The Kent family tried to be as normal as they possibly could during their time living in Kansas.
Of course, things hadn’t been normal since the day they discovered a tiny, red alien crash-landing near their house. Though when they saw how cute and innocent he looked, despite the enormous gem lodged into his chest, they raised him as their own. Surely, they thought, their new child, who burned the grass by stepping on it, and could run faster than any of their horses, was nothing more than a ‘gifted’ child.
Nothing changed sixteen years later, when he’s big and grown, and he’s still their special gift from who-knows-where.
Even if sometimes, he tries to burn the grass with his eyes near their brand-new house, right in their backyard.
“Do I smell smoke?”
He quickly stomps it out.
Mrs. Kent walks outside, to find her son, Clark, stomping down on some burnt grass. “Practicing again?”
He smiles sheepishly. “Just a little bit. Promise it won’t happen again?”
She only laughs. “I’m just glad you didn’t burn the crops again. Now, you feeling okay, son? I know it’s scary, us moving to the big city-“
“It’s not!” Clark insists. “I got everything unpacked! A-And uh, you know, it’s, um, great here! So-“
Clark’s face glows. “A tiny bit.”
They look out into the forest right behind their home. It was right at the edge of this beach-side city, where it’s mostly run by small businesses making most of their living from tourists, aside from a few bigger companies near the center. Their little mom-n-pop store was a few miles away, near the beach. Though Clark liked their home; the forest was right there, where he saw big trees and lots of shade. A perfect place to hide their tall red alien son.
Not that he was hidden away, of course. He’s homeschooled by his mother, and worked on their farm most of his life, so he loved nature and animals. His horses, cows, and chickens had always been kind to him. Other humans, however, not so much.
He’s happy, though, with his life. It’s as quiet as can be, for someone who has no idea where he came from, or how he got onto this planet.
He tries not to let it bother him.
“Why don’t you go exploring a bit?” Mrs. Kent suggests. “Your dad’s just fixing up the pick-up we bought, and I was going to help. But it’s your summer vacation, why don’t you go have a bit of fun?”
“Maybe just for a while, while it’s still light out,” Clark says with a hint of doubt. He suddenly remembers something. “Um, ma?”
“Um, what happened to the, uh, pod?”
He can’t remember packing that up for their flight to Metropolis. They’d left a lot behind, most of their livestock sold or given away to other farm-owners, though he’d hate to think that piece of his life was gone forever.
“Don’t you worry, your dad and I managed to keep it hidden,” Mrs. Kent says quietly with a smile, looking over at the tiny, run-down shed that’d been the previous owner’s. “Now, why don’t you go stretch your legs?”
They stand up, and Clark gets his shoulder pat by his much-shorter mother. “Just… be careful around the trees, alright, son?”
“Okay, ma, I’ll try.”
He walks into the forest, looking around at the scene of nature before him, wondering what this big city has in store for him.
Pink Topaz’s eyes snap open. “I saw something.”
She looks up to see she’s laying on the sand, Alunite’s one blue eye watching over her. “You left me on the ground?”
“I would’ve made sure nobody stepped on you.”
She knows it’s a joke, but she’s not laughing. “And yet you wonder how you’re still single.”
“Okay, fine, I’ll pick you up next time.” He helps her stand up. “And what did you see?”
“Memories,” Pink says, trying to focus. “Someone else’s memories.”
“I-I uh…” She closes her eyes, and concentrates. “No, it must’ve been a Gem. A small red one. It was in some sort of vessel. And, it landed here. On Earth.”
Alunite just smirks. “Probably just a bad dream.”
“You’re impossible.” She pushes him away lightly, no real malice on her face, though still walks to their temple.
“Hey! What are you doing?”
She turns around, her pale yellow hair whipping behind her. “There’s a Gem out there, a non-corrupted one, and I’m going to look for him.”
“Oh, come on,” Alunite grumbles. “You were dreaming-“
“And what if I wasn’t?”
Garth sighs. “’Kay, fine, you go.”
“Who’s inside the Headquarters?”
“I guess Peridot and Benitoite. But-“
“I’m taking them with me. You watch the HQ until we get back.”
As she walks to the door and goes inside, he only sighs, knowing she’s not going to be stopped now.
“May I ask what you believe this Gem is? Corrupted? In a corporeal form? Or possibly cracked?”
“I’m not certain, but I’m still going to search for it.”
Benitoite, large and round and a clear cerulean color, only sighs. “Well, you haven’t been wrong before.”
“Technically not,” their low-iron Peridot says from behind. “On many occasions, Pink Topaz incorrectly has assumed that the memories she sees of nearby-Gems are ofan uncorrupted Gem, and when we find them-“
“This is different,” Pink Topaz insists, walking in front. “I could see whole memories, not just hear voices.”
Peridot says nothing, though still looks doubtful.
Benitoite shudders as they make it to the very heart of the forest, as the sun finally sets, leaving them in the dark. Peridot’s eerie green glow he beams from his forehead does nothing to lighten his mood. Still, he tries not to make it too obvious how scared he is. “U-Uh, so, are we getting any closer to this Gem? We’re almost at the human area, and you know how they get around us…”
“It’s close, I can feel it,” Pink Topaz says, closing her eyes and putting her hand to her heart-shaped Gem on her chest. “If I could just really focus on its aura…”
“Oh, I believe that will not be necessary,” Peridot says, putting a hand on her shoulder.
“What makes you say that?”
All he does is turn her around. She and Benitoite look in the same direction… to find that one of the enormous pine trees at the edge of the forest seems to be trying not to fall over.
“I may be mistaken, though I am usually not,” Peridot says, “but I do not believe normal trees on this planet can move in such away without some kind of outside force acting upon it.’
As usual, nobody responds, as the two run off without him towards the tree.
They reach it, and what they see makes them all stop and stare for a moment.
At first, in the dim lighting, they believe they’re looking at a human. He has a typical build, big round black-rimmed glasses, and even wearing human clothing, right down to the shoes.
Though his skin is glowing bright-red, and there’s a strange five-sided shape glowing through his chest.
Peridot summons his visor, and scans the struggling individual.
“It is a Gem,” he says in awe. “The Gem is underneath his strange Earth clothing?”
Benitoite blinks. “Are you sure? I’ve never seen a Gem wearing Earth clothes before.”
“Perhaps we should help him lower the tree before doing anything rash,” Pink Topaz suggests.
Of course, Benitoite’s the first to walk over, a hand outstretched. “Hey, there! Need a hand?”
It’s far too dark for Clark to notice this stranger’s blue skin. Instead, all he sees is a normal teenager. He smiles sheepishly. “U-Uh, this…. This isn’t what it looks like.”
Benitoite shrugs. “I think it does. Here, I’ll just…” He walks over behind him, as Pink Topaz and Peridot make their way to the stranger.
“Wait, who are you-?” Clark’s words die in his throat when he realizes he’s no longer holding up the tree; instead, Benitoite’s a giant sphere, balancing the tree on its side. “Uh…”
Benitoite shapeshifts his arm out and extends it to Clark, who flinches, though nonetheless shakes it. “I’m Benitoite. Nice to meet you!”
“I am Peridot, Facet JR-15, Cut B5.” Clark turns to a shorter person, with light hair and a glowing green dot on his forehead, hands folded behind his back.
“I’m Pink Topaz,” says the tallest one, with long hair and looks unearthly pale all around. “Everyone just calls me Pink.”
Clark’s still lost, as Benitoite lowers the tree by himself, gently, though the ground still shakes below them. “Uh.” He pushes his glasses back up. “I’m Clark.”
“I do not know any Gem of that name or classification,” Peridot pipes up.
“Um, no, that’s my name,” Clark explains. “My name is Clark Kent. I, uh, just moved here today.”
They look at him, as if he’s the alien one here. “We meant, what kind of Gem are you?”
Peridot stands absurdly close to him. “I can see your Gem glowing through your shirt. If I may…” He puts a hand on Clark’s chest.
Clark backs up. “Hey! What are you doing??”
“I want to see your Gem.”
At least I’m one-hundred percent sure that’s what it really is. “N-No! That’s private!” He blushes; he’s never had someone just touch him like that. “Uh, listen, my mom’s probably done with making dinner, so… thanks for the help. Bye.” He walks away.
They watch him.
“Should we follow him?” Benitoite whispers.
“Of course,” Peridot hisses back. “He is a Gem! He seems to not have any malicious intent, so it is possible he is some sort of refugee on this planet, as we are. Perhaps we should ask him to join the Legion.”
Pink Topaz is sure that this strange Gem doesn’t want to be followed, but what choice do they have? They follow him, her leading the way. “I wonder where he resides, so close to the humans.”
“Ma, I’m home.”
“Your father’s out doing a bit of business and he’ll be back late, clean yourself up before eating dinner.”
He washes his hands and splashes his face with cold water, wondering what on Earth had just happened. Aliens? And they kept talking about gems, like the one on his chest. A part of him wanted to reach out for them… but a part of him also wanted to keep away.
“Clark, hurry up now before your dinner gets cold!”
“I’m coming!” He dries himself off and walks back to their dining room.
“I’ll set up the extra space for your friends!”
“My what, now?” Though he needs only to walk into the room, and already sees the three aliens from the forest. “Oh, no.”
In the light of their dining room, he sees now their true colors: Pink Topaz is a pastel pink-skinned teen with long blonde hair that reaches the small of her back. Benitoite is only slightly shorter than her, with vivid blue skin and spiky blue hair, though his goggles resting on his forehead are yellow. Peridot is a variety of colors, though overall desaturated: dull green skin, pale blond hair, and a deep blue uniform, though his eyes and the gem on his head are vivid green.
As if today couldn’t get weirder, the universe was going to prove him wrong.
“You guys cannot be here!”
The three beings look at each other. “Why not? We just want to talk.”
“Aw, I’m so happy you got yourself some new friends, Clark! And so soon, too?”
They see Mrs. Kent walk in, a tray filled with bowls in her hands. She begins serving food to everyone, then leaves a bowl for herself. “Well, don’t you mind me, all of you eat up!”
“We don’t need to-“ Peridot begins, though Pink’s stern glare stops him. “Oh. Um. Thank you.”
Bernitoite digs in, though Pink looks a bit confused at the bowl in front of her, and carefully takes a spoonful and sips it delicately. Peridot, however, only stirs his bowl.
“Um.” He doesn’t want to make them feel bad by saying they’re not his friends. “Mom, we just met. That’s Benitoite, Pink Topaz, and Peridot.”
They wave politely, and Martha smiles sweetly. “Aw, well it’s so nice to have you for dinner. Do you all live nearby?”
“We all live on the beach,” Benitoite says cheerfully.
“Um, Ma,” Clark says, “can I get a few minutes alone with my… guests, please?”
Mrs. Kent gives him a playful smile as she picks up her plate. “Oh, alright, you four play nice, I’ll be eating in the living room.” She gives her son a kiss on the cheek before leaving the room.
Clark doesn’t sit down. “Um. So, why did you guys follow me home?”
“We want you to join the Gem Legion.” Pink smiles, standing up to meet him eye-to-eye.
“What is that?”
Benitoite speaks up. “We protect the Earth from Gem monsters!”
Clark’s even more lost. “What?”
Peridot looks up from his meal. “They are a variety of monsters with different abilities and appearances, just like Gems. They can regenerate, just like us. However, we sentient Gems have the ability to create durable bubbles that stop the regeneration process. Gem monsters are notoriously common near this area, and the number of Legionnaires is smaller now, so we want you to join us.”
Clark lets this information sink in, but he still has question. “Gems?”
The three look at each other with concern on their faces. Benitoite speaks up again. “Um, Gems? Like you and me?”
“I didn’t know that that’s what I was called,” Clark admits, sitting down. He stirs his dinner, though doesn’t eat. “I’ve never met another Gem before.”
“We do not believe there are any others on this planet,” Peridot states. “Our communication devices were all destroyed long ago. If other Gems wish to communicate with us, we have no idea.”
“But where did you guys come from?”
“Homeworld,” Pink Topaz states. “That’s where most Gem comes from.”
“Did I come from there?”
“I, uh, was really young when I came to Earth, and I don’t remember where I came from.”
“Strange,” Peridot mutters, though Clark tries to ignore that.
“Well, from what we can see,” Pink Topaz continues, “you look strong, and we need help. And perhaps we can help you learn more about yourself.”
“I dunno if I can,” Clark admits. “I mean, you guys are talking about fighting monsters. When I was young, I couldn’t even fight off bullies! I mean, not like I could, anyway. I would never use my powers against humans.”
“Well,” Pink says slowly. “Please, come with us. Just for today, we can show you who we are and what we do. There’s plenty of us, and we’d all be happy to get to know you better.”
Clark still looks unsure.
“Don’t you want to know what you really are, and how to use your powers? We’ll help you use them for good.”
Clark smiles sheepishly. “Um, be right back.” He ducks his head into the living room, where his parents are eating their dinner. “Can I go out with some friends tonight?”
Mr. Kent gives him a skeptical smile. “Did I hear something about ‘fighting monsters’ in there?”
Clark bites his lip. “Um. No?” He gives them a pleading look. “Please, can I?”
The Kents give each other knowing smiles. “Well, we think you can handle yourself.”
Mr. Kent help pulls a blanket over his wife and himself. “Go and have fun, Clark. Just don’t stay up too late, and take a sweater.”
Clark beams at them. “Thanks, dad! See you later!”
Alunite is grumpy.
The other Gems are off doing who-knows-what, while Pink goes after another corrupted Gem, and he’s just supposed to keep guard? And why was she so desperate for another Gem, anyway? It’s not like they’re not enough…
His thoughts are interrupted when the warp pad glows, and he sees his missing teammates. Each of them hop down… only to reveal a third figure trying to hop off onto the sand and ends up tripping over his own two feet.
Alunite laughs as Peridot helps him back up. “Come on, what’d you bring this dorky human here for?”
At those words, Clark blushes… and his skin glows bright orange clearly under the full moon.
Alunite blinks. “Oh. Not a human.” He eyes him skeptically. “And, uh, what is he?”
“He claims that on this planet, his human guardians have inaugurated him as ‘Clark Kent’,” Peridot reports, hands behind his back. “However, we are unsure of what kind of Gem he is supposed to be.”
Clark smiles gently. “Um, I don’t really remember what they called me, back when I was a baby. I just kinda fell on Earth in a tiny red pod.”
Peridot blinks. “Ah. Then, you are most likely a Ruby, most likely a late Era-1 Gem, judging by your pigmentation.”
“He looks nothing like a Ruby!” Alunite counters with.
Clark’s uncomfortable; this stranger doesn’t seem to like him very much.
“Then he is an off-color,” Peridot states simply.
Alunite’s one eye narrows in suspicion. “And what are you doing here on Earth anyway, Clark?”
“I dunno,” Clark says nervously. “I-I just… I don’t remember anything when I was little. My parents just said that I came out of a pod when I was a baby, and they’ve raised me since then.”
Alunite scoffs. “Then he’s Era 2.”
“Alunite.” Pink Topaz’s voice is stern with him. “We need him. Our numbers are low, and Gem monsters are becoming more frequent. Give him a chance to prove himself.”
“Fine, we’ll test him,” Alunite says. “See if he can keep up, you know?”
“Are you suggesting a trip to the simulation room?” Peridot asks.
Benitoite pipes up. “How about a more hands-on experience?”
The snapping and falling of a palm tree draws their attention towards the forest.
“Ugh, probably another one of those hide-behinds again,” Alunite groans. He turns to Clark. “So? Gonna come, or what?”
“I-I guess so?” Oh, wow. Clark was not expecting things to move this fast. “I-I’ve never fought a monster before. Is it hard?”
“You’re kidding me.” He turns to Pink Topaz. “This is what you guys bring back? Some Gem who thinks he’s human, and hasn’t even used his powers before?” He groans. “Forget this. If you need me, I’ll be doing something useful, and bring back those hide-behinds.” With a mighty leap, he’s off, jumping high into the sky, as Clark watches in awe.
Benitoite looks awkward. “Um, listen, it’s your call if you want to come, so…” He gives him a small smile, and morphs back into a sphere, bouncing just as high, going after his friend.
Peridot says nothing; he only looks back at Clark, curiously, then follows after his teammates.
Pink Topaz doesn’t move. “You are conflicted.”
“I just wanted to help, but… but your friend-“
“Alunite,” Pink Topaz confirms. “He’s a little hot-headed at times, but he means well. He’s just…” Pink sighs. “He’s lost a lot of good Gems to this war against monsters, and he’s easily frustrated, is all.”
Clark clears his throat. “So, um, all that talk about me being a Ruby, and off-color…”
“Rubies are small foot soldiers from Homeworld,” Pink explains. “They have fire powers. And off-colors are Gems that are built differently than they were designed. You’re much, much bigger than a typical Ruby.”
Clark’s too confused to want to continue talking about himself. “A-And these Gem monsters…”
“They are an infestation on this planet,” Pink Topaz says. “We keep the humans safe by containing their Gems in bubbles so they won’t hurt anyone. It’s not their fault; they were once like you and I, but something happened to their physical forms that left them permanently disfigured. But that’s a story for another time.”
“Can’t you guys get humans to help?”
Pink Topaz shakes her head. “Gems are different than humans; we’re basically like light, made into a solid; our bodies are much more durable, and no Earth weapons readily available would be able to penetrate our physical forms. But…”
She stands up, as the pink heart on her chest glows, and from it forms a round, sharp, pink weapon Clark doesn’t recognize.
“This is a chakram,” Pink Topaz explains. “And it’s one made of Gem magic, and much stronger than the human equivalent. It’s strong enough to penetrate through to a Gem monster’s physical form. Most Gems have weapons, though some don’t. But almost all Gems are strong enough to fight these Gem monsters. No human has a chance.”
“We can’t ask them for help,” Pink says shortly. “In their eyes, we are not welcome there anymore.”
Clark stands up. “Then I’m helping.”
Pink smiles. “Thank you. I wouldn’t worry so much about a hide-behind, though; taking it down will be a walk in the park, as the humans say.”
Except there wasn’t just one.
As it turns out, hide-behinds are tall, looming creatures, with long, stringy legs, bodies of barn owls, eyes that sparkle like cerulean, and feathers blacker than anything; so dark, it actually stuck out even among the tall trees in the dark of the night near the beach.
It seems that the three Gems were trying to join together and subdue the hide-behinds one by one, judging by the one blue Gem in the sand; but now, Benitoite was being pecked and his physical form starting to tear in the monster’s beak, and instead of blood and flesh, Clark could see blue light from his wounds. Peridot wasn’t faring much better, being tossed into a palm tree and falling to the ground as the tree snapped in half. As Clark and Pink Topaz made it to the scene, Alunite was shooting lightning from his hands at the four remaining ones looming over him, though one of them is quick to pick him up in his beak. Alunite is tossed into the air, then falls back into the beast’s mouth-
They can see his two halves hover momentarily in the air before his Gem falls pathetically into the sand underneath the creatures.
“I did say one of them wasn’t much to worry about,” Pink admits. “But don’t worry, we’ve dealt with worse.”
Pink Topaz brings out her chakram, and aims at the creatures; it hits one of them in the leg, cutting it clean in two, and the creature dissapear in a cloud of dust before it can hit the ground; instead, the Gem from its wing lands in the grass.
Clark has no idea what to expect when he runs towards the hide-behinds, no real plan in his mind other than attack!, but it’s in the blink of an eye when he finds himself kicked back and crashing into a rock, shattering it.
Next, he’s pinned down by three large claws, as the hide-behind looks into his eyes, curiously pecking at his face.
It would’ve been cute, if Clark hadn’t just seen it tear one of his new friends literally in half.
Peridot finally stirs, lifting himself up from the sand. “Use your fire breath!”
“It is an ability all Rubies possess!”
Clark groans as the talons begin to tighten around him; the hide-behind’s found his Gem as it gently taps its beak on his chest.
Carefully, Clark takes a deep breath, closes his eyes in anticipation, and blows on the creature.
He’d almost feel sorry for the creature, as its feathers are set ablaze, flapping its wings to try and put itself out, though its only a few seconds later that it, too, explodes into dust as the Gem attached to its forehead falls to the ground.
Noticing this, the other two Gem monsters turn to take down this new threat.
Peridot thinks fast; before the bigger one can take a step, he runs over, a large stone in hand, and hurls it, aiming low. The creature, instead of stepping on grass, steps on the stone, and it slips. Peridot grabs another stone, this one much larger and pointier, and quickly carries it towards the still-falling monster, setting it down and crouching behind it.
His plan works; the monster is impaled through the chest, and turns to dust, as Peridot remains untouched. Peridot scoops up the teardrop-shaped Gem and encases it in some sort of magical bubble he summons from nowhere.
There’s one left, though Clark sees that Alunite and Benitoite have somehow reformed their bodies. The two quickly work in unison; Benitoite turns into a giant sphere again, and Alunite kicks him high into the air, jumping after him, then kicks him as hard as he can, right into the last monster.
The monster poofs into dust, and Benitoite collects it, looking a bit worse for wear, though now thankfully in one piece. Peridot and Pink Topaz collect the other fallen Gems, in pink and green bubbles.
Clark knows he doesn’t actually breathe, though somehow, his chest still feels strangely deflated after what he just did. “Oh, wow. I-I was… Wow.” He smiles as Pink Topaz helps him back up. “Um, so you guys are always saving humanity like this?”
“Yeah, pretty much.”
Clark smiles at Alunite. “Does this mean I can join?”
“I guess,” Alunite says, still looking a little grumpy, though Pink Topaz’s elbow at his ribs makes him smile. “I mean, yeah, sure. If you wanna.”
“I mean,” Clark says quickly. “I should probably go back home right now, with my parents. But, um, I can come back whenever you need me. Using that one teleporting thing.”
Peridot smiles earnestly. “Perhaps we could set up a room in the Legion headquarters for you, once you are ready.”
Clark smiles. “Well, I’d have to ask my ma and pa…”
Alunite coughs “dork!” not-so-subtly, but Pink just smiles, as they lead him back to the beach near the forest, as Clark eagerly keeps talking about their performance.
None of them notice a green dot in the sky that was not there the previous night.