Author's note: Hey, it's me again! Sorry I haven't updated this one in awhile!

Bakura: You're pathetic.

Shelly: Hey, that was mean, Bakura. ;_;

Bakura: BWAHAHAHA!!!

Shelly: -_- Just wait until I tell Mau you're being mean again.

Bakura: o_OYou want me to get hurt, don't you?

Shelly: Yep! It'll be fun to watch! Anyway, like I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, here's the next chapter! I know you'll be happy, Schala, so here it is!

Bakura: No, don't mention that name, please!

Shelly: *evil smile* I just did. Enjoy the next chapter, everyone!

Starsword by Shelly

CHAPTER FOUR
Lauren felt a little strange at thinking that Karl would be her superior officer, especially since she once had a pretty bad crush on him when she was younger. For all she knew, she could still have one after all these years. Soon she was given very little time to even think about anything since she immediately went to work along with everyone else. She did whatever Night Striker was capable of doing, whether it be helping haul away tons of debris or just merely keeping careful watch over everyone. Just because Prozen was defeated didn't mean they were safe yet. It would be very easy for someone to leak through posing as an Imperial soldier to help with the recovery efforts.

A few times over the next couple of months, Rudolph would make an appearance to check on the progress being made, taking time out to speak with her personally. He was glad to see her, asking her how she was after all these years. It really wasn't all that long ago that she had saved his life from an assassination attempt, but it seemed like much longer after recent events.

Any free time she had was usually spent with Thomas as she was helping him finish working on his Artificial Intelligence system. He had done a really good job until this point, but he was having a little trouble on whether he wanted the voice to be that of a human or something else entirely. Any of the human voices didn't seem entirely right, and he kept trying different sounds such as beeps and other assorted mechanical devices.

She was working on Night Striker one day when she heard the cutest sounding combination of what sounded like a whistling beep. She immediately stopped what she was doing and rushed over to Thomas, who was sitting near his Dibison working on his AI system. "What was that?" she asked.

"What was what?" he asked curiously.

"That sound I just heard," she replied.

"Oh, this?" He played it again, his eyes growing wide when she began giggling like a little girl and fawning all over it.

"Oh, Thomas, that was so cute! You've got to use that one!"

He looked at her like she was crazy. "You can't be serious! I'm not using something like that in my Dibison!"

She straightened up, placing her hands on her hips stubbornly. "And why not? I think it's perfectly fine."

"It sounds so...so..."

She began tapping her foot impatiently. "Yes?"

He gazed up at her with nervous eyes. "Girly?" he finished.

"Thomas Shubaltz, how dare you talk about my idea like that!" she raged, knocking him over and trying her best to wrestle him. She had been quite good at that when they were younger, but since then he had grown and now had the advantage over her in size if not strength.

"All right, Lauren, if that's what you think, then I'll use it!" he finally surrendered.

Her mood changed like the passing of a storm. "Thomas, you're so sweet!" she cooed at him.

"I see you two are still at it," a new voice joined in.

They both looked to see Karl walking towards them, and she rose to her feet to give him a sharp salute. Thomas failed to do so, and he was rewarded by a frown from his brother before he finally remembered to salute him.

"At ease," he told them both, and they all relaxed.

"So what brings you here, Karl?" Thomas asked.

Karl ignored the use of his name as his green gaze was fixed on Lauren. "I was given an invitation to dinner at the Palace, and I wondered if you would like to accompany me, Lieutenant Starsword?"

She was speechless as Thomas went back to what he was doing, leaving them both alone. "I-I would be honored to, Colonel," she replied, wondering what she was going to wear.

A smile spread across his face as he had been a little nervous as to whether she would go or not. "The dinner is a few nights from now, and all of the ranking officers have been invited. Rudolph will be there as well, and he has offered you the luxury of choosing your dress from his mother's wardrobe."

She was speechless beyond words that he would be so generous. Thomas chose at that moment to play the sound for her again, and she shot him an irritated glare for doing so, earning a confused glance from Karl. "Don't ask," she told him. "I am very honored that the Emperor would be so kind," she said.

"He says it is the least he can do for all you have done for him," he explained. "I will expect you in two nights then, Lieutenant," he added as he turned and walked away.

She stood there as if in a daze, Thomas having to shake her back into reality. "I can't believe I'm going out...on a date with my superior officer!" she finished in anguish. "What was I thinking?"

Thomas smiled at her patiently. "You were thinking back to when you were younger," he replied. "Once you had a crush on him, and I think that it's never fully gone away."

"No, perhaps it hasn't, Thomas," she replied. "But I'm going to be there in front of who knows how many people! What if I make a complete fool of myself?"

He took a hold of her by her shoulders and turned her to face him. "You're going to do just fine," he assured her. "You're going to go in there and charm their socks off, and my brother, too. You're going to show them how wonderful you can be."

She smiled hesitantly up at him. "Thanks, Thomas, but I wouldn't put that much hope in me just yet."

"Nonsense," he argued. "Now you are going to go to Rudolph and pick out something lovely that will impress everyone there. I have every bit of faith in you."

She ended up doing as she was told, and ended up picking out a strapless icy lavender dress that complimented her hair color nicely, as well as made her eyes shine brightly. It hugged the curves of her body in soft layers of silk which felt wonderful against her skin. The length had to be taken up since she was shorter than Rudolph's mother had been, but it still looked like it was made for her. Shoes of the same color gave her a little height, and Rudolph even allowed her to pick out a few pieces of jewelry to finish the outfit. She expressed her sincere thanks over and over again, hating that she was forced to borrow everything but having no choice otherwise.

Soon the night of the dinner arrived, and she was once again dressed beautifully in all that she had picked out for the occasion. Her hair had been curled and piled atop her head, leaving some of it spilling down her back in luxurious waves. A touch of makeup in the right places, and she was ready to go just as Karl arrived to escort her to the rather large dining room.

He looked very handsome in his military dress uniform, his vibrant green eyes fixed on her and drinking in her incredible beauty. He had hoped she would impress him this night, and he had been right, although what she looked like didn't matter to him. Over the past few months he had observed her from afar, noting every little thing she did with pride. She was everything a soldier should be, and now he wondered what she was like outside of the military. Tonight would have him finding out his answer.

She watched him walk towards her, her eyes never leaving him as she thought she would never see anything more perfect in her entire life. Here was the moment she had been waiting for, and now she found she could say or do nothing until the moment he offered her his arm, waiting to escort her to dinner. She slid her arm through his, feeling his strength and surety as he led her onward and wishing she could feel the same.

*****************

Ooh, their first date together!

Lauren: Will I get a kiss, I wonder? *starry-eyed*

Shelly: If you play your cards right, you might.

Lauren: I thought that you were writing this story.

Shelly: *anime grin* Oh yeah, I am!

Lauren: *faints* x_x

Thanks for reading everyone!