Dynamics and Control
“I won’t waste our time or yours by asking if you know why you’re here. We know the core facts of what you’ve done, but some of the specifics — and more importantly your motivations — remain a mystery to us.” said Yellow Diamond in a low and clear voice.
Her way of speaking was enough to make Peridot shiver: it was at once authoritative, explanatory and probing; accusatory, but also friendly in a strange kind of way. She didn’t like it, it put her on edge.
“For the moment you’re being detained mainly as an associate of Bixbite’s: her unauthorised launch of a class one terraforming unit is the most tangible of your combined offences… but it isn’t the most serious, is it?” she continued, looking straight into Peridot’s eyes.
Remembering how Étoile had addressed the Diamonds, Peridot answered:
She knew that Yellow Diamond was assessing her… testing her; she had to stay cool and give them what they asked for, nothing more, until she had the opportunity to properly explain what they’d done and why they’d done it.
“Quite right. It’s the reasoning behind the launch, and the eventual destination of the Red Eye that concern us most, and they concern us because neither you nor Bixbite can be considered stupid, not by any stretch of the imagination. They say that ‘knowledge is power’, Peridot, but I find that rather simplistic: I’d suggest that the two can only be equated when the right person has knowledge of the right things; or perhaps, when the wrong person, or people, have knowledge of the right things…
Your actions point towards a scenario in which you and Bixbite possess more knowledge than is… advisable, for you to possess… So, what’s going to happen now is that you’re going to tell us about planet Earth, in your own words: where and when you found out about it, what you found out about it, about your visit to the archives, the Red Eye you sent there… everything.”
When Yellow Diamond had finished speaking, Blue Diamond entered the conversation from a slightly different direction.
“Your ‘friend’, Bixbite… she’s a lovely Gem isn’t she? A true rarity, even among her variety… When we requested the same thing of her, she was very helpful… I urge you to be just as helpful.” she said in a quiet, threatening way.
Loudly and clearly, Peridot received what was surely a subtle threat. She had expected them to use her feelings for Bixbite against her, but expectation of it didn’t do much to dispel the feeling of alarm it inspired, or change the fact that Blue Diamond had just added a new layer of complexity to the situation.
“Now your story, please.” the smallest Diamond said, with what Peridot thought was the faintest hint of a smile.
It was sensible to assume that Bixbite had told the Diamonds the complete truth (as she understood it): whether they’d tried to scare her into doing so, presented her with the illusion of friendliness to achieve the same outcome, or realised that neither approach was really necessary and simply listened to her. Whatever the case was, contradicting stories would be the worst thing for the both of them right now; beyond that however, there was a little room to play up the ‘scientific curiosity’ side of things…
She explained all she knew of Earth, just as Yellow Diamond had told her she would: she described to the Diamonds how her painstaking attention to detail made her suspect an alteration of the records, how she harassed Danburite to pursue the matter, about her exhaustive search of the Icosahedron’s main section, and her tactical use of her position to get what she needed.
She told them exactly what she imagined they would already know. They’d have access to the public and archive versions of Earth’s file; the Authority’s original seal, the First Devourer’s authorization of the planet’s exploitation, the kindergarten, the war and Rose Quartz were all now knowledge common to the four of them. Everything that Peridot had learned, the Diamonds patiently listened to; and when it came to the part about Merlinite and the idea to use Bixbite’s position to her advantage, they listened carefully to that as well.
She made sure to answer not only the question of ‘what happened?’, but also the ‘why did it happen?’ in as much detail as she could: the more she could tell them now, the more room there was to put a positive spin on that which was prepared for. They’d probably still have some tricky questions for her at the end, but hopefully her plan would keep those to a minimum.
The story ended with the trip to the desert, the outdated command centre and the launching of the Red Eye. She didn’t fail to mention that it was headed for Earth, or even that they’d been seen by the desert glass.
Finally, the Diamonds knew what she’d been hoping she’d never have to tell them (but secretly knew that she would, eventually), and she felt much better for it; like a great burden had been lifted from her.
After Peridot had listed everything she knew about planet Earth and her actions concerning it, White Diamond chuckled quietly for a few seconds.
The other two had both probably thought about it — how devious it was of Peridot to drag her friend into her scheme like that — but Corona knew that she would be the one that commented on it. She saw it like this: yes, they were the Triumvirate, but what good was that if you couldn’t have any fun? There was enough information in the reports and in what Bixbite had already told them, for her to recognise that this peculiar little couple were not in fact revolutionaries or what have you; they were merely scientists, doing what scientists did (though admittedly they were going about it in a rather unwise manner). As such, the mood could stand to be a little lighter.
Anyway, these meetings were as much personality tests as they were interrogations: they would decide whether the two Gems were to be shattered or not, and the Triumvirate’s decision had to be a wise one; they had to know more about the pair than just what they’d found out before they could decide if they were more useful dead or alive. Really she was just going to tease the peridot a little: what better way was there to see what she was made of, than by subjecting her to some mild stress?
A bit of torment never cracked anyone’s gem…
“Well, well, well. You have been busy.” the white Gem said patronisingly. “You’re not a very good friend though, are you: bringing poor Bixbite into this, knowing full well that she’d follow you, even with the likely outcome of your actions?”
“With all due respect, Empress, I don’t control Bixbite’s actions; she could’ve refused to help me if she wanted.” Peridot replied with an internal wince.
She said the Triumvir’s title with a bitterness that even she was surprised by; White Diamond probably wouldn’t like that… at all.
‘I’m such an imbecile.’ she said to herself with an inward groan.
What she’d said about Bixbite sounded quite harsh, but it was true: she was perfectly capable of making her own decisions; she hadn’t forced her to do anything… But also, if she hadn’t asked for her help then their relationship wouldn’t have grown into what it was, surely that was something…
She was justifying herself; she knew that in a way White Diamond was correct, and that annoyed her immensely. A trivial challenge had been laid down and she’d snapped, rising to it like any other clod — potentially bringing herself into conflict with one of the people that it was most important to get on the good side of.
The stupidity of it was simply staggering…
So when White Diamond smiled at her she was more than a little surprised:
“Very true, Peridot. Though I must say, I’m quite glad not to have a partner like you.” the Diamond finished airily. She watched Peridot intently, pulling a face that almost begged for retaliation.
Peridot was getting madder by the second, her desire to verbally assault White Diamond reaching dangerous levels. It welled up inside her like never before: the Diamond knew practically nothing about her or Bixbite as people, nothing about their relationship, or how infuriating it was to have information withheld from her when it affected her ability to do her job… sort of.
She just couldn’t let the insult go:
“The feeling’s mutual.” she retorted, instantly regretting it.
‘What is wrong with me!?’ she asked herself in exasperation. If by some stroke of luck she was still alive after this, she would really need to get her bad temper in order…
A grin flickered across Pavilion’s face; Corona tended to have that effect on people when she wasn’t trying to win them over, and Peridot’s comment was as amusing as it was understandable.
Quickly, her visage regained its seriousness: this was not the time for banter, or for any of Corona’s games; they weren’t here to analyse the Gem’s love life (though she was glad that Corona had also picked up on the fact that Peridot had made such good use what she had at her disposal, no doubt Essence would have taken note of it as well).
Apparently Essence also shared her desire to move things forward, because she took over the inquiry without letting Corona continue with her theme.
“So what were you hoping to find on your visit to the Icosahedron?”
After she had given her reply to White Diamond, all the members of the Triumvirate smiled. For the first time since she’d sat down, Peridot got the feeling that they weren’t actively looking for a reason to shatter her and Bixbite, and that they were just regular Gems —well, as regular as you could get with tiered diamonds (or formerly tiered, as circumstance had it).
Then the smiles faded and Blue Diamond asked her what she’d hoped to find in the library that day. She felt that the answer was obvious if they’d actually listened to her story, but as Apex had recommended, she wasn’t about to push her luck by telling them that.
“…Validation.” Peridot responded after carefully considering the question. The shortness of her answer drew looks of intrigue from all three of the Diamonds, but she wasn’t finished yet:
“The projections I draw up at the start of every project have never been wrong before —of course, there’ll always be some deviation from the model, that’s expected, but with Earth it was different. My calculations were so off that it was a joke… I didn’t think it was possible for me to have got it so wrong, and no one would take any notice of what I was saying… Looking for the correct information at the Icosahedron was about proving a point: that the mistake was with the spotting department’s records, not my projections. I went there to find the data that I needed to prove myself right.”
She said it with the passion of one who totally believes what they’re saying (which was easy because it was true). Thinking about how she only had to go to such lengths because her simpleton of a boss couldn’t be bothered to do her job properly, made her seethe quietly in her chair.
“And what made you think that the archive records would tell you anything different from the spotting department’s records?” White Diamond asked her next. It was the most serious Peridot had seen her since she entered the room.
‘Dirt.’ she thought in irritation. It was a good question.
’Come on, Peridot, think fast… Scientific. Curiosity… What makes you sound least like a nosey troublemaker?’
“The department records are in constant use, I thought that someone might’ve overwritten the planet’s file with another… I knew that if something like that had happened, then the archive would have the correct version.” she said, taking care to say it like it was obvious without sounding condescending.
’I’m just too good at this: I should’ve been a spy… or a politician…’ she considered, not without a healthy measure of smugness.
“I see.” said White Diamond.
“But when you found out about what happened on Earth, you didn’t choose to leave it at that: instead, you decided that it would be a good idea to send a Red Eye there. Surely you must’ve known that sending anything to an officially infeasible world wouldn’t go unnoticed, let alone a terraforming device?” Blue Diamond asked her suspiciously, her dark brown eyes narrowed.
‘Dirt.’ Peridot thought again. She’d barely answered the last question in time, and now this one left no room for embellishment. Suddenly she felt a lot less smug.
The Gems in front of her weren’t idiots; Blue Diamond’s question demonstrated that quite decisively. She knew that they’d see straight through her if she gave anything less than the truth. But their being smart enough to ask a question like that could be used to her advantage: it might actually work in her favour to stop trying to outsmart them.
For the moment…
“Before I went to the archives I didn’t even know the planet had a name, and then I saw what was in that file… all the things that no one’s ever mentioned… I knew that it was only a matter of time before someone came to deal with me—”
“You make us sound so ruthless, Peridot.” White Diamond interrupted, back to being her usual, casual self.
“What?! No, I didn’t mean-” a panicked Peridot began to reply.
“It was merely an observation,” the Diamond chuckled. ’As you were saying…”
“Sorry, Empress.” she said, more out of surprised relief than genuine apology. “…It seemed probable that the information was an Authroity secret, and that knowing about it meant I had a high chance of being shattered; I wanted to find out if my theory about the war on Earth was correct before that happened… But there was also the possibility that somehow the planet had just been forgotten: if my theory turned out to be wrong, then Earth was just another viable world waiting to be seeded. …Right or wrong, I wanted to have some useful information by the time everything caught up with me.”
“But you don’t have any of that information yet?” Blue Diamond demanded.
“Thank you, Peridot.” said Blue Diamond, cutting her off.
Peridot was dismayed by the turn that the conversation had just taken; it brought her back to the precariousness of her position with startling speed.
“Say your theory was correct, and there were Gems on Earth: what did you plan to do then?” Yellow Diamond continued the questioning.
“If the presence of Gems was detected on Earth, I would’ve approached the Authority… so that they could decide what to do with the information.”
Peridot really hoped that it didn’t sound as feeble to them as it did to her, but it was true; if they did make it that far, then without the Authority’s permission there was zero chance of moving things forward and living to make use of the findings.
With the briefest pause to acknowledge her statement, Yellow Diamond pursued the possibility to its logical conclusion:
“And what about you and Bixbite, what do you think would happen to you then?”
“We’d either be thanked for our services to Homeworld by being allowed to continue serving it…or we’d be shattered… or imprisoned.” Peridot admitted grimly.
She knew her answer was the right one when both Yellow and White Diamond began to smile; even Blue Diamond’s expression softened slightly at her words.
‘Yesyesyesyesyes!’ she thought triumphantly.
Essence had always been slow to trust people, and this peridot was no exception. The Gem had already proved that she was intelligent, but unlike her accomplice she had an air of focused ambition… of arrogance about her; she reminded her of Corona in a few ways.
If they were going to allow Peridot to live they’d have to keep a close eye on her, and right now her interrogation had to be thorough: everything checked out at the moment, but she would expose any inconsistencies or attempts to hide the truth…
“What exactly does Bixbite know about Earth, and your fact-finding exercise?” Blue Diamond asked.
Peridot sincerely hoped that her aggressive approach to interrogation wasn’t personal: of all the Gems she would rather not have as an enemy, Blue Diamond was without a doubt at the top of the list.
“I told her everything —or I have done recently.” Peridot said. She could feel a blush spreading across her cheeks; feeling it happen with the Triumvirate watching made her blush harder. Awkwardly, she continued, “Everything that I know from the archive file, she knows too. She hasn’t seen the file itself though!” she made sure to tell them, perhaps a little too enthusiastically.
“She understands why I wanted to send a probe of some kind to Earth… and she knows my suspicions about the outcome of the war. And she knows more about the capabilities of the Red Eye than I do, but she only launched it to help me…” she finished in desperation.
It wasn’t betraying Bixbite, she was trying to save both of them. Telling the whole truth was the most logical thing to do… but even knowing that, she couldn’t shake the awful feeling of guilt that had come with what she’d just told them.
“Yes, well we know all about that…” White Diamond said with a knowing smile
And then there was silence.
Blue Diamond turned to Yellow Diamond and gave a silent nod before reclining in her chair. In a similar way, Yellow Diamond then shifted her focus to White Diamond, who responded with a quick tilt of her head.
This pause was the longest that they’d had all meeting, and the Diamonds’ suddenly more relaxed looks led Peridot to assume that they were finally done with her.
She knew what would happen now: first, they’d send her ou—
“Peridot, how’s your history?” Yellow Diamond asked her in an assertive, yet genial way.
’History?’ she thought incredulously, ’what? …What does that have to do with anything? We’ve already been through the bit that matters.’
This… wasn’t how it was supposed to go.
But the expectant looks she was getting from the Triumvirate told her that she was going to answer the question anyway: what she had thought was the end of her interrogation apparently wasn’t.
Something was about to happen… unlike the interrogation and the uncertainty of her and Bixbite’s futures, the question was something that she couldn’t have planned for, and it was leading to an outcome she couldn’t predict.
Cautiously, Peridot gave Yellow Diamond her answer.
“It’s... okay. I have an adequate knowledge of the most major events…”
“In that case I’d like you to tell us all you know about the Third Inorganic War, and the beginning of the Inclusion Era. Bear in mind that this is still part of our investigation.” the imposing yellow Gem instructed her warningly.
“…Well, the war was started over a region of space, like the First and the Second Inorganic Wars. Gems were accused of declaring war on another inorganic race when we started colonising an outpost too close to one of theirs. They attacked us, and we defended ourselves… they paid dearly for interfering with us. When we’d won that war, a different enemy attacked us: they took advantage of our weakened state to try and capture the space that we’d just secured. We brought in reinforcements, and in the centuries it took for us to regain control of things, the original enemy regrouped and came back with allies. …I don’t really know the specifics of the battles, but there were a lot of them, and they ended in a stalemate, which the race that we were fighting first ended by detonating the closest stars.
I think the Inclusion Era started when the Three Diamonds left Homeworld to fight in the war, but it got a lot worse when White Diamond came back, and people found out that Yellow Diamond had been shattered and Blue Diamond was missing: she… tried to restore order, but without the others she couldn’t, and then the Authority was dissolved… that was the true end of the… structure —before the Triumvirates.” she explained.
’That sounds accurate, anyway…’ Peridot thought, fairly confident that she’d remembered her history lessons correctly. It wasn’t a priority of hers though; not with the question of why she’d been asked that still burning in her mind… Obviously the Earth war and the Third Inorganic War were related in some way if they were asking her, but the Earth War had to have happened before the Third Inorganic War.
It hit her that she was still missing some major aspect of the truth; it was a real pain in the gem that she hadn’t learned anything new since they’d launched the Red Eye.White Diamond smiled broadly at the end of her summary, while Yellow Diamond was content with a less obvious grin; Blue Diamond allowed herself an enigmatic smirk. Surely her retelling of the story couldn’t be that wrong… could it?
Before she had a chance to properly contemplate the looks she was suddenly being given, Yellow Diamond laid her palm on the table and fluorescent blue text appeared on the glossy surface in front of her. She lifted her hand and tapped on the glowing writing a few times before saying:
“Apex, could you please escort our guest to the closest unoccupied cell.” to no-one in particular, using a much quieter voice than the one she’d been conversing in. Then, looking directly at Peridot she said, “We’re going to discuss with the council what we plan to do with you and Bixbite. When we’re finished, you will both be brought back here to learn what action we’ve decided to take.”
“Yes, Empress.” was Peridot’s short and strained reply.
When Blue Diamond had put her hand on the table and called for Shell to take her to a cell, Bixbite felt the tears start to form in her eyes. Showing off wasn’t something that she enjoyed, but she realised that on this occasion she had been doing it, simply because she’d found their adventure so very exciting. She’d become so engrossed in telling the Diamonds what had happened that for a short while, all thoughts of shattering, or Peri’s safety, or that they could both be in really serious trouble, had been forgotten. The mention of the cell had brought it all back...
The idea of being kept in prison upset her, but the fact that they thought it was necessary upset her even more: she’d told them everything she knew, and been totally honest about the things she didn’t. All the way through she’d cooperated with them, why couldn’t they understand that she and Peri weren’t… threats to Homeworld, or anyone on it?
The way Bixbite’s face had fallen when she heard that she was going to a cell, saddened Pavilion to the core of her gem. If she had been convinced that her intentions were malicious then it would be a different story, but Bixbite was one of the most good-natured Gems that she’d ever met, and Pavilion didn’t believe that she had any intention of using what she knew to destabilise Homeworld, or incite some sort of movement. She had sworn to defend Gems like Bixbite, and make Homeworld great for them, not be needlessly suspicious of them.
“It’s only temporary, my dear; while we talk to Peridot.” she said to the forlorn Gem in the most reassuring way she could manage.
Corona looked at her in surprise and Essence eyed her warily. Neither expression mattered though: she was as much a Triumvir as either of them, and her words were hers to use as she pleased. It was important to give the impression of control and a no-nonsense approach, but equally important to her was having compassion for those that deserved it.
Shell led Bixbite through an opening in the wall and through a series of wide corridors, before reaching the room she’d be staying in until the Triumvirate had finished with Peridot. On the way the pearl had tried to make her feel better, which she was grateful for, but ultimately she’d had to leave her on her own because she was required to sit with the council.
The translucent yellow barrier served as the fourth wall of the room she had been confined in; its faint but ever-present hum an ominous reminder that she was going nowhere until someone came to get her.
She lay on her side with her legs bent and her face resting on her outstretched arm, closed her eyes, and hoped that they wouldn’t be too hard on Peridot.
‘That didn’t go too badly at all.’ Peridot said to herself as she and Apex walked to the cells. Her interrogation had gone about as well as was to be reasonably expected: they hadn’t accused her of lying, she had spoken pretty confidently about everything (which surprised her slightly, given the individuals she was speaking to) and she’d explained what happened in the most advantageous way possible. The most comforting thing was that none of the Diamonds appeared to actively dislike her, not even Blue Diamond: with her intense and piercing stares...
But now that their comprehensive look through her mind was complete she didn’t — as she had been expecting — feel much in the way of relief or despair. She just felt exhausted, like the process had drained all the feeling and energy out of her: she couldn’t even be bothered to respond when Apex told her to ‘enjoy her stay’. When the pale Gem had activated the barrier to her cell and stalked off, she made her way to the corner of her new room, glad of the opportunity to sit down and rest for a while.
Apart from her there was nothing in the cell, and the emptiness of it made her wish that Bixbite was there in the corner for her to hold. She wasn’t in the same room, but Peridot knew she was in the building somewhere.
‘It’s my fault that she’s here at all...’ she thought with a sigh.