I don't own Final Fantasy VIII or any of the characters except Sean Lawrence

Author's note: This begins about one year before Final Fantasy VIII

I awoke slowly, confused. The last thing I could recall was a hard landing in unfamiliar territory in an ultralight. The hard landing was because, while I was heading in for a landing, the terrain suddenly changed below.

I opened my eyes and took a careful look around. I seemed to be in some sort of hospital or infirmary, and I had a headache to end all headaches. As I stirred, a woman who appeared to be a doctor came in.

"So you're finally awake? Can you tell me who you are?"

"Sean Lawrence, sometime ultralight pilot." I took another look another look around. "Where am I, anyway?"

"This is Balamb Garden, a training academy for SeeDs. I'm Doctor Kadowaki, in charge of the infirmary here. You appeared quite unexpectedly. According to some students who witnessed your arrival, your little craft appeared out of thin air, then crashed." She shook her head. "You're lucky to be alive. It took two potions and a Cure spell just to get you into condition to be moved."

Potions? Spells? Just what have I gotten into this time? Aloud, I said, "I didn't expect the arrival either. I was just about to land when I appeared here. Which reminds me; am I well enough to get out of this bed?"

"Yes; we were just waiting for you to wake up. The headmaster has assigned you a room for the time being, until you figure out what to do. It's pretty clear that you're not from anywhere around here. You'll have a roommate, of course. A young man by the name of Squall Leonhart. He's something of a loner, so you might want to steer clear of him for the most part."

I didn't care in the slightest. I didn't really like being around other people either. "This is a military academy, you said? What's the minimum age for entry?"

"Six. You have to graduate by the time you're twenty, but most make it by then. I'll tell the headmaster you're interested. For now, you should get settled in. The dormitory is the northern branch of Garden's first floor."

"Thanks." I stood, somewhat unsteadily, and made my way out of the Infirmary.

I was somewhat bewildered by Balamb Garden. I'd never seen anything like it, and it was huge. There was at least one level above the one I was on, and main level was so large I managed to get lost on my way to the Dorms. I had to ask a passing student how to get there.

When I finally got there, I found to my relief that my "roommate" was nowhere in sight. I took the time to look around and take a brief nap. When I awoke, it occurred to me that I ought to find out what had been done with my ultralight. If memory served, the only thing that was heavily damaged in the crash was me, so the plane and its cargo should be intact.

In the lobby, I encountered a student doing some martial arts exercises. "Excuse me. I'm Sean Lawrence, the guy who dropped in a few days ago."

"Yo. I'm Zell Dincht. What's up?" He shook my hand.

"I was just wondering if you knew what's been done with my ultralight."

Zell scratched his head. "I think it was put in the parking lot. It's right next to the Dorm. You can't miss it."

"Thanks." I headed back north, already becoming accustomed to the Garden. As I had hoped, the ultralight's cargo and emergency kit were intact. I carefully retrieved them and took them back to the Dorm.

When I returned, Squall was there. He barely gave me a glance before returning to his studying. Shaking my head, I sat on my bunk and began unpacking my meager equipment. Let's see, emergency flares; GPS, which is useless without the satellites; two-way radio, also useless, given the interference; compass, which would just confuse me, given the fact that this seems to be a different planet; bush knife; e-rats, ick; and parachute. In other words, not much of use.

I shook my head again. It was a good thing I'd decided to enroll in this academy. Even if I'd had any money with me, it'd be useless here. I literally had no where else to go.

As I mused, a voice came over the PA system. "Sean Lawrence, please report to the Training Center. Repeat, please report to the Training Center."

I walked into the Training Center, quite bemused. As far as I knew, I hadn't even been officially enrolled yet.

An instructor by the name of Quistis Trepe was waiting for me, a set of weapons on the ground. "The headmaster asked me to get you set up with a weapon, so I thought the Training Center was the perfect place." She nodded toward the weapons. "Take your pick."

I looked them over, noting some rather odd weapons among them. I was drawn to a strange weapon that appeared to be a sword with an automatic pistol for a grip. I picked it up, looking it over. "What's this?"

"It's called a gunblade, a Hyperion model specifically. What do you think?"

"Interesting. There's nothing like it where I come from. I think this will do." I hefted it, swinging it experimentally.

"You'll be only the third student in Garden to use it. The other two are your roommate, Squall, and his rival, Seifer. Go ahead and take that with you; ammunition will be delivered to your dorm later."

"Thanks." I returned to my room, realizing that my time at Garden was going to be very interesting…

Author's note: Not much of a first chapter, but this was basically a buildup to the rest of the story. As usual, please read and review.