How to Origami: A Beginner's Guide.
Peridot took the slim paperback from Steven's hands, her head tilted skeptically. It felt no different from any other piece of Earth literature the Steven had brought her. Mostly he brought her books he thought she'd like. He'd once brought her something he called a "comic book". Peridot actually enjoyed that one because it was mostly pictures.
"Gee, thanks," she said.
Steven rubbed the back of his neck. He thought giving Peridot things would be the best way to make up for, well, wrecking so much of her stuff.
"Garnet thought you'd like it," he said.
Peridot pressed the book to her chest and blushed. So it wasn't from Steven? It was a present from the fusion? Interesting. Very interesting.
She flipped the book open. She was still having some trouble with Earth language. Gem language was so masterful and straightforward, but Earth language made zero sense. And apparently there were multiple ones? Ridiculous! Humans were so silly. Why not have one language? Why bother with all this complicated nonsense? Steven had tried to explain, but Peridot still didn't get it. It added up in her head as yet another reason Gems were superior to the creatures on this cloddy planet.
Luckily, this book was mostly pictures. Peridot didn't even have to look at the words.
"It's origami," said Steven. "You can make flowers and stuff out of paper."
Peridot snorted. Wow. Humans found such fascinating ways to waste time and resources. But that shouldn't have shocked her. Steven had used his weird pocket viewing device to show her a picture of a metal statue. The statue was of some kind of moth-humanoid creature. Imagine using valuable resources like metal for something other than weapons! Preposterous.
"And why would anyone do that?" said Peridot.
"Because it's pretty," he said.
Peridot held the book against her chest. She needed to thank The Fusion personally. The Fusion had made so little effort to reach out to her, but suddenly this? And The Fusion thought she'd like it?
Peridot clutched the book like it might float out of her short little arms. Okay then. If this was her key to understanding The Fusion, she'd give it a shot.
She tried the basic folds first. Peridot tore a page out of an old book to practice.
Peridot worked the paper gently, guiding the ends towards the center. She didn't get why she was starting like this. It was just folding paper. Peridot could have done that in her sleep. This was nothing compared to the complex tech she'd operated for the Diamonds.
But once she mastered those simple folds, Peridot did feel a sense of accomplishment. This wasn't a material she was used to working with. It was flimsy, weak, completely useless. Why would humans use something like this for preserving information? The Steven had assured her that humans didn't really use paper for that anymore, but they'd stopped less than a decade ago. The Gems had already started keeping digital records over five thousand years ago.
Peridot tucked the edges into the central point, finishing off her small square. She held it up in the darkened barn, turning it over to examine all sides of her masterful creation. Was Peridot the only creature on this planet to master the basic folds in less than a hour? Probably. Peridot was several centuries more advanced than any human or Gem living on Earth. So why did they act as if she was the weird one? Were they really that wrapped up in their own egos?
She placed the square next to ten others, finishing out her own little collection. Just like most things created on Earth, the square had no function. It wasn't even a tool. It was a flimsy piece of reprocessed tree bark. So why did Peridot feel this vague sense of relief and pride when she finished it?
"It's simple," Peridot said to herself. "It's the satisfaction of bringing a task to its completion. I'm sure every human feels this way."
She touched her gem, finger tracing the edges. But Peridot wasn't human. She was a Gem. And Gems never did things for the joy of doing them. That was very against the rules. And Peridot never broke the rules. Except that one time she screamed "Clod!" at Yellow Diamond. But that was just a moment of wild hysteria. Right?
Peridot grabbed the nearest square. She clenched her small fist, crushing her creation like it was nothing. Peridot expected to feel bad. The Steven was always talking about all the stuff that made him feel bad and that would have definitely been on the list. But instead Peridot felt a surge of power. It cracked through her arm like an electric shock. Peridot hadn't felt powerful since she lost her limb enhancers. Even that robot battle with Pearl had only given Peridot a fleeting sense of power.
Laughing, she crumpled more squares. She could have shredded them or ripped them to pieces, but Peridot loved feeling them buckle into her fist. She liked how the paper recognized its inferiority. The paper was smarter than most humans Peridot had encountered on this miserable planet.
It wasn't until the sixth or seventh square that Peridot started feeling bad. She let the square--uncrumpled--fall from her hand, watching it flutter to the floor. The smile dropped off of her face.
Peridot stared at the pile of ruined squares. She'd worked so hard on them. And she'd felt so good about her progress, even though a freshly-emerged Ruby soldier could have done it. They were just dumb paper squares. But they were her dumb paper squares.
Peridot picked up the book again. She wasn't sure what was coming over her, but she didn't like it. She didn't like sitting cross-legged on the floor and folding paper. That wasn't helping anyone. They had so much stuff to worry about and Peridot was folding paper. The Cluster wasn't going to be defeated by paper squares. So why was she doing this?
She flipped to one of the last sections of the book. Well, the Steven told her to make a flower. So Peridot was going to make a flower. And then she was going to get back to work. It had been a long night of doing absolutely nothing helpful.
The flower was significantly more complicated than the squares. It required mastery of some more advanced folds and a ton of practice.
Peridot tore more pages out of another old book. The Steven hadn't given her the go-ahead for destroying those books, but Peridot assumed it was okay. Those books were stuffed in a box near the back of the barn. The dimensions were perfect for origami.
Her fingers gently manipulated the paper, following the step-by-step visual instructions. Peridot had given up trying to decipher the written part. The pictures were way easier to follow. The disembodied hands showed her exactly what to do.
But not this time. Peridot groaned in frustration as the folds refused to come together. Her fingers weren't sure enough, they weren't gentle enough. The folds simply fell apart in her hands, the intricate detail of the flower lost in whatever mess Peridot was making.
"Ugh!" Peridot shouted.
She slammed her palm down, crushing the abomination. Peridot felt zero satisfaction as she ground it into the floorboards, snuffing out her failed attempt. Peridot only felt rage throbbing in her chest. Why was this so hard? This was something humans did for fun. As a superior life form, Peridot should have found this easy.
She folded her arms and pouted. Peridot was an engineer, not an artist. This work was for a Pearl, not a skilled and important Gem like Peridot. Why in the stars had the Fusion given this to her? Was it some kind of joke? Revenge for all the apparently awful things Peridot had said about Pearl?
Earth really was screwed up in every way. Imagine treating a Peridot like a Pearl! And no one seemed to be batting an eyelid. The Steven was especially oblivious. Peridot had tried to explain to him why this was nonsense, but no one here respected her authority. They thought everyone should just do whatever they were good at, dividing up the work based on skill.
Peridot snorted. That was the dumbest thing she'd ever heard. Some Gems were just better than others. Why else would the Diamonds be in charge? It was all about rank.
She pulled her knees against her chest. But. The Gems seemed to be making okay progress. Peridot had to adjust her prediction for when they'd finish. She'd narrowed their window of completion from months to weeks. It was amazing how they all worked together so well.
Peridot picked up another piece of paper. She carefully tucked the edges towards the center, creating another simple square. She didn't know why. It just made Peridot feel better.
She folded one corner of the square. This was obviously a test. The Fusion wanted Peridot to ask for help. But if Peridot couldn't master a task worthy of a Pearl, what kind of Gem was she?
Well, she could answer that: a sad broken Gem confused by everything around her. Why was the Steven being so nice to her? Why had the Gems just accepted that Peridot was on their side? For all they knew, Peridot had been sent to befriend the Crystal Gems and dismantle them from the inside. Of course she wasn't, but that would have been a pretty decent plan. A plan worthy of Yellow Diamond.
Peridot tugged gently at the folds, a bitter grin on her face. What in the stars was she talking about? As if a mere Peridot would have been sent on such an important mission. Yellow Diamond was way too calculated for that. If she wanted to infiltrate the Crystal Gems, she would have sent a Pearl.
But who was she to speculate about Yellow Diamond? Peridot was miles beneath her Diamond. That was just how it was on Homeworld.
Peridot turned the square over in her hands.
Yellow Diamond would have never wasted her time on something so pointless. She was too busy conquering worlds to fold paper flowers. But maybe that was the point of this test. Maybe Peridot was being put in her place.
She ran a finger over the smooth edge of the square. Strange. Why did that make her feel sad? Why was she so upset that she couldn't fold an origami flower?
What was that thing the Steven said about houses? "People in paper houses shouldn't light fires"? Peridot had lit a fire by crash-landing into the Crystal Gems' lives. So why didn't they resent her for it? Why were they so eager to believe she could be different?
Peridot grabbed another piece of paper. Her fingers worked the edges with care, transitoning from the simple first folds to the more complex ones. She didn't stop, even as her creation had to be shaped and reshaped a dozen times in her shaking hands. It didn't matter how gentle she was.
Maybe it was better that Peridot never went back to Homeworld. Maybe the Steven was right. Maybe there was nothing silly or pointless about folding an origami flower. Maybe it was okay to want things.
Peridot stared at the origami flower in her hand. She studied the careful folds, the odd little shapes that were supposed to be its petals.
It was just paper. It was just paper. It was just paper. Weightless in her hand. Useless.
She placed it on the floor. Peridot handled it carefully, like she was afraid she might accidentally crush it. Peridot didn't know why she cared. The flower she'd made was a monstrosity. The folds were all wrong, the petals curled in weird directions.
But she liked it. She liked it because she made it. It belonged to her. Peridot had never made anything for herself. Why would she? She was just another cog in Homeworld's machine. Replaceable.
Here on Earth, Peridot was one of a kind. Back on Homeworld, she didn't really care if she got poofed. Shattering was never something that entered her mind, because only bad Gems got shattered. If something happened to Peridot, she'd simply be replaced by a newer, better model. Her identity was tied to a series of letters and numbers. Interchangeable.
Who had taken Peridot's place back on Homeworld? Did they know what had happened to her? Did any of her fellow Peridots speculate about her fate?
Peridot clenched her fist. No, of course they didn't. Gems disappeared all the time. No one talked about it. The Gems were replaced and everything continued running smoothly. That was how Homeworld operated. No one was going to miss a lone Peridot.
But the Crystal Gems might miss her. If something happened to her, they might actually care. It seemed almost funny. She was just a Peridot. A low level worker. But the Gems didn't care about any of that.
Peridot grabbed more paper, spreading out the sheets in front of her. She wanted to make more flowers.
Maybe she would be better at this someday, maybe she wouldn't. It didn't really matter.
Either way, Peridot was stuck on this miserable planet. Why not make a whole fleet of dumb stupid flowers?