1AT (After Transition)/2171CE - Over Ith'nar, Fringe Terminus Space
After the governor had unsurprisingly turned down Thrawn's 'offer' of surrender, ISD Chimera's crew had acted precisely to his prepared orders. The dead Batarian's body had already been deposited down the trash chute, and Chimera had begun her descent into the atmosphere, positioned directly over the Governor's palace.
That was the first shock to the defenders, a dreadnought that measured 1.6 kilometers in length floating apparently effortlessly in the atmosphere above the planet, in clear violation of any rational understanding of physics. The measure had been unnecessary, risky even as the descent tested Chimera's new reactor, but it was a calculated risk to send a clear message. A message Chimera had spent months refitting to send with minimal risk to her. An ISD-I could certainly operate in atmosphere, but to do so would require much of the power produced by her massive Solar Ionization Reactor, and therefore limited her direct combat capabilities. ISD Chimera now mounted an upgraded reactor of the type used by the ISD-II and, as such, no longer had such limitations.
The second shock for the defenders followed shortly thereafter when ground batteries opened fire on the massive ship, and the terrifying vessel's Particle Shielding vaporized the incoming mass accelerator rounds, and held. The defense cannons may have been light anti-orbital cannons, but there were eight of them, each could generally core a Hegemony frigate with a single shot. Twenty-two rounds would have usually overloaded the shields of a Hegemony dreadnought. Thirty-six would have done the same to a Hierarchy Dreadnought. ISD Chimera had eaten fifty-six rounds, seven full salvos, and remained apparently unaffected. On the bridge of the Chimera the shielding officer called out a five percent drop in overall shield strength, with fifty percent of Chimera's total reactor power still available to increase shield regeneration rates.
The third shock was delivered when the ventral turbolasers opened up with devastating blasts of energy weapon fire which rapidly eliminated the anti-orbital cannons, before turning onto any other ground position which looked like it might threaten the ship or soon to be deployed ground forces.
The Fourth happened nearly an hour later when a trio of Imperial-IIs(ISD Audacious, ISD Majestic, ISD Conqueror), which had been stationed waiting for Thrawn's signal, joined Chimera in a broad formation which enabled the ships to cover each other's blind spots, guaranteeing that no part of the colony was safe from Imperial heavy turbolaser fire.
The Imperial Ships held position bombarding anything that looked remotely like a threat until nightfall struck the colony. Under the cover of darkness, heavy turbolasers briefly held fire and the next phase of the invasion began: TIE fighters and bombers descended from the Ventral hangars of the floating ships, strafing any buildings which remained intact. This was a diversion however, forcing the defenders to keep their heads down as Thawn's four clone wars vintage Acclamator-class assault ships descended towards the planet. Thrawn had been unbelievably lucky that the Emperor had decided to give him those ships. They had been configured as armed freighters to haul workers, equipment, and deployable facilities for his newly expanded TIE factories. The ships had since been refitted back from their freighter configuration to the troop transport configuration. Once an obsolete and often forgotten auxiliary vessel within the imperial navy, these venerable 752 meter long planetary assault ships would be crucial in this and further operations.
Despite his confidence, and thus far showcased effectiveness, Thrawn had secretly been dreading this part of the plan. He viewed all his soldiers and sailors as valuable resources to be preserved, not (as many imperials viewed their subordinates) disposable and replaceable assets. A mindset which was particularly important now: as of right now, every subordinate of his was irreplaceable.
As a result, sending in Stormtroopers as part of an invasion was an incredibly risky venture. Losing even one trooper would be a permanent reduction in his ability to project force. Weapons and munitions are replaceable, soldiers are not. It was why he had refitted and deployed the acclamators, and why the troopers were under orders to be cautious, and use plenty of air support. It was also why he had ordered nearly every scrap of Eezo from the captured ship's drive core processed into infantry kinetic barriers. His Stormtroopers were vulnerable enough to the fast flying kinetic fire of enemy slug throwers, his army and navy troopers who would handle much of the following occupation were far more so.
It was a measure of the competence of both Thrawn's ground commanders and soldiers that nearly a quarter of the city had been captured before the batarians even realized, beyond the squad level, that something was wrong. A third of the city had been secured before an organized resistance began to be mounted. Half of the city had been claimed before the batarians fully realized why it was a terrible idea to try to organize a coordinated resistance. This lesson had been delivered by heavy turbolaser bombardment on any area in which hostile broadcasts were detected. Two thirds of the city had been captured before the Thrawn's Shock and Awe approach wore off enough for the Imperial Doctrine of Fear to play its part. Entire units began surrendering en masse rather than be annihilated by the dreadnaughts and swarming bombers. Three quarters of the city had been officially secured before the governor's palace's guards surrendered, allowing the Major to deliver on Thrawn's promise.
The operation had been relatively fast due to the overwhelming force Thrawn had deployed, the first quarter of the city had been seized by the first morning. In an over abundance of caution, Thrawn had ordered all offensive operations to proceed only at night, where the powerful weapons and sensors of the lurking Star Destroyers would provide maximum advantage. It had taken only one more night for Thrawn's forces to secure half the city. By the third day, army and navy troopers were planetside securing the liberated sectors of the planet, processing prisoners, and gathering ex-slaves for later evacuation. By the sixth day, the planet had been secured, as the Grand Admiral had scheduled. On the seventh day, Faro had arrived with her reinforcements to begin the processing and evacuation of the liberated slaves. It had been a textbook operation, or rather would be once Thrawn had finished writing the textbook which would be adopted by his future academies.
Day Seven of Operation OUTWARD REACH, surface of Ith'nar
The roar of yet more engines drew the attention of everyone in the colony as four more Star Destroyers entered the atmosphere. The vessels began belching TIE fighters which escorted Lambda shuttles full of civilian officials from New Lothal, as well as their Stormtrooper protectors. The gathered liberated slaves cheered at the imposing sight displayed by their saviors. One of the ships, ISD Vindicator, continued after the other ships had stopped in positions to support the ground troops. Ex-slaves and gathered prisoners alike watched as ISD Vindicator lowered herself to barely one hundred meters above the ground, directly above the processing camps, before freezing her own motion. A further flight of Lambda shuttles departed, joining the rest on their path to the processing camp, and disgorged their complement of civilian volunteers with stormtrooper escort.
Shortly after the massive wave of shuttles landed, a loud horn sounded from the fringe of the milling mass of ex-slaves. At the source of the sound was a human male in imposing, pristine, white armor Stormtrooper standing high on the ramp of one of the shuttles. They could see his rough, but human, face as he carried his standard imposing stormtrooper helmet in the hand. In his opposite hand rested the airhorn that had drawn their attention. Another human, a woman, stepped up next to him with a bullhorn in hand. She couldn't have looked more different to the grizzled soldier beside her, her long hair contrasting his short military cut. Her dark grey, obviously civilian, suit contrasted his stark white uniform. Despite the contrast, she was obviously as much the professional as her military counterpart.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I am Senior Administrator Alex Farst, Governor's assistant to Governor Karsin of New Lothal. Beside me is Commander Braxt, Imperial Stormtrooper Corps. Together, we are the imperial officials in charge of your post-liberation processing. Post-liberation Processing is the official term for the administrative process which handles your liberation. We will first be assigning you an appointment time for removing the control chips the Batarians implanted in you. These appointments take priority over all else, please ensure you attend your appointment time. Next we will begin collecting identity information and dispensing Identity cards to ensure you are taken care of and efficiently evacuated. Once your identity card has been issued, you will be offered the choice of Imperial Citizenship, or the chance to leave Imperial space, in which case you will eventually be returned to civilized space within the wider galaxy. Please be patient, you will all be addressed, but there are a lot of you."
Senior Administrator Farst spoke with all the confidence of someone who knew near exactly how lost they must be feeling. It had only been a year since the administrator herself had been captured and enslaved by the batarians after all. Her prior life as a colonial administrator on Mindoir would have been little use to the batarian slavers. Fortunately for her, it was of great use to the Imperials. She still wasn't entirely clear on where the Imperials had come from, none of the Imperials or locals she had had the chance to speak to really were, but had long embraced the tenet of "don't look a gift horse in the mouth," and took to her new role under them with gusto.
While the administrator was happy to help organize this process, processing the slaves was going to be painfully slow for multiple reasons. First of all was the sheer numbers of slaves to process and evacuate. Intelligence estimates had turned out conservative and, once the slaves had been counted, the number was found to be closer to Three-hundred thousand. Two-hundred seventy-eight thousand, six-hundred fifty-two to be exact. That was over seventeen times the capacity of the massive troop ships that loomed over the edges of the city. Second of all, was the control chips. Imperial ship doctors were good at their job, as were assorted combat medics that could be spared, but there were only so many in the nascent empire, and only so many operations could be performed at once.
The present plan was to aim for primary processing, that is the administrative side of the process, of five hundred slaves per hour, at least initially. An imposing figure, which paled in comparison to the more than quarter million slaves that needed processing. A starting figure of six-thousand processed per day, twelve if they forwent sleep, was impressive until you considered it would still take over forty days just to document and organize all the slaves at that rate, which was longer than ideal. She shuddered to consider how much longer it would take to finish removing all the deactivated control-chips. It was a quick operation, but it was still a full medical operation.
Farst did not regret volunteering, but the massive weight of work ahead of them definitely made it far less appealing than it had been before they landed. She couldn't really complain though, her superiors within the navy had been pretty clear about what to expect. The human mind is just notoriously bad at parsing large figures like "a quarter million slaves in need of processing," but it was a job that needed doing. And it was important for civilians like her to be part of it. The Empire needed to put its best foot forward and be as welcoming as possible to the freed slaves if they were to convince any to accept Imperial rule. The massive dreadnaught hanging overhead to remind them that their ex-masters couldn't hurt them anymore was certainly a nice touch too.
Braxt taped her gently on the shoulder, and Farst jumped a little. She had been deeper in thought for longer than she had thought. "Lost in thought were we, Alex?" Braxt smirked, though it was a friendly knowing sort of smirk. He had been declared her military attaché, so they'd gotten to know each other relatively well to the point of relative friendship over the past few weeks. "Don't worry, we'll take care of them and get the job done." Confident as always.
With a deeper smile, Farst turned back to the assembled slaves, "Those of you with their families, follow First Sergeant Strax," she gestured to a man below her waving his arm. "He will be the military official in charge of your processing. That means his job is to keep you safe," at this the sergeant gave a thumbs up to the crowd, "Follow his orders, and that of his civilian counterpart, and we will have you off this rock safely as quickly as possible. Sergeant?" With that, the Sergeant led a veritable swarm of mixed aliens deeper into the imperial controlled sector, towards where a number of Sentinel-class shuttles, the larger cousin of the Lambda-class, were waiting to serve as processing bays and makeshift operating theaters. Farst let out a quiet sigh, it was going to be a long day, and a long few months.
Day 23 of Operation OUTWARD REACH, orbit over of Ith'nar
As the 'night' shift ended aboard ISD Chimera, Thrawn stepped calmly out of the turbolift. "Report, Commodore Faro." It was not a request. Karyn Faro sighed, sometimes moments like this reminded her of when things were simple, back when she was just a Lieutenant Commander of the Imperial Navy and not the second highest ranking individual in a new Imperial Government.
"Sir, the occupation of the colony is progressing much as you predicted. The majority of the city is secure, with the predicted minor terrorist attacks. 97% of the documented permanent free batarian population of the colony has been accounted for. We expect the last holdouts to be captured or eliminated within the month. Processing of the freed slaves is actually ahead of schedule. Our ground personnel have reached processing rates as high as seven hundred individuals an hour. The present bottleneck is a lack of available medical facilities in which to carry out the treatments. Finally, we have a 63% retention rate among the ex-slaves so far, which is half a percent lower than your prediction, but well within your estimated two percent error."
"Very well commodore, and of the space operation?" Her description had been as Thrawn had expected, the old human saying that no plan survives first contact with the enemy didn't generally apply to him. Her response was also more or less what he expected, "nothing new since your last shift sir. The two slave ships and three pirate ships that had already been captured arriving via the relay have been processed and deposited in orbit." Faro could see on his face that, even if nothing she said was a surprise, it still pleased him.
"You have done an excellent job Commodore Faro, get some rest. Before you return for your next shift, deposit on my desk a list of resources you believe necessary for the continued occupation of the colony below us, as well as for the return of those who wish to leave imperial space. That will be all, commodore." She looked at him with uncertainty, and he could tell she had a question. "Speak commodore."
"Sir, what will we do with all the captured slavers?" It was a valid question as, despite Palpetine's use of slave labor, slavery was generally quite reviled throughout the empire. The average human within the empire may resent the xenos of their home galaxy for their involvement in the killing of the Clone Wars, but even that resentment didn't boil away their civilized sensibilities that made the prospect unacceptable.
Thrawn paused for a second as he took in the staff of the Chimera's bridge. They did their best to hide their curiosity, but he saw straight through their poor acting.
"It's quite a simple analysis Commodore, as it stands, we have few viable options. Our first possible choice is to deliver them from our space to the wider galaxy, but that simply wouldn't do. If we were to do so, they would return to their own masters in their homeland and attempt to warn them or seek revenge. Not only that, but it is also failing to punish them for their crime against all civilized beings. Therefore, we can reasonably conclude that isn't a reasonable choice."
Thrawn paused again and turned his back to the Commodore, staring out the transparisteel windows of the bridge. He stood relaxed, back slightly slumped as if relaxing after tense weeks commanding the invasion and occupation. After a moment of literally staring into space, he focused on the once bustling slave processing colony below. "Our second possible choice is to imprison them in a conventional prison. This is the conventional option, but it is also easily the worst option we have. That may come as a surprise to you, but consider, do we truly have the resources to care for forty-thousand prisoners who have no ties to my empire, beyond the crimes they committed against our new citizens? The soldiers to guard a prison? The food to feed them? All wasted resources in service of containing those we have no need to keep if we were to simply contain them. This therefore, we must also conclude is not a reasonable choice."
Thrawn subtly stiffened as he considered the third option he had already discarded as a possibility. "The third possible option is to execute them all. Execute all forty-thousand prisoners. It would be simple, it would be efficient. All we would need to do is leave them on a worthless rock and blast them from orbit, or place them inside a ship's hold and vent it as soon as it reached space. It would also be a waste of resources. Right now, do you know what, without competition, is the most valuable and rare resource within the entirety of Imperial Space?"
Thrawn turned again to face the Commodore, a look of understanding dawned on her face. "Manpower, sir?"
Thrawn nodded, "Manpower indeed. And the second, without any competition for that title is factory production capacity. Every piece of production we retool to mining droids is fewer TIE Defenders, fewer replacement parts for our star ships, and fewer essential supplies to maintain our civilisation. We finally have some of an answer to the first problem, all our new freedmen refugee citizens. They will build the buildings, start businesses, and create a society beyond a few thousand displaced Imperial factory workers which will give our fleet something to which to return."
"But they do not solve our limited production capacity," Thrawn continued. "Right now, we desperately need Starfighters, infantry shields and equipment. Instead, we are wasting our production capacity and incredibly limited resources on droids being used in the mines. Worse still, due to the limitations of our present infrastructure, we are forced to use droids who serve as little more than unskilled humanoid labor. The solution for that will be penal labor as a capital punishment, and it just so happens that we have a wealth of offenders caught engaging in the capital offense of slaving. Is it not a poetic irony that those who engaged in the slave trade will soon be employed in similar positions to those they would have otherwise forced our new citizens?"
"So all the Batarians will become slaves then sir?" Faro trusted Thrawn, frankly more than she trusted herself, but she still needed some convincing.
"Not quite so, commodore. The slavers will indeed serve in a slave-like role as penal laborers, but there are two key points you are missing. The first is that it will be exclusively the slavers. I know you have been reading the reports, which means you should be well aware that the Batarians engage in the enslavement of their own kind. We have witnessed this first hand, and Batarians are amongst those who have been liberated from the slave pens. Those individuals will be given the same choices as the rest of those we have liberated." Thrawn thought carefully about how best to explain the next part.
"The second misunderstanding is that the penal labor these slavers will be employed in will be more akin to indentured labor. The slavers will work in service to the empire, and slowly work off the debt they owe to those who they harmed through their labors. Once they have completed the term of their labor, they will be given the opportunity to learn how to be functional members of society and allowed to join, or they will be released to the wider galaxy to live their lives. Through their labors, they will enable the jumpstarting of our civilization, and eliminate the need for future laborers of their type by the time we complete our next expansion. They will fuel our factories and shipyards, enabling the construction of our infrastructure to sufficient levels that specialized mining droid facilities can handle future mining operations."
Commodore Faro nodded, "And of future slavers? Those who attempt attacks on our people or those who are caught in future expansions? Others tried and found guilty of capital offenses? What will we do with them, or even petty criminals?"
"Those slavers caught by the military, either attacking our people or in expansions, will be handled by the military. A quick and efficient military execution, for any other handling at that point in time would be a waste of resources. For criminals arising from within our own people, the people will be given a say. Until civilization is truly established, those who commit crimes shall be tried and held in the brig of the Imperial Garrison of New Lothal. What the people may decide in the future, I can not say. We are creating something entirely new, neither of this galaxy or the old galaxy we called home. Does that satisfy your questions, commodore, or do you have more to ask me?"
Commodore shook her head to indicate she had no further questions, remarked a quick "sir," and joined the rest of the recently replaced night crew trickling off the bridge. Many crew members had stuck around to witness the exchange, and found themselves satisfied with the conclusion.
Thrawn reviewed the updated casualty reports from the surface. The fact that he was yet to lose even a single Imperial life, to hostile action or otherwise, was a testament to his own, and that of his ground commanders', leadership abilities. They had lost several TIE fighters to hostile ground fire, though the pilots had successfully returned to Imperial territory, all of the TIEs had been deemed complete losses and scrapped for parts. Even in this new galaxy, the classic TIE fighters continued to showcase their lack of staying power. There had been scattered damage to his walkers and other armored vehicles, but nothing their armor couldn't handle. The important part of the reports was that it highlighted how he would need to alter his ground forces to be better equipped to fight, and protect imperial lives, in this new galaxy.
Hey, sorry it took so long to post this chapter, it has been sitting finished while I grapple with writer's block over the following chapter (as well as general life). Hopefully, this longer chapter makes up for the long wait. Hope you all enjoy, thank you for your patience and interest!