Discussion in 'Literature' started by Ancient Whills, Aug 14, 2020.
I stand corrected!
Flare Squadron and Hail Squadron were in flight now, breaking to either side of Wyl and Wild Squadron. One TIE swept toward each of the New Republic squadrons, releasing a swift cannon volley that spattered against rocks or fizzled with distance. Flare and Hail’s TIEs turned to retreat after firing, but the last TIE stayed on course. Wyl could see it ahead of him, its central eye occluded by a passing asteroid.
What are you planning?
The TIE juked to one side. Wyl called out a warning to Denish Wraive, but the TIE’s next cannon burst wasn’t aimed at the elderly man’s fighter. Instead the bolts impacted the closest asteroid and shattered it. Wyl could see fragments, shrapnel, exploding toward him, exploding toward Wraive . . .
“Watch out!” he cried, leaning over the console as he gave his thrusters a burst, then pulled up to avoid smashing into another asteroid. Wraive was still alive — still on the scanner, at least — but the TIE had moved on beneath and past him, slipping between rocks for cover as New Republic fighters returned fire. “It’s baiting us!” he said. “Keep on course for the freighter and don’t engage unless necessary!”
But the TIE never moved to engage. Instead it continued cracking asteroids. It flickered in and out of scanner visibility as it activated jammers, and Wyl listened to the alarmed cries of his pilots interspersed with static. He prepared to turn back but saw with alarm that he’d outdistanced his comrades — the A-wing had pulled away when the first cloud of shrapnel had separated him from the slower fighters.
Had that been intentional? He couldn’t tell. It didn’t matter.
Wild Nine and Twelve had lost control evading the asteroids; they both went spiraling through the squadron, forcing the other fighters to scatter. The TIE had a clear path back to its freighter now, but Wyl was closer and the Deliverance had accelerated to frightening speed, plowing through the asteroid field and ignoring the rocks that dashed against its deflectors.
“They’re getting ready to jump.” It was Syndulla’s voice, almost growling from the comm. “They’re not responding to demands for surrender. If you can stop them—”
“I will pursue the TIE,” Kairos said. “Go after the freighter.”
Wyl didn’t know where the U-wing was and didn’t dare check. The asteroids were getting smaller — he was reaching the limit of the field — and he could see the freighter and its escorts in the distance, adjusting their course for a lightspeed jump.
He trusted Kairos. He trusted Syndulla. His gloved hand played across the console as he switched power from his shields to his thrusters. The A-wing sang a high-pitched metallic melody.
His cannons wouldn’t do any real damage to the freighter in the time he had left. He armed a concussion missile, pointed himself at the bright beads of the freighter’s thrusters, and ignored the chatter of the fighters behind him. Be a soldier, not a leader, he told himself. That’s what they need from you now.
“There is no violence in gravity. The empty sun consumes,” Chass said, then added: “Mess up their faces.”
He didn’t understand why she’d taken up prayer, or why she was quoting over the comm so much lately; but he’d take whatever help he could get.
His targeting computer unfolded. He was squeezing his firing trigger when another voice came through, garbled and nearly indecipherable:
“This is Lieutenant Quell of the 204th Imperial Fighter Wing. Withdraw immediately or be destroyed.”
He’d already loosed the weapon. He heard Chass swear and T5 squeal and silence from Nath and Kairos. General Syndulla had time to utter “Quell?” before the TIE activated its jammers again and Wyl was too startled to do anything but watch the exhaust trail of his missile; too startled to notice the exploding asteroid behind him until a granite chunk smashed through his depowered rear deflector and shoved his body into his harness, triggered a blaring alarm. One of his thrusters went out and he was spiraling. A thread of emerald crossed his canopy and he realized the TIE was shooting.
Yrica Quell was shooting at him.
He tried to wrestle the A-wing back on course, whispering soothing words as if to a spooked animal. His wings batted fist-sized chunks of rock, which initially flashed into dust upon contact with his shields; but as his deflectors failed, the rocks began to ring against his hull.
By the time he steadied himself the TIE had swept past. Its jammers were offline again, and he saw its scanner mark converge with that of the freighter; saw Flare and Hail approaching the freighter too late. He twisted his body to watch the Deliverance rain baleful green flame as the freighter and its escorts accelerated and distorted and burst into light, leaving behind only afterimages to suffer the Star Destroyer’s wrath.
“What the hell?” Chass asked, and she spoke what was in his heart.
What the hell? indeed.
“This is Colonel Soran Keize of the 204th Imperial Fighter Wing and the carrier Yadeez. In response to the Yomo Council’s treasonous actions—its defiance of Grand Admiral Sloane’s order to direct assets to the D’Aelgoth sector, its refusal to acknowledge the Empire’s rightful regent on Coruscant, and its alliance with the Shiortuun Syndicate, among others—we have been sent to bring retribution to your world.”
The speaker’s dark hair framed an angular, thin-lipped face, and his voice had the timbre of a coroner reciting an autopsy report. Hera Syndulla barely watched him. She’d seen the holorecording three times already, and what mattered was how the rest of the room reacted to its horrors.
Seated around the dark conference table were Wyl Lark, Kairos, Chass na Chadic, and Nath Tensent—the remaining members of what Caern Adan had called the New Republic Intelligence working group on the 204th Imperial Fighter Wing. Each was silent, face lit by the holo’s blue glow. Hera peered at them as if the intensity would allow her to penetrate their skulls—to understand why Wyl and Nath sat so far apart; why Chass na Chadic clenched her jaw so tight while staring blankly into space; why Kairos’s outstretched hand twitched, as if she were a blind woman tracing the contours of Keize’s face.
She didn’t doubt they were disturbed, but she needed to know whether they were ready.
The recording pronounced its final threat and the holo flashed out of existence. The lights of the Deliverance’s conference room rose. The pilots shifted and straightened, and Hera broke the silence. “That recording is now three days old,” she said. “It was repeating on a channel we accessed through that Imperial convoy we found—like someone left it as a warning. We haven’t received word on the status of Fedovoi End, but we can only assume Shadow Wing has come and gone.”
She went on, suppressing the outrage she felt and keeping her voice level. “At last count, Fedovoi End housed half a million troops and their families. It was primarily a military outpost, it’s true—but we haven’t seen slaughter of this sort since Operation Cinder.”
Nath grunted, as if none of it surprised him. Kairos flattened both hands a centimeter above the tabletop.
“The Empire is eating its own,” Chass said.
“Yes,” Hera agreed. “The loyalists have gone to war with the breakaway factions—civilians caught in the crossfire be damned.”
“Soran Keize,” Wyl said. “We’ve heard that name before.”
He wasn’t grieving. He was focused. Good, she thought. I know it’s hard.
“We have,” Hera began, but Nath raised a finger and she prompted him with a nod.
“Intelligence sent over the files about an hour ago,” Nath said. “Soran Keize, Colonel Shakara Nuress’s second-in-command. Ace pilot, been in the game close to twenty years, trained most of the Shadow Wing lifers. Last we’d heard he was Major Keize, but . . .”
“. . . but we also thought he was dead,” Wyl finished.
Nath grunted again. “That’s what Quell told us. Back at Pandem Nai he definitely wasn’t around—taking out Nuress really did leave the unit headless. What we didn’t know was that Adan had a lead suggesting Keize was alive and elsewhere.”
Suggesting Yrica Quell lied about her mentor, the same way she lied about participating in Operation Cinder. The thought came to Hera with a pang of frustration and resentment, along with the weight of grief. Whatever Yrica Quell’s failings—and they had been many—she had been Hera’s charge, and Quell’s involvement in the genocide of Nacronis had been revealed only hours before her death. Hera didn’t know what she’d have done if she’d been on the scene—whether she’d have embraced the woman, imprisoned her for her crimes, or both.
And if that’s what you’re thinking, imagine how the others feel.
“Adan knew?” Kairos asked, barely loud enough to hear.
“He had people looking into Quell’s background,” Nath said, “and they stumbled onto Keize. Apparently, he left Shadow Wing after Nacronis, around the same time Quell did. They traced him to a mud heap of a world called Vernid, I think. He’d changed his name, took up work on a dig-rig . . . we never figured out what he was up to. When Intelligence caught up with him, he killed a pair of agents and disappeared.”
Nath shifted his bulk, folding his arms across his chest. “We don’t know when he rejoined Shadow Wing, but Nasha Gravas and her people have been sifting through evidence from Troithe. Street cam footage, bio traces, anything from when Shadow Wing was grounded. Put it all together and it’s pretty clear Keize was in charge at least that far back.”
Chass arched her brow. “So we can blame Keize for everything that happened? Blowing up the Lodestar, shooting my ship?”
“Seems like,” Nath agreed.
“So we can also blame Adan for leaving us in the dark? About Keize? About Quell?” Chass’s eyes glinted. “Or maybe we just blame Quell for not mentioning that her mass-murdering boss was still around?”
“Chass—” Hera began. Scolding the woman would only make tempers flare, but she didn’t like the direction the briefing was headed.
Wyl cut in. “On Vernid, could he have deserted? Was Keize trying to go straight?”
Chass laughed. “He sure isn’t now.”
“Suppose it’s possible,” Nath said, “but I agree with Chass. Vernid was a while ago, and at the moment—” He waved a hand, as if to sum up the holo’s message.
The conversation dissolved into chaos. Nath leaned back in his seat and speculated about Keize’s connections to the main Imperial fleet. Chass sneered about Quell’s secrets and those of New Republic Intelligence. Wyl asked how Keize’s presence might change the 204th’s tactics even as he surreptitiously pulled up data on Fedovoi End and its population centers.
“It’s happening again,” Kairos said, and no one seemed to hear but Hera. Nath and Chass kept talking.
“It’s happening again,” Kairos repeated, this time in a hoarse shout.
The others fell silent.
Hera nodded slowly. “They’re killing worlds again. Yes.”
Wow -- Kairos said more in that preview than she did in the previous two books.
Considering that anyone who could be her voice are dead or gone, it's likely she has to start talking now.
Kairos continues to be best girl.
Pity we won't be getting anything on Jacen. Will the writers please give us something on the kid
The loyalists mercilessly taking out the warlords is likely going to only accelerate their defeat... nice play, Rax.
I'm dead. Alexander Freed has taken the heart of me and returned only ashes
I kinda want to read the x wing books now just for the whiplash of going from band of brothers to top gun
Aces duel, Wyl's continual compassion for his enemies, Operations Cinder, The GHOST! And the revelation of what the emperors messengers are all about
Wait the Ghost? Hera comes to fight! Jacen? Did Jacen get a mention? And any clues who is Alphabet Two at Exegol after this novel?
Eeeek time to abandon thread! See you on the other side. Of next week, I guess. That sounds awesome, but I'm not going in for the spoilers or I'll never forgive myself.
Spoil me please
Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Do the battle of Jakku or one of the ones at Naboo occur? No spoilers beyond this. I feel like we already know about those battles, but I don't want any of the character arcs or novel's conflict/revelations spoiled.
Jacen is constantly on Hera's mind as she thinks about his safety and that the galaxy she is fighting for is to make it safer for him. And Hera's fighting throughout the entire thing, just mostly on the bridge of a star destroyer. The ghost is more of a cameo.
And no clues, although it's a pretty safe bet it isn't any of the main cast. Their stories and their war seem pretty complete by the end.
You might not, but I most certainly do. A quick PM would suffice @Soontir-Fel
Third act spoilers
The final act is basically all about Jakku. The prep for it for both Shadow Wing and Hera's task force, the attack, and the aftermath. The majority of Alphabet Squadron is involved. There is also a mission to the Imperial City that is very much more about the personal scale of war. But basically all of the character arcs of the main characters find their climax above jakku
About the excerpt
Warlord factions in NUCanon seem relatively small compared to the big chunks in Legends. The loyalist seem either larger or Rax and Palpatine really made sure to keep things organized when the end came.
What Revelation...? Any deaths please, either major or minor?
Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
AWESOME! Jacen gets a mention for the first time EVER! Time to acknowledge he exists! THANK YOU, ALEX FREED
@Soontir-Fel, are there any strong Palpatine/Rise of Skywalker/Exegol/sequel trilogy connections?
My copy is in the post! Time to start this trilogy!
Any new ships at Jakku? Anything extra?
StarWars.com: Victory’s Price finishes off the story of Alphabet Squadron. While we saw them coming together in the first book, and starting to splinter again in the second, what unites the five pilots?
Alexander Freed: Ultimately, it’s the Alphabet pilots’ hard-earned, intimate understanding of one another that unites them. Yes, their shared mission to stop Shadow Wing is tremendously important, as are the experiences they’ve shared over the past two books…but each of the pilots has history and traumas that’ve shaped them in ways they aren’t always keen to admit, and over time they’ve come to reveal their truest selves to one another. Grudgingly, in some cases.
They all still have secrets, and they’re often misunderstood, but their colleagues know them better than anyone else in the galaxy. That’s a bond that’s tough to break. Especially between friends, but even among enemies.
StarWars.com: When the previous novel, Shadow Fall, ended, many of the characters were in very different places in their lives than when they started the trilogy. Who do you think changed the most?
Alexander Freed: That’s a tough question! The easy answer would be Quell, but while her changes might be the most dramatic I’m not certain they’re the biggest beneath the surface. Both Wyl and Nath would probably claim to be the least changed. Chass’ road may be the strangest and most winding, going one way and then zig-zagging around. Maybe the right answer is Kairos, for reasons that will be illustrated in Victory’s Price — yes, she’s talking, she’s showing her face, but those are only the outward manifestations of a deeper change she’s been through.
StarWars.com: The story of Alphabet Squadron is really one of an interconnected network of relationships. What is important to you about writing and understanding these different types of relationships?
Alexander Freed: A lot of it is being mindful of how each character perceives their relationships with the others, and how perception may be different than truth. Here’s an overly simplistic example, just to clarify: Wyl tends to assume the best of people — believing that whatever they’re doing, they usually believe it’s the right thing to do, even when they’re wrong or misguided. He values open and empathetic communication as a way to build bridges. Chass, meanwhile, tends to see people as dupes and pawns, guided by whatever they’ve been programmed to believe. She has an emotionally transactional view of the world — you help someone, they owe you; they hurt you, you hurt them back — and she might argue that creates a fairer, more just world than anything Wyl would concoct.
For all those reasons, Wyl and Chass perceive their relationship with one another very differently! They’re going to assume the other person is motivated by forces they aren’t, and attempt to help or hinder the other person for reasons that may not be valid. Often, this creates stumbling blocks and tragic misunderstandings. Sometimes it reveals important truths.
StarWars.com: Some of the biggest events in Shadow Fall for Yrica Quell are the loss of Caern Adan and IT-O and her re-establishing contact with her old mentor, Soran Keize, now in command of Shadow Wing. How have both of these shaped who she has become by Victory’s Price?
Alexander Freed: Quell spent Alphabet Squadron in denial about herself and her past with Soran, trying to run from who she was in the Empire. In Shadow Fall, she was forced to confront her past — at several points and in several ways, but most profoundly in her journey with Adan and IT-O. Now there’s no more running. She’s accepted the truth of what she’s done. The question is: What are the implications of that, and what is she going to do about it?
StarWars.com: The friendship between the former pirate Nath Tensent and fresh squadron leader Wyl Lark got tested during the battle on Troithe in Shadow Fall — where are they now in their relationship?
Alexander Freed: Things are awkward! Wyl and Nath both have too much affection for the other to be truly at odds, but they’ve reached a point where their differences make a continuing friendship challenging. At the start of Victory’s Price, they’re both aware of this in their own way, but neither has a plan to deal with it.
As with everything in the series, it’s complicated, but the essence is this: Not wanting to see his friend Wyl burdened with the guilt of a bad decision, Nath thwarted Wyl’s good-hearted – -but somewhat reckless — plan to avoid bloodshed on the eve of battle.
Both Nath and Wyl had good reasons for what they did, and Nath acted in what he saw as Wyl’s best interests. But how does a relationship recover from that? Wyl can’t be too bitter toward Nath, but how can he maintain a friendship with the man knowing the situation may reoccur?
StarWars.com: When you write starfighter battles with Alphabet Squadron, you often balance the pilot communications with how challenging combat is — how hard it is to do a bombing run, or to provide cover for a slower ship, or fly with a ship shot to hell. How do you approach writing these battles, and what extra challenges do you throw at your pilots on both sides?
Alexander Freed: For me, the most important thing is figuring out the emotional core of the fight — what is it about, what are the characters feeling (physically as well as mentally), and what do they need to go through to get to where they need to be for the story to work. But I also spend a lot of time trying to figure out interesting tactics, new scenarios (one-on-one duels, technical problems, new varieties of opponents), and so forth — a battle scene without a heart is pointless, but a battle scene that doesn’t have something interesting going on deservedly loses a reader’s attention.
Victory’s Price has a couple of fun “set piece” battles that came out of knowing what I wanted to accomplish and working out from there: “What’s the most flamboyant, Star Wars-y way to make this happen, ideally with a good number of explosions?”
StarWars.com: Chass na Chadic carries a lot of weight on her shoulders, continually surviving as her comrades have died. Alone on Troithe, she found a connection with a cult, the Children of the Empty Sun. How has this experience changed Chass and how she relates to the rest of her squadron?
Alexander Freed: For ages, Chass was determined to become a martyr; now it’s looking more and more like she’s going to survive the war, and that puts her in a difficult position — she has to imagine a future for herself, and that’s not something she can easily see. It’s also not a problem she imagines the rest of the squadron facing. Her experience with the cult offers one potential solution, but it could well alienate her from her comrades…thus, separating her from one of the few forces tending to her mental health.
StarWars.com: The most enigmatic member of Alphabet Squadron is Kairos, the U-wing pilot. She was badly injured in the previous book but she’s back now. What keeps her going through this part of her life?
Alexander Freed: Other than sheer stubbornness? IT-O and Caern Adan were Kairos’s closest companions, so their loss hits as hard as her injuries. She’s not one to give up, but she needs to figure out what’s next for her. Saying anything more would be giving away too much!
StarWars.com: What is it like to write Hera Syndulla as she is in the post-Endor timeframe, no longer with her crew of the Ghost, but as a general of the New Republic, and in charge of large capital ships and complex operations?
Alexander Freed: Hera, in some ways, epitomizes the spirit of Star Wars — a good-hearted woman of high spirits thrust into adventure, terrible trials, and eventual leadership. She’s more than risen to her task as a general, and we see more of her than ever in Victory’s Price, conferring with the New Republic’s military council and seeking to bring an end to a very long war. But her personal commitment to stopping Shadow Wing has grown steadily over the novels. Once it was one of many vital operations she was overseeing, while now it’s her primary focus. She’s seen what Shadow Wing can do. In Shadow Fall, she saw what Shadow Wing did when she split her attention. She’s not going to let that happen again.
StarWars.com: Soran Keize sees his Imperial service as more than loyalty to the Empire. While he’s willing to commit atrocities like Operation Cinder, what really drives him in leading the 204th Imperial Fighter Wing?
Alexander Freed: That’s an excellent question. If you asked him, he’d say loyalty to his comrades. That while he may believe in some of the values of the Empire, everything he’s done since Endor and his sojourn as Devon has been to support and protect the people who fought for and alongside him.
If you asked him, he’d say that. He’d even believe it. But is it true?
StarWars.com: In Star Wars, there is a spectrum for characters from total heroes to complete villains with some folk in that gray area in the middle. Where do characters like Yrica Quell and the rest of Alphabet Squadron fit in that scale? Do they slide around a lot as circumstances dictate?
Alexander Freed: One of the things I enjoy about working in the Star Wars galaxy is the clearly defined moral “poles.” Luke Skywalker is a Good Man. Not a perfect one, maybe, but Good and attuned to the Force. Emperor Palpatine is an Evil Man, and he controls the dark side of the Force. In short, you can point to things within the setting and go, “That’s evil!” with confidence.
But most of the galaxy isn’t at the poles. They don’t know that Luke is Good and Palpatine is Evil. Quell lives in a universe governed by forces — no pun intended — she doesn’t truly understand, and that’s true of most of the squadron. It’s a lot easier for the reader to judge their actions than for the characters themselves.