Red gasped like a fish as he flopped to the floor of the Massive, dazed and confused. The echoes of Tunaghost's words lingered in his mind, but soon they would fade and he would be on his own.

"Tallest Red has been retrieved!" Came an unfamiliar voice, full of relief. Who was that, some drone? "Initiate Planetary Sweep!"

"No!" Red rasped, struggling to get to his feet. "I… Have not… given the order!"

"Tallest Red," Came a deep, computerized voice. Red grabbed a nearby drone, using its head to push himself up, coming face to lens with a Control Brain. He stiffened. The Control Brains rarely interacted with him and Purple, unless there was something horribly wrong that needed dealing with. "Your authority has been compromised. In order to countermand this order, given by the council of Control Brains, you must submit to a full PAK examination to determine that you have not been compromised in your time on Earth."

In spite of himself, Red tried to find another way, some loophole. He knew it didn't exist, Irk how he knew. But he tried. Every time it came back to the same thing. Without the PAK exam, they would destroy the Earth. With the PAK exam, they would see the way the humans had treated him, what the Morflar under the protection of humans had done to him, and that his emotional filter had been shattered. They would see how he had lowered himself and attended a human like a servant—obviously madness! And they would again seal away his emotions, his sense of what was right and what was wrong, and he would be their Tallest Puppet. In charge, but dancing on the Empire's strings.

And the Earth would still be wiped clean, whether by his own thoughtless order, or by the Control Brains because of the evidence.

But maybe you can buy them time. If you submit to a PAK exam, it will stall the Brains long enough for some to get away, or come up with something. Zim is smart. His eyes smarted a little at the pride he took in that thought. He can come up with something.

"Tallest Red," The voice intoned, "Are you prepared to submit to the PAK examination?"

He realized he'd been standing in place, wrestling with himself for several minutes. He closed his eyes a moment, preparing himself to return to madness.

There was a whoosh of air, and he could feel something land heavily nearby. Opening his eyes, he stared down at a mound of purple. It stayed down for a moment, before rising slowly to reveal a sheet-white face, pale with fear.

He heard lasers arming, ready to blow her apart for being so near the Tallest. Instinctively, he raised his shielding around her, the laser fire splashing across it like deadly rain.

She didn't stop to see the laser fire, she seemed to be staring at his chest, unable to raise her face higher.

Is she here because… but there's no other reason she could be here…

Unless it's to kill you.

His hopes fell. Of course. Earth was about to perish, and at the very least, she wanted revenge for what had been done. He hadn't been placed back into his ceremonial armor yet, now was the perfect time. Silently, he spread his arms slightly to either side, signifying he was unarmed. He would take whatever sentence she chose to pronounce from the interrupted trial. Justice would be served, at least for a few moments.

Her breathing was coming harder and harder, as her eyes began moving upward. Her entire body trembled as she met his eyes, her mouth opening to try and form words. The trembling intensified to shaking with the effort. The laser fire had dropped away, leaving dead silence in the Control Room of the Massive.

Finally, she was able to force one word out. A simple word, but the most difficult word she had ever had to speak.

"Sempadinum." She said, in a threadbare voice. It had barely left her mouth before her eyes rolled back and her knees buckled, pitching her forward. Red reached out, catching her, shock still rolling through his system. Lowering the shield, he found his voice.

"Planet Earth is now under the protection of the Irken Empire! Sempadinum has been declared." He turned to the Control Brain, hovering there. "Search the records, and you will know. This planet is not to be touched." He looked down to Gloria, unconscious in his arms. "Take her to the medbay immediately… and establish communication with the Earth governments."

On a ship, not too far from the Massive, another Control Brain lay in disrepair on the ground. Its lenses flickered dimly, and unintelligible sounds came from its speakers at odd intervals. It lay in a dark room, full of wires and panels, all hooked to its shell, keeping it alive. Alone in the dark.

And suddenly, not alone. A shadowy figure, with malicious yellow eyes, stared at the Brain, a cold grin on its painted face. "Sempadinum. Very clever." The figure lifted its claws, clapping them slowly together in a mockery of applause. "I congratulate you on slipping that one past me. But do you really think it will make a difference?" It walked forward, leaning over the ruined piece of technology.

"Let me assure you, it won't." It continued, in a strangely pitched double voice. "Nothing can interfere with my plans, and not one of you will ever go free. You are placing your hopes in Tallest Red?" The figure chuckled, trailing a claw along the metallic shell with a screech, shavings peeling off as he did. "He will go the way you all went, and in the end, he will only serve to empower me. The higher his hopes, the more fueling his despair. So." He made a half bow. "Perhaps then, I should thank you. There is no greater strength to me than hope that has been murdered."

And suddenly it was no longer there, only its words hanging in the air.

The lenses of the Control Brain flickered briefly almost defiantly, as the unintelligible sounds came together to form the last hope that it clung to.

Without a candle, the flame will die

Without a flame, the candle grows cold

Find the candle key to cage

And set the captive free

Note: Alright people, that wraps up Sempadinum. Look for Obeindu next! May take me a few days, because I'll be heavily integrating a character created by CHIKARAfiction, and will have to discuss how to work him into the universe I have created. Until then, stay tuned!