This chapter is dedicated to JanuaryBaby192. Thank you for your kind comments!

-V-

Chapter 17: Battle Armor Part 6: War?

The doors from which they had entered burst open. Starshower pushed Little Flibble toward them. "Go! Go! Outside, hurry!"

Starshower skittered to a stop beside Captain Alta, who hadn't moved at her warning shout. "Captain Alta? Captain Alta!" He did not respond, so Starshower nudged him. Immediately he unfroze. Quickly assessing the falling debris around him, he asked what had happened, shook his head and bolted for the exit.

Starshower raced through the dark, steadily degenerating cave, trying desperately to keep up with Captain Alta. Her light flickered; she was too scared to keep it going constantly while trying to dodge falling rocks or debris on the ground.

Upon finally reaching safety away from the crumbling cave, Captain Alta stopped short and Starshower nearly ran into him. Peering around him, she saw the cause of his sudden halt: more ponies, covered in metal that did not match, had him penned in. Starshower recognized the long, narrow tubes that Alta's company had used upon Little Flibble when she first arrived on this planet. Danger. The newcomers obviously did not want Captain Alta or Starshower to move. Star gulped, Alta growled.

One of them stepped forward, sneering. "Well, if it isn't the mighty Captain Alta. I do believe you are our prisoner."

The new pony shot Captain Alta with something small that was not a bolt of energy and the latter slowly fell to the ground. Was he dead? Forced into sleep? Starshower hoped the shot had induced sleep; she wouldn't be able to bear or understand it if one pony had actually taken another's life and she had seen it. Or if Little Flibble had seen it. Little Flibble!

Starshower's eyes frantically searched the forest, looking for the purple pony.

"What're you looking for, a way to escape? You ain't gonna go any where. Anyone in the Captain's company is considered a great prize too," the new pony snapped at Starshower.

Starshower momentarily gave up looking for Little Flibble, she must keep herself safe in order to find and protect him. Starshower tried to remember the incantation Wysteria had showed her for a spell much like Protection, but stronger, longer and even self-sustaining for a short period of time. She realized she had thought too long when she heard a small whoosh and felt a pin-prick of pain.

Black unconsciousness claimed her quickly.

-V-

Starshower realized she was no longer unconscious when her head began to pound, hard; but she couldn't see. She groaned and rolled away from the light that seemed to stream in through her eyelids. The light promptly followed her. Star wondered how that was possible, but rolled away from it again.

"Stop," Star pleaded silently.

"Oh honey, I know it seems like the light makes it worse, but it really doesn't," a kind, caring voice said.

'Huh?' this captor sounded cheerful, something Star hadn't heard on this planet. 'What happened?' Hadn't some rude pony shot her? 'What about…?'

Starshower jerked forward and bumped into something she couldn't see even though the light had been shining in her eyes. Upon making contact with the object the light became less intense and something made a clattering sound.

"Starshowa, hold still! Sleepiness go away if you hold still and see the light."

"Little Flibble?" Starshower asked, relieved. She stopped moving, holding her breath for the answer.

"Yes Star?"

It was really him!

"Are you alright? Did they hurt you?" Starshower tried to move toward the source of the purple pony's voice but bumped into something again because she still couldn't see.

"Hold still honey! There are quite a few things in the infirmary that you'll run into if you keep this up."

"Please listen Star. Terry told me that too and it made the darkness and achy go away faster," came Little Flibble's voice, innocent and reassuring.

Starshower sucked in a deep breath and held still. The light intensified and the Rainbow pony wondered if it would bore through her skull. After a few moments Starshower could begin to make out her surroundings. She could see Little Flibble and the object she had bumped into: a guard rail on the infirmary bed she was on. There were many other beds, a few curtained off, and several gray-colored boxes that were making a humming noise in the room.

There was another pony in the room, beside Starshower's bed. She was a bright, lively purple and had marble-green hair. On her hips was a brilliant sun with yellow rays spiraling out to her shoulders. Upon her head she wore a white cap with a strange blue symbol on it. Around her head wound a thing piece of metal, just above her eyes and behind her ears, and from it the intense light originated from a snake-like knob near her right eye.

Starshower's vision became normal and she blinked. She could see Little Flibble clearly; he was just fine. The purple pony nodded her head and the light turned off. She then moved away to rummaging around in a bin, banging metal together and making a lot of noise. She came back to Starshower and next to her left eye a round glass piece had been added to the contraption.

The purple pony flicked her head to the side and the glass piece swiveled to cover her eye. Starshower eyed her wearily when she raised her right leg and apparently did something, for the bright light returned to the knob. Starshower squeezed her eyes tight to shut it out.

"Honey, I need you to open your eyes. I have to examine them to make sure the sedative didn't harm you."

Starshower finally gave in and opened her eyes. She assumed this was the 'Terry' that Little Flibble had spoken of earlier. The light focused just to the side of the Starshower's eyes, one after the other. Terry peered at Starshower's eyes, searching for… something. After a moment of squinting at the black pony, she flicked off the light with another nod of her head. She then bend over and deposited the entire contraption on a table beside Starshower's bed. "I deem you to be in perfect health!" she exclaimed.

"Oh my, where are my manners? I am sorry dear. My name is Sol'ar'tary, and you are in my Med Center, Lethian Base One."

'Lethian,' that sounds familiar. Didn't one of Captain Alta's companions mentioned that name? Lazuli Meena too?' "Where's Captain Alta?"

"That poor monster is in the cell blocks. We'll question him later. Right now the Council wants to speak with you."

"Terry, if they're just gonna talk, can I go and play with the other kids you talked about earlier?" Little Flibble asked.

"Sure dear," she answered with a smile, bidding Starshower and Little Flibble to follow her out of the room. "The Council can be very boring sometimes… especially to a young one," she chuckled, then nodded down a hallway. "It's down there, do you remember the way to the play room?"

"Yeah! See you later Star!" The baby pony took off, hooves clanging as he trotted away.

"Kids," Terry laughed to herself. "Moonlightfair, Appletart, and Ember will have someone to play with now."

Starshower wasn't sure if she had heard correctly. But how could she not have? "Did you just say Moonlightfairy, Appletart and Ember?"

"Yes."

"Those are my friends! Moonie is Little Flibble's older sister! Are they ok? What about Buttercup and Amber? Are they here too?"

"They're all on level six, the children's level, and they're all fine," Terry answered.

Starshower breathed a huge sigh of relief. All of her friends were ok! They were all here in the building, all together!

They walked in silence until Terry led Starshower through tall, thick double doors. She announced, "Wise Council, I have brought Alta's captive. Her name is Starshower, and she is friends with our other guests who appeared a few days earlier."

The Council mumbled to themselves. About half a dozen elderly ponies in various shades of green and blue robes and two or three metal-covered younger ponies sat in a half-circle around a table. Terry left Starshower on a balcony several feet above the floor, but even with the half-circle table. Several more balconies ringed the room, going up two more levels. A handful of ponies; some guards, some lounging on couches, were littered about the room.

The oldest-looking councilpony raised his voice, calling for order within the room. Most of the ponies quieted. "So, young Starshower, you are an off-worlder, not from here?"

Starshower nodded. "That's correct."

"How long have you been on Cria, our planet?"

"A few days I think."

"How did you come to our planet? Sentries watch the planet's perimeter; it was agreed that no off-worlder aid either side in Cria's civil war. No ship has entered our system for a long time."

Starshower was confused by his question. "Please sir, I – I don't understand. A ship only sails on water. And – and what's a war?"

Amid the confused upheaval that Starshower's question caused, she heard a commotion. On one of the balconies across the room from her, Amber and Buttercup were trying to enter. Sol'ar'tary convinced the guard to let them in.

"'What's a war?'!" one of the younger, metal-clad councilponies scoffed.

"She is truly innocent—" an elder started.

"Or she's a very good actress and one of Alta's spies!" a younger councilpony cut in.

"I'm not a spy. I don't even know Captain Alta. I'm an – what'd you say? I'm an off-worlder, I'm not from here," Starshower repeated, trying to explain to the Council. "What is a war? And this ship that doesn't sail on water?"

The councilpony that had called the room to order smiled kindly at her. "Oh, if only to go back to the days of peace. The young one who was with you and Alta at the Glass Cavern said he wasn't from here either. That a bright light sent you. But that is a puzzle for another time. Let me try to answer your questions first.

"A war, sadly, is when two or more large groups of creatures disagree on something to the core. Harsh words are said, weapons used against each other. Cities are destroyed, lives are lost, a planet loses its life. The Rodio Republic revolted against the Old Council and has made war with us for years."

'For years? How could such a horrible thing happen for years?'

"To answer your other question: your planet has obviously not discovered the wonders of space and the travel within it. A spaceship travels outside the reaches of a planet, going between one planet and another; such as you would exit a house, walk to another, and enter. Since you do not know what one is and our radar hasn't picked up presence of a ship entering our atmosphere, we will assume you came to Cria by other means."

Starshower blinked, trying to let all of this new information sink in.

After the hubbub of the room had quieted again, one of the elder council members asked, "Young one, I am quite sure Alta knew you were different. Did he bring you to his fortune teller, Cloakra? Did she say anything about you to him?"

"Yes," Starshower answered. She racked her brain, trying to remember what the masked female had said. "Something about rainbow hair, a black coat with stars and falling from the sky. That much sounded like it was meant to be about me. Next was something about their – your – world coming back from the grave, fulfilling prophesies, and seeing through some eye. And then something about a mountain and conquering and power and enemies cowering."

The twittering of voices went through the room again, a few snickers were heard.

"Um… what's an enemy? Does it have something to do with your war?"

"Oh it has everything to do with any war," one of the younger members sneered at her. "The Old Council and the Rodio Republic are each other's enemies."

"V'Cirian, the child knows nothing of war. Do not speak to her in such a manner," one of the elders rebuked the younger. V'Cirian rolled his eyes.

"You do fit the first part of Cloakra's prophecy: rainbow'd black, stars, fallen from the sky. Little Starshower, Alta believes that you have power, and that that power will bring suffering and defeat to the Tovians' – Alta's troops' – enemies. Suffering to us. That was why he brought you to the Glass Cavern. He also believed that you could use your power to awaken the mythical guardian of Cria, Lazuli Meena, and set her against us," the eldest tried to interpret Starshower's cloudy repetition of Cloakra's strange poem.

"But Lazuli isn't a myth, she did 'awaken.' She told me that I had to stop the war or your planet was doomed to die, and if they war did stop then your world would be – what'd she say – reborn."

The room erupted into mild chaos.

-V-

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