This has been my life for awhile now. Endlessly pouring over electronic files-both on my ship's computer and on the computers at the human library, which were foolishly set up for all the public to come and look at. Scavenging around the human neighborhood for something, anything I could eat. Maintaining the repairs on my SIR unit. Not exactly the glamourous lifestyle, but I've been trained to take what I have and make the best of it.
This has been my life, alternating between these. Right now I'm not hungry, and my SIR Unit is out gathering information, so I'm once again going through my files. But I think I've been at this for too long. The screen swims in front of my eyes as I continue to stare at my ship's computer. Well, I shouldn't call it my ship. It's the escape pod from my ship. My actual ship has been missing ever since I was somehow defeated by that miserable excuse for an Irken, Zim, and had to eject. I've labelled it as a loss and have done what I can with the escape pod, hoping to fix it up enough to either: a. Engage in a new plan for Earth's conquest, b. Fly back to Irk, or, if neither of the other two options is possible, c. Send a distress signal to the Almighty Tallest. Even this last possibility isn't feasible right now. My communications are broken and offline. Completely useless.
Or, that's what I've thought. Which is why the sudden crackling from my long-unused radio startles me so much that it actually makes me jump.
"Hey! Hey! Is this thing working?" a voice says from it. A very familiar voice. A too familiar voice. There's a short pause. "Well of course I turned it on! Why is the main screen so... blue? AHH! It hurts my eyeballs!"
This is unbelievable. After all this time, he dares to try to contact me? That moronic little... DEFECT!
"What do you think you're doing, Zim?" I shout into the radio. The voice, which had been screaming at someone on the other end of the line, stops abruptly.
"Tak!" the familiar, and hated, voice of Zim says. "I knew you were listening! What defense mechanism have you placed on your camera? I can't see anything. My screen is blue! BLUE! It's blinding me!"
My gloved hand curls into a fist. "Why have you contacted me?"
"I'M GOING BLIND!"
"Then stop looking at your screen, you FOOL!" I snap. "My camera is broken. Only the sound is making it through. I thought my radio was broken, too, but apparently it's not because unfortunately I can hear you. But my camera broke when you attacked my ship."
"Heh. Oh yeah."
"Why have you contacted me?"
Zim resumes the arrogant attitude that really gets on my nerves. "I have found a way to lock onto your escape pod's signal, Tak. I can contact you whenever I desire!"
That should have been impossible. But I don't bring any notice to it. I narrow my eyes. "Any particularreason for contacting me at this time?"
"HAH! Your camera is broken, Tak! HAHAHAH! It's broken and you can't fix it!"
Oh Irk I'm about five seconds from smashing my radio to pieces. "Zim. HANG UP. Never attempt to contact me again."
"Wait, Tak! I had something important to say! Extremely important!"
I don't respond. I have no idea why I'm putting up with this.
Zim continues on. "I, eh, require your services, Tak. I was experimenting on one of the SOOPER WEAPONS generously given to me by some Plookesians. I hooked it up to the Computer in order to create a bomb that would send out a wave of energy and DESTRUCTION, and detonate the Earth!"
"No!" I almost shriek. He can't do that now! My escape pod doesn't fly! I have no way to get off this nasty rock if he attempts to blow it up!
"Oh yes, Tak!" Zim says. "But anyway it didn't work. My BASE blew up instead! My BEAUTIFUL BASE!"
"And my moose!" a shrill voice says through the radio. That must be Zim's malfunctioning SIR Unit.
I let out a disgusted sigh. "I have no time for your problems, Zim! I have my own to worry about!"
I can nearly hear Zim's frown over the radio. "Oh, yes, yes, you're stranded with your escape pod and a broken camera. Big deal. MY BASE HAS BEEN DESTROYED! It's even worse than when you destroyed it!"
Heh. A memory I will cherish to my dying day. But anyway. "There's nothing I can do about that, Zim, and even if there was I wouldn't do it."
"Oh, but there is! I need just one thing, Tak. Your escape pod has an AI brain, yes? I need it. Mine were all destroyed in the explosion. I need yours to bring power back to my amazing base and then I'll be able to have new, superior AI brains made!"
"And what on Irk makes you think I'll give it to you?" I ask. He does know I hate him, right? I believe I've made it pretty clear. But with Irkens like him it's difficult to tell.
"Because I have your disgusting SIR Unit!" Zim says. "How do you think I managed to hack your radio frequency?
My blood runs cold. MiMi.
I start shouting things into the radio-I don't even know what I'm saying. Zim doesn't seem to either.
"Goodbye, Tak!" he says. "Bring the AI brain!"
You don't know what you've brought on yourself, Zim.
That was not necessary, Milady.
It's getting dark now. Earth days are much shorter than days on Irk and I can barely see my feet as I walk. My eyes still need to adjust.
I was perfectly capable of handling that defect on my own. And even if I wasn't, my capture was not worth freely giving up something as valuable as the ship's AI brain.
"I don't need a lecture on my actions," I say quietly.
Oh? What was your reasoning, Tak? What caused you to believe that you needed to-
"You carry confidential information that cannot be allowed to fall into the hands of the enemy!" I say. "And in this case the enemy includes Zim."
My SIR Unit doesn't reply. She is walking beside me in her cat form, looking mostly unharmed after her ordeal of being captured by Zim. We are both in our holographic disguises, heading back to the escape pod. MiMi doesn't look at me as we walk. I don't say anything to her, either. The electric implant in my head allows MiMi to communicate with me telepathically. It's nearly flawless except for the fact that I can't respond the same way; I can only talk to her vocally.
We had left Zim's base in shambles. He hadn't been lying about it blowing up. He had been keeping MiMi in a deactivated state, guarded by his own SIR unit. She should have been easy enough to retrieve but Zim had been surprisingly willing to fight for her. MiMi and I had gotten away, but Zim had ended up getting the AI brain. A small loss. With my ingenuity we should be able to function well enough without it.
MiMi follows as I turn a corner and head near a construction site, knowing that this path will cut a good ten minutes off the trek back to the pod. A cold wind blows and I glance up at the darkening sky. Hm. The dense cloud coverage and sudden wind suggest that a storm may be approaching. We need to get back before it starts raining.
Milady, we should not be here, MiMi's voice says in my head. She sounds almost... nervous. Odd. SIR Units should not be cabable of feeling emotion. I'll have to check her repairs again when we get back.
There are men working ahead, talking in low voices. It appears that they are attempting to cut down a tree.
"Storm's coming!" one of the men shouts to his comrades as we draw nearer. I knew a storm was approaching. We need to get back as quickly as possible.
The man spots MiMi and me. "Little girl! Hey! You can't be here! You gotta move!"
"I walk where I want to!" I snap. Irk. I don't have as deep a loathing for humans as Zim seems to, but theycan be extremely annoying.
The man shakes his head. "This area's not safe for-"
A flash of light, a deafening crack, and searing heat silences us all. The men scream and run as the tree they had been cutting down groans and begins to fall, sweeping to the ground after having been struck by a sudden bolt of lightning.
I'm entranced by the sight. I think my legs are moving but I can't be sure. Yelling surrounds me but all I can concentrate on is the tearing, crashing sound of the falling tree. And then blackness engulfs me. And my entire body feels as if it's gone up in flames.
More yelling, and the sound of running feet.
"It hit her!"
Human voices pound through my head but I can't make sense of any of them.
Milady! Milady! someone shrieks. I think it's MiMi. Her voice pierces my mind and I want to cover my ears, to block it out, but my arms won't move. Milady! Tak! MILADY!
And then everything fades, and I'm left alone in the darkness.
I'm not at the construction site anymore. I can tell that already. I don't open my eyes at first. Instead, I allow my other finely-tuned senses to take stock of where I am. I can tell I'm lying on something. Something soft. And some heavy cloth-like material covers me, almost smothering me. Being sure to stay as still as possible in order to fool any present creatures that I'm asleep, I take shallow breaths through my nose. Let's see... I can detect several chemical scents that are similar to those used in Irken laboratories. Could I be in some sort of human version of a lab? Have they discovered what I am?
I snap my eyes open and am almost immediately blinded by WHITE. There's white EVERYWHERE. I dart my vision around and see that I'm in a room with a window on the wall closest to me. The curtains are pulled closed so I can't see out of it. There's a sink in a corner of the room as well as several cabinets and a counter with a wheeled chair, and a closed door on the opposite wall. I'm lying in a human bed, still in my disguise, thank Irk, and my right arm is trapped in a sling.
Oh, I understand. I'm in a hospital. A hospital on an enemy planet. Somewhere I should DEFINITELY NOT be, under ANY circumstances.
Instantly I slide out of bed and jump to the floor. Right. Escape options! Well, obviously, the door. But I know it probably leads to a hallway and to more humans. So the window, then. I'll have to attempt to climb out, even with an injured arm.
I hurry to the window and reach out to pull the curtains aside but the handle of the door across the room jiggles. I dart back into bed, whipping the covers over me just in time and trying to look like I've just woken up.
A man dressed in a pastel doctor's uniform comes in. He looks astonished. "Oh! You're awake already!" he says. "How are you feeling?"
"That... depends." I'm really not sure how to respond here.
The doctor pulls the chair up to my bed and sits down. "You were grazed by a falling tree. You're mostly unharmed, but your arm's been broken and we'll need more x-rays to determine the extent of the damage. We barely had time to run through any tests-you only arrived here half an hour ago."
They'd been performing tests on me? This was worse than I'd imagined! I'll have to escape as soon as he leaves, in case these try to monitor my heart or something and realize I don't have one.
"Where are your parents, little girl? We couldn't find any sort of identification on you or your cat."
What? My cat? MiMi! What had happened to her?
"What happened to-"
"Your cat ran away." The doctor shrugged. "Can you give us your parents' contact information?" the doctor asks, interrupting me. I freeze. I don't have any parents for him to contact, but I can't very well tell him that.
I have to think of something. "I'm not sure they'd want-"
The door opens again and another doctor pokes his head in. He looks confused. "There's, um, someone here to see the girl hit by the tree. He says her name is... Tak?"
WHAT? I try not to let my surprise show. Who could be visiting me? It can only be Zim or Dib-probably Dib, coming while I'm weak and injured to take pictures in the hopes of exposing me as an Irken. Well, if he tries anything like that he'll get more than he bargained for. And how could he have known that I was injured, anyway?
"Should I show him in?" the second doctor asks. The one sitting by my bed nods and stands.
"I suppose," he says. "She shouldn't be visited with for very long, though. She needs her rest."
The second doctor opens the door wider and beckons to someone outside, then leave. And who should walk in but Zim, toting a "disguised" GIR along on a leash.
The first doctor immediately covers his mouth and nose. "No! Dogs aren't allowed in here! I'M ALLERGIC!" He hurries out of the room, slamming the door behind him and leaving me alone with Zim and GIR.
Zim peers at me. "Heh? Tak!" he says. "I heard a filthy human tree fell on you! You're not dead?"
"WHY. ARE. YOU. HERE?" I ask through gritted teeth, pulling myself into a sitting position. This whole thing is his fault. I don't know how he found out I was here. I don't want to know.
Zim glares at me. Next to him, a helium-filled balloon with the Irken symbol unfolds from GIR's antenna and floats up toward the ceiling. Zim takes hold of the string and holds it out to me, turning his head away in disgust. "GIR screamed until I consented to come give you this!" he says.
"No I didn't!" GIR immediately replies.
Zim makes a weird face that I can't read. "SILENCE! You need your memory chips inspected, GIR!"
I hesitate for a moment, feeling sour, then reach over and take the balloon. I slide out of bed again and land lightly on the floor.
Zim looks at me and his eyes lingering longest on my useless arm. "What's wrong with you, anyway?"
I snort and head back over to the window. "I'm fine. My arm's been broken but it'll heal quick enough. Now I have to get out of here."
I draw aside the curtains on the window and, to my dismay, see that it's pouring outside. A clap of thunder sounds, as if it was waiting for me to notice the rain.
Zim lets out a little laugh. "Oh, oh yeah, it's raining."
Irritation surges through me and I whirl around. "How did you get here, then?"
"I took a long bath in paste this morning!" Zim says with a smirk. "It provides protection against water-something that no one less amazing than me would EVER have thought of!"
"I got PEANUTS!" GIR adds.
This is ridiculous. I release Zim's balloon and allow my human holograph to fade away so I can extend the four spider legs from my PAK. I can't stay here and wait to be discovered. I'll have to try to climb out the window despite my injury and the rain.
At that moment, the door opens and the doctor pokes his head in again, saying, "Okay. That's long enough. She needs her rest now and-" He catches sight of me, standing there out of disguise with my PAK legs extended, and staggers backward with a strangled yelp. Looks like I've officially overstayed my welcome. I grab onto the window with my left hand and throw it open. Rain immediately blows in. But... wait! The window will only open halfway! I push up on it again, to no avail. It's stuck.
"What happened to the girl with the broken arm?" the doctor cries, looking from Zim to GIR to me.
...Can he really be this stupid?
The doctor turns to call into the hallway, "Help! Over here! There's some kind of... thing in room 691!"
Enough of this. I take a few steps backward and arc my PAK legs around my body, sending out a beam of white light from them and blasting the window. It shatters, but so does the entire wall. Bits of plaster and glass fly everywhere-not to mention the rain, which bursts in through the gaping hole and leaves all of us soaked. My skin starts to burn from the contact with it and I scream. I involuntarily crouch down, blinded by the pain and the smoke pouring from my blistering skin. Can't... move...
I can hear thundering footsteps and the continued yelling of the idiot doctor. A door slams; there's a scraping, creaking dragging sound. I struggle to my feet and try to keep down the contents of my squeedily-spooch. What's going on...?
Something grabs the back of my uniform and flings me toward the window.
"GIR! Come!" Zim shouts. "I've blocked the door with the bed so they can't get through!" I hardly hear him. I'm teetering on the edge of dark space and I lose my balance...
I'm falling. I have no idea how high up I am, or how long I can last in rain pouring this heavily. I can barely keep myself conscious.
My PAK senses that my body shell is helpless and buzzes to life. My robotic spider legs stretch out and cut into the walls of the building, slowing my fall and dropping me gently to the ground. They retract back into my PAK and I stand shakily. Zim scuttles down the wall on his own PAK legs-looking very much like an overgrown spider as he does so-and touches ground next to me. He obviously had a much easier time getting down than I had and the rain doesn't seem to be harming him at all. His "glue bath" must actually work.
Did I mention I hate him?
"Where is GIR?" Zim demands of our surroundings.
"I GOIN' SWIMMING!" a robotic squeal responds, and GIR drops next to him.
"EXCELLENT!" Zim grabs GIR's nubby little arm and drags him over to me. "Use your mighty jets and fly us to shelter!"
WHAT. "I don't need your help, Zim!" I snarl, backing away. Zim scowls at me.
"Nonsense, Tak, your STOOPID body shell is crumbling."
Well, yes. It is. But I don't care. I won't receive help from Zim. EVER.
Zim cocks his head to one side, perhaps noticing the look on my face. "BLAME GIR!" he shouts, pointing to his SIR Unit.
As if that had been his cue, GIR lights the jets on the bottoms of his feet and barrels into me, knocking me off my feet, grabbing Zim by the arm, and carrying both of us into the sky.
"NO! PUT ME DOWN!" I scream.
"GIR! SLOW DOWN!" Zim yells at the same time. For once we seem to almost be in agreement about something. Zim's wig flies off his head and spirals to the ground with all the appearance of an ugly black bird.
"WHEE!" GIR doesn't seem to notice he has two screaming Irkens clinging to him. A sudden gust of wind hits us full-force and knocks the SIR Unit's flight path askew, jostling us. I see Zim's hands start to slip and, without thinking, I reach down with my bad arm and yank him up so he can regain his grip. I let go of him quickly. What am I doing? I just lost a chance to get rid of-
You know what? Forget that. Forget rivalries, grudges, and hatred. Forget my broken arm and the rain still burning my skin. Maybe, just for awhile, I can give myself over to the exhilaration of rocketing through the night sky in the rain. There's something, I don't know, thrilling about it. My scream turns into a laugh, and I smile despite myself. GIR immediately shrieks with laughter too. And then Zim stops screaming, and he laughs as well.
And for a moment we're all screaming, and shrieking, and laughing, spinning through the rain-filled sky, framed by the moon.
My eyes are getting bleary again. I scroll through countless numbers and codes on my computer back at the escape pod. There's still the slight hope that I'll be able to reprogram the pod to do something useful. I sigh in frustration. This is proving to be impossible without the AI brain.
"Zim had better be doing something really important with that artificial intelligence," I mutter.
Hah, you know better than that, Milady, MiMi says with a scoff, climbing into the pod in her cat disguise. Artificial intelligence is the only intelligence he has. MiMi has an Earth newspaper tucked under her chin. I take it and flip it to the front page, on which it shows a picture of the hospital with a gaping hole in the the wall on one of the higher stories, and deep scratches running from it down the side of the building. The headline of the article reads, "Do Aliens Walk Among Us?"
Pff. Humans. In half a day they'll come up with some "logical explanation" for the events of last night and the idea of aliens will be completely dropped. Dib will make a big deal of the article, though, when he sees it. Hah. That'd be entertaining to watch.
I toss the newspaper over my shoulder and step outside, stretching. The morning sun shines weakly through the forest and the downpour from last night is over, though the ground is still damp. I gaze off through the trees. It's sort of nice here, just me and my silent SIR Unit. Peaceful. You don't get this sort of peaceful tranquility on Irk. If it weren't for the humans, this planet might almost be decent.
"Why do you suppose he helped me?" I muse without turning around. "Why did he come at all?"
MiMi doesn't need to ask what I'm talking about. Well, your predicament was entirely his fault, she replies.
Gee... you think? I shake my head. Whatever made Zim come to the hospital, it was against everything an Irken stands for. Of course, if he hadn't come, I wouldn't be here right now. I don't know what to think. And... I wonder if anything has changed?
The radio crackles loudly, making me jump.
"Hey! Tak!" Zim's voice says from it. "Hey! You're not dead, are you? GIR's started up his HORRIBLE wailing again because he wants to know if you still have your balloon!"
I glance up. The balloon that Zim had given me is caught on a tree branch several feet off the ground. When I had gotten back to the escape pod I had found it tangled around one of my PAK legs. That must have happened when I escape the hospital.
I pick up the radio. "Yes, I have it," I say into it.
"Good!" Zim says. His voice fades a bit as if he's turned away from the microphone. "Did'ja hear that, GIR? She still has your pitiful balloon!"
"Who you talkin' 'bout?" GIR squeaks.
Zim's voice grows louder again in the radio. "Okay, he's happy now and he's stopped yelling! And... and he also wants me to apologize for getting you almost killed and stuff. I told him that ZIM NEVER APOLOGIZES! But he's, you know, he's... GIR."
"I like Tak!" GIR chimes in. "She's nice!"
"SILENCE!" Zim snaps. "So, yeah, TAK. Sorry about almost getting you killed. And stuff. NOW BEGONE WITH YOU! And keep that balloon safe. OR ELSE! I mean, GIR'll never leave me in peace. So." The line goes dead and all I hear is a faint buzz. He's cut the transmission. I put the radio down and stare at it.
He actually apologized! MiMi, still in her cat form, sits and curls her tail around her body. Milady? What do you think?
"I... I think..." I extend one of my PAK legs, snagging the balloon's string and bringing it back down. I take hold of it and tilt my head to the side. I think...
That maybe something has changed, after all.