was starting to see a connection between huge heads and identity disclosure.

"I've had my suspicions for a very long time," she answered with a subtle hint of fondness. "But your arrival cleared up any lingering doubts."

She saw my questioning gaze and gave a sour laugh.

"It's a long story, but I will tell you this much – I've been watching your every move."

My eyes widened at that. I – the great Zim – had been spied on during my entire stay on this lowly rock? Preposterous! No miserable worm-baby should be able to circumvent my superior Irken technology!

"And oh, before I forget, allow me to thank you on behalf of humanity for protecting this planet on numerous occasions."

"You LIE! Zim will never protect this pathetic lump of Tallest-forsaken rock!"

She waved my incensed outburst off and fixed me with a stern look that was bereft of any childish frivolity that she had displayed before.

"But playtime is over, Zimmy-boy. The situation has taken a dangerous turn, and I have no choice but to intervene before things go out of hand."

She moved off my peripheral vision and I had to strain to twist my head enough to follow her. Then I saw my Control Bug. My PAK. And the countdown.

Everything happened so quickly.

A yell in my native tongue, and the PAK was flying across the room towards me. The female turned, gun poised to shoot. Wires tore into the table and back into my spine. She shot a blue, undulating beam. Robotic arms propelled me away, the straps snapping from the tremendous force. The beam struck the table remains, and dispersed into the air. I felt a strange tingling as I leapt across a tabletop to avoid another beam.

An exit. I had to find an exit!

The woman whirled around to fire another shot. I cursed as robotic arms failed to puncture the reinforced walls and I barely moved aside to avoid the nasty beam. Another strange tingling.

No exit. No way out. What now?

"You're an agile little devil aren't you?" The horrid female turned to face me once more. Her reflexes were terrifyingly martial. "Be a good little Irken and stop ruining my lab. I'm not going to hurt you, just gonna tweak your PAK a little."

"You FOOL!" I spat, furiously trying to work a way out during this precious respite. "Know your place! How dare you even attempt to lay your filthy hands on my PAK! No lowly dirt-monkey will touch Zim's PAK!"

She laughed.

"You're really loud, and cute. But really, really, foolish." I yelled out a furious denial at that. "Hey, I'm offering you a good deal, you know? Just cooperate for a while and you won't ever have to be forced to serve as a plaything for your evil leaders anymore. I'll take good care of you."

Such… blasphemy! How dare she insinuate such sadism in the Almighty Tallests? How dare she suggest such perfidy in the great Invader that I am?

"You don't have to keep up with this pretence, Zimmy-boy. I've read the data encoded into your PAK. You're a Food Service Drone aren't you?"

"LIES! ZIM IS AN INVADER!" Anger threatened to overwhelm me, but I smartly resisted. Got to find a way out… but oh was I furious!

"I'm sure you're aware of that already, just a phase of self-denial… you kids these days. But here's something you may not be aware of - the Control Brains. Did you know that you scared them?"

Oh? My ire subsided a little. To be able to frighten these omniscient beings… my potential as an Invader must be superbly tremendous! That knowledge pleased me immensely.

"From your earliest PAK records, it would seem that you appeared in a supposedly empty developing tube. The Control Brains were confused, but dismissed it as negligence of the Hatcheries' staff.

"But then they had problems transferring data into your PAK. You turned out to be a rebellious and troublesome maverick.

"You were defective."

Kidnapping me. Arrogating Irken technology. Probing the sacrosanct contents of my PAK. Defiling the Tallests. Spewing egregious lies.

Calling me defective.

"You lie. You LIE!"

I forgot about escape and lunged, robotic arms poised to strike. She moved aside with that elegant grace of a trained combatant and fired the Double-I. So swift her riposte that I barely evaded the ray. Some of the blue ethereal matter seeped into my skin and I immediately felt the familiar sluggishness…

Defective…

No…!

I struggled against the encroaching torpor. My PAK emitted a low hum and I felt a faint jolt of electricity that shocked most of the offending sedatives out of my system.

The terrible, terrible monster woman shook her head. "That again. Your little backpack is a real nuisance to deal with. I had to fire multiple shots before deciding to just remove that thing."

Calm down. Find a way out. My PAK would not be able to hold this lazy-monster at bay for long. I shall exact my FURIOUS revenge upon this filthy lowly pig-monster after fleeing from her domain.

Once more, I took advantage of the reprieve her gibbering had granted and hastily scanned the area for anything that might assist in my escape…

The control panel!

The heinous woman sighed and raised the Double-I. "Last warning, Zimmy-boy. Cooperate, or I'm going to shoot at you until you cease to resist."

I moved. She fired. I dodged. We continued this annoying game of cat-and-mouse until she saw that I was ignoring her in favour of furiously mashing buttons at her control panel.

"You do realise that there's no way you're going to open up an exit without my authorisation, don't you?"

I did not care. I pounded on the control panel with all my might. No inferior Earthen technology was going to disobey the pounding of my fists!

The female stink-monster had desisted from her abhorrent firing, no doubt stunned by my awesome display of POUNDING. I heard her sigh over the banging and muttering something that sounded vaguely like "Kids these days - never listen."

Then perhaps from some sudden recollection or enlightenment, I heard her gasp.

"Oh damn! I forgot that you –"

It was too late for her and her puny Double-I. My brilliant POUNDING has never failed me.

Sparks flew, fires raged and smoke ballooned into the crimson sky as I snatched up the Control Bug and made my escape, cackling in unmitigated contempt as my robotic arms carried me away from the ruined lab and her exasperated cursing.


[MAY, SUNDAY]

It had been two days since I last rested. Or was it three?

Irken soldiers were notoriously resilient. The energy our PAKs continuously feed us with has allowed us to survive without rest indefinitely, outlasting and giving us an advantage over jaded enemies.

Yet I felt the fatigue threatening to overwhelm my system and force my PAK into hibernation mode.

She was fearsome. It was not merely her head that was monstrous, but her tenacity and aptitude in technology. A truly terrifying adversary. She made my contention with the Dib-monkey seem like shameful pettifoggery.

She was dead serious about stopping me. Her relentless attempts of incursion had forced me to achieve a level of competency like never before. I was constantly on guard, straining my head in devising retaliatory plans, contingency plans, contraption plans, fortification plans, outwork plans and more contingency plans - since she always seemed to have a contingency plan of her own – in the shortest possible time before she succeeded in penetrating my already crumbling defences. And then I was working fervently in my lab in a quasi hysterical state, right hand turning a wrench while my left worked the drill and a robotic arm smelted while another connected wires, in order to bring to fruition said plans that were still being devised in my head alongside with engineering calculations. And then I was shouting orders to the Computer and yelling for the shields – not the radiation shield you incompetent machine! The radioactive one! – and hollering at GIR to stop messing with my Stun Spiders and for the love of the Tallests keep your meddling hands away from the lever that releases that Thing!

Tired. Yes, I was starting to feel very, very tired.

So weary was I that I had started to see hallucinations of black trench coats with that insignia of a blue human eyeball emblazoned on it.

And then it happened.

It was the slightest of slips, a flaw nigh indiscernible. Yet she saw it, latched onto it, and exploited it before I could stop her.

Beams were fired, explosives thrown, immobilising agents dispersed. I was rolling away, flinging out Spiders, recharging my stun gun and careening in every direction that my muscles soon protested and my robotic arms had to take over.

GIR's limp body was tucked under my right arm. He had been deactivated by one of the infernal woman's implements, and I desperately sought to find a moment of inaction to reactivate him. An Invader was incomplete on the battlefield without his trusty SIR unit by his side, after all. Though he may be of questionable help, GIR was my sole companion. Besides, the onus was on the master to care for his underlings, was it not?

Somehow, while leaping away from a nasty blue beam and simultaneously piercing through one of her automatons with a robotic arm, I managed to reconfigure the SIR unit's settings. His large round eyes flashed a violent red. And then it flashed a placid cyan. And then red. And cyan. And then the robot shot out of my grip and started screeching incoherently, arms flailing wildly and eyes flashing red and cyan before he ran through a wall and disappeared from the scene. There goes my martial aid… GIR, you useless fool. At least he was now safe in the demilitarised area of this putrid city and my hands were freed of his incumbrance.

All too soon, I was down to my last Stun Spider. My sole working gun had been wrested from my claws, my explosives depleted and my Computer corrupted with her ghastly viruses. My emulation of a living room was a graveyard of automaton debris. Floorboards jutted out and wires spilled out from the fissures. The couch was everywhere - on the scorched ceiling to behind the charred heap of television and beneath the portrait of the Green Monkey with a hole blasted under its left eye - weeping tears that my deranged underling would have shedded should he have been around to witness this scene of homely carnage.

And the smoke – it was an amalgam of suffocating fire smoke and the anti-alien smoke saturated with vile Earth pollutants that the filthy humans were already desensitised to – "A little present I made, specially for you!" The air was a toxic perdition. The floor seemed to tremble beneath my feet, my vision shifting intermittently between blurry and a world with too high a contrast. My arms felt strained and numb and cold. My skin prickled and crawled. My squeedly-spooch felt knotted and strangled, and I had to resist heaving up my internal liquids.

But I was not the only one to receive the repercussions of conflict. I had destroyed all of the horrid woman's sneaky devices, except for Double-I the Second which was still firmly gripped in her black gloved hand. "This baby's even more deadly, cos' your PAK won't be able to counter its rays this time."

I could see it in her too – the fatigue. Under her fatuously determined façade was a very worned out soul.

The inevitable moment had arrived - the final showdown between one weary human-fiend with a ray gun and one disorientated, sick and weary Irken (who was struggling to remain standing and not regurgitate vital liquids) with a Stun Spider.

I will not fall. Especially not to one stinking dirt-monkey. Not before I accomplish my mission as an Invader and not before I see this pathetic rock decimated before the Armada.

I will not lose. The almighty Zim will not!

I raised the last Stun Spider shakily. The previous five (which she had seamlessly dodged) dotted the room, having sunk their poisonous fangs harmlessly into the walls. My vision went from concave to convex and from presbyopic to myopic. I cursed, but took aim anyway.

She must have seen my trembling arm and furiously blinking eyes, for she gave me a most detestable look of pity.

"We can stop this you know," she said sotto voce. "Just cooperate. You'll be perfectly fine in my custody. Unlike the other paranormal investigators or officials, I won't harm you. I just want to make some adjustments to your PAK, then you'll be a harmless little boy and you can go enjoy your own life. It's okay, isn't it?"

The ineffable apoplexy erupted.

"NEVER!" I hurled the Stun Spider.

It was a lousy throw. Both of us knew that. It was as if I had thrown a stinking ball of cotton wool. At least its trajectory path was still true to its intended target, even if it was slightly off to the right. Considering my impaired senses, it was a remarkable feat that deserved the highest of praise.

The smirking female fiend – yes, she definitely had to be smirking! – effortlessly stepped aside.

For the most fleeting of moments, I thought I saw the Dib and his ludicrously huge head at the doorway. Then the woman moved back and Dib-stink disappeared from my view.

The genetically modified spider landed onto her left thigh, latched on, and sunk its venomous fangs into her bloodstream. She gave a painful gasp, collapsed and coughed up mouthfuls of blood.

I heard the unmistakable screeching of GIR, shouts of alarm from the Dib-monkey, and then a strangely solemn silence. I lay procumbent, waiting for the sickness to subside and for my PAK to restore my mobility, while a single question clamoured in my head -

Why?

I could understand how devotion to a superior being could bring out acts of sacrifice, since we Irkens ultimately live to serve our Tallests.

But this. This was way beyond my ken. This woman (I shall begrudgingly admit) had the upper hand. Why did she sacrifice it all for one miserable, pathetic, annoying filthy dirt-child? Why? WHY? Even if they were related, it still made no logical sense! It was akin to having the Almighty Tallests cease their snack consumption so as to feed the janitor drones. Preposterous!

"H-Hey, Zimmy-boy?"

Her voice sounded strained – no surprise there, after all the venom must have corroded her inferior vocal cords by now. I felt rather disorientated – my PAK still humming sedulously as it worked to purge my system – so I gave no reply.

She let out a sardonic chuckle that sounded rather painful.

"Y'know what, Zimmy-boy? I'm a defective too. A defective mother, that is."

I remained silent despite the urge to yell a protest. Let the filthy female speak. I shall first focus on recovering and then proceed to make her regret ever going against an Irken Invader.

"I couldn't take care of my family. Couldn't provide any income. Couldn't do the chores properly. Ruined the lives of my children. Messed up the entire family. And then I ran away like a coward, and like a coward I never dared to face my family ever again. I'm a horrible, horrible, defective mother."

I heard sniffling and was not quite sure what to feel.

Couldn't take care of GIR. Couldn't provide any planets for the Armada. Couldn't do the mission properly. Ruined the lives of the former Tallests. Messed up the entire Operation I. Ran away from Foodcourtia. Never dared to face Sizz-Lorr again. A horrible, horrible, defective Irken.

As if.

"Why?" I finally blurted out, if only to keep those terrible lies out of my head. It was not a properly directed question, but the female understood me.

Why the sacrifice?

"Because I love him."

And suddenly everything clicked. The skool teacher's lesson. The skoolchildren's obedience. The woman moving into the path of the spider.

"LOVE makes people do stupid things that only hasten their doom."

"LOVE… makes humans weak."

The Control Bug.

My PAK gave a light beep and I was back in kilter. I stood up. I knew what I had to do. I marched over to the prone form of the stinking human. How weak and helpless she appeared before me. To think that moments ago she was making Zim nervous! Ha ha! I will have to create more of these Stun Spider babies.

The female-scum looked at me with such disgustingly sad eyes, gave a wistful sigh, and thankfully lowered her eyelids before I gave in to the maddening urge to poke her in the eye.

"I just wish… Just wish that I could see my family again… wish I had the courage to return to them and tell them I'm sorry and see my children and my husband and have one big family hug..."

I had to force back an incredibly pleased grin and instead gave her the most cruel of smiles that I could muster.

"Then Zim shall grant you your wish."

Humans and their LOVE.

Zim loves it.


HUMANS AND THEIR LOVE


[MAY, FRIDAY]

Damn Zim and his stupid alien plans and all the other stupid kids! I still don't understand how they can believe him and not me! One day they will have no choice but to thank me for saving Earth!

Dib Membrane was in a foul mood. His right arm ached and his hand was sore from filling the blackboard with repeated scribbles of 'Zim is NOT an alien'. After Miss Bitters had growled her approval, he seriously contemplated extending his stay just so as to strike out every single one of those 'NOT's.

He sighed. Zim was definitely up to something. Whenever he started one of those sporadic laughing fits, trouble was sure to follow. And thanks to the time wasted in detention, he had no idea where Zim was now.

He caught Gaz as she was leaving Bloaty's Pizza Hog and they proceeded to make their way home together. No, he thought as he watched her fingers fly over the buttons of her handheld console. More like she's going home alone and I'm just tagging along.

A few blocks later Dib decided that he had had enough of digital 'pew-pew' sounds and ambiguous jingles that could work for both a victory or a loss.

"Class was really tedious today!" He tried to start conversation with his sister. It usually resulted in him speaking to himself. "Miss Bitters forced us to make gifts for Mother's Day. I kept telling her I was just a clone with no mother but she never listens to me!"

"Shut up Dib," came Gaz's usual reply. "Your voice is annoying."

Dib allowed the comment to pass without feeling the slightest bit offended. Everyone found his voice annoying – even his dad. He was inured to it.

At least she didn't make fun of my head, he thought.

"You should be glad your teacher is a more understanding guy. I bet you didn't have to make all those pointless cards and flowers for a nonexistent mother!"

Pew pew pew!

"And I bet all the other kids are probably worrying their heads off trying to think of a present or wondering whether their savings would be enough for all that spending they're bound to do!"

Pew pew pew!

"Thank goodness we are both clones. We'll have none of those hassles! We won't have to spent a cent and we'll have the whole weekend to ourselves. I can go spy on Zim and still have enough time for the re-run of Mysterious Mysteries. And you can, uh, slay your vampire piggies or whatever it is you do during your free time."

Pew pew pew!

"Either way, we're really lucky that we don't have mothers. Mother's Day is such a chore!"

Pew pew –

Tah da da da.

"You really think so?"

Gaz was gripping her Game Slave 2 so tightly, Dib thought that it was going to end up like Miss Bitter's chalk.

He could not recall the last time he saw his sister's eyes. Eyes that were always glued to the cross hair and the flying pigs. Now they pierced right into his soul and he thought that maybe, just maybe, he now understood why Gaz never looked him in the eye.

It was overwhelming - So much loathing. So much frustration. So much loneliness.

He thought he saw something glimmer in her eye.

He took a step forward. "Gaz, I- "

She pushed him back. Pushed him away. He fell onto his rear.

"Shut up, Dib. You know nothing."

And then she was gone.


Zim was not at his base.

He had expected Zim to be at his work table, messing around with that strange device someone had sent the alien just the other day.

It was absent too, he noted. That strange device.

He frowned at the monitors before standing up and leaving his room. He was not going to learn anything else from the feeds his spy cameras were sending him - might as well go catch that re-run of Mysterious Mysteries before dinner.

He had a languid stroll to the living room, not too worried about what Zim might be doing at the moment.

I'll hear the yelling and explosions before anything serious happens, he thought as he plunked down into the couch and reached for the remote.


Six years old Dib Membrane returned home from elementary skool a sobbing wreck. Little cuts peppered his arms from which he had shielded his face from grazing against the gritty road. Dust and the remnants of his lunchbox stained his favourite black coat. Tufts of hair stood up in frazzled disarray where they had been gripped and pulled at by mocking hands. His glasses were once again, the woman noted with resigned dismay, absent from its usual perch upon his reddish nub of a nose.

"They called my head big!" the boy wailed.

The woman flinched noticeably, for she too had a big head.

"They laughed at me, called me names. Look at his big head! He's a monster! An alien!" the boy yelled, hot tears weaving among the creases of his furious face. "Big Joe took my lunch and poured it all over me. Then the other boys pushed me down and the rest kept laughing. Big head Dib! Big head Dib! He's not human - he's a monster! An alien!"

The woman went over to offer a comforting embrace, but the boy pushed her away.

"Make it stop! Make it STOP! I'm sick of all the laughing and pushing and pulling and stealing and… My head isn't big! IT'S NOT BIG!"

"Yes, I know Dibby. Hush. It's okay now-"

"No it's NOT okay! It's not! And you're lying. You don't know anything, because it's your fault! It's YOUR FAULT!"

"What's all this racket about?" A man clad in his white lab coat approached the two, a young girl trailing close behind him.

"Dad!" The boy rushed over to the man who knelt down and allowed the boy to bury his wet face into the folds of his coat. "They called my head big!"

"The teasing again? Those kids never learn! I'll be calling up the school authorities again, so don't you worry, Son." The man ruffled the boy's hair tenderly. The woman quietly watched.

"Gaz, take your brother to the bathroom and help him clean up. You know where the first aid kit is."

The girl nodded. The boy parted reluctantly with the man's coat and followed her to the bathroom.

Then the shouting started.

The girl paused with the dabbing, and the two children exchanged worried looks. A silent understanding passed, and they left the stool, cloth, ointment, tweezers and all and ran to the kitchen where they pressed their small bodies beside the archway to the living room.

"How can I focus on my work if I can't even trust you to take care of the kids? Do you know how hard I have to work in order to support this family and your paranormal nonsense?"

"... I'm sorry."

"No, don't you give me that look. I had to give up my full-time passion of REAL SCIENCE just so that I can support your silliness! And what have you been doing? You don't take care of the kids, you don't take care of the chores, all you do is waste time and money on that alien invasion hogwash!"

"You have to believe me, dear, this is really serious. From my calculations, the Armada will be within range of our solar system in less than a month! The entire planet will fall to Operation Impending Doom. You really have to let me continue my work! It's almost finished now, the space-time object replacement device. With it, we'll be able to mess up the Operation by sending over-"

"ENOUGH!" The man roared. The children cringed.

"Are you even aware of what just happened minutes ago? Our son came home crying! That's what happened! Not some alien invasion! And whose fault do you think it is that our son has to suffer through all that teasing from his peers?"

"… Sorry."

"You'd better be! You and your defective genes! Thank goodness I made sure our daughter had none of them!"

The shouting ceased and a heavy silence emerged.

"… What did you say?"

The woman's voice had an edge of hostility. The slightest hint of a brewing outburst.

This time, the man remained silent.

"When did you do it?" The whisper of a threat.

There was no answer from the man.

"… Why? Why, honey? WHY?" The restraints broke. "I never created that cloning device for you so that you could do this! How DARE you?"

The man flew back into a rage. "Is safeguarding the welfare of our child wrong? The monstrosity you gave to our son – look at how his life is faring because of that!"

"Our child? OUR child? You mean YOUR clone! What did you do to OUR child? The foetus. Or the embryo. Or the zygote. What did you do to it? Where is it?"

"Don't give me that nonsense! Gaz is equally a child of mine as she is y- Wait, where do you think you're going? Oh, no you don't! I never gave you permission to enter my lab. Stop!"

There was the sound of rapid footsteps. Doors slamming and equipment clattering. A sharp scream of disbelief.

"You've been hiding him here for so long? What have you been doing to him? Are you treating our child as some experiment for your REAL SCIENCE? How dare you? How DARE YOU!"

"I'm trying to remove your defective genes from him! Give him a chance for a better life!"

"You're a monster! How could you treat our child like this? Like some test subject? How dare you! You monster! You want to give him a better life? Fine! Let's give him a better life! But it sure won't happen in this household with such a cold-blooded father and useless mother!"

"You're calling me cold-blooded? After all that I've done? How da- Wait. Stop! STOP!"

The noise was frightening. The girl started to cry. The boy went over and held her hand – a gesture of comfort for both the girl and himself.

"You FOOL!" The man's roar was so loud and angry. The boy felt his own tears leaking once more. "YOU KILLED OUR SON! YOU KILLED HIM!"

There was more yelling and crying and shouting and smashing. There was stomping and pushing and protesting and the front door slamming shut.

Then there was silence and the man sobbing and the girl wailing and the boy wishing that he could just forget it all.


[MAY, SATURDAY]

Dib woke up with a start, feeling very cold and yet sticky with sweat.

Just… what was that?

It was a nightmare so vivid that it felt more of a distant memory than an elaborate fantasy.

That woman.

There was a nagging sense of familiarity. He felt as if he should recognise that woman, but he did not. All he saw in the woman was himself, just as how people saw the illustrious Professor Membrane in him.

Could it be?

But was he not a clone of his dad? He did not have a mother, right?

He voiced his question at the breakfast table.

Gaz's eyes left her console for an ephemeral moment, left thumb poised above the directional arrows while her right clutched a spoon before a bowl of cereal, and then she broke the gaze with a violent stab into her bowl, left hand becoming a blur before the Game Slave 2.

"Why don't you go find out yourself?"

"Gaz! You know! Just tell me the answer, I- "

"You don't have the time because Zim is an alien and you have to stop him from taking over the world?" His sister finished his sentence flawlessly.

"Yeah I-"

The bowl cracked. The table cracked. Milk flew. His eyes widened. He never knew Gaz could stab so hard with a spoon. It was unsettling.

"You're the same as Dad," she growled, body trembling with what Dib could only assume was rage. "All you two care about is work. Who cares about family? Who cares about Mum? Well guess what, no one!"

It isn't rage, Dib thought as he caught sight of the shimmer in her eye once more before she turned away. It was pain. A howling loneliness that fuelled her perpetual hatred for the world.

It made the guilt twist at his insides when he thought of just what kind of a brother he was to have only noticed it the day before.


Zim had deactivated all his cameras, much to his surprise. Since when was the alien competent enough to do that? It worried Dib that he now had no means of finding out what Zim was up to. It worried him even more that Zim actually (and finally) managed to find his cameras and terminate the feed.

He had planned on paying Zim's base a visit. But the shimmer and the cracked table came to mind and unleashed the clawing guilt once more.

Thus he found himself before his father's room - or what was supposed to be his father's room. Since Dad rarely came home (and never stayed the night), the room had become nothing more than the mysterious and forgotten room in the house that no one entered.

He didn't even bother to lock it, Dib thought as he pushed the door open. It was a rather baffling contrast when compared to his lab's radically tight security.

The air got his attention first. It was stale, musky and heavy with an acerbic stench that made Dib's stomach flip. The room was shrouded in darkness, illuminated only by the pale light from the doorway. Instinctively, Dib reached for where he thought the switch to be, but immediately withdrew his hand with a muffled yelp when he brushed against something soft and sticky. His eyes soon adjusted to the glum darkness and he noted how dust and cobwebs had accreted to form a layer thicker than the walls themselves. He made a mental note to keep away from the walls.

There was the occasional bric-a-brac which hinted at the social life his father once had and the cornucopia of oddments that seem to be ubiquitous throughout the room, but somehow he managed to strike gold.

It was a cardboard box hidden under a curtain of web and dust, which he carefully extracted with a pair of scissors and a nuclear-powered hairdryer.

'Our First and Last Project' read the label.

Our? Dib thought as he opened the shabby box. There was only a heap of metal and a piece of yellowed paper. He took the paper.

Dear Paper,

This is my first and last time writing on you, but I have no choice! My emotions run rampant and I fear that my ire will wreck my electronic journal if I touch it. Thus, I have no choice but to rely on such a primitive form of data entry if I am to let my emotions out.

It's about my wonderful wife, sometimes my insane wife but still mostly my wonderful wife. She has a beautiful passion that burns as fiercely as mine and an astounding gift for technology that surpasses even me. It is such a shame that she devotes her passion and skills to investigating the paranormal. Why, if she would just work together with me on REAL SCIENCE, we would cause such an uproar in the scientific community!

Well, actually, we did combine our efforts once. I was intent on making the world's first space-time object replacement device which would have allowed us to change history and make the world a much better place. She was intent on making a space-time object replacement device to ruin an alien invasion (oh, my poor insane, delusional wife!). And thus, since our interests coincided, we decided to join efforts for this project.

We managed to built a prototype, thanks to my mastery of REAL SCIENCE and her amazing aptitude for technology. But we never got to test it out, for my wonderful wife insisted on making further adjustments that would allow the object sent to adapt to its target's surroundings, 'in case the alien world is completely different and unsuitable for whatever object we send across to exist'. Ah, my poor insane, delusional wife!

Unfortunately, today happened before we managed to declare the project complete.

I am still in shock. And furious. Very, very, very furious! So furious that you will combust if I ever pen my fury down.

She killed our child. I cannot believe it! She killed our child! Threw him into the blasted device! I cannot believe that she would allow her delusions to fool her into making that dreadful choice!

Now she is gone, and I cannot decide on whether to be sad or glad. Either way I am swearing off love and romance. If I have learned anything from this madness, it is that love is a cruel emotion that invites tragedy, and that anyone who would want to build a space-time object replacement device is a complete moron!

A man of science cannot be distracted. I have decided to quit my current job and work for myself. It will be a full-time dedication so that I can support this household.

Actually even after writing all that down I feel no better than before. I shall just place you together with the shattered remains of our project in a box and hide it in a corner. Why didn't I throw you away? Perhaps for some other purpose, like having a nosy kid discover you or something like that.

Dib stared at the yellowed page. And then he read it again. And again. Each time, the word 'wife' stood out the most and gave him inexplicable chills.

He had a mother. Why could he not remember?

It tore at him. The frustration. He saw the woman in his dream – an enormous head like him, black hair, slightly willowy but not scrawny, donned a black trench coat (oh yeti, she gave him his coat didn't she?) and wore black gloves – but there was no face. He could not remember her face.

And memories of her. Where were they? Were they locked up in some abysmal cage within his subconscious? Or was he such a terrible son that he could not remember their time spent together at all?

He felt a tap on his shoulder and he whirled around, startled. Gaz was there – one hand working tirelessly on her gaming console while the other was held out to him. A photograph. Dib took it with trembling hands and stared.

The photograph was framed with creases impressed with painful emotions from the numerous times it had been pressed into with the thumb and index finger too hard. Parts of it had faded with tear stains, but the faces were all there.

A younger version of himself – three or four years old perhaps – with the brightest of smiles that illuminated the entire picture. His right hand raised with a spacecraft model (the Phoenix, Dib recognised that model which was still on his desktop), his left hand linked together with the right of a meek looking girl, her round eyes peeking out from under a lowered head of black hair and her small smile barely perceptible from the light shadows of her face. It's Gaz, he thought. Gaz before she dyed her hair purple and stopped wearing pink princess dresses. Gaz before she turned to gaming and withdrew herself from the world. Gaz before she stopped smiling and started hating.

But what caught his attention most were the two figures crouched behind them so that they would all fit snugly into the photograph. Two. There, behind young Gaz, was his dad. He was not wearing a lab coat. Instead he was clad in casual attire to accommodate the stifling heat of the park they were at. And Dib saw his father's eyes – not concealed under that ever-present lab goggles of his – brimming with so much paternal pride and love it was chimerical. Dad was never home. He never spent time with his family. All you two care about is work. Who cares about family? Who cares about Mum?

Mum. The woman crouched behind him, with a face-splitting grin that rivalled that of his younger self. The warm squinting eyes. The sharp cheekbones. The plain, nubby nose. The face he saw reflected back to him every morning in the bathroom.

The picture was so whole. So complete. It made the emptiness he never knew existed within him so profound. It drew out the memories locked behind the cages, and he saw the intimate hugs, the blithesome outings and the meals spent together, the smiling siblings and the loving parents.

The picture-perfect family.

And then he found himself crying into his sister's shoulder with her free hand pressed onto his back, their loneliness riddling the gloom of the abandoned room with its flotsam of better times and jetsam of a family. All the while the only sound that joined in his quiet sobs was the pew pew pew of the Game Slave 2.


[MAY, SUNDAY]

For the first time, Dib woke up to the second Sunday of May feeling hollow and subdued. There was no Mum to celebrate the day with, but there was Zim and an invasion to stop. But there was also Gaz and her words and the broken table and all of a sudden he did not quite feel like going after the alien that day.

Gaz had locked herself up in her room, Dad was attending some science conference, and Mum was somewhere out there and he had no idea where.

Mum's gone, there's no point in dwelling over it anymore, he told himself and finally decided to head over to Zim's base because at least he knew where that was.

He passed laughing families and smiling faces as he walked to Zim's base. It made him feel sick. Angry. And maybe a little envious.


Something was very wrong.

There was smoke billowing from Zim's base and detritus scattered throughout his lawn. Remnants of wires and metal stuck to the fences and littered the pathway to the front door.

The door was wide open.

He could see the back of a woman in a black trench coat standing in the middle of the doorway. Her head was monstrously large.

Ridiculous, he thought. It can't be. But he approached her nevertheless.

Then she moved aside, and he thought he saw something flying towards him, before she moved back and he was tackled aside by a screaming hurl of metal.

The shock had dulled his reflexes and he scrapped against the metal fragments with his graceless landing.

Shit, he cursed as he sat up and felt the blood seeping out from the lesions lining his arm and face. I was too careless.

He heard something screech and his head whipped around to face it. It was Zim's incompetent and crazy robot minion without the dog suit. Except, this time, its eyes were glowing a dangerous red.

There was a whirling sound. An awesome array of missiles, cannon barrels and laser guns emerged from the robot's back, their menacing tips directed at him.

"GET oFF mah MaSTAH'S lawn!" it screeched. And then it continued to screech as it started firing.

Dib ran as if the nine hells had unleashed their army of demonic hounds and bloodthirsty demons upon him, and the heavens decided to join in the fun and throw in their share of vengeful angels just for the heck of it.


Dib never suspected Zim's robot to be such a deadly adversary. By the time he managed to escape from its ruthless chase and fusillade, the sun had set and the day's festivities were over.

He groaned. His favourite coat was ripped and speckled with holes. Grime and dried blood caked his skin. His muscles were protesting vehemently from the abuse – all that running and incredible acrobatic feats certainly took their toll on his body – and his stomach was an unhappy wreck, being forced to provide energy for his day long flight with nothing but a charred piece of toast (that was not even super) and a glass of milk.

He was one miserable boy whose only saving grace was his still impeccable lightning of a hair.

And he never did find out what Zim was up to.

Sighing, he dragged his bruised body home, feeling more despondent than he did in the morning.


It must be a dream, he thought. I'm so tired I'm starting to see things.

He had returned home, only to find Gaz crying into the embrace of a woman with a laughably huge head.

Gaz. Crying.

The woman raised her head, took notice of his gawking and gave him the smile that had been absent from more than half of his life.

"Welcome home, Dibby."

And then he joined Gaz in the crying.


"I'm really sorry. I am a coward and a terrible mother, leaving the family like that. I'm really really sorry."

"It's okay, Mum," Gaz sobbed. "You're here now."

"Yes," their mother smiled. "Yes. I'm here now."

And then Dib laughed and Gaz and Mum joined in the laughter and they had a wonderful hug together, smiles adorning their tear-streaked faces.


At least now he knew why Gaz expressed such pure loathing for him. He had Mum's genes, but never acknowledged her existence after she left. Gaz was the clone, the one with strange abilities and a terrific memory at the age of five. The one left alone to mourn the departure of a mother. The one left alone to cling onto the discarded memory of a happy family.

"I've seen your works, Dibby. You're doing really well – you just have to work on your presentation skills or you'll never get enough credibility for the other members to believe you."

"Wait, you know about the network? And how are you keeping track of my activities? Spy cam?"

She waggled a finger at him. "No cam, Dibby. Just think about it. Who haven't you contacted in the network?"

Only one, he thought. The mysterious person whom none of the members had ever seen or talked to. The only one who actually believed enough in him to send an invitation.

The elusive founder.

Her coat shifted and he caught sight of the eyeball insignia and he knew.

And then he heard the words he thought he would never hear in his life.

"I'm so proud of you."

He smiled. Gaz gave a grunt of protest at being ignored and they laughed and continued chatting through the lost years at the dining table while the Game Slave 2 lay forgotten on the couch.


This is the best day ever, Dib thought as his mother tucked him into bed. Even though Dad was not present, it had been a beautiful evening. After dressing his wounds (he remembered her being terrible at doing it in the past. Gaz always did it for him instead) and helping him to wash up, they had sat at the dining table and savoured a delightful meal – home-cooked and infused with the boundless love of a mother. Grudges were buried and stories were shared. His sister was smiling and he felt wanted. Loved. Not the poor insane son whom everyone disliked. The Membrane household was full of warmth and jubilation that evening.

He allowed a few happy tears to slip from his eyes.

This is what a family should be like, he thought as his mother brushed his hair tenderly and drew him into an embrace. Not a group of people living their own dreams.

"I missed you so much, Dibby." She pressed her lips against his ears tenderly, whispering. "Run."

And then he noticed her trembling.

He drew back from the embrace and saw the wild, haunted look in her eyes. Saw the flash of metal in her right hand, shaking violently.

He struggled, but her adult strength overwhelmed him.

"I'm sorry Dibby." Her voice cold, strained. "I must infiltrate and kill the Dib."

She was trembling so vigorously, a futile battle. She drew the knife to him and he felt fear. Fear tainted with the scent of sadness.

Because he knew that no matter what, even if it would allow him to escape death, he could never, ever, bring himself to harm a loved one.

I'm going to be killed, he thought. Killed by my own mother.

He saw the knife. He saw her tears. He saw the crazed look. The unwilling, trembling hand. And he felt an immense melancholy. The sorrow of it all.

"M-Mum… " he managed to croak out, vocal cords strangled with fear. "Mum!"

There was an ephemeral flash of lucidness in her eyes, and it was enough for the desperate mother. Dib watched as she manoeuvred the knife away from him in one swift movement and plunged it into her back. Then she twisted it, and gouged out a bloody, writhing mass of wires.


Dib could not recall ever seeing the great and eminent Professor Membrane cry.

"I can't…" His voice was trembling. "I can't save her. I can't! Science… science has never failed me! Science… I… oh I can't…"

"You can do it Dad. You can. You must." Gaz was frozen by his side. By their mother's side.

By her dying body.

"You have to stop him, Dibby." She passed him a curious purple gun. "He's going to release lots of these Control Bugs. Once plugged into the host's spine, they will take over the nervous system and force the host to obey the controller's commands.

"But that's not the real problem. The problem is that these bugs release an Irken virus into the host's systems. They are extremely hostile to foreign substances and is therefore fatal in a human's body. Rather counter-intuitive isn't it? Makes me wonder what's going on in those heads of theirs.

"Yes Dibby, I'm going to die. No, you can't save me, we have no known cure. Dad can't help. It's okay. Don't cry Dibby. Don't cry."

Gaz had called their father anyway.

"The thing I love about my job," she told him as Gaz ran out of the room and he sat by her side holding her hand, feeling very scared and helpless, "is that we're searching for things that exist despite the overwhelming odds that it doesn't. It's beautiful isn't it? A miracle – that despite that infinitely small possibility of it's existence, it actually exists. Just like your lost brother. I was utterly convinced that he was gone forever. That maybe, I had really killed him.

"But then it happened. A miracle happened. I saw him. Met him even."

Her eyes met his, and he saw the intermingled joy and sorrow in those warm brown pools. She tightened her grip on his hand.

"You have to find him, Dibby. He may be a little crazy and confused, but he's lost and alone in a world that he doesn't belong in. I worry for him when clarity strikes and he sees the harshness of reality. When that day comes, I want him to have a family's support by his side."

Then the happiness drained from her eyes and he saw them glazed over with so much melancholy and torment.

"It's all my fault. It's all my fault Dibby. It's my fault that he's a defect. It's my fault that you are ostracised. It's my fault that Gaz is lonely. It's my fault that your dad can only seek comfort in his work-"

And then Gaz had returned with their dad, curtailing her painfully self-loathing words.

"I can't! I don't believe it myself, but I just can't!" Their father was shouting now, his hands gripping the monitor so tightly, Dib thought it might just crack. "What in the world is this? It's so… so… so alien!"

"No, Dad!" Gaz was shouting too.

"Oh shush, all of you!" Mum chided from the bed. Her deathbed. "Can't a woman die peacefully?"

She said that in such a casual manner, Dib thought that he should laugh at the morbid irony of it all. Despite her blithe words, he could see her face contorted in pain as the virus tore at her from the inside.

"Listen, all of you. Yes, including you mister man of science, stop fiddling with that monitor and come closer! You don't have to waste your time saving me. Just save humanity, alright? And stop with the crying, because I don't deserve it. And, I've already got the best Mother's Day gift possible – seeing my family and being able to say I'm sorry."

Gaz threw herself into their mother's embrace and started to wail. Dad shook his head, muttering, "Oh, my dear noble and so very foolish wife," and inserted himself into the embrace. She motioned for him to join in – the final embrace before she embraced death itself. But Dib stood away, away from that incomplete family hug of tears and goodbyes and shook his head.

"No, Mum. This isn't the best Mother's Day gift possible. You just wait. I'm going to get you something better."


[MAY, SUNDAY]

I was exceedingly furious and frustrated. What in the Tallests' sacred name is the meaning of this fatuity?

All had been going smoothly. The Control Bug's status showed that the filthy female host was carrying out my orders accordingly.

And then the status went from 'Obedient Slave' to 'Rebelling Slave' and finally 'Link Dead'.

Useless, asinine device! It must be a faulty product! But no – the Almighty Tallests would never send a faulty product to their greatest Invader. It must be that evil woman's doing!

But she was under complete control. Yet she managed to break free of it. Impossible! No amount of scummy human willpower can conquer our superior Irken technology!

So why did the Control Bug fail?

Why?

The question burned, but I did not know the answer.


It was barely an hour after the disappointing failure of the Control Bug when the Dib showed up at my doorstep, pleading for my help like the pathetic worm he is.

Ah, it delighted me so - seeing my annoying nemesis grovelling for my assistance. I had no qualms in scoffing at his pitiful pleas, and of course gave him an outright spurning. He was a complete moron for thinking that the great Zim would be inane enough to aid an enemy! Ha!

He sighed, and once again I relished the look of utter defeat on his filthy face.

"Okay Zim, I won't ask you for a cure. At the very least, please, just come with me and see her before she dies. I swear I will stop chasing you and getting in your way if you would just come with me."

Now that surprised me. What a terrible proposal! Terrible for him, that is. What would the Dib gain by having me see a dying woman? It sounded too good to be true, but of course I would not pass up such an easy opportunity to get rid of my rival. Conquering this worthless rock would be a simple task without any stinking Membranes getting in my way.

I gave him a nod of assent, but once again the question burned within me.

"Why?"

I did not need to hear his reply to know the answer.


The day got more bizarre.

When I arrived at the Membrane's miserable hovel, I was greeted by an exceptionally queer sight.

Probably the strangest of all was how the Dib-sister was behaving. It was very… un-Dib-sister like. Her face was wet and scrunched up, and she was staring at me, but not in her usual all-consuming-loathing way. I thought I saw Double-I the Second under her arm, but she hid it in her sleeve after she saw me staring and I could not ascertain my suspicions.

Then there was the Dib-father without his goggles on, his face all wet and scrunched up like the Dib-sister. What is this – wet and scrunchy face day? Even the Dib-monkey's face was wet.

And there was the female fiend, hooked up with wires and intravenous drips, face also wet but smiling.

All of them kept staring at me as I followed Dib-stink into the room. It was rather unsettling.

The next moment I found myself in some ridiculous group hug. I was squished in the middle of the Dib-mother and the Dib-father. They had their arms all over each other and all over me. I could have forced my way out of the stifling hug and escaped, but I was too stunned and merely stood there like a complete fool. It was a strange, strange experience. It was just a meaningless group hug, and I was in contact with their slimy human skins, but I started to feel this peculiar warm and rather comforting sensation that was confusing me and my PAK – this foreign sensation was messing up its program.

When the hug finally broke, I returned to my base feeling weird and slightly disorientated. That was perhaps the reason why I even considered the absurd notion of finding a cure for the virus.

Preposterous. Why should I?

Still, it was indeed a most perplexing day.

Humans and their LOVE.

Zim cannot understand it.