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The Masked Defective

Chapter Text

The Irken Empire was run efficiently and effectively, not by the two tall figure heads but rather by three gigantic machines, which held the 'souls' of the original three Tallest; Justice, Tradition, and Wisdom. These three machines, better known as the Control Brains regulated and shaped Irken society.

As each planet was conquered, transformed and cleansed for the use of the Irken people, three new Control Brains or CBs were installed. Of course they weren't nearly as advanced as the originals but, it made it so they had complete control over every sprawling corner of the Empire.

The CB's were responsible for population control, construction, battle plans, food supplies, punishment of the guilty, trials for the supposed innocent, and the Smeet Hatcheries. Every aspect of Irken life went through them. 

CBs were also complicated machines that required constant tune ups and updates in order to function properly. There was a special team of elite Irk scientists and engineers whose sole job was to travel wherever their assigned Control Brain was and keep it running like clockwork.

For centuries, the Irken people had lived under the rule of machines. They were trained from hatching to revere and fear these beings that had created their society, even more so than their Tallest.




"Are you in position?" His co-worker's voice rasped in his head, echoing from the speaker they'd chipped there. "Because if you aren't—"

"Oh shut up. I'm nearly there. Don't start lecturing me." Hash hissed back, antenna perked for any disturbances as he crept along the dimly lit corridor. It was empty, but for the occasional hidden camera. It was a place he'd been a billion times before it seemed.

Filled with all kinds of memories; good and bad and in between. Hash thought of his co-workers. They had become so much more than that. The ten of them had been hatched together, raised together. They were as close as any irken could possibly be to one another. 

The hall was clean but for the rather obnoxious grape soda stain in the middle of the hallway. Of course they'd tried to remove it, to no avail. The only other option would've been ripping up the carpet and that was just stupid. 

He half expected the lights above his head to flicker ominously as he walked to his destination. For someone to jump out and scream "Ah-hah! Caught you!"

But, he was allowed to be here, in fact he was one of the ten Irkens who had access to this place besides the Tallest and yet his spooch beat like it was going to hop out of his chest.

"Are you there NOW?" Hash cringed, glaring at the nearest camera.

"Will you stop? I'm going."

"Well, you don't look like you're doing anything but, staring at the wall like a dull witted Gashspleakasplorsh. What part of 'Urgent, Life or death situation' do you not comprehend?"

Her name was Mora and she was anything but, patient. Hash made a quick insulting gesture at the camera before shuffling up to the giant door at the end of the hallway. Taking a deep, steadying breath he typed in his special identification code, waited for the door to swoosh open and walked inside, his heels making too much noise.

"Nothing. I mean, I understand it all, thank you very much. I didn't vote for myself. You could've gone just as easily."

It was the same as it always was; Three giant Pak like machines, all beeping and humming nearly noiselessly in the giant room. These three were connected to every other Control Brain in the Empire. Aside from the brains, numerous tools were scattered around the room. Along with miscellaneous inventions, holo tapes, souvenirs from planets they had been flown to for a new Brain's installation...

"You know why I couldn't." Hash could almost picture her face as it instantly sobered, dark purple eyes dimming and yet still burning with that internal fire of determination he'd always admired.

The brains no longer acknowledged them, as it knew their PAK signatures. Hash walked right up to the far left Machine, which he knew was Justice or the Present or CB 1; in charge of Communications, Prisoner records, surveillance, Law Accounts, treaties and alliances.

"Yeah, yeah." He hissed non-existent brow furrowed as shaky claws moved to work. The brains never stirred from their 'hibernation' which they always went into at the end of the day to process all the new information. "Responsibilities, your mate, it's all so angst-y and such blah, blah."

The nervous irken worked swiftly, his hands, even while shaky, sure and experienced. This was what he was good at; Control Brains. From his hatching he'd known what he was meant to do. Now, he was doing the exact opposite. At least for a little while.

It was unheard of, blasphemy. And certainly worth a death sentence of painful deactivation in front of the entire Empire. And even if the very thought of that made Hash want to throw up the delicious doughnuts he'd managed to shove down earlier, he knew that if he didn't do this…he would never be able to live with himself. Or look at any of his co-workers again.

Pulling a final wire inside the main breaker of Justice, the green lights of the giant Pak went dark. Blowing out a spooch full of air, he scudded over to the next one; Wisdom, the Future, CB 2; in charge of schematics for all irken tech, main battle tactics, helping decide what laws to put into effect and how to enforce them.

"Lights down on CB 1; releasing control on cameras and sending in Roak and Ja-Bomb to Hatchery."

Mora told him, and it echoed in the rest of the team's mind. And he had come to think of them as that; a team. They'd spent more hours and rotations inside this room together, than most irkens spent with anyone. They'd learned each other's personalities, ideas, becoming close. They looked out for each other. Helped each other. Even in this…they were one.

Hash's fingers flew as they quickly repeated the process with Wisdom, eyes narrowed in concentration. The machine's blue lights flickered once, and then turned off completely. Mora made a humming sound in his head.

"Good. CB 2; lights out. Sending in Hic, Wren, and Gimp to transfer area."

The Irken knew that things were going well, Very well. Better than they had dared to imagine. He had expected to at least have triggered an alarm by now. His dark pink eyes flickered to the final control brain. Tradition, the Past, CB 3; in charge of deactivating criminals, harvesting information, smeeting training programs, tallest electoral and historical records.

It was the most unpleasant thing that Hash had ever had the displeasure to work on. It often barked commands and spoke down to them more than the other two did. Grimacing from the shiver of nervousness that was working its way up his spine, he stepped forward and opened the control box, preparing to complete his task at last. This time his hands were steady even thought inside he was anything but.

"Mora. We're done. Task complete." Roak's squeaky voice cut through the speaker, sounding over joyed despite his normal stoic nature.

"Good. Now go back to base. How are you coming along, Hash?"

He grunted, hands flying as fast as he could, disconnecting wires, throwing switches, typing in the necessary codes…"Almost…"

"IRKEN CBT HASH. PAK #989237489. STATE YOUR BUSINESS." Tradition boomed in a voice of age and command.

"What was that?" Mora hissed.

"I-it's awake." Hash whispered back, petrified.

"Well, turn it off!"

"RESPON—" He tugged the final wire out, sending the red lights into darkness. From his head speaker he heard Mora's sigh of relief, along with the tap-tap of keys on a keyboard.

"It's out. CB 3 gone. Moving into final position." Pause. "Hash. Get out of there. Go to base and wait for orders."

He nodded even though he knew that she couldn't see him. Setting his tools down, he slipped out the door and,

"Halt!" Hash obeyed eyes wide in terror. Several soldiers stood outside the door, guns aimed at him, eyes hidden by tinted goggles.

 Without a second thought, he retreated, shoving the door behind him and beginning the lock down sequence, tapping the code in furiously.

"M-Mora…they've found me."

Before she could get a word in, Roak was cutting in. "We'll come get you, hold tight." He could almost picture the tiny irken's set face, large blue eyes, with his hands clenching tight to his weapon. His trusty companion, Ja-Bomb nodding along silently in agreement.

"You will do no such thing!" She shouted, the static increased. "You will go to base. Hash, you locking yourself in?"

"Yeah…but, I can hear them trying to break through." The doors muffled the sound of gun shots, harsh screeches of spider legs, metal against metal.

"Fuck. Just stay calm, okay? We'll find a wa—No. Damn it. Lost track on Hic." Hash backed away from the door, shaking uncontrollably. Was this it? Was this how it was going to end? Now, when things had seemed so close?

"Screw what Mora said, Hash. We're on our way. Hold right." Roak yelled.

"N-no…" He croaked. He cleared his throat and tried again. "No. Go. They need you. You two have talent. They need that for the plan. They need that for this to work."

On the other end, his co-worker was cursing angrily, desperately. "Hash…they're breaking through. But, you're going to be okay. Remember your training. Remember what we're doing this for, okay?" Once again he nodded as If she could see him. "It's all going to be—" BANG. A thump and the sound of static. Louder. As if she had fallen on top of her control panel.

Silence on the end. Everyone's end.

Hash let out a shuddering breath. Dead. Mora was dead. Hic was MIA and everyone else was in danger. With a big explosion, the door gave in, falling to the floor and revealing how warped it was from lasers and blunt force. He scrambled backwards; pressing his back to a corner just as the soldiers ran in with guns aimed everywhere, searching for their target.

Out of the fourteen or so, stepped the general, eyes covered by those stupid goggles. Designed to unnerve the enemy, to show no color or weakness. To distance themselves from the deaths they caused every day.

Hash didn't feel much of anything anymore. He was numb with shock. His friend was dead. And soon he would be too.

"You. Much shorter than I had imagined when I heard of the threat. But, that doesn't matter. Your accomplices are going to be exterminated. Just like you. Your plan has failed. You have failed."

The General smirked, speaking to his team. " Just like anybody who goes up against the Empire."

Hash gnashed his teeth, righteous anger finally making an appearance. This jerk, this slave was wrong. They may be about to die…but, they had died for something. They HAD made a difference. The irken straightened his back, chin up and looked the soldier square in the eye.

"We have not failed," He hissed loud enough for anyone who might still be listening in his headset. "We've already begun to destroy the Empire from within. The universe, every irken will know how corrupt our system is. If we die, ten more will take our place.." He could see them, shifting uncomfortably, an irken speaking such blasphemy. Good.

"The Empire WILL fall—" BANG.

With a jerk, his body fell to the floor. The laser had shot right through his midsection, taking out the PAK and ending his life faster than he could comprehend it. Pink blood pooled and boiled from the PAK's internal wires.

Normally anyone that was an enemy of the Empire was taken to the Control Brains, where they were judged and sentenced before every irken eye. They should know what happened to their enemies. But, this was different. They weren't common criminals…they had shut down the CB's and defied the Empire. This was a spark that they had to extinguish before it got out of hand.

This would never make the press or be recorded in any kind of history texts. No one would know about this. 

The general eyed the body with contempt.

"You see. This is what happens to traitors." Turning on his heel he spoke directly to his soldiers, who immediately stood at attention.  "You two, remove the body and take it to the Tallest along with the others outside. You, get a Vort prisoner to come fix the CBs. The rest of you come with me…we have six more to find before the day shift starts."

They all went to their tasks. The two soldiers kneeled down and hefted what used to be Hash up from the floor, grimacing as the blood continued to drip through the hole in his PAK. They stumbled out, stepping over the Grape soda stain now joined by a greater smear of pink and down the hallway after their general.

Chapter Text

422 Years Later


 

Dib stared out the window. It was something he'd done many different times and in many different places. As a tiny child, traveling around the world with his father as the man had moved from job to job, he'd looked out car windows, crappy hotel and temporary school windows.

They'd finally settled down in a big city with buildings that scrapped the sky, with people that were cruel, the air nearly unbreathable. He remembered looking out his bedroom window up at the red sky, then down at the minuscule park that lived between buildings. Children played there all the time. He had never joined them.

As a teenager, he'd never looked out the window. Better to live in your own world than face what was laying out there, waiting to destroy you, to mock and humiliate. It had been all too disappointing for him.

And now…well now he could see twirling nebulae of impossible colors, countless planets and billions upon billions of stars of all shapes and sizes. Outer space was beautiful. He stared out from his ship, filled with stale recycled air. And while that might have sounded repulsive to anyone with a brain, Dib enjoyed this much better than the filthy air he had used to breathe.

The door whooshed open behind him. Dib fought the embedded instinct to put his back to the wall to avoid being attacked. This was his ship and his crew. This was the safest he'd ever been.

"Captain," The voice was familiar. The speaker was a plookeshian by the name of Plike. "we're in viewing range of Irk." Adrenaline sparked in Dib's blood, on the outside he showed nothing. Cool, calm. In command.

"Good…" The Plookeshian turned to go. "Wait." Of course the alien halted, standing at attention. Eager to please. "Get me Captain Nar." In the reflection of the window, Plike nodded and walked out, the door closing softly behind him.

Dib pushed away from his window, to stare at the room he was in. A conference room that was used only for special occasions. It was secluded and had the most windows besides the front control room. It was his favorite.

He walked, slowly and cautiously to the window on the other side of the room. When he reached it, he held his breath and stared. Irk. It was pink, brighter than the images and holograms. Ships of all shapes and sizes flew from it and to it. Bustling, bursting and spilling like a hazardous chemical all across the Universe. To contaminate unsuspecting planets, killing and fighting like the vicious race they were.

Hatred and rage didn't show on Dib's face but it was there. Always there, seething and bubbling just below the surface. It waited for the opportunity to strike, to take revenge and—
The door swooshed open again. Vortian legs made sharp tapping noises against the metal floor.

"Hiding, Captain?" Lard Nar's heavily accented voice asked.

Dib waited until a chair scraped across the floor and Nar sat down before turning around to meet his gaze, which was for once, not obscured by heavy goggles. However, the table reached the tiny vortian's shoulders. "Need a booster seat, Captain?"

Nar smirked. "What do you want? I was busy."

"You know what I want." Dib replied smoothly, stalking to the table and yanking a chair out to straddle it. "That's it."

A hand motioned to the window, where planet Irk floated in the black space. "We finally made it. After all these years. Fighting and creating connections. Losing valuable assets and clawing our way from the bottom." He pushed his glasses up on his nose, never breaking eye contact. "We both know why we're here. Everyone on this ship has lost something, or everything. All because of THEM."

"Yes." Nar said, matter of factly. Dib gritted his teeth and slammed his fist on the table.

"You know that's true! So, why are we trusting one of them?" Dib's temper never usually got the better of him. He was always calm, deadly so. It's what had gained these alien's trust. And drawn Nar in, gained his loyalty.

But, sometimes the pressure, his past was too much. Murder rose up in his amber eyes and severe hatred had him ranting and pacing for hours in this room. Sometimes to himself, sometimes to Nar.

Said Vortian sighed and crossed his arms as an unconscious defense at the human's anger. "We're not. But, he has information. Connections that we don't—"

"We could get them!" Dib spat.

"And how long would that take? How many more planets and lives would they destroy before we got'those connections?"

Dib scowled and slumped over, beaten. Lard Nar was right. "Besides…he's a defective. About as hated, if not more, as us."

"I know that." Pause. "Have you met him?"

"No. Not in person at least. Some of the crew has before."  Defectives were hunted. There was a special unit on Irk that's only duty was to find and deactivate Defects.

Dib wasn't entirely sure of the official definition of a defective but, from what he gathered they were more emotional, had weird growing patterns, strange mutations…they were different, diverse. And that was the bottom line. The Empire destroyed different.

"When is he…coming?"

"Soon, I've been assured."


 

Soon turned out to be several hours later. Dib was impatient, pacing again, growling low under his breath. Lard Nar was playing Solitaire, a game that the human had taught him a while ago.

"Soon, my ass!" The human barked, fists clenched. He 'paced' by the table so quickly at his next turn that several playing cards went fluttering to the floor. Nar looked down at them, so far away, and sighed. "Freaking Irken scum! Might as well just not come. Maybe he's gotten himself captured or blown up! Not that that would be a bad thing. One less irken is a better univer—"

"Dib, will you calm down?" Nar flailed, glaring.

"Yes, Captain." Dib whirled on his heels to face the door. "Calm down."

Nar nearly fell out of his chair, trying to spin it around to see who had spoken. The accent was thick, thicker than Nar's and different too. Irkens sometimes got accents from the regions they lived in. But, the voice didn't matter anymore because Dib could see the green skin under black war paint. The irken's face was mostly obscured by a ripped piece of magenta fabric. And he was covered head to toe, with dark black armor. Several weapons were strapped to his arms and legs. Dib also recognized that he was probably one of the smallest irkens he had ever seen. 

The human's left eye twitched. "You must be—"

"I am." He strode, cockily into the room, magenta eyes observing their surroundings. "Nice ship. It's a good model. But, your left engine needs some work. It's lifting a bit to the side."

Dib hated him already. Lard Nar followed the irken with his eyes, unsure at first but, cleared his throat finally. "Welcome. Uh, I honestly don't know what to call you."

The Irken glanced only once at the Vortian, staring down the human who was struggling to keep his temper in line. "It depends." Satisfied with his observations, he slid to the table and sat in the chair that Dib had vacated an hour or so ago. "I would say you can call me, Brilliant. Or my Lord. But, I can tell from Stink-Brain," A thumb went in the human's direction. "over here that wouldn't be preferable. So, just call me, ZIM."

'Don't punch allies. Don't punch allies.' Dib repeated the mantra before sitting down himself, the farthest chair away from Zim. "Great. And my name isn't Stink-Br—"

"No. Your name is Dib Membrane. But, Stink-Brain is so much more appealing."

"Oh for the love of—will you stop cutting me off? I'm trying to—"

"Talk. I know. Don't care. You want information. I'll be doing the talking."

Lard Nar's head kept snapping back and forth, caught in the middle. How did one stop such a tense conversation? Especially when one of them looked about ready to lunge across the table and beat the other to a bloody pulp.

"You love hearing your own voice, don't you?" Dib snarled, hands clutching the table. Typical Irken. Were they so sure this guy was on their side? He seemed pretty normal to other irkens he had met in the past. Arrogant, smug, unwilling to budge. Zim examined his claws, buffing them. 

"Well, wouldn't you?" If it wasn't for ZIM's attire, a lack of uniform, Dib would have already shot the irken.

"ANYWAY." Nar interrupted. "The information?" Zim eyes flickered from the human back to Lard Nar. Suddenly, he threw his feet up on the desk and leaned back in the chair. Dib knew that behind that ripped piece of fabric, the Irken was smirking.

"Yes. Where should I start?" Dib's jaw clenched. Something about this guy just rubbed him the wrong way. Maybe it was because he was part of the race of creatures that had ruined his life and killed pretty much his entire species. Or maybe it was because he was a giant dick.

"The beginning." He ground out, glaring and putting every bit of rage into it.

"How cliché. But, okay." Zim waved his arms about. "No one speak. If you interrupt me, the story ends." The human rolled his eyes while Lard Nar just nodded soberly. "Allow me to set the scene,ten Irkens, all in the same occupation of CBT's or Control Brain Technicians. Each one has come from different parts of the planet; all grabbed from different sides of the Academy and trained separately from their peers. Their sole duty in life is to care for and maintain the Control Brains. If you've done your research, you know that the Control Brains or CBs for short,  run the Empire. They are positioned on every planet that has been invaded and these ten Irkens fly from place to place, tuning and fixing them."

Zim took a deep breath, the torn fabric collapsing around his lips. Dib wondered what it was. It looked familiar. But, it also bothered him. Why was Zim hiding his face? Was there a nasty scar there or something?

"As you can imagine, the ten Irkens, raised together, formed a bond that you don't often see in Irken society. They were close. Go back even further than them, to the beginnings of the CB's; the first three Tallest, all placed into eternal cyber space. To guide and keep the future Empire in order. Of course, the Empire is far from orderly."

"The Empire is oppressive and hideously prejudiced in its heightocracy. It's only getting increasingly so. As these ten Irkens trained and learned the ins and outs of the CBs, they also uncovered many dark, dirty secrets hidden from history. Genocide. Not only of the tons of races that the Empire had taken over but, of themselves, of Irkens that they deemed imperfect. Such genocide was so vile that it was kept secret. These ten Irkens were horrified. Seeing the races that had fallen extinct. What they could've offered…"

Zim finally looked away from them and out the window where the pink planet loomed, spinning despite how blood-soaked it was. "They began to think. Began to plan; a plan that the resistance lives off of today. Unfortunately, the night that they set their plan into motion, they were betrayed and the entire thing to went to hell…" Giant magenta eyes glanced at his audience.

"Well, almost all of it."

It was silent. Finally, Lard Nar raised his hand slightly. Zim nodded at him. "Yes?"

"What didn't go wrong?"

"I was getting to that! Have patience, fool." Dib raised an eyebrow, skeptically. "Irkens are clones. But, we're unique in that we are a mixture of a billion different types of genes, and yet we still come out the same except for some small technicalities. The real thing that makes an Irken an Irken is our PAK. It keeps us alive and tells us what our duty to the Empire is…two of those CBT managed to mess up something in the Smeetery's PAK template. And before the CB or a inspector caught it—"

"There were millions of smeets with defective PAKs." Dib finished, awe struck and thinking hard.

"HEY!" Zim yelled, hands on hips. "What did Zim say?! I'M doing the talking, Human-Slime!"

Dib's head snapped to the side, so he could stare at the irken. "What did you just call me?"

"Human slime! What are your hearing disks as stupid as the rest of your face?"

"Um, okay first, that makes no sense and secondly how did you know I was human?" No one had known. Almost all the humans were dead. 'Cleansed'. He was possibly one out of maybe a hundred that had managed to survive. That was a very, very, very minuscule number in such a vast place as space.

Zim sniffed, which was crazy since Irkens had no nose. "I study my enemies and my allies."

Dib straightened up, cocking his head to the side. "Okay. Well, then tell me this…yes, you have a lot of information. That's great. But, how else can you help us? You're an irken hiding behind a piece of fabric—"

"Silence." Zim growled, shoving the chair back to stand. "I may not be leader of the resistance. I'm not a distinguished monarch turned traitor, but I can assure you this, Dib of Earth. The Tallest and the Control Brains are terrified of me."

Dib shoved up from his seat too, leaning across the table to meet those magenta eyes. He narrowed his own, suspiciously. "Oh? And why is that, Space-Boy?"

"I know more about them than I should, I'm incredibly short and can take down seven Elite guards at once, I'm masked both in appearance and PAK wise so they don't even know where to start searching for me, I'm fast, defective and most importantly I'm damn good at destroying everything I touch."

Four eyes and two different species, two different colors. Vastly contrasting and yet similar in the rage that burned in them, the same in the determination that glimmered in the dark depths. Silence dragged on as they studied each other, sizing up the other for an enemy, for an ally; unsure yet which one they might be.

Lard Nar's tiny hand rose up between them. They both glanced down at the Vortian who stared at both of them, wide eyed. "If you're done trying to decide who is bigger, can we get down to the business of, you know, destroying the Empire?"

Dib smirked and sat back down in his chair. Zim raised his chin and slowly did the same.

The human tilted his head to the side and held out his hand, five fingered and strange. Zim stared at it for a moment, before looking back up at Dib, questioningly.

"Human custom." He replied. "It means truce, peace. And…welcome."

Surprised, but hiding it like the great actor he was, Zim hesitated for one more second before placing his hand in the human's (it engulfed his own) who shook them slowly up and down for a bit. When he released Zim's hand, the irken analyzed it for a second, suspiciously. Dib rolled his eyes then turned to Nar who beamed at them uncomfortably.

The human placed his hand on his co-captains shoulder. "Well, Captain, where do we begin?"

Chapter Text

The rebellion wasn’t just them, a small crew aboard a average sized ship. It was made up of hundreds of groups across the known universe.

As the years had drawn on and more and more species were discovered and inevitably affected by the Irken Empire’s overwhelming force, the size of the rebellion had increased as well. Dib’s sources stated that there were at least a thousand different species involved. Which sounded incredibly powerful. But, if they were anything like him, there was a chance that many of those who counted themselves among their ranks were the last of their kind.

He’d been a part of the rebellion for the last 8 years. A incredibly small amount in the grand scheme of things. Lard Nar had been a rebel for seventy human years. He knew of some who had been in the rebellion for hundreds. It seemed that as far as they could trace the Empire’s destruction, they could also trace their rebellion.

And yet, as long as it had lived, it had also been dying.

The Empire was a machine of destruction. It spat out soldiers, raised them to hate and destroy and find anyone else in the universe to be unworthy. They were an ancient, well oiled engine with few weaknesses. A vast armada, stolen technology and virtually immortal.

Their only visible fault stood before him, drinking Vortian soda out of a straw under his mask. If it could be called that.

Dib had never heard of ZIM before, but that wasn’t surprising. The Empire kept its internal failings a big secret. And there was also the probability of ZIM wanting to remain such. The common room was silent. They had talked for hours and hours. Lard Nar had finally sauntered off to sleep.

Voritans needed lots of rest. They seemed to sleep more than they were awake. But, they were brilliant. Their technology was incredible, their people as a whole among the smartest in the universe. Probably why they were so quickly taken over by the irkens and why most of the vortians still lived. Even if as prisoners and slaves.

Humans on the other hand had little use. They were primitive,violent and weak. Dib kept looking out the window, felt his heart beating a tune of vengeance as he stared at the distant speck of IRK. He felt giant eyes on him.

ZIM’s eyes weren’t defective. They were bright cherry pink. A normal color. Along with shades of red, purple and even blue. He’d heard stories of smeets and full grown irkens with eyes of green,brown,orange etc being slaughtered. Just for their eyes. Physical defects were the easiest to spotted.

He hadn’t realized he’d been staring right back at ZIM for the last minute. “What?”

ZIM slurped the last of his soda. It made that obnoxious empty sound and he smacked his lips, putting the can down on the table.

“You are young. A mere 28 ‘years’, your profile said. And yet, you are attempting to lead a rebellion.”

Dib shifted, taking a deep breath. He’d heard this before. There were many aliens out there with many,many years of experience who were better suited to be in his position. And during those times when the rebellion had short, well hidden meetings, he never heard the end of it.

“I am not. There are plenty of others out there who are doing the same thing I am.” He shrugged, his eyes already drifting back to the sight of IRK. “Captains,generals,rulers of planets...I’m a small part of this. Just like Lard Nar. Like you. Like any rebel.”

ZIM snorted. “Sure. But, your crew is one of the better known groups. You are still a smeet.”

“So? Ask any one of my crew why they follow me. If I was...incompetent, I wouldn’t be here. Besides, humans don’t live a long as...well, vortians or Irkens or even Screwheads. I got like 80 years at most and I don’t intend to waste them sitting around moping about being one of the last of my kind.”

Silence. The irken seemed to think of what Dib had said.

He nodded and stood, walking to the window that Dib had been staring out for the last hour. Thousands of ships of varying sizes and shapes flew to and fro the planet. It wasn’t a huge planet. But, it was ridiculously bright. And used efficiently and effectively. Irkens were raised below the surface.

He looked at ZIM and wondered what he felt for the planet below them. It wasn’t the first time he’d thought about it. The rebellion was not without irkens. Mostly short and defective ones. But, they did have a fair share of taller ones who seemed to understand just how volatile and dangerous their empire was.

And Dib was naturally wary of all of them despite knowing that the Empire treated even itself awfully. But, brain washed loyalty was hard to rid yourself of.

ZIM was...well, he was probably the shortest irken Dib had ever seen before. He barely reached the human's waist. Not quite skinny, but not fat either. He stood like irkens did. Constantly at attention, straight and proud. The light of IRK illuminated him.

Dib wanted to ask many questions of the Irken before him but was unsure if any of them were okay to ask. The Empire and all that it had done...was hard to talk about.

“You know why I fight.” Dib said, and it felt too loud. “My story is very similar to at least half the galaxy.”

ZIM turned to look at the human. “They came, they saw, they conquered?”

Dib raised an eyebrow. “And wiped the planet clean.”

Zim made a noise of assent. Dib stood to stand next to him. But, kept a good foot between them.

“I won’t ask what they’ve done to you. I understand that it’s...extremely personal. But, I....will ask that you give me something...anything to let me know that I can trust you. I...I hate the Empire.” Dib said, fists clenched in his pockets. “And its hard to separate that hate from the irkens that I meet.”

ZIM turned to the human. Dib matched the movement. “You know I’m defective.”

“Yes and I know what they do to defects.”

“Do you?”

Dib hesitated. “They kill them.”

Zim brushed his words away. “Sure. They do now, now that they know the shear magnitude of the problem. But, for a long time they tried to fix them. With ‘therapy’ and surgeries. And when they couldn’t fix them they tried to learn from them, experiments and torture. That task force hunts defects for these reasons.”

The human swallowed. Of course. Not just death but humiliation and pain. He would bet that ZIM had suffered from both of those at least once. He wanted to ask more.

What even makes a Defect? How was ZIM defective? Why did he wear that stupid piece of pink fabric in front of his face? It was bright and noticeable, far from being inconspicuous. But, he figured that he might already be pressing his boundaries with someone who he had just met. Even if that someone was an irken who were notoriously unfeeling.

“Dib-human. You do not need to trust me. You just need to know that they want me dead and I do not want to die.” The irken turned from Dib and the window towards the door. ZIM had given them lots of information. Stuff they hadn’t heard before. And if what he said was true, he was a valuable asset.

Dib turned to watch him go. “Are you...?” Staying? Leaving? The door whooshed open automatically for the irken.

“If the plans you and Lard Nar have come up with can be done, then I will follow you.” The door shut with his departure. Dib supposed that would be enough. For now.

ZIM was gone and he felt the tension leave him. He hadn’t even realized he’d been so tense. Being around irkens was trying and for some reason this particular one left him feeling...a lot. Confused,angry, pity?

Dib sat at the table again and buried his hands in his hair. A headache was coming on. They’d sat in this room for hours, planning. The three of them held together by their mutual determination. Many, many rebellion groups had attempted to bring the Empire down and many, many had failed.

Dib had no illusions that theirs could be any different. He'd counted in his head, their allies, their resources and knew that theirs would be the largest attempt by far and should it fail, it wouldn’t be the last.

That first attempt, made by ten irkens almost 500 years ago had failed. But,their ideas and actions remained. ZIM was a result. Thousands of other irkens were as well. They had wanted to take down the pillars of their society itself so that it could be rebuilt from the ground up.

 The first rebellion had had 10 members. Theirs had thousands. And yet...they still needed 10 more.

ZIM said he knew one of them. A Control Brain Technician. He said that no longer were the 10 of them raised together. They were kept carefully apart, watched at every moment.

But, if they could...convince as least one of them to be on their side...then they had a chance.