Rose wasn’t happy about Blue Diamond’s request to see her; it wasn’t that she had a problem with authority, or the Authority (much), or even Blue Diamond herself, but no-one ever said what the meetings were going to be about, and she always found herself unnecessarily thinking over everything she’d done in the recent past. This time she was alright: apart from sending fast probes to a nearby star system purely out of interest, there was nothing she could think of that might call for disciplinary action.
“You can go in now, she’s ready for you.” said Larimar, Blue Diamond’s personal assistant, “Good luck.” she whispered conspiratorially.
“Thanks.” Rose whispered in reply.
Behind the big desk in the centre of the room sat a tiny Gem, Empress Blue Diamond, Goddess of the Turbulent Waters… and such and such (Rose didn’t think too highly of her pomposity, even if it was understandable). Though she had met many Gems of a similar size — employed in tasks of all magnitudes — it still made Rose smile to think that a Gem of such power was barely even half her height. But what the smallest of the three ruling Diamonds lacked in size, she definitely made up for in force of personality.
“Oh, Rose! Good to see you again! How has my favourite pink Gem been keeping?”
“Well, thank you, Empress. And yourself?”
“Never better, darling, never better.” said the smaller Gem with a dismissive and exaggerated wave of her hand, “You say you’re well but honestly, you look like you’re about to be shattered! There’s no need to look so serious, you’re not here for anything you’ve done wrong.”
“I’m pleased to hear that.” said Rose with an internal sigh of relief.
“So, can you guess what you are here for?”
“No... Unless this is about the—”
“The Pearls, Rose, this is all about the pearls; and how you don’t seem to have any yet. Why not?”
‘Pearls?’ she thought to herself, ‘You summoned me here to talk about pearls? I took the afternoon off so you could talk to me about pearls?’ An inward groan just didn’t express the depth of her disappointment.
Rose thought the concept of pearls was an ingenious one, however simple: if instead of implanting a seed crystal into a layer of suitable rock one placed it into the soft tissue of a giant clam (or other appropriately sized shelled mollusc), a new Gem would form in a comparable way, under the right conditions.
It was normally a cause for celebration when new Gems were inducted into the community, but not with the pearls. Many viewed only ‘natural’ Gems as true citizens, and so like most kindergarten Gems, the pearls were treated as second class — somehow worth less than other Gems because of their formation. But while it was relatively easy to mass produce Gems in a kindergarten, pearl production was a lot more difficult, making pearls rarer and so highly sought after. Only the best people (high-ranking poseurs) received pearls…
As Gems, they could never be said to be owned by anyone, but in Rose’s eyes what happened in reality amounted to the same thing. Though they had free will, they never seemed to apply it; to her it looked like they accepted — and in a few cases even appeared to take pride in — being ordered around by someone else. Unpaid, unthanked, unloved and underrated servants: a whole subgroup of lost Gems. On a good day she found the whole concept saddening, and on a bad day, cruel. She had vowed never to get a pearl on principle, but explaining her reasoning to Blue Diamond was not something she considered a fruitful use of her time.
“I just don’t need one: my workload is fine, my home life is fine... It’s not really necessary for me.”
Blue Diamond suddenly took on a very serious, searching expression, and for a brief moment Rose thought that she could tell there was more to it than her explanation suggested. Maybe it was a stray thought, maybe she was just ‘eccentric’, but quickly the seriousness melted back into a friendly smile and Blue Diamond continued with what she was getting at.
“Don’t need a pearl? Nonsense! You’re one of the Authority’s top spotters; it wouldn’t be fitting for a Gem in your position to be seen doing the kind of humdrum tasks that I’m sure you find yourself doing from time to time.” Rose could only smile politely — and more than a bit awkwardly — as Blue Diamond guffawed at her own… wit. Totally unfazed by the response of her audience, she ploughed on.
“No, I won’t hear of it. You need at least one and you simply must get it, I insist.”
“With all due respect this really isn’t necess—”
“Nonononono, darling! The real disrespect would be refusing my hospitality... Is it the cost you’re unhappy with? Because that really isn’t a problem. I’m so for you getting one that you can consider it a gift from me, for all your hard work!”
“Thank you, but—”
“No buts! It’s sorted now. Gosh, you play so hard to get... Rose, you’ve got to learn to relax, live a little… let your hair down!” she said, gesturing towards Rose’s voluminous pink curls, and promptly bursting into laughter.
“But seriously, when you get a few moments free I want you to have a look at the online catalogue and find yourself a pearl that you like. As we speak they’re preparing the latest group for exchange you know, you could even get one of those if they take your fancy.” she said proudly. “When you’ve picked one just send me the form and I’ll have it delivered to you… like that!” She clapped loudly and suddenly in front of Rose’s face, making her jump. Her startled expression was enough to get Blue Diamond laughing again, and Rose waited patiently for her to stop so she could make a request.
“Rose, please don’t try my patience, I’m trying to be nice here.” she said with an icy air. With unsettling clarity, Rose was reminded of exactly why the little Gem was feared across the galaxy, and why sometimes it was best just to let the Authority have its petty victories… Sometimes…Rose knew that Blue Diamond wasn’t going to give in on this one; for some unknown reason she wanted Rose to have a pearl, and so she was going to be getting a pearl. While she didn’t want someone following her around because they felt obliged to, it would be nice to have an assistant, if she could find one to her taste — and just because they could be used as servants, that didn’t mean they had to be… Yes, that was what she’d do: get a pearl to keep the Authority at bay, and then decide exactly what to do with them later.“Well?”
“Forgive me, Empress, I was just going ask if I could go to the Nacrarium and select a pearl in person.”
Blue Diamond raised her eyebrows in obvious surprise, before her face was overtaken by a wide grin.
“Go there in person... Alright. Good on you, charming idea, charming! Embracing progress or whatever! Excellent! Use my warp pad to take you straight there, and I’ll let them know the details.”
“Actually, I wasn’t planning on going now, Empress.”
“Nonsense! There’s no time like the present! It’ll give you and your new ‘friend’ ample time to get acquainted… As always, it’s been a pleasure, Rose. Keep up the good work and I hope to see you soon, I do so enjoy our little chats.”
'It’s a really good thing I took the afternoon off…' Rose thought with rising irritation.
“Thank you, Empress. As do I,” well… it was sort of true, in a way. A small way…
“You’re too kind, darling, far too kind. Now, get going.”
Their meeting concluded, Blue Diamond opened her holographic screen and turned away from Rose, who made her way across the room, stood on the warp pad and disappeared in a column of white and teal light.