The daring adventures of our loveably traumatized pilot heroes in Alphabet Squadron are continuing this month with the release of Shadow Fall, the second in Alexander Freed’s planned trilogy of tales giving us starfighter action in the early days of the New Republic. But our latest look inside the novel offers a moment of reflection, even in victory.
io9 is pleased to exclusively share another look inside Star Wars: Shadow Fall—An Alphabet Squadron Novel. Picking up where the original left off, General Hera Syndulla has tasked Yrica Quell and her ragtag crew of pilots (and their equally ragtag cast of starfighters) with their most vital mission yet: bringing down Yrica’s former elite Imperial Navy squadron, the sinister Shadow Wing.
Our new excerpt checks in with one Alphabet Squadron star, in particular, to see how that process is going—Wyl Lark, the humble pilot of the team’s A-Wing, as he recalls the squad’s latest skirmish on the planet Troithe, picking apart the world’s defenses as its Imperial governor makes a last stand, in the hope that seizing the world will lure Shadow Wing and its new leader (and Yrica’s old commander) Soran Keize out into the open.
Although Wyl is recording his memory of a victory for him and his friends, his thoughts can’t help but ponder his role in the lingering aftermath of the Galactic Civil War—and whether even victory can come without devastating costs to those left standing.
Check out the full piece further below, but if you’d rather listen than read, we also have it available in audiobook form, read by Carol Monda!
“The battle didn’t last ten minutes,” Wyl said. He stood in the Lodestar’s observation deck, staring out at the peeling red paint of the maintenance bay and clutching the recorder in one hand. His voice was low, though that was a needless precaution—no one was up and about in that part of the battleship so late. “The lurkers were heavily armed but their plating wasn’t any thicker than a walker’s. We owe the win to Chass and Nath, mostly.”
He described it as he remembered (and maybe, mostly, as it had occurred). Chass had broadcast a Snivvian rhythm-rhyme as she’d descended. Nath had struggled to pitch his Y-wing toward the ground without crashing. But they’d both launched guided bombs through gaps in the broken grating above the lake and annihilated the enemy below. Kairos had ignored Quell’s command to get clear, instead evacuating ground troops clinging to shattered streets or caught by waves of boiling water. “Kairos packed thirty soldiers aboard her ship,” he said, clasping the holorecorder between both hands. “People are scared of her—you don’t know much about her—but I’ve never met anyone who fought harder to keep her allies alive.
“When it was over, and I got clear of the spray, and looked around.” His voice was soft and calm. “There was water everywhere. Spilling from the tanks and the pipes, running down the buildings. Kicked up from the bomb blasts. Someone had broken the dams, and I could hear the water rushing out. It takes a lot of water to hear over an A-wing’s engines.
“We did a quick pass to check for other enemies, but we didn’t find any. We listened to the ground troops checking in, and Quell told us we’d done well—we’d kept casualties low, under the circumstances. Chass laughed and said: ‘If you sign up to be a ground-pounder you know what you’re in for. If you’re in the first wave something’s going to kill you.’ She didn’t mean it to be callous. We’ve all seen people get hurt.
“After we finished with the aerial pass I set down, just to see if we could lend a hand. Water had washed out whole floors of the big towers. One of them’s bound to collapse from the damage, and that’ll probably take down others. In a year the whole district will be ruins rising out of a lake.
“Nath set down, too, and we looked for anyone to rescue. I asked him, ‘Why are we doing this?’ and he knew what I meant. We were wading through thigh-high water, searching for missing troops.
“’We get the capital, we get Shadow Wing,’ he said.”
They would do it, too. Wyl didn’t know what would happen when Shadow Wing came, but he was confident they would take the capital. He’d seen enough of Troithe to realize that there was no defense Governor Hastemoor and the Imperial forces could erect that would stop the New Republic; all the enemy could do was delay the inevitable, to force the expenditure of lives for every meter gained.
Long ago, Wyl had been part of Riot Squadron. He and his colleagues had fought for the Rebel Alliance seen more losses than wins. They had wept together and danced after missions no one would ever remember. (Missions only Wyl was alive to remember.)
“We’re fighting a different war now,” he told the holorecorder, “and I’m feeling a little sick.”
In the early days after Wyl had left Home, he had often written to the elders of his birthplace, Cliff. He’d asked about the righteousness of killing and how to mourn his enemies without betraying his duty. He’d reaffirmed his commitment to fighting until the Emperor was defeated and Home was free. He’d been unable to receive answers, but it had been enough to quiet his mind.
Now he envisioned the recipient of his message—not an elder of Home, but a more nebulous figure—replying. He heard a voice smooth and low, backed by static and neither evidently male nor female. The voice was exactly as he had heard it months earlier, and it showed no sympathy for Wyl’s plight.
What do you think a soldier is for, Wyl Lark?
He found nothing else to say. Nothing more he wanted to confess, even knowing that the message would never leave his recorder. He squeezed a button with his thumb and erased the data, as he had every time he’d prepared to contact Blink, his friend and enemy. Blink, the anonymous pilot of the 204th Fighter Wing; Blink, who had killed Riot Squadron in the Oridol Cluster and helped save a planet at Pandem Nai.
Even in his imagination, the Shadow Wing pilot would offer no escape from the ocean of blood Wyl swam through. Blink wouldn’t listen; and the elders of Home would never understand.
Star Wars: Shadow Fall—An Alphabet Squadron Novel hits shelves June 23, 2020.
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