This is a bit of a long one folks, as we're crossing the threshold so to speak.
Of all the gems it could possibly have been…
"Do you not intend to explain your behavior?" Hessonite questioned, "I was told Peridots excel at giving reports, and yet you've remained near enough silent since I entered."
Olive gulped, grasping for something to say. "I.. have simply been.. Attempting to get a better understanding of the nature of kindergartens, and gem production. The early kintergartens were made with such limited resources. If we could learn to make more efficient use of the available materials, we can get more out of every single colony planet; resulting in exponentially higher growth across the empire."
She tried to read the Hessonite's expression to tell if she was buying it, but garnet generals seemed to be remarkably talented at maintaining a poker face.
"Diligent work I suppose," she said simply, "But you've begun to let it affect your standard work, which will not be accepted. You may only be one peridot, but we cannot have cogs turning against the machinery of our empire. You know what happened the last time such was tolerated for too long? The earth rebellion, that's what."
Hessonite had begun to pace back and forth as she spoke, launching into a semi-crazed sounding rant. She wouldn't be the first Olive had heard rant about it, but she was certainly the highest ranking.
'If all players have not entered the game within six minutes of beginning, all players will be shattered.'
Olive shifted nervously, her mind working overtime on how she could handle this situation without her shards being scattered to the vacuum of space.
Hessonite noticed Olive's shifting and stopped in her movement, eyes narrowing, "You know," Hessonite said, voice suddenly much more focused, much colder, "There have been rumors for ages now that some rebels from earth still remain."
"Have there now?" Olive asked, attempting to sound nonchalant.
She was no rebel, at least not that particular kind, but she was smart enough to know that being defensive only made you look guiltier.
She may have been an era one peridot, but Hessonite still towered over her, and she wasn't keen on the idea of giving her a reason to show why garnets were used as generals.
"Yes, there have. They say they escaped the blast from our glorious Diamonds by cowering under the shield of Rose Quartz." Hessonite said.
'Nonsense,' Olive thought. Mutant or not, no quartz soldier could become strong enough to handle the full might of one Diamond, let alone three.
"An interesting theory." Olive said simply.
"It's been further considered," Hessonite continued, "That before the warps were disabled, some rebels may have snuck to Homeworld. If said rebels were technologically literate, a peridot for example, it would be a simple matter for them to keep their rebel allies informed on the developments of homeworld."
Her arms had uncrossed, and she had one hand lingering her the center of her body, where gem lay and thus where her weapon would be drawn from if needed.
"I doubt any peridot would join the rebels." Olive said, unable to keep her voice from sounding nervous and thus guilty.
"I'm sure you would." She said, gem starting to glow, "But it has been the logical policy of homeworld to be safe than sorry.."
Olive wouldn't have been able to react had the Hessonite attacked her, but likewise hadn't been able to react as what looked for all the world like a giant green computer cursor hovered down and picked Hessonite up before jolting violently around the room as though someone was going completely mental with the mouse, shaking the garnet general like a ragdoll before throwing her into a wall, where she collapsed, unconscious.
Olive was so confused, she jumped in shock when the communicator beeped to alert her of a message.
R: You're welcome.
R: The Hessonite. That was me.
R: When you activated the game, a notification popped up saying you needed another player to bring you into the game officially, like Ceylon said. I signed on, and got this cursor. Not sure how it works, but its letting me move things around in a space around you. Also, I've got these.
There was a sudden loud thus, and looking up, Olive saw two large, bulky machines in front of her, one looking to be a cylindrical vault, the other a pedestal with a computer pad, both massive and bulky.
R: They're labeled as the 'Cruxtruder' and the 'Alchemiter.' Near as I can decipher, you're immediate goal is to open the vault, put something into glowy thing that comes out, take the stone that comes out of the vault to the platform, press a button, and then break it.
Olive: In aid of?
R: Going by Ceylon, in aid of not being immediately shattered.
Olive stored the communicator in her gem so as not to be distracted by it, and set to work. She tried to open the Cruxtruder by the massive stone wheel lock on it, and when it proved to be winched shut, she went to her work bench, bending down to reach what she had kept hidden below it.
Ceylon had said they'd need to be armed, but she'd never specified with what. Two mechanical drones flew from the case, following Olive's orders and latching onto the wheel, turning it near effortlessly.
The hatch popped off, and two things shot out. The first a bright, glowing green orb.
The second an equally green crystalline chunk of unidentified stone. Following Rhodi's directions, she first focused on getting the 'glowy thing' occupied.
"So this is what Ceylon meant when by guiding object." Quite a lot of what Ceylon has been explaining was making sense now.
She went to her main work room. The automaton was nearly finished, and she needed only make sure everything was in place before flipping the switch.
Sure enough, the twenty foot robonoid jerked to life, light blaring from it. She'd have liked time to appreciate her handiwork, but she didn't bother whining about it, directing the machine to reach out for the glowing orb.
There was a flash of bright light, temporarily blinding Olive, and then the orb was no longer an orb. It seemed to have.. Absorbed the drone.
Or perhaps the drone had absorbed it. It was glowing the same green color, hovering off the ground, translucent, and most noticeable to Olive, it had a noticeable awareness in mechanical eyes, not the cold, thoughtlessness that had been there before. She wasn't sure how, but her machine… was alive.
"You may wish to focus on the task at hand," the drone spoke, "At least for now."
Olive's brain refused to short circuit for what would certainly have been the fourth or so time that day, and instead did just that. She went back to the other room, lifting the stone and bringing it to Alchemiter. Once placed down, the screen on the bulky machine blinked on.
She pressed the glowing 'activate' button, and the stone was instantly, seemingly by nothing, carved into an engineer target, the kind Olive usually used to test drone accuracy. She could have laughed at the absurdity.
With a snap of her fingers, one of her two attack drones fired a bolt of energy at the stone.
It shattered, and the entire building lit up.
Rhodochrosite still wasn't sure what all was happening, but she was glad she'd been able to help Olive with the Hessonite; and even more glad when her green friend had forgotten Rhodi was watching and bent over to retrieve her attack drones, giving the fusion an excellent view for all three eyes.
She was slightly nervous when the entire screen lit up with light, but she trusted Ceylon, and going by what she'd said, it would be Rhodi's turn to enter the game next.
She wasn't entirely sure who it was that linked up to her, but unless it was Ceylon, they'd be getting a shock when they saw her.
When the cursor appeared and, after a moment of presumably the operator realizing what Rhodochrosite was, began to move things around Rhodi's cave to make space for the items.
'Definitely not Zircon or Maxixe then.' Rhodi thought, thanking whoever it was as she proceeded to turn the wheel to open the cruxtruder with one hand.
She moved to pick up her statue of the moon goddess, delicately placing it into the pale glowing orb, she shielded her eyes from the flash, then looked in awe at the ethereal image of the now living moon goddess before her.
She'd watched it happen the Olive's robot, but hadn't, she supposed, braced herself for it actually happening to the statue. The moon goddess giggled, and pointed to the stone.
"Right, right." She nodded, taking the pillar of stone to the alchemeter and hitting the button. It proceeded to shift into a long, deviated pole; the kind that Rhodi would have used to carve weapon bolds.
With a 3x eyeroll, Rhodi took out her weapon: a wonderfully ornate longsword, and brought it down onto the stone pole with a powerful swing.
Caroline winced as the screen lit up.
She'd only just gotten to grips with seeing what Rhodochrosite was, only for the communicator to then proceed to try and blind her. Still, she'd gotten her in.
No sooner did that thought occur did it occur to her to question why the next player hadn't started bringing her in. she started to type out a message in the chat when the two machines dropped down.
Caroline supposed they'd seen her about to question what the hold up was, and felt pretty sheepish. Wait… seen her… and yet no comment… had to be Ceylon she realized.
Any other gem would likely have accepted a shattering if it meant taking down a rose quartz with them.
She needed to use both hands, but she managed to wrench the Cruxtruder open. Before she could stop it, the glowing orb was grabbed by the ornery every growing thorn vines from those infernal bushes.
The result was a hovering, glowing mass of thorny vines assembled in roughly the shape of a humanoid. Caroline stared at it for a moment, then summoned her battle axe.
"I'll merge with the next thing I touch as well," The vine being said, "And you've got bigger issues." Grumbling.
Caroline put the stone on the pedestal, which, upon hitting the confirmation button, proceeded to shift into an effigy of the vine being.
Caroline had no qualms about bringing her battle axe down on this.
Lazurite's face was still hot with the embarrassment of having just stared for the first few moments since linking to Caroline.
She couldn't even decide firmly what had prompted it. The knowledge that she was a rose quartz, or just… finally getting to see her… she snapped out of the contemplation she'd been about to slip back into when the next player in the chain dropped the machines down for her.
She thanked them, and opened the Cruxtruder easily with her water powers; after several failed attempts at opening it with her hands. She lifted Desert Glass off the ground and placed it into the orb, her jaw dropping at the form it took.
Desert Glass subsequently flushed slightly from the staring, only noticing it after a few moments of looking herself over, unused to having an actual form.
"Discussion after you've entered." Desert Glass said.
"R-right." Lazurite said, placing the stone on the alchemiter quickly.
It formed into a miniature of the mountain Lazurite had finished leveling that day; though it proved much, much easier to destroy.
"Is she in?" Forest Jade asked.
"If she isn't, I don't know what being in would look like." Yellow-Green chuckled. "Do you… think its time?"
Forest smiled, "Ceylon not so subtly informed me that we'll be quite far from homeworld when we enter."
"How far?" Yellow-Green asked, trying and failing not to sound as desperate as she was.
"Far enough~" Forest Jade whispered, pulling her other half into a kiss. No dance, no further words, no music required.
Imperial Jade shuddered in delight, and looked around the room to see the machines already deposited.
"Guess they were going to see eventually." Jade chuckled to herself, gripping the Cruxtruder handle with all four hands and opening it with surprising ease; never having realized how much raw strength she had. She brought the song stone to the orb, delighted to see it actually conscious and aware for once.
When she brought the stone, cruxite if she'd read the instructions properly, to the alchemiter, it shifted into a figurine of a very particular soldier gem. Neither jade had ever met the quartz personally, but she was a legend on homeworld; and very outspoken in her disgust of fusion.
The figurine shattered easily beneath Imperial jade's foot.
White Corundum stared at the screen for a good while, even after everything lit up.
Partially because she was trying to wrap her mind around what she'd just seen, partially because she'd more or less burnt out her focus getting the two machines out without accidentally sending them out the window.
She didn't even notice the same two machines appearing in her own room for a bit. There was a distant thud from outside. She wasn't sure what it was, but it did rattle her enough to notice the machines.
The Cruxtruder was already open, the next player having used the cursor to manage it, and had dragged the cruxite to the alchemiter, where it had formed into a generic gemstone shape.
Corundum could have and very well might have simply stared at it for the next few minutes, so it was perhaps lucky that another of those distant thuds caused one of the bubbled gems overhead to pop.
It began to take form-a flailing, chaotic, monstrous one-as it fell into the orb. The resulting glowing gem amalgamate roared, lashing out with one of its limbs.
It seems sustained contact was needed for it to absorb the next thing it touched, because its striking the gemstone idol just caused it to break, and Corundum to enter the game.
River signed in relief and a bit of frustration.
She'd known Corundum was a bit slow on the update, but that had been terrifyingly slow. The next player in the chain started to bring her in, letting out the machines.
River managed to open the Cruxtruder via physics, wedging her staff into the wheel like level and managing to force it open.
She mused on what to put into the orb, or 'sprite' as she read it to be called, only for a loud, building shaking boom to break her concentration. The purple pearl rushed out to the main room of the spire, her eyes widening at what she found.
A meteorite had crashed into the spire. She could see the entry hole the massive, red hot rock had made. Her Morganite had been poofed by the impact. More than that, cracked. The heavily damaged gemstone was breaking apart before River's eyes.
She started to hyperventilate, before she realized what to do. Lazurite had said in the chat how the sprite had given Desert Glass a form.
Maybe… just maybe… she took hold of Morganite's gem as delicately as possible, hurrying back to the other room before another meteor could impact the spire.
She dropped it into the sprite, and sure enough; her Morganite took form once again, good as the day she was made.
"Not a spectacular choice, but I'll admit I personally like it." Morganitesprite said dismissively, as though there was nothing especially important about this at all.
"Well hurry up now." River, slightly taken aback, nodded, and got to work, bringing the cruxite to the alchemiter and using her staff to shatter the miniature of the spire it formed.
Ceylon chuckled at watching River prototype-the act of putting something into a sprite-her Morganite.
When the machines were dropped into her chamber, she stood and assured her Carnelians there was no need to worry.
"Are you loyal to me?" She asked.
All three quartz soldiers nodded in unison.
"Then trust me actions and orders. All of this has been foreseen."
"Yes my sapphire!" All three said with fierce pride as they saluted.
Suppressing the shiver this sent up her spine, she ordered one to open the cruxtruder.
They did so easily, though all three stared in shock when Ceylon stepped into it, merging with the sprite and gaining a vastly greater understanding of the game.
"Relax," Ceylonsprite said, "Everything is fine."
Trusting their sapphire, they proceeded to follow their orders. Carrying the cruxite to the alchemiter, activating it, and smashing the effigy it formed; oddly a small crystal idol of herself.
Green Spinel stared at the screen, unsure what to make of what she'd just watched Ceylon do.
Before she could muse on it much, the cursor appeared and started moving things around to make space.
The next player, whoever they were, seemed to give up on it upon seeing how little space Spinel had in her room. It was more of a supply closet really… because it was a supply closet.
Eyes widening nervously, she bolted out to see that, sure enough, the cruxtruder and alchemiter had been placed in the main control room of the ship.
Emerald and the nephrite crew, though, were far more preoccupied with what was outside the ship. It seemed that a rush of meteors had appeared out of nowhere.
Not a melt either. They were moving far too fast, and if what Emerald was saying was true, they'd come from seemingly nowhere.
The artificial gravity was preventing anything being shaken up inside despite the absolutely mental maneuvers being made.
Spinel very quietly creeped into the center of the room, stretching her arms round the cruxtruder wheel several times over, hoping she could get this done before anyone noticed, she got as far as successfully hoping the cruxtruder before all hell broke loose.
A meteor impacted the ship, something the ship's gravity couldn't nullify, and sent all of the nephrites out of their chairs; one directly into the sprite. The flash of light drew the other's attention; and the moment they were no longer operating the ship, more space debris began smashing into the ship.
Not in panic mode, Green Spinel hurriedly brought the cruxite to the alchemiter, raising her hands, which expanded as she balled them into fists, and slamming them down on the effigy of her emerald it formed.
White Zircon was slightly at a loss for what was going on the Green spinel's ship.
Well, on the emerald's ship that the Green spinel was on, but nevertheless, next would be herself.
As the next gem in the change began to deposit the machines, Zircon stumbled as something shook the room and, by extension, the entire building.
Zircon went to the window to try and ascertain the cause and was met with something she'd not expected: a red hell. The same kinds of meteors that had been harassing the Emerald's ship were now raining down around the White Diamond court.
Buildings were being leveled by sheer impact and those not destroyed were consumed by flames spreading across the interconnected structures of Homeworld. It'd have been fascinating if it weren't so horrifying. 'Is this what the sapphire had seen?'
It was a stupid thought, Zircon decided. Of course this was what she had seen.
This was what would shatter them all if this 'game'-a word she was quite certain now to be a code-was not entered. She hurried to the machines, finding the Cruxtruder already opened, courtesy of the next gem in the chain and Zircon's desk, moved with the cursor to act as a lever.
The sprite was out, and in need of prototyping. Zircon whistled, calling out her Geodes. The two stared in confusion at the glowing orb, and then at Zircon's request, they fluttered into the orb.
In a flash of light they took solid form, a single Geodesprite, the two of them fused together. They'd always mentioned wanting to fuse someday, but had never been certain on how, and Zircon hadn't been keen on helping them.
Couldn't be helped, she supposed, and with armageddon immediately outside her office there was little point in complaining now. She brought the cruxite to the alchemiter, where it formed into a crystalline effigy of a pile of documents. Paperwork, Zircon realized with slight annoyance.
She drew out her battle screens and sent one into the paperwork, causing it to split and shatter.
Pink Lace Agate was panicking slightly by the time White Zircon was brought in.
The meteors had reached Pink's court a minute or so ago and were already starting to level the place. For the first time ever the Agate was quite thankful Pink's court was so empty, as so few could ultimately be caught in the devastation.
She, however, was still imminently in danger, and started acting the moment the machines were set out for her, brute forcing the cruxtruder opened with her hands and, after a moment of hesitation, retrieving her pebble friend from the walls.
She was slightly disoriented and confused, but Pink Lace knew she'd be much safer in the sprite than here. Pebblesprite seemed infinitely less confused by the situation, though the Agate didn't have the time to ask how.
Pink Lace brought the cruxite to the alchemiter and watched as it shifted into a stone combat dummy; the kind Bismuths usually made to test soldier weapons.
Pink Lace drew her weapon and lashed out; the spiked hooks of her flog rending the stone apart easily.
Maxixe had felt so clever. When it became clear meteors were an immediate problem, she'd believed immediately moving the ship and keeping it moving would prevent any danger.
But almost as soon as Pink Lace was through, the meteors seemed to change their course. No.. not their course, it was their point of origin that changed, making the flaming stone now rain down where the ship was headed rather than where it was.
The entire ship was sent spinning as a particularly large one smashed into the side. Maxixe let out a few choice words to Olive, who she knew from the fact that she'd been first in was the one meant to bring her in as well.
The alchemiter and cruxtruder appeared thankfully, though after several attempts to the cruxtruder, she found that she wasn't going to get anywhere with it herself. With a groan of frustration, she called the Topaz fusion in.
The bulky fusion gem thankfully didn't ask questions, opening the cruxtruder when ordered with insulting ease.
When the cruxite and sprite popped out though, Maxixe wasn't able to stop her from reaching out and grabbing the glowing orb, having presumably assumed it was a threat of some kind.
"Oh skip it." Maxixe grumpled, focusing her scope onto the cruxite and moving it to the alchemiter, lifting the era one aqua marine statue it had become and smashing it against the machine.
All twelve gems have entered. The game has officially begun.