So sorry about the wait guys! On the bright side though, things start picking up finally!

Enjoy.


CH.4


Screeching of an unfamiliar sort caused Gaz's eyes to flick open, eyelids heavy with the weight of sleep deprivation. With a sort of reluctance that could not be put into words, she shifted her muscles and found herself sitting upright in bed, facing the window in time to watch dangling feet disappear onto the roof. With an off-handed sight, she mumbled the word "security" and rolled back over to slip easily back into sleep.

When next she woke, it was four in the morning, and a pair of seething red eyes peered at her through the pre-morning darkness.


In the galaxy that happened to be of a fairly close region to Earth sat a bulky ship. Said ship appeared to be a clusterfuck of polygons, the same shade of purple-grey as titanium. The hull glowed a deep startling egg-shell yellow that burned the surroundings stars out of sight. The absurd metal creatures currently hovered around the orbit of the formed planet no one cared about anymore: Pluto. And aboard the shit, two creatures +1 were playing an eternal round of 21.

One slapped a hand on the table, "Hit me."

He received a card almost instantaneously, slotted it in his deck, and began the first conversation that had happened in days.

"I don't remember this asteroid," he said, a frown directed towards the oval windows.

"The ships on auto-pilots," the dealer said. No one but he seemed to notice this was the most recent times of many he'd said so. "It knows where we're going."

"But we're going in a circle," said the other.

"The ship needs recharging," reminded the second, for the 7th time. "It's off in orbit while we drink up the solar energy from the sun."

"When did we run out of battery?" Demanded the second, with far less outrage than the word 'demand' insinuated.

"Eh," the first creature glanced at an atrocious, compact mess on the table that seemed to be how they were to tell time. "About," a yawn overtook his words, and he tapped a button. A soothing, misty spray rejuvenated him enough to continue. "Sixteen hours."

"We're gonna be here another 8 then," said the extra, tossing the second another card. He sighed heavily, and the game started anew. "That's what we get for not recharging at Central Noxitord."

"Noxitord's stench would have stunk up the ship for months," said the first. "It's not called Noxious Noxitord for nothing!"

"Nah, you're thinking of Noxicant," corrected the third. "Noxicant smells like dead row . . . eh, rouse . . . Hey, Morgan! What's the word you guys called your red, biodegradable decorations?"

The dealer, a man with pepper-speckled hair and a startlingly smooth complexion, glanced up with furrowed brows. "Are you talking about flowers?"

"Yeah, a specific one though. Red ones. You give packs of them to court one another."

"Roses?"

"Yeah! Roses," the creature frowned. "What were we talking about before then?"

A very sad, forlorn look slid across the face of Morgan as he observed his companions. The game was in the process of restarting once more, and he watched gloves- far too shiny and clean to coincide with the beings house within the tank- pick up and weigh their hand. Memory loss, repetitive actions that happened for days on end. Morgan loved these two, he really did. They were like the brothers he never had. But the Degradation was happening so fast, and maybe it was wrong of him to not just put them down before they noticed, but he had to do something.

It was moments like these, when he'd been dealing with and re-dealing the same deck for hours on end, that Morgan Dwicky was reminded of what it was like to be completely and utterly afraid. The utter hopelessness of his situation physically pinned him to his seat, his fingers turning to lead before his very eyes. The cards fell like leaves and scattered both onto the floor, the table, and laps of the players. Such unlikely friends, brought together by his own skepticism and the brilliance of a young boy. Friends he believed he owed his life to, and at the very least, his salvation. Once upon a time, he had been nothing more than a school counselor attempting to treat reluctant tweens who'd rather watch him burn with them instead of accept his help. That poor Membrane kid's reluctance to allow him into his world had been no surprise, but the utmost trust he thrust upon Dwicky at the first sign of friendship had been startling and inexplicably sad. He was aware their was a sister somewhere, but he'd never caught sight of her, just as he'd never caught sight of Membrane himself, as he'd been secretly hoping to.

He shook the thought off. Besides, the boy nor the sister would be what he was searching for this time. No; he needed the alien's help.

And he had eight hours to figure out how he was going to get it.


"And in other news, dangerous schizophrenic hobo Mike Leonards was finally located late last evening on a farm. The owners of the estate were out of town in holiday-."

"GIR!"

"-Leonards was discovered hiding out after two out-of-town children, the victims of alleged assault and brief kidnapping carried out by Leonards, alerted neighbors-."

Click.

Gir blinked a few times, dazed, before turning his attention to the being who'd shut off the television. Oh.

His hand shot up in a strangely frantic wave. "Hiya!"

Zim's antennae fell flat against his head. "You didn't hear a word I just said, did you?"

"Mmm," Gir considered this carefully. "Nope."

Zim growled briefly before turning on his heel and marching towards the door. "Just protect the house while I'm gone!"

"Have a good day at camp!"

The door slammed shut behind him.

Gir hummed to himself, staring at the blank screen a while. He continued to forget to turn the TV on. Eventually something outside moving by the window caught his fleeting attentions and, still humming, he hopped down from the couch and trotted over. Without any regard to discretion, Gir pressed his hands and face flat against the glass and peered at the outside world.

Nothing if interest.

"Huh," he said aloud. "Oh well!" And began to turn. The thing in his peripheral sensors moved again.

When next Gir spun around, every indication sensor was on high alert and his eyes burned a feral red. His focal scanners perused the neighborhood, combing every millimeter of landscape with suspicious eyes. Gir HAD seen something. He KNEW he had. Master had said to protect the camp sight. He would be very angry if he let the other team sneak up and steal their flag while he was away.

Everything looked normal. A woman sat on her lawn sunbathing, despite the fact that it was well into the night. Someone else was watering their lawn, in spite of the fact their sprinklers were already on. A squirrel was sitting on a rooftop at the end of the block watching him-.

Gir's eyes narrowed further, his zoom catching the shadow that was not a squirrel dart away.

"INTRUDER ALERT!" He shrieked. "MUST CAPTURE THE FLAG!"


Zim had planned for very much to happen today.

It was dark, but this planet lacked the capacity to truly blind him from anything he wanted to say. There was no corner, no space dark enough where anything could hide from him.

But this . . . this was a different kind of darkness.

His head was swarming with a million buzzing thoughts, his veins still burning with the anger of an event that had happened two days ago.

His eyes turning to the absurd, tiny figure on the porch steps before suddenly his entire face had exploded with pain and fire.

He bit his tongue until his eyes watered, uncurled his hands, and observed the house as the air did its best to freeze

Her nails had scratched into his cheeks. He'd checked his reflection this morning to find his face etched with thin white lines from where they'd healed. Any other filthy human would have had pink scars, flushed with blood just waiting to come bursting out. Thin grafts of skin that had reached across the wound and etched together would be the only thing holding it back. But Zim's skin had been near perfect but a few hours later, even if these thin lines persisted. He removed his gloves and smoothed his fingertips over the scars, feeling only the barest hint of a change in texture. Not much longer and he'd be whole again.

At least, on the surface.

Gir, as always, hadn't heard a word of what he'd said. It hadn't been particularly important, and he'd been mostly talking to himself anyways, but that wasn't the point. Gir should have listened anyways because that's what he was meant to do. He was meant to function, to be efficient and destructive and terrible. He wasn't mean to rot on a planet for someone else's entertainment. He had a job, he had a job, he had a job . . .!

Zim wasn't sure when he had gotten to the point of crawling up the house, but he was. He only realized it when his metal leg slipped on the icy exterior of the two-story home, and his boot squealed against the glass as his feet fought for purchase. Scrambling, his fingers finally caught hold of the rails of the roof rafters and he pulled. For a few terrifying moment, he thought he was going to fall.

But, finally, instinctively, his PAK legs shot out and buried themselves in the roof. Slowly, he began to reel himself in, watching his relieved breath fan out in front of him. It was truly freezing out here.

When he looks up, he almost screams. But his choked cry drowns out the noise, and all that comes forth is a squeak of surprise as he is shoved backwards, each limb dragged down by the weight of what appears to be red-eyed electronic monsters. Terror seizes his limbs as his talons, attempting to wedge themselves into the roof, only manage to tear off a few panels as he is ripped away from the roof and hurled over the edge of the building. His nails give a painful wrench away from skin, a sensation that causes tears to blossom along his ducts. His side collides harshly with the outer wall of the house, and he finds himself dangling in the air, held aloft by his collar. He only has time to appreciate the choking, helpless sensation before the uncomfortable toy-like electronics are crawling along his body.

"IdEnTiFy YoUrSeLf, InTrUdEr," demands one in a synthesized vibrato.

When he fails to answer besides an outraged shriek, the spider that has stabbed him to the wall uproots himself, and he is falling.

Before he has the chance to stop himself, a snare around his ankle catches him and with an unforgiving jerk, he finds himself upside-down. More hands crawl along his hips and belly until a small robotic monkey hangs in his face, red eyes boring holes through him. This time it does not bother to demand answers before scanning a grid-pattern along his face until it reaches his neck, and in an attempt not to go blind at the unforgiving light, he glances behind. The glance reveals the spider slowly making its way towards them as a thick snake clings to the rafters and holds him by the ankle. More toys watch from various places surrounding him, and he has no doubt if he were to bend himself backwards, he would find another animal ready to catch him should he prove uncooperative. Irritated, he begins to struggle and maneuver into a more PAK-friendly position.

"IdEnTiTy CoNfIrMeD."

And he freezes.

Dib.

He must have-!

Before Zim's thoughts can get too far and too afraid, the monkey continues.

"WeLcOmE: foreign child," the last part is said in a recorded voice that is unmistakably Membrane's. Regardless of the unexpected change, Zim feels rightfully wary. Even as the toys push him into the upright position and drag him towards a cracked window, he is justifiably afraid. "PlEaSe CoMe InSiDe AnD eNjOy A CoMpLiMeNtArY BeVeRaGe."

The window is thrown open by the monkey and (what he believes to be) squirrel ahead of him, and Zim is thrown into the room. He laments the loss of feeling in his limbs and moans quietly into the dark.

"PlEaSe WaIt HeRe foreign boy UnTiL SoMeOnE AwAkEnS To EnTeRtAiN YoU."

The monkey scans him once more and beeps twice in what appears to be robotic satisfaction. Groaning once more, Zim watches the unnerving creatures scamper/crawl/slither/fly into the inky darkness that surrounds them. He manages to roll off his quivering squeedily-spooch onto his side, though this alleviates nothing. Panting breathily, Zim decides that maybe trying to blow up the Membrane fortress wasn't the best of ideas as he waits for his eyes to adjust. But unfortunately he has only been lying mere minutes before something shifts in the first the black shape moves and rubs at its facial area, probably the eyes, letting out a quiet yawn that has Zim's lip curling. He has been tossed like a sack of poxu berries on this horrible creature's floor, utterly defenseless, and she doesn't even have the decency to look properly smug about it. There should at least be SOME glaring, a complimentary grin of triumph to go with it. He'd settle for a vicious little smile. Really, it was like she didn't know how to do anything properly.

"Dolls," she mutters. "Threat?"

"HaNdLeD, My LaDy," says the familiar chilling voice. As Zim peers over to his right shoulder, he finds a bot has taken the liberty of remaining with him without his notice. It bothers him greatly that he had no idea of its presence, but is too offended by its proximity to him to properly worry. He has been thoroughly thrashed, after all. Mistakes tend to happen when ones brain is still quivering in fear of being slammed into his skull again.

The female mumbles something sleepy that makes the robot at the upper left of his head tip it's beak (this one appears to be some type of exotic bird) and disappears with it's horrifying comrades. In bed, Gaz rolls over and appears to be searching for sleep.

Zim, feeling oddly uncomfortable, finds himself once again alone in the dark. And the quiet. And the silence. With a girl he'd fully intended to kill sleeping beside him, and her equally targeted brother in the other room.

Needless to say, it was a peculiar sensation to be trapped exactly where he needed to be without any of the means to act. A sort of helpless, frustrating feeling really. Zim was kind of tired of it already.

With a grunt, Zim shoved his quivering and uncooperative muscles into action as he pushed himself onto his elbows.

The figure in bed bolted upright.

Zim was valiantly making an effort to stay just as vertical as she but it was hardly easy. There was a zing in his head that was making him flinch and it was hard to concentrate. His eyes swung slowly in and out of focus. He only just managed to see the little she-devil's fingers place something in her eyes before she was rubbing them both.

When she opened them again, she absolutely seethed, pinning him where he sat.

"You," she hissed. "Make one move, and my robots are going to pick off your skin and eat it. And you'll be alive for every minute of it. Got it?"

Zim snarled at her. Had he the energy, he would have torn her jugular out with his teeth for making such a threat. But as it was, his compliance wasn't something he could control. And by the curl of Gaz's upper lip, his snarl wasn't exactly intimidating enough to inspire her repentance.

"What are you doing here?" She demanded, having interpreted his immobility as compliance.

Zim, smug, believed it would be best to tell her the gruesome truth.

"I came to blow your house up," he sneered.

It didn't have quite the effect he's wanted.

"Wow," she snorted. "What were you gonna do? Put a bomb on the roof?"

"Yes!" He hissed, triumphant that she'd finally begun to go about things properly. "Cower in fear at the ingenious of ZIM!"

Her brow quirked, eyes briefly flicking up towards the roof. "Is there a bomb on my roof right now?"

"Well . . . No, not yet." He huffed, shooting eyes in the dark corner. "You've impressive security, baby worm child, but it won't keep your beloved hovel safe forever!"

"Do you scream like this all the time, or are you just trying to wake Dib up so that you two can have your little comic-book moment together?"

Zim's growl of outrage was notably quieter than his previous ones. The LAST thing he needed, now that he actually thought about it, was the filthy Dib-stink freaking out again. It was sickening how protective he was about his sister-unit. Irkens looked out for no one but themselves, as it should be. To depend on anyone for anything was just foolish.

He sneered. "What are you waiting for then, pig-monkey? Go ahead! Call your hippo-headed brother to come save his 'precious little sister'."

Finally, she reacted.

"I don't need ANYONE to come save me, least of all my cripple of a brother. And especially not with something as brainless as YOU." Her eyes flicked down. "And definitely not when you're special backpack is broken."

Zim's antennae collapsed and his brain went white for a moment. Just a moment. But it was enough for his PAK to zap him back into awareness; a soldier need always be vigilante in the face of the enemy.

"It's recharging," he hissed, trying to stuff down his panic. "Not broken!"

Gaz hardly looked impressed. "It's blinking in and out."

"You can't understand the complex superiority of Irken technology!"

"Yeah. Okay." She threw her blankets aside, letting her feet touch the carpet. "Get out of my house."

Zim made to move forward when he felt pain lance up along his PAK connectors. His teeth clenched at the pain, releasing an angry hiss of air. Gaz's eyes flashed amber in the dark, raising her thin little stick-fingers beside her ear.

"That wasn't a request, actually." She snapped. "I told you stay away from my house you little freak. And now, you're in it. What part of stay the hell away did you not understand?" Her hand snapped up before he could respond. "Never mind. It's too early in the morning for this shit. Security!"

Before she'd even finished her tempered screech, Zim was faced with the shock of metal cutting off his circulation. The small female moved like a snake, feet positively gliding across the floor as she approached. It was intimidating, but more important then her grace was the lethal situation he was now in. His PAK was humming. He needed to recharge. If she kept him here-.

Her blunt fingernails dug into his skin, forcing his face back to hers.

"Do you think this is some kind of game?" She demanded. "Because whatever this is, I'm not playing. I don't do games, Zim. I'm not Dib. If you go head-to-head with me, it'll be war, and I can guarantee you that it's going to get ugly, fast. Too fast. You won't keep up; you'll lose, and I will destroy you. I will end you, do you understand me?"

"If you think that your pathetic excuses for threats will scare me away from you, you're wrong, she-beast. Zim fears nothing, least of all a human child."

Her face turned incredulous, a wry smirk appearing on her face. "You think that the inability of other members my race is going to keep you safe?" Her hand fell away from his skin, any hint of amusement disappearing. She was as utterly bored as she'd always been. "You're funeral. Security, delete this bio-signature from the admissions coda." She began making her way back to her bed, not so much as casting a glance back as she crawled into her cocoon of comforters.

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"Oh yeah."

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"If he comes back, kill him."


So. Sorry. For not updating in months. My life is . . . crazy, at the moment. But hey, progression, yeah?

Happy New Years!