Worth Fighting For
Tremors shook Garnet's arms as she braced the full intensity of Jasper's maddened charge with her gauntlets; there was no doubt in her mind that if she were a lesser being, her arms would have been completely pulverized. Thought her heels did slide back a few scarce inches as Jasper pressed forward, as if that would knock the rejuvenated fusion down. The bulkier Gem's rage was getting the best of her, her battle-lust drugging and clouding her mind of all sense and tactical thoughts, rendering her more of a beast now than a seasoned warrior.
Garnet allowed the subtlest of smirks to cross her lips. At this small, narrow window of opportunity, with a twist of her feet and a grunt, Garnet swung the huge Gem up over her head, and hurl her into the ship's primary engine pulse. The last Garnet saw of Jasper, her face was frozen into one of absolute horror, releasing a monstrous howl that was easily overpowered by the rapidly heating core before she, and the rest of the engine, erupted into green flame and smoke.
Garnet wasted no time basking in her victory. Without pause, she turned heel and ran for the corridor. Time to go, two voices said as one.
The destruction of the engine core sent a shockwave that rocked the entire ship. The Gems located in the flight deck, the "index finger" of the craft, all trembled and wobbled to its dance. Luckily, Amethyst was able to stay nice and comfy atop of Peridot. Though at that moment, this was the least of the tech-Gem's worries.
"What was that!?" she cried. "What did you clods break this time!?"
No one had the time to answer, as mere seconds later came a second explosion. A greater one than before, one that, although unseen from their location, spat a roaring green flame into the vacuum of space from the craft's palm. The blast was so large that the entire "wrist" of the ship was torn off, a dead shell of metal that spun perpetually into the void beyond. The front of the ship, fingers and all, had been slingshot towards Earth.
The force of the craft breaking in two was more than enough to fling every Gem on the flight deck forward. Peridot, bound in the black and thorny whip of Amethyst, was pushed up against its owner and Steven Universe. Her head was still ringing from slamming into the floor as the other two Gems pushed themselves up.
"What the heck was that?" Amethyst cried, rubbing her shoulder.
Still miraculously seated, Pearl continued to stare into the reports and numbers flickering against her eyes with her hands still plunged into the control panel. "Engines are completely offline, manual flight is inactive." The worry in her voice jumped. "Deflector shields are gone, too!"
Every word that came out of her mouth was like a punch in the gut for Peridot. "Do you dunderheads have any idea what you've done here?" she cried. "Metacarpus-class frigates don't just pop out of the ground, you know! You idiots, you think this is some huge blow when Homeworld could just glass this miserable hunk of rock without a second-ugh!" Her tirade was cut short by Amethyst slamming a boot into her side.
"Tough luck, Peri," snorted the undercooked Gem.
At that moment, Garnet burst into the flight deck. Her teammates all cried her name. "We lost something," she said simply, though a slight edge accompanied her tone.
"Yeah! The engine, you clod! Oof!" Peridot curled into where Amethyst kicked her.
"This thing is going down!" Garnet urged them.
Pearl shot up from her chair, where from the window the image of planet Earth was growing rapidly larger and filling the space. "Without the deflector shields, we'll burn to a crisp in the planet's atmosphere!"
"Maybe for your crummy Earthling ships," Peridot chided from her spot on the floor. "Homeworld ensures all of its vessels and starcraft are constructed from diamond-steel to withstand temperatures of up to four-thousand degrees kelvin. Impact, on the other hand..."
In one swift motion, Garnet snatched up Peridot by her bindings and brought their faces close together. "Escape pods. Where are they?"
Peridot squirmed. "You think I'd tell a pack of misfit traitors?" she spat.
The taller Gem bared her teeth. "Do you want to die?"
Peridot pursed her lips in that way she was wont to do. After only a second of thought she reluctantly said, "There's a small one in here, but another big enough for all of us all the way down by the Fifth Digit passageway. You just stand on the green circle and treat it like a warp pad. Even you simpletons couldn't screw it up." Without wasting a second longer, the Gems whirled round and ran down the length of the ship's index finger. Amethyst, whom was lugging Peridot over her shoulder, jogged with a bounce in her step just to make the squirming Gem's captivity all the more uncomfortable.
When they made a bend around the corner, Steven froze abruptly. "Wait, guys!"
Garnet, who stopped the moment he did, had her hand on his wrist in the blink of an eye. "Steven, let's go!"
"But I need to save Lapis!" he cried, tugging on his own arm. "She's my friend, and I said I'd come back for her!" A rumble within the ship made Steven lose his footing, but Garnet held him firm. "Garnet, please!" Steven looked to her with tears beading the corners of his eyes. Garnet gazed solemnly at the boy, lips slightly parted. Another tremor wracked the vessel.
"Everybody, come on!" Pearl howled, who stood several feet away beside Amethyst and Peridot, one hand gripping the tawny tubing running along the wall.
Garnet looked back down at Steven, and sighed. "Are you sure you know where she is?"
"Yes! Yes, I do!" He nodded eagerly.
"You can't be serious, G! We don't got time!"
"We'll be pulverized before we get back to the escape pod!" Pearl added, gripping the sides of her hair.
"Hey! Hey!" Peridot piped up, lifting her head and glancing back from Amethyst's shoulder. "I don't intend on perishing in my own ship, so there's a smaller escape pod in Prison Block G where she's being held! I can show you where it is!"
"Then that's settled. Amethyst, give me Peridot." With uncertainty clear on her face, the stockier Gem flung Peridot into the air. She made a small yelp upon landing in Garnet's arms. "You and Pearl, head for the pod down the hall. Us four will take the other, and we'll rendezvous at the Temple."
Without lingering for even a second to hear their protests, Garnet sprinted furiously, but somehow gracefully, down into the cell blocks with two small Gems in each arm. Pearl and Amethyst looked to each other, anxiety written all over their faces, before they wordlessly turned heel and broke into a dash.
The Gems didn't even reach Lapis's cell before they were halted by a most appalling sight.
"Lapis!" Steven cried.
"I thought you'd come back for your friend." Jasper, her jumpsuit shredded and scorched all over, squeezed one beefy arm around a tiny blue Gem's throat. Behind her, the escape pod stood with its window-hatch ajar. "How about a trade, fusion scum?" she sneered. "This defective little brat," Jasper bounced Lapis in her arm, "for Rose Quartz."
"No such trade shall take place!" Garnet snarled. She dropped the two Gems before summoning her gauntlets.
But Steven hopped in front of Garnet with his arms outstretched before she could charge. "No, Garnet! I'll do it! I'll let her take me!"
"Steven, now is not the time for negotiations!"
"Steven..." Lapis choked, both hands feebly clawing at Jasper's muscles, "...Not...Worth it..."
Jasper laughed heartily at the conflict before her. "Are you really so willing to let this weak little Lapis Lazuli perish?" she asked. "Especially when Rose is willing to save her life?" Garnet gave no immediate reply, outside of gritting her teeth and raising her fists.
"Hey, Jasper! What about me?!" Peridot snapped. She frantically wriggled on the floor so that she was lying on her side, head lifted and gazing up at the monstrous Gem. "You need a qualified technician to get us back to Homeworld!"
Jasper simply laughed. "You think your life overrides mission priority? I don't need you to contact Homeworld. This baby's got all I need." Her fist banged hollowly against the pod's exterior.
"But..." Peridot's face curdled like old milk as realization dawned on her. "But... But I'm in charge of this Cluster! You can't do this to me!"
"You think being assigned this Cluster is some kind of honor?" Jasper threw her head back and laughed. "This place has been dead of Gem activity for centuries! And even before the rebellion, this hunk of rock could only produce grunts and undercooked rejects. So Yellow Diamond thought even a skittish, bumbling Peridot like yourself could handle it. Surprising no one, you couldn't even do something as simple as that." Her sneer shifted towards Steven. "Glad to see this trip wasn't a total waste of my time."
Peridot's jaw trembled. "I'm just...?" The words died in her throat. A few tears crawled down her cheeks as she let her head drop to the floor like a rock. Lapis Lazuli, though her face was squeezed by Jasper's muscles, looked down to the crying Peridot. Her eyes widened slightly, though she went unnoticed by the other three Gems.
"You don't have much time left, fusion." Jasper sneered. "Give me Rose, or we'll all die on this miserable planet. Together."
Her offer was met with silence. Instead, Garnet straightened her back, arms folding across her chest, much to Steven's shock and Jasper's bafflement. Before the larger of the two could utter a word, she abruptly flung her head back and clasped both hands to her face, howling into them as Lapis Lazuli dropped to her knees. "My eyes!" she roared. "What just happened?!" Jasper threw her fists down, eyes froth with rage as she swung down at Lapis, missing by a hair.
The water gem scrambled to her feet and frantically dashed towards Steven and Garnet to avoid the flailing Gem. All the while Peridot, staring numbly at the ceiling, did not have the mind nor sense to question why her face was suddenly deprived of tears. But she did take note of the confusion surrounding her, how she was effectively dead to the world in more ways than one. Without a sound, she crawled away from the scene with a hollow, dead look on her face.
No one had the time to say a word as Garnet took a massive leap towards Jasper, gauntlet raised, and slammed it hard into her stomach. Jasper flew back, crashing hard enough into the pod to rock it where it hovered. The window shut tight, and before anyone but Garnet could understand what was happening, the pod vanished and what remained of the ship flicked it towards Earth.
But a second pod was launched a few seconds later, and another explosion bursting from the ship's hull pushed it further ahead, effectively turning the small craft into a bullet that shot through and obliterated Jasper's pod in a burst of shrapnel and flame. The speeding escape pod careened towards Earth at incredible speeds, followed slowly by the debris of the one it just smashed to pieces.
"Oh no, we lost Peridot!" Steven moaned.
"Lapis, do you know of any other escape pods?" Garnet asked, hastily jogging to the two.
The water Gem wordlessly shook her head, gripping one arm. "This is all my fault. I'm sorry, Steven."
"I wouldn't be too sure, Lapis!" the boy announced heroically. He took Garnet and Lapis by their hands, and told them to crouch down beside him.
Hunks of neon-green metal scattered the beach laid out before the Gems' sacred temple. Green flames licked up at the night sky as black smoke billowed relentlessly, rendering the backdrop a hazy emerald hue. Three individuals combed through the wreckage of Peridot's starship.
"Steven!" Pearl stepped one foot inside the skeleton that was once a massive finger of the craft. There was only darkness within, and wires and tubing that hung from the ceiling in a most eerie manner. Pearl cupped her hands around her mouth and called out, "Steven! Garnet!?"
"Yo, Gar! Steve-o!" Amethyst climbed to the top of a twisted, black-splotched piece of the ship's hull and dragged her eyes across smoldering graveyard.
Lion pawed through the debris and wreckage, batting small piles aside, all with a placid look on his face as he tried to find his master. He wasted no time or effort sniffing the air, as only burning smells of metal he did not recognize polluted the area; catching Steven's scent in here would be like trying to find a needle in a haystack. When Lion was about to gallop into one of the fingers leering over the incline of the cliff face, he sensed something underneath a pile of debris pushed up against the bulk of the craft's body. He turned towards the pile and unleashed one of his sonic roars, blowing the scrap metal away and revealing a glowing pink sphere containing three figures.
When it dissolved, they all plopped down harmlessly into the sand.
"Nice one," Garnet breathed, ruffling the boy's hair.
"Oh my gosh!" Steven looked up to her, wonder in his eyes, "I can't believe you're a fusion all the time!"
A faint smiled graced the fusion's face. "Mhm. I'm sorry you had to find out like this, Steven. I was planning to introduce you to Ruby and Sapphire on your birthday, when they weren't forcefully separated and held prisoner against their wills."
"You can still do it! I'll just pretend I didn't know!"
Garnet let out a single laugh under her breath. "I think that could work."
"Steven! Garnet!" The two Gems instinctively looked up upon hearing their names called out. Lured into the area by Lion's roar, Pearl and Amethyst were seen sprinting towards their founded family from around a pile of splintered metal.
"Hey guys!" Steven grinned and waved his hands at the rapidly-approaching Gems. Pearl slid down to her knees and scooped the two up into a bone-crushing hug. "Oh, I'm so glad you're both okay! Our pod's radar detected a second one ejected followed by another, but then they collided and I, oh Steven!" Pearl released Garnet to reaffirm her hold on the boy, much to his simultaneous love and despair.
"Pearl!" he choked. "Need to breathe!"
"Oh!" The slender Gem dropped him into the sand, tittering lightly into her palm. "Oops, sorry Steven!"
"Nice going, little man," said Amethyst, punching him lightly in the shoulder. "We would all be jewels in Yellow Diamond's drinking chalice by now if it wasn't for you." She then turned to Garnet and asked, "So what was that all about? Who ejected those pods?"
"Had another run-in with Jasper." Garnet adjusted her cracked shades. "She got away in our escape pod, and Peridot slipped away in another. I don't know which pod survived, but whoever did, we'll have to make finding it and its occupant one of our top priorities."
Pearl nodded. "Agreed."
Silence overtook the group, though the fires all around them raged on. With the excitement given a moment's pause of settling down, Steven was allowed to dwell on his own thoughts. Glancing to each of his fellow Gems, Steven gasped aloud as he was suddenly stricken by realization. "Hey, where's Lapis?"
The Crystal Gems all took turns glancing at each other, and then the area around them. Lion padded off and vanished behind a piece of broken ship. A shrill cry followed seconds later. "Found her," Garnet said dryly.
The four followed where they heard the scream, and rounding the corner Lion did were met with Lapis Lazuli standing completely still as Lion padded around her, much like a hungry predator would, though the big pink cat had no hunger in his eyes, only the desire to keep the girl from fleeing. "Lapis!" Steven ran from his Gem family towards her. "Lapis, where are you going?"
Lapis, whose wary gaze was on Lion the whole time, snapped up towards the boy stopping in front of her. Her wide gaze quickly turned somber. "Just let me be alone, Steven," she said. Lapis moved to grab her arm again. "I'm a bad Gem and you shouldn't come near me."
"Whaaat? No you're not! You're awesome!"
"Don't you know anything?" Lapis snapped, making Steven instinctively recoil into the unexpected arms of Amethyst, who protectively wrapped them around the boy. "I'm the reason all of this happened," she explained. "If I wasn't so eager to get home, I would have realized how suspicious it looked, for the first Gem to ever return from planet Earth. Peridot wouldn't have come poking around, and this," she gestured to the desolation around them, "just...wouldn't be. Please Steven, I don't want cause any more trouble."
She turned to start walking away, but Steven jumped forward and grabbed her by the wrist before she could take a single step. "Lapis, wait..."
"We can't just let you wander Earth," Pearl seemingly finished.
Lapis's voice was quiet. "You're going to lock me up again?" To his right, Steven noticed the tide begin to writhe. He tenderly squeezed his friend's wrist.
"I didn't say that."
"But you're implying it."
"Enough." Garnet stepped forward, gently shooing Steven aside and placing a hand on Lapis's shoulder. She got down on one knee and turned Lapis around, who did so without any resistance. "Lapis."
The water Gem's eyes were glued to the sand between her bare feet. She hesitantly lifted them, and stared miserably into the mirror-like chrome of Garnet's visor.
"Do we have any reason to perceive you as a threat?"
Lapis was still and silent for several seconds before shaking her head. "No... No. I'm tired of fighting, of being scared. I just..." The rest of the words died in her throat.
Garnet seemingly picked up on this and asked, "What do you want to do, now that you're free?"
"'Free'?" Lapis echoed, her voice barely above a whisper. "Is there even such a thing any more? Earth and the mirror. Then Earth again. I made it home, which was now a prison cell in some city I didn't recognize. Then Peridot's ship. And now I'm back on Earth again. All that, and I'm still a prisoner on a planet I have no love for, with a people I care nothing for and know nothing about."
Garnet was silent for several long moments, gazing solemnly into Lapis's disheartened blue eyes. The fires snarled all around them, casting both their faces in wicked green shadows. "You feel that you have no place in this universe, now that your singular goal has been proven a futile effort." It was meant for clarification, but the deepening sullenness in Lapis's face told Garnet all she needed to hear, as well as Steven.
"I can't imagine what that must feel like, Lapis. But this could also be really cool! You could do anything you want now!"
Garnet nodded. "A clean slate is a rare thing. What happens next rests entirely in your hands. We won't stop you."
Lapis was quiet, lowering her head so that her hair obscured her eyes. Behind Garnet, Pearl kept stealing uneasy glances at the churning waters lapping in and out along the shoreline.
Finally, she said, "I...don't know what I want. I just feel kinda..." she patted her chest, "...empty."
"You can be a Crystal Gem!" Steven chirped, hugging Garnet's arm. "It'd be great, Lapis! We'd be Beach Summer Fun Buddies, but every day of the year!" The boy swung energetically from Garnet's arm as he spoke until the stoic Gem calmly placed a single hand on the side of his head and pressed him down against her lap.
Steven's antics actually made Lapis giggle a bit, but her mirth quickly died as she came back to reality. "I don't know about that, Steven..." she said warily.
"You can still stay, with us!"
"Steven," said Garnet, "let her make her own decision."
Lapis Lazuli chewed on her lip, looking away, off to the side, to the starry night sky framed by smoke, then returning to Garnet with a desperate glint in her eye. "What do you think I should do?"
"You have to figure that out for yourself," Garnet said.
"Crystal Gems!" A long, dark hand gently slid over Steven's mouth as he let out a muffled, "Crystal Gems!"
"Steven, please." The boy was silent after that, though the stars glittering in his eyes made it obvious to what he wanted, which did not go by Lapis unnoticed.
The water Gem bit her lip. She looked to Steven, face practically glowing, and then Pearl, her uncertainty with the whole situation as apparent as her own. Amethyst had actually fallen asleep against the rock. And then she returned her gaze to Garnet's, whose face was as unreadable as it ever was. But it seemed like she actually wanted Lapis to make her own decision.
Lapis Lazuli glanced at Steven one more time. "I...I don't know what I want to do with my freedom. But I would like to stay with Steven until I figure it out," she finally said. "I want to familiarize myself with this planet and its people, and see whether or not it's something I can accept as a new home. Maybe...Maybe there's a chance I'd fight for it in the future. I don't know, to be honest. But it's a start."
Garnet nodded. "Then your wish is granted."
Pearl looked to her teammate, dumbfounded. "Garnet, this is madness!"
"Beach Summerrrrr!" Steven sang, running over to hug Lapis's legs. The girl gave a weary giggle as she ran her hand through Steven's unruly hair.
"Garnet, do you remember how powerful this Gem is?" Pearl hissed. "She's going to be alone with Steven a lot of the time! What if she - "
Pearl was cut off by Garnet placing a lone finger to her lips and shushing her quietly. "Have faith in the two of them." The stoic Gem folded her arms and observed the sight before her, of Steven eagerly babbling on to Lapis Lazuli about books and food and singing and every other nonsense that entered his frantic little mind, all while the water Gem looked down on her friend with a bashful little smile, nodding every so often whenever he paused to take a breath.
"I think everything will be fine," Garnet said. As Pearl looked on, at the Gem and half-Gem trading quips and remarks like old friends would, a small smile of her own graced her lips. She didn't notice the tide recede.
We'll see where this goes, if you guys are interested enough in this and whatnot. Next chapter, the official first chapter, is when the ball will get rolling and our mighty Peridot ship will set sail.
And in case y'all couldn't tell what was happening, Lapis used Peridot's tears and shot them into Jasper's eyes.