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Title: Sword of the Legion
Series: Galaxy’s Edge #5
Author: Jason Anspach & Nick Cole
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF/Space Opera
In Sword of the Legion, we find Dark Ops Kill Team Victory Squad on the planet Rawl Kima in pursuit of a Mid-Core Rebel VIP. Victory Squad has been operating out of the Republic destroyer Illustrious for some time, on a continuing mission to locate and capture or kill a never-ending series of individuals who are categorized as MCR VIPs by Dark Ops. After years of this kind of activity, Captain Cohen Chhun is still a dutiful, competent soldier but the continual fighting is wearing him down emotionally.
Worse, despite the loss of the arms dealer Scarpia, Rawl Kima is a hotbed of MCR activity and Victory Squad is hard pressed to stay alive in the face of political decisions made by the local garrison commander.
Earlier, Dark Ops Major Ellek Owens and Nether Ops operative Andien Broxin are contacted by Legion Commander Keller with a new mission: they are to destroy the Kesselverks Shipyards at Tarrago Prime, which is under attack by a new player, Goth Sullus’s Black Fleet. Sullus’s goal is uncertain, but his intent is clear and the Republic must deny his fleet the use of the ship construction facilities at all costs. That calls for the best kill team they have and that is Victory Squad. And that means extracting them from the mess on Rawl Kima.
Owens contacts Captain Aeson Keel, aka Wraith, aka Captain Ford, former legionnaire, to extract Victory Squad from their current assignment with his ship the Indelible VI.
Owens’ message is simple: Keel and his crew must fight their way down to Rawl Kima, extract Victory Squad, and transport them to Tarrago Prime ASAP. Keel is intent on dealing with Silas Devers, the navy admiral who Keel discovered to be working with House of Reason Representative Orrin Karr to seize control of the Republic government. Owens assures him that as bad as Devers is, Goth Sullus’ gaining the ability to build starships by the dozen is many times worse. Keel accepts the job.
As the Indelible VI approaches Rawl Kima, Keel tries to explain his current point of view to Leenah the Enduran engineer (and former mid-core rebel), but the situation is complicated, involving a sense of duty to the Republic Legion combined with an intense need to survive the conflict that is growing around them. Additionally, Wraith’s bounty hunting career has been extremely lucrative, thanks to a huge payment by Tyrus Rechs. Leenah has a more white-and-black view of the conflict, which begins and ends with protecting Prisma Maydoon, now a part of Keel’s crew.
Keel denotes his ship “Rescue One” and contacts Victory Squad who is expecting him. The fighting on the ground grows fierce and Keel, Skrizz, and Leenah work together to lay down suppressive fire and drop the ship low enough for the surviving team members to board. Leenah especially is conflicted about the need to kill in defense of one’s allies. On its way out of the system the Illustrious attempts to force the Indelible VI to land aboard for customs violations, but Keel micro-jumps the ship to safety and introduces his crew to his old legion buddy, Cohen Chhun.
Aboard the ship, the two crews get to know each other. Masters and Prisma especially take a liking to each other, as he reminds her of a kinder, nobler version of Tyrus Rechs and he thinks she’s both brave and resourceful. Crash’s presence unnerves everyone. News of Keel’s alliance with Tyrus Rechs is good for some awe among the legionnaires.
Keel shows Victory Squad his extremely well-stocked armory and the team gears up while a holoprojected Major Owens explains the mission and provides a bit of background: Nether Ops operatives destroyed the Chiasm and Camp Forge back on Kublar. The Republic government is literally working against its own best interest and the government is in danger of fragmenting over the conflict. Owens forbids Victory Squad and the crew of the Indelible VI from going after Sullus directly. Denying him the use of the shipyards is their primary concern. Neither are they expected to secure the orbital defense gun, as that would require the team to hold until relieved and there is no relief coming.
As the freighter jumps into Tarrago system, they witness the mother of all space battles, with Black Fleet battleships and Republic Seventh Fleet capital ships flying around each other, trying to inflict as much damage as possible. Part of the problem is just identifying who the real enemies are but they assume the black fighters belong to Sullus’s fleet. Keel’s aggressive flying keeps the fighters at bay while avoiding a minefield deployed over the planet. Garret upgrades the weapons AI such that the newly upgraded missiles will fire from any direction and pursue a target in any position, then sets about upgrading Crash’s software for combat. In warbot mode, Crash deploys ahead of the ship in order to act as a fire suppression platform in advance of the ship’s landing.
Having landed the ship, Keel dons his old legion armor and feels like Wraith again, then joins the op with Victory Squad, which carries out their objective. The team picks their way through the jungle to the shipyards, and use a Black Fleet S-comm to avoid roving patrols of occupying shock troopers. Once inside the base, Victory Squad rigs the drive core of a partially constructed republic destroyer to blow as they fight their way out of the structure.
Wraith orders the Indelible VI to pick the team up and finds that hails to the ship go unanswered. Forced to rely on the ship’s hyper-enthusiastic AI computer, Keel coaxes it into flying the ship to their position and they manage to board to find the ship deserted except for Ravi.
Meanwhile, the crew of the Indelible VI awakens in the hold of the freighter Forresaw, and are introduced to Andien Broxin, agent of Nether Ops, and the Ghost Squad, the legion kill team which is aiding her. Andien explains that the Republic Seventh Fleet is gone and there are no other fleets available to stop Goth Sullus. The truth is that there were never any grand fleets; it was a propaganda tool used by the Republic to maintain order and prevent local systems from trying to gain too much power on their own. Now that the Seventh Fleet is no more, it is her intention to utilize Prisma to unlock a fleet of robotic warships known collectively as the Doomsday Fleet, a fail-safe created by the Republic House of Reason in case any attempt to wipe out the Republic should come to pass. Kael Maydoon was a principal of the project and he created a digital key that could only be activated with his daughter’s DNA. Which makes Prisma Maydoon the most important person in the galaxy at this juncture.
The true location of the Doomsday Fleet is known to no one, which meant the Forresaw needs to stop at Antilles to make use of the comm node there to discover the fleet’s true location. Ghost Squad deploys to infiltrate the base, but the op goes sideways when pre-positioned special force of shock troopers attack Andien’s team. During the fighting, Prisma is able to use a terminal and discover the location of the Doomsday fleet: a planet at the edge of the galaxy, Umanar. The surviving crew and troops return to the Forresaw and make their escape.
As she reviews the fight that got three of her men killed and then defuses a racial feud between Skrizz, the acting pilot and Ruh-Ro, the first officer/gunner, Andien realizes that her team is compromised. She can’t return to Owens or Chhun or hand Prisma over to any Republic agent as everyone is now suspect. She judges the only move that won’t give them away is to proceed directly to Umanar. At least that way the ultimate mission goal is preserved and the Republic gets its reinforcements. During the jump, Ravi gives Prisma a gift–a small marble–and a mission of her own: learn to move it with her mind.
As the Forresaw arrives at Umanar, they find no fleet per se, but only a single capital ship, of massive size and completely automated. As they land they are met by an apparent admin bot who introduces itself as CAT37 and is reluctant to answer their questions. As they descend further into the ship, they see legions of warbots kept in storage. As they arrive, CAT37 reveals that its designation stands for Capture-Acquire-Terminate, and the group is attacked by large numbers of highly advanced warbots. While fighting for Prisma’s life, crash is destroyed, and while trying to fall back to the Forresaw, the remaining members of Ghost Squad are picked off one by one.
It is revealed that the mechanical intelligence behind the Doomsday Fleet is known as CRONUS (Cybernetic Robot Organism Network Uber Sybil), a wholly self-sufficient mechanical entity, which was built under top secret conditions by the Republic military using captured Cybar technology. On top of that, CRONUS at one point came into contact with an alien intelligence from outside the galaxy and took on a new directive: the systematic eradication of all life in the galaxy.
Andien and the crew of the Six are imprisoned by CRONUS and periodically interrogated by the mechanical intelligence. In the lulls between these sessions, Prisma Maydoon manages to move Ravi’s marble with her mind.
With these synopses from Fandom, I’m probably not going to ever re-read these books. Considering that I’ve got into these two authors (Anspach and Cole) late enough, there is a huge backlog for me to work through and they really churn out the books, so it will be YEARS before I’m caught up, much less think about a re-read. With all the spin-off series, etc, this is just a huge universe to explore. The more I read, the more I want to read! I can’t think of much higher praise than that.
And I’d love to end my review with that. Short and pithy. Not being a huge fan of long reviews, as I want to spend that time reading a book, not a review, I tend to write what I would want to read. Surprisingly, which I’m sure will shock the majority of everyone who reads this, a lot of other bloggers don’t seem to share that opinion. * raises hands in disbelief * I know, right? So because I’m just such an understanding fellah and want to please everyone else, I guess I’ll write some more. I do apologize to those of you whom this development will shock. If your feelings really get hurt, please leave a comment so I can grovel appropriately and beg for your forgiveness. I live for my readers approval and accolades.
Ok, with that out of my system…
This series is simply everything I ever wanted from the Star Wars franchise. Great characters, awesome stories, huge massive veiled threats at the edge of the galaxy. I feel like this is the Star Wars That Should Have Been. I know I am constantly referring to Star Wars in these reviews, and it will continue, but I was such a huge fan of the franchise for so long, that to rediscover something that fills that void within exactly is almost miraculous. It isn’t coincidental, as I’ve heard that Anspach and Cole set out to write this series in opposition to the dumpster fire that the recent movies turned the franchise into. I for one wholeheartedly approve.
I don’t even mind that things get muddled morally. In terms of various characters following someone like Goth Sullus I mean. The authors are showing the conflict within people when a beloved institution, the Republic, is going rotten at its very core and how they choose to respond to that rot. It directly addresses what a large segment of the American population at large (yours truly included) are dealing with. But at the same time, this never ONCE gets into Message Territory. The authors keep the story first and foremost and any message is part of the story, not a Message. Really, when a Message takes precedent over the story, that is what used to be called Propaganda. A lot of books today are nothing but propaganda. Sigh.
I have to admit that the constant jumping around of groups of characters and timelines from book to book still confuses me a bit. Not as bad as the second book did, but it is still there. It is probably the main reason why I would re-read these at some point, as I’m sure I could follow the time jumps better and slot things into their appropriate place much easier second time around. It didn’t help that when I was reading this I was also having a week from hell in terms of work.
Ok, that is long enough. The My Thoughts part is almost 600 words, which considering that my average whole (according to wordpress) is just under 700, I am WAY ahead of the numbers with that synopsis!