A/N: OMG, I am not dead. And I have worked on this for a long while, not that there's much to show for it. Anyways, the disclaimer is in the first chapter. However, there is a new character being introduced this chapter, and that person belongs to a good friend of mine, -Axel Lives-. Thank you so much for the reviews between my last update and this one, they really did help me continue this.

As the Dibison and stealth zoid caught sight of the ruins, they stopped to analyze the situation and come up with a plan. Thomas hastily gave Beek orders while Lauren allowed her zoid's optical stealth go live again. In the event they were caught and engaged in a battle, it would prove to be an advantage if they thought Thomas' Dibison was the only zoid to oppose them. Other than that, however, Thomas was a bit disappointed with Lauren's silence.

Which that was an odd feeling. Normally he would want silence so he could concentrate solely on the situation before him. After all, if there was even time to argue before Van would jump out and do his 'hero thing,' it proved to be a chore to do his job as thoroughly as he liked. Even if Thomas himself could be a bit brash at times himself, this situation had gotten too serious for him to not realize that he had to carefully plan their next move. One wrong move could cost them everything.

According to his observations, there had to be close to 30 helcats that weren't in use currently. Of course, that did not take in account any that were in use. The blonde lieutenant hoped Lauren was doing her job and trying to help with estimations. And he was willing to bet that there was a group ready. Deciding that he would need an estimation from her, he re-opened a communication's link with the female soldier.

"Lauren, can you spot any zoids in stealth mode?"

The blue haired woman shook her head, her eyes still searching her zoid's screens. "No, not at the moment. It seems that they're far more interested in the ruins than preparing for opposition," was her answer. "I don't think they're expecting company any time soon."

A small amount of relief made its way onto Thomas' face. At least none were patrolling the area actively. It seemed as though they were pretty confident in the men that they left in town with the bombs. That would most likely be their downfall, if he didn't keep on wasting time thinking about it. After all, anyone that has half a brain would keep a certain amount of contact with those that are in their group – especially if they're in a different area. Having gotten near enough to disembark his zoid, Thomas felt his helmet lift from his head. "Lauren, I'm going into the ruins. You know the area better than me, so I'm going to need your help," he stated before getting out of his Dibison.

Once Lauren got out of her zoid, she walked over to Thomas and nodded. "I just hope that they haven't found the hidden areas that I have," she responded. With that said, the two snuck into the ruins fairly easily. The bandits didn't seem to have a good grasp of the area yet, which gave the two more of an advantage. Given he himself had never been inside the ruins, whenever they didn't hear the approaching footsteps of a guard, Thomas spent a good deal of time looking at the walls of the ruins. Of course, much of what was engraved into the walls were characters of the Ancient Zoidian language. Though every then and again, there were pictures of what appeared to be various events, or just of various zoids.

"Lauren, can you read any of your mother's language?" he quietly inquired, trying to be mindful that there were probably other bandits around yet. Really, he probably shouldn't have even tried asking, but the words were out of his mouth before he had time to think any more about it.

The addressed looked back at Thomas, and waited a moment to be sure that no one would hear the conversation before she turned around to face him. Slowly, she shook her head. "No, I can't read any of it. Mother had just barely started teaching me how to speak it when they were attacked, but if I had to do even that I'm not sure I'd have it right. I may have Zoidian blood, but I don't have any of the qualities of them. I'm…pretty useless in that area," she admitted, then turning again to look and get her bearings.

This caused Thomas to feel a pang of guilt. Perhaps his curiosity had brought up something that was better left alone? He decided to shake himself out of his thoughts and concentrate on what it was they were doing exactly. He was the commanding officer here after all, and any good leader had to be on the ball at all times. To Thomas' dismay, while he was getting himself pumped to do this again, Lauren stopped suddenly. This caused the unfortunate event of Thomas knocking into her, and nearly causing her to fall flat on her face.

Normally, this would cause Lauren to turn around and shout at the offending person, but the something that caught her eye before this made her just feel more nervous. Only approximately twenty five feet from them was a man kneeling on one knee, taking pictures of the wall.

The room was a fairly large one with various columns and only a couple of windows for light, which was enough to get around and possibly view the pictures, but in Thomas' opinion, the room still gave an eerie aura. The two Imperials looked at each other before slowly making their way into the room, trying to keep as silent as possible. The lack of guards again was strange, given the other rooms they passed tended to have a few people taking pictures and keeping watch.

It didn't take as long as it felt to get right behind the man, and they were glad that they had this opportunity to get him - and perhaps get some answers as to what they wanted with the ruins. The two looked at each other and nodded. Then, just as they were about to tackle him, the other man quickly stood up and whipped around.

"Smile!" he proclaimed as a bright light flashed right in front of their faces. In the dimly lit room, it made it even worse. Beyond the obvious reaction to covering their faces to save their poor eyes, they were more or less immobilized for the moment. Such a moment in which the older man wasn't about to let go to waste.

The man's camera flash also served as a signal to a group of the bandits to come out from their hiding places behind the columns in the room. The two Imperials could struggle, but they were still seeing spots from the flash and ended up being dragged over a column and tied to it.

As sight returned to Thomas' eyes, he counted about seven people in the room. One had the mobile Beek unit and was currently handing it to the man that they saw before with a camera. Obviously, this man was their leader. "Who are you and what do you want in these ruins!?" 

demanded Thomas. Though, he was a bit more concerned about what their leader was planning on doing with his Beek unit.

The man looked up from the weapon. "How about I ask you something instead, such as, did you really think that we would be so stupid as to not notice something had happened to the men I had left in Terkh? Or that we didn't spot your clunky Dibison?" he retorted, letting the weapon drop to the floor. "Check them over for any other weapons."

Thomas was too preoccupied with Beek to notice some of the bandits were whispering, shaking their heads, or even rolling their eyes at their leader. Two walked over to check Lauren and himself for anything that could be used against him, while a few more people came into the room.

Lauren looked over at Thomas, not sure what to do in this situation. It wouldn't be easy to get out of it as it stayed now… And they obviously couldn't decide on what to do with the others right there to listen to every word either. The guy's voice caught her attention.

"So, Beautiful, why don't you tell me if you have any reinforcements coming?" Daniel asked Lauren, a cheesy grin plastered on his face. It made her feel sick seeing it, and decided to ignore the question entirely.

Thomas, on the other hand, noticed that any other females in the room rolled their eyes at the leader's actions. He then blinked when he heard one of them speak up.

"Daniel, you're hopeless. You know that? You may be our temporary leader, but here you are, flirting with every woman in the vicinity. You're even flirting with the enemy! Terra was right about you…"

The silver-haired man stepped back, a hand pressed to his heart. "Why Sandra, I'm hurt! I'm not flirting with her at all," he said, then grinning.

All of this however was interrupted by yet another person entering the room. "Daniel, you should go to your zoid. Terra wants to speak with you. Right now."

Daniel sighed loudly, his fun was once again being ruined by his high-strung cousin. Looking over at Thomas and Lauren gave him a way to vent his emotions into a glare. "I'll be back soon. Get comfortable though, because you're going to be there for a while." With that, the older man walked briskly away from the room.

Some of the people in the room walked out, but some stayed to watch over the two prisoners. Others stayed just to gossip quietly about what could be going on.

Thomas decided to look at Lauren, his eyebrow raised. "This is ridiculous. I'm not even sure how we managed to fall for their trap," he muttered loud enough for his companion to hear. He felt better when he saw her nod in agreement. They should be able to easily get out of this. 

The people they were dealing with seemed fairly incompetent. It was a mockery to the Guardian Force that they were caught so effortlessly!

Meanwhile, outside at a Redler, Daniel had climbed into the cockpit to see that the message line had already been answered. A bored Terra was waiting for him to get there. "Daniel, we decided that you and your people are to pull out."

"What!? Why!?"

Hadn't he done just as they asked? Hadn't Daniel gotten into the ruins? Countless pictures had been taken, and they wanted him to abort it all?

"You heard me," Terra replied calmly. "We found that the ruins you're at were the wrong ones. Our wonderful leader had accidentally pointed to the wrong location during your briefing and we just realized his mistake. You can tell the others that we found a better lead if it makes you feel better."

Daniel placed his hand on his forehead, rubbing his temples. "I have an Imperial officer and a Guardian Force member under captivity. What do you think I should do about them?"

"Just leave them. Don't give any indication of where you're going next, just say you're leaving," she answered, messing a bit with her braid.

"Fine. I'll do that," he grumbled, then cutting off the connection abruptly. Once the screen went blank, a low sigh left his lips. He doubted that this would go over well.

It took a little bit for him to go back into the room, but once he did, he cleared his throat. "Everyone, follow me. I need to say something important, new orders." With that, he walked into the next room and waited for the rest of his team to follow.

Thomas and Lauren couldn't hear what was said, and could only look at each other and wonder just what the heck was going on. The elder of the two swore he could hear disappointed voices and even an angry outcry or two. Though why, he didn't know. As a few people came back to get a camera or some sort of equipment, they could only watch in silence.

After the people left, there was complete silence.

"Thomas?" Lauren began after an unknown amount of time. "You don't think that…they left us here, do you?"

"I don't know."

As time wore on, it was becoming more and more apparent that they had indeed been abandoned. It was almost pitch black in the room, which meant it was either twilight, or it was already night and the moons kept a tiny bit of light peeking in. There wouldn't be any help yet, the villagers wouldn't get worried until the next morning perhaps.

I wish someone would get here to untie us. I would even let Van help us out, Thomas thought to himself.

While true that he and Van had many, many differences, they usually were able to overcome them for a short enough time to haul either of their asses out of trouble. As much as Thomas hated to admit it, he was indeed alive because of him. The Death Stinger had nearly taken him with it back then…


Lauren's voice pulled him back to the present. "Yes?"

"Do you mind if I sleep for a bit?"

"No, not at all. I don't think that we'll be leaving any time tonight," Thomas responded. Moments later, he felt a weight rest on his shoulder. He determined it was Lauren in time to feel her lift her head. Had it been light enough, he would've seen her make an irritated face.

"That armor of yours can't be that comfortable," she commented, then trying to calm her mind down and sleep somehow.

"It's actually not that bad. I've slept with it on more than a couple of times," Thomas answered. After that, things went silent for the two. They simply wished to concentrate on sleeping…

The next morning, Thomas started to stir awake. He could hear someone speaking in a hushed tone, with another responding the same. The first was a female, the other was a male. Choosing to not move his tilted head, he instead listened.

"Are you sure we can't wake them up?" the female voice asked quietly. It seemed familiar to Thomas. Definitely not Lauren's voice though.

"Yes, let them sleep a bit longer," answered the familiar male's voice. A chuckle issued from the man's throat. "They look fairly comfortable like that."

Recognizing the man's voice for sure, Thomas' eyes shot open and lifted his head. Which probably was not a good move given how stiff his neck felt. "Karl!" he exclaimed, quite surprised. His big brother wasn't supposed to be there for another day or so. Let alone having found them in the ruins.

Looking his brother over, Thomas noticed that Karl's posture was more relaxed than usual. This wasn't a social call by any means, and it seemed strange. At least until he finally looked at the woman that was with him. "Artemis? You came too?"

Artemis Abendroth was her full name. An Imperial soldier under Karl's command with spectacles and a short stature. Not that he'd mention the lack of height to her face, he was raised better than that. It was also of note that he was pretty sure that Karl had recently started to date the young lady.

The brunette woman nodded. "We got word from the villagers that you never came back, so we hurried as best as we could. Though it looks like you two are quite well off all considered. I must say, we did have trouble deciding on whether or not to wake you two," she replied.

Karl smirked. "It was a charming picture, if you don't count the ropes."

Thomas finally noticed that Lauren's head had ultimately ended up resting on his shoulder, with his head resting against hers. Actually, with all the talking, he was surprised that she hadn't woken up yet. "Lauren? Lauren, wake up," he said, nudging her a bit.

Karl walked off to the side to find the messy knot that kept the ropes bound, while Artemis watched as Thomas got Lauren to awaken. Beyond that, not much else happened during the timeframe that they were in the ruins. Karl and Artemis would have led the way out, but had sheepishly admitted that they had no idea how to get out. Thus, it was Lauren that got the small group out of the structure and to their zoids.

"Big- err… umm… Colonel, do you have any new orders for us? You haven't even asked us what happened," began Thomas. Blast it! He had gotten so good about referring to his brother by rank up until recently again…

Karl waved his younger brother's inquiry off. "We'll discuss everything once we get back to Terkh."

Somewhat reassured, Thomas glanced over at Lauren, who seemed to be quite awake now. "You okay?" he asked her.

"Yeah. I think some of my muscles were a little stiff before, but that isn't a problem now," she responded with a slight smile to further quell his worries. Each got into their zoids, Karl and Artemis getting into their respective Iron Kong and Zaber Fang, and started the trek back to the small village.

A/N: Don't forget to review! Thank you for reading!