Questions and Answers
Things were slow at the Department of Clarity, and Peridot was not impressed. Sure, the Refacetting only happened once every thousand years, but Gems could live so much longer than that if they made smart decisions; people were just looking for an excuse to slack off.
It was ridiculous: the diamonds — and not even all the Shards, just the Yellow, the Blue and the White — picked new leaders, and so the world had to come to a standstill? Nothing was getting done because there was literally nothing to do: no new independent projects had been started, neither the corporations nor the Authority had commissioned anything until after the Refacetting, the few people that actually came into the department didn’t even seem to have any ideas these days (though Peridot knew that if there were any ideas, their conceptors were going to keep them very well hidden until work started again, ‘that’s what I’d do anyway’ she thought).
‘Absurd. Absolutely absurd…’ she muttered to herself. She still wasn’t impressed.
But the overrated ceremony wasn’t without its uses...
While she had worked as a planetary spotter, Peridot had come across an anomalous planet in one of her searches. The planet — known only by its number code — had all the makings of a viable target: a star in its main sequence, rich in heavy elements, a perfect distance from said star, a satisfactory distance from Homeworld and suitable average surface and crust temperatures. The other planets orbiting that star had been investigated, all were unsuitable due to either temperature or composition, but that wasn’t the problem…
The problem was that the elements that this planet appeared to contain, in the proportions it was said to contain them, just didn’t match her projections. The composition of the crust was almost entirely uniform (which was interesting in itself), and had higher percentages of the ‘lighter’ elements than the star and surrounding planets (and even debris) would indicate.
It was like some clod had tried to alter the planetary records — granted, they had done a fairly good job; if it wasn’t for her keen eyes and near-obsessive attention to detail, she would have missed it completely — and failed. She tried to bring it up with her overseer a few times, but she was always less than helpful:
“Peridot, this isn’t about that ‘rogue planet’ again, is it?”
“Yes. It is. But I... we need to solve it. It’s an error, I’m sure of it.”
Danburite sighed, bringing her hands to her temples. After a long pause she replied.
“Peridot, how often do the fast probes make a mistake?”
“Once every thirty million trips, projected. But—"
“So it isn’t likely that that probe has made a mistake this time, is it?”
“So why do you insist on bringing up the same point every other month?”
‘Because you keep missing the point every time I try to explain it to you, moron.’ thought Peridot angrily.
“Because I don’t think the problem lies with the probes. The anomaly appears to—"
"Appears to be in the database itself; yes, yes, okay, okay. Fine… Fine.” Danburite sighed again. “Okay, here’s what I’ll do: I’ll send a message to someone, okay, I’ll find someone that works in astrogeology full time, and tell them what you’ve been telling me. But please, please, please, please don’t come back to me with this again. Ever. I will get back to you. Okay?”
“Okay. Thank you, Danburite.” said Peridot with as much calm as she could manage; it was a choice between excessive politeness or a total meltdown, and she didn’t care much for meltdowns, they were a sign you were failing; Peridot didn’t care much for failing either.
She knew that this was as far as her queries were going to get within the spotting department, because nobody cared about some possibly-viable planet in some nowhere star system, especially not with some of the more exciting worlds much closer to home. Danburite wasn’t going to be sending any messages to anyone at any time. The only person who would bother listening to her theory would be Bixbite, but Bixbite would listen to anything she said just because she was saying it. She really didn’t need that kind of thing right now.
And so with all the free time that the Refacetting granted her, she decided to take the search into her own hands…
In Peridot’s mind, the Icosahedron was more like the improbable fusion of an art gallery, a maths experiment made physical and a military bunker than it was a library. Roughly two-thirds of the angular structure extended out of the ground, and a broad, elegant white staircase led one from street level to the lofty heights of the oddly shaped black building.
Normally she would have been annoyed by having to walk from the nearest warp station, up the staircase and into the building — “Seriously, what kind of antiquated building doesn’t have its own warp pad!? This is the library!” she had once demanded of the scared looking Gem at the front desk. As it turned out, the converter that they used to generate the pocket dimensions interfered with the warp streams, so they hadn’t installed a warp pad for safety. — but today she had time, so it didn’t matter. People thought that she didn’t enjoy anything apart from her work, but that wasn’t actually true: she enjoyed the simple things as much as the next Gem, just not when there were other things to be done first; it surprised her that anyone got anything done when they spent so much time procrastinating.
Finally reaching the top of the stairs, she strode purposefully through the main entrance of the Icosahedron, disappearing into the building with a high pitched ‘thwip’ noise and a pulse of green light.
You could tell that something big was happening (or going to happen) elsewhere, because apart from the staff there was no one at the library; as she walked through the foyer, the only sound that she could hear was the knocking of her own boots on the floor. It was so quiet that she considered using one of the computers in the foyer for her search, but if she was right and someone had tried to alter the planetary records, then… she didn’t anyone knowing that she’d had a look at them before she had time to decide how she wanted to proceed. If there was something going on they’d be onto her very quickly anyway, but she didn’t want to make it any easier for them to accuse her of anything.
Standing in one of the booths she typed in her request for a private study area, single user. She was good at finding information so she selected a two hour time slot, not that she thought she would need it: the usual queue of people waiting to use the facilities was absent. The holographic keypad and the screen disappeared, and the wall in front of her turned green, signalling her to step through into her allocated room.
Having been outside for the better part of the morning, Peridot reflexively shielded her eyes for a few moments as she stepped into the artificial light of the private study area. There were no windows (as was to be expected for a simple pocket construct like this), a single desk with a computer on it, lined and plain paper (‘probably for the older Gems who still prefer that kind of thing’, remarked an amused Peridot), an assortment of pens and pencils and a chair. Everything she imagined she could possibly need.
Four hours and thirty seven minutes later, she realised that what she was looking for had been buried, expunged from the database, or really was as the computer back in the spotting department had said. But it just couldn’t be right; it just wasn’t logical. Grimacing in irritation, she rose from the chair and walked back to the console to end her session.
“I need full access to the records. It’s Clarity business.” Peridot said lazily to the vibrant purple Gem at the front desk, displaying her badge.
“Oh, sure! Yeah, right away!” replied the Gem, all but falling out of her chair in surprise. Whether her shock was at someone being in the library, that the someone was talking to her, or that the someone was a member the clarity department, Peridot never bothered to find out.
Even if she was ‘only’ part of the research and development branch of the clarity department, she was still in the clarity department, and that was enough for people not to question her further. The R&D Gems deserved more respect anyway, how would the field agents do their jobs without all the equipment that they designed and built, on site as well!?
When the purple Gem had called for someone else to attend the desk, she led Peridot to the back of one of the thick, square pillars surrounding the centre of the foyer. The pillar was clearly more than a pillar, because her guide began to press lightly on its brassy surface at certain points (which Peridot made sure to memorise, just in case it ever became necessary to remember), causing dim flashes of light to appear where her hand had just been. She moved towards the space between the first pillar and its nearest neighbour, and Peridot followed suit. Where there had previously been the unbroken black surface of the highly polished floor, a tiny indentation had appeared: the indentation elongated itself into a line, from the two ends of the first line came two shorter lines at right-angles, and finally those two lines made a right angle turn, meeting in the middle.
The final result was a large rectangle, debossed into the floor; when a black cuboid began to slide silently upwards from the marked shape, the purple Gem looked over at Peridot with a stupid, expectant grin. Peridot sighed loudly and rolled her eyes, turning away from the easily amused purple nitwit; with the things she’d seen and used herself, it would take a lot more than polyalloy flooring to capture her attention.
They waited in silence until the structure had risen to its full height; when it came to an abrupt stop, Peridot looked through the archway that was cut into its length, down onto a staircase illuminated by strip lighting.
“Follow me please.” said the librarian in a sour tone, clearly put out by Peridot’s unfriendly manner.
She led her down the stairs into a large room with curved walls, completely filled with row upon row of shelves.
“Is this your first time down here?” asked the purple Gem.
“Yes, it is.”
“Well there are four floors to the physical section of the library: the top two are for the most important books, which it was deemed necessary to keep physical copies of, the third floor is for documents, transcripts, blueprints, letters, stuff like that. The bottom floor is mostly empty space, ready to store more documents as time goes on. In the centre of each floor there are computers and desks; when you’re finished with whatever you need, leave them at the desk on the relevant floor, we’ll take care of reshelving them. You’re gonna need a map, so here you are. It’s kinda silly for a library, but its voice activated, so tell it what you need and it’ll direct you, just follow. Yeah… I think that’s everything… Oh! And remember, the library closes at six until after the Refacetting, because we’re not getting much traffic.”
With her explanation complete, the Gem handed Peridot a small silver ball and rushed off. Peridot was glad to be rid of her, and had a strong suspicion that the feeling was mutual.
Looking down at the sphere that had been hastily dumped into her hand, she immediately knew what it was. The robonoid was a relatively simple machine, but its versatile design could have as many variations as there were Gems in the world; this particular type had been a failed experiment in levitation (they hadn’t been able to get them high enough off the ground for the kind of uses the contractor wanted them for), but had become very popular as pieces in games, ornaments and now as maps in libraries. The bottom line however, was that this was something else the world had to thank the R&D branch for.
“On.” she said clearly before tipping the ball out of her hand, onto the floor.
The robonoid fell through the air as one might expect, but no sound was heard when it should’ve reached the floor, because it didn’t reach the floor. The ball remained motionless, floating perhaps half an inch off of the ground, before booting up and projecting a neat diagram of the Icosahedron’s lower floors. She thought briefly about what she needed to be looking for.
“Document… Offworld… Intergalactic… Galaxies… Spiral… Barred… Star Systems…” she said to the little machine, which disregarded more and more areas of the library, until she had zoned in on the relevant section.
‘Typical.’ she thought to herself. The shelves she would need to access were on the bottom floor, which meant more walking, but it could be a good thing, depending on how much or little that floor already contained.
“Take me to this section.” she barked at the robonoid.
And so the odd pair made their way through the little used section of the library: the rounder of the two gliding silently along the floor and down the stairs, the greener of the two clomping steadily behind.
The folder she had been looking for was a lot thicker than she’d expected. She had hoped that there was more information on her erroneous planet than she’d previously been able to find, but never thought there would be this much more. As she carefully slid the folder out of its position between those of the neighbouring planets, she realised that she had been right about the planet having a falsified composition: if her planet was as it appeared in the database it would be unviable, and an unviable planet would never have a file this thick - even planets scheduled for more detailed exploration didn’t have files this thick; this was more like an in-progress report for a planet that was already being seeded...
She popped the translucent grey bubble surrounding the file, smiling as she did so (machine optimised compact bubbling: another idea from the R&D branch, thank you very much). With as much excitement as Peridot thought was appropriate, she brought the file to desk at the centre of the room. Sitting down heavily, she stretched her arms, took the pins out of her hair and shook her head, for once allowing her long, pale yellow hair to hang free. Now suitably comfortable, she was ready to get some answers. She turned the front cover...
Homeworld Department of Planetary Spotting
Offworld Mineral Transmutation Status Report
Planet Number: 000505241908
Authorisation Class: Diamond
Authorised By: Empress Yellow Diamond, Hand of the Authority, Devourer of Worlds
She hadn’t even got to the first full page of text yet and she already had more questions than she came in with. Though the format was simpler than she was used to, this was definitely an official document from the department she used to work for. More importantly her planet had an official title; not just some affectionate (mawkish) nickname thrown around the office, an actual designation; that meant it was viable, and the document itself meant that it had been explored and seeding had already commenced at the time of writing!
But that title, that particular Diamond was from before Peridot had even found her way above ground and been inducted… And that seal… it was similar to the seal that the Authority used, and was in the same place on the document as the seal normally was; but why did it have four Diamonds instead of the three triangles? And what did the pink diamond mean?
Peridot wondered to herself, ‘could this be from before the Inclusion Era?’