Cool salty winds blew across the rugged cliff face. It carried the smell of the season’s fish as it rolled in, covering the seaside town in its scent. Following it was the gentle ascent of the sun, bathing the cliff, and the mossy statue beneath it, with warmth and light.
A boy sat on top of the cliff, looking out onto the calm water. Breathing in the crisp fresh air, he smiled. Today was going to be a good day. With a jump, the boy leapt to his feet and stretched, a series of cracks rolling down his back. Laughter rang out.
He looked down the hill behind him, eyes traveling to the town below. Between him and it was a huge expanse of grass, as big as the town itself. A minor obstacle at best, however. He eyed his destination and crouched down, taking a mock runner’s stance. A crackling warmth burned in his gut. Then, he took off.
The boy ran down the hillside, the skip to his step growing faster and faster. He was almost gliding down the grass, his heart racing quicker. Each leap forward pumped him up. The flickering fire in his gut burned as he ran, the cool air peeling the sweat off his face.
As the sun rose behind him, his shadow was cast further out than he could ever reach.
And as he approached the town, he began to hum a familiar, nostalgic tune.
“If you’re evil and you’re on the rise—” He crossed into the town, turned, and began running down the sidewalk. “—You can count on the four of us taking you down.”
His voice rose as he continued singing the song. Excitement was overtaking him. He could feel it in the way his lips curled into a grin he couldn’t contain, how his arms began to shake. Speeding up, he began his favourite part.
“Weeee are the Crystal Gems, we’ll always save the day.”
The boy sang louder as he approached a shop. He was ecstatic, absolutely filled with energy. It felt like he was flying. Yet, as his destination got closer and closer, he had to come back down to earth. His feet skidded him to a stop.
“Garnet, Amethyst, annnnnd Pearl—”
Tearing open the front door, the boy leapt in, arms raised.
The Big Donut stood silent, the boy standing in its center. He tried his best to still his panting and obvious exhaustion to no avail. The awkward quiet lasted for another moment before it broke.
“Uh… hey, Steven?” The voice of Sadie rang through the early morning shop. She stood at the counter, holding a box she quickly put down. Steven unclenched his eyes and smiled. With a wave, he approached.
“Sadie m’lady,” he panted. “How are you this fine morning?”
Sadie paused for a moment before she chuckled.
“I’m fine, Steven. Just a bit of a weird morning,” she said, leaning against the counter. “What’s up with you? You’re up pretty early.”
“Oh yeah, just having an early morning run.” Steven ran in place for a moment. “Pearl says I’ve got to work on my endurance.”
“That sounds pretty cool.” Sadie reached for a donut tong, clicking them once in the air. “So, the usual? Or something special?”
Steven leaned against the counter and grinned. He whispered with intensity.
“Surprise me.” Steven’s sweaty palms then slipped from the countertop and he fell with a thud.
Sparks and whirs filled the beach, surrounding a makeshift workstation. A large metal hull laid on the sand, two figures working around it. The shorter green one wore a welding mask and was sealing part of the hull closed. On the other side was a taller white one, who was carefully soldering a microchip. The former stopped the welding torch and paused. She lifted her mask and barked out a call.
“Pearl.” Her words came out forced and venomous. Pearl sighed at what felt like a derogatory remark, rolling her eyes.
“I believe the integrity of the hull to be acceptable, when can I expect the processor to be complete?”
“You can’t rush this, Peridot. This chip needs to be able to withstand intense heat and pressure for the trip. Besides, until Garnet returns with the Galgador for the drill head, the project is on hold.” Pearl placed down the soldering bit and smiled. “Done!”
Peridot rolled her eyes as Pearl pushed the processor into a panel and connected several wires.
“Why exactly do we have to rely on the fusion to get materials?” Peridot jeered. Pearl shot her a look as she closed the panel.
“Because Garnet is just as much of a Gem as me, just as much as you.” Pearl turned to her and put a hand on her hip. “Besides, I’d looove to see you swim through a kilometer of magma for even an ounce of Galgador.”
Peridot frowned and looked off to the side.
“Hey Pearl, hey Peridot!” The voice of Steven pulled the two’s attention, bringing an end to their discord. The boy approached the two Gems, a folded paper bag in his hand.
“Hello, Steven,” Pearl and Peridot said in unison to the amusement of neither. Steven smiled, holding up the bag he carried.
“I got donuts~” he chimed, shaking the bag. Pearl took an apprehensive step back.
“Oh, uh. That’s very nice, Steven. But I’m—”
“It’s okay, I know you don’t want any, Pearl,” Steven said, walking to Peridot. He held out a green frosted donut. “Here, I got you something!”
“What is it?” Peridot asked, examining the confectionary. She plucked it from Steven’s hand.
“It’s a donut, silly. Try it!”
Pearl raised an eyebrow at the scene unfolding before her. Peridot took a small apprehensive bite from the treat and chewed. After a few moments, she stopped.
“Wahll?” she said with her mouth stuffed. “Wach da point of tesh?”
“Awww,” Steven whined. “It’s supposed to be sweet. And tasty.”
“Shweet? Wach’s dat?”
“Uh, Steven?” Pearl called, standing behind the drill. Pressing the tips of her fingers together, she stepped past the hull and approached the two. “Peridot doesn’t have taste buds, most Gems don’t for that matter. No need for them, remember?”
Peridot spat out the chewed donut before wiping her mouth from the sugar.
“Your offering has been duly noted, Steven,” she said, still holding the rest of the donut. Her harsh expression cracked for a moment, however, as she blurted out. “And thank you.”
“Aww, you’re welcome, Peridot!”
Peridot turned away, heaving the welding equipment with her, the green donut still held in her hand. Pearl gave her a strange look as she walked off.
“I think that’s the first time she’s ever said thank you,” Pearl commented. “And didn’t make it seem like an insult.”
“You just have to get to know her, Pearl,” Steven commented as he watched her haul away the equipment. “She’s really nice.”
“Yeah, as nice as a—”
“Oh! I almost forgot! I gotta get ready! Connie’s coming over!” Steven ran off towards the house with the rest of the donuts in hand.
Pearl smiled as Steven raced up the stairs and into the home. He was getting faster every day, she thought. It shouldn’t be long now.
Steven stood by the hot stove top, smiling to himself.
In three different pans, a half pound of turkey bacon sizzled. Meanwhile, on a fourth, a large pancake was happily baking away. The smell of breakfast wafted through the house and, for a moment, Steven was tempted to forgo his plans and start chowing down. Self-control won out in the end, however, and he tended to his preparations.
Grabbing onto the skillet holding the pancake, Steven heaved it upwards in one motion, flipping the hotcake in midair. He caught it before returning it back to the stove. The pancake sat for a few more moments before he then plunked it onto a stack of finished ones.
On the counter behind him, a tub of frozen yogurt sat. A bent spoon stuck out from the sweet treat, detailing Steven’s earlier attempts at harvesting the confectionary. Turning back to the tub, Steven dipped in another spoon he pulled from a drawer. As the utensil easily cut through, a smile grew on Steven’s face. He was glad he decided against putting it in the microwave.
With all the ingredients set, Steven began constructing his masterpiece. In about half of the pancakes, he cut a hole big enough to reach his arms through, leaving the scraps to one side. He’d feed them to the seagulls later, he thought. After the holes were punched through, he turned to the bacon. Taking six strips, he laid them in a vague hexagonal shape.
A hole-punched pancake was stacked on top of this, completing the first layer. With a smile, Steven began the process again, putting another six bacon pieces on top of the pancake, with another holed pancake to match. He repeated this process until all the hollow hotcakes were gone.
He had made an empty cylinder of breakfast food.
Grabbing a bowl of frozen yogurt, Steven placed it in the center. He then covered it with an uncut pancake. The stack now looked completely normal, no holes to it. Satisfied with his work, Steven smiled. Now to complete the illusion. He continued to pile on bacon and pancakes until his creation was almost a foot high.
Pulling out a canister of whipped cream and a fresh strawberry from the refrigerator, Steven was ready to finish his monstrosity. With a generous spray and a delicately placed strawberry, it was complete.
The door creaked open.
“Hey, Steven!” Connie said as she stepped through the front doorway, Rose’s sword swinging in its satchel on her shoulder.
“Connie!” Steven cheered, turning. Laughing, he ran up to her. “There’s my jam bud!”
The two leapt and high fived in midair, landing past each other. They broke out in laughter.
“Hehehe. How’s it going, Steven?” Connie asked, dropping the sword underneath Rose’s painting.
“I’m fine, Gems are too, but hey! Come take a look at this!” Steven called, rushing back to the kitchen. Connie followed close behind.
Sitting on the counter, surrounded by the catastrophic mess that was Steven’s kitchen, was the breakfast monstrosity. Connie stepped forward, both enticed and confused by the delicious construct.
“What… is it?” she asked.
“It’s my Together Breakfast! The sequel!” Steven said in self-inspired awe. “An absolutely crazy mash of pancakes, bacon, and more. I dub it, the Bacon PanCake!”
“Let’s dig in!” Steven called, pulling two forks from the counter. He handed one to Connie and cut a portion from the stack with his own. In one movement he swallowed his first bite. Shrugging, Connie took a bite herself, using the fork Steven gave her. She nibbled on it experimentally.
“Mmm!” Connie exclaimed, stars in her eyes. “That’s really good!”
She said that, hardly believing herself. She took a bigger bite, dabbing it in some whipped cream.
“I know right?” Steven replied, his mouth stuffed with pancake.
The two devoured the breakfast until it was nearly half gone.
Peeling away the top layer, Connie snorted as she revealed the frozen yogurt underneath. She laughed with food stuffed in her mouth.
“Really Steven?” she joked. “Ice cream with breakfast?”
“Itch foshan yogut acthully,” he said, his mouth full. He swallowed.
“I thought you were on a diet,” Connie laughed.
“It’s for you actually!” he cheered, stuffing another piece of food into his mouth. Her face lit up.
“Awww, thanks, Steven!” Connie plucked the frozen yogurt from the cake’s center and took a bite of it with her fork. She squealed in delight. “Kiwi Strawberry! My favourite!”
“Why do you think I picked it out?” Steven replied with a laugh.
Connie’s grin grew, the corners of her mouth curling with a smile so wide she couldn’t even open her mouth to take another bite. Without another word, she whipped her arms around Steven, hugging him like she was going to lose him.
“Thank you,” she finally managed to say.
“For what?” he laughed. But Connie wasn’t laughing.
“For everything! For being such a great friend, showing me all these new things, letting me be a part of your universe," she said, dropping in his last name.
“Oh, come on Connie. It’s nothing!”
“No! It’s so much more than nothing, Steven. You’re so thoughtful and you do so much for me. And I—” Connie pulled away, beaming at Steven with a radiant proud smile. “I’m going to return the fav—!”
The door slammed open, causing the two to jump away from each other.
“Peridot?” Steven called, spotting the green Gem standing in the doorway.
A silence followed as Peridot stared at the two, a prying glare attached to Connie specifically. A few seconds passed in quiet before she broke away, entering the house. Without another word, Peridot paced towards the bathroom and, in one motion, slammed the door behind her.
Connie launched into a frenzy.
“Steven! Who was that?! Is she that Peridot you told me about?” she yammered out. “What is she doing in your bathroom? She’s— She’s… really short.”
“It’s okay, Connie!” Steven pleaded. Connie inhaled to pace herself as Steven continued. “That’s Peridot! We found her trying to escape to Homeworld, after kidnapping me, and she—”
“She kidnapped you!?” Connie screamed.
“It’s alright Connie. Peridot’s good now! She’s actually really nice,” Steven explained. “She’s even helping us deal with this thing called The Cluster. The whole thing is just on hold right now.”
“Are you sure you can trust her Steven? Didn’t you say she was on the ship that captured you guys a few months ago?”
Steven nodded a yes, which didn’t help calm Connie’s worries.
“You know what? You should meet her!” Steven suggested. Connie panicked at the prospect of meeting what was an actual alien invader, but Steven pulled her towards the bathroom before she could protest. With a few knocks, the bathroom door cracked open.
“What do you want, Steven,” she said through the crack.
“You, silly!” he answered. “You’re all I want!”
Connie’s lips curled up in embarrassment at Steven’s choice of words. She collected herself, however, as the door opened. Peridot stumbled out of the bathroom, standing straight a moment later. A quiet followed and she and Connie locked eyes. Then, Peridot spoke up.
“Who are you?” she asked. Peridot walked around Connie, examining her clothes and skin. “I didn’t know there was another Gem on this planet.”
“Oh, I’m not a Gem,” Connie defended. “I’m human.”
“Human?” Peridot said, the word rolling clumsily off her tongue.
“Peridot, Connie,” Steven interjected, making introductions. “Connie, Peridot.”
“So, Peridot,” Connie began, her lips flat from the awkward conversation. “How are you?”
Peridot turned towards Steven.
“I didn’t know you made yourself comfortable with… The wildlife.”
The words barely had a chance to pass Peridot's lips. As soon as they reached the open air, Connie slammed into her, knocking the Gem to the ground. Steven was taken aback with shock as the air was blown from Peridot’s chest.
“What did you call me!?” Connie roared.
“Get off me you miserable organic life form! Release me you clod,” Peridot raged. Connie’s iron grip held onto Peridot’s wrists while her knees pinned her ankles.
“Connie, get off of her!” Steven cried, trying to de-escalate the situation. “We don’t need to fight!”
“Not until she takes back what she said!”
Steven’s eyes flashed a light shade of pink as he took a hold of Connie by the hips. In one motion, he tore her away from Peridot and lifted her into the air.
“I said, stop fighting!”
“Steven, you’re—” Connie paused as she noticed how easily he lifted her into the air. “—really really strong, you know that?”
Steven deposited Connie onto the ground with a minor huff. Gripping her hand, he turned to Peridot and helped her to her feet, his free hand gripping hers right after. Now holding onto both of them, he continued. The pink in his eyes faded away, unnoticed by the others.
“You guys shouldn’t be fighting,” he said with a frown. “We’re all friends here, and friends shouldn’t fight like this.”
“Up, up, up!” Steven said, interrupting the excuse. After he got silence again, he continued. “Peridot, what you said was really mean. Like, really mean. Can you please apologize?”
Peridot rolled her eyes, about to dismiss his request. When she caught sight of Steven’s eyes, however, she faltered.
“I… apologize, Connie,” Peridot said, her voice tinged with a hint of remorse. The words were foreign to her tongue. After a moment, she continued. “I’m not proficient in my skills of socializing with organic life forms. I’m still learning.”
Steven looked at Connie next.
“And attacking her wasn’t right, Connie.” Steven squeezed her hand lightly. “I know what she said was wrong, but so was hurting her. You should apologize.”
Connie gave Peridot a suspicious look, but let out a small sigh. Oh, of course, Steven would find a way to befriend this one, she thought.
“I’m sorry, Peridot,” she started. “I was worried about the idea of you living near Steven, and I sorta overreacted, a bit.”
“See, that’s better!” Steven put on a big smile as he pulled the two up into a bear hug. Peridot and Connie looked at each other and huffed, rolling their eyes as Steven put them down. “Why don’t we—”
The ground rumbled mid-sentence, cutting Steven off. Visible panic formed on Peridot’s face and, moments later, she dived between Steven’s legs.
“It’s the Cluster!” she cried, overdramatically. “We’re too laaate.”
Connie put her hand on the wall and felt for vibrations, ignoring the jittering from Peridot. The ground shook again, causing the green Gem to cry out.
“It’s not coming from beneath us,” Connie said, the realization dawning on her. “It’s from the ocean!”
“Steven!” Amethyst called as she entered the room from the Temple doors. “What the heck was that!?”
“I don’t know!” he called. The ground rumbled again, faster than before. It was getting closer, they realized. Steven lifted Peridot up from his legs and pointed to the door. “We gotta get outside!”
He deposited Peridot onto the couch and rushed out the door with Amethyst and Connie. The latter grabbed Rose’s Sword from underneath the painting, pulling the blade from its scabbard. Freezing as he stepped onto the porch, Steven’s eyes landed on the beach.
Next to the hull of the drill was Pearl, who was staring off into the distant horizon. They all followed her line of sight before arriving at the source of the tremors. The two beside Steven gasped.
Towering high from the horizon to just in front of the sun was a gigantic Gem Monster.
Long spindling legs climbed into the sky, supporting a massive drill-like head that pointed straight down. The creature’s skin was an amalgamation of peach coloured rock and a damp green coat of sludge. The sun was blocked out by the monster’s massive head, throwing half of Beach City into darkness.
Water and fish poured from the behemoth’s body, showing off the bright oranges of the still morning sky. Every one of its eight long legs seemed to shoot out beneath it, and they creaked into a basic walk that brought the creature closer. Each step shook the ground like the one before.
“P-Pearl?” Steven stammered. “What is that thing?”
“I-I don’t know, Steven! I thought we dealt with most of the corrupted Gems!” Pearl said, pulling out her spear. “Where on earth was this thing hiding?”
“Who cares where it came from,” Amethyst dismissed. She comically inflated her hands and pounded her fist. “Let’s just kick its butt!”
“How are we gonna do that?” Connie cut in. “That thing is thousands of times bigger than us. And we don’t even have Garnet!”
Steven saw the panic grow in Amethyst’s eyes as the true size of the monster dawned on her. Connie put her hands on his shoulders and groveled behind him. Even Pearl put the drill between herself and the creature. They were scared, he realized.
He tore himself away from the porch and gripped Connie's hand.
The two turned to Steven, his attention locked on the creature. He pointed out and called.
“Fuse into Opal and keep that thing as far back as possible!” Steven’s sudden orders surprised Connie. “We’re gonna get the Laser Light Cannons!”
Amethyst and Pearl looked at each other, surprised by Steven’s take to leadership. There was no time to waste, however. The two nodded and Amethyst stretched over to Pearl.
Steven pulled Connie into the house and ran to the large gate in the back of the room: The Temple doors.
“What’s going on?” Peridot called, peeking out from the couch.
“Gem Monster! We gotta get the cannons,” Steven called as he opened the gate. Steven and Connie ran a few feet inside before stopping.
“Room! We need the Laser Light Cannons we left here last time!” Steven ordered. The room got to work and, in a few moments, four cannons were present. Connie grabbed the handle of the one in the red wagon and began to pull it away.
“What are we going to do about the other three without Garnet?” Connie asked. Steven stared longingly at the three aligned cannons. Another flash of pink appeared in his eyes and soon the Gem in his belly button began to feel warm.
“I’ve got it. Go set up that one,” Steven said, pointing to the still open Temple doors. Connie looked at Steven for a few more moments before leaving.
“You can do it, Steven,” she called, stepping through the gate again.
“I got this, I can do this,” Steven muttered to himself. He wrapped his arms around two of the cannons, feeling their weight push against his body. He adjusted himself before heaving. “Come on, come on!”
The warmth in his Gem became crackling as he begged his powers to kick in. Then, all at once, the fire in his Gem exploded, spreading through his whole body. The weight gave way easily now as Steven lifted the two cannons into the air.
Running back through the door with the cannons in his arms, Steven felt his Gem continued to burn. A pink glaze covered his irises.
Steven deposited the two cannons onto the porch, wincing as it creaked under their weight. He turned, spotting Connie next to Opal down on the beach, the latter firing a barrage of light arrows at the creature in the distance. Frowning, Steven ran back into the house.
“Steven!” Peridot cried as she chased after him. She followed him to Rose’s room. “That creature is like nothing I’ve ever seen!”
Steven grabbed onto the last cannon, shifting his weight to get a grip on it.
“We can only assume that it must be a shard of the Cluster. Which means—” Peridot was cut off as Steven heaved the final cannon into the air. She stood back in astonishment. “—you are really really strong, you know that?”
“Come on Peridot,” Steven said with a smile. “Let’s go help the Gems!”
The two ran back outside, skidding to a stop as they looked on the approach of the beast. Opal was still firing shots, her energy arrows pinging into the distance. She looked tired, Steven thought. Dropping the final cannon onto the porch, he startled Peridot before beginning to straighten up the weapon. Her attention was suddenly taken by the line of them.
“Steven, are these— Oh they are! The personal cannons of Rose Quartz!” Peridot exclaimed, passing behind the artillery. Steven resisted the temptation to follow along with her awestruck gazing.
“Connie! Opal! Anything?” he called. Opal fired another shot, turning as it struck the creature.
“Our arrows are doing nothing!” She cocked back and fired again. “It’s like this thing is barely feeling it.”
The ground rumbled again, breaking Opal’s concentration. She choked and the fusion fell apart, tossing Pearl and Amethyst onto the beach, visibly exhausted. Running over as quick as he could, Steven rushed to help them up along with Connie. As he lifted Pearl to her feet, she wheezed, catching her breath.
“We need to get the cann—” She saw the Laser Light Cannons on the porch. “How in the world—”
“No time!” Steven exclaimed as he helped Connie lift Amethyst up onto his shoulder. Nodding, Pearl committed her questions to the nebulous date of ‘eventually’. The horrifying Gem monster lumbering in the distance put the urgency of her question into perspective. And that urgency was none.
The group rushed back to the house, Peridot immediately grabbing onto Steven as he stepped onto the porch.
“Steven! There may be—” she tried to say.
“No time, we gotta fire!” Steven deposited Amethyst onto the porch while he made a final adjustment on a cannon. He then screamed, “If every porkchop were perfect, we wouldn’t have hot dogs!”
The four cannons fired, their streams of bright pink energy swirling as they converged on the monster in the distance. The beams morphed and changed shape, resembling the Crystal Gems before billowing into one pillar of light. It struck the monster dead on. A bright pink flash illuminated the skyline and a cheer rang out.
Peridot grabbed onto Steven and twirled him around, ripping him away from his celebration.
“You don’t understand, Steven! Homeworld devised the Cluster with Rose Quartz’s meddling and technology in mind! If that creature was a part of the Cluster that had broken off then—”
A low pitch shriek rang through Beach City, cutting Peridot off mid-sentence. The light and smoke from the blast faded away, revealing the creature still standing in the distance.
“No effect,” Pearl said solemnly.
“What are we going to do now?” Connie asked.
“The creature has likely registered Rose Quartz’s energy signature from her cannons and will arrive here with increased haste,” Peridot explained. She turned back to Steven. “This is why I told you to wait!”
“Get off his back. How was he supposed to know?” Connie said, cutting between the two.
“How about by listening to the only person who actually knows something about what we’re dealing with!” Peridot replied. “Unlike yo—”
“No fighting! We don’t have time for this,” Steven said, putting himself between the two. “Peridot, look, I’m sorry for not listening to you. I was so worried about you guys, I forgot to actually listen to you. And Connie.”
He turned to her, catching her attention from Peridot. She was annoyed, Steven thought.
“Thank you,” he said. Connie locked eyes with him for a few moments, reading the message his expression told her. She nodded.
Pearl caught everyone’s attention with a cough.
“Steven is right. Right now we have to focus on dealing with that monster,” she said, looking into the distance. The Gem mutant was approaching the temple at a faster pace. Connie and Peridot looked at each other and huffed. Steven wrapped his arms around them and looked up at Pearl.
“So, what do we do?”
“Well, it seems to be very top heavy. It may be possible to topple it over.” Pearl squinted, taking note of its rapid approach. “We need to hurry.”
“So, one more time,” Peridot called from the porch. “Amethyst will use her shape-shifting to encircle the monster’s legs.”
She pointed to Amethyst who was bordering the beach in the shape of a giant volleyball net.
“Pearl and Connie will then use their melee weapons to attack its back legs, hopefully making it teeter back into the water.” She pointed to the two who were standing on sand pillars that Pearl had constructed.
“Steven will then use his shield to keep the monster from crushing me!” She jabbed her thumb back at Steven who was not amused. “Oh and the house and city, I guess.”
“I’m not sure about this, Peridot. I’ve never made a shield that good before,” Steven confessed.
“Don’t worry, Steven,” Peridot replied. “You’ve made shields strong enough to withstand a blast from a Gem battleship. It’ll be able to handle this."
Peridot turned her head back, a moment of thought causing her to pause.
"I believe in you," she said.
The ground shook again. The creature was getting closer.
“You can do this, Steven!” Connie called from the beach, waving Rose’s Sword in the air. Steven smiled. Peridot, catching a glimpse of his new found confidence, made a note of it.
“Whatever happens right now, I want to say—” She turned to him and gave him a genuine smile. “—Thank you. I—”
The ground trembled beneath them as the creature arrived at the cusp of the beach.
Amethyst struck, wrapping herself all around the monster and pulling it down. Pearl and Connie, meanwhile, began hacking at the beast’s ankles, cutting into its hard stone skin. They hit home as the monster shrieked, its low but powerful cry resonating with the Gems’ gemstones.
The sound caused Peridot to stumble back, her gemstone vibrating violently.
“Ah! Peridot, are you okay?” Steven panicked, the shield in his hand falling away as he turned to her. She shook her head, pointing back towards the monster.
“J-Just put your shield up!” she cried, falling to the ground again.
“Got it!” Steven exclaimed. Another copy of his shield flickered to life as he immediately got to work growing it.
And then, the monster tore one of its legs away.
“Amethyst!” the group cried, the beast’s limb barreling down on the Gem tying it up.
“Ahh!” Amethyst screamed as thousands of kilograms of monster pounded into her. Abandoning her post, Pearl leapt onto the loose leg.
“I’ve got it!” She plunged her spear and sword into the leg and held on tight as the monster screamed and shook her around. Taking advantage of this, Amethyst tightened her grip on the beast’s remaining legs. Soon, it began to tip.
“It’s working!” Peridot cheered, stumbling to her feet behind Steven. His shield had just about covered the house at that point.
Connie jabbed into the creature again as it lowered the leg Pearl was on. At that moment, however, it righted itself and crouched down, showing off its knees for the first time. It pulled Amethyst too far and she let go, falling into a heap on the ground.
The monster’s drill head steadied just above the sand. A moment of silent confusion took the beach.
Then, suddenly, the creature leapt high into the sky, over 100 meters up. Plumes of sand filled the air as everyone stared in horror. Peridot’s eyes grew wide as she groveled behind Steven in fear.
“No, no, no! It can jump!”
Steven panicked, spotting the Gems and Connie directly under the creature. He jumped off the porch, his giant shield following along as he sprinted towards his friends.
“Steven!? Where are you going?!”
The monster hit the peak of its jump with Connie and the Gems staring in shock. Its legs splayed out in the air.
Diving beneath the creature, Steven threw his shield up, covering his friends from the oncoming crash. Then, far quicker than the beast ascended, it descended and every head on the beach snapped to Steven. The monster collided with his shield, like a meteor striking the earth.
Clouds of sand and gravel were thrown up, covering the entire beach. But the plumes, however, quickly began to dissipate.
Pearl and Connie stumbled underneath the giant shield, rushing to the center to find Steven. He was at the bottom of the crater that had formed from the crash. Struggling to hold the shield up against the monster’s weight, Steven found himself pushed further and further into the sand. But, he was holding the creature up. Pearl and Connie fell to Steven’s side, pushing the shield with him.
“You need to keep the shield up!” Pearl panicked. “Keep your concentration. Don’t let it falter!”
Pearl wheezed, fear overtaking her.
“Steven, I can’t lose you!” she cried.
Steven couldn’t respond. The weight of the monster was pushing against every inch of his body, nearly blowing his lungs out. The warmth in his Gem became a crackling fire that spread through his whole body as he tried to heave upwards.
“Come on Steven,” Connie begged. “You can do this!”
Amethyst roused and gasped as she noticed where she was. Morphing around the others, she began to push the shield upwards.
“Steven, now would be a great time to not let us die, capiche!?” Amethyst’s word stumbled out of her like a puzzle from a blender: not in one piece and definitely in the wrong order.
“W-Wasn't planning on it!” Steven sputtered out, the words blown out from his mouth. He looked up through his shield, eyes widening as he saw the creature steady itself above them and crouch. “It’s gonna jump again!”
With a mighty leap, the monster rocketed from Steven’s shield, ascending into the air once again. With the weight finally gone, the boy collapsed, panting heavily as he hit the sand. Panic began to set in with the group. Rushing in, Connie grabbed him off the ground and pulled him onto her shoulders.
“Let’s move!” she cried, already running off the beach. The others quickly followed, spotting the creature as it began to hit the peak of its jump again. The four made it onto the porch just as the beast came to a stop in the air, nearly 500 meters up.
Its legs splayed, bending at its joints in each limb. From the ground below, this caught Connie’s attention, an idea coming to her.
As fast as the beast ascended, it descended, crashing onto the beach with tremors rocking the ground. A cloud of sand was thrown into the air. The shoreline shuddered, carved with a new shape from the collision as the monster heaved itself up again, adjusting itself in the crater it was forming.
“We can’t stop it,” Peridot mumbled in fear, her eyes locked on the lumbering behemoth. “Not with our current resources.”
“No, we can still do this!” Connie denied, still holding onto Steven. “We have a chance! I didn’t see it at first, but when it hits the peak of its jump, it spreads its legs out. It’s all mushy in its joints!”
Pearl looked at the creature as it pulled itself from the hole at a slow pace. It bent its legs to climb out, revealing its joints again.
“There’s no way Opal would be able to make a shot like that, especially in our current state,” she said, crossing out that plan. Amethyst nodded in agreement before lying against the wall of the house to rest.
Connie eyed the creature as it adjusted itself for another jump. Looking down at the sword hanging from her side, ideas began to develop. Steven stirred in her arms.
“Wah…” he mumbled as he came to.
“Steven!” Connie held onto Steven and shook him awake. “Fuse with me!”
“What!” Peridot stared at the two in shock. “You can’t fuse, with a human.”
“Steven can,” Connie shot back as he roused in her arms. “Listen, if one of you guys launch us up as Stevonnie, we can cut it down at the peak of its jump!”
“No!” Pearl screamed, pacing around the two. “That’s far too dangerous. We can’t risk either of your lives like that!”
“Pearl,” Steven muttered as he finally stood up. He looked up at the monster as it nearly stood fully straight again. “We need to do this.”
“But what if you get hurt! What if that creature crushes you on the way down!? We’re not even sure if you can regenerate, Steven, and Connie’s only human!”
Steven smiled as he held onto Connie’s hand.
“We’ve gotta try, Pearl. Or else we’re done for,” he said. He glanced at the Laser Light Cannons before looking at the creature. “It’s what Mom would’ve done.”
Pearl became silent. She looked down at how brave Steven was being. Much braver than she was, she thought. Collapsing to her knees, Pearl hugged them both.
“Please— Please be careful,” she cried.
“We will,” Connie answered, turning to Steven and gripping his hands. The two began to twirl in place, looking into each other’s eyes. They laughed and they giggled and for a moment, they forgot their worries. Their hearts were beating with one another. In the next moment, there was a single heart beating with itself.
Stevonnie opened their eyes.
Stevonnie held Rose’s Sword in one hand and Steven’s shield in the other. There was something comfortable about that, the balance of the shield and sword. It was natural to them. To Stevonnie, it just felt right.
Stevonnie stood on the sand, Amethyst’s body shapeshifted around them in the vague shape of a slingshot. Together, they waited for the creature to act. It was eerily silent, as if it were observing them.
“Heh, no,” he answered, nervously.
A moment passed.
“For being he—”
The creature leapt, throwing up another cloud of dust.
“Here we go!” Amethyst called, catapulting them into the air right after.
Tightening their grip on their weapons, Stevonnie steadied themselves as they flew upwards. Their heart screamed in fear, the furious beating of two quelling the bubbling soup of terror and bravery boiling in their mind. All at once, Stevonnie’s gemstone burst out with a sheen of light, a pink glaze covering their irises a moment later.
Peridot and the others watched with a pitched breath. She had her suspicions of a fusion with only one Gem, a half Gem at that. But as Stevonnie ascended along with the creature, Peridot casted out her doubts. She put a hand on her chest, feeling a strange warmth.
After what felt like an eternity, Stevonnie reached the peak of the jump. The monster spanned its legs out, revealing its soft joints for the last time. Gripping the sword in their hand, Stevonnie began to twirl, swinging the blade around them. The burning warmth in their gemstone spread to their hips.
Slicing clean through the skin and muscle, Stevonnie struck all eight weak points.
“Yes!” Their cheer rang out as the creature screamed in pain. Latching onto the drill of the monster’s head, Stevonnie used it to jump down and away from its collapse. Now at a safe distance, they summoned a bubble, readying for one final collision with the ground.
Sand was blown into the air, obscuring the beach with thick clouds. Pearl, Amethyst, and Peridot rushed in, frantically searching for where Stevonnie landed.
In a shallow crater, they found Steven and Connie restfully asleep.
End of Chapter 1