Following Peridot’s minor incident in the kitchen, Pearl banned her from the premises starting the previous day and going forward until the end of time. Peridot was 97% sure Pearl was not being metaphorical. And while watching Camp Pining Hearts marathons with Lapis did provide some distraction, Peridot found herself obsessing over the first (and so far) only idea she’d had to make things right. She needed the records off a Homeworld ship. A decent, functioning one. The rudimentary computer system she’d constructed in the barn was set to alert her whenever it sensed anything in the area. Of course, if it sensed anything in the area, they were probably under attack. Why did Earth’s safety and her right standing with the Crystal Gems have to be in such utter conflict?
At least Steven and Amethyst came to visit her once in a while. In fact, they were visiting right now. Peridot stood to the side while Lapis did most of the talking. The blue Gem showed off the various meep morps she had made, all of them lined up like exhibits along the barn wall. When she had finished explaining her last one, she motioned to Peridot.
Peridot walked over to the only meep morp she’d been able to create lately.
“This is a puddle,” she said. “It represents the sadness I feel at the rejection thrust upon me. The water constantly ascending into your atmosphere (thus forcing me to re-make this meep morp on a regular basis) represents the futility of my efforts to make amends.”
“Wow… that’s deep,” Steven said, his eyes wide.
Amethyst crossed her arms and huffed. “Oh, please. It’s… what, an inch of water? That’s shallow.” She stomped off to the corner of the barn and began kicking around Peridot’s can collection. Granted, it probably looked like a pile of trash, but Peridot still pouted over its rough treatment.
“Don’t be too upset with her,” Steven pleaded. “She’s been kind of down after she found out she’s supposed to be just like Jasper.”
Steven look a little hesitant to explain, but did so anyway. “Jasper took her down in a fight and now she’s obsessed with getting a rematch,” he said. “To prove she’s good enough.”
“Hmm…” Peridot rubbed her chin. Oddly enough, the fact that Amethyst was feeling just as down as she was made Peridot feel a bit better herself. Did that indicate apathy? Apathy was probably bad.
“Peridot, your thingy is beeping,” Lapis said. She pointed to another corner of the barn (the one opposite the corner containing the now-disorganized can collection). Sure enough, Peridot’s tablet was not only beeping, but flashing too. Peridot tripped over her feet running to it and snatched it up in her eager hands. The screen showed everything she had hoped. She had a hit. A legitimate hit. There was a Homeworld ship nearby this very area. A small but fairly modern one, based on her readings. Most likely the Rubies coming back after they finally realized that Jasper was not, in fact, on Neptune. Well, those clods had been easily defeated before. Surely with a little assistance, Peridot could defeat them again. Assistance was the key. As impressive as her abilities to bend metal to her will could be, she still needed some backup. She looked over the map and determined that the ship had landed… well, not next to, but certainly within walking distance of the Beta Kindergarten. Which meant Peridot had the perfect idea for how to get some backup to come with her.
She silenced the tablet and walked back over to Amethyst, grinning widely. “Oh Amethyst, you’re being ridiculous,” she said with a laugh. “Why are you even comparing yourself to Jasper? You two are completely different Quartzes.” She laughed again, louder this time, as no one had laughed along with her the first time. “Sure, you’re both from Earth, but your Kindgartens are radically different.”
Amethyst took interest immediatetly. “We’re both… from Earth?” she asked.
“Well, sure! You’re from the Prime Kindergarten in Facet Five. Jasper’s from the Beta Kindergarten in Facet Nine! Have you seen that place?”
“No,” Amethyst snapped.
Right. Of course she hadn’t. Peridot swallowed. “Oh. Well… maybe you should. So you can see how the other half was made. Badly!” She looked around at the others. Was she talking too loud? It felt like she was talking too loud. “No, seriously, let’s go. You’ll get a kick out of this.” She started to lead the group out of the barn, then stopped. Not divulging the full truth had ended badly for her before. But she couldn’t have Pearl or Garnet joining them and messing up her plan, either. Maybe she could tell the truth, but just tell it really quickly and pretend like it wasn’t important? Yes, that was the best approach.
“So, nice day out here,” she said as she hurried the group along. “Bright sun, fresh air, um… straight trees.” She spit out her next sentence as fast as she could before returning to normal speed, “Oh, and-just-to-warn-the-two-of-you,-there-may-or-may-not-be-a-Homeworld-ship-in-the-area. Did I mention those trees? I mean, they’re really straight!”
“Wait, what?” Steven asked.
“The trees, Steven. I’m taking about the trees. You really should pay more attention.”
“No, you said something about Homeworld!” Steven insisted. “You think there’s a ship nearby?!”
“A small craft, if it exists at all,” Peridot said, waving off his concerns and trying to hurry the group along their route. Why did grass have to be so thick here? “That was what my tablet was beeping about back in the barn. But don’t get all upset about it. It’s nothing we can’t handle.”
“Just the three of us?” Steven asked. “We need to get back and warn Garnet and Pearl!”
“It’s Garnet,” Amethyst muttered, stomping out footprints in the grass as she walked. “Odds are, she future-saw it already, anyway. Let’s go check this place out, and then we’ll go straight home, okay?”
Steven did not look like this idea pleased him at all, but since Amethyst and Peridot had picked up their pace and would soon leave him behind, he lowered his head and ran off after them.
Yellow Pearl could hardly believe her good luck. She had done it. She had actually tracked down the Jasper all on her own. Well, not entirely on her own. First, she had wandered aimlessly until she had found something that looked familiar — a large wall of rock with dozens upon dozens of exit holes marking its surface. Clearly, this place had been a Kindergarten at some point. She was no certified Kindgartener, of course, so the exact location was unknown to her, but most of the holes didn’t look particularly elegant. Then, after searching the place for a good hour, she’d heard a voice call out, “You take orders from me now!”
The voice had sounded not that dissimilar from Nephrite’s, making Yellow Pearl think she’d been caught. Then she had realized that not only was the voice different, it hadn’t even been speaking to her. She had managed to climb to the top of a rocky ledge and inch along its side until she got a good look at the speaker — a huge orange Gem. A Jasper. The Jasper they were looking for! (Really, what other Jaspers were on this primitive planet?) The Quartz soldier had constructed cages out the old exit holes. And it seemed, she was talking to something inside one of those cages.
“You used to be a Quartz too, didn’t you? What happened to you?”
A growl erupted from inside the cage, and Yellow Pearl glimpsed a blotchy pink and teal claw lashing out at Jasper. A corrupted Gem?
She shivered at the sound. Yes, she knew about corrupted Gems, but such things were never a part of her world with Yellow Diamond. This creature was so far gone, it didn’t even realize how despicable it had become. Surely if it had any mind left to it, it would have thrown itself onto the nearest spiky surface and shattered its gem, rather than continuing to live in its current state.
The Jasper, judging from her disgusted tone, felt the same. “Disgraceful,” she muttered. “I can’t believe I’ve resorted to recruiting you freaks!”
Recruiting? Yellow Pearl thought. Recruiting for what? Thankfully, the Jasper continued speaking her thoughts aloud, even though the corrupted Gem was obviously beyond understanding her.
“You’re almost as bad as that Crystal runt. Just look at you. This planet ruins everything! Well, except for me.”
Crystal… runt? Clearly, it was a nickname of some kind. But for who? Or what? Yellow Pearl quickly ran over all the data in her mind for a possible match. She found only one. The shock nearly made gasp, and she threw her hand over her mouth to keep herself silent. Surely, surely Jasper couldn’t be referring to the Crystal Gems? Those traitors were all shattered thousands of years ago. If they were here…
She gripped the ledge and leaned in closer. If Jasper was preparing for a fight with a Crystal Gem, both could be poofed in the battle, couldn’t they? That would give Yellow Pearl a chance to capture Jasper. She breathed deeply and resigned herself to waiting. So far, it was the best plan she had.
Peridot’s plan went a little better than she planned for it to. They had found Jasper’s exit hole. Unfortunately, they had also found Jasper. It was at the moment of seeing the massive orange Gem that Peridot had quickly realized her error. Coming out here with just the three of them had, in brief summary, been a terrible idea.
“We should go back to Temple and grab reinforcements,” she whispered, fairly sure her eternal ban didn’t apply in this instance.
“Yeah, that’s a good idea,” Steven had agreed. He turned to where Amethyst should have been standing. “Amethyst? Where did she go?”
Peridot didn’t need to ask such a stupid question. She knew exactly where Amethyst had gone. Now the only thing Peridot and Steven could do was standby while the two Quartzes battled each other. It wasn’t a pretty sight. No matter how many times Amethyst threw her full strength into a vicious attack, Jasper merely shrugged it off. It was like she was incapable of getting hurt. Peridot tried her best to pull down some metal from the injector wreckage to aid in the fight, but massive machinery was too much for her. Finally, when it seemed Amethyst was all but completely defeated, Steven ran up to her. A stupid move in just about any case. But Steven had a knack for pulling off the unexpected.
Once the strange new fusion called Smoke Quartz made an appearance, Jasper was quickly taken down. She attempted a fusion of her own, with a corrupted Quartz of all Gems, only for the corruption to spread to her own body. Peridot watched in horror as the once proud soldier spat out all the scorn she could before the madness swallowed her mind. Steven took the brunt of her wrath. Steven, she said, whose previous form had shattered Jasper’s Diamond.
“Y-yellow Diamond?” Steven asked in confusion.
“My Diamond!” Jasper gasped. “Your Diamond. Pink Diamond!”
At this, the corruption finally won over. Jasper became nothing but a mindless monster, claws stretching out, desperately still searching for someone, anyone, to fuse with and win a battle she’d already lost. Peridot struggled one more time to pull a shard of metal loose. Then, at that moment, she heard a scream. A high-pitched, slightly nasally, scream. A yellow figure toppled off the cliffside above Jasper, landing first on her head, then rolling onto the ground in front of her.
Peridot couldn’t believe what she was seeing. It was a Pearl. And not just any Pearl. Yellow Diamond’s Pearl.
“What the?” she gasped. “How are you even–”
She didn’t get to finish her sentence. The corrupted Jasper roared at the newcomer, reaching desperately towards her. Sharp claws snagged on the Pearl’s delicate translucent sleeves and yanked her backwards. The Pearl screamed even louder, calling for her Diamond to rescue her, even as Jasper’s arm began to glow.
“She’s trying to fuse again!” Steven called. “We have to stop it!”
Peridot agreed, of course. But it seemed the fusion had already begun.