So, um. I don't really know how to apologize, because I'm not sorry per se, it's not my fault I've been away. I was/am RIDICULOUSLY busy; college Freshman this year, planning my new campus apartment, buying things, saving things, mentally preparing myself, etc. I said goodbye to my therapist; I am now my own supporter.

It's so weird guys, I'm basically an adult now. O.o

Regardless of my level of responsibility, I refuse to abandon this thing because I like it. Updates will be sporadic, but that just makes it all the more exciting when you see an update! Right? . . . Yeah, okay. I know, I'm sorry.



Tak awoke the familiar sound of Irken technology. The recognition lulled her into security, her throbbing headache discarded as likely an accident in the warehouse. After all, the monstrosity of a storage facility was likely older than sin, as the humans would say. Sin itself was a fascinating subject of inquiry for Tak. The comparisons between the various Gods humans upheld and the Tallest were endless in their similarities and dissimilarities. The Tallest was more akin to a dictatorship, a government figure, and yet upheld to the standard most humans would akin to God-hood. It was an endless source of entertainment for Tak in her dull hours, when plans needed time to work themselves out before she had the chance to act again. The human's had no idea just how damning their precious Internet was in regards to discovering information about their culture. Honestly, Zim couldn't have been more careless about his cover if he tried. A nearly infinite source of culture at his fingertips, and instead he chooses to mimic what he gathers from a brief observational study. He was such a imbecile.

Tak huffed out a slow breath between her teeth in an attempt to gather her bearings and think past he initial pain. It would have been immensely easier if her sensors in her PAK hadn't been shrieking warnings at her to act. Hmm. It must have been damaged when whatever collapse of mountainous wares had fallen on her. Another deep breath, including full torso expansion and antennae maneuvering showed resistance only around her back. It appeared her PAK was wedged between something, as the resistance wasn't crushing so much as it was PULLING, as though she was restrained with bubblegum. Well no wonder it was damaged if it had taken the brunt of the blow. Hopefully she could expand her PAKlegs enough to shove-

It was the sensation of unresponsiveness in her PAK altogether that finally made Tak open her eyes. At first the glare of unfamiliar central control systems burned her pupils, but like any good invader, she bore the brunt of the pain in order to better prepare herself for the situation.

The lab was Irken, though obviously no creation of hers. Or MiMi by extension. So there was only one place she could be.

She couldn't hold back the hiss of pain once faced with the glare of the monitors. Through the haze she could make out her bodily functions, and a fairly normal reading, aside from obvious trauma to her head and left knee. And now that she shifted, it did twinge a bit.

Regardless, at her small noise, a pair of antennae stalks poked above the edge of a standard issue round-backed chair. In typical dramatic fashion, it turned on its hydraulics and revealed exactly who she'd been expecting.

What rested on his lap was the not.

His smile was thin, "Tak."

She couldn't breathe. In fact she could only stare, dumbstruck, eyes flicking between the thing he petted like a cat and the readings on the screen, much clearer now that her pupils had adjusted. They were perfectly normal, which was not normal. Logically she should have more pulsing around her nerves and less pain. Her PAK should have been repairing her damages by now.

Except it couldn't possibly do any of that when it was on the other side of the room, resting comfortably in Zim's lap. He still wore that grim little smile that was far too melancholy for a creature of his sort. This wasn't right. Taking another Irkens PAK was a complete taboo. Unless it was ordered by the Tallest themselves, PAK removal was forbidden and highly illegal. It was a sure-fire death sentence for both victim and perpetrator. And it took everything in Tak to ignore the mantra of "WRONG!" bouncing around in her head to manage a reply.

"How. dare you!" she spat, though her chilly voice lost its effect when accompanied by the undeniable hysteria in her eyes. "The Tallest hang you, Zim!"

His smile, if possible, became even more somber. It hardly passed as a smile anymore. "Do not waste your breath, she-filth. The opinion of the Tallest matters not to me anymore."

"So they've finally dumped you, have they?" She bared teeth, an extreme sign of aggression and a sure way to start a bar fight. Anything to intimidate him. Anything to get her PAK back on. "How's it feel, Zim, to be abandoned? Not so good, eh? You should've listened to me when I told you to back off! Then maybe one of us could have been happy!"

Zim sneered, though his eyes showed far more calculated indifference than Tak was really comfortable with. What had happened to him? Surely the fiery idiot she came here to slaughter was around her somewhere. This was an imposter, a robot of some sort so Zim could maintain his composure elsewhere. But no, there were no tell-tale hydraulics, only silent movement and indifferent sneers. And it scared her unbelievably to know that such a creature held her life and freedom in its careless hands.

"It's not in my nature to let anyone take things that are mine," he replied, nails scraping against the smooth metal of her PAK. She winced, and he traced the thin, harmless marks with the pad of his fingers idly. "Why did you come back?"

"We have unfinished business to attend to," she replied curtly.

"Oh?" He said, head lilting left. "I'd thought I'd made my made point quite clearly. You aren't welcome here."

He paused his hand, frozen the way a great cat might before it pounced. And finally, some of that passion filtered into his eyes as he sneered at her.

"But if you needed a reminder, I am always happy to oblige. If you'd turn to your back, please."

Tak, of course, did not need to turn her back to know what she'd find. Irkens were not unaccustomed to working on their PAKs for extended periods of time on their own, and required the necessary life-sustaining equipment that would keep them functioning longer than a simple ten minutes. Tak knew that such equipment was exactly what she was hooked up to, and she also knew that the moment she disconnected, she'd shut down. And never waking back up was a distinct possibility, and a chance she was most definitely not willing to take.

"So that's it then?" She spat between her teeth. "You're just going to keep me captive here?"

Zim smirked with far more confidence than he actually had. In reality, he wasn't entirely sure what he was going to do with Tak. On the one hand, he could keep her here. Eventually she'd have to kill herself by disconnecting, or he'd have to do it himself. Either option left her dead, so perhaps prolonging the inevitable was unnaturally cruel.

But did she deserve such cruelty? Twice now she'd tried to destroy him, but . . .

Zim could've snarled. Sentiment was getting in the way again. His own defectiveness was rearing it's ugly head in the form of pity, of familiarity with a creature of his own race. He was in exile. It was entirely possible he would never see another Irken again in his remaining existence. Zim wasn't entirely sure he had it in him to extinguish a last opportunity to speak with one just yet.

Tak could see the strange shift between smugness to discomfort, and some of her mental footing slipped from beneath her once more. She was starting to sweat. Zim was such a volatile creature, the last type of person she'd like to be in charge of whether or not she lived or died. Her lifespan was in his hands, because there was no way he would let her go. Not even HE was fool enough to release his own undoing. Unless, perhaps, he was searching for a noble death.

Such a thought burned in Tak's gut, angered by her own carelessness. There would be no nobility in acting if Zim simply let her go. There was no win for either of them. She couldn't let him live, but she couldn't just kill him now either. It would always be there that he'd allowed this to happen. He had allowed his own death because it was what he wanted, not what she'd fought him tooth and nail to take. She couldn't touch him.

She'd failed.

Tak slowly lowered her chin to her chest, "Kill me now."

Zim's antennae twitched upward, "Eh?"

"I've weighed the options. And I'd rather be dead. So get it over with: just kill me."

And there it was. Some of the characteristics of the mad fool flooded the lines of Zim's abruptly wary face.

He frowned, "No."

Tak absolutely bristled in his direction. But before she could speak, he cut her off.

"Who do you think you are, ordering Zim around? What power do you think you have over me when you are here, entirely at my mercy with nothing to aid you?"

"At your mercy?" She sneered. "I hardly think so. It is our biological nature that keeps me from tearing your throat out this very minute you sack of worthless junk! Or have you forgotten what it is to be an Irken? Hmm? Is that it Zim? Have you finally found solace in those wretched creatures that inhabit this planet? Has their disgustingly incessant need for companionship finally rubbed off on you? I always knew you'd succumb. You didn't deserve anything but the glorious irony of befriending what you claimed to loathe in the name of your traitorous Tallest-!"

"Enough," he spat. "I'm not interested, Tak."

"Interested?" She all but shrieked. "This isn't about what interests you, you idiot!"

At her insults, Zim's smile became ominous. The force of it, and the glitter of her PAK, so fragile-looking in the hands of her enemy, forced her words to choke within her throat.

"Computer," Zim said, voice deceptively smooth. "Put the Charger into Power-Save Mode, please."

Her jaw dropped. He-!

Before she even had the chance to fully comprehend the sheer audacity of his actions, Tak's glittering purple orbs dulled to a grayish periwinkle as she slumped to her side, rag-like in her muscle control. A bit of drool began to leak from the corner of her gaping mouth, an action Zim noted with no small amount of disgust.

Following her lead, Zim slumped a bit into his chair with exhaustion, rubbing his stinging antennae with near motherly affection. He had forgotten how shrill she-Irks could be when angered. Lifting the PAK in the air with a carelessness that would have made the now-hibernating nemesis on the floor pale in terror and outrage, Zim waited for the house to return the stolen relic to its rightful hiding place in the storage room. Even if, by some miracle, she managed to manufacture a way to retain even a temporary power source and stumble upon its location, Gir's many discretions that Zim had been forced to find a place for would keep the PAK well-hidden.

With a fleeting glance in Tak's direction, Zim slipped past her husk and into the elevator. He had much thinking to do.

He flinched at the light, metallic pitch as the elevator headed upstairs, rubbing at his stocks once more. Perhaps he also had some ointment to apply as well. Either way, he realized, he was going to have to pay a visit to someone very soon.

Dib had his hands jammed in his pockets as he paced his room. They'd gotten home about half an hour ago, but neither Membrane child could seem to shake off the absurdity of their supposedly 'top-secret' investigative appointment. It wasn't the first time Dib had become enraptured in a case. It was, however, the first time Gaz had become just as perturbed as he was, if not far more subtly. Where Dib excelled in making a scene, his sister specialized in blending seamlessly into the background. Her emotions were no exception. Rather than ware a hole through her carpet, she

Right now, she was seated in his desk chair with her feet propped up on a box of junk. Not saying anything, of course, but making no signs to leave.

"How did she know?" Dib muttered aloud to himself. Thus far, Gaz hadn't answered. But her eyes briefly flicked up in his direction. "There's no way she could have known. We filed false names. The last time Dad took us to a press conference or anything public whatsoever, we were kids."

"The hairstyle is a bit of a tipoff," Gaz replied, for the first time in half an hour.

Dib paused, curling a finger around the tip of his scythe-lock and pulling it down in front of his face speculatively. He frowned, shaking his head and releasing it. It bounced back in place instantly. "No, that's not it. Tons of people have Dad's hair-cut."

"But yours lacks the greasy product-look," she retorted, finally giving up the pretense of playing her game and shutting the handheld console with a snap. "But for arguments sake, we'll assume she doesn't know the difference between a stupid haircut and natural growth."

Dib glowered at her, but considered regardless. His mind flickered back to the start of a very unnerving conversation.

"Your father is a powerful man, is he not?" The woman began, shuffling a deck of well-used cards. They had purple swirls on the back with once-shiny, gilded rims. She spoke with a knowing, amused smile as she observed the two children.

"Um, not really," Dib replied. "The most power he has is being the coach of my baseball team."

"Single, is he not?" She continued, fanning the cards out on the table without even glancing in their direction.

"Um, yeah," Dib said slowly. "Our mom died when we were younger."

"Interesting," she hummed, almost to herself.

Dib scowled a bit in offense to her casualness with such an important, personal matter. "How so?"

"That, Master Membrane," she said, shocking both children into silence. Her smile turned mischievous with amusement. "Is the first truth you've told anyone since you've arrived."

Dib shook off the thought of her confidential smirk, as though she was sharing a secret with them. Which, in all technicality, she was.

"Well, for arguments sake," Gaz continued politically, folding her hands together on her lap. "Let's say she's legit."

Dib's head swung around towards her. Her expression remained completely deadpan, but her body was just a bit too still to be anything casual.

His eyes narrowed suspiciously, "You don't believe in psychics."

Her eyes flicked into something a bit more dangerous. "No, I don't. But then again, no ones ever noticed the, um." She tapped her temple conspicuously, uncomfortably turning her eyes away from his and towards the clutter her feet rested on.

Dib too abruptly felt uneasy at the mention of one of her more . . . intuitive observances.

While the children maintained their shocked gazes, the woman continued. Her gaze flicked towards Gaz, where her eyes softened slightly.

"I apologize," she said. "That's not entirely true." Her hand swiped a card, flipping it over. Dib was aware that this was not the way things happened. He was supposed to pick cards, then she flipped the ones he chose and she interpreted them. She was skipping a step. But, through his shock, he couldn't form words to turn the situation back to his advantage.

The card held an angelic figure of a woman, catering to what appeared to be a crude depiction of a lion. It read "Strength" in fine black lettering on a scroll.

"You overcome obstacles daily, even if you choose to hide them, my dear," she said softly, reaching a hand out to touch Gaz's. His sister recoiled from her touch, and Dib pressed his arm defensively in front of his sister. The woman only looked sadder. "I admire your tenacity, sweet girl. Fate has plans for you indeed."

"How do you know that?" Dib spat, anger for his sister overwhelming his surprise. "Who the hell are you?"

"Unlike you, I am exactly who I say I am," she retorted cheekily, flipping over another card. Dib counted twenty-two total, with the Tower Card. Her gaze turned dark as she gazed at the card. "I am here to warn you children."

Dib all but jumped out of his chair, seething as his sister remained eerily still beside him. "Are you threatening us?"

"No," her eyes were hard with seriousness and severity. It made Dib's skin crawl. "Trials of hardship are coming your way, and not at all slowly. You will be tried, but," she puled two cards and laid them over the previous two. "There is hope. You may choose to accept your situation, and overcome it, or you may perish in your own stagnation. Do you understand?"

"This doesn't . . . You can't just . . .!" Dib sputtered, trying to come up with a proper way to voice his frustrations. "Why are you telling us this?"

"Because you came here for a reason, though not the one you initially believed," she replied. "Now, pick a card."

Gaz's hand was moving before Dib could make a decision, flipping it over as fast as a snake. An angelic figure, pouring water from one goblet to another. Temperance.

The woman smiled, though her expression was no less severe. She looked as though she wished to reach out again, but wisely chose not to. "You will bring peace in times of chaos."

Dib far more hesitantly let his eyes roam the remaining cards, narrowing his eyes at the woman before flipping a card. An angel with a trumpet, hovering in the sky. Judgement.

"You will bring an end to a toxic cycle," she said. "It will be easy by no means, and you will struggle every step of the way. But when you realize the benefit of removing this harm from your life, you will make the right choice."

They hadn't stuck around long after.

"She knew, Dib." Gaz hissed, fingers clenching in the fabric of her jeans. "Nobody knows."

"Hey, hey," he put his hands on her shoulders. "It doesn't matter what she thinks she knows Gaz. The thing about psychics is their vague references. Yeah, a lot of her implications seemed spot on, but she didn't really say anything damning. Our identities were a lucky guess. And knowing who our dad was, it's really only a matter of time before his work got us in trouble. She caught us off guard." He snapped his fingers as he jerked away from her. He leaned over her and began logging onto his SE account. "I'll recommend the less conspicuous agents check her out for us. It's nothing. She doesn't know anything."

She huffed, returning to her usual grumpiness with the exhale. "It's not like I'm scared or something. She was just creepy, that's all. Don't get so worked up over nothing. She's reading fortunes, not plotting world domination."

Dib frowned in a way that said he wasn't entirely sure, and Gaz rolled her eyes at him. As Dib typed up his report and sent it in, Gaz slipped out of the desk chair and onto his bed, game in hand. He observed a report, tapping the side of his mouth with a pencil. He wasn't sure when he'd say down, but he spun to face his sister a few minutes later.

"Hey," he said. "Wanna go to the fair tomorrow and stare at some misshapen freaks?"

She shrugged and stood, leaving the room. Dib smiled.

"We'll leave at noon!" He called after her before she shut her door.

So a small hint to what the next chapter will consist of:

I had a dream that I made a working ferris wheel with clothing tubs and piping. Then I had a Catwoman (the Hallie Berry one) movie moment. That's your hint.