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Of Boys and Pearls

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The first time Anakin saw a pearl was on Gardulla the Hutt’s palace. A collector of exotic slaves and a powerful Hutt on her own right, Gardulla was especially proud of her pearl. She was an uncracked, flawless, specimen. Anakin would only later find out how rare it was to find an uncracked pearl outside of the Gem Empire space. There was a reason that Gardulla liked to flaunt her pearl for any visitors and business associates that made their way to her palace.

But when five-years-old Anakin saw the pearl for the first time, he did not know about the politics of owning a pearl. He only saw the strange beauty of the creature and was not surprised that everyone wanted to see someone as graceful as the pearl dance.

The pearl never faltered, never missed a step, never broke her impeccable form. She danced for hours, toes flexed on point, arms held up, smile on her face. She could have been confused for a droid, expect that droids were not capable of the fluidity and gracefulness that she possessed.

Even the twi-lek slave-dancers, trained from birth to entertain the Hutts, looked at the pearl with admiration mixed with horror. Whether they felt jealousy or pity, who could say.  Even in Gradulla’s mixed collection of creatures, the pearl seemed alien. Not-Organic, a mystery form the heart of the secretive Gem Empire.

Anakin never interacted with that pearl. He only stood there, holding the pitcher of wine, watching as the pearl was brought out again and again, to dance under the merciless Tatooine sun for Gardulla’s entertainment.

 

It was four years later that Anakin saw a pearl again. Anywhere expect Tatooine this would have been unheard of. For most inhabitants of the republic the odds of seeing a creature from the Gem Empire would have been extremely rare, once in a lifetime wonder, but most republic inhabitants did not live on Tatooine. On outer-rim planets controlled by Hutts and rampant with slavery a bold enough smuggler might live the rest of their life in comfort with the wealth they could make by selling one single stolen pearl.

 If they could get their hands on a pearl. There were many more ambitious pirates who had lost their lives trying to infiltrate Gem controlled space than there were those that had succeeded in getting their hands on Gem resources. And out of all the resources pearls were the most difficult to acquire.

It didn’t stop people from trying.

Therefore, when master Watto brought one into his shop, the entire Mos Espa was abuzz for weeks.

Anakin, all of eight years old, dropped his bucket of oil in surprise when the pearl appeared behind him inside the gloomy interior of the shop.

She was beautiful, as were all pearls and light green coloured. Her gem was where a human would have a navel, and her hair was gathered on an artful bun behind her head. She was also clearly damaged, a small crack running through her gem, and a spiderweb of those cracks traveling down the entirety of her left leg and up to her chest.

“Hello!” Stuttered Anakin, trying to hide his startlement.

The pearl was silent long enough that Anakin wondered if she would answer at all, but eventually she did.

“Hello.”

Her voice was very soft and melodic.

She doesn’t say anything further and Anakin doesn’t know what to say to this creature who isn’t organic nor a droid, but something unknown. Anakin knows about pearls now, about the hushed whispers of someone who knows someone who knows someone who has smuggled a pearl into republic space. Knows how no one can quite agree whether they are sentient or not, whether they are closer to droids or to slaves, but how every petty crime lord in Tatooine would wish to have one. A status symbol of the highest kind. A proof that even the hallowed Gem Empire space isn’t out of reach from this crime lord’s power

Anakin is just one of the thousands human slaves in Tatooine, practically worthless compared to this creature, who by all logic should not be standing in Watto’s little junk shop.

“Haaa! Lil’ Ani! I see you’ve met Pearl!”

Anakin is old enough to hate it when masters pretend to be friendly with their slaves. Like they are somehow in a same team, as if the masters couldn’t fully face their own nature as slavers and tried to lie even to themselves about the truth.

“Greetings, my master Watto.” The pearl addressed him.

“See this beauty here?” Watto continued in his amiable way. He was on a good mood, a very good mood. “She’s gonna make us rich.”

“Where did you get a pearl?” Anakin asked and tried to not let his discomfort of Watto’s hand on his shoulder show.

“Won it last night from that dumb bastard Roksha! You should have seen his face, when he realised that he had just lost a pearl in a gamble!!” Watto slapped Anakin on the back, still riding the high of his new fortune. It was good; happy Watto meant that he wouldn’t be in a mood to make those around him miserable.  

“Now get to work boy, I have potential customers to negotiate with!”

The pearl stood silently against the wall, positioned like a dancer waiting for her que to begin. She unnerved Anakin a little, as he started to clean and oil the tools in front of him, stealing glances in her direction the whole time.

 

The negotiations concerning the pearl did not go as smoothly as Watto had hoped, and for the next week he was tied up defending his claim over the pearl against Roksha and getting more and more tangled up in the local power plays. No one wanted to waste their precious credits before being sure that buying the pearl wouldn’t bring Roksha’s thugs knocking on their doorstep.

It had been Shmi who had convinced Watto to allow the pearl to leave the junkshop and reside in the slave-quarters for the nights, despite Watto’s dismissive “She doesn’t need to sleep.”

In their little home, the pearl became Pearl to Anakin.

“Do you miss Homeworld?”

“…Yes. My Emerald was kind, and from her home I could see the Diamond Palace when waiting for her during her meetings.”

She showed a projection from her gem, slightly distorted and flickering, of Homeworld’s skyline with its tall structures, as seen through a window high above.

“And there were other pearls who would stand there with me.”

“I’m sorry those pirates stole you.” Anakin shuffled closer to Pearl. They were both sitting on the small sleeping nook of the Skywalker home residence, Pearl telling stories of the Gem Empire to Anakin. The small boy wrapped his short child-arms around the very narrow green waist and snuggled close. His mother had made sure that her son would not forget what a gentle touch of comfort felt like, and Anakin still believed in the power of solidarity amongst the slaves.   

“It hardly matters now. I was on a transport to be harvested, so I would not have ever seen my Emerald again either way.” Pearl placed one light hand on top of Anakin’s head, playing with the human’s hair slightly. She seemed to be confused by this organic’s ease of touching her, but she did not seem displeased.

It was okay. Hugging Pearl still felt a bit weird, as she was not warm and squishy like mom, but she was a friend and it didn’t matter what species your friends were, friends were meant to be hugged.  

“What does it mean to be harvested?”

Pearl hesitated. “It means…”

“It means like what happened to Shira Moonchaser.” Shmi interjected appearing from behind a corner, touching Pearl gently on her shoulder. They were close, in the constricts that slaves ever could be, Anakin’s mother and Pearl. They also liked to hug often and touch each other in passing.

Anakin understood. One day Shira had been there and then she hadn’t. Pearl was defective, Pearl was cracked, and now there was a new Pearl serving her Emerald in the nice house with the big window up high where you could see the city. Just like if Anakin became defective, there would be a new slave in Watto’s junkshop oiling the machines.

“Oh. Would you rather have been harvested, than sold to Watto?”

Pearl took her time to think, while still playing with Anakin’s hair.

“I am glad that I have met you, Anakin and Shmi.”

“Okay.” Anakin said, accepting the answer as it was. He had been born a slave, he understood what Pearl meant.

 

Anakin and Shmi taught Pearl the secret language of the slaves and in exchange Pearl taught them some of the secret language of the pearls. Pearls did not have their own spoken language, like the slaves in Tatooine did, but they had a different system. Pearls had hundreds of resting positions that they were supposed to adopt when not in use, and your choice of a position could tell your fellow pearls many things. Then they also had a system of talking with their hands, small fluttering gestures of fingers that would be seen as nothing more than the usual nervousness and flutterings of pearls. They were small fragile things, they fluttered about.

The position of your fingers, the placement of your feet, they could all be used to communicate. A warning, an expression of solidarity, of grief, of encouragement. She is on a bad mood today. My mistress is planning to betray yours. You are in danger. I’m sorry for your loss. She is a shatterer. She is lying.  Older pearls who had served for millennia and saw each other regularly standing on hallways could fit complicated messages into their movements.

 

Pearl spent four weeks with the Skywalkers, during which she learned how to braid Shmi’s hair, played games with Anakin, and sang songs for them during the nights.  

Then Watto finally came to an agreement with Roksha, and Pearl was sold. Neither Watto, nor Roksha became rich, but they had kept their lives and health while Jabba got his pearl. It was the best you could hope for when dealing with a Hutt.

Anakin adopted the pose of goodbye when they took Pearl away, and Pearl mirrored him quickly, a real authentic smile on her face, before walking away, following her new owners.

They said that Jabba’s new pearl had danced non-stop to please her master, until her faulty gem had finally shattered for good.

 

 

Anakin is fifteen, and a headstrong padawan always causing headaches for Obi-Wan, when the Gem Empire delegation arrives on Coruscant. It is nothing more than a standard meeting to ratify the non-involvement treaty that the Republic has with the Gems, but Coruscant is buzzing with excitement. People are afraid, people are curious, people are full of ideas, both good and bad, concerning the visitors.

What most people end up noticing first is either the beautiful Sapphire walking in the centre of the procession, or the intimidating Quartzes accompanying her.

Anakin’s eye is firstly drawn to the pearl.

The pale blue pearl flits after her mistress, pulling out datapads and memory sticks from her gem, professional in all her movements. For an uneducated onlooker, she might look like any other aide that the Republic’s senators might have trailing after them. Anakin knows better.

 

Anakin and Obi-Wan are standing outside the conference room doors, standing still and guarding the entrance. Opposite them stand the bulky Jasper-guards, who keep staring at the jedi with contempt. Anakin is almost tempted to sneer back at them, but Obi-wan’s serene presence beside him holds him back.

Anakin doesn’t especially want to be here. Their positions are mostly for ceremony and show. A Jedi guards need to be visible for meetings as politically important as these, but were something to happen, it would be the jedi who are not visible to everyone, being the first ones to act. No assassin would be foolish enough to try and approach the front door.

The pearl also stands across from them, her blue hair gathered on Alderaanian style buns, a vacant smile on her face, looking very small and thin between the two intimidating Jaspers. After two hours of standing guard with professionalism that even Obi-Wan would not find fault in, he has started to try and catch the pearl’s eye.  He needs sentient contact, or he will go crazy with boredom.

Anakin brings his hands in front of him, casually and discretely, arranging them in a greeting, and he can observe the second the pearl notices, by how her face goes through the most miniscule of twitches of surprise.

Pale blue eyes widen just slightly, as Anakin slowly gestures the standard, I have no ill intentions nor interest in power-plays, I will aide you if you need it, gestures of solidarity.

The blue pearl’s fingers move through the greetings and acceptance of solidarity much more fluidly, but Anakin can see the surprise and even disbelief in her eyes, that a jedi would know about the language of the pearls.

He lets a very small smile show on his face, one which is not mirrored on the pearl’s face, but on the way she moves her leg behind the other, into a beautiful poise of the perfect ornament.

The position of companionship.

Their silent wait seems much less of a burden now, when shared with a friend.     

 

 

It’s the clone wars, they have just crashed down on an uninhabited planet, all their communications are bust, and they are now locked in combat with an unseen enemy.

Business as usual to Anakin, Obi-Wan and Ashoka.

What isn’t business as usual is the suspicion of who their enemy might be. The clone wars don’t show any signs of being finished soon and the republic is straining under the pressure. Which is why when the reports from the outer rim reached Coruscant, the senate had taken a moment to collectively shit themselves.

Gem activity. In republic space.

It wasn’t exactly a secret that the Gem Empire was an empire, and the nature of empires was to expand. If there ever was a moment that the Gems might have a good opportunity to invade the Republic, it would be now, as they were locked in a civil war.

A shot whistles over their heads, as the three of them hunker down, hiding in the thick vegetation. They did find the gem activity in the form of aggressive warship that had blown them off the sky. Now, if they only can make it out of here alive to report their findings back.

“I don’t- That’s weird-!” Ahsoka was trying to peer into the darkness with the help of night vision goggles and getting more and more frustrated by the second.

“If we truly are against gems, you won’t see their bodies through that.” Obi-Wan whispered to his grand-apprentice. “Their bodies aren’t made of organic material and don’t emit heat. The most you will see are their gems.”

“Well, if you mean that I’m supposed to be seeing a bunch of floating rocks, then I have some bad news about an approaching enemy squadron.”

Anakin curled his hand around his lightsabre more firmly, ready to ignite it. They would not go down without a fight.

The vines in front of him were slashed aside, and suddenly he was battling against three very compact, but also extremely efficient ruby soldiers.

Swinging his lightsabre down, Anakin’s breath was momentarily taken away as the small squarish creature brought her arm up and simply blocked the lightsabre with her hand.

A memory from a briefing they had been in before the mission flashed through his mind, as his enemy bounced back cradling her burned, but still intact, arm.

Their bodies are made of concentrated hard light, powered by their gem. Much like our lightsabres are concentrated hard light powered by kyber crystals.

His moment of unfocus cost him, as he was immediately slashed by a small blade from behind, the cutting pain taking his legs from underneath him.

His lightsabre was wrenched from Anakin's hand, and pure panic washed over him. Above him, the ruby soldier raised her short blade, ready to slit his throat.

His throat was not slit, instead a blade cut through the stomach of the ruby, her eyes widening in surprise before she poofed into nonexistence, leaving only a red gem behind.

Anakin did not have time to gape at his enemy’s body simply disappearing into thin air, as he was too busy gaping at the one wielding the sword that had dissolved the ruby.

In the faint moonlight of the jungle planet, the pure white pearl glittered on her forehead faintly. She was beautiful and lithe, as all pearls are, but there was not fluttery softness in her.

A pearl. A pearl wielding two swords. A pearl, who was still holding him at sword-point, her eyes as sharp as everything else about her.

Anakin could not help the small giddy smile tugging at his lips.  

“You are an organic.” The pearl states, slightly surprised, as her eyes take in his form, but she does not move her sword.

“Oh Pearl! Let the poor thing go!” Comes a feminine voice from behind them, but Anakin cannot see the source of it from his position on the ground. The same voice suddenly gasps in alarm and in an instant the point of the pearl’s sword pushes tightly against Anakin’s throat.

“You organic! Let her go, or I will gut this one!” The pearl shouts and Anakin does not doubt her. She can see the burning in her eyes.

“Let Anakin go first!” answers the voice of Obi-Wan.

The pearl looks even more murderous now.

“Hey…” Anakin moves his hands up very carefully and clumsily moves them in half-remembered motions. The pearl first looks suspicious of him moving at all, but then it clicks for her, and her eyes grow wide as saucers. “…Can’t we talk about this.” He repeats the motions for our mistresses are feuding, but I wish no quarrel with you.

The pearl lifts her sword, but keeps it still extended in Anakin’s general direction. Now that he has the freedom to sit up, he can see Obi-Wan keeping his lightsabre hovering only inches from a huge pink woman’s stomach, pointed directly at the pink gem embedded in it.  

"Hey Obi-Wan! Let her go!"

 

Luckily for them, Rose Quartz finds the whole thing very funny. It doesn’t exactly sit right with any of them, how casually condescending the Quartz is towards them, but they figure that at least her condescension is benign and therefore more than they could have ever expected from a gem. They were notoriously dismissive of any life outside of their own world.

“A rebellion?” Ahsoka is quite taken by the pink gem, despite how Anakin can see her lekku twitch in annoyance every time Rose coos over how “adorable” she is.  

“Hmm. The diamonds are apparently trying to find new bases for a kindergarten to supply more soldiers to stomp us down.”

“So, you don’t believe that they are planning to invade the Republic?”

“Oh, they are too busy with us right now. Besides, this planet doesn’t have rich enough soil for a proper kindergarten anyway.”

“But other Republic planets might.” Obi-Wan pondered worriedly.

“Maybe. But hopefully once Pink Diamond is out of commission, the rebellion will get a change to spread enough that the diamonds won’t have any time to push into your territory.”  

Pearl looked at her companion in surprised alarm, but swallowed back the words she had been about to say.  

“Wow. Who could have ever guessed,” Ahsoka exhaled, “The eternal Gem-Empire in a civil war.”

“Who could have ever guessed that the Republic would be locked in a civil war either.” Obi-Wan sighed. “Well, it is good news for us I guess, that an invasion isn’t the first thing the Diamond Authority is thinking right now. Now we just need to find a way out of this planet and report back to the senate.   

The jedi all looked at where their ship had crashed.

“Oh well, maybe I can help with that.” It was the pearl who surprisingly spoke up. “I know a thing or two about mechanics, I’m sure that using the spare parts from the rubies ship we can get you back in space, no problem.”

“You fixed space-ship engines before?” Anakin asks in genuine curiosity.

“Maybe I can even teach you a thing or two.” The pearl answers with smug confidence.

 

Pearl was not lying, she does teach Anakin a thing or two, if only because Anakin has never had the opportunity to use parts of gem spaceships when fixing his own.

But it’s good. He and Pearl are buried deep inside the ship’s guts, covered in grease and talking shop. The engine will be saved, that much they have assured at this point, how smooth their ride out will be, is still up for grabs.

“So, how did a pearl end up fighting in a rebellion?”

“How did an organic learn the gesture-speak?” Pearl avoids the question with her own, passing Anakin a wrench.

“Tatooine.”

“Ah…I’ve heard rumours. Cautionary tales. At the Reef they say that it is better to be shattered than to let yourself be captured and sold at the Tatooine markets.”

“They might not be entirely wrong.”

There was a moment of silence as they both concentrated on tinkering with the engine, before Anakin surprised himself by continuing to speak. These were things that he hadn’t even told Obi-Wan. Not even Padmé, not with this amount of honesty and frankness.

“She told me that she had belonged to an Emerald before she was sent to be harvested and then taken by pirates. My master owned her for four weeks, before the Hutts bought her. She was very kind.”

“We are made to be kind. Meek. Soft.”

“You are not.”

Pearl huffed out a laugh, not an entirely happy one. “I think I am one of those cautionary tales that they tell the newly formed pearls at the reef nowadays. The defective renegade, an anathema to everything that a pearl is supposed to be.”

“How did you get out?”

“I…” Pearl hesitated before answering, “love. I met someone who saw me as more than just a pearl. Who taught me that I could be more.”

Anakin thought of Padmé. Of her as a child, in the simple gown of a maid, as he had first seen her. Padmé had been the first freeperson to see him as more than a slave. She had been so surprised to hear that Anakin was a slave, it had been a revelation to look her in the eyes and be looked back like he was an equal.

“I…know how you feel. When I was still a child on Tatooine, I met a queen who looked at me like I was a person. Something changed in me then.”

Pearl reached for the wrench in his hands, and clasped her fingers around his for a moment, before taking the tool. “I would die for her. Over and over and over.”

“So would I. I would kill for her. I would do anything for her.”

“I guess we were the lucky ones.” Pearl hums, and their eyes meet under the glow of Pearl’s gem, and they share an understanding.

 

The world is unravelling but it doesn’t matter. He has a purpose; he has a goal. He is doing this for Padmé.

just think about the life you'll have together after the war.

You do it for her.

Everything you have, everything you are you've got to give.

Because deep down you know that you are nothing and she is everything.

The republic goes down and Anakin has a master again, and it is so easy to slip back to being a servant.

And it doesn’t matter as long as Padmé is safe. Because he does it for her.

 

 

White Diamond sends her own personal envoy in a form of a pearl.

Palpatine is seething with rage at the slight offered toward him, his new empire, his power and position.

The pearl does not care. The pearl appears from her white bubble and stands on tip-toes, the smile ever-present on her half-cracked face, and talks somehow even more robotically than most droids.

“White Diamond has no time to negotiate with lesser life-forms. White Diamond is too busy spreading the perfection of the Gem Empire across the galaxies.”

“Tell that uppity rock that the next time her soldiers start colonising planets clearly on MY side of space, she will find out that a war against a Sith master is not something she wants on her doorstep!”

“Certainly. Is there anything else?”  

Darth Vader stands behind his master, observing, looming, being a threatening presence that doesn’t bother the White Diamond’s pearl in the slightest. Nothing bothers the White Diamond’s pearl. She is a reminder of her own. A cracked, obedient creature that feels no fear, no pain, nothing. She does not pose as a decoration; her hands do not flutter and her feet do not move. She stays still, arms upwards, and stares until whoever is on the other end of the stare has to look away first. Behind her eyes there is nothing but a terrible void.

And what master wouldn’t want a servant so perfectly obedient, so perfectly unnerving, so perfectly damaged but threatening at the same time.