Chapter 3: "Today our Empire will prove itself utterly triumphant."

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The lander's wings drew themselves up as the shuttle's thrust increased. Pina heard the stormtrooper commander issue orders and the subsequent clank of hard armour as their blasters were readied. His arm tensed as the lander gave a short buck and the floor angled downward into drop position.

Daylight entered the interior as the ramp fell open. The ground sped below.

Pina prepared himself for the sudden deceleration. He watched as the first stormtrooper started to move down the ramp. At this speed and height that took courage.

The deceleration hit. The ground slowed to pass at a fast walking pace. It was only two metres below when the first trooper stepped off the ramp at a fast run, his blaster held upright.

On his heels, the others followed, spreading out quickly.

"Our turn Captain!"

Admiral Karion ran forward, his blaster drawn. He hit the ground and carried on.

Pina knew he couldn't delay. The landing craft would speed up in the next few seconds and any drop from the ramp would be fatal at such velocity.

The Captain wouldn't dare to be left on board either. That would be humiliating. His rank wouldn't be worth a Bantha's hide. What was it they said? You have to be as fast as a Corellian hound to get it right!

With a silent curse, Pina charged down the ramp after Admiral Karion's speeding figure.

The impact was jarring. He staggered, saw the lander rise and speed up, heard its thrusters roaring as it gained height. Pina kept on running. Behind him a second lander came in low a mere heartbeat after his moved away. A second wave of stormtroopers poured out, only yards behind him, their blasters ready. A TIE Fighter shrieked overhead, positioned to provide covering fire to the ground troops as they took up their posts.

Pina found the sensation exhilarating. He hadn't done a combat drop since his days at the academy.

The only thing that was missing from the last time he had done so was the simulated blaster fire from entrenched rebel positions.

For on the planet of Farsalt, there was no hostile reception.

Instead, there was a group of elderly men who waited nervously by the edge of the landing strip. Beyond them, the third of Pina's lander's had dropped off its squad of troopers. In seconds, the receiving dignitaries had been surrounded on their own planet.

It was a suitably strong point to start the negotiations.

Admiral Karion holstered his blaster and turned to the stormtrooper captain who waited at his side.

"Secure a landing area. Get the heavier supplies in. Defensive weapons first and then the Sentient Fences. Set up aerial countermeasures and a back up communicator to the Reaver."

"Yes sir."

The stormtrooper gestured to two of his men. One of them signalled to the three landing shuttles, now high up at a safe altitude. When a suitable landing area was ready they would come in and land in the secure zone to disembark their cargoes.

"Remind your men Captain," Karion added. "We are on a war footing in all senses."

"Yes sir," the stormtrooper answered.

Pina felt the admiral's attention turn to him, and then to the small group of ten figures who stood waiting. For the first time, Pina saw that there were two women amongst them.

"Well, Captain, let us see what Governor Mazier and King Garrand have to say about the management of their camps. And remember, Pina, today is a day that our Empire will prove itself utterly triumphant. Enjoy our victory. Revel in our power. Be confident."

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