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Final Fantasy VIII: The Altimate Rewrite, Part I

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Albert

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'Tis the Witching Hour.

Better yet, 'tis the 10th according to Texas.

I hope to be breaking new ground within 24 hours.

More importantly, I hope most of you enjoy the ride.

-Albert
 

Albert

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Re: Final Fantasy VIII: The Altimate Rewrite

SeeD Officer Log, Day 1, Entry 1: Squall

Today is going to be the first day of my life.

Sort of. Kind of. I'm being metaphysical, here.

You know what? Ignore that, let's just start over.

My name is Thay. Not Squall. 'Squall' is my official SeeD handle, and I officially fucking hate it. People have been calling me 'Squall' all my life. If I ever figure out who told the Garden officials about that goddamn stupid nickname(it took me most of my academy years to get them to call me by my real name), I'll drag him or her out to the street and shoot him (or her).

I've got two reasons to write this. The first is that I'm bored. The medic made me stay here overnight with nothing to do, and it'll be at least an hour before they let me go. As for the second, well . . . a couple of years back, they made us keep diaries for a while. I liked it for about a week, 'cause it helped me figure out what I was really thinking and feeling. Then a certain bastard hacked the instructor's password and gave me hell for months over what I'd written, so I stopped doing it.

Anyway, the way the diary exercise worked was to pretend that you were writing to someone in the future. Maybe your kids or grandkids. And you wanted to let them know what things were really like, so you had to include the context that history might miss. It was an interesting exercise.

I'm about to become a man in the only way I consider important. I lost my virginity when I was 13, and I can safely say that fucking doesn't make you grow up. Proving that you can do a man's job? That's significant.

There's maybe a third reason, though. See, by the end of today I'll be one of the very first graduates of the Junction Force program run by SeeD. (Not the first - that's Quistis Trepe.) If we prove to be the kind of supersoldiers everyone expects, there are probably going to be thousands of new JF students every year by the time I have kids old enough to join up. I'm thinking some of them might benefit from knowing what it was like at the very beginning, when we were only starting to figure this shit out. The diary exercise, only for real.


Who am I? Where am I from?

I'm Thay Leonheart. I'm 17 years old, and I'm a war-orphan. From Global War XIV, obviously. Yeah. The War of Desolation. I don't remember my parents, but I was lucky to have Matron and Cid. They ran the orphanage. Quistis and I were two of their first wards, but there were a couple of dozen of us by the time we left.

Cid was offered a job as the Headmaster of Balamb Garden. A lot of us were old enough to start serious schooling, so Cid brought us along. I think he was hoping we'd all end up in the rebuilding disciplines, but the Gardens have always had a military program, to maintain their independance. Some of us orphans had a high military aptitude, and most of us who decided to become SeeDs are still part of the course.

Enough of that shit. Where am I going? That's the meaningful question.



In a way, my day started out the day before, when I was doing some final pre-Exam training with Seifer.



It seems rediculous to think that Seifer Almasy might not be famous in 30 years, but . . . you never know. Lemme describe him.

Seifer is badass.

Like I said, I've been attending the Garden Academy since we were children. I qualified for the special Junction Force training. I'm one of a scant handful who didn't wash out back into the regular SeeD program. I am a prototype of a new kind of soldier. I am stronger, faster, and tougher than anyone, twenty years ago, would have believed a warrior, even an elite veteran, could possibly be. Put me up against a squad of 'modern' soldiers with the latest guns and infantry armor, by myself and with no GF support, and I might lose. Maybe 1 time in 6.

Seifer makes me look like a raw recruit.

He doesn't seem to bond well with Guardian Forces, but he's always pushed himself when it came to Junction training. Pushed hard. How good is he? A few months ago, a couple of the instructors decided that he needed to be humbled. So they set up a duel with him. The two of them versus him alone. They simultaneously called down their most powerful Guardian Strikes (the instructors got their training before the Junction bond techniques were developed, but they can still channel Guardian Forces, and their GFs are strong and experienced). Seifer knocked out both GFs while they were still manifesting. That's when the third instructor hit him from behind with a full-strength Guardian Strike. He took it, then responded with an attack so powerful that she didn't get out of the hospital for two months.

That's when Headmaster Cid sorta-kinda co-opted Seifer by making him the head of the student disciplinary committee.

Seifer and I have something in common that might be significant. We've both specialized in the gunblade.

I'm not sure if gunblades will still be used in 30 years. The idea seems like a silly one - use the energy that a gun uses to fire bullets to instead make a sword hit harder and deeper, penetrating even modern armor alloys. On the other hand, even 5 years ago the idea of using a sword in modern combat would be laughed at. Now? I'll know in a few hours if they should stop laughing.

Anyway, I hope I've made it clear that Seifer is, far and away, my superior in personal combat. I say that because a lot of my fellow students want to invent some sort of inane rivalry between the two of us. Maybe there's supposed to be some mythic resonance because of our swords, like we're locked in an eternal struggle to determine who has the better prosthetic penis.

He does, or at least he handles it better, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. (For what it's worth, though, I've got a much better rapport with Guardian Forces.) In a serious fight, all other things being equal, Seifer would cut me down in seconds. So yesterday was training. Nothing more.

Okay, not really nothing more. We were out alone so we could push ourselves without freaking out the instructors. Good training. Maybe a bit dangerous, but getting permanently injured is almost impossible these days. (Yeah, not having a medic on-hand was pretty fucking stupid. Fine. Find me a medic who won't shut it down when two guys look like they're doing their damnedest to kill each other.)


Fortunately, Dr. Kadowaki didn't press the matter. She could have. I guess she understood how important today is.

Judging from the half-dozen who visited me last night and this morning, though, everyone's going on and on and ON about how Seifer's a bully, or jealous, or some other bullshit. Supposedly my new scar is proof that he's a violent psycho, that he lured me out into the mountains so he could hurt me without anyone finding out.



Hell, even people I don't know were dropping by.

Come the fuck ON, people! This scar was placed with all the care and precision of a master surgeon. Okay, yeah, Seifer marked me for life. Right after he showed me a very nifty finisher that would have killed me if he hadn't pulled the blow. And did anyone notice that he let me mark him back?

Look, I don't like Seifer very much. He can be a real asshole, an utter bastard a lot of the time. But that doesn't mean we don't respect each other. In a way, I think, these scars mark us as something like brothers. On the battlefield, at least.

So, anyway, those pansies wouldn't let me loose last night. Now it's Exam day, and I'm already behind schedule with nothing to fucking do until they let me go.
 

Albert

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Re: Final Fantasy VIII: The Altimate Rewrite

SeeD Officer Log, Day 1, Entry 2: Squall


We're on the boat, now. Once again, I've got some time to kill.

I don't know how they'll do it 30 years from now, but SeeD training doctrine is that you can't be fully relied on until you've been tested in real combat. There's the training grounds, of course, but it's too easy to learn how to stack the deck against the critters that wander the area. So the graduation exercise is always a real objective on a real battlefield. That's true even for the cadets who didn't qualify for the JF program.

How do we get a real fight? Well, first off, there's almost always some war going on between Eastern Westfuckistan and Podunk McBumfucksville. So, whenever we get a group of students who are about ready to graduate, the Garden offers a special low-cost package. It's usually bid on and sealed within a week or so. Hell, sometimes it takes more time to travel to the fight and back from it than it does to negotiate the contract. (These assault transports are no fun to sleep on.)

I and my fellow exam-takers were lucky - Dollet is less than a hundred miles away. About 2 hours each way. Left a bit before noon, maybe be back in time for dinner. The staff'll have supplies on hand for a Graduation Dance tonight.

Before battle against people, though, there's a preliminary test. The tradition at Balamb is that before we go into actual battle against actual people, we visit a nearby cave everyone calls the Fire Cavern. Prove that we can face the literal fire before we face the figurative fire of war. Oh, and because I'm in the JF program, and can therefore handle Junction gestalts, I was also supposed to challenge the latest Fire Elemental that the heart of the Fire Cavern had produced and claim it as a GF. Nifty, huh?

Thing is, I was supposed to do that all yesterday, after I sparred with Seifer. So I was running late. Finally, the nurse sent for my instructor, Quistis.



Quistis Trepe. Where to begin? The grownups who worked out how to bond with Guardian Forces never seemed to have a lot of trouble with it. On the other hand, they'd been doing it for a long time before they recruited young SeeD cadets for the JF program. Maybe they'd just gotten through the rough parts with years of practice. Or maybe the second level of the bond, the Junction gestalt, is just that much harder.

I dunno. What I do know is that us teenagers had a horrible hell of a time trying to master even the basic Guardian bond, let alone the deeper Junction gestalt. All of us except for Quistis. She was a prodigy. They didn't let her become an 'official' SeeD until her 15th birthday, but she'd been ready for over 6 months by then. And, when the rest of us were about 16 (she's a year older) and were way behind schedule, they made her an instructor so that she could devote most of her time to the rest of us GF cadets.

It worked. We blossomed under her guidance. It's been barely a year and calling down a Guardian Strike is second nature to me, now. Junctioning is still a bit rough, but I'm improving rapidly. The only one from the original class who still seems to have trouble is Seifer, and I'll bet his biggest problem is that he's too proud to accept Quistis's help. And he only has trouble with the Guardian bond - he managed to figure out the Junction gestalt much faster than anyone except Quistis.

Lately, Quistis has been researching a new application of Guardian Strike techniques. She's been figuring out how to mimic the battle-powers of some of the more . . . exotic and dangerous creatures out there. It takes incredible concentration, but I've seen her pull off incredible 'magic' attacks that were never codified into a spell. So, understand that I have a great big fucking deal of respect for Quistis.

Unfortunately, she . . . well, I'll get to that.


Oops. Busted. Looks like we weren't quite as careful about sneaking away yesterday as I thought.


Luckily, she wasn't inclined to downcheck me either.

So we head to the classroom, and it's basically just a quick 'everyone who is taking the exam, get ready, everyone else, study so you can take the exam next time'.


Oh, and she confirmed to everyone that Big Bad Seifer almost killed poor widdle Thay. Nice fucking going, Teach. Hell, I wouldn't even have been at the infirmary if someone hadn't spotted me trying to sneak back to my bunk.

Usually, getting ready on the day of the Exam means light PT, and maybe a quick sparring session to get adrenaline going. For me, it meant going through the Fire Cave a day late.

Since I was late and we were in a hurry, we pretty much ran through the Cave. And Quistis decides

to fill my ear

with how all the other boys get all nervous when she's the Fire Cavern instructor.


Uh huh. Almost every boy in the class who isn't secretly gay has a crush on Quistis. She's pretty. No, she's hot. No, she's abso-fuckin'-lutely gorgeous. And she's been hitting on me for at least the past 3 months.

No, I'm not mistaken. I thought I was imagining things, at first. But then her groupies - yes, she has groupies - decided that I was her destined consort, her Twue Wuv. And if they - some of them guys, mind you, crushing on her as bad as I've ever heard of - agree that Quistis is wet for me, then I don't think I'm imagining anything.

{Altimate Commentary: Go back and watch Quistis's intro. She is visibly pulling herself away from a "Squall is horribly injured and must be nursed back to health with loving and intimate care" fantasy.}

Yeah, yeah, way to go, high fives, lucky dog, and all that bullshit.

Here's the problem: We're the first examples of what everyone knows will be an elite order of soldiers, working for an elite organization that itself is not very old. We're pretty much setting precedent as we go. I am not going to help set the precedent that instructors can fuck their favorite students, thank you very much. This isn't some minor indiscretion, here. We're talking about something so far from professional behavior that a lot of successful militaries keep the death penalty in mind when deciding how to deal with people who gets caught 'prejudicing military discipline' like that.

(Don't get me wrong. Under other circumstances, it'd be awesome that she wants to, heh, prejudice my discipline a little. Or a lot. Like I said, she's fuckin' gorgeous.)

Who knows? Maybe, as elites - maybe as something that is going to redefine what 'elite' means - we're important enough that we could get away with it. So. Fucking. What? You want professional behavior, you live by professional standards. Period. Fucking. Dot.

And she knew she was crossing a line. That's why

she retreated so quickly, tried to pretend this was nothing more than teacher-banter.


Which was good. Back to business. The Fire Elemental.



It was going to be a cakewalk. Walk up to the glowing lava pool and claim the GF.

Simple.

Easy.

Yeah.
 

Albert

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Re: Final Fantasy VIII: The Altimate Rewrite

The problem is, Guardian Forces don't just let you walk up and carry them off. They won't serve an "unworthy" master, and if they can kill you, you obviously aren't worthy.



What I'd done with Seifer had been dangerous, but I suddenly realized that something was about to do its damndest to kill me, and the medics weren't nearby to rescue me.



The Elemental was . . . impressive.


As soon as he rose from the lava, he threw fire at Quistis. I could only watch in horror as the flames rose to consume her.

Yeah. That's right. I froze, reverting to pre-SeeD thinking and panic. Then the flames died down and Quistis laughed. She'd dodged the fire at the last second so the Elemental couldn't retarget. It was what we were trained to do.


I couldn't imagine managing the same trick. Then, suddenly, I could see what would happen if Quistis had to carry the fight. Oh, she might not tell anyone, especially if I took up with her. Would she? Yes, of course she would keep her lover's secret. She'd take care of me, keep me out of danger. Watch not only my back, but my sides and front. She could be my sword, my shield, my armor. My right and left arms. My calm head. My steady and immovable legs.

But I'd know, for the rest of my life, what I was. A physical coward for panicking when all my training said I was ready for this. SeeD in name only, shame twisting inside like a serrated knife. That, yes, but in addition, a moral coward for letting her carry me. She'd be my whatever? No. I'd be hers. I'd be the worthless scrap of flesh surrounding her favorite vibrator. Her boytoy, her pet fuck. Her whore. Certainly not her lover, I wouldn't be worthy of the position.

I'm trying to put into words what I felt and knew at that instant. I can't. All of the above is me looking back at that moment. You might say that I knew that if I didn't do something, I'd be damned in my own eyes for the rest of my life. Even that's too complicated. This was more . . . fundamental. Raw. Primal. Like my every path was dark. Dark save one. One that was burning.



I chose the fire over the dark.



My memories aren't too clear of the next few minutes. Sword-swings fueled by hysterical strength. Constant burning heat. Desperate dodges.

Finally


it was over. He submitted. I named him Ifrit, for the terrifying genies of the desert stories. Then Quistis called on some magic to refresh us, and we left.

My Trial by Fire a success.

But, whatever.

And now we're on an assault boat headed for Dollet. They decided to make Seifer my team leader, and fill out the team with Zell Dincht.

Zell is . . .



Physically, Zell is the most impressive of us, and he maintains that status through hard work. Acrobatics and martial arts, mostly.

Mentally, Zell needs to grow the fuck up and stop acting like an insecure 13-year-old class clown. Especially now, since, God help us all, he's probably going to get a passing grade on the Exam. Let's face it, he'd obviously handled the Fire Cavern just fire.

Seifer finally showed up, and he and Quistis started in on each other. It's . . . kinda funny to watch, really. He postures for her, and she shoots him down. They've been like that since Seifer got a handle on Junctioning and decided they were the two alphas of our program. She's gotten pretty good at understated cutdowns.

Now that I think about it, maybe Seifer was working out frustration as much as he was training, yesterday.

Headmaster Cid showed up.


Been a while. Hoo boy, that's true. Seifer and Zell were two of Cid's orphans, too. The 4 of us - Quistis, Seifer, Zell, and me - were the only orphans who'd decided to complete SeeD training. We're all in the Junction program. I guess none of us were willing to be less than the best for Cid.

Anyway, he gave us a quick pep talk, and we headed out.

Zell was antsy. And annoying.


At least Seifer knows how to quiet him. Now I'm torn. Do I really want to side with Seifer?

Ah, hell with it. You're gonna be a SeeD now, you chicken-wuss. It's time to start acting like a professional.

*sigh*

I'll believe it when I see it.






Quistis says Officer Xu's on the way for our briefing. I'll write a bit more on the return trip, I guess.
 

Albert

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Re: Final Fantasy VIII: The Altimate Rewrite

SeeD Officer Log, Day 1, Entry 3: Squall

Holy fucking shit.

We're about 30 minutes out from Dollet, maybe 90 minutes to get back to Balamb. I have just had . . . had . . . well, see above.

Holy. Fucking. Shit.

The briefing was nothing special, I've had a hundred 'training briefings' just like it. The mission was nothing special either, just to hold the city against Galbadian soldiers. Reading between the lines, they were planning on blocking a lot of streets, leaving our spot as a critical choke-point, or possibly a clear line of retreat if everything FUBAR'd on our troops.

Not the most high-profile mission, eh? Well, Dollet and Galbadia aren't Eastern Westfuckistan and Podunk McBumfucksville, either. The main mission was obviously in the hands of veterans. Got no problem with that. Live testing is all well and good, but you don't put a critical task in untried hands if you have a choice.

Yeah, we'd all been through the fire, but let's face it. God-monsters and elementals are antiquated. Throw enough trained shooters at one and it'll be the elemental who runs or dies. Soldiers? Soldiers are dangerous. Everyone knows that.

Seifer was pissed, though, and he had a point, really. We might, technically, be green and untried and fucking newbies fresh from class, but we're as prepared for battle as fucking possible.

Although maybe he just didn't like Officer Xu reminded everyone that he'd already failed two Exams.

Seifer sent me outside, to see how close the city was getting.

Dollet was already burning. Our ships were shelling the city.



It's a matter of judgement. Beach landings are hell in the face of any serious resistance. Sand is some of the worst shit to charge through, therefore beach assaults have been death traps since Global War VI. So you have to ask yourself, will the troops face less resistance if you try to sneak up to the beach, or should you get the enemy's attention and try to direct it away from the beach?



I suppose the sight of the city burning should have made me worry. Soldiers, men of flesh and bone like me, were being torn apart by the explosions.



Forget it. For today, at least, I left my fear behind in the Fire Cavern.



I saw why we we going for the direct approach. Galbadia had erected a wall across the harbor. Easy to do, really. Conjure an elemental of earth and have it raise the wall. If your conjurer is good, keep it around to repair the wall when someone tries to shoot it down. Now your sea-ward back is covered. Go ahead, shift all your soldiers to more critical spots.



I dunno how good their conjurer was. Even an elemental needs time to repair a wall, and when a heavy-duty assault corvette rams into a wall at full speed, reinforced battle-steel usually wins out.

It's probably cheating to use better technology than most rebuilder engineers have even heard of.

Cheating's fun.






Quistis gave us our specific assignment when we landed. Take and hold the Central Square. Yeah, chokepoint time.

The plan was simple and obvious. When the SeeD veterans started to smash the Golbadians in the mountains behind the city, the Golbadians would retreat to the city. Where they'd face us. The super-SeeDs. The perfect anvil to hammer the Golbadians against.



Seifer was as eager for this as I was, I think. Anyway, he was hard to keep up with.

We ran into an enemy squad on the way to the objective. Three guys, modern guns and armor. Seifer hit the one in the center, and Zell and I took left and right.

My target opened fire before I was halfway there. It was the first time I had to use my evasion training for real.

I'd actually been worried about that. I guess that from now on, everyone will know it's possible, but we didn't until today. (Seifer and Quistis don't count. They're prodigies, each in their own way.) I'm sure you in the future will be used to it, but in the here-and-now, what I managed to do was just fucking rediculous.

Only recent SeeD graduates can do it, so far, and we Junction-class students are the only ones who managed to develop the stamina to really exploit this. So, please understand that the idea that you can pay close enough attention to your enemy to know when he'll shoot, and that you can develop the reflexes to consistantly make sure you aren't where the bullets are going to be, was considered flat-out impossible even three years ago.

Seriously, dodging a 10-foot tall hellfire elemental is simple compared to dodging 20 guys with guns.

Even for us Junction students, it's taxing. Dunno if they'll figure out how to improve the process, but we're calling on muscles to perform at literally superhuman speeds. We tire out, eventually. Slow down to the point where bullets start hitting. But until then, unless someone takes me completely by suprise, I'm the next thing to invincible. And the reason Junction students are best at this is that we're the only ones who can use our GFs to directly boost our staying power. (Although Seifer has demonstrated Junction-level stamina without a GF before. It's part of why he's so scary.) It's an incredible feeling. We looked down at the soldiers, bleeding out on the ground, and just started laughing. We were still chuckling as we reached the square and cleared it.

Seifer was ready for more, of course. No enemies to kill = boring.



We all knew what that meant. Anvil time, very soon.

We waited for a while, but nothing. Zell was pacing, and Seifer was looking edgier and edgier by the minute.



He was about to do something stupid, when we heard some soldiers coming through.



I was ready to attack them, but Seifer motioned us to hide. Only one reason to do that. He wanted bigger game.

Not our orders, but he was the squad commander. Knowing when to take the initiative was his job.
 

Albert

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Re: Final Fantasy VIII: The Altimate Rewrite

I wondered aloud where everyone was going.



Simple enough, I suppose. Just one complication.



Bingo. We were at a critical spot. Initiative doesn't cover abandoning a critical spot to chase bad guys. There'd be a runner coming by soon enough. (I've heard some of the veterans talk about the good old days before radio jammers became widespread again. I dunno. You'd need one powerful computer to keep your comm traffic secure, and where'd you put it while the bullets are flying?)

We argued it for a few minutes, and I got a look into Seifer's head. He wanted some action.

Zell just wanted to pass the test.

Me? Oh, Zell was right. We were in an important spot, there were orders to follow, we'd be able to send a report really soon.

But. Seifer was obviously going to talk himself into going whether we went with him or not. Splitting up the team was a bad idea. The facility wasn't far, we could check it out and be back pretty quickly. With luck, before anyone noticed.



Seifer misunderstood, of course. But it wasn't the right time to tell him off for being Psycho McGloryhound and endangering the team, the mission, and the overall SeeD objective. He'd just go off on his own.



Well, he pretty much did anyway. We weren't able to catch up with him for some time. The streets were splashed with fresh blood. Not all of it was human - I saw a couple of anacondours sliced in half.

We found him talking to a wounded Dollet soldier.



Ahhhhh. An old Comm Tower, a pre-GW14 building. Powerful enough to cut through just about any portable jammer. If they could jury-rig it soon enough, that is. Those things were priority targets in the War.




We'd ended up behind a ridge overlooking the tower. Lucky.

It wasn't long before someone came out.



Not good.



Really fucking not good.



It made sense. They'd be mostly technicians. Sure, it was risky, and audacious, and against the rules, but it'd probably work. And the last thing we needed was for a Golbadian war-clank to show up and trap us inside.




All I can say is, never tempt Fate. The sweeter she seems, the bigger a bitch she is. And nobody's sweeter than Selphie.
 

Jack M

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Re: Final Fantasy VIII: The Altimate Rewrite

Before the floods of praise begin, I'm gonna once more voice my opinion that this thread is silly.

Carry on.
 

Jack M

Free At Last
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#9
Re: Final Fantasy VIII: The Altimate Rewrite

It's not a bad silly, though.
My inner screaming fanboy wanted me to use much stronger language, but I figured there was no need to get nasty over a thread I don't have to read.

I just want to put my objection on the record.

Edit: Not wishing to miscommunicate my sentiment, I'll stretch silly to Absurd. I hope that doesn't constitute a personal attack.
 
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Albert

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#10
Re: Final Fantasy VIII: The Altimate Rewrite

Yes, Man-slayer, we understand. You have persistently made your position clear in every relevant thread.

Whether you mind or not, we're going to continue to enjoy what is clearly and obviously a great stinking pile of BadWrongFun. I urge you to save yourself from further contamination.

-Albert
 
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