Vex (part 1) "A change in the weather"
an "Invader ZIM" fanfic by: Christine Gavlas (
Characters are Nickelodean, Vasquez et al., some technical elements of this story are Electronic Arts
Contains mild violence and mild language, just so you know.
Guaranteed SI, fancharacter and romance-free, just so you know too. It's also low in fat
"...So as you can see, we owe our current state of economic ruin and misery to the 'neon colours' fashion trend of the early 1990's. Were it not for this catastrophe, the schoolboard would have been able to replace the defective bell which has kept you all in class for an extra 34 minutes."
A mutual groan arose from the students of Ms. Bitters' class. Ms. Bitters growled, prompting silence, and said, "Tomorrow, there will be a class field trip to Lever Beach so you all can experience the miserable state of our polluted environment first-hand. I would suggest you dress protectively for the occasion. Class is dismissed."
While the other children poured out of the classroom, one seemed to dawdle, contemplating his teacher's cryptic message. He wandered down the hall, deep in thought; a familiar shout broke his concentration and made him grimace in disgust.
"Hey, ZIM!"
Zim wheeled around and snapped, "What is it, stink-monkey?" finding himself face-to-face with Dib, his arch-nemesis and the only human who had ever been foolhardy enough to put himself between Zim and his impending world conquest. The bespectacled boy just smiled, saying, "Tell me, Zim.... Do you know what a 'beach' is?"
Zim's eyes narrowed. "Do you take me for a FOOL?! Of COURSE I know what a beach is!" He snorted indignantly and added, "The very thought that I wouldn't know offends my being... pfah! be gone." Dib stood his ground, smiling more widely than before.
"I'll give you a hint, alien scum... there's a lot.... and I mean a lot...... of water!!! And what's more, when people go to the beach, the idea is to go IN the water. It will be impossible for everyone NOT to notice your weakness when you're avoiding it like the plague!"

"I'll be there." Zim responded plainly, unphased. Now it was Dib's turn to grimace; he scowled and exclaimed, "Just you wait, Zim... tomorrow, we finish this!" then stalked off. When he was out of sight, Zim uttered a howl of anguish.
"WHAT am I going to do?!!" he cried, balling his hands into his face. "I can't risk not going, but.... ergh..... itchy... I can't stand water! It amazes me that these primitive monsters have adapted to its corrosive nature, it..." Sighing, he realized the long night of work ahead of him, and set off for his home and secret base. 'I have to figure out some kind of.... ...shield.... perhaps a second skin.'
When he reached the base, Zim instructed GIR to go onto full security mode, and retired to his laboratory to study the human phenomena of the 'beach' and a possible way around his vulnerability to water. By midnight, he had created a modified void-shield program and inputted it into his Bolt; when activated, it would form an invisible barrier between his skin and the outside world which shielded him from the cold and allowed only oxygen to pass through. He commended himself for a job well-done and went into hibernation for the night.

* * *

"...unexpected at this time of the year, but nonetheless, weather centres are reporting at least 5 inches of snowfall since early this morning, with more on the way. Our meteorologist, George Hummel, has this to....."
Barely conscious, Dib sat up, hit the "snooze" button on his alarm, and flopped back into bed. Tugging at the sheets, he realized how cold he was and regretted having left the window open the night before. '..early summer.... guess it does still get cold at night,' he thought to himself, reluctantly sitting up again, fumbling for his glasses as he crawled out of bed. "Jeez, it's cold..." he muttered, blinking as he donned his glasses and the world came into focus. Then he looked over at the window and yelled in surprise.
"It's SNOWING?!" Dib exclaimed, scrambling over to the window and slamming it shut. He stared outside at the blurry white expanse in disbelief, saying, "How is this possible? It's... since when does it snow in June?!" A knock at the door made him jump; outside, Gaz coughed and said, "Hey, skool's cancelled...." before wandering back to her room. Dib continued to stare, almost mesmerised, then shook his head and tried to sort his thoughts.
'Why would it be snowing at this time of year? Could Zim be behind this?' His eyes narrowed angrily as he thought of Zim, but he realized the idea made no sense. 'Unless he's incredibly stupid, he'd have to know that snow is the same as rain. Maybe this is just a freak occurrence?'
The sound of the radio coming back on made Dib jump again. "...ange weather patterns are being reported all across north America, and reports of sudden, unseasonal cold in Mexico City and Rio De Janeiro have scientists baffled. Could this be an effect of global warming? It has been suggested by-"
With a click, Dib turned off the radio. A look of grim determination spread across his face as he told himself that something was definitely wrong and that it was his duty to find out what, or who, was behind this strange turn in the weather.

Zim stood in the doorway, gaping in horror at the transformed landscape before him. It had come in the night, a strange white precipitate which, as far as he could tell, was composed of frozen water crystals. Though less volatile than liquid water, the crystals (predictably) melted on contact with Zim's warm Irken body, and began to burn him. (also predictably) And they were everywhere, piled up on the ground outside his door and all around- GIR had run outside and was dancing around and cheering, its metal body resistant to the water crystals.
"How.... HOW CAN THIS BE?!" Zim yelled, aghast. "What's made the sky so cold as to freeze? This is a natural disaster... this.... my mission is at stake! If this stuff keeps falling, it could bury the entire planet, and... I've got to find out what's causing this, and stop it before all is lost........"
Grabbing GIR as it danced past, Zim exclaimed, "THE BEACH MUST WAIT!!!" and ran into the house, slamming the door behind him.

Zim's first obstacle came in the observatory; snow covered the lens of his telescope, and the cloud-cover made it impossible for it to penetrate into space. Damaged from a recent mishap involving some powerlines and a sticky firing switch, the Voot Runner was undergoing repairs and unfit to fly- thus, an up-close survey of the phenomena's origin was impossible as well. With no other options, Zim teleported to the RS satellite and attempted a thermographic scan of the planet in hopes of discovering the origin of the cold.
"...This is bad news..." Zim said aloud, staring at the diagram before him. GIR stood up on the top of the workstation and cheered, saying, "This is bad news! baaaaaaaaaad.... bad baaaad.... bad! ..Wait- is that a... bad thing?"
"Yes, GIR."
"Why's dat? Issit? -ooh, I like that colour on the screen..."
Zim gritted his teeth. 'Why, oh why must I be stuck with such idiocy?!' he thought, depressed. Pointing to a green cone growing from inside the diagram, GIR asked, "What's that?" then screamed it again for good measure.
Zim squinted at the screen, and set the program on a second scan. Nervously, he said, "If we're lucky, it's just a glitch, and Earth always expels its surface heat through the south pole-"
"Ooh..... it's pretty. Greeeeeeeen... I like green."
The workstation beeped, loading the new scan. It was the same as the first, only the cone had grown slightly. "-If not, it's Vex."
"WHAT'S THAT?!" GIR screamed cheerily; Zim gritted his teeth again, yelping as they cracked from the pressure. Examining the screen, he exhaled and said gloomily, "Ifth fthe Fex. Thaf'all ifth cad be."
"Aaaah....." GIR replied, nodding. "Green."
Clutching his jaw, Zim muttered a stream of oaths. "If it's Vex, we have only two choices, GIR. We either leave now, or we-"

"Leave later?" GIR suggested. Zim scowled at the little robot, but realized the sense it had unintentionally made. Could he, one Irken Invader second class, actually stop Vex by himself? Was Earth really even worth his trouble if Vex, the White Planet, had claimed it for their own? According to the Great Histories of Irk, the Vex would not listen to mediation and could not be stopped by law. They came, they took, and they left... where the White Planet had first come from was itself unknown, and no formal communication had ever been made with its people. Even the existence of Vex was a disputed thing; were it not for a single documented account made over 600 years before the rise of the current Irken Empire, it would still be seen as legend or minstrelsong.
Zim shook his head; defeatism had never been an encouraged Irken personality trait, and it was one practically nonexistent in Invaders second class! "No, GIR, we will not leave. I have claimed this planet for the great IRKEN EMPIRE, and I will not run away from a threat, no matter how ubiquitous! Come, we have much work to do!"
And with that, he set back to his base on the surface; though unsure of how he was going to stop Vex from destroying his future conquest, or even if it was possible at all, Zim was determined to give it a shot. The Tallest would expect no less from an Invader second class!

* * *

By noon, the snowfall had reached about 16 inches; the power in Dib's neighbourhood had gone out, but his father's lab ran on a generator of its own, making it habitable in the increasing cold. Gaz played her gameslave, seemingly unphased by the weather, and Dib struggled to make sense of the situation with the limited resources he had.
"...seems to be a lot of electromagnetic disturbance in the southern hemisphere..." Dib muttered aloud, studying a computer printout. Gaz scowled and said, "Look, will you shut up? I'm trying to concentrate on this puzzle..." prompting a sigh from her brother. 'Why are people so ignorant?' Dib thought, reassuring himself that he wasn't being paranoid. He walked back to the satellite interface, only to discover that it was no longer receiving a signal; double-checking it, he discovered that the satellite had fallen into the field it had been monitering and was no longer able to transmit.
"Dammit!" he exclaimed, clenching his fists. Gaz looked up from her game and muttered, "Dad's gonna' be pissed when he finds out you've been messing with the satellite again." Dib sighed, and exclaimed, "It's NOT like last time! There's something seriously wrong going on here, it shouldn't be getting cold like this. I'm going out- you stay here, and don't let anyone into the house."
"Well, duuh," Gaz said, and went back to her game.

Dressed in an oversized parka, boots, and scarf, Dib was unrecognizable when he reached the gate of his enemy's house. The gnomes were snowed-over and didn't respond to his presence, and he pounded the doorbell for what seemed like ages before it was finally answered by GIR.
"Yeessss?" the tiny robot said, looking up at him. Dib realized he had no idea what to say, and stuttered, "Uh... Zuh... Zim. I need to talk to him."
GIR smiled. "Oh, he's busy right now."
"It's important. I, I, uh... It's really important, I need to talk to him."
"Sorry, he said the fate of the WORLD depends on it."
Dib coughed, and fumbled around in his pockets for a moment. "Would you bring me to him if I.... gave you this?" he said, producing an ancient candy-cane from the parka and holding it in front of the robot. GIR's eyes lit up. "Ooh, candycandycandy! Gimme, I want!" Dib brought his hand back, saying, "I'll give it to you... but first, I need to see Zim."
GIR cheered, and pulled the boy into the house. "Okay, he's down here in his la-bror-a-tory..... candy?" the robot said. Dib looked in disbelief at the toilet GIR was pointing to. "You're kidding, right?"
"Candy!" the robot squealed, snatching the candy-cane and shoving Dib into the 'can in one graceful sweep. Dib gave a yell of protest before realizing it was simply an alternative entrance to the massive underground base set up by Zim. When the lift stopped, he found himself in a large bay, surrounded by large, unrecognizable scientific instruments and sealed tubes containing odd specimens. 'None of them look human, at least...' Dib told himself with a shudder. Further down the way, he could hear sounds of shouting; "Well, here goes nothing..." he said aloud, walking in that direction.

"Whaddya' MEAN I can't open the crisis cell?!" Zim exclaimed, kicking the door in front of him. A mechanical voice droned, "Access Prohibited. Secondary recognition required for access into the crisis cell." Zim kicked the door again, prompting the message, "Access denied. A separate secondary recognition is required to access the crisis cell." Gritting his teeth in frustration, the Irken brought out his operations manual and looked up the entry on the "Crisis Cell", an automatically-generated part of every Invader base. As before, the entry read, "The Crisis Cell is a central part of every Invader Base. It contains the Terminal Survival gear issued by the Almighty Tallest, and is only to be accessed in emergencies."
"I know, I know..... well... well," Zim snarled, glaring at the manual, "What is the Terminal Survival gear?"
"Terminal Survival gear: double stasis-escape pod, Black Egg and detonator."
"How do you access the Terminal Survival gear? TELL ME..."
"To access the Terminal Survival gear, a dual activation command is required." On the verge of tears, Zim choked, "WHAT.... is a dual activation command?"
"A dual activation command requires the confirmation of two distinct biotic entities."

Zim prostrated himself before the door, uttering a tirade of obscenities. "WHY?!!! BY THE TALLEST, WHYYYYYYYYYYY?!! WH- huh? What are you doing here, earthspore?" Dib looked nervously at the Irken, then sighed and said, "Uh.... like I said, I need to talk to you, Zim." Without saying anything, Zim grabbed him by the lapels and slammed him headfirst into the door; it monotoned, "Access confirmed." and opened with a hiss. "What the hell was that about?!" Dib whined, rubbing a bruise on his forehead.
Zim eyed the human for a moment, then said, "Nothing. Now GET OUT...." Dib struggled out of his nemesis' grasp, and exclaimed, "Hey, wait! I need to talk to you, this is important! Haven't you noticed anything strange about the- hey!" Zim lifted him up by the collar and began stuffing him into the lift, inspiring angry shouts of protest. Just then, Gaz and GIR stepped out of an adjacent lift and stood there, looking curiously at the two.
Zim pouted guiltily, and snarled, "What?" dropping Dib onto the floor. GIR smiled and said, "She given me TWO candy-canes!" and Gaz muttered, "Okay, Dib- what's happening?"
Dib stood up, brushing himself off. "Well, I'd come here to ask him the same thing, and the ingrateful creep is trying to throw me out!"
"You were spying on me, ape!"
"I was not! If you'd listened to me in the first place instead of slamming me into that door, I-"
Gaz rolled her eyes. "Okay, then... Zim, what's happening? You've got all this..... science crap here... I'm sure you've researched it already or something."
Zim coughed and assumed an officious pose. "Well, little human larvae, if you must know... Your planet's thermic field is being drained by a planet known as Vex. Now that I've opened that accursed crisis cell, though, everything is under control. Worry not- the GREAT ZIM will take care of the problem." He patted Gaz on the head, and she kicked him in the stomach, knocking him onto his back. "Sorry if I don't trust you..." Gaz said coldly; aghast, her brother exclaimed, "What did you do that for, Gaz?! There's no reason not to believe that he's..."
"I mean, I don't trust you to get the job done by yourself. I mean... if my brother is such an obstacle to you, it's hard to have confidence in your abilities for something this important."
Angrily, Zim leapt to his feet and yelled, "DO NOT BELITTLE THE GREAT ZIM, you, uh..... filthy creature.... besides, I've got it all under control. It's not like you _monkeys_ could help me, anyways."
"Ooh, I like monkeys..." GIR chirped. Zim coughed, and said, "Well, either way I want you out of here. Both of you. Now. So.... go." He pointed at the lift, then walked off towards the crisis cell.

"...You jerk..." Dib muttered contemptuously. Gaz eyed him critically and said, "Well, you can sulk here, but I'm going after Zim."
"Since when did you become concerned with this?"
Gaz looked at her brother, nonplussed. "Well, if Earth is in danger, I kind of have to be concerned, don't I? Seeing as I live here..."
"Er.... eheh... yeah." Dib mumbled, sighing and shaking his head. When they reached Zim, he was throwing a tantrum and pounding on the door of the crisis cell, which had shut once again. Seeing the two humans standing before him, he uttered a growl and charged at Dib; the boy dodged him, and said, "Not so fast, Zim."
"Stand still while I'm trying to catch you!" the Irken shouted, chasing Dib. Running behind his sister, who had become distracted with the open Invader manual and was examining it, he called back, "Hey, ZIM! Don't tell me you need some help all of a sudden!" Zim stormed up to the two, snatching the manual out of Gaz' hands with a snarl of, "Get your filthy digits off of my machine!" and exclaimed, "Surrender yourself, Dib! I need your head for a key."
Dib smiled grimly. "I'd realized that, just now. I'll help you open that door again, but I want to come with you."
"NEVER- er, I mean, no. I'm not inviting any of you dirty, STUPID earthslime into my Voot Runner. I can't have you fouling up the controls, and stuff..." Zim said, scowling disdainfully. Dib looked more upset than angry. "Well, then could you at least _explain_ what's going on? I'm worried." With a sigh, Zim said, "Oh, all right, I'll tell you everything I-"
Gaz cut him off, grabbing the manual from him. "According to your book, you'll need two people to activate the planet-buster bomb. It says the "Crisis Cell" records the DNA of the people who open it and imprints it on the tools inside so only they can use them."
Zim snorted. "DON'T TELL ME how to use my equipment, you degenerate little- what?" He sidled up to Gaz and looked over her shoulder at the display, which confirmed her statement. Wide-eyed, he muttered, "...but that means.... DAMMIT!" He glared at Dib, who was grinning eagerly. "Well, I guess you'll _have_ to be brought along, then..."
Gaz looked at Zim, then Dib, and said, "I'm coming too. I really don't trust both of you to get this done, either."
"No way, Gaz..." Dib replied, "It's dangerous. I can't let you come; I wouldn't want you to get hurt.... besides, there's-"
"DON'T. FENCE. ME. IN." Gaz snarled in an inhumanly deep voice, staring down the two boys. Dib swallowed nervously, and Zim managed to squeak, "okay, you can come too no problem..." Candy-canes lining its sticky mouth, GIR ran up to the group and squealed, "I'm a-comin'! C'mon, I wanna come too! I got caaandy!" It pulled a candy-cane out and offered it to Zim, who shuddered reflexively and sighed. "All right, all right.... so we're ALL going, then. But disobey me, and you will face the wrath of ZIIIIIMMMMM!"

"Yeah, yeah...." Gaz muttered, "So, where's the ship?"

* * *

The Black Egg is a device shrouded in mystery- discovered in the ruins of an ancient space-faring species which had once colonized the moons of Irk and other worlds long before the founding of the original Irken Empire, a small, seemingly-primitive device which contained the power to destroy an entire planet. The dynamics of its operation were still not totally understood by the Irken Council of Science, though it was believed to trigger core instability in a planet with concentrated radiation from the element elerium12. All attempts to modify its design had failed, and the technology seemed unable to be utilized in any way other than as a planetary time-bomb; once activated at the proper polar coordinates, the device dissolved, and the planet would undergo anything from a massive volcanic upheaval to complete obliteration within 2 hours. Only two castes of Irken were issued such a device; the Invaders, and the Almighty Tallest themselves, and by the inhibitors of the crisis cell, only the two Almighty Tallest could usually utilize them.
And now, Zim, Irken Invader second class and voted most likely to die in an accident involving a deep-fat frier at the academy, and Dib, seminormal human and total social outcast, had found one in their grasp because of a strange twist of fate.

Vex: (Part 2) "Forward Ho!"

By 7:00 that evening, the outside temperature had dropped to -30 Celsius, and a state of national emergency had been declared; deep in the Invader's underground facilities, Zim and the others worked on, oblivious to that fact. The Voot runner was in better shape than he had initially thought, and he anticipated that repairs would take two hours at most.
"Subsonic wrench.... ...subsonic wrench- Hey, are you listening, GIR?" Zim peered over the edge of the repair platform and scowled down at his robot assistant; GIR was standing next to Gaz, mesmerised by the screen of her gameslave. Before he could unleash a flood of obscenities upon the tiny robot, he felt someone tap him on the shoulder. It was Dib.
"Is this the subsonic wrench?"
Sighing, Zim took the instrument. "Yeah.... thanks," he muttered, fumbling with a control panel. "Stupid robot..."
"Not too bright, is he?" Dib said in a matter-of-fact voice.
Zim sighed again. "Yeah... I don't know why the Tallest would have issued me such a ....stupid robot... stupid. I suppose they meant it as a challenge on my mission."
Down below, Gaz was busy smacking GIR upside the head and shouting at him to get out of her way. Zim watched with curiosity for a moment, then continued his repairs. "Your sister.... she's rather.... corrosive, isn't she..."
"Yeah, she is..." Dib replied with a shrug. "She's always been antisocial, I guess it's just how she deals with life... it gets irritating sometimes."
"Hmm..." Zim replied, nodding. Dib sighed, and took a seat on the edge of the platform. "It must be kind of lonely being sent here alone, isn't it..." Now Gaz was sitting in silent concentration, while GIR flopped around on the floor whimpering, its limbs tied in knots.
"Yeah, it is, kind of.... I guess. It would be nice having a more reliable slave than GIR, or at least someone to compare scientific study... with... -Hey!" Zim scowled at Dib, shaking a clawed hand at him. "Don't use your.... FILTHY brain-tricks on me, stinkfungus! I WILL NOT SPEAK to you ...monsters, about the secret lifestyle of an INVADER!" He hissed, and Dib snorted in irritation, about to protest- instead, he sighed and muttered, "....yeah, fine... whatever." turning away from the Irken. A moment later, Zim coughed officiously and added, "And while you're here, make yourself useful and pass me that tuning plate."

* * *

(make your own joke about the "*" separators, at least they're not big)

Zim stood before the others, a pointing wand in hand; a suspended computer screen beside him displayed a diagram of the Earth, moon, and a third sphere situated directly "below" the Earth. He tapped his foot impatiently, then cleared his throat and said, "Okay... listen up, GIR, and, uh, earthscum... this is our plan. GIR! Get down from there!"
GIR pouted, and climbed down from the ceiling panel it had found its way onto, taking a seat next to Gaz. It smiled broadly, emitting an electronic 'beep'. Gaz snarled, "Get away from me." Dib sighed, and said, ".... You were saying?"
"Yes. Now pay attention, all of you. Vex," he pointed to the smaller planetoid, "is situated here, it should take the Voot Runner about 20 minutes to reach it. There is a problem, however; an electromagnetic field it seems to be producing has kept my equipment from pinpointing the surface coordinates where the Black Egg," a small clear case on the floor held the innocuous-looking bomb, "must be set. Once we enter the field, I will have GIR attempt to discern the proper coordinates, and..."
Dib waved his hand, and interjected, "I've got a better idea..."
"What is it, HUMAN?"
"...and will you quit it with the... uh... insults?" Dib grimaced, then continued. "My father has a geographic survey satellite in orbit of Earth. It fell into that distortion field this afternoon, and if my calculations are correct...." He paused, taking a laptop computer out of his backpack, "Bingo. It should still be in there; if we can get close to it, I should be able to use it to study Vex's surface."
Zim grunted disdainfully. "Don't be ridiculous... Why would I want to use your STUPID earth satellite when I have this high-tech android, designed SPECIFICALLY for the purpose of information gathering, to do the job for me?"
He pointed in GIR's direction, only to discover that the tiny robot had disappeared. "GIR? GIIIIIR!! GIII- ACK!" Zim's exclamations were cut off as GIR fell from the ceiling onto him. Dib rolled his eyes.
"Okay, you win..." Zim grumbled, "We'll use the satellite; once we're in the electromagnetic field though, you'll have to find it on your boxtoy and send the information to the Voot Runner." Dib smiled eagerly and said, "Can do! So, uh... do we go now?"
"I suppose we'd better get this over with.... First, though, I need you two beasts of burden to put on these; they should keep your filthy carcasses from imploding in the environment of DEEP SPACE..." the Irken said, sounding regretful. He pointed to a pair of mechanical devices that vaguely resembled torture equipment; Gaz twitched when she saw them, and pushed her brother forwards, saying, "You go first." Reluctantly, Dib picked one up, and put it around his collar, trying to reassure himself that this wasn't some kind of horrible alien trick. When he clipped it in place, it expanded into something that vaguely resembled the pack the Irken wore; a round metallic case housing a void-shield generator with telescoping bands that wrapped around the user's extremities to form contact points for the barrier.
Looking vaguely piqued, Gaz examined the second one and hissed to her brother, "Geez, will you wipe that stupid grin off your face? You're embarrassing me."
"Sorry," Dib whispered back, "This is just so wicked...."

From the top of the repair platform, Zim looked down at them and snarled, "Hey, worm-monkeys! Hurry it up, we haven't got all day!"
"Ooh, I like monkeys." said GIR

* * *

From Earth, the environment of outer space can be viewed crudely with one's own eyes on a clear night, or slightly more clearly with a telescope. Even then, the true majesty of the void is not apparent; atmospheric disturbances and any artificial light obscure a person's ability to view space as it actually appears, infinitely vast and timeless. Centuries before Zim's decanting, the Irken race had taken to the stars to explore and expand, but only in the last half-century had humans even begun to study outer space, and even then, only a rare few could ever hope to achieve the dream of the astronaut- to experience the beauty of the void up-close and stare down at the world below them, dwarfed by the vastness of space.
"It's kind of cramped in here..." Gaz muttered irately, elbowing Zim as he piloted the Voot Runner through the cloud layer that covered most of the planet. Zim growled, and snapped back, "Keep your FILTHY hands to yourself, earthan. I've gotta concentrate here!" GIR clung to the side of the command chair, singing "Jingle Bells", and Dib sat on the other side of the runner, wearing the same cheese-eating grin he'd had on since liftoff. Finally, the small ship cleared the Earth's atmospheric field, and the panorama of stars opened up in front of them.

"It..... it's fantastic..." Dib said, looking out in awe. GIR climbed down onto Zim's shoulders and chirped, "We made eet!" making the Irken shriek; Gaz elbowed him again, saying, "Could you try not to scream in my ear?"
"BE SILENT when you speak to me!" Zim shouted back, then examined the navigation screen and said, "Forwards we go! The White Planet shall not stand between ZIM and world conquest! So let's move it!" Confidently, he took the control stick in hand and brought the Voot Runner around on a course for the southernmost point of Earth's extraterrestrial space.
"...beautiful.... beautiful..... " Dib mumbled, his eyes wide, "it's..... oh, i'm gonna be sick."
"AUGH! Get away from me, maggot-ape! You'll get your disgusting organs all over the controls!!!" Zim yelped, edging away from the human boy. Gaz said, "Oh frig, not this again..." and handed her choking brother a bag. Zim shuddered, muttering, "Humans... Why must the race I conquer be so..... so FILTHY..." and Gaz snarled at him. Then, struck by curiosity, she tapped him on the shoulder and said, "Hey... why are these ...aliens, or whatever... why are they trying drain the Earth's heat?"
Zim shrugged. "How should I know? No successful contact has ever been made with Vex; had it not appeared two millennia ago and absorbed Thanatos-4, its very existence would still be doubted. The Minstrels call it the 'White Planet', and say that it's inhabited by ghosts...."
Gaz looked unimpressed. "So you're saying this planet just appears and sucks the warmth off of other planets?" Sighing, Zim nodded. "Well, yes... it does that, then it disappears with the remains of the planet it's just rendered inert and lifeless. It's not very scientific, I'll admit, but it's not like there's ever been much of an opportunity to study the phenomena. Vex appears unpredictably, and hasn't been seen for ages. It would make a FANTASTIC award-winning symposium for the ICS..... if I wasn't about to go to blow it up. Oh, the sacrifices I must make in the name of the great empire..."
Dib coughed weakly, and mumbled, "Your conviction is appreciated, jerk-face." Behind him, GIR had begun to sing again- as the Voot Runner cleared the bulk of the planet and the smaller world of Vex came into sight, it stopped singing and climbed onto Zim's head, asking, "What's that?" Zim's antennae twitched in frustration as he said, "FOR THE THOUSANDTH TIME-'s Vex, GIR. We're on a mission to destroy it."
"Oh, ah." said GIR, pretending to understand. "I like destroying. Are WE gonna destroy it?"
"Yes, GIR."
The robot screamed happily and flailed its arms around, accidentally clipping the back of Dib's head with a claw. Groaning, he pushed GIR to the other side of the spacecraft, eliciting an angry shout from Gaz. "Get away from me, you little freak!" she yelled, and smacked GIR, who started to sniffle. "Will you be quiet back there?" Zim said, frustrated. "We're about to enter the electromagnetic field around planetoid; this is extremely delicate work... if I lose my concentration, I could miscalculate the course of the Voot Runner and send us all to our firey, FLESH-RENDING DOOM!"
At the sound of the word, GIR shook with excitement and shrieked, "DOOOOM!!!" into Gaz's ear. She roared angrily and kicked the robot, slamming it into Zim's oversized Irken head; the impact sent him facedown on the control panel, stunning him, and the Voot Runner did a nosedive towards Vex's surface.

Zim vas only vaguely aware of what happened next; he was pushed aside by an unseen hand, and somehow, the Voot Runner restabilized and pulled up, sailing effortlessly over the surface of the planet in a low orbit. He groaned, regaining his senses, and discovered that Gaz had shoved him out of the way and was now piloting the craft herself.
"Hey! Get your stinky hands off the control stick, you..... filthy... stinky... wormthing..."
Gaz' eyes narrowed, and she rotated her head back towards him. "Can't you see I'm trying to PILOT here?" Aghast, Zim gritted his teeth and made snivelling noises, muttering, "Stupid humans... always helping when they're not needed." To his right, Dib was hooking the small laptop computer up to the Runner's navigation console. He studied it for a few minutes, then announced, "Okay, Gaz.... according to the geotectonic scan, the proper coordinates are 37x129. That should be right about..." he pointed to a small land-mass on the planet's map, "there." Zim and Gaz eyed the map, then nodded in unison and said, "Got it."
"Alright then," Zim said, cracking his knuckles, "Move over and let me bring the ship in."
"I'll be fine doing it myself."
"NEVER talk down to an Invader, infidel!!! Besides, who's Voot Runner is this?"
"Who nearly let it crash and burn?"
"Shut up and gimme!"
"No way!" Gaz exclaimed, smacking Zim upside the head. Zim tackled her, screaming, "FOR THE GLORY OF THE EMPIRE!!!" and sending them both against the right side of the spacecraft, where they continued scuffling for the controls, while the Voot Runner's autonavigation system directed it towards its target. Dib looked at them in disbelief, and was about to start yelling when a light on the command panel caught his attention.
"Hey, guys.... guys? I think something's headed our way....." he said in a worried voice, pointing to a radar display which had come up onscreen. Pausing from their fight, Zim and Gaz looked at the screen, and both said, "Oh no." Half-seconds later, the Voot Runner shook from the EMP missile which had been launched by an unknown force upon it, and fell lifeless towards the planet's surface, its occupants screaming for their lives.

* * *

"..... what happened?"
Zim sat up, clutching a growing bruise on his Irken head, and looked around, trying to determine their situation. At some point during the crash, the Voot Runner's control system had rebooted itself and fired its emergency contact rockets, (an operation it had never successfully done before in Zim's memory) which had kept it from being totally obliterated when it hit the ground; unfortunately, it now appeared to be inoperational once more. The blast had also rendered GIR inoperable, which he took to be a blessing of sorts. Hitting the small robot caused it to spring to life, and it hugged him, exclaiming, "That was great! Whatta rush!" The two humans appeared to be unconcious; Gaz was undamaged except for a large bruise which matched Zim's, and Dib had fainted during the crash and lay face-down beside the command seat. Reluctantly, the Irken grabbed him by the shoulders and tried to shake him awake.
"Hey, get up..." Zim hissed, pulling on the boy's ridiculous cowlick in an attempt to revive him. Dib sat up in a daze, and croaked, "....gaz?" From the other side of the craft, a small voice responded, "...shut up, stupid... you're making my head hurt." Dib scrambled to his feet and went over to his sister, helping her up.
"Gaz, you're... you're okay, right?"
The girl scowled. "Of course I am." Zim cleared his throat to get their attention, and said, "Well, then... now that we're all still alive, we've got a job to do. The Voot Runner was damaged in the crash and needs to be repaired, and we need to figure out how close we are to the coordinates where we need to set the Egg down, so it'll.... ...explode and stuff. So shut up and do as I tell you."

A brief examination of the craft revealed that it had suffered damage to its control system only; this meant that it was still able to fly, if with some difficulty. By a bizzare stroke of luck, the Voot Cruiser had landed within .5 a kilometre from the point; using Dib's laptop, Zim uploaded the precise coordinates into GIR and hoped it wouldn't forget them. Outside, it appeared to be snowing heavily, and nothing could be seen.
"Okay..... here's the (revised) plan.... GIR, Dib, you'll come with me and set the bomb. Gaz will stay behind and guard the Voot Runner- Gaz, if anyone comes near it, DESTROY THEM.... This is ESSENTIAL to the mission, I don't want to be exploded along with this planet, and we need to get off of it as soon as it's been set to detonate."
GIR pouted. "Aww, I like exploding, though..." It said unhappily, as the others scowled at it. "I also like Gaz! Can't I stay here with her instead?"
Dib glared at the robot with murder in his eyes, growling, "Stay away from my sister, you freak..." and Gaz sighed. Taking the little robot in hand, Zim said, "No, GIR. I need you to direct us on this mission. It's very important." GIR smiled broadly, and replied, "Okey-dokey- er, YES-SIR." saluting its master. Gaz eyed the others critically and said, "Okay... I'll guard the ship, but you'd better not screw up."
"Have confidence, little human.... after all, ZIM is leading this simple expedition.... we should be back in a few minutes, and after that.... kaboom! Then I can get back to my domination of your PATHETIC planet..."
Zim activated his void-shield and casually strode out onto the planet's surface, leading his companions towards their destination in the unknown.

Vex (Part 3): Does one and one equal one-half a friendship?
Blanketed eternally in heavy clouds, Vex remained cold and dark year-round. Ages ago, technological advances set in place by the planet's ruling class had brought about this change; once teeming with life and harbouring a unique, variable environment similar to Earth's, the planet now lay in silent state, utterly desolate and still. Of all the groups still in existence at this time, only the Minstrels knew of Vex's history..... and their communications of it were never clear.
"Ah... sometimes I impress even me," Zim said aloud, strolling effortlessly through the falling snow on mechanical legs, protected from the elements in his modified shield. Behind him, Dib shivered and coughed, struggling to keep up. "Hey..." he said, exhausted, "Can't we... so cold.... can't we rest for a minute?"
Scowling, Zim snapped, "What's your problem, dirt-monkey? Can you not keep in pace with THE GREAT ZIM?!" Dib tripped with a whimper, falling into a snowbank. Zim picked him up using a prosthetic claw and shook him, exclaiming, "YOU'RE WEAK!"
"Well.... huh... how am I supposed to keep up with you when you're using that thing on your back?"
GIR climbed out of the snow and pointed ahead; smiling, it said, "We're almost there!"
"We are?" the two boys exclaimed in unison, forgetting their argument. Zim rushed towards the point GIR had indicated, still holding Dib. Excited, he said, "See? It was with such great ease that I led us here... proof of my blatant superiority over you wretched earthslime." Dib sighed, and muttered, "Yeah, whatever," then looked ahead and added, "Hey, I think there's a-"
Zim bumped face-first into the wall, his vision obscured by the snow. He grimaced, and said, "Ouch..... Hey, who put this wall here anyways?" A brief examination of the structure revealed little about it; it was a metal wall, and it was blocking their way to the detination point. It appeared to go up a-ways, and go on for an indeterminate length. Frustrated, Dib glared at the Irken and said, "So what do we do now, ZIM?"
"How the hell should I know?!" he exclaimed angrily, "I didn't build this wall! There's got to be a way around it somewhere, though.... Yes... if we follow it, it should eventually lead to.... A DOOR. Yess.... and in that door will be our entrance."
"Hey, there's a door." a small voice said. A few paces away, the shape of GIR could me made out through the snow, as well as a faint light. Zim ran towards it, exclaiming, "Brilliant, GIR! My constant upgrades to your optical system have not been in vain." Smugly, he razzed Dib and marched through the small, open portal-
-And flew back a second later, repelled by a strong electric shock. He shouted angrily, and began to utter loud clicks which sounded vaguely like speech to Dib; as the snow fell on his body, no longer blocked by the shield from his Bolt, he began to flail and scream from its burning effects. Dib stared, horrified.
"Zim! ZIM? What's wrong with you?!" The Irken made no response, and continued to scream hoarsely as the snow burned his exposed skin, with GIR mimicking his behaviour by screaming and tantruming beside him. Panicking, Dib pulled off his parka and threw it on the alien boy to shield him, or at least stop his horrible noisemaking. As his suffering lessened, Zim regained his senses and realized that something was wrong.
"How on IRK could my shield have failed me like that?" he exclaimed, wrapping himself tight inside the coat. Beside him, GIR was still rolling around in the snow and screaming mirthfully, and Dib stood in front of him, looking confused and worried. He opened his mouth to speak, but the only thing that came out was nonsensical gibbering. Zim glared, and said, "Have you suddenly contracted a case of stupid? Stop jabbering, monkey-boy!"
"I can't understand what you're saying, Zim! Quit screwing around and help me, for crying out..." Dib's voice drifted off as a flash from within caught his eye; with a giggle, GIR jumped out of the snow and walked through the doorway, unharmed. Cautiously, Zim followed the robot, saying, "The barrier appears to have dissipated..." Once they were inside, he turned around and examined a wall-panel mounted inside the doorway with a single red light set into its corner.
"Hmm....." he said quizzically. "This computer panel seems to be connected to the barrier.... I don't recognize the language, though. GIR! Come here and run a diagnostic on this writing." The little robot didn't answer; it appeared to have undergone the same linguistic transformation as Dib, and was babbling with him.
"GIR! Stop that at once and come here!"
GIR looked at Zim, curious. "Hmm? What did you say?"
"I said, quit making those HORRIBLE noises and come here! You barely make any sense as it is, I can't have your speech generator breaking down completely."
Dib looked at the robot and said, "What's he saying? Why isn't he speaking english anymore?" It shrugged and replied, "He says, uh.... I dunno." Dib narrowed his eyes in thought, then said, "I think, maybe.... GIR, try asking him why he isn't using a translator."
"Quit it! And get over here, I need you to translate this language for me!" Smiling, the robot tromped over to its master and examined the runes on the panel. A low buzz emitted from its head, and it announced, "TRANSLATION COMPLETE. It says there's a monkey in here!" Zim growled, and whined, "Can't you do ANYTHING right?!" Behind him, Dib examined the panel with his eyes and snapped his fingers in revelation.
"I've got it!" he said, "This is a voice recognition... no, a _pitch_ recognition device!" He pointed to the screen, where an audio wavelength of his speech was being displayed as he talked. Zim squinted at the display, and said, "It's a sound reader, Dib. Now will you please become smart again? I can't abuse you if you're too dumb to understand my insults- wait a minute....." Zim carefully dislocated the Bolt from the spinal implants on his back and examined it, popping-open a small panel on the underside and tinkering with the buttons inside while Dib looked on in awe. "Just as I thought...." they said in unison, in their respective languages, "that blast must have shorted-out the microcomputer in my/Zim's pack!" They glared at each other for a moment, then Zim reattached his Bolt and muttered, "Well, now that that's fixed.... accursed faulty casing... IT WILL BE THE DEATH OF ME some day...."
Dib shrugged, and went back to the panel. "As far as I can tell, this is a lock that requires a specific pitch sound to open. It doesn't really tell us much, but at least it means....."
"Of course! It means that we should be able to open any other barriers in our way by producing high-pitched noises before them!" Zim concluded. GIR nodded grimly and saluted its master, shouting, "YES SIR. NOISE PRODUCTION COMMAND ACKNOWLEDGED."

The hall they travelled down was deserted; no signs of any other living thing could be found, and a fine dust covered the floor. The only sound came from their footsteps, and from GIR, who was chattering to itself as per usual. 'This still doesn't make any sense...' Dib thought to himself, feeling worried. 'Why would they freeze planets and then just vaporize them?' In a quiet voice, he muttered, "I've got a bad feeling about this...."
"Play with the monkey!" GIR squealed, shoving a toy into Dib's face. Just then, they reached a fork in the path; one route was a continuation of the hall, while just beyond the barrier blocking the other, a large pit could be seen leading down into the structure. Zim scratched his forehead in silent contemplation, then said, "GIR! Which way leads closer to the contact point?" The little robot looked at its master nervously and said, "I can't decide!"
"Okay, then...." Zim grumbled, twitching slightly and glancing back and forth at the two paths, "We shall go.... THAT WAY!"
"Zim, you're pointing in the direction that we came from."
The Irken snapped, "I know that! We'll try that locked door, I'm sure something important is behind it."
To unlock the previous barrier, Zim concluded, had required a high-pitched noise- specifically, his frantic screaming. GIR was more than happy to oblige when it came time to reproduce that sound, and shrieked for a good 3 minutes at the door before the others realized that nothing was happening. "What's wrong?" Zim exclaimed, frustrated. "Why won't it open?" He stepped up to the electric field and glared at it, then swatted GIR to try and shut it up.
Dib uttered a "hmm..." sound, and stood beside Zim, watching the field intently. A panel similar to the first one they encountered could be seen on the other side, only this one bore three lights- red, orange, yellow. 'Could spectrum equal sound?' Dib thought, confused. Though the idea seemed like a long-shot, he knew it was an accepted facet of some forms of mysticism and ancient philosophy, the concept that each level in the basic western musical scale corresponded with a colour, or an object... or a planet. Figuring that he had nothing to lose, (and probably nothing to gain apart from slight embarrassment) Dib cleared his throat and recited the notes- "Do, Re, Mi." The barrier flashed, and dissipated with a buzz.
"Hey, it worked!" he exclaimed, feeling strangely exhalted. Zim was still trying to smother GIR; knocking the tiny robot against a wall, he stood up, screaming, "QUIET, you!" and bumped right into Dib. "Uh... the door's open." the boy said, pointing down the hall. Zim smiled triumphantly. "Excellent work, GIR! Now let's get going, I haven't got all day to save the world..." Dib sighed, following the others. 'I'm _sure_ it was the musical scale, though....' he thought, 'I guess it doesn't really matter for now.'

Lined by a walkway and descending staircase, the pit led down into darkness, its length indeterminable. A disused-looking computer terminal sat against the far wall, and the three edged cautiously towards it in the hopes of being able to learn something about the facility. As Zim circumnavigated the pit, his sensitive antennae picked up a faint vibration; he stopped in his tracks, standing thairn. Dib stopped too, noticing his comrade's behaviour, and GIR bumped into him, making him yelp.
"Wh... what is it?"
Zim hissed, his antennae twitching. "I heard something from without... be quiet..." Suddenly frightened, Dib held his breath, his teeth clenched. GIR cuddled its doll and looked around, scared. From below, a signal appeared on its motion-sensors, slowly moving up towards the group.
"...where are you, dammit...." the Irken muttered, unnerved; there was a sudden flash behind him, and a hoarse scream from Dib as he was knocked off his feet by an unknown force. A second flash whizzed by Zim's head, barely missing him, and a dark shape materialized before him with a moan. It was roughly two metres in height, an armoured disc-like shape with long arms and a small, spherical head floating suspended in the air above an energy field; a clear box inside the field held a pulsing mass which may have been the thing's brains or guts. It moaned again, a low mechanical sound, and raised one of its arms towards the Irken, launching a ball of electricity at him. Zim gave a yell, stunned by the blast, and exclaimed, "Who are you?!" As the creature advanced upon him, ignoring the others, he raised himself on his prosthetic arms and scuttled backwards in a panicked state.
"Don't come any closer!" he cried, "I'll shoot you with my eye-lasers! Serious!" Unphased, his assailant continued to fire upon him; a shot from its arm-cannon struck Zim in the throat, shorting out his Bolt, and he sprawled onto the ground in a tangle of mechanical limbs. It grabbed him by the head and lifted him over the edge of the walkway, oblivious to his screams of protest. For a moment, Zim could sense a dialogue flashing in his mind; then the alien uttered a moan and threw him head-first into the abyss before vanishing itself. Dib scrambled to the side and looked down in horror, exclaiming, "Zim! Zim, are you okay? Speak to me!" His only answer was a distant clanging of metal upon metal, and anticipating the worst, he took off running down the stairs after the Irken, and into the darkness.

* * *

Zim was lucky- as the Bolt rebooted itself, (another technological first for the Irken) one of the arms caught against the railing of a lower level and became tangled in it, saving him from a terminal case of deceleration trauma at the bottom of the pit. Winded, he hung there for a moment before regaining his senses, then struggled his way to safety and flopped over on the walkway, trying not to retch. "Guh.... gads, I'm still alive..." he said aloud. Hearing footsteps, he sat up and looked around, his large red eyes adjusting to the darkness; it was Dib, running down the stairs towards him. "Zim! Hey ZIM, where are you?!" the boy yelled, promptly tripping over the Irken and falling on his face.
"I'm right... here..." Zim coughed irately. Dib stood up, saying, "Are you okay? I, uh....... that thing, it vanished right after it threw you." GIR ran towards the two, crying loudly. "I MISSED YOU-U-U!!!!" it wailed, tackling Zim and making him gasp for air. "Get off me," he protested, then said, "Yeah.... I'm..... ...just fine. Alive. No thanks to you, filthy Dib-human."
"What was I supposed to do?!" Dib exclaimed, frustrated. Zim got to his feet shakily, and grumbled, "Useless humans..... either way, we'd better hurry up with this. GIR! Which direction should we be heading towards?" The robot made a beeping sound, its eyes flashing and illuminating the walkway, and pointed towards a door on the opposite side. "That way!" it said, smiling.
"Are you sure?" Dib said critically. GIR shrugged, then replied, "Umm....., that way." and pointed to a nearby opening that led down a hall. It marched ahead, and sighing mutually, the two boys followed.

As they walked, Dib cleared his throat nervously and said, "I was thinking.... what should we do if we run into another one of those... ...things?" Scowling, Zim replied, "If we run into another one of those.... ...things, I am going to knock its weird little head off of its body like a.... head. NOBODY messes with an Invader and gets away with it! Besides, if we hadn't been next to that accursed hole, it never would have been able to defeat me.... its attacking power was simply pathetic." Unimpressed, Dib grumbled, "Oh, get off your high horse, Zim... you couldn't even talk to it with your fancy, uh, translator-thingy... there's no way to tell what they can do, or even what they are!"
The moans of the creature echoed in Zim's head as he recalled what it had told him before it tossed him off the walkway. The phrase, "You are impure sound" seemed to repeat itself to him, though he couldn't understand it at all. "Impure..... " Zim muttered to himself, "Why impure... what does my sound have to do with anything, anyways..."
"Sound?" Dib asked, an almost frantic edge to his voice. Unnerved, Zim said, "Yeah, 'sound'. That thing... it.... it sent its FILTHY thoughts to me when it grabbed me. Something about 'impure sound'." Dib's eyes widened as he tried to piece together his knowledge. "Maybe.... could it be.... these aliens seem to have attached some kind of importance to sounds, almost like in a Pythagorean sense."
Now Zim looked confused. "Wha? You speak nonsense, snotstink! QUIET yourself." "No, it... now that I think about it, it almost makes sense! They're using sound patterns as keys... if they normally communicate through a psychic connection, like that one did to you, then.... maybe they never developed a vocal language, and.... Sound, music.... it could be like a religion for them or something!" Zim grimaced, and snapped, "Hey, I told you to shut your foul, slimy mou- what is religion, anyways?"
Frustrated, Dib said, "Oh, hell... never mind, it's not important." and lapsed into sullen quiet. Zim smiled triumphantly and declared, "Ahh, silence IS golden." and GIR promptly started giggling and screaming beside him. After what seemed like an eternity to Dib, the Irken sighed and nervously said, "That's enough silence for now. What were you saying about a... a religion? I've heard that word before..." Dib looked at Zim, a dubious expression on his face. 'Why'd he talk to me?' he wondered; deciding he may as well not look a gift horse in the mouth, he cleared his throat, and explained.
"Religion.... it's a system of belief founded in faith, rather than fact.... almost all people have some form of religion, like believing in a God or some higher force, or the idea that everything is predestined to a specific position in the universe." Zim looked unimpressed. "Humans.... why would anyone bother with something that stupid? No wonder your planet is so backwards."
"Are you done yet?" Dib snapped, visibly irritated. Confused, the Irken nodded, saying, "Uh... yeah." With a sigh, the boy continued speaking. "Well, as I was saying... I was thinking about this "Vex", how these aliens seem to have some strong connection with sound.... especially after what you said about it communicating with you when it grabbed your head. It reminds me of an idea that an ancient mathematician named Pythagoras had.... that the 8-note musical scale had an association with the colours of the spectrum, and with numbers... and with the planets in our solar system... the idea was that everything was perfectly-ordered because of its basis in numerology. He theorized that the planets made sounds as they moved through space, and called it the 'music of the spheres'; that all of the heavenly bodies created some kind of- huh?" Turning around, he saw Zim and GIR contemplating a spot on the floor.
"Are you SURE this is the contact point, GIR?"
The little robot pointed to the ground and monotoned, "POSITION CONFIRMED. SIR." Zim eyed the spot critically, and muttered, "It doesn't _look_ like a contact point...." then looked up at Dib and shouted, "Come over here, human! We've got to prime the Black Egg together!" As Zim took the bomb out of his Bolt, Dib marched over looking purposeful and produced the detonator from his pocket. They sighed in unison, placing the bomb on the floor, turning the small keys on opposite ends of the detonator, and said, "Well... here goes nothing." The Black Egg pulsed, producing a soft light, then vanished, melting into nothingness. The small timer on the detonator activated in Zim's hand; it read "1:59" in Irken numerics.
"Well, that's that," Zim declared. "I thank you for your help, Dib. Now that the Egg is set, though, I'm going to kill you and leave your body to get all exploded when this planet goes KABOOM... heh... no hard feelings." He shrugged casually, raising himself on his prosthetic arms and lifting Dib up to skewer him as GIR cheered wildly. Aghast, Dib exclaimed, "You double-crossing bastard! After everything that's happened, you're just going to waste me?!"
"Yeah..." Zim said, "Why, is there a problem wi-"
Zim's body shuddered, and stunned, he flopped onto the ground, mechanical limbs sprawling. Dib fell onto his feet and gaped at the two aliens standing before him, arm-cannons raised; beside him, GIR screamed shrilly and fell onto the ground, shielding its head with its hands. One of them held something in its normal arm, and Dib realized with sickening horror that it was the unconscious body of his sister. He heard a small whimpering voice say, "no..." and realized it was his own. The unburdened alien advanced towards Zim, who was struggling under the weight of his inoperational prostheses, and uttered a moaning noise just like the first one they encountered had; charging the cannon to what was probably a higher setting, it braced the Irken's head with its free hand and prepared to fire. Faster than he could think, Dib ran towards them with a yell, tripping over one of Zim's mechanical arms and slamming into him. The impact knocked the alien's cannon aside, and it discharged into the floor. As the two boys lay in shock, the creatures seemed to lose interest in them, and floated away into the darkness.

"Curse them..." Zim growled, sitting up and trying to force his spare limbs back into the Bolt. He looked over at Dib, and poked him curiously. In a distant voice, the boy responded, "...what is it now?" Zim cleared his throat and said, "I suppose I should thank you for saving me; I'll let you live, Dib... for now."
"Gaz.... they've got my sister..."
Zim stood up and stretched, joints snapping audibly. Taking GIR's hand, he turned towards the exit to leave, stopping when he realized Dib still wasn't up. "Come on, earthmonkey, we haven't got all day! This planet's going to explode soon, remember? Get up, or I'll leave you here!" Dib struggled to his feet, his face a mask of horror. "They... those aliens, they've captured Gaz. We've got to go rescue her."
"Dib, in two hours, Vex will be a smoking firey memory on the face of the universe- what do you mean 'we', anyways? Besides.... you said you hated your wormsister.... take it as a blessing, and let's go."
"But she.."
"We are LEAVING, human."
Dib stared at the Irken, aghast. " jerk... You don't understand, do you... She's my sister, I can't.... I can't just _leave_ her here!!" He blinked, the immensity of the situation hitting him like a punch in the stomach, and felt his eyes burn with tears.
"Aww, your head is leaking." GIR said, sounding concerned. Irately, Zim tapped his foot on the ground and looked at the timer- it now read "1:43". "Well," Zim said as he walked off down the hall, "I'm leaving. I'll stay with the Voot Runner, but if you're not back in 20 minutes, tough luck." Crushed, Dib fell onto his knees and began to sob loudly, choking on his words.
"...Gaz... no, wait.... please... I need your help... don't go."
Uttering a growl of frustration, Zim turned around again and said, "Alright, alright... I'll help you rescue your filthy, STUPID human-sister. Just stop bawling, you're making me sick!" Dib got to his feet, and looked Zim in the eye with determination. "Okay," he said, "I accept your help. Just promise.... promise me you're being serious. This isn't a joke anymore."
Zim coughed and nodded solemnly, humbled by the boy's attitude. "Okay. But we haven't got much time, so this had better be fast. GIR!" The little robot smiled at its master and replied, "Yeeessss?" Sighing, Zim opened the robot's head and examined the small display inside, somewhat obscured by a wad of gum that had become stuck to it, then shut it and nodded to himself. "GIR, pay attention. I need you to see if your radiation scanner can detect any motion... of living THINGS... in this base."
"Like the piggy?"
"Yes, GIR... but no piggies. I need you to find the Gaz... she should be in here somewhere." "Ooh...."
For a moment, GIR became silent as it surveyed the facility, then it grinned and began to cheer, "I've won! I've won!" Eagerly, Dib exclaimed, "Where is she?! Did you find Gaz?" Nodding, GIR pointed to the floor. "Down there," it chirped.
"Well, then..." Zim said, donning the contact armour he'd stored in his Bolt for the mission and then promptly forgotten about, "Let the rescue commence! We shall REPOSSESS your Gaz, and exact a brutal revenge on these filthy Vex creatures!" Dib shook his head, saying, "Uh.... now how are we going to do this, again? We don't know anything about these aliens, and, uh.... ....we're unarmed."
Zim raised an eyebrow, and produced a phasor rifle from the leg-compartment of his armour. "No... YOU'RE unarmed, wormstink."
"Oh, great." Dib muttered, shaking his head.

* * *

Over the course of the history of evolution study, scientists had theorized that some species of animal may have become extinct when they overadapted to a niche and were unable to cope with a disaster affecting the lifestyle to which they had become accustomed. Due to heavy genetic engineering, eugenics and manipulation/body modification, the Irken species had become highly capable of coping with physical and mental stress to compensate for their weak bodies... and in turn, they had become highly incapable of fighting with their bodies or anticipating the motions of their enemies. Essentially, their specialization had turned them into complete maladroits who could not survive well outside of their advanced environment. It was this overadaptation which explained Zim's reliance on his cybernetic implants in locomotion, and his total surprise when he found himself trapped underneath the shutter which had suddenly fallen from the ceiling as he and Dib made their way to where Gaz was (hopefully) being held.

"You didn't see it coming? How couldn't you have seen it coming, it was right above us!" Dib exclaimed, exasperated by the Irken's clumsiness. Zim snorted, struggling to pull his foot through thesmall gap it was caught in. "Oh, shut up and help me!" he whined angrily. Happy to oblige, GIR climbed onto Zim, straddling his leg and twisting it against the shutter, while Dib examined the wall panel that operated the barrier. It had a cruder appearance than the previous ones they'd encountered, and it took him a moment to interpret its function.
"This ones is different from the others," Dib commented, while the Irken screamed in the background, "It's probably activated by a noise detector, and.... oh, I got it." As he pressed the set of coloured keys on the panel, it emitted musical notes and the shutter raised. Zim staggered to his feet, muttering to himself, and examined the timer. "How long can this take?" he complained, "We've only got an hour and-a-half to go, until...."
"I know, I know...." Dib replied, frustrated, "So be more careful, huh? I think we're making some progress, at least...." He looked over at GIR, who grinned and waved, and said, "Hey, uh, GIR... thingy... how close are we to Gaz?" The robot scratched its head, then pointed at the wall and said, "She's right there!" Dib glanced critically at the wall, saying, "You mean she's on the other side of the wall?" With a shrug, GIR mumbled, "I dunno..."
Zim cleared his throat officiously, and said, "GIR. Does your radiation scanner detect anything over there? Tell me the truth...." The little robot concentrated, squinting at the wall, and chirped, "No..... over there." pointing in the opposite direction. "Okay, then..." Zim continued, "GIR: does your navigational scanner detect a route we can take to get through the wall?"
"Hmm.... ngkh.... mmnngh... NO! I left it in the oven!!!" the robot wailed, running off down the hall. Zim exclaimed, "GIR! Get back here this instant!" then growled in frustration and took off after the robot, Dib in tow. They found GIR at the end of the hall, laying on the floor. Seeing Zim, it smiled and said, "I hit a wall!" Zim stared, aghast at the termination in front of them and gritted his teeth. "Okay..." he growled, "What now, pusweed?! We're hopelessly lost in this cold, FILTHY base, and the planet's going to explode in..." he paused, checking the timer, "An hour and 26 minutes?! Augh, this is all that STUPID Gaz' fault! WHY did she have to let herself be captured?!"
Dib turned to face the Irken, shouting, "Look, will you shut up? Your bitching isn't going to get us out of this mess!"
"SILENCE, human! NOBODY talks down to the GREAT ZIM and lives to tell about it!"
"Hey, I can play chopsticks on this!" a small voice announced; the two boys watched as GIR pulled the casing off of a panel on the wall and began pounding on its buttons with its hands, singing along as it played. Horrified, Zim tackled the robot, exclaiming, "Stop that! You'll bring more of those _ghosts_ to us!" Dib squinted, examining the panel closely. It was nothing more than a set of 8 buttons, though pressing them seemed to produce nothing. "I don't get it..." he muttered, "Has the power to this one been cut-off?" He tapped Zim on the shoulder, saying, "This computer is almost like the ones we've previously encountered, but... no sound." He ran his fingers along the keyboard to demonstrate, and added, "I can't make sense of it."
Zim's antennae flicked. "Do your ears need tuning, dirtmonkey? Those are the eight wonderful noises of Irk- move over, and let me handle this!" Surprised, Dib said, "The eight.... you mean the musical octave? I guess they're too low-pitched for me to-" Zim slapped him, cutting him off, and snarled, "QUIET. I must have quiet if I'm to solve this noise-puzzle..." He uttered a grunt of contemplation, pressing the keys one by one. "One... four.... each key corresponds to a level on the scale of wonderful noise... they're out of order. I suppose these creatures have attached some kind of importance to them... but WHY?" Dib shook his head in despair, whining, "You haven't paid attention to anything I've been saying, have you...." and Zim slapped him again. Before them, the buttons lit up yellow.

"GAH!" Zim exclaimed to himself, "Now this machine is flashing... what could it mean? Is it malfunctioning?"
Dib snapped his fingers, and interjected, "It's 'Mi'... I think."
"You? What about you?"
"No.... er, uh.... the third note on the scale- try playing it!"
Zim pressed a button tentatively, and the light changed to blue. "Okay, now what?" he hissed anxiously. Dib paused in thought, then said, "The fifth." Now the keys glowed an eerie red. "Okay, it's the first- no, wait... what if it's the eigth? They never explained-"
As Zim fumbled on the keys, an electric charge from the panel blasted the two, knocking them onto their rears. "Nice going, wormstink." Zim coughed irately; Dib grimaced and flashed him a rude gesture. When they looked at the keyboard, it had reset back to the yellow light. The Irken re- inputted the pattern into it, bringing the light back to its 'red' setting. "Okay, Dib... now figure it out the right way this time, and tell me which button needs to be pushed. Apparently your primitive mind works on so low a level that this RIDICULOUS sound-religion-thingy makes sense.... to it..."
Dib exclaimed, "Oh, for crying out loud... it's really not that hard to understand, Zim- if you'd listened to me before, you could probably have figured this out on your own." Zim nodded, wide-eyed with confusion. "The colours indicate different levels of the spectrum, which in turn, seem to be connected to the levels of the 8-note musical scale. Red equals 'Do', the first level, orange equals 'Re', the second level, and so on..."
"Oh.... well, why didn't you tell me in the first place, primate? You didn't have to explain things so.... so STUPIDly." Zim hummed to himself and casually completed the pattern on his own, then turned and sneered at the human boy. GIR clapped, squealing, "Wonderful! Encore!" and the wall dissipated before them, revealing the entrance to a large hall. Inside could be heard faint mechanical sounds, and dim blue lights glowed just beyond the doorway.
"what is this?" Dib whispered. Cautiously, Zim edged towards the entrance and peered around the side with a periscope that sprouted from his Bolt. He uttered a hiss, and slipped into the room, hiding behind a metal bulkhead. Dib followed, carrying GIR in his arms and muzzling the little robot to keep it quiet. From inside, the nature of the hall could be better discerned; it was an immense storage room, lined from floor to ceiling with dimly-glowing biotubes and energy cells. The floor was decorated with a complex pattern of concentric circles and glowing blue lights, and in the center, three of the alien creatures could be seen. One of them appeared distinct; it was larger, with multiple arms and cables hanging from its 'body'; it seemed to be communicating with the other two. Dib shivered as a cold feeling ran up his spine, and realized with horror that he could 'hear' the creature speaking. Beside him, the Irken twitched, coming to the same realization.

* -nd once the last pure sound has been set in place upon the last pure sphere, our mission shall be* (....) *These perfect things are the elements which will finalize the cosmic symphony described by our highest, our Muse of Pure Sound and Entro* (....) *it* (....) *reat Age of Harmony in our universe. So it was composed, so shall it be done.* The lead alien uttered a melancholy sigh, and turned away from its subordinates, sinking into the floor. In its place there was a biotube, identical to the ones that ran along the wall. Gaz was inside; she was awake now, pounding on the sides of her confinement and shouting muted obscenities.
"okay, Zim..." Dib whispered, "it's now or never. You distract them, while I get my sister out of that thing over there. Or better yet, just get GIR to make a lot of noise or something... I'm sure it'll keep them busy for a minute or two."
Zim snorted, replying, "okay, wormfungus... I'll do as you say, but just because I can't think of a better plan at the moment." He turned to GIR, and said, "GIR- in 20 seconds, I am going to be performing a feat of DIRE importance; I need you to remain totally silent while I do this. So don't you dare start singing or screaming or making a lot of noise... or whatever you always do when I'm trying to concentrate." The little robot smiled, holding a rubber ball up to Zim's face and chirping, "kiss me!" then saluted and said, "okay i'll be quiet. totally quiet. nottasound." The Irken sighed, then took the ball from GIR and tossed it out onto the floor, confident that the robot's body-casing would protect it from severe damage.
As GIR chased after the ball, wailing, "COME BACK! I NEED YOU!!!" Dib headed for the near wall and edged towards the center of the room. The two Vex spun around to investigate the noise, and raised their cannons to fire on GIR. From behind the bulkhead, Zim raised himself on his metal arms and watched, feeling suddenly worried about his robot companion. With a little difficulty, Dib pried-open the front of the biotube and pulled his sister out, gripping her arm supportively and whispering, "I know you're in a state of panic, but you have to trust me... we've got to get out of here, and fast." Looking somewhat irate, Gaz shook his hand off of her and hissed back, "Yeah, yeah.... thanks, I know. If you're silent, they don't seem to notice you." "They d-"
Dib's reply was cut short by a yell from across the hall, where GIR lay on the ground, struck lifeless by the aliens' electric attack. In a panic, Zim had leapt on top of the bulkhead and began firing on his robot's aggressors with his own weapon. Shot in the chest, one wheeled back and flopped onto the ground, its metallic body twitching. The other quickly retaliated, bearing down on Zim and knocking the phasor out of his hands before he could fire again. It nailed him with its cannon, then lifted him up and threw him against the wall. Winded, Zim whimpered in protest, and the Vex grabbed him by the head and planted the muzzle of its gun between his red eyes, charging it for a more powerful blast.
'Dammit, no!' Dib thought, horrified. He dashed towards the two aliens, unsure of what to do; noticing Zim's phasor laying on the ground next to GIR, he grabbed it on the fly and skidded to a halt behind the Vex, squeezing what he hoped was the gun's trigger as he aimed for the creature's head. The phasor misfired with a loud 'pop!', blasting the air next to the Vex' head and singeing the far wall, and Dib yelped in surprise as it spun around and loomed over him, dropping the stunned Irken on the floor. Instinctively, Dib swung the phasor like a club to protect himself, and struck the creature in its 'chest-box'. Fractured by the impact, it short-circuited and exploded, peppering the hall with shards of metal and alien plasm; acting like a lightning rod, the phasor communicated the powerful discharge from the alien's core into Dib's body. The Vex soldier fell crashing to the ground, nothing more now than a cold metal shell.

"Aw, frig...." Zim moaned, crawling to his feet. Gaz came tentatively forwards and helped him up, then ducked around to examine her unconscious brother. "He was injured when that thing blew up," she observed, sounding strangely concerned. Zim glanced at him, then blinked and rubbed his eyes, irritated by the acrid smell that seemed to be coming from the boy. The flashing timer caught his attention, and he announced, "Well, now we've only got 58 minutes to find our way off of this stinkball- NO THANKS TO YOU, human- so we'd better hurry. Reactivate your Dib; I have to see if GIR is still functional, its navigation system will prove useful in our escape." He turned and found that GIR had rebooted itself and was sitting on the floor, hugging the rubber ball and giggling like a chipmunk. It smiled and waved to Zim, then walked over to him and handed him the ball.
"Come on..." Gaz said, trying to mask the concern in her voice, "Get up, stupid.... we've got to leave." Dib failed to respond; becoming worried, Gaz checked his breathing and found that it was faint. Cursing to herself, she turned back to Zim and said, "It's no good... he's not getting up. He could be hurt badly." The Irken sighed, lifting Dib's body up with his mechanical limbs, and said "What a horrible fate.... that I should be forced to HELP my mortal enemy." Gaz snarled, and punched him in the leg. He pouted, then called to GIR and said, "GIR! Plot a course to the Voot Runner! And make it snappy- we have no time for monkey business right now."
Smiling broadly, the robot pointed to a gate on the far side of the hall and exclaimed, "We can use the back door! It says on my map that it leads right outside!" Zim smacked a hand against his forehead in frustration. "You had a MAP?" The robot produced a paper map from its head. "Yesss..." Zim twitched, then said, "Well, then..... using your MAP for direction, GIR.... we shall exit through the back door."
Roughly 10 minutes later, they were out of the alien base and heading towards the Voot Runner. After tinkering with the controls, Zim managed to activate its engines and pilot the crippled vessel away from the planet's surface; as the Voot Runner cleared the southern hemisphere of the earth, Vex exploded behind it, shattering into a myriad icy chunks. Staring out the back of the craft, GIR watched on and cheered hysterically. Its exclamations reached Dib, who awoke with a muffled groan from the floor of the runner. Sitting beside him, Gaz put a hand on his shoulder and said, "Hey.... you're finally awake."

"yeah...." Dib replied weakly, "...unfortunately. What happened?"
Zim paused from his work at the controls and interjected. "It worked. Vex is destroyed, the earth is safe once more for my conquering, et cetera et cetera...." Dib breathed a sigh of relief, saying, "It really worked then.... I guess it was worth our while to cooperate, huh..."
"I guess it was," Zim replied grudgingly, "It pains me to admit that you human scum made yourselves useful.... I probably would have had more trouble with those lock-things without your assistance, Dib."
"Yeah, no problem... I'm just glad that it worked in the end, though it's kind of ironic that we'd work together to save Earth just so you can go on trying to take it over...." The boy shrugged contemplatively, and glanced briefly at his nemesis. 'Maybe I'm just delirious right now,' he thought, 'But I don't really feel too bad about having cooperated with Zim... even if for just a little while.'

* * *

On the surface of the planet, things were already returning to normal. A clear sky admitted sunlight to wash the snow off the ground, and a temperate wind in from the ocean brought the promise of warmer days ahead. After a rough descent, the damaged Voot Runner came to a stop in the lot behind Zim's base; its occupants climbed out onto solid ground, tired but relieved to have come out of their ordeal in one piece. Dib seemed especially exuberant, and leapt out of the runner, cheering, "We made it!" GIR squealed happily and hugged Gaz, who backhanded the little robot and stretched, grumbling to herself.
"Well, ah.... all's well that doesn't end in an agonizing death, I always say..." Zim declared, stifling a nasty laugh as Dib, overtaken by the stress he'd suffered, fell to his knees and began to puke. Gaz turned towards the Irken and half-smiled, then said, "Yeah... thanks for saving the planet, Zim." and walked off. A moment later her brother staggered to his feet and ran after her, exclaiming, "Wait for me, Gaz!" while GIR waved to them from the edge of the lot. Zim sighed, then shook his head and headed inside the house. 'I suppose I'll just have to get back to conquering this miserable planet tomorrow...' he told himself.

* * *

"You WHAT?!"
Zim smiled confidently into the viewscreen and said, "Yes... as I said, I ran into a slight difficulty involving the legendary planet Vex, but was able to destroy it using the Black Egg that you so gratefully bestowed upon me for such a purpose, and everything is back to normal and going as planned."
The Tallest Purple gaped in confusion and said, "But how did you access the Egg? I thought..." s/he turned to the Tallest Red and hissed, "I thought you said it would be impossible for an Invader class to use one of those _things_ without OUR intervention." Wide-eyed, Red muttered something incomprehensible, then coughed and said, "Well, uh.... Zim. You, ah... you say that you destroyed the imaginary- er, legendary White Planet with the Black Egg...... what proof do you have of this? There are serious provisions required to utilize the Terminal Survival gear, and..... well, if you screwed up, by Irken law..... uh..."
"You... You'll be excommunicated. Yes, it's a very serious thing, you know!" Purple concluded, sounding nervous. Unphased, Zim replied, "Well, as Vex was destroyed by the Egg, I have no material proof... however, I do have these photographs I took of the planet before its destruction."

The small Irken produced a polaroid snapshot from his pocket and presented it before the screen; back on the mothership, Tallest Red uttered a horrified shriek, and Purple fainted, while in the background, one of the communication officers gouged his eyes out with a walkie-talkie. "It... IT'S APPALLING!!!" s/he exclaimed, cowering and covering hir eyes. Confused, Zim examined the photograph.
"What th-AUUUGH!!! THE MADNESS!!! THE HORRIFYING MADNESS!!!!!!" In the photograph was an image of a small, wall-eyed animal with brown fur. GIR popped into sight on the viewscreen and bent over to look at the photo; it smiled and said, "Hey, it's my friend the chihuahua!"


Insane technical notes, contradictions, and plot-contrivances:
-the "Bolt" is the author's name for the cybernetic implant on Zim's back.
-In retrospect, I realized that one of the writers for "Invader Zim" has the last name Hummel; just a coincidence, really.
-RS is an abbreviation for "Remote Survey"- another author-assumption. Said satellite appears in the episode "Bloaty's Pizza Hog".
-Zim is apparently older than "any human alive", according to Mr. Vasquez, suggesting their lifespan is much longer than ours- 600 years wouldn't be too long in their history.
-the Minstrels are a race of mysterious, peaceful beings which exist in the void of space and sometimes transmit cryptic messages to nearby spacecraft through formal or psychic communication.
-Invader classes are simply an assumption of the author- first class would be the best, fourth the worst. Zim is probably actually qualified as Invader fifth class.
-I don't know what "last time" was, though it probably had something to do with adult pay-per-view television.
-Originally, GIR had shoved Dib into the trashcan, but later observation made me realize that it only serves as a entrance to Zim's "bedroom" chamber. My bad.
-Presumably, the Crisis Chamber and Terminal Survival gear are meant to be used by the two Almighty Tallest, and were never actually intended for Invader use
-The Black Egg (and the Minstrels) are elements from the classic EA RPG, "Starflight".
-Irkens don't seem to put the same level of importance on companions that humans do; Zim wouldn't feel "lonely" in the same sense that Dib does.
-The pseudo-Bolt is most likely another piece of emergency gear, used in the event that an Invader's own Bolt was damaged.... or, uh... something.
-"decanting" is a term from the Aldous Huxley novel "Brave New World", in which a totalitarian society produces children in an artificial, mechanical setting, much like how Irkens are "born" from biotubes.
-Credit is given to The Goons and Valentine Dyall for the "Be silent when you speak to me!" gag; it seemed somehow fitting for Zim.
-ICS- abbreviation for "Irken Council of Science"
-EMP- abbreviation for "Electromagnetic Pulse", a real phenomena which can be used to knock-down electronic systems in military operations.
-"bizzare stroke of luck" is a euphemism for "plot-contrivance"
-The association between the musical scale and the planets/colours/numbers is an invention of Pythagoras and the mathematical mystics that followed him. The description being given by Dib is a little convoluted (mainly, he credits the entire concept to Pythagoras, though it actually shares correspondence to Persian and Taoistic mysticism and was itself adapted by later people, including Sir Isaac Newton) for convenience's sake.
- a metre = three feet. Get used to metric, brats!
-I'm simply referring to Zim as a "boy" for simplicity's sake. I really have no idea if he is an Irken adult or not, though he does act pretty childish at times.
-Zim appears to be unnaturally clumsy, and a very poor fighter; the explanation given by the author is merely a fanconcept to explain this, though.
-I may have missed an explanation for other silly technical details in this story; if it really bothers you, just e-mail me and ask. I promise I won't laugh at you. Really!
- 's/he', 'hir': the author is unsure of the gender of the Tallest (or really of any Irken, they seem to be nonsexual creatures) but suggests that they're freemartins.

Well, that's all for now. If you're really desperate for thrills, why not visit my webpage and check out my own horrifying artistic Invader Zim creations?