Title: Sword & Saber Author: Tarsier Summary: Crossover with Final Fantasy VIII. Mara is sent to the FFVIII planet to recruit an elite soldier for the Emperor. Characters: Primary: Emperor’s Hand Mara Jade, Squall Leonhart Secondary (all from FF8): Seifer Almasy, Zell Dincht, Rinoa Heartilly, Quistis Trepe, Selphie Tilmitt, Irvine Kinneas, Angelo (Rinoa’s dog) Genre: action, introspection Timeframe: SW – during Mara’s time as Emperor’s Hand; FFVIII – begins the day before the start of the game Notes: I wrote this story intending it to be accessible to people who are not familiar with FFVIII. If you haven’t played the game, hopefully everything will make sense, though the guardian force/magic/junctioning system may seem a bit strange (actually, it’s pretty unique even for a video game). Questions are welcome if anything is at all unclear. If you have played the game, you will find the plot has been substantially simplified and, really, most of it is off-screen. This story is primarily introspection and as far as character growth is generally more about Mara than Squall. The planet was strange. The divided factions, tiny cities battling for dominance, were nothing remarkable. The lack of space travel and seeming obliviousness to the rest of the galaxy was not unheard of. Nor was the fact that the planet was teeming with a vast array of dangerous creatures. It was something more subtle, more sinister, as though the Force itself had acquired a foul taste from the planet. The mark was a teenager named Seifer. The mission was to recruit him. To exactly what end the Emperor had not said, and Mara had not asked. Bring him back prepared to serve the Empire, that was instruction enough. He was not difficult to find, even without the disruption he created in the Force, she could hear his boisterous voice from half a klick away. Presently, it appeared he had stolen a pair of gloves from a smaller classmate. The classmate, who was perhaps even louder than Seifer, chased after Seifer yelling for the gloves’ return. “GIVE ‘EM BACK!” “No, I think maybe I’ll just keep them.” “THEY’RE MINE! GIVE THEM BACK!” “Hmm, not sure if I can wear them. They’re very small.” “DON’T YOU DARE! THOSE GLOVES ARE SACRED!” They were in an open area with planted trees and duracrete tables and benches. An audience had gathered around the commotion, which made it very easy for Mara to blend in, as just another curious student. Seifer was drinking in the attention. Two students, friends of Seifer who trailed after him wherever he went, were working the crowd, pointing and giving elbow nudges to make sure everyone was focused on Seifer’s spectacle. One student, however, was seated at a table in a corner reading a book and had not even glanced up. There were whispers in the crowd and, despite the efforts of Seifer’s friends, several eyes fell on the studying student. Through the Force Mara picked up bits and pieces of the thoughts of those watching. Some were hoping the silent student would help his smaller classmate. Others hoped he would put Seifer in his place. Many just wanted to see a fight. Seifer was annoyed to be ignored by one student, but he was infuriated that the gathered students were splitting their attention between him and another. Seifer crossed the short distance to the corner, leapt onto the table, and drew his sword, sweeping the blade down so it sliced through the pages the other student was reading. “No weapons in the quad!” a student from the crowd exclaimed. “What do you want, Seifer?” Though finally responding, the quiet student continued to stare at his book. “I want you, Squall.” Seifer sheathed his sword and knelt down on the table, one hand behind his back still holding the pilfered gloves, the other hand slamming the book closed. “A duel. Tomorrow morning. The usual spot. It’s been a while since I’ve kicked your butt.” “Fine.” “Tch. I’ll take these.” The owner of the gloves plucked the gloves out of Seifer’s hand while he was distracted and ran off. Seifer spared a quick glare towards the retreating student, but then focused once again on Squall. “Be there at dawn. No wussing out this time.” Seifer turned and left, brandishing his sword as he did so, forcing several of the gathered observers to duck or leap away from the blade. Mara sunk into the shadows of the building, knowing she needed to disappear before the crowd dissipated. It was time to return to her ship for the night. She still had a lengthy report to make and it seemed she would need to be up before dawn the next day.