Peridot had grown frustrated with a great number of things on Earth, but she had to say that securing forgiveness from Pearl had to be one of her most difficult challenges to date. It was systematically unfair. Pearl and Amethyst were talking again like nothing had ever happened. Peridot suspected it had a lot to go with the memory image paper stack that Amethyst had recently gifted to Pearl. Amethyst had all kinds of stories she could share with Pearl about Rose Quartz, and the two had had an existing friendship before the little incident with Coral’s memory wipe. It was practically inevitable that they would make up sooner or later. So what was Peridot supposed to do then? Just sit around and wait until Pearl decided to stop being mad at her? No. Peridot did not sit around for anything. When she didn’t have a solution, she mined for data until a solution came to her. She offered her apologies to Lapis, but said that she might be spending a significant amount of time back at the temple for next few days. Yes, she would observe the Crystal Gems until she knew them inside and out, better than they knew themselves.
Lapis claimed that she didn’t notice (or care, for that matter) when Peridot left, but Peridot knew that was just her way of saying they were best buds and Peridot would be sorely missed in her absence.
Armed with her tablet, tape recorder, and a box of tin cans to practice her metal skills on, Peridot set off for the temple (and the precarious wooden living structure attached to it). She spent the next several days staying out of sight — watching, analyzing. Had to keep the data pure, after all. If the Gems knew she was observing them, they might act differently.
Her cover was unintentionally blown on the third day in when Amethyst and Garnet were taking a stroll past one of her more expertly camouflaged hiding locations.
“Um, Peri?” Amethyst called out to her. From her crouched position in the branches, Peridot could only make out the purple stars on Amethyst’s knees. “Not that I’m judging or anything, but why are you in a bush?”
Peridot grunted. Well, Amethyst was designed as a Quartz soldier, so it was only natural that she would spot Peridot, however cleverly she had chosen to hide. Peridot emerged from the bush, with only a few stray leaves clinging to her hair. “Excellent observation. I was in a bush because it is green, and I am green, and green against green is harder to see.”
“Uh… huh.” Amethyst crossed her arms and looked at Garnet.
“I think what Amethyst meant,” Garnet said, “is why were you hiding in the bush to begin with?”
“No reason,” said Peridot quickly. “It’s just… a thing. That Peridots do sometimes. To cope with… stressful situations.”
Garnet nodded. “Makes total sense,” she said, looking back at Amethyst once again.
Peridot shuffled her feet and looked up and down the cliffside that held the temple and the coastline behind them. Pearl was nowhere in sight. Probably in her room, rearranging her swords or reprogramming some faulty waterfalls or something. If Peridot wanted the opportunity to ask questions unimpeded, she wouldn’t have a better chance than now.
“Soooo…” she said as casually as she could, leaning towards Amethyst in a very non-conspicuous way. “It seems as if you and Pearl are getting along again.”
“Oh, yeah,” Amethyst said with a nervous laugh. She kicked the sand a bit and rubbed her arm. “I mean, it’s still a bit rough, but we’re getting there. I’ve been trying to tell her everything about Rose Quartz I can remember.”
“As have I,” Garnet said. “It’s not the same thing, but I think Pearl is learning to deal with that in her own way.”
Peridot scowled. None of this was information she could use. In fact, all of it was information Peridot had inferred already. As useful as this conversation was, she might as well be asking the squeaking seabirds if they had any good suggestions.
For just a moment, the smile on Amethyst’s face faded, and she looked out towards the waves. “It’s just a shame, though,” she went on. “I mean, I can fill her in on stuff I remember after I joined you guys, but…”
“…but no one can tell her what happened between her and Rose Quartz at the start of the Rebellion,” Garnet finished.
Amethyst hung her head. “Yeah.”
Peridot froze. This was perfect! Absolutely perfect! With Garnet and Amethyst’s words, she at last had her breakthrough. Her approach to getting Pearl to forgive her would be the same as Amethyst’s — she would attempt to fill Pearl in on all the data surrounding Rose Quartz that her brain was still missing. And she knew exactly how she would do it, too. All the modern Homeworld ships came with plenty of data storage and all were well-stocked with images, video, any history at all that a commanding Gem might need to call to make an informed decision in a battle. Surely every little detail of the Earth rebellion was also there. All Peridot needed now was to get access to a Homeworld ship, hack into its highly complex security system, steal the data relating to Rose Quartz, and present said data to Pearl.
She gave a long sigh and returned to her spying spot in the bush while Garnet and Amethyst headed back up to the house. Apparently, Steven had scheduled them all for something called a “video game session” this afternoon. Steven was quite capable of gaming independently, Amethyst said, but he did appreciate the Gems’ moral support — virtual death was “emotionally exhausting”, and to make matters worse, his lion tended to wander off with his things when he wasn’t looking.
Peridot sat down, then promptly stood up and pulled a spiky branch out from under her leg, then sat down again.
“Oh my goodness!” she could hear Pearl exclaim from Steven’s open window. She tensed, wondering if the place was under attack, only to hear Amethyst follow up with, “Go for it, bro!”
She sighed and relaxed. Humans and their forms of entertainment were so confusing. She had other things to deal with. She fiddled with one of her cans (to the sound of Steven chanting, “No! No! Jump! Jump!”) and tried not to get too discouraged, but it was difficult. To implement even step one of her plan, she needed to gain access to a Homeworld ship. Really, what were the odds are her running into something like that?
“I detest being sent on these types of missions,” the Nephrite said aloud as she worked the controls of the small ship. Her fingers shifted across blinking lights of all colors without so much as a glance down, so well did she know the panel in front of her. Yellow Pearl shuffled her feet, unsure if her new owner was expecting a reply to her statement. With Yellow Diamond, she had always known her duties and fulfilled them to perfection. What was she supposed to do now?
You’re supposed to stop acting defective and quit thinking about what you like or don’t like, a voice in her head seemed to say.
The Nephrite glanced in Yellow Pearl’s direction and turned up her nose. “You’re a noble gift from Yellow Diamond, but I do wish they would have delivered you when I had time to find a place for you. This is hardly a mission for a Pearl to be along. But I suppose it can’t be helped.”
Again, Yellow Pearl had no clue if she was supposed to respond or not, and while she deliberated, the Nephrite got an even more annoyed look on her face. “Do you talk, Pearl? Or did the courier somehow deactivate that feature?”
Yellow Pearl stiffened. This was simply too much. Repossessed, insulted, treated like… well, like a common Pearl. Even an accessory had its limits. “Yes, I speak perfectly well, thank you,” she said, arms at her sides like a Quartz soldier. The Nephrite was not impressed.
“Good. Then understand this. I didn’t ask for you. I find Pearls too frivolous an item for my tastes. But it would be an insult to my Diamond to discard you. Do me a favor and act as much as possible like you don’t exist.”
Which means you want me to reply when you talk to me or you don’t? The contradiction was almost enough to make Yellow Pearl’s head hurt. As long as she had her new owner’s attention, however, she supposed she could risk speaking once more.
“May I be so bold as to ask what this mission entails?”
The Nephrite gave a grunt of a reply at first and shifted her hands to the left side of the panel, her fingers working in a delicate dance on the keys before she moved them to the center of the panel once again; her eyes never moved from the monitor in front of her. “I’ve been assigned to check on the status of two items: the Earth cluster, which has not activated as scheduled, and a ship containing five Rubies which set off in search of a lost Jasper.”
Yellow Pearl blinked in surprise. She was aware of what the cluster was, of course, and that it had been off-schedule. But still, they were not that far outside the range of possible dates for its awakening. Yellow Diamond was usually much more patient than that. As for the Rubies, well… they were Rubies, after all. An occasional misdirection was more or less standard procedure with them.
“The Earth seems to be a quagmire of my Diamond’s lost possessions,” Nephrite mused. “Perhaps, with some luck, I will lose you in it as well.”
“Y-yes… of course.” Yellow Pearl swallowed hard, bowed, and retreated to the back wall. This was more serious than she had first thought. Not just a matter of having to get used to an owner with different expectations, but having to cope with an owner who didn’t even want her. It seemed the safest thing for her to do right now was simply to fade into the background and hope her Nephrite didn’t “accidentally” leave her behind on this miserable planet.
What if I do get left behind? She gripped her hands and took a few deep breaths to calm herself. No, she could not continue to tolerate this. No matter what it took, she would find someway to get Yellow Diamond to repossess her. She would do something so wonderful, so amazing, she would make herself the most valuable Pearl on Homeworld. Then her Diamond would welcome her back. Yellow Pearl took a tentative step out of her corner, just enough to glance at the passing stars outside. Perhaps this… “Earth” held some promise to it after all.