The little Irken smeet threw herself down on the floor, utterly exhausted. All day it was the same thing; march, train, download, until her little mind was just as equally spent as her body.
Now at least she could rest until the next day came. Of course, day or night it made no difference, it was always dark. The smeet could remember it being light, but for only a little while before her world was plunged into darkness. A cold and unloving world. A world where no kind word or condolence was spoken. A world where she would have to fend for herself and live without a single comforting touch just like all the others around her. And there were tens of thousands like her, all down within the depths of their planet where they would remain until they were old enough to see the surface and take their place amongst all the other Irkens.
But that was still many years to come. For now the smeets were lead in groups into large padded rooms where they were expected to sleep. They were told by the drones that worked within the Hatcheries that when they were older they wouldn't require sleep at all, but for now their still developing minds and bodies needed the rest.
And still it was dark. Not to say that it was entirely dark, there were a few illuminating download points where the Control Brains were able to draw and give out power from, adding a harsh red glow to the miles and miles within the infrastructure of Irk.
The small smeet blinked her luminous blue-green eyes, already adjusted to the dark after almost a year of living in it. She felt tired, but unable to sleep. It was cold down there, but she resisted the urge to lay close to some of the other smeets for warmth. That was frowned upon. Adult Irkens needed no one and their young were expected to be the same.
She shifted herself restlessly on the padded floor, gazing at the countless bodies of those just like her; eagerly awaiting the day they would make something of their existence. She had just downloaded the data on Irken society earlier today. Most Irkens became soldiers, but some could advance to Elite and maybe even become Invaders from there. And of course there were others, none wanted to become service drones especially, but the one rank every smeet wished they could aspire to was to be Tallest. But this smeet knew that it would never be her. She was too small. Maybe someday she would grow, but already two of the thousands of smeets had shown promise and had even been inspected by Tallest Miyuki herself. Already their height had surpassed most of the other smeets at only a few years old and it was likely that they would only continue to grow taller.
The smeet sighed and rolled over onto her side, curling herself into a ball to try to retain her own body heat. Right now all her tired little brain would have to focus on was at least living to leave the Hatcheries. The matters of the future would have to wait.
A sudden cough and a little whimper from somewhere close behind her made her jump and she sat up quickly to see two mulberry eyes glowing faintly in the darkness. Some other smeet she surmised, once again rolling over and trying to go to sleep. There were lots of smeets here. She was lucky the particular room she was in was bigger and that she wasn't packed back to back against them.
The mulberry-eyed smeet whimpered again, sounding as if something was wrong and again the first smeet sat up, but this time she was a little annoyed. "What's wrong with you?" She demanded, keeping her voice low so that the drones wouldn't hear her. "Mind your own business!" The other smeet snapped back at her, his voice a little loud despite the hoarse-sounding rasp. He sounded as if he was sick.
To be sick as a smeet was almost a death sentence. With so many others the life of one was trivial. Many would die before they reached adulthood in fact, but it didn't matter, there were many more to replace them and the drones didn't care if one was to be hurt or sick. They were there only to oversee that the Empire had more soldiers.
Curious, the smeet focused until she could make out the form of the sick smeet. He was very young, like her, and was about as small as she was. He didn't look healthy though. His skin looked a few shades paler that it should have been and his eyes were slightly sunken in and looked dull.
The first smeet then felt an emotion that she had not experienced before; pity. She pitied this young smeet and felt very sad for him. After all, with no compassion, no love, he was not destined to live long.
"Stop staring at me!" He hissed at her, his eyes flashing with a deadly light despite his weakened appearance. The first smeet was a little surprised; clearly this smeet had more spirit than she had thought. Perhaps then he would live. Then suddenly she narrowed her eyes into deadly chips of ice.
"Hey! I know you! You pushed me down once! You're a meanie!" She exclaimed, recognizing the smeet that had shoved her roughly onto the floor one day in the very early part of her life. He smiled. "That was funny!" He said with a little laugh that quickly turned into a tickling cough. He looked back up at her once he caught his breath. "What's your name?" He asked.
The smeet could feel the device on her back, her PAK, start working almost as soon as the question had been asked. Could almost hear it in the back of her mind; verbal command>data search>identity access>file found>filename...
"Wik." She answered, stating the name that had been given to her on the day she was born. Then she had been a blank canvas, empty and eager to learn about the world she now existed in. Soon they would be able to prattle off their own names as if it was nothing, but for now their young minds could only process so much at a given time so their PAKs would have to aid in memory retrieval.
"Wik?" The other smeet repeated, trying out the name. Wik nodded. "Who are you?" She asked. The smeet then closed his eyes as his own PAK searched for the data. He too could remember the day he was born; he had been bright and curious, ready for anything. His PAK had been empty then, functioning only as life support and already beginning to catalog his life. Then he had been sent to the download room where his PAK was filled with data. But there were mistakes in that data, forty shmillion to be exact. He could feel them then just as he could feel them now. And then like the rising sun he had been given a name, given an identity and a purpose...
"I am Zim!" He exclaimed loudly, so loudly in fact that one of the drones had to yell at him to be quiet, to which Zim responded to by sticking his little red tongue out at him. "Dummy." Zim muttered at the drone.
Zim. That name meant him. Was him. Everything he was and would ever be was embodied in that single word just as Wik's name belonged to her. That was them. Zim and Wik.
Zim suddenly shivered. "It's cold here." He stated simply. Wik nodded, realizing that he probably felt colder than she did. She inched closer to him until they were both touching. "We'll be warmer like this." She said. Zim didn't really seem to mind. What he wanted right now more than anything was for someone to hold him, to keep him warm and safe and to lull him to sleep with soft spoken words.
He felt very alone and wretched down within the Hatcheries, despite the fact that there were in reality so many around him. But none of them cared. No smeet would ever hear a caring voice or feel a loving touch, it was simply not the way things worked. Just recently Zim had tried to tell one of the drones that he felt cold and sick but she had only told him to get back in line. No one cared. No one cared for any single smeet no matter how much they longed for someone to care for them.
Zim wasn't about to give up just yet though. His desire to live was strong and he would soon learn that he didn't need anybody. But for now perhaps if they stuck together they would have a better chance, and after all it was warmer to curl up beside another body than laying all alone in the dark.
"Someday I'm going to be the Tallest." Zim said as he curled up next to Wik, creating a little warm pocket in-between them. "And when I'm Tallest things will be different, you'll see."
"I want to be an Invader." Wik said. "Oh yeah, you have to be an Invader before you can be Tallest. So I’m going to be the best Invader there ever was!" Zim replied. "No, I'm going to be the best!" Wik argued, giving one of his antennae a sharp little tug. "Nuh-uh! I'm going to be the best Invader ever and you can be second best!" Zim retaliated with a weak little shove. "But that's not fair!" Wik whined. She knew she could be the best Invader. She knew it and she wasn't about to be second best after some smeet no matter how sorry she felt for him.
"You can be the best Invader after I'm the Tallest." Zim said with a confirming nod. Wik thought about it; that certainly seemed reasonable, at least reasonable to her still developing mind. "Okay." She concluded, letting out a little tired yawn. Zim yawned in response. "You'll see." He mumbled sleepily. "I will become the Tallest."
And thus was the beginning of a long friendship.