“We make war that we may live in peace” – Aristotle
“There’s no such thing as a good war, kiddo.” Greg Universe, The Return
It was done.
It was over.
They had managed to push most of Homeworld back, though they were still fighting a few gems that just refused to let it go. But it seemed an almost certain win. The outline of many Homeworld ships could be seen heading into the sky and for the Crystal Gems, that was proof enough that the day, the battle, and the war belonged to them.
And that’s when the leader of the Crystal Gems, the name the rebels were calling themselves, noticed that there were a few gems running towards the warp pad that was situated behind them by several yards. It shouldn’t have been anything odd – they had lost, so of course they were fleeing – but this didn’t seem like a normal retreat…
“That was rude, darling! Manners maketh the gem, after all!”
The comment came from Sardonyx, who had just ducked from a jasper fusion that thought it a good idea to cleave her in half with a giant axe. The exuberant fusion actually thought the axe was pretty nice and if she could get this fusion to break, she was taking that axe and putting it in her room, though it would most likely go into Garnet or Ruby’s room. They were in mid-fight when the sound was first heard, seemingly shaking the ground and knocking several to the dirt below them.
It sounded like a gong ringing out, so loud that the vibration was loud enough and strong enough to break apart the current fusions that were battling it out – the jaspers broke apart in a confused heap, while Sardonyx split into Pearl and Garnet, respectively, also bewildered at what had just happened.
Even thousands of years later, no one was exactly clear as to what happened that day, both Earth and Homeworld gems alike. But what was known is the day is a turning point in the war – it would mark the eventual end to the war and, to Homeworld and the Diamond Authority, the end of the rebellion and the end of Earth’s inhabitants.
Rose Quartz didn’t understand what made her act – maybe it was years of honing her tactical skills as a battalion leader or perhaps she saw the speck of light in the distance – but she was moving quickly towards Garnet and Pearl, stepping between them and employing a larger version of her shield. She tried calling out to the others – she had seen Biggs somewhere to her left and she thought Snowflake had been slightly ahead of them – but she was cut off by the cries of those on the battlefield.
There was a bright light illuminating the entire sky and area around them and the vibrations increased. They were piercing, as though their bodies were being pulled apart and stretched to their limits; Rose was sure she was going to be poofed and she would soon find herself within her gem, regenerating.
As soon as it started, it stopped. The light, the vibrations, the cries and screams that surrounded them all seemed to stop. Everything stopped.
It was quiet.
Dissipating the shield, Rose stared out at the aftermath before her. Immediately in front of her was one of the jaspers who had been fighting with Sardonyx earlier, on all fours and shaking. One of their arms was…changing – skin boiling, rippling, and switching colors. Talons seemed to be growing from their fingers, until there was nothing to be called fingers left on their hand; the change seemed to creep up the arm, to the shoulder, spreading from one side to the other.
Jaspers were extremely strong gems, hence why Homeworld employed them as their main military force, the might behind the minds as it were. While rubies would be deployed as the first line of defense, jaspers were almost always the second and last line, able to defeat most foes who tried to go toe to toe with them.
Rose had known jaspers, they all had at one point in time, and for all of her thousands of years of life, the rebellion leader had never seen this type of gem laid so low by something so…mysterious. Whatever was happening was now starting to cause the gem pain, as she began to cry out, bending forward to rest her head on the ground beneath her. Other cries joined hers and Rose looked around to see the jasper wasn’t the only one being affected.
“We have to leave.”
It was the first thing spoken since…whatever had happened…happened and it caused Rose to turn her head to the right, startled by the change in sound. She had been expecting to hear the familiar voice of Garnet, who she was sure had been to her right, however now her sight was filled with one of her components. Whatever the light and vibration was, it had been strong enough to not just dissipate the fusion of Sardonyx, but the usually permanent fusion of Garnet as well.
“What?” Rose asked, confused by the statement.
“We have to leave,” Sapphire replied, more forcefully than anyone had ever really heard from her before. “Right now!”
If this had been any other time, Rose wouldn’t have hesitated. Sapphire’s precognition, and thus the enhanced abilities that seemed to be a facet of Garnet, had been an incredible asset to the rebellion, allowing them to better prepare or even flee from enemy forces. It was just one of the advantages the Crystal Gems held over Homeworld. Now, however, Rose’s confusion and bafflement were clouding her judgement and making her slow to act.
It was the tone of voice coming from the smaller gem that made a dent in her mind, causing her to shake the cobwebs away. “Right,” she whispered, her eyes moving back to the former figure of the jasper. Whatever had happened to her, it, seemed to have stopped and had changed a formidable gem into a…a…
What was she?
“Right,” she repeated, shakily getting to her feet. “Come on.”
“But…but…what about…?” That was Pearl, who was in just as much shock at the others and while Rose would have loved to explain…whatever any of this was, there wasn’t time. The changed jasper was still trying to figure out things itself and they were in no position should it decide they were the enemy.
“No time,” she commanded. They could consider what had happened later, back at their base, and far away from here. She grabbed Pearl’s shoulder in an attempt to bring her to a standing position, stating, “Come on, we need to get to the warp pad. Ruby, grab Sapphire.”
Ruby, who had already been standing, seemed to see the same thing Rose had – that the jasper or whatever she was now, would certainly be coming after them if they continued to stand where they were. Ruby she may have been, she was unlike any ruby they had ever met or known; she was more level headed than most of her facet set and fiercely protective of people she was close to, especially Sapphire.
She didn’t need to be told twice to turn tail and run, even if she didn’t like doing it. Picking up her partner, she turned just as Rose and Pearl had, and all three ran as fast as they could towards the warp pad, pushing their speed when they heard several roars and running stomps behind them. They reached the warp just as they had begun to amass a large crowd of…what could only be called former gems because what they saw could no longer be known as a gem.
The warp glowed, taking the four from the battlefield and the growing creatures they left behind, before placing them on the warp pad that was situated in a large cave off a small beach Rose had discovered while doing reconnaissance. It made the perfect base of operations – hidden from the eyes of any humans that might be building a tribe to the east and probably unknown or forgotten by Homeworld. The rebel leader had some ideas on converting to an actual base, where each Crystal Gem could retreat to their own quarters and where they could hold meetings without the constant threat of being discovered.
That seemed like a distant thought now.
Their make shift base was empty, with only the four standing on the warp pad – well, mostly standing. Both Sapphire and Pearl had sunk to the surface of the warp, neither of them able to even consider standing upright after what they had just seen. Rose herself had stepped off the warp to stand a ways away from them, her eyes focused on the shore that stood out before them.
“What was that!?” It was the first thing Ruby had said since being split apart from Sapphire and the agitation in her voice was palpable. The smaller gem never held back her emotions – you always knew what she was thinking or what she felt in any given moment; while Rose knew this instinctively, she didn’t know her or Sapphire as well as she did their fusion. By now, the two hardly ever spent time not being Garnet and though they could sometimes see hints or traits of her two components, Garnet was turning out to be her own, capable gem.
“We have to go back,” whispered Pearl. Oh, her dear, sweet Pearl. As much as she tried to understand Rose’s fascination with Earth, she didn’t really ‘get’ what was so special about the planet. But she had proven time and time again that her loyalty was to Rose Quartz and their rebellious cause and that loyalty extended to all of those they called friends.
“We…have…everyone is still there! We have to…”
“We can’t!” their seer exclaimed. Like Ruby, Sapphire was still a bit of an enigma to them, though she and Pearl were probably the closest to the two. But even Rose could count the number of times she had ever heard the diplomat raise her voice, even when she was upset. Well…there was that one time and if it did occur, it was usually in relation to Ruby…
They were arguing now, the larger gem could hear it from behind her back. Pearl wanted to go back, insisted on it, while Sapphire was equally trying to tell her they couldn’t. Then the conversation shifted – her general wanted to know why Sapphire hadn’t seen this as part of her visions and her second general’s hot tempered component demanded to know if Pearl wanted a fat lip.
Going back to Ruby’s question of what they had seen, what they had been a part of entered the leader’s brain space. What was that, anyway? What had happened? The obvious answer was it was the Diamonds, most likely; anyone opposed to the rebellion would do anything to make it stop, to stop those who dared to think outside of their designed purpose, who defied the tenants of their Diamonds, their rules, and laws.
That made sense, of course; what didn’t make sense was what they had actually done. Light and vibrations had literally knocked everyone to the ground and then, it had caused…what was that? What had changed that jasper and the others? What had they changed into? There were a lot of questions and it appeared there weren’t a lot of answers.
Rose turned to the commotion behind her. They would need to sort this out, but later. Much later, when cooler heads prevailed – Ruby and Sapphire were never cool heads when upset, if her former garden was anything to go by, and Pearl could be…unreasonable when worked up over something.
And like that, their bickering stopped. Though Rose always carried herself as compassionate and rather soft spoken, she hadn’t become leader of the Crystal Gems by tactics alone. She could be an imposing figure, her quartz stature looming even over Garnet and when she had something important to say, her voice could be booming and held an authoritative aura that made you listen. All three turned to their leader, any discussion or argument stopping at her words.
The tension was still there, Rose could feel it; heck, she could actually see it. Ruby and Sapphire were working off each other, creating a layer of steam that was floating around the warp and she could see a few sparks coming from it, meaning they were about to get good and worked up. The fact that Pearl hadn’t even been bothered by it or had even noticed it was a bit worrisome.
“We have other things to worry about,” Rose continued, taking the few steps to put her back near the warp and the trio that sat there. She had a question and it was one she needed the answer to, regardless how hard it would be to take. “Sapphire, how many…” she started, before clearing her throat. “How many of us sur…are left after this?”
That was met with a watery chuckle and it was the first-time Rose realized that Sapphire was upset enough to be crying. “That is it,” she admitted. “We’re all that’s left.”
That…couldn’t be right.
“That’s…” Pearl started, equally stunned at the admission. “That’s not possible!”
“Do you want to go back and check!?”
It wasn’t like Pearl and Sapphire to be at odds with each other. Even as Garnet, while the two might disagree, it was usually civil and came down to which approach could better be orchestrated, but they had never outright shouted at each other. And the last thing Rose wanted was to get Ruby riled even further than she was.
“No,” she said, firmly, her gaze straying to meet Pearl’s eyes for a moment. “No one’s leaving. We have no idea what just happened or how…whatever happened will affect us if we return. Then of course, there are those…” her words trailed off, not knowing exactly how to call or explain the strange creatures that had turned on them.
“We need to regroup and figure out what’s just happened.”
“But they could be hurt!”
Oh, she did love Pearl, she really really did, but sometimes…
“Don’t you think I know that!?” she hissed, biting back another comment that threatened to leave her lips. They were upset, confused, scared…it almost felt like they had been thrown back in time to the very start of their rebellion, when they never knew if their last assault, their last mission, or their last encounter would truly be their last.
The comment had its desired effect – no one would cross her or go behind her back if she wished it. As much as they had shed their preconditioned urges, some still managed to creep back in when they least expected it. Pearl and Ruby, who were used to be treated as expendable, and Sapphire, though an aristocrat and diplomat, reacted immediately. And nothing they did could ever erase the slight fear Rose saw filter through their eyes and expressions.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “We just…we can’t jump in to…whatever this is. I’m…I’m going into my room. I think we need to calm down a bit. Don’t go off and stay by the base as much as you can.”
She didn’t wait to hear their agreements or confirmations, just walked back them through the door to her room. She needed to think and to grieve.
The three gems continued to stay on the warp, still dazed and confused. “Pearl, don’t go.” The blue gem pushed her bangs aside, her blue eye trained on the thinner gem. “Nothing good will come about if you do.”
It didn’t seem right. They had left friends and enemies behind, which for a group who prided themselves on leaving no one behind, it seemed to contradict everything they had been fighting for. But Sapphire nor Garnet ever gave out warnings if there wasn’t something to be worried about. Nodding slowly, Pearl said, “Okay.” She only took a moment to add in an, “I’m sorry.”
“Me, three,” Ruby added. A thousand years together had taught them that not every argument signaled the end, only a stop in the road, as one of their human companions had once said. They hadn’t meant anything with their words – they were hurt, muddled, and frightened.
The Diamonds apparently had a new weapon that could turn a gem into…whatever they had last seen.
And whatever those creatures were had been left to roam around the countryside, which wouldn’t bold well for any human settlements within the area.
They were the last four – eventually three – members of the Crystal Gems; they were the only ones to truly survive.
What did they do now?
Pearl stood on shaky limbs before strengthening her posture.
“Where’re you going?”
The thinner gem shrugged. “Not really sure,” she muttered. Shaking herself, she looked over at the couple and gave them a tight smile. “I won’t leave, I promise. I think…I think I may just go into my room. You two?”
Ruby jutted her chin out towards the slow-moving waves that creeped along the shore. “Just there, most likely.”
Again, Pearl nodded. She opened her mouth to say something, but…what else was there to be said? Rose was right – they would come back to discuss what had happened earlier, but for now, they needed to process the event themselves.
Instead, she turned and headed through the door to her own room.