In This Star Wars: Victory’s Price Excerpt, the Empire Strikes Back… At Itself

In This Star Wars: Victory’s Price Excerpt, the Empire Strikes Back… At Itself
What's left of Alphabet Squadron faces an unenviable task in Victory's Price. (Image: Jeff Langevin/Del Rey)

Alexander Freed’s Alphabet Squadron trilogy has given us a window into the complex political landscape left behind after Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, through the lens of damaged fighter pilot veterans of the galactic civil war. Now things are coming to a head in its last chapter, and the Imperial Remnant is making a major move…but not against our heroes.

Victory’s Price picks up on the shocking conclusion of Shadow Fall, which saw Imperial defector and Alphabet Squadron leader Yrica Quell make the harrowing decision to return to the Empire’s fold, rejoining the sinister 204th fighter unit Shadow Wing — which she had spent months and months helping the New Republic track down. While her squadmates are still reeling from her seeming betrayal, they’ve got other problems to deal with, as Gizmodo’s exclusive new excerpt from the novel below reveals!

Turns out what’s left of Alphabet Squadron — and General Hera Syndulla’s New Republic forces — have uncovered Shadow Wing leader Soran Keize’s newest plans aren’t just about hitting the fledgling Republic…and have dire ramifications for anyone caught in the crossfire. Check out what else Alphabet Squadron learns about the Empire’s plans in our full excerpt below. Or, if you’re so inclined, you can hear it in an excerpt from the Victory’s Price audiobook, narrated by January LaVoy!

“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.

Image: Jeff Langevin/Del Rey Image: Jeff Langevin/Del Rey

“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 centres.

“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.”

Star Wars: Victory’s Price, the final chapter of the Alphabet Squadron trilogy, releases on March 2.