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Matriarch

Chapter Text

 

 

You're not my eater

Our blood, your food

 

Love you,

for God

Love you,

for the Mother.”

 

- from Massive Attack's “Black Milk”

 

 

In the beginning, there was the Light, and the Light radiated out in all directions, passing all things by in an instant on its straight, unbending paths.

Then, the Light took form, contracting and solidifying, taking up mass and space so that it might touch the world.

 

 

 

To say from whence she came is beyond the scope of either living memory or written record, but for most intents and purposes, it matters not whether she traced her origins to the designs of some other intelligence, the gradual result of some natural process, or some altogether inexplicable, long-forgotten magic from the murky darkness of the early universe.

 

What is certain is that she was, eventually, washed up on the figurative shores of a virgin planet, though there might not have been any literal waters for her spirit to float over, no foaming spray to greet her arrival, and most certainly no pristine seashell to guide her along.

As the First One, she emerged unwitnessed and unnamed and beyond comparison, for there was no one to compare to her, and nothing to distinguish her from.

But rest assured that while no flowers hurried to spring forth on the tail of her footsteps, she surely let there be light –

and in the newborn radiance, she could be seen, if only by herself:

One could have spoken of a stark white silhouette upon the black basalt, or of several solid tons of clear, living diamond, and most of all, incandescent brightness just barely contained in a translucent crystalline outline.

In effect, there was now a glimmering speck of being in the vast sea of nothingness where there once was none, below her the ragged crust of a planet not long solidified, and above her the distant lights of the cosmos in all its indifferent glory.

In this primal scene, there was only sharp focus and hard contrast, a chiaroscuro of long shadows that moved only in response to her tentative movements, a silent, colorless world of unmixed basic components, and the instant the world burst into her awareness, and awareness into the world, she cowered, forward onto the arms and legs she had just given substance, frantic to hide the light that permeated into every direction from the naked rocks and the unforgiving stars.

In later ages she would come to be considered a tremendous, monumental being, as close to the stars and mountains themselves as a life could get, but here in the primordial stillness of the barren ground, she had only these very stars and mountains themselves to compare herself with, and in the face of them, she was whimpering and trembling.

Once she was nothing, and now she was something, and she knew not what to make of being.

Until then, she had been part of everything, indistinct from the world around her, until she had perhaps become detached from the bed of crystal she had grown in, or fallen from the skies leaving a glittering trail, and now she was simply herself, spindly alabaster fingers separate from the volcanic ashes below, and she felt exposed for it.

Being entailed the however remote possibility that being might cease, moreover, just by being anything, being precluded the possibility of its opposite, like the light which reveals the presence of shadows just by existing.

To an onlooker, she might have appeared titanic, but there were no such onlookers apart from the gawking of the infinite cosmos itself, and compared to it, she did not compare, and so, she trembled before it.

The first words spoken on the gem homeworld were her indistinct whimpers.

 

...

 

 

Even new as the day, there were things that she knew.

She knew of the sky above and the congealed waves of magma below, and she knew to expect the sun before the first embers of its presence trickled up the horizon.

 

If you were wondering if there was a time when she took a long walk to explore the contours of the planet that was to become her home, the answer would have been 'no', for it was one of many specks in the blackness, and she knew that there was nothing to be found.

 

Yet unconnected to anything, she just existed, a singular statue of herself, protruding from the ground like a monolith, enough of and for itself.

Beneath the twinkling heavens, there was nothing she could have wanted or needed; Her own light shone from within.

But where her sparkling fingers ended, the dark void awaited, and she found it again where her alabaster feet touched the ground, or where the crown on her head would go no further.

 

In the distance, she had known of a few spines of crystal sticking out of the ground, though she had not turned to contemplate them, at least not before. They caught the light of the day when the sun was up, but they did not shine from the inside the way she did, and it occurred to her that perhaps, it could be made into a receptacle for her light to chase the surrounding darkness just a little further.

Gently, just a little bit, she released the hold that held her light in place, her form dimming just a bit as she instead poured it out from her gaze, from the edges of her outstretched fingers and the core of her being itself.

She saw her light shine back at her, filling out its target, and she came to know what there was to know about that spike of rock, scarcely more than its beginnings in a stream of molten magma, and the darkness retreated a little further back.

 

 

Try as she might, there were only so many vessels she could fill at once, only so far her light could reach.

Too many, and she would find herself back in the dark, wiping the sweat from her brow.

 

So imagine her surprise when, for the first time, she encountered a brightness that was not her own. It was much dimmed, to be sure, the little voice just slight enough to hear, a form so minuscule she would have had to squint and focus to see it if she did not already know it was there.

Once she rose up from where she had paused to rest, she was forced to conclude that they were everywhere, like moss and insects hiding beneath a stone in the woods, if she could have known of that comparison, and together, their squeaky little voices were every bit as noticeable as they weren't on their own – crude, irregular little shapes flitting about, no much different from the bits of volcanic rock that were laying about, and still, they were undeniably imbued with the smallest shreds of her light, a diminished, refracted reflection for sure, but they were skittering about without the need for her thought to guide their every move, and what's more, they knew her -

She didn't think it possible that their awareness would be quite like hers, but it was enough for them to recognize her as their creator – they had staid by her as she was resting, and now that they had gained her attention, they were flocking together in front of her as if to get a good look at her, and for all that their shapes were only approximately like hers, their little arms were still recognizable as they reached up to where she was overlooking them.

For the first time since she'd opened her eyes to the universe, the universe was looking back at her with little, expectant sparkling eyes.

Until now, she had been in darkness, but now, without even meaning to, she had lit this entire sea of tiny lights, and the dark world she had lived on was dark no more.

 

 

Reclining on a dais of solidified magma, the First Light observed as her creations swarmed about her.

Some were playing in a nearby crater's caldera, just one step away for their Source, but more than large enough to provide ample space for her diminutive creations. Others had busied themselves by climbing onto nearby spines of rock.

Now and then, a handful of them would draw near her and ask to bask in her radiance, and in those early days, it wasn't rare for her to oblige them and permit them to climb onto her palm.

And holding on to her long fingers, with tiny voices not much unlike her own, they spoke to her in admiration: “So sparkly!”

“So shiny!”

“Not like us, so glittery!”

“The most sparkliest!”

“Just like a star!”

The First One smiled at this in amusement – perhaps, once upon a time, there had even been something like fondness: “You silly little creatures. I'm not a star, “ though perhaps she might once have been one.

“But then how are you so sparkly?”

“Because, “ she spoke, “I'm made of Diamond, silly.”

“Diamond!” “Pretty Diamond!” “Sparkly Diamond!”

 

The Diamond, then, was what she was to be known as, from that moment onward, though its significance would elude her for a long, long time. Before that, when it was only herself, the sky and her white light upon the black stone, there had never been a need to distinguish herself from other beings, for she had been the only one -

Now, however, there was a small flock of little gray creatures carving out an existence between these extremes, and the Diamond was to be the piece at its center.

In each of them, she could see the glimmer of her own light, each of them refracting a different part of her being back at her, pieces and aspects of herself she'd never come to describe with words when they were still all joined inside of her indistinct radiance -

But when she saw all the facets of being playing out before her, she could recognize them in herself, and come to perceive herself in relation to them – and it was only natural that they would have been drawn to their creator, at least in the early stages of their emergence.

Their adulation became her mirror, and her reflection formed the foundations of what would become her ego, an organizing principle to sort the torrential streams of perceptions, thoughts and feelings that ran through the consciousness she had awakened to when she'd first begun to exist.

 

---

 

What had begun as a playful flight of fancy soon turned into serious endeavors to create, mainly, to craft something from the stones they had once sprung up from:

They made multitudes of little tools to extend the reach of their minuscule hands and fashioned the hollowed-out spikes into little dwellings.

As for the Diamond, she spent most of her time kneeling by their little settlement, delighting in their ever-more complex little lives and the fruits of their efforts.

For a while, every simple thing they did was a grand, glamorous first that held her attention, and she smiled benevolently down on them all.

For all that she already held herself to be a special existence apart from theirs, her conception of them all as a living, interlocking whole was yet a small misunderstanding that had not much diverged from the reality – Ancient and mighty as she was even then, she had not yet seen it all.

 

One by one, they would present their works to her and look to her for guidance and appraisal, and she herself found meaning and purpose in dispelling their concerns, answering their questions and providing a focus for their efforts.

She was their goddess and their judge, their hive queen and their mother all at once, so different from the indistinct, naked existence she had been when she was still alone with the universe.

She existed for them just as they existed for her – She lived for them to turn to, to have all the answers, to bring light to this dark and empty place, in short: To make everything better.

 

Where there had been only emptiness, she alone had brought forth life and laughter and songs –

 

And in those faraway times, she delighted in it, and, as much as she would come to deny it in later days, or come to question if it had ever been real in her rare moments of doubt, sometimes she was certain that her cold and empty heart had been filled with satisfaction, and that this, at the time, was her reason, if only because she had yet to encounter any true challenges.

She told her creations to prepare, for more of their kind would be arriving.

 

….

 

Like all life, the Diamond and her creations could be supposed to be products of their environment – Their world circled about a dim, purple star whose mild light could not even fully banish the twinkling stars at its zenith.

During some times of the year, when the sun hit them in the right angles, the planet's rings could be glimpsed as glittering streaks across the sky, particularly near the equator, as its new inhabitants were yet to discover.

There was not much water to act as a solvent for chemical reactions, at least not enough to form large oceans and provide precipitation – the sort of messy, slimy life that emerged from the early oceans of the Earth would simply not have been possible here.

The closest equivalent the Earth would have had to offer would have been the sort of slow-growing bacteria that could be found miles underground, which would divide every thousand years and draw the energy to do so from the surroundings minerals and the radiation in the ground – but what might have been an extreme outlier on the earth, one of the furthest extensions of its grand diverse opulence, was the most viable alternative here, one that the resident lifeforms had been forced to perfect.

Not much energy was available, so the beings that would take over its surface were adept at conserving it, absorbing large quantities of its barest forms in the moment of their creation, and then continuing near-indefinitely with those initial reserves.

A creature like a hot-blooded earth mammal that needed to constantly consume considerable fractions of its own weight to continue on could never have existed here, the necessary chemicals were not abundant enough – conversely, such slow processes as those that gave rise to the Diamond and her creatures would have been swiftly out-competed where earth-like bacteria could thrive, long before they would ever have accumulated in such an advanced intelligence. If there was anything the Diamond's world could boast of back in its long-gone, untouched state was a relative abundance of dissolved salts and minerals all throughout its crust. Other than that, there had not been much to create from.

 

When her scouts and explorers went out to explore their home in the dark void, they stumbled across various things that were half like growing crystals and half like lichens, blurring the line between mere self-organization and life, as well as fields and basins of ordinary crystals, and salt-lakes that transitioned into crunchy moss-like tendrils halfway through – but this side of those intermediate states, it could not be denied that the predecessors of gemkind were indeed alive, and the brightest of them began the process of reconstructing the story that had eventually concluded in the Diamond's awakening.

 

….

 

Little by little, they expand the reach of her light, remaking this world in her image one flake of rock at a time, sometimes quite literally, when their labors ended in statues in her likeness.

When they shaped their cave-riddled rock towers into elegant spires, it was in imitation of her elegance;

When they worked together to provide for the needs of their little society, they acted in the same harmonious concord as her enormous form when it moved at once.

When they set out to explore their little word, it was to share their light and perfection with the parts of this world's crust that still remained barren,

all in service of their luminous hive queen, all their hard work dedicated to her glory.

As their lives and their society grew ever more complex, she became the centerpiece of their emergent culture, and very very slowly, the little patch of life crawled across the planet's surface, expanding its domain to cover more and more of their world's surface.

 

And it wasn't just the size of their domain which was growing – their carvings, their power, their technology – all of that continued to advance before her eyes.

 

Once, there had been a time when the Diamond had personally known every single of her creations and crafted each one herself, but as the circles of their cities spread out far and wide and extended further and further, they became too numerous, too complicated for her to maintain, to make all their decisions and settle each of their disputes - So she had gathered the brightest minds and thought of a means to expedite the process.

They did not quite perfect it right away – at first, she simply took to soaking in a pool of liquid solution that some of her scouts had found in a secluded cave, and had some sturdier creatures ferry the results out to the various settlement, in iron barrels and rickety carts.

 

It was not until they had nearly covered all the planet's surface that something like the injectors came about, and with them, methods of creation that were more refined and sophisticated, but also more taxing – By the time that the beings being produced became to resemble modern-day gems, all other forms of life on the planet had disappeared, and perhaps a few individual gems mourned them, but their society at large did not.

In particular, the Diamond did not – They served no purpose, and they were nothing of hers.

 

But the possibilities offered by this new technology intrigued her – for once, they allowed much greater control over the finished product, much more than she'd been able to achieve with cruder methods. There had always been some among her flock of creations that excelled at particular tasks more than others, those that seemed to embody particular aspects of her being more than others, but now, she could make that happen deliberately, have her creations bring forth gems that were of particular beauty, strength or brilliance.

 

Unlike the rough, unpolished rocks and pebbles that had populated her world with their muddied browns and grays, these clear, refined creatures were shot through with her light, their beaming smooth facets so much more like her own, their forms so distinct, so beautiful, so firm, their colors so vibrant, their gems brimming with mystical power -

 

Rather than just blocks of earth touched with a spark of her radiance, these new beings were distillations of all her essence was capable of being, pristine prisms that truly allowed the entire spectrum of her light to shine -

 

Indeed, so enamored was she with her new creations, that she could not see her previous ones as anything other than limited and flawed. Compared to the newer generations, they were such poor replications of herself! Hard to believe that such flawed beings had been born from her own being. When she looked upon them now, she just felt reminded that she could do better, and they could no longer much hold her interest, not even when they squeaked to be in her presence – and those voices, so much like hers, from the mouths of such creatures as them!

It just made her sad.

She decided that most tasks were better accomplished by her newer, more sophisticated creations and that many more of them should be made.

It was, as one might say, the end of the stone age.

 

Even so, it was not like she had completely forgotten the pebbles, for they were still of hers and it had been them who had built the foundations of this world up to the point where their beautiful sisters could come into it – So she did leave a place for them in the new order of her world, precisely as builders and maintenance workers that were to be seen, not heard.

 

….

 

What followed was a period in history which the Diamond would remember as quiet and beautiful, a time of exploration, advancement and intellectual achievement, when both she and her creations were focused on exploring just how far their potential could go.

Some may have objected that it was not quite so pleasant for those who increasingly found themselves relegated to the shadows, but the system was not quite what it would be later, the strata at the bottom not yet subject to capricious rule and the upper classes still broadly defined – extraordinary achievements of the individual could still propel a gem forward, and the upper class was still fairly large and host to an increasingly sophisticated, elaborate culture.

While not all nostalgia may have been warranted, it was a time when many of gemkinds' great classical achievements came to be, the repertoire of songs, the written epics, the great temples, and the most astounding artifacts.

Just as the injectors burrowed ever-deeper into the planet's surface in search for the necessary minerals to further expand their society, the spires above them grew toward the skies, providing a home for their foremost artisans and thinkers.

The statues from this time period still littered the lower levels long after they had long become overgrown with the towers of later ages, and not just there, because, while their colleagues had been working on ways to improve gem production and create marvelous technology, others had been unlocking the secrets of spaceflight and gone out to scatter the first outposts among the stars: The great matriarch's offspring had finally transcended the world from whose crust they had been birthed, and they brought back wild tales of the bountiful worlds beyond their own, stories of the opulence, abundance and splendor that seemed to exist everywhere across the void, life so much unlike their own.

 

Many of her gems found the thought quite exciting, but for her part, their creator didn't pay them much mind. Sure, they sounded somewhat amusing, but most if not all of the beings out there seemed so wasteful, so inefficient, so flat-out-imperfect compared to her gems.

She could not even sustain a distant curiosity for long – why concern herself with other modes of life when they had already proven to lead to nothing but weakness?

If anything, she felt a more pressing necessity to continue her work on perfecting her own creations – when she wasn't doing the work of leadership or partaking in the wonders of the world she had made, it was mostly this which occupied her time – at first, she had been excited with – well, not so much the possibilities, but the chance to bring her gems closer to perfection, but with time, though she would never have admitted the thought, let alone voiced it to her attendants who were, after all, looking to her as their example, she found herself coming up against a roadblock.

In those days, she had given rise to all kinds of gems, with almost any kind of useful traits that one could possibly imagine: Some of them were large and others were minuscule, some were mighty in their physical strength while others again possessed impressive elemental magic, and where some were swift and dexterous, others were elegant and delicate-

But not a single one of them was all of these at once.

Put together all the attributes that you wish, and some of them would cancel out.

Consider the soil carefully and do the most meticulous work with the process, the raw material itself would set a limit to how many impurities one could avoid.

There was no viable result that she could not find fault with – for every part of her spectrum that she could see them reflect with dazzling, pristine intensity, another would be missing, and even when she tried to infuse the full radiance of her light directly, it would last only as long as she would carefully maintain her control.

 

The more she tried, the more she saw how each of her creatures was flawed – she couldn't stop seeing it whenever she would go among them, in all their works, in near to everything that had once delighted her, tints literal and figurative that stood apart from her shining outlines, but were still unmistakably part of her.

 

There was a thought she was not quite allowing, about what these imperfect creations might mean about herself, but somewhere along the road, the aims she had been striving before had turned to bitterest need, and that need became an axiom she could not afford to question, because it would have toppled the point of all she had been doing and leave her as lost as on the first of her days.

 

So with no other road open to her, she redoubled her efforts until something outside herself forced her to stop.

 

….

 

While later technological advances would allow them to get quite some more mileage out of that same old bedrock, the truth at the time was that they were reaching the end of the line.

All the splendor, all the extravagant excesses of their days had come at a cost.

 

By then, the surface had been completely covered in crystalline spires and structures – the world that was once jet black now looked shining and even almost glossy from the outside, but are careful eye might have noticed that it had also ceased to be an exact sphere.

The very planet was on the verges of coming apart, its gravitational equilibrium unbalanced by the many large hollows they had made beneath its shell.

Generations of gems had sucked the lifeblood from their word, absorbed every speck of precious mineral and cooled its molten core with every jolt of energy extracted -
There was only so much left.

 

They still had some options left of course, means afforded to them by their advanced technology: Their planet could probably be stabilized by artificial means and left to crumble in a largely controlled fashion. New means of processing might eventually allow them to squeeze a little more mileage from the brittle infertile rocks beneath them, and with their ships, they could reach their star system's other planets – None of them had conditions that were nearly as favorable for production as their sister world, but for now, it would do.

 

There was no immediate concern, but for an existence that had continued as long as the Diamond's, this cloud on the horizon was almost an appealingly dire issue:

With the remainder of resources left to them and their long, long lives, they would likely be able to continue on for a long, long time, but if they lacked the means to replenish their numbers, they must inevitably decline, and little by little, entropy would chip away at them....

The very survival of their kind was at stake.

 

 

The Diamond lived in an ornate spire by then, and its heavy doors were often shut, much like the hatches of the palace ship she would later acquire.

Even so, she knew what the voices on the other side must be speaking:

“Help us!”

“Save us!”

“Tell us what to do!”

She had made herself their goddess as well as their queen – that role alone had made up her entire concept of who she was, her fragile, undifferentiated sense of self, and below the thin, frayed layer of her queenly mask, she found that there was little more than a gaping void, and before it, she was as helpless as she'd been when the world was new.

Her gems were looking to her to solve their crisis, to lead them forward as she had always done.

What good was all her power if she couldn't even do that?

What good was she as their matriarch?

What good was she at all, the way she was now?

She was sitting with her back to the closed doors, her long limbs drawn close to where the rest of her was curled up, her long, glittering cape hanging all around her.

Everyone was expecting her to have all the answers – and there was no one else but her who could do it, nobody else to share her toils lighten her burdens -

And it was then when a kind of impotent rage started growing within her, a curse of shadow inside her luminous form, a speck of darkness in paradise.

Arms wrapped around her legs, her long dark nails dug ever so slightly into the fabric of her dress, and her pristine face that was so often graced by serene if distant smiles contorted into an ugly expression.

Her silver gaze fell past the window frame, to the stars that dotted the evening sky, to every pointless, disorderly existence that was not yet one of hers.

 

Within the enormous jewel that held her mind, a calculation took place and a thought bubbled to the surface.

Consequently, her once tense shoulders softened up in relief, and her face split open into the coldest of smiles.

There was never any need for these untenable doubts, nor even for worries:

After all, there were more than enough resources to be found out there.

 

---

 

At last, the outlying planets were used up, but not as a carefully guarded last reserve, but as a deliberate, systematic, concerted effort towards a singular goal.

 

It was the figurative blowing of the horns, the beating of the war drums and the soon very literal marching of the boots.

Most remaining skeptics could be convinced with the reasoning that it was “us” or “them” - these were desperate times after all.

But with time, they might find it easier to be callous, and the reasoning would come to them naturally, like they had sucked it in from the ground they were grown in.

 

But the figurative drums beat not only for the soldiers:

 

If disarray and lack of prioritizing had driven them to the brink,

then there must be no more of it, not ever gain, no matter the circumstance.

To ensure that their great undertaking would be going off according to plan, and to ensure that they should prosper ever after, all of her creation must come together like the dancers in a stageplay, or indeed, much more appropriately, like her left hand and her right.

 

Though she would convince both herself and the populace that this new course represented simply a logical conclusion of all they had done before, there was certainly a change in her approach:

She had always seen it as her mission to bring order into a world of chaos, but no longer did she think it enough to simply bring forth the order of life from the primal chaos of non-life.

In other words: Not all life was good enough for her.

Blinded by hindsight in this moment of need, she looked back in bitterness at her previous efforts: She might have created splendor, but when she beheld her works, she saw that all of them were different and none of them were perfect.

The creator looked upon her works in the light she had brought, and she saw that it was not good.

Even so, some of them certainly had their specialties, that which made them beautiful, that which made them useful and added to her endeavor as a whole, and this was how they somewhere, sometimes, came the closest to perfection – only in these brief ephemeral grains of time did she her light shine through.

So that is what her new order sought after: Every member of it would be perfect, at least in one aspect of their being. Perfect as soldiers, perfect as servants, perfect as builders –

Each of them made to smoothly fit the whole, each of them geared towards their task in strength, abilities and temperaments, each of their colors chosen in the right proportion so that the whole could shine as she did, each embodying an aspect of her perfection above all others. They would each emerge ready to begin their allotted tasks, pre-designed to easily interface with advanced technology, prepared for the demands of a spacefaring life, and never knowing the confusion she'd felt when she first burst into being.

Their shapes would be sacred idols, for they would each be images of her: Let a Quartz image of her strength, let a Ruby be the likeness of her dedication, a Pearl, a glimmer of her elegance, a Sapphire, a receptacle for her all-knowing nature.

As one, they would move as surely and purposefully as if she were pulling their strings herself.

But of course, if such was their significance, if their allotted forms were holy, then all deviation from it was to be frowned upon, not just as a sacrilegious affront to the perfection of their goddess, but as a threat to the order that sustained them through the leaner years.

 

- Later thinkers would spend centuries wondering how beings with the incredible power to take any desired shape, or even blend their shapes together in a state of harmony and bliss, might have ended up discarding those natural gifts on the altar an obsession with their forms of all things, much like human philosophers would eventually be left to wonder how creatures with the ability to determine their own fate could be lost to banality and conformism, or indeed, how any lifeform capable of love and knowledge must be wondering why so many of them still made war on each other on behalf of their ignorance. .

 

But stuck in the moment itself, there were no thoughts about the lost goodness in their nature or any worlds that would exist long beyond their time: If they were to live through scarcity, it was only natural to place their focus on those playing more important, more impressive roles, and in theory, each gem would have their role and importance to be proud of – at least, each one for which the system would admit a place. The processes of life were not so smooth and mechanical as to be governed completely with no inexactness or variability, and neither were the heart and mind. Where there was authority, there was the potential for its abuse, where there were rules, there were the consequences of enforcing these -

 

The fledgling empire was able to expand beyond its star system and take hold of plentiful bounty – they had survived, and they would continue onward.

But in the process, something was lost, something that was almost imperceptible at first, something that compounded the longer the iron-bound order remained in place, the more it began to clash with the realities that many of its constituent gems had to live through-

But such concerns were far from the mind of their Queen – Necessary sacrifices she called them, at best, with her smile of shallow warmth. Selfish deviants and disturbing aberrations, when her smile faded and her wrath reigned instead -

They were the furthest thing from her that could exist while still being sustained by her light, and to see such mockery of it, well, she could do without that.

What could she have known of their plight?

She no longer felt the pressure of having to sustain this world by herself. The rules she had laid out did it for her, as did her enforcers – the great machinery must be running smoothly enough if it kept delivering more and more worlds into her grasp.

So what need was there anymore for her to mingle with her creations?

The more the empire expanded outward under her distant guidance, the more the great matriarch remained secluded in her tower, admitting only the foremost of her gems, Morganites and Hessonites unlikely to question the foundation of the very order that put them in their places, and even if they had had their doubts, it was well known that Her Radiance wished to hear only good news -

And so, even those meetings began to lose their purpose.

 

---

 

Of course she wanted what was best for her creations, like any mother would.

That was precisely why she had no choice but to keep them on the straight and narrow by whatever means that might require.

There could no choice, not for anyone, and most certainly not for her, for choice implied limitation, and who was she to be limited?

 

---

 

The statues in the temples remained, as did the legends of the golden age where their gods once walked among them.

That was the dilemma inherent to myths and the different functions they filled – their usefulness as moral cautionary tales underpinning a society's values had to be balanced with the elements that would make them exciting tales that would speak to the archetypal components to the psyche – even on earth, many ancient tales were considered foundations of morality though they were filled with things now considered outdated or depraved:

Let the thunder-god take his sister as his wife, let the temples depict towering fusions.

In any case, it was only an increasingly small segment of the populace that had any business concerning themselves with songs or stories.

 

The queen became an empress, her spire, a glittering flagship in her likeness, as befitting one who rules over dozens of worlds. Her luminous arms reached out ever further to skewer the skies with her sharp black nails.

On the rare occasions when her subjects were honored with her presence, they would find her smiling upon her, sweetly, affectionately, almost benevolently -

But there was an unspoken agreement, a diffuse, whispered knowledge, that she was not to be displeased. The elder gems would (harshly, frantically) keep the younger ones in line.

Rarely, if ever, did any of her wayward children get a word in edgewise, and rarer still was it for her smiles to reach her eyes – as centuries and millennia passed before them, they remained cold, gray and lost in the distance.

 

Beyond her walls, generations lived, worked and sometimes died. She already knew of them, so she never saw them. They had learned to fall in line without her remainders a long, long time ago.

Her gleaming palace-ship stood out among the spires of the capital as a warning to all.

 

---

 

She had never considered calling their world anything other than 'the homeworld'.

She had never considered herself anything more than simply 'the' Diamond – for the longest time, the thought of another such as herself was inconceivable even to her.

She had not the means to create one, or so she had thought for the longest time.

However, now that she had several star system's worth of resources at her disposal and billions of gems at her beck and call, things had changed.

But she had changed as well. Perhaps once she would have gladly welcomed a companion to share her delights and relieve her burdens, overjoyed that she no longer needed to provide for her gems all on her own – but she did have to do it on her own.

She did not, could not have limits.

As the empress they all admired, as the linchpin that held their order together, she could not afford to have limits.

And yet it was glaringly obvious. Her palace ship had been designed to ferry her out to the furthest reaches of her dominion to dispense the powers and duties of her office, but she could hardly afford to leave the capital unattended -

And while she might have been one of the most powerful beings on this side of the universe, she could only be in so many places at once, and there were only so many hours in a day for her to spend working through reports, making proclamations or soaking in extraction chambers. If she had no limit to her power in the first place, she would have been personally controlling every vessel of her light to begin with instead of taking such roundabout ways to ensure her order.

It was only natural – the universe was enormous and her empire had grown so large that it almost defied comprehension, moreover, both of those were still expanding. An uninvolved outside observer might even have commended her for doing very well considering that there was only one of her -

But it would not do for her empire to be run “reasonably well”

Any degree of inefficiency was unacceptable -

The events at the founding of their empire had mostly passed into myth by this point. What few venerable gems still remembered the early stages of their expansion into the stars were vastly outnumbered by those who did not – Yet the Diamond still remembered. The memories weren't fresh or recent, but until that point, they had probably been her most unpleasant ones.

Even now, when she was so much more powerful than she had ever been in those distant early days, she could feel their echoes ringing within her gem –

But what an awful choice to be given.

If she did not admit to her limits, her weakness might come to be exposed over time, and while the latter was surely the least tenable alternative, neither path was much to her liking.

The realization felt so awful, she almost wished to hide herself forever and never show her face to any other living thing ever again.

No recourse was left to her apart from blind, searing rage.

---

 

The Bismuths, Pebbles and Pearls who were called into the control room for the next scheduled routine maintenance found it in complete disarray – its elegant pillars were cracked, its tapestries in tatters and the tiles of the floor littered with craters.

They hurried up to put everything back as it once had been and knew not to tell a living soul, nor even let themselves wonder what it might mean.

After all, it was impossible for a perfect flawless being to trash their rooms in a tantrum.

- and it was of utmost importance that everything in the palace, or indeed homeworld as a whole, should be the best it could be, for it was a time of great celebration and rejoicing:

Just moments ago, it had been announced that for the first time since its inception, gemkind was set to welcome a new Diamond into their midst.

 

With a bitter taste in her mouth, yet spurned on by somber awareness, the grand matriarch set out to accomplish what she knew she must do.

She was smiling when she had to address her technicians, but wore a malcontent grimace whenever she could afford to be out of their sights.

Never had the Empress' heart and the moods of her subjects been in more discordant states.

The new Diamond had songs and epics written in her honor before she even existed as more than a concept, she had barely begun incubating when entire wars were being fought in her name, and when she at last emerged, she was greeted with thundering parades on every world of the empire –

But as soon as the First Light laid eyes on what should have been her worthiest and proudest creation, she knew she had failed.

 

___________________

A/N: The idea was that she should come off as having had the same basic personality all along while being somewhat younger and purer in the beginning, while still showing how she got onto the trajectory that lead her to end up as the fearsome tyrannical light bulb we all know and love. like perhaps you could draw a parallel to how Pink/Rose never actually had this big ideological plan but was instead kinda figuring out as she went along and actually got many of her ideas from the other CGs.

 

I pretty much started with the visual of a younger WD ruling a stone-age settlement of pebble-like proto-gems.

Chapter Text

Part 2, Reflection (Act I: Blood of the Covenant)

 

 

"You will never be strong enough

You will never be good enough

You were never conceived in love

You will not rise above"

 

They'll never see

I'll never BE

I'll struggle on and on to feed this hunger

burning deep inside of me

 

But through my tears breaks a blinding light

Birthing a dawn to this endless night

Arms outstretched, Awaiting me

An open embrace upon a bleeding tree

 

Rest in me and I'll comfort you

I've lived and I've died for you

Abide in me and I'll vow to you

I' will never forsake you

 

-From Evanescence's "Lies"

 

Even for the First One, this was unlike any of her previous undertakings – She would not simply be sharing her light and life with yet another little offshoot, but looking to create another like herself, with similar capabilities:

Light from light, true divinity from true divinity, a true offspring more than yet another creation, a being that could rule at her side, and possibly in her stead, if her own existence ever were to cease.

 

To that end, she selected a fresh, virgin planet with large deposits of carbon. Her armies had taken control of it, cleared the perimeter and secured the surrounding space, but as of yet, not a single injector had been drilled into its crust. It remained completely untouched, save for a single scouting expedition that had been sent down to the surface in order to confirm what their remote scanners had told them, and what their Diamond had known at first glance.

They returned with proud, gleeful faces and several enormous lumps of shimmering coal which the mission's commander had lifted into her Diamond's chambers before making a couple of her subordinates inspect it before their sovereign's eyes.

Is was as black as their Queen's own lips, and for a moment, she almost allowed herself to be pleased – little did they know that this was the last time they would be trusted with any important mission.

The word on the streets would be that they had been made to disappear to protect the new Diamond's secrets, but that was only half the truth.

They still counted herself lucky when they were standing in the palace ship's throne room, extolling the planet's suitability.

The entirety of its surface was covered with lush, vibrant jungles, both as a consequence of its extraordinary rich soils, and a contributing factor that had contributed to the dense layers of fossil carbon that caked the planets' crust.

Had it not been marked for destruction, this viridian world may have come to be known as one of this galaxy's most dazzling jewels, but now, its fate was sealed.

 

Once an entire fleet had been posted in its perimeter under orders not to suffer a single ship to pass through, it was time for construction to begin, but these were not the usual trappings of establishing a new colony – instead, all their efforts were focused on a single point, where they were to erect a large, monolithic tower whose shimmering black outline glowed eerily with carved, hermetic symbols, not a building, but a single, enormous device that extended at least twice as far below as it reached upward into the cloud covers. It could be considered a larger, more ornate variant of an injector, but with quite a few significant modifications unrelated to its size – the 'queen cup' so to speak.

At its very top, which by the time of its completion, reached a height at which the atmosphere would have begun to thin out, one could have found the enormous domed chamber that contained what was to be its payload, and right they were to build the faceted dome with such generous dimensions, for their patroness would not be dissuaded from inspecting the contents herself.

There was a crucible in the center of the room, or perhaps a furnace, topped off with an enormous circular hatch and surrounded by control panels that were sized with respect to the gems that operated them (at a later point, they might have been Peridots, but that entire class of gem was a much later invention)

None of the instruments reached past the Diamond's ankles, but she was not here to operate them – instead, she was peering down at the materials gathered in the capsule which, for her, reached up to her waist, the 'gelee royale', as it were.

No expense had been spared to perfect the mixture, but the most important ingredient was still missing.

The usual effusions wouldn't do – for this, her essence had to be as pure as it could be.

Concealed in the folds of her dress, she had brought with her an ancient ritual blade, not quite as venerable as herself but old enough to hold its own, particular magic. To supplement it with her own, she briefly touched its hilt to her gem; Then, she rolled up the right sleeve of her dress until she had exposed her elbow, another strip of pristine translucent crystal filled up with a bright internal glow.

After appraising it for a moment, she held her long, elegant limb out in front of her, and, most crucially, above the still-opened hatch.

Then, she gripped the implement she had brought tightly in her other hand, and slashed, and twisted, until she could no longer fight off a grimace and had to employ a bit of willpower to keep her form sustained.

She released a small, chunky trickle, thought it might as well have been a torrential waterfall from the perspective of a smaller creature – a donation of concentrated liquid light, still blinding, yet somehow iridescent.

She would not touch the gash directly and risk getting the substance on her fingers, but she moved her tool around to get a good amount of it – She could not afford to spare any expenses with this.

For good measure, she even threw in the dagger itself – Once she summoned the technicians back in and ordered them to commence the process, it should get broken down into its basic components.

That, she did not do until her form was done closing up and the sleeve of her dress back in place. What could bleed might die, and she must not be seen displaying anything that could even remotely be construed as a weakness.
Instead, she took the time to close down the hatch with a stroking, almost affectionate motion. Soon, she hoped that her eyes would finally behold other perfection shining back at her in a most faithful mirror -

 

And what a spectacle it was, to see everything on that planet draining away at once, all plants of the jungle shedding their leaves in an instant, and crumbling away in the next, along with whatever creatures had found a home between their branches, to see its wild rivers run dry and its proud mountains collapse, and all of that so swiftly that she could see the planet's colors fading right before her eyes as she watched from orbit.

Had the experiment been a failure, this would have been the end of it, but from the mighty, continent-sized cracks spreading across the crumbling planet's surface and the faint glow beneath, it was apparent that something was taking place within the devastated globe.

She could feel it, even as the upper layers of the crust burned themselves out and fell silent.

These were merely the opening rites of course-

It would be many thousands of years before the fruit of her labor would be ripe for the picking.

 

But when it was, she knew to be there. The kindergartners had given her a margin of error that encompassed several decades, but she was certain in her conviction.

She awaited her offspring in the silence of space, watching from orbit, nestled in some angle of her ship but holding on to its outside, from where she intended to descend towards the surface in person in order to greet her counterpart.

 

Sure enough, the dried-out husk of the planet was already quaking as something inside its outline shifted – for so long now, every part of its crumbling shell had been silent, its long-lost opulence forgotten by all.

Now, life was stirring within its bounds once again, but it was a foreign, vampiric kind of life fated to crack it open like an egg in celebration of its violent birth -

And what a beautiful thing it would be, that instead of feeding the wild growth that had lived rampant here, it should be refined into part of a completely flawless being and serve to sustain her forever – or so she thought.

 

When the planet finally burst, it did so from the inside, shot through with pillars of blinding light – but already, the First One's face had soured.

One moment ago, she had been beaming widely, both literally and in terms of her facial expression, brimming with expectation for what was to come and reveling in her power of creation.

But when her wish finally came to pass and bathed the surrounding space in gleaming light and long dark shadows, she understood at a glance.

How could she not?

The light was wan, fallow, tinted, like a mother star seen through the dense layers of an atmosphere -

It was the lightest, brightest of all colors, but a color nonetheless, a mosaic of deficiency and overabundance, a note that was off-key, all the more taunting precisely because of tantalizingly close it had come to perfection only to fall glaringly short in the end -

And it only grew harder to ignore.

From the dark full of dust and debris, a light shone, a thundering, cackling, cascading gale of force and eminence and power and might,

but it was all for naught, already wasted and damned, written-off and discounted before there had ever been a chance.

The blast itself evaporated a good half of the debris field, and at its heart, a girl grew.

In vain did she crash onto some foothold, in vain did she stand at attention as her maker descended before her with a lightness and elegance that belied her colossal proportions, sparkling cape trailing behind her, ornate sandals touching down on frozen rivers of molten rock that had solidified into glass without leaving a single dent where the younger Diamond's landing had left a spiderweb of cracks.

 

They had met on a small asteroid, little more than a fine shard of a world that had once been, but it was large and stable enough to admit them for the moment, and so, the elder being stepped closer to scrutinize her handiwork – and cringed.

She was so displeased she wanted to scream.

She felt like wailing, raging, tearing, and she wanted to smash up the life she had worked so hard to bring forth -

For it had come so painfully, excruciatingly close to perfection she sought after, only to fall short in the end, so much like herself, and yet not like her at all.

 

She struggled then, to describe the wretch whom she had created, beyond her revolting jaundiced radiance, so obvious now, so clear, so intense and narrow a spectrum like the light from a pure sodium flame, so jarring her gradations of dark amber, so murky and muddied a mirror –

Sure enough, the first one could see the resemblance in her hard, jagged edges, her long, narrow stature, her mature, opulent features, her piercing gaze and even those familiar little forelocks cutting into her cheeks -

But there was nothing of elegance in her.

The elder was not greeted by a reflection of her own serenity, but a hard dearth of expression.

She already knew what she was supposed to be of course, and to those ends, the young gem had chosen for herself a sleek, functional form with a practical short hairstyle and heavy boots.

Perchance, this was her idea of what a leader was supposed to look like, if they could be called ideas, having been derived not from experience she didn't have, but based solely on the general knowledge that had been pre-programed into her gemstone.

Massive and monochrome, it had come to rest in the center of her upper chest.

Her gloved hands are all ready to get down to business, her gaze alone could fell some fearsome foes -

Yet it must not be thought that she already looked already like appeared in Era II – She almost did, but the few distinctions made all the difference in the world.

Firm as it was, her expression was not without the softness of youth, her armored, padded shoulders did not yet hold themselves with stiffness, and eyes of shrill, chemical saffron still burned with an earnest eagerness or even an unspoiled purity of essence -

She was still a girl then, primed and ready for the path before her, but as of yet unbroken, and had she known the mind of her creator at the time, the fires of her heart might well have been extinguished as soon as they were lit.

Within her sharp young mind, she had certainly noted that she had not been welcomed in joy, but then again, she had no accomplishments to her name yet, now did she?

So she reasoned that the elder's approval might be something to be earned.

 

As for her, well – She could not wholly put aside her dismay, but given a few more instants to gather her thoughts, she understood that this was only her first attempt and that it had, all things considered, still resulted in a more than excellent product, all the more irritating as it was for being such a very narrow miss.

But despite herself, she could not altogether avoid feeling a certain sense of... attachment tugging at her consciousness. She knew better than to indulge this though, for both their sakes – this young one would likely need a firm hand to make up for her obvious imperfections.

But even still: This shrill, discordant shade of canary was a part of her, and the purity of her own radiance stood out all the more by comparison to her narrow constricted spectral line -

So after one pointed, indulgent sigh, the shining creator did take her offspring into her sparkling arms.

 

“Welcome! Welcome! It's good to finally see you! Have you been adjusting well to your form?”

Uncertain what to make of this rather mixed message and mildly overwhelmed with the sudden display of icy affection, she did not immediately compose a response, but she need to not have troubled herself with the attempt, as the elder Diamond had no intention of awaiting her response in the first place.

“Well of course you must be, after we all put in so much effort to bring you here. Would you believe that we burned up a whole world just for you? Everyone's got so very high hopes for you. Maybe you can already sense their presence out there, it won't be long till they come to pick us up, they're all so exited to meet you-!”

Finally, the elder matriarch pulled away, leaving her hands on her offspring's upper arms.

It was not only a greeting, but part of her appraisal, as she quite unabashedly took the liberty to squeeze at the younger being's arms with her thumb and forefinger to inspect the consistency of her form.

The girl was not too comfortable with that, but bore it stoically without complaint as she understood its necessity, standing tall as the resolute queen she had been bred to become.

“We have much work to get to! Do you know why you're here?”

“To govern the gem homeworld and its outlying colonies, and further the expansion of our perfect order in the universe.”

The girl's countenance was serious and severe, lacking all the glittering lightness and elegance of her creator. She had not her glass-breaking tuning-fork voice, but spoke with a resonant dramatic contralto that was certainly not unsuited to wielding authority, but so rough, so sharp, so rich, so distinctive in its offending coloration.

“Well, it's a relief to know that it's all in there...” the elder mused, detaching one hand to tap her young ward's gemstone with two of her nails for emphasis. “But you should already understand that this is a monumental task that even one such as you could not be trusted with it straight out of the ground. After all it's very important that we make sure everyone follows the rules exactly the right way.”

“I assure you that-”

The First One silenced her with a small but deliberate motion of her hand. “Ah ah, let's not get ahead of ourselves!”

She made a point of pausing here, leaving enough of a break that a brief reply could have been spoken, but allowing none.

Only when she pleased it did she resume in her explications, though not without taking a few steps around to inspect her creations from all sides as she spoke: “You will prepared and instructed, and receive what is your birthright once you have proven yourself ready.”

When she arrived back in front of the eyes of what was now to be her young ward, she looked her over one last time, from the tips of her toes to the crown of her head, and then chose to make her closing remarks, as she did not need to look behind her to know that the fleet would soon have arrived at their location.

She spoke lightly, with an almost nurturing quality and a sparkling, radiant smile, and words like cutting stained-glass splinters:

“And dear?”

She drew her long, sharp claws to a face still not parted from soft innocence.

“You've got a hair out of place.”

Exposed, the girl stiffened slightly – she wished to act, perhaps to remedy the issue herself, but she was not given the opportunity.

“Riight there. Let me fix it for you.”

 

 

The girl was led into the swarming lights of the fleet, dark carbon nails resting on her shoulder, dark carbon smile radiating beside her with something that was not pride and made her feel uncertain beside herself..

She was welcomed with bells, fanfares and great cacophonous clamor, but she knew that she had not earned any of this.

But at the time, her ambitions were still fresh and the light in her eyes still undiminished, so she counted all that she was missing among the things she was simply yet to gain.

Like any newmade gem worth the dirt she was grown in, she wanted nothing more than to fulfill her purpose to the best of her abilities.

She burned with the need to be of use, and in the heat of her soul, many designs were forged to that end.

She knew she was meant to be a leader, but what kind of leader would be be? What qualities were crucial for a leader to have?

She had emerged with thoughts about this already in her mind, and she had thought many more since she had been led into her new chambers.

As the second Diamond, she was clearly supposed to be much like the First One, but she could not always be there to guide her – instead, she would one day be expected to guide others in her place, and in order to accomplish that, she would first have to guide herself.

 

 

Unfortunately for her, the great irony here was that this went rather counter to her creator's intentions for her – for how could she be instructed, molded and perfected if she remained stubbornly committed to requiring as little instruction as possible?

 

...

 

Strange as such a custom must have appeared on Earth, it would not have been much out of the ordinary if they had gone on to simply address each other as 'Diamond' much like many other gems of similar types , but for various reasons, that would not do.

They two of them were notthe same, and everyone involved would do good to remember that – besides, the result of such an intimate creation called for something more familiar, and so, she learned to be 'Sunbeam' when she was in her creator's good graces, and 'Yellow' when she was not, which was most of the time.

 

It was Yellow, then who first referred to White Diamond as such. At first, it had been a simple, logical extrapolation from her own designation – once, there was only a single Diamond, but now that there were two, it could be supposed that there was a need for a distinction.

But White did not attach much significance to it. To her, it was not more than an administrative technically – though they might be operating as separate entities now, she still knew that they would always be one.

Any significance the title carried would have been a retroactive one, acquired over time, weaved into existence by the gems that wrote their hymns and painted their likenesses onto the walls. She could just as easily have gone with referring to herself as 'Clear' had she simply wanted a descriptive title referring to her own properties, but it suited her more to be called after the light she held within her and her connection with all those who now shared some fraction of it.

 

….

 

At first, it was not hard for White to find proof for her notions of Yellow's hopeless insufficiency. She would bring her along to all sorts of representative functions, and her deficiencies would be obvious just by standing next to perfection herself – Where White was naught but flowing elegance, her miserable creation would stand aside, reserved, dull, inexpressive, and somewhat tense, a mess of hard, sharp angles and shrill bright color -

 

Quite unlike what her maker had assumed when she brushed the question aside as quickly as she had posed it on the occasion of her first meeting, the younger took a while to become comfortable with existence – she naturally understood the notion of motion toward a purpose and the domains of action, drive and will, but when it came to the actual state of being, of moving, thinking and feeling, she was at a loss, and so, for the first few centuries of her existence, she was known mostly as one of White's faithful shadows, eagerly doing as she commanded with a sour hard face and not expressing much besides, stoic, blunt and diligent.

 

But the young Diamond proved to be a studious, devoted learner. When White started bringing her along to the outlying worlds, she observed intently, noting down every detail of how the empire was run and which factors were important to maintaining their power. When she was handed her first tasks, she took to them like a fish takes to water. When prompted for suggestions, her judgment was discerning and on-point.

She was intelligent, she was bold, and yet worse, she was decisive – a gem of action, well-equipped with the instincts of a fighter, a quick, tactical mind, an affinity for research and technology.

– White could already tell that she was well on her way to developing a disconcertingly clever mouth, and with time, she learned to affect an impressive commanding presence that soon became know as her most distinguishing trait among the gems, her calling card almost.

Soon, she was all a leader ought to be, and her allotted tasks had become her second nature - She conducted her affairs in a curt, firm, businesslike fashion. She mastered speaking with authority and learns to exude gravitas with every word. She will not suffer being questioned, but at the same time, she never developed a taste for artifice and affectation.

A leader does not indulge. A leader does not bend the rules even for herself of all she cherishes. A leader strives after objectivity and reason, even if she could never match the 'perfect flawless being' that greets her on her murals or her hymns or her underlings' radiant, admiring eyes.

 

But oh, she was good! Tantalizingly good, frighteningly good, almost too good.

She was efficient, she was mighty, she was even dutiful and responsible, always concerned with, and ever willing to sacrifice for the greater good of the empire, even if it meant dirtying her hands.

Born in violence, nurtured on stolen life and bred for subjugation, she walked a path of conquest, and wherever she goes, she leaves a path steeped in shards and organic juices.

She devotes herself wholeheartedly, with a heart of stone.

Soon, Death becomes her, fear sews itself onto her footsteps and she stops thinking much of it.

Her first acts of destruction were deliberate shows of strength, but she soon grew callous, even bored of it.

Before Yellow, when White was alone, the Empire's expansion was like an ever-advancing, unstoppable wave that rolled over the neighboring star systems slowly but inexorably. Had their inhabitants had the means to observe the gems, they could have calculated the exact moment that their worlds would be seized down to the exact second, and it would surely come to pass, no sooner, yet no later.

But where White would have seized the most beautiful planets or the ones she found the ugliest, those most worthy of or most in need of being perfected, or those that reminded her ever so faintly of the homeworld, Yellow could hardly eye an asteroid worth mining without taking the entire star system for good measure.

One would do good not to incur the wrath of either, but where Yellow might end you casually and swiftly as a means to archive her goals and then forget you ever existed like erasing you was just the thankless toil an ordinary Tuesday, White would strip you of all that might make you want to hang onto life in the first place, with a smile, and all for your own good – You might prefer the former.

In brief, she had come into her own.

 

Rather than a faded, failed copy or a lost, distorted echo, Yellow Diamond had come to be her progenitor's counterpart, the opposite side of her coin:

White had always been a dazzling bright corona eclipsed by an insatiable black hole sun;

Yellow was more like a planet whose hardened crust belied its molten core.

She might have appeared calm and collected on the surface, but beneath, there was a tempest in her soul, ablaze with fiery life and unbearable intensity of feeling, not much unlike other gems who wore the cores of their beings on their chest.

With time, she had acquired a measure of experience and confidence – she was no longer remotely as stilted as she had been in her first couple hundred years.

She would snap at her surroundings with displeasure, smirk about humorous experiences and even display evident gestures of concern – She'd always be somewhat guarded about revealing what was inside her and she would certainly never be the type two dwell on her feelings or wallow on them, but that was in part because she had found other ways to let them speak, preferring to express herself through actions rather than words.

Every keystroke was a whisper, every step a word, ever decision a decree.

'I want to be helpful to you, because I care about you.' said her her hands, her strong arm that had crushed worlds to dust in the grip of her fist. 'Please see me, please look at me, please hear me!'

But when she now deigned to turn to her creator, older now, experienced, confident, in determined devotion or even bearing a smirk about one thing or another, the response was always cooler than she anticipated, and her ardent, redoubled efforts were the resonance of her never-ending screaming, all of which had gone unheard.

Day and night, she sent her troops to capture ever newer far-flung worlds for the glory of the empire, and set upon the work of despoiling them.

She would stand behind domed glass, watching as the flowers dried soon to be replaced by mines, shipyards and kindergartens. She watched glittering orbs lighting up with circles of light and left dried-up husks in her path, crumbled shells that had lost all resemblance to a sphere.

She brought forth many in her image and sat above them in judgment, and when she could spare a moment from that, her deeds in the depths of her laboratories were unholier still.

For ages, she labored away in the artificial light, directing her swarms of technicians and researchers to optimize gem production and advance the horizon of their technologies ever further, so that they might continue to do all these same things, and with ever greater efficiency, and a speed that never stopped increasing its breakneck pace.

She raised up large fleets without end, masses of soldiers stocked with ingenious weapons, living, planet-sized weapons that could snuff out suns and devour star systems, all of it from her literal blood, sweat and tears, but it was never enough.

If she could have, she would have squeezed herself dry like a lemon, down to the very last droplet – the closest she ever came was whenever she entered the battlefield in person, which, to be fair, was not a common incident. She only really bothered it when the gains that could be made from bringing her own, immense power to bear outweighed the hassle involved in doing so, but she had ensured that she would excel at it, and she was prepared to do so if she must – oh, she did have patience, and that's what led her to persevere, but it was split between all of her countless endeavors and not much of it was left for any single one.

If she could expedite a process through threats and appeals to the hierarchy, she would, and it it was better accomplished by adjusting her gloves and resolving the matter with her own two hands, then she would do that, too.

White sometimes told her that it was unbecoming for her to conduct so many of her projects in person, that she, as one of the empire's centerpieces, was too important, that she must not be seen as even being capable of any state of weakness -

But Yellow had learned not expect any praise a long, long time ago.

Of course White would expect her to rule from a distant tower – but she also expected for everything to keep running smoothly even as their empire sprawled out further and further, including the things that might require quick decisions and direct intercession, so, which of her missives was she supposed to follow?

Disgrace was certain no matter which route she might choose – She understood of course. Nothing in this world was fair, and why should she or anyone else even expect it to be?

Sacrifices would always need to be made and nothing good could ever come from nothing, so they might as well get it over with - unleash destruction and make it quick and painless.

 

...

 

It had been a hard-learned lesson.

Once, no long ago she could barely remember, Yellow might have thought that things could be different, once, before she had become this bitter, dried-out creature full of seething resentment.

Though she was already immersed in the ins and out of the empire, it could not have been before she saw her thousandth year. She had taken over her responsibilities far quicker than Blue or Pink did, be it because she had been so eager, or because as the first, she'd had the most expectations resting on her back.

White would still make appearances off-planet in those days, and since there was no one else, she spent significant time instructing Yellow with her own, firm hand, but not in any way that could be considered a privilege.

The great All-Mother of homeworld was only ever displeased; Even her smiles were a minefield. “I only point out your mistakes because I know that you can do better.” she would say, and that would be the closest she would ever come to an acknowledgment: “All our gems depend on us doing our best. For the good of our empire, none of us can afford hesitation – you understand that, do you, my dear sunbeam?”

“Of course I do, White Diamond!” she assured with conviction, but her maker would usually continue before Yellow could come anywhere close to explaining herself: “Good, good! You know, sometimes come close to losing all hope for you, but it seems that I needn't have worried!”

And with that, she would generally disengage and leave, usually back to her palace ship, leaving the younger Diamond in the hallways, often with her hands still half outstretched -

 

And she's not sure if there was ever a time where she didn't feel resentment, but there were certainly days where she pushed it out of her consciousness and argued to herself that it must be unwarranted. But at the very least, she was very much confused – why the need to remind her of her responsibilities? Couldn't White tell that she took them very seriously already? What reasons could she even have to think so, and more importantly, what could she do to convince her otherwise?

Day and night she labored for the sake of the empire – what more could she do to get White to see that?

And another might have despaired, or thrown up their hands in frustration, but Yellow Diamond did not much believe in feeling sorry for herself. Problems were to be solved, challenges were to be overcome with her own two hands, and with determination – Even if it meant putting her head through a wall.

It was in her nature to keep moving forward, to look for solutions when she knew not what to do, and so, this is how she approached this:

If her regular work performance was not enough, then it figures that she must do something more, something beyond that, something only she could contribute, something that would bring glory and prosperity to all of their subjects, a way to make their order even more perfect – and then, she thought naively, White must surely recognize and reward all her loyalty and devotion.

So she began to draw up plans.

But the day on which she finally brought her suggestions before her maker did not go as she expected.

 

 

The Grand Matriarch was furious.

Her pristine, elegant form and all the petite, immaculate features of her face were quaking with her rage.

What is the meaning of this?”

So here she was, the great rational decider, the commander-in-chief, the luminous Yellow Diamond of the stern, commanding presence – on the defense from the moment their conversation started.

The alabaster gray walls of the palace ship reminded her keenly whose turf they were on, and all the stark, colorless architecture around them looked dark when compared to the radiance of its master.

Think of any object or quality that had ever been described as pure white – the freshest dewy petals of magnolia, the newest morning snow, the most incandescent magnesium flame, and they would all be smears of filth next to the being that dwelt in this chamber.

If Yellow looked down at herself, at the sharp edges of her facets and the trappings of her form, she could not help but feel exposed, for each and every of the small collection of shades she had about her, and everything that shone like chromate salts, chlorine dioxide and pressed uranium ores.

Nonetheless, she overcame herself, and spoke, and was made to regret it for ages:

“I was looking into ways to make the organization of our gems more efficient. I was just thinking, that, perhaps if we put more emphasis on minimizing wastefulness and rewarding merit, we might-”

“I don't want to hear about your thoughts!” spat White. It was almost a screech, each word lathered in disgust.

All pretense of warmth was gone in an instant, and Yellow found herself alone in a room with all of White's sheer, unbridled rage.

Incandescence flashed from behind her pupils; it swelled inside her gem, and all of her form, so bright it hurt to look at her, so bright that it would not allow for anything else to be seen, bright as those luxuriant suns of fortunate planets that drowned out the lights of all stars when the daytime arrived, and though she had not done so for literal thousands of years, Yellow Diamond shivered, not due anything as simple as fear, but with the awe of all things for their makers.

“Do you even realize what you're suggesting? The gravity of what you've just said? What that would mean? You would have us deviate from our order? To give up the very form that defines us? To give over our perfect, beautiful empire to chaos?”

And if the very sight of her was blinding, her incensed words must have been like the divine voice of truth.

“Of course not!” the younger Diamond pleaded, though she no longer knew why: “What I want to do is to make some improvements – to streamline it, so we can adjust it to changing circumstances- “

“Improvements you say. How curious.” White snapped with a pout.

The offense in her voice was almost palpable.

Every time she came a step forward, Yellow instinctively took a step back.

“How curious that you think that there is a way to improve upon perfection. How very, very clever of you... is that what you think you are, clever?!”

Yellow wasn't given the time to answer.

Clearly you know best! Oh yes, let's just do it your way! Let's compromise on the order that has kept this empire from collapsing into chaos. Better yet, return all the words we've ordered to the chaotic state we found them in! Who cares what the consequences are. Who cares if we lose the very order that makes us what we are- Selfish, selfish little creature! Who cares what happens to our gems and our empire, Yellow needs to mess it all up like it's one of her little experiments, to show off how clever she is!“

“No! No of course not, White, I would never want that. I don't want chaos. I never said we should do away with all rules! I just wanted to... relax them, maybe, to improve the order. You know, for perfection! Just like you always wanted-”

“What do YOU know about perfection?”

White's voice boomed like thunder. To Yellow, it was the sharpest condemnation she could have faced. It merely confirmed what she has always suspected, but it broke her hard, brittle heart all the same.

“I knew you were a failure from the moment you emerged! Oh, but I kept you, I couldn't bring myself to discard you, because you were still a part of me... and this is how you thank me for it! Never would I have thought that you would dare to defy me to my face!”

 

For the first time in her life, Yellow had to fight down tears, but she was not adept at it, not yet – in many glittering trails, they streaked down the same face that had been so blank in her earlier centuries, her feelings of complete and utter defeat revealed in plain sight.

 

Even then, White's voice held no mercy: “And what do you intend to accomplish with this display of weakness?”

 

Kneeling before her maker, Yellow raised one of her arms to conceal her face in shame. “Forgive me White! It won't happen again... Please! I'll do as you say, just please! I beg of you... Please let me be of use to you! Let me be of use to our Empire!”

 

It was then that she restrained her burning radiance, plastered her usual benevolent smile back onto her face and condescended to approach her disgraced daughter, going as far as to put her arms around her as if no part of the preceding altercation had taken place – there was no more need to her to scorn her wayward offspring, after all, she was now very much acting out the role assigned to her, and White could tell from a single glance at her gem that the younger Diamond lacked both the strength and the will to reject her in this moment.

“There, there.” she spoke in a singsong voice that was almost gentle, wiping Yellow's tears as if she weren't the cause for them. “It's fine, I get it. You're a flawed being, so it's only natural that you can't always get it right. But that's why I'm here. Don't you worry, I'm going to make it all better... All you need to do is listen to me.

Do you think you can do that?”

“Of course-!”

“Very good! And Sunbeam?”

She turned to look Yellow in the eyes, with eyes that gleamed like quasars and her smile which was at once like candy and rot, and she added a few words, sweetly, with a voice like fresh cut daisies: “Never question me again.”

 

That was the first time Yellow should witness one of her tantrums, but it was far from the last.

 

….

 

In the years after that, Yellow made a point to follow White's instructions to the letter, to show that she understood now why it was so important to seek White's guidance and to follow her laws down to the latter, but by and large, her illusions were dashed.

There was a time when she had admired White without reservations and sought to be like her in all things, but she was too pragmatic, too much of a realist to convince herself that White was anything other than a very demanding, difficult individual, or that the life she had found herself in wasn't going to be filled with dreary, thankless work -

She did not dwell on that realization, for what would have been the use of that?

She simply accepted it and dealt with the consequences.

There were more than enough things in this world that she could actually remedy, and no shortage of tasks calling for her attention.

 

But oh, that she must feel it at all! That she was forced to be aware of it, that she could not help but realize that she was not holding much of White's attention these days, the certainty that she must have managed to dash what little hopes her maker ever held for her.

Yellow didn't see much of her these days – She no longer needed much instruction, and neither did White hope to accomplish much improvement.

 

Indeed, she had a hard time getting a hold of her even for the purpose of discussing affairs of state. Yellow still saw her semi-regularly at official functions, but there was not much room for discussion at those, not when they had to appear resolute in front of their subjects – and askingfor an audience was thoroughly useless.

If Yellow wanted to have a moment in private with her, she would practically have to ambush her.

As a strategist, Yellow knew that one was most vulnerable while changing locations, a simple piece of basic logic that must be true for all beings in the universe, even one such as White – did gravity to still keep her on the ground, could her hair and appearance modifiers not still be set in motion by the wind?

It should not have been too hard. There were only so many passageways and structures that had been build to admit their titanic sizes and they were generally not frequented by any but the most high-ranking of their subjects, most of which would be using separate structures more suited to their respective size and importance.

White was so punctual that one could easily get the impression that she just appeared and disappeared, but there was a clearly defined set of paths that she could be taking.

And as the existence closest to White, Yellow thought that she knew something of her habits, insofar as the luminous All-Mother of the gem homeworld could be knowable to anyone.

Often times, Yellow Diamond had to tell herself what she tended to tell those beneath her: That White Diamond was a jealous God, and that her ways were not their ways.

She was ancient, even compared to Yellow herself, and she simply didn't see the world the way that she did – how could she, when had raised them all from the dirt to be her playthings?

It was not enough to simply keep track of all her various comings and goings, of which there was still a considerable number in those days. When White decided to show up, she would follow her schedule like clockwork and go through the motions of her task like she had done for eons upon eons – She was certainly a habitual, rigid creature but at the same time, one could not really describe her as simply cold or mechanical.

Her smile was unfailing as was her tendency towards surface pleasantries.

She was, by nature, not completely without attachment or... fondness even, but it was not something she valued. She addressed her creations with an affectation of affection, and behind it lurked the ever-present threat of her hot, capricious rage.

Her whimsy was most apparent in her tendency to skip out on appointments with little to no warning whenever she suddenly deemed them unimportant.

Yellow could draft all the elaborate attack plans she wanted, but when she actually got to see her creator, it was usually at her leisure, and always, always on her terms.

 

She would find White in the halls and galleries, in any variety of large, shining constructions adorned with long graceful columns or perhaps on some enormous balcony overlooking the spires of the capital, and it would always be over before she knew it.

Hardly did she ever make this mistake of outright calling out after the larger gem – such a blatant display would have been unbecoming – and neither did her maker avoid her outright in a transparent manner that had no plausible deniability.

She did not hurriedly increase her stride – indeed sometimes she'd even stop in her tracks when she heard the hurried stride of Yellow's boots approaching.

All of that only served to underline the utter futility of the endeavor.

Sure, White might even turn on the heels of her glittering sandals, just as she was about to walk through an enormous archway built to her precise size (since she was, after all the single most enormous being on this world) and spread out her elegant, glittering arms in what might be a welcoming gesture, she might even don one of her most radiant megawatt smiles, but all any of that meant was the she had already made up her mind before the younger Diamond could even gather the resolve to speak the first word:

“Ah, Yellow! Hello there! I see you have returned from your campaign. It's good to see you! I trust that you are well...”, she prattled on, like she might as well be talking to herself. “Is there something you need?”

She added that last part too deliberately for it to be an afterthought, which meant that it might well be intended as an understated admonishment. Or it might not be.

One could never quite tell with her. Perhaps she really had no idea of the terror she brought with her each time she stepped into a room, not that it would have made much of a difference - Those wide, colorless eyes were unreadable, and it was enough to know what she was capable of.

Already, Yellow could feel herself wavering – but either from futile hope or desperate need, she pressed on: “I... have been meaning to speak with you. About the campaign.”

“Oh?” her eyes narrowed, and her voice took on just the slightest edge. “Was there a problem with that?”

“Not at all! It went all according to plan.” She had been meaning to make this a solemn, dignified manner, preferably on her knees and deeply bowed, as if to lay the spoils of her conquest at White's feet so that she might extend the radiance of her favor – Instead, Yellow was practically defending herself, having approached White in silence, and from the back, like some miscreant about to confess something shameful, or, in brief, like her efforts were barely even enough: “We were able to expand the reach of our order and secured abundant new resources for the empire.”

The words are chosen to be grand, but the quiver in Yellow's often so resolute voice gave away her urgency.

She had known from the beginning that this would be a futile exercise.

It was almost a mercy when her false hopes were finally dashed at last.

White simply smiled at her, a slightly wider sort of smile, with her eyes slightly narrowed, the one Yellow recognized just well enough to understand at once that no more objections would be tolerated.

There was nothing piercing about it yet that's how it felt, the cutting edges tucked away beneath that resplendent, flowing voice:

“Then what is there to discuss?”

 

Yellow was completely and utterly defeated, and for all that she still put on a show of reaching out her arm, it didn't stop White from turning around and continuing along her way, presumably, right to her ship, to where she admitted very few visitors.

That was when it began to dawn on Yellow that White had a wall in her heart, some high, transparent obstacle that none of her efforts could ever get past. Or perhaps she had known all along, and it had merely taken her so much longer to truly understand what it meant.

Perhaps there was really no reason for them to seek each other out if all was going well enough. After all, a perfect, flawless creature isn't supposed to need anyone or anything – and Yellow knew full well that it was not her purpose to be given thanks, that, if anything, she ought to be grateful to have been given the duties that justified her sorry existence, and that she would do well to expunge such useless sentiment, for many, many reasons –

And yet it was there, burning, searing, taunting her ceaselessly no matter how much she longed to be rid of it.

She could at least understand the purpose of sentiment when it spurned you to action or reminded you to protect yourself. She understood rage, she understood ambition, she could even wrap her mind around fear, but what use was there for a wish that could never become true?

It would be so much easier if she could just carry out her tasks without having to bother with such diversions, as she was trying her hardest to do.

 

Already, she knew that White was making preparations to bring another one into their ranks, a third member for the Diamond authority. She hadn't seen it fit to grace Yellow with an explication of her reasoning, but it was known that she had set to work on an icy moon orbiting a large blue gas giant.

Once it was covered with the large monuments left behind by a civilization of slow-moving, silicon-based lifeforms, but that was before legions of Quartzes and Rubies had cleared away their last remnants. Their technology was most advanced than most adversaries the gem empire had faced, but despite that, they put up precious little resistance – their glory days were already long past, their society already on the decline for unrelated reasons.

The invasion had merely struck the last blow, wiping them all out except for a scattered few that were able to escape the system in rickety old vessels left by their ancestors.

Yellow's opinion had been that they might use the planet's unusual composition as a rare opportunity to produce a few batches of rare elite gems, but before she could have the kindergartens set up, all her plans were dashed by intervention from White.

She did not even bother contact Yellow or her fleets in person – instead, she simply sent a written missive from her ship, which was already en route to their current position.

She wanted the planet – just this one in particular, nothing else about that system – and she would be requiring a team of Uraninite Researchers and Peridot Technicians, and of course, she could only be satisfied with the best, most perfect, most foremost ones that Yellow had ever been able to make.

Additionally, all the warships that had been used in the system's conquest were to stay and guard it until the elder Diamond's business was finished.

Most of the gems involved were honored of course, for it was rare for any ordinary gems to get a glimpse of White in those days, particularly for those outside of the aristocracy.

But both the soldiers and the technicians assumed that the Grand Matriarch would be requesting some sort of weapon or superstructure.

Yellow knew better, and not merely because White no longer involved herself in such trifling details - As the one in charge of gem production and research, it was unavoidable that Yellow would eventually have come face to face with the schematics of her own creation.

She had no illusions for what this meant.

But to be replaced using one of her own conquests -

Let's just say that there was more than one occasion where Yellow only noticed too late that she had been gripping the armrest of her throne quite a bit too tightly.

 

...

 

Since White had claimed their homeworld for herself, Yellow saw to the progression of their efforts on the system's other planets, most of which had been settled by the silicon creatures.

The Bismuths sent to cover them in gem structures would at times still encounter the occasional stragglers, though that should soon cease once they were due to begin with the terraforming.

As a precaution, Yellow saw that most important convoys were assigned guards – it's not like she would be pulling her army out of the system anytime soon.

One by one, the last of the natives were weeded out from their former homes, and it was not long util the last of their towers were scheduled to be melted down.

It was all rather sad – or so was the opinion of one of her Topazes, when had she expressed some reluctance to go through with the dismantling of their cities.

Yellow Diamond shot that down right away.

“What do you expect? It's an invasion.”

“But they just want to live here, same as us. It just doesn't seem fair... ”

Nothing in this world does. What else is new? Besides...

“What would you have us do instead? Let our own Empire wither away, out of the kindness of our hearts?”

“Of course not, my Diamond! But if there was some way that we could get what we need without destroying them....-”

“Well there isn't, is there? It's us or them. We must all do our duties, Topaz, not just when it's convenient or pretty. As it stands, these creatures stand between us and the needs of the empire, and I will not hesitate to remove any obstacle that threatens its prosperity... nor will I hesitate to remove you, if that's what you become. ”

“But-”

The Diamond's gaze grew hard here, as did her voice.

“Are you questioning my orders, Topaz?”

“No -Never!”

“Then carry out your mission, and we shall never speak of this again.”

“Yes, my Diamond! A-as you wish!”

 

Had she insisted, Yellow would have personally dissipated her form before she was done speaking, and had her bubbled away to await her sentence, and perhaps, one day, she would allow that imprudent gem to make herself useful again.

If she were a repeat offender, her Diamond would have dispensed with the proceedings and had her harvested before the day was done – after all, it would not do to be wasteful.

This was not to say that she took it lightly. Dispensing punishment and destruction was part of her daily business, so it was unavoidable, even necessary, that she should grow accustomed to it, or calloused, even. She could threaten you quite casually, she could detonate remote charges in your face and then move on like it was just another Tuesday, but that was not the same as taking it lightly, let alone taking any pleasure in it.

More so than her sisters (save for one, who was, at the time, not even a thought in White Diamond's head), she had some awareness that the works of her hands were ugly things, at least when it came to her own kind – but like many who had wrought destruction of colossal consequences, she believed she was right, that it must be done because no other path was acceptable.

 

...

 

White was right here.

Yellow had seen her ship glittering in orbit on quite a few occasions, usually from the command bridge of her own.

It was the first time in years that they were even in the same star system and could have seen each other without the use of a subspace communicator or a hyperdrive engine – but they didn't.

The younger Diamond supposed that she would be seeing even less of her creator now that this new creature was in the works.

If White had asked her opinion – which she had not done one in her life – Yellow would have told her that this whole thing was entirely superfluous. There was no need for another Diamond – there might be, eventually, as the empire expanded, but not yet. Not now.

Surely, she was not so inadequate. Even White must see that she had a solid grasp on her duties – the two of them were more than enough!

And was this even the right place? If White had told her of her intentions, she might have been able to find a much more suitable planet for the procedure, not that this one was in any way insufficient, but, White hadn't even presented her with that challenge – She had been discarded before her rival had even been injected.

For that's what she pictured this newest Diamond as, the only way she could see their relationship unfolding at the time: As a bitter rivalry where they would both be competing for scraps of White's attention, perhaps for all of eternity, or worse still, only just as long as it would take to establish a clear victor.

 

She'd heard some of the Peridots talking of course. They were hers and had no reason to expect anything to be hidden from her – indeed many of them bragged of their assigment insofar as the details weren't classified - and they had to resupply their operations with the fleet, and later, on the other planets.

White Diamond might not even have sworn them to secrecy on matters beyond strategic significance, for what did she care, or even know, what tremendous, torturous thing she was inflicting on her firstborn offspring?

Yellow did not want to hear of this, and yet she could not avoid becoming privy to a few intimate details of her own creation that she never wished to have learned. She had been spared a closer inspection on her person because it would not do for any of her subjects to be poking and prodding the new Queen they were supposed to worship, but White did have her exit marks examined before having all evidence destroyed. Right over there, across the sky in her ship, she'd gone through all her old schematics, and she had ordered for every free parameter and every uncertain variable to be adjusted tho the other extreme.

This came as a surprise to the technicians who saw 'their' Diamond as the most shining example of perfection, but they assumed that White Diamond, in her infinite wisdom, must have some grand plan in mind and might perhaps be wishing for this new Diamond to fit the requirements of some unique new role of her own, or that it was a matter of balance and wanting the members of the authority to complement each other.

Yellow alone knew better.

White would obviously want this new Diamond to be closer to perfection, and in her eyes, that was best accomplished by ensuring that she wouldn't be anything like Yellow.

 

When the injector was set to be fired, she made sure to have an extraction scheduled around that time, to ensure that she would be behind closed doors and unable to be reached even in the unlikely event that White would think of inviting her to observe – and while that brilliant new star seed incubated somewhere down there in the crust of that moon, Yellow did her best to forget it, sinking herself into her work, spending every free minute in her control room, thumbing through report after report and putting all else out of her mind.

 

Not that this was an easy task with the crumbling moon below and White's ship as constant reminders. Even when she was employed elsewhere in the system where the offending moon couldn't possibly be glimpsed, the gas giant it's orbiting is a constant glimmer.

Work is a cold comfort but an effective one. Despite her creator's silence, every completed appointment grants her some sense of accomplishments. The system has six planets, four of them rocky. The gas giants have numerous usable moons, none as plentiful as White's chosen receptacle, but most of them promising.

By the time White's new creation was anywhere close to emerging, Yellow's gems would have strip-mined most of them and converted the planet with the most favorable condition into a gleaming hollow sphere studded with high tower-spikes and multiple space elevators, to be a home for many of the newly produced gems and a hub for further expansion.

As for the moons surrounding the gas planets, the second and third best had been fashioned into enormous floating shipyards to be supplied with materials from the rest of the system, which was now unrecognizable from what it had once been.

Their work here was done. It was, for all intents and purposes, time to pack up, leave this place in the capable hands of their newly-minted Agates and go conquer some more, possibly after stopping by at the homeworld to ensure that everything was in order and perhaps make a few representative appearances.

But it seemed that White did not intend for either of them to return without the result of her latest enterprise in tow, and Yellow preferred not to incur her displeasure when she had a perfectly adequate base available at her now completed colony. She could conduct her business from there, and that was all that ever mattered and therefore, all she ought to need.

 

(But for all her misgivings, she never truly blamed the new existence that was maturing inside that icy moon, and not once did she wish for this enterprise to end in failure.)

 

...

 

When White descended from orbit to welcome her new creation, Yellow did not choose to join her. She was all the way across the star system, discussing battle plans with some of her Hessonites, too far to even see that moon crack open.

 

But their creator thought it fit to introduce them, which entailed that she actually summoned Yellow into her personal chambers for the first time in ages, and despite everything, her first creation found herself anxious to see her, right up until the moment when the enormous doors finally sprang open to reveal her..

White looked like she always looked – radiant, terrifying, and just the slightest bit absent, like an enormous crystalline statue imbued with living light, wearing that same familiar, blank smile on lips as black as night.

Yellow felt acutely how much she had missed her, and yet, her presence brought no comfort.

But nestled close to her side, shyly clinging to the seams of her dress, half-hidden beneath her glittering, translucent cape, there was -

Not at all what Yellow had expected.

In her darkest dreams, she'd envisioned something galling, some sort of being that might well be harder-better-faster-stronger than herself, but never anything like this –

And still, there could be no doubt:

Half concealed behind her long hair and the arms with which she was timidly holding on to White's larger frame, there was a decently-sized, approximately teardrop-shaped piece of diamond, in the hues of deep ocean waters and half-remembered dreams, indelible proof of her status and the power vested in her.

It follows then that her name was Blue Diamond, and that she would be working with them from now on – at a glance, Yellow could see that this new gem was truly her opposite in every way, but seeing that fear realized and manifested in light and stone before her, her feelings on the matter were not what she had expected them to be.

 

Yellow never hated this new life, and she wasn't about to start now, when she found Blue's ultramarine eyes glancing at her full of expectant trepidation, half-hidden behind White, who seemed to find the situation faintly amusing, if she had much of a reaction at all.

“Come on Moonshine. Go and say hello!”

That produced rather the opposite effect, if anything – Blue's hands tightened their grip on White's robes and Yellow was struck by how different this newest addition was from them both, how soft, sensitive, even delicate she seemed , especially for a being of such immense power.

She was comparable to Yellow herself in stature, perhaps even a bit taller were it not for her posture. She had a long, oval face, flowing pale hair and large, soulful eyes surrounded with prominent markings and a somewhat droopy quality to them. To go with all that, she had manifested a floor-length, midnight-blue robe possessed of a certain simple, quiet elegance, though it was nowhere near being as ornate as White's gown.

Where Yellow was made up of sharp edges, angles and shrieking brightness, Blue was a creature of flowing, rounded lines and dark, muted shades.

Each step that Yellow took towards her, and each small movement of White's seemed to produce a distinct reaction on Blue's face, quite immediately, like she couldn't have held it back even if she'd wanted to, so much unlike White's unnerving, unwavering smile and Yellow's hardened, barren exterior.

White must have taken note of it, too, though she found it sufficient to comment on the reluctance of her youngest with a brief chuckle: “As you can see, she's going to need quite a bit of preparation before she's ready to take her place in the Authority....

I trust that you will provide a good example for her, right, Yellow?”

“Yes of course.”

 

...

 

Contrary to her expectations, Yellow found that she ended up seeing a lot more of White that she used to, on account of the need to prepare Blue for her duties.

White was as she always had been.

Blue was... perplexing to say the least.

Nothing like Yellow. That impression only deepened as time went on.

Naturally, her fellow Diamond didn't comprehend her much at first – Besides, existence didn't seem to agree much with her.

In all honesty, Yellow often thought her rather... sluggish, languid, too easily affected by the occurrences around her or the events of the day – she did not possess nearly as much energy and drive as Yellow had.

Of course, Blue probably had her own list of bafflements and complaints regarding Yellow. She often found her too rash, too forceful and too insistent on pushing others in her preferred direction - Their differing temperaments naturally put them at odds.

One could only surmise that Blue must have inherited White's subdued, introverted disposition, perhaps even some milder, shaded shadow of her inky pitch black moods, but without all the parts of her that were – well. All the ones that Yellow ended up with.

Sure, Blue certainly did as was required of her, she'd follow everything White told her about what was supposed to be right and proper, it didn't really go beyond that.

Though she knew she knew well that she had been made for it, the idea of ruling did not much appeal to her in and of itself.

Had she emerged as some other type of gem, you might have found her obediently performing those other obligations as long as she could be with her assigned unit.

Blue was always glad when she could win the praise and attention of her fellow Diamonds, but she was liable to grow bored of her allotted tasks or space out during her lessons, which would generally prompt Yellow to admonish her lest they both draw the ire of White Diamond, whose punishments were seldom that considerate of Blue's tender feelings.

If it were up to her, Blue would probably have spent all day enjoying the amenities of the palace grounds, looking at beautiful things, reading the old epics and most of all, listening to music. Nothing else delighted her quite as much as song, and nothing else proved quite as soothing to her unsteady spirit.

Apart from that, her favorite places to go were probably the high rise spires, where she would allow the thinkers and artists to present her with their newest creations and exchange pleasantries with the other aristocrats, of course, always maintaining the proper distance and dignity that were becoming of a Diamond.

All things considered she did pretty well with the representative parts of their duties – she had the patience that Yellow had always lacked, though even here, when she was most in her element and soon learned to project an air of grace and poise, she could not entirely keep her soft heart from shining through, and soon she became quite revered by the elites because she would gladly bestow favors upon those in her good graces, contrasting with, and yet not entirely unlike the way Yellow had become esteemed by her the soldiers and technicians for her efficient, straightforward ways.

Though imperfect, Yellow could not deny that Blue's qualities had their place –

And despite the many, many times that Yellow found herself tempted to reprimand her or to give insistent reminders to steer her toward greater fortitude and diligence, some part of her could not help but admire her capacity to be moved, and the way her feeling flowed across her face and into the room so much more easily than her own, or the steadiness of her calm which her own impetuous motions could never match.

Yellow's mind couldn't condone it, her will could not agree with it, but her spirit couldn't escape the recognition of something that was missing from itself, perhaps that same elegance and understanding that White had always found her to be lacking of.

Yet there was an important difference between Blue and White:

They might both have been withdrawn, even apathetic on certain accounts, but where the distant All-Mother kept up her impenetrable front at all times, Blue loved the company of her peers more than anything else – Had she not been given another purpose, you could have thought that it was her entire reason for being.

The few times White would actually admit them into her presence for reasons other than to discipline them, Blue would express the relief and anticipation that Yellow was far too guarded to allow, and when Yellow herself would return from her conquests and step off her ship in a thundering procession, Blue would be there, first as a gracious, veiled shadow, and then, once they were behind closed doors away from anyone except perhaps their Pearls, she would listen, fondly, and be enraptured by her tales of victory and resourcefulness.

Yellow would of course give her pointers for when it would be time for Blue to go and take her own worlds, which was supposedly the purpose to these meetings, but it had never been just that.

Because here was someone her deeds could actually reach.

Someone whom her words could move to tears, or laughter. Someone for her presence to bring comfort or at the very least, to matter in an immediate, discernible way.

When Yellow caught herself wondering after the point of her unsightly, thankless labors, she found she no longer needed to flagellate herself with talk of purpose, duty and sacrifice – She would simply think of Blue (and Pink, once she came along) and she'd be reminded of every single reason that sustained her resolve, and know exactly what she was doing it all for.

Yellow knew that it was not her purpose to expect any thanks – but oh, what it was to be wanted! And good was all her power, without something for it to protect?

 

She found out that she could stand there, the blood-soaked, dust-caked general, destroyer-of-worlds, and remember that she was not yet that ancient, that she could laugh from the bottom of her gem, a full-throated, booming sound, and learns that she could be held and supported in return, as if she were free to be anything soft and tender.

 

….

 

When Blue was still very new, she could often be found sticking close to her creator's side, especially in new or unfamiliar situations, but once she had made it past her first few centuries, White was no longer quite so indulgent and made a point of swatting away her clinging little hands - indeed, she was not above spending entire years flat out ignoring her if she were displeased with her performance.

Consequently, Blue quickly learned not to displease her, at least not on purpose. Blue was obedient of course, perhaps the most prim and well-behaved out of the two (and later, three) but as far as White was concerned, the best barely qualified as enough.

Regardless, it could be said that the two mostly got along well enough, insofar as it was possible to maintain any state of harmony with White.

It helped that, despite their marked differences, their general temperaments were not too dissimilar, which was not to say that White was ever really satisfied with Blue.

She had less expectations to be dashed the second time around, but she still found much to find fault with.

For all the misgivings she may have had about Yellow, at least it could be said that she was strong, which Blue... was not. She was far too inclined to sentimentality and attachment, enough so that it may well become her undoing one day.

Naturally, White generally made a point to discourage this.

Not that there wasn't some repressed little part of hers that might have felts tempted to indulge Blue when she came to her with expectant eyes and light, graceful steps (for her steps were still light in those days) – sometimes it might even win out for a brief time, but generally speaking, White knew better than to follow this particular impulse, as she knew she should.

 

….

 

Since the error couldn't possibly have been White's, it must lie with them both, which meant that the endeavor was likely futile to begin with, but still – It was all rather unfortunate.

She had hoped that tasking Yellow with keeping Blue on her toes would toughen her up somewhat, but instead, it seems the very opposite had taken place:

How else would you explain the sight of a ruthless intergalactic conqueror begging on the floor?

She knelt at White's feet, before the main platform of her throne room, amid the stark grays of her palace ship, in a stance of utmost supplication, her eyes filled with a raw urgency that they had not held in ages.

“Punish me instead!”

There was the fearsome Yellow Diamond, whose unyielding gaze and mighty footfalls been known as omens of Death throughout the galaxies, unambiguously, openly pleading.

“Please, it wasn't Blue's fault. She's still new, and I was there with her. I'm the one responsible, so I should be the one to be punished.”

Blue, for the record, was further back in the room, her tear-streaked face buried in her hands, unable to even look at the confrontation that was unfolding before her.

But behind her fingers, time kept on moving without mercy, and she could hear the definite edge in White's voice without the need to actually look at her:

“Are you going soft on me, Yellow?”

And she was most certainly still smiling, but they all knew that 'playtime' was about to be over very, very soon. Yellow must have known it too, but she had already made her decision:

“I'm taking responsibility.” she insisted, rather forcibly. “That's what a leader is for, right?”

 

White couldn't even bring herself to be too angry here, she almost had to stave off a pang of fondness – that was way more like the Yellow she knew. But alas, she couldn't just let those two think they could talk their way out of their shortcomings like that. She knew just what to do – and so she smiled, that wide, self-certain smile that was at once like sugar and rot:

“Very well. Have it your way.”

 

...

 

Blue would never find out what exact sort of punishment Yellow had to endure – she was not the sort to open up about it, and when she returned, every part of her told a different story.

Her lips produced a few scolding words, but the rest of her sat down next to Blue and placed an arm on her back in an feeble attempt to calm her agitation. Her sodium flame eyes kept staring off into the distance through it all.

“You can't keep making her angry like that. It is time that you realized your own importance.” she argued, but even as she spoke so, her form sought out her companion's proximity, not overtly, certainly not blatantly, but she cared not to be further apart than she could not excuse.

Blue had been curled up on an enormous, ornate divan, half-buried in her long robes with her unsteady face concealed behind her veil, gritting her teeth in an effort not to produce a single sound that would risk enraging White even further.

For all intents and purposes, she had probably been spared the worst and should not have been the one most in need of comforting, but her considerable distress was still – quite literally – palpable in the air.

And that did not not Yellow from drawing near her in an effort to relieve her, but neither did it keep her from addressing her in a stern, austere manner:

“We have to be strong, you and I.”

“How can you say that... I just- I just can't.”

“We'll have to.” she insisted, doing her best to speak firmly even though Blue could feel her hands shaking through her robes. “Both of us. For each other. For White. For every single one of the gems under out command. White is right, you know – they are all looking to us. They all serve us with devotion – so we must be worth it. That's the point of us.”

Her voice was breaking before she made it to the end, but her severe expression did not crumble until she unexpectedly felt something brush across her own back – a single hand which Blue had wordlessly raised in a fraught attempt to return the gesture.

It was then that all pretense imploded upon itself and before they knew it, they were collapsed in an inglamorous heap, clasping each other in their arms as tightly as they could, so much, indeed, that they had to be mindful not to fuse.

“Alright-!” Blue conceded between sobs, with that wispy, ghostlike voice of hers. “Let's be strong for each other, just like you said....!”

Though her words were unsteady, there was something solemn and momentous about it, like a whispered incantation or the forging of a vow: This here was holy ground, the last remaining place of warmth where the festering bleakness that suffused their world would not be permitted entry – or at least a promise that they alone would never go against each other.

Or that's what it meant to Yellow at the time, or what she made it to mean, because she needed to believe it – in truth, with the lives they were living and the trajectories they were going on, it should have been inevitable that they would sooner or later find themselves add odds. But that's not what it felt like in that moment.

 

They did not part from each other for a long time, but when they did, it was with a start, when the passage of time reasserted itself with the sound of the door chime.

They separated almost immediately, without delay, without lingering, or even a conscious thought. In an instant, their expressions hardened into something presentable – by now, it was second nature to them both.

Yellow crossed her legs, clasped her hands together and assumed a commanding stance that oozed with authority. Blue straightened herself up and narrowed her eyes into those of capricious ice queen, and just for good measure, made certain to readjust her veil, just in case she might have forgotten a few teardrops at the corners of her eyes.

They must appear unfazed, yet they both fear that it might be White, that she would suspect something (the Stars know what), that she'd see right through them like open doors.

Their concerns turn out to be unfounded – it was only Yellow's Pearl, who had no idea what just transpired. Industrious and eager to please, she had managed to track down her mistress just in time to escort her to her next appointment, something which her Diamond had always appreciated about the smaller gem, if only in passing thought.

It was the call of duty, and Yellow rose to meet it always, just as she had when she thought that all she would ever do is disappoint – but something had changed, because some part of her understood that she was no longer alone, and with that she could replenish her fortitude, no matter what would be expected of her, and regardless of what more she would have to endure.

 

(To anyone who was not White Diamond, the miscalculation should have been obvious.

Given that they had to perform in front of the minions, and with White being... White, who else were they going to hold onto?

Their disparities notwithstanding, those two would go on to be each other's sole support for the greater part of their long, long lives.) 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

I got the feedback that it might be better for this to be split up into digestable chunks so this is just the second half. The next chapter is new tho, about a third of the initially planned third chapter; The rest of it will follow once the next "digestable chunk" is done.


 

 

Part II: Reflection (Act II: "The Water of the Womb")

"We force it down

Put on a play to hide our shame

no wonder we're in chains"

-from Amy Lee's "Push the Button"

 

Eventually, the time came for Blue Diamond to take her place as a full-fledged member of the authority.

It had taken her longer than Yellow (who, in hindsight, must probably be considered to have been somewhat precocious), but eventually, White declared her suitable, or rather, resigned herself to conceding that Blue's conduct and performance were now as close to her conception of 'suitable' as they were ever going to get.

The competition that Yellow had once grimly expected never materialized – instead, they would each comfortably settle into their own roles, largely staying out of each other's way, or even complementing one another despite their differences.

 

The disparities between them only became more apparent once they each had their own jurisdictions to oversee and somewhat more leeway to conduct their own projects and put their own stamp on the worlds they oversaw.

But even when it came to working together to steer the empire as a whole, they would each bring in precisely the qualities that the other could not.

Where Yellow was forceful, commanding and resolute, Blue was a calm, ethereal, persuasive presence.

Where Yellow was bold, experimental and without much artifice, Blue would be proper, elegant and reserved, with a taste for beauty and decorum.

Where Yellow had an affinity for research and technology, Blue had the patient, gentle hand needed by magic and mysticism.

And where Yellow had long mastered mass production, Blue would come to excel at creating elite gems with rare, unique abilities whose vast powers proved to be of great use despite the relatively smart numbers in which they could be produced.

Yellow would stick to minding the armies, as well as research and development, which had always been her forte, and Blue would handle most representative functions, a lot of judiciary proceedings and many of the subtler ways to pursue the empire's interests (though calling it 'Diplomacy' would have been considered an euphemism by the representatives of other space-faring peoples, who knew well just how easily they could themselves become targets and find themselves dealing with the stick rather than the carrot)

 

This resulted in an emergent pattern where Yellow would concern herself with steadily expanding the bounds of the empire while Blue would keep the peace within them.

As for White, having the two of them traveling around the outlying colonies to handle anything that might come come up allowed her to direct all her time and energy to hold down the fort on the homeworld and directing administrative matters from there, which all things considered, suited her best.

Even so, she saw this as a matter of delegation rather than specialization, as the most important being taking on what she knew to be the most important tasks.

For all that these fraught, flawed beings might lean on each other, just like all the types of lower-ranked gems worked together to create a magnificent whole, the idea that they could have added anything to her that she didn't already have – well, in White's frame of mind, that would have been so absurd that the thought never occurred to her.

It was like expecting the rivers to run uphill to pour back into their sources, or waiting for heat to congregate in a corner of the room instead of spreading out, or expecting a vial of poison to remain as potent as its undiluted form once it had been watered down.

Everything they were, she was, along with everything they were not.

Thus she never hesitated to overrule them when their conceptions of what added to the empire's good differed too far from hers – As gently as she could but as adamantly as they made it necessary, because no matter what it took or what price it may require of them, she must always get her way, because, by her very nature, she always knew what's best.

Having Yellow and Blue around was certainly a convenience, but it could not possibly be a help. She could not allow them to be that, anymore than she could permit herself to need such a thing.

Of course, she still had a large number of worlds which she oversaw directly, and every couple of centuries or so, she would direct her elites to go fetch some more, but she never stepped foot on any of them save from the very oldest ones in her collection.

Half of the governors she had put in place had not actually heard her voice often enough to recognize it, not even over subspace transmissions or sounding through some unfortunate soul whose form she may have seized for her own use.

There was a bit of a rumor among the agates that no one who got summoned to see her ever lived to tell the tale, though this could easily have been disproved by the jades in the capital, where she would still make semi-regular appearances in those days, if she felt so inclined.

None of them could count on her presence, none of them deserved it –

Her empty throne was just enough for them, suspended up high where no one could reach, with not even stairs to lead there.

Like her omnipresent symbols, it ought to suffice to remind them of her presence, her might and all she asked of each and every one of them.

They should not need her to be there, and she should not have to appear before them as if that were needed to keep them in line.

Besides, she had her ways of knowing, her watchful eye, her thousands of ears and her means of being in more than one place at once, to grasp the world without touching it or allowing herself to be touched by it.

They all knew she was watching, even when she didn't allow them to feast their eyes on her radiance – but when she did, she would appear in a jarring flash of darkness, illuminating the entire scenery just by her presence, and drowning out any light but her own.

Resplendent in her finery and shining like a star, she would observe the performance with an oxymoronic smile gracing her lips, an expression that was something like a distant, crystallized fondness. .

 

...

 

Thus occupied and consigned to nothing else, it should not have been surprising that the members of the Diamond Authority sometimes went the occasional decade without seeing each other, and it was even rarer for all three of them to be in one place.

 

One such occasion took place a few thousand years after Blue started administering her own colonies. Throughout the ages to come, it would stick with her as a prominent, formative memory, though she could not have said that it was purely a fond one.

 

The occasion had been a cumbrous one to begin with – Yellow and Blue had taken a short recess during a series of court proceedings so that they may deliberate on the verdict.

Which was to say that they were having a disagreement which they couldn't be seen having in public.

It had been a long, long day for both of them and they were quite united in their desire to be out of this situation, but that's where the similarities ended.

White had not been there to start with – there was always spot reserved for her of course, and as the architect of the laws, she was always there in spirit, but she seldom involved herself in such affairs, not even in the sort of high-profile cases that would justify the presence of the other two – and when she did, it was usually on a whim, with no other discernible pattern.

Yet she always seemed to know in advance how to chose the worst possible moments for her intercession, precisely when her offspring would have been far too absorbed in their argument to anticipate her dreaded presence.

 

“Come on, Blue! Why don't we just shatter them and be done with it?!”

“Because this is supposed to be a trial! We're here to serve justice, not to get through another appointment.”

“Then serving justice to them is precisely what we must do! Or would you argue that they are innocent?”

“I see that they must be punished” Blue clarified with an exasperated shudder. “I mean, they were just fused for no reason, into some hideous... thing none of us have ever seen. I'm as grossed out as anyone here. But they're an Aquamarine and a Lapis Lazuli. They can obviously not be allowed to continue, but can't we just have them reassigned to different posts? Station them at the opposite ends of the empire if you must-”

“Why? So that they can pervert others to their deviant ways, until we're forced to dispose of all of them? What a fastidious waste that would be.”

“And shattering them would not be wasteful, according to you?”

“They're useless to us as it is! At this point we'd get better returns on the resources we used to grow them by having them harvested. They may have been elites, but they're repeat offenders. You know the rules as well as I do. In fact, I recall that you had no problem following them just a few cycles ago, when we had to deal with those defective Pearls-”

 

“What seems to be the problem here?”

A voice cut through the room. They immediately knew the one, quite possibly the only one capable of sending chills down their backs, though they might not even admit it to themselves.

They never saw her coming, but now that she had arrived in their arrival, it was impossible to pay attention to anything else.

Her glaring brightness illuminated the dark antechamber to which the two had retreated to prepare and convene – In design, it had been intended as more of a solemn thinking chamber for dignified rulers to make weighty decisions, but after thousands of years, the steady requirements of daily convenience had taken over and coated what was once an austere, curtained-off alcove held up by high, slender stone columns a rather lived-in feel.

The tables had been carved and decorated as altars of jurisdictions, but their reliefs and mosaics were nearly buried beneath gadgets, communicators, computer terminals and even the odd beautification implement.

Of the four available surfaces, one had pretty much ended up being used as a desk, another as a vanity, and the largest one wound up having a number of cushions thrown on it so it could hold one or two exhausted gem matriarchs should they require a brief moment of rest between court cases. At the moment, one side of it had Yellow's longer, knee-length overcoat draped over it, while Blue's veil hung across the other end, though the two lesser Diamonds themselves were sitting at the other tables with the corresponding chairs turned so that they could face each other as they carried out their dispute.

The fourth and last altar sat at the very end of the room and had been built precisely to White's height complete with a matching high stool, but she used it so rarely that it was the only one still left in its intended state, garnished with an intricately embroiled, enormous tablecloth and a dim, ornate lamp, the only light in this part of the dark edifice that was, after all, intended as a place of warning and punishment.

Though it was a monumental hall by the proportions of most gems and could, in human terms, almost have passed for the side wing of a Gothic cathedral, it was fairly modest-sized when perused by a Diamond, an impression that was not much helped by the enormous chests and cabinets filled with a museum's worth of data rods and other miscellaneous implements from all previous ages of homeworld's history, though none of them reached up to the height of the ceilings and the multitude of frescos and carvings covering it.

All in all it was a high and narrow room, but one that had been meant to admit White through its arched doorway, just in case she might ever feel like making use of that privilege.

And what would you know? Here she was, drenching the entire chamber in her splendorous shine which stood out all the more in her dim surroundings.

In this gloom, one could barely make out her features or even her outline, not from the dark itself, but from its contrast to her brightness.

Holding onto the front of her shimmering dress with her long fingers, she stepped onto the room on her sparkling, elegant sandals, moving with lightness and grace despite her titanic size and elaborate attire.

Once she had picked a suitable spot to stand on, she set down her gown and spread her arms wide. “You two haven't been fighting, have you?”

 

Yellow and Blue looked at her in trepidation, suddenly self-conscious of their unbecoming spat. Under other circumstances, Blue thought she might have been glad to see her, but as things were, she shrank back into her seat.

Inside, Yellow couldn't have been feeling any different, but in her mind, she could put rhyme and reason to it and even convince herself that it was quite right and reasonable for all three of them to be assembled, if there was a need for someone to act as a tie-breaker.

“Ah, White!” she swiftly interjected, rising from her seat as she spoke, as one would handle a sudden emergency. “It's nothing that would be worth your attention, we were just discussing a case...” not that there was much hope of convincing her otherwise once White had decided that there was a problem to be fixed.

Had they known she was coming, they would most certainly have instructed the Pearls to get the room reorganized. They would not have let her find them this close to unguarded.

“We weren't expecting you to join us.”, Blue volunteered, unsuccessfully attempting a smile. “It must have been centuries since the last time... but anyways, it's good to see you.”

“Yes, “ Yellow added in curt assent. “I haven't had the opportunity to meet with you since my return from the Omikron-Theta galaxy. “Have you been well?”

Yellow dutifully looked her over, but of course, she remained as unreadable as always – Every bit as eternal and immovable, and every bit as distant and muted, a singular, intangible existence.

They could do no more for her than a flickering reflection on the surface of a pool could do for the silver disk of the moon, and for all that she never ceased her demands, she could not require any more of them than she could possibly need of her reflection.
It was its own kind of frustration, subtler and more hopeless still than the crushing weight of her scorn and displeasure, the arctic cold of her apathy, or the humiliation of being out of her favor, everything and all that it meant to be made of her but not enough for her.

If anything, the question seemed to amuse her – every part of it, from the buried splinter of genuine concern, to the fraught show of strength, the attempt to take control of the conversation and divert her attention, if need be, by drawing all of it herself, because she could take it, because she would take it rather than let it fall on Blue, because she was already out of her graces, and, deep deep down, underneath it all, it was a strangled little plea for her time, a clever little ploy to get some conversation out of her.

Poor Yellow. Sometimes she could be so hopeless – both of them were.

And to think that these were her finest creations!

White didn't even want to think about what they might get themselves into if she weren't there to guide them – well, good thing she was here now.

White Diamond grinned. “Oh Sunbeam, why would you even ask such a question.... More importantly...” and with that, she turned her incandescent gaze toward Blue. “Would you either of you care to tell me what is going on here?”

“Well...” the younger Diamond made an effort to rouse herself to action. “We've been deliberating a case of unlawful fusion...”

“Ah, and there I thought you were finally ready to take care of such matters on your own...” White lamented, shaking her head. “Do you need me to step in? In there something I can do to help?”

“Actually, yes.” Yellow interceded. “You see, what happened is-”

“A Lapis Lazuli and an Aquamarine, yes, I know.” White continued, blowing her off. “What I'm really wondering is,“ and at that, she narrowed her eyes ever so slightly, but pointedly, “why they haven't been punished yet.”

“We were just about to-”

But Yellow's protestations weren't given much attention.

White stepped right past her, straight to where Blue was still sitting on her chair, half-buried in her long, heavy robes that melded with the surrounding darkness where her two companions repelled it.

Yellow had this persistent little inkling that Blue was right about to slip up and admit to something ridiculous, but she couldn't think of a way to prevent it. Her fists remained constrained at her sides.

“Oh my poor dear!” White mused, setting down her clawed hands on Blue's exposed shoulders. “It's not like you haven't done this before, so what's different this time?“

Blue kept her eyes lowered in shame, knowing that neither of her fellow Diamonds was going to approve of the answer.

It seemed ridiculous even to herself once she was forced to let herself become aware of it for long enough to form the words, but alas, once given form, they wouldn't stay inside:

“It's just... That was one of my favorite Aquamarines...”

 

As expected, Yellow was none too impressed and turned to massaging the bridge of her nose with an exasperated sigh: “Blue, be serious!”

She still took care to preempt White, however, not that it was that effective at dissuading her of anything.

Her reaction was almost more terrifying because it wasn't loud or prominent, because for all that she kept smiling, Blue knew that she could not possibly be pleased.

Instead, she laid down her cards carefully and deliberately when she turned back to Yellow with one slightly raised eyebrow.

“What do you think of that, Yellow?”

And of course, the ever industrious, callous Yellow Diamond fell in lockstep with her creator, or at least, her response was not meaningfully different from that insofar as Blue cared to distinguish it: “Well, that's obviously not an argument.”

“What's that supposed to mean?”

Belatedly realizing that her sour quip might not have been the best way to do it, Yellow tried to appeal to the younger Diamond's better angels, but she had never been the diplomatic one, and her patience was damn near used up, especially since, as she saw it, Blue seemed determined to keep provoking White despite her best efforts to get her off their back.

“Blue, you're being hysterical. Just think for a moment about what you've just said.

We can't just bend the rules to suit our whims.”

“Of course we can! We make the rules. We'd just have to give the order and everyone would obey!”

“Why would they?” Yellow retorted, gesturing emphatically. “If we don't follow the rules, how can we expect it of anyone else? The law might distinguish in some cases because we're all meant for different tasks, but they apply to each and every one of us, including you and I.

Yes, we are important. That comes with certain privileges. Without us, the whole empire would fall apart, so everyone beneath us must be ready to lay down their gems for us in an instant. But with that comes an even greater responsibility. It's because we are important that we need to follow the rules the most out of anyone.

What sort of leaders would we be if we took such liberties whenever we pleased? What sort of example would we be setting-”

“Please, please, you two!” White interceded, raising a glowing arm between them like a nadir of eerie calm amid the brewing storm. “There is no need to get quite so excited.

...Yellow? If you would please give us a moment...”

Unexpected as it was, Yellow recognized that she had just been booted out of the room for her trouble, and she knew better than to protest it.

If she was concerned, hurt or even jealous, she did not permit it to show on her face as she marched out the door arch, taking care to draw the curtains shut behind her, which she would most certainly not have done with her own hands if anybody but White were staying behind in that room –

 

Which left Blue alone in the Lion's den.

(or on the proverbial Anvil, as it were)

Now, had Yellow been in her place, she would have made an admirable effort to indulge in as few illusions as a gem could possibly have, but with Blue, it was a different matter.

Despite the profound sense of unease she felt radiating through her form, she still considered the possibility that she might find some kind of comfort with her creator, simply because the longed for it, and did so all the more in times of fear and desperation.

Though Blue could not bring herself to face White, her luminosity silhouetted her and her chair from behind, even more so as she drew closer.

She was reflected in the mirror before her, of course, an almost indistinct mass in the darkness.

From the corners of her eyes, Blue could barely make out her gem, let alone her features, but it was impossible to overlook that smile of hers within the demarcations of her shimmering black lips.

This was nothing like dealing with the obvious, unveiled opposition of Yellow's harsh impatience. There was certainly something she wanted or some distinct, disapproving opinion she held about the entire situation, and Blue knew it was coming, but she didn't know when, or how it would be coming her way, so her unease mounted, even though White was for all intents and purposes being perfectly pleasant so far.

She didn't go so far as to grab another of the chairs and drag it over here by herself, but she did summon one with a snap of her shimmering fingers, not her great ceremonial throne but nonetheless something befitting of her status, so that she may sit down next to Blue and wrap one of her arms around her.

Blue received her warily, well-aware of the icy storm still gathering in her future, but at the same time, the part of her that had always yearned for more of her creator's affection couldn't help but welcome thing somehow, and wish that things could stay as they were in that moment, with no pending confrontation and no unruly gems to deal with -

She wanted for someone to come and relieve her of all her heavy burning feelings.

And so, weakly, foolishly, the younger Diamond surrendered.

“I'm sorry about this White...” she conceded, dejectedly. “Please don't be mad... If you think that we should shatter them, then that's what we'll do...”

“Oh my poor little moonshine... just what have these disgusting little deviants done to you? And even though they were supposed to be part of your court! To think that they would defy you like that, after you've always been so indulgent toward them... And this is how they reward you!”

Her voice and expressions were quite animated, but not exactly passionate. Histrionic perhaps, but not as the product of some deliberate exaggeration. She'd shake her head in condemnation, or give Blue a supportive little squeeze, but it was all leading to a conclusion she had decided from the very beginning:

“You mustn't let those flawed little creatures get to you like this. None of them deserve it.”

It struck Blue that this might not just be how White wanted them to look at their subjects, but like White herself looked at them and their inefficiencies in her eyes.

“Oh darling, don't be mistaken.“ she confided with her eyebrows curved into some semblance of pity. “I don't like to see any of you suffering, after all, you all came from me. Every single one of you is light from my light. But there must be punishment!

Think of all the other gems in your service – you have to set an example to discourage them from doing something to stupid! You have to contain this aberration before it spreads and topples everything we've built!”

“I know... You're right, you're always right... ”

Blue's voice was small and defeated. Even with White right there, on a world where everything was waiting to do her bidding, she felt all alone, like a twig caught in the grindwheel machinery of the universe. “It's just...”

She could see the rest of her life laid out before her, stretching forward into the unknown, and when she considered how her days would be filled with occasions like this one, she felt herself hitting a wall, and before she knew it she was slumped over the table, her face buried in her arms so that she might hide the deluge of her tears.

She felt it coming over her, shaking all of her hard, cold form in all its titanic size.

“It's just so miserable!

All vestiges of Blue's once regal countenance dissolved into inelegant blubbering.

“I know they have to be punished, but why does it have to be me? I made them, White!

And now I'm gonna have to destroy them! If I had known that I would end up having to destroy them, I would never have made them in the first place!

I wish I hadn't. I wish I'd never made any of them at all, it's nothing but misery!

Everything is always nothing but misery!

I'm supposed to be for this. You made me so I could do this. You prepared me for thousands of years, and I looked forward to the day I'd get to join you and Yellow – but even though this is my whole reason for being, none of it makes me happy!

The only thing that ever did was being with you two, but both of you are always busy!

Yellow says I should be strong, but, I'm not like you two. I'm not sure that I can do that.

I'm just so miserable all the time!”

“Shhh... It's okay, it's okay moonshine, I understand now.”

“You do...?”

Daring to believe despite all reason, Blue raised up her face from her arms, looking up at White with large, surprised, tear-stained eyes.

“Of course I do”, The elder Diamond nodded with a smile. “You must be confused....

Did you think that your purpose was to be happy?”

White spoke with an upbeat, kindly tone of voice, like she was dispensing nothing other than well-meaning advice expecting it to be an obvious, helpful solution to Blue's anguish – but it was just about the single most soul-crushing thing she could possibly have said.

“You can rest assured that it does not matter at all whether or not you are happy. As long as you are performing your duties, you don't need to worry about that at all!”, she declared.

In her own way, she probably thought she was doing Blue a favor, that this idea should have been a comfort, even if it was everything but that.

“But White... aren't you happy? Didn't you make this whole world to serve your wishes?”

White only shook her head, regarding Blue with something like a fond yet bewildered pity, as one might look at a rodent's enthusiastic use of their favorite hamsterwheel or a four-month-old baby stubbornly trying to sit up again and again, unaware of the indisputable fact that their feeble little muscles would not attain necessary strength for another two months or so.

“Oh Moonshine! I never even spent any of my time considering such pointless questions, and neither should you. So please, get yourself ready to declare the verdict. The three of us have other duties to attend to.”

And that was her final word.

Having decided that she had said everything she deemed necessary, she stood up without a second thought, letting go of Blue and turning to leave, grasping the front of her shimmering gown as she did so.

There was no point in attempting to get her to stay, and nothing to be gained even if one were to succeed in that foolish endeavor.

No longer needed, the seat she'd materialized earlier disappeared in a small gust of sparkles, and soon the last of her trailing dress vanished beyond the door arch.

Soon after she had turned the corner, Blue was left alone in almost total darkness, with only the dim lamp on what was technically White's desk to keep her company, and in this moment, the packed state of the room was not a consequence of its regular use but a reminder of its age, and the even longer future looming ahead.

 

There was only one path open to her, and only one road she could go down, no matter how hard it would be to drag herself along it despite the thorny ache blossoming in her chest, no matter if she had to push herself every day just to keep moving.

 

By the time she had fixed her veil in place, she would have convinced herself that if their actions had led her to feel this way, the defendants must deserve anything she could possibly throw at them.

The gem in the mirror was unreadable beneath the folds of her cloak, but what could be seen of her face had gone cold, every bit as devoid of warmth as the dreary colors comprising her being.

 

….

 

She materialized back in the courtroom to find her fellow Diamonds waiting on their glittering thrones, and both defendants on their stands.

The Aquamarine was cowering, but the Lapis Lazuli stood defiant.

 

“So you say you want to be together?”

Blue Diamond's voice was calm, cold and ringing with disdain.

“Fine, if you think that's more important than everything you were made for, you can have your wish....

Ten thousand years of solitary confinement.

Have them both walled in somewhere, together. In total darkness. We have a lot of construction going on in the new Colonies in Sector Epsilon-Nine, right? Have a chamber constructed in one of the fundaments, it doesn't have to be much larger than the minimum necessary to hold their forms and just, build over it. Forget them there, just as they forgot their places.

I wonder how long they will last... how long can they keep going with all the energy we used to make them? How much did they make us waste? If there is anything left of them by the time their sentence is over, they may be of use to us again. Let is see if they still think their abomination was worth discarding everything they had.”

 

The court did not concern itself too much with the wails of the accused, it was, after all, a common enough occurrence.

When an objection was voiced, it was barely a casual remark.

“Isn't that a bit pointless? Someone will have to guard them... Why not just shatter them and be done with it?”

“So you can experiment on their remains? Like that's much better.”

“Well it is better. That would actually serve some functional purpose.”

“Not for them. But of course you don't consider what it feels like. And it's because you don't understand that that there is a lot worse we can do than just shatter them.”

With a shrug, Yellow turned to the last member of their jury. If she was mildly uncomfortable, then only because she couldn't explain the complete reversal in Blue's attitude. “White? What do you say?”

Their creator was, of course, perfectly serene: “These gems used to be part of Blue's court. They're hers to do with as she sees fit.”

“Guess I'm overruled then. Let's just get on with it. ”

 

….

 

The defendants never had a chance.

Arm in arm in a holding cell, they were waiting to be dragged away, so see starlight once more as they were paraded between the towers, and then kiss it goodbye forevermore.

“It's better to be shattered”, the Lazuli judged resolutely. “I never wanted to die, but I don't think life is an option anymore. We'll both go mad long before we'll shrivel away.”

“I-I would never ask that of you-”

“But I want to do it. Only one of us needs to go inside that prison.”

“And if I let you end me, who would be left to do the same to you?”

They are both touched, sharing in a wave of feeling until it was interrupted by a common thought. Each of them looked in the other's eyes, and at once, they knew that their beloved must be thinking it too.

Both their gems were located on their knuckles – right now, they were disparate in stature, but when they fused, the positions lined up perfectly.

If they were to unite one last time, and crash their fists together just hard enough... -

The two blue gems looked into each other's faces, the air between them filled with a viscous, suffocating silence.

Eyes, look your last.

Except that they had hesitated to long. Filled with trepidation, they had only just begun to conjure up the glow of fusion when the guards reached inside to drag them apart.

 

….

 

Yellow had been meaning to check up on Blue, but later, at some reasonable moment, once they had dealt with all of the relevant court cases they had scheduled for today.

- Not because of anything related to the verdict, in fact she'd been quite relieved that Blue had seen reason and agreed to dispose of those gems, and after thousands of years, she'd come to expect that her approach to decisions was somewhat different from her own.

But as the day dragged on, it came to Yellow's attention that Blue seemed a little... distraught for some reason.

To her credit, she was making an admirable effort to conceal it in front of White (No easy task considering the natures of both their considerable psychic powers), but Yellow could tell, the same way that Blue could usually see through her hardened veneer when no one else could – When she was having a particularly bad day, Blue would typically know it before Yellow herself would have formulated any such conclusion, as if she could smell it in the air.

All anyone else might have noticed was a slight sense of oppressive gloom upon entering the room, not beyond what one might have chalked up to the solemn nature of this place, but Yellow was so accustomed to the characteristic particulars of the sensation that she could have picked it out in the thickest fog of static, whether she wanted to or not.

That dense, watery feeling, like the pressure and weight of an ocean.

But her plan had been based on the assumption that White would conclude her unexpected involvement with another of her nonnegotiable exits – And they were indeed so used to being left to stew by themselves that they had come to rely on it, but seems that they once again had just a little too much faith in their creator, who could not even be counted on to abandon them.

Instead she turned toward Blue and uttered a sequence of words that neither of the lesser Diamonds had heard her said more often than they had fingers:

“You did well!”

And one could have believed her; Her elation pulled her mouth and eyes wide open, and her face was lit up (more so than usual) but that did nothing to shake off the creeping sense of dread that she always brought with her or the subtle, jarring wrongness scraping distantly at this whole situation, and they might not have understood what or what was wrong here, but it impressed itself on their awareness like some raw, essential quality, just as one would not have to explain a color to experience it.

Her voice was so full and yet so empty, a yawning chasm bursting with droning dissonance.

She looked Blue over, taking note of her deep luster and meeting with an echo of her own endlessness, thought that dim dark blue could never match the abyssal black of the long lashes that framed the solar fires held within that stare like the corona of a reverse eclipse.

And there was certainly an ecstatic warmth rolling off her voice in waves, but it was not a mild golden daylight but white-hot, unbearable heat.

Blue Diamond badly wanted to be pleased, but instead she felt as if each and every part of her wanted to run from all the others.

“Oh precious moonshine! That was really a quite excellent idea of yours! That will surely teach them all not to do such senseless things. You truly do have a finer understanding for such matters!”

(Unlike Yellow, but so much was understood without a need to specify that further).

But with or without such awareness, with or without her attention, the hammer fall of her words hit them both: “Say, why don't we retire to your chambers, away from this hustle and bustle?”

And Yellow would have objected that a pair Zircons and a handful witnesses hardly constituted a crowd if she wasn't feeling at least a dozen different things at this moment.

Blue shot one look back at her – if it was pleading, longing or forlorn, she couldn't say – and then they were gone in a sparkle of residual teleport static, in less than it took for White to snap her fingers.

It was fortunate that she was not currently holding or touching anything that her rage could have left a dent in.

The old scorn was a prickly, bitter brew, and like many such sentiments, Yellow found it utterly useless.

She kept herself in motion, as if to leave the noxious stew in her chest hanging in the empty space behind her.

At least, she would do what she was for, and that must be her only remedy.

 

….

 

The room was beautiful.

It was also gaudy and sterile and horrid all at once, but if all these things could coexist, beauty would not be the strangest addition to their fold.

Suspended in the center of an even larger hall, its walls and floors were made up of a mesh work of azure, crystalline rods which intersected like flaxen threads making up a woven basket.

Most the decorations and implements were at least a tiny bit alive, but some of them were better singers than others and not many of those had the confidence to perform for the one and only White Diamond.

Blue came often enough that she was a familiar sight, and a few centuries worth of ordinary every day activities would inevitably have demystified her somewhat; Of course, it was a honor to be in her presence and a chance to earn their keep, but it was not like none of the wall gems had never found themselves waiting for her to be called away to her next appointment so that they could resume their conversation.

Considered too lowly for her to even look upon them, none of them had ever expected to see White Diamond in person, and they knew right away that it was more imperative than ever for them to stick to their places – This could either be the honor of their lifetimes, the only story they would ever tell in their cozy little microcosm, or the end of all that.

 

The one thing worse that having to be the one to sing, though, would have been a lack of song, so songs were eventually volunteered, and surely enjoyed - the little creature by the lamp-stand was, after all, a learned master who had dedicated great parts of his life to the craft.

Anxious to please the maker herself, Blue had gestured for the most experienced one (not necessarily her personal favorite – it was not in White's nature to distinguish between her personal preferences and objective appraisals of quality, nor did she see the other's tastes as anything other than misguided foibles which reflected their shortcomings) which just so happened to alleviate the poor creatures' fears, not that the thought had been present in Blue's mind.

Any misstep by the subordinates Blue was meant to govern would be seen as reflecting on her. She should really have received White in her largest, most ostentatious palace halls, the ones most to White's taste, but her favor was too scarce, and too rare to waste it in a place of purely representative, ceremonial function.

She perused this place because it was quiet and dim and pleasant, and that's what she had wanted to share with her maker, though she allowed herself to hope that she would appreciate it as well, as long as it did not stray too far from what she would be able to accept – After all, did Blue not have this wan, folded-up memory of a time when White would sequester both her and Yellow to the peak of some secluded tower so she might sing to them?

It was always one of her most favorite breadcrumbs to treasure and cling too, but even as some of these same old songs trickled through the room, she could not recapture that distant sense of lightness and belonging, if it had ever been more than an illusion.

Instead, something dark and heavy hung in her soul and every note stirred it anew like the sediments at the bottom of a pool and nothing could soothe her, not even this rare gracious granting of her wishes.

Some pale specter of herself had been left to haunt the courtroom tower, still crying at her table and forgotten there as it befits a thing without a purpose - and none of these honeyed melodies could ever reach her there.

Yellow and White had called it useless, they could never wait to rush her along for her own good – And Blue wouldn't even say that they were wrong. They might be, or they might not, all she ever knew was this heaviness that was more bitter yet for despoiling the precious moment of triumph she might have had if she could bring herself to be in this room.

But was White even here?

Without a doubt, she would have been picking apart the performance if she had not decided by some fancy or whim that she would choose to humor Blue for the day. It was no different in that spire from days past - Already off-center, the tracks of her thoughts ended up stumbling across the facets of the memory that were not often replayed.

Misled by some splinter of long-lost innocence, the two younger Diamonds had meant to join in the melodies, and conspired to surprise their maker with a song of their own.

They idea had been Blue's, insofar as it is the thought that matters, but it was Yellow's rigorous planning that led the effort to completion.

White had made them regret it in an instant. There was, at most, some halfway condescending admission to being charmed, and then she helpfully tore their whole performance to shreds, something about how Blue really ought to put more strength into her voice, how Yellow couldn't quite hold the high notes long enough for her liking and how they couldn't afford to be fooling around even with something like this.

Sure, their voicework may not have been the most integral part of leading the empire, but the three of them were to be perfection, and all other of their manifold citizens merely facets of their magnificence.

They must do everything better than anyone else, even something as secondary as singing.

And Blue would never quite believe the praises of her court quite as much after that day, but she carried on her pursuit of beauty with a resigned melancholy and the prickly thorns of awareness reminding her all beauty, elegance and wisdom she might attain was in vain as it still fell short – but for her own selfish comfort, she could not give it up.

Yellow, however, had responded differently. Inevitably. At first she almost seemed inspired, determined to do better and prove that she took White's directions to heart.

On one of those few occasions when she would cut loose, Blue recalled her smirking with glee as she describer hed designs for the routine they had been gathering, wrapping herself in some of the ballroom curtains and swishing them around dramatically in an over-the-top imitation of White's mannerisms and laughter, articulating the words of praise she hoped to receive from her.

But they had always been rather poor imitations of their maker, and they'd only grown further apart from her expectations as the days progressed.

Before long, Yellow had grown frustrated with the dearth of response, and kicked that pointless endeavor to the curb in favor of things whose use and benefit even White could not have denied. For a while, it put quite a dent on her enthusiasm for the arts – or any passions she had ever had at all, and the latter had never quite returned, though Blue was probably the only one to ever lament it.

It used to be so much easier to get her away from her holoscreens, and at least it could be surmised that White must be pleased with that, if she had any opinion of it at all.

They were together here, resting on something akin to glittery sequins, not far from each other and yet existing on different planes, and there was nowhere one could look without coming face to face with long shadows cast by the glow that emanated from her body.

But what surprise to find her propped up on her elbows, actually leaning back with her eyes closed, her long lashes fluttering in motions of genuine bliss, her glittering lips split ever so slightly as usual, except that this time they resembled something living, and she was as resplendent and as terrible as she had ever been.

Anyone intrepid enough to sneak a glance at her would have been unable to look away, all thoughts drowned out by their awareness of her stronger existence, as all things must humble themselves before their jealous god – and she was awash with childlike, girlish pleasure, drinking in the harmonies of the composition, relishing in the cavernous complexity and meticulous order, and never was her gleam as colorless as now, the reverberant, echoing static that was everything and nothing at once.

Even as the same kind of being, Blue was not sure how long she could have borne it.

It was the psychic equivalent of staring into the sun, hurtling into the light on wax wings –

And yet, it was no punishment, not even a conscious act, but simply what her elation must be like.

It was to the third eye and sixth sense what, to the ears, would have been an instrument that was played just a little bit too loud, and to the eyes, well, it would have been a good approximation of what she looked like.

Blue's psychic shielding tended to get just a little bit porous when she was too worked up to maintain it through deliberate effort, and most of the time, she would have had to focus on keeping things in, not out.

 

The veteran wall gem perform through it all, but they knew to bow out when their creator decided to take over the vocals.

It was an ancient hymn composed in her honor, widely considered to be one of homeworld's great classics, but of course, none of them could praise her like she could praise herself. None of them could satisfy her. As of now, they still held a little bit of her attention because they were her creations, but she might tire of them before long, or just grow bored enough to discard them, just as she eventually grew bored of the song and let the instrumental take its course, and even that empyrean glow died down somewhat, both the literal light and the astral radiance, if only so far that one could somewhat make out her features again.

If she didn't burst several things in the room with nothing but her voice, it was simply because she had not felt like it.

She could bend the world just by being, but most of the times it was not really worth the effort, even if she had never been much of a practical person.

Still, she'd had her fun. Still distinctly mirthful, she was content to just sit back and relax.

Whatever impure intentions brought her here, she had actually been enjoying this.

She could enjoy things, though she might not need to; She could even do so together with others. All three of them – and later, all four, both different sets of four, though they could never be five – had always so loved songs and melodies.

And this should have made this a joyous occasion, but instead, Blue found herself weighed down by yet another wave of melancholy when she considered the thought, how it was far from impossible for them to understand each other, and how they couldn't manage it all the same, and she couldn't fight off the awareness that this moment would end very soon and how she would, in all likelihood, be looking back at it in longing for who knows how many years of their just barely passing each other in the hallways, and oh, what she would give, if it were possible to have a honest conversation with White where she wouldn't brush off each of her feelings as some issue to be fixed or a weakness to be curbed or even an insolence to be punished, if she could just let her be and decide afterward what mental drawer to stash it all into –

Foolish, errant, idle thoughts, and yet she could not help them.

All the beauty of this place and the storm of majestic notes brewing within were but bandaids on a bullethole, but she would take them.

Heavy and languid under the sugary symphonies, Blue barely saw the point in keeping her eyes very much open, as if the ringing of the instruments were a bitter, viscous syrup that she lacked the strength to swim through.

 

“It's a pity that Yellow isn't here with us-” she mused quietly, more like she were talking to herself than if she were really expecting much of an answer.

White provided one anyways, unperturbed as ever.

“Oh, she must be busy. We wouldn't want to disturb her.”

“Of course not... But I think she'd really like to do something like this, even if she might not show it... You know what? Pearl should be waiting just outside. If you like, I could tell her to have Yellow called here...”

“That won't be necessary.”

“Are you sure about that? I had the impression that she might be feeling left out. I don't presume to question you or anything, but sometimes it seems to me that you're a little bit hard on her...”

“I expect a lot from her because I know that she can do better. “ White explained, her voice as blithe as Blue's was downcast. It sounded almost like she actually had some sort of faith in Yellow – or simply far less hopes for Blue herself, as she did not allow the former implication to stand for very long: “Besides, she does need a strong hand. If all that ambition of hers were left unchecked, she would surely forget her place... ”

“You really think so?” Blue replied, more dejected than she was actually surprised. “There isn't a single gem in this whole empire who could be more loyal to you than Yellow is! You could ask for my shards on a platter, and she'd probably bring them to you...”

“Really? I wonder sometimes... ”

Realizing that there was no acceptable answer that could have conveyed what she was longing to express, and no way to say that without spoiling a moment she should have been cherishing, Blue simply gave up, burying her face between the sleeves of her robe and their luxurious accommodations as the melodies continued to bathe the room in their wordless sheets of feeling and significance.

She hoped that she'd just be allowed to enjoy the rest of the song as she wanted for this visit to be over, so she could lose herself in the darkness of her festering dark mood without having to bother with her feeble attempts of keeping up a front (though she knew it was only a matter of time till the next appointment she would not be able to avoid without giving an explanation) – if she couldn't share her thoughts, she hoped at least for the mercy that they might go unnoticed, but she was not so lucky:

“You're not still upset about that Aquamarine, aren't you?” White asked, like the very notion was preposterous. Blue could just hear the raised eyebrows.

So she gave the only possible answer: “Of course not, “

“Actually I'm glad-” she said, with her arms around a pillow and an expression that said the very opposite. “I'm really glad to be spending time with you- We really have to do this more often-”

“Oh Moonshine. I would hardly be doing you a favor if I encouraged that sort of weakness in you.” As if she had really needed to drive one more sharp long icicle through Blue's chest. “And you know, you shouldn't be encouraging Yellow's faults, either.”

“What do you mean?”

“Like you need to ask. It's such a sorry sight! Sometimes she seems so, so close to being perfectly focused on nothing other than her purpose, if it weren't for the one thing that always manages to distract her without fail...”

“Come on, White. What would possibly distract Yellow?”

“All of this running around after you.

Her smile had vanished, her long-lashed eyes narrowed and her voice was cold as ice – For this instant, she was dead serious, well-aware of how that would punctuate her statement.

“I know its not your fault that she feels compelled to do this, that's no one's folly but her own, but could you please stop allowing every little thing to throw you off balance?

For both your sakes.

At least you usually have some sense for the importance of procedure and decorum – I can't bear to see you hanging onto her like some pathetic, feeble creature... It's unbecoming of you. I must insist that you learn to pull yourself together.... Others need to be around you, after all.”

“Of course, White. As you command...”

Weary and defeated, Blue made a show of picking herself of the couch and sitting up, but she didn't get far before her doubt and sorrow made themselves heard despite her efforts.

And Blue knew that this must be the ultimate proof of her failure in White's eyes, but she could no longer bring herself to care, and so she took the foolish risk off resting her side against her creator, holding on to the sleeve of her dress.

“Believe me, I will do as you say. But for now, could you just please stay with me a little longer? I have missed you so, and I... I have such need of your guidance!”

“That, you clearly do.” stated White, though Blue had mostly added that last plea because it would be more likely to have an effect than the one before it.

The grand matriarch sighed in exasperation, though she was not altogether unmoved.

“You're all so absurd sometimes! It seems I will never be done righting all your silly little flaws.”

For once, she actually condescended to take Blue into her arms, for the first time in centuries.

Civilizations would rise and fall until she would be tempted to do so again.

 

But once in a blue moon, she did stay, and today was one of those days. They sat together, taking the time to enjoy the relative quiet and seclusion, killing a little of their endless time with elegant, solitary pursuits.

Perhaps deciding that she might as well act out the part she had agreed to, White even offered to comb Blue's hair and polish her gem, and did so with some playful, whimsical affectation of nurturing.

“My beautiful moonshine”, she would say, like a craftsperson admiring their own work.

They spend much time talking, too, about pointless, superficial and therefore allowed topics, such as the latest events on some of their various colonies.

Through it all, Blue could not bring herself to smile even once. Not once could she fully distract herself from the heavy thoughts that swam unbidden through her mind like fish in a bowl, but at the same time, she felt her direct surroundings more than enough to wish she could truly be glad and cherish this moment as much as she wanted too.

If only she could move on as effortlessly as White could. Raging or serene, she would always appear so untouched by everything that surrounded her, like nothing could possibly perturb the direction of her path.

She'd always have these very exact ideas about what was to be done and how, and for all that she could make herself very unpleasant to deal with whenever things did not match up to her notions, it often helped to turn to her with matters where one had no preexisting plans of ones' own.

Yellow would have never found this out since she was so proficient at such matters herself and preferred to solve her business on her own if she could help it, but Blue actually liked to consult with White when it came to dry, logistical matters that she lacked the technical mind for, just small questions about how to best organize proceedings at her colonies, things that did not matter enough to provoke her wrath.

After all, if there was one thing one could deduce about White Diamond from looking at the world she had created around herself, it was that she sure liked ordering and organizing things. (One could deduce a lot of other things as well but none of them were so flattering)

Yes, she was terribly adamant about getting her way; She had this absolute, unfettered need for control and she would stop at nothing to attain it. She was able and willing to foist her will onto everything she touched –

But something else was also true, and perhaps, at its most apparent when she did not face all that much opposition: Whenever Blue would ask her about something she wasn't sure about, White would, without fail, happily supply her with instructions down to the smallest detail.

There was never a need to ask her twice, nor the usual twinge of annoyance – it was almost like an automatic response, possessed of a stark frightening purity that was so very, very out of place in someone who bent everything to fit her purposes.

But where else would those very goals have come from, if there wasn't something absolute at the root of their justification? And it could easily have been each and every single deathly sin, except that it was something else:

She actually found some genuine fulfillment in constructive acts.

Improving things, fixing them, bringing forth order from chaos and structure from nothing (or what she perceived to be nothing) all that was not just her purpose, but her heart's desire, something that she wanted, for as little as she might be ruled or defined by any other part of her than her rigid cityscape of ideas.

Of course, neither of the two Diamonds would come to understand that distinction for a very long time, least of all White herself.

As for Blue, she had merely come to find that somewhere in the antediluvian cavernous glass cathedral of her being, there must have been a spark of something genuine, and that was the part of her that Blue would miss or even quietly long for.

Often times, she would even wonder if she was mistaken and simply hanging on to the futile hope that their creator actually cared for them because it was a comfortable lie she had concocted to sustain herself in the cold and hopeless world she inhabited.

But she wanted so badly to be convinced, despite all the natural, well-practiced apprehension that warned her to never let herself come too close to feeling safe around the elder Diamond:

 

“You know, I think I'll do it just like you said....”

“You'd better! That should get that new colony of your running smoothly in no time.”

“Thanks a lot, White.”

“There is no need for thanks dear. After all, this is precisely why I'm here. What do you think I do all day when you and the others aren't holding me up with some sort of nonsense?”

“What?” At that, Blue actually laughed, a haughty, ugly laugh, despite herself and all the emotional molasses she had found herself steeped in as of late – The connection she had made in her mind was simply too compelling “Is that what you do in your ship all day? Schedules and plans and Protocols and all of those boring administrativa?”

“There's nothing 'boring' about ensuring that everything in our empire runs as smoothly as possible, dear moonshine.”

For once, for the first time ever since this pale imitation of a get-together had begun, something like a genuine smile passed between them, for one brief flicker of an instant where their thoughts were actually with each other in this room instead of twain, absconded to lofty conceptual heights or sunk down into trenches of infinite dark depths.

 

And then, that moment passed, and absolutely nothing of import had changed, and none of the brief lightness Blue might have felt in that moment survived contact with the memories of the previous day as they resurfaced, and of course, White knew nothing of it because she didn't care to see it, because all of those messy, unbidden parts of life were unsightly and repulsive to her – and it would have made Blue angry, if she could have sustained the heat of anger through her cool, dark resignation, not angry at White per se (for it was not as though she knew any other normal or any real alternative for what things could be instead), but angry that it must all be this way, that she must make herself so scarce and inaccessible, that she must be so difficult, that she never, ever listened, and that everything else in this cold dark universe had to be as it was, herself included.

 

She'd sometimes dared to hope that if the three of them could at least stand by each other, her dreary existence might come to be somewhat more palatable, but it was clear to her now that even moments like this would always be far and in-between, and always tinged with the scent of ashes. As surely as it once happened, it would end.

Eventually, White just clapped her hands together with a firm, pointed “Enough!” and in that very instant, all melodies ceased.

With barely more than a nod of acknowledgment, she would rise from the couch, pick up the front of her gown with her long, elegant fingers, and disappear in a tuft of stray sparkles somewhere halfway through her first step, as if walking out or even levitating would have been too much of a chore.

 

Though the room was immediately much darker, it still felt like a heavy, oppressive shadow had been lifted from all its surroundings – and yet, though no comfort had come from her presence, Blue ached when she considered how long it might be until she would see her again.

Despite her earlier words, the younger Diamond had half a mind to go and find Yellow – with a certain guilty feeling, of course. But she needn't have worried, really, because she was soon informed that homeworld's commander-in-chief had gone off planet with her main fleet, and wasn't expected to return in decades.

White was still on homeworld, of course, since she almost always remained there, but Blue knew better than to overstrain her limited patience.

 

With an apathetic sigh, she resolved to drag herself to her next appointment.

 

….

 

Having thus become what they were, that's what they stayed, each of them far from satisfaction, but every one of them settled into their own, self-sustaining equilibrium which assured that they fulfilled their own prophecies.

If madness was to attempt the same thing again and again with the same box of tools and somehow expecting a different result, they were all mad, but theirs was a skillfull, methodical sort of madness.

It was far from the best possible arrangement (not for the world, and not even for them), but as long as they were not stopped by anything outside their power, it was to be expected that they would continue on those same trajectories – what a misfortune, then, that their power was so vast.

 

So throughout the rise and fall of ages, they remained as they were.

 

….

 

There once came a time of bountiful abundance.

They did not call it 'Era One' until it was over, just like nothing is anything until there is something other to compare it to.

Finding themselves well-stocked with the means to do so, the Diamond Authority continued to expand their reach in all directions.

Their perfection rolled across the universe like a wave of glittering doom.

It figured, then, that it was as good a moment as any to expand their number once again.

But this time, there would be no hurry, no pressing, urgent need, only anticipation for then even greater glories the empire was sure to reach.

They could take all the time in the world to prepare for this next one's arrival, to stake out the best possible conditions for her growth and spend ages inducting her into her duties.

In their midst, she would be gifted with all that homeworld and their rulers had to offer and nurtured on all they had to give -

(which, as it would turn out, was not very much at all.)

It should have been White Diamond's finest creation.

She often laughed maniacally in anticipation of her work, and she was not alone -

All-gifted, this new existence was widely beloved before she ever set foot in this universe. Presents piled up in her palaces as soon as the Bismuth's could build them.

She would be the most precious flower of the empire, the anticipated, the spoiled, the one and only princess of homeworld, and she was in everyone's favor before she even began to exist.

 

Blue Diamond, in particular, was positively ecstatic about the prospect from the moment that White had announced her intentions and offered to help in any way she could. When she spoke about the new addition they would be welcoming, her ultramarine eyes lit up as they rarely ever did.

Not to be outdone, Yellow pledged her support as well, but White brushed the off, believing that they would only muddle the perfection of her work – so they instead of offered to take a bunch of her own duties off her hands and to ensure that White would be comfortable and well-supplied as she went about the work of creation.

Both of them were at her sides when it was time for the injector to be loaded.

She pulled the folds of her dress aside, and vigorously slit both of her thighs, pouring out a generous offering of her life onto the fine-grained, mineral mixture which the kindergartners had previously arranged for, so that she might share it with this little star-seed-to-be.

She was too proud of her work this time to be concerned about having the other two standing in witness, indeed, she was feeling unusually vigorous, or even quite impassioned.

(So much so that, for a moment, Yellow and Blue each private believed that they saw a glimpse of rainbow iridescence flickering about her outline – but that thought was immediately discarded, for it would have been anathema.)

It is to be noted that what exited her was not the expectation of opportunities and surprises, but one clear, singular vision of what this newest Diamond was meant to become like, the great power she would have, the perfection that would surpass all gems before her except for White herself.

 

The process went quite smoothly this time. No impurities mixed in. Alas, there must have been some miscalculation with the pressure gradients which still introduced some irregularities into her crystal lattice, which was probably at fault for the coloration as well as her rather more compact size compared to Yellow or Blue, but relatively speaking, this new creation was purer and richer than they had been, and set to surpass them in time.

White was going to call her 'Magenta', but that idea lasted about as it long as it took the newborn Diamond to open her mouth and laugh and ask if that were some overly fancy word for plain old pink.

Blue and Yellow were with her to witness Pink Diamond's emergence, and the former wasted to time in rushing forward to scoop their newest companion into her hands and hug the somewhat flabbergasted young Diamond against her own face as Yellow looked her over thoughtfully, certainly more restrained, but still interested.

Unlike the others, White did not rush forward to meet her and remained watching from the sidelines, but even she could not quite stave off the tingly, glowing feeling rising through her center, struck by the charms of this curious young being.

For all intents and purposes, Pink should already have all the information that she might possibly have needed about herself, the three of them, or the world at large, but she still pelted them with a flurry of questions about anything and everything as soon as she was free of the ground, taking in the answers with big, excited eyes and making new inquiries faster than Yellow could address them.

None of the elder three could really make heads or tails of her choice in outfit, sure, and they all independently made a mental note to work on her decorum, but they grew fond of her almost right away – and she was glad to meet them, too.

She eagerly returned all of Blue's affections and handed out plenty of her own.

Starry-eyed, she soaked up everything Blue and Yellow had to tell her like they were the world's most impressive people and everything they had to say was the most interesting thing in this world. She spoke quickly, punctuating every couple of sentences with an excited little yelp or an energetic little jump.

From the twinkling stars above to the barren ground below, from the grand spectacle of the elder Diamonds themselves to the tiniest motes of dust – all of it was equally glorious to her and she couldn't get enough of it.

Right from the beginning, she rejoiced in being alive, and couldn't wait to become suffused in the life that lay before her and the universe she had found herself in.

Life came to her so much more naturally than it ever did for any of them.

Which, as they would later suppose, would just make everything that happened afterwards all the more ironic....

But for now, none of them could help being swept up in her bubbly, vibrant energy – Not Blue, who saw in her all the good cheer and energy she had never been able to find in herself, and proudly carried her forward in a sedan made from her own hands, so that she might present her to their creator, nor Yellow, whose stony, controlled demeanor had not survived contact with Pink's infectious laugh – She was standing right next to Blue, grinning like a dork as they both came to face White.

Balancing herself on Blue's fingers, Pink took the opportunity to strike a pose in the Grand Matriarch's face.

The rigid cogwheels of her thinking had already gone and listed half a dozen unwelcome tendencies that would have to be stamped out before this one could be trusted with her own planets – but she was sure that, whatever follies she might have to remedy, in the end she would eventually see reason, fall in line, and join the three of them to rule the galaxies at their side –

She never, ever doubted it, not even for an instant.

Accordingly, she clasped her hands together in excitement, glowing in more than just the literal sense.

“Well, aren't you the most precious little Starlight! Yellow, Blue! Just look at her!”

They were looking. They had been looking for a while now, before the small Diamond had been joined by another momentous sight – The two of them couldn't actually name the last time they had seen White looking enthusiastic about anything – and it stung, especially for Yellow, but at the same time, they couldn't really bring themselves to lay any blame at the eldest or the youngest Diamond, because they felt exactly the same.

And looking at White, well – It's not like she was serious, like there way anything that could truly touch her enough to truly sway her thought, to knock her mask off of her face and herself right out of the play she was putting on of the predefined script she expected everything in her surroundings to follow, but what little booby-trapped, half-conditional, wafer-thin, color-starved hollow-outline see-through love she was capable of, this little creature had surely won it.

“Hello there!” she greeted, in an affectation of a not-quite-maternal singsong voice, reaching out one of her hands. “It's me! The one who brought you into this world.”

Pink's immediate response was to wrap her arms around White's outstretched fingers. “Thanks a lot for letting me exist then! I hope we'll all get along! The four of us, and everyone else, too!”

“Oh Starlight, don't be silly.” White chided, but in that moment, it was more of a playful reprimand that didn't stop her from affectionately rubbing the joint of her index finger against Pink Diamond's cheeks. “You area Diamond! That means you are going to be a ruler - a bringer of death and a giver of life. For as long as you exist, you will be worshiped and admired everywhere you go.”

“Really? You think so?” her little rose-colored eyes lit up. “You really think everyone will be glad to see me?”

“I know so. From now on, your future will be nothing but glory and splendor! We will take you to our world, where everything is at your service, and one day, when you're ready, you shall share in everything that is ours, forever and ever and ever!”

 

 

Right from the beginning, White could see that Pink Diamond was so very, very, very much like herself, much more so than any other of her creations.

Out of all the other Diamonds, none were so alike to her.

She recognized so much of herself in Pink:

The shapes of her facets, the tufts of hair that defied gravity, her playful, willful nature, she sheer joy and satisfaction she brought to the act of creation, the vibrant aura that spoke of vast, psychic potential, and her complete and utter refusal to ever hear “No”.

Here was, at last, a most faithful reflection!

And yet, when White looked into that mirror, what she saw was far from perfect:

(fastidious, petulant, inconsiderate, immature, false, and so very, very foolish)

And how would that even be possible, that she could be like White and yet flawed, part of her but still so very different as if to be her complete antithesis:

They would catch her playing with the servants, or chatting with the wall gems – left to her own devices, she'd be inclined to mingle with them, as if a Diamond like her were no different from any other creature in all of White's creations, or even lifeforms outside of it!

Where White had come to keep a distance from her subject, Pink longed to be among them as one of their own. Where White aimed to have everything understood so that she might avoid engaging with it directly, Pink flung herself face-first at every unknown so that it might surprise her -

For here White could not be swayed, Pink was be impressionable and so very easily taken in by all the sights and sensations around her, and where White kept her desires and attachments restrained under lock and key, Pink formed them so easily and followed them recklessly to her gem's content-

And still, Pink had come from her.

The most faithful mirror, stalwartly reflecting all the parts of her she never wanted to see, the neglected, overgrown gardens longing to breathe free inside her deepest darkest dreams.

For that, she favored her. For that, she indulged her.

For that, she could not suffer to let her be.

 

Perhaps she reminded White of what she had once had been in long forgotten ages, when she still played among the companions she had made for herself and cherished every single one.

But she had chosen to embrace what she herself had come to discard, and why would she ever do that?

White could not understand it, and thus, tried to explain it in her own terms.

She was the light, but there could be no light without shadow -

And so it figured that Pink was the darkness.

The darkness that brings chaos as surely as the light brings order.

 

(But whatever is wrong with a darkness?

The darkness is a safe place to hide away in; It is the void that one fills when they dream, the secrets one keeps because no one has the right to know them until the person comes along with whom you can share them in privacy.

It is the affirmation of life and the desire for living, the rush of living, the mysterious way of the heart that wants what it wants.

If it is pursued at the expense of others, then one could surely reproach that, but if everyone reneged their own life so others might live, the martyrs of this world would have no one left to die for – you would not want to live in a place where there is no darkness.

And just as its excess leads to selfish greed and irresponsible plunder that leaves no pleasure left to no one, there can be an excess of the light, a barren word where dreams can't thrive, a hive of zealotry where everything must be exposed to the collective and given up to the cause, a world that has no understanding left for weakness and therefore, no room left for the mercy that would allow a sinner to imagine their own redemption.)

 

__________________

A/N: When I decided that I was going for the whole blood magic aesthetic, I was gonna have White holding the knife with her right hand since its the one she uses for angry floor-punching, but then it struck me that since Yellow ends up with the right arm ship, White should probably be slashing her right arm to make her. I wanted the process to feel a little more 'intimate', like a step up from the usual method with the sweat and other fluids.

It's probably not technically blood since we've been told that gems don't have heartbeats, but their physical constructs must contain at least some gooey liquids, given that they consistently blush and are sometimes drawn with veins in their eyes for exaggerated expressions.

I imagine that Pink had Steven hooked up to, and thoroughly infused with her own “blood” and that that's part of how she got the meat bits of him to carry some of her information. He's not a clone of Greg, he's got her curly hair and nose shape and stuff, just like she must have inflicted some permanent irreversible transformation on the bits of him that she used to live in.

In being super excited to have Steven because she didn't know what he might turn out like (even when she knew she'd never get to find out, at that) she's kind of the exact opposite of White who has these very precise expectations and fails to see all the good traits off her creations because they don't match up to what she wants, but at the same time it shouldn't be understated that there IS a direct, unbroken line between the three of them.

 

I spent a surprising amount of time googling poetic words for shades of yellow. There seem to be a bit less than for the other colors, particularly the darker or more intense shades sported by a certain overworked space rock goddess.

 

As for Blue, I thought it interesting that she was the one who typically mentions having at least some distinctly positive or neutral memories involving White. It seems that while Pink was her nominal favorite and Yellow tried the hardest to win her favor, it's Blue whom she actually seems to have gotten along best, insofar as it is possible to get along with someone with an attitude like that - but then again Blue's also the type to remember things in an idealized light, so I wanted to have a scene where they have some quality time but there's still an undercurrent of something warped and twisted about it, like, “Mommy sees that you have met your villainy quota for today! Very good, let's go have some ice cream.“

At the same time there must be something in there, something that would be worth missing or, at least, make her able to be persuaded.

 

We didn't get that many scenes where all three are actually in a room, and the most salient one was after the confrontation and also void of any dialogue, so while we've seen a lot of how they contrast with each other, pinning down the dynamic when all three are present is still a bit of guesswork at this point.

Chapter Text

Part 3: Interference (Act I: "Our Lady, full of grace")

You walk through walls

Set off the smoke alarms

I feel your arms wrapping around me

Your aura almost drowns me

Like a deathly perfume

Pink Smoke

 

I'm choking on your memory

It fills my chest

I lose my breath thinking about you

I'm trying to get by without you

But the air is full of ash

Pink Smoke

 

Pink smoke gets stuck in my throat

Pink smoke gets stuck in my throat

When I say your name my heart goes up in flames

It smells so very strange

Like grenadine and gasoline

Pink Smoke

-The Scary Jokes

….

First she was not there.

Then she was.

And then, one day, she was no more, and for all intents and purposes, that should have meant no more than a return to the previous state that had persisted for ages and ages before her arrival – but even for beings as efficient and unfading as the Diamonds, there could never truly be such a thing as a reversible reaction.

Entropy always found the means to extract its pound of flesh, even from creatures that had no meat to speak of.

The four of them were submerged in the pool, with nothing to do but to be here and no excuse not to kill the time.

The resounding echoes of their songs were legend among the elites that stood guard outside these chambers.

In hushed whispers, the statues and wall gems would tell their neighbors further out of these most divine of sounds.

A mere couple of corridors further out, the word was that when all four joined in a chorus, anyone within earshot would catch an exclusive preview of what it might feel like to be turned to dust, that the unearthly harmony of their voices was like anything and everything at all.

And none of these things were strictly speaking lies or even exaggerations, but they were colored by a particular point of view – for the inhabitants of this world, it should be no surprise that they should see it this way: These were their gods in their secret place, playing among themselves in the glory of their Olympus, secluded behind their walls where the the secrets of life took place.

But even the Pebbles and Pearls that attended to them directly in all the banality, routine and squabbling that their everyday lives sometimes contained couldn't have seen it quite this same way, so how could be any more true for the pantheon themselves?

The secrets of life were the last things on their minds, for life plated their walls, and life might damn well dribble off their toenails and spill everywhere if they were not careful, and flowers on their footsteps were just weeds they would have to have pull out from their gardens – metaphorically speaking, of course.

(Nothing could grow on this fractured, barren world.)

The wonder and the miracles of the act had long become buried in the guise of a minor chore they were casually, even mindlessly attending to – more than anything else, they were glad for the excuse to gather in one place without anything else to attend to, so that they might see each other and take some brief respite from the packed schedules of their never-ending, interlocking days.

None of them could ever afford to 'unwind', but this was the closest they would come:

Even the great All-Mother of the gem homeworld was a different beast when she was doubling as the universes' shiniest pool lamp. The long, translucent hairpins that usually sustained her spectacular star-shaped hairdo had been left by the side of the basin – all perfectly lined up of course – leaving her damp tresses to frame her high forehead and petite features. Undone and soaked, the pure alabaster strands were longer than she was tall and neither as straight as Blue's nor as curly as Pink's.

The bits of it that did not trail across the waters hung down outside of it, almost touching the floor of the chamber.

Her long, elegant arms were leaning against the edges of the pool, framing a good third of it as if to encompass all of them in her arms as she did the whole world in all those paintings of her – and it was truly all the same to her, her world, her kin, her arms, or just the narrow enclose of her thoughts within her gem – all of them were one.

Naturally, Yellow and Blue occupied their opposite corners, and while Pink could not really have filled up her own, that was probably a fortunate matter, as it allowed her the freedom of moving and splashing about and afforded White somewhere to park her legs.

The others were not so bold as to touch her, but keeping to their corners, they were surely animated – Pink was almost always in motion. For her, a break might have been more about releasing pent-up energy than pausing to regain it.

Sitting at the rim while splashing her feet, dancing above the surface or busying herself below it, she rarely ever stood still, and when she did, her mouth usually took over the perpetual motion, whether she would be recounting some silly occurrence from her day as if it were the world's most exciting even in all the cosmos, or prodding the others with questions just to be just as rapt with their replies.

Apart from her, Yellow was probably the one with the most to talk about, with how her duties often took her out to the far reaches of the cosmos. She'd speak of places where pellets of glass railed from the skies, rivers of liquid air and worlds that did not spin, but harbored a thin strip of black vegetation soaking up the lights of their dim red stars in the small ring of twilight between the blazing heat and eternal cold.

She spoke of a great many others things too, things whose implications went above Pink's head at the time and had been meant more for Blue and White to begin with, but not to be left out, the littlest Diamond made sure to cheer at all the impressive-sounding parts.

Blue didn't say quite as much, but she seemed to love listening, and when she ventured something, it was often either heartfelt or insightful.

White largely contented herself with watching them from the sidelines, and interceding with a blithe but insistent correction whenever she believed any of them to have said anything incorrect– when spoken to, she unfailingly responded, but it was always clear what she would say once she had made her decision about what she determined the matter to be.

After all those years, Yellow and Blue could have mouthed half the words along with her, both from how much they had heard them, and from all the times they had repeated something along those same lines to Pink while scolding or disciplining her.

Having spent their long lives in fear and awe of her, they gave more fearsome epithets to what an outside observer might have classed as an undercurrent of stilted politeness.

But where the repertoire of her responses had genuinely been small, they would, in later, leaner years, recall the pale tint of caring apricity, however much of a vague, indistinct, half-formed thing it may have been.

Their talks were drivel to her, but it was one rare instance of drivel that she could excuse, and not all too unpleasant as such.

She often stayed until the waters were slick with the oily rainbows of their essence, each of their contributions mixing and melting into each other in iridescent swirls of power and possibility – and between the four of them, there were only very few wonders that they could not work.

And so perhaps that made this a magical place after all, a paradisiac sanctuary for the secret of their laughter –

But like any other creatures to be gifted with self-awareness and discernment, they could not stay in their Eden forever.

Yellow was usually the first to leave, and Blue was always the last to linger.

White was rarely either of those things, but when she decided that it was time for them all to leave, or to come and assemble, her word was law.

The exact points in time where chosen in a whimsical manner, but the relative frequency of her attendance was fairly regular in those days, too often for her to always have her words prepared and laid out. Sometimes, one might look at her and feel that she had not quite the feverish glow of her dazzling, eye-catching appearances at official functions nor the blinding terror of her curt dismissals and starry, tar black rages.

But what she was instead was not easy to determine, not when it was her nature to have no nature at all, when every part of her was like the blank, untouched canvas, the origin point for a million stories and imagines in their primordial, unparted state where Ying had not yet split from Yang, chaos and order at once where such distinctions held no meaning.

They knew she was not like them, and that they could not hope to grasp her mysterious ways.

Perhaps, she was simply being in the room with them, in what ways she knew how.

It involved a lot of silence, which may have been why she did not usually found this worth bothering with, and also significant amounts of reprimands, but when the stars aligned, their frozen hostess would even grace them with a little of her affection – stale, scripted and wooden it may sometimes have been, it was gladly given and not altogether fake.

….

When she suddenly jumped up from her ornate chair and leaped across the room to the window, Pink Diamond never stopped to consider what sort of conundrum she had just unwittingly inflicted on the unsuspecting Montana Agate who had been supposed to educate her on matters of wartime strategy.

The stocky overseer gem had been tasked with the high honors of serving as one of the little Diamond's governesses and had sworn to her own superiors on the pain of death that she would never disappoint them – But none of that changed that she lacked both the authority and power to reprimand and restrain a Diamond twice her size, especially not when she was whirling around on her heels to make a beeline for the door, running right past her with all the vigor of a young goddess.

The only time she made any show of stopping was when she briefly paused in the door arch after having somehow paradoxically allowed the doors themselves to profane her own palms, and looked around briefly for the small pink gem that had been waiting outside the hall.

"Pearl!" she beamed excitedly, lapsing right into another flagrant breach of protocol when she grabbed the confused little servant by the hand.

"Yellow's back! Yellow's back!" Thus explaining her agitation, more to her companion than the distraught Agate, she darted off right away with Pink Pearl in tow, skipping more than she was running.

She was past the corner when some distant afterthought compelled her to blurt out a blithe "Sorry, Montana!" that did not really restore propriety in any way, and then she was out the building, running through the hallways and taking daunting jumps where she should have taken her Palanquin and a decent-sized entourage.

Sure, it was highly unlikely that anything could happen to her in the broad daylight of the capital, and as a Diamond, she was technically a lot more durable than any flock of minions could hope to be, but it was the principle of the thing.

It was all the more remarkable that the little Pearl wasn't dropped down some precipice during the whole escape, but she had probably had enough time to get accustomed to the curious whims of her mistress – But she'd been right about one thing:

Yellow Diamond's arm ship was unmistakable, even without the rest of the fleet trailing behind it – but to Montana Agate, this was no more likely to be a boon than it was to prove her undoing.

Had she been assigned any lesser honor, she would have been grumbling about the big parade she was going to miss on the occasion of her Diamond's return.

Legions of her fellow military gems were set to be marching in the central plaza – and now, there was a pair of very excitable pink gems set to crash right into them before anyone could stop them, least of all that poor, poor Agate, who for all her considerable prowess which, after all, had been enough to earn her this position, could not have hoped to outrun Pink Diamond even if she had any right to do so.

What was she supposed to do? Yell for her to stop as she would with a common quartz?

Discipline her, perchance? Only her peers could do that – and as it stood, they would find out long before Agate had any need to worry about how she might explain this whole mishap...

She could only hope that her Diamond would be too occupied with her new conquests to recall where exactly her younger companion was supposed to have been at this time.

But she would certainly know that Pink was not supposed to be on the great plaza, running into half a dozen saluting Garnets, knocking a Topaz into an Emerald and just barely managing to keep her balance after stumbling over a mildly distracting Ruby.

In rows, the soldier gems would gruffly turn around to chew out whoever had been so careless as to break formation right as Yellow Diamond was due to arrive, but they all grew silent the moment they spotted the gemstone embedded in the troublemaker's stomach.

She was a good deal... 'fluffier' in person than she was depicted in the jagged art style of her murals, and not quite as towering, but most of the highly decorated officers recalled seeing her at official functions, ever the apple of her fellow Diamonds' eyes -

And when the Rubies and Quartzes saw their fearsome superiors backing away in fear, most of them thought it wise to do the same.

But the gems back on the ship had yet to realize that anything was out of order.

Yellow Diamond marched out the main hatch just as she planned, flanked by parading Hessonites on both sides and her praetorian guard of Topazes following on all sides, and they had been prepared for many things, from technical failures to surprise ambushes.

What they did not expect was a frilly, fluffy space princess barging right through them to make an admirable show of tackling their empress to the ground with a hug, even if she only got as far as her knee.

"Yelloooooow!"

The Hessonites and Topazes were largely flabbergasted, unsure of what the correct protocol for this situation demanded.

Mindful of the fact that White had her ship parked on this very same plaza and would be found inside more often than not, the commotion's intended recipient grit her teeth before the rose-colored interloper even made contact with her.

But if she had picked up on the chromate salt colored glare that had been directed her way, she was making a deliberate point to ignore it.

"Everyone! Yellow's back!" she declared, fairly unhelpfully.

The towering commander-in-chief could be seen far and wide and most of the gems in attendance had already been expecting her – she would have done better to announce herself or better yet, have her Pearl do that, but alas, the poor thing had not succeeded in dodging that one distracted Ruby and was currently picking herself off the floor, though she at least had the sense to look apologetic, which was more than what could be said for her tone-deaf, starry-eyed master:

"Did you see some cool planets? Did you meet any aliens? Did you get in any space fights?

TELL! ME! EVERYTHING!"

In any more private location, Yellow would have snapped at her already, but each and every reason that made the reprimand so very necessary also forbade any course of action that might have exacerbated this undignified display – if they should be so lucky, White might not have been looking their way (with any of the large number of ways she had to be looking) and they could still hope to sweep this under the rug if only they could all summon up some semblance of composure.

"Pink, decorum!" she hissed between her teeth.

That did seem to get the younger Diamond's attention, and, in her defense, she did straighten up and take a few steps backward, even going so far as to curtsy while holding on to the frilly bits of her appearance modifiers with her gloved fingers.

The smaller Diamond made an effort to speak more formally, but it didn't help her case as much as one might have expected – She came off as if she were playing pretend, acting out a part in some kind of game while trying her best not to giggle, very far from the regal countenance of someone at home in their own element:

"Greetings, Yellow Diamond! In the name of everyone on the homeworld, I bid thee welcome!"

It was a mildly garbled version of a phrase she must have picked up from Blue.

"I trust that you and your forces have returned victorious from glorious conquest?"

Only the stars could know if Pink had any clue of what any of those words actually meant, but if nothing else, this was an opportunity to get the procession back on track:

"Indeed, we have.", she declared, a loud, booming statement intended for the crows rather than for Pink. "Half a dozen new worlds have been captured for the empire!"

The assembled soldiers and officers wisely took that as a sign to resume their usual routine of chanting, marching and saluting, and through some miracle, the parade resumed as intended, with the only distinction that there were now two Diamonds at its center, which many of the onlookers might have considered an even grander display – not that Pink was really 'marching' insomuch that she was just strolling alongside Yellow, observing the various onlookers as much as the military gems as they made it outside the great central plaza and made it onto the capital's central streets, filling it with the thundering of their boots.

Under normal circumstances, it would have been cramped with a vast multitude of gems, some on foot and others in various capsules, arranged on the various lanes and passageways according to their ranks and sizes, but on this momentous occasion, most of the enormous boulevard was essentially reserved for the parade.

Even so, Yellow and her entourage of Hessonites, Emeralds and Topazes kept to the the large, elevated strip in the center of the road which was, of course, reserved for elites.

Further out, legions of Quartzes flanked them like a wall, with the Agate overseers placed slightly closer to the officers. And finally, on the sidelines, came the Ruby infantry, at times interspersed with some Pearl belonging to one of the officers, all of them mindful to keep pace with their respective masters so as to be lines up just a few steps behind them even if they were a good deal away from the inner lanes.

Pink spotted Yellow's Pearl striding proudly before all the other Pearls assigned to the fleet's commanders, just a little ahead of her own, who had probably thought it best to just tag along with her peers.

Separated by almost half the breadth of the procession, Pink sourly bemoaned that she would not get another chance to talk to them until all of this was over.

But her thoughts couldn't dwell there for long, for it wasn't often that she got to see these streets up close, and much less the many different gems of all types and colors that had come out of their dwellings and workplaces to witness the great spectacle

Usually, she'd only see them from afar, looking out the windows of the spires and high rises, from where all the busy gems would look hardly larger than tiny specks of dust, and inevitably, she would wonder what it might be like to wander the streets as one of them and just walk up and talk to them without any of that salute nonsense.

But for now, it was at least nice to be getting a closer look at them in all their different shapes and colors – At least, she was allowed to wave at them, so she did so enthusedly, entertaining half a fantasy about how maybe, one day, she might run into them under different circumstances, and how she might say, 'remember me from the parade?' if such an improbable thing might ever come to pass.

She pictured how any of the gems they were passing might have told her about their lives and their work, though well aware that she would not be allowed to talk to most of them unless it was for ordering them around.

Looking at the Rubies and Quartzes marching at their sides, Pink found herself envying them somewhat – there were so many of them, and they were often deployed in groups, so they would always be around someone they were actually allowed to socialize with, whereas there were only four Diamonds in all of the empire, and the other three were always so busy.

They were supposed to be the very rarest and the most important, but the notion did not quite make sense to her even then – weren't all types of gems important, if they were doing tasks that were required to maintain the empire? Even if they were meant to be better at anything than anyone else, Pink didn't think that the four of them could have done all the necessary work on their own.

Would Yellow and Blue even be able to keep track of all their many appointments if they didn't have their Pearls to help them out?

And yet Pearls were supposedly not important, so much so that Pink Pearl wasn't considered a suitable friend for her, even though the smaller gem was meant to follow her all the time – if they had to be together anyways, shouldn't that make it more suitable for them to be friends?

Sometimes she really thought that being a more common sort of gem would be a lot better. Not that she would want to leave the others behind, but, if they could all be a platoon of Rubies instead or something like that, and go on cool space adventures together, she thought that would be nice.

Of course, that was long before she would come to realize what the act of conquest actually entailed, or that the lives of these soldier gems were not nearly as comfortable or cherished as her own had been.

One day that knowledge would enrage her, but for now, she was still blissfully oblivious, trying her best to be the great inspiration she was expected to be and, in her own way, to show her subjects the appreciation she wasn't allowed to give them in person, still hanging on to the hope that she might yet find a place for herself on this world (or any other) without having to change who she was.

And at least, it would seem that many of the smaller gems in the crowd were waving right back, so her intent must be counting for something, right? As long as she didn't explicitly step out of her allotted lane, even Yellow couldn't possibly mind, right?

In all honesty, she didn't seem to be paying the younger Diamond at her side any mind, with had all her attention consigned to the procession which her smaller companion had not been meant to take part in.

The route was always the same as it had been on any of her victorious returns – There had been repairs and changes to the city throughout the ages, but of course they would always be scheduled so as not to coincide with any function or event that would have been significant enough to involve the Diamonds.

They would proceed from the central plaza and then make their way to the capital's main temple, an ancient, elegant construction of tall, slender columns and a multitude of arcades and alcoves and countless winding spiral walkways connecting innumerable round halls and gazebos in ways that did not always seem entirely compatible with gravity.

None of it was new, but neither was it all equally old – its catacombs reached far down to the old foundations of the capital, and it was rumored that in its dephts, one could have found a few walls that dated back to the days before gemkind had left its star system, whereas the newest structures had been added in honor of Pink Diamond's emergence – but although it had been built by innumerable gems over timespans that were daunting even to the likes of them, the most remarkable thing about it that all the structures nonetheless maintained a consistent look and feel.

Though it was composed of eclectic structures of many different sizes and ages, its architects had taken great pains to ensure that its parts would still come together to form a consistent whole, a monument to continuity and permanence stretching up into the skies, meeting the boulevard and the procession along it with much of it protruding above it and even more sprawling out below.

Most of it was comprised of glossy, ivory materials, tending toward open architecture near the outer premises and incorporating many large windows – as a result, the entire structure was awash with light. If one proceeded too far inside for homeworld's dim sun to shine inside, or if night were to fall, a corps of wall gems would take over the illumination with the light from their gemstones – for that purpose, they had been placed amid the numerous regular carvings, so that it was not always immediately clear which was which.

Along its walls, statues, paintings and inscriptions told numerous tales and parables, ordered in such a way to convey a lesson to any gems that would walk the stairs and passageways as they were supposed to.

The various differing halls were meant not only for gems of different types, but also as the dwelling and workplace of the gems that staffed and tended to the temple – Hematite Philosophers, Moonstone Scholars, Ulexite Loremasters, Howlite Priests, Jade Courtiers, Sapphire Mystics, the odd Bismuth in charge of structural maintenance, and even a flock of Pearls meant to provide for the needs and wishes of the visitors, serve the thinker gems inside (whom they ultimately belonged to), and, frankly put, as part of the decorations.

The great spire connected to the streets connected through a long, broad flight of stairs (with steps accommodating for gems of various sizes and ranks, splitting off from the corresponding lanes in the streets and sidewalks.)

Had any of the Rubies wished to visit here after the Parade was done, they would have had to follow a demarcated path to the corresponding parts of the structure, which contained several shrines and monuments intended to honor the fallen – but they were rather symbolic, collective affairs, speaking of sacrifice and abnegation in general. Nowhere in this place would you ever have found the serial numbers of individual Rubies who had been shattered in line of duty.

Accomplishment may have been rewarded and remembered, but there was no acknowledgment for simply having existed when danger was a typical part of their intended purpose.

But if one followed the direct path from the road, one would have been led to a sizable square tiled with precious materials, from where tree large portals led into the interior, the one in the center being the most massive one.

This part of the massive temple was known as the 'Royal Cathedral', 'royal' because only the most elite gems would be permitted entry, and because it had been build under White Diamond's explicit patronage, for what little involvement she had with the actual process of building and designing it.

That was also why most of the statues inside depicted the moon goddess with White's facial features.

Yellow had been around for its construction – back then, White had actually shown up for the dedication, but that was before she'd started to leave most of the events related to homeworld's cultural leadership and development to Blue Diamond, and, insofar as one could count her various diversions as such, to Pink as well.

It was fitting then that this was where Blue chose to meet them, though her entrance was in many ways the exact opposite of Pink's haphazard arrival: She had waited patiently right where the procession was supposed to end, having floated onto the square before the great doors in her Palanquin. Her Pearl was right beside her throne, and so was a suitable entourage of various higher-ranking gems in numerous shades of blue and teal.

Neither her feet nor the seams of her long robes had ever touched the dirt on the road and she sat there, serenely, quietly, holding out a hand in greeting, a veiled, mystical figure hidden away from the glances of the lowly Rubies who would not have been able to make out much more than her fingertips – only Yellow could have noted the subtle twitch of her lips when she spotted Pink right next to the great conqueror's boots.

Pink Diamond herself most certainly didn't, or she might have reconsidered all the overly excited jumping and waving she was currently engaged in – for Blue was well aware that the unruly princess ought to have been attending to her studies at this moment.

But even so, it was not entirely a bad thing that she had come – it was, after all, something of a special occasion.

And it wasn't a bad visual, either, to have the three of them standing together on that platform in unity once Yellow and Pink had proceeded up the stairs - Blue's entourage naturally scampered out of their way just as their Diamond had risen from her seat to welcome the others.

Unfazed, she continued with the ceremony: "On behalf of all of us, I big you most welcome. We have prayed many nights for your safe return."

They had most certainly not; This phrase was simply a routine part of the proceedings, and Yellow's neverending crusades were routine enough that none of them ever worried unless there had actually been some dire news from the front, which was not often.

Pink did not understand the severity of war yet, and Blue was too occupied with all her various appointments to spent that much time in honest, quiet contemplation. Even on occasions where she was expected to make a show of such, the affairs of government would occupy her mind whenever the turbulent streams of her own inner life did not.

Yellow briskly took her place beside her, hands folded together, chin turned upward.

Pink at very least understood that they were supposed to make a show for the crowds, and waved at them slightly with a broad grin, standing between the other two.

Of course, they maintained a dignified distance, carefully chosen poses as an artist might have chosen them: A royal dynasty. A holy family.

It was not even all too unwelcome if Pink thought too introduce a bit of tenderness into the imagery, but never too much, never at the cost of composure or strength, and certainly not at the risk of creating the impression that they could be just like everyone else.

Their subjects cheered -

There were chants, applause, and coordinated stomping.

At last, Yellow stepped forward to present a carefully prepared speech.

Pink soon grew bored of it and skittered over to Blue, who allowed her to hold onto the skirts of her robe but skillfully avoided giving her any further attention apart from a subtle gesture of her hand and a quietly whispered "Later.".

The speech involved a great deal of rehearsed formulaic platitudes that were usually more suited to Blue's area of expertise, which was why Yellow usually left the proclamations to her and invested her time in actual work, but this had been her campaign, and thus called it for her to conclude it. She spoke before their subjects very often, at least as often as Blue did, but generally on occasions in which there was actually something to say, such as when there was a new policy to present, orders to dispense or innovations to announce.

Her firm, utilitarian style was legendary across the empire.

But even on an occasion somewhat less suited to it, she performed faithfully, even if she would much rather be doing a broad variety of other things.

She had long grown disenchanted with the sparkling, admiring eyes of their many, many followers – She wasn't even looking their way during their drawn-out competition as to who could keep the cheers and praise going the longest after she was done speaking.

Instead, she used the moment to step imperceptibly closer to Blue and speak to her in a hushed voice while her eyes peered toward the large portal behind them:

"Is White waiting inside?"

(For when she participated in such events, she would rarely permit the common gems on the street to see more than her radiant outline in the windows and just generally enjoyed making a spectacle out of showing up last)

Never one to be discreet, Pink perked up at the mention, glancing up at Blue's face.

But alas, Blue Diamond had to staunch their hopes: "I'm afraid she couldn't make it."

Exposed as they were, Yellow merely acknowledged this with a nod to compensate for Pink visibly deflating. They didn't know how much longer her lapses might be written off as endearing just because she was young. But she had good chances to escape her scolding for today, as her elders had other things on their minds, and Yellow in particular had not seen enough of her lately to have grown weary of her incorrigible ways.

The three of them eventually proceeded inside, after the Topazes did them the honor of throwing the heavy doors open – a pair of them stayed outside to stand guard, as did their Pearls, who were quite simply not allowed inside this particular sanctum.

Blue's Pearl gently greeted the others. Yellow's stood attention as befitted this formal occasion, though she may have been grinning just a little too much for the premises of a holy place. Pink Pearl's eyes trailed after their masters until the three of them were not quite joined by the Pearls belonging to all the high-ranking officers who assembled nearby but did not quite dare to speak to them.

As adjuncts to Yellow Diamond's top brass of officers, they largely glittered in various citrus hues, ranging anywhere from lime green to light orange.

The Emeralds and Hessonites they belonged to followed their mistress into the chapel, though they were of course relegated to the two smaller entrances at the sides.

As for Blue Diamond's entourage, whoever among them was permitted to do so did much the same.

The interior of the sanctum glittered like a sky full of stars.

Shining, reflective mosaics lined the walls and ceilings.

Pink glanced up at them with wide, impressionable eyes, craning her neck as far as it would go until it took some effort to keep her balance.

To the others, it had long lost any special allure it might have had. Coming here was practically a matter of drudgery.

Countless gems had made the coruscating frescoes their life's work, imbuing every tile and carving with their devoted adoration (or their desperation to justify their existence) but their sovereigns could only have gazed at their work so many times before it all just blurred together as just another room – sure, they might have rediscovered its charms if they had the time to do so, but generally, they were not so fortunate.

The decor was intended to resemble something like a mountain grotto where one would expect to find simple, naturally occurring crystals; The pillars were fashioned to resemble the sort of sinter columns one might find in a limestone cave, but they also served to divide up the space, forming arcades and elevated pulpits that served various purposes. One of them held a couple of wall gems that provided music and illumination during particular ceremonies. Others surrounded massive shelves full of old codices, data rods and miscellaneous artifacts.

The opposite end of the central chamber was punctuated with an enormous, ornate dome topped off with a skylight that resembled the disk of the moon, casting a halo of light into the area beneath it and the relief of statues on the wall at its end, chief among which was a massive piece that loosely resembled White Diamond.

Her features seemed out of place there, the image did not really capture anything of her pharaonic majesty. The sculptors made her look too gentle, to befit a figure in a myth that was younger than she was and had diverged far from the inspiration behind it – generally, the sculptors were given a lot of leeway with the figure's outer form, since all that was transient and peripheral. What was truly important, however – her gem with the familiar shape of its facets – was never allowed to diverge.

Nonetheless, it was that same round segment at the end of the room to which the three of them were expected to proceed while the officers and aristocrat gems dispersed to other parts of the hall, not daring to disturb their sovereigns in the inner sanctum.

Only then did Blue Diamond pull back her veil and allow a mild, placid smile to take possession of her features, ensuring, of course, that she was standing with her back to the rest of the greater part of the chamber.

She took a hold of Yellow Diamond's hand, firmly squeezing the groves of her palm against the fabric of her companion's gloves.

"It's good to see you." she spoke, her voice barely above a whisper but all the more drenched in a tired, bittersweet joy that was subdued but sincere.

Yellow discreetly acknowledged this with a nod and perhaps the beginnings of a smile.

Pink, alas, was not so discerning; Perhaps she took their mildly relaxed demeanor as a sign to let loose completely, failing to appreciate that they were still not exactly behind closed doors, and in what was supposed to be holy place, where her loud, upbeat voice was out of place: "Yeah! It's great to have you back! We totally need to celebrate!"

Blue made half an attempt to silence her with some half-apologetic gestures, but Yellow had no reservations to make her displeasure known: "Pink! Be mindful of your surroundings. You've forgotten yourself quite enough for today!"

Pouting with quivering lips and tightly closed firsts held close to her sides, the smaller magenta gem was clearly not taking too well to being shot down like this – hoping to smooth the waters, Blue attempted to soften the blow: "Please, we must be quiet... But you know, the celebration is not a bad idea."

She had not actually believed this, but rather meant her words as more as an indulgence designed to shut her up, like a shiny bauble to play with – Accordingly, Yellow had far less reservations in confronting Pink with her actual thoughts: "Out of the question. These new planets might be ours, but the colonies won't finish themselves."

Unperturbed by the chastisement she had received moments ago, Pink gasped none too quietly: "Then you're going away again?"

"Not with the fleet. They should be installing the first galaxy warp as we speak, so should be able to come and go without delay within the cycle. But there's still no shortage of work to be done, even without some frivolous 'celebration' to take care off on top of it all..."

"But we have to!" Pink insisted. "You worked hard, right? You went to dangerous places. You did super cool space fightey stuff, and now we finally have you back with us.

We have to celebrate!", she argued, her impassioned little eyes twinkling as if this were a matter of life and death. "You don't have to do it – Me and Blue can take care of it! I mean, that wouldn't even make sense if you had to do the extra work, the party is supposed to be FOR you. Isn't that right Blue?"

"I suppose I can arrange it..." the veiled gem conceded with a mild, slightly apologetic smile angled in Yellow's direction. "After all, it's been a good while since we were all together... If we make sure to give her prior notice, even White might come... Besides, it will be a good opportunity for Pink to familiarize herself with the ways of the court."

Overjoyed at the prospect, Pink grinned broadly to herself, looking a lot prouder than she had any right to be. "See Yellow? It's gonna be great! You're gonna be super psyched to finish your next campaign so we can throw you another party!"

(And Yellow Diamond knew that it was not her purpose to expect thanks or recognition.

But to receive them anyways –

Well, it certainly could not leave her untouched. )

Which is why, when she finally caught up with her masters, Montana Agate found herself in luck. It couldn't be hard to track down their towering rulers, especially not when they were thundering through the city in the conspicuous company of an entire parade.

But with the main streets clogged and most structures along the path packed with spectators, the Agate turned ditched governess could not possibly have made it to the temple before her monarchs went inside.

On the streets, corridors and public transport infrastructure, most of the capital's denizens were obliged to scamper out of her way, but when it came to these holy halls, she was not fit to even peer past the windows, and so was forced to wait with the Pearls, who, to their credit, did an admirable job at backing away from the door to give her the expected berth, though she noted, with a raised eyebrow, that the pink one required a decided poke from one of her peers before the thought occurred to her.

As an Agate Overseer, she was above all tasked with keeping the order and would have taken both pride and pleasure in pointing out and correcting exactly these sorts of infractions, but for the moment, her thoughts were far too preoccupied with the prospect that she might soon receive some punishment of her own.

But she needn't have worried.

Her Diamond was far too preoccupied with her designs for her newest conquests, too relieved to be back in the company of her kindred, and she had more urgent things to remember than were exactly Pink Diamond was supposed to be at this particular moment – and while Blue most certainly knew, she did have a reputation for mercy.

Or perhaps, the busy monarchs were just glad for the opportunity to have their energetic young companion taken off their hands -

Yellow simply noted Montana's convenient presence and instructed Pink Diamond to go with her so that she and Blue might attend to their other duties, turning to leave with hasty strides as her Pearl hurried to follow after her.

….

"You know, Pink..." Blue Diamond would add at a later point in time when all business related to the parade was long since concluded. "Now that I think of it, that was actually not a bad idea..."

"Really?" the smaller gem perked up at this. "You think so?"

The two of them were instead sitting at a fountain in an ornate courtyard framed by high, slender columns.

It was as close to being a pleasure garden as it was possible for a place that contained exclusively artificial structures, with dead, polished gravel for earth and unchanging veins of gold creeping up the pillars and banisters in place of vines and roses.

They were sitting in a pavilion of patterned, mesh-like coverings that in no way constituted a functional roof, but what protection could they possibly have needed from the dim, purple rays of homeworld's fallow sun, and a sky too barren to ever produce precipitation?

The fountain itself constituted an ostentatious luxury in these climes, added as a gaudy afterthought since the substance was already required in other parts of the palace complex.

Pink Diamond couldn't say that she didn't enjoy the fresh, cleansed feeling in the air all around this, but like everything about this place, it seemed to her like distant echo of something lost and bygone, and, on some days, rather like a cage of gold.

At the same time she was positive that Blue must have seen something different when she looked around here, for this place suited her very much, as did all still, governed places that still managed to retain some starved, lugubrious beauty.

She had quite a collection of favorite places all of which she visited again and again, adding to the lore and significance that each of them held for her with every single visit.

Pink knew most of them – how could she not, when each of them was lathered in thick swatches of psychic residues, etched deep into the walls?

As a natural Cathode to her Anode, the younger Diamond could have sensed her presence anywhere on the planet's surface, a talent which she knew to employ both for hiding her various mischief whilst giving swift word of warning to any co-conspirator she may have acquired, and to seek out the others if she were so inclined.

Much later, an embittered, disillusioned rebel leader would come to the conclusion that Blue Diamond had simply been the most available of the three, and herself, a desperate fool for ever thinking otherwise;

It just so happened that Blue often conducted business in the capital, but was far more amenable to receiving unexpected visitors than White – though she rarely left the homeworld at all, she somehow managed to make herself even scarcer than Yellow who was so often away on business (and of all three, Pink usually came the closest to having any luck with her, not that she was necessarily aware of that)

- But at the time, it was a surprise to precisely no one that Blue and Pink Diamond were often found together. As the youngest and the gentlest (relatively speaking), it seemed only too natural that they would have forged a particularly close bond, if anything, it would have been seen as a strange thing if they hadn't.

None of the courtiers would have been surprised to see them arrive jointly or to meet them at the same location, and they often spoke about many things -

And as with many matters in this world, there were as many versions of this story as there had been participants, and all of them were somewhat disparate from the truth;

In Blue Diamond's recollections, she fancied herself the one person whom Pink Diamond told everything, a common misconception of which she would not be the last victim – The only consolation any of them could have was that no such person had ever existed.

But perhaps there had been a time when Blue could have been the subject of genuine admiration or even a reciprocation of her own wistful envy, when the reluctant princess still considered that Blue's measured regal elegance must be good for something, or that the world might have its place for her greater patience and sensitivity, much like she had sometimes coveted Yellow's success and the widespread respect she commanded – looking back, all she would see was humiliation rubbed in her face.

But that was a conclusion of a later time, weighted with things she could not have known back when she sat there in the atrium, eagerly bouncing her feet in anticipation yet anxious for any indication that she was finally finding the path laid out before her because she did not know of any other.

Neither of them did.

"What if Yellow doesn't like it, though?"

"Well, why wouldn't she?"

Of course Blue would say that, but Pink was already beginning to suspect that she was mostly being humored, a distinction that was easily determined whenever anything she did edged just past the limits of Blue's comfort zone only to find herself brusquely brushed back to her place – but how else was Pink going to find out what she really thought, if she was just going to be served some dismissive hogwash otherwise?

On some days, she could barely contain her frustration.

On others, she would look at Yellow and Blue, or even White, and consider that there must be some serious skill involved in being a 'proper Diamond', even if it wasn't one she possessed.

They were, after all, all part of some whole; They all made up the Great Diamond Authority.

Each of them was here for something, each contributed something of their own;

It just so happened that it was far easier to see what Blue, Yellow and White were supposed to be adding.

Even Pink herself didn't really know – sometimes she doubted that the others did.

Perhaps one seeks to become what they perceive to be needed in the world around them, uniquely defined by both the corner of the woods that they find themselves in, and one's own unique perception of it -

And while it may not have been her strongest suit, Pink could certainly see that there was need and lack and absence in the environment that surrounded her – but did it need her, and what little she might manage to give, or was she only ever serenading deaf ears?

Back in those days, she had yet to decide on one or the other.

She had a little something in mind, nothing thought-through or definitive, just the inklings of an impression, and an anxious, uneasy tension in her limbs when she tried to consider it outside its native territory in the heat of the moment.

"Well, I don't know... She's always working and everything. She's never around, and even when she is, she's always hurrying off as soon as she's arrived..."

Even in the most hopeful of Pink's blobby stick-figure drawings, the massive ochre gem was seldom depicted with much of a friendly expression.

White's absence was a baroque sonnet's worth of oxymorons; Yellows was just a regular old absence that left a gap where she should be, buried in her various going ons even when she could afford to be near.

Her impatient harshness alone sometimes managed to make the others look like – well, not quite like appreciative welcoming company, but at least like a relief.

(Despite their clashes, Yellow would not be the first that Pink would give up on) – yet for now, she was still wedged in between the growing need to be heard and the simple, honest desire to see them all happy and unified – and the need, or wish for that remained strong even when she doubted its feasibility:

"It's doesn't seem like she likes being with us very much. Or having fun. I'd like her to, but she usually just scolds us and says we should do more work..."

Even then Pink wasn't sure if she really believed that, or just felt like that sometimes – maybe she had wanted to be reassured of the contrary.

For one who knew nothing better, this might have been a comfort, just as they might have thought this place a garden...

None of that seemed to concern Blue very much – Indeed, if anything, it prompted her to smile and stifle half a chuckle lest she be caught indulging in something as unrefined as a full on giggle.

(And that, too, could be taken in quite a lot of ways, with no clear lines to demarcate where long-dismissal true knowing ended and dismissal of true knowledge began)

"Come oooon, what's so funny?!" the younger gem demanded to know, just as super-positioned between childish protestations, and something that they might have likened to the smell of mown grass and cut petals if either of them had been familiar with the stimulus.

It was perhaps not clear which path they were on at any given moment because the path was simply yet to be chosen, and only hindsight would string the brief, diffuse, ever-changing ambiguity of the present into one narrative or another.

Blue Diamond had certainly decided on what sets of labels to plaster on this moment, and perhaps in some things she would even be right -

(But it was all the others that would come back to haunt her. )

"You know Pink," she spoke, and to one who knew nothing better, as Pink did back then, then, she might have well seemed admirable, like she had beauty and wisdom and mildness, even gentleness and grace, the very quintessence of a regal, dark-veiled lady. "I can't say that I always understand her either, but at least, I can claim that I've known Yellow for a little longer than you have... She doesn't always know to give things their proper time, but that doesn't mean she doesn't care...She has a lot on her mind and a lot of responsibilities to attend to, as will you when the time is right, and maybe then you'll understand better you would from any explanation I could give right now..."

Or so they kept saying.

"But wanna know something?"

"What?" Pink exclaimed. She had been reaching the end of her patience for this all-too-familiar spiel about how everything would inevitably make sense once she finally saw reason though it never ever, ever did, but she was promptly disarmed by the sweet, conspiratory smile that made its way onto Blue's features.

"Yellow actually loves being told that she did a good job. More than anything in the world."

Between Blue's sugary tone and the scandalous proposal itself, Pink was quite efficiently distracted from her misgivings by the next wave of girlish excitement: "What? Really? Are we talking about the same Yellow Diamond here?"

Blue confirmed this with a dignified but decided nod.

The smaller gem blinked incredulously. "But she works all the time, even when no one tells her to."

"She works hard because she knows that her work is important. Because it's something she does for all our sakes. It's just her way of showing she cares about us... but that doesn't mean that she liked the grind any more than your or I do, or that she doesn't appreciate it when her efforts are recognized, just like everyone else does – if not more.

It may not seem like it, but in some ways, she actually gets discouraged pretty easily..."

"Really? I can't imagine!"

"I think that's why she always spent most of her time on things doing the kinds of things where she can see the results right away – when she looks through her reports and sees how her colonies are exceeding gem production numbers, or how her armies have expended the borders of out territory on our star maps, she can see right away that she's accomplishing something..."

Blue herself, of course, had no such obvious source of satisfaction nor the illusion of it to chase after, which might have been the reason why her words became tinted with a little bit of melancholy toward the end – Or perhaps the two of them weren't really so different and all anyone in this universe ever really did was to find something to distract themselves from the futility of their plights as they spurned themselves on to make it through the motions.

But this here?

In this moment, in this place?

The two of them having this quiet little moment in the courtyard?

This wasn't so bad, as least if one didn't know anything better. (And Blue certainly didn't.)

"Believe me. If it wasn't for all the Hessonites and Emeralds around, she would have been grinning from ear to ear from the moment she heard your idea... I'm certain of it."

"Really really? You mean it?"

"I mean it." she turned toward Pink with a subtle, but genuine sparkle in her often tired eyes. "And don't you ever think that she doesn't like spending time with you – when the two of us are by ourselves, she speaks about you all the time..."

"Really? Really?"

Beholding the younger Diamond's glowing, starry-eyed face, Blue reconsidered if disclosing this particular nugget of information had really been the wisest decision – It might get to her head and Pink was unruly enough as it was; This might just be thrown back in their faces the next time they would inevitably have to lecture her.

But she supposed that she had always had a special weakness for the charms of homeworld's princess and the purity and enthusiasm in her smiles.

"Yes, really. I'm sure that she will love your party," and that might have been going a little to far, again more of an indulgence, considering all the things that could go wrong in the meantime ad the temperaments of the individuals involved, but it was said with good intentions.

(And Blue knew that it was not her purpose to be happy

But sometimes, she felt so anyway.

And when those rare moments came, she certainly treasured them. )

Thus began the work of planning and arranging, which, alas, fell squarely on Blue's experienced shoulders. In theory, this exercise was supposed to familiarize Pink with the proceedings so that she could one day run them by herself – but just from hearing her suggestions, Blue had to admit that that day was probably very far away. ("What if I sang the songs? Or, I could do some tricks. Pearl usually those-")

The younger gem seemed rather uninterested in learning anything and there often came a point where it was obvious that Blue could save everyone involved very much grief by taking over herself and taking the matter out of Pink's clumsy little hands into her own, experienced ones.

Practice or not, this was a chance to display their presence to their people, to inspire them all to continue giving it their best even when their crosses were difficult to bear – and as much as Pink liked the idea of that and had surely been known as well-liked, uplifting presence since her arrival on this world, she had no sense of tact or decorum whatsoever, which often grated on Blue's dainty sensibilities.

More than once, she may have cringed quite a bit more overtly than she had meant to.

She was trying very hard to make Pink understand that she was supposed to be the princess and not the court jester and that one day, she would have to be a queen.

...

White Diamond received the invitation of course – It was a blip on a screen somewhere, or a purely theoretical awareness, or, perhaps, a half-sensed thought she caught from some creature in the hallways.

There was no point in going really, or in bothering the whole tiresome affair in the first place, but as usual, Pink Diamond seemed intent on doing whatever she wanted.

White, as always, would do the same.

(Of course, White knew that she did not, must not, need anybody.

But there was nothing stopping her from being with them anyways,

And on this day, it just so happened that she decided to go. )

...

A/N:

At the risk of seeming tacky or repeating the follies of the helmet crowd, I shall confess that Updo! White has been a favorite concept of mine since I first came by such fanart.

At first I had planned for this to be a three-parter, if not a oneshot, with a simple logical structure like I:"distant past", II:"the younger diamonds", III_"the present day", but then it got long and the parts started taking on different flavors – Though we have WD's life story as the through line, the first one is big on spec fic while the second one turned out to be more like of greek tragedy about YD's and BD's descent into villainy and this one – first I meant to have more focus on the conflict between Pink and the others, but then I arrived the conclusion that the important point/aspect to look at here is the thesis in the first paragraph: PD was not there, then she was, and then she wasn't again, but things did not go back to the way they were before, because she made an impact. I wanted this chapter to be about Pink making that impact.

I was fully prepared for this to disintegrate into mindless fluff apart from the last few scenes, but in hindsight I feel that, perhaps naturally enough, there ended up being quite enough serious serious elements after all.

Chapter Text

Part III: Interference (Act II: "Blessed Art Thou")

….

 

 

What a shame we never listened
I told you through the television
And all that went away was the price we paid
People spend a lifetime this way
And that’s how they stay
People spend a lifetime this way
Oh what a shame
What a shame.

- Robbie Williams & Gary Barlow

 

 

Once, Pink Diamond used to look forward to the day when she would be considered ready to join in as a full-fledged member of the authority, and some might have considered this a testament against her character -

But why would she not have?

Yes, there were many reasons to consider such an occupation horrid and perverse, but as a young, sheltered creature, she would not have known or understood the finer points of any of those – once full of love and admiration for those she had found around her, she longed to win their respect and approval – or wrest it from them, make them see her as one of them if that's what it might end up taking.

She wanted to be as they were and do what they did, simply because that's what it meant to be a part of them – And perhaps, she imagined that being a 'proper Diamond' would come with a bit of freedom, seeing as it was nominally a position of power and respect.

Once she had her own worlds, her own fleets and her own followers, they would have to see her as an equal, and perhaps, listen to her voice here and there.

So at first, she had wanted what they wanted.

But the more that her awareness expanded out into the greater world, the more she came to know of what her duties would entail -

(forever, and ever, and ever)

The more she began to see her destiny with fear and trepidation.

 

….

 

On another occasion, the entire Diamond Authority was again gathered at the pool, having what could have been a pleasant evening if only White could have let it be.

“Yellow, sing higher! Blue, lighter! Pink, clearer! Don't smudge it all together like that!” by the end, her void-black lips had curled in disapproval, her long, carbon lashes lowered in a hint of frustration.

She was seated so as to ensure that her shoulders would stay above the water, as she had chosen to leave the hairpins in for today.

“Here. Just follow after me.”

And of course they could not hope to match her, the splintering high notes, the pure, and deafening tones, the quick, relentless fugues of her melodies, like castles of ice and mountains of crystal and little pools of water that glittered in deep, untouched caves, and lone bridges that stood in the water all by themselves, with none of their ends leading to anywhere, lost in circles of resonance, reverb and echo that could be felt as much as heard -

But she had commanded for them to follow, and so they must obey.

 

Yellow, as usual, took it upon herself to go first.

It was exactly the same song, an abstract, classical piece of considerable age, though not nearly as old as Yellow herself – But where White's voice had been the self-contained, maddening swell of a glass harmonica, possessed of some quality akin to the pure sinus tones emanating from a tuning fork, Yellow's deep, powerful voice and her intense, impassioned performance made it into something like an irate funerary march that bombarded the room with dark, thundering tones, as one might expect it from the booming pipes of an organ or the brass trumpets one would expect at the end of the world.

as mighty, it was heavy, it was solemn, and it was titanic, yet for all its resonant power, her rendition was not void of feeling – but those were not little, soft feelings, but sentiments as tempestuous and majestic as befits the full, strong voice carrying them into the heavens.

In her rendition, the nimble quickness of the melody became an urgent, feverish haste, a dramatic, overpowering presence that, without doubt, must have sent some chills down the backs of the Guards outside the chamber doors.

 

Then, it was Blue's turn, and for all that it had seemed like the two previous versions had been each other's perfect opposites, she somehow found a way to present the exact same melody in such a manner that it was as different from both of them as they had been from each other – not by intention, but just by nature, much in the way the ethereal sounds of a harpsichord or hammered dulcimer still contained a twinge of something that made them recognizable as string instruments as opposed to the clear purity of a piano.

For one thing, Blue sang it somewhat slower, and quieter, following along the melody in a measured, leisurely pace befitting her own regal, graceful presence, something quite at home in these vaunted, hallowed palace halls, but it was not without some haunting, melancholy streak to it; Had one attempted to put it in present-day earth terms, the word 'baroque' might have been used, but of course this occurrence preceded any such art movements by many thousands of years.

Halfway through the song, she had closed her eyes and forgotten about anything else in the world, completely absorbed in this single instant, for it was one of these rare and in-between moments that she never wanted to end – so why would she ever want to be anywhere else in her thoughts and feelings? Soon enough, she was not merely performing because White had requested it, but simply taking this opportunity to do what she loved in the presence of the ones she most treasured.

Somewhere at the bottom of the stairs, near the entrance of the hall, the Pearls were probably crying – Blue Pearl, who was herself a bit of an artistic soul, did so with a slight smile and her own eyes closed (somewhere behind her bangs) to better take in the spectacle, whereas Yellow Pearl was a bit indignant at the inelegant display she knew she must be making and proudly turned her face away from the others, but not without surreptitiously grasping the hand of her companion.

Perhaps due to being the newest, Pink Pearl was the most overcome of them all and may have made an indecorous display of herself if the others had not emphatically gestured for her to be silent, but soon after, Blue Pearl held out a hand to her as well so that she might aid her in staying calm.

 

Ultimately, Blue Diamond reached the end of the song and all eyes turned to Pink.

Judging from past experience, she would have grown impatient, so her fellow Diamonds expected to find her fidgeting around, eager to jump at her turn.

But instead, the very opposite was the case: For the first time since they had come to the chamber, she was standing completely still, her mouth agape and her eyes filled with sparkles.

So mesmerized was she, that it slipped her mind that she was supposed to be next until Yellow decided to remind her by aggressively clearing her throat.

 

Thus jerked back to reality, Pink could scarcely let herself be outdone, and so uncommon deliberation, she swam over to the edge of the pool and stood on it, preparing to make her stand.

But where the other's interpretations had differed from White's simply because they were not her and could not help putting their own handwriting on something that might not even look the same in their differing perceptions, Pink took that as an inspiration to go further.

She wanted her own contribution to be just as unique and original as all the others, and so she took that song and made it as unlike itself as she could while still keeping the arrangement of the notes.

Her voice went soft where the others had remained hard, and where theirs had maintained a solemn dignity, she actually managed to give that same sequence of tones a gentle, soothing, outright angelic quality, like cherubic harps, soft bells and the blossoming swells of violins.

She made it sound as it might feel for a tired, worn out warrior to be taken up into the arms of paradise, where peace and fragrant opulence await.

– and yet, she did not turn this into a game like the others might have expected her to.

One could hear her sincere feelings and her genuine effort, and the result was, without a doubt beautiful.

When she was finished, she even topped it off with a little bow and a big smile, clearly proud of herself.

 

And for good reason:

Last time she'd tried it, she'd gotten carried away in supplementing her performance with a little dance at the end of the pool, with the inevitable result that she'd ended up slipping and plunging back into the water – her size, while diminutive when compared to her fellow Diamonds, was still considerable enough to build up quite a bit of inertia, and so she'd wound up all the way at the bottom. By the time the bubbles around her dispersed, she'd been standing there with her arms crossed and a very pouty face marked with a deep magenta blush.

Perhaps that's what convinced some of her fellow Diamonds – mostly Blue, really – to phrase their appraisal carefully: “That was very... interesting, Pink.”

She probably even meant it to an extent, though one could not overlook that it was clearly a euphemism.

Unlike her, Yellow did not mince her words, but at the same time, she considered what might be conducive to a constructive outcome: “At the very least, it's a definite improvement over last time.”

White, of course, was a different matter; She had never known to soften any blow for as long as she had lived, for she was rather... well, black-and-white in her understandings. Things were either perfect, or not, and if they weren't, there could be no way in which they could possibly be satisfactory – not even here, in, what by all means, should have been an intimate, lighthearted setting, and though she was used to it, she couldn't really help her bafflement – how could the others not see this? What could even make them think this was acceptable? Did they just not understand how it was supposed to work?

She was here to improve them after all, but sometimes their limitations rather frustrated her.

One wonders if she would have held that same view if she could have seen her own face in that moment – the huffish pout she was currently sporting was not significantly more dignified than, and indeed, remarkably identical to the one Pink had worn after last week's watery misadventure.

“What do you think you're doing! And not just Pink, all of you. Didn't I tell you to follow after me? Did you not hear?” She signed, making her fastidious exasperation quite heard. “And we were having such a pleasant evening, too. Now it's all spoiled with the way you were getting it all wrong! What were you thinking?”

Blue and Yellow knew to look ashamed and refrain from replying, because they knew it was futile, but also, because they actually felt their own insufficiency.

And for Pink, her feelings can't have been too different, but either from naive hope or poorly restrained impulse, she did consider speaking before White silenced her with a gesture of her hand.

“Don't answer, I already know. This was all supposed to be some prank, wasn't it? At least Yellow and Blue were trying, but you were just messing up deliberately!”

“No of course not!” answered Pink, still not dissuaded from speaking, though that might be more indicative of her inability to read the room than it was of any exemplary courage. “I just... I just thought it might be nice, to sing the song a little different. I thought it was so exciting how you and Blue and Yellow all sang the same song, but it completely was unique each time, like it was a totally different song. Completely the same, but also completely different, and each one was beautiful in its very own way... So I wanted to do that, too, just like you three.”

The younger gem's face grew more and more heated with every sentence she spoke, clearly moping rather than apologetic:

“Why is that not okay?!”

“Because the song isn't supposed to go that way!”

“Well, it's not like the original song won't be around anymore just because we sing it a bit differently. I was just having fun.”

“By doing it wrong on purpose?”

“It was not supposed to be wrong, it was just supposed different! Just like how Yellow and Blue did it!”

White inhaled sharply. “There you go again, encouraging bad behavior everywhere you go, and dragging others into it! You should be helping them to do better, not talking about their shortcomings like they're something praiseworthy! You must be mindful of their flaws Pink, they're not like you or I. Don't make it more difficult for them.”

At this point it should be pointed out that Yellow and Blue were still in the room, and not especially surprised by this phrasing – they were rather used to it, and if anything, they just hoped that Pink would refrain from seriously enraging their creator who, at this point, was still merely exasperated – but mercifully, the younger gem was now actually looking somewhat rueful, with her head held low and all – it's not like Yellow and Blue liked seeing her looking discouraged, but they figured it was probably better for everyone involved that this mere scolding did not devolve into a proper confrontation.

As for Pink, well,

“I'm sorry. I know I mess up a lot, but I'd never want to get anyone in trouble! It's just... You're great at singing like you. No one else could do it better, not in a million years! You really are the very best. But only Blue can sing like Blue, and only Yellow can sing like Yellow. When I listen to them, it's like it reminds me of everything that I love about them. Don't you feel the same?

I mean, you're not going anywhere. You can sing like you. But if we all try to sing like you, there'll be no one left to sing like us, and I think that would be very very sad...”

For a moment, Yellow and Blue tensed up, expecting some sort of blowout – But fortunately for them, White did not seem to consider this effusion worthy of a direct answer, or even of her rage.

“Oh Starlight! Only you could say something so preposterous!”

 

“Wow, she actually laughed,” Yellow would observe later, with a hint of slight amusement in her voice, as they were drying themselves off.“Can't recall the last time we saw her do that.” It was right before she marched right out the door, just as White had done moments before, without ever looking back.

Sure, White had laughed.

And once, that was all Pink had ever wanted.

To get a laugh out of White, or anything at all. But by now, she was beginning to feel that it only ever came at the cost of making herself the punchline.

Every time she dared to bare her honest feelings, she was setting herself up to be picked apart – And not even Blue seemed much interested in the actual content of Pink's words:

“Even so...” she added, still a bit peeved by what she and Yellow had no doubt perceived as a narrowly avoided disaster. “You really shouldn't have talked back to her like that. You know how she gets sometimes...”

“You know I meant it, right? What I said about you two...”

Blue sighed in exasperation. There would be no sympathy from her. “Can't you just... let it be for once? Take things seriously?”

She was being serious.

And maybe the three of them would notice if they could just let her be and take her seriously for a change!

 

And perhaps Pink had laid her own trap here with all of her earlier tomfoolery, but -

They kept saying they wanted her to act more mature.

But as long as she didn't do so in the precise way that they understood as 'mature' all she did and all she felt counted for nothing.

 

….

 

 

Soon, Pink understood, what she could not help but hear, even if it was not what the others had been meaning to say – they wanted her to go and be this graceful, perfect being;

they thought she could. They wouldn't listen when she cried and screamed that she could not do it, that she did not want to.

They expected her to give up her all, or at least, to play along so at least her shell would be doing something useful.

 

It was not what they meant to say, but it was what they made her hear, what any logical mind might deduce from the contradictory knots and tangles of their actions:

 

No one wants or needs your real self.

No one is ever interested in what lies inside you, nobody ever wants to hear about it, and nobody could ever love it.

 

So she took the contents of her heart and locked them behind thick iron doors, buried under heavy oceans and the soft brown earth, where no one would ever reach them.

It staid where they had left it, in some dark and lofty tower.

If all people would ever listen to was what they already wanted to hear, then that is what she would give them -

Whether it was the bratty little princess, the cherished, gracious queen, the messianic rebel leader, or the starry-eyed lover held in their arms, all her deceptions begin here.

By the time she would make it to earth, her heart had already gone cold.

 

….

 

But there was someone who knew her heart, simply because they had always been together, even before the thorns had been sprouting in her soul.

The one who was always at her side, her first and oldest friend -

 

And all that was delicate or innocent about her, everything honest and pure, was smothered to death when the two of them were parted.

 

In later years, Pink would not even quite recall was it was she had messed up. It was just another thing of many, but it was one too much.

White Diamond had some issues with her conduct.

And it was one thing when Blue or Yellow would lash out, the selfish, brutish product of their own limitations, the things they were willing to do because it was part of their work, or expected in their society, and then filed away to go back to being people in the comfort of their homes -

But White was an entirely different matter.

As their mother, their god and their empress, she was exactly the same.

For how could she have sinned against the laws that were but extensions of her thought?

 

Her commands were absolute, as was her adherence to protocol. She never raised her own hand, for it would not do for one of her status to lower herself to such a task, but neither would it be fit for Pink to be beaten by her inferiors.

So, someone else had to stand in her place -

And they had often feared that they might be discovered and punished, but until that day, Pink had never fully realized that the punishments they might be facing were of a very different nature due to the disparity in their rank.

Oblivious in her cruel, foolish innocence, she had been playing with her best friend's life every time she'd requested her company, or even that of the Pebbles, never realizing how often she'd come close to squandering it away – But in the end, that wasn't even what happened.

Pink Pearl had done nothing wrong, not even by the unjust laws of her barren birthplace.

Instead, it was Pink Diamond who had acted out of line, and the price for her thoughtless wrongdoings was to be stripped of what, in this awful place, would be considered her most favorite, shiniest toy.

 

For White, this was too trivial to even dirty her own hands; She sent for one of her agates, a black-and-gray one with a stern, unreadable face and a large, spiked flail ready in her hands.

She did not hesitate for a second, for to do so in front of her mistress would have been utter suicide.

White did not even have to utter a word; With a snap of her fingers, her faithful servant understood what was required of her, and smashed her large, vulgar weapon into Pink Pearl's fragile little body.

 

And Pink Diamond really wished she could say that every blow hurt as if she were undergoing them herself, but she was painfully aware that it was not her thin little form splayed out on the ground, nor the splinters of her face falling before her former master's feet.

 

Pink Diamond herself hadn't been touched – White did never strike her, but oh, how she loved to destroy every single thing she had ever cared about, how she excelled at making her wish she was in pieces!

And yet she knew of the banal insufficiency of her pointless, pitiful feelings, how no amount of feeling sorry for herself would ease the suffering of her friend or the pain she would have to endure solely because of her.

She felt so filthy for even hurting, when an innocent gem was suffering so much worse on her behalf; Right there, she could have begun to hate herself for even existing, and for being the same kind of creature as her cruel, unflinching tormentor towering high above them both, with her hollow heartless smile and that almost gleeful look in her eyes as she beheld the tiny servant gem pinned down beneath Grey Agate's boots.

Knowing that she would do well to anticipate her master's wishes, the Agate inspected her handiwork, and, once she had ascertained that its results should satisfy her ruler, reached for the smaller gem's shoulder and pulled her brusquely to her feet, though she could not keep upright.

Perhaps she was no longer fully conscious, which was a mercy, all things considered.

And there was another: Her gemstone appeared undamaged.

But this is where all benedictions ended.

Her once beautiful face was a wreck, a maze of deep spiderweb cracks and dripping, translucent liquid.

One of her vision spheres had burst open like an egg.

A ghastly sight all on its own, even without the much-compounded horror of seeing it inflicted on the face of her best friend.

But all White Diamond had to say about it was:

“Ah Pink... just look what you made me do.”

She seemed more disgusted than anything else.

 

“My Diamond. Shall I go ahead and dissipate her form?”

What she was actually asking was if White Diamond felt that quite enough suffering had been inflicted. The agate could have poofed Pink Pearl with the first strike if that had been the point of the exercise.

Instead, she had diligently inflicted just as much damage as her little form could take without breaking, nothing more, nothing less.

The finishing blow would almost come as an act of mercy at this point, or one last, painful blow meant to ensure that Pink Pearl would continue to serve her decorative function, as if that was all that been impacted by these blows, as if all that could be objectionable about this horrid, undeserved ordeal she had to endure was that she was no longer pretty – oh what a silly, trivial, shallow consideration, but even that was not quite unfeeling enough for White Diamond's grand design:

“Don't bother. There's no need. I don't think we'll have any more need for that one...”

And Pink Diamond had not dared to move from her place, knowing that it would be futile in the presence of her creator and result only in calling down further punishment, but with this implication in the room, she could not possibly have remained silent.

“What do you mean, no more need? What are you going to do with her?!”

 

White Diamond looked at her like she had just voiced something ludicrous and obtuse.

“She'll be disposed of, obviously. No more Pearl for you until you learn to behave yourself.”

She spoke fairly casually, like she was merely somewhat miffed and out of patience for Pink's antics, but as far as the younger Diamond was concerned, the sky of her little world was coming crashing down on her.

In hindsight she would come to wonder why she was ever surprised – they had been awful to her a great many times, and she had taken it all with little else but soft, apologetic whimpers. They had to target someone else, someone who had unarguably been innocent before she would wise up to the boundless extent of their cruelty.

“No please! Pearl did nothing wrong! It was all me! Please! If you want to punish me that's fine. If you want to take her away from me, that's fine, too! But don't do anything to her! Can't you just give her to someone else or something?!”

 

“Now how could I possibly do that? You must understand that she was made specifically for you. Everything about her was tailored to your needs – so there's no other gem in the empire whom she could fit with as perfectly as she does with you. Without you, her existence is without a purpose... and you, my dear, have not been behaving yourself.”

“PLEASE!”

Grey Agate was quite shocked at the contradictory sight before her; Never did she even think it possible that she might see a Diamond begging on her knees, even if it was the youngest and smallest one – and least of all over a Pearl of all things.

“PLEASE White! I'll do anything... anything you want, just please don't hurt her anymore! PLEASE!” She was in tears at this point, her whole face was a puffy, undignified mess.

Later she would lament how close she had come to getting her effusions on the wounds of her fallen friend, how close she had been to mending the deep gashes that would never quite heal.

But at the time, she had simply not known that she had that power – she felt like she had no power at all, as helpless as she had ever been. At least if this violence had been directed at her, she could have chosen how to bear it, and perhaps, she could have remained defiant or pleaded her way out of it.

But no concoction of Pink Diamond's mind could possibly have helped Pink Pearl.

All she could do was beg.

“Please White!” she pleaded between sobs. “If you ever cared for me at all-- Even just the tiniest little bit... please don't hurt her anymore!”

 

White Diamond merely shook her head. “Oh Starlight... aren't you getting a little bit too old to be this attached to your playthings?

But fine. Since it's you, I will make a single exception. The things you make me do, Pink... ”

Grey Agate was not insignificantly startled by that.

“So, she can stay with me?”

And for a moment, Pink dared to think that maybe, things wouldn't be so bad, that someone she had thus far loved as part of her family couldn't possibly be capable of such a heinous act-

“Stars, no! I'd love to let you keep her, but if I did, you'd never learn your lesson...”

“But you said-”

“If you want her to stay in service so badly, I shall take her as my own.”

And though that sounded like mercy, though it was spoken as if White meant for it to be mercy, Pink couldn't help the sudden sense of dread that flared up in the pit of her stomach.

The younger three Diamonds had been assigned a Pearl not long after they emerged, as it befitted their status, but White – White had never wanted nor needed one...

She'd been around since before there were Pearls. Since before there was anything apart from herself...

But despite her encroaching desperation, Pink tried to urge herself to hope – Pearl would still be around after all, right? She'd simply be working for White is all. Opening doors for her or whatever – and considering how rarely White went outside that should be quite an easy job to do. Sure, White might be very strict, and, Pink Pearl could be a little clumsy sometimes, not unlike her Diamond, but – At least they should still be able to see each other during official functions, right? Or whenever else all four of them would be required to be together... right?

Right?

“I can see this working, actually, now that I think of it...” White Diamond mused as if the gem whose fate she was discussing wasn't still hanging in her Agate's grasp with her face smashed in. “Don't you think she matches me a little bit, Starlight?”

 

Pink Diamond said nothing. The surreal sight before her, this sheer callousness coming from someone she had once admired... it boggled her mind.

Grey Agate was not so speechless:

“Shall I destroy her form after all, then?”

“Nah. You might as well leave her like this. It will serve as a good reminder to everyone, don't you think? Of all the unpleasant mishaps that can happen when one forgets their place...”

Then, she turned to Pink Diamond.

“But alas, I have no doubt that you must have spoiled her beyond all remedy, as you seem to do with just about anything... So I hope you'll understand that I'll have to make a few... adjustments before I can make use of her.”

And that's when the light burst forth from behind her eyes.

 

 

(Later, after she had met and exchanged thoughts with individuals such as Garnet and Bismuth, she would know to classify this moment as yet another example of homeworld's callous disregard for life -

If life, on its own, had no value, and only it's purpose mattered at all, it was not surprising that they felt justified in inflicting all sorts of agonies upon their lives and their feelings in the name of that very purpose – especially on poor little Pink Pearl, who hadn't been considered to hold much importance in the greater scheme of things.

 

But at the time, Pink Diamond had no other framework by which to understand what had transpired than the one she had been given: That she was supposed to be a leader, and that she had led the first person entrusted to her command to this horrid, grisly fate, all because of her. Because she ruined everything she touched, as White had so helpfully informed her...

 

And even once her mind knew better, her heart would never quite manage to un-believe it.)

 

 

“What has she done with her?!”

Blue Diamond didn't know how to answer this – She wasn't used to seeing Pink this enraged, not engaged in such open unapologetic defiance.

Even Yellow had privately agreed that White's actions had been a little bit... excessive. She could understand her confiscating Pink's pearl, but was there really a need to parade her around like that? And it's not like White had ever come out and explained to them in detail just how exactly her powers worked.

“Well, she's White's pearl now... So White is free to with her however she pleases...”

At first, Blue had been inclined to comfort her (and Pink maintained some hope for her because she had sounded uncomfortable), but as the days went on, she had continued to make herself absolutely impossible. This was her worst tantrum yet.

“Oh quit making a fuss! If you could only behave yourself for a while, you'd get a new one in no time!”

“A- A new one? You think that's what I want? Pearl was my best friend! No one will ever replace her! I don't ever want another one, not forever and ever and ever!”

 

“Well, you'll have to get another one eventually. As it befits your status.”

Status? Befitting? Seriously?

Pink had thought that at least Blue would understand her. She still had her original Pearl, the same one she had received in her youth and, to an extent, been raised with. Ever sentimental, Blue had opted to keep her, even if she had developed a few quirks over the years such as a love for drawing pictures. After all, she still performed her assigned duties exactly as she was supposed to, with great attention to proper decorum just as Blue would have it. She'd even found her some application for her drawings, because, why not?

Pink didn't know how many Yellow had gone through – she'd only known the one for as long as she could remember, but she'd heard her mentioning how her first one had perished in an enemy raid on one of her early conquests. Yellow had of course been too concerned with attaining her strategic objectives to go back for her before it was too late...

But even she wasn't a complete stickler for the rules – she allowed Yellow Pearl to make herself useful in ways that went beyond the typical applications of a Pearl, because, when would she ever complain about too much usefulness or too good a service? And she'd never really cared about the details of formalities to begin with, always cutting off her subjects when they sang her praises – it was almost mean, really, especially now that Pink was beginning to think that they praised her only because if they didn't, they might end up like poor, poor Pink Pearl...

A lot of gems were attached to, or appreciative of their tools and spaceships, and that didn't mean that they actually cared about them as one would for a person.

Yellow and Blue were different from White alright, they didn't bring her horrible attitude into everything they did. They could act somewhat civil among themselves and those who didn't oppose them, it was very much possible to have a good working relationship with them. Theirs was the banal, compartmentalized evil of those who could do horrid things because it was part of their job, or expected in their society, and then turn back to their ordinary little lives, as if the victims of their terror didn't have loved ones just like them...

Out of the three, White was certainly the viler horror, an uncompromising, unyielding creature who couldn't suffer anything good to live – But one doesn't begrudge the storm on the horizon; One merely avoids it.

And without people like Yellow and Blue to serve as their enforcers, how much damage would people like White really be able to inflict upon this world?

 

“You think you can do anything to anyone, do you?”

“Pink, let it go. Do you want to get locked in the tower again?”

“You even think you can do anything to me.”

That's enough!”

 

 

“I see! So you're just gonna lock me away again so you don't have to deal with me, right, Yellow? I bet you wish I'd just shut up so you'd never have to listen to me at all!”

Exasperated, Yellow Diamond paused to massage her temples.

“I'm doing this because I have better things to do than to deal with your tantrums, and if you ever stopped to think before you act and consider anyone besides yourself, you would have thought of that already.

If you won't act as it befits you, at least let me do my part! You're not the only one who has even been asked to make sacrifices, you know? This is what White expects of all of us.”

This, if anything, just added fuel to the fire of Pink's ire.

“What- White?! Who cares about White! What has White ever done for us? You should know better than anyone that she doesn't care about us! She doesn't care about me, she doesn't care about Blue, and she certainly doesn't care about you! You think she'll care about you if you try to be like her and do all this stuff for her, but you know what?

She never will!

Stop trying to be like White! You're nothing like White, and you never will be!”

 

“I... know.” she uttered, her gaze averted, her voice suddenly quiet, her rage wiped off her face by a dried-up, pained expression.

And like that, she locked the door, leaving Pink alone in the dark.

 

...

 

“Say Yellow...” Blue would remark, after yet another confrontation that ended with her disciplining Pink rather harshly.

“Don't you think we're perhaps...being too hard on her?“

Yellow had just stood back during most of the altercation, with her back turned and her shoulder blades arranged so as to look very disappointed.

“She'll have to learn to do her part, just as we did. The sooner she understands that, the easier it will be for her. We're not doing her a favor if we let her think it could be otherwise...”

 

“You're far too soft on her. Even you, Yellow.” White would conclude the one time they succeeded in bringing up the subject to her. “If this keeps up then, well... I don't know what may become of our poor little Starlight... And you wouldn't like to be responsible for that, now would you?”

 

...

 

Of course, her newly-acquired Pearl gave White yet another excuse not to show up where she didn't want to, often sending that pitiable creature in her stead.

The cracks in her face closed up with time, but they left marks that never faded.

Though they never knew for sure, Yellow and Blue had come to suspect that it was her in there – They knew her voice and her gestures.

Far be it from them to guess why she felt the need to act out the part, to play the role of a Pearl like she felt it ought to be played in some sort of macabre stageplay that much outshone Pink Pearl's own, often lackluster performance, but she was far too comfortable on her throne, and far too direct and unreserved in her way of ordering them around, as only she would dare.

 

If the other royal Pearls had known that they had sometimes stood ready in the presence of what was essentially an extension of their supreme ruler, it may have been more than they could take – Even just under the assumption that it was simply Pink Pearl after being subjected to some horrific unspeakable fate, they made sure to give her a wide berth.

 

 

Pink and White were... not speaking anymore.

Or at least, not more often than they had to – if White felt the need to talk at them for a bit about something, none of the younger Diamonds would have had any choice but to listen to her, but if they wanted to speak to her, well, she had never much valued their input, and she wasn't about to start now.

Yet, it was a bit disconcerting, considering how Pink once used to cherish any opportunity to spend time with their elusive ruler, always eager to know more about her – Or that's what Blue thought when it appeared to her as if Pink had been avoiding White for quite some time now.

Yellow merely remarked that Pink still got to see White a lot more than either of them ever did, and usually for messing up, too.

 

...

 

At about three-thousand years old, Pink Diamond was a sullen, malcontent youth with a face like sour fruit and full, cerise lips that were seldom ever smiling.

Of course, they would only remember the good moments, those to their liking, and imagine her laughter haunting empty corridors where it had not been heard for a long, long time.

And looking back in anger, she would only see the screams, the dark, and the silence.

She would stomp through the corridors of wherever she had been dragged to, looking for something to occupy her attention and alleviate her stewing, simmering boredom, and woe to anything in her way.

Only when she heard Bismuth remarking about some upper crusts smashing things up with impunity since they knew they wouldn't have to clean it up would this come to add more fuel to the fires of her self-hatred.

But she had enough of that already.

She was no longer had the bright eyes of a hopeful child, but still lacked the embittered wisdom and maternal airs of Earth's beloved, charming ruler (or its beloved charming rebel leader).

 

Eventually, her disgruntled steps led her to a control room where Yellow Diamond was, as always, absorbed in her work.

She looked overwrought, really, how many days might it have been since she'd last risen from that chair and put her fingers away from those holoscreens?

There she was, listlessly typing away, and yet still intent on ignoring Pink. She'd brought her along to one of her colonies, but in all the time they had been here, Pink had barely seen anything of her in all that time.

Good thing too, because the younger Diamond was starting to hate the sight of her.

She must think she was so much better than her, even more so than Blue did – Yellow was everything a Diamond was supposed to be. Everyone listened to her, everyone respected her, everyone feared her -

Of how easy it must be to be her. Or how grand, being so great at everything she was supposed to be! No wonder that she felt she was too good for her and Blue, so much that she'd rather slave away at her machines, and always, always ignoring her -

 

She was not the company that Pink wanted, but she was the only one she was going to get.

Who knew? Maybe some part of her still hoped that one day, she might respect her, but that hope grey more and more distant each day.

She only ever yelled, and scolded her, and grabbed her to drag her around.

But Pink couldn't stand to be alone... it made her feel all restless and wound-up.

“Oi! Yelloooow! Play with me! Why won't you play with me? I said PLAY WITH ME!”

 

(Predictably, she wound up reprimanded and punished.)

 

 

Pink Diamond eventually received a new Pearl.

Legend said that White visited one of the kindergartens on one of her most abundant worlds, startling some kindergartener nearly half to death.

Not for tens of thousands of millennia had such a low-ranked gem laid eyes on her, but this was not a task that she trusted anyone else with.

The facilities didn't even have rooms big enough to hold her – She ended up sitting on the edge of a cliff.

She had brought with her a long list of precise requirements and specifications, along with a fresh vial of her essence.

“Then you've finally decided to have one made for yourself? We thank you for this honor, m-my Diamond...”

“For me? Stars, no! She's for Pink Diamond!”

“I beg your Pardon! It's just when I saw those specifications, I thought they were yours... I don't presume to question your impeccable judgment, but I don't understand... Wouldn't it be more suitable for Pink Diamond to provide the raw material herself?”

“Oh no! That would be most unsuitable! I don't expect one such as you to understand, but Pink Diamond is a bit of a... difficult case. Her involvement would only mess things up. But she is my dear little Starlight, so I need you to understand that this undertaking is quite important to me. She must have the most perfect, the most beautiful, the obedient Pearl ever created! The most ideal image of a Pearl, do you understand? Do not displease me.

I will accept only the very best to make my little Starlight happy... And who knows, this one might actually be a good influence on her...”

 

And perfect she was.

Where Pink Pearl had marveled at Pink's tricks or joined in in her games, this new one only spoke when spoken to, always orderly, always on point, always precise, always finicky, always asking her what she wanted to do.

Sometimes, when she was with her, Pink felt like she might as well be alone, like she might as well be talking to a computer.

On some days it scared her and on others, it made her so very, very angry... but she could never resent the poor creature for it. It wasn't her fault that she was like this. Pink didn't know the details but it figured that White has done this to her, somehow. That she had made her to be this way, which made her yet another innocent being to be mangled because of Pink.

She'd tried to talk with her, of course, to prod her to see if there was somehow a person in there somewhere, someone with their own wonderful qualities who was actually nothing like White, but so far, she hadn't been very successful.

Sometimes, when Pink Diamond looked at that Pearl, she found herself wishing she had never been made. At least if she weren't here, neither this Pearl here nor Pink Pearl would ever have suffered...

 

...

 

Even Yellow Diamond could not help but notice that Pink had been... brooding, as of late.

Morose, sulky, and just all around unlike herself.

It had started sometime after White had confiscated her Pearl.

She had never been all that obedient or patient to begin with, but never like this.

Sometimes it seemed like she was alternating between rejecting everything about her role, and loudly demanding that she be given the privileges of her station in a manner that could no nothing other than cement how very far she was from being ready, though she was already past the age when Blue had been given free reign over her own worlds.

Yellow was beginning to worry about her.

Just a few cycles ago, she had shown up in one of her control rooms – unruly as she always was these days – and stomped on the armrests of her throne, claiming that she deserved her own colonies, and everything else that befitted a member of the authority.

At the time, Yellow had naturally blown her off, since she had been acting like a brat.

It was only when she'd been done with her work and making her way to the warp pad that she had come by a smashed mirror and some seriously trashed floor tiles and wall panes, and in one terrible moment of lucid awareness, Yellow wondered if they would ever be able to make her fall in line without ruining everything that had been good and lovable about her.

If this kept up, she might end up just like the rest of them, blackened with sin and bursting with rage...

 

Yellow was not one to dwell on such things – but likewise, she could never stand to see her loved ones in distress without feeling the immediate urge to do something about it – and whenever Yellow had been feeling discontented or frustrated, she had usually found solace in her work. If Pink was bored, wouldn't it be right to find her something to do?

By the time she reached the warp pad, she had outwitted her own better judgment with a web of self-serving rationalization – Perhaps Pink could not be expected to mature until she was given actual responsibilities, and wasn't it a good sign if she was asking for a colony, even if she wasn't doing it in the most appropriate of ways?

Shouldn't they encourage her, if she was finally showing interest in her duties as a Diamond? Conveniently, her scouts had just recently located another promising world, a strange place covered in so much water that it sometimes just fell from the sky as precipitation. There were quite a few organics to be cleared away, but nothing much resembling civilization apart from a few primitive buildings scattered across a handful of dank river valleys – and the soil was ideal for growing quartzes. If Pink wanted her own army, this planet would provide everything she might need to make them herself.

She could make this world her capital, and, once her armies were assembled, she could set out from there to collect her own selection of worlds in whatever way she desired. Indeed, the prospect of creating her own gems en masse might make it quite easy to enthuse her about it, for if there was one aspect of her duties as a Diamond that Pink had never had a problem with, or even relished in, it was her ability to create new life. Even White had to admit that Pink had a gift for it; She'd been able to come up with those defensive-specced quartzes of hers at a far younger age than Yellow or Blue were when they'd first created their own, all-new gem type - and she should easily be able to get a good batch of those out of that little blue planet. 

White might not be convinced right away, but Yellow doubted that she would put up much of a fight as long as herself and Blue vowed to intervene and take responsibility in case anything went wrong. She always had a soft spot for Pink, after all, and in the end, it was Yellow's planet – she could give it to Pink if she damn well pleased.

 

Yellow Diamond would come to regret that decision for the rest of her life.

 

 

Pink Diamond's heart might have gone cold, but it did never, ever turn hard.

But when she finally encountered something that incensed its passion, well-

Blue dismissed her.

Yellow scolded her.

And White just laughed in her face.

(A wicked, empty sound)

 

 

________________________

 

A/N: This turned out almost nothing like I planned it but that's probably for the better.

Maybe I can funnel some of my scrapped, fluffier ideas into some additional fanfic. Or plopp them into a bonus chapter at the end when I no longer need to worry about the proper flow and impact.

 

I also read somewhere that Rebecca had the idea for whom to cast as BD and YD from hearing their VAs perform the exact same song in completely different ways, idk if it inspired or fit their preexisting idea of the contrast between them, but I thought it might be fun to throw in something like this, mostly because it provided an opportunity to illustrate Pink's and White's contrasting worldviews.

 

Look forward to the next chapter, in which Blue Diamond shall faint like a victorian heroine. 

 

Chapter Text

Part III: Interference, Act III: “Pray for us sinners”

 

But as for me
I can only be forgiven if I'm givin' myself up to you
On a silver serving tray
Must I bare myself to the stabbing of your knife and gnashing teeth
While our lovely company appears so entertained?

Ah, yes, good etiquette demands
I remain soft and accessible in the face of my own ending
So I will try to be discreet
Through my full-blown implosion
I'll stay golden and retreat into my sweetest fantasy



The one where you are crying
And I don't do anything at all


My world has turned so cold but I won't cry
Cause icicles don't soften when they die
So why should I?
Why should I?


Oh, icicles don't soften when they die
They sharpen into sabers
And they stab you in the eye

-from The Scary Jokes' “Icicles”

 

 

...

 

 

On the observation deck of a large space station, Pink Diamond and her Pearl stood arm in arm, looking out at a nebula full of glittering, newborn stars, spread out among multicolored layers of star dust, the same origin that tied them all together, that connected them even to the humans on earth and the many other forms of life swarming life that populated the universe.

Between the two of them, they shared a secret.

No one else knew, none among the thousands of gems working and living of this outpost could have had the slightest inkling of a suspicion, but they were here to take one last, good look at the stars, before parting with them forevermore.

For this one last visit, they would tend to the affairs of the empire, and they would continue to do so for a few more weeks back on Earth, but then, it would all finally be over.

And if Pink had any regrets about the decision that was set in her mind, it would have been for Pearl's sake: She so loved space travel, and now, she would have to give it up forever for the sake of their plan.

Not that they had really been able to see that much of the cosmos to begin with – when they had accompanied the other Diamonds on their ventures, their journeys usually took them to advanced-stage colony worlds where not much of their original ecosystems remained – There's no way that Yellow would have allowed her anywhere near the front lines. In hindsight, Pink could only surmise that she must not have wanted her to see her ugly deeds, to keep her in the dark about what the authority really was. A few times, Blue had permitted them to come along on diplomatic ventures or the occasional summits where they would encounter the leaders of other intergalactic powers, and for brief moments, the two of them had been able to glimpse what life might be like on other world, but only ever briefly, and only from afar. Blue did not consider her very 'diplomatic', in other words, a liability.

Many times she had wished that she could just mingle with all these strange, strange creatures and get to know their ways in greater detail, but on the few occasions where she'd gotten any chance to do so, when she had perhaps been sent to sit with the consorts, pack-members and adjuncts of the other alien diplomats, the room would often fall deathly silent whenever Pink had dared to approach them on their tables.

She had been distraught when she realized that they were afraid of her, but now that she had seen the Earth, she could no longer deny that they had every right to be.

When she told Blue, her only reaction was snobbish, haughty laughter: “It wouldn't surprise me if they were afraid of us. They couldn't even begin to comprehend us with their tiny minds!”

Pink would miss nothing about this place, but Pearl... she wasn't telling Pink, but even someone as obtuse as her couldn't misread the wistful looks she had been sending up on the stars when they were marching together and the treetops would part to reveal the heavens. Sometimes, she even directed her glance in the direction of homeworld's galaxy.

Pink would miss nothing about that place, and if anything, Pearl should have even more reasons to never want to see it again, but even so, she did miss it, and she would certainly miss space travel. She said that though it was an awful place with many issues, not every single thing there had been horrible, after all, it had been their home.

Pink never really felt that way , but, if Pearl did, who was Pink to tell her that her feelings were wrong?

More than anything else, this whole farewell trip, and the visit to homeworld that would conclude it, had been more for Pearl's sake than anything else.

But now, it was nearing its end, as they were soon to depart from their penultimate stop, and Pink found the smaller gem seeking refuge in her arms.

She couldn't help but note that Pearl was still more reluctant to hold her when she was in this form, still flinching with every movement as if she were doing something wrong – Pink had offered to transform, but Pearl had understood that it would be unwise to do so in such a place. She almost did it anyways, but she had to concede that the smaller gem was probably right, as she always was; They must not risk being discovered so soon before the finish line.

Even so, Pink Diamond could not be dissuaded from holding her – whatever would she do if it weren't for her?

But she'd gotten so used to feeling Pearl's hair against her cheek; This arrangement felt foreign and awkward. The smaller gem barely reached past her midsection, so there was nothing to block her view of the panoramic window behind her, or her pale reflection in its pane, complete with those telltale eyes -

And if that face was hateful to her beloved, she would gladly erase it from this world forever.

With no more 'Pink Diamond', there would be no point in completing the colony. With no more 'Pink Diamond' for them to be loyal to, even the rest of her court would surely join the rebellion, (or so she thought) and never again would Pearl be forced into her old role, not even for keeping up appearances...

Perhaps naively, Pink had thought that they could actually be happy.

Perhaps, she had wanted this a little bit too much, and allowed herself to be blinded by her own desire to put the past behind her.

The promise of their rapidly approaching escape had made these last few week's worth of duties light upon her shoulders. It was easy to grin and bear them now that she knew that she would never endure them again, especially since she and Pearl now had each each other to lean on and give each other strength.

“Soon, love, soon, soon it will all be over-”

But if that was so, why did Pearl's familiar form feel so stiff in her embrace?

Why were her eyes full of tears?

Pink had told her insistently that she didn't have to come with her, again and again, and each time, she had told Pink that she wanted to stay with her... and why wouldn't she want to? With Garnet and the others, she was admired as an icon of rebellion; she was their strategist, their engineer, one of their fiercest fighters. She, too, could bear the restraints of her old life less and less after each taste of freedom.

Pearl had told her how many times she had dreamed of running away, so surely, she must want to leave as well, right? For her own sake, on not just because Pink would be down there – surely she had asked her enough times whether she really wanted this, reminded her time and time again that there would be no turning back, and that they would have to keep this a secret forever, and each time, Pearl had assured her that she was proud to be the keeper of those things she would entrust to no one else...

Once, Pink would never even have thought of doubting this.

Once, she had nothing but pure admiration for Pearl – the one who had suggested their venture in the first place, the one who had shown and taught her so many things, and made her journey possible on each of its steps, the one who acted as the voice of reason to her at times shortsighted exuberance...

If one of them had known what they were doing, Pink was sure that it must have been Pearl.

But that was before. Before Pearl had insisted on throwing herself in front of her, over and over again, into the blades of opponents she could have easily shrugged off, despite her pleas to the contrary, to the point that they'd had frequent arguments about it. And what could she do? Forbid her? Who was she to forbid her anything?

Sure, she had her secret to maintain, as Pearl would frequently argue, but, that couldn't possibly be more important than her life... and yet that's what Pearl had argued. That she was “too important” to be “anywhere near battle”... But how could she ask anyone to fight for her if she wasn't right there with them, putting her life on the line as one of them? She was doing this to protect them all – and even that was often more than she could manage.

This war had already gone on for so long. She couldn't stand to see any more of the people she cared about being hurt because of her. She thought that, if she kept the reins of both sides in her hands, she could direct the flow of events so as to minimize casualties on both sides. Her underlings were not to blame – they were simply doing their best to fulfill what was asked of them, just as she once had.

The whole debacle with Bismuth had been the last nail in the coffin. She had been one of her best friends... Pearl had been so fond of her – and yet, it had ended up like this. Pink just hadn't known what to do. She couldn't give away her secret, but she also couldn't let her go and slaughter the other side indiscriminately – these were the gems she was trying to sway to their side, the ones she wanted to save...

They had simply been brought up to believe all these poisonous lies – Even among the so called “upper crusts”, how many of them were like herself or Sapphire? Trapped in their path because they had never been shown an alternative?

She had hoped to protect everyone – but instead, everything was slipping through her fingers...

But Bismuth had been right about one thing. This was all because of the Diamonds. In particular, because of Pink Diamond. If she weren't there, then surely, Pearl wouldn't feel like she had to throw away her life, and neither would her former soldiers, right? Garnet would get to be together. The Earth would be safe, all all the off-colors in their ranks, all of those who had shed their original purposes would be able to live there in peace, and maybe, just maybe, there would even be a place for 'Rose Quartz' to join in this garden of peace.

Surely... this would end everything, right?

And yet she reached her arms down in desperation, leaning down to find the soft haven of Pearl's lips -

But when she did, they remained pressed together, even moved out of her way as the azure eyes that meant the world to her averted their gaze.

So far, she had been coping with it, but this seemed to have crossed some invisible line that, for some reason, still existed though it should have lost all its power a long time ago.

Pearl had been anxious before, but that wasn't uncommon for her, and often, she would end up very grateful that Pink had pushed her to get over her reservations, perhaps giving her more credit than she deserved, for it was still Pearl who had done all these amazing things -

But this was different. Her body was hard and frozen in her grasp, her muscles tense, her expression clearly uncomfortable.

“I-Is this wise, my Diamond?”

And again, again, she was calling her that, though Pink had asked her many times not to do that – at least when they were alone, couldn't she simply call her 'Pink'?

But she never did, though she never had any problem calling her 'Rose'.

Desperate to remedy this sacrilegious iniquity, she had taken to refer to Pearl with high honors, as one might their superior, and once, that had been sparked from pure adoration and the simple idea that one should return the favor if someone did something nice for you, but, if anything, it seemed even more important now, imbued with heavy obligation.

She might have found herself in a position where the other crystal gems looked up to her for answers, but as the leader of the rebellion, she wanted it understood that she served them, that she waged this war for their sake simply because she was in the position to do so, and she wouldn't be able to stand it any other way.

She wanted Pearl to feel important, to know that she had every right in the world to put her hands on her -

And yet, she was reluctant.

“But no one's here... I can't sense anyone nearby, either... It should be alright...

Unless... you don't want to?”

“Of course I want to!” Pearl replied, but they were hasty, fearful words served with a strained, nervous smile. “...if that's what you want!”

But she was trembling.

And who could blame her? How could she ask her to love the one to whom she had been given in bondage? If anything, her tendency to compartmentalize things was probably her way of separating the tender spring breeze of their love from the taint of their past. And Pink couldn't blame her, for she, too, wanted nothing more than to leave it behind her and never speak of it again.

But at the same time... She was standing right here, burning with her youthful passion and sparkling admiration, no matter what her name was, no matter what she looked like...

And Pearl couldn't see her. Didn't want her.

Not like this. Not this miserable hunk of carbon...

Not unless she pretended to be the heroic leader Pearl wanted her to be, even if she knew that she would never be able to, even if she felt like a lost, ridiculous little fool most of the time.

She had always suspected, but now she knew for sure.

Despite herself, there had been moments where she wanted to tell them the truth. They were her friends, the ones she wanted so much to have – Of course she longed to be understood by them. She'd tried to, by presented them with 'doctored' versions of her tale where she kept the gist of things the same, but reframed the narrative to make it seem like she had always been who she pretended to be.

With time, the ties of comradely and friendship had wormed their way past her walls, and she had almost believed that they were strong enough to withstand the weight of her truth.

But the tiny light of self-purification that desperately wanted to shine could not conquer the profundity of her personal darkness, and after what happened with Bismuth, she was convinced that she could never ever tell them, lest she end up butchered at the hands of her own best friends.

They would surely kill her, and grind her shards into fine dust beneath their heels - or they would attempt it, and who's to say what she might do when forced to protect her measly little life?

And they would have every right in the world to want her dead...

 

 

Pink stood back up, loosening her grasp.

Paradoxically, Pearl almost seemed disappointed – no – uneasy, as if she feared... what exactly? Being abandoned? Even discarded, perhaps?

“Are you perhaps displeased with me, my Diamond?”

Good heavens! She never wanted to hear her say that again.

“No. Of course not. And what does it even matter what I think... I want you to be comfortable.”

She smiled, deliriously, with an azure blush spilled all over her face, as if this most basic show of respect was somehow touching.

Pink Diamond found no comfort in it... she only felt more affirmed in her conviction of what she must do.

Surely, no one would ever miss some cursed, wicked, little creature whom Pearl couldn't even bring herself to kiss....

 

 

(Indeed, who could have missed her?)

 

They flew apart in an instant – and it was Pink Diamond who has pushed Pearl aside with both her arms, fixating her with the same, serious, commanding gaze she might have used to deliver a warning in the heat of battle. “Blue's coming. I can feel it. Take cover. ”

Cover, in this case, meant that Pearl was banished to her allotted place beside the door, while Pink was left to brood by herself, doing her best to look inconspicuous and remain calm when her heart resented the interruption and the sensation of Pearls smooth, crystalline shoulders still lingered on her forearms.

Oh why must they continue to torture her so, just as they tormented everyone else unfortunate enough to cross their path? Or why couldn't they ever leave her and her friends in peace, and mind their own damned business?

 

At last, the door opened, and Blue stepped inside. Pink would have to grin and bear it, just one last time, for everyone's sake, and then it would be over...

Blue Diamond shuffled inside the room, rather slowly, with her long, heavy robes dragging behind her.

She seemed to have something weighing on her heart, and perhaps Pink even noticed it, in the hesitation when she stepped inside, or the slight tension in the fingers she had clasped together and how her demeanor seemed subdued even by her standards -

but most likely, she did not, and even if she did, she must have assumed that she was upset for some frivolous reason or another, ever the princess-on-the-pea.

She stepped closer to the window, taking her sweet time to pick out her words as Pink just kept staring out to space, wishing that she would finally get it over with.

“Hello Pink...” she greeted, very softly, without much strength or volume behind it. “Have you been stargazing?”

“Am I not even allowed to do that anymore? Have you come to tell me that it is not proper?” and despite the defiance she'd felt welling up inside her when the door first opened, her voice was no longer one of a petulant youth, but of a tired, bitter lady who kept a destabilizer hidden on her workbench, since she was, after all, deep in enemy territory.

“Of course not...”

“Then what are you doing here?”

Blue only sighed at this, and seated herself at her side, close enough to the window that was wide enough to frame even her in the iridescent shine of the nebula.

Leaning down to lie on the ornate floor tiles, propping herself up on one arm, her face was on eye level with Pink's.

She offered her her other arm, but the smaller gem was stiff in her embrace, even as Blue pressed her forehead against her cotton-candy locks.

The hand that remained on the smaller gem's back after the whole thing was done was intended as a gesture of support, but it was not welcome there – not that the elder Diamond took much notice of that.

All Pink could think of were the many, many gems that must have been shattered at the wink of that hand, gems that were just like Garnet, Bismuth or Pearl once – how she must have condemned them all from up high, the dust never touching her palms –

The poisonous thorns of the truth strangled anything that might once have blossomed in their place, leaving only the memories of all the times Pink had felt the burn of the searing light she called forth from her fingertips.

Did she even know what they called her, among the defectors from her own ranks, particularly the ones that used to find themselves at the lower ends of the hierarchy?

They called her the Ice Queen – the snobbish, sadistic murderer that even someone as fierce and strong as Garnet could not mention without trembling.

 

And the Ice Queen now took a moment to settle herself, shaking her head in a measured backward motion to shake her veil loose and just generally arranging herself on her spot before she chose to speak again: “The View here really is beautiful... I thought so too since the very first time I came here, but alas I haven't had much time to enjoy it as of late... I'm glad I found you here....” she mused with a drawn, melancholy smile that did not quite reach her eyes.

“Sometimes it feels like you and I were the only ones who ever understood these kinds of things... For all their strong points, White and Yellow have never quite known to take the time to stop and smell the roses... I can't imagine how they ever got by without us...” that last bit was even punctuated with something of a tired chuckle, but even then, it must have finally been dawning on her that her idle musings weren't accomplishing their intended goal, not that it made her shut up. “I think if the two of us weren't here to tell them to slow down once in a while, they might go stark raving mad... don't you think so as well?”

“How would I know. I wasn't there when you weren't.”

Pink replied because it would be less trouble than staying silent, but there was half an accusation in there, how it wasn't exactly her fault that she wasn't as experienced as they were, all the old, trivial gripes that paled before all that she knew now, and yet added to them like the cherry on top of a cake.

“I suppose you wouldn't, right...” And Blue must have sensed at least some of her resistance, because her response actually sounded somewhat resigned, and paused to gather her thoughts before she spoke again, leaving a moment of silence and starlight hanging between them.

Clearly, homeworld's ultramarine ambassadress thought the time was ripe for a change of strategies, some other ploy to get her way, like Pink's feelings were merely a dashboard full of buttons to be pressed – so there was another attempt.

Her very presence was suffocating.

“You did well today, at the function... Yellow thought so, too, she told me as much. I really think there was something truly inspirational about your speech. Your court in particular was really into it, even in these trying times... I think you're really getting the hang of it... Now if only we could get these troublesome rebels disposed of, we'd have nothing left to worry about...” again, she tried in vain to inject some good cheer into the awkward, empty conversation, a task for which she was, as one might figure, tragically ill-equipped – but her efforts would have been futile either way, for there was no chance that Pink Diamond would have delighted in the destruction of her friends.

She made for a rather tragic clown when she was barely convincing herself and longing for some relief of her own – even without either of their psychic powers, her demeanor was so transparent that even Pink could see her through – and what nerve of hers, what impertinence, that she should be forced to endure her.

Once, she might have run off, covered her ears and sought out some distraction to numb her third eye – but now, alas, Pink knew better than to get her on her case so soon before the big day.

Pink didn't want to be sensing her presence or feeling her damned feelings, much less to feel the mass and definition of her form against her own, her silky hair and long dainty fingers –

What right did she have to resemble a person anymore, after all she had done?

How dare she be just the same as when Pink used to find comfort in her still, stone-pillar arms to which she would once come running when she was upset, how dare she speak with that mild, tired voice with which she had often conversed with her in their many hiding places scattered throughout the palace grounds, as if she were capable of mercy and gentleness, and how could her face look the same after Pink had come to know her true nature?

Once she had admired her – now, every shred that once contributed to her burnt-out illusions, every thorny shred of deception enraged her anew.

Why this nonsensical stage play? Pink already knew very well that she did not actually care, for if she did, she would not be capable of the things she did day in, day out, and she would not have been deaf to the futile pleas she no longer cared to repeat.

And yet, when she last expected it, the cutting radiance of reality cut straight through the curtains of the masquerade, piercing her straight in her center:

“...Pink...” Blue then addressed her, perhaps sensing that none of her attempts at conversation was bearing much fruit, at last baring what lay behind her previous indirections, the 'frivolous concern' she had been concealing in her chest:

“...is there something you haven't told us?”

The younger gem was stumped, wholly knocked out of her script.

For better or worse, Blue had always been the more sensitive one of the two, yes, easily thrown into low spirits, liable to be so overtaken with her inner concerns to feature in much of the greater world, prone to just swat thing away just because they upset her personally, but also, adept at picking up some of those subtle clues and gradations and formless understandings between people that Pink often struggled to grasp when they were not presented up straight to her face -

And she hated this, too, a manifold times more than she once envied for with all the ugly truths she now held inside of her, little could have terrified her more than the thought that someone might see her through.

At this point, the enormous, royal blue gem knew almost nothing of what there was to know about her, but she still undeniably held all advantages of one who had been there to observe her first steps – She'd have to be careful.

Cautious, guarded, resisting the urge to sneak a glance at Pearl or form too much of a fist, she turned around, her magic at her fingertips, ready to call forth her shield if worst came to worst.

And she was not so perceptive or thorough as to wonder in how far Blue Diamond might be taking note of her tensed limbs and furrowed eyebrows, or what she might be making of them, her mind did race through possible outcomes, seeing as she couldn't afford to panic and give herself away when her comrades were awaiting her return back on earth. For the most part, they believed that herself and Pearl had sneaked aboard the mothership for the purpose of gathering intelligence, which was not even completely a falsehood –  they had merely omitted just who they would be passing themselves off as behind enemy lines.

So in a sense, she was Pink Diamond pretending to be Rose Quartz pretending to be Pink Diamond, but however many masks she may have stacked on top of her face, she wasn't planning on shedding a single one at this time and place.

At this point, the most important part was that she wouldn't lose her nerve, after all, Blue hadn't been dangling some incriminating discovery over her head, nor was she ever the sort to play detective – rather she probably just had some vague sort of intuition or feeling free from any context that would allow her to even consider the truth, something subjective and unformed enough that she should be able to assuage it as long as she didn't lose her calm – after all, she was the useless little family disappointment, and as such, far beneath all suspicion.

And if there was one thing she had learned from spending her formative years around the rest of the authority, it would be the art of how to disappear completely from this world, how to vacate her own countenance in the blink of an eye at the sound of clicking heels approaching, leaving nothing but a picture perfect poker face.

When it came to keeping up appearances, she had all the practice she could possibly need.

They had taught her to deceive, bred her for conquest and tutored her in warfare, but little did they expect that they might find the wretched little dagger they had sharpened turned against themselves.

“What do you mean? You know I would never keep anything from you, Blue!”

Indeed, she took the bait, appearing almost relieved when presented with that meager facsimile of an affirmation, which, for a few moments, actually led Blue Diamond's smile to lose its strained, forced quality for an instant – but this emboldened her to proceed:

“Well, that's certainly good to hear, but I can't shake the impression that there must be something that's bothering you... you've been acting... a little distant since you returned from Earth. Not very much like yourself at all...

Yellow says I'm probably imagining things and that I should be glad that you're finally behaving yourself, but it's got me a little bit worried is all... Are you alright? This isn't because of the rebels, is it?”

Pink's gaze remained fixed straight ahead, at the starry void beyond.

“Did you ever wonder... that the rebels might be right? That maybe we're the ones in the wrong, and that all my gems and the Earth would be much better off if it weren't for me? What gives me any more right to rule over them than this 'Rose Quartz' does? What makes us so much better than them? How are we really any different?”

Something about seemed to startle Blue, for reasons beyond Pink's comprehension.

The elder Diamond rushed again to hold her younger companion against her face, but as usual, she paid no mind to the actual contents of her words.

“Oh Pink! Please don't you ever, ever think that! That filthy, degenerate traitor is nothing like you! Don't let her lunatic ravings get the better of you... Dear Stars, don't you even say anything like that ever again!”

“Alright.”, Pink answered, curtly. “Alright, Blue. I will never say that again.”

And she was halfway through another bitter musing about how Blue Diamond only ever seemed concerned with whatever she wanted to hear, when she spoke again, one quiet, somber, knowing little realization:

“Did something happen back on Earth?”

As a matter of fact, yes.

Somewhere back on that little Blue planet, there was a Bismuth contained in a bubble, betrayed by her own best friend, far, far away in what might as well have been a completely different person's life.

But for Blue to be the one to notice something 'off' about her was a transgression against so many assumed unwritten rules, across so many of Pink's mental compartments, that it hardly seemed possible.

There were things her friends didn't know about her, but at the same time, they knew a lot of all the things that she could not possibly have shown to the other Diamonds – Things integral to her being that they knew nothing of.

Blue had simply known her for longer, it was just as trivial as that.

No greater meaning about it...

And yet, there was a tiny little part of her that wanted to return Blue's affection, to come running into her arms as she used to when she was still fresh from the ground, all the times she had come to her crying so that she might make it all better -

But there was too much scorched earth, too much bad blood.

She would have to quell that part and curb it into silence,

for this was the curse of her existence: Peace was unattainable to her.

Her life, for her, must be won with violence, her freedom, for her, simply must stem from betrayal.

She had no choice but to kill part of herself, if she still hoped to keep any part at all.

She still leaned into the other Diamond's fingers because she thought it the wisest course of action, and hoped that Pearl would not see it if she seemed a little to sincere in her performance.

Let Blue think that she had provided a comfort; That would serve to get her off their case, but while she wrapped her arms around her fingers, her fuchsia lips gave no reply to her inquiries – For how could she have told Blue what she could not even tell Pearl?

And so, their hearts would pass each other by without ever truly touching.

 

“You know that you can tell me anything, right, Pink?”

She knew for a fact that she most certainly could not.

“I know that we have our differences, and that we might not always agree, but when it comes down to it, the three of us only want what's best for you... You know that, right?”

“If you say so.”

“Whatever is is, you can at least tell me and Yellow. White never has to find out. The two of us will always stand with you, no matter what...”

“You wouldn't understand. You never do.”

“So what of it? Even if I don't understand, what I want most of all in this world is for you to be happy...-”

And Blue Diamond truly meant it, every last word, every droplet of feeling, from the depths of her soul and the bottom of her heart –

But after all that had transpired between them, Pink could no longer believe her.

Any trust that had ever existed between them was long since broken and squandered.

 

….

 

Her visit back home was to conclude with one last, exuberant gala.

Gems from all over the empire had assembled in the capital, a who's who of the empire's brightest and best who had made their pilgrimage for the rare and exquisite opportunity to witness the full, unbridled splendor of the Great Diamond Authority, all gathered in one place.

To behold all four was said to be a spectacle without compare, and all who had ever been fortunate enough to witness it could have spoken of it for hours on end, never ceasing for their rapturous praise – they would tell the tale of Pink Diamond's irresistible charms, or reiterate how they had been inspired by Blue Diamond's moving grace. Thousands of years into the future, they would still shiver in awe of Yellow Diamond's powerful, commanding presence and struggle to wrap their little minds around the boundless perfection of the First One.

 

How little did they know what was transpiring behind the curtains.

Just a few heavy locked doors from the ballroom, the 'beloved, charismatic Pink Diamond' was shouting in displeasure, her tightly-balled fists held close to her frilly costume, with disgust and rage written all over her bubblegum-colored face.

She had been planning on holding her tongue until the end, but alas, her patience had deserted her first, for the same long laundry list of reasons had that led her to plot her grand escape in the first place – She had grown so thoroughly sick of this place and everything it represented, and now that she was turning her back on it, she finally saw clearer than ever how much she had loathed every part of it.

Perhaps some part of her had provoked the confrontation, just to finally get it over with, to know when the blow would be coming so she could prepare her (metaphorical) shields for it; Perhaps it was one last attempt to get them to feel what she felt, or just the same old predictable patterns that repeated as always until they had driven her to this point -

But she felt the pain deeper than she did when she was ignorant inside the the walls of her Eden, before she had tasted of knowledge or felt the weight of responsibility upon her shoulders and stained her hands with sins of her own.

Her tears flowed from a different place now; Her heart bled for all the life that had gone to waste under the grind-wheels of the empire....

 

And what of the 'rational, objective' Yellow Diamond? She was just irately shooting down all her objections, never taking a moment to listen, always going on about how useless and ridiculous she found Pink to be – all she seemed to care about was to get them all to shut up so that they could all put on their little performance and then let get back to her work.

No luck finding the 'merciful, gentle' Blue Diamond, either – there was only some prissy, haughty aristocrat who was absolutely unsympathetic and kept whining about how all this was inconveniencing her, and why Pink 'must always do this' as if she'd ever cared to acknowledge the answer.

As for White Diamond of the 'impeccable judgment', she was standing across the hall from Pink like a larger, meaner mirror image of her, shouting, screeching and gesticulating with abandon in all her glittering finery, her petite features plastered with disdain and disgust.

“Why you little...! You will do as I say, because I said so!”

“No I won't.”

“Yes you will!”

“No I won't!”

“Yes you will!”

“No I won't!”

“You will either SHUT YOUR MOUTH, or I will shut your mouth for you!

 

And privately, Blue and Yellow might even have agreed that White might have been somewhat excessive here, but as of now, Pink was the one who had insisted on provoking her for no reason, making problems for them all where there might have been none - and they would certainly have little luck convincing White to give it rest.

True to form, she was an uncompromising as ever, Pink was intent on acting especially impossible today, and neither of them could help herself from pressing the other's buttons, nay, it was as if they couldn't resist setting each other off, and woe to anyone foolish enough to try making them listen to reason.

 

It became increasingly apparent that the gala was going to fall through, which prompted further hysterics from Blue, and this was when Yellow's much over-strained patience finally gave way to unbridled frustration directed at the other three, who, of course, shot back about her own lack of composure, some comments about how she had technically been the first of the four to raise her voice, and questions of who, exactly, had appointed her as any sort of arbiter.

In short, the altercation had devolved into an all-out shouting match with no shortage of cutting remarks, most of them courtesy of White, since no one but Pink seemed willing to take any direct shots at her, though there was no shortage of frustration being exuded in her general direction.

Before long, Blue had buried her face in her hand and Yellow was ranting about the pointlessness of functions like these and how she'd rather be doing just about anything else.

 

Ultimately, something had to give, and it sure wasn't going to be White Diamond.

She was about to send them all to their rooms and conduct the entire gala by herself if need be, (it did not occur to her as strange to hold a function on the occasion of Pink Diamond's return to Earth without Pink Diamond) and raving about what pitiful displays they all made for when Pink preempted her:

“This is exactly why I've always hated everything about this place! I don't know why I ever came back here when I could have stayed on Earth!”

And with that, she turned and ran, making it out the door before any of the elder three had the time to react.

“Wait! Pink!” Blue called after her, forgetting whatever she had just been going on about when she noted Pink's flushed, puffy, tear-streaked face.

White called after her as well, though in her case, she mostly seemed miffed that she had been so openly defied: “Come back here right this instant, you little punk!”

But the younger gem did not answer either of their calls, if she was not already out of earshot.

Balling her hands into fists insofar as her fingernails allowed it, White seemed ready to go after her and, no doubt, make matters even worse, which was exactly why Yellow chose to intercede:

“Leave her to us. There's no need for you to do anything at all... Blue and I will discipline her.”

“Why? So you can go soft on her again? She's been getting to be quite a spoiled little brat from the way the two of you have been pampering her! No wonder she can't even deal with that wretched little mob of defects and deviants!”

“Yeah, because you never, ever indulged her or anything!” Yellow spat back. “Because you have been such a big help with putting down those rebels!”

“What. Did. You. Just. Say.”

“Nothing at all, White!” Blue interceded before Yellow's temper could get the better of her once again. “What Yellow means is that we'll do it properly this time. We'll talk to her. We'll make sure she understands. You must forgive us, please, Yellow, Pink and I have been very stressed from dealing with those rebels as of late... I was hoping that coming back here would help us all get a little break, but it appears that I was mistaken. I must ask your forgiveness for that.

Once we have dispensed with the uprising, we will definitely make it up to you!

So please, don't you worry yourself about Pink or her planet...”

 

Saved by homeworld's diplomat-in-chief, Yellow would still not escape her misgivings for longer than it took them to get to the hallway after White had waved for them to get out of her sight with a disdainful little hand motion.

She had not exactly been placated, but at least Blue had gotten her to a point where the challenge to her pride was outweighed by her desire not to have to deal with them any longer.

“Can't you ever restrain yourself!” she harangued, making a disgusted face suggestive of a very urgent need to scream into a pillow “You were just absolutely inconsiderate with both of them, like a Quartz in a warehouse full of porcelain!”

Uncharacteristically, Yellow had actually gone quiet, though that might have more to do with the full, delayed realization of what she had actually just shouted into White's face in the heat of the moment, giving her yet more reasons to doubt and disfavor her... She would never have done that if she had been thinking clearly.

But the past was the past, and for now, the best they could do to ensure her forgiveness was to go and handle Pink just as they said they would.

They encountered her Pearl in the hallway, who confirmed their suspicions that Pink had gone to her room, waltzing past her without a second thought once they had received their answer.

Perhaps that's why they never took note that her usually neat bob of peach hair was somewhat tousled, just about as if a person twice her height had lifted her off the floor, pulled her into a desperate hug and messed up the peaks of her hairdo with her much larger hand in the process.

 

“Blue, you talk to her, “ Yellow decided as they were nearing Pink's primary room. “You're better at this. She actually listens to you sometimes...”

And once upon a time, that might have been the case, but Yellow and White had relied on that quite a few times to many, as had Blue herself.

Pink had no more patience for a bond that would just be used as a chain by which to yank her.

When Blue peeked inside the high, magenta room, she found Pink on a couch with floral carvings, the latest novel creation of her personal flock of pebbles, stylized to resemble some of the native vegetation on Earth, as later folk tale collectors might have imagined the overgrown, coffin-like beddings on which one might have found Snow White or Sleeping Beauty waiting for True Love's kiss to awaken them from their eternal slumber, though at the moment, the feelings that she felt were more akin to Cinderella's.

She was lying on her stomach, her head buried in her arms, her face hidden under her large tuft of pale bubblegum hair.

When she heard the door open, she barely moved – if were up to her, she would only have buried her face even tighter in her pillows, but as it were, she had very few choices in her miserable little life, so she turned her head ever so slightly, glaring at Blue with burning fuchsia eyes, cerise lips pulled into a sullen expression.

“Have you come to yell at me some more?”

 

Already, Blue was sighing. “White was very angry with us all... Maybe if you come with us right now, we can manage to get back before White starts the gala without us, or calls it off altogether....”

“So what?”

“Please, Pink, be serious. This isn't just about you. It isn't even just about us... Everyone's waiting for us. They came a long way to see you, and now you don't even want to show up? It's your party.”

How? How is it my party? You prepared everything. It's your party. You wouldn't even let me decide anything, 'cause you're way too embarrassed of me to ever let me do anything! You don't need me for your cloddy gala... you said it yourself! You just need someone to smile and wave. I'm not needed at all... No, I'm worse than that, because I'm getting in the way of your perfect little performance... You're never going to let me decide things on my own, and don't you think I don't know why: You think I'm just a big mistake...” the princess spat. “I'm just a burden to you! Just some annoying little fool you have to put up with because White tells you so.”

“No, never!” Blue exclaimed emphatically “We just want for your first colony to work out perfectly, just like with your parties. That's why we're putting so much work into helping you. That's why we try to show you how to do things the right way We just want you to do well... Even White. She may be strict, but just wants everyone to see how great her creation is.”

“Well, THAT is NOT her creation!” Pink railed, sitting up from the couch to gesture vaguely toward the direction of the ballroom, exposing snotty, tear-streaked face and shimmering gem, to which she next directed her hand.

“THIS is her creation.” she spread out her arms between the archway and the window. “And nothing we do – nothing I do is ever good enough for her. Nothing I do is ever good enough for you, and I know it never will be! So why? Why should I force myself to do all this terrible stuff if all the three of you are ever gonna do is tell me how I'm doing everything wrong?!”

“You think we like cleaning up your messes?” Yellow's voice came from the hallway. She leaned forward to look Pink in the eyes, though she didn't quite make it into the door arch since it was too narrow to hold both Blue and herself at the same time.

“Yellow!” Blue exclaimed, looking at her companion, concerned that her stern, undiplomatic tone was going to make short work of her efforts.

But Yellow insisted: “It's the truth! We have to tell it to her like it is. Trust me, Pink, we'd like nothing more than to have all this taken off our hands and let you handle your planets, your events and your soldiers all by yourself. If there ever comes a day where we never have a single complaint about anything you do, we'd all be overjoyed! We each have our own work to do, it's not like we enjoy meddling with yours. But you leave us no other choice, and you know why? Because you actively refuse to do your part! We can't keep covering for you forever, Pink...

Eventually, you're going to have to learn to act like a proper Diamond.”

“Well, I never asked to be a Diamond!”

She had outright screamed there, only to break down in sobs right after wards despite her, halfway doubled over in her couch, hugging herself with her thin, gloved fingers.

She'd let them get to her again.

Even though she'd already denounced them, even though she knew that they were evil and terrible and wrong about everything, they somehow got under her skin, as they always did, every time, making her feel this pain when she knew they weren't worth it.

Since Pink was crying into her elbows, she did not see the stricken glance that Blue and Yellow exchanged between themselves.

“I know it's not easy. Believe me, I know it's not...”, said Blue, “Sometimes, even Yellow and I struggled with our duties. I had my own doubts when I was your age... but we learned to do it, and so can you.”

“We did what we had to had to,” added Yellow. “...for the sake of the empire. Because we understood that there was no other path. And the sooner you realize that as well, the easier it will be for you.”

“You know,” Blue began, and she was half-smiling because, for a moment, she thought they were getting through to her. “I think every gem has struggled with living up to their purpose at some point. It's just a part of being a gem. We all want to have our place after all... but rest assured that yours is right here with us. You just have to accept it, and make the best of what you've been given, just like everyone else before you has done for hundred thousands of years....

I bet that even White has days where it takes her some effort to do her work. You know how she dislikes being around big crowds for too long...”

“Well, maybe if she was going to hate being around us so much, she shouldn't have made us just so that we could all be miserable just because she says so!

Then she could have the whole planet to herself, and no one would have to suffer!

I can't believe you honestly want me to go out there and, like, pretend to all the gems that we're all perfect and special and that that's why you get to do with them whatever we want... Just LOOK at us!

You all think you're SO MUCH better than everyone else, and that everyone should be just like us, but we're terrible. We're the single most terrible bunch people I have ever heard of. Everything in this place is terrible. This whole planet is the most terrible place I know. You wanna know why there's gems rebelling? That's why!

Because everything is terrible though you act like it's not.

If the gems out there knew what we're really like, they' up and shatter all four of us. They'd grind us into fine dust and everyone would be happy about it! No one would be sad at all!”

“That's enough Pink. You don't know what you're saying.”

“No Blue. You don't know what you're saying! You think that one day I'll just shut up, apologize and that I'll be just like you.

But I never want to be like you!

I hate you! I hate all of you! I hate you more than anything! I don't ever want to be like you! I'd rather be shattered than become just like you! I'd rather be shattered!”

 

”Pink! Don't you ever say such a thing! Not even in jest!” Blue's voice was quivering, - she'd probably start to cry any moment now, Pink could already feel her psychic aura flaring up... she knew the drill. But it's not like she could have made her cry any more than she already had.

“Stop it, Pink. You're making Blue very upset.”

“Oh, Blue's upset? Blue's upset? Well, Yellow, maybe one day you're gonna have to explain to her that she's not the only person in the universe who has feelings!

But hey, at least she has feelings, which is more than I can say for you and White!”

“You. Are. Out. Of. Line.”

“Oh really? What am I in trouble for? Saying the truth for once?”

“Piiink! You're being impossible right now!”

“You know, I really thought... that at least you two cared about me, or about anything at all...

But you don't. You don't care a bit. You're no different from White!”

“Shut. Your. Mouth.”

“...sometimes, you even sound like her. Sometimes, I listen to myself, and even I sound like her....

And that's just what she'd want. She wants us all to be heartless and terrible just like her... but you know what?

I'd rather be shattered!

I hate White! I hate everything she is, I hate this planet, and I hate all of you! I hate you all so, so much! I hate you more than anything else in this universe!”

 

Those were the last words she would ever speak to them.

The last image of her that would become lodged in their memory was of her, sobbing into her arms in the enclosure of her room, which they forbade her from leaving for quite some time.

This used to upset her, back when she knew of nothing else, but after she had seen actual war, it was nothing but a short wait.

Eventually, the door opened up again, and when it did, Pearl was waiting on the other side.

“Come on, let's go back to Earth.... There's nothing left for us here.”

 

….

 

But there was one last thing she wanted to, while Pearl was readying the ship.

She spotted a passing Jade in the hallways and asked where the other Diamonds were to be found, but while she followed the direction, it was not them she was looking to find.

She was informed that they were in a meeting, all three of them, possibly discussing something to do with the war, or how they might proceed with their efforts of hammering her into shape, not that she cared.

The ones she sought were waiting right outside the briefing room, left next to the portal like someone's bag or a jacket.

Two of them noted her displeased mood and made a move to stay out of her way, even as they did salute to her – and it stung just a little bit, to be considered something to be feared.

Despite the horrible day she had had – or really, horrible last couple of weeks – the greeted Blue and Yellow Pearl politely, even returning Blue Pearl's little curtsy for all that only served to confuse Yellow Pearl.

But then, she turned her attention to the other side of the large doorway, where there was something the others had wisely avoided.

Usually, Pink did the same, but today, she would make her way across, until she was face to face with the emptied, bleached-out husk of her first and oldest friend.

 

“I'm afraid this is goodbye.... I will miss you always, and no matter where I go, or what becomes of me, my thoughts will always be with you.”

 

“That's very touching, Starlight!” answered White Diamond's voice. “But but don't you have anything else to say for yourself? Like an apology perhaps?”

But Pink had already continued her way down the corridor, never to return, and never to look back.

“I wasn't talking to you.”

 

….

 

 

They were sitting in the foliage, gathering morning dew like the flower-laden branches around them.

Her long, taffy-colored corkscrew locks were spilled out above Pearl's thin little arms and the air around them was laden with sweetness. Pearl, too, was in her 'renegade' getup, a simpler, less 'fancy' dress in duller colors.

– and yet, they were uneasy.

“I'm sorry that the ball ended up as such a fiasco... You must have been looking forward to organizing one last one...”

“Why would I want to be at one of these terrible balls when I can be here with you? My Pearl...”

The impact of those words were felt all over Pearl's lithe frame, like her little body could barely contain all of her emotions. Holding her near like this – life-giver, death-bringer – Pearl felt like a goddess herself, as if the entire universe were contained in her arms, as if she were everything and anything.

But the heart and mind of her beloved were far from here.

 

Sometimes, Pink wondered if it had been just like Earth... Whichever planet White had burnt up to bring her into this world. Had it been an empty desert, or was there life, just like the plenitude that surrounded them in these branches? Sentient life, even, of which nothing remained anymore apart from the raw energy that had sustained her to this day?

No one even bothered to remark upon it in the records.

If there was any life, it died forgotten and unmourned.

If there was any life, it was now with her, hers to do with as she chose – and perhaps, she would always be a monster. An ascended demon, some bizarre, unlikely reverse of a fallen angel, aligned with the light perhaps, but, without doubt, a dark creature whose tainted hands worked black deeds.

 

“Sometimes I wonder if I'll have to pay the price for deceiving the hearts of others...” she mumbled into Pearl's hair as her dark eyes gazed right past her.

“Then I suppose I would have to pay it, too...”

But Pink only shook her head. “No you wouldn't... because the way you are when you go out there? When you're with Garnet, Biggs and the others? When you were with Bismuth? The you that's smart and resourceful and brilliant? That's not a lie at all. Not for you. That's who you really are. That's more truthful to you than any role you had to play on homeworld.

You couldn't hide your true feelings if you tried.... you always had very pure heart.”

'I wish I could be like you', she almost added, but she kept that to herself. After all, the wise and benevolent 'Rose Quartz' whom Pearl loved would never voice such a doubt.

The little gem almost whimpered in her grasp, both because she was so overtaken with the shower of praise she had just received, but also, because she could not fully bring herself to believe it... and yet here she was, being decorated with such honors by her lady.

“I hope that you always stay that way...” she added, running one finger of her large, soft hand over Pearl's forehead.

 

“Pearl?”

“Y-Yes...?”

“When we do what we talked about earlier, make sure no one sees your gem. If anyone finds out that you did this, you'd be a target. They would all come after you and spare no expense to destroy you... and we can't have that. If you're nowhere to be found after the commotion, they'll probably assume that you were shattered as well, and no one will come looking for you. “

“But they'll come after you!”

“Yes. And I am willing to live with that. But you can't hesitate. You really have to make it look like you nailed me right in the gem, alright? Don't hold back.”

“Are you sure that's safe though?”

Pink Diamond might have made some humorous quip about being composed of on of the hardest materials in the universe, and perhaps it would have seemed rather out of place or morbid or even insensitive in these circumstances... which is why 'Rose Quartz' did not say it.

“We'll just have to rely on Bismuth's workmanship...” she mused instead, her eyes dull, her voice laced with a heavy melancholy. “It has never deserted us before.”

Pearl sighed, unable to conceal the tears which that name had roused at the corners of her eyes: “In a sense, it will be as if she's saving us one last time....”

And she held her arms open and held Pearl as she bemoaned her fallen friend who was, in fact, stashed away in a bubble inside Pink's very own gem at this moment, about as close to Pearl as she could possibly be and very much alive...

What a terrible friend she had turned out to be, for one who had wanted to have them so badly. But as sorry an excuse for one as she might have been, despite everything of their violent fallout, though they had ended up turning against each other with lethal force, Pink still counted herself as Bismuth's friend... so the last she could do for her was to enact her plan - And she would do it in such a way that no one would actually have to die.

Even if she could never become good, even if she could never partake in goodness like a prophet who was only allowed to see the promised land from the distance though they would never dwell in it – the least she could do (for Earth, for Pearl, for Bismuth, for all that was destroyed leading up to her creation) was to put her dark powers in their service...

And yet, Pearl kept looking at her with those adoring eyes.

'It's enough if one of us has to dirty their hands, or live with the burden of knowing what really happened', thought Pink Diamond, but of course, she was not really 'here' to speak those words.

 

….

 

As fate would have it, Blue and Yellow Diamond were together when the news reached them, plotting further warfare in one of their control rooms, when they heard of an urgent transmission from Earth, and at first, they had to fight the urge to groan and roll their eyes, expecting yet another mishap or excuse, just another bead on the long string of misadventures that had befallen Pink's first colony -

For that's how they had inevitably thought of it, her first one, the first of many, naught but a stepping stone for the glorious future to come.

 

Instead, they were faced with the lowered head a solemn Morganite who had been chosen as the bearer of bad new by the other elites in the room, most of them officers or various aristocrats, including some of Yellow's own Hessonites which she had assigned to the war effort.

Immediately, Yellow's keen instincts told her that something was very, very wrong.

It was written all over that Morganite's face, over all their faces.

 

“Your Luminosity, we-!”

Before Yellow could even ask questions, the aristocratic gem broke down in tears, and many others followed suit, especially among the various pink, red or purple gems.

“We have all failed in on our purpose!”

 

Yellow felt the realization setting in, pressing down on her body like an unbearable weight, paralyzing all semblance of action.

A restless energy took possession of her as she began to pace around the room, fighting to turn tears into rage.

“What do you mean? What are you saying? How did this even happen? What was she even doing out there? What was her entourage doing? How could a single Quartz possibly get the better of them? What was she doing on the surface at all? And how could you possibly have let her leave her base without some Topaz guards?”

But amid the fervent storm of her racing thoughts, there was but one awareness serving as its ever-constant, silent eye, a broken record that would keep repeating itself in her mind for the next six thousand years: 'I am to blame.'

She had been the one to give in to Pink's demands, and talked the others into going along with it.

She had taught her to fight – and failed at it miserably, if a single Rose Quartz had been enough to overcome her.

She had been the one to suggest that accursed planet for her in the first place -

And now, it had come to be her tomb.

“Tell me, “ she raged on, with burning eyes and her voice almost breaking, “Why I shouldn't just have you all shattered for your total incompetence!”

 

But luckily for Pink's orphaned subordinates, something else caught her attention in this moment, something more urgent -

Blue had risen up from her throne when the transmission began, and perhaps took a couple of steps closer to the screen before she had frozen in her place, staring straight at the screen with a dull, lifeless expression, her mouth slightly ajar and her hands hanging uselessly at her sides, the gem equivalent of a computer whose operating system had crashed.

While Yellow had been busy fuming, Blue had been all but shutting down with every passing second that she could no longer deny the reality of their situation, as if the bright chartreuse gem had not moved to steady her as swiftly as she did, she might have lost her footing right in front of both their entourages and crashed face first into the ground for everyone to see.

Yellow gripped her arms tightly, perhaps excessively so, as if she were convinced that Blue, too, might just crumble into nothingness on her if she were to risk letting go of her.

Somehow, she still had the presence of mind to consider their subordinates once she had arranged Blue in such a way that the weight of her form was resting against her own: “All of you! OUT! That's an order!”

None of the gems in the room were so foolish as to question her – the fury in her voice spoke for itself – not that she really waited until they had all fled out of the exits or turned off their communicators back on Earth.

All the attention she was capable of sustaining at a moment like this would have been focused on helping Blue back to her throne though she seemed much overwhelmed with the simple task of putting one foot in front of the other.

Usually, it would be a very easy matter to tell what she was thinking or feeling, especially from such a close distance, but all that Yellow could feel from her at this moment was a complete gaping emptiness, as if she, too had died though her light was still shining.

Over the course of the handful diamond-size steps that it would take to get her back to her seat, Yellow had to catch her thrice more, twice because she herself was so overwhelmed that her grasp slipped, and one last time because Blue's arms and shoulders had almost fizzled out of existence there for a bit.

Yellow never knew how she had managed to get her steadied in her seat at last, only that she wedged herself in beside her and kept her hands on her shoulders.

She tried to look her right in the eyes, herself increasingly frantic for some kind of decided response, but Blue did not meet her gaze, not that she avoided it, either – instead, she was transfixed on the screen that had long since gone dark.

“Just...just sit down alright? Just... focus on holding your form for now, can you do that?”

But Yellow was imploring her as much as she might have been trying to take care of her, if not more so – she could no longer hold back her own desperation, or the overwhelming sense that she was in the process of losing just about everything she had ever cared about it.

“Stay with me, please... for me... Just... say something...”

 

Blue's lips eventually parted, but what burst forth bore no resemblance to words.

Instead, she expelled a blood-curdling shriek, as if a torn-off piece of her black soul had been released into the sky.

Her banshee-like wails alone were heard all throughout the capital, but her aura could be felt for miles and miles.

 

(

Blue was never the same, after that.

She walked slower, talked softer, and never again would her face be without a certain hectic glow. Her light appeared just the slightest bit dimmer, and its colors, imperceptibly colder, and she could never quite summon up that commanding voice like she once did, at least not for long.

And she had always been... sensitive, moody even, certainly the type to dwell on her feelings, but now she had become absolutely fixated on the worst possible one – and Yellow would know, because she felt it too, and she could not help but think that it was her who did this – to Pink, to Blue, to all of them – and there was nothing, nothing she could do about that anymore.

)

 

It was one of her quartzes who delivered the remains, enclosed in a dark red bubble with orange streaks – splinters of faintly translucent, dark magenta stone devoid of all inner light, crystalline circuits fractured beyond repair.

Her soldiers had tried to gather up as many pieces as they could find, but some of the mass was clearly missing, perhaps trampled into the dirt, scattered tidbits that once held her thoughts, feelings and memories lost in the mud, too small to be picked up, and too sharp to put back together.

 

Of course Blue burst into tears when she saw them, but it's not like she had ever really stopped in the day since she heard the news.

And if her aura could still immobilize a seasoned warrior six-thousand years later, then what must it have been when the wound was fresh?

Some of her outbursts had poofed a couple of Agates. No one would stand to go near her, that is, no one but Yellow Diamond, who did not concern herself with the ceaseless tears that streaked her face since they might as well be her own.

Blue was a senseless, boneless puddle in the grip of her arms, but though she might have appeared more composed at first glance, the air in her vicinity crackled with the dry, electric reverb of her fury, and more than a few gems had found themselves smitten by a sudden lightning bolt of divine retribution for opting to talk to her at the wrong moment.

 

They were a pitiful mess, and a hazard to be around, and that's how White found them when she joined them in the high ancestral hall.

“Why have I been called here? What is this nonsense?”

Blue's wails only grew louder.

Yellow, too, said nothing - The bubble floating above their heads should speak for itself.

White stepped closer, along the path of the alabaster carpet that had been laid out for her, and continued with her remarks, almost as if she'd read Yellow's thoughts:

“Oh don't be silly! This whole thing is preposterous. As if a Diamond could be destroyed by some lowly defective quartz. This simply cannot be.”

But it was. It was and none of them could reason it away.

“That's not her,” she snapped, directing a side-eye at the bubble as she walked past it. “I made her. Don't you think I can tell?” She sounded almost a bit offended at the opposite suggestion, and that was the closest she would come to an actual reaction. “None of you are making any sense.... Of course she's not shattered. How could she be shattered?”

 

Yellow knew better than to argue with her, nor could she be bothered to divine what she might be talking about.

“How shall we proceed... regarding the rebels?”

White blinked at her, as if the question surprised her. “Well, clearly we can't leave them running around, now can we?”

“No. We cannot.”

Next to Yellow, Blue was digging her fingers into the fabric of her jacket, like she had only just found a reason to bother lifting up her haggard face. “I'll slaughter them.”, she rasped, her voice hoarse from her never-ending lamentations “Every damn last of them.”

 

...

 

She was good.

They never knew how, or why, or how a being like her had ever come to exist in a world like their own.

But like a flower poking through the concrete, she was there.

And maybe they wouldn't know goodness if it hit them in the face; Maybe they couldn't leave it in peace, and they certainly didn't understand it, but they had, without a doubt, felt it, as one feels the warmth of the sun, as self-explanatory as the barest feeling of pleasure.

They knew that when she had been with them, there had been days where they were happy, and that all joy disappeared from their lives when she left.

Of course, there were also countless days that weren't pleasant, but those were not what stuck in their memory.
In hindsight all her shortcomings and all the faults they had so often chided her for became weaknesses that the rebels had exploited, and the softness they had tried to drive out of her only added to the sheer vileness of her murder.

It was decided that this bloody planet ate her alive, that it broke her will long before shattering her form, now that the once laughable string pesky string of troublesome failures had become the prelude to her fall.

They lost not just the present, of which she would never again be a part, but also the past, which they could no longer regard without thinking the bitter end, and all possible futures where they had seen themselves together, perhaps tens of thousands years in the future where Pink would have become a splendid, gracious leader.

She had been cut down before her prime like a flower bud crawling with insects, so they could not know what sort of leader she might have become if only she had been given more time, but all of her subjects wept for her as more than just their monarch.

They had often chided her for being too lax with them, even admonishing her that this overly familiar attitude might just encourage rebellion, but now that she had fallen, all of her court had wept for her; And all of them were out for the shards of her murderer: Rose Quartz.

 

In a sense, she had been Pink's perfect enemy, her total antithesis that had been everything she was not: Graceful, mature, prodigious, decisive and deadly, a silver-tongued seductress that ensured the slavish devotion of her followers her followers with her irresistible wiles, a cowardly demoness who had come for their weakest link.

 

And they knew that, if this had been the outcome, they must have done something wrong – but it was not like they understood what, and so they redoubled their futile efforts with even more force. Not once did they perhaps consider that she might have been taken from them in retaliation for their own sins;

Rather, they saw that Pink had been soft, and that her enemies had exploited that, that she had been lax, and that the result had been chaos.

 

Little did they know that they had been so busy to dismiss all of their differences as results of her immaturity, that they had never noticed that she had grown up, somewhere behind their backs, not sheltered in the hallowed halls of their palaces, but out of sheer necessity, with her bare feet in the mud of a battlefield.

 

________________________________

That's it for part III.

Chapter Text

Intermission: Yaldabaoth's Lament

 

[Instrumental]

 

 

 

She had not moved from this place in a very long time.

Were she on another world, the folds of her cape would have been covered in spiderwebs by now; Had there been anyone around to shed dead skin cells, the columns of her heels would be covered in dust, but she was all alone within the walls of her grand, pharaonic tomb.

Were she a more finite kind of being, she would have been covered in festering sores; but time could not touch her, just as gravity could not hold her, nor could any walls have prevented her from passing through – for all intents and purposes she was a truly singular, intangible being -

And yet she had been touched.

She felt the hot, disagreeable mark on her, not anywhere on her body, but in her mind, the jarring, discordant awareness of things not going her way.

And you must understand, this was her world through and through. Everything within these walls obeyed her every wish, so it would seem that she was here of her own free will, with all this power at this world at her fingertips -

but those fingertips were idle, paralyzed, held in place by a creeping sense of doubt held stiff in the crevices of her back, the vague, shapeless shadows of thoughts she would never allow herself to have, such as -

How could this have happened?

If this was her world, made by her, of herself, and it wasn't going like she wanted,

then what did it mean about that world, and what did it mean about her?

 

Should she have held the reins even tighter? Had she actually allowed herself to become swept up in the world below?

But when?

When did it even happen?

 

...

 

For most of gemkind, personal space considered one of the highest luxuries.

Most housing on homeworld and its colonies was strictly communal, with each individual gem barely receiving more than a cubby barely larger than themselves, and whatever storage space they required for their equipment.

They'd get this open space barely wider than themselves, and that was where they would keep their things and stand at attention when they weren't needed.

Of course, much of the space inside your typical 21st century human dwelling would have been taken up by facilities which gems simply did not require – They had no use for toilets or fridges, they didn't cook, they didn't have to wash themselves, most could store and summon at least some items inside their gems and since most of their clothing was shapeshifted or summoned, they had no requirements for clothes racks, though some might keep at least a few additional material appearance modifiers, weapons or other personal belongings, and neither did they require any cleaning implements, since most of the cleaning that was even required and not otherwise taken care of by advanced technology would be relegated to lower ranked gems whose primary task would be to keep particular buildings in order.

Without pesky things like ligaments bones and circulatory systems to worry about, they could leave their hard-light forms in the same place and position for as long as they pleased (or were ordered to) and without having to pause for sustenance or sleep, they could and often did work for days or weeks without interruption -

And perhaps it was that very resilience that had made it easier to justify this kind of society, though their subjects were still sentient creatures liable to experience under-stimulation (“boredom”), frustration or debasement, whereas 19th century factory conditions had not lasted long because humans flat out broke under the strain.

 

Given the option, the architects of gem society might have opted to dispense with personal spaces altogether- But as hardy as White Diamond and her many “children” might have been, they were ultimately still finite. Typically, each one was imbued with vast amounts of energy in the moment of their creation (absorbing a large amount at once whereas organics would need to be consuming additional fuel on a regular basis) which they could then access over time and even supplement or recharge their reserves using little more than ambient light, through a process much more akin to the physical processes that took place in the crystalline wafers inside solar panels than the chemical-based photosynthesis employed by plants.

But as per the laws of thermodynamics, it was simply not possible to convert one form of energy to another without loss or the generation of entropy, which, in context, imposed a technical limit on how much energy could be processed or accessed at once.

– meaning that gems would still get exhausted and require rest after prolonged exertion, which meant that they would need places to do so, and hence, some however minimal manner of dwellings, many of them stacked on top of each other in large rooms that were themselves often stacked in large complexes on gem-controlled planets and structures.

Their occupants were usually grouped according to which units they belonged to, what tasks they were assigned on, or where they had been produced (which, for newer units that had not yet had may of their members replaced, usually overlapped), and generally speaking, it was common for the members of such units to be closely bonded in what could perhaps be considered the homeworlds' equivalent of clans or families, though the comparison only went so far since the denizens of the empire would typically choose their romantic partners from within those units if they were so inclined.

Couples were somewhat rarer than in dimorphic species like humans where the mechanism of pair bonding would have been tied up with reproduction, which, for gems, was a completely different process which most individuals would never be concerned with. (And even among humans and the like, you might still find individuals who were born without the urge to mate or form couples)

It was thought that the early crystal lifeforms in homeworld's distant past evolved pair bonds in tandem with the ability to fuse together, which, in itself, was a response to the scarce environment that allowed for cooperation rather than competition in tight spots spots, or to render themselves hardier in the face of stressors.

On earth, microorganisms like yeasts were thought to have used merging and separation for this purpose long before reproduction by merging became all the rage in the course of their revolution, but apart from certain slime molds, almost nothing there would retain the ability for complete mergers of entire organisms (rather than specialized cells) into more sophisticated stages of life where complex behavior would have been a consideration. The jump from mere self-organization, that infamous gray zone where you would mostly find viruses, snowflakes and the odd physical process half-metaphorically described as a life-cycle (like the formation of stars), was much more recent at the time that some of the results attained the ability to wonder how they got there.

Before that, it was said the crystalline mats lifeforms would form pairs or small social groups that would exist as individual units or large mats depending on outside conditions.

Of course by now, these creatures had been extinct for untold eons and all that was left on them were a few dusty records that very few knew or cared about, and even if they had, they would probably have been used to characterize casual or permanent fusions as primitive rather than natural, or used to support the predominant paradigm that fusion was only for battle by emphasizing the 'survival' aspect over the social one - It's not like anyone could disprove those spins by studying an ecosytem that no longer existed.

The tale had been spun many times over the ages, often with an ideology behind it, so ultimately no one could be certain that it wasn't all made up from whole cloth.

But regardless of their murky origins, gems were now an intelligent species which had heavily modified themselves through technology, and as such, were left to give their bonds and/or fusions whichever shape and purpose they desired... as long as it didn't piss off the authorities, that is.

As it was, fusion was officially relegated to battle, which was perhaps comparable to those religious and political movements on Earth that purported mating to be solely for reproduction when most social mammals on Earth also used it for social bonding, at times by individuals who would not produce offspring together.

An off-world xenobiologist or xeno-anthropologist writing a treatise might have wanted to mention the alternate modes of cohabitation common in alternate societies bands of off-colors or movements like the crystal gem rebellion in order to represent a more complete picture of gemkind, but for obvious reasons, you would not have found an unbiased account of these anywhere in homeworld's archives.

On Earth, the relation of pair bonds with reproduction (and the distribution of property to the offspring) had led to a number of societies where those were strictly reglemented or at least emphasized -

On homeworld's mainstream society, they were all but forgotten, and there were almost no ritual social trappings around it. Something like marriage would have been a foreign concept, but the same would go for oaths of blood-brotherhood where one would formally bring a close friend or comerade into their clan as they had been practiced among many ancient cultures of the earth, for all that they might have fallen out of fashion by the 21th century, nor would you have found anything like birthdays or namedays as occasions for the whole family or social circle to gather in celebration of an individual.

By and large, personal bonds of any sort were not terribly valued or formalized in the empire's culture, though they very much existed all throughout the ranks, from the tiniest Pebbles to the most enormous Diamonds, not that it occurred to the latter that this might be a good and unsurprising thing for an social species.

But if intelligence is the ability to program yourself, to exceed your nature – then that also comes with the risk of twisting it into rather counterproductive knots.

Not only were love or friendship not considered valid reasons to fuse or associate across ranks, they did not count for much of a reason at all.

If a quartz were to incur a severe crack in line of duty, her 'sisters' would be expected to leave her behind if bringing her back with them would interfere with their mission and might be punished if they acted differently and thereby compromised their objectives. None of them could expect compassionate leave if the unfortunate soldier gem were to perish, and neither would any lover of theirs have been permitted to stay behind to care for her in her final moments if her own platoon were ordered to move out, unless their superior was feeling merciful that day, and in any case, she would explicitly have had to request the exception from her manager, which might be a risky, frightening prospect if you were a lower-ranking gem and your handler was a capricious individual, and just more of a stressful hassle than someone might be capable of putting up with in that sort of situation.

(In the Pink Court, such requests actually had a good chance of being granted, insofar as the superior in question could do so without incurring the wrath of their own higher-ups. In the Blue and Yellow courts it was... unlikely, though one could increase the odds of being granted such permission by sucking up to their superiors or archiving great merit. Overall, the odds were higher in the Blue court, but mostly for the higher ranks – under Yellow Diamond's stern, pragmatic command, even an elite might still have to listen to a put-down about how they should honor their comrade's sacrifice by dutifully continuing in their work instead of disgracing them by slacking off.

On White Diamond's planets, it was virtually unheard of, but not necessarily because the answer was always “No”. If one actually went through with asking and managed to get a hold of one's superior, they were already quite close to being one of the lucky few, but this was an exceedingly rare occurrence because all the wide assortment of gray and rainbow gems was discouraged from accepting any comfort their comrades might have been willing to give.

If you were no longer of use, you were expected to stay quiet and out of everyone else's way so as not to drag them down, you know, out of the 'good judgment' and 'consideration' that the white court prided itself of.

It was no coincidence that a certain Bismuth always felt the need to emphasize to herself and her friends that they, too, were important, and that a certain Pearl would spend a long time struggling until she could convince herself of that)

One way or another, by the time the remainder of our hypothetical quartzes would have returned from the war, their fallen comrade's old cubby would have been reassigned to some fresh recruit who'd just popped out of the ground days earlier on one of the frontier colonies, with all of the shattered soldier's former belongings unceremoniously re-purposed or discarded.

That said, a quartz would have been just high enough up the totem pole that they could hope to win themselves some more exclusive accommodations through merit (Gems celebrated no birthdays, but they did have jubilees), perhaps a curtained-off rectangular loge between the columns of an arena, maybe even at its upper edge (though still away from the pulpits reserved for visiting elites), where they would have a good view of any gladiatorial battles and a short way to walk if they wished to participate – though a simple quartz would have to be quite the decorated veteran before they would receive such honors, which have been virtually unattainable to a simple Ruby, but pretty much the default for a Topaz who could count on such lodgings from the day they emerged (even if they'd much rather shared their lodgings with a special someone.)

If one of the nearby important fighters were to own a Pearl, she would have to share their dwelling and preferably make herself at home in one of the room's corners where she would be unobtrusive, but still visible enough that her master would get the chance to brag about whatever glorious achievement had netted her this prestigious reward – Pearls still qualified as a noteworthy sight in the dwellings of the decorated fighters, whereas most of the aristocracy would generally be granted one on request, or, in case of certain gem types from the higher nobility, would have a Pearl commissioned for them after their emergence – but if you were this high up in the hierarchy, it could be safely assumed that you'd have somewhere to keep her, as you probably had a sizeable complex of rooms to your serial number, or even your own pocket dimension (considered a height of magitech sophistication, those had been all the rage in the outlying colonies in late Era I)

- complete with cramped lodgings for your various underlings.

In brief, having your own proper room was a prestigious thing, possessing a large one, or more than one, was mostly a privilege of the upper 10%, and anything much beyond that would have been fit for a monarch or a deity – or indeed, a Diamond.

 

When Blue Diamond, on some much later occasion, would ask her irate creator which room she was supposed to go to, she might have been unwise in her choice of the moment, but it was still a legitimate question – after all, each of the Diamonds owned quite a lot more rooms than one.

White Diamond herself was no exception – out of the four, her rooms were probably the most numerous, the most luxuriant, and the most spacious, and not just because of what would have been required because of her greater size, accumulated over her longer life or even justified her seniority in rank:

She had countless palaces, maintained for guests or just representative purposes, with enormous galleries, pompous ballrooms and endless mirror-halls – those were a particular favorite of hers, at least in conceptual terms. She never even stepped foot in many of them, some of those on remote colony worlds, just in case she might choose to visit, though she never ever did, and would probably return via warp rather than stay over, or bring her palace ship if a longer stay were expected, which never ever happened.

All together, she had tens of thousands of gems employed in tending to her ample collection of unused, empty rooms, or indeed, forming part of their lavish furniture.

And to many, this might have fostered the impression that she was a lover of excesses, and more than everything else, a rapacious coveter of empty room –

Such was certainly a common assumptions among the Bismuths under her banner, including the illustrious one that would eventually defect and take great pleasure in decking her in the face with a mechanical arm – particularly since most ordinary gems were seldom given a space much wider than their own shoulders.

 

At least the ostentatious complexes kept by Blue Diamond would have actual galas and functions taking place in them and serve some other purpose than just abject waste, even if they were solely for the enjoyment of herself and the elite.

Even if one choose to denounce it, one could more or less comprehend that sort of self-centered indulgence, and say that it produced some petty, restrictive forms of real beauty, unlike the purely utilitarian, blocky avalanche of steel and concrete that were Yellow Diamond's infrastructure projects – enough so that many gems missed the former when the latter became the most prominent flavor of architecture during the progression of Era two, not that the more 'technological', functional styles she preferred didn't have it's own appreciators, particularly within Yellow Diamonds's own court (just as styles like post-war brutalism, turn-of-the-20th-century engineer's style latticework buildings, or just industrial and urban styles in general would come to have their small share of devoted fans on Earth).

Pink Diamond, while she was around, picked mostly whatever she most liked, often rewarding the architect with the quirkiest proposals and being easily taken with modest yet decorative designs that had no higher ambition than to be pretty. When given the choice, she would generally opt for public works that large segments of the population would get to use and enjoy, one of the most famous being the Pink Diamond Memorial Library situated in the outskirts of the capital, and a park bedizened with specimens of various alien plant species, the only patch of green anywhere on homeworld. (It wound up becoming a popular spot for couples)

Once she received the Earth, she would develop a taste for stylized depictions of its flowers, such as the ones used in the lattice walls of her palanquin. The few results of her patronage would later become pilgrimage sites for the scattered leftovers of her court.

White Diamond's tastes, then, were the exact opposite, always very classical and never straying far from the canon of past ages – though it might be argued that the 'great classics' of gem culture had been designated as such because they pleased her rather than the other way around.

White Diamond's projects did not stall nor did they progress in bursts and surges. They were often scheduled and planned-out tens of thousands of years before their completion, planned so as to take future developments into account as if the unfolding of the future were mainly a matter of moving over to the next segment of a designated path, large, monumental projects for purposes as narrow and arcane as their proportions were immense. For her most devoted followers, it showed the hand-prints of a being that operated on a completely different scale;

For those less charmed, it was simply a symptom of excess and empty vanity.

But that impression would have been a mistake, resulting from a fundamental misconception about the primary purpose of those buildings.

They existed not to provide amenities for her personally, but to remind her gems of her presence and watchful eye, even when she could not (or would not) be there to remind them in person.

The grandness and the space and the mirrors that lit up the cave-like chambers like the day? Those were the purpose and and of themselves, to be object's d'art, silent monoliths, the works of someone who spent most of her time in a spaceship that never took off.

If asked to describe what they imagined its inside to be like, those who had no understood that minute distinction might have pictured something excessively gaudy and ostentatious, and they would have been wrong, not that they would ever get the chance to be proven wrong -

The layout of White Diamond's personal rooms would have been unfamiliar even to the other Diamonds. At most, they would remember the large audience chamber, though it was rarely a good thing when they would find themselves summoned there, and they'd have much direr things to worry about than to take note of the immense stark gray walls.

The surfaces were composed of a glittering, crystalline material and without doubt, much effort had gone into polishing and manufacturing it, but the design was almost aggressively simple, or even minimalist.

Had there been ornamentation, one could have critiqued it, interpreted it, drawn conclusions from it, one might have said what the iconography was, but also, what it was not, and what else it might have missed out on being instead.

But what argument could you have with the stark gray walls of an enormous oval room, what could you pry from an array of perfectly smooth surfaces?

The only distinct feature in the room was the elevated pedestal in its center, and the puristic, sharp-edged rectangular stairs leading up to it – and that was all she needed to make matters clear, that platform, and herself arranged on it.

There was one only thing it could possibly have to say, and no room for further misunderstandings or interpretations, not any more than there was any room for hues and tints amid the clear-cut lines of pristine monochrome marble....

Almost pristine. There were exactly three (3) minuscule bumps in various parts of the room, and White Diamond knew precisely where they were, and when she was in an appropriately foul mood, the very sight of one could set her off – but she didn't trust the pebbles not to go overboard and leave behind an even tinier depression instead, and it wasn't really worth potentially breaking a nail over. They were so minute that even she might not have noticed the tiny blemishes if she had not spent many dozens of millennia staring at these walls day in, day out.

Even so, one would have surmised that this was not the only room she frequented – the complex was somewhat larger, continuing well into the 'torso' of the bust-shaped palace ship, and at the very least, she would have needed to have something like an office in here, assuming that her usually excuse of being 'busy' was not a blatant lie.

All those planets couldn't have been running themselves after all, or so one would think.

No one knew for sure, unless some of the Bismuths who first constructed these halls were still in service, and even they would only know what the rooms looked like when they were new and empty, before White Diamond had moved in and put them to her use. It was quite possible that she did have the means to contact her underlings on distant planets without the use of a computer terminal or a subspace communicator, but if the convenience of modern technology could not entice her, her reclusive disposition certainly did. If she thought it necessarily, she would certainly have made use of her telepathic capabilities to make an appearance and you could count on her entrance being dramatic, but she had much preferred written missives even back when that would have referred to literal clay tablets, and that's the most that her direct subordinates would ever see of her.

But if any single gem had ever been so bold (or so foolish) as to attempt to sneak their way inside her chambers, it would have been the one and only Pink Diamond.

Before she was given the Earth, she had resided on homeworld for a good four-thousand years, and four-thousand years was a very long time.

So would it then be so strange if she had ever succeeded, even just by chance?

Before the War, before the Earth, before all of their bitter falling out, there were at least two and a half occasions were the mischievous little Diamond got past those hallowed walls, in both a literal and figurative sense.

One might well picture not much unlike her son when he sneaked inside the table to assemble his guardians for a hearty breakfast, except that she would soon have forgotten whatever it was she had been seeking or looking to attain the moment that her unfamiliar surroundings had exited her curiosity – she confirmed that there was, indeed, an office, equally composed of the simplest, minimalist lines – the table was merely a rectangular arch held up by two walls connected by a large board in the middle, all firmly attached to the floor – the chair was a blocky, s-shaped affair composed of one single surface – most of the room was dominated by empty space and the polished, reflected panes that formed the floor and ceiling, one again perfectly featureless, the other up above very much its twin, if it were not for the extensive, simplistic, glittering star charts etched into it.

It was enormous even when compared to its intended master – and these feature-starved surroundings made it all the more impossible to overlook White Diamond herself, for there was nothing to divert attention from her radiance or rival the splendor of her elaborate attire.

As with the great hall, the composition of this room was only complete with her as its center, and only to be understood in that context – and if the control room with its lone elevated pedestal was a monument to her elevation above anything else, this sanctum of her works was a stony hymn to the manifold ubiquity of Her Who Was Light;

She was the beginning, and she was the end, the one who is everything, and everything rolled into one – everything except perhaps surprise, for she was already turned toward the doorway when Pink stepped inside the room, one arm resting on the table surrounded by various light gray holoscreens, angling her shoulders so as to face the younger gem.

“I am impressed that you managed to get inside here. I'm also quite a bit cross with you. But lucky for you, I'm more impressed that I am displeased.”

With that, she had reached out her arm to lift Pink Diamond by the frilly ruffles of her attire and booted her out.

 

The second time, Pink did not make it in the flesh (or the light, rather) – instead, she astral projected, popping up in front of her creator as she was busy surveying her star maps for further viable colonies.

She floated upside down, waiving around her arms and legs quite a bit before she realized that this was actually quite futile since she was not actually present in the room. This time, it was a bit of an accident – she had been playing a bit of a game with Pink Pearl, trying to impress her by showing off her powers. She started out trying to guess what was going out in adjacent rooms, whilst Pink Pearl had dared her to reach further and further into the palace complex – But it was Pink Diamond alone who had gotten quite carried away and made the unwise decision to float through a few too many walls.

For the most part, she had been sure that no one was actually going to notice, since her actual body was still safely parked in her room, exactly where it was supposed to be. There was a narrow miss when she'd almost crashed into Blue, who had thoughtfully touched a finger to her chin and loudly wondered if she'd heard something (loud in the mind-scape, that is; She did not actually speak.)

But once she found herself hurtling toward the palace ship and struggling to redirect her trajectory in this unfamiliar realm, she knew playtime was over – White spotted her right away, as surely as if she were present in the old-fashioned way.

 

White actually applauded a little, with a perky little smile, but Pink had known her far too long to take that as a good sign. “Hello Starlight! I see that you're making some progress! As expected of my creation! And right you are to practice, for you still have a long, long way to go before you can keep up with me. Perhaps you might want to try spreading yourself to another vessel? One of your playthings, perhaps?

But I hope you'll understand that I have much to do and cannot make the time to play with you today. Surely, you out of anyone would understand the value of a little privacy! Enjoy your playtime!”

And then, instead of wondering why her 'daughter' had resorted to such drastic means simply to speak with her, White Diamond kicked her offspring straight out of her head (literally, this time.)

 

She came to in her room, losing balance on arrival and tumbling straight into the lap of Pink Pearl, who wound up buried up to her chest in her master's poofy curls.

Vaguely concerned, the spindly servant gem looked down at her, her hands entwined just below her chin, her little round face framed by her ringlets.

The pebbles, which had previously been entertaining themselves with various amusing pursuits, some of them mimicking the cross-legged pose their Diamond had clumsily assumed in order to concentrate better, had also gathered all around, apart from the two that were currently busy extricating themselves from under where Pink had fallen.

“Are you okay, o Great Princess Fluffybuns?” ('Great Princess Fluffybuns' being what Pink Diamond was currently insisting to be called by, mostly by her various little playmates. Blue sometimes played along; Yellow mostly just rolled her eyes. )

Instead of replying or attempting to remove herself from the floor, she pulled her lips into a pout and crossed her arms.

“Mind powers are for clods. Let's go play something else.”

 

(

“Maybe I could bring my pebbles! Have them build some cool sculpture or something...”

“If you want a sculpture, you should commission a Spinel to make it. That's what they're for. ”

“How does it matter who makes a sculpture? As long as it's nice to look at...”

Blue Diamond sighed. “Pink, take this seriously.”

“But isn't a celebration supposed to be fun instead of serious?”

“Well, yes, but it's also an official event. Many important gems will be there... it's an opportunity to inspire everyone, so that they can keep doing their best...”

“But my pebbles are super inspiring!”

“Please, Pink...” she reiterated, and her younger companion did not catch the significance of the slightly strained, uncomfortable quality in her voice. “It's important that you do this right... in case White decides to come.”

“What do you mean, 'in case'? You think she won't come?!” The magenta gem wailed in dismay. “This sucks! We make all this big fuss so she won't get all cranky, and then she never shows up! It's like she never wants to talk to us unless it's to scold us.”

“You know that's not true... “ Blue responded, but her voice trailed off at the end, almost like it was a question.

It was not at all like when Pink had asked her about Yellow – She couldn't just smile and say 'Well, I've known White a little better than you', or mention all the things they discussed when they were alone.

Instead, her eyes grew heavy and distant, though Pink lacked the patience to reflect on this much further.

“Then why wouldn't she come?!”

“You have to understand, she's not like us... She has lived for a very, very long time. She's been here longer than anyone else. Even longer than longer than Yellow or I. As far as she's concerned, she only just saw us, and we'll throw another event soon enough... the one next week will be no different from all the ones she's seen before. ”

“Maybe if you let me do what I want, it would be!”

“Sure, if by 'different'`you mean that we'd all end up poofed.” That was Yellow Diamond's voice. She had been leaning against the door arch with her arms crossed, hoping that the diplomat-in-chief would be able to handle this troublesome situation.

“Aww come on. She wouldn't actually do that.”

Yellow sighed deeply, taking a moment to massage the bridge of her nose, but none too surprised that Pink would still hold such misconceptions.

“Look, we might all have our own areas of expertise, and our own courts to oversee, but White is in charge of ruling the empire as a whole. She has a lot of things to take care of that she doesn't trust anyone else with... It's only natural that she doesn't always have time for us... She expects us to handle ourselves.

“Well, maybe she would have time to come if she let us help with some of that important leader stuff! I'm super bored anyways. Maybe I can do her work, and then she can come have fun with us, and everyone will be happy!”

“That's a nice thought...” Blue conceded, “...but I'm afraid it won't work like that. If she decided that she isn't coming, there's nothing in this world that could convince her. In all the 125.354 years of my life, I've never seen her change her mind on anything, not even once. ”

“Then she's pretty stubborn!”

“That's rich, coming from you!” Yellow shot back.

But then, her countenance softened the slightest bit. “She just doesn't see the world like we do. Haven't you ever noticed how she sometimes mentions things that you never told her about? Things no one could possibly know? Even if we had been around for as long as she had, we could never hope to understand her. ”

“Well, then maybe she should try to understand us!”

“I wonder if she can...” Blue mused quietly, her melancholy gaze trailing off in the distance.

Her words left behind a silence that was keenly felt by every single one of them.

Pink had no answer to this – in the end, it was Yellow who moved them along: “Don't you two have a ball to organize or something? We're expected at the court tower within the hour.”

“Well, maybe the sculptures weren't entirely the wrong idea... I could have your Pearl go and get one of your spinels so you can pick out the decorations while Yellow and I attend to the court cases...“

 

Later, Pink Diamond would find herself with her back the window of her room, trying hard not to glance at the gleaming, pale silhouette of the towering starship that shadowed all of the central plaza.

She was most definitely not imagining whatever its mistress must be up there in there – yep, certainly not conjuring some preposterous tale featuring talking animals or anything.

“I wish I knew more about you... “ she mumbled, surly.

The Palace Ship could be seen from almost anywhere in the higher levels of the capital. “Everyone expects me to be like you one day, but how am I even supposed to do that?”

Pink could seldom avoid looking at it.

Sometimes, when she'd see it, she'd think of the gem in whose likeness it had been crafted, and she'd be impressed by her great power and magnificence, and she'd think that it must be great to have all that.

On other days, (pretty much all days) she'd feel quite intimidated and a tiny bit watched.

Did she really know everything, have everything right, including everything she had ever said about Pink? Did she know what she was doing right now?

)

 

There was one more attempt, the last one that succeeded, not long before Pink Diamond gave it up forever.

As soon as she made it inside, having slipped in through some fuel pipe from the docking bay, she knew to remain alert, expecting that her creator would greet her at every turn of the enormous walls.

Everything here was so huge that it would still look pointlessly enormous with White right here for scale, but oddly enough, Pink couldn't find her, or perhaps White hadn't found her yet, as if that would be hard – She was the one obvious splotch of magenta in an universe of gray, the lone sound in a wold of untouched primordial silence, a single pale flower poking through the cracks and the gravel.

White Diamond wasn't in the control room. She wasn't in her office, either, and the room looked even emptier with the holoscreens deactivated.

Without White around, this was a rather dim and gloomy place – it might be presumed that she needed no illumination but her own. How very practical, but what would she do if she wanted to sneak upon someone in the dark? Because, however she'd do it, Pink very much believed her capable of it.

But faced with the dark unknown beyond her sparse mental map of those few familiar rooms, even Pink had been seriously daunted, and she might have left and retreated, if only she had known how to get out on her own.

She couldn't believe that she was actually hoping for White to kick her out, but as it stood, she had no choice but to find her – or the exit, whatever came first.

Around her was little but eerie glassy silence and emptiness, like a little world of its own enclosed in an airtight chrysalis, a tiny bit of primordial nothing preserved in amber, or stacked away in some distant corner whence it never felt anything of the world's creation.

In the murky depths awaited unfamiliar sights, and Pink couldn't make heads or tails of them. Once upon a time, she might have gratefully sucked up every detail of what limited glances she would get, but now, she just wanted to know what was going on or, failing that, make it out of here.

She found a flight deck adjacent to the control room, with a large crystalline throne and a large screen that had likely been out of use for eons.

Further down, near the office, Pink stumbled about a dome covered in star charts, and nearly fell into an immense pool of liquid in a dark chamber where the polished floor flat out stopped beyond a square, polished platform. Further out, there was a large, approximately cross-shaped structure and a large number of translucent tubes and wires of various sized hanging from the ceiling.

In another room, she found a gallery of bizarre objects in varied shapes, all of them made of translucent, glass-like material and imbued with a faint glow of power.

You'd think White would have an observation orb somewhere in here, but apparently, she had no need of one.

Instead, Pink found – well, she did not immediately know what to call it. First of all it was another large room, encased in a large, dark dome with decorated with star motifs not unlike the inside of White's cape. And in its center was a raised, circular platform, no stairs this time, though it could probably serve as a single step if you were about White Diamond's size.

In the center of the platform you would have found what, in any other context, might have been a nondescript block coated with polished, glittery material, but its central location alone made it into an altar.

At this point, Pink Diamond almost stumbled over something, something so bright that it took a second glance and a moment's notice to make out what it was, and only then did she comprehend the sight before her as a whole.

She'd found White, reclining on the altar with her hair unbound and spilling onto the surrounding floor like a torrential waterfall of light, probably because the usual spiky updo would have made it cumbersome to lay down. She had also shifted away, or discarded her ornate sandals, as one could easily tell since she had one of her legs swung over the other, leaving one set of bared black toenails up in the air – and in case this required any further clarification: No, she was not presently engaged in anything that could be construed as “work”.

Were they human, this might have been... well, not quite the equivalent of catching someone in their bathrobe, stuffing their face with junkfood in front of the TV, but Pink was surprised enough to forget that she was supposedly trying to be stealthy.

“White?! Is that you?”

It was her, not that it could have been anyone else, there was no one quite as luminous anywhere on the planet; But this didn't quite fit Pink's idea of her, and so she wasn't quite convinced until the titanic being before her propped herself up on her ellbow and turned in her direction with that unmistakable brilliant-cut gem embedded in her face. There was nothing like it anywhere in the universe, an exceedingly unlikely mass of ultapure, quantum-computer grade diamond; in all the history of the universe, there might never be a second one.

(But here's an interesting funfact for you: Even ultrapure quantum-computer grade diamond was not completely without irregularities – after all, those minuscule trace amounts were precisely what made it possible to process and store information in it-) Her luminous magnolia-petal face looked every bit as surprised as Pink's.

Whatever means she would have had to see her coming, she must have been too distracted by whatever she was doing to actively employ them – By the looks of it, she simply hadn't been paying attention.

...Pink?! W-what are you doing here?”

She honestly sounded more flabbergasted than angry, though the wrath-o-meter would have hardly shown a zero.

But Pink was sufficiently thrown off that she replied without any thought or regard for context: “Oh- sorry! Were you resting? I didn't mean to interrupt you... or like, I kinda did, but I thought you were working...”

Realizing that this statement would not make much sense to anyone but her, Pink sheepishly ran her hand through her gravity-defying cloud of fluffy bubblegum hair, accomplishing little more than to throw it into a disarray that White must surely disapprove of. Of course, even Pink would have been aware that it was generally a better choice to visit someone in their spare time than when they were supposed to be working, but paradoxically, this felt like a more important thing to have barged in on.

She rambled on between feeble bursts of nervous laughter, trying to chase away the silence, or stave off what might follow on its tail: “I guess even you need to take a break once in a while... even if it's probably just once in a hundred years or so.”

 

Pink didn't expect White to laugh, not truly – jokes were, by the very nature, grounded in the little ambiguities and gradations of life and the subtle shades of meaning that existed inside it, so it was no surprise that they should be wasted on someone who largely thought in absolutes.

Even Blue and Yellow agreed that White had no sense of humor whatsoever – when she laughed, it was usually in ridicule of some statement or viewpoint that clashed preposterously with her own.

But what she did instead might have been even more unexpected.

Miffed and curt, she immediately rushed to answer, instead of taking her sweet time as she usually did: “I. Do. Not. Engage in such a thing as 'breaks'!”

Instead of assuming a sort of wide, towering stance as she usually did, she even remained seated, wringing her hands together, holding her elbows close to her body and her knees close together – You'd almost think that she was the one who had been caught doing something she was not supposed to, and though it would not have occurred to Pink to parse the mighty empress as 'nervous', she instinctive realized this was not at all like her typical behavior, which unsettled her more than anything – but incorrigible in her foolhardy ways, the younger Diamond tried to play it cool:

“Aww come on, why wouldn't you? In a way, it's almost a relief...”

White narrowed her eyes huffishly. “Of course, you would think that.”

“No I don't!” Pink insisted. “Or, maybe I do, but not like you think. I just didn't want to think that you never even – that you don't… that you can't ever...” She trailed off.

White took that as an invitation to take over the conversation.

“Well, I'll have you know, that if I ever did take a 'break', it would be solely because you are all so very exhausting!” The elder Diamond griped, poutily, with her nose turned up in the air, just a little bit away from Pink's direction.

“Not just you, Yellow or Blue, all of you! I keep telling and telling everyone, and you just keep doing everything wrong, wrong, wrong!

You know sometimes, it really makes me wonder if there's any point in even talking to you all...”

You might almost, almost think she sounded just a little bit distraught, if you weren't Pink Diamond, or anyone else with an inkling of what she might have done if anyone had brought up that notion in her presence. But it was obvious enough that she was complaining.

“Well...” the younger gem figured, “Maybe you could... not scold us?”

“If only! The day that I could do that in good conscience, my work in this universe would be complete.”

“Well hopefully not, if it means we'd never get to see you anymore...”

“That's touching, Starlight, but absolutely no excuse.

“Still, if scolding doesn't seem to be working, why don't you just try something else? Like maybe just letting it be? Or telling the others what they're doing great? I'm just saying...”

“Can liquids flow uphill? Can the dust of a nebula suddenly flock back together to turn back into a star? Can the planets stop in their tracks and start spinning the other way...?”

Now, her arms were back to gesturing as they pleased. Same old immutable White.

Then, a thought seemed to occur to her, and she leaned forward, reaching out her arms.

“...Come over here. I've something to show you.”

Pink was not completely certain about this, but its not like White would have taken 'No' for an answer, and that was a good enough excuse to step forward and let herself be picked up.

She ended up on White's lap, sized like some sort of stuffed doll in comparison to her. As often, Pink thought her size was really irritating sometimes. Too small to look Yellow and Blue straight in the eye, too big to fit in the Pebbles' hiding places.

But that train of thought was clearly derailed when White commanded her attention, pointing one deliberate finger up at the domed roof above, and the twinkling points that dotted its charcoal expanse.

“That's a nice carving you got there, White.”

“Oh, that's not a carving at all, Starlight. It's a projection of the stars outside, just as they are right now.”

“You sure about that? It's daytime.”

(Outside, the ice and rock that made up homeworld's rings was sparkling up magenta skies)

“But the stars are still there, even if you can't see them as well from out there. They always follow the same paths. If you know where they were a hundred thousand years ago, you know without doubt where they are today, even as the constellations keep spinning round, and round, and round, just as they've done so many, many times ever since I emerged.

What is one remains one, and what is separate remains separate, and never the twain shall meet, all according to their natures, from the moment they came into being.

Even when they appear to change, they are simply following along the paths of the same familiar laws. Gravity. Chemistry. Light.

Do you understand what I am meaning to tell you?”

“Maybe...” Pink admitted. “But can't we choose our own path?”

“Sure, if you like. But don't expect it to lead anywhere but ruin if you choose to go against your nature. Anything you choose or do will still be a result of it. Neither of us could escape it, even if we wanted – so it's best to accept it, don't you think?”

“I wonder if that's right...”

“Of course it is. I know it as surely as I know anything at all.”

White seemed to regard this as a comforting thought, but for Pink, just holding it within her mind made her feel uneasy. What if she really couldn't change? Would she go on being the way she was now forever and ever and ever? As long as the stars spun around in the sky, or rather, as long as homeworld kept hurtling around the center of its galaxy?

Pink hoped that it was not so, that even White could be something other than what she was if she were to put her mind to it, but at the time, she had no arguments to back it up, apart from the wishful thinking that would go on to blind her a great many times.

Later, she would come to find that it was definitely quite possible for at least some other beings, maybe even other gems – and go on to conclude that it was impossible for White, forever in doubt as to what little hope that left for herself.

But that day was yet to come. “I know I shouldn't have been sneaking in here, but I'm kinda glad I did. It's good to know that even you have some things that you actually enjoy doing... Should've figured that you like the stars, since you've got them on your cape and all.”

Observing the sparkling, illusory lights above, White Diamond's face took on a thoughtful expression for a moment, unseen by all including a certain pink gem who couldn't really make it out from below.

“Sometimes I have this thought, about a time where I might have been right among them, with all of their protons or neutrons. Or perhaps, they were voices, speaking, some very long time ago... but I know that it cannot be a memory, because no such thing could ever have happened.“

Sounded like a daydream really, but she would probably resent the very implication, much like she had repudiated the concept of her 'taking breaks'-

“When I first gained awareness of my own existence, the first thing I knew was that there was nothing else there but me.”

Pink Diamond did still produce a bit of a childlike gasp at this. “Then you were all alone?”

“I was the only existence, yes. ”

In a way, that never changed, just as nothing else truly did.

But with this little rascal around, she might even be tempted to forget it for a little while.

“That must've sucked. Good thing it's not like that anymore... Hey, how about the four of us all get together and look at the real stars sometime? There's this fancy courtyard that Blue likes which has a pretty great view... ”

“No thanks. I think I prefer these ones. No such pesky things as the daytime getting in the way of the view.”

 

….

 

“Yellow... do you think White... understands?”

“Has she finally lost it completely, you mean? Is it that what you're asking me?”

“Of course not! Don't even say such a thing... this... this must be hard for her too, right? Right? … in her own sort of way... ”

Blue clung to her with her thin, long fingers, beseeching her with that fraught, weepy voice of hers, but Yellow had no answer to give her, at least none that she'd admit to herself, as surely as she felt the sting of the obvious conclusion deep within her gem.

“Surely, she wouldn't abandon us at a time like this, right...? Right?”

“You think she has abandoned us? She has scorned us. Disowned us. Perhaps if we manage to mop up those rebels with some semblance of dignity, she might admit us back into her presence before the heat death of the universe.”

Or she might admit Blue.

Yellow knew better than to expect that she would be included in this hypothetical mercy – and she deserved no better. This was her fault. Blue wouldn't say it, White wouldn't say anything to them at all, but she knew that they must know it. Knew that they must see it, when they looked at her.

She could not forget it for a second, not with Blue's weeping, hooded figure in her arms.
She was here because Yellow brought her, in what was designated the current situation room, a new one, in one of the structures on the surface, not the old one on the moon base, where she would be haunted by the afterimages, all the times Pink had peered up at the charts while Yellow explained things to her, how she'd tutored her in strategy, advised her in terms of battle plans, sparred with her out on the pale regolith dust of the surface.

She'd insisted that Blue take part in the war meeting, but she'd spent the bulk of it curled up in her seat, buried in the layers of her robes without speaking or looking at anyone, and nothing much was accomplished beyond slightly increasing both of their misery and causing a brief interruption halfway through the meeting when she could not restrain herself from crying when the subject turned to the leader of the rebellion.

“If only we had done more! If only we had intervened long before! We should never have let her do this by herself... I told her that... abomination couldn't hurt her... what must she have been thinking, right before she was broken, all alone... in the dirt!”

“We should have been stricter with her...” Yellow concluded, not quivering, not quaking, nothing but somber and burnt out in the face of harsh reality. “We should never have given in to her whims. We should have insisted that she keep her gems in line...”

 

And they never really had a real reason before, not enough to merit this degree of hatred. They had been callous for sure, casually accustomed to the destruction they so often dispensed. Sure, they had never enjoyed it, and they still didn't, but now, every time Yellow beheld a new world overgrown with organics,

every time that Blue found herself sitting in judgment over transgressors, they thought with disdain:

'She was killed over creatures like those?

By gems like these?'

and they felt acutely how nothing in this world could possibly have been more precious than her life. At least not to them.

 

But there was more than that.

She had not been ready to have her own world. She had not been ready to create her own gem-type.

 

“Accursed Rose Quartz!” In one fell swoop, Yellow Diamond knocked over the table on which the war plans had been drawn, sending piles of maps, charts, artifacts and miniatures tumbling to the ground. She did not even notice how Blue flinched away from her, so overtaken was she by her wrath, brought to her knees, fighting back tears of rage.

“She just keeps evading me! It's like she somehow knows all of my strategies. As if she had been listening in in this very room! And that... power of hers? I wouldn't believe it at first, until I saw it for myself, and ever since, I've had the soldiers under orders to pulverize every crystal gem they come across, lest they return as good as new and mow down our troops faster than we can grow them....

What IS she?!”

 

____________________

A/N:

Listen up guys, gals and nonbinary pals! Apparently, there is such a thing as “magic Russian diamond” which is used in quantum computing. And yep, it's clear/white.

I'm not saying our favorite tyrannical light bulb is one of these, but she's totally one of these.

It’s notable for being exceptionally pure, but ironically, it’s the very very few stray nitrogens (and corresponding little holes, yay for the power of THE VOID) that make it so useful. (with the unusually pure carbon lattice acting as an isolator of sorts)

Of course where you can have computers, you can have AI. Though even regular I is basically just the result of a meat computer so like this detail might also fit into the various origin story speculations, with or without literal magic involved.

If you wanted to go the mythological route, it has occurred to me that WD is kind of a lot like the gnostic concept Demiurge, particularly the interpretations where it's not so much outright out to entrap people but simply ignorant misguided and/or flawed like the world it created.

 

 

Also, Pink Diamond would totally build a public library. We know she was probably an imaginative type, and she'd want to sponsor something wholesome and leisure-related. Wouldn't be surprised if Pearl was involved in the setup as well. If it were up to her she'd probably have let anyone in there but the other Diamonds ensured that gems that aren't supposed to be reading aren't allowed in, or at least that there'd be a fancier second floor for elites and only regime-sanctioned books... or like it probably doesn't have actual books but something more “crystal spires and togas-y” like magic scrolls or space kindles. Once Pearl finally taught Steven to read/write in gem language, he raided it and translated some for Connie, who then made a sophisticated social critique of them which Pearl and Bismuth were very proud of. I kinda hope we'll get Bismuth & Connie interacting more in season 6 since Connie also kinda has this politically cynical side to her with her apocalypse prepping & social critique of books. Besides they'd probably be impressed by each other's boldness like, they'd totally hit it off.

 

The idea that Bismuth formerly served WD is just my headcanon, but she can't be from the Pink one since she mentions building other colonies in the past, she's got a rainbow color scheme (like “our” Pearl, who was made for Pink but definitely by White, at least the implication's pretty strong) and the implication that Bismuth got to wreck her former Diamond in a mecha battle is just very satisfying. Like, it feels that would mean a lot to Bismuth?

It's a pity that we'll never see whatever priceless expression WD was making inside that ship.

 

The idea for the park comes from the one park in Venice that is otherwise just a bunch of islands completely plastered in buildings. Venice is one of the most beautiful impressive sights I've ever seen but one striking aspect of that is its complete artificiality. The park is also famous because of the popular Austrian empress that got married there once.

 

Absolutism-era castles often had rooms that were purely for showing off. (Including so called mirror halls that were lined with mirrors to make the rooms brighter – and simply because ) I mean the wall gems definitely strike one as a “the king of france needs five servants to put his shirt on” type of thing.

 

But here's the thing: The Sun King was actually a total cheap skate. Versailles, the archetypical showing-off-let-them-eat-cake palace, was actually pretty unpleasant to live in, particularöly in winter: not enough furnaces, the windows didn't close properly.... And the Queen had to have her kids in public! Same goes for Sanssoucci palace in Berlin, which, as ridiculously pompous as everything about it looks, was actually considered pretty modest by palace standards, like aside from the party rooms, the actual royal dwelling wasn't that big. (He had a second palace to show off to guests tho, which is where his heirs lived till we kicked em out after WWI)

So there's this image of total waste and excess but it was really all a giant farce and just for show and the Diamonds strike one as having the exact same vibe going on.

I have absolutely no idea if this chapter is any good or not. Either I veered completely and indulgently off-topic, or the strategic placement between the last chapter and the next will make for an effective composition as a whole while piling on some extra lore bits – I genuinely don't know.

Chapter Text

Part IV: Absorption (Act I: “Paradise Lost”)

 

What's a devil to do

when those old delusions so tried and true

don't come through like they used to

 

Ugh, all my money's ran out

I blew it all on a cumulus cloud

that dissipasted so fast, seems the good times never last

 

And I always land flat on by back

Like an upside down cat

But is bad luck really such a crime?

 

If you won't be my valentine,

won't you at least give me a little bit of sympathy?

 

I made a silly mistake

I've given up more than I can take

and left hollows in my wake

 

 

(I'm safe. I'm whole. I've got it under control)

My structure's compromised

(I'm safe. I'm whole. I've got it under control)

But you still batter at all my fault lines

(And I will protect you even if you won't protect me, too)

I can't run, I can't hide, but you can't say I didn't try

 

to retreat back into me

like a catabolic seed

I want to destroy everything that's mine

 

If you won't be my valentine,

won't you at least give me a little bit of sympathy?

 

 

I don't care if I'm losing myself in the garden of earthly delights

I could drop dead right where I stand and I wouldn't mind

 

 

-From The Scary Jokes' „Catabolic Seed“

 

 

...

 

So for years upon years, you grow accustomed to that person's presence, and you start planing out your life expecting that they will be there by your side.

You initial excitement may have waned long ago, your occasional frustration might be much closer to the forefront of your daily thoughts,but when they entered your life, they added some net benefit, a positive reinforcement, a safety net you could count on, or even just a minute background presence of warmth and familiarity – and with time, the internal processes and balances of your body, mind and soul adjusted to expect it, to include it, to rely on that person and their presence in your life as surely as you relied on the gravity that keeps you anchored to the floor.

Before long, all the minute chemical and electric equilibriums that comprised you as a being would have shifted to fit the mold of their presence, so much so that they would be disturbed even you wanted that person to leave, because the simplistic, archaic algorithms of your more primitive components had registered them as a packmate and understood little about reasons or dignity or the concept of finality.

Even in the circumstances of a largely meaningless loss, Homeostasis might break down across all arbitrary compartments of your fine-tuned clockworks, even if all you lost was some illusion of your own making – but what if you lost something that was not meaningless?

Real love is a promise beyond transient and error-prone flittering of chemicals; One does not have to fall prey to any sort of soppy romanticism in order to recognize that.

All that which we might consider the higher functions of movement, will, feeling, thought and spirit had their basis in physical processes, parts pushing on parts that looked nothing like the emergent whole.

Even if one were merely discussing a perturbation of the hardware they ran on, they could not be unaffected, so what if they had been integral parts of the process to begin with?

Do not delude yourself out of pride, because you'd like to keep your clean neat little thoughts safe from the very cold, mechanistic reality you might want to speak for:

That person you lost? By now, they had probably attained some place in your concept of yourself, or even played some vital role in your understanding of the world itself and the meaning you assigned to your choices and experiences, as proof that your life made sense.

There were circuits in your mind, a great many of minute little pattern-recognizing devices, that were devoted entirely to them: To recognize their shape from any possible angle, any perspective in three-dimensional space, to know them even in a garbled image, to pick out their voice in the clamor of an enormous crowd, to call up their image in an instant behind your closed eyelids, and tie it all together into a holistic, ineffable whole that would stand out to you more so than the component parts.

And if that was so, it would be because there was likely a great redundancy and abundance of such circuits, large areas of you in your rawest form dedicated only to them, to pick out their voice, their handwriting, their way of talking, describing and choosing words as it is mirrored in the speech centers of their own thinking implements.

With little others would you have made space to store the set of their characteristic moods and expressions, consecrated a part of your soul to hold a sophisticated little model of them so you might predict what they might do.

They become a part of you, idling around in the caverns of your mind, being incorporated in your most basic, general patterns of behavior, little reminders to take them into account – and now that they were gone, now that you would never see them again, all these little circuits – all those intimate little parts of yours – had all been rendered useless with one silent swoop of the scythe, like a chair or a room or a landing pad for someone who was not ever going to come back.

But don't count of all of you to understand this right away, or at the same time. You are, after all, a complex hierarchical network that changes largely through gradual reinforcement and backpropagation of signals. If it could alter so easily just from a single sentence being flung your way, you could never hold a stable pattern and nothing could take shape apart from fleeting, ever-changing impressions, reacting merely to what it immediately in front of you without filter or direction.

 

So in the days to come, you'll be going about your day, and out of habit, you would find yourself considering what they might think – that person. The one who was lost.

The one who is always on your mind though you no longer say her name.

You'd see something, and you'd find yourself considering that they might like it, you'd have a thought, and think of sharing it with them, or, you'd experience hardship, and look for the comfort of their presence, until you remembered that, oh, that's not really an option anymore, that's yet another thing that you cannot do now that you are here alone without them.

From your highest heart, you learned to bring forth love despite yourself, to squeeze and milk it from the infertile grounds of your soul through struggle and adversity, and now that it's recipient is nowhere to be found, its destination unavailable, there was nowhere for it to go, and you'd feel it building up within like the obscene swell of infection, clogging up the circuits of your mind, gluing your tangled thoughts into a sticky, unwieldy mess-

 

Yellow Diamond knew exactly what these rebels had done with Pink – she could never forget, not even for a moment, no matter how much she might have wanted to.

So there was no need to remind her, not with any sort of physical keepsakes, and certainly not with the pain that pierced through her chest in every waking moment.

There was just nothing she could do about it anymore.

Nothing at all -

She couldn't afford to let herself break in pieces. Not now. The empire needed her. Blue and White needed her – and besides, there was still the matter of this little uprising to deal with, which was quite enough of a distraction in and of itself.

She pushed herself press onward, but she would have been lying if she said that her concentration and judgment were unaffected. She could hear White's inevitable objurgations in the back of her mind even knowing that she was all the way back on homeworld, most likely going about her days as if nothing had happened at all.

 

Soon after the news reached them, Yellow warped to Earth, determined to end this debacle in person.

She waltzed in with her arms behind her back and her face set in a heavy frown, so that she might make do with a world where everything was torn and smashed and broken and, quite simply, nothing would ever be alright again.

It was a simple fact of life, and there was no use in lamenting or resisting it.

This was simply her world now, and it called for her attention.

Earth, at least insofar as one considered the homeworld-aligned side of things, was in complete disarray. The chain of command had collapsed completely, subsumed by agonized wails, aimless wanderings and fearful whispers.

They knew not what to do, until the sound of Yellow's titanic footfalls cut through the chaos – and the more dazed the lost sheep had been before her arrival, the quicker their instincts would force them to move once she started barking out orders, wasting no time in rerouting the decapitated court and its disorganized army toward some semblance of purposeful action.

And she was not alone –

Pink's former subordinates had all but proven their incompetence – what more, given the mysterious circumstances of her death, even their loyalty was in doubt.

Thus, Yellow brought some of her own most trustworthy staff along with some of Blue's foremost elites.

Blue herself was in the crook of her right arm when they materialized on the terrestrial galaxy warp – She was hardly fit to be seen, let alone for travel, but she had insisted on coming along, in a cold, trembling, dangerous voice reminiscent of a wrathful spirit, and though she'd made a show of arguing against it, Yellow could not bring herself to be too insistent – for as much as she wanted Blue out of harm's way, the idea of leaving her on homeworld by herself discomfited her immensely; Besides, the prospect of revenge seemed to be the only thing that could get her to focus for extended periods of time these days.

 

Upon her arrival, Yellow summoned all the top brass and took personal control of everything related to the war, looking through all troop movements and the background of every single gem that had served in Pink's entourage on that fateful day – all were accounted for, apart from her pearl, who was presumed to have perished in the raid as well (a conclusion no one doubted – after all, she was only a pearl.) But since she would have been the one to keep track of Pink's appointments, it was a lot harder to reconstruct a timeline of her last days than it might otherwise have been.

Whatever schedules and records Yellow was able to reconstruct were still riddled with large gaps, and the elder Diamond had some suspicious why, though she did not quite want to believe it, but it's not like Pink's staff would have dared to question the comings and goings of their Diamond. Surely, even Pink couldn't be so insane as to sneak out to play hooky on a planet crawling with traitorous rebels!

But the mysteries abounded, and what Yellow Diamond found in the moon bases' data-cores only seemed to tell half the story, a story that confounded her more the more she tried to piece it together.

The various earthborn gems told tales of a very different Pink Diamond, one who was certainly gentle and eccentric, but also gracious, wise, inspiring and maternal, and even somewhat contemplative, as did the files – the earlier ones, though somewhat spotty, showed that she was actually pretty engaged in getting the various facilities set up, particularly the kindergartens.

Sure, she was unaccounted for here and there, or frequenting the entertainment facilities, but for a while, it almost seemed like she had turned a corner.

Yellow faintly recalled an instance where Blue had visited her on earth and remarked something like this, that she had seemed, perhaps a tad bored, but also coping with it, looking forward to the emergence of her new gems and enjoying the freedom s that her new position afforded her. At the time, that had been her impression, too, but the thought was lost among various trivial recollections (Much unwarranted fawning about her newly-minted Amethysts and something about how she was trying to grow out her hair but frustrated when it mostly went upwards) and discounted once her complaints had started and quickly been taken as proof that she had not matured at all. It was about that time when progress began... stalling, but it might not have been more than a temporary fluke if this was not just around the time when this “Rose Quartz” first started causing a stir.

And while all three of them had loaned her various specialized gems to help out with tasks such as building and terraforming until Pink would have had the time to produce her own staff, most of the gems on Earth – and thus most of the defectors – had been Pink's own, from the ranks of the very creations she was ever so fond of.

Perhaps, that broke her spirit – and played its part in her dissatisfaction.

Still, though she and Blue had intervened before and often scolded her for her sloppy work, Yellow couldn't believe these old missives – Apparently, Pink had given the order that the rebels were not to be shattered unless it was unavoidable, and, if possible, to be detained, but of course, that often resulted in their escape.

 

“She must've hoped that they would see reason and come back to us...” one of her former soldiers explained, “She really was too good for this sinful Earth.” - this was told to Yellow by a short, defective Jasper whom Pink had insisted to keep, prompting her to wonder if she would still be alive if she didn't have her bases staffed with barely-functional guards.

The part of Yellow Diamond that had once dwelt with her on the palace grounds could not help but agree with the puny quartz, while the general in her could only shake her head.

She learned far more than she would have needed to confirm her conclusions, too little to reach another answer, but just enough to reveal all their pains again.

Even if she couldn't understand every single detail of this picture, the upshot of it was the same every time, and the final scene outcome changed.

Whether the records told of her once promising early successes or her hopeless inadequacy in the face of the challenged leading up to her demise, there was no part of it that didn't come to her as a torturous devastation, and the same blade would visit her body once again when she was forced to watch it inflict itself on Blue, who took it as badly as mere words could be taken, yet still insisted on reading everything down to the most inanely irrelevant piece of casual correspondence despite Yellow's assurances that it wasn't necessary, replaying each message or video file over and over again as if it would somehow get longer from that, dissecting every account of the incident looking for something, anything they might have missed, drinking in each poisonous line with wild, frantic eyes, until her frayed constitution could no longer take their withering blows – and she might stop then, but only to throw herself on the floor and spill her tears and wretched sounds until her voice was too hoarse to go on and the wells of her soul ran dry.

- and for what?

What if there were a couple more obscure tidbits of Pink's life to be found between the pages? It did not change that there would be no new memories to be added.

What does it matter if there truly were some details of their last moments that they hadn't full understood? What if they were to reconstruct the events of that day down to the finest detail, when all possible scenarios could only lead to the exact same result?

What if there was some obscure way that she could have been saved?

She wasn't, and it was far too late to change that.

They might twist and turn it to their gems' content for as long as they pleased, but the outcome remained the same:

Pink Diamond had been a complete an utter fool who might as well have handed her gem to her enemies on a polished anvil. She couldn't have made the rebels' work easier if she had been in cahoots with them, and they had taken advantage of her weakness at every step of the way. She had been soft, and foolish, and.... distracted...

And for that, she had paid the ultimate price - Been eaten alive, if Yellow Diamond had been familiar with that idiom.

But how could she explain that to Blue? How could she convince her to cease in her folly when it would mean making her understand that there was no absolution to be found? Oh how she wished that it were in her power to tear her from those files, but only White could forbid her anything, and she was far back home.

With every passing day, Yellow felt the once solid pillars of her world slip through her fingers like sand.

So she had the warp pad to the moon base smashed and erased the files pertaining to the colony's previous administration from all her personal terminals. The records could tell her nothing that she did not already know, so there was no point in sparing them another glance ever again.

Besides, none of them were needed anymore - This was no longer a question of restoring order to the pink court or completing the colony – for whom?

From the moment that the rebels dared to raise their hands against one of the authority, there was only one result that they could have accepted, personally or politically: Naught but the complete and utter annihilation of the crystal gems and the miserable planet they so cherished.

To that end, the Great Destroyer set to work.

As soon as she took over, she dispensed with all restraints and reservations and launched a merciless offensive against all known rebel strongholds.

 

….

 

Yes of course it was going to hurt; the very nature of it was violence.

After all she is cutting away at her own being, severing ties with her own kin.

She envies those lucky sun-children, cognates of paradise who can afford to be at peace with all of themselves.

So she sheds her old skin like a deceiving reptile, the humble worm hoping that she might finally spread her wings, that she would not suffocate inside her cocoon without ever succeeding to break the eggshell that had been her previous world, left to fall out of her skies like a meteor, cursed to crawl upon her belly like the worm she always was, biting her tail to devour her own life.

 

But Bismuth's sword holds its promises, even though its mistress could not keep her own, and the blade that hits her in her center does not strike her down, nor does it inconvenience her for long.

With her kind of power, she finds the strength to reform almost right away, and if she holds out, it's only to give Pearl enough time to make her getaway.

But once she believes herself sure that she must have made it, there is no more hesitation, no deliberation, not even the tiniest sliver of doubt.

- She knows exactly what kind of form she wants this time.

She pictures it before her, imagining how it will finally feel completely natural and comfortable, without even the slight little tug that even she would feel from holding such a divergent form for so many days on end. She imagines no more lies, no more going behind people's backs, no more staling away in the night to take a breather, no more dithering on the threshold; She could finally commit for good, and the past that was thrust upon her would cease to matter forever.

She knows, finally, what kind of life she hopes for – her new life, her actual life as chosen by herself.

 

She just didn't expect it to start in the pouring rain, to the tune of Peal's frantic sobs and shivers as she hugs herself with her thin arms, clutching the hilt of her sword.

Immediately, she rushes to comfort her: “Hey, it's okay, I'm fine, I'm here, it's only me now.”

But she misunderstands.

 

(Even if you fail to be born, it's only natural that you should die. )

 

It is not with drums and fanfares that they are welcomed home when they reach the rebel stronghold – amid the desperate onslaught, no one even wastes a thought on notions victory.

 

“ROSE!”

Sometimes, it still took her just a few seconds too long to respond to that name.

“Rose! Pearl! Where have you been? All hell has broken loose!”

“W-well, you see, she took a hit while we were fleeing and we had to wait for her to reform...-”

“Never mind now... Our positions are being overrun as we speak... And I'm afraid there have been casualties...”

 

Their comrades have their heels dug into the mud, forced to parry one blow with their left hands before their right was done with deflecting the last. The two of them are greeted with broken barricades and splintered combatants.

Left and right, there is leaking cracking glitching breaking crumbling like never before, closing the curtain on the days when they were a wave of star children of just daring to dream new dreams, discovering their bodies and souls in the forests far from the restrictions they had known.

The bad blood had seeped in, and the halcyon days were most definitely over – and they, too, could never relent, not after they'd had a taste of freedom, not after they'd learned to value themselves, to dare think they deserved better.

They could never go back, not without everything they were revolting at the thought. They'd left behind the established paths and made it out to the great unknown where there are no roads but the ones they carve out for themselves – even if they had to do so with tooth and nail.

If they could not crack the world's shell, they would die without ever being born, robbed of the chance to ever truly live yet haunted by the distant mirages of possibility and lost potential.

 

There never was a “Rose Quartz”, but there was a rebel leader, and she had decided to stand and fight a long, long time ago – but she had hoped it wouldn't be like this, that it wouldn't be her half-sunken in the mud, with Pearl desperately struggling at her side, hacking away with her sword despite the terror that was plain on her face. At her back, Garnet and Biggs hammering away at their enemies, forced back to the battlefield after they had filled their lives with so much beautiful meaning outside of it. It struck her that Biggs had taken it upon herself to fill Bismuth's empty spot in their usual formation.

All around them, their comrades were fighting for their lives. Crazy Lace was wrestling an enormous Amethyst. Snowflake was holding her own not one, not two, but three Ruby fusions, entire platoons' worth of gemstones glittering on the surface of their bodies.

Pink recognized some of their opponents as well; She had known some of them since they emerged... or since she emerged, in case of the ones from the blue and yellow courts. Most of them weren't bad gems – but here they were, mowing down her beloved friends for the sole crime of having dared to think that they should be happy.

She had tried to resolve things peacefully where she could and abstain from lethal force where possible, and that had put her at odds with one of her own closest comrades – and for what?

When she decided to leave her old life behind for good, she had thought that it would finally set her on a clear course where she could fully stand behind her every choice without having to weigh conflicting goals, but instead, the relentless onslaught forced her hands more often than ever... but what was she supposed to do?

Stand by as they killed her friends and despoiled this beautiful planet?

 

Her bare feet were cut up from the shards of friend and foe alike – and that was only right, cursed would be the day where she could shed their dust without feeling anything at all just as the authority did. Again and again she reached out her arms, trying to cover as many as she could under the arc of her shield, to become the wall between them and their doom as if that could somehow make up for the billions that her fellow diamonds must have slaughtered.

But she couldn't be everywhere at once, there was only so far she could reach, and only so much that her healing powers could fix.

She often thought of Pink Pearl in moments like these. How many more of her friends and comrades would she have failed before this bitter fight was over?

When she beheld the senseless waste of life around her, she found much cause to weep, and she would have cried no less if her tears did not come with such useful applications.

 

When she first discovered that ability, more by accident than for any other reason, she thought that things were finally different. That she was no longer so helpless as she had been when Pink Pearl was torn from her grasp, that she would be able to protect them now, that she could maybe get close to them without pulling them all down the blackhole abyss of her own cursed existence.

Truth be told, she had been terrified in that moment, much more so than she had been relieved, thinking for a moment that she must have blown her cover, but instead, her comrades had been far too impressed and too little surprised. Instead of turning on her with torches and pitchforks, they had sung her praises and gone on to rave about how it was only proof of her extraordinary unique nature, and how inspiring it was that a gem made to be an engine of war could make herself a preserver of life.

Bismuth and Garnet had given her 'achievement' outright philosophical weight, and even Pearl, who should have known better, had attributed it to her greatness and loving nature, and it was so tempting to let them keep believing that, if that would inspire them to believe in their own abilities – after all, it was not long after that Pearl worked out how to summon her spear. Sometimes, she could even make herself believe it – after all, they were all discovering new things about themselves in those days, and it's not like Blue, Yellow or White would ever have thought to use their life-giving powers for healing. How would they ever find out? When had they ever cared enough about any of their fallen soldiers to be moved to tears?

 

She liked to think that she was saving them, that she was just making herself into the vehicle for their escape, but how did she know that she wasn't leading them into a fool's paradise?

In a private moment, Sapphire had confided in her that she couldn't see them winning the war, no matter how many times she looked. (Ruby was out cold at the time, her gem cradled in Sapphire's hands after “Rose” had healed the crack she'd sustained earlier)

Of course, she ended up being reassured that they would make it anyways, be it by the Crystal gem's “wise, courageous leader”, or a naive young diamond misled by her own wishful thinking, and once Ruby reformed and rejoined her in their union, Garnet found it easier to stand tall and work to grasp that better future with her own two hands.

That was perhaps the one moment where she came the closest to disclosing the truth. As her second-in-command, Garnet would have understood the burden of being responsible for all these people more than anyone, of finding herself in that position when all she had wanted was to live free – The fusion was always fairly open about her doubts and limitations, and never minced words.

In that sense, she was almost Pink's exact opposite, but perhaps that's precisely why they had complemented each other as the spearheads of the rebellion.

She always considered Garnet one of her most special friends –

If you'd asked the “great Rose Quartz”, she might have told you that Garnet was always the true visionary behind the crystal gems, though this was not something that ever reached Garnet's ears, or, if it did, she might have taken it as an outgrowth of their leader's inspiring, encouraging nature.

At the time, she was not nearly as certain in herself and her nature as she would one day come to be, and that very same bluntness sometimes made it hard to her to deal with or reassure the others where “Rose's” optimistic words and charming personality easily succeeded.

But though Pearl was in charge of things like safety precautions and routine drills, it was always Garnet who maintained the discipline among their ranks and interceded when it became necessary for someone to put their foot down, at times without Pink Diamond necessarily knowing, but always in the assumption that this was what she would want, to save her further work as, it were.

If she hadn't, it might have been a lot more apparent that “Rose” was actually quite reluctant and uncomfortable with the act of dispensing disciple.

To begin with, she might not have been well-equipped to realize when it was necessary, given her own disposition – Responsibility was thrust upon her by necessity and she strove to live up to its requirements, but it was not something that came to her naturally, nor a thought that would pop up in her mind if she didn't make the conscious effort to remind herself.

Besides, she knew very well what it was like to feel restricted, and she would not inflict this on anyone else for the world, to the point of erring on the side of permissiveness where safety or discipline ought to have taken precedence.

And who was she to tell anything to anybody?

She had no right, least of everyone.

 

And though this was not a connection that Pink Diamond herself would have made, a more distanced observer like perhaps a later historian might have come to the conclusion that this trait of hers was not necessarily a bad thing, or perhaps best understood as a neutral characteristic with both helpful and counterproductive repercussions depending on the context.

She was what she was, and that's allowed her to do the things she did where others had not, warts and all -

After all, Blue Diamond could be said to be sensitive and tactful, and Yellow Diamond might be thought of as responsible and considerate – and by those very hooks and scruples that might have otherwise become their greatest virtues, White Diamond had roped them into doing her bidding as her loyal enforcers, tied in place not just by their own shortcomings, but the voices of their better angels, all the sentiment and loyalty that would balk at the notion of betraying their creator.

In a sense, all three had mercilessly crushed and buried every inconvenient part of them on the altar of their zealotry;

For where one consumed and driven by selfish greed alone might have relented to save their own measly life once things got inconvenient for them, but one who believed their acts to be necessary for all that is right and good would not cease in their efforts until they had destroyed themselves completely – and quite possibly, everything around them.

 

Pink Diamond was not like that, perhaps out of some mechanic of the universe that ensured that the overabundance of any thing must eventually bring forth its opposite.

She was all about telling people to follow their desires, to do what they want and what makes them happy, a message that sounded revolutionary to those who had spent lifetimes being told that their dreams and feelings weren't important, as wasted as that idea may have been on her fellow diamonds.

On Earth or on Homeworld, this was what she had added, what would be missing if she were to disappear, nothing more, nothing less.

Not what had always come from Pearl's resourcefulness or Garnet's determination or Bismuth's resolve, but something regardless, something that sparked change where for the longest time, there had been none.

 

All of that would have been news to Pink Diamond, however. She did not understand why others flocked to her, nor the radical notion that they might want to return the adoration and dedication she so readily expressed to them.

– when she looked at the others, at how far they'd come sice their first encounters, she couldn't help the impression that she was falling behind. Still stagnant. Still limited.

Each time Pearl described anything she did as “the mark of a great leader”, she would feel nauseous, shaky and just a little bit tempted to fantasize about bashing herself to pieces with one of Bismuth's old tools, but of course, she could never, ever let it show, not when the others were looking to her, not when they were reaching out to her from the pits of their desperation...

But what should she do?

What could she do?

How did things end up like this?

She'd never wanted this, but somehow, someway, it had come to pass.

All she'd ever wanted was to be free, to have some friends and to save this world from destruction.

But here she was, as trapped as she had ever been, while all around her was slaughter.

 

(If we cannot crack the world's shell, we will die without ever being born.)

 

She thought that things would be different -

But that was before she'd seen so many innocents crushed so thoroughly that her crying was as useless as it had ever been.

 

….

 

Some of the Rose Quartzes protested their innocence up until the moment their forms were dispelled, some decried the injustice, confessing not what they did, but what they wished they had done; Others professed their undying loyalty to the authority as they wept, begging on their knees for mercy – but most penitently accepted their fate or begged forgiveness for the actions of their wayward 'sister', even going so far as to handle the restraining and poofing of their beloved comrades, bubbling them themselves until only one of them was left.

That one expressed the desire that the moon goddess might take her to where Pink Diamond was now, which one of Pink's jaspers perceived as such an insolence that she destroyed her that instant, repeatedly stomping her shards into the dirt.

(This is why you wouldn't find one single orange bubble among the sea of cherry-blossom tint)

The others were scheduled to be disposed of, too, but while she was seeing to the progress of her offensive, Yellow Diamond was informed that her order had been canceled, by none other than Blue Diamond herself.

This resulted in an argument between the two, of which the former eventually tired and decreed that they should simply be shipped off planet for now until they could decide what to do with them at a later point.

She insisted on keeping the off-colored soldiers, too, citing that Pink had been so fond of them, just as she'd so been fond of the Rose Quartzes.

“Yes, and then one of them destroyed her!”

“They're all we have left of her...They were hers...”

“And yet, one of them betrayed her! That's exactly why they deserve no mercy! Besides, what could you possibly want with them? What use could they have? They're all suspect.”

“But she was so happy when she made them... we were so proud of her that day... we all were... all four of us...”

She crumbled into a pile of sobs at this point, holding on tightly to the folds of her cloak as she wrapped them around her, sinking deeper and deeper under their cover, as if she wanted to disappear beneath the fabric.

“So why... why did it end up like this....”

Because she was weak.

But Yellow knew that Blue was not going to like that answer.

“What does it matter? It did. One of these aberrations betrayed her and put a sword through her gem. What would you have us do with them? Wait for them to destroy you, too?”

(That was a purely rhetorical question, snappy, sarcastic and much harsher than it needed to be, but the worst was that Blue didn't answer.)

 

But poofed gems tell no tales, and the one salient piece testimony that Yellow and Blue couldn't find was the one that got lost in the shuffle, placed beyond their reach by their own actions:

None of the Rose Quartzes had seen the rebel leader emerge, and if you had bothered to ask them, none of them would recall being part of her batch.

Sure, there was a file in the moon base's computer systems, a ridiculously unremarkable entry supposedly made right when she first reported for duty, but reality was not so easily tampered with as a register on a hard drive - in truth, the recorded values and measurements were so average because the file was a fake, put there by a certain renegade pearl back when she was first teaching herself to work with computers, in case they were ever asked for a serial number.

So if you searched the data bases, you would be led to believe that 'Rose Quartz, Facet 4, Cut 13M' was unremarkable in every way.

But she had no exit hole, no assigned dwelling to her name.

When Pink Diamond's former Agates were forced to admit that they didn't know which of them the traitor had been serving under, they weren't speaking lies, and neither were they at fault.

No one had seen or heard of this curious individual until stories of her just started popping up like mushrooms, and the earliest ones couldn't even agree on what sort of quartz she was supposed to be.

In most of them, she just showed up, usually unannounced, with some flimsy explanation as to what she was doing here, though she usually claimed that she had been ordered to help out whatever unit of gems had crossed her path.

When pressed for details, she might have claimed to have received her orders from Pink Diamond herself – a clumsy fib more than a power move, but it was often enough taken for the latter, particularly since that peculiar quartz was often accompanied by a Pearl, suggesting that she must have done something to earn her.

Once or twice some higher-ranked gem might have thought to report her for loitering about the landscape, but when asked whether she had actually sent those orders, Pink Diamond certainly did not deny it, and her orders were not questioned, which rather created the impression that the oddball quartz must have somehow managed to rise through the ranks and win the favor of her liege despite her apparent penchant for slacking off.

Later, that impression would make her a worse traitor in the eyes of the loyalists and a more justified executioner in the view of the rebels, but an impression was all it ever was.

Had one captious detective thought to line up the sightings with what was known of Pink Diamond's shedule, or interviewed the various lowly worker gems that encountered her while they labored away at the early foundations of the colony, the truth might not have been that difficult to deduce – if anyone complained about their working conditions within earshot of her, if would not be long before Pink Diamond 'just happened' to pass some sort of edict to remedy that.

And once things finally came to a head? The infamous proclamation at the Prime Kindergarten, where she spelled out her manifesto, smashed up an injector, publicly rebuked the ways of the authority, cast off her uniform for all to see, and thus made herself a wanted fugitive, or the grand declaration of war?

Not only had both incidents 'coincidentally' happened after some particularly heated arguments between Pink Diamond and the remainder of the authority, one might also be tempted to cut the agates of the pink court some slack considering that the rebellious instigator they were supposed to be chasing not only had access to all plans and hidden backdoors anywhere on Earth but factually did not exist for half of the time – they would lose her trace in the woods, and stand at attention without batting an eyelash when their ruler came through the gates, never remotely considering that they might be saluting the very criminal they had been chasing before.

And sure they might have noted something vaguely familiar about their foe, but as her novel, exclusive creations, the Rose Quartzes would be expected to resemble their maker in some ways, and Pink Diamond always did have a reputation for being the eccentric of the Diamond authority. Leave it to her to think of making her warriors all soft and fluffy and prime them to defend rather than destroy -

And once the one Rose Quartz had earned herself a reputation, well, no one even expected her to be ordinary anymore. Her followers knew her as a worker of miracles, and her enemies chalked it all up to her being a traitorous abomination.

But whatever else she could be said to have been, what remains without question is that she had now become public enemy number one.

 

“High honors and promotion to whoever aids in the capture of Rose Quartz in any way whatsoever.”, Yellow Diamond would promise to her gathered legions as they stood at attention before her, arranged in rectangular formations while their sovereign addressed them from the platform around her elevated throne – rather than sitting on it, she was pacing around in its vincinity, gesturing with her arms as she explained how the loyalist onslaught was to proceed. “Bring me her shards in a bubble, and you can take whatever you please from the royal vaults for all that I care. I want that traitor dead, and I do not care at all how you make her dead, as long as you put out her light forever. Just make that happen. ”

 

Not far from her, Blue Diamond was slouching in her throne, leaning against one of its corners, shrouded in the folds of her cloak, revealing scarcely more than her gemstone and the drawn, careworn line of her mouth. Where her companion could not seem to stop moving, she was completely inert. But even so, she was a terrifying sight to behold, perhaps more so than ever; The air was thick with the suffocating pressure of her power. “Yes, if you can, bring us her shards. Bring us word of her dying screams. Let us hear what a garbled, distorted mess she was right before she came to pieces. Tell us how she suffered... But know that if you manage bring her back alive and deliver her into our hands, I myself shall reward you beyond the bounds of your wildest imagination.”

 

….

 

This colony had been going well once – or so Jasper had been told.

Many of its citizens recalled when things had still been going as they were supposed to – some of them had been brought along from the homeworld, some of them were sent from the other courts the aid in the construction until the earth had yielded others to take their place, and others still, like herself, had been made here, once meant to be the first in a long line.

But the spires, temples, arenas and complexes they were once meant to populate had come to be riddled with holes before the new citizens were ready to move in.

By the time Jasper was made, as a product of the war thrust right into the fighting from the moment she broke free of the ground, what little had been completed of the great work was already broken to pieces before it could ever be finished -

Jasper only ever knew them as ruins.

- and the others, those citrines and aventurines and the capricious blue agates who weren't even Pink Diamond's gems, to whom this world was nothing more than a black stain on the history of the empire, they had seen it. Or at least, they had come to know what a proper gem colony was supposed to be like, ordered and rigorous and resplendent.

She liked to imagine what it would have been like to live at the colony in its prime, what it was like to have what that accursed traitor must have had before she decided that it was not enough to her, and set it all ablaze, what her life might have been like if she had lived in a whole, untainted world -

But she knew full well that her life wouldn't have been like anything at all, because a disgrace like the Beta kindergarden would never have been allowed if it weren't for the treasonous doom that had ravaged her home.

 

 

The precipitation would not cease.

Without end, the blue planet's waters poured down as if there were a second ocean layer in its skies. They were even colored like an ocean, when they were not covered in a thick layer of clouds, and the downpour softened up the ground and nourished the many writhing, slithering creatures that lived in its turbid mud, heating it up with the chemical chaos of their life, constantly growing on and into each other, constantly devouring each other, just as they had devoured Pink.

Yellow Diamond didn't think she had ever seen anything as revolting as their dizzying, quick, macabre dances, the fungi sprouting up in mere days and the vines that crept toward the skies, and all these were still slow compared to the creeping, slithering things in the thickets, the stewing warm piles of flesh, the overpowering smells of everything -

There was no part of this world that wasn't one single film of slippery slime, and she was up to her ankles in the dissolving grime, kicking down trees and layers and unearthing rotten leaves with each step.

If she'd had the time, she would have ordered this whole mess burnt to the ground and let her armies march in over the ashes, but this would have cut down their visibility, and the rebels would have been scattered into all directions by the time the flames died down.

The rebels knew the terrain, some of them had even taught themselves to shapeshift into local creatures that were suited to moving through it.

Deserts could not have stopped them, no icy plains, no rugged mountains, no pockmarked volcanic crater-scapes, but these mats of green growth resisted them as tenaciously as the crystal gems themselves.

 

It was one thing to press onward when there was a real chance of catching the rebels, to act where action was demanded;

Though her own entourage had all but begged her to remain behind for her own safety, Yellow Diamond had insisted to lead the assault in person.

It was a political consideration, too; The rebels must have done this to prove that they were not untouchable, so the worst thing for the authority to do at a time like this would be to show themselves daunted and hide behind the lines as if they feared the blade of Rose Quartz – but mostly, Yellow Diamond wanted this mess to end and the assault done right, so there she had been, barking out orders left and right and coordinating with her hessonites as not to allow the slightest opening in the cohesion of their lines.

Hundreds of rebels lost their forms to her lightning, and she even thought that she caught a glimpse of rose quartz in the shuffle, getting a good shot a smiting her – but one lithe little follower of hers jumped in the way and took the blast for her, and before she knew it, the accursed traitor was out of her sight.

The rebels were not so foolish as she would have hoped; They knew better to concentrate their fire on her and give her the chance to wipe them out at once; Instead, they sent a few seasoned fighters to keep her engaged; They had no illusions of actually beating her, but their true goal was to buy time for their comrades to escape, and Yellow refused to play their game, focusing on making quick work of the heaviest hitters in the enemy lines.

The loyalist forces had the numerical advantage, but the rebels fought with everything they had, in all ways imaginable or not, with an insane tenacity that made one wonder just what it was about their deviant beliefs that pushed them to such heights -

The loyalists would rout the rebels in the end, but a great number of them would escape, among them their leaders, so it was not clear who scored the tactical victory, but even so, there had been progress.

It was quite another matter to be trudging back to base afterwards, thoroughly soaked and left with little to do but to decide what to do with any stragglers the quartzes might pick up along the way.

The hessonites could handle the cleanup on their own – even just the agates might have been enough. There was nothing to do but wade through the vegetation until they could rendezvous with the fleet, really, nothing to do but wait and get rained on and finally let reality sink in.

The water kept pouring and poring – there was so much of it here that it regularly eroded away at the face of the planet, reshaping its geological features, carving its paths into the dirt.

It was hard to believe how anything could exist here at all when there was such an abundance of strong solvents, and yet, the creatures that crawled on its surface were practically plump, taut waterbags – Granted, she'd once heard from Blue that some species out there like wondered how anything could withstand something as caustic as an oxygen atmosphere and how many of them might have considered the gem homeworld every bit as inhospitable as the Earth... at the time Yellow had actually found that more interesting than Blue herself, who had explained it with a sort of curious derision and not shown much interest when Yellow took this as an occasion to converse about chemistry, but now, she cared nothing for it.

The sight of these creatures evoked nothing but revulsion, and all knowledge she might have had of their composition merely gave rise to various ideas about how they might go about weeding them out, not as an inevitable side effect to the purposes of the empire, but to poison the rebels' wells.

 

With every tree she had to crush beneath her boots, she was reminded anew how much she loathed everything about this miserable planet.

She longed for the homeworld.

More than she ever had on any of her many travels, more than she had in tens of thousands of years, she wished she was back at the palace, with White, with all three of them -

For a moment.

And then, she crammed that thought right back where it came from, with all the violence it deserved, lest it overcome her right here in the rain.

 

 

The storm was still raging when they made it back to base.

The structure that served as their base camp was not one of Pink's old facilities, but a building complex that had been lowered from orbit in one piece, a mass-produced, pre-fabricated sort of structure she had used as a temporary camp on many of her conquests.

The layout was familiar as such, Yellow Diamond had stayed in places like this complex and its many predecessor models too many times to count, but since it had been designed as a disposable short-term operations hub, the accommodations might have been considered a bit spartan by aristocratic standards.

Under any other circumstances, Blue would certainly have complained, and Yellow would just as certainly have rolled her eyes at that, but now, it would be a definite relief to hear her complain.

 

Instead, Yellow found her at the windows, with a palm pressed to the hardened clear-steel pane, looking out that the jungle that surrounded their stronghold, at those very same winding green creatures that Pink had been so fond of before that became her undoing.

The three large windows almost ran the full height of the room, ending in simple arches near the ceiling, perhaps one of the room's few true flourishes.

Blue was sitting on the floor, another thing she would never have done before, when she rarely deigned to walk on anything that wasn't the palace floors - and she kept doing it even though Yellow had ever so subtly ordered that an appropriately sized chair be placed near the window; Eventually, she had just settled on having a carpet procured.

Yellow Diamond had her own lodgings at the other end of the complex, identical except for the color scheme and the fact that the windows were always drawn shut, but eventually, her pragmatism would win out over her pride and she would order that additional floors be put through that other room so that it could be put to some other use, as both diamonds would usually be staying at the western end of the complex when not otherwise occupied with the war effort.

Particularly around the desk, this was evidenced by the presence of various objects that clashed with the overall coloration of the room, largely computer terminals and subspace communicators, since Yellow would generally come here to take care of her subspace correspondence, and she had good reason to stay on top of it, since the rest of the empire wasn't going to stop demanding their attention just because they were embroiled in this little uprising, and for that same reason, it would only be appropriate to discuss related matters of policy with Blue -

But Blue's own things were arranged in a neat stack in one of the corners, having barely been touched at all.

 

It was a fortunate thing too, that this lodge was at the end of the complex, since that limited the number of rooms where their various minions might feel her aura through the walls.

She was more and more like a busted-up, leaky pipe these days, where her feelings were concerned, and she couldn't find the nerve or the will or the energy to hold back much.

Their coexistence here was often a strained, raw thing, half frustrated pushing, half desperate tip-toeing, just barely keeping up with the constant unraveling of everything and anything around.

Sometimes Yellow came in here and Blue wouldn't speak to her at all, or do anything else than look through some old files she had laid out on the floor or stare out the window as she was doing right now, and on other occasions, not always overlapping with the former, Yellow would not speak much either, at least not of things unrelated to business.

But she could not stand the thought of letting Blue out of her sight, nor, on some days, the concept of being alone with the dim silence of the other room.

 

Outside, the storm raged on. Though she could force herself onward, Yellow's concentration wasn't what it could have been, so she weighed her options, considering if it might be more productive to conclude this later. It certainly needed doing, regardless of whether 'later' could truly be expected to be any better.

How pathetic. She hated this, the whole damn pointlessness of it.

None of this miserable dithering was going to make Pink any less shattered, or any more avenged. The only result this could possibly have was to slow the rest of them down when they were needed the most.

She knew that, and yet she could feel herself slipping, just as she could see everything around her crumbling in her grasp.

 

And Blue was barely even putting up a fight.

Her body might have been here, forgotten by the window, but her heart was unreachable, sunken somewhere in the distant past, and that was the only place she had any interest in as of late. All she wanted was only to be found there, while Yellow stayed behind in the present, struggling to shake off the irrational notion that she had been abandoned by everyone, that all three of them had gone where she couldn't follow.

“Do you remember, Yellow?” She would sometimes say, without looking away from the window.

And remember she did, but all any rational being could wish for at this point was that they could both be rid of the memory.

“The first time I took Pink with me, to... what was it?”, Blue continued, her eyes distant. “Omicron five? Omicron Five used to have weather much like this planet, you know, at least before the terraforming was completed... I think she was quite taken with it first, the way she would be excited by just about anything, but later, once I had to get to work, a storm much like this one started brewing....”

“...”

“This was one of the very first times she had ever left the homeworld, so she had never seen anything like that before. I remember at first, she was very curious about the precipitation and I had to stop her from going outside and making a mess of herself.

But then, it got quite loud, and I believe she must have gotten a little bit scared, because she came into my audience hall while I was holding court, and asked to stay with me. She wouldn't leave my side for hours...”

“....”

“Until I had to call you, I don't know about what, some matter of troop movements I think... and you asked what she was doing on my lap in the middle of a meeting.

You told her not to make a fuss about such a little thing, and at first she didn't like that at all, but... Then you explained to her what a storm is and how it works, and that got her much too excited for her to be scared anymore...”

“....”

“When that traitor came to break her, at the very end... she must have been very, very scared. Perhaps, she called out for us, but we weren't there. There was nothing we could do for her...”

“....”

“And now, there won't be anything we can do for her ever again.

We can't ever hold her. We can't ever tell her that everything will be alright, we can't ever make her suffering go away...

It's too late... for everything...”

“Yes, yes it is.”

There was nothing else to say.

 

________________

A/N: If I had to cite only one quote or musical inspiration behind the overall tone of Part IV, or indeed the fic as a whole, it would be that one.

And while, again, it goes well with the overall place that the characters wind up at, the “got it under control/fault lines/can't say I didn't try/even if you won't protect me too” verse in particular kinda perfectly describes the central tragedy of YD's character IMHO.

I guess I just love that song, period. ^^°

Look forward(?) to the next chapter, in which Yellow Diamond gets her Sauron on and tries her hand at necromancy.

Chapter Text

Part IV: Absorption (Act II: “The Sword of Flames”)

 

 

The girl who got lost on her way

was again the first one to return home

Don't you think that running toward somewhere warm and light

Is more important than the truth?

 

To those Guardians who wish to protect the sleep of the innocent,

the gate to adulthood has been firmly closed

 

I wonder if you've noticed it too,

that something like the truth,

only exists in the past.

Hopes and the Future

are just egoistic tales that people tell,

like stories of a distant garden

It's just that no one noticed it yet“

 

-translated from Kalafina's „Silver Garden“

 

 

...

 

Darkness.

Cold, unforgiving, never-ending darkness.

There was not the slightest speck of warmth left in this world anymore, nothing to distinguish her neverending days – right now, Blue Diamond had no idea how she had ever managed to drag herself through her schedule to begin with.

Reportedly, she had done so somehow, and Yellow told her that she would have to do so again, sooner or later.

She was sure that that Yellow and White would like that very much, if everything could just go back to the way it was, as if anything would ever be the same without Pink Diamond in their midst. As if they could just file her away like some short-lived, failed experiment, no, as if there had never been a Pink Diamond to begin with -

But it was this thought, precisely, that Blue could not bring herself to live with.

Whatever rationalizations and lectures she used to tell herself in order to make it through her days had never seemed as meaningless as they did now.

Even if she could have found the strength to move forward, the very concept of doing so would have crushed her anew – The thought that they would all just continue to sit through functions, conquests and court sessions like she was never there, think of her less and less, let her memory fade, let the finite stretch of time they had had with her become buried beneath the ever-mounting future, become a smaller and smaller fraction of their overall lives every day, a dead branch leading nowhere, but a footnote in the history of the empire, and maybe, one day, they might spend ages without ever mentioning her name, and even expect that the pain would, if not stop, then at least fade into the background now and then.

Blue didn't want it to stop hurting. If nothing else, this pain was proof that Pink had once lived, a negative of her image impressed onto the holes she had left – and since that was all that Blue had left of her at all, she refused to let go.

 

Now it has to be understood that the concept of a mourning period would have been a foreign one on the gem homeworld, much like that of a funeral; Though the attrition rates varied somewhat between different types of gems, fatalities were, generally speaking, rare and in-between, particularly for those whose primary employment did not involve inherently dangerous work – but when they did occur, losses were replaced and their work soon continued.

Of course one might observe that as beings whose lives were typically rather static for however long they might last, they might have been predisposed to coping poorly with sudden, disruptive changes for their lives, but the elites of the gem homeworld had much more time to ponder this than the many philosophers and lawgivers of the Earth ever had to ponder the human condition and design their many societies and teaching on various questionable readings thereof – And the way they chose to deal with this in the empire's mainstream society, insofar as anyone there could be said to have a choice, was to “put things back the way they were”, to replace what was lost and carry on as if nothing happened at all. The empire was designed as a machine with interchangeable parts - in theory, at least.

For now, Yellow was excusing Blue with the explanation that she was 'still in shock', but that tale would only fly for so long; Perhaps that's what Yellow hoped it was, a transient, temporary situation, as if they weren't dealing with the most permanent end in existence.

 

At least some of the time, Blue would be quite aware that she was neglecting her duties, and even if she hadn't been, Yellow would surely remind her, and she knew that White would do the same if she were here; Her voice was present enough in the back of Blue's mind even in her absence, the same phrases she'd heard again and again throughout the centuries.

Sometimes the heavy shroud of her pain was all she could feel or register, and then, there had surely been times where she had been blinded, accusatory or resentful, but when her malaise deigned to loosen its grasp long enough enough for her to faintly make out the outlines of reason even from a distance, she was sensible enough to know that Yellow must have been suffering too, and that some of the memories she had of White were incongruent with someone who would not be fazed by this at all.

Even if Blue had not cared at all for her own fate, or what this must look like to their gems, she could not be wholly indifferent to Yellow and her well-meaning efforts, for all that she had sometimes rebuffed them -

She knew full well, at least some of the time, like she had known all along, but it was harder and harder to act on that knowledge, to even keep track of it in the throes of her suffering.

The cold reality of things was terrible and final, its weight was crushing, and it was never going away.

 

Sometimes she came to the war meetings, often times, she even contributed, but more often than not, she kept to her room – their room, as consequence would make it.

If she was not at the window, she'd be on the couch, behind the long chiffon curtains that surrounded it, perhaps looking through files and images that had long stopped to have anything to do with the events on Earth anymore, or just doing nothing, having left whatever she had been looking through on a nearby table – on one occasion, it was a holographic image depicting the entire authority, taken an unspecified number of centuries ago, zoomed in, of course, on Pink Diamond's face while bits of the rest of them were just barely phasing into the rectangular volume rendered by the device, and there she'd be, captured from all angles, with her big, poofy hair, her magenta culotte topped off with white tights and some gratuitous frills, big sleeves and her gemstone exposed on the front, wearing a dorky smile on her face, her eyes wide and sparkling -

A pale, translucent imitation of her, no different from a memory, but enough like her to make one wonder how things could ever have ended up the way they did.

Now that she was gone, nothing could have been more trivial than their many gripes, annoyances and disputes; Nothing could be less important. Those had been an annoyance in their day to day lives, but that was only a temporary thing whilst their love was foundational – Or at least, it should have been.

The truth was of course, that their disputes had happened, and, to Pink, the only past she had. The reality of their dysfunction had been pervasive enough that Pink had come to regard them as the most fundamental parts of time together, to the point that all things good were easily dismissed as illusions or falsities, since it was only natural to suppose that, if what you were seeing was contradictory, at least some of it could not be as it seemed, and must hence be explained by other means.

But that is precisely the sort of conclusion one would consider with the knowledge that the youngest Diamond had packed up and left, not under the assumption that she had been taken from them. With that as the axiom on which to base her further thoughts and feelings, the only notion in Blue Diamond's mind could be the desperate futile need to hold her once again, to take her in her arms and reassure her that such as what had taken place could never actually happen -

And wasn't it hard to believe, when she thought of Pink, with all her vibrant, vital energy, her beaming smiles, and her unique eccentricities – oh, was there every anyone who could resist her charms, was there ever anyone who wouldn't find her endearing, who couldn't be swayed by her big puppy dog eyes? Not even Yellow or White had been immune.

Wasn't she the most precious, the most lovable, the most radiant creature they had ever known? Truly, the lone flower of the homeworld –

Oh how could anyone ever hurt her? How could anyone ever have done this to her?

How could any of this possibly have happened?

She was supposed to have reigned for untold ages. She should have been welcomed with adoration wherever she went. She should have been blessed with unmatched power from the moment she set foot in this world – indomitable, unbreakable Diamond.

But the same had been said about Blue, and here she was, very much intact, but also, very much broken.

There was no longer any rhyme or reason, neither sense nor meaning in her world, and though there was nothing physically stopping her from moving forward, she couldn't bring herself to do so.

Outside, the world must have continued somehow, incomprehensible as it seemed to her – even when she couldn't bring herself to leave this place, she couldn't help but notice that Yellow kept coming and going, and often staying out for a long time, telling her sometimes of how the fighting had proceeded in her absence or the latest stratagem she had cooked up – She kept so very, very busy, even by her standards, enough so that Blue sometimes had the feeling of missing her.

But even when she managed to be right beside Yellow at the war council, or otherwise succeeded in following through with her allotted appointments, the days seemed to pass her by in a haze as this unbelievable, unacceptable travesty of a reality just went on and on with no indication that it would ever cease, and how could it, when there was no way for things to go back the way they were?

If this was what the future was going to be like... if this was reality, then she wanted no part of it.

What was left here but broken pieces, what respite could they have, but more destruction that would still not return Pink into their arms.

Not that she didn't very much want the rebels destroyed, and on some days, she might be able to work herself into a cold rage, when she could not hope to produce even an affectation of her usual regal bearings; But on others, not even the prospect of revenge appeared remotely appealing.

Nothing did.

Nothing at all.

All she could feel was this cold and bitter absence, an empty space that left room for nothing else.

 

Even when the door opened and Yellow stepped inside, it was something in the distance, on the other side of some ineffable void whose non-presence still tied her down like the gravity of a gas giant. Thus weighed down, her eyes were barely open, focusing at nothing in particular.

Yellow made a marked point of switching off the holo projector before doing anything else – then, she proceeded forward, parting the curtains with her hands before sitting down at Blue's side, taking note of the state she was in with an expression that was disapproving, but somber – yet still, she took one of Blue's hands in both of hers, holding it firmly though the azure fingers remained limp in her grasp.

“In our first offensive alone, we've been able to take out multiple rebel strongholds.”

“Good...” Blue answered, her voice like the freezing bite of an ill-boding east wind. “Very good...”

Belatedly, she made the effort to return the gesture, applying some sort of weak squeeze to Yellow's gloved hands.

Something about that made it hard to keep her face steady, but whatever painful, stinging wave of feeling overcame her, Yellow Diamond remained determined to keep it to herself, only continuing to speak once she thought it under lock and key.

“However, they are proving a lot more tenacious than we anticipated... We keep beating them back, but it seems like we can never quite defeat them entirely... this isn't like anything I've ever seen. We have a clear advantage in numbers as well as organization, for all intents and purposes, we should have won this already... but none of that seems to matter. I don't know what advantage their side could possibly have going for them, but...”

“It shouldn't surprise us...” Blue mused, though she might as well have been mumbling into the air. “Everything seems to be upside-down on this strange, confusing planet... none of what should be comes to pass, and the impossible becomes commonplace... I don't understand any of it. Nothing at all...”

“Do you want to go back to homeworld?” Yellow's feelings about that prospect were very conflicted, but she did not always grant them much of a seat at the negotiation table. “We don't both have to be here at all times...”

“No. I want to be here. This is where she spent her last days... this is the only way to be near her anymore... ” and at this point, she pushed herself to sit up, making a point to ignore the arm that Yellow was offering to her.

“Besides, I wish to see this through to the end...” She did not bother to put any order into her hair, tousled as it was from the long time she had spent lying here. She merely threw on her veil, hoping that this would conceal the disarray along with her tear-stained eyes. “I have thought of something...”

“Very well. Let us go.”

 

….

 

When they made it to the current designated war room, their staff was already engaged in animated discussion, furiously debating who was to blame for the latest defeat, or how it could even be possible for such a disorganized troupe of rebels and deviants to oppose them.

Until their masters arrived, the one in charge of proceedings was a proud, distinguished Hessonite from the Yellow Court, with a pronounced unibrow, standing dignified in all her glittery might while a pair of her subordinates were reporting to her – though they were lower in rank, Yellow Diamond recognized them both, for they had served her for long, and with distinction.

One was a venerable citrine quartz who had existed for about 25000 thousand years and fought a great many campaigns for the empire in that time, and attained as high a position as a quartz had any right to earn. Most of the other quartzes respectfully referred to her as 'commander'. She was still barred from the kinds of privileges that were reserved for Agates, Garnets or Emeralds, but her face, gem and serial number were well-known and renowned, not just in the yellow court, but throughout the imperial military as a whole.

Despite this, she did not appear proud, but maintained a humble, serious countenance before her superior, keeping her head bowed as Hessonite spoke, and bending the knee once the Diamonds arrived.

The had the same wild, voluminous hair typical of quartzes, but she kept in in a short, spiky bob that didn't reach much past her ears in the downward direction. Her gemstone, oval with a pentagonal facet in the center, was located in the palm of her right hand – hence, she typically wore her weapon on her right arm – in modern-day Earth terms, it might be said to resemble a kind of crossbow that fired crystalline arrows, thought its actual capabilities were closer to those of a sniper rifle. On her face, she wore a visor with a sleek, rectangular outline that curved around the front of her face – beyond that, she looked like any other quartz, with plump, full lips and a tall, well-toned, opulent build, perhaps just a little less curvy and more angular compared to various Earth-born quartzes.

A good step behind Citrine was Peridot Facet 1C2B, Cut-Y73, one of Yellow Diamond's foremost technicians. Though she ranked lower than anyone else in the room (almost anyone, if you counted the Pearls), she held herself with a certain steely regality, knowing that, if nothing else, she had her own niche of expertise which no one else could take from her, and not aspiring to anything else. She had her hair styled in the shape of an inverse pyramid, standing off to the sides and the top to reveal her triangular gemstone on the back of her head. She stood with crossed arms and observed her surroundings with a dour, meticulous gaze, ceasing only when she bowed and saluted to her Diamond.

She was created long before the shortages that befell larger generations and as such, not only capable of shape-shifting, but indeed quite adept at it – On her limbs and the back of her neck, one could find ports for the various technological devices that the often interfaced with, evidence that she had reshaped her own form to connect directly to currently used devices – should the technology advance and be replaced by newer models, she would simply reshape her personal interfaces once again.

 

Blue Diamond was likewise honored by her own particular subordinates upon entering the room – representing the blue court was not another set of military gems, but a somewhat different collection of resources. Foremost among them was a Turquoise, who, in a sense, could be considered as being Hessonite's counterpart.

Her pointed, wide-brimmed hat obscured her eyes. Like her robes, it was embroidered with a variety of stellar motifs on arcane symbols, like small, grey veins upon her largely cyan clothing. She had a large, hooked nose and long, straight hair that almost reached her ankles, a rare, resourceful gem of great powers.

Her actual gemstone, a large spike with pointy edges, formed the forefinger of her left hand, where it fit right in with her spindly, clawed fingers.

Turquoises possessed great, varied elemental powers that were often used for the crafting of powerful artifacts of unique powers.

Beside her was a smaller figure, a quiet, reserved Sapphire with straight-cut bangs hanging into her face. Behind them, the glittering of her facets could sometimes be seen as she moved, her gem being located on her forehead.

Last but not least was a tall, dark blue gem with strong features and a build that was lean and pointed, yet very much sinewy and athletic, radiating strength and dignity; She wore a long, sleeveless patterned tunic with tight-fitting leggings beneath, though her strong, bared arms were laden with various ornamental bangles, a few crafted out of metal, but most being natural parts of her form, and all of them engraved with Blue Diamond's insignia. The intricate cornrows and minibraids that decorated her head were no less ornate, cementing an impression of fierceness and importance, flaunting not only her status but the extraordinary shape-shifting capabilities innate to a gem of her kind – Through an advanced form of the ability, she was able to turn herself not only invisible, but nigh-indetectable by most types of sensors:

She was a Tanzanite Assassin, and a rather accomplished one, to boot – but the stoic, dark blue gem was not used to seeing worlds such as this one. Its overgrown jungles were a foreign sight to her, much unlike her typical employment, and they filled the jewel in her chest with a an ominous premonition.

She had conducted espionage on foreign soil, she had carried out political assassinations, she had even dispatched the occasional traitor or dissenter for unlawful conduct or conspiracy against the established order, doing whatever Blue Diamond asked, whenever she asked it. But she had done all of this on established colonies, or the strongholds of other spacefaring peoples. Never before had she been called into the wilderness at the expanding frontier of the empire that would normally be the domain of quartzes and nephrites. Then again, this whole situation was completely unprecedented – never before in the history of the empire had anyone succeeded in shattering a Diamond.

Hunting traitors was par for the course for Tanzanite, but she had never seen them in such numbers. There might have been a few overly ambitious military elites or aristocrats here and there, or perhaps some shiploads of scouts or soldiers which had sold strategic information to their enemies in order to save their own gems, but never anything like this, and though she usually kept her thoughts to herself, the assassin was wise and experienced enough to realize that they were dealing with something that they fundamentally did not understand and would do well to squash if they wanted for the empire to persist in its current form.

 

There was also a small detail from the white court, who held themselves with the aloof pride they derived from association with their sovereign, though only one of the three – Grey Agate – had ever encountered her in the light. As such it was hard to say if they were particularly 'trusted and esteemed' followers of White Diamond's, or her 'favorites', in the sense that their counterparts from the yellow and blue courts were.

Perhaps these three simply had the best track records, or the shiniest exit holes; That, or it was simply their turn on the duty roster.

Even the other Diamonds weren't quite sure if they were here to aid in the war effort, or to keep White informed of their failures.

Apart from Grey Agate, who was supposedly here to ensure the discipline of the troops at large and the white court's forces in particular, there was the Magnesite she reported to, a light grey, austere-looking gem with immense psychic powers.

She was entirely bald, perhaps to expose the abnormally large head particular to her kind, though her brows were white as snow, and her gem was located in between them like a third eye, surrounded by a tattoo of a diamond insignia. Rather than being facetted, its knot-like structure protruded out like the core of a walnut.

She wore a high-collared, futuristic uniform composed of simplistic lines and blocky shapes, including a long cape that surrounded her from all sides, hanging off her heavy, padded shoulder harness.

Beside her was a much smaller gem, about the size of a Lapis Lazuli, nondescript, rectangular, with her hair tied in a strict bun, and her gem in place of her left eye, dark gray with a faint, metallic luster, as were her hair, her uniform, and just about everything else about her, except perhaps her skin, which, all thing considered, was also dark gray, though a slightly lighter shade.

She kept observing everyone else with her unreadable dark eyes, occasionally taking notes on her holoscreen clipboard. She was an Anthracite Beaurocrat, rarely seen outside the deep dark bowels of the homeworld or other established colonies. Like the Peridot across the room, she would have been expected to work her life away in the lower levels of either the homeworld or some established colony, rarely seeing starlight or the finer things of existence, laboring ceaselessly to make her silent contribution to the smooth running of the colony, in her case, in terms of organization, logistics and reporting – which meant that she was directly responsible for the implementation of White Diamond's missives and had probably read a lot of them while processing them into reports which to submit to her superiors.

So while she may not have been able to recognize her voice or her face, one could have said that out of the three, Anthracite would have been the most familiar with White Diamond.

 

It was to this assemblage of illustrious gems that Blue Diamond explained her plan, quite a lot of plans, to which Yellow could only add her own designs, and before long, the many loyal, capable servants of the homeworld set to work to bring forth new engines of doom.

 

(

At various points of the ensuing discussion, a question was posed to the Sapphire, who otherwise kept standing in her place, waiting till she would be needed again, or was due to speak her next string of long-since predetermined words.

“If we do this, will the rebels be wiped out of existence?”

“I don't see the planet being colonized.”

“So you're saying this course of action would lead to our defeat?”

“I don't see the rebels retaining control of the planet, either.”

“Then we better think of some other way to get rid of them...”

At the time, neither Sapphire herself nor anyone around her realized the magnitude of what her predictions would imply.

)

 

….

 

Through the dense woodlands of the Earth, two gems advanced.

They had entered the forest from different directions, each bearing an uniform with the now obsolete emblems of Pink Diamond – but it was a single being which eventually emerged into a clearing, and when she did, the homeworld insignias were nowhere to be found.

Instead there stood a tall, lanky figure in a glittery, greenish-black bodysuit with a couple of frilly decorative accents in dark green and red, including multiple layers of frills around her wrists, where her sleeves might have ended if her suit did not also include gloves for her hands, and something like a half a skirt that remained open in the front, allowing her some freedom of movement though it still appeared somewhat pieced together.

On her chest, there was an opening surrounded by a ring of dark green frills, revealing a little of her dark green skin, as well as a triangular gemstone. Around it was a crimson, five-pointed star. A second, rectangular gem could be glimpsed on her back between the strands of her long, black hair, which framed her bony, narrow features like a long curtain.

Here amid the trees, she stood for a good while, unhurried and not particularly bothered to be passing the time by herself (insofar as a fusion could ever be considered to be by herself), until a pair of figures emerged from the branches.

There was a pointed, slender individual fiercely brandishing a spear, beside an impressive, large gem in a layered white gown. It was her who finally made the decision to jump down, but though her companion had followed on her cue, she was to touch the ground, landing gently on the layers of old leaves which covered the forest floor.

“Heliotrope! You're finally back!”

“Rose. Pearl.” It was brief, somber acknowledgment, decided to get the pleasantries out of the way so that she might continue speaking – The others immediately sensed that she was not bringing good news, not that they had been expecting any of those. Good news had made itself extremely scarce as of late.

“The loyalists. They're plotting something, and I don't know what. Meetings are being called, but ever since Yellow Diamond took over, they've tightened controls like you wouldn't believe.

I'm beginning to think they suspect an inside job. They haven't the faintest clue how you got past their guards. I don't know how much longer I'll be able to get in and out undetected...

Well, actually, I do know, because the pink court has officially been disbanded. All of us are getting carted off to the other courts. Mostly based on who provided most of the source material apart from pink, though it seems that Blue Diamond is taking all the ones that nobody else claimed...”

“And the Rose Quartzes? Pink Diamond made them all on her own-”

Mercifully, Heliotrope had too many other worries going through her gems to notice that just for a moment, Rose had forgotten to say 'us'. She was too concerned with how to say what inevitably came next, her mouth pressed into a thin, ambivalent line – but she chose to step forward and answer, before Pearl had any time to answer, but before she did so, she reached up to her face to tuck some of her hair behind her ear, exposing that she had, in fact, four eyes, though three of them were on the right side of her face, which was usually covered by her hair. Two of them were green, two of them were red, and all of them were now making a deliberate, pointed effort to look into Rose's lone pair.

“I'm sorry. But as soon as word got around of what you did, the others were all rounded up. You're the only one left.”

Though the reasons behind it were not quite what Heliotrope had been led to believe, Rose's expression, though subdued, was real enough.

“But- They haven't done anything... It was me...

Pearl appeared considerably less surprised, as Heliotrope briefly noted before she continued with her explications.

“Good luck telling that to Yellow Diamond... but the thing is, the thing I've been trying to tell you, is that as per the most recent order, Peridot's going to be stuck with Yellow Diamonds' R & D division to aid in the war effort, while Hematite can look forward to spending the rest of her days in a tower on one of White Diamonds' older colonies, where nothing ever happens, since she's not a combat gem or anything. And of course, they'd never see you ever again. Or each other. Or, ypso facto, myself.

You might understand that I'd prefer to bail before that happens. I suppose I'll have to swap espionage for maintenance duty, until I figure out how to teach myself to fight, I suppose, but I wouldn't be the first one-”

“But-” Pearl gasped, stopping herself though her worry was plain on her features.

Rose remained as undaunted as ever, but her expression took on a noticeably somber note. “And you're certain?”

“Y-you were one of our last inside sources.” Pearl added, as if to expound on Rose's question, or to clarify it in such a way that it could not be misunderstood “We were hoping that you could still- that you might be able to-...”

I'm one of the last? But didn't you two know someone in the palace?”

“She ...was shattered.” Rose decided.

“No wonder, with how they've cranked up the security as of late!” That might've been Heliotrope's Peridot half, or just whatever portions of her took a short while to grasp the reality of the statement. “...whoever she was, she's saved our lives many times over. Did you ever find out her name?”

Neither of them answered much, though this made no less sense in the version of the story that Heliotrope had been told. The fusion sighed.

“I suppose if I played along, Peridot might be able to peek at what they're cooking up, but I'm not sure if she could manage to keep slipping you intel without Hematite to help her cover her tracks...”

“Heliotrope.” Rose stated firmly, “We'd never ask you to be separated with no way of being reunited.”

“Well thanks.” Heliotrope noted dourly. “But what does that mean for the rebellion?”

“Nothing at all. We'll- we'll find another way. We'll make do without spies if we have to. The important thing is that you're safe. Don't even bother going back, just go directly to our nearest encampment.”

And though it was evident that she liked the alternative even less, Heliotrope could not seem to make peace with this turn events, a tug of frustration apparent on her features.

“If only we'd managed to nail Blue Diamond on her last diplomatic visit!”

“Blue Diamond?”

“She would have been the better target.”

“What do you mean?” asked Pearl, offended that the fusion would dare to question the great wisdom of Rose Quartz.

And Heliotrope didn't really seem to want to be here, saying this, but she couldn't stop herself either, and it was quite apparent on her face that she deliberated on each statement if it was truly necessary or helpful, or what the best way to say it might have been.

She admired Rose as much as most other members of the rebellion, so the last thing she wanted was to be disagreeing with her, or to be casting doubt on her accomplishments, but at the same time, she could not deny what was now all but obvious in the harsh light of hindsight, and since she had been asked a question, she might as well reply to it.

“Look, Rose... I understand your decision and I stand behind it. The last thing I want is to diminish the monumental nature of what you did. You've proven that the Authority is not untouchable – that the Diamonds can be destroyed just like any of us... and by any of us. You've finally avenged Bismuth. Believe me, I'm as glad as anyone that this terrible gremlin is finally out of this world. I understand that you probably couldn't pick and choose when it came to the opportunities, honestly, it's hard to believe that you could've pulled this off at all...

And I get that, in a sense, Pink Diamond was the most logical one to go for. She was right here on Earth, and she was the most immediate threat to us. But in a whole other sense, she was also the worst possible option...”

Pearl was immediately ready to defend Rose, but the (alleged) quartz motioning for her to wait, appearing honestly surprised at the thought that had just been voiced: “How is that?”

“Well, Pink Diamond was the youngest and the least experienced. Earth was going to be her first colony. It looks like we went for their weakest link, like cowards.”

“How can you say that!” protested Pearl.

But Heliotrope seemed to have been expecting that. “I'm not saying that that's how it is. I'm saying that that's what it looks like. We were trying to do politics here, weren't we? From what Rose told us about her, I have absolutely no doubt that Pink Diamond deserved everything she got... And I would never doubt her word any more than you. But the gems at the loyalist camp don't know that.

She was considered one of the 'nice' ones.”, she elucidated, the air quotes quite audible even though she didn't physically act them out with her fingers - even the present-day humans had not thought of the gesture, but anyone familiar with it would probably have described the tone of the fusions' voice as such.

“I suppose the truth of it is that she was just marginally less awful than the others, but you've got to look at it from the loyalists' perspective. She was pretty popular across all ranks. Legend says even the pebbles that outfitted her room used to love her. And I'm sure legend is all it is, but no matter what shes really like, you've got to acknowledge that she could be quite... charming, in a way. Maybe in a gaudy fastidious eccentric brat kinda way. I used to like her before I defected... that is, Peridot and Hematite did. Particularly Hematite – She even spoke to her a couple of times, and my impression of her was... nothing like you describe her, really.

I suppose she had me fooled, just like she had everybody fooled – but that's just it.

We used to have the high ground here – and don't get me wrong, we still do.

They're the ones who won't leave us in peace, all because we don't play by their arbitrary rules and refuse to destroy this planet with its unique ecosystem, complete with an entire civilization of innocent primate creatures, while we always did our best to no shatter any innocents... especially you, Rose.

'The rebellion doesn't shatter' – that might not have been the most... practical course of action, but it went a long way when it came to turning others to our side.

But now you've handed them something to rally around, to drum up support. Now they can make you out to be this ultimate, diabolical traitor and play up Pink Diamond as a victim...

That's why I said we should've dusted Blue while we had the chance. She's probably not been in too many real fights, only the upper crust really likes her, and while that pathokinesis of hers seems like a real pain to deal with, it's still miles above being insta-poofed or mind controlled.... We could've offed any of the others and spun that to make her out to be the embodiment of all that is wrong with our society.

Instead, we went and killed the most lenient one. That's not going to make them negotiate with us, just because of, you know, self-preservation.

They'd have twisted the truth and dragged our names through the dirt no matter what we did, but when I went to the loyalist camp, it was filled with wails and lamentations – That, and cries for revenge.

Word is that even the other Diamonds have been quite a bit... shaken.”

Rose's reaction to this was not at all what Heliotrope had expected – Even if she had expressed compassion for their bitter twisted enemies, she would not have been not have been too surprised, but in any case, she would have predicted a somber, wise, leaderlike response.

Instead, she looked back at Heliotrope like she had just uttered the most ridiculous thing she had ever heard in her life, like it was so ludicrous that she could not help reacting to it even amid the gravity of this serious situation.

“What? The Diamonds? 'quite a bit shaken'? No no, you must've gotten something wrong there, that is absolutely not possible...”

“It's just what Hematite heard from the other elites while she was back at the homeworld encampment.”

“Sure, sure she did, but she must've heard it wrong. Or maybe the other elites did, 'cause it can't possibly be true. Since when do the Diamonds care if anyone gets shattered? They've been shattering gems left and right this whole time.

They've been destroying worlds just like this one, taking life without even keeping track of it. Life clearly means nothing at all to them.

And now you wanna tell me that they suddenly care because one gem got shattered?”

“Well. Rumor has it that Pink was always White Diamond's favorite.”

('Her favorite to torment maybe', Pink Diamond thought, but of course, Rose Quartz did not say it. )

“Pearl and I have seen some things that you haven't. Believe me, I've tried to speak with- with Pink Diamond many, many times. The Diamonds are completely beyond hope. They're monsters... all four of them.”

“Whoha Rose. That's not like you.”

“...maybe you're right.”

“Figures that you would be angry though, since you care so much about all the life they're destroying... It's not like we can change what is done anymore...”

“That is right, too...” Rose concluded, and her words weighed heavy. “We'll escort you back to the base, it's the least we can do after all the risks you've taken for us.”

“Just trying to do my part...” Heliotrope mused, managing something like a slight, strained smile for the first time in the conversation. “Well then, onwards to maintenance duty.”

 

With that, the three rebels continued to advance through the forest, a somber sense of foreboding hanging above them. As of late, not many of their meetings could seem to shake the indistinct cloud of gloom from above their heads. This was just one of many of their recent undertakings that had not quite panned out.

For the sake of her comrades, she did the best to keep up a veneer of certainty and strength, but with every passing moment, she found herself ever more certain that she had bitten off more than she could chew.

All their hopes had been illusions, and she had not told them yet.

Sometimes, she though they were on the verge of noticing on their own, but when that happened, she dutifully talked them out of it, hoping that that little bit of futile faith would at very least make them run faster.

 

“You know... I used to think that it would be a great thing. To be sent to live on one of White Diamond's oldest strongholds. There's everything a philosopher gem like Hematite could have wanted – Plenty of fancy towers, wise ancient gems, the most enormous libraries and archives full of powerful ancient artifacts. They probably wouldn't let Peridot inside, but if they did, she might have liked them, too.

But that was before....

It's like when I – when we met... did I ever tell you? I don't want to start rambling on you two, you probably have important leader stuff to think about, but its sort of relevant to the point...”

“I'd be honored to hear your story.” Rose answered, to Pearl's dismay. But she supposed that Rose's endeavors to make everyone feel valued were part of what made her a great leader.

“It all started out with a broken appliance at the spire.

Peridot was called in to fix it, and Hematite just happened to be pondering her ponderings out loud in her general direction... Peridot was surprised to see the surface. She had spent all her life so far working in the lower levels, and had never heard of anything much like music or history... and Hematite realized that she knew next to nothing about the technology she used every day... she was supposed to be thinking great thoughts to elucidate the nature of gemkind and the universe, but in that moment she realized seen absolutely nothing of it – and so did Peridot.

But we were both curious to learn, so we started talking...”

“And eventually, you fused?”

“No. That wasn't until waaay after, after we'd heard your speeches and met Garnet. But it's probably why the two of us signed up. You can gain a lot of knowledge by sitting in a tower and contemplating what you already know, but it will always be bounded by the limits of your experience. Eventually, you'll have to go take in new data. You'll have to see new things, try out new experiences. And likewise, specialization might have its uses and advantages, but, some problems call for interdisciplinary solutions.

That's what we learned here on Earth... from you two, and from Garnet, and Bismuth... I learned that you can't figure out all the knowledge in the world from sitting up in a tower... or down in a workshop. That the empire should be open to novel approaches... That's why I followed you guys.

Actually, I'm pretty glad I got the chance to tell you that in person... you never know what might happen.

But somehow, I guess I always hoped that after we had archived our political goals, saved the Earth and changed the empire for the better, we'd be able to go back. I don't know what I was thinking, that one day, we'd just report in for Peridot's next shift, fused and all. Hematite's work is literally just to think, so, I can do that while doing Peridot's work, and maybe I'd get some sass at first, but I hoped that, eventually, they'd see how I'm actually better at what I do when I'm fused.

I guess that's never, ever going to happen now. Not after there has been so much dustshed...

Maybe that's just the former upper crust I me showing – I really hope not, but, I suppose I've been able to hope for such a thing because I've been lucky. I can't say I've experienced how bad things could get - I joined because I agreed with your ideas - not because I was facing some huge existential challenge like you, Garnet or Pearl. So maybe I can never understand – I don't know if I can. Peridot and Hematite actually liked their work.”

“What about you, Heliotrope? As a fusion, aren't you under threat as well?“

“Maybe, but, others have it way worse than me. I don't want to make this about me. I'm not what's important here. I just want to help where I can... I thought that in supporting you, and gathering intel for you, I was doing what's best for the empire in the long run, to change it for the better. Maybe I was a bit of a smartass, thinking the others just couldn't see that yet, and that they would come around... But it's clear that that's not possible now. Maybe it never was.

I guess we'll have to live with that. We can't stop caring about doing the right thing just because it stops being convenient for us, right?”

“...Right...”

In truth, there was much more that Rose had wanted to say to her now former spy, so many parts of her words that she might even have recognized herself in, the taunting image of the closeness she might have not just with this particular gems but with all her comrades if only she could afford to pull off her mask. But if she were to admit her weakness, then whom would they take their strength from?

 

(

Later, when Rose would be attending to some urgent business at their base, Pearl would seek out Heliotrope, who would by then have made her way to the training grounds to engage in a few highly amateurish attempts at using a poleaxe.

“How could you speak to Rose like that! After all the risks she took to pull off what she did! After all she gave up!”

“You know how Garnet likes to dispense relationship advice sometimes?

It's true that Hematite and Peridot were excited about the possibilities of cross-gem fusion, and how they might get better at gaining knowledge this way.

But there's a reason that the went to each other when they wanted to try it out. After all it's a scary new experience, and if they asked the wrong gem, they could've been reported. But Peridot knew that she could trust Hematite, because they were best friends.

So if Garnet is the love between Ruby and Sapphire, you can say that I'm Peridot's and Hematite's friendship, bound together by their common interests and passions, and the way they complement each other, and like everything better when they're doing it together... which makes it sound way more grandiose than it actually is, it's not like any of us have this figured out – but, the point being...

Friends tell friends what they need to know in order to make decisions. If it were me and I were making a crucial miscalculation, I'd want my friends to tell me that to my face.... At least, that's what I think.

I'm not sure if I succeeded but, I only meant to help.”

“Well, 'thank you' for your 'help', Heliotrope. Also, you're holding this wrong.”

And that was that.

)

 

….

 

 

Right upon their return, they had been tasked to decide with the remains of the fallen, insofar as the others had managed to gather them up in their absence. Garnet, who had been holding down the fort in their absence, had the questionable pleasure of organizing the search for them, and at least, they had been able to pick up a few stray survivors that had just been poofed or seriously cracked, but most of what they brought back were casualties, mixed with the fallen from the other side – as per Rose's orders, those had been retrieved as well.

Among the crystal gems, the losses had been the heaviest among their newest, least experienced recruits. Rose had made a point of welcoming many of them herself; Garnet and Pearl had overseen their training – but by and large, most veteran crystal gems had been too busy with the demands of actual warfare to have the time to get to know them very well - They had come here full of hope for a better life, and ended up shattered before they ever got the opportunity to fully get used to life with the rebels.

Maybe she and Pearl and Garnet could have said that if they were destroyed now, after having been free, it would be worth it, but the same could not be said for these fresh recruits.

Always, Rose would find herself thinking over all the ways in which she might have prevented this, but though she told herself again and again that the alternative would have been to let the Authority destroy this planet and so many of her comrades whom they saw as deviants, that soon began to sound hollow and worn out.

With every life lost, her obligation to somehow turn the tide of this war only increased and while even she could not completely succeed at concealing the crushing feeling of guilt that was ever weighing down her shoulders, she could not let the others see her doubts.

 

 

One might have thought that since Pearl had been her co-conspirator from the beginning, she might have been the one person around which she could drop the pretense – and they would have thought wrong.

But while there were always some things she kept to herself, Pearl was still her confidant – this grievous strife had taken too much out of both of them for either them to bear it on their own.

They found each other in a grove of blossoming trees, not far from the camp, and held onto each other for hours, hoping to see the sunrise together.

Instead, they had to leave before the crack of dawn, when one of their patrols reported a run-in with a homeworld scouting party.

 

And before she knew it, Rose Quartz, or whoever she was supposed to be, was on the run once again, the events of the day still lodged in her mind.

They had to go, lest they be destroyed by the gems she had once wanted to save. She wanted them to be free of their allegiance to her, to do with their lives whatever they wished – she couldn't start having second thoughts just because what they wished to do was, in fact, to destroy her.

She had been prepared to become the designated lightning rod for their wrath, to become the most wanted gem on earth if need be – but that was because she wanted it to be her, and not them. In the end, homeworld's forces had torn right through the lives of their comrades just to get to her – She had wanted to protect them, but she had put them all in danger...

But what other way was there?

 

Always running, always hiding, she no longer really knew who she was even trying to be, or how it ever mattered – she only what she must do, what she could not, under any circumstance, allow to happen.

 

...

 

“My Diamond, we've... found something.”

“It better be the rebel base.”

“Not quite. To be sure, I don't know what to make of it. These seem to be the shards of the fallen from our previous altercation – a whole battlefield's worth, just... buried in the ground.”

It was then that a lone quartz stepped out of formation, a recent transference from Pink's former forces who had not yet had the opportunity to replace the insignia on her uniform.

“Commander. Your Luminosity. May I have permission to speak?”

Yellow Diamond merely glanced at Citrine, leaving it to her discretion.

Citrine, in turn, simply nodded. “At ease, soldier.”

“This was the rebels, no two ways about it. They must've picked up this rite from the local organics. They sometimes bury their dead in the ground like this, when they don't burn them. I've seen them do it. Don't ask me why Rose Quartz and her ilk would copy those primitive creatures, but, this is their doing, and they can't have gone far. If their base isn't nearby, it will be because they're fleeing as we speak.”

“Then pursue them!”

“Understood”.

After a quick bow and a salute, Citrine went right back to dispensing orders to her subordinates, determined to catch the rebels before they could make their escape.

The earthborn Jasper who had spoken earlier was among the first to run after them.

 

It was only after the quartzes had, for the most part, moved out, that the Hessonite who had been overseeing their advance turned to address her liege once again.

“What shall we do with the rebels' remains, my Diamond?”

“Bring them back to facility BX-Kappa, and have Peridot Y73 conduct an examination. I want a report within two cycles. We might still get some use out of them... whether they like it or not.

 

______________

 

 

 

A/N: As for the various OCs here, I mostly threw them in because I really wanted a particular dialogue but the lines didn't fit any of the ppl present.

I kinda needed a cynic character, someone who'd be the Haruka to Pink Diamond's sailor moon, and I couldn't see Garnet or Pearl in that role. Lapis & 'our' Peridot aren't present yet, Bismuth is already bubbled...

And I remembered reading this article about a biology conference where someone said “Let's forget about the genome for a moment” - in that it was this huge, stylized achievement that ppl attached lots of meaning to, but also just a stepping stone that is not per se useful without understanding transcription and proteins as well. It would probably take someone like that scientist to say, “Yeah, it's impressive that we took down one of the Diamonds but it kinda backfired and maybe we could've done this better...” - not that she's supposed to be right about everything.

Also, when everyone and their dog was making gemsonas I remember pondering that if I were a gem, I might be a fusion, and the components would be like my nerdy side and my romantic side. Also, I thought it might be interesting to consider a permafusion that was something other than a couple and the first other example for why ppl might want to permanently stick together I could think of was if they were BFF.

 

It was also kind of interesting to sorta show the whole war from the PoV of team evil and go into a bit of detail with them there, which will continue in the next chapter, which might get a bit ambitious, in a way that I'm kinda looking forward to. I know I promised you some necromancy and I only kinda got to that point a little bit at the very end, but, I basically put everything here that wouldn't go with the structure of the next one. I hope my plan actually works out because else im just rambling here

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Part IV: Absorption (Act III: “The Plagues”)

No artsy-fartsy quotes today!

No artsy-fartsy quote could match up to the inspiration I got from this masterpiece amv here

I. Plague (Blood The Shooting Star)

 

The Earth was home to great plenitudes of creatures which crept upon its soil, soared in its skies or floated through its seas, and most of them had done absolutely nothing to deserve the wrath of homeworld's rulers -

But they would feel it all the same when they decided to call down their plagues onto all that populated the blue marble - of course, in their minds, it was Rose Quartz who had chosen to bedevil the once flourishing colony, thus necessitating all that had come after – and in their eyes, there was nothing she and her acolytes could not possibly deserve, just as nothing could replace what they lost.

And to be strictly fair, that would have been the most common opinion among the loyalist forces, though not wholly on account of their lost monarch – Many ordinary citizens of the colony would have viewed the rebels as the despoilers of their homeland who would turn all they had known as right, natural and good into burnt-out ruins and scarred prison-houses.

The colony could not exist without eradicating the life on Earth, but to preserve life on Earth, the colony would have to go, and only the very few individuals that had been somewhat embroiled in both sides of the conflict would have appreciated the inherent tragedy in what appeared to be a genuine impossibility in the way of coexistence.

Most of the rebels would already have been outcasts or dissenters who could have had little attachment to their society of origin, given that it had failed them in every way, and to most of the loyalists, the Earth's stock of organic lifeforms would have been so alien as to just barely scrape against their definition of life, the same way that human researchers would later ponder if a virus could be considered alive.

But no virus found on earth would be so accomplished in works of technology and architecture or this capable of feelings like loyalty and devotion -

Or sorrow.

 

Threnetic, lugubrious, Blue Diamond's hooded shade looked on as her Turquoise presented her with the implementation of her plans, with no satisfaction on her withered features, but as close to pleased as she would come, her every word like frost upon a rosebud.

 

The results of their endeavors would be nicknamed “shooting stars” by the rebels, because they were sent raining from the stars like droplets of fire – they looked like sparks of ice, but the heat they contained could sear even beings as sturdy as gems.

Held in an unstable magical equilibrium and extremely susceptible to disruptions, they would catch fire as their hurtled down from above and explode as they approached the ground, tearing through mountainsides, reshaping landscapes or causing massive forest fires.

Their intended targets were the concealed rebel bases under the foliage, but homeworld didn't care how many unique ecosystems they burned down, how much poisonous ash they blew into the atmosphere or how many human families would starve because their fields or hunting grounds had been torched.

The destruction was devastating enough for the rebels to deal with by themselves – if they encountered some humans in need they would certainly go out of their way to protect them, but they could not be everywhere at once, especially when they had their own positions to maintain despite the onslaught, particularly since any over sign of rebel activity would be answered with immediate, merciless bombardment.

At first, all the crystal gems could do was to hide, defend and avoid drawing attention, but that made it harder and harder to disrupt loyalist operations, which were of course ramped up in their absence to draw them out into the open.

It was Pearl who figured out that there must be a way to stabilize them temporarily, since the homeworld forces must be able to launch and deploy them without blowing up their own spaceships, probably by keeping them at stable temperatures, and designed a protocol to catch and contain them by hand.

At first, she had intended to use a machine, but when her device was destroyed in the very attack it was supposed to be tested against, it was Garnet who, in a flash of determination, decided to catch the first one with her own gauntlets, since her unique set of temperature-related abilities and immunities allowed her both to withstand its intensity and to contain it at just the right temperature.

On their own, Ruby and Sapphire could not endure touching them, but on one occasion where there were far too many of them for Garnet to contain them all on her own, they unfused to follow two separate barrages going in slightly different directions, and each proved successful at keeping them from exploding for a short time while shrouding them in ice or fire for a time, until Pearl joined them with other means of containment and went to dispose of the shooting stars in the depths of an icy ravine where the massive ice sheets would serve as just about the only thing that could keep them contained indefinitely.

It was probably during this time that Ruby learned to be much more proficient with her pyrokinesis than the average Ruby, but there were many very close calls.

One time, and entire rebel base would have been vaporized if Rose had not stopped an entire barrage of shooting stars by summoning three enormous shields, another time, she protected an entire human settlement behind a wall of shields.

With a tribe of hunter-gatherers it might have been enough to relocate them, but the inhabitants of this riverbank village were already too numerous to live off the land, or to even make it through the next winter with their fields in shambles. They had absolutely to context to explain what just happened – some of them thought the world might be ending, and they might not even be wrong.

Generations of them had worked so hard to build their irrigation systems and plant orchards of olive trees, and now they were left with nothing but themselves, their mud houses and the harvest tools they would never get to use – Moved by their fearful eyes, Rose did what she could and filled their scorched fields with sprouting crops, growing them to maturity in minutes when it would normally take many years.

For that deed, many a band of humans mistook her for the local deity of fertility, or sometimes even an apparition of Mother Earth herself.

They called her many names, one more ironic and inaccurate than the last, for nothing could have been further from the truth. She was, by nature, the sort of being that makes things wither and die.

Her fellow rebels would see her impassioned efforts to save these humble creatures and think to themselves that she must be very selfless and committed, but none of them knew of the guilt that spurred her on, the knowledge that, if Pearl had not suggested that they sneak out that one day, she could have destroyed all of this, that she had overseen the preparations to do so back when she was still ignorant, and that all this might have been prevented if only she could have figured it out before...

 

It was not long till it became apparent that they could not go on like this. Garnet was the first one to say it – They could not hope to stop the colonization if they kept retreating, and despite their best efforts, the human casualties were only going to mount if they didn't figure out a way to put an end to this once and for all. The others must've reached that conclusion as well, but only the fusion had the fortitude to put it out in the open – Pearl had been trying her best to drown out the nervous sense of dread she felt, and Rose had just kept telling the others (and herself) that they would surely make it.

But once Garnet finally said it, it was almost a relief. Now they could think of something to do it. Pearl absentmindedly speculated about the possibility of tracking down and destroying the facility where the loyalists were manufacturing the shooting stars, asserting that because of their volatile nature, they likely required very specialized equipment to produce, store and launch that would be difficult to replace and Rose, taking that as a suggestion, was immediately determined to go through with that no matter what, even when their reconnaissance revealed that the Diamonds had had the foresight to put the facility in orbit.

Even if they could somehow get to it, in the vacuum of space, there was nowhere to run – it would have been a suicide mission. So naturally, Rose Quartz insisted on doing it herself rather than send someone else, assuring the others that she would surely find a way to make it out, and since she would not be dissuaded, Pearl insisted on going with her, which meant that Garnet would stay on the surface to carry on their torch in case they didn't make it out, though none of them outright voiced that possibility.

When they parted, Garnet informed them that homeworld would know they were going – indeed, just a few days prior, the quiet forehead Sapphire from the war council had informed her Diamond of the exact date of the attack – but now, they knew to be prepared as well, and neither side knew exactly how the other would counter their efforts.

They infiltrated the base by approaching a convoy of raw materials which, according to Pearl's theories, must have been intended for the shooting stars, posing as a morganite and her personal pearl, in a sense, using the hierarchy's own inflexibility against homeworld themselves, for no one dared to ask the supposed morganite what she might be doing there, nor would they dare deny her when she demanded to inspect their freight - though it helped that most regular gems would not have been able to hold a form that much different from their regular one for as long as a Diamond.

Then plan was, of course, Pearl's, but she would have given them away three times over if it weren't for Rose's impregnable poker face.

Once inside, they endeavored to make their way to the reactor core, but just as they had shed their guises and moved to make their stand, they were tackled to the wall by something they did not see coming, something which left them disoriented before they could even guess what was going on. At first, they weren't quite sure if they hadn't just tripped, but soon it became apparent that something much less innocuous was going on when the invisible foe struck another blow.

Only their well-honed instincts saved them from destruction, their senses and the moving part of the mind that simply reacted before thoughts could form – and perhaps it was there that their assailant missed her window of opportunity, for they lived long enough to start thinking. The days they spent at the empire's heart did not necessarily make them experts at everything pertaining to its rule, but they had seen enough to recognize what this was, as invisibility was not exactly a common gimmick –

“A Tanzanite Assassin!”

As as soon as Pearl realized that, both of them knew that they were in trouble. Any common soldier gem would have been no match for them, but this was a rare elite from the Blue court, without doubt sent to target the leader of the rebellion in particular – And she didn't even need to defeat them to claim her victory, all it took was for her to occupy them long enough for every gem in this complex to converge on their position. No doubt that the alarms had already been sounded. Even if they could possibly defeat them all, one couldn't put it past the Diamonds to sacrifice the entire facility (along with any gem that couldn't make it to the escape pods) just to take down Rose Quartz. If the battle were to draw out for too long, the self-destruct charges would go off right under their feet – they had to act fast and press onward before their enemies could assemble, but precisely that was rendered anything but easy when they were fighting an invisible enemy.

Pearl had to admit that it was not a bad strategy – What good was a sword that could poof any enemy in one strike, or indeed, any sword at all, if they did not know where to aim it?

Their opponent was relentless, too – Some lesser warrior might have grown cocky and come to rely on her invisibility to do her job for them, but not her. She brought her weapons to bear time and time again, some sort of scimitar or glaive, though there was no way to be sure since it was as invisible as the rest of her.

Unlike the Rubies and Quartzes that were meant to fight enemy armies in bulk, often organics that would be smaller and softer than them, this Tanzanite was adept at single combat, meant to take out even disloyal elites and used to fighting other gems, including some of great individual power – Even when sent to carry out political assassinations on other planets, her opponents would have been technologically advanced species some of which might have access to rayguns or power armor; Given that the rebels did not necessarily fight like typical gems, this was just another advantage – If Pearl had to think of a way to take out herself, Garnet and Rose, it would not have been much different from this.

Later, several of their fellow rebels would joke about how the Diamonds must be backed into a corner if they had sent a Tanzanite to dispatch a mere Quartz, but of course, their leader could not quite see it this way, because a disgraced elite was, after all, exactly what she was – It barely seemed to matter that Yellow and Blue did not technically know of her defection. She was being judged for her actions as the leader of the rebellion, her own, chosen actions that had meant more to her any of the farce she had been forced to perform as a member of the authority.

This was payment for who she was – even after she'd left them behind, they kept coming after her, and worse, after her friends, the very ones they had already wronged so many times with their tyrannical rule, as if they hadn't suffered enough.

They were on the defensive – it was one thing to see her coming, to hold up their weapon to parry when they could feel her speeding towards them through the air, but when they tried to attack, they were usually stabbing at thin air, and leaving their flanks exposed to boot – they could somewhat compensate for that last part by covering for each other, but it was clear that they were not landing any hits.

By now, the entire station must have been alerted to their presence – and they knew it, too. Pearl's usually careful offensives were getting more and more frantic.

They could fight their way through a couple of guards, but if they stepped outside this corridor to find themselves surrounded, that might keep them tied up long enough for a self-destruct to be ordered, and they had yet to get close to their objectives.

“Pearl, the door!”

But unlike many a glory-seeking opponent, Tanzanite knew better than to let the smaller gem slip away to cause mischief while she was going for the more prestigious catch. Wherever she was, she launched another direct, ruthless onslaught which Pearl expertly blocked with her spear, having to resort to another quick dodge when Tanzanite resorted to perhaps kick her legs out from under her, though one could not really if it was really a kick.

Generally speaking, Pearl's approach to dealing with larger, heavier and stronger enemies was to outmaneuver them in terms of agility and speed, a strategy which she had eventually polished into an art, so that it generally worked very well, but she had seldom faced opponents that were agile as well as strong – and Tanzanite easily proved to be her match in terms of speed.

A part of her suspected that while she might have been able to exceed a regular soldier gem, a simple Pearl could not hope to compete with an elite – the rest of her, of course, grit her teeth, tightened her grip around her spear and, through sheer willpower, brought forth a blazing, searing light from the tip of her spear, slinging the shining beam forward like a projectile.

It is unfortunate that she would never find out that her opponent only escaped by shapeshifting out of the way, bending herself into a thin half-moon shape to avoid the surge of heat - but though this maneuver had been driven by necessity, the experienced assassin knew to use it to her advantage, and take it as chance to attack from the side.

Tanzanite's glaives were stopped by Rose's shield – and she wondered, of course, how the weapon of a simple Quartz could withstand her when she was designed to make undesirables 'disappear', but it wasn't strange enough to be out of line with the tales of Rose Quartz as this incomparable abomination.

But in the hopes that having her path blocked by the large crystaline shield might at least have captured her attention somewhat, Pearl took the chance to leap gracefully beyond the protective barrier and charge her laser projectiles once again.

“No, not there!”

“Rose?”

“She's over there! No, she was! She is-” Left with no time to explain, Rose was forced to defend herself, raising not only her shield, but her sword to block something in the opposite direction.

And Pearl had felt their enemies' weight, she probably stood slightly taller than Rose but not by that much – Not just invisible, but capable of sudden, whimsical shape-shifting, which was probably how she could make herself invisible in the first place.

Pearl was not sure how much longer trying to read her movements as with any conventional enemy would continue to work – and yet, Rose had been able to block what might have been a stretched-out limb.

“Can you... sense her?”

It was fortunate then, that Garnet and the others were not here with them.

“Not really. Maybe a little...-”

There was a surge of sharp, pointed intention whenever she was going to attack, but that was all she could distinguish, and only because she'd already been forced to rely on her other senses since her eyes were clearly no good.

“Can you tell me where she is?” Pearl shouted, firing another widespread laser beam in hopes to hit at least some part of it.

“Not fast enough! At least not while fighting!”

“What if I do the fighting for both of us?”

It took Rose a while to get what Pearl meant, but once she did, she used the momentum of her next attack to swing herself towards Pearl's position and one flash of light later, Rainbow Quartz stood there, with Rose's Sword in her left hand and Pearl's spear in her right, one pair of eyes focused on the battle ahead and another, closed in concentration.

She could only loosely pinpoint Tanzanite's location, as a consummate professional, she did not have much emotion radiating from her; even with the extra burst of power from the fusion, it was not an ability that had ever been honed to its full extent. But it was enough to tell Rainbow Quartz where to point her weapons, and as long as she could stick close to the enemy, there was only so much she could do to evade her – This fusion had never been meant for a fight, but between Pearl's lethal elegance and Rose's raw strength, she was more than a match against Tanzanite.

Her movements were fluid and pointed, the battle itself, devolved to a lightning-fast, bizarre kind of dance, until the spear finally hit... something, possibly just her clothing but probably not anywhere on her torso since she did not poof at once.

Only when Rainbow Quartz blasted Tanzanite with a beam of multi-colored light did the fusion finally get to see her opponent: an elongated, dark blue gem with a smooth polished cabochon at the front clattered to the ground.

They'd have to hope that she would reform in time to make her escape, but the fusion could not afford to wait for it lest she follow hot on her tail.

Instead, she ran, blasting a hole through a wall to avoid the soldiers that were, without a doubt waiting at both ends of the corridor.

But there were guards swarming even where she popped out, not that many, but enough that she chose to run for it with various acrobatic leaps that ended with her drop-kicking through the big, important-looking door at the end of the corridor.

She had found not the reactor core, not the launching pads, nor the lab, but the cargo hold: Hundreds of shooting-stars glittered before her, all suspended in ice.

There were also numerous gems that had been in the process of getting them ready for transport and evacuation, which had been slowed down by the need to account for their volatile natures – but once they caught a glimpse of the rebel fusion and the half-star around her belly gem, all of them that were armed drew their weapons.

 

Rainbow Quartz then made a decision that neither of her components would have done on her own, something both foolhardy and calculated at once. Sheathing her sword, she instead summoned Rose's shield while holding Pearl's Spear up high.

“Everyone, get away from the cargo.”

And then she fired, straight into the volatile freight, right before spreading her shield as far as she could. In fact, she summoned more than one, holding them out before her in layers like the petals of a flower -

And none but the innermost one held. Even for her, this degree of explosive power was at the limit of what she could contain. Even just the heat around her got to critical levels as the torrent of fire raced past the shield like the tail of a comet – but hold it did, however narrowly, with the side effect that large portions of the base were preserved behind it.

None of the shooting stars, though. The nearby explosion should have set off every single one and must surely have blown up the lab, with the consequence that the orbital station was now riddled with holes, with no more turbines left to correct the orbit that had been disrupted by the explosion – and so, the gravity of the enormous planet below beckoned them towards its surface, which appeared larger and larger through the gaping hole that had replace the cargo bay hull.

 

This was when the two rebels unfused – Pearl was left stammering about the imminent crashlanding while Rose leapt out of their joint light to gather as many of their poofed enemies in her arms as she could, until Pearl managed to remind her about the imminent threat of atmospheric reentry, prompting her to encase them both in a bubble shield along with their fallen foes.

She would leave them bubbled near the wreckage for the loyalist forces to find, apart from a few one or two that were so badly melted that even she could not save them.

But even though she spared many more of her enemies than she could have, their objective was archived:

The facility was reduced to rubble and the production of shooting stars stalled.

 

 

(i.)

 

From such sour and grating setbacks, Yellow Diamond returned to find Blue already back at their room, seated against the window, with a computer terminal gripped firmly in her hands, looking through some old video files-

and once she might have sighed in exasperation, but by now, she had grown so numbed of such sights that she did not even manage a head-shake, just a sobered narrowing of her eyes.

Yellow did not even bother with the greeting she should know would go unanswered, and did her best to focus on the stack of requests, complaints and notifications from her many subjects which had accumulated while she had been busy with the demands of the war. In particular, she made sure to keep an eye of any intelligence reports and surveillance protocols from their borders, especially those borders which were situated near the territories of other advanced civilizations – she couldn't have their enemies pouncing on them like vultures now that they were distracted with this petty excuse for a civil war.

But she couldn't help but overhear some snippets of sound from the clip Blue was watching in the corner, not with the jarring presence of a certain voice from the past – first she simply caught some sounds and phrases that she thought must have repeatedly come up, but then she realize that Blue was replaying the exact same video file over and over again – She'd seen is well, exactly once. It was a recording from one of Pink's last official functions in which she was presented a newly-emerged Jasper with a medal for the outstanding service record she had managed to rack up in just the first days of her existence.

On the screen, the Quartz could be seen kneeling before Pink Diamond, a large, remarkably well-shaped specimen, her head lowered in perfect, solemn devotion, but as Blue herself had pointed out the first time they had seen it, Pink wasn't quite into it – It was surprising enough to see her act in such a serious, measured manner, but there was more to it, some subtle, melancholy quality in how Pink had conducted every part of the ceremony, as if she had somehow known that her time was as its end...

 

(Or that's how Blue Diamond had parsed it, anyway. The true reason was not quite so supernatural or even all that mysterious if you had known that the hundreds of crystal gems for whose destruction Jasper was being honored had all been Pink Diamond's, or rather “Rose Quartz'” cherished comrades – but that wasn't exactly Jasper's fault, who thought she was doing her liege a great favor by cracking them to pieces.

Hence, ceremonies were held, and medals given out, though the Queen of Earth had been close to tears through the entire event, grieving for both her fallen friends and the unfortunate beta gems whose plight she had never anticipated when she first began her rebellion so many years ago)

 

“You know it won't get any longer just because you keep replaying it, right?” Yellow finally asked, downplaying the frustration she could not quite push down completely.

There was not much that Blue could have replied to that.

“By the way, one of your Kyanites contacted me, Cabochon-B34 I believe. She was asking if you had perchance read her report on some incident in the Iota Sector...”

“I haven't... gotten around to that yet...” She actually sounded quite apologetic at that, or at the very least embarrassed, though it was distant, fickle feeling drowned out by an undertone of pain. She probably did not care much, though it was not for lack of wanting to.

Yellow sighed. “Where do you have your files? I'll handle it for you, just this once.

II. Plague (Frogs The Storm Geode)

 

After the hot ice came the permanent lightning, another reverse-miracle brought into this world only to wreak destruction, built on an excessively uncaring rationale that could only have been Yellow Diamond's:

In strategic terms, the rebel objective was tied to preserving the biosphere that existed on and around the planet's surface.

The loyalists did not need it – the next layer of bedrock would do just as well, and even the surface itself would be barely diminished in its usefulness if the chemical elements contained in it were rearranged and ground up.

 

The crystal gems had barely worked out that their enemies were plotting something when it was already too late.

The first of the two prototypes was dropped off the western coast of the southern continent, an enormous synthetic cyclone akin to the enormous, continuous storms that raced across the upper atmospheres of gas giants for centuries on end.

It was large enough to be seen from orbit, a giant, singular vortex the size of a dwarf planet.

The effects were felt in faraway latitudes; though a variety of physical and mathematical mechanisms, the atmosphere was disrupted all the way to the other side of the planet; Marine life was flung out of the sea and landed halfway across the continents to fester and rot in the middle of deserts and steppes, and distant shores were bombarded with Tsunamis. Human settlements were flooded all around the globe.

But the effects were the most devastating in the immediate impact zone:

Where the unnatural winds touched land, their funnel tore deep into the bedrock, washing it away like sand in the breaking waves.

Some of the older crystal gems who had traveled across space and seen many extreme environments likened it to the effects of a meteor impact.

In a day and a night, a large chunk of firm continental shelf was worn away, annihilated, as if one had sprayed the coastlines with acid, an enormous mass of land just lost along with all that had lived on it, including uncountable human lives.

It was by mere coincidence that most of the destroyed area was largely desert, but even the desert was home to unique tribal cultures and filled with ingenious adaptations of life – but to the south of that, where the continent's western shores curved inward, there was a multitude of sophisticated complex human kingdoms with a far greater population density.

They weren't outright destroyed, torn out with the ground they stood on like their northern neighbors, but the devastation was incomparable.

Many of the humans would not see their homers reattain comparable prosperity within their lifetimes, or even those of their great-grandchildren.

Pearl's measurements would later confirm that the entire planet's axis had shifted ever so slightly – the overall impact on the biosphere was hard to even estimate.

One day later, an enormous mass of sediments and sands washed onto the shores of what would later be known as south America, effectively enlarging the continent by a significant fraction.

The very map of the Earth had changed, and still, as far as homeworld was concerned, this had only been a test run, and not even a successful one.

After all the havoc they had wreaked, all the death and devastation and flood basins filled with decaying organics floating far from their natural habitats, they were still not satisfied.

The storm had destabilized on its journey across the Atlantic – they had meant for it to go on and on and on, stirring the planets' surface like the batter for a cake, mixing land and sea together, unmaking everything in its path to leave a blank slate for terraforming.

That didn't happen, but Pearl knew why, which meant that the loyalists must know as well. All it would take were just a few tiny adjustments to the calculations – which the loyalist Peridots must have been carried out as Pearl panickedly explained it to her comrades. By then, Garnet had seen visions of the second prototype and lead some scouts to confirm its existence.

If the homeworld forces were to succeed in activating it, it would be game over.

The only possible conclusion then (as Rose would draw it) was that they would need to prevent the second Geode's detonation at any cost.

Where her comrades were fearful or somber, their leader stood with clenched, quivering fists – 'Such righteous fury', they would think, 'Such selfless solicitousness and determination', but of course they knew little of the more personal roots of her response.

She knew Yellow Diamond, better than any young, earthborn quartz would have had the opportunity for, as well as someone must know her after she had taught them everything she knew about warfare; The fresh scars that marred the planet's surface might as well be the hard blocky glyphs of her handwriting.

Her heart remembered the many times she had been yelled at or yanked around; Her mind thought of all the conquests she had once cheered for, not knowing that they must have entailed destruction just like this;

Her will could only express itself in defiance.

But to defy her in this circumstance meant nothing less than to catch apocalypse itself with their bare hands before it could crash down on the planet's surface, like the titan Atlas bearing the weight of the firmament – and should they fail, they would become the first ones to get vaporized, as they would be right at the center of the blast radius.

 

Still, Rose could not give up on trying, so her comrades would not be dissuaded from joining her either. They assembled at multiple locations which Garnet had designated as the most likely impact sites, each 'manned' with a couple of gigantic fusions.

Even among the crystal gems there were only so many who could hold towering multi-gem fusions for any amount of time, most were closely-knit comrades who had weathered many desperate battles together.

The fusion that stood in wait perched atop a pair of twin mountain peaks was not exactly 'obsidian', but perhaps 'basalt' – it could not be exactly the same, without the presence of a certain Amethyst who was yet to emerge; But she was not as different as she could have been, since she did contain a quartz, a much-beloved Biggs Jasper who often served as a peacemaker in the rebel encampments.

Though having to balance one gem less should have made the task easier, the absence of Bismuth was keenly felt even now.

But for the moment, Basalt had more than enough to worry about to keep herself and her components all focused on only one goal, the dread meteor that would be descending on the world they had come to call home any moment now.

Right on time, in perfect accordance with Garnet's prediction, the ill-boding blot appeared in the sky, and that was when they first saw the cause of all the devastation:

A perfect black sphere, a sort of containment casing perhaps, set to crack upon impact and release the payload of dearth within.

It would appear that Basalt was closer to it than anyone else. She wasn't sure if she could expect for backup to arrive in time – and yet she ran for it, speeding towards the harbinger of doom that any sane creature would have fled, and leaving shuttlecraft-sized footprints as she did, sprinting further and further toward the growing sphere of oblivion up in the skies.

But though it grew larger and larger as she approached, taking up a larger space lower and lower in the sky, Basalt began to get the sense that it was ultimately not enough – the projected lines in her mind did not quite intersect, the trajectories of herself and her target appeared to be set to miss each other ever so slightly...

And each and every one of her components knew exactly what this would mean.

Desperation crept up on all of them.

Then, from the corner of their peripheral vision, a chain of low mountains caught her attention, and she knew what she must do.

She ran, up the most manageable of the slopes, jumping from peak to peak and doing her best to gaining momentum with every leap, until she finally launched herself into the air with all available power. The part of her that came from Rose Quartz put all thought into floating; two of her arms turned back and, summoning Garnet's gauntlets, propelled herself forward with a rocket punch aimed forward. Another pair of arms summoned spears and aimed her lasers backward for extra thrust, keeping their eyes on the prize and carefully managing their trajectory, while Biggs imbued their joint body with the energy aura typical of a spindash attack.

With all their powers combined, Basalt sped through the air, ensuring that every bit of extra propulsion would be brought to bear, but despite the various haphazard endeavors of the crsytal gems, Basalt kept her trajectory steady, her steely will perhaps empowered by thinking of what Bismuth would do if she were here, how she would not give up, how they would insist that they could do it because they were just as powerful and important as their enemies.

In a motion that was graceful and mighty at once, the enormous jet-black fusion turned in the air, at last, approaching the falling storm geode from above.

In the atmosphere around it, some semblance of winds an lightning were already beginning to congeal in response to the growing excitation of the contents within, but its shell had not broken yet, so the fusion reached for it with all her arms, feeling the smooth, crystalline material that contained the wellspring of destruction within.

If it had contained the storm so far, it must be sturdy enough, perhaps even so solid that it would survive an impact – after all, it had even survived the heat of reentry.

If only they could slow it down enough, they might not even have to stop it completely – so all the efforts which the fusion has so far turned towards propulsion were now channeled in the opposite direction: Anything to slow the fall.

While holding on with two pairs of hands, the fusion linked the other four together, one weapon in each of them, and together, they assembled them into something more, something unique, like two enormous mortars assembled for bits of each of their unique weapons, and once formed, they were pointed straight downwards, the black flames discharging as much energy as all their gems would yield.

When the Geode touched down, the immediate vicinity was blown away by the resonating winds and the ground around it cracked far and wide – but the superweapon itself remained intact, perhaps just barely.

Even Basalt herself could barely believe it – once she was certain that it wouldn't splinter apart under her hands, she unfused from sheer relief, sending her spent, exhausted components tumbling to the ground all around them.

Only Rose could pick herself off the ground enough to inspect the horizons, looking to see if anyone was coming, and hoping that they would be friend rather than foe, lest they be picked off in their weakened states.

“Someone's coming... It's Variscite!”

Variscite was the fusion of Crazy Lace, Snowflake and Watermelon Tourmaline.

It was their comrades. “We're safe.” Garnet concluded, and then, one moment later, “We did it.”

“We must set up patrols.” added Pearl, still half in shock. “We have to secure the perimeter...we can't let any homeworld forces get to this thing and set it off.”

Despite her exhaustion, Biggs was the first to break into a huge smile. “But still! We actually did it! Can you believe it? We did the impossible Pearl! You, and I, and all of us!”

Still on the ground, the four exhausted rebels turned toward each other, barely believing that they were alive yet glad just to see each other on the same sky. Though it hurt to move, Biggs reached out her hand, which her comrades greatly took, big, beaming smiles spreading across their faces once the reality of their survival sunk in. Even Pearl couldn't resist the infectious joy of the moment.

“It's just like Bismuth used to say... we can do anything!”

When Rose's smile faded at the mention of that name, Biggs simply took it as a sign that she must be missing the rebel blacksmith as much as herself.

 

(ii.)

 

To begin with, this particular project had been mostly Yellow Diamond's brainchild – She had even contributed some of her own lightning to the mixture of destructive magic.

And it would have to be her handiwork, because Blue Diamond had excused herself from the planning meeting.

She did not come to the debriefing, either; According to the Agate that showed up instead, she had told her Pearl to tell her other attendants that she was 'not feeling well', an excuse as well as an understatement.

 

The first time Yellow found her strewn across the floor by the window, she had rushed to her side only to be met with sometimes resentful, sometimes outright hostile protestations that she was perfectly fine and just wanted to be left alone to wallow in her misery, sometimes harshly implying that anything else should have been considered an insult to Pink's memory.

“Just leave me be!”

And one so rebuffed would struggle to justify her concern, since Blue was, after all, a nigh-indestructible being of incomparable power, entitled to do as she damn well pleased, as she would not hesitate to point out when she insisted that she was exactly where she wanted to be, doing precisely what she wanted -

Which was apparently to lie on the carpet, reminiscent of something weak, withering and decaying when she was anything but, sometimes looking out at the rampant organic jungle, at other times, not even doing that.

Once she had been both skilled and fastidious at maintaining a proper appearance – now, her long, pale hair would often be stringy and unkempt. Even when she did leave this room, she'd rarely bother to put it in order, halfheartedly relying on her veil to conceal the state she had allowed herself to come to.

 

When she spoke, it was nearly always about Pink. Every day, she found some other new reason to miss her, or she would remember yet another past incident to meditate upon. She thought of nothing else all day.

“Did you know that I always envied her a little? I never told her, lest it get to her head and encourage her bad behavior, and now, she'll never know...

She always had so much energy. So much life, and creativity... There was no one who didn't adore her... oh why! Why did it have to be her!

The weighty shroud of her aura filled up the room.

Blinking away tears, Yellow silently accompanied her through her agony.

Why indeed?

If she could have taken either of their places, she would have done so without hesitation, but as she knew very well, the universe did not take bargains.

Sometimes she considered if Pink might have hated her. She hadn't been as close to her as Blue; They'd had their disputes and each of their own respective envies – Yellow had always been strict to her, though she could not say for certain where necessity had ended and convenience begun , all for the inevitable day when Pink would finally understand and take her allotted place as it was required, but now this day would never come....

 

III. Plague (Lice The Inverse Pyramid)

 

A far cry from the sleek, elegant structures that were leisurely strewn across the landscape in the early days of the colony, structures erected during the war were geometric, massive and forbidding, emblazoned with a dark, solemn triangular insignia of intersecting triangles that had come to be used in place of the old four-sided rhombus, itself a compromise – Yellow Diamond could not stand to keep staring at their old sigil everywhere, but Blue refused to go back to using the pascal triangle like emblem they had used before Pink's death, not that either of them had the time or energy to be much concerned with the design.

In the end, neither of them was really satisfied; It became just another remainder of how their lives were irrevocably changed, and often, that crushed them (each in their own ways), but one would do well to fear the days where it lit a blaze in them instead.

They could not feed off of hatred alone, even less that they could previously sustain themselves from just dedication, but they were foolhardy enough to try.

To that effect, Blue and Yellow Diamond sometimes worked at once, each critiquing each other's plans to polish the final result. On days when they could spare some clarity and focus, their efforts were generally not spared; They would make use of all resources at their disposal and have their underlings working in concert to create things neither faction could have managed on their own, even daring to recruit the small detail that White had left them.

As of now, her Anthracite was overseeing the construction of a massive pyramidal structure, standing to the side making notes on her holo-clipboard and hundreds of Bismuths carried heavy stones to the construction site, hauling the heavy materials on their own backs and legs while Grey Agate made sure that they kept pace, brandishing her weapon at any workers she perceived to be slacking off.

In the meantime, Peridot-Y73 would have been inspecting some of what they had hauled under the watchful eyes of Magnesite and Turquoise, who had enlisted her to assist them in assembling these raw components and materials into arcane mechanisms.

Now and then Magnesite could be seen lifting large amounts of raw material with her telekinesis so that they would remain undisturbed and perfectly suspended in the air while Turquoise imbued them with her volatile magics, transmuting their composition or burning arcane glyphs into their surfaces.

Blue's trusted forehead Sapphire was also present to advise them on arcane matters and foresee any disturbances and problems with the construction, though she had so far guaranteed them that their great work would be completed.

The site was, of course, closely guarded precisely to ensure that -

There was an entire legion of Quartzes camping around the perimeter, lead by none other than Yellow Diamond's foremost Hessonite who was aided in her efforts by a number of yellow court Agates, including a particular Montana Agate who had once served as one of Pink Diamond's tutors – in life, she had always found her to be quite a handful, but after learning of her supposed fate, she could not help but see matters in a different light.

Scouting duty had been delegated to a certain veteran Citrine, who had whipped her best troops into shape and come up with a tight regimen to ensure that no rebels would slip through their lines to disrupt or even spy on this latest effort of the loyalist side, though she found that many of her soldiers hardly needed her to motivate them any more than she already did – many had lost dear comrades to the fight; For the former members of the Pink court, it was not just their goddess but their very life and homestead they were meaning to avenge.

Citrine could not say that she did not have some admiration for many of them, considering their persistence in these desperate circumstances. There was, for example, that one Ruby from the detail that lost their mistress on that fateful day – though a grizzled, experienced veteran, she was forever barred from promotion for the stain of dishonor she had to bear, but even so, she remained relentlessly devoted to the cause.

Their determination was good insofar as it kept them determined to the last, and Citrine had to respect them – from the most illustrious Jasper to the humblest Ruby, they were passionate indeed, but this very passion that seemed to inherent to red and orange gems was not always a good thing either, as it sometimes made them rather... reckless, or prone to act without thinking, or even unthinkable, almost self-destructive arts of desperation that disrupted her orderly lines, whereas most Citrines would not break formation on the pain of shattering.

There was this young, impetuous Jasper of astounding, raw prowess who had worked her way through the ranks to a position almost like Citrine's own in shockingly little time, but there were some things about her that caused her comrade and commander the occasional headache, and she wasn't sure if it was all just down to her youth.

She was not much of a teamplayer, for once, and her tendency to want to assert her dominance and superiority had a tendency to mess with group cohesion.

But in her many many years Citrine had dealt with her fair share of ...difficult cases, and in the end, she came to regard it as a matter of knowing just how to utilize them.

Her Diamond wouldn't keep anyone around if they weren't useful, and in the end, results were all that mattered.

 

At the center of the encampment, the workers labored away, hordes of Bismuths and Pebbles interspersed with a handful of Peridots under Y73's command, all of them overseen by Anthracite and kept in line by Grey Agate whose task was to ensure that the plans were followed to the letter.

But in the end, none of their skills were considered as crucial to the successful conclusion of the project as Turquoise, Magnesite and Sapphire – the latter had indeed predicted that if the rebels managed to take them out in a covert assassination, the whole undertaking would likely disintegrate into thin air like the form of a gem whose gemstone was broken.

 

To prevent this, Tanzanite followed closely behind the other three elites at all times, unseen by any of the Bismuths but not particularly concealed from the heightened perceptions of the other three who each had their distinct ways of remaining quite aware of where she was.

She had survived the crash and reformed in the wreckage of the space station, shape-shifted into worm-like form and slithered her way out of the debris once she reformed (this time with somewhat plainer minibraids tied into a ponytail and loose pants that ballooned near her ankles), but though she tried to exercise prudence, her pride was not quite so intact – Never before had any of her prey escaped her grasp so easily once she had closed in on them, at least not since she was a young creature sometime in the faraway past – and she was beaten by a quartz and a pearl, too.

Though not one to resort to rash things out of short-sighted vanity, she hoped that she would get another chance to cross blades with the rebels and rectify this blemish on her honor, but for now, she stayed put where she was needed, following her comrades with practiced alertness.

 

Under their watchful eyes, the pyramid took shape:

 

It was almost a mausoleum.

The entrance hall was replete with carvings, including a stylized depiction of Pink Diamond's last fight against the traitor and various scenes of the war depicted in classical homeworld iconography.

Sapphire had predicted that the rebels would probably try to infiltrate it at some point, so they had it filled to the brim with deathtraps, so that this tomb may become their tomb.

At last, when the work was almost finished, a gem was chosen to act as the powersource, a living sacrifice to serve as the pyramid's ushebti, or it's terrakotta soldier, and though the task was grueling and potentially rather permanent, it was considered a honored one.

The chosen gem, 'volunteered' from the white court, was consigned to her new rule after a drawn-our ceremony – It was a celebration, but not a joyous one; at the end, she was ritually poofed and placed in the structures central obelisk.

At this point, the entire structure came to life, filling with an eerie light and a vague, nondescript hum, but most importantly (for the architects of this plan), the gravity engine at the center of the hermetic mechanism began its term of duty.

 

They deployed the pyramid on the site of one of the first great battles in the earlier stages of the war, the ground still salted with the remains of the fallen, discarded weapons lying all around – The outcome back then had been a great victory for the rebels, but there should be no more of those. The floating fortress that floated above these blasted lands existed only to make sure of that.

 

Even thousands of years after its heyday, the deathtraps lining its interior would prove to be a challenge, but they were an afterthought compared to the outward-directed weapons phalanx that spat forth beams of lethal, multicolored light – within hours of departing on its maiden voyage, it proved an unstoppable juggernaut that the rebel forces could barely oppose.

Brave and tenacious as they were, they were largely on foot.

The only one to even come close to touching it was an enormous fusion, and even she could do little more but to cover her comrades' retreat.

 

Even so, the Crsytal Gem leadership seemed determined to continue assaulting the vessel, and on this soil, where they had won one of their first decisive victories, they were united. They each recalled when they were newer and less certain, still in the process of reinventing themselves on their new paths, surrounded by comrades who were no longer in their midst, desperate to come with the sea of destruction that their quest to reach for their due rights had landed them in, and though they all still felt the terror in their gems, they also knew that they had emerged from it before.

The Crystal Gems regrouped and charged back in, spearheaded by no one but Rose Quartz herself, and where she went, she was followed by a tangle of enormous vines that bound and trapped the enemy forced wherever they could snatch hold of them.

 

Many years later, the distant descendants of these magical plants would imbibe the many minerals that had been beaten into the ground by the baleful dustshed that had marred this place, and bring forth gigantic, fragrant fruit from the ashes, but that day was a long way away, and it would be thousands of years before the scars of this earth could even begin to be mended.

The punishing light burnt the endless, rampant vegetation almost as far as its mistress' power could spur it forward, and if even these most titanic of heavyweight combatants struggled, what hope could there be for the ordinary fighters, the new rebel recruits unaccustomed to the fight but desperate to protect their newfound happiness, or the nameless hordes of the homeworld ready to lay down their lives for their duty?

 

But even as the confrontation raged on like a poem of earth and stormy air, it was little more than a diversion. Many looked at Rose Quartz and saw a devoted, selfless leader throwing herself at the front lines alongside her soldiers, or a devil imbued with inexplicable, unholy power, in any case, a dauntless existence with no fear of death but from where she was standing, she saw only the little trickster and troublemaker, doing what she had always done best: Causing a commotion.

 

Meanwhile on some other edge of the battlefield, a fusion and an ownerless Pearl had known to keep their heads above the mayhem instead of allowing themselves to be distracted by the big prize, and while the homeworld forces were distracted by chasing after the most wanted gem on this earth, they had overtaken a certain Anthracite and relieved her of the keys to the pyramid.

The small bureaucrat gem had expected to be beneath notice – Now, she was in a bubble, and so were the handful of Rubies assigned to guard her under the assumption that more proficient guards were better used guarding the elites.

Of course, the Anthracite was not exactly vital to the chain of command, but like an idler wheel or the spider in the center of a web, she had been pulling at the threads of battle here and there, suggesting to the grey agate she was tasked to assist where cohesion of the flanks could be improved.

The loyalist forces had almost begun to think that they had turned the tide of the battle when one determined shot out of nowhere, engaging Rose Quartz in single combat and thus robbing the rebel forces of her support – the one to pin her down was not the Hessonite who was leading the assault, nor any sort of elite such as a Topaz or a Tanzanite, but a simple Jasper – yet one that knew no match.

To get here, she had torn through rebel lines like a juggernaut.

She had shot forward like a cannonball, head first, crash helmet aimed straight for the traitor's gem, righteous fury burning in her eyes.

“YOU!” she simply roared, a bident-like material weapon in hand. “YOU!”, her battle cries more ferocious with every attack.

When their leader hesitated for a moment, as if she recognized the dread behemoth before her, the Crystal Gems ascribed it to the Jasper's ferocious aspect, or perhaps some reluctance to tear down what, despite her unnatural prowess, was a very young opponent – but if she was to be considered a youth, she was also most certainly a prodigy, a hardy specimen of uncommon prowess, with long, wild silver hair and a mature, opulent body, her muscular limbs thick like tree-trunks.

Like an enraged ram, she charged her enemy time and time again. Wielding her sword on her left may have given Rose Quartz an advantage when it came to defend or to swing her blade where others wouldn't expect it, but since Jasper carried her own weapon in the large, red fist at her left, that advantage was negated at last.

Many on the homeworld side were impressed that she could oppose her at all, but if you'd asked Jasper herself, well, she would not have told her what she experienced, for she would have rationalized it away as soon as they ceased crossing arms, but in that moment, she felt the presence of overwhelming power.

If she kept standing past the first few strikes, it was because of her sharp instincts and the sheer rage that spurned her on. Though her opponent was supposed to be a mere quartz like herself, Jasper could barely fend of her might. For every strike she might hope to land on her, she felt like she knew that it would be returned back to her with thousandfold force, as if she was facing not a normal gem, but a mass of sheer power barely constrained to a form.

But though it would have been convenient to think her demon, Jasper knew full-well that she was not. Their crystalline weapons crashed and creaked against each other, unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, battering-ram helmet almost cracking against the pristine arch of her shield, material weapons half-bending under the strain of their incomparable power, since they both had rather uncommon sort of gem weapons that could not be wielded outright in a typical fashion, both of them holding them with their left much like their common creator – Jasper would never forget the day that Pink Diamond had used the slender fingers of her left to pin a medal onto her chest.

So this was the great betrayer, the one who destroyed Jasper's home and took her place in the universe before she even emerged – this was her: An unusually clear, deep-colored Rose Quartz where most of her kind were cloudier and lighter, wearing a frivolous, aristocratic gown in place of her uniform, having traded her combat boots for the bare dirt of this cursed tomb-planet.

There was so much of Pink Diamond's essence in her, even more than Jasper herself carried. She had her curls; You might almost have thought that their voices sounded a little alike.

Had this colony gone as it should have, this mockery of everything a quartz was supposed to be, this total subversion of the loyalty their kind was supposed to have, would surely have gone on to be one of Pink Diamond's most favored underlings, the vanguard of her great army – And yet, she had betrayed her.

She had betrayed her, and yet she dared to bear the mark of her essence as clearly as Jasper did, if not more.

And it griped her more than anything else, that the defiler of Earth had been one of her fellow quartzes, and that, though they were supposed to be fellow quartzes and should have been evenly matched, Jasper could not seem to land a scratch on her.

Just for holding her own as far as she did, this Jasper would go on to be venerated by the troops, her name a legend in the mouth of the Rubies, cementing her as 'the' Jasper to the lower ranks – but then again, they were too far away, too frightened to get near the devastation around them to notice the disparity, to realize that, if they were anywhere near even, it was because Jasper was pushing the substance of her body to its limit, straining its many light-circuits without mercy, whilst her otherwise untouchable opponent stood there almost dumbfounded, eyes wide with realization.

“It's you!” she almost blurted, startled enough for a less single-minded opponent to conclude that something must be off. “You're Jasper. The Facet 10 Jasper.”

She had been forced to block a vicious blow with her shield before she could hope to continue talking.

“And you're a traitor to the homeworld!”

“Jasper, no, wait -There's no reason for us to fight!”

“Oh yes there is!” Every word was punctuated with a blow with the tip of her helmet, delivered by her fleshy, powerful neck with a self-destructive sort of zealotry. “You and I have every reason to fight! Fighting is the only reason that either of us is around. I am a Soldier of Pink Diamond! And so were you, before you turned your back on your own kind!”

“Pink Diamond is gone. No one owes her anything anymore. You don't have to do this- ”

SILENCE, TRAITOR!”

The primal battlecry that followed was heard through the lines, the ferocious growls as Jasper hacked away at her enemy's shield – and what, to Jasper herself, felt futile and desperate could not have sounded any more fierce and impossible to her comrades -

 

Though the Citrine Commander in charge of the vanguard quartz batallion had a more sobering take on the matter – She had ordered that Jasper not to break formation, and yet, she had waltzed right past her and gone berserk of her own accord the moment she spied a tinge of wild fuchsia locks in the crowd.

But all things considered, the venerable yellow Quartz was far too pragmatic to waste time nursing a slighted ego, and instead moved to turn this unforeseen disruption into an opportunity, swiftly forcing her comrades to surge forward and push the rebel forces backward while their heaviest hitter was distracted.

It was a mere Ruby, a fierce, mad veteran with her gem in her eye, who at last put a hole in the enemy slides, sliding through the mud to jump on a much larger opponent from the back and poof her enormous body from behind with her chisel knife, allowing swarms of loyalist forces to break in and assail the rebel front lines from all directions. Large Amethysts carelessly pushed past the Rubies, tearing into rebel fighters that had been providing ranged support before the lines had collapsed, their smaller forms now exposed to the melee once their sturdier comrades were no longer there to shield them.

Citrine knew the beginnings of a rout when she saw them... but nothing in her two-hundred and fifty centuries worth of experience could have prepared her to see the pyramid go up in sparks behind her – or to hear the sound and feel the wave of heat before she could turn her vision spheres to the back.

 

Inside, Garnet and Pearl had gone through something of an ordeal when disabling the pyramid from the inside proved harder than expected. She almost panicked in the dephts of the maze, until Garnet touched her on the shoulder and urged her to stop piecing the puzzle together with her frazzled mind and instead trust her intuition.

They never did make their way to the gem resting at the central power core, at least not in this particular millennium, but Pearl and Garnet, or rather, Sardonyx, followed the hum of engines and the heat of transforming energy to the central weapons array, which glowed like a beacon from the throughput of power passing through its alchemical circuits.

The newborn fusion sent it flying out of the pyramid's hull with her hammer, sending a crashing ball of fire down through the battlefield and escaping through the hole in the wall, landing on her feet with the poised elegance of a cat in a torrent of majestic, booming laughter.

The Pyramid still floated above her, as it would continue to float for the rest of the battle, until it would land on the scorched end of its own accord, waiting for repairs and, eventually, a redeployment that would never come – but without its many-colored prismatic lasers, it was little more than a funerary ornament and could provide no cover fire for homeworld's retreating legions.

They had turned the tide of the battle.

 

But though the rebel victory was probably assured in that moment, it was by no means instantaneous.

Even with their main advantage taken out, many of the loyalist side persevered tenaciously, and there was much cracking and breaking before the day was done – but perhaps the homeworld armies would have crumbled much faster if it wasn't for the tenacious young soldier who, on that day, should distinguish herself as one of homeworld's greatest champions.

She would hear nothing of retreat and kept fighting even as everything around her descended into chaos, the platonic ideal of the loyalty expected of a quartz, and, in particular, the persistence attributed to Jaspers.

Her protracted duel with the rebel leader would go down in history, and her legend would live on for long beyond this day. Onwards from now, no military gem worth her dirt would escape the tales of the Beta Kindergarten Quart That Could, the Pink Court's Paladin of Retribution, the one who had gone toe-to-toe with the grand arch traitor herself and lived to tell the tale.

Rose Quartz – or rather, Pink Diamond, remembered her differently.

Despite what Jasper herself might have believed, they were not strangers, and the rebel leader could never have looked upon her as a hated enemy.

She recalled seeing her from way up above, mere days after her emergence, on her knees, long silver hair touching the ground, holding a material blade in her left hand, the dark, deep red stripes -

She was hers, light-from-her-light. And she was so very, very young...

“Jasper! please listen to me. I don't want to hurt you!”

“How dare you!” In the shadow of the pyramid, her amber eyes seemed to glow like a cat's, flashing with wrath like burning coal, and this, too, reminded Rose Quartz of someone, someone who wasn't herself. But the way she had charged straight through the lines, breaking formation despite her orders? The passion of her fury, the noble, yet twisted quality of it?

That could only have come from one single member of the authority.

And yet it made no sense. If Jasper was fighting her because she was loyal to the authority, why would she go against her explicit orders? And if she had thought of going against her orders, why was she still risking her life for those who issued them to her?

“Please! Think about what you're doing! You can stop this right now! You don't have to fight, you don't have to suffer, you don't have to force yourself to be strong! You can come with me!”

Somewhere inside the gem that throned in Jasper's face, a vulnerable cord was struck, and an even greater wrath was produced to reject it. She attacked again, with such violence that her own head rang all over, sending spiderweb cracks spreading down her forehead.

Beneath her shield, from either force or disbelief, Rose Quartz was actually brought to her knees for the first time in the whole duration of this raging battle, if not for the first time in decades.

Not since her fateful Duel with Bismuth had she felt an attack reverberating in her form like this.

If she had meant to convince Jasper to lay down her arms, Rose could not have missed her mark any further.

“Why would I?!” she bellowed, a pained, harrowed shriek, like an animal puffing up its bristles.

”What on this gem-forsaken planet makes you think I would possibly do that after you MURDERED OUR DIAMOND?!”

Though she must have known by now that it was useless, Jasper kept hacking at Rose's shield with her bident again and again, continuing even as the mass-produced metal weapon started to bend against the adamantine barrier.

“I was made for her, and you took her away! You took my colony! You took my court! You took my planet, and left nothing but a burnt-out husk. You took my Diamond, and left nothing but shards! You took any purpose I ever had, and you expect me to just, what? Just... wander off and abandon my duties, just because I feel like it? What sort of a self-absorbed coward would do such a thing?!”

Rose Quartz was actually stunned into silence.

With twitching eyes, she beheld the sight before her.

“I... I wanted to be free. I wanted us all to be free. You and me both. I thought we'd all be better off without her-”

“SHE WAS YOUR DIAMOND TOO!”

That was as much a wail of lamentation as it had been a berserker scream.

The shield- well, she had few thoughts to spare on maintaining it.

She reacted just in time to catch Jasper's weapon, but the prongs of her bident came to rest on either side of her sword, and Jasper brought her full weight to bear on the blade, forcing the bent tips of her weapons against Rose's upper chest, leaving visible abrasions.

She pushed it down harder and harder, even as the cracks in her own face were beginning to leak. It just so happened that it was red, like the stripes on her arms and the accursed red dirt she had sprung from, standing out against her tangerine skin, too translucent to pass for human fluid but close enough that the resemblance wasn't lost on her.

For the most part it disgusted her, but she cared not about the pain, and though Rose all but begged her, she would not stop pushing.

“Jasper, please, just stop.” She was repeating herself at this point.

“You'll crack yourself if you keep this up.... I know they all told you that you have to do this, but you don't. What's even the point, if Pink Diamond isn't here? She's not going to reward you, and she's not around to punish you if you leave – and if the others try, I won't let them. Please, please believe me. You can be free. You should be free. Don't you want to be free as well?”

Somehow, she managed to push herself forward, the fork in her bident sliding along Rose's sword, and, without hesitation, somehow managed to score a direct, point-blank headbutt against her opponent, utterly indifferent to the fact that this would place her own gem within inches of the curve of her blade.

“That's the problem with you accursed traitors! You're all about what you want. You following no one but your own wicked desires with no regard for the order!”

“The order is wrong! We don't need it!”

“Of course YOU don't need it. You don't care about anyone but yourselves– not for the order, not for the homeworld, nor even for the future of your own kind. You refused your duty because you didn't feel like it. You betrayed the one who gave you life! You'd rather we all perish so you can play at being an ape and indulge in your perverted aberrations! I bet you'd love nothing more than to see us all destroyed!

Because you wanted to. For such a reason, you've destroyed the only home I ever had! Because you did what you wanted, I've known nothing in my life but chaos and anarchy! Abominations like you will always be the best proof of why exactly we need the order!”

The sword was still in her hands, but it scarcely seemed to matter. She barely put up more than a token resistance when Jasper managed to disengage her bident from the magenta blade.

“At least die on your feet like a soldier, you loathsome piece of scum!”

Rose did not react much. Her instincts refused to kick in over a bent piece of iron that had no chance of actually breaking her.

There was a flash of light, and a cloud of dust, but none of it in purpure hues.

 

Elsewhere on the battlefield, Sardonyx had been racking up her reputation for occasional smashing, but as soon as Rose had dropped the shield, Pearl had practically melted straight out of the union and sped towards the dented prongs before Garnet could call after her.

She meant to parry the spikes with her spear, but in the heat of the moment, her back served its task just as well.

 

(

 

“Jasper. You've reformed.”

“Wha- Citrine?!”

Finding herself in her superior's tent, Jasper got quite a few glares from the other quartzes for addressing their commander so brusquely, particularly from the guards at the entrance, consisting of a junior citrine who often served quite eagerly as the commander's adjutant as well as a chalcedony who seemed oddly out of place amid all the citrus-hued gems in the vicinity.

Citrine was honestly surprised that Jasper had actually bothered to materialize a blue court uniform, but mostly kept her pokerface. So far, she had certainly lived up to the pink court's reputation for rambunctiousness, but not quite like those Amethysts she sometimes had to work with.

“What the-”

“Your form gave out the moment the rebels retreated.” she merely observed. “I suppose you were standing by sheer force of will at that point. As a soldier, I must reprimand you for your reckless conduct, but as a warrior, I cannot deny you my admiration. I'm not sure that I can recommend you in good conscience, either, but be it as it may, our Hessonite has decided that you're promoted.

Come sit with us. ”

 

She was welcomed at the officer's table, for sure, but the whole thing felt hollow.

She just knew that no matter what they said, she was still not one of them, no matter what show they made of cheering. She could see it even as she arrived at the meeting, led not to the color-coded tables specific to each court, but the elevated roundtable where the foremost quartzes from every battalion involved in the war would be discussing its latest twists and turns.

Jasper could smell it (though she could do no such thing, literally speaking); It was all in that Chalcedony's thin, raised brows, in that giant Amethyst's unsubtle smirk and the condescending look of that Aura Quartz – either they looked down at her as an Earth Quartz, or worse: The only other Jasper, a dark blue one with a criss-cross of grey veins, a round, unfaceted gemstone on her left palm and her thick hair in braids, did very little to hide her open pity.

And she was pitiful indeed: Pitiful product of a second-rate kindergarten on a failed colony, with not even a court to call her own anymore – even if they had all knelt at her feet, it could not have convinced Jasper that she deserved to be here.

All she could think about was that she had just narrowly missed her chance to avenge her fallen monarch, so all she could feel was bitter shame.

She stood the silent eye in what, to most of them, was a precious moment of respite and relation. For all that she prided herself on being exactly as a quartz should be, she was, in some ways, somewhat atypical – Yes, as soldiers they were supposed to be strong, but they were also intended to function in large units, so most of them were fairly convivial gems.

Jasper kept to herself, brooding proudly at her segment of the table.

Knowing where she had come from, she must have risen quickly above the rest of her batch and either disdained them to begin with for their poor production values, or perhaps she only began to think that way after seeing most of them slaughtered.

Either way, she must have emerged into a rather grim life on an undisciplined, disintegrating colony.

Was it so strange then that she turned out this way?

Citrine made a mental note to recommend her primarily for solo missions – She knew the type, as she must after being in her business for so long.

She probably thought that all of them must hate her, so, she pretended like she'd hated them first.

Fair enough.

The veteran quartz challenged her to an arm-wrestling game, half an attempt to get her to join in, and an open-ended calculation. A test perhaps.

She conducted herself as unsportsmanlike as one would expect, making a matter of serious competition out of what was usually idle entertainment, or casual training at most.

Half the troop quarters had emptied out and poured inside this hall, most of them gathering round to see the spectacle.

Outside, the Rubies must surely be gathering near the door arches they weren't permitted to cross, hoping to catch some sprinkled glimpse of the going-ons inside. Jasper and Citrine were, as of now, perhaps the single two most well-known quartzes in the empire.

Though their wayward sister had seldom spared them at glance and eyed them with disdain even now, the remainders of the pink court, insofar as they were present, cheered for her rather loudly. “Jas-per! Jas-per! Jas-per!”

The detail from the yellow court was not quite as fastidious, preferring to express their support with some semblance of military discipline, through synchronized, rhythmic stomps on the ground – but there wasn't one of their numerous members who didn't stand with their commander.

If anyone rolled their eyes, it was largely blue gems – but even they could not help the occasional ahhs and oohs as the confrontation unfolded.

Citrine rarely lost, but this newcomer was full of youthful pride and vigor – even so, there was much disbelief all around when when she managed to wrist her opponent's banana-hued fist to the table over the course of half a minute.

Their commander might have been one of the calmer ones. There was certainly a moment where she was visible surprised by her junior's greater strength, but despite the younger's subsequent taunts, Citrine knew well enough that she wasn't in her position for raw physical strength alone.

The outcome suited her just fine - Given what an obnoxious winner she made, Jasper would probably have been a outstandingly sore loser. Even so, one could not deny that she did have her merits.

“Remarkable!” she commented, quite calmly, allowing even the faint beginnings of a relaxed smile. “I have not seen a prodigy like yourself in many, many years. Not every generation can boast to have brought forth even one gem with your kind of potential.”

“Don't patronize me, old hag!”

In wise foresight, Citrine held up one arm to dissuade anyone who would punish such insolence in her name. Not a moment to soon, or Jasper might well have found herself decked by a handful of her fellow citrines.

“Forgive me if I have done so, for that was never my intention. I have something to ask of you.”

“And what's that supposed to be?”

“If neither my Hessonite nor my Diamond have any objections, it is my wish to appoint you as my second in command for the remainder of the war.”

 

)

 

 

 

Rose Quartz herself ended the day sitting by the edge of her camp, alone, keeping an iridescent white oval held in her lap between her fleshy fingers, amid the ripped folds of her gown, held close to the cutout at its front.

The oblong creamy jewel was pristine in her hands, but it had required some serious patching up to even get to this state.

Garnet and Biggs did their part in assuring her that it wasn't her fault, but there were quite a few things that they didn't know.

But since her doubts had reasons that could not be shared, the Crsytal Gem leader had retreated to the outskirts of their base, no less alone with her thoughts than she would have been in a crowd of hundreds.

 

(iii.)

 

 

For the jungle outside, time certainly kept passing – One day, the gem matriarchs might look out to find the whole forest covered in a layer of frozen precipitation, and then, in what to them would almost seem like the next moment, the ground would be slick with mud and sprinkled with fallen flower petals, or heavy with fruit, only for all of it to fall to the ground along with most their leaves – the first time they saw that, they had assumed that everything in the forest had been killed by the frost, but Blue Diamond would spend long enough looking at that particular patch of vegetation to notice that the larger trees went through this cycle every year.

Of everything on this world, trees might have come the closest to existing at similar timescale as gems since a few of them could grow and last for thousands of years, but the average specimens that might last from several decades to a couple of centuries would already have been considered a dizzying sight.

Over the course of many years, small saplings would worm their way towards the light, extend their majestic canopies only to be felled by fungi, fire, storms or infestations and be devoured by moss and further mushrooms until there was nothing left but another layer of soft earth – still Blue could not see just where in the anatomy of these creatures Pink would have placed the supposed beauty, though after all this time, she could no longer deny them a morbid, macabre sort of admiration for their paradoxically indomitable nature, how these fragile specks of slime could manage to survive where one of their own had met her doom.

 

Yellow Diamond did not share that view; When she looked out there, she felt only rage and revulsion. “Why don't we just draw the blinds shut?” she would keep suggesting.

“Why don't we just have the perimeter of the base cleared?”

“Why don't we just stand here together and watch as it all burns down?”

“Why don't you come with me to the meeting, so we can figure out how to destroy these rebels for good and finally get off this miserable rock?”

Sometimes, Blue would shrink away from her intensity, apologetic yet inert in the face of her logical arguments and at times accusatory calls to action – when Yellow was enraged like this, Blue thought that she could sometimes resemble White quite a bit – And she could not deny what she was being faulted for, but neither could she gather up the will to truly change her trajectory so for the most part, she just felt rushed, exposed and passed by by everything, even more so than she already did.

 

Blue Diamond knew very well what she used to be, and she knew that it wasn't this.

She used to be pure, she used to be resplendent, she used to split crowds and drive fear into sinners with the stentorian might of her commanding voice –

Even those who had held her to be a terrible, monstrous entity might have been moved to some deep yet distant pity if they could have seen what she had come to.

Once, she was supposed to have been the very image of a perfect flawless being, a receptacle of unfiltered light – and now, she was without question marred, broken, left alive and aware of her own imperfection, a fallen angel with their wings dashed upon the cliffs, a leviathan upon a fish-spear, a ferocious unicorn with its mystical lance gone to pieces, nothing short of a chained titan in dire agony – and just as the thrashings of Loki or the suffering of Prometheus might still shake the earth, even like this, Blue Diamond could not have been anywhere further from harmless.

But she was naught but her own ghost, a smoldering ruin of the regal, imposing monarch she used to be, fallen far from whence she came, and everyone could see it.

 

Often she would wonder what Pink might think of her now, if she could see her like this. Would she be disappointing or disgusted? Would she take just a split-second too long to recognize her?

At times, she barely recognized herself.

 

__________________________________

A/N:

Oof this balooned, I had half the entire arc done two weeks ago with clear ideas of what goes in the missing bits but actually writing that down took more text and time than expected; since this part is 14k words im uploading it, leading to the bizzarre situation where the next however-many-chapters is technically half done. 

 

Sometimes I look at the various magical artifacts from season 1 and wonder in how far these are still meant to fit into the established lore, if there's a larger plan behind it (that they simply didn't show us because at that point Steven wouldn't know) or if they're simply leftovers from a time when the writers still hadn't figured out where exactly on the Clarkes-Second-Law-Scale they want to situate the show, and a lot of stuff that seems like it would be relevant background hints hasn't been referenced again, though I guess that you can mostly assume that it's largely leftover weaponry from the war or structures intended for the colony.

The various buildings have certainly been referenced when PD is looking through the various plans for them in “Now we are only falling apart” for example, cast members have come out and explained the cursed scroll from “together breakfast” as being related to the necromantic shard experiments etc. I really need to do a full rewatch at some point and take notes.

Hence this attempt to recontextualize various early series weirdness like the miscellaneous magical artifacts or the altered coast lines (Soon to come: The Big Hole in Russia and our old friend frybo)

At the very least, a lot of it certainly makes sense in the context that the main Mad Science Person on Team Evil had a personal grudge against our heroes.

 

Another significant point to massage here (though I think it would already have come through in earlier chapters) is that PD strikes me as having a pretty negative/ hopeless view of her own kind, more so than seems be warranted. (as in her speech in “Greg the Babysitter”) If you really think about it don't really have to take her own negative beliefs about herself at face value any more than we do with any other character – on the other hand she seems to have inadvertently impressed that onto Amethyst.

She saw that the Earth needed and deserved to be saved but it's not until Steven's time that he considers that maybe homeworld is also worth saving / not completely beyond all hope, though this was likely also due to his encounters with individuals like Nephite, Eyeball and Jasper.

Chapter Text

Part IV: Absorption (Act IV: “The Pillars of Salt”)

 

 

Regarding BGM recomendations for this one, hmm... 

Take your pick, friends. 

(iv.)

 

All this was not to say that there were not any days on which Blue and Yellow Diamond might even have returned to their lodgings together, at least maintaining a companionable silence between them – though if Blue was having one of her better days, they might even have been discussing the latest events of the war.

Yellow would stop in the doorway, handing a last few orders to her Pearl or instructing her to run various errands while Blue's simply stopped outside the door, or perhaps she would take the time to move over to the desk and switch on her computer terminal in preparation for her next batch of work, while Blue might be moving over to her usual spot, more as the consequence of some ponderous, lost wandering or her attention being drawn by the sights outside than through any deliberate habit.

But at least, she would be on her feet; Often enough, she would even be the one to reach out for Yellow with one furtive hand, if she had moved to join her at the window once the doors had closed behind them, and when that happened, it would not be long before their vast, colossal frames would be leaning against each other ever so slightly, surrounded by this strange, foreign world where nothing made sense, covered as it was with these hideous creatures, this ardent hot life that was so alien to their own natures.

They had nothing familiar here, apart from each other.

Bereft of the last joy in their lives and scorned by their capricious creator, they had no love here - only fear.

 

IV. Plague (Wild Beasts The Light of Judgment)

 

On the loyalist side, they would have meant something very different by the notion that this latest idea could only have been Yellow Diamond's – they were, after all, brought up to think of her as might incarnate and power given form.

In the iconography of the empire, she was nothing less than the Great Smiter, the Glory Of the Queen's Right Hand, designated dispenser of divine retribution – so when the gems in her rank heard of this latest endeavor, they might be inclined to see it as a natural conclusion of her works in that capacity, an extension of her long, strong arm as it were – and they would have been blinded by their faith.

 

There was nothing mystical at all about this latest contraption, it was all basic technology, steel and circuits through and through, intended to accomplish what very much exceeded the limitations of her bare hands, a crude, nasty and brutish sort of solution, a simple, excessively uncaring workaround, or, in less flowery terms, an oversized orbital laser.

That was all the prose it deserved, even the machinery wasn't anything that special or elegant, the challenges of engineering had not so much been overcome as shut up and clobbered to death. Too much heat accumulating? Slap more cooling aggregates on. Built them onto the outer hull like mushrooming tumors if necessary.

The available power sources can't quite archive the desired energy throughput? Just build more of them. Just make it bigger, brute force all the way.

Were that growing monstrosity not located in the vacuum of space it should surely have collapsed under its own weight.

It looked like a flashlight with several really bad skin conditions, pointed like a gun straight at the surface below.

The intention here was to vaporize continents along with everything on them.

No one was mincing words about that, least of all Yellow Diamond.

What was once an inevitable side effect, a necessary task that needed to be taken care of for some supposed greater good, though it may have been ugly or even regrettable, had since become the main objective.

She wanted to see the rebels boil like sinners in the hands of an angry god, and burn everything on that planet's surface to the ground – and she would not be deprived of it by any gentler solution.

And many in the loyalist ranks might well have agreed that the rebels deserved no better for their heretic way of life, or at least, they would have believed that their great leader must surely be right.

Only those closest to her would even arrive at the conclusion that something inside of her had changed, and not for the better.

“We will wipe this place clean”, she had said when she ordered the construction to begin. Her eyes were fire and her voice was ice.

No one could call her out on pettiness or caprice when she made no attempt to hide it – after all, she must be obeyed; And no one regarded her as enough of an equal or a confidant to be worried for her rather than for what she might do, not when she could and would do with them whatever she pleased.

Whoever noticed the impatient weariness mounting in the center of her face did their best to pretend they never saw.

 

All around, the engines of war marched on.

Given that their last couple of operations were brought down by rebel infiltration, security aboard the enormous spaceborne cannon was probably the least haphazard thing about the entire operation, and the illustrious Citrine Commander had been tasked with ensuring that, insofar as herself and her troops didn't find themselves repurposed to haul machine parts.

Those peridots seemed far too eager about what was probably their only chance in life to tell some Quartzes what to do, and be it only on behalf of their superiors. Convinced of their rarity and importance, they did as was asked of them but seldom bothered to coordinate much, even with each other; They were not much used to it, tending to be deployed on their own to fix devices on distant outposts or labor away in narrow maintenance shafts - both the technicians and the soldiers ostensibly regarded themselves as the more essential parts of the undertaking and, as long as they waited for rebels to arrive or the great superweapons to be completed (whichever came first) some of them found themselves with way too much time on their hands, which, for Citrine, mostly meant more work, as it fell to her to keep them all in line. Sure, it was good to see everyone eager to serve their Diamond, but she was best served without such pointless inter-service rivalries that contributed nothing.

Peridot-Y73 was supposedly here to direct her peers, but she was not their leader in the same way that Citrine commanded the quartzes. She would order the others around for technical matters and decide when there was a professional disagreement, but that was about it. – before the station's hull was even fully completed, the senior technician had locked herself in what was to be the engine room and devoted herself fully to the trickiest parts of engineering, proud and even gleefull to work on something that would have such vast destructive power – Her first priority, and the entirety of her interest would be tied up with that, so she would care little what her underlings were up to as long as they brought her what she asked for, when she asked for it.

Citrine had long since learned to bring her requests to the supervisor they all reported to, or failing that, to go by herself to find one of the Peridots and command her to do whatever needed doing.

Though more measured and cool-headed than many younger Peridots, Y73 could be quite unforgiving and strict concerning any clumsiness on the side of her peers.

She had lived long enough to be considered a fixture at the Yellow court, but Citrine had been around even longer and still remembered how glibly she had once stepped up to claim the position after out-competing her predecessor. (a friendly, eccentric type who, insofar as Citrine was aware, had since perished in a lab accident)

She had managed to bring Yellow Diamond what she asked when the previous lead technician had not, so she got the post, and she had their ruler's ear ever after. Since then, Citrine had often served alongside her, though she could not say that she ever understood her much.

Many of Citrine's troops weren't too fond of her, seeing as they frequently had to dodge the cross-fire of her inventions and could not look forward to the day when she would examine their shards, pronounce them dead and divert their remains to some new purpose. Many thought her a frightening, petty little thing – not only would she do without the blink of a vision-sphere whatever Yellow Diamond asked, she would do whatever, period, with little concern of the cost, her mind full of vigorous, destructive visions. She had been likened to a wild beast that savaged everything whenever Yellow Diamond turned her loose. Y73's chief objection to that description would have been its brutish lack of sophistication – she would much rather have been likened to a missile pointed straight toward a target.

She had naught but disdain and suspicion for most living things, including her peers and any admirers of her work both above and below her in station – She made an exception for Yellow Diamond, whose ongoing favor had provided her with the means to pursue her designs, but as for anything else in the universe, she made an insistent habit of regarding it with reductive detachment, as if it were hardly as much as the sum of its basest components, the rare intersection of a perfectionist and a minimalist, though she would have argued that the most optimal value of a linear optimization problem and its corresponding minimization problem obtained by flipping the matrix of its constraints were, as mathematically proven, exactly the same.

She never bothered to hide that she thought little of Citrine, though Citrine herself had no opinion on the matter – both of them were needed, and both of them spared no expense to produce the results that Yellow Diamond wanted.

Citrine respected their differences but even if she hadn't, and even if she sometimes thought that the different strata of the empire's society could stand to know more about each other's work, it was not her place to question or even to think.

Though even she had found some other things to care for along the side, she existed first and foremost to do her duty -

 

And once the orbital laser had begun to approach completion, the last remaining work constricted to its sensitive mechanical innards, that duty mostly entailed ensuring that security remained tight until the very end.

The more they approached the scheduled appointment of the great weapon's activation, the greater the probability that the rebels could be right around the corner like they had been all the times before.

To ensure that they would not score another victory by getting past their lines, the Citrine Commander was now patrolling the decks one by one, ensuring that all guards were alert and posted at their places -

Thus, one might have expected her to keep a stern face when she spotted a lone quartz standing near a window, illuminated by the planetshine below.

Instead, the tough discipline faded from her features, and when she asked the inevitable question, it was with a hint of warmth in her voice:

“Chalcedony? Weren't you supposed to be guarding airlock seventeen?”

“I was. Then the Peridots told me to get out of their hair.” the familiarity was evident in the fresh, irreverent quality of the other gem's voice.

It was almost a quip, but when she turned to address her superior, there was a faint, tired smile on her features.

Her gem was on the backside of her left hand, a cloudy, medium-blue stone, round and polished – In the blue court, even the soldiers sometimes had an elegant, refined quality to them. Her hair was long and coarse, but it fell straight down around her like a heavy curtain, sharply cut bands obscuring her eyes, though Citrine knew, from prior experience, that they were dark and almond-shaped.

Though lighter in build than your average quartz, her heavy, armored uniform with its long sleeves beneath still resulted in a rather bulky silhouette, topped off with a Helmet with a sizeable Blue Diamond insignia at the front – In the terms of medieval, or indeed, even modern humans, her attire might have been likened to a knight, or much rather a samurai, particularly once the enormous sword carried on her back was featured in.

She too was a respected longtime veteran, though nowhere near as ambitious or dedicated as Citrine – accordingly, she had not climbed the ladder of success quite as far, though she had won her fair share of accolades.

This Chalcedony was the same one who had sat with Citrine at the Officer's Table when she first welcomed the Earth Jasper into their midsts – and indeed, the one who had been visiting her before that, a speck cloudy blue surrounded by stones in clear yellows.

She had known Citrine for more time than it had taken some civilizations to rise up and then fall again, and together, they had weathered many bitter challenges and hopeless battles, fought back to back in all of the empire's most hard-won conflicts, all the ones that had called for the involvement of more than just one of the courts.

After making names for themselves, they would go on to spend further ages on the homeworld itself, serving in high positions at their respective ends of the capital.

When they weren't out campaigning, they would spend their time at the great arenas, drilling promising new recruits – While it was true that quartzes emerged knowing all one needs to know about fighting, Chalcedony, in particular, swore by the efficacy of experience and proper technique, and it was hard to disagree with her once she had made you a witness to that technique of hers.

Citrine was actually among the skeptics, but since she swore by tight discipline, she'd always maintained that the training couldn't hurt. The familiarity between them was quite apparent in the way they spoke to each other.

While Citrine did not approve, she expressed this with a raised eyebrow instead of a scolding tone, and Chalcedony had no qualms with addressing her more casually than anyone had dared until a certain rude Earth Jasper came along.

“You know, I'm certain that a warrior of your skill could have found something else to do.”

“Like it makes a difference at this point. Knowing you, you've probably patrolled this place five times over. I'd go out on a limb to say that no matter what you do at this point, this place won't get any safer than it already is. At this point, you're probably better off just relaxing...”

And against every impression that many of her devout subordinates would have had had of their commander, Citrine acquiesced with a sign and leaned against the windowsill beside her comrade, crossing her muscular arms in a token show of resistance.

“I suppose you might be right.”

Chalcedony was not too surprised by this – she had a long, long time to learn how to get past her old friend's well-honed guard.

If you graphed the age distribution in a population of humans, you would get a decidedly convex curve, with only a few individuals dying in their twenties and only a few of those who reached seventy ever making it to eighty – among a population of gems, this would not have been the case. Asked if they were going to live forever, most individuals would reply that they were still mortal and expected entropy to get them all in the end, but there was no such thing as a hard limit, only an approximate half-life or 1000-year attrition rate that varied wildly by gem type – a 6000-year-old Ruby would be considered a seasoned veteran and almost certainly be older than most members of her squad whilst a 6000-year-old Quartz would still be considered fairly young, and a 6000-year-old Diamond was barely just about old enough to maybe be trusted with her own planets sometime soon, but as they did not really age, none of them would have been significantly more likely to meet their demise on their 6001st day than they were on their very first.

Placed on such an exponential curve, both Citrine and Chalcedony would have been quite far at its narrow tip, having outlasted many of their sisters-in-arms, including some of those they had trained themselves since they were fresh from the ground. Both of them were the last remnants of their original batches, lifted out from kindergartens that had long since crumbled into barren dust.

If you had asked Citrine, she might have told you, with an understated fondness, that neither of them had changed very much since those early days – but if you asked Chalcedony, as of now, she would have instead mused that she was no longer sure.

She had found herself looking out to space for a reason, and after so many years, there was no way that Citrine could have missed her discontentment.

She had always known her to be moody, and learned soon that drawing attention to it by way of concern or reprimand or concern was generally counterproductive – that said, at the time, the commander did not believe this to be more than a temporary, passing thing that was nothing out of the ordinary for her, nothing to be worried about and best remedied by her simple presence.

So, Citrine tried to tune in to her wavelength, looking past the clearsteel pane to the eerie glow of the blue orb below.

“It's hard to believe that these traitors would cause all this devastation over a rock like that. As far as I can tell, it's no different from any other planet I've ever seen. The organics aren't even that different from the ones you find all over the galaxies.”

And with that, her old friend had not completely misread what Chalcedony had been thinking of, but there was something she wasn't saying... though at this point, Citrine did not yet see a reason to force the issue.

“This is proving a costly war indeed...” She observed instead, continuing to glance down somberly.

It did get Chalcedony talking: “Most of the Blue Jaspers and Crsysophrases are drawing parallels to the Battle for the Tannhäuser Gate, but honestly, I don't think I've seen such losses since the War with the Pentagorian Hive....”

“Well, apart from us there aren't that many gems left who actually know what that means... There's us, Morion and Aura Quartz from the White court, Plasma Quartz, Topaz-4K2, and I believe that's it...”

“Citrine. Plasma was shattered.”

“How come? When did it even happen?”

“Some time ago... I think it was after the Ziggurat but before Pink Diamond's shattering.”

“That was hundreds of years ago! Why didn't anyone tell me?”

“Why would they? You're busy with Commander Stuff. She's not even from the Yellow court...”

“Why didn't you tell me.”

“I don't know... There's just... so much... going on...” Chalcedony raised up her head. Her gaze, though concealed under her ice-blue bangs, must have been trailing off into the blackness above the planet.

The yellow gem sighed. Times like these had always been a common but unpleasant part of their lives.

“Say, Citrine... you're one of the few that have been at this for longer than I have.

Was there ever some time when you got really tired...?”

“Tired of what?”

“...You remember the final battle with the Hive?”

“Of course. I'll never forget it... - The Diamonds themselves took part in the fighting. It was one of the most sublime and sights I have ever witnessed. But why are you were there too, weren't you?”

“Yeah. That's when most of my original unit was shattered. Back then, I thought that was the most awful thing I had ever seen... Until now. At least back then, we were fighting aliens. Creatures. Half-machine half-organics. Not our own kind...”

“They're traitors. They've ceased to be anything of ours. ”

“Yeah, they have. And all they want is to live here on this dingy rock and play at being organics. Is that really so bad? Sure, they're crazy, but by now we've probably sunk way more resources into this pointless war than you can find anywhere on this rock. So many are shattered every day... what for?

Why can't we just pack up and leave them be and build a colony somewhere else? Let them have their wretched rock so they leave us alone...”

Citrine shook her head.

“I can't pretend that I have ever understood a single blue gem, and the longer I live, the surer I am that I never will. What of our duty to the Diamonds?”

“If anything happens to us, will the Diamonds care? Will they start a costly war and burn up thousands of soldiers just to get back as whoever killed us like they would for one of their own? Will they be sad? I mean, in your case Yellow Diamond would probably notice, at least. She might be mildly inconvenienced if your replacement isn't any good, but don't kid yourself. At this point, this whole war is all about their egos, because they can't stand that one of them got beaten.

Heck, even if we're charitable and grant that this is actually about Pink Diamond, that just means that this is all their petty revenge. Otherwise, they would probably have noticed at some point that none of this could possibly be worth it.”

“Chalcedony”, the commander spoke sharply. “Do you even know what you're saying there?”

“No, Citrine, I don't know what I'm saying, because I'm tired out of my mind of all this fighting... I just know that I've fought many organics in my time. Lots of them fought with honor. Some even had gods of their own whom they worshipped as their creators. I recall one time that I was part of a battalion that stormed one of their temples, on some backwater planet in the Ypsilon galaxy, and the walls were covered in glyphs that told their stories...

As the legend goes, their gods are the ones that created them. They grant them their requests, shield their worshippers from harm and they wait for them after death. The Diamonds do not grant us requests, they don't shield us from harm, and they don't wait for us after death.”

“That's because they're real rather than convenient superstition. They have things to do, and I find that much preferable to idols of carved wood that will listen to me any time.”

“I almost wish I had it in me to be more superstitious some of these days...

You know, citrine, you've always been so loyal... and after everything, I still think that is one of your strong points. But we've got to think of ourselves sometimes. No one else will....

Don't worry. I'm not planning to join Rose Quartz' crazy cult.

I'm going to stand and fight. But not for Blue Diamond or the elites. For you. For the others... for all our comrades and all those new recruits. For everything, you and I have ever known... I hope that's enough for you....”

“It is. We all must have something to hang onto on those days when it is hard to keep the faith.”

The Commander said this with complete conviction, her posture straight, her amber gaze forward, unwavering and clear.

Chalcedony knew not whether she owed her pity, gratitude or admiration.

 

...

 

The facility as a whole might have been well-guarded, but the engine room, in particular, was armed to the teeth – There were soldier gems posted in the maintenance ducts, some of them shape-shifted down to fill the ridges of the machinery insofar as it was safe to go near the parts of the mechanisms that produced great heat, squeezed in as tightly as the diameters of their actual gemstones would allow – an especially strenuous duty that even they could only endure in brief shifts of a few hours.

But the heart-piece of the laser platform, the apple of its eye, was guarded at all times by four topazes and eight agates who were often standing around them in formation until their peers came to relieve them from their days-long vigils, a mercy that was only granted to them because theirs was a duty that could only be trusted to a gem in peak condition.

Stoic and immobile, they stood there like statues while the Peridots worked on the surrounding cables, for insofar as the prized treasure itself was concerned, Y73 would not permit anyone else to touch it.

Hessonite had granted her insistent demands for more and more security due to statistic considerations – the sample was quite unique and as such the weakest link of the entire plan, albeit the conduit by which it was made possible. If she were attacking the weapons platform herself in the rebel’s place, destroying it would have been the most logical choice.

But as far as Y73 went, her obsession with the specimen was of a different nature, more akin to a base, abstract kind of lust, a dirty glimmer that filled her eyes whenever she looked at it like a miserly old sorcerer-monarch would regard a unicorn in their captivity.

There was nothing quite like it in the universe, and though she would deny it, it was the only thing that had ever brought her joy – or the closest thing to it.

She had excavated it herself many years ago when a remote mining expedition had stumbled on what they had initially believed to be a somewhat unusual planet.

Unlike most members of gem society, the Nephrites that piloted the scouting vessel had traveled far and wide across the universe and interacted with enough other space-faring travelers to have heard of the legends surrounding the nebula to whose edge the peculiar globe was adjacent. It was an odd patch of the universe strewn with anomalies strewn there by the extraordinary violence of the fulminant supernova that had called the nebula into being.

The result was not a black hole, but only just barely – the star’s collapse was ultimately halted, but not before it had condensed into a fine point and gone through various stages where it transmuted into strange forms of matter under its own weight, some of which were flung out into the shimmering clouds of Stardust by the great forces. It was for those same rare heavy elements and unusual forms of matter that the gems had come there, looking to haul them back to the empire for various technological applications and future studies.

But in the billions of years that had followed the stellar explosion, the rare conditions of spacetime surrounding the pinprick-star of degenerate matter were said to have attracted some rather unusual visitors, which had dwelt ever since in the colorful clouds that used to be the star’s outer layers.

Interstellar merchants and explorers claimed that the legendary creatures had led them out of the anomalies, which they themselves were naturally able to navigate.

Y73 dismissed them as superstitions of course, and much chided the Nephrites for believing in them. Many species had in their imagination conjured up enormous spaceborne creatures that lived in the empty vacuum like primitive organics swam through seas and puddles, and that’s exactly where Y73 had always placed the origin of such tales – that even sophisticated organics were incapable to see past their own origins and expected the universe at large to be a mirror-image of their cradles, a solid proof of organic inferiority.

So the legends were far from her awareness when the scanners picked up some rather odd readings from a solitary planet – rogue planets were not unusual in and of themselves, especially not near a nebula. If they weren’t leftovers from burnt-out star systems, they must have been newly-formed bodies that had not been massive enough to ignite nuclear fusion and hence failed to become a star – and generally it should have been easy to determine which one it was, just by isotope-dating its bedrock and comparing it to the composition of the nebula, but the readings from orbit were… odd. Not ‘confusing’, since that was a word and associated concept which Y73 disdained on principle, but nothing she would immediately know what to make of.

It irked her privately, but nothing concerning the actual mission objective was ever in doubt: The planet contained great quantities of both rare resources and unusual matter – nay, it would have been a waste just to haul a few chunks into their cargo bay. Though it was remote, it was precious, and so she helpfully suggested to her supervisor that she ought to contact homeworld, have them send injectors and laboratory gear, as well as parts for factories and shipyards, and above all, more Peridots – kindergartners, engineers, and researchers.

The place was not too ideal for long-term colonization considering its remote, anomaly-laden location and lack of a sun to shed natural light onto any prospective inhabitants, so she recommended that it be strip-mined completely.

Upper management agreed, complimented them all for their find and set numerous additional cargo vessels full of supplies, injectors of little green gems, and it fell to Y73, the Nephrites and the rest of their crew to have a mining outpost set up by the time they arrived so they could start hauling the precious materials away as soon as they arrived.

When rumors of shifting tunnels and inexplicable tremors first started going around, the senior technician did not pay them any mind – but once she saw with her own eyes, she had no choice but to believe. It was the odd patterns of the extensive subterranean caves that first caught her attention. In passing, she wondered what kind of geological phenomenon might have caused them – but then, they came upon the first findings that really didn’t make sense, at least not under the current assumptions.

At that point, they bothered Y73 much more than they did any of her fellow Peridots or the various higher-ranked gems that had come with the cargo vessels – after all, both the mining and the injecting were going very smoothly. The odd world’s hull produced gems of remarkably vital, vigorous aspect. The ores were most abundant and pure beyond the engineer’s wildest dreams.

But they were sometimes found in odd places; They found chambers deep within the cave network that were stuffed with native metals some of which appeared half-smelted already, or sometimes they would be filled with liquid and crystals encrusting the pools, or stranger yet, meteor rocks whose age and composition varied wildly from that of the surrounding bedrock.

The Bismuths, once brought over, soon learned to trust their instincts rather than waiting for the Peridots’ scans and calculations to make sense of their unusual surroundings – soon they found that there was no need to dig and that simply following the caves would lead them to the greatest bounty, and for all that Y73 protested about their unscientific methods, many of the new arrivals outranked her by far and would never dream of telling the Bismuths to stop, for their haphazard endeavors brought great results that would make them look good in front of their own superiors.

But this was not to say that Y73 was not beginning to understand the deeper they proceeded below the crust. The more extensive their maps of the planet’s interior, the more the patterns came together. The planet was indeed chock-full with numerous invaluable materials, but their distribution under its surface was very uneven, and this was presumably what had thrown off the sensors. But once she had the instruments appropriately recalibrated she could ascertain that this uncertainty was not the chaotic sort of improperly mixed cookie-dough, but a symmetrical arrangement with an intricate internal logic, like parts in a body.

The entire thing, which they had believed to be nothing short of a naturally occurring celestial body, was an enormous, impossible organism– and the mining outpost was a consuming plague upon its back, eating its way into its entrails and poisoning it with the vampiric bites of their young.

It was unlike anything that ever made its way into the imperial databases, and yet, this gigantic, foreign thing which idled on the border between self-organization and life came dangerously close to the definition of life that most of the outpost’s crew had been… not exactly raised with, but inducted into. And many might have rightfully argued that the empire’s conceptions were myopic at best and self-serving at worst, concocted to explain to themselves and the masses how they could still be the righteous ones while cutting down organic life left and right. For some that was exactly what it was, a convenient excuse to mask the fact that they cared nothing for any sort of life, their fellow gems included; But others truly believed it, for they had known nothing else all their lives – and this creature here, well, from a human perspective it should have had even less in common with a gem than even humans. It didn’t have a remotely similar shape or size. It had no limbs with which to scratch them off its surface, and no head to speak of, not that this was uncommon in filter-feeders. Most symmetries in its body where radial, perhaps engendering very distant comparisons to jellyfish or anemones, and as with the former, or perhaps certain insects, any information processing it might have been capable off would have taken place in scattered structures throughout its body, nets and rings and perhaps something comparable to ganglia, though any compassion would have been inexact and smudgy by necessity, as there was little in the universe that even distantly resembled it. Its kind did not appear to live in packs, let alone eusocial colonies; None of its peers rushed to its aid. They had no obvious means to communicate with it – it had no voice, no face.

And yet, it was ancient, unfading, a being composed of minerals and subtle energies – some of the Peridots even theorized that it lived off of meteors and small planets, or the surrounding stardust of the nebula itself, deriving its life from the raw unprocessed stone of the ground.

Several quartzes reacted to Y73’s explanation with quite a bit of shock because, though they had slaughtered their way through billions of organics, they maintained that they had never ‘hurt a living thing’ - up until this day.

If they did not understand it, they could not know for certain whether it wasn’t intelligent – and even proposing that it were just an animal, it was clearly a rare and marvelous creature, and noble too if the stories they had heard from the Nephrites were to be believed.

Obviously, they were immediately shut up by an Agate with plenty of experience of flogging her fellow mineral lifeforms, who gruffly told them (and the Nephrites) to mind their place and man their stations as the Peridots worked since, after all, no one was even asking them to participate much.

Even knowing what the creature was, the gems continued to dismantle it at a steady pace. No one batted very many eyelashes, least of all Y73. She argued that they would understand everything about that thing soon enough once they were done taking it apart, and even the fact that the creature was a similar kind of lifeform compared to themselves could only mean that they had even more reason to utilize it for their purposes – she likened it to the way that certain organic animals might consume the flesh of their fellow-creatures, or like a parasitic plant might drink the sap of its host, precisely because such a similar creature was likely to contain the exact same kinds of chemicals that the organism needed in exactly the right proportions. The idea might have been alien to them as the products of a world where they were the only remaining form of life and even before that, an environment too barren to support a food chain even in its distant past, the concept was admittedly somewhat gross even to Y73 herself, but there was precedent for it.

The creature, she argued, had practically done much of their hard work for them – if it weren’t for it, they would have had to search the dangerous and often non-navigable expanse of the nebula for all the precious rare earths and exotic matter that it had gathered for its own use, all of it helpfully incorporated into the one single sphere ripe for their picking.

Indeed, though she acknowledged that it might well sound barbaric to the unenlightened, the green gem even went so far as to say that if any more of these creatures were afoot in this sector, they would do well to hunt for them.

She would never get her wish. Perhaps, the being she had personally despoiled was just that rare and unique – though some might theorize that the poor creature had warned its peers by some undetected means, ensuring that none of them would be left in this particular nebula. In any case, the scouts of the empire never sighted another one.

As far as the Agates were concerned, going on with the rapacious plundering of abundant treasure-trove would greatly add to their track-records, while relenting for some abstract philosophical concern did not, so their ultimate choice would not be surprised. All they cared about was to make a profit right now, even if it were just once.

Where there was an opportunity to get away with one’s greed,someone would surely take it. Not everyone, not even most people, but there would be someone, and often times that would be all it takes, especially if those with more scruples were in direct competition with those who did not.

But for all that Y73 lamented this, the thought that she might have been able to learn more about the strange entity if she had chosen to keep it alive, or even observe it in its natural habitat never occurred to her, not even with the ulterior motivation of having it lead her to even greater bounty, most likely because she was not as above the society that produced her as she liked to think she was.

It was their way to seize everything their touch-stumps could grasp, to build, to mine, to inject, without ever giving that much thought.

Y73’s thoughts were mostly taken up by the fantastic properties of her find, but despite her lofty promises to the objecting quartzes and nephrites, they never wholly succeeded in unraveling all of its secrets. If they had, she might have planned out its utilization differently from the very start, or even involved her Diamond in it, have the authority pick one use for this rare extraordinary shot – as it was, they didn’t realize the full extent of its worth until a good third of the material was already dismantled and shipped away for lesser uses.

By and large, though, it was much as Y73 had theorized: By virtue of being a similar creature, it proved to be a most suitable substrate for the consumption by maturing gem-seeds.

The kindergartners under her command soon found that they could pretty much dispense with most of the usual mixture; It proved sufficient to inject the diluted Diamond Essence, indeed much of their haul from the creature’s surface wound up used as injector feed.

The excavation continued, and if anyone thought to stop it, they knew better than to interrupt their superiors as they relished their rewards.

Eventually, there came a day when the thing stopped moving and all the energy that had thus far been kept in a precarious sort of homeostasis began to dissipate away in every possible direction. The creature’s death was simply noted, its slaughter and butchering were not even stopped to mark the moment.

What they found in the depths near its center was never observed in action. The lights had gone out years before Y73 and her team had the opportunity to inspect the central cavern. The technician had been confident about determining the function of every single structure in the belly of the beast, but in truth, she could only speculate.

The massive body had not exactly decayed in the manner of an organic carcass, for that, it was too much like rock and stone – but it was apparent that the central chamber would have been subject to some prodigious energy densities in its heyday, not to speak of the pressure exerted by the gravity of its own mass.

Anyone with a basic grasp of physics would have understood that the cooled-out husk in its middle was naught but a smoldering ruin.

One could take its current state as a starting point for calculations, plug in the original shape and weight as a variable, observe how it may have behaved in its original state, but while this could provide the researchers with multiple plausible explanations, they lacked the means to put them to the test -

For example, one of the greatest remaining mysteries centered around a number of large crystals arranged in and around the creatures’ core.

They were not inexplicable, only unexplained – Y73 had more than one promising hypothesis, but since they could no longer observe them in a living specimen, they would have to remain speculation. Perhaps they were some kind of storage organs for rare Elements, or they had once served as energy transformators or even hubs for information processing – it was based on that last idea that the Bismuths took to referring to them as the creature’s ‘gemstones’, the way human miners might have likened them to its heart or brain, a notion which Y73 much disliked for how its romantic, imprecise nature chafed against so many technical definitions.

While the creature did probably have an energy field akin to a light body while it still lived, destroying too much of its outer mass had clearly ended it, and it certainly did not poof when they removed the crystals, so it was a very crude comparison at best.

It was fully possible that the crystals had only condensed into their current state once the core had begun to cool and been a cluster or liquid rather than a solid while the great beast had lived.

But whatever purpose they might once have served, it would have been in the service of a pointless existence that was just floating through the void; After its death, they would serve the designs of the empire, and as such, they proved quite useful indeed, for whatever the history behind the peculiar material may have been, Y73’s thorough examination soon revealed the most astounding properties, and the more she saw of the results, the further her logical mind glimpsed its implications, the more they dissolved the sober, disdainful demeanor that her fellow gems had known her for into a state of ecstatic rapture.

So far, she had always dismissed the concept known as ‘inspiration’ as a myth or misconception because she had never encountered any reason to think otherwise, but a good researcher is marked by the ability to adjust their view once new evidence comes along.

Not all of her fellow gems understood, but that was alright. It was not their purpose to understand. As for Y73, her work with the crystal cores and various replications crafted in their image would go on to solidify her standing in the yellow court, and probably constituted the chief reason that she lasted longer than the last couple of yellow court chief engineers. Several of the spheres found their way into homeworld’s power grid, another few found their way into the prototypes of various mega-structures – A Dyson sphere, a gigantic floating shipyard, a warp-array designed to teleport enormous amounts of cargo, those sort of things. If they went into mass production, a good-enough replica would be used in the crystal’s place, but every enormous project required a different solution, for no material or device had the flexibility of their original finds from the spaceborne creature.

As such, it wasn’t surprising that the finest, purest and largest crystal from the lifeform’s very center had not been consigned to any use by the time the war broke out – they had only one such specimen, so the powers that be were choosy with regards to its potential applications.

It was all the more shocking then when Yellow Diamond finally proposed its use in such a snappish, off-handed manner – During the meeting to discuss the laser cannon’s specifications, one of the larger points of contention was the difficulty in procuring or synthesizing any material that could conduct, bundle and direct the required amounts of raw power. The engineers spoke at length of the ways in which current state of the art materials would be unable to withstand it, but their sovereign was none too impressed with their objections: “You still have that anomalous sample, right?”

Some thought this imprudent. They would never doubt their monarch to her face, but many of the engineer gems could not help but wonder if it was warranted to use up this unique sample to build what amounted to a big cannon meant to fry some insignificant little planet with a generous helping of overkill.

Most of them expected Y73 to object, for her obsession with the crystals was known – more importantly, none but her would even dare to voice the objection. She alone would permitted because she alone would be believed if she insisted that her criticism was purely of the pragmatic, dispassionate sort. Though many of her fellow gems despised her, they still relied on her to provide the devils’ advocate – but on that day, they should be sorely disappointed.

Peridot Y73 wouldn’t dream of objecting to the crystals’ use.

She wanted to see what it was capable of, most out of anyone.

 

...

 

“Sapphire, if we begin now, is there a chance that the rebels will breach the facility?”

“No. I see no chance that the weapons platform will be infiltrated at all. ”

“None at all?”

Hessonite smirked with confidence. “Then the stars must be on our side!

Commence operations this instant!”

She turned away to bark out orders, leaving the Sapphire a silent figure in a corner of the command bridge, awaiting the next time she would be spoken to, as she knew it would come.

 

...

 

At first, the tension mounted the more the clocks approached the end of the countdown, both on the command bridge of the orbital laser itself, and on the many homeworld-aligned posts whose gems were observing the operation.

Past experience had taught them that a rebel ambush would be almost inevitable – it was only when the enormous weapon was nearly powered up that it occurred to them that they might actually have succeeded.

Sapphire and Hessonite had done their work well, as had Citrine, who was currently manning one of the control panels below the platform from which her superiors were observing, side by side with some other citrines. The Peridots were all split between the power reactor, the engine rooms and the power relays of the laser itself, ensuring that their mechanisms would hold once unprecedented quantities of energy would be passing through them – Y73 had been offered a place on the bridge, but she had refused it, saying that her place was with the primary engine.

She sounded like she meant it, too, not just out of deference and politeness, but because she couldn't stand to miss her work in action, making sure that it was operated just as she had intended – She would not trust any of her underlings with it, even if this meant that she would never get to see what her invention would be doing to the planet's surface. It was the numbers and technicalities that mattered to her, the actual craft of firing the weapon, not vague poetic recapitulations of what it did to the land.

Everyone on the command bridge, however, would not possibly miss it, given that its ceiling was completely taken up by an enormous window, angled right towards the planet's surface, covered only by a few semi-transparent holoscreens depicting various sensor readings, as well as the feed from two open intercom channels – one from the engine room, another, from central command down below.

 

Beyond a lemon-tinted screen whose hue scarcely made a difference to the sights is revealed, their mistress slouched in her throne, legs spread, face resting on a hand as the corresponding elbow was propped up on her knee, disgruntled, malcontent and perhaps just a little bit bored.

She did not have to be an impenetrable wall at all times, as long as that which she allowed her countenance to betray sent a clear message to back off.

There was scarce, uncertain intel of a rebel stronghold at what was to be the focal point of the lethal rays, but the position could be off by many miles and the outcome wouldn’t change.

At last, their Diamond gave the order: “Burn them all.”

Curt, unceremonious and morose.

Her expression did not change as the pillar of light descended unto the earth, the corners of her mouth did not twitch, and the sternness of her brow did not waver as the plume rose up to the surface, land and sea and air disintegrating as one, electrons ripped from their atom-cores. Places ceased to be places. Matter melted into energy. The illusion of discreet objects as logical units and distinct materials with fixed traits was broken.

The sulphuric glow tore through the layers of sediment, excavating deeper and deeper imprints of the planet crusts’ memory, and melting them all into sludge.

At the northeast of the planet’s largest landmass, a crater grew, not like a festering ulcer, but more like plastic in a microwave. There was no fight, no chemistry or biology, just a most basic most physical coming apart.

Nothing down there could continue to exist, because there was nowhere to exist, no land to stand on, no matter left to inhabit.

The light glowed hotter and hotter, and blacker and blacker grew the clouds, a plague onto the atmosphere, an acid rain in the making, doom to the life on the opposite side of the planet that lived to escape both the fires and the shockwaves.

Yellow Diamond did not flinch. She had dismantled whole planets, not quite so fiercely, but, what is a molten surface in comparison, what would even the hole be, if the laser were to cook all the planet’s interior and burst forth on the other side?

Not even a comfort to her rage.

The fire burned on for hours; They ought to have taken out some rebel outpost in that time – the rebels must surely be cursing their powerlessness, scrambling frantically for a solution. But the comfort was as cold as the crater was hot.

All this radiance, no doubt visible throughout the solar system, lighting up the little planet with many times the brightness it received from its star, could still not return the smallest twinkle of shine back into Pink Diamond’s shards.

But the traitors would share her fate, and all the other Diamond’s fates, while they stood under the blackening sky, unable to interrupt the doom.

Even without looking across the screens, Yellow Diamond could see the black ash raining down on the domed windows of her stronghold on the surface, distant as one would figure it to be from the site of the attack – It was too early to evacuate yet, by all estimations it would take them several weeks to remove the surface crust.

If Blue was looking outside right now, back in the west wing, she must be watching the black snow blanketing the landscape that had so captivated her gaze for many days – perhaps, the fallout would finally do them the mercy of poisoning all those odious trees.

Closer to the crater, at least, large dark holes burnt their way through the tree-covers, reaching further even than the forest-fires inflamed by spontaneous combustion.

It would not have been much of an exaggeration to state that a third of the surface was covered in Armageddon, even where the rock wasn’t evaporating -

But Yellow Diamond remained unmoved.

She had no pity for Earth’s creatures and certainly not for the rebels, not even the abandoned structures once meant for the colony aroused her lament.

The test run was supposed to conclude once the crater reached the mantle; Right now, that was all she wanted to happen.

In her place, Blue Diamond might have wondered if the rebels were feeling the despair of losing what they cherished – she might be doing this right now if she had bothered to remember the schedule for the test.

But Yellow did not concern herself with that. It didn’t matter what they felt, or, what she felt (or so she would have argued, not out of insincerity but denial), she just wanted them gone.

She longed for the peeled dead sludge when the flames had died and the smoke had cleared – that, perhaps, might give her satisfaction, but at least the task would be done.

Larger and larger grew the bright, white-hot spot below, enveloping more and more land, flickering in the dark like a candle-flame fed by the wax of the world, a dreary, hopeless scene stretching on and on.

 

For many on the surface below, it seemed like it might be the end of the world – indeed many of them perished without ever learning that the world outlasted them.

Where were their protectors?

Themselves panicking in the mounting heat. For once, they had been unable to breach any of the loyalist’s vessels. Garnet saw a future where that did not happen, as surely as the loyalist Sapphire had seen it, but she had stubbornly persisted in her attempts until they could find no more ships in the empty spaceports because they were deep inside the borders of the evacuation zone.

Guided by the fusion, the Crystal Gems took shelter in the hull of an old dropship, an old vessel of explorers among the very first to ever land on the planet, long before it was even designated as a colony, and even its inside kept heating up faster and faster.

Pearl had begun to fiddle with the old busted circuits more out of anxiousness than anything else, she had a hundred reasons to panic and among them, the mounting urge to occupy her fingers was one of the very few she could remember, and the sight of the open panels and abandoned, dusty pilot chairs had bothered her, like a puzzle in which the corner pieces were not yet assembled.

But when Rose had burst back into the room after having consulted with Garnet, she assumed that Pearl must be trying to get the ship to fly.

Pearl would never have considered it – The ship had been left untouched for long and when it was abandoned, its crew had cannibalized it for parts to use in the early stages of the colony.

Nonetheless, fearing the disappointment of her comrades almost more than her death or the planet’s destruction, the desperate servant-gem ended up succeeding in an endeavor that she herself would have dismissed as infeasible mere instants ago.

She did not think it possible, and even if she had, she certainly wouldn’t have thought that it could be accomplished by her, or that anyone else would think her capable of it.

But Rose and Garnet did believe in her,and be it only because they knew little of machines – and somehow, the drop ship’s battered old hull took flight again, and rose up through clouds of smoke, its outer shell glowing from the heat that hat surrounded it.

In hindsight Pearl could not say how she did it – In part it must have been trial and error, and besides, she was too occupied with the wires to bother taking notes; In any case, she didn’t think she’d be able to replicate what occurred; It was truly a miracle, wrought by human hands – or hard-light touch stumps, as it were.

Like all things manmade, it was imperfect and fell quite short of divine intervention: The ship retained nothing in the vein of weapons systems, indeed, they could barely maneuver, but even as Pearl was tearing at her hair about it, Garnet placed a steady hand on her shoulder: This, imperfect as it may be, was the only chance they were going to get – They’d have to make it count, no matter what it cost. Rose was in agreement – a course of action had been taking shape in her mind, but she’d hesitated to voice it, not out of the caution that she did not possess, or any concern for her own life, but because of the sacrifice she was reluctant to ask of her friends.

But once they assured her that they were resolved to anything, she spoke her mind.

 

Contrary to what one might suspect based on the knowledge that the Earth would continue to exist for another 6000 years, the homeworld Sapphire’s prediction did, in fact, prove true: No rebels were ever able to infiltrate the orbital laser or any related facility.

They came not through the airlocks, hatches or warp pads – instead, the laser was rammed by a decrepit drop ship at full speed. The one thing in the old spaceship that was of no use for the colony and had therefore never been dismantled or removed was the propulsion system. Once Pearl managed to piece the power-grid back together, she had at least one thing left at her disposal: A powerful engine fit for a long-range vessel. It didn’t matter that her haphazard repairs began to fall apart almost as soon as the rickety saucer left the atmosphere, all she had to do was to power up the drive and hurl it straight at the laser.

Her diligent mind proved quite suitable for mathematics, her aim with the ship as true as that of her spear, and it would have to be: The long-range drive had never been meant for use inside of a solar system, the maneuvering thrusters were very much out of service and its plundered interior resulted in an uneven distribution of mass and hence, a trajectory alike to a drunken Frisbee.

Hitting the target at all would have to be the work of a veritable steely-eyed missile gem, but despite Pearl’s best efforts, they did not manage to hit the target head-on – and this probably saved their lives.

Rather than explode on impact with the laser, they just grazed it, ripping a hole in its side and hurtling back down to Earth in a long parabolic arch, but that was all it took.

The immense quantities of energy utilized by the laser did not allow for the slightest perturbation. One nick in the coolant system, one knock on the magnets that kept the superconductors in place, and it was all over.

Before the Crystal Gems had as much as reentered the atmosphere, the laser had stopped firing and broken into two separate parts.

 

...

 

 

The sections in the middle were all but obliterated by the meltdown any gems that had not fled in time would have met a karmic end, evaporated like the humans and rebels in the blast radius down below, or at least it might have been considered poetic justice if one had regarded the homeworld gems with the monolithic view of an enemy.

Injustice, however, has an insidious way of creeping into all things. The guards and engineers who made up the bulk of the casualties had not built this apparatus or commanded its use – and the ones who did were far from harm. The command bridge was a good deal away from any part of the structure you would have to strike to disable the laser, and thought this may honestly have been intended so that they could still respond and react in the case of a technical malfunction, the upshot was still that countless Quartzes, rubies, and Peridots were gone, while Hessonite and Sapphire were not.

Even so, their situation was anything but comfortable. All around them were broken pipes and fried circuits, sparks, and leaking fluids abounded and the lights had gone out.

“Sapphire! How is this possible?!” cried the general, incensed. “You said the rebels would not breach the facility!”

Though above her in rank, Sapphire now felt keenly that she was still below Hessonite in size.

“I did… I...” She stammered, dumbfounded in confusion as she realized her error. “I don’t see how this is possible...It shouldn't be.”

“Well apparently it IS! It’s happening right now!”

“But it shouldn’t be. The thought never occurred to me that they might do something so far beyond reason….- I must have missed it...-”

“How could you possibly miss something like this?! You’re useless to me!”

Hessonite was furious. She had no nerve to continue this conversation, not with the station falling to pieces all around them. But her anger did not wholly blind her to a potentially useful asset, even if it was one she could no longer fully trust.

She forced her way out of the command room’s doors, pushing her way past other fleeing gems without much regard for them, but not after brusquely seizing the Sapphire by her lithe little arm.

Since it was expected that the command bridge would be staffed with important elite gems, great care had been taken to place sufficient escape pods in its immediate vicinity. But when the two elites reached them, they found them chock full of quartzes, Peridots and other gems that had served as bridge officers on the lower levels - and there stood Citrine, staying behind to make sure that all her subordinates were evacuated in an orderly fashion. Most gems could not have held a form with a considerably lower volume long enough to make planetfall unless they had practiced it for a long, but Citrine had instructed them to simply concentrate their typical volume into more compact shapes to save the space between their shapes, which was why the capsules were filled to capacity with soldier gems in the shape of puddles and noodles like many balls of Plasticine squeezed into cylindrical jars – so it stood to reason that some of them would have to get out – Sapphire and Hessonite outranked them all by far.

“Citrine! Clear us an escape pod!” demanded the glittering general, in a businesslike fashion without much further though.

“There is still room in this one.” explained Citrine without thinking of questioning this, “I was going to board it myself, but it should fit yourself and Her Clarity instead.”

“Very well. Clear it out then! We shall permit you come with us.”

“...yes, my Hessonite.”

It was not lost anyone that Citrine had been hoping that Hessonite would consider squeezing in there with the quartzes without making her send any of them out, but once it became clear that her superior considered this beneath her, she did not think of defying her and obediently marshaled her subordinates outside.

Her mind immediately flickered to considering another route and hence passed by any further reflection on Chalcedony’s earlier words.

But just as the first Amethyst had shifted back to her usual form to leave the capsule, a small voice was heard next to Hessonite, grabbing all the more attention for its quiet soft tone amid all the loud mayhem, and how rarely it had been heard even by those who worked with her closely. Behind the long bangs on her forehead, Sapphire’s gem glittered mysteriously.

“Stay where you are, soldier. There is no need.” She turned to Hessonite. “There is another escape pod two corridors from here. No one else has claimed it, and it will almost certainly bear us safely to the surface.”

“Is that a prediction?”

“Yes.”

“Like you predicted that the rebels wouldn’t attack us?”

“I predicted that they would not get past our security, and they did not.I did not consider that they might attack us by some manner other than infiltration out here in space, nor did you ask me to look for such a thing.”

“Well from now on, I expect you to look at every possible outcome, do we understand each other?”

“So it shall be.”

“So I can trust that there will be no unforeseen surprises with that other escape pod?! If you’re wrong, we could both get shattered. Can you guarantee me that there isn’t anything else that you ‘missed’?!”

Sapphire made no effort to deflect the harsh reproach, but neither did she respond to it beyond a slight lowering of her head. Everything she said, she said quietly, softly and without any resistance.

“Perhaps not… But I can guarantee this: We will have free passage through the corridors, make it to the escape pod exactly forty seconds before the remainder of the station detonates, and we will land in the sea, but close to the shore, the shortest distance to any homeworld encampment out of any survivors. Neither of us will be shattered here. I have glimpsed the time and place of my shattering a long, long time ago, and the time is not come yet. As for you, you will live to visit this strange planet once again five-thousand years from now – most of these quartzes will not have been so fortunate...”

 

‘These Quartzes’ were thus left in possession of their escape pod, but without any further reassurances. The elites just turned and left, busy with saving their own skin. The forehead Sapphire proceeded with an almost eerie, unshakable quiet.

There was frantic murmuring and grumbling, as well as disgruntled questions; Everyone was already cramped in and uncomfortable – the plasticine-mass of quartzes threatened to spill out of the escape pod.

Citrine, however, was not daunted, not any more than she had been resentful or alarmed before. She simply did what she perceived as needing doing:

“Everybody quiet! The odds are grim, we already knew that. But the less we panic and the more we work together, the more we can improve and maximize the chance of survival for each of us, however high or low they might be. So please, get back in formation!”

“Yes, Commander!”

 

At last, Citrine melded into the spot next to the door, and the escape pod shot off into the vacuum of space…

It was only natural to get restless, cramped in like this, with that sort of omen hanging above their heads. She could not wholly blame the others for grumbling – but since they were shooting through the sky in a thin capsule filled far beyond its specifications (a gamble she had taken to grant everyone under her command at least the chance of survival) it was absolutely vital that no one lost their cool… thus, it fell to Citrine to ensure that.

“I can’t promise that every single one of you will survive so I will not waste your time with patronizing lies, but each of you is more likely to survive than not.

I realize that for some of you, this is your first crash-landing, so I can understand that you’re uneasy, but I’ve been through more than I can count. You’ll get used to it. In my experience, most gems can survive a crash from orbit, even those that are nowhere as sturdy as quartzes. I once picked our Diamond’s Pearl out of the wreckage of a warship.”

“Really?!” exclaimed one particularly chatty Amethyst. “How did that happen?!”

Citrine knew then that she had succeeded – The younger recruits’ attention had shifted from imminent doom and their cramped surroundings to her stories, the one thing she would never have any shortage of.

Even so she knew that she had probably not charmed everyone in the company. Squeezed against the back of the escape pod like a thick mat was Chalcedony, who would probably take this exchange as a confirmation of her worrisome broodings.

Citrine did worry about that, though not because she considered her friend a potential traitor or would wish to protect her if she actually did have such suspicions, but rather, because she saw her doubts of all that she understood to be conventional wisdom and the simple facts of life as a sign of general moodiness and dissatisfaction, a losing of faith in the things that were good and worthy and imbued life with its meaning, comparable to what one might think of a human who had grown distant from their friends, uncertain in their religion or overly concerned with the ephemeral nature of their accomplishments in the face of mortality.

The elder quartz hoped that she might find some opportunity to involve her fellow veteran in her tale… for now the young Amethysts and Jaspers were her foremost priority, but despite herself, she knew her friend well enough to know what ought to get her talking.

“It was during the war with the pentagorian hive when I was but a simple young officer serving onboard of Yellow Diamond’s flagship.”

Some young officer you must have been if you got that kind of post right out of the gate!”

It seems that she would be afforded the luxury of killing two birds with one stone.

She had to admit that it warmed her gem somewhat to know that even in these uncertain days, Chalcedony could be relied upon to tack a snarky commentary onto her familiar old stories, as much as she had to acknowledge that her silent misgivings might have played their role in putting her in a snarky sort of mood – Humor was one of Chalcedony’s better coping mechanisms.

Hence, Citrine’s reply was just as light, though it never quite made the leap into playfulness: “Of course you would be the one to say this. You have always been the more talented one out of the two us.”

“Right! And I suppose now is the part where you go on about how much further I could go if only I applied myself! I don’t think I could have gotten quite as many promotions if a certain someone weren’t so determined to be a good influence on me!”

This did get a few laughs from the younger quartzes, but before long, the laughter was drowned out by the questions, in particular since many of them had not heard of the pentagorian war – thus, their Commander began to explain.

Chalcedony sat back insofar as her position allowed it, and let Citrine do the talking. She knew that Citrine didn’t mean to make those black days sound like a nice story, that she was doing it with the best of intentions, but she couldn’t find it in her to become part of that, and observed from some mental distance, this all-too-familiar situation seemed bizarre and strange, grotesque even.

Citrine didn’t realize it.

In a sense, it was also part of her likable qualities, what had allowed her to keep her strength for so long… but Chalcedony could no longer quite listen to her in agreement, surrounded with those wide-eyed recruits that reminded her faintly of the young gem she had once been, a denizen of a time that had almost faded out of memory.

At this point Citrine seemed used to having to explain the very basics:

“It all started many thousand years ago, before Pink Diamond’s emergence even, when the empire made an incursion into a large cluster of galaxies. There were a number of unusually advanced organic civilizations, but we did not expect any extraordinary resistance from them. On their own, they were of little consequence, but it was their presence that attracted the Pentagorian Hive. They’re machine-creatures that share the same mind, or rather, they are creatures that have linked themselves together using machines – at least at the time of the war, most of them were organic, but it could be any kind of organic – bipeds, photosynthetics, creatures with shells, hordes of them acting as one, all directed by one mind.

And I don’t know if they multiply in numbers in the ways that organics usually do, but when they expand their territory, they used to seize other lifeforms and their technology and integrate them into their hive. Now, they weren’t all organics, but most of them were, and the few that weren’t were largely other machine lifeforms.

They couldn’t integrate gems – we were too different from them, or they hadn’t yet developed their technology to the point that it would have been compatible with beings like us.

So if we go in, terraform the planets and clear away the organics as usual, we would have been converting a kind of resource that they can use into one that they can’t use. They wanted to capture that galaxy for the same reasons as we did, but they needed the planets intact, with the atmosphere and all the organics slime on them. So, conflict was inevitable. It wasn’t just about this one galaxy – It was one of the few times that the empire had been faced with another expansive, intergalactic empire like our own. They had vast resources at their disposal, and it didn’t matter how many of them we destroyed, they just kept fighting – They had no need for a chain of command. What one of them knew, all of them knew. And they were resourceful, having integrated technology from countless different space-faring lifeforms.

It was a harsh, long and costly war, much like this one.”

“...so how did it end?” asked one Jasper.

“Eventually, it dragged on so long that White Diamond intervened. And once she did it was all over. Finished in a day. I saw her up close, just that one time… the maker. But don’t ask me to describe her, I am not so crafty with words that I could. But I was there at the final battle with the Pentagorian fleet. And each time I think of the memory, I feel compelled to throw myself down on the floor and sing praises to the might of the Diamonds. It was the most magnificent spectacle I have ever seen, and the most terrible...”

“What happened?”

“They fused as one. For the first time since times immemorial – Perhaps the loremasters and priests could tell you if they’ve ever done it before, but I cannot imagine any other thing that could have required them to do so… the power was unlike anything you could imagine. With all six of their arms, they summoned a drop of searing light… the entire fleet was annihilated with two or three shots from their weapon, and the Pentagorians never recovered – at least, they’ve given gem-controlled planets a wide berth ever since and never meddled with us again.”

“They really did that? They took out a whole fleet all on their own?”

Citrine smiled. “I’ve seen Yellow Diamond alone rip a spaceship from the sky with nothing but her bare hands and her lightning. That was right after that crash landing I mentioned earlier… The ones we serve are very mighty indeed...”

 

Despite herself, and her knowledge of the seriousness entailed by all that was said, Chalcedony felt tempted to roll her eyes. She wasn’t there at the final battle, at least, nowhere near the main action. She’d barely seen anything of the Diamonds’ grand might – most of what she remembered of that time concerned the destruction of her original unit.

She might have reached the boiling point where she would have been tempted to say something, but before she could do so between the awed questions of the earthborn soldier gems, a sharp jolt moved through the capsule – that would be the landing thrusters or the parachute.

It was time to brace for impact.

 

(

The homeworld Sapphire was not wrong.

Herself and Hessonite escaped unscathed, but there were casualties among the quartzes.

Not Citrine or Chalcedony – They were too experienced, instinct alone would have urged them to take the correct precautions even in absence of much motivation

Some unlucky Amethyst who neglected to hold her position, a puny beta jasper who lacked the strength to hold onto the walls, both of which were, through sheer bad luck, flung upwards against the ceiling in the moment of impact; It happened to fast for anyone to do anything, most likely, they were gone before they knew what hit them, never knowing the last line of their own story.

Even so they might have been the lucky ones.

Oh, most were fine, just as Citrine had said they would be, even the few that were poofed in the crash reformed soon enough to evacuate the capsule before it sank down to the depths of the Pacific – but there was a pair which had collided in so unfortunate a fashion as to each incur a crack, and would not have made it to the surface if they had not been supported by some of their sisters-in-arms.

It was Chalcedony then who urged them to depart in haste before Citrine could do the same, but the blue quartz herself remained behind, taking the time to dive down to retrieve the shards of their fallen comrades – but there would come a day when she wished she hadn’t.

 

Tangential to the reasons that it would be so was another survivor, a most unexpected and, in Chalcedony’s eyes, most underving one: Peridot Y73.

One would have presumed her the deadest of all and that’s precisely what the would have been if it were up to her own devices; She kicked and screamed and cursed at the Agate that pulled her from the engine room before it exploded.

Though she was located were an explosion would have been the most likely to occur as the result of a technical defect, the rebel’s rickety craft did not hit the power core, but the energy concentration barrel somewhat below it, and that’s where the meltdown occurred – sure, the main engine room was sufficiently connected to it was to blow up before long, but neither Y73 nor the Agates guarding the crystal core were killed right away.

The explosions were close behind them, though, and the technician did not escape unscathed.

The company of quartzes encountered her once they had returned to the nearest base and made their way to a storehouse that was currently serving as something that a human observer might have likened to an infirmary but had more in common with a workshop or a scrap yard in both appearance and the attitude at work.

There was no need to sterilize anything, for starters; All the tools and vats of various useful substances were just lying about, though one could probably have accounted for these realities in a more hospitable environment.

Coming here, one would expect crude, uncaring repairs geared to preserve function a little longer, if you were lucky – in many cases halls like this one served largely as a dumping ground, a place to put gems that weren’t currently serving out of everyone’s way until they either recovered, or came to pieces for good.

A facility located at a functioning colony, or one geared towards the aristocracy might at least have appeared less haphazard and more austere, perhaps offering some sterile, technical discretion and some Pearls serving as ‘nurses’, but as of now Earth was a war zone, and all you could hope for as an overworked Azurite and a few corals to assist her, both gems designated for this purpose. If all the Corals were busy and an outpost really understaffed, you might be met with a re-purposed Peridot with a cursory knowledge of the healing arts, or the closest thing to that which existed among gems.

To begin with, they had less need of it, being fairly durable, sturdy creatures. Most damage to their light-forms closed up on its own, and if it didn’t, they could always make a new form – even if a gem were forcibly disembodied by heavy objects or some stray pointy object, it was generally just a question of waiting a little while for the unlucky victim to return, possibly with a questionable new hairstyle.

In such cases, their comrades would typically hardly bother to bring them to a place like this. Instead they would simply ensure that anyone so indisposed would be kept in a safe place and perhaps expose to some light if they were taking particularly long.

In a line of work where accidents were expected there might be a designated gathering place where the unfortunates would be kept until was time for them to reform, get scolded and be sent back to work.

If anyone turned up here with a poofed co-worker, it would be because they wanted to make extra sure and have them examined for fine cracks by a professional – and for good reason; Despite all that a gem could endure without any risk of permanent damage, this most crucial core part of their being, the true body so to speak, was rather lacking in its ability to mend itself.

 

Thus, the designated area was roughly divided into two areas, really just clusters of mats arranged in rows, separated mostly by piles of equipment and in good times, something like a curtain.

On the one side you’d find those with no actual damage to their gems, all very much guaranteed to walk out on their own two gravity connectors the next day or so, barring unforeseen circumstances – largely those who had gotten sufficiently busted up for it to be an inconvenience, but not enough to poof them. In that case ‘treatment’, if any, would consist mainly of rest and management of the symptoms, perhaps some ice pack for the pain, a piece of cloth to soak up leaky fluids or at the very most, things being stapled in place so that they might mend themselves fast and smoother.

Once in a while, the corals might also see someone who had overexerted themselves while shapeshifting or needed to be fitted for limb-enhancers, exceedingly rare as the latter was during era one.

 

Cracks and the like, however, were a decidedly different manner.

Without access to something akin to Rose Quartz’ legendary healing powers, (or rather, unaware that they had an equivalent remedy lying around in all those abandoned crates of injector feed that had never ended up being used once the colony went down the drain), there was only so much that could be done.

If someone came in with a garbled glitchy form and a large crack that was swiftly getting worse, they would probably just have been laid on a mat in a corner to wait out the inevitable – indeed even a relatively stable case with a heavily garbled form, could not expect much hope, if one persisted in such a state for extended periods of time it would have been regarded as a mercy to speed things along.

While there had always been cases of individual gems being willing to care for their loved ones, or attempted flights by gems who had been written off or ruled too defective to be of further use at the local Azurite’s discretion (because they could no longer communicate or some-such thing) the idea to expend time and energy to care for a member of your society would have been largely foreign to homeworld, even if that member had given everything to protect, sustain or advance that very society.

 

But this civilization had many many ages to come up with something -

In cases where the impairment was manageable, the crack stable and not showing any sign of spreading any further, there were procedures to keep it that way, including something akin to gypsum or mortar (or shiny metal, if you were high in the hierarchy or resources plentiful) that might be poured into a crack to stabilize the nicked gemstone – It was a rough tenuous solution that somewhat hindered the absorption of light, but certainly preferable to the risk of having the original crack spread any further.

 

This was what happened with Y73. On the back of her head, her gem now bore a spiderweb-pattern of white, filled-up striations. That halted the worst, but it could not undo the patches of glitchy distortion that now marred her face. She could not quite keep her balance like she used to and would probably require some assistive technology on that account, but she responded to this with almost chilling unconcern, perhaps because she retained use of her dominant hand. She seemed more bothered that her beloved alien crystal had gone to pieces as if she didn’t know that she had very nearly shared its fate.

 

One ought to have felt sorry for her, but her personality made it very hard – As far as Chalcedony could tell, even Citrine was somewhat galled that this impish green toad had lived where the likable young recruits that had shared their escape pod had died, not that she would ever have admitted such an unbecoming thought. Chalcedony, of course, had no such ambitions of chivalry.

)

 

(v.)

 

Yellow Diamond sat brooding in the dark, elbows resting on her knees, her chin placed on her clasped hands, her expression malcontent and somber.

The room was technically part of her laboratory complexes, nowhere near the chamber she had been sharing with Blue since the beginning of this endless bitter war – She could hardly stand to be there anymore, she could no longer take the oppressive, overwhelming curtain of disintegration and despair.

She though the sight of the withering jungle would bring her relief, but she found it to be little more than another background note in a galling cacophony of things falling apart, unbearable as ever, as every marred and broken thing.

When she saw the scorched ash, she thought of Pink’s extinguished, splintered shards, and the sickly bent willow-branches that feebly struggled against doom were pitiful to witness; Blue had looked so much like them while she insisted to watch their decay in all its excruciating masochistic detail.

Still, she knew that she must return there before long, if not for whatever excuse she had yet to cook up, then at least to keep an eye on her – These days, Yellow hardly knew what she might be doing if she let her out of her sight. She wanted nothing more than to gather her up in her arms and take her far away from this accursed place, back to homeworld, or stars know where;

But she could not rouse her from her stupor any more than she could command the departed to live. This was where her vast powers met their edge -

Every time that she had to see Blue in such a state, every time she was forced to remember the reason for her never-ending lamentations, the hate she felt towards these rebels and their wretched little planet would surge a thousandfold.

Paradoxically, Yellow found herself quaking with frustration at her own powerlessness – She knew the thought to be absurd and hence pushed it down as she tried her best to focus on war plans and research, but somewhere in the depths of her gem, the dark thoughts simmered on and, at times, slipped themselves into her awareness:

Mighty as she was, her hands could only destroy, to expedite the return of order to chaos brought on by the passage of time.

There was no way of putting back together what had long since been parted from life, nor much of a means to keep alight what seemed to have willingly surrendered itself to the darkness.

Nothing she could do.

Nothing at all, except to push on into the unwelcoming cold of the future and the ugly work to be completed all around.

 

She'd sent a notice to White, briefing her on the current state of the fighting and attempting to discuss troop movements.

Within the cycle, she had received a reply, about troop movements and troop movements only – Hard to say if it had even been penned by White herself, or if she had delegated it to one of her Anthracites. For concerns of warfare, it really didn't matter, but the same could not be said for the half-formulated reply Yellow was supposed to have been writing.

She really didn't need some random bureaucrat gem to see their personal correspondence – No one back home needed to know about their rulers' struggles, whether it was Yellow grappling with the rebel's tenacious persistence, or her detailed report on how Blue had been faring as of late, not that she would ever have gone so far as to plead for White's involvement, knowing that she would surely make them regret such a pitiful display.

Thus, Yellow kept her words sparse and professional, determined to make herself believe them once this temporary moment of weakness had passed.

 

But before that, it would occur to her that the only way they even knew that White was still alive in there was that she still kept sending out the occasional missives. No one had seen her face to face since the day Pink's shattering – In the highly unlikely event that anything should ever happen to her, all of homeworld might go for hundreds of years without noticing, since they were all so used to her absence, and so afraid of incurring her wrath by disturbing her unannounced.

 

Would it shatter her to show them just the slightest morsel of sympathy for once in her immortal life? To give them something, anything at all?

By the stars, they had never even asked her for much!

 

V. Plague (Pestilence The March of the Dead)

 

When the thought first occurred to her, Yellow Diamond had been occupied with something as trivial as logistics. Something regarding the disposal of shards collected from the battlefields, oh, and wasn’t there that big old pile of them that they had excavated next to that rebel base, there was a report about that from one of the Peridots, about how they were ready to be gotten rid of now that the analysis was concluded.

Menial concerns really, ‘recycling’, one might term it.

To homeworld, the idea of a funeral would have been alien. All waste was to be re-purposed – they could not afford not to given their empire’s gluttonous appetite for resources. Unless the gem in question had perished after a long time in the dark, the shards of the deceased would almost certainly contain some residual energy that the departed had never gotten around to use – not quite as much as you would have been able to extract from harvesting someone alive, but enough to merit the procedure as well as the effort involved in collecting the shards.

Afterward, what remained was completely extinguished of all life and easily crumbled into a fine dust.

None of this was news; The corresponding knowledge hat sat in her mind for many many ages…

But what about that residual energy?

Somehow, she had never thought about it in the way that she did now.

Having made destruction her daily work, she had thought that she knew something of death, that death would have been in her thoughts – but never like this.

Perhaps she had touched death, perhaps death had been in her touch – but death had never touched her. Never had she thought herself to be subject to it, and never had she been so close to its receiving end.

Her life so far had led her to look past it, not beyond it, and certainly not at it.

So, anyways, what about that residual energy?

Thus far, Yellow had always been content to just let it be energy, because she had never seen anything else, but what she didn’t have either was a reason to want it to be more than just energy – After all, the pieces, at least the larger chunks, they must contain the remains of the circuits, must they not? Somewhere there were quirks and mannerisms and memories of bygone balmy summer evenings, for sure, broken, holey, destroyed by a loss of charge and polarity and order like a corrupt hard drive, but, once she started thinking of it like a computer, and be it explicitly to get this arc of thought back onto the ground, she could not help but thinking further.

Sometimes you could restore a broken hard drive, salvage it, if you were gentle about it, almost certainly not all, but perhaps enough – and unlike with organics, there was no further decay after the moment of death, no progressive melting-into-sludge until all imprints were inevitably lost…

The mad thought was shapeless and unbidden in her mind, a perception, or perhaps an intuition that her reason would not touch with a ten-foot pole, as if it were comprised of radioactive waste.

But even pushed behind that veil, it shone irresistibly like a beacon.

She would not consider it, but she could not help but ponder it, and it diverted the paths of her thoughts by its mere presence, as an electric current will, without doubt, divert magnetic fields, like a tenebrous, ectoplasmic mirror-image taunting her from beyond the veil.

‘Fine, if that lets you maintain your comfort, if your sense of control and impregnability is that precious to you, then phrase it in a manner that your reason can digest. Let the energy be energy’, but now attached to this submerged iceberg of meaning, even the thought had the power to leave her restless like a weary dreamer who realizes after much tossing and turning in hypnagogic twilling that they cannot slip all the way into the darkness of sleep because the light is too bright.

She heeds it not, and yet even the shadow of the thought consumes her.

 

...

 

What is life, even, she ponders, though she must admonish herself for such an unproductive question.

What is it, if it is not energy running down overly complicated paths en route to the heat death of the universe?

Dead matter, live matter, where even lies the difference?

Too bad that White Diamond was not taking notes when she came to life from unlife.

Is not everything just matter pushing on each other and all distinction but an illusion?

That way lie dragons, but she cannot avoid thinking in terms of energy when energy and resources are hard to come by and procuring them by any means is her daily headache.

Surely, this war has cost enough.

 

She has the shards from the rebel mass grave brought to her.

She speaks of using their bulk and abundance to perhaps come up with more efficient ways of utilizing it. It’s not a lie nor a pretext.

If there is any life to be found in there, she longs to kill it again.

She holds back the encompassing greed of her mind, looking on with detachment, to determine the exact mechanisms of how life passes into unlife, the intricate clockworks of death.

Want presses on her like a dull shape beneath a sheet that she cannot quite make out.

What could be gained from seeking such knowledge?

Whoever knows, the applications are endless.

 

(Peridot Y73 is on board right away; She needs neither motivation, nor excuse; She’s been itching for something else to occupy her mind since her last favorite plaything went bust and her last experiment’s explosive conclusion does not seem to have dulled her taste for the next – if anything, she might feel like she had already invested too much in this path to turn back in regret.)

 

 

She has never exactly ‘communed’ with things, yet she saw how this might be a logical step to her undertaking.

What better to call to any hypothetical leftover life than the very source that first called such life into being?

If there is life left in there somehow, or rather presence, or consciousness, must it not, could it not be coaxed forth by some manner of resonance.

It would be folly not to attempt it if it is in her power, but the ineffable has never been her domain. It was always Blue’s. If anyone should have been calling a sceance, it should have been her, and certainly not Yellow. She had not the gentle hand.

None of this suits her, it frustrates her every waking second.

She hears White Diamond’s voice ringing in her old, old memories, clear and bright though she has not heard in in hundreds of years and has no way to confirm if her recollections are accurate.

But even without her maker to tell her, she knows in her gem that she is a poor diviner.

She recalls sitting still and the heavy burn of shame at being chided and the pang of envy when Pink turned out to be quite gifted.

Alas, White Diamond had been ever thwarted.

Yellow had no talent, Blue had no focus and Pink had no interest in learning and now all her great promise would remain unfulfilled forever.

She understands, intellectually, that her endeavor would require a resonance, a harmony and synchronization -

A song, like she has not let it resound for ages, an unlatching of the doors she had put up to keep something in her innermost of her holiest of holies.

 

She quits in frustration.

If this shard will not disclose its secrets, she will rend them from it in the fashions that have always worked for her.

So she shines lights through, puts it under currents and sears it with acids.

Perhaps if she tortures it enough, it will confess.

 

...

 

As her designs expand, so does the specificity of their demands, and the dark cloud on her mind.

She retreats to a wind-beaten buried fortress half buried in the red desert sand, none too far from where Pink used to have her personal castle, the leisure-palace as opposed to the place of toil on the moon.

Distractable as she had been, they had figured that she might benefit from separating work and play. It would build provide out of sand whatever it was she desired, so it was pointless to seek it now. To this day they hadn’t been able to find where her old ship must be buried in the sand. Once they had prepared it all just for her, including the desert glass gem that would serve as its power source and the mistress of its walls – this second building, however, was once meant for things that might benefit from having a known, fixed location.

All that was in it is torn out and eviscerated of its cables so that other things may be plugged in.

 

...

 

Dour and capricious, she pulls at it, tugs at the shade of its being with the arclight of her thunder and it follows, resonates, there is no choice for a muscle that is twitching wildly under electric duress.

The swell of a high note rings out, a piping sine tone.

If something is there, it is awakened only because it is being played like an instrument, and its voice is being taken for a mask.

You could see the shade flickering for a moment, or failing that you could feel it, but it’s distorted to even be a scream, and from the moment that she first heard a voice, she knows that she has wrought an abomination.

 

She does not cease, for they deserve it.

 

She makes a pipe-organ from lost souls and wears its melodies like a necklace from shark-teeth.

 

...

 

The first actual result to come of the shard experiments was the living armor.

Y73 had the idea, after what onlookers described as a mishap in which one of the shards possessed some of the supporters she ended up needing, as well as the mask-piece she had taken to wearing to conceal the disfigurations on her face.

One of the guards that had subdued the rebellious equipment went so far as to describe it as a coordinated revenge of the shard, as if it were sick and tired of being experimented on.

Y73, for her part, argued that setbacks are a natural part of research and that most new technologies were bound to be volatile in the early stages – and then cited that same reasoning to push for field tests.

 

The quartzes and rubies, for their part, did not trust it. The Peridots weren’s the ones who would be down there on the battlefield if these things went haywire.

“You can twist and turn it however you like”, Chalcedony would argue. “It’s creepy. That used to be people.

“Traitors and rebels, perhaps.”

Citrine was dutifully making herself believe the rationalizations, but Chalcedony could sense that she, too, was somewhat unnerved. Her instincts were too good to let her swallow this load of bull without at least putting up a fight.

“Yeah, because that’s very comforting. We’re sent out with bits and pieces of dead people, and they used to be one of Rose Quartzes’ crazy cult members who love to form freaky cross-gem fusions and shove organic matter down their necks. What one of it remembers that it’s a rebel and attacks us instead?”

“That hardly seems possible. You’ve said it yourself – they’re dead. Shattered. Extinguished. From what Peridot told me, they’ve barely got enough consciousness to understand and follow orders, and that’s it. Many of the shards they use don’t even respond to the procedure.”

“I still don’t get why they have to trust over us.”

“They don’t have enough soldiers. That’s the only reason. If attempting to grow more under these circumstances would work out again, it would probably result in another haphazard fiasco like the beta site.

 

“Oh would you shut it!” came then another voice, gruff deep and uncouth, emanating from a large bulky figure that was leaning against a column with her arms crossed, keeping her distance from the other quartzes – a large, silver-maned Jasper, ostensibly the most junior out of the company’s command tier, not that this staid her tongue in any manner. “I’m sick of listening to you two. I don’t care if those drones or whatever are all alive, awake and screaming. All that matters is that we destroy Rose Quartz”

 

And the two veterans had seen too much, been part of too many platoons and seen too many group dynamics unfold for them not to take note of this – a dangerous trait, an internal contradiction. Devoted to the cause she was, a templar in service of purity she called herself, but there was a worrisome streak to her sometimes, more than just her aloof, competitive tendencies, a relentlessness that knew little resembling bounds, like there was little that she would not do in order to win.

Citrine, though she acknowledged her shortcomings, at least sympathized with her devotion; Chalcedony, for her part, neither liked or trusted her, but for all their differences this Jasper had managed to rouse both of their misgivings.

 

...

 

The stories followed almost right out of the gate, right from the labs and barracks, wherever the living armor was around.

Tales of the odd shard-drone that had attacked without warning, or else blotched its assignments in such a way as to precipitate its own destruction, escalating from the slight and subtle that made its handlers doubt their own perception, or perhaps wonder if they had given the orders – at first, any complaints to superiors would certainly have been blamed on the complainer and some contradictory, badly-phrased order that it must have given – after all, the armors obeyed for the most part.

When overseers and technicians observed the possession twist and turning the metal itself, they simply took notes and set them off to R& D.

In the end, cold calculation triumphed over everything.

The project would be discontinued precisely when it stopped to be a convenient net gain, but at first, objectors would soon find that the higher ups only cared so much about safety or ethics; All that mattered was that the living army would take out soldiers.

The shards could be placed in a new armor if the old one was smashed, and of course, the numbers of the shards itself could be replenished from the numbers of the fallen – that also almost necessitated their use, no matter how horrendously unsafe or monstrous they might have proved: Finally, there was a counter to Rose Quartz’ unprecedented curative power, something that allowed them to send out large hosts in bulk after all she had done to thin their numbers while minimizing the decrease of her own following. They didn’t make for particularly skilled or very reliable soldiers, but they didn’t have to be as long as they could be sent out in legions and swarms – if there was only one thing that homeworld was in no danger of running out of, it would have been gem shards.

If nothing else, the war itself continued to provide an endless fount of them.

So they remained in use long after their volatile nature had been known, and their deployments commonly met with uncomfortable cringes among the soldiers and even some of the officers. Numerous Agates, Garnets and Emeralds made it known that they just didn’t like them and avoided the use of them, but often, a chaotic victory was seen as preferable to an orderly bulk as long as the bulk of the casualties were still rebels.

 

“I knew it!” a certain one-eyed Ruby would rant to her compatriots, most of whom would have perished by the time the war was done. She had distrusted the drone soldiers from the get-go, be it in part because it was easy to view the undead infantry as infringing on the domain of Rubies, a poor gem’s replacement for them perhaps.

Surely infantry such as Rubies would be the first victims whenever the drones’ pesky tendency to turn against their masters reared its ugly head.

 

Wither it was due to some remnant of their previous life lodged within the shards, the rebellion of a fully new formed consciousnesses or lingering imprints absorbed from their vessels, no one could say. These were the explanations favored by the distrustful soldiers who, in their profession, had to rely much on their instincts – whether they were dead on the money where the engineers’ pride stood in the way of the conclusion or instead misled by their sentimentality and a tendency to anthropomorphize (gem-tropomorphize?) an unreliable tool, no one could say.

In the opinion of their makers, such as Y73, their failings came instead from their lack of life, insufficient awareness or intelligence to process complex orders for long before some short circuit was bound to occur, but either way, at some point there was no more use or dignity in denying that they weren’t safe.

 

More out of necessity than concern, the strategies employed soon adjusted to feature in the shard drones’ volatility. Living armor was just dropped over the forests where the rebels were hiding and left to avenge their rage on anything they came across, with no concern as to what might happen to any animals or humans they might come across.

On at least one memorable occasion, they had been short on armor and simply dumped the processed shards themselves down on the woods, where it was known that somewhere, somehow, defectors were hiding. As expected, the shards took possession of the various denizens of the forest, ranging from trees to animals to any sort of solid materials that were lying around – On multiple occasions, one might have found the forest floor stripped bare while enormous golems of rotten leaves ambled about, sometimes controlled by more than just a single shards.

This incursion was at first considered quite successful. Turning the rebels’ own hiding places against them not only hit them from a direction where they didn’t expect it, but it also revealed their position.

Many on the loyalist side considered it poetic justice, for had they not many times fought against plant creatures summoned by Rose Quartz? Her ability might as well have been the inspiration behind it.

But this approach had its imperfections – Broken down reanimated gem circuits were most suited and optimized for controlling the form of a gem. That’s why the suits of armor had worked best, as did any other garments. Presented with unfamiliar shapes such as trees, the motions of the unliving drones were often clumsy and shambling, and to a lesser extent, the same applied even to the drones – Though it implied interesting things that the fragments were able to move, meld with, and even remodel foreign substances using just their internal energy (as Y73 put it on one occasion), they were designed to project a body, not meld one.

The discord between the residual instincts to form and operate a light-body and the reality of infusing that light into a solid body it was never designed to, distorting the already busted, broken down light-circuits to innervate it might indeed play a large part in the process that drove most of the drones to go haywire sooner or later.

The instinct to hold and take form was just too strong. It had to be, for any newly-made gem to emerge correctly – of course, in Y73s eyes, this was not a reason to wonder how tortured her creations must be, but an opportunity to be harnessed, for if that impulse was so strong even in these shattered torn remnants, perhaps even they could be made to take form to create stronger, more predictable drone soldiers.

 

But no homeworld research report could have encapsulated the horror that they wrought, or the dread the rebels felt when they realized just what they were fighting, the despair that sank in when they were discussing what to even do with the shards once they had been ripped from their vessels.

Rose stood there with eyes wide in realization. Garnet was torn asunder between revulsion at the deed and her rage at its perpetrators. Pearl, however, nearly lost her footing, and if she had been physically capable of retching at the time she distinctly would have. She recognized some of those shards.

Once the rebellion first started growing beyond their small inner circle of friends, Pearl had quickly emerged as the designated drill sergeant, a meticulous maintainer of order. Thus, it was often her who ended up whipping the newer recruits into shape, and hence, it soon became one of her official duties.

At first she did it mostly because the recruits bothered her, their yet unpolished conduct irked her all on its own before any concern for their persons entered into it. Even if they generally agreed with the rebel cause, not all of them immediately left their prejudices against Pearls at the door, but even those who did were often met with the disdain inspired by their compatriots. She disliked the sight of their incompetence, and besides, some part of her was resentful about how their group was growing and how Roses’ Attention had wound up split between so many people, she didn’t like the sight of the clumsy newcomers that often reawakened her own uncertainty about her suitability for the battlefield. Never before had she commanded respect or authority, and neither had she ever expected that she would do so in her life, so when she found herself in this position of being the feared right-hand gem of the universally beloved Rose Quartz, wielding and asserting that authority made for a convenient tool to make herself feel better, even if it was at the cost of others.

But often times, her criticism was perfectly well-meaning and perhaps just badly phrased, and she much blamed herself when she began to realize that her genuine desire to help was becoming lost or garbled under the works of her desperation.

She never meant to be harsh to them, subject the to endless perfectionistic nitpicking or treat them with disdain, but she did not expect to like that duty either, regarding it at first as just another awful thing that she would deal with out of devotion to Rose.

 

But as time passed, Pearl found to her own greatest surprise that a part of her actually enjoyed being a teacher or mentor, not just the genuine admiration that some of her students had for her, the disbelieving validation she felt when they actually cited her as an inspiration – Her love of safety, knowledge and correct proceedings simply made it a joy to impart it on others and actually be a helpful, positive influence on others, all by herself, on her own, even while Rose, Garnet and the others were aware doing other things.

Once she realized this and became aware of her earlier mistakes, she made an effort from the bottom of her heart to mend fences and forge a genuine, positive, nurturing bond with her students -

But some of them had met their doom before that happened, and now, one could not even be sure if they were resting in peace.

The shards that they recovered could not be left alone – before long, they would just start shining again, possess the nearest thing in their range and continue on fighting mindlessly, though mindlessness would have been the greatest comfort for which one could hope – for how were they to know that their fallen comrades weren’t still in there, bits and pieces of them, looping malfunctioning thoughts, awakened from rest but not returned to wholeness or life, immortal, perhaps, in the fashion of a cancer cell. They could be said to live, like moss lives and like animals live, but they had ceased to be gems, and once in a while, one couldn’t help but wonder if there wasn’t something left of the gems they had once been, if their rampages of destruction weren’t simply an expression of the pain, fear and rage they must be feeling in their joyless existence.

Rose, of course, tried her best to comfort Pearl even as she was holding back the guilt that was eating her alive from within, stored away behind the gentlest of masks.

For lack of anything else to do, she decreed that the shards were to be stored in bubbles for now - “We can at least make sure that they’re not suffering anymore, see, at least they’re no longer suffering”, and she always allowed for the speculation that maybe one day, something could be done, though she could not make herself believe it.

A few times she tried to reach out, to sense and commune with whatever spark of consciousness might be left inside, but whatever she found was too foreign, too scalding to be spoken to or even identity. What she sensed from it could have been pain, or it could have been simple signal degradation or her own mind trying in vain to reconstruct a telepathic ‘image’ from the scrambled, nonliving circuits.

But if anything remained of them, there was nothing she could do for these lost souls.

 

(Many, many years later, Pearl would sometimes sneak the contained shards from the bubble room behind everybody’s back, and stare at them)

 

...

 

The forest incidents, however, also marked the first occasion on which large numbers of the shard drones were released into the wild where they could not be tracked or monitored, and this proved to be the beginning of the end for the project, the prelude to its sharp splintering conclusion that marked the end of their active production -

Though even then, the ones in charge might not have been so considerate if the next stage of the project were not already in the making.

 

The scattered feral shard-drones had been drawn to the site of a battle, a homeworld stronghold, as if drawn by the pulsing of magic and light, seeking after the life they once had like sharks coming for blood.

Before long, the fight ceased to be a strife of rebels against loyalists and became a scramble for survival where no one was safe.

The combatants were besieged on all sides by a gigantic wall of greenery as if the whole forest had begun to move like a furious green carpet, and in its massive body glittered countless shards.

It was as if all the malice, all the resentment and all the suffering strewn on the battlefields had coalesced into a lumbering idol of war, an enclosing tsunami of wood embodying the rage of all that had been crushed in this conflict, drummed up by pride and selfishness,

It moved as one – the individual twinkling lights, all traces of mournful individuality and feeling that there might have been had been scattered away, insofar as the ways of homeworld had allowed for them to exist in the first place, and all that was left was a simple destroyer, a messenger of despair in this world.

Some parts of it had hated the Crsytal Gems, others had burnt with righteous fury towards homeworld, and as a result, their amalgam now destroyed indiscriminately without regard for either side, too scrambled now to form discerning thought.

Rose Quartz was right there on the ground, and she felt what it was, deep inside her center.

The loyalist outpost she had been meaning to besiege avoided destruction only because of the rebels’ contributions to taking down the great beast, but at the end of it, she had too few rebel fighters left t hold the broken citadel she had sought to capture – it was the bitterest of stalemates, for let it not be thought that the homeworld forces didn’t fight the crystal gems at every step of the way.

 

“Can you believe this?” Peridot Y73 would exclaim as she commented on the report after the fact, with a loss of composure that she had previously reserved for the alien crystals she used to bore a hole into Siberia that had since filled with seawater. “I can’t believe it! Multiple shards were functioning as one being. They had synchronized! Almost as if they were trying to fuse!”

She seldom left the labs now, since it was fairly hard for her to get around, but given her affinity for technology, she found other ways to be present.

It was not usual for her to send a robonoid in her stead. Constricted as she may have been by her injury, her ability to shapeshift was intact, and she made more use of it than ever, be it to reach faraway objects without suffering the indignity of walking, or to plug a cable directly into her light-form so that she might operate a remote drone with just her thoughts, taking measurements and close looks as surely as, or much better than it would have been if she had to do the labor with her glitched-out body.

Soon, it seemed to make little difference to her, and her robot tools seemed to have become extensions of her being. It helped that she had dabbled in shapeshifting plugs and cables long before her accident and that she had perhaps never felt too connected with her physically to begin with. All that concerned her were the outcomes of her experiments – if anything, she seemed more focused on them than ever, not even to prove that she was still functional, but simply because most other distractions had become tiring to do.

Most other observers, however, had not shared the green goblin’s enthusiasm.

 

Citrine could not deny her relief when she heard that the production of the shard drones would be discontinued.

She was not at the site of the battle, having arrived later with her unit to relieve the besieged base when the rebels were still believed to be the only threat.

She would find it completely ruined, and the rebels long gone, much to the chagrin of a certain Jasper who had been looking forward to crushing some rebels.

There on the ground, she met with Chalcedony. The citrine commander could not help but note that the blue quartz had reformed.

She had a slightly different design to her armor, and her hair seemed different, less neat, more likely to expose at least one of her dark almond eyes, and the distant, disbelieving stare held within her gaze. By the looks of it, these were all-new vision spheres, but the last sight of her old ones was still deeply imprinted in the gem that produced them.

Citrine’s unit got to work to secure the perimeter so as to ward against further rebel incursions, but the next troupe to arrive once the warp was repaired were largely engineers and researchers, with the odd elite thrown in.

The veteran quartz was all too busy organizing the defenses to find a moment to check up on her old friend; She did not get to see her until all the officers were called up to serve as an honor guard:

Yellow Diamond was coming, and it should not be long before her enormous boots materialized on the outpost’s humble warp pad.

 

And here, the naive and hopeful might wonder about the purpose of her visit – had she heard of the atrocious occurrence and called and investigation, nay, could she even be here to put a stop to it herself?

 

No of course not. Naught happens in her laboratories but in the direction of her will. She was with the researches and had come to be briefed on the progress of their investigations, of what they might learn from this fiasco to prevent such mishaps in the future.

 

And it has to be understood that her business was strictly with the Peridots and the elites that supervised them – If Chalcedony and Citrine were in the room, then it was only so they could stand silently at their post as statue-like, stoic guards, and if they had been chosen for this task out of all quartzes that were still in fighting condition, it would have been because they both had a good track record as stoic statues.

Never before had either of them interrupted a conversation of their allotted betters, be it out of duty or the humble wish to stay out of trouble.

 

But when chalcedony heard Yellow Diamond, whom she had seldom seen so far up close (far more rarely than Citrine, for certain), speaking about what precautions might be appropriate for the second stage of the shard experiments, she could no longer hold her tongue.

She might be accused of having reached her wits’ end, and after she had to witness on this day, on this very place, she would not even have denied it.

 

“Your Luminosity! Please reconsider!”

Alarmed, Citrine moved to stop her and shot her a harsh glance, but the pale blue gem just stood undeterred while Yellow Diamond and the outpost’s foremost aristocrat gem just blinked at her in confused annoyance.

Most likely, they had barely even perceived her as much more than a passing background detail before she had chosen to speak – yet Chalcedony had more delicacy than some, and she knew to hold back her own exact views if that would help her convince the ultimate decision makers of the convictions that truly mattered to her.

She was not to proud to get on her knees.

“Please listen. It is not my place to question your wisdom, but likewise, it is my duty to report to you what I have seen. I have served under your command once, in the joint operation that faced the pentagorian fleet, and yet, what I saw her today on this very soil eclipses everything I have encountered till that day.

This wasn’t just a malfunctioning drone. I know a deliberate attack when I see one. These shard creatures are dangerous. They were after us, your luminosity. ”

If the noble did not immediately tear into Chalcedony with threats and reproach, it would be because Yellow Diamond very much outranked her, but her opinion was plain on her face, and she clearly hoped that their sovereign would mete out swift, inglorious punishment.

But Yellow Diamond was a different matter altogether. She wasn’t too irritated by what she could not have considered a serious challenge to her authority, not looking down from up high. There might well have been a restrained heat deep within her, and its undercurrent could be felt keenly – hidden it was not, her face was cold, but it was no impassivity, but a vicious, willful kind of cold with an undercurrent of fire in her eyes:

“So what?”

There was nothing rushed or defensive in her voice.

Her authority asserted itself almost of its own accord and the implied threat was all in the slight blase edge in her voice: She left no doubt that she had no idea why she should take any time out of her day to even consider this objection, and that she ought to be convinced fast lest she decide that she had quite enough of her scarce and precious time being wasted.

So, Chalcedony thought it all the more urgent to try and make her understand, for all that all her experience told her to abandon such optimistic hopes, for Yellow Diamond had it in her power to stop these abominable things, and Chalcedony did not:

“In brief, these experiments, the ones with the remains of the dead- I believe that they are evil and they must be stopped. And I think that if you or my diamond had seen what transpired here today, you might feel the same….”

“...why?” she asked simply, with little more than a pointed glance, and there was silence all around.

She stood there next to unmoved, in all her deep dark shades of honey.

Her knowing indifference took the wind out of the Sail’s of chalcedony, who found herself so very aware of how small she was in comparison, not just to Yellow Diamond but the incensed elite before her. Would Citrine even defend her if either of the two commanded her to seize her?

Yet even so, the command of the knowledge that fueled her objections was more pressing than anything in the towering monarch’s daunting glare.

“It was aware. It had a will, and enough consciousness to realize what had been done to it….”

Good.” she replied, dark and unmoved. “Those were the shards of traitors and deviants, were they not?” and her full, opulent lips dripped with hate and disdain.

“Yes, they were traitors! And they were dead! They were dead and gone, shattered and extinguished! - Your Luminosity. Isn’t that punishment enough? What need is there to torture them for all of eternity? Aren’t we supposed to be better than them? Please, with all due respect, why on homeworld should we possibly do this?”

“Because they deserve it.”

Chalcedony was beginning to sense that she was going up against a brick wall, and she didn’t know how to break it, not without saying things that would surely get her bubbled or worse.

“That may be… but you’re using shards that you just picked off the battlefield. How can you be sure that each and every shard came from a rebel? Some of them might have been your own gems, who have served you loyally for many centuries…!”

And as she said that, her mind was filled with thoughts of Citrine.

“Then they shall be grateful to serve me again.”

Please, your Luminosity… I must implore you.” Chalcedony reiterated, and she was very much pleading now, and quite compromised in her dignified manner. “You cannot be serious. Could honestly say the same thing if it were yourself? If it were your shards? Would you honestly say that you would choose endless suffering?”

“For the sake of the empire? Yes. Yes, I would.”

 

That shut her up better than any threat, punishment or reprimand could ever have managed?

What could Chalcedony possibly have said to that? She didn’t even put up any further resistance; She simply excused herself, with a bow and a salute, and returned to her place to stand down, head bowed, face covered in her long azure hair.

 

...

 

“Like she would do that,” Chalcedony would go on about later, brooding, affected, clearly bothered by what she could not keep from transpiring. “Like she would really, actually do that. She’s just saying that, but I bet she wouldn’t. If it were her, or anyone she cares about, she wouldn’t want anyone to meddle with their broken, extinguished remains. But she thinks nothing of doing it to us…!

Aren’t you scared? Doesn’t it scare you what she’s doing?”

“...desperate times call for desperate measures, “ Citrine only said, but she said it with a certain ambivalence that she could not wholly suppress, something that seeped through in the way she was standing and in the way that the pupils of her amber eyes kept straying to their corners.

“Oh my stars,” realized Chalcedony. “You actually believe it! You believe what she says!”

“...the reasons behind the are not for us to know or ponder. We’re not Sapphires or Hematites.”

But her comrade paid little mind to her uncomfortable diversion. To her, it was far besides the point: “You are scared of her! And It’s because you believe her that you are scared.”

“It is not bad for a leader to inspire a certain measure of fear.”

But Chalcedony could not just accept this:

“What are we going to do? She’s going to keep doing this. She’ll keep doing this, and maybe worse still! What are we gonna do?”

“...as we’re told.”

 

….

 

And there were indeed not many other options open to them, not in the endless maelstrom of this war.

Before them were the rebels, who could not give up or relent since they had a great cause to fight for – and behind them came the Agates, employed in making sure that they would all fight to the last.

Chalcedony had lost the taste for fighting, but it took every drop of her strength just to protect her measly life.

She didn’t have much will left to fight, but she very much didn’t want to become a shambling shard zombie either.

 

Sometimes, she and Citrine would be deployed together. Sometimes, the enemies were fused. Sometimes, both of these things would even occur together, and Citrine, in her prudence, would deem it justified that they call forth Aventurine – a green Quartz fusion, with medium length hair, bulkier than Chalcedony but wearing something much like her armor but with blockier shapes that meshed better with Citrines taste. Oddly enough she had been noted to smile a lot in what brief times she would receive to show up on the battlefield.

As of late, Chalcedony often wondered if Citrine ever thought of Aventurine as more than a battle tactic – but to ask such a thing would have been the sort of anathema which Citrine would surely have rejected.

 

 

 

 

 

 

(vi.)

 

Yellow found Blue exactly where she'd left her -

Lying on her side, with her back against the wall, disheveled and sunken into the folds of her cloak.

Had she moved at all since she last came here, what was it, at the very last several days ago? Weeks maybe?

Yellow had too much to keep track off in the present and near future to concern herself with details of the past, but to come here after days on her feet and see this should finally over-strain her patience far past the boiling point.

There she was, cold and silent, secluded away like the rest of the world and the raging war outside these walls was none of her concern – when she got all apathetic like this, Yellow sometimes thought that she looked far too much like White in the worst possible ways.

Fists clenched, Yellow marched over to where Blue was, her furious eyes glowing in the dark of the gloomy chamber, till she knelt down where the windows had let some of the radiance from the full moon looming above, that empty, pale shell that had once been the site of Pink's palace.

 

“Blue. Look at me.”

“Yellow, I-”

“Get up this instant and look me in the face!”

“But what is the matter?!”

“The matter, Blue, is that it's time that you pulled yourself together and came back to reality!

Yes, Pink is gone forever and there is absolutely nothing we can ever do about it, but we are still here. I'm still here! Right here before you!” and as she shouted, she brusquely grasped one of Blue's arms, pressing her palm against her own chest, right onto the sharp edges of her facets.

“See! I'm right here with you. I'm not going anywhere. I'm alive! Why isn't that good enough for you?! Why doesn't that matter?! Doesn't that mean anything to you at all?

And you. You're alive, too, and you will be for a long, long time, so why don't you try acting like it for once? I'm sick of seeing you just... waste away like that!

None of that is ever going to bring her back!”

“Neither will any of this fighting.”

“Do you think she'd want this? To see us coming undone like that?”

“Do you think she'd want you destroying her planet? All of the gems and these creatures she was so fond of?”

“Well there's no way to know! She's gone, and never coming back, regardless of what either of us wants. We're going to have to accept that – it's no reason to let everything else go pieces along with her! What could possibly be gained by that?!”

“It's all about gains for you isn't it?” Blue responded, her voice as cold, quiet and sharp as Yellow's was heated, loud and blunt. “Now that she's gone, she's not useful. So you and White want us all to just stop caring, as if such a thing were possible at the push of a button... and maybe it is, for you. You'd like to act like Pink never even existed!”

“IF ONLY!” Yellow exclaimed, having evidently reached some sort of breaking point. The thought must have occurred to her many times, though she had never outright voiced it. “If ONLY there never was a Pink Diamond to begin with! If only White had never thought to make her!”

“How can you say that! How can you even think that!”

“Because there's no point, Blue! What was the point of ever having her made, if she was just going to get herself shattered like that-!”

By the time that the breaking of her voice kept her from speaking further, Yellow's anger had collapsed under its own weight, unmasking the desperation below.

 

So against all odds, it was Blue who ended up comforting her fellow Diamond in her arms that night, gently running one hand up and down her back.

Their argument was still unresolved, the sharp words that had been exchanged were still hanging thickly in the air, but for this fleeting instant, it did not seem to matter.

Yellow never cried, at least not of her own accord, but even just her overwhelmed, grief-stricken expression was shameful enough to her that she tried her best to avert her face from Blue's field of vision.

She ended up concealing her aspect in Blue's hair loop, touching her forehead against her gem. Unspoken words died behind her clenched teeth like, 'Please don't leave me' and 'I cannot bear it on my own' -

 

They were both at their limit.

VI .Plague (Boils The Screams of the Damned)

 

She is up to her neck in death.

Submerged in it, immersed, all but caked in colorful, glittering dust.

It followed her always, but never had she known in this intimately in all its gross and lurid details and its sinister sophistication.

 

Day and night, she does little but to think about death, to consider death and to look upon it, its shape, its sound, its meaning, it’s very taste and its smell.

Death consumes each waking though, death chases her forward every time that her weary hands think to the relent.

In her desert laboratory, death hangs on the walls, deaths piles up in the hallways, and death is strewn across the floor.

Secluded away in the darkness, death is all she inhales, Death is in all her thoughts, her every words and each of her ardent, maddening daydreams.

The delved for knowledge in every discipline that she knew, and from all sides, she was met with Death.

 

As for her part, Peridot-Y73 had as of late gotten it into her head to concern herself with fusion, in the way that fusion concerned most homeworld gems: As a means to take various components and mash them together into something stronger.

In particular, it was the idea of fusing broken shards together that would not let go of her.

Yellow Diamond’s concerns, however, different subtly, and not just because the objects of her focus tended to be somewhat more pragmatic, less talk of ‘potential’ or ‘possibility’ and rather concrete and salient applications in weaponry, for example.

In service of the unspoken dream that plagued her much like an invisible nail sticking out of her forehead, little treacherous rivulets of thoughts concocted all on their own that to make the impossible come true, it would not be enough to have the means to bid the extinguished shards to live – There would also need to be a way to put them back together.

But whatever the truth in the murky mists of her Diamond’s mind, Y73 was allowed to proceed.

 

 

The crux of the plan, especially insofar as Yellow Diamond would admit to it, had always been to make use of the shards of the dead for the sake of economy, after all, they were a neverending resource, but if it had been so easy to utilize, the empire would have done it a long time ago.

The broken and the burnt out were by their very nature not very amenable to receiving life, courtesy of the damage that had caused the life they once had to leak out in the first place – to imbue it with new life, the procedures to do must be perfected, but before they could be perfect, it was sometimes necessary to test them on easier marks, such as the recently living.

 

The live test subjects were largely convicts, gems that had been condemned to be shattered anyway.

Carted into the belly of an enormous machine back at the desert laboratory, they awaited their doom, some of them rebels, some of them outcasts who had broken the social taboos of the homeworld and some, it must be said, being actual murderers and bandits and other sorts of criminals that any civilized society would have had to bring to justice, but that did not mean that they could have deserved what awaited them in that chamber.

Many of the death-marked wept, others were cruel and cynical even in their last moments, out of blackness of their hearts, or because they saw no other way to wrest even a little bit of control from their unkind fate, but even in this place of death, songs could be sung, and gems which so far had believed themselves to be hideous deviants found one last bit of comfort in the company of brave rebels that face death on their feet, speaking their truth one last time before their voices were put out forever.

 

Neither Yellow Diamond nor her hench-gems had very much mercy for them.

Her hate was blunt, her rage was blind, and they were the feed to gorge its gluttonous, saturnine jaws.

They ceased to be persons long before they were done screaming.

 

 

She keeps it in a vacuum-sealed vial suspended in an anti-gravity container, sealed as tightly as the technology of the day allowed for.

She never told Blue that she had had them unearthed from their designated resting place in the royal cathedral back on homeworld; If she did, it would probably break her for good. She spoke so long and frantically of all the glittering little fragments, eaten up by the doubt that the soldiers might not have collected them all, burning with feverish thoughts of her cold little glittering morsels stomped into the dirt by their boots, pressed down into the Earth.

There was nothing more that Yellow could do about those, but with her contraption, she had at least ensured that nothing more of her would ever be allowed to escape, not a tuft of single atoms -

Here they were sealed forever, her atoms in the dark.

Sometimes she lingers next to it as she passes by it to the door, and her eyes catch the sharp edges of the long magenta fragments.

She does not, however, talk to it, the way that Blue talks to her all the time, says her name all the times, in any and all places in which anything of her might be considered to linger.

Yellow knows that she is not here, and not in there either, yet, not right now.

She knew Death, all its intricate little secrets, all its clever mechanisms that made the complete recovery of all information completely impossible.

 

(But even if her futile endeavors could ever have succeeded, they would still have been in vain, because, though she did not know it, these were not Pink Diamond’s shards. )

 

...

 

It was one of her fellow Citrines that contacted her about it, the young one who served often as her personal adjutant. She admired her Commander greatly and knew that she would dearly want to hear this, so she informed her, and did so in time for the elder quartz to make her way to a dirty corner of a small garrison where the latest casualties of this endless bitter war were laid out on thin mats.

And she had known what Chalcedony looked like without her armor, at times she had shifted out of it when they were forced to wade through territory that required lighter gear.

She knew her long, toned arms, her wide shoulders and her understated waist, but none of it could be seen right now.

What Citrine found before her was a mop of cable-like fibers, twisted a long way away from four limbs and a head, but the remains of her uniform made it tenable to guess just what had been what – but it was hard to miss her gem, cracked in half almost all the way through.

Citrine was certain that she recognized her. As soon as her footfalls had drawn close, the blue gem had tried to speak, though it was beyond her power to produce anything beyond hoarse, distorted croaks.

There was nothing to be done – The Citrine Commander knew exactly what comes next. In her years, she had lost very many cherished comrades to the ravages of the times. She had long known that days like this would come again.

“I’ll avenge you!” she insisted, gripped by a haste she could not wholly explain. “I promise you that I’ll make them pay for everything they did! Just wait here for me!”

 

And if Chalcedony had had the option of waiting, she surely would have, but of course, things did not work this way, and Citrine must have known it.

When she turned on her heels toward the battlefield, she assured herself that there way so way to know if the strained noises behind her were a plea for her not to go, or if the twisted appendage bearing the cloudy blue gemstone was to be understood as a hand that was reaching for her.

Perhaps she had wanted to postpone the moment of acknowledging what she didn’t want to be true, or maybe, her greatest fear had been to be here while it happened.

And if that was so, Citrine had not been brave enough to face it, and now, she would never get another chance.

 

By the time she got back from the front, they had reassigned the mat to someone else, and could only inform her that the shards had already been disposed of; In all likelihood, they had probably been carted off to the lab.

 

There was a lot about Chalcedony that Citrine never understood, and for the most part, she had been fine with it – but that was before she could be certain that she never would.

What did she mean, when she said that she was getting tired, that with the centuries, she had come to find her life dulled and faded?

There was nothing dulled about the pain that Citrine felt in that moment.

 

...

 

At last, they succeeded at coaxing a solid form of lights from the shards of the deceased – but the results were as fragmented as the broken remains themselves, naught but disembodied limbs or mangled clumps of light-flesh – and as soon as they had formed, they attacked everything in sight.

With the drone soldiers before them, it might have been debated how much awareness they had possessed, but with these now fully resurrected shards, there was no denying that they were in agony.

If some flickers of their past selves could beth glimpsed when they formed, they would be crying out in pain but produce only mangled screeches of unholy noise, and the piles of worm-like, wriggling limbs were aggressive without fail – Y73 theorized that they must be looking for the other parts of themselves; Insofar as they could be said to have a consciousness, all of it was filled up with nothing but the urge to be whole – every thought, every feeling, every reaction, intuition or instinct, every speck of awareness was naught but pain and distortion, groping hands and feet that sought for their missing pieces, but lacked the discernment to even recognize them even if they were all to be gathered in one place, but there wasn’t currently much of a way to test that hypothesis, seeing as they did not know where most of the scattered little shards have come from – They would not have thought it beneath them to break a gem simply to find out, but even under the most controlled conditions there was no way to guarantee that they would be able to gather up all those minute little splinters.

 

There was no way that this method could ever be used to put a broken gem back the way it was.

There was no way that Yellow could have done this to Pink.

She would not be forcing the wheels of time backward today – all she was left with was a nest of crawling monsters which she would gladly turn loose upon the rebels.

 

(Right outside the Diamonds’ shared chambers, the forest had now withered away completely.

Their misfortunes had outlasted it.)

 


 

A/N: I first took the room that YD and BD have their fight in to be some sort of general purpose prison but then a) The bubbles are all dark yellow b) apart from the one the CGs are in, they all contain cluster experiments. That's YD's personal laboratory complex. (Hence why our heroes didn't grab the Jades, they're in regular prison whilst YD put “Pink's friends” with her own stuff.)

We already knew she authorized it and she'd be just as guilty if her underlings did most the actual work - at this point the more interesting revelation would be that she dirtied her own hands there and ergo has some semblance of Mad Science Skills.

What I'm saying is I want from season 6 is for the 'sustainable gem production' subplot to cumulate in an episode where YD, Peridot and Pearl lock themselves in a lab to science the crap out of the matter. (presumably while Steven tries his best to ensure that they do not kill each other first) Bonus points if they use some old research journal of PD's, too. I can see it before me in glorious rambly detail, that could be a whole fic of its own...

Of course that said this whole necromancy affair is kind of where Yellow Diamond reaches Peak Villainy, so it's a salient moment point to dissect.

 

Like one interesting point of contrast between the Diamonds is like, how far did they each know they were villains? White clearly had absolutely no clue right up until the end which is why the realization hits her like a ton of bricks. One day she's 100% convinced that she knows what she's doing and the next, she's proven wrong, this little human is laughing at her, one of her 'daughters' is dead or at least permanently transformed and never coming back, and the other two are evidently too terrified of her to go near her even when she's a pitiful heap on the floor. If it were physically possible for her to die of humblement, she probably would have. That's what happens when you never question yourself, don't take other people's input and see virtues as immutable passive characteristics rather than attitudes to actively strive for: You wind up with zero self-awareness and no idea what you're doing. She's the most evil because she never considered that she could be wrong, so she doesn't make any active effort not to be. Meanwhile Blue is aligned with the side of lawful evil in the grand scheme of things, but when you take her out of her context she's a pretty good example of a deeply True Neutral character. Her motivation is almost entirely subjective/personal, she reflects the ideas of the society she was raised in and mostly just cares about being with her loved ones. If we're honest that's probably how it is with most ppl IRL, or at least it's a common, legit, relatable personality type, which is probably why she's commonly the most popular of the four, but also why there's some ppl who really don't like her because they read that as self-centered (I'm reminded of Gravity Falls where the immediate-surroundings-oriented character was the beloved fan favorite underdog whereas the big picture thinker contrast figure came in somewhat later and so HE was the one to get the backlash, I recall reading some fics even stating that no one could actually care about the big picture unless it was for showing off like ouch? – As with BD and YD the whole point between the pines brothers is that they have about equal amounts of dicey and likable traits, they're just different ones, though I suppose its that very difference that is likely to produce diverging personal taste reactions) If WD were running a bakery instead of an evil empire, Blue would be a pastry chef and probably have some snobbish opinions about the proper way to prepare a croissant. She's nice if she likes you and sadistic if she doesn't, and while she has some natural inclination toward mercy and evil doesn't feel good to her, you can't expect much sympathy if she subjectively thinks you're gross.

Yellow meanwile is almost in Necessary Evil/Byronic Hero/Greek Tragedy territory and manages this despite ticking all the boxes for 'evil overlord classic'. Half of what she says in CYM could be heroic in another context “We can't bend the rules just because we're in charge”, “We must all make sacrifices for the greater good even when its unpleasant” etc. She knows that “it's an invasion”, she even knows that White is a tyrannical control freak who takes her loyalty for granted, but she endures it out of duty – Like, she actually has moral fiber somewhere, or the potential for it, if she'd gotten her idea of what constitutes the greater good from someone other than WD. (The same can be said for Blue – making an exception for someone you like is kinda selfish and hypocritical but also very human – and at that point she had no idea what Steven's deal is nor did she understand why he and his friends live & believe as they do, but she was gonna let him go simply because “you were happier on earth”; Basically BD is loving but not virtuous whilst YD is virtuous but not per se loving and you can still pretty damn evil if you have one of those traits but not the other)

Of course the caveat with the Needs Of The Many is that “many” is an abstraction to help up think about multiple “ones” - of course its better to harm three people than five and letting the five die by inaction so you can tell yourself you didn't dirty your hands is just cowardly, but there's only so much you can ask from individuals before you've undermined the “greater good” you're trying to protect because you've lowered the overall quality of life...

But in all that one mustn't forget that she almost certainly racked up the greatest Death Toll of the three just because of all the conquering, done some of the most Objectively Awful Stuff and that she's got this really vindictive I-Want-that-Planet-To-Die kinda side to her which is kinda getting its moment here.

One might speculate that she eventually go to a point like “Yes, I'm evil! Deal with it!The world ain't fair. ” and that if she must valiantly bear the suck, so must everyone else, though it would be sufficiently explained by stating that she just has the sort of personality type that may tend toward vindictiveness and destructive, counterproductive ideas of “justice” as something opposite to mercy.

 

I guess another thing I wanted to do with this one is to kinda continue the “team Evil Pov” thing and look into what some possible motivations and perspectives on the homeworld side of things might've been across the ranks etc. – we already got into that last time with Jasper's “True Believer” /”Collateral Damage” type of pov but that's probably not the only only one, hence the subplot with the random homeworld gems etc. I guess that in line with my earlier comments about which genre each part ended up being, part IV seems to have gone the way of the big budget war movie with all the gratuitous supporting cast, but a war is a big complex thing that would have to be told from many povs? IDK

 

Also in case you're wondering why the single most egregious “magical artifact” hasn't been mentioned yet, that's because it's due next chapter. The half of it that is already done probably contains some of my personal favorite scenes so far, though I have yet to get to the ones with the actual [redacted] and most of the ‘action’ scenes.

 

I’ll be trying my best to type this up before the movie hits and josses everything...

Chapter Text

Part IV: Absorption (Act V: “The Days of Rage ”)

 

There are no more lines left to cross

Everything that I have in common with the uncontrollable and sick, the base and evil

Everything bad that I have caused,

and my total indifference towards it

I have now surpassed

 

My pain is unchanging and intense

And I don’t hope for a better world for anyone’s sake

I even wish for my pain to be inflicted on others as well

I want no one to escape

 

But even after I admit this there is no catharsis

My punishment still eludes me

And I don’t come to any deeper insight about myself

No new knowledge can be extracted from my account

This confession was completely meaningless”

 

But even after I admit this there is no catharsis

this confession was completely meaningless”

 

- from Nachtmahr’s ‘Katharsis’ -i took the liberty of translating it. Srsly this artist has got to be the best thing to come out of Austria since Mozartkugeln and I say that as a passionate lover of marzipan

 

...

 

In Yellow Diamond’s mind, the Earth had proven to be a maw that devours; A conquerors’ graveyard.

It was not just the rebels or the patina of organic life, those viscous, oozing membrane-pockets of assorted salty slimes and caustic liquids, but, it seems, the very elements composing the world itself – It was the seas that ate away at the shores sand the torrential rains of the slick wet atmosphere;

Whenever she approached her desert laboratory from the nearby warp pad, she felt its cutting wind, every force and mechanism that dissolved, eroded and wore away at walls and boulders, the omnipresent moisture corroding solid metals that made even the vacuum of space look hospitable by comparison.

 

Inside the walls, each day at her workbench confirmed what she had known long ago, the reason she had shot those mad hopes down as soon as they occurred to her. It was neither unusual nor unexpected, and yet she felt the sting, the awareness that no matter what horrors she created, or what holes her abominations might tear in the rebel’s defenses, none of it would bring Pink Diamond back.

At times, even her rage threatened to desert her, to ebb away into a numb and formal feeling that propelled her along from day to day.

The casualty reports kept coming in; For the first hundred years, she’d barely flinched at them, they were inconveniences at first – Her soldiers had been created to be used, and if it weren’t for that purpose, they would never have existed in the first place. They were to be sacrificed to serve the grand purpose, to lay claim to victory, except that the fights had ground to a standstill, a persistent battle of attrition, and really, there ought to have been no way for the rebels to hold the line, not that small force against the brunt of an empire, but the empire’s very size demanded for its forces to be stretched out to all its borders; After almost half a million years of aggressive expansion, they were surrounded by enemies all around, though she had not been around for the whole of it. But in her time, she had contributed more to the bloating of its boundaries than any other individual gem save perhaps for White Diamond herself.

Once or twice, she had forgotten to pat the sparkling dust off of her gloves and jacket.

Her Pearl blanched considerable when she came out the laboratory doors, hard pressed for a sufficiently respectful way to bring that particular lapse to her attention.

At least once, she had simply not bothered with it and showed up to the war council quite deliberately with her hands covered in fine glitter. Peridot-Y73 was about the only one not visibly disturbed, but no one else dared to speak up as they were none too keen for their own shards to be next.

 

Whenever she had a batch of rebel prisoners brought to the laboratory, they would know at a glance what sort of grisly fate awaited them.

 

It was a different matter whenever she managed to make her way back to base, though even this was becoming more a chore than anything else.

Most of the gems that worked there had come to avoid the west wing unless they were specifically assigned there to wait on their masters or as part of the security detail, and even essential personnel only came as close as they were ordered to be; After all, their mistress hardly ever asked for anything these days, and the psychic static alone should have repelled any possible intruders.

Even for Yellow Diamond, it was like wading through the depths of a dark, murky ocean with its weight and pressure coming down on her from all sides.

She put up her shields like she had practiced many times, held onto the intensity of her thoughts, kept repeating to herself who and where she was and what she had come to do, and in that manner, she was at least able to proceed, though she was furiously wiping the liquid from her face before long.

She too had come from that same, oppressive dark that would allow for nothing else to exist.

She felt the wails in her mind before she physically heard them; They filled the surrounding space like ripples in a liquid.

It appeared to be a particularly bad day, and at this point, she was tempted to roll her eyes. Of course she wanted to support Blue, that’s what she had been doing all of these years; But she also had work to do, and she knew, from a purely pragmatic standpoint, that her fellow Diamond was making a commotion and a liability of herself. From any objective sort of standpoint, she was being positively ridiculous.

She wouldn’t say it, but she thought it.

She felt a weary repulsion, and little else.

Sure, she wanted to protect her, she understood her pain perhaps better than anyone else, but that was dry and distant factual knowledge in that moment, something she told herself, and present in her awareness was instead the disgusted voice of White Diamond in the act of scorning weakness, ingrained in her early memories.

Even so, she forced herself inside that room.

 

Outside the windows, the rainfalls had dissolved the ashes into a sludge.

 

Immediately, she was assailed by a dark hooded figure who had decided to dispense with her usual reserved restraint, and threw herself onto her visitor like she could not have stood on her own.

Yellow Diamond meant to pull away after what would have constituted a greeting, but she soon realized that she was the only one holding up both their considerable weights, and that her companion had dissolved into desperate sobs as soon as her long fingers got a hold of the fabric of her jacket, as if she had only just barely contained herself for long enough to walk into her arms.

Being this close to her, in that state, was downright suffocating.

The thunderstorm outside illuminated their faces for one harrowed snapshot.

“I just can’t go on anymore! I just can’t take it! What for?!” To the backdrop of the deluge outside, the words blurred into each other, the accent and coloration of her voice unmitigated by her usual tactful restraint. She was speaking half through her nose. “Why wasn’t it me? I’ve been here for longer than I could take, and Pink was so new… she actually liked being here. Oh if I could have gone in her place… This is too much! She didn’t deserve this! I can’t go on-!“

What to tell her? To pull herself together, for the sake of duty and all those who still depended on her? She would not want to hear that. That wasn’t about what would be right for Blue, but only about what Yellow herself wanted. They both knew that their lives had never belonged to themselves. So what for? What reasons were there left to continue?

For the other good things in the world? For what they might yet encounter in some hypothetical future? Like what?

What joy was there in their existence?

There was a purpose to it, and importance and a need for them, but there was no joy.

Duty was all that Yellow had to offer; It was what had sustained her so far, but centuries of arguing that it ought to do the trick for Blue as well had not brought it any closer to being enough for her.

 

Eventually, she led Blue to the couch and sat down with her, surrendering her right arm to her grasp, and never letting go, unmoving and numbed-out like a boulder on the shoreline, the silent eye in the center of her tempest.

Blue went on again about how Pink’s shards had looked, the ravaged splinters, and the old question as to whether all of them had been gathered up, and how she would have longed to have been at her side before all her light had gone out.

What did she expect? Pink had been shattered. She looked dead because she was dead.

Even if she had been there, Blue wouldn’t have accomplished anything. At least, Yellow reasoned, it must have been fast. She couldn’t have lingered – most likely, she was gone the instant the sword went through her, before she even knew what happened to her. Just from the pattern of the pieces, that was the most likely conclusion. If anything could have been done, her attendants would have done it the moment they caught up with her.

Besides, it was very much a hit-and-run attack, Rose Quartz would have had to make it quick to escape from the entourage, there would have been no time to satisfy whatever sadistic whims she might have had.

 

In time, Blue was sufficiently talked down that she made a token effort to restrain her aura to a point. As of late Yellow was beginning to feel that she was not so much keeping her company as she making sure to keep her appeased and contained.

Under the terrible weight of this current, dreadful reality, even the bond that had been the only constant in their long, long lives was becoming frayed like a load-bearing rope.

But at the same time, Yellow thought back to their last confrontation with Pink,

No doubt just a temporary spat that would have been quickly resolved if it hadn’t been for Pink’s demise; Blue barely seemed to remember it, and seemed cruel to bring it back to her attention. But where she had all but blocked it out, Yellow couldn’t quite keep her thoughts from their unhelpful habit of trailing in its direction; She thought of all their arguments, and where she might have done well to be firmer, or perhaps to make more time for her amid the loads of her work; She always assumed that there would be more time later.

Pink had accused her of being unfeeling. Perhaps it was true. Perhaps that was what this world demanded, perhaps, she thought, as she once more cleared the fluids from her eyes, annoyed and at war with her own understated frustration, it was not altogether wrong that at least someone had disrupted the whole proceedings of soldiering onward. It felt like Pink’s disappearance should matter; If she was honest with herself, she believed this no less than Blue did, though she had perhaps directed that belief into different channels -

but she could not in good conscience wish for more time to be wasted, more disruptions, or for more work to go unaddressed.

Soon she would have to go out there and skim over the latest casualty report.

 

(vii.)

 

The first time that 'Rose Quartz' had come to this particular human settlement, it had been a simple matter of idle curiosity.

She had observed from afar at first, intrigued and confused by what was undeniably an early form of civilization that would be crushed in its infancy if the invasion were left to continue.

Beyond that, she did not understand them very much at first and it would be a long time before she dared to speak to them, unsure of the unspoken conventions and foreign concepts that they mentioned to each other.

Eventually, circumstance forced her hand; When she first came into their dwellings, it was with the others, to warn them of coming dangers – but for that, they were grateful, and it was only a matter of time until one of them invited her to participate in their rites.

She returned often, not seldom by herself and certainly more often than the others, with no other purpose than simply to be here and observe them as they went about their lives, trying to learn what they knew.

She felt that despite their often difficult lives that were not yet supported by advanced technology, they must know nothing which her kind did not, without even trying – The beauty of a world yet unspoiled by the authority.

To one like her, it must be paradise, as strange and foreign as paradise must be to a serpent.

So that's what this place became – her very own garden of earthly delight, where none of them knew what she was and where she could, for a moment, forget that she had ever come to be, more thoroughly even than she could with the rebels, and she would not mind, if it truly had been possible to forget what she was; She should have considered herself very blessed if she could have erased everything she had ever been and life here as one of them until the last of her days.

Homeworld's warped designs had never touched this place, none of it bore the taint of White Diamond – it was truly the life that exists for itself – and the more she grew to admire them, the more she realized the wretchedness of her own kind, and of herself in particular.

Though she tried her best to learn and participate and do everything exactly as they would, she always stood out. She could never truly be a member of their tribe, a resident of their villages or a citizen of their citystates, just as she could never be a normal, average gem back at the rebel camp.

– It was the same everywhere she went.

She'd want nothing more than to fit in with the others as just another one of their number, but she would always stand apart from them and somehow, just by existing, wind up as the recipient of misplaced adulation – yes, she had sworn to fight for them, perhaps even saved them, but that was the least she should be doing.

She had never meant to set herself up as their leader, but someone had to and that someone would be hunted like no one else – figures that the loyalist side wouldn't understand that some gems might want to fight for the freedom and justice they had always deserved. In their eyes, it had to be because somebody told them, because that's why they did everything they did.

She knew better than anyone that she had done nothing special at all – it was all them. The very fact that they'd respond like that to any glimmer of kindness and appreciation only proved how badly homeworld had wronged them...

And yet, they'd look at her like she was somehow above them, and shake her awake from her dream, reminding her of how far below them she truly was, how far from grace and light, what a pitiful fraud, a fake, pale imitation amid their vibrant vigor, father and father away even as she stood right admits them.

Always, she had to hide herself if she wanted to have any hope of being accepted, but in the process, she would inevitably create a gulf of her own making, but even so, it would never occur to her that this gap between them might perhaps have been bridged if she revealed her whole truth, but how could she do that when the truth was so terrible? The mask that was once a welcome escape had become just another tiresome role to play, a prison she had learned to love when she stepped into it of her own choosing to escape the other prison that had been thrust upon her since she came to be.

Back on homeworld, she had often felt out of place, like she would never find her place in the daunting monstrous clockwork that was their society – now that her time there was only a distant memory many centuries away, only now, having reshaped herself on this foreign soil, did she finally feel like she truly belonged with her wicked kin, and far from being the relief she had sometimes imagined it to be when she was young and knew nothing, it was the most hopeless feeling that a creature like her could hope to be capable of.

But of course, the humans had no means of knowing that.

Sure, they might thank her for protecting their dwellings or confuse her for some mythical being, but they were not her followers; She would start out as just another unusual event in their lives.

They did not know from whence she came, they could not fathom what she truly was and if they did, they would do well to be repulsed – but she had made herself smaller and softer in their image, imitating some of the robes she had seen on their visits when she chose her own gown, dulled her bright colors and made her hard-light construct fleshy and pliant to the touch –

So perhaps it should not have been surprising when the first of them made their advances to her. She must have worn her mask faithfully, and performed her role well, much like she had with Pearl.

Sure, she was excited; Sometimes she would speak of nothing else even after she returned to her base. No matter how many years passed, her eyes would shine like on the first day. In her numerous years on this world, even throughout the centuries of the war, she loved many of them, and each of them, in her eyes, was a blessed, unique being, their lives more interesting, their unique personal worlds more captivating than anything else in the universe, their time all the more precious and vibrant for its brief, ephemeral duration – She would be grieved when their time came to an end, or when their lives simply passed hers by like an old weathered statue, and though the heart she did not have weighed heavy every time she found a new admirer, knowing how it would end, but that it but it never stopped her from becoming captivated anew.

There would be many, many, many of them, sometimes more than one at once, and for each one, she could have gone on for hours about how special, fun and interesting they were -

What she didn't say was how dull she felt in comparison.

When you were empty, it was so easy to be filled by anything.

What else was there to think, talk or dream about?

None of her dreams were her own – and she felt that somewhere, somehow, despite everything, there was a part of her that had never been moved at all, for all that she wanted to be moved.

Of course, she had observed their ways for a long time before actually participating. She had some idea of how it was supposed to work, what she was supposed to and say in order to take part in this, but at the same time, she wasn't sure if she ever understood.

Sometimes, she did things wrong, and someone would be offended or put-off, and she wouldn't really know why, and in moments like these she would be forced to confront how little she knew at all. Sometimes she'd get back, and she wouldn't know what to make of the way Pearl was acting thinking until she realized far too late that she seemed to be mad about something though she insisted again and again that she wasn't, and she'd just be confused with no one to turn to – forget the humans, even with her own closest friends and confidantes she often didn't know what she was doing.

She wanted to take part, to feel as they felt, but how would she know if she ever really did? In the end, she wasn't like them – she wasn't even like Garnet or Pearl.

Had she ever truly learned anything, or was she just acting like she thought someone like that might act?

Sure, she might look like one of them, she might even mimic what they expected her to act like, hoping that with time, she would understand and some of their virtue might finally seep inside of her, but what if it never did?

Sometimes, in her darkest dimmest moments, she wondered if that's what it was like for White Diamond on the occasions that she had bothered to act like she was capable of anything resembling motherly affection for her creations, her superficial see-through veneer that did little to conceal the gaping emptiness within, or her searing radiance that destroyed everything -

Like in the tale of the crafty chiseler who fell in love with the statue of his own making, she had to hold out for the futile hope that maybe one day, a real goddess of love would bring her cold granite-flesh to life, but alas, no blue fairy came down from the skies to turn her into a real person.

 

VII. Plague (Hail The Cursed Paint)

 

Then came a day on which Blue Diamond was markedly not absent from the planning meeting, and so used were Yellow Diamond and the war council to her absence that they responded to the sight of her enormous looming outline as if they had seen a ghost.

She appeared out of the darkness of the large hall, (to her, a simple corridor) like a plume made of midnight blue darkness, her long skirts and cloak trailing close to the ground like an enveloping curse only to rise into the inverse teardrop of her hooded, wrapped up silhouette, all the more indistinct for all its dark colors.

The only things to stand out in the dark was the deep lustrous glimmer of her gem, and the pale strands of stringy hair that could be glimpsed beyond her hood.

She moved through the room like an oppressive shadow, and even the bravest and hardiest of the onlookers found their light and vigor diminished as she passed them and unfolded with relief when she chose to settle in a corner, only pausing briefly to summon her crystal throne and retreat into one of its corners, drawing the folds of her veil closely around her – and yet, her presence lay heavy on all of the room.

Tiny by comparison, her Pearl had followed behind her and arranged herself decoratively next to her seat, taking care to take a reputable distance from the trail of her master’s dress which spilled over the ground like a lazy puddle beyond her feet.

She had made herself a scarce sight in those days, but to comment on it outright would have been a definite breach of propriety which no one was eager to risk.

Yellow Diamond alone might have been afforded the privilege of staring, and not for long would she allow her worn features to betray the contents of her mind.

If she had, it should have been plain that she was the most surprised of all.

She had met with her earlier that day, it must be said, her companion of untold ages, and thinking back now, she couldn’t recall the slightest indication that she had been doing any better.

She’d left Blue staring out at the crumbled, washed-out remains the dead woods, unchanged though the view was not. But if her whims and moods had led her to seclude herself from all sights, why should the same whims not propel her into motion? She was beginning to have about her the look of someone so used to enduring pain that she no longer hesitated to push herself on through it; It had become her new normal, the best she could hope to attain – though Yellow Diamond would not have been sufficiently familiar with the concept of an old crone to think of that comparison.

 

Even bent and slouching, the veiled lady was a fey and terrible creature, and even her pain seemed to take so much room and importance that it left none for anyone else, even when she was not particularly focused on taking it up.

In an icy voice, she inquired after the latest developments of the war.

None but Y73 had in in them to respond, since the only going-ons that she really perceived or gave much heed to were those inside her mind, and one couldn’t have said that Blue Diamond was all to impressed with her dry narration full of technical detail, showing signs of animation only when she turned to rave about purely theoretical questions, but eventually, the great ruler got the gist of it, summarized it in her own weighty words and a grasping motion of her long, thin fingers, a holistic, intuitive sort of understanding underpinned by a single guiding image rather than intricate branches of words and formulas.

Leave it to her then to call forth evil spirits -

But not with a host of technicians and deep machine-vaults.

Almost immediately, she commanded the Peridot to be silent, and beckoned her foremost Turquoise to her, and the Sapphire, for good measure.

But set to work they did.

Far from the underground complexes of the desert laboratory, she set her signs on the arches and towers of an arcane acropolis that was built in the early days, when the earth was but a remote outpost not yet marked for colonization; It was indeed just a millennium or so after the first explorer-ships had landed – It was covered from the spire-tops to the foundations in all the old sigils, and in it were piles of folios, codices and artifacts that were older still, predating even what had been known as Era I.

By now, it’s slender columns had themselves become remnants of the splendor of bygone ages, wistfully looked upon like a hidden elf village in the woods.

Other Turquoises had worked there many years ago.

It had been ruined and abandoned for centuries then, but had the colony been completed, it would have come to be a mage-forge, a place of knowledge and power.

It had been built in an auspicious place, not something as vague or imprecise as a ‘crossing of ley lines’, but battered as it was, the architecture of the facility was designed to bundle and enhance the amenities of its location, and there were wards in place to serve as a kind of isolation for rituals of great power – and in the middle of the war, homeworld’s forces could not hope to scout out or create a better site to carry out their plans.

When Turquoise and her subordinates walked in, they did not bother to put the scattered contents of the towers’ many shelves back in their places. Apart from a few basic tests to ensure that that which the conditions that had come for was still in place, the ruin was left as a ruin, and ruined further still, uncaringly reshaped from what was once a place of beauty meant to last untold ages and serve many purposes, to a cannibalized heap of spare-parts for a single purpose.

Elegant Stone walls were quarried for their rock and precious marble, and intricate circles of hermetic symbols began to cover everything, emanating in some strict, important pattern from the very particular circular room that had been chosen as the primary site for the rituals.

No one but a handful of blue court elites really knew the rhymes or reasons behind every single glyph, or how the glistering symbols were connected with whatever real physical effects were trying to evoke, but before long, there would always be a small guard of Turquoises minding the central conjuration circle – The foremost among them, however, busied herself with the raw material that she meant to use, retreating behind a forest of alchemical instruments and contraptions in one of the highest remaining towers.

The exact process was without doubt very complicated and extremely delicate – there were strict orders that neither she nor her subordinates should be interrupted while they worked and most certainly not startled out of the trances that they would descend in for what, at least for observers of any younger civilizations, would have been indistinguishable from spell-casting, for fear of volatile reactions -

But still, the gist of it was this: In went processed shards from the desert laboratory, and out came amphorae of thick paint of unnatural brightness.

From this alone one could deduce that somewhere along the way, the reanimated shards must have been ground into fine dust, undead as they were, and then, the dust had come to serve as a pigment, mixed with some sort of solvent or emulgator, probably no preservatives but possibly something to fixate the colors into the paint, though there was little way for an outsider to guess what special magical measures might have been called for by the unholy nature of the pigment.

The paints were eerie to look upon even in their pots, the neon shades too bright, as if some subtle, uncanny light still inhabited them:

Dead and extinguished they had been, but once called back, the wandering lost souls would never rest again, not even with their vessels ground up into morsels, not while they retained even the slightest whisp of energy. Not much remained in each of the near-microscopic specks that colored the paste-like material, but the process to procure it from exposure to light was so basic and so fundamental to the living crystals’ finer structures that it persisted even now, much like for an organic creature, the mechanism of cell division was so ancient and ingrained that it would keep going even if a cell were too damaged to maintain its allotted function.

After a handful of ugly mishaps, the servants of the mage gems learned to keep the pots in the darkness and to open them only as briefly as possible whenever that became strictly necessary, lest what lies within be excited all too prematurely:

Something like a purified distillation of ill-will, a drought that exuded wispy fumes of the fathomless and unbearable, black in its nature though not in its color.

But its time would surely come, and so would be the additional energy to replenish and awaken the unquiet remainders of its own.

None of the mixture left the Arcane Acropolis in its original state; Instead, the elites of the ruined library would have it brought into the round hall so that they may refine it further, to ensure that the particles of shattered lives were truly bonded to the paint so that the dark presence inside it would not fade with time – it was, in effect, a curse: Eternal torment refined.

If such a thing like a demon or an evil spirit had not existed before, it did now.

And it had been deliberately made to exist.

 

However, the deed was not wholly done with this: The result needed to be activated and primed, like a bloodhound must be shown the scent it was due to chase.

In practice, this required a considerable psionic imprint, a stronger mind that would pull at the remnants of being inside the cursed paint, overwhelm any remaining flickers of consciousness with its own thoughts and impress new direction and purpose onto those faint glimmers, in brief, to fashion the restless dead souls that had been preserved in the parchment into a loaded, weapon.

 

Blue Diamond primed the first dozen prototypes herself, but the thought to labor away in what was, in pragmatic terms, ultimately a refinery full of volatile materials, did not even cross her thought.

As soon as a proof of concept had been established, she ordered for more of them to be made, and clapped her hands together, thereby indicating to her Pearl that her Palanquin was to be fetched.

This left the task of mass-producing the evil symbols to the only gem on Earth (besides the Diamonds) who possessed sufficient psychic power: White Diamond’s Magnesite. She obeyed without a thought, right as protocol demanded. If she had any objections to the task, she kept them to herself – if anything she rather seemed to see its serious importance and, if at all, spoke largely about vanquishing the rebels.

 

Like clockwork, she completed an astonishingly regular quantity per day. Every seven days, she would pause for a few hours and sink herself into profound meditation in order to better regain her strength.

 

 

The parchment scrolls were dropped over the forests like leaflets at wartime, but instead of counterarguments to the rebel cause, they contained death.

The patters were mesmerizing, drawing all attention as if with a subtle, beckoning call, and even looking at one for too long could leave you with a splitting gem-ache, if you were among the target objects of its artificial ire; Even being near one, you might run the risk of being kept awake by diffuse whispers which, if you somehow defied them by managing a moment’s rest, would surely worm their way into your dreams, and near it, all fortunes would seem to twist themselves toward dark outcomes.

Anything bearing the image of one would become a conduit to its long, destructive arms through various subtle electromagnetic entanglements, but it was the physical paint itself that was the most dangerous, for in it resided a shadowy presence that would take over anything it could find if it were given the chance, taking on the power and immunity of whatever it happened to possess – It was everything the twitching shards and shambling drones had been, but honed to a cruel perfection; Every single one like the great beast of hollow trees and rotten leaves that had brought the earlier experiments to a halt, and much more precise in their aim.

Anything that could have rebelled against their masters, any remaining semblance of life and individuality had been stamped out; There was only rage itself, responding to their master’s call like an inductive current.

Hundreds of thousands were dispersed over the treetops, each of them a vicious threat all on their own.

Here at last was a threat which the rebels could not bring down with one decisive strike – much like landmines, they would remain a persistent threat through the latter years of the war, and even in the years long after the last remaining crystal gems would spend ages picking them out of the mucks.

Many a story about goblins or the living dead might have been sparked by some ancient human’s encounter with the last of the stragglers.

Each one was a trap that could spring at any moment, roused from its dormancy by the nearby presence of living light, often resulting in ugly surprises when the rebels had only just thought themselves safe after a narrow escape- a treacherous attrition tactic that whittled away at their forces from unexpected directions…

And they were freakishly hard to destroy. There was nothing left to break in the shades that sprung from the parchments, and they often contaminated what they touched, dead forest creatures included. There was nothing to poof, either. It was like fighting a hollow void, or at most, fine air. Even conventional bubbles could not hold them safely.

At last, even Rose Quartz was left with no recourse but to burn them one by one.

Containing them, besides being impossible, would have been far too dangerous; In order to protect what still remained of the Earth and her friends, she had no choice but to kill it with fire.

Not that there would have been much left to spare. Sometimes, the others almost managed to convince her that it was basically like pulling the plug on a patient whose brain was not only dead but pretty much physically leaking out of their skull, though Pearl was almost the most horrified of all – and Garnet, for her part, saved her anger for the loyalist commanders.

In the latter days of the war, the steady yet unpredictable confrontations with stray parchments were a frequent, grim reminder of the grisly fates that would await them if they should fall into enemy hands; More than once, Rose and her company were caught in a dire spot and she would have to talk down some desperate recruit who was considering to shatter herself thoroughly before the legions of hmeworld got to them. Along with Garnet and Pearl, she led most of them safely back to base, but not always all of them, and on such occasions, their eyes would unbidden go to the flocks of bubbles filling their hideouts, the desecrated shards that were, to the best of their knowledge, every bit as lost.

After the war, they would inexorably force them to contend with the possibility that they could do nothing more for any of their comrades, that, by keeping them restrained, they were only postponing the inevitable – they could certainly interrupt the course of their suffering, but if they would never regain consciousness again, if their thoughts never ever progressed beyond the moment they had been placed in those bubbles, it was the same as being shattered.

 

There was nothing they could do – the damage was done, and rained down upon the woods, fields and deserts like seeds of apocalypse.

Sure, they might venture a shot at taking down the facility where they were being produced, but that would do precious little to round out the many parchments that were scattered to the winds, essentially sinister mines or forgotten warheads that would sleep in the depths and forgotten corners for many years to come, and quite possibly for untold ages unless something or someone were unfortunate enough to disturb them by chance.

Of course it could be assumed that the elements would eventually corrode them, but wether that would do away with the undead gem dust inside them or merely disperse it into more insidious shapes was yet to be determined. Eventually, at least a lack of exposure to light would surely extinguish them, or at least, render them as quiescent as they would be in a bubble, hopefully to disappear in the ground forever and not to be preserved as a ticking timebomb until they were touched by the strange daylight of distant ages, but since their just-barely-life likely required a much sparser supply of energy than a living sparkling gem it may take a long time indeed for any such dormancy to set in – just think of all the processes of life that were no longer taking up energy, no thinking, no projecting a form, no moving, unless there was something nearby for them to attack, insatiable hunger drove them forward, a primitive craving for light and crystal, though it could not ever have made them whole, not even if these only vaguely amalgams were to somehow find their old pieces.

The first time the Crystal Gems would witness a zombie movie, they would not especially enjoy it, save for Amethyst, who would still take decades to find out what exactly had set the others so on edge.

 

But that day was yet to come, and as it stood, the rebels wondered if they should ever see the future at all.

Taking out the place where the parchments were manufactures would only mean so much in the great scheme of things; The worst of it was done, all they could hope to win was some measure of respite, a few meager months of time in which homeworld’s supply lines would be somewhat knocked back, a transient blink of an eye really, until the loyalists either set up a second facility somewhere else or produced their next devilish invention.

As far as victories went, even the best they could hope for would be transient, sour and phyrric, but that did not mean that homeworld wasn’t resolved to make them earn their throne of rubble, and pay for it dearly, too – There was no ending to the price that their former masters would exact for the unspeakable crime of wanting to choose their own fates. And yes, to prevent even just a few more gems from that grisly fate should have been reward enough, it was reason enough – but what a prize, what a triumph, just to make sure that their fallen comrades stay dead.

 

But not even the most definite, cathartic triumph, or the most poetic justice visited upon everyone involved would have meant anything; None of it would undo what had been done to the gems that had been ground up into pigment. They had life, but like energy that had dissipated into heat, it was meaningless in this form.

So Rose Quartz was forced to do what she had always avoided on the pain of death, even in the most hopeless, gnarled cases, precisely that which she had sacrificed everything to avoid:

When they took the refinery, she had the whole facility’s worth of paint destroyed.

 

 

 

(

 

“I got a communique from White!” Yellow announced one day, as she marched into the room and threw herself onto the couch, swinging one leg over the other.

The room seemed larger now, with all the jungle burnt away – what was once a cozy, enclosed clearing now admitted the light from all directions, like a stage marked by spotlights.

The play, meanwhile, progressed to its next act:

“Ah, did she?” Blue asked weakly, her voice distant, her form a huddled mass covered in her gowns and cloak, leaning on the couch with her back, against it but not on it.

This passed for one of her better days by now; She had brought some of the battle plans with her, her underlings’ designs were beside her in a neat stack. They were conferring with each other, with some distant resemblance to how things used to be.

“What did she say?”

“She’s asking what’s taking so long. I think she’s getting impatient.”

“Do you think she’s mad what we’ve used her Magnesite without asking her?”

Then, a sudden motion.

A forward start, a shifting of her weight.

“Yellow, look!”

The large Amber gem did not immediately catch what her companion meant, not even after she had raised her arm to point.

Whatever it was did not jump out at her sight right away, and so she grew irritated with it before she even knew what it was.

She caught it eventually though:

A tiny sprout of fresh green, springing forth between beams of petrified wood.

It was an impossibly small thing, too tiny for a being of their size to properly touch -

Yet words could not describe the mountain-sized feelings that went through their shapes when the two of them saw it.

It was a feeble transient thing, perhaps soon due to be poisoned by the hostile environment it had arisen from, but none of that seemed to matter.

It wasn’t even about this little plant, per se; It’s leaves, still light in their green and half rolled-up, were merely the last drop before the barel spilled over, and at the same time a stand in for so many things...

As soon as she spotted it, Yellow Diamond averted her eyes.

Contrary to what one might believe, she did not go to stomp it out, or snap her fingers to smite it with her lightning – What would be the point?

More of them were soon to follow.

)

 

As far as the ordinary, non-fused shard experiments went, neither Rose Quartz nor anyone else would ever find the means to reverse the arrow of time upon them, for all that she would later attempt to treat them with modified bubbles.

But in her labors, she would take note of how the drone soldiers with their imperfect bodies of light, and even the nigh-immaterial paint-shades had been able to control, meld with and even assimilate assorted material – even organic matter, to even innervate it with their light circuits like their own body.

Perhaps, she mused, it might be proof that gems and organics were not so opposite or incompatible after all, that maybe they could coexist -

They would have to hope so, for they were now alone on this strange world.

Pearl of course reminded her that this was only possible because the fragments were so broken down, because they’d lost any sort of identity; Their sense of self as it once was was thoroughly overwritten, along with any means of telling what was part of them, and what was not.

Garnet instead remarked, thoughtfully as well as grimly, that Rose alone would be able to find any sort of silver lining in those horrors.

And perhaps she was actually good at finding them, but for the most part, she was seeking them out of desperation.

 

VIII. Plague (Locusts The Hourglass of Time)

 

“But what if it is possible?”

“We don’t know that, Blue. That research was abandoned ages ago, long before our time even. White thought it was too dangerous.”

“White never had a reason to pursue it beyond that point, at least not back then…

But what if it were possible, Yellow?” and her eyes shone with a strange light, her voice had a strange tone too it, too warm, too consumed with a happiness that she couldn’t believe, though no smile could have looked quite right anymore on the worn lines of her face.

Yellow knew that she ought to know better and tell her so, get her feet back on the ground, remind her of what was reality and what was now unattainable, but could she do so with right? Had she not been tempted by the same impossible dream, whose voice still sang in the back of her mind even now, after her own methods had proven unsuitable?

She was supposed to be the reasonable one, it was a burden she had always assumed, for there was little else for her to be. But there was also a part of her that was willing to be lulled into the thought that, if anyone could do it, it would have been Blue.

“But what if it were possible?” her voice said, long since seduced by the mere imagination. “If we could see her again… If we could make it so that none of this rebellion ever happened...”

“There’s no telling what will happen,” Yellow resisted, though she knew somewhere that the fight was long lost. “If Pink’s shattering never happens, then why did we go back? Why did we even create the timeglass in the first place? We could cancel out our entire timeline, including you and I. We’d just be gone, like we never existed… Everything would be. Everything that we’re supposed to be responsible for-”

“And in its place would be a new world, a different one, a world with Pink in it. There’d be a different you, and a different me, and she would be with them...”

“And we’d be none the wiser… How do we know that we haven’t tried to do it already, and failed too many times to count? It’s not just a matter of magic Blue, it’s physics. If White finds out...”

“Let her. She should be all for it, and if she isn’t then I don’t care. I don’t care what the consequences are. I don’t care what happens to me, or anyone else, because if this is reality, then I don’t want it.

“You know this is madness, Blue?”

“Not at all.” She looked into her companion’s eyes with a strange, fierce look of determination, “It’s the first clear thought I had since I’ve been lost in this haze… since Pink was taken from us.”

Yellow Diamond was wholly against it. She didn’t like it one bit. Everything inside of her was in revolt, all her reason screamed and how irresponsible an act that would be.

If anyone else had come to her with such an inane proposal, she would hear nothing of it; But as it would appear, this is where her reason ended, and though age-old crusts of warnings swarmed about her mind in White Diamond’s voice, cutting sharper now that the evidence of their truth was before her, for Blue, she would do anything, even if it meant to close the door on the confines of sanity behind her.

 

But if Yellow Diamond were to allow such a dangerous thing to exist in this world, then she would not dare to neglect taking ample precautions, and so, elaborate plans were drawn up to keep the mad dream that they sought out of enemy hands.

 

Thus began the construction of an impregnable facility at the ocean floor, as painstakingly prepared as the arcane procedures that would take place within.

It would only be accessed every 100 years and it was set up so that any false move would leave everyone inside to the crushing pressure of the waters above.

 

But no chain was stronger than its weakest link.

Since they could not avoid the slightest hint of sloppiness, Blue and Yellow Diamond had pushed aside their pride and assigned any necessary supply runs to a trio of gems that could be relied upon to conduct them with unparalleled clinical precision: Grey Agate, Magnesite and Anthracite.

If news of what they were doing made it back to White Diamond, she did not care to object – perhaps she had already foreseen that their endeavors would not amount to much.

Magnesite was to remain down there at all times, as her skills were of great use to the experiments there, and her prowess unparalleled.

This, however, wasn’t common knowledge, not in the least because Anthracite and Grey Agate had been tasked with the security themselves – they would personally manage the supply ship that visited the secret time travel laboratory every one-hundred years.

But no chain is stronger than its weakest link.

As it befits a gem of high status in her Diamond’s good graces, Grey Agate owned a Pearl. In fact, she’d owed quite a bunch of them over the years, as she was wont to replace them every few thousand years to keep up with the changed fashions, the way a human teenager at the cusp of the 21st century might have sought to procure a new smartphone every couple of years.

But there was an important difference between pearls and smartphones: The latter don’t ever fear for their lives.

When the small servant gem turned up at the doorstep of a rebel base, she still believed the crystal gems to be a horde of traitorous deviants, and fully expected to be forced into some bizzare fusion-orgy as an initiation rite – but she didn’t fear it as much as she did the prospect of being harvested and replaced, so in exchange for her measly little life, she offered up every bit of classified knowledge at the feet of the terrifying renegade who had inspired her flight.

 

 

As the water rushed in all around them, the homeworld Sapphire stood perfectly still.

“How could this happen!” Turquoise snapped, all poise and superiority gone in the face of death. Instead, the witch-gem screeched with indignity like an angry bird of prey: “Didn’t you see it coming?!”

“I did.”

“Then why didn’t you say anything!”

“I saw that it wouldn’t have changed anything.”

“...you…how could you just - how can you just stand there, we need to escape!”

“There will be no escape. You and I will be shattered here. We were always going to be shattered here, right from the moment we emerged. I have known this as long, long time now.”

“And we’re just supposed to accept this?!”

“I’m sorry, Turquoise B89. Of all the futures I foresaw, this one is the least bad…. Whether the timeglass had been used by friend or foe, the result would have been a calamity that neither of us would have wanted… nor even the rebels. Like this, it will become lost to time for thousands of years, until some strange creature will come across it in some distant age...”

“But… we’re elites of the homeworld…!” Turquoise stammered in disbelief. The long, indefinite future she had always expected to have closed itself up before her mind’s eyes. She had always fancied herself wise, for like this Sapphire, she had existed so that others may turn to her for her wisdom, and lower-ranked gems had often praised its wisdom by default. But now that she herself needed a solution for her questions, she realized that she had only ever been consulted for a narrow range of subjects; Her own query was wholly beyond her experience and all she could find to cling-to were the flat, general phrases she had been told so often:

“We’re supposed to be important… we’re meant to be special… Do you honestly mean to tell me that we were always coming here? That not a single decision we have taken in our lives mattered at all?!”

“Precisely. That is correct. How could they possibly matter? Our paths were set up for us from the moments we emerged, our decisions informed by our purpose. On every crossroads, we must choose that which most benefits the order of the empire, and taking any other choice would have meant to deviate from that, to become like these rebels. So there was never really any choice at all. Our purpose was always preordained.”

Turquiose had heard this too many to count, but now, just as her service neared its end, she found herself questioning if she ever truly understood it. She thought of Magnesite, how her ever-stoic face had split open into a wide leer of Euphoria just before her gem was broken upon the gauntlets of the rebel fusion who had predicted her moves faster than Magnesite herself could read her mind, gleeful in the knowledge that she would be dying in White Diamond’s service.

Any other opponent would have been helplessly lost opposite her telepathy, but this entirely new being whom their makers had never anticipated proved able to match her every blow…

Turqoise herself had called forth all manner of magic to oppose her foes, enchanted lighting, piercing ice and sacred blue flame, and her alchemic touched had reduced her foes’ light bodies wherever she had grabbed hold of them – Had she scored a hit on either of their gems, their lives would have been forfeit, but all she had accomplished with this was to draw the attention of Rose Quartz herself, whom she could never have hoped to defeat.

The mage gem knew that she should have nothing to regret – if Saphire was right, then they had done all that they could for the empire. Victory was simply not possible – they were heroes, martyrs, model citizens.

But Turquoise couldn’t find it in herself to rejoice. She could not, would not accept it.

She howled in impotent rage, as the small Sapphire beside her calmly awaited oblivion.

 

 

Sapphire’s prediction of doom made no mention of Tanzanite because she was not included among the ranks of those marked for doom.

For as far as the little mystic had been able to look, Tanzanite would live.

Perhaps it was sheer luck, or simply because she was a gem meant for battle, but somehow, she escaped the imploding facility intact, so that her gem was washed onto the shores of a small nowhere-island, and under the beckoning warm light of the tropical sun, she soon came to and reformed, alighting yet again under this unfamiliar sky.

But her fate was as sealed as that of the others who were no longer around to change theirs – with the facility lost, and her defeat at the hands of a mere Pearl, there was no way that Tanzanite could ever have shown her gem to the Diamonds ever again, not unless she returned with the rebel leader’s shards in hand.

That clarity didn’t fill her with fear, only grim acceptance.

She would be hunting for Rose Quartz on the surface until the very end of the war.

 

But as she never reported back, she was, at last, counted among the dead. Turquoise, Sapphire, Magnesite, Gray Agate… Half of the war council, all wiped out in an instant.

Anthracite, however, did not die. She would survive the war, return home, and go on to serve in her role for many years to come, unpunished for any wrongdoing.

She lived because her poofed gem had remained behind on Grey Agate’s supply ship, which the rebels had later used to escape. They put her in a bubble and threw her into the shrubs with gusto once they surfaced from the bottom of the sea, leaving her to return to the loyalist forces in disgrace – but unlike Tanzanite, she was in no danger; no one would have expected the small administrator gem to fight, let alone win – she’d probably be in bigger trouble if she had fought.

But though this could have been marked down as a victory, the Crystal Gem’s faces were somber as they climbed out of the stole ship, Rose Quartz’ most of all.

“I couldn’t save them...” she mumbled, in what many in her forces would have taken to be an uncharacteristic moment of discomposure. “I tried to help, I tried to talk to them, to get them to come with us – but they wouldn’t listen...”

“You are more patient than most of us”, Garnet said sternly. “But not everyone deserves that patience. You gave them a choice, that means they choose to serve the Diamonds of their own free will.”

“But they were doing what they thought they were supposed to… just like all of us did, before we came to Earth. If we’d never come here… if we’d never met each other… That could have been us.”

Though her friends might have thought her to be some sort of unique anormally who had started it all, she had no delusions to the contrary.

 

(viii.)

 

“I'm sorry, Yellow.” Blue said one day, when Yellow least expected it, somewhere at the peak of a particularly bad week.

Yellow had been in the room for a good while at that point, quite immersed in her work, and far past harboring any hope of getting much conversation out of her fellow Diamond, so she couldn't say what might have brought this on, other than the simple, obvious conclusion that Blue must have felt like it needed saying.

Her voice broke the silence without warning, from the sunken dark crumpled heap that she had allowed herself to become, quiet and piteously faint, yet impossible to miss in the gaping worn silence that had made its home between them, a moment of painful, crystal-clear self-awareness amid the ever-mounting haze.

And down at this very same bottom, Yellow's response was no less sober, replying with the sort of boiled-out honesty one would expect to find at the end of all things: “What for?”

“Like you even need to ask...” Yellow could hear Blue's tearful anguished forced smile, though it was concealed from her view.

“I know that I haven't been much help lately… I tried, I really tried to make an effort, but I know that it’s not really enough to count in the end...”

Something about this simple acknowledgment hit Yellow in a way that further silence or hysterics could not have, deep inside where she hadn't known that there was anything left to break, but break it did, most imperceptibly and with nary a sound, and if Blue had not occupied her continued focus, who knows what she might have done.

It's as if her very consciousness rejected every single atom of this reality with enough force to catapult itself right out, if only there had been anywhere else to go, but there wasn't, not for her, she could not afford that luxury even as every part of her wanted only to turn and run.

And belatedly, she asked the same question that Blue had been asking for as long as Yellow had been running from it:

Just how did things end up like this?

How had the world they'd known and mastered turn into this waking hell?

But no matter how many times she turned it over in her mind, the only conclusion that the facts at hand allowed was that the fault was not in their stars, but in themselves.

Bent forward by the crushing heat of realization, its thundering tones replaying what was by now a familiar memory, even her elbows shook the table as they caught her enormous frame, and between gritted teeth, she pressed form the poisonous thought “It's me who should be apologizing...”

If she hadn't caved to Pink's demands, if she hadn't picked this particular planet, if only she'd done everything as White said-

For one endless moment, she thought herself unseen in this tract of her personal hell, until a voice broke into her awareness -

“Yellow, please come over here...”

It was Blue, of course, for who else could it have been, but there was a different quality to her voice at this moment, something almost like determination, when she insistently called for her fellow Diamond's presence – and though even that surge of will was not enough for her to pick herself off the ground, there was a ghost of her old, compelling presence, to which Yellow devoutly obliged, kneeling down beside her and supporting her against her own frame as she helped her into a sitting position, all the while knowing full well that nothing was stopping her from accomplishing that on her own – and yet, it was Blue who, quite deliberately, reached out a hand to cup her companion's face, making a point of looking her straight in her eyes, an afterimage of her old veneer of authority, not quite as sharply as her subjects would have felt it, but perhaps not unlike what Pink might have gotten to see when it was her turn to be scolded.

“Yellow, “ she began, wording it as firmly as she could manage, “When was the last time you stopped working, even for a moment?”

“What does it matter?” She retorted, first defensively but then averting her eyes, her guard pierced by Blue's expert fingertips, though they could not quench the understated rage she carried with her under the surface: “I have to make the rebels pay for what they did to Pink. Isn't that what you want? Won't that make you feel better?”

“I'd like nothing more than that.. but... please understand... I know that I must have strained your patience quite a bit... and maybe I haven't been able to be there for your as much as I should have... Since Pink has been gone, this just doesn't seem to be the same universe anymore. When she was taken from us, I think there was a part of me that followed her to wherever she has gone... And to be honest, I don't feel like that version of me is ever coming back...”

Yellow's face tensed up under her palm, as surely as if the pain Blue was describing were her own, devastated to hear what she had long since suspected –

However! However, none of that is your fault. There is nothing in this world that could possibly make this alright, even though I know how hard you've been trying to find such a thing... and that you've been doing it for all of us. You always did have a strong sense of duty...

But even you can't be responsible for everything.

I'm sorry for what I said that other time. It's not that you're not 'good enough' for me. It's just that there's nothing in this world that could possibly replace Pink. It’s impossible. It's not your fault that you can't do the impossible.

But please, please understand...”, she dared to say, she had the nerve to say, looking like she did, as this pale unkempt shade of the adamant queen she used to be, “You can't be replaced either, Yellow. Not to me. So please, look after yourself...

I... I couldn't possibly lose you as well-!”

And in that thought, they were united.

It was only through tens of thousands of years of practice that Yellow Diamond suppressed the urge to scream.

She was hard as a monument in Blue's arms, her body taut with tension, a coiled, electrified spring of static in a floppy willow-branch embrace, and thought some minutes passed, no part of her softened.

Blue held her as surely as she could, for as long as her momentum would propel her inert mass, but eventually, she slipped off in resignation.

Yellow did not even notice the languid motion of her hand half-reaching after her as she marched out the door at a deadened, mechanical pace, like some sort of statue or automaton – but once the door closed behind her, her steps very much quickened, until the smaller gems in their various little rooms would hear her thundering steps through the walls, making a beeline for her laboratory.

 

She was so angry that it hurt; She felt such hate that she didn't understand why it hadn't snapped her back in two by now; The rage should be blowing out of her temples; By all means, she ought to have choked on her own loathing a long, long time ago.

 

  1. Plague (Darkness The Cluster)

 

So here then would the seed of darkness at last bear its ugliest fruit.

For many years, Yellow Diamond tried so hard to keep herself untouched, to be the strong one when no one else would be, the very ideal of unbreakable Diamond, she alone unmarred in her unyielding adamant perfection;

But she would never be that and she should have known it all along.

She wasn’t untouched, she had never been untouchable, she knew she was a failure from the day she had emerged.

Scorned, unwanted, unloved-

White had often scolded her for her brash temper and her lingering sentimentality and on this day, she could no longer deny it.

Yes they got to her. The rebels got her and they damn well touched her.

They did to her that which she could not undo and took from her that which she could not replace.

Fine!

They were persistent, she had to grant them that, after all, they had their reasons for fighting; That beloved leader of theirs, and this lump of dirt.

They might not think so, but Yellow Diamond used to have something to fight for as well, through all her battles, something that had sustained her, the sole light in her endless bitter darkness.

And that light was broken on the soils of the earth now, it was gone from the extinguished shards of Pink, it had vanished from the hollowed eyes of Blue, it was locked away on homeworld behind the high walls of White’s chambers.

They got her, but they would not live to laugh about it!

She would get them too.

She would take whatever it was they cherished, for whatever mad reason, and she would make sure that they did not get away with it.

Rose Quartz was ever so fond of her henchgems, so preoccupied, always, with keeping them in peak condition, with preserving life, except for that one time that she wasn’t.

Fine! She should have life! She should have her fallen comrades; They should stay with her right here on earth, they should finally be made to do the work they were created for, whether they liked to or not. The Rebels liked fusing, right?

They should have fusion!

But whatever may become of this war, hopeless unwinnable or not, they should not have this accursed planet, oh no.

She would tell the Peridots – and herself, in her more temperate moments when she still needed to cling to her pride – that this was a blueprint for a novel type of geoweapon, but in her heart of hearts she no longer cared about ‘potential’ or ‘resources’;

She would not have suffered this planet to live for whole galaxies’ worth of resources; Most of all, she would not suffer Rose Quartz to keep it, and rather than let her keep it, she would rather that no one could have it.

If she could not take it by force, if her quartzes and topazes could not win it, then it must die!

It must break, and burst, and all on it must wither, the rebels, Rose Quartz, the organics, flung out into the vacuum like trapped frozen rag dolls, burst apart like little sticks, once they thought themselves safe, even when no one left alive would even know what was happening until the ground came apart beneath them.

Perhaps she couldn’t win.

But neither would anybody else.

 

 

(Rose Quartz would never find out.

She never knew that the stalemate that had cost her so dearly was but a temporary respite, though she had bought it so dearly at the price of everything she ever had, and anything she ever hoped for.

When she disappeared from this world, it was because she had accepted that she had tried her best and done her penance, and that this was as far as it would go.

Though she wouldn’t say it, she had no more hope that her fallen comrades could be saved – and neither did she suspect that she was abandoning her comrades at the cusp of a new disaster. )

 

(ix.)

 

But the bottom line is that thermodynamics knows no mercy.

The universe would not excuse a perpentuum mobile, not even for the luminous majesty that was Yellow Diamond.

Her titles meant nothing to the merciless particles that made up her body, not enough to even make them flinch when they at last stopped her in her tracks.

Her endurance and power far exceeded that of any ordinary gem, let alone an organic being, but that did not mean that they were without end – her capabilities were vast, and, had she been pushed into a life-or-death situation, she might even have been able to continue on her feet for much longer, but in the quiet, lightless dark of her personal laboratory, those very same instincts of survival would have pulled her in a very different direction.

When she was, at last, forced to lie down, she had long since forfeited the luxury of picking the time and place. She was long past the point where the exhaustion was indistinguishable from pain, having passed it years, if not decades in the past.

She shook the contraptions on her workbench when she just barely managed to hang onto it with her gloved hands, and at that point, the only choice she had left was to set her weight down on its surface and put her face with the foul things she was wont to keep there, unless she would prefer the floor.

At this point, she'd spent ages tired enough that she sometimes saw the world spinning before her eyes, having only endured so long by keeping herself in state of constant activity.

Sometimes she felt like everyone had scorned and abandoned her.

Sometimes she felt like she might break apart from the force of her own feelings.

And then sometimes, she found herself resenting everything she was so desperately trying to protect.

Now at last, she could finally take no more.

Oh how her fault lines ached!

She was sure she could feel every single light circuit in her physical form – everything burned, and all the pain she had pushed to the edge of her perception washed over her like a tidal wave as she was force to lie here and take it, one hand massaging the bridge of her nose, another placed over her gemstone, which, beneath her fingers, had come to be ever so slightly warm to the touch – the universal telltale sign that one form of energy was being converted to another, and a reminder of the inefficient imperfection of almost all earthly things, and she found herself considering how any known material in the universe would eventually collapse into a black hole if only you applied enough pressure. Her thoughts went in strange directions, for at this point, they were almost dreams, or nightmares perhaps – Even black holes were not immune to dissipating into capricious, bothersome heat, nothing but the spread of chaos across the boundaries of all order, and for one horrible moment of awareness, it occurred to her that all her labors might have been futile.

This war had been raging on for over one-thousand years, and it had proven very, very costly, sapping troops and resources which they would otherwise have invested in conquering further worlds – they had fallen behind the curve, stumbled in their once unrelenting pace, and abstained from greater acquisitions to avoid a two-front war, and as a result, they were now faced with one of the direst resource shortages in the history of the empire.

Perhaps these hapless calamities had only exposed the precarious equilibrium that had been sustaining their civilization all along. If this kept up, they might be driven to the brink within the next ten-thousand years even if they were to redouble their efforts to grow new soldiers, but they'd need fertile soils just to replace the ones they'd lost in what had long since become a war of attrition.

Yellow was doing all that she could to hold this empire together, even if it meant that she had to maintain its vast, spanning territories it all by herself, but through she tried her best to erase that thought from consciousness so that she might continue working, deep down she knew that she had failed in her purpose.

Slowly but surely, she could feel the weight of the world slipping from her grasp -

So for the first time since the shattering of Pink Diamond, almost a millennium removed from that fateful day, Yellow Diamond cried entirely of her own accord, yes, 'cried', not 'wept' or 'shed tears' or any other pretty word suggestive of something solemn or dignified, for it was an ugly, piteous spectacle of various messy fluids, and the most wretched, ghastly sound with all the beauty of a freshly swatted fly.

On and on she whined, blubbered, sniveled, and moaned, from grief, from pain, from misery, from a lifetime of scorn and neglect and guilt as weighty as neutron star matter, or just from sheer, pitiful exhaustion, eons' worth of calcified emotional filth bursting forth at long last, like pus from a festering blister, thoroughly bemoaning her cursed and baleful fate.

 

Yellow Diamond was defeated.

Rose Quartz had defeated her, in every single way that a gem could defeat another.

All and for once, she had proven to posterity which of them was stronger.

Perhaps, her victory had been certain from the very moment that she had dared to strike at the very heart of the Diamond Authority.

 

(x.)

 

As soon as they saw White Diamond's head ship, Yellow and Blue knew exactly what it meant.

Her patience had ran out.

 

__________________

A/N:

The crux of this arc was always going to be the contrast between YD's and BD's “Day Jobs” as Evil Overlords and their “Everyday lives” and the interconnected escalation in both. That's kind of where the meat is really at with these characters.

Maybe at this point it's also more apparent why I decided to put the intermission where it is, to sort of establish the mental space that WD is at during the chapters she's not directly participating in.

 

 

Chapter Text

Part IV: Absorption (Act VI: “The Flood”)

 

"I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the ground, man and beast and creeping things and birds of the air for I am sorry that I have made them. I will send rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground. And after seven days the waters of the flood came upon the earth. On that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights. The ark floated on the face of the waters, and all flesh died that moved upon the earth. Birds, cattle, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm upon the earth, and every man. Only Noah was left, and those that were with him in the ark. Then he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground. Then he waited another seven days, and sent forth the dove, and she did not return to him any more."

Where did the bird land? Or maybe it weakened and was swallowed by the waters, no one could know. So the people waited for her return, and waited and grew tired of waiting. They forgot they had released the bird, even forgot there was a bird and a world sunken under water. They forgot where they had come from, how long they had been there, and where they were going so long ago that the animals have turned to stone. The bird I saw, I can't even remember where or when, it was so long ago. Perhaps it was a dream. Maybe you and I and the fish exist only in the memory of a person who is gone. Maybe no one really exists and it is only raining outside. Maybe the bird never existed at all.“

-From Mamoru Oshii's 'Angel's egg'. (Itself quoting some pretty famous book, or so I'm told)

...

 

She who hath made them could also unmake them.

 

And though she smiled and minded all the expected pleasantries as she greeted her offshoots, as if she were merely paying them a routine visit to survey the war effort, they could not forget that for an instant; She was only here because their thousand-year efforts had been deemed a failure.

But here she was: The August Star of Heaven, the brightest and fairest of them all, terrifying, sublime and blindingly scintillant.

For ages, the gems that crossed her path would claim that they had seen her, and for the remainder of what would come to be known as Era II, they would scarcely be believed.

This would be one of her last public appearances, and never again would she leave the homeworld, or even the confines of her own palace.

That alone ensured that this moment would pass into legend. Tales would be spun of the incomparable might with which she would smite her prodigal children, and of the unparalleled splendor that had been lost to the world when she turned her back on them in disgust, whispered prophecies that she might perhaps return if only they could prove themselves worthy once again by fulfilling their roles to perfection -

Thousands of years later, loyal veteran gems would had only seen her this one time would speak of her in tones of ecstatic rapture, the crescendo of their voices spurned on by equal parts of terror and adulation, expounding upon her perfection as they lamented her continued absence from their midst until their passionate exaltations faded into cantankerous gripes about how the younger gems would never understand – And to beings such as simple Rubies, one supposed that she could only have looked lordly and august...

But there was something else to be said there, something that only Yellow and Blue could have noticed, simply because they had known her longer and better than anyone else present, though even they would not have known how to parse it, or even how to put it into words.

They only knew that something seemed different about her, just enough to put them on edge more than she usually did – At first, Blue and Yellow had each privately wondered if that impression was merely a trick of their own frayed circuits, considering that perhaps, she was exactly the same, it was only they who had gone to pieces.

While they had only just so managed to render themselves presentable before their arrival, knowing that she might see through them anyways, her acrid perfection seemed, if anything, more glaring than ever, as if her hairdo and attire had never been so carefully arranged and her words never so prepared.

Her voice was unchanged in its uncomfortably warm, honeyed tone, her face so much more blithe and expressive than either of their own, her gestures vivid and animated in a way that reminded them rather painfully of Pink, but none of it reached her eyes.

All that one could discern from those silver irises was a profound sense of apathy, as if the whole wide universe along with this disastrous war that had claimed one of their own and come at a devastating cost to their empire were nothing more than a stage play she had lost interest in halfway through once things did not keep going the way she had expected them to.

The war, their subjects, even their own plights or the planet below – none of it truly seemed to hold her attention.

They began to suspect that she must be harboring an exceedingly foul mood beneath her pleasant exterior, disgruntled and bored without compare, though it had been said that boredom was nothing more than the lightest form of disgust and other cold, contemptuous kinds of reactions that one might find surprisingly divorced for the more involved, heated nature of anger.

They'd never seen her like this, not once in all of their years – and with every passing second, they began to dread the moment when they would be left alone with her – but for all the same reasons, they knew better than to try and delay it.

 

It never occurred to them to worry about her, or to outright come out and ask her what was on her mind – not anymore, not when they stood right before her, submerged in their fear of her arctic glow.

At last, the three of them would find themselves alone on one of the orbital observation decks – Blue's and Yellow's Pearls had gone to fetch something, or someone; In the aftermath, none of them would really remember.

The large window behind them revealed the curvature of the planet below.

The portals closed behind them, and it did not take much longer for White Diamond to drop all pretense of pleasantness. The warmth drained from her petite, symmetrical features, leaving behind what had been lurking in the background the whole time.

Her cloud-gray irises did not change a bit; She was left with an expression that was almost aggressively blasé, so much as to appear fastidious, but there was also a subtle hectic quality to her somehow, in a way that there hadn't been before, or, at the very least, nor in such an apparent manner.

She had her arms crossed, tapping one clawed finger against her arm as she waited for the Pearls' steps to fade into the distance, looking down at Yellow and Blue between her narrowed sable lashes in the expectation that they would take their allotted places to her satisfaction.

Then, when she figured that things would not get much better, she began speaking, glancing past them to eye the planet below with disdain, or perhaps, to fixate some particular point on its surface.
“So, how much longer shall we allow this little nonsense to continue?”

'This little nonsense' had been their life for the last thousand years, and it had been Pink's for a good while before that – it had left her shattered and two of them devastated – and here stood White, regarding it like a minuscule blip in her incomprehensibly long lifespan, which they supposed it was, but that did not keep her words from stinging, especially when the implication of their insufficiency was clear.

They had both despaired over the truculence and resourcefulness of the rebels whom they hated like the plague and could not suffer to live, but how dare they 'allow' the 'little nonsense' to 'continue'.

But Yellow supposed that they had no right to defend themselves, not when they had clearly failed at every step of the way, not when they stood here, silhouetted by that miserable planets' enduring cyan glow as the ultimate proof of their inability to carry out her orders.

All they could have felt was shame, but that should have been an old familiar sting by now. Better to get it over with.

“Perhaps now that you're here, we can launch a new offensive...” Yellow began, already in the process of switching to planning mode and expounding upon the current situation while pacing around with her arms behind her back, when White both stopped and silenced her with a gesture of her right arm.

“What for? There's no reason for either of us to crawling around down there to chase them all into their hiding-holes. Let's just blast them from orbit.”

White seemed rather listless about the whole thing; A detached, impersonal choice, or at most a lackadaisical whim – unlike her offspring, she had no interest in drawing out the rebel's suffering or crushing them with the excessive force of her own two hands - She cared nothing for the rebels' suffering or lack thereof, she merely wanted them gone, like ants under the soles of her feet, so she was content to wipe them out from up high as long as she would be making an example of them to ensure that all possible versions of this tale would end with a draconian display of her might, lest they forget the inevitable consequences of defying Her Who Had Made Them.

 

Her mind was made up, which meant that there would be absolutely no point to any further discussion – so, the ever loyal and action-oriented Yellow Diamond moved right to implementing the plan. “As you command. I'll go sound the evacuation.” and with that, she was out the door – She was frankly sick of this place and could hardly wait to put this all behind her.

Blue was the only one who took a moment to consider, and hesitantly looked to White as she readied herself to leave. “...but, evacuating an entire planet just like that, on such short notice...”

“What about it?” the Grand Matriarch raised an eyebrow in displeasure.

“...Nothing White. It's not like it really matters anymore...”

And with that, Blue clasped her hands together and shuffled out of the room.

As she was leaving, she thought she saw White stepping closer to the windows from the corner of her eye, sneering down at the planet below with a poison-like smile on her lips, possibly even mumbling something to no one in particular.

 

Blue even thought she heard what it was before the sliding doors closed behind her, but she was certain that she must have been mistaken.

 

(“Fine, Starlight. Have it your way.”)

 

 10. Plague (Death The Song of Madness)

 

The Earth was engulfed with Babylonian confusion.

For those far from the last battlefields on the other side of the planet, it might have started with the uncertain, dubious perception of a song – where humans were nearby, they would have heard nothing at all.

If they were on the right side of the planet, they would certainly have noticed the sky filling out with light, but it was nothing compared to the panicked outcries of every single gem, fighting, working, wherever they may be, and whatever they might have been doing.

There might have been a brief, transitory period before their minds were fully overwhelmed where they were able to sense the disturbance, but their thought processes not yet too distorted to process them, moments in which they might have ascribed some sort of quality to the stimulus as one senses the taste of an exceedingly spicy dish, but it scarcely lasted more than a moment, and their minds would have been too seized up in alarm to give it much thought.

Was there some notion of wrath or grief or something like regret, but without understanding or for all the wrong reasons?

Even if anyone knew, no one remembered.

What came down from the skies was soon become pure force, sounds too loud no matter what tales they told, light so bright no matter what color it was, a rush of signal so wild it would break a mind no matter its meaning, a reaction or sensation that stopped being a feeling and started being some pathological malfunction, as any however well-deserved sympathy might dry up if their recipient had taken it all out on others once too many.

If there was a recognition, it would have been purely instinctual: The light was to them what the taste of blood and iron would have been to a human: That which gave birth to them, yet is foreign to them, not unfamiliar, and yet spelling doom.

 

All over the ravaged planet, minds struggled to find their words, forms spasmed, warped and contorted, and souls burned with untold pain as all semblance of will and direction was purged on them.

Exactly where they had been standing moments before, they had found themselves transported to some mythical place of torment, dropped into the lake of fire without moving a step.

There was no beauty to the act, not even the terrible sort – it was over much to quickly, often before the so-called sinners had any chance to realize what was happening: One moment they might have been slightly worried why their hand feels weird, and in the next, all their thoughts are extinguished.

 

The evacuation was chaotic and disorganized – their leaders did not actually intend to fry the circuits of anybody still loyal to them, but with billions of gems, is is unavoidable that some are going to be left behind.

 

Hessonite knows better than to try going back for what she keeps in her quarters when the evacuation sounds; A Zircon drops a stack of interrogation mirrors filled with various suspects is too hurried in picking them back up to notice the one that landed a little further away. A certain Nephrite captain gets separated from her crew, all of whom refuse to take off without her. Through palm tree canopies, Tanzanite sees the light and knows that it can’t be anything good, and somewhere in the ruins of a magical facility that had been abandoned since the early stages of the colony, a lonely pearl is overtaken by the radiance as she sweeps the floors that no one but her had walked on for very long.

 

Only the war-ravaged spires and temples remain behind as remnants of a bygone age, abandoned, antediluvian elf-dwellings to fuel the fantasies of the younger civilization that would one day come to overtake this green earth, like poppies growing over a battlefield.

 

...

 

The return trip back to homeworld was beyond miserable.

With no more war to occupy their waking thoughts and no more rebels to focus their efforts, the three empresses would have been left to reflect on the last thousand years in silence.

Now that their foes were vanquished, their anger burned out, after their vengeance was exacted and after all they had justified by it, and in spite of the absurd monsters they had allowed themselves to become, they had nothing to distract them from the knowledge that Pink Diamond was still gone at the end of the day – to that effect, none of their unholy deeds had made the slightest sliver or a difference, and though they might have had convinced themselves otherwise here and there, in the end, they had known all along.

Their departure from the Earth affixed her death with a seal of finality, one last bottom line reminding them all that no more bargains with the universe would be accepted.

Predictably, it was not long until all this proved too much for Blue, and inevitably, White's response followed on the spot, harsh, uncompromising as she could never stand not to be: “Oh quit your pathetic whining!”, she spat, coldly, the simmering tar-black contempt she had harbored all along finally coming to a boil. “Look at you! You have the power to destroy worlds and yet you do nothing but wallow in your own pitiful weakness. Stars, the sight of you! You disgust me!”

This, of course, could never have possibly resulted in an outcome where Blue would have been crying less. Under other circumstances Yellow might have urged her to pull herself together, though she would have chosen to do it more... delicately than White had, but she knew that it would prove useless. Blue was way beyond being reasonable today - Perhaps this could be said for all of them.

Sensing that this could not end well, Yellow attempted to intercede, though she knew that she was not going to like the result.

She began by bowing deeply.

“I'm sure Blue didn't mean to offend you. I know we must have given you more reason to be disappointed, and for that, we must ask your forgiveness.”

The words had been calculated, but the remorse was a little bit too real: “It's just that this is all so... unprecedented. Nothing like this was ever meant to happen...” Her words were rather stiff, unsuited to containing the true magnitude of what needed to be said, and what may, indeed, have been impossible to say within the narrow range of replies that had any theoretical chance of being tolerated.

Not that this much concerned White Diamond.

Both of you, disgusting!” She specified, making sure that Yellow knew just who was meant by that. “I can barely bear to look at you anymore! Have you seen your own face lately? I don't know how you have the nerve to speak. You two should have ended that mob of mongrels and deviants ages ago rather than forcing me to come all this way. If you two hadn't been so soft on Pink to begin with, we would not be here right now. And can't Blue speak for herself? Why do you presume to lecture me about what is going on? Who put you in charge? Are you perhaps forgetting your place, Yellow?”

That silenced Yellow rather efficiently, ensuring that she would be too consumed with attesting her honor to continue any previous train of thought:

“No, White, of course not- We-”

Blue, however, was not so easily moved by reprimand alone, and responded on a rather different channel, and unlike Yellow, she would not think of constraining her words:

“But don't you care at all? Does is really mean nothing to you that Pink was shattered?”

“She's not.” There was a flash of light, passing right past Blue's face, leaving a spiderweb-crater in the wall and making it very clear that she would be very much poofed now, if White had truly wanted to.

“She's not shattered. She's not, because she can't be!”

The next victim was a nearby wall. Then, she went out the door, continuing down a nearby hallway, followed by ubiquitous sounds of crystal cracking – Her quarrel was not really with Yellow and Blue in particular, but with the world at large.

For such a being as a human who began their lives with very little power or knowledge, it was easy to reach the conclusion that their understanding of the world must adapt to the world itself and not the other way around. Their own finite nature was all too easily proven – It was only a mature, influential and self-aware human who could entertain the notion of changing the world to suit their ideas, such as to enforce ideals of justice.

But White Diamond had access to vast reaches of power from the moment she attained sentience, and dedicated herself to remaking ever-larger strips of the cosmos in her image ever since, so the opposite would outright appear more natural.

She was accustomed to making the world bend and having it obey, too, but just this once, it was intent of denying her, and that was as new to her as it would have been to a human toddler trying to force a square toy block through a round hole, and she was not any more discerning differentiated in her response, with the important distinction that she wielded all this incomparable power much beyond any force contained in flabby human baby limbs.

Enough power to destroy an entire world, yes, or to raise up a new one from the dirt, but even she could not undo thermodynamics and force back together what had broken into chaotic pieces.

 

No sooner than White was out the door, Blue would have collapsed into a sobbing mess in Yellow's arms. The immediate fear of White’s retaliation might have stopped her simply by being an older terror, but mere considerations of wisdom could not.

Their thoughts weren't even dwelling on the previous incident – it would not have been the first time, nothing too out of the ordinary from what they were used to when it came to White; But her lack of sympathy certainly did little to soften the blow of what had brought them here in the first place.

Yellow had hoped that Blue would finally find comfort in the destruction of the rebels, but instead, she was more inconsolable than ever before and had been crying in Yellow's arms without end ever since that little speck of dirt had disappeared from their screens. She feared to think what might become of her now, if she were to stay this way forever... How would she attend to her duties? What would White do if she couldn’t?

Yellow's own face was likewise streaked with never-ending streams of tears – whether they were her own, or the result of Blue's aura, she could no longer tell with certainty. It was hard to remember the difference sometimes.

From somewhere else on the ship, this soundtrack of misery was supplemented by the sound of breaking glass, ripped cloth and falling metal, which she took to mean that White was smashing up the furniture in the distance.

This, to Yellow, was the final nail in the coffin.

She had always known that White was not exactly like them, that she certainly had access to knowledge beyond their imagination – but at the same time, Yellow had long since come to suspect that White did not actually know everything.

There were quite a few things about her that would be inexplicable if she did.

Clever and unloved, Yellow Diamond had been in an excellent position to observe the elder Diamond's powers with both awe and disenchantment. After all, she had known her longer than anyone else, starting in those early days when the two of them were alone... so she could be fairly certain now.

Whatever she knew...

Whatever it was she suspected – She couldn't be certain of it. Oh, she believed it, and woe to anybody who would dare to question what she believed, but she didn't know, or else she wouldn't feel the need to convince herself this loudly.

Whatever she based it on, her opinion was as good as anyone else's, and just as susceptible to biases or denial, as Yellow would know very well.

So there could be no more hope.

For all intents and purposes, they would have to assume that Pink was truly and wholly gone.

And with no enemies left to fight, Yellow no longer knew what to do about it.

Under any other circumstances, she would have been the first to take any sort of action. She would have challenged and beaten whatever needed to be fought and killed – She would have tried to soothe Blue's sorrow and manage White's temper as she had done many times before, she would have taken responsibility, she would have done something, anything to keep the world around her under control.

But all around her was chaos.

The anger that had once propelled her forward had burned itself to cinders, and the thoughts she used to keep so well-shielded were drowned out by Blue's moans and White's irate screeches.

Yellow was just so tired of everything...

She had half a daydream where the other two were gone as well, some irrational scenario where she had returned to the capital to find everything silent, or herself transported into some distant future where the empire had all but perished, and it was somehow all her fault, the sort of disjointed, pitiful vision one could only have thought up in a situation like this.

Her thoughts also stumbled on various mixed up memories of Pink's laughter and a few notions of a future that had never come to pass, what it might have been like to subjugate the universe with her at their side.

How useless.

She'd do her best to forget it.

Her full attention snapped back to the present when the doors opened to reveal White.

For a moment, she feared that it might now be their turn to become the objects of her wrath, and her hands dug themselves into the layers of Blue's robe – Blue, unexpectedly, still had the presence of mind to hold onto her as well. Perhaps that's just how effective White had been at putting her terror into them.

But even her fury seemed to have its bounds -

When she stepped into the room, even the contempt had vanished from her features.

She had a few pieces of tapestry hanging off her long nails, and a few strands of shining alabaster had come loose and fallen out of place and at some point while she was making short work of some innocent lamp-stand, she must have stepped on the long trail off her dress, because there was a noticeable tear in the shimmering fabric. Perhaps even her mascara had become a little bit smudged.

And though it was not physically possible for her to look any paler than she usually did, she seemed... dimmer, somehow, more softly glowing than really blinding, more translucent around the edges – You could have seen right through her fingertips, or the tip of her nose.

But the most shocking thing of all might be that she had not yet remedied any of that, but stepped in here just as she was – In all her years, Yellow had never seen her like this, not even once.

An outside observer might have naively supposed that this might have changed the way they saw at her, but it did not.

They could only perceive her as frightening, and their thoughts were mostly concerned with the sorry sight they must be presenting to her.

There was, in both their minds, just about the same conclusion, though they would have considered it to be more like a deep, instinctual knowing: They must not look.

But White Diamond must know they had seen her, in that first moment of surprise when she stepped inside, and they knew she was there, and that they would do well to keep paying attention to her, so locked in this conundrum, their glances lingered at the edge of her outline as she passed, never looking at her too directly or with too much focus, so as not to glimpse more than a stray hand, a sandaled foot or the spikes of her hairdo, anything but to even suggest with as much of a look that they could possibly be questioning her, anything but to draw her ire, or do anything she might have perceived as an offense or provocation, though Yellow in particularly could not help but wonder if the entirety of their flawed existences wouldn't already have been considered an affront – Blue, for her part, was way past the point of wanting or thinking anything anymore, naught but a chewtoy of the cosmos hoping to be set down in time.

 

White passed them without a word, seating herself on her throne once she had made her way to it.

It never even occurred to them that she might have sought out the comfort of their presence, so they did not extend it to her.

They simply remained fixed in their places like silent marble statues, following her very own example.

 

It was the last they would see of her in a very long time.

 

...

 

No matter how many corrupted gems the Crystal Gems managed to track down, there were always more, like an endless, never-ending flood.

 

It really made one appreciate just how many gems had been required to keep this colony running, how many had been called in to fight the war, even if only a fraction of them remained behind.

Friend and foe alike, twisted beyond all recognition, broken down to their basest instincts.

 

Sometimes, it would be someone they knew, facets they recognized, gems called up flashes of memory – but most of the time it was not, nameless, faceless stones to whom they could not even offer proper grief, piling up in the Burning Room at the temple, sent up there floating to go untouched for ages.

 

About two millennia after the war’s end, they poof an amoeba-like creature only to find not one, but two gemstones remaining behind – who could have thought, that one could remain fused even like that, but if they managed it, the ones they have defeated must most certainly have been former Crystal Gems: A Hematite and a Peridot, put ut of their misery, but also, separated at last.

Heliotrope.

She never did learn to fight much, so she remained on the maintenance shift, at times assisting Pearl at a mechanic, or helping out around the bases in various odd jobs. Sometimes the newer recruits had been surprised to see an elite such as a Hematite reduced to various menial, physical tasks, but she would infallibly point out that, apart from being Heliotrope, not Hematite at this moment, she found a lot of fulfillment in making herself useful in any way she could, if only she could contribute in the slightest way to helping out her friends, and all others who didn’t have the means to defend themselves.

Hers was just one of the countless unique stories whom the Diamonds’ retaliation had so cruelly interrupted.

 

Garnet sent them away in a single, crimson bubble, so that they might be close by if they day of their revival should ever come to pass – but for all that she urged her comrades to believe in such a distant salvation, Rose Quartz could not.

She wondered if they would ever be finished gathering them all up – there were so very many of them, and so very few survivors left to attend to the grizzly task.

The ones she one called her kin had ruined so many innocent lives, and all to get back at her. All to punish her…

(At least, she could not conceive of any other reason)

With her shield, her resolve and her healing powers, she had thought that she was no longer the scared little gem she once was, no longer as powerless as she had been when Pink Pearl was first taken from her…

But in the end, she has as helpless as she had been in the darkness of the tower.

 

______________________

A/N:

Despite earlier notes, I think that I this point I got in most of the content that I wanted to have, I guess I just couldn't always predict what would be a background detail and what would become a full-on scene, but overall I'm pretty satisfied with how this turned out particularly since it has somehow proven to be one of my most successful fanfictions ever .///.

Thanks to all readers for all the love they provided in return, which has seriously added to the completion bar of my life. I am so honored.

IDK if it was just good timing right after s5 came out but like ...I mostly just made it because I wanted it to exist and had some thoughts feels and intuitions about this set of characters, and like, WOW. Perhaps I have finally attained something resembling stylistic maturity and should hurry up and crank out some novels before my brain rots away.

 

Of course, I still have some ideas left in the box for the grand finale, in which our favorite lightbulb will be spending some wholesome quality time with the precious tiny grandson she never knew she wanted.

 

ALSO:

So one frequent request in the comments (both here and on ffnet) was “more Pink Diamond content please”. I will try to keep that in mind the next time I decide to unload my “ideas box.”of half-formed ff plots.

That said, while I love them all, I'm not even gonna pretend that I don't have a decided favorite, or that it's not the angry giraffe. (I wonder how apparent that was)

And I'll probably want to pop out some oneshots or slap some epilogues on some old stuff before committing to another longfic, especially considering how this one ballooned (though I do not regret that at all)

 

But first, I should probably slap the epilogue on this one before getting ahead of myself ^^°

Chapter Text

EDIT: Leaving this here mostly for historic reasons. I have since been persuaded NOT to ragequit (as you can tell by the existence of further chapters. Those are in the style/base assumptions of the previous stuff)

Original Text: 

So as expected I waited too long too finish this cause I was busy and everything got jossed.

I‘m not sure if I was wrong all along, or if that was just a recent decision they made since the movie, but now it seems they‘ve actually gone and decided that Rose Quartz was, indeed, the villain.

Personally I liked the ambigous anti-hero better I found something relatable about that, but I get that this is not a statement about me, she just wasn‘t the character that I thought she was.

I can accept that. I see where they saw the potential in that creative decision, I‘m hardly going to bitch about it.

No one‘s ever 100% good or even but there is a critical mass and subjective dealbreakers, and for me, that line was crossed here.

Note the word „subjective“ - I don‘t mean this as a judgement on anyone who continues to like her just as an explanation why I‘m pretty much leaving the fanclub.

I guess this show was never really about the sci-fi concept stuff, it was just a tool that it used for it‘s main goals which was always educational and largely abandoned once it was no longer needed for „camouflage purposes“ and given the times we live in i see why they would make that choice, it‘s something that is needed in these day and age – It‘s probably a more relevant story for our times than the alternative would have been, even if it‘s not and never was for me I just happened to like this temporary thing they did for a while early on. That‘s fine, not everything is for me, I‘ve known that since the first time I was told to share the chocolate with my brother and sisters.

I‘m really sorry considering how many people loved this thing, I was kinda proud of it, but I‘m not going to finish my fanfic and I‘m considering wether to delete the folder with all the half-finished ideas... could maybe still use them as OC works I guess.

I‘m just profoundly disgusted by this „Pink Diamond“ character and more relevantly I don‘t think I could emotionally connect to her as a writer anymore at least not with the rest seeming like a rushed correction, and if I force myself to finish it just cause it was popular, though it would almost certainly involve defending the indefensible... well I don't like what that says about me. Actually I'm not even disgusted, I'm just... completely indifferent about all these characters RN, or like the actual version that they were always supposed to be, and in a way that's worse than disgust cause I can't work with it. I could even work with no emotions but I can't work with no interest. 

The problem is not so much a sympathetic villain but that I would, no should have structured this whole thing very differently if I had known that. 

Maybe it‘s just my inner pedantic nerd that can‘t stomach that this is essentially a deeply inaccurate rendition. If I tried to continue this on the basis of what we knew before the latest eps I‘d just be mentally correcting myself all the time like, „No! Wrong! Actually it would be like this...“ and I‘d find it hard to enjoy that. Maybe that‘s a personal shortcomming of mine but that‘s just how it is.

- I‘m not sure my epilogue ideas would even work anymore. They‘ve probably been impossible since the movie but at the time there weren‘t enough data points to know for sure. The sort of speech I was going to end it with would be kinda tasteless in general and straight up criminal with the rest of this fic preceding it. 

So if you want to remember this pleasantly just pretend the last chapter was the last.

I also want to stress again that this is a wholly subjective thing like just my opinion and not in any way a judgement of anyone who still likes or relates to Pink or the other Diamonds.

Chapter Text

 

Intermission (II): Till Kingdom Come

I pay my dues
All for truth
Can't leave it here and leave it here
And leave it here forgotten
Silence rules
Spineless fools
You'll never learn, never learn
Never learn to break away

Oh, why can't we rise again?

When all the days go by the firelight
We'll never fade out in the night
And we are estranged, but drawn to the flame
We are like fire to the rain

Isn't it strange that love is in the way?
It never goes away

- Within Temptation, ‘Firelight’ 

“Guard duty at the Human Zoo?!”

Jasper did not fail to make sure that she physically towered over her so-called compatriots as she begrowled her displeasure, bent ever so slightly forward and holding her arms away from her trunk to as to project half a cage over the misshapen Carnelian who had dared to bring the word -

It was not as if she’d volunteered as the bearer of bad news, if anything, it’s was the undue chippers in her tone that irked the massive quartz more than it otherwise would have, not that there was any other way that the order could have been brought to her notice without rousing her considerable temper.

“This is absolutely unacceptable!”, she roared, incensed, as she swung her first toward the air, finding some very limited relief in her her motions could make the smaller creatures recoil without fail. “You’re supposed to be quartzes. We’re meant to fight, no gather dust in the middle of nowhere! How did you go along with this?! You might be puny, defective little rejects, but you’re still warriors!”

It wasn’t the first time she had let them all think what she really thought of them but at the present moment, with so many of them present, they were less afraid and rather annoyed – None of them wanted to deal with the general unpleasantness of engaging her, but at last, an uncommonly skinny Jasper, perhaps one of the most outspoken ones to begin with, decided to take one for the team.

“Hey, don’t you think we’ve had enough fighting to last us a lifetime?”

That was putting it mildly. The gems that stood assembled here had been the lucky ones and many then-still familiar faces were missing from their ranks.

But that did little to deter the massive fighter: “What a disgrace! If nothing else, this should be the best proof of your inferiority!”

And with that, she was unsurprisingly of out the door, a habit that the others had grown quite accustomed to. Once, a long long time ago, they might have tried to stop her and get her to join in conversation, but they had come to learn that letting her go was usually the less unpleasant alternative.

Only very rarely would one of their softer natures find it in her to pity her for her solitude.

But Solitary or otherwise, she would not be deterred, and might have marched all the way to the capital if there was ground to stand on in the open space.

She most certainly had to break a few articles of protocol to do so, staunchly as she would deny it as she had often taken minor violations as a pretext to pick on her least favorite members of whatever detail she’d been assigned to.

But lucky for her, her forceful stride and forceful silhouette spoke for themselves as she made her way to the nearest galaxy warp, and when she made her way to her destination, the Topazes at the door believed the boldness in her words when she claimed to be here on in urgent business.

Thus, in such and similar ways, it came to pass that she soon knelt before the sovereigns on their thrones – Lucky for her, the Zircon whose appointment was supposed to be sheduled at this moment hurried up her drawn-out speech and scampered out before long when she grew increasingly aware of the impatient giant waiting in line – Had there been any higher-ranked elites in attendance, the quartzes’ paper-thin patience might have been tested beyond its bounds.

Instead, she got all the time she could have desired for her introductory display, suddenly mindful of etiquette now that it could only underline her point, so she placed herself there, one knee on the floor, the other bent so as to support her position from the front, arms held in a salute as she bowed her head forward, wild silver hair falling over her massive shoulders.

The throne hall was bereft of most the twinkling lights it once held, no one had bothered to flip them on save for a few strategic spotlights to single both the supplicants and whichever advisers lingered near the thrones of the rulers, who themselves provided their own light.

At their left stood a pair of Lapis Lazulis flanked by a floating Aquamarine, no doubt newly appointed to their positions due to the recent losses on the former war council. The Aquamarine seemed so secure in her newly-acquired good standing that she barely seemed bothered with reading the room and proudly grinned to herself as she looked down on any visiting subjects.

Some, however, had endured the war, some changed more than others: Jasper recognized the Peridot floating on the right, supported by a heavily modified metallic contraption, some of it assistive, some of it re-purposed to serve as instrument, and of course the mortar-filled cracks on the gem on the back of her head and the mask covering the resulting distortions on her face. Standing on solid ground not too far was that Citrine Commander with her short spiky hair and rectangular visor, looking no different than the last time Jasper had encountered her.

Above them all, the largest of the thrones was empty, and the smaller one that used to stand between the other two monolithic chairs appeared to have been carried out, as Jasper had to note with repeated heartbreak – but even so, only one was in use.

While the immense, towering form of Yellow Diamond lounged on her Crystal Throne, Blue Diamond was heavy in her arms, arranged next to her in a veiled veil but glancing now, just a little, past the edge of her cloak, silent and with cold eyes.

It was her whom Jasper first addressed, given that she currently bore her insignia much like the other surviving Beta Quartzes.

“Your Lustrousness! Your Luminosity! I have come to beseech you for a ressignment! Surely my services would be better spent on the frontlines!”

Rather than answer the smaller creature below, Yellow Diamond’s gaze turned to her companion who leaned against her. “That’s one of those Earth Jaspers. You kept them?”

“They were Pink’s… They’re all we have left of her… She liked them so much… and besides, what’s the harm in it?”

With narrowed eyes, Yellow Diamond fixated the kneeling gem below.

In was one thing to use whatever tools available when direly pressed in war, inferior as they may be, but as far as she was concerned, this second-rate cannon fodder had very much served it’s purpose. But she couldn’t spot anything outwardly objectionable about her, and though she did not make a habit of recalling the faces and gems of particular underlings, she faintly recalled her from some of the sparse and scattered victories in the latter days of the war, and given the current resource shortages, any useful, experienced soldier would be a boon.

Even so, she still had her doubts:

“She’s from the same lot as the one who destroyed her. How do we know we can trust her?”

“Because my firsts have been itching for the shards ever since I arrived here! I’m a quatz. I was made for fighting, not standing around! Let me do my duty to the empire! I want nothing more than to cleanse the universe of deviants and organics in the name of my Diamond, any any other despicable abominations such as Rose Quartz!”

“Don’t speak of it aloud! Don’t say that accursed name!” Blue Diamond’s voice cut in, high and eerie.

Several gems in the Room had to blink away a tear, which Citrine merely endured, though Aquamarine rubbed them away in annoyance whilst Peridot Y73 struggled to do the same with her cybernetics which could quite not hug the wet curves of her cheek like actual fingers.

Jasper grit her teeth, moved more than most, but stubbornly maintained her position and pretended it wasn’t happened

Yellow Diamond, however… well it would have been objectively false to say that her expression softened, but there was some subtle change in it, a passing thought perhaps, separate from the effects of her companion’s power at the corners of her eyes.

For a moment, she thoughtfully brought her right hand to her chin, and then turned to her designated advisers. “Citrine. What do you say to this?”

Citrine preceded her answer with a small bow and a salute. “I can vouch for her, my Diamond. She conducted herself with considerable valor during the war. There are many among our forces who could assure you of that. She served right under me.”

“Peridot?”

“Well,” the small gem mused, peering at the bulky quartz like a particularly finicky cook might have considered a prospective choice of fish before buying it, zooming in on an image she had called up in one of her finger screens. “Beta or not, she seems like a remarkably well-made specimen...”

“Very well then. You will receive accommodations in the capital and will be called upon to serve in my next campaign.”





It fell to Citrine then to show Jasper to her lodgings, incidentally, none too far from her own, an actual proper room at the edge of one of the capital’s great Colosseums.

Once they’d stepped off the warp pad and began climbing the pale, citrus-hued steps, sure that any awkward moments would soon be dispelled by their arrival, Citrine choose this moment to address her former lieutenant.

“I expect that we’ll be placed under Hessonite for the next campaign. If you have any problem with your accomodations, tell my Pearl. She should be somewhere about the complex. I won her as a prize some thousand years ago – It’s a honor that was almost above our station, to be honest, nor do I have that much use for her, Pearls are not really fit for the battlefield, so I mostly have her here tending to my subordinates in the complex. ”

“I’m no longer your subordinate.” Jasper asserted, not doing much to hide her aggression now that they were out of earshot of their betters. But given her long experience, Citrine simply noted the provocation and did not respond to it beside that.

“Quite right.” she stated calmly. “We’ll be colleagues from now on. So if you ever want to leave me a message while I’m away, simply seek her out.”

I’m not here to make friends.”

Citrine knew better than to press the issue. “Very well then. So be it then. You’ll find that at the Yellow Court, we care chiefly about results. I was going to warn you that you might find the discipline a bit harsher than you did in Pink or Blue Diamond’s service, but I’m beginning to think that you’ll fit right in.”

“Whatever. Weren't you supposed to show me my quarters?”

“They’re right over there – Right behind those blue curtains.”

The ‘quarters’ were in fact little more than two wide rows of columns on the topmost wall of the Colosseum's uppermost floor, each so aligned that they spanned an area of about nine square meters between them, which each square demarcated by curtains on all sides. On a world without precipitation, roofs were unneeded. They were designed to be uniform and when they first came to be filled they had all been identical, and so they would have been depicted in any artistic rendition meant to represent the ideal of order according to which they were fashioned, but the bustling reality of daily use had left some of them closed and others pulled open, some tied to the side and others ripped, while others had various items tacked onto or leaning against the columns that flanked them, displays of trophies or weapons, or simply piles of equipment.

The one Citrine had pointed out was pulled close, but there was enough room under the rich velvet curtains that one could make out the bases of several objects inside.

Unimpressed by this, Jasper inquired after it: “Why are there things in it?”

“My Pardon. I didn’t have the time to tell Pearl to clear it out. Had you announced your coming, it could have been arranged sooner.”

That was only half the truth. The room had been Chalcedony’s.

Citrine had not sat in there for hours or spend cycles thumbing through the things time and time again; She had simply left them were they were, undisturbed by anything but the dim purple light shining from above, until a new use for the place was decided.

Whether Jasper grasped this or not, her response was to let out a frustrated growl. “I’ll go find her myself then!”

And at this she would have waltzed off, had her former superior not stopped her in her tracks with the same firm, authoritative voice that had kept her in place for all of her years: “Halt!” She’d dealt with enough ruffian quartzes to remain calm, but she did think that a display of firmness was needed: “Do watch your step. She was a reward from Yellow Diamond. An insult against my property is an insult against me.”

“I get it. You’re real proud of yourself. Congratulations. I’ll go find someone to clear out my room now.”

And with that, she was off.

To be honest, Citrine wasn’t certain if that one was going to last her first five thousand years. Then, her lemon-hued little Pearl would likely have to clear it once again, just as she would soon be purging it of Chalcedony’s things, taking them into her gem and then straight to the garbage disposal, where they would crumble, just like living memory of conflicts like the Tannhäuser Gate or the Pentagorian War.

But even after everything was gotten out and the only thing sitting on that floor was Jasper herself, the curtains around her swapped for yellow ones (a simple, functional design of plain plastic) she could not be at ease in it. It was a plain square of room alright, but she had no possessions to fill it with.

In the harsh ruins of the earth, she had seldom even had the luxury of a proper cubby.

Having come from lowly dirt, she found herself an interloping impostor in the decorated halls.

...



Haunted by faint memories of song and laughter, the old extraction chamber was awash in silence though Blue Diamond still sat in one of its corners, with little to do but to contemplate the quiet and contemplate the seconds before she would inevitably have to drag herself to her next Appointment.

She’d made a point of keeping up appropriate relations with all the courtiers and high aristocracy, but as it turns out they could prattle and gossip just fine without her.

Even when she’d come, her presence would be little more than that of a distant ice sculpture, and only occasionally were there even etiquette breaches to admonish or harrumph at.

Even court duty had become a rather cold comfort, through it still held a grim kind of catharsis.

Only her presence was needed – in the end, she came to find that even smiling and nodding could be largely dispensed with. There was no very much smiling that she did anymore.

Though the days when she could motivate herself with ritual and propriety were the good ones. She’d have to make them happen at least once in a while, lest Yellow come around and make her do whatever supposedly needed doing.

But for all her grousing, she wasn’t here. If she had her way, this whole place would have been demolished. She had declared it high time for a more modern efficient design, but though that excuse might have fooled some, Blue was not among them.

But new designs did get designed, and White got one too, after presumably nitpicking her way across the blueprints, but for further efficiency, she had it installed right on her ship, eliminating yet another possible reason to step foot outside of it… or levitate out, for that matter.

She’d sworn to herself that this would never possibly become her new normal, that she would reject any notion of business as usual going on after what had happened. But one day, it did. Poorly.

But hat parts of her would respond to the feeble pull of what little willpower she could muster had little interest whatever was next on her schedule; What stubbornness and defiance she had was aimed in the opposite directions, both hands stuck deep in the hole in her soul to pull at its edges lest it slam shut, for she held it to be a gulf torn by love, and the last proof of existence for someone she had failed once before, for all that she also failed to grasp how.

She didn’t want the world to go on. She would that time would stop and that daybreak never came, so that she might remain here curled up in the heavy waters if all other comforts be denied to her -

(Instead, she asked her trusty comb pebble to supply the room with some non-silence)



If an outside observer had compared the technology in the later years preceding the onset of Era III to the one that existed at the beginning of the war they would have been rightfully awed, but as ever so often, it was dire necessity that had been the mother of invention, much in the manner of an engineer working ever more crafty tricks in futile bids to patch the leak of a sinking ship.

Given their long lives, it might have passed many of them right by that they had become a people in decline, for those with luxuries to revel in were distracted by the delights of their palaces, and the unfortunate toilers at the bottom of the pile were all too busy with their toils to afford the leisure of much thoughts.

The different rungs of the latter didn’t mix much, and the bloated blight-stain of the empire had spread itself wide and thin upon the star maps, so it was possible that many never grasped how their already restricted lives had come to be much worse for the newer additions to their society. Corners had been cut in the hours to their creation, mended at most superficially with uncaring workarounds intended more to serve the cult of the mandated ideal silhouettes than themselves, but this was only the tip of the impoverishment – the semblance of high culture that had wrought the dainty palaces and mighty artifacts peppering the galaxy had increasingly become the province of an increasingly smaller, more restrictive domain.

Built on crooked foundations to begin with, the grand churning machine that was the empire was slowly but surely in the process of devouring itself, sacrificing what remained of its few redeeming features on the altar of stone cold utilitarianism, one by one with every passing century.

From the lowliest outcasts at the roots of the cities to the rulers enthroned at the top of their towers, none could escape the miserable truth that their world was rotten, down from the head and up from the core, fragments barely holding together, ready to come apart at a gust of solar wind.

...



When an unmanned Red Eye was shot down on a routine patrol mission, the Diamonds knew nothing about it. In fact, no one took note of it at all save for the operator who came in to check in on the readings several hours later.

This unwitting gem filled out a form in which the incident was flagged as unresolved and put on an automated waiting list which sometime later resulted in a thus far unremarkable gem technician receiving a ticket about the issue.

Once she began experiencing repeated equipment failures of mysterious origin, the news only got as far as her direct supervisor who paid her just enough mind to blow her off with a reprimand.

Even when her stubborn efforts managed to get the warp working for just about ten minutes, the clear evidence that the site had been tampered with was not seen as alarming – after all, the planet in question was notoriously crawling with organics.

When the previously purely hypothetical saboteurs declared themselves in open light, however, it was an entirely different matter.

Labeled with the highest possible priority ranking, a message containing a report made its way straight to Yellow Diamond’s command room, with all video evidence and other available data included as attachments.

But the tale told of a small, disorganized remnant force, headless, feckless and of negligible size, which could be taken to mean: ‘A cinder’. Naught but insects to be crushed under one’s heel.

When wind of each reached Yellow Diamond, she neither trashed her office nor did she zap some nearby unfortunate or somesuch dramatic thing – She simply acknowledged this fact in grim disillusion, and then set out to do something about it, a few short, commanding sentences typed up in a whirlwind.

She read it over once more briefly, just to check the spelling of the glyphs and then, done. Out of sight, out of mind. She opened up the next report and considered the matter dealt with, even duly smashed with appropriate prejudice, as she had very much made sure to send one of her armies’ most celebrated champions.

Thus, she was caught unawares when once upon an ugly, busy, stressful day, she would perceive a characteristic chime which she had not heard in many, many centuries.

White never called her. Usually, it was her who called Blue, and she’d been avoiding even that as of late. And Pink would never call again.

She almost assumed some impertinent mishap right out of the gate, and while somewhere pushed far down to the edges of her consequences, her feelings probably wished she hadn’t been reminded, most of her carried on with business as usual, listlessly typing away in mild annoyance, that is, until she read the word ‘Earth’

She spotted the word on the screen, the corresponding signal registered at the back of her vision spheres, triggering an impulse that then traveled swiftly down a light circuit all along her neck and at last, down her chest all the way to her gem, where it induced various particles in the massive crystal to change their quantum states, the parts-pushing-on-parts of bitter recognition, and the cascade of related thoughts, feelings and regulatory adjustments.

At long last, some signal made it back and her lips moved:

“...How is the Earth?”

She didn’t know what that ostensibly incompetent little Peridot could possibly mean by her nonsensical response, but it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered but that that miserable hunk of rock was finally gotten rid of in some halfway useful fashion, but apparently, some part of that proved pretty hard to understand. The puny wretch was intent on being awfully difficult in ways that chipped at scabbed-over places, and much like in whatever mercilessly suppressed echo of the past was now irreverently bubbling its way to the surface, Yellow resorted to pulling rank.

She really didn’t want to be dealing with this, but that feeble creature was too young to remember that planet, and that planet’s woe.

“What do you know about the earth?!”

“Apparently more than you, YOU CLOD!”

How very, very irritating.

Her vaunted composure might just have gone out the airlock for a minute.

But once the next minute arrived, she sat back down, briefly massaged her temples with a sigh, and then calmly ordered her Pearl to have the communicator’s self-destruct triggered posthaste and typed up a missive to have someone else go looking for the missing Jasper.

In this situation, it might have been helpful if she had been familiar with concepts such as weeding a garden or playing whack-a-mole, but as of now, she only had this vague grating sense of new traitors springing up sooner than she could curb the old ones.

Even so, she was not overly concerned for that turncoat’s destruction, figuring that the Cluster should eventually take care of her. Just a few hours later, she had forgotten all about her, if she had even come close to retaining anything about the look of her gem or the facets of her serial number.

But she must have mentioned to Blue Diamond that the project was nearing its completion, though she would remain unaware that she had snuck down to the planet’s surface without telling her, not to speak of the tiny interlopers that had eavesdropped on their conversation unbeknownst to her.

Likewise, she surely had Blue’s foremost Aquamarine provided with the most up-to date information of the state of the planet before sending her off alongside Topaz, but it was probably Yellow Pearl who had compiled the actual report, likely just by rummaging for relevant entries in the imperial mainframe.

No one would have suspected any live-changing events right around the corner. Even White Diamond would have of the current status quo going on and on and on. The whole undertaking had been nothing other than a fanciful vanity project to carter to Blue Diamond’s moods and whims, and none of the reports had so much as mentioned the possibility of Rose Quartz being sighted among the survivor.

Up until this point, she had been more or less successful at filing this all away as a temporary trifle that was by necessity bound to resolve itself with the emergence of the cluster – Nothing prepared either of them for the news that the Great Terran Butcher herself had turned herself in of her own accord.

Blue had been inconsolable for quite some time, horrified that this twisted creature could have survived all along… yet the time that wasn’t spent making themselves at least nominally presentable for the trial or preparing the organizational side of the proceedings brought them to the only part of White Diamond’s disused palace that was important anymore: The airlock leading to her ship.

“We’ve finally got her at our mercy!”, Yellow told the faceless door, knowing, but not quite believing, that her maker must be listening. “We’ve caught her, and now we shall finally destroy her for all that she’s done.”

Blue, for her part, was rather more direct about her anguish, speaking with a strained, pained voice rather than with eager, clenched fists. “She’s the one who shattered Pink, White… Don’t you hate her? Don’t you want to know what happened? Don’t you want to find out how she did it?”

But the heavy gates did not move.

Only at their very bottom was there any sign of motion as a rigid, doll-like figure slid right through the arms, plastered with a smile that did not quite belong on that particular face.

Don’t be silly. Can’t you two handle a little trifle like this on your own? It’s embarrassing that you let it drag on for as long as it did. You three can finish your little games by yourselves.”

The poor puppet disappeared back into the walls, and all the lights went out around them.

Yellow was the first to concede a sigh. “It’s pointless. We should get going, there’s a trial we need to get to.”

 

The trial itself soon turned into a profoundly graceless debacle, and the suspect escaped into the dead chasms beneath the city.

Yellow and Blue, however, (after some measure of yelling at each other) firmly gripped the other’s hands and looked each other in the eyes, swearing to depart at once, and not to come back without the traitor’s sharp, splintered shards.

They did not even deign to wait until an army or even an entourage could be prepared, content to take just their ships which, to their advantage, were ready to move with but a single gesture of their hands.

It was the sort of impassioned move that White Diamond would most surely have scolded them for, but she sat up in her tower with her back turned like she might as well not be here.



Chapter Text

Part V: Iridescence (Act I: Revelation)



Well I didn't tell anyone, but a bird flew by.
Saw what I'd done. He set up a nest outside,
and he sang about what I'd become.
He sang so loud, sang so clear.
I was afraid all the neighbors would hear,
So I invited him in, just to reason with him.
I promised I wouldn't do it again.

But he sang louder and louder inside the house,
And now I couldn't get him out.
So I trapped him under a cardboard box.
stood on it to make him stop.
I picked up the bird and above the din I said
"That's the last song you'll ever sing".
Held him down, broke his neck,
Taught him a lesson he wouldn't forget.

But in my dreams began to creep
that old familiar tweet tweet tweet

I
 opened my mouth to scream and shout,
I waved my arms and flapped about.
But I couldn't scream and I couldn't shout,
couldn't scream and I couldn't shout.

I opened my mouth to scream and shout
waved my arms and flapped about
But I couldn't scream I couldn't shout,
The song was coming from my mouth.
From my mouth,
From my mouth,

From my mouth.



-Florence and the Machine, ‘Bird Song’ 



...



In the beginning, there was the Light, and the Light radiated out in all directions, passing all things by in an instant on its straight, unbending paths.

Until, after a long, long time, the most venerable of immovable objects was at last met with an unstoppable force.

Something had to give, and it was not going to be Steven Quartz Universe.



Steven had seldom been more grateful than when he grasped Connie’s subtle indications that she meant to take the explanations upon herself, and hence, out of his hands; It once again sent an all-new wave of fondness and admiration onto the agitated sea of relief, disorientation and slowly fading terror that was still slowly settling within him.

But that would have to be a matter for another time. Now that they were finally en route for earth, there was a limited time window that he needed to take advantage of – He needed to steal his way back into the great central audience hall before Connie would be done explaining because, once that came to pass, the others might not let him go – Not if it meant leaving him alone with White Diamond.

Then there was the other two to worry about – In part out of the love that they held for his mother, they had surely agreed to use his name, and they’d certainly begun to understand that they had not exactly done right by her or their many subjects – but he wasn’t sure in how far they had grasped that the two of them were actually separate.

Heck, he wasn’t sure he truly knew this before this day. He could certainly always look inside and ascertain that there were nobody’s thoughts but his own, but one’s own thoughts were an easy thing to doubt and almost impossible to prove to others.

Though it was for a good cause and arguably a matter of self-defense, he had, in a sense misled them during their confrontation on Garnet’s wedding day. It was a cruel false hope to dispel, and he felt guilty for leaving precisely because of how badly he wanted to be out of the room for it – the Crystal Gems, too, would have to lay aside any lingering hopes that she could see how far they had come, even if they had long accepted that she would never return – And in the end, even they had struggled their fair bit to understand it, and they, at least, had been somewhat used to humans. They were, after all, brought up with the notion that appearance was almost an entirely variable thing, with the only constants being their gemstones such as the one embedded in his stomach.

They would probably put on their best brave faces once he came back inside, if only he could escape the rawness of their immediate reactions, and he wanted to grant them the chance to do just that… though it was only part of the reason.

“I’ll just go check up on White for a bit, alright? I’ll be right back...”

Leaving his gathered friends and allies on what he could only suppose to be the flight-deck, though the only indication was the large screen showing a feed of the outside world, an enormous think taking up an entire wall of a half-circular room that was exceedingly spacious even with regards to the proportions of the intended occupant.

The ships ‘eyes’ has been sealed shut to keep in the atmosphere, chiefly for his and Connies’ benefit, that, and because they weren’t anticipating much more need for the unhindered passage of any laser blasts, hopefully, not ever again. There wasn’t actually anything like an oxygen tank on board, but the enormous rooms held so much air that this was unlikely to become an issue. The interior apparel throughout this ship was pretty… minimalist, actually. And maybe that was just White’s style, with homeworld being the way it was he wouldn’t think think that she’d ever heard of such a thing as posters or potted plants, and there was no room for doubt that the monochrome look was most definitely on purpose.

At least, there were no distractions by which to lose the way to the audience hall, which was impossible to miss in its central topmost location.

To be honest, Steven didn’t really look forward to going back in there, after what just transpired; Perhaps at some other time, he might get around to processing that chill that came into the back when he thought of her enormous clawed fingers reaching forward –

But now, he had something to do. He had to accomplish as much as he could, and there could not have been a more fruitful time for that endeavor that right now, while she was still in that malleable, transitory state – That’s why he’d endured all this and put himself and his family through all this to begin with, so he’d better make it count.

It took a good bit of floating to get up to the access panel and then dash right inside the room before the enormous gate would have swished shut beside him, but the occupant of the room beyond took little note of it; To her, the titanic contraption was just an ordinary door and himself, less even less than a fluttering sparrow.

Just moments ago, it seemed like nothing would get past her all-seeing eye, so much that he almost, for a moment, believed her, but now, she plainly seemed to preoccupied with her own thoughts and notions to take much note of what was going on around her, though maybe this had pretty much been the case all along.

The first time he came in, he’d barely had the chance to utter a single sentence and based on the accounts of Blue and Yellow, it seemed that few would have had much luck telling her anything that she had not previously decided upon, but now, at the very least, she actually managed to take note of his approach before he had need to explicitly announce his presence; Before that, he found himself greeted by the enormous thundering ‘Thump!’ as she put down her ellbow so as to turn in his direction and have a look at him.

She was still more or less where he’d left her, crumpled in a heap on the great crystal dais, though even ‘heap’ was at this point a rather charitable designation on Steven’s account. She was practically lying on the floor in all her glittering finery, complete with the heels, nails and elaborate hairdo, enormous lashes and all, and never mind the star-patterned cape, but there was little majesty left about her, and all the fastidious royal attributes only served to underline how the mighty had fallen, scattered on the floor with her limbs in an ungainly tumble, and the treasonous tint not yet wholly gone from her face, or the general tone of the light that emanated from her form.

He’d always been told that the bodies of gems were supposedly made of light, but as the source of them all, it was particularly apparent in her case, as she sheer energy that she put out was so immense that the excess scattered off her surface as this ambient radiance, shining so bright that her outline easily shone through her raiment, though now, the proof that came forth from within it only served to illuminate her shame.

In all honesty, Steven found the sight a little over dramatic, looking like the sort of statue that an overly proud king in a fantasy novel might have built to commemorate the humiliation of a foe, though the only thing that didn’t fit would have been her expression which, thought no longer completely overwhelming, still spoke of great profound confusion.

When she saw him, she turned over, getting on both her hands, as if she were expecting some kind of answer, or rather, desperate enough to take whatever explanations she could get, for she had very few left of her own.

And though he understood this, some part of him couldn’t help but find it grating that she was still somehow leaving it up to him to be the one with the answers after she had essentially plucked him into two separate pieces, and come here chiefly because it was needed to end all the devastation she had wrought, which he had reason to think had gone further and wider than he could hope to understand – He’d been in space on several occasion, but this was only just the second time he’d stepped on any other planets, if you counted Stevonnie’s crash-landing within sight of that truly scooped-out planet, and heaven knows how many more such empty shells must be scattered through the cosmos.

He’s not sure that he could be here if he could truly understand that scale, but somebody had to do it, and since he could not expect it out of anyone else, that somebody would have to be him, for whatever means might end this madness could only be a boon.

Though wretched indeed she could not hope to command much pity, not with her ugly, grating whines, nor for her much-deserved debasement that did not come near to what she had inflicted in others, many of them so dear to his heart that the empathy for their suffering would have to burn much hotter inside his heart, and not when he must first be concerned for what she might do when even just the barest slightest motions of her titanic shape sent tremors through the flooring –

But mighty and alien as she may have been, she was still a living thing, and divorced from any notions of justice or deserving, he felt same basic little tug that would have been elicited just as a base, thoughtless response to any creature in dire straits.

“...You...” she acknowledged, with a heavy, thoughtful pause, as he drew near, before her pale eyes darted to the doorway. “...You’re alone.” She concluded in a more miserable tone than would have been merited. “I thought Yellow and Blue would be with you.”

Steven wasn’t sure what she expected him to tell her. “Yeah… They might need some space to process all this. You did just blast them with your laser eyes and everything… So, how are you holding up?”

Though she did not seem to have paid that much mind to his questions not listening all too closely, her entire countenance was overcome with a wave of stunned realization. Steven got the impression that his arrival had merely induced her to speak out loud the thoughts that were already coursing through her mind and bouncing around in her gem by the time he’d gotten back here, though it was probably not altogether a bad thing for her to spell out in full awareness what she had even refused to consider for so long. She’d really have to work at that whole ‘actually listening to others’ thing, but they would not be here right now if she had not at least taken the first step, and if what it took right now for her to do that was someone to bounce her thoughts off, then so be it.

But then again, if he looked back at his experiences with Lapis, Peridot and other homeworld gems… Or even the many tense situations he’d lived through with the Crsytal gems, or what his father told him of his mother, it didn’t seem like ‘talking about your feelings’ or open communication of any kind had really been a common practice on the homeworld, so perhaps this was a moment to appreciate things whose absence he could never have conceived of.

It was easy to see how his mom, or even the rest of homeworld society, would have come to be the way it was because she was this way, she’d built it up from the ground and they had all come from her, but it was more than that: When two humans met each other on the open field, almost the first thing they would need to tell each other were what their names were, what they did for a living, and for what purpose they had come to this place. With two gems, especially homeworld gems, much of this would have been clear at a glance – One could immediately assume that any Ruby was called ‘Ruby’, and that she was a guard or foot-soldier of sorts. You would immediately know their background and occupation and have some idea of what their abilities and life experiences might have been like, and on top of that, you might be able to deduce something of their basic characteristics by looking at their coloration, the placement of their gem, and which court they belonged to, which their uniforms would usually helpfully supply for you.

You could conduct most basic interactions without ever asking the other person about themselves or needing to gleam any sort of knowledge about them, furthermore, the most common social scripts concerned hierarchy and orders, with this being the chief context in which it would be expected to have anything to say so each other. On earth acquiring some communication and constructive expression skills would be considered part of maturity, but that, again, would be a far less emphasized concept among ageless beings that are born fully formed. Emotional maturity was definitely a thing – in the relatively brief time he had known her, he’d seen Amethyst’s increase in leaps and bounds.

There wasn’t necessarily a hard limitation, but a network of factors that would facilitate certain biases, until it didn’t seem so strange anymore to come across cases like the Topazes, who had never told each other how grateful they were for each other’s support until introduced to the example of himself and Lars.

– it’s not like there weren’t many nonsensical things things on Earth that had often raised the eyebrows or Garnet and Pearl.

Considering that it was no longer so astonishing that White Diamond, who might well be older than humanity and yet had somehow never had to process the experience of being proven wrong in public would crumble when introduced to ideas that to her might be as incomprehensible and alien as she had at first looked to him.

Already, the odds of coming as far as to get her pondering to herself in such breathless small whimpers had been considered minuscule beyond any estimation, though it surely confirmed all his suspicions about just how startlingly novel the idea of self-reflection was to the frameworks of her mind. She’s never once strayed into those depths, so she was unaware of the dragons that lay waiting there.

“They wereafraid of me...” she mumbled, her voice trembling under the weight of what, to Steven, had been obvious from the moment when Yellow and Blue had first mentioned her by name “They were really, actually terrified...”

Then her eyes turned toward Steven – really and wholly this time, and very quietly she croaked:

“Did… I do this?”

Her stance and mannerisms took on an almost pleading quality.

“Did Pink go away...because of me?”

Steven suppressed the urge to sigh, and somberly he replied: “Only mom could answer that.”

Face to face with the uncertainty she’d turned away from all her long, long life, at the mercy of the unknown which she had always denied, stripped of the thought constructs and rationalizations she had spun up to make sense of existence and endure its terror, she felt as bared as she did on the first of her days when she was alone with the pale rocks and the cruel, tar-black skies, she crumbled now as she had then.

Her arms shook, and with her clenched fists she set herself down onto the crystalline floor, and she wailed piteously, garish grating noises: "I DONT WAAANT THIS!"

She had been wholly defeated a good while ago, but only when she caught note of the iridescent droplets that had dripped onto her knuckles did she finally receive the coup the grace. “Are these-? Did they come from-?”

She might have concealed her face in the crooks of her arms, but the errant flurries o