Peridot stood in awe, surrounded by information. However, she was limited in what she could process. She was a very practical Gem, as a rule, and walking around in Pearl’s head, where any aspect of her personality could manifest as… well, pretty much anything, proved itself a challenge.
The first things she could identify in this strange place were Pearl’s emotions. These took the form of shapeless clouds around her — some small, with soft pastel colors, others large and violent. Peridot groaned with frustration. Were there any memories in this crazy Gem’s head at all or was it just a mass of feelings and impulses? She shook her head. No, the memories were here somewhere. She just had to work a little harder to find them. She approached the largest cloud, one that looked like it might strike her with lightning at any moment. When she narrowed her eyes, there seemed to be something like a piece of cloth sticking out of it. Was that how memories were manifesting themselves in this place? Peridot stepped up and fingered the cloth’s edge. As she did so, her chest tightened, and she thought she heard someone screaming. Peridot gasped and released the cloth, taking few steps backwards. The space around her was silent once again, save for the sound of the cascading water around her.
Okay, so that was definitely a memory I just held. This was good. Now she just had to make sure it was the right memory. She stepped up again, mentally preparing herself this time, and gripped the cloth tightly. Now that she knew what to expect, connecting with the memory wasn’t so jolting — it was almost like hearing something on the radio or the image cube. In this case, she was hearing the moment that Pearl got news of Steven’s birth… and, at the same time, of Rose’s death. It wasn’t a yell of shock or horror, but a deep-throated cry of anguish… the voice of someone who’d known the inevitable was coming and had done everything to convince herself that, somehow, the outcome would be different.
The exact moment when Rose Quartz stopped existing — this was what was stopping the Pearl-half So this was what Peridot had to get rid of.
Peridot gave the memory a good, hard tug, expecting to yank it right out. However, it seemed to be entangled with another memory of a slightly lighter color. Not releasing her grip on the first memory, Peridot reached out and touched the edge of the second. This one was still unpleasant, but not like the first. Sounds flickered in Peridot’s ears, this time of Pearl and Rose fighting alongside each other in some sort of battle. Peridot tugged harder, but she only managed to pull more and more memories from the cloud’s center.
Then, Peridot heard a distant voice above all the chatter: “Um, Peri? You almost done? I think I hear someone coming!”
Peridot gritted her teeth. This far submerged in Coral’s subconscious, she couldn’t hear anyone approaching. She had to finish this job and fast. If the memories were too entangled with each other to separate the problem one, she’d just take out the whole thing. Less chance for trauma that way. She continued pulling until the last memory tangled in the mess came free. Instantly, the world around her began to shake. The pile of memories at her feet faded from existence and Peridot felt herself being hurled backwards, rejected from Coral’s mind. She grinned.
It’s happening! The Gem is regenerating! I’m brilliant! I’m a genius! I’m–
She blinked and suddenly found herself standing side by side with Amethyst. The purple Gem was looking nervously in front of her. Peridot rubbed her sore head and followed Amethyst’s line of sight, only to see Ruby standing a few feet away. Her eyes were ablaze; even without the full power of her usual fusion, she looked more than prepared to tear Peridot apart.
Steven stood nervously behind her, holding Corundum’s hand.
“What,” Ruby asked, her rage barely contained, “did the two of you do?”
Peridot almost laughed at the question. What did the two of them do? They probably just saved Pearl’s life, thank you very much for asking. Peridot opened her mouth to explain her genius when a flash of light came from the gemstone still sitting on the pedestal. Peridot crossed her arms with satisfaction. This was even better. Now Coral herself could explain how Peridot had rid her brain of that painful weed of a memory. The stone floated upwards, and a white light stretched out from it, forming the shape of a body. When the light faded, the Gem that stood there didn’t look all that different from Pearl’s other half. Her single eye and gem were on the mirror side of her face, and her skin was more of an orange-cream color, but physically, those seemed to be only differences.
Emotionally? That was a completely different story. The moment Coral had regenerated, she looked around her with a fierce determination in her eyes. This side of Pearl wasn’t waiting for anyone to give her any orders. She was going to give them. As her eyes locked with Steven’s, she seemed to be irritated for a moment, and stepped towards him. Then she let out a sudden gasp.
“Coral?” Steven asked. He release Corundum’s hand and started to walk towards the orange Gem. Ruby put out a hand and blocked his path.
“Hold on a second, Steven,” she ordered.
Coral seemed frozen in her tracks. Her eyes widened and her whole body quivered. Then she collapsed onto her knees and gripped the side of her head.
“No…” she whispered. She squeezed her eyes shut and opened them again, as if trying desperately to see something that wasn’t there. Two or three more times she tried before she said again, “No… no… why can’t I remember? No!”
Steven pushed his way past Ruby (who looked none too happy about his insubordination) and hurried up to Coral’s side. “What’s wrong? What can’t you remember?”
At first, the Gem didn’t answer. She just stood there quivering; Peridot almost feared she might revert back to her gemstone right there on the spot. But finally she seemed to gather herself enough to whisper, “Rose. I can’t remember Rose.”
“Ah, the Rose Quartz!” Peridot said, snapping her fingers. “Of course! That was the connecting factor, why the memories were all so entangled with each other. No wonder I had to erase them all.”
There was more gasping. Peridot really had to hand it to these Crystal Gems; it seemed to be a favorite pastime of theirs. But now instead of one angry Gem looking ready to kill her, Peridot had two.
“You… you erased everything?” Amethyst growled. “You said you were only going to take the memory that was hurting her the most!”
“Hey, memories are complicated things!” Peridot snapped back. “You’re the one who gave me a memory to look for that was tangled up with so many other ones! You should have picked some… I don’t know, more standalone traumatic event!”
Coral hugged herself, her head bent down. “You two… you did this to me?” she asked.
“Hey, we got you to regenerate!” Peridot said. “No one else was doing anything! You would have been trapped in that gem forever if it wasn’t for us!”
Coral seemed to be considering this for a moment. She got to her feet and looked Peridot and Amethyst over in a methodical, analytical sort of a way. Then, when her contemplation was complete, she took a step forward and reached for the jewel on her forehead. In one smooth motion, she drew out a white dagger and pointed it straight at Peridot’s chest. “I think we’ve had a misunderstanding. You go into my head, you rip away the most precious memories I have, and you want me to thank you for it?”
“Coral, stop!” Corundum cried, but she didn’t move from her place.
Much to Peridot’s shock, it was Amethyst who first came to her defense, stepping between Coral’s dagger and Peridot’s chest. “Whoa, whoa,” she said, pushing the end of the blade to the side. “Let’s just calm down for a second. No one’s stabbing anybody here, okay?”
Coral, apparently, disagreed. She repositioned her blade so that it was now pointed at Amethyst. “You…” she said. “I don’t know why you, of all Gems, would betray me, but I’ll at least listen to what you have to say. That one–” She briefly flicked the blade to point behind Amethyst at the cowering Peridot, “–isn’t getting any mercy. Move. Now!”
Amethyst looked nervous, but continued to hold her ground, putting out her arm to block Coral from walking around her. It didn’t make any sense. Why would Amethyst side with Peridot so easily over a Gem that she’d clearly been friends with for a long time before this? Because she didn’t want to see Peridot hurt? Because she agreed that Peridot had made the correct choice? Both options seemed equally implausible, and yet there Amethyst stood. Coral narrowed her eyes, indecision quickly fading from her expression.
“If you want to fight me, that’s your choice,” she said. “But don’t think I’ll hold back!” She raised her dagger, and Amethyst started to draw her whip as well. But something stopped Pearl’s blade short, and it wasn’t Amethyst’s weapon. Peridot’s eyes widened. She blinked twice, trying to make sense of the scene in front of her. The other half of Pearl, the one that did nothing but snivel and ask for someone to give her orders had countered Coral’s move and was now blocking’s Coral’s blade with what appeared to be a long white staff.
“You… can’t hurt Amethyst,” she said, straining under the pressure of the blade. She made an attempt to push Coral away, but it only halfway worked. Coral lost her footing slightly at Sea Glass’s shove, but quickly regained it. Peridot looked around to see where Sapphire had gotten off to, if Sea Glass had split away from her, but to her surprise, she found Garnet, not Sapphire, standing off to the side.
“Wha– when— how did you refuse that fast?” Peridot hissed.
“Magic,” Garnet replied impassively.
Coral acted as if she didn’t hear the conversation or it didn’t matter to her and continued to put pressure on Sea Glass’s weapon. “How dare you!” she snapped at her counterpart. “You don’t understand anything. You don’t know what anger feels like. If you had any emotion, anything at all, you’d hate Amethyst right now! You’d hate both of them!”
Sea Glass looked like she was about to agree, to hang her head like a scolded puppy and walk away. But instead she held her ground. “You’re right. I don’t feel any anger right now. And I… I know that I should. Rose meant a lot to us. It was wrong of them to go into our memories like that.”
“If you think all Rose did was ‘mean a lot to us’, then you haven’t got a clue!” Coral spat. She then drew the blade back and made a quick jab towards Sea Glass’s throat.
Rather than countering, Sea Glass jumped back at the threat. “We can’t fight each other!” she said. “We have to fuse back together! We have to make Pearl again!”
Coral barked out a laugh. “Me fuse with you? Are you serious?” She raised the blade, this time as if she planned to bring it down on her counterpart’s head. Peridot could tell that it was not meant to be an actual attack; like her previous swipe, her aim was completely off and there was no muscle behind it. But it scared Sea Glass enough that she gasped and crossed her arms over her face in a pathetic attempt to ready herself for taking a blow.
“Pathetic,” Coral said, withdrawing the blade.
A cowering Sea Glass lowered her arms, her cheeks taking on a bluish tone, no doubt for having been tricked so easily.
“You are everything I’ve always hated about myself,” Coral continued. “You don’t know how to do anything other than cower and obey. I bet they would’ve loved you on Homeworld. Just think… a Pearl that doesn’t need to suppress her feelings because she doesn’t even have any. How convenient is that?”
She started to tear up a bit. “You don’t even feel any love for this world. If Steven or whoever you think your master is, told you to blow it up, you’d do it without a second thought.”
“Steven would never tell me to do that!” Sea Glass yelled, seeming to find some of her courage again as she straightened and tightened her grip on her weapon. “He loves the earth and everyone in it. And Rose did, too! It’s true I don’t feel things like you do, but–”
“Don’t you dare talk to me about Rose!” Coral snapped. “You want to prove you’re worth keeping around? Show me you’re willing to stand up for something. Show me you’re willing to fight.”
Sea Glass was not willing to fight. Peridot could see it in every aspect of her — her stance, her expression. She had all the enthusiasm and self-assertion of any normal Pearl. That was to say, none at all.
And still… still she raised her staff. “Very well,” she said. “If there is no other option, then we’ll fight.”