Designed as a standalone prose novel and also a dynamic crossover title with Marvel's Star Wars: TIE Fighter comic miniseries, Del Rey Books' Alphabet Squadron details the daring exploits of five New Republic pilots as they clash with the Empire's notorious Shadow Wing fliers — and SYFY WIRE has an exclusive chapter excerpt and chat with its award-winning author.
In Alphabet Squadron, we follow former Imperial pilot Yrica Quell and her bold, ragtag crew of crack space jockeys and their trusty starfighters comprising an A-wing, B-wing, X-wing, Y-wing, and U-wing. Their dangerous mission to track down a lethal force of the Empire's most savage dogfighting aces becomes a life-altering quest for good.
Freed's previous journeys to the galaxy far, far away include the novelization of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Battlefront: Twilight Company, and Star Wars: Purge.
"Alphabet Squadron is the story of five New Republic pilots who, following the battle of Endor and the death of Emperor Palpatine, are tasked with tracking down and neutralizing an elite Imperial TIE fighter unit known as Shadow Wing," Freed tells SYFY WIRE. "Operating under the authority of New Republic Intelligence and General Hera Syndulla, the pilots of Alphabet are forced to confront their own past traumas as they navigate an utterly changed galaxy where the strategic, cultural, and moral landscapes have all suddenly changed — and where the enemy, cornered and under threat, has every reason to turn vicious."
According to Freed, while Alphabet Squadron depicts the hunt for Shadow Wing mainly from the Republic perspective, Marvel's TIE Fighter series shows the inner workings of Shadow Wing from the perspective of one particular squadron within the unit prior to the events in Alphabet Squadron. They're complementary works that hopefully add up to more than the sum of their parts, with each existing as standalones.
In fact, the franchise's fathomless depth of material still feels fresh and exciting for Freed. "Alphabet Squadron is a deep dive into the post-Return of the Jedi period, which was exciting for me," he explains. "There are so many stories to be told about a society struggling to reconcile with its past, and those aren't tales I could've told in, say, a Galactic Civil War-era novel or video game."
Now, enjoy our exclusive chapter excerpt from the first book in Freed's thrilling new literary trilogy, Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron, then tell us if you'll join the rebel pack when they hunt down those pesky TIE Fighter enemies.
Wyl Lark and his companions are on the run from Shadow Wing. These elite TIE pilots are merciless, faceless hunters. Their prey tell them apart from one another by the battle damage they’ve sustained. Char, Tails Blink. But Wyl has never so much as heard their voices—until now.
Three hours in, with no news from the Dare and no movement from the Imperial cruiser-carrier, Wyl adjusted the frequency on his comm. Sata Neek was boasting about his romantic conquests again, but Wyl had heard it all before. He didn’t tune Sata Neek out; he merely began a new unencrypted broadcast, transmitting to the nameless star system where they drifted: “Hello?”
He stared into the darkness and the fog. He couldn’t see the Imperial cruiser-carrier, though every glimmer of dust resembled a distant TIE fighter.
“My name’s Wyl. Tell me the waiting’s not getting to you, too.”
Sata Neek had stopped talking. All of Riot Squadron had stopped talking. They were listening to him, and they didn’t interrupt or activate their jammers.
“We just spent the last hour telling stories,” Wyl said, “but we know each other pretty well and we could use a fresh voice or two.”
He squeezed his eyes shut; tried to imagine the TIE pilots in their flight suits, watching their own scanners and their oxygen gauges, listening to his voice.
“You missed the singing. I swear I don’t have any plan here—we all know we’re going to go back to fighting. But unless your ship’s about to start moving, what would it hurt to talk?”
“You’re an idiot, Wyl Lark.” It was Chass’s voice, followed by Skitcher’s laughter—all of it on the open channel.
Maybe, he thought. But I tried.
Another hour passed before a smooth, low voice punctuated by static said, “Wyl Lark?”
Wyl tuned out Chass and Sata Neek’s flirtations and startled upright in his harness. “I’m still here,” he said.
“A-wing or B-wing?” the voice asked.
“I clipped one of you a few days back—scraped up my canopy, almost broke it,” Wyl said. He was trembling, but he couldn’t help smiling. “Almost lost a cannon in the same fight.”
“I saw,” the voice said. “I’ve only got one cannon left myself.”
Blink, Wyl thought. He was talking to Blink. He didn’t quite restrain a laugh. “It’s really good to meet you.”
“Even under the circumstances?”
“Especially under the circumstances.”
Wyl had never talked to a TIE pilot before. He’d barely talked to any Imperial troops—they hadn’t prowled Polyneus like they had his friends’ worlds, and Riot Squadron hadn’t been given many chances to fraternize with its enemies.
So many of his friends were dead because of Blink and Blink’s friends.
“So,” Blink said. “You ever hear the myths around the Oridol Cluster?”
“I haven’t,” Wyl said. “Tell me everything.” He checked his scanner and set Riot’s channel to low volume.
Blink spoke slowly, shaping words with a craftsman’s lazy confidence. “The Tangrada-Nii people—that’s a culture, not a species—they said Oridol was the face of one of their gods, back in the days when gods were still something to be feared. Before we learned to kill planets on our own.”
Wyl couldn’t tell the pilot’s species—human, he assumed—or gender. He couldn’t picture a face beneath the Imperial flight mask.
“They were wrong, of course,” Blink went on, “but their descendants—called the Tagra-Tel—sent hundreds of ships into the cluster over the course of centuries. They still revered the cluster in their way. During these long journeys, they experienced strange hallucinations—the light of Oridol suns, scattered and refracted by cosmic dust, crept into the ships and into the optic nerves of the travelers. Into the eyes and into the brain.
“Sometimes the Tagra-Tel imagined the Oridol god speaking to them. Sometimes they heard the voices of their dead, or saw the dust coming to swallow them. But most often, they dreamed of their own hearts pumping blood and of blossoms bursting from tree branches.
“That’s how the Tagra-Tel came to conclude that the Oridol Cluster was alive. Not a god, but a vast, organic thing of dust and gas and energy, with a brain of starlight and crystal limbs. They would have said you and I are inside a life-form, and that all our battles are meaningless next to its vast antiquity.”
Wyl heard no joy in Blink’s voice. No wonder.
“It’s a beautiful myth,” Wyl said.
“You’re going to rot here, Wyl Lark.”
Wyl’s breath caught. Blink kept speaking. “The Oridol god passes judgment on those who enter, and you and your comrades have been tested. You’re going to be food in its guts, and if it bothers you to think your enemies don’t want to talk, you can believe this is the voice of the cluster speaking—”
The comm filled with static. Wyl turned dials with fumbling hands until the sound abruptly dissipated.
“Ten-second jammer burst. Figured I’d cut off the signal for you,” Rununja said. “No one worth talking to out there.”
Wyl found that he agreed. “Thanks,” he said.
“You all right?” Rununja asked.
“I’m fine. I really am.”
Blink didn’t speak again, but not long afterward, the enemy began broadcasting a series of Imperial marches and propaganda lectures. Wyl didn’t tune to the open channel again.
From the book STAR WARS: ALPHABET SQUADRON by Alexander Freed. Copyright ©2019 by Lucasfilm Ltd. Reprinted by arrangement with Del Rey Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.