The Trial of Sabine Wren
Day 132: Completed the obstacle course yet again, beating the Kommisar's best boys. Not enough to satisfy Kommissar Nistros. He still thinks I am somehow a liability to the program. But each time he tries to drum me out of the academy, I end up looking better in front of his superiors. Still, I must remain vigilant. My clan needs me to be victorious in our rise with the Empire.
~ The Journal of Cadet 1st class Sabine Wren
Sabine studied in her dorm, with the other female recruits. There were not many. The Empire continually down graded their importance in the military, and many transferred from the academy on Mandolore to lesser positions. But Sabine was a bright exception that stayed to be an example of excellence on her home world despite being constantly downgraded by the narrowed clumsy opinions of her male commanders.
The com system called out that the cadets would meet on the field for weapon testing. Sabine sighed. She was already steps ahead of most of the male cadets when it came to these tests, but this was another round of training she had to go through.
She walked out onto the rifle range with other cadets. Some of the guys viewed her in different ways. Some admired her fighting spirit and skill. A couple of them were threatened by her superior abilities. She tried to not make eye contact, but stayed a neutral soldier in training. The Kommisar leading them gave each of the cadets portable sniper rifles and instructed them to properly handle the devices.
One of the Cadets, Matnadango, always tried to compete with Sabine. Nistros thought of him as Officer material, and while he was charismatic, he made it a point to always best the females in training, and always competed with Sabine. Today would be no different.
"Still not going to go get married and have a family?" Matnadango grinned and jibbed at her. Sabine did not speak, but just waited for the Kommissar to start the lesson. If she went after the boy, she would get punished. She witnessed on a couple occasions how the Kommissar always sided with boys like Matnadango. She could not let his taunts get to her, and she could not just walk away to a more comfortable life. His bullying would be her personal tests to endure alone.
There was one incident in particular that burned her to be more determined at the academy. One night, when she was on guard duty, some of the boys disabled a security camera and were attempting to have fun with her. The wrong kind of fun. Most of them ended up with broken limbs after touching her in the wrong way. Matnadango and a few others learned a difficult lesson that night, spending time in the hospital. They were not punished by the Kommissar, but he could not use anything against Sabine since there was no security footage of the incident. Sabine had to be faster, stronger and one step smarter than the boys club if she were to succeed as a cadet.
To succeed as a female.
"You are going to the ruins of Parmistan. Your target is a very rare specimen, and the winner will find their promotion within the Imperial Officers core." Nistros glance with pride over at Matnadango. The boys smiled and some chuckled in anticipation. "Each of you has just a sniper rifle for this exercise. You will be transported there and you will be unleashed to find and exterminate the target!"
The Kommissar put all the cadets into a transport. They traveled across a wasteland that had been created during the Clone Wars. Sabine looked out the window at the wasteland. Some of the bleak sites have been a part of her childhood. She had heard of some of the Golden age of Mandolore that came to an end as tensions built up during the previous war.
Soon, she could see the ruins of Parmistan on the horizon, and it sent chills down into her soul.
Parmistan was the living nightmare of Mandolore's involvement in the great Clone war. It was a decayed, damaged metropolis, and the Imperial controlled government had sent all the deranged people there. People who had been affected by war, damaged physically and mentally. Some had been tortured under Deathwatch, some were burned to the point of insanity by chemical weapons. Many were especially walking shell shock cases, who to this day have never left the war that happened over a dozen years ago.
Hunting a target and killing him or her would be easy. Surviving the land of 10,000 maniacs would be an extreme challenge. Sabine's problems were doubled as she saw the boys grinning at her and getting a cryptic wink from Kommissar Nistros. She pretended to not notice how Matnadango stared at her and rubbed an arm that had been previously broken in that encounter when she was on duty and he tried to assault her. She pretended to not notice the Kommissar whisper two words to the boys.
"Accidents happen" he tried to make it so very faint, but Sabine had good eyes, and had vowed she would never let a man try to do what they had attempted on that horrific night.
She very much pretended not to notice that her gun was without a single shot of ammo. Protesting would do no good. The Kommissar was looking to fail her or throw her to the wolves. She was constantly being set up to fail. So she contemplated every move she would have to make in this hunt, and especially be ready to fight her own cadet classmates to the death.....if needed.
The cadets were released at the edges. Nistros gave them a final instruction "You are hunting an old Clone trooper. A former Commando of the Clone Wars code named 'Omega'. He is a relic, but do not underestimate his skills. First cadet to bring in the kill will enjoy a promotion and will be groomed for HIS own Imperial command!"
It was one last stinger Sabine was forced to feel as the Kommissar closed the transport and retreated to a secured strategic location. Sabine did not hesitate, running off into the ruins, half expecting to get shot in the back. The boys weren't fast enough, but split up to find their way.
"Good luck, Sabine! Be careful. It's dangerous out here!" Matnadango laughed. He often looked at her as a trophy to be taken, especially after she beat the tar out of him and two other boys when they wanted to conquer her that night when she was on guard duty. She broke his arm, and he was itching for a rematch to prove his manhood. Despite the dwindling numbers, there were plenty of female cadets he could have indulged to conquer in the battlefield of his bed, but he was determined to make Sabine his prize. She had bested all the boys, and his pride would not stay humbled by a girl. Today, he would get his chance to best her, win his promotion. Though he might no be able to go after her here, he could certainly take liberties as her superior. And he dreamed of many possibilities.
Sabine kept running, through narrow alleys and crawling in broken windows of various buildings to shake anyone who might follow. Fortunately for her, some of the boys that had tried were clumsy or easily confused. One or two had caused noise, disturbing the locals. She could hear a mob of crazies form and scream as they chased two of the reckless boy cadets through the dark ruins. It was a safe bet that hearing the cadets scream in terror and pain, firing blindly with their rifles, they did ot fare well in the test.
She waited in a corner of an abandoned house, waited until the mob noises and violence became silence again.. She held her gun and tried to surmise where the mob might have gone to kill the cadet intruders. Her gun was useless without ammo, but she might be able to recover some from the unfortunate boys that were probably killed, torn apart and raped by a populace that was a shell of madness. Killed, torn apart and raped. The thought made her shudder with some fear. She felt the irony of hoping, for their sake, it happened in that order.
Sabine looked both ways in every passage through the now quiet city. Without making a sound, she crosses over piles of rubble, past some barrels with fires. She used her tracking to follow where the mob had been, and found the remains of the cadets clothing. She found some of their equipment, trampled. After a moment of frantic searching, she uncovered one of the guns and grabbed what she could.
Some noises and howling in the distance made her freeze for a second, causing her to scramble to cover.
A shot was fired, missing her head by inches! She looked up at a nearby building and saw Matnadango with a big grin. "Run, little girl!! You want to prove you can play with the big boys, you better step up your game!!"
She almost sneered, but did not respond. There was too much danger nearby, and his shot was drawing attention!
She could hear the crazies coming to find out what the shot was. She ran fast, but heard the maniacal screams of the damned. She had been spotted. Sabine ran hard and fast, jumping over debris, trying to parkour her way to safety between buildings, through buildings, and over them.
The throngs of maddened people, poor and destitute, many who have scrounged or resorted to cannibalism, carried on through the city, hunting down intruders. They hunted for Sabine. Crazed, hungry, war weary, some were simply psychotic, and some were deformed in such physical and mental ways that it was ever a wonder this city of the damned existed on Mandolore to begin with. But the Empire kept the city to train new troops, to adhere new Mandolorians to the Empire's harsh reality and way of life. New cadets would become skilled soldiers or die trying. In that regard, Parmistan was perfect.
Sabine almsot ran into a pack of Parmistan men, and they certainly viewed her as a new toy, and perhaps a meal as well.
But Sabine faced these obstacles before. In the Imperial academy, such men were officers and behaved with a fake civility. But the Imperials training her were just as brutish and psychotic as the horde in this city of the damn, only less honest about it. She was so used to the abuse and misogyny that she did not find it much of a challenge to break their arms and legs before running along, leaving these flea infested rabble to a hobbled fate.
She ran through a cop of trees, a dead park in the center of the city. She could almost hear Matnadango continuing his taunts, fully expecting her to either die or seek protection in his arms. Protection that Matnadango wanted at a price Sabine would never pay. She dismissed the boy in his taunts. She would outsmart them all with her wits and survival skills. With luck, she saw a decayed house in the trees, perhaps once thought of as a sort of playground house. It looked boarded up, probably as a shelter at one point when Mandolore was under assault during the reign of terror by Death watch and a rogue Sith who sought power in the mists of the past.
Sabine climbed up and broke into the little tree hut, making sure the rabbling, gibbering horde could not hear her or find her. searching for the target, this code name 'Omega' must have been a red herring, a false lead. She wondered how anyone could survive for long in this city of the damned.
She curled up, gun held close, and caught her breath.
"Hello..." a man's voice whispered. She sprung into action with a quick pose, aiming the gun at the far end of the tree house. Having been so out of breath and panicked for shelter, she failed to see the man in old, worn clone armor just sitting there. He was gray haired, older but was not showing any hostility or fear. He looked rather calm, even relieved to see her.
She was on edge, but he stayed calm "Shhh, I'm not going to hurt you. I'm not one of the crazies. And I know you aren't either"
"Just stay where you are!"
She sized him up and looked at his uniform. "You're not a Storm Trooper, are you?"
"That armor is vintage, from th-"
"-The Clone War. Yes. And I recognize you from your uniform. An Imperial. A cadet, I take it? I didn't know they let women become Imperial troopers"
"You have a problem with that?" she almost barked, but kept her voice low.
"Not at all. I like it even better when they aren't out to kill me." His eyes darted at the rifle.
"You're the target, aren't you?" She asked in realization.
The Clone shrugged "Well, I am A target, I suppose."
"I could get promoted if I kill you. I kill you, I can get out of this hell hole of an academy."
"Promoted? Where? In Tarkin's little circus of misfits? In the Empire? You'll just be a bigger target for them. Imps don't care about anyone but themselves."
She doesn't answer, but realizes he is correct. She keeps aiming the gun at him, but something in her relaxes. She sighed "It's hard enough being a cadet. A female cadet. The Mandolorians have great traditions for our female warriors. But the Empire....well, they seem to only want me to be a mother, someone's subservient wife. They can't see my potential....I can almost see it....my promotion would be sabotaged, or they will send me to some lone station on Kessel!"
The Clone Trooper put his hands down and relaxed as well "Doesn't sound like much of a promotion to me. Sounds like they just want to abuse you just for being a woman in their 'man's world."
"Why should YOU care? You're a man....."
He chuckled "Well, it's been my impression that 'men' like me....don't amount to much in their Imperial world either. I'm a Clone. I wasn't born from a woman like other men.....and I guess that makes me less than a man....it makes me a target. I'm a toy for them to play with. I get the impression they wanted to use you like a toy as well. But you fought back."
She lowered the gun and looked him in the eye. They now expressed a most honest connection.
"That's why we were assigned to hunt you down for promotion." She whispered, almost shocked "They think you're less than them."
They sat in silence for a minute.
"Well, something tells me that promotion....it's not so important anymore." He saw it in her eyes. She wanted to finally quit being less than the male Imperials.
"But what else can I do? I'm stuck here until I kill or be killed." She put the gun down and sat dejected.
"We're not stuck. All you have to do is quit."
"Quit? I can't quit the Empire, they'll hunt me down!"
"Sure you can quit. Tell me, what do you want in life, more than anything?"
"I want to become a proud warrior!" She answered with a strength in her voice.
"Well I can say, in my experience, you are already a warrior. A proud Mandolorian. You don't even need the Empire to get the kind of promotion you want!"
Sabine almost blushed. Code name Omega formally recognized her for her true status in minutes, which was more than what 2-3 years of Imperial orientation ever gave her.
"What's your name? They call you Code name Omega." she asked
"Well, technically I'm CT-9898....but I like that one. Omega. You know what Omega means?"
She looked at him, waiting.
"It's an end to one cycle, and the beginning of another. I think now is a good time for us to start our lives over....if you will join me."
"How do we get out of the city? We're surrounded!"
"I have a small Arc 170 fighter hidden on the roof of an old apartment building. It took a long time to fix, but it's ready for its maiden voyage tonite. I think I have just enough fuel to get us to the spaceport and I've scraped up enough credits to get a flight out of here. I've had to stay hidden a long time, and life in Parmistan is not one for the retirement I hope to have!"
"They'll come looking for us!"
"They'll think we're dead. But then, You've been dead to them for a few years now if they can't see your skill and prowess as a fighter." He put it bluntly, but she knew he was right.
They made their way to a secret path as the sun was going down. Omega had lived in a pattern of safety in the city, and ate so sparingly, he was thin. Sabine hesitated to ask how long he had survived here. But it wasn't an important question. With each step, she felt herself closer to freedom.
In silence they left, and while it was not the glorious end she would have wanted in her time at the academy, it was a much better promotion than what Matnadango was getting after running out of the city, being chased by the crazies. He would go on at the academy, but his failure diminished him in the eyes of the Kommissar.
Omega and Sabine soon departed company. He went on to hide in a better place, tired of war and violence. Sabine, however, was ready for new adventures, with a new perspective on life and respect. She hoped to help those like Omega, who were less fortunate, but that is another tale for another time.....