“This is nothing short of infuriating.”
For someone who was supposedly infuriated, Nephrite’s tone remained the picture of calm. Yellow Pearl had taken not to responding to her words unless they were a direct order, and it seemed to be working okay so far. But now that they had landed on Earth, things got a little more complicated. Yellow Pearl had to be exceptionally careful. She couldn’t disobey a direct order to stay in the ship while her new owner wandered around this forsaken planet. So she had to make sure that said order was never issued. Keep out of Nephrite’s way as much as possible and make herself useful off the ship when she could. Work farther and farther away from it until she found a good opportunity to slip away. Now seemed to be the perfect opportunity for phase two of that plan. Nephrite had a Gem scanner in hand and had been walking in consecutively larger circles around the landing site. The area appeared to be made of various rock formations with little organic life around.
“I sense the Jasper we’re looking for is close by, but I can’t seem to pinpoint the exact location.” She gave the device a slap on the side, her first actual display of frustration since their arrival.
Yellow Pearl shook with anticipation. This felt so… rebellious. But ultimately, this was for the benefit of Yellow Diamond. Her Diamond needed a Pearl like her. No other Pearl could serve as well as she could. And this trip would prove it.
“I will… leave you to your work and stay out of your way,” Yellow Pearl said quietly, giving a deep bow and backing away. Nephrite gave a grunt of approval, then turned and continued walking in her circle, away from Pearl.
I did it… I actually did it. She rubbed her hands, trying to calm herself down. She still wouldn’t be able to wander far; she couldn’t risk being summoned and not arriving in a timely manner. But at Nephrite’s rate, she surely had a least a few hours before she was needed again. She would find the Jasper first. Then she would dutifully inform Yellow Diamond of the Nephrite’s incompetence, so terrible in her duties that even a lowly Pearl managed to succeed in the missions before she did. Then at last, Yellow Pearl would be welcomed home. She grinned at the thought.
This was an absolutely perfect plan that had zero percent chance of going wrong.
Sea Glass and Coral both walked slowly out to the beach where the others were training. Coral’s mind felt so full — she couldn’t even tell what to think. Sea Glass, however, seemed to have plenty on her mind.
“Will you please say something?” the indigo gem said, stopping beside a tall patch of beach grass. “I mean, you’re not seriously thinking of doing this, are you? Of staying unfused?”
Coral recoiled. “N-no. Of course not,” she said, drawing random shapes in the sand with her toe. “It’s just… it’s not an option we’ve had up until now. It’s at least worth considering, right?”
Sea Glass looked horrified at the suggestion, then clasped her shoulder and lowered her head. “Do you… not want me around anymore?” she asked quietly.
“What? I never said that!” Coral exclaimed. Then, realizing the others weren’t that far off, she covered her mouth and kept her voice low. “I mean, come on. We never would have formed Pearl again if it hadn’t been for you. Plus, there’s so much you contribute. You… y-you, um…” She was stuttering. Why in Homeworld was she stuttering at a time like this? “Well, for starters, you’re the one with the technical know-how in this fusion. All of that history that Pearl studied — all of that is with you.”
Sea Glass glanced up, but her expression looked far from convinced. “Yes,” she allowed. “But you’ve got the confidence. Tell me honestly, don’t you think that if you really wanted to, you could teach yourself everything I know?”
Coral gritted her teeth. The truth was, yes, she did think she could teach herself anything that Sea Glass knew. But she also knew she had a nasty tendency to be overconfident.
“Look, the point is, we should stick together. At least for now. And if… if Bismuth gives us other options, we should decide what to do together. Okay?” She held out her hand, which Sea Glass eyed tentatively.
“Okay,” she said, stretching her own hand forward. The two touched, and in a flash of light, Pearl stood reformed once again. She took a deep breath and summoned her dagger and staff, quickly blending them into her familiar spear. Then, almost forgetting, she used the attachment Bismuth had given her to morph it again, into a trident.
“Hey, everyone!” she called out, running into view. Garnet, Amethyst, and Steven turned to look at her.
“Where’s Bismuth?” Amethyst wanted to know. “I thought she was gonna be training with us.”
“Hmm?” Pearl said. Her head felt like it was swimming; at the corner of her vision, she saw flickering images of things that weren’t there — her old home, her old Diamond…
“Pearl, you okay?” Steven asked with concern.
She rubbed her head and nodded quickly to appease him. “Fine, Steven. I’m just fine. Bismuth is… working on some new project. She said she’d catch up with us later. But I’m here!” She gave the trident a twirl and stabbed it into the sand. Although Steven did tend to be one of the more naive members of the group, for some reason, her excuse seemed to convince everyone except him. Garnet and Amethyst went back to smacking around some rocks on the beach while Steven just stared at her, looking more worried than ever.
“Hey, what’s that?” he said, pointing. Pearl looked down to realize that she still wore one of Bismuth’s bracers on her left arm, with the other tucked inside her sash.
“Oh, this?” Pearl asked nervously, removing the bracer and holding up one in each hand so Steven could see them better. In the case of being caught, it was better to be mostly honest than to mostly lie. “This is Bismuth’s new project. She’s inventing a special armor that will keep Coral and Sea Glass from flickering out when they’re separated.”
She smiled like it was the best invention in the world, but Steven didn’t look convinced. “Bismuth… wants you to stay unfused?”
“No, of course not!” Pearl snapped. “Why does everyone keep thinking that?” She lowered her head and whispered, “Because it’s obvious that we’re thinking it.” Then she realized she’d been talking to herself (again!), quickly jerked her head up, and faked another smile in the hopes that it made everything look normal.
It did not. “Um, you’re doing that arguing-with-you thing,” Steven said. “Are you going to smash the TV?”
“No, I am not going to smash the TV!”
The volume of her voice caught Amethyst’s attention. “Who’s smashing stuff?” she asked hopefully.
Garnet coughed and glared in Amethyst’s direction. It was then that Pearl finally pieced everything together. She hadn’t fooled Garnet at all; Garnet had been fully aware that something was off and had been trying to distract Amethyst to give Pearl some space. Maybe she could even see what Pearl looked like in the future, knew her decision before she did. No, future vision didn’t work like that. But she probably knew which was the choice that ended well. That alone was kind of infuriating. Before Pearl could say anything else, however, she heard the shifting of sand behind them. She grabbed her trident and looked around. What she had thought to simply be a small hill of sand was now moving. Two eyes appeared on its side. A corrupted Gem? A Homeworld trap? Pearl took a protective stance in front of Steven. The creature seemed to be trying to communicate. It opened its mouth to make a long, mournful cry of, “Aaaaah… aaaah…”
Pearl gritted her teeth, braced for a battle.
Sand flew everywhere. Pearl shielded her eyes as it cleared to reveal…
“Peridot!” In an instant, fear turned to raging fury. Pearl dismissed her weapon and stomped up to the green Gem, sending up her own little cloud of sand with each forceful step. Peridot cowered and attempted to pull some of the sand back over her feet, before apparently realizing just how impractical an idea it was and instead standing up to meet Pearl.
“H-hello.” She gave a nervous wave. A wave! As if hiding under a mound of sand was a completely normal thing to do.
“What were you even… how long were… a-are you spying on us?” Pearl managed to stutter out.
Peridot blushed, her bright green cheeks practically glowing. “N-no!” she exclaimed. Then, looking back at the collapsed sand mound, she corrected herself. “I mean… yes, I was. But I had noble reasons! That… I can’t tell you about just yet, but I–”
Pearl staggered backwards and clasped her head. She was seeing things again, things that weren’t there… moments of fighting alongside Bismuth… no, now she was fighting with Bismuth. They’d been arguing about something. But what? She couldn’t remember. There had been a third person there, trying to break apart the argument, but Pearl couldn’t see who it was or remember what they had said…
Rose? Do I not remember because that third figure was Rose?
“A piece of advice for you,” she growled. “The next time you think of doing me any kind of favor that you ‘can’t tell me about’, drop it!” She stormed off the beach, not caring to look at anyone’s reactions.