“What are you two doing here?” I demand of Carnelian and Selenite.
“We’re here for you. We want you to come back with us to meet Rose Quartz, and then stay here on Earth with us. The Homeworld warp pad is broken anyway, is it worth going back?” asks Selenite.
“I want to go back. And what do you mean it’s broken?”
“It’s broken: it doesn’t work, its inoperable; if you want to get home you’re going to have to fly, see for yourself.”
I step past the two of them and walk unsteadily up to the Homeworld warp pad; I don’t want to believe her but I know that Selenite never says anything that she doesn’t mean. Sure enough, there’s a large, branching crack on the main surface of the pad, extending a third of the way across the circle in a vaguely straight line. I am going to be flying then — I hope I remember the way…
My doubts turn to anger when I remember that they were waiting for me when I got here.
“Did you do this?” I ask them, not bothering to turn round.
“No, we didn’t, but we knew you’d come here eventually if you could. We waited for you.” Carnelian replies quickly, defusing the situation temporarily.
“Why would I want to stay here?” I ask dismissively. Carnelian looks hurt by my tone.
“Because we’re here; because the war is pretty much over; because it’s a long way to fly just to go back to people who don’t care about you.”
“You don’t have to say it like that.” Carnelian says to Selenite.
“But it’s true…” Selenite looks at me and then Carnelian, “Fine then, you talk to her.” she takes a step back, folding her arms.
Carnelian’s smile is warm, like her personality; it’s obvious that she’s happy to see me despite the circumstances under which we parted company.
“It’s so good to see you again, Lapis!” she says, throwing her arms around me for a hug. I have mixed emotions about the two of them being here but I put my arms around her anyway: it’s impossible not to feel better after a hug from her. When she lets go of me she looks a lot more serious. “You know we don’t blame you for not defecting with us, right?”
“You don’t blame me!? You abandoned me, for this place!”
She looks genuinely upset now.
“We never abandoned you, how could you even say that!? We tried so hard to convince you to come with us! I’ve worried about you every day since we left! None one of us wanted to leave home and come here, we weren’t ready, especially not do what they wanted us to do. But after spending some time here, me and Selenite made a choice to use our powers for something good... It’s not too late for you to do the same. We can all be together again, just like how it was before.”
“And this time we’ll all be ‘Crystal Gems’?” I say scornfully. “I don’t care about this place, I never have: everyone is fighting over this rock in the middle of nowhere; it doesn’t matter! We don’t belong here, this isn’t our world, this wasn’t even our fight! We can still be together, but we don’t need to be here. You should come back with me.”
Selenite brings herself back into the argument.
"We,” she says softly, gesturing to herself and Carnelian, “can’t go back. We turned against Homeworld, if we went with you then they’d hunt us down and kill us like the renegades that we are.”
“That isn’t my fault. You didn’t have to become Crystal Gems. You didn’t have to fight to protect this place, but you made your choice and now I’m making mine! I’m leaving, don’t try to stop me.”
“You just don’t see it, do you? If you go back on your own then our elemental balance will be unbalanced: without us the Diamonds will just see you as a threat, there’d be no one to keep you or your powers in check. You could tell them anything and it wouldn’t matter because you could just decide to disobey your orders —especially now that you’ve been here and seen how far an idea can go. They’d shatter you before you had a chance to be a problem! …It has to be all three of us, Lapis, but we can’t go with you.”
“So because of what you two have done, I’m not allowed to go home!?”
“Please, Lapis, that’s not fair. The people of this world needed our help; we had to do what we could.” Carnelian says pleadingly.
“Well you can stay and help on this world, but I’m going back to mine!”
I don’t want to leave them here, they’re my two best friends, but at the same time I really want to go home. I’ve been here too long already, fighting for a pointless cause. I know they can’t come with me (they don’t sound like they want to either) but I’m sure that the Diamonds will understand when I return, what Selenite said just can’t be true... I extend my wings from my gem and prepare to take flight.
“I’ll come back… I’ll come back as soon as I can. I love you both...”
I push myself into the air, managing six powerful wingbeats before something grabs my leg and I’m pulled downwards by the extra weight. Looking down I see Carnelian, wreathed in flames, trying to drag me back to the ground.
“Get off! You can’t keep me here!”
“Yes we can! We have to, you’ll die otherwise! You have to understand!”
Through all my attempts to shake her off she remains stuck to me, even when I stamp her face with my free foot she clings on like her life depends on it. I’m in my element though for miles in every direction the only thing you can is water, the Galaxy Warp is just an island. Just by imagining it I form a giant hand made of water and extend it skywards; like I’m physically squeezing them out, her flames are extinguished when I close the hand around her in a fist. She finally lets go of my leg and I bring the fist crashing back down onto the island, watching as it loses form and flows back to where it came from. Maybe that was a little bit harsh, but so is trying to keep me from going to the only place that means anything to me.
I begin to rise almost to the point I was at before, when something so cold it feels like it’s burning hits me in the back, right where my gem is. Almost instantly I feel my wings disperse into droplets and then I’m falling, surrounded by the tiny spheres that twinkle in the moonlight. The surface of the water rushes towards me and I reshape it, fashioning a tower to shorten my fall, but the impact I end up making with it is a lot harder and more painful than I was aiming for. Instead of landing on a bed of water I smack into a slab of ice, which begins to tilt as I try to stand up on it. What I created is no longer under my control, and I can’t get a grip on the smooth, glassy surface. Selenite succeeds in tipping me off of the pillar and I fall the rest of the way back to the Galaxy Warp.
When I land on my back there’s a horrible crunch and I shiver, instantly feeling that something’s wrong with my gem. Looking around I notice colour draining from the world until there’s only black, white and grey; I bolt upright, reaching back to feel my gem: it’s still in once piece, but there’s a big crack in it. I stop tracing its surface for fear of making it any worse: what if my gem snaps before I make it home? Will it be able to withstand me flapping my wings? It turns out that this isn’t a problem, because I can’t even extend my wings from the now damaged stone. A mixture of dread and hate overtakes me, and tears run freely from my eyes as I look for the two that did this to me.
Carnelian, barely supported by Selenite, looks terrible: she’s shivering, and she looks like she’s in a lot of pain. Her eyes look weird as well, mirror-like and inexpressive. By contrast, Selenite looks livid, as angry as I’ve ever seen her.
“What is wrong with you? Can’t you see that we’re trying to save you?! Look at what you’ve done to her!” says Selenite with obviously rising anger.
“And look at what you’ve done to me! MY GEM IS CRACKED!” I yell in response.
“So is hers!”
“I’m… fine. It’ll be... fine,” Carnelian says in a faraway voice, “Rose Quartz… can help us.” Even now she manages to smile at me, doesn’t she realise that there’s a massive problem here?
“I don’t want Rose Quartz’s help, and I don’t need saving! If it wasn’t for her and her stupid Crystal Gems deciding what’s best for everyone, we wouldn’t even be here! And now that you’ve joined her you’ve got the same problem — you just don’t know when to leave something alone!”
Violently twisting columns of water erupt around us, stretching menacingly into the air as I show them how serious I am. It’s clear that they aren’t going to let me leave through choice, but I am going to find some way off of this worthless planet, and if they force me to go through them then so be it.
“Lapis, calm down!” shouts Selenite over the roaring of the water. “You’re not thinking straight! When have we ever deliberately done anything to harm you?! You’re our friend… you’re my friend!”
“Friends would let me go! And friends don’t crack each other’s gems!”
I see her sigh and then gently lay Carnelian on the ground: she stands up again, and with narrowed eyes and a determined, fearless look on her face, she puts herself between me and the crippled Gem.
“I’m sorry about your gem, that wasn’t intentional! But you won’t listen to me, or Carnelian! I had no choice, and if you carry on like this then there’s only one way it can end!”
I know she’s right; even if Carnelian was in a position to fight she wouldn’t be subduing Selenite, she’d be supporting her. Against Selenite on my own there’s no competition, but at this point I’m too angry and upset to care. Without a pause she continues:
“I’ll say it once more, Lapis: if you go back to Homeworld you are going to die! Think about it: what kind of leader sends newly formed Gems to fight a war?! They didn’t care about you then, and they don’t care about you now! They can’t control you, so they’ll shatter you!”
That just can’t be right. I can’t accept it… If it’s true then I have no home, I’ll be… lost. If I can’t go home then what’s the point of being a Gem? One thing is true though, no one can control me: not the Diamonds, not the Crystal Gems and not Selenite.
With as much force as I can, I direct all the columns of water to where she’s standing. The last I see of her before she and Carnelian are engulfed by water, is her standing defiantly, arms outstretched and ready for the unavoidable assault. When nothing happens I think I might have actually done it, proved that there’s no one that can push me around. I let go of that idea when I see the whirling tubes solidify, starting at the point where they meet. At a steady pace the water turns to ice, and once again I lose control of my constructs. I hear a deep cracking noise coming from the frozen structure, like the whole world is going to break apart… It doesn’t, but as I look on there’s a colossal explosion, sending huge blocks of ice flying in every direction.
Selenite and Carnelian are still alive and look completely unharmed by my show of force — the pair walk towards me, Selenite with a hostile expression, Carnelian struggling to keep up. The temperature drops very rapidly as they approach, and I’m given no chance to react in any way, because when Selenite raises her hand to me the cold becomes totally disabling. I wrap my arms around myself but it does nothing, the cold is everywhere: in my arms and legs, on my skin, the tips of my fingers and toes, even in my gem. It feels like I’m turning to ice.
“I really didn’t think it would come to this…” she says.
I can’t make myself reply, the only thing that comes out of my mouth is a breathy “Huhhh” sound. I wonder briefly if I’m going to die, but she starts with me again.
“You said you love us, so why wouldn’t you just listen to what we’re saying?! You can be so selfish sometimes!”
The cold takes on a new intensity and I give out another exhalation, wordlessly pleading with her to stop; I hear a crack from behind me and I know that the fracture in my gem just worsened.
“STOP! Selenite, stop it! You’re hurting her!” shouts Carnelian. She places a hand on Selenite’s shoulder; after a few long seconds the fury disappears from her face, and is replaced by grim seriousness. Thankfully she stops using her power on me: I don’t get any warmer, but I don’t get any colder either.
“I’m sorry again, Lapis. About your gem, about the war, about home… and for what I’m about to do.”
She steps forward and hugs me tightly. I have no energy to stop her… I have to energy for anything. When she lets go of me Carnelian hugs me a second time — she doesn’t seem to want to let go:
“Carnelian,” Selenite whispers, “don’t make this any harder. It has to be now or I’ll never be able to do it.”
Reluctantly Carnelian steps away from me. She’s crying as well: two long, unbroken streams trickling down her face and pattering on the stone below. She turns around and puts her hands on the back of her head, elbows facing forwards.
“Do it.” she says in a pained voice.
Selenite’s hand glows white and a long spike, jagged and see-through, emerges from it. With the back of her hand she wipes a tear from her eye. No more words are spoken as she plunges the icicle into my midriff; I gasp in pain, and what little warmth I had left in my body seems to leave me through the pointed weapon. Everything goes black as I feel the cold take over.
When I wake up the first thing I notice is a circular mirror; it’s massive, but somehow I can see the whole thing without having to turn my head. There’s no need to turn my head, and no way to turn my head, because I have no head… or body, or gem; it’s like I’ve closed my eyes to think and lost my ability to feel at the same time.
Near me is the mirror and around me is total darkness, I know this because I can see everything around me from every angle, all at once. Whatever this is, it is not a normal retreat into my gem, or regeneration…
Suddenly a faint shape appears in the mirror: an octagon made of two squares, with eight lines extending from its corners to the mirror’s edge. Moments later an image of something appears — it looks like the surface of the Galaxy Warp. The view in the mirror shifts upwards slightly and then rotates; I’m amazed to see Carnelian and Selenite staring back at me, their faces magnified a hundred times. Carnelian starts talking to me.
“Lapis? Can you hear me? Are you in there?”
I can hear her clearly, but at the same time she sounds… off, like her voice is being projected at me from all sides. I can’t speak because I have no mouth, but when I’ve thought of what I want to say, the black space becomes a perfect copy of what was just in the mirror.
“Lapis… in… hear… Can… hear… you…”
The scene around me shifts and skips, delivering the rough idea of my message in terms of what I’ve just seen.
“Oh my Goddess! She’s in there! Are you alright?”
“Oh my Goddess!... Lapis… in… hear…”
“I think she can only repeat what we show her,” Selenite says to Carnelian, “the longer we speak to her the more she’ll be able to say.”
“You have to believe me when I tell you that putting you in here was the last thing we wanted. It was the only way we could stop you from making the biggest mistake you’d ever make.” she says desperately. She looks like she’s about to cry.
“You… putting… me… in… here… biggest mistake…”
“Oh my Goddess, Selenite! What have we done? This is so wrong!”
“Calm down, it’s only temporary,” Selenite says, wrapping an arm around her, “when she’s had some time to think we’ll get her out. That’s what Rose gave us the mirror for, remember? She’ll be safe in there.”
“get… me… out…”
“I can’t watch this. She doesn’t want to be here and now we’ve trapped her… Maybe it would be better if we let her go.”
“No! You have to be strong, Carnelian! It would be more wrong to willingly let her go to her death, you know why we have to do this. There isn’t any other way.”
Selenite must have put my mirror face down on the ground at some point, because I can’t see their conversation, though I can hear it. When I’m picked up again, it’s Carnelian’s face that I see.
“Please forgive us, Lapis. We put you in there because we love you. It won’t be forever, I promise. We’ll come back to talk to you often. When you’ve had some time to think we’ll get you out and everything will be right again.”
“I can’t... believe... you... trapped... me... here...” I pause, “it would be better... if... you... go...”
“I’m sorry. If that’s what you want then I’ll go. Goodbye, Lapis. For now.”
The view changes and now I’m face to face with Selenite.
“When... I... get... out... This... mirror... you... will be... sorry...”
“You make it sound like we’re doing this out of spite. We’re not, and the faster you see that the faster you’ll get out of there. I’ve missed you, Lapis, we both have. I just hope you’ll come back to us soon.”
“Fine, be that way. We’ll be back soon.”
She seals my mirror in a bubble, angling it so I can see the moon and it’s reflection on the water. I don’t see Selenite or Carnelian again so I assume that they’ve left. I’m left as well, left to think about the long existence I might have to spend in this mirror, and how I’m going to get home when I get out of here…
Some hours later, after Carnelian and Selenite have returned to the other Crystal Gems
“Please stop worrying about her, she isn’t going anywhere. She’ll be right there when we go back.”
“She must be so lonely in there, all by herself. I still feel guilty about trapping her.”
“Oh come on, don’t be so sentimental! She shouldn’t be so stubborn; this is for her own good. …She’ll come around eventually.”
“But what if one of the others finds her, and they set her free while she’s still so angry?”
“That’s why Rose said to leave her there: no one is going to find her by accident because no one has any business there, except us.”
“But what if someone fixes the warp pad?”
“Nobody is going to fix the warp pad. We’re hardly likely to do it, seeing how we destroyed it, and if you got beaten that badly would you want to come back here in a hurry?”
“Exactly, so there’s no need to worry about her... We did the right thing.”
“Yeah... But it doesn’t feel much like it...”