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"I had the time of my life on this one, I have to say. I'm doing the final edits now, and I've tried to make it into exactly the kind of book you'd want to read if you were a child of the 70s who grew up with the original Star Wars trilogy and really digs horror in the vein of The Shining and Alien, with a little dose of William Gibson mixed in."
―Joe Schreiber[src]

Death Troopers is a novel by Joe Schreiber that was released on October 13, 2009.[2] It takes place about a year before A New Hope. The paperback was released on October 26, 2010.

A prequel, Red Harvest, was released on December 28, 2010.

Publisher's summary[]

Back cover[]

No fate could be more terrifying than being trapped inside deep space.

Unless there's something unknown out there with you.

Internal flap[]

When the Imperial prison barge Purge—temporary home to five hundred of the galaxy's most ruthless killers, rebels, scoundrels and thieves—breaks down in a distant, uninhabited part of space, its only hope seems to lie with a Star Destroyer found drifting, derelict, and seemingly abandoned. But when a boarding party is sent to scavenge for parts, only half of them come back—bringing with them a horrific disease so lethal that within hours, nearly all aboard the Purge will die in ways too hideous to imagine.

And death is only the beginning.

The Purge's half-dozen survivors—two teenage brothers, a sadistic captain of the guards, a couple of rogue smugglers and the chief medical officer, the lone woman on board—will do whatever it takes to stay alive. But nothing can prepare them for what lies waiting on board the Star Destroyer amid its vast creaking emptiness that isn't really empty at all. For the dead are rising, soulless, unstoppable, and unspeakably hungry.

Plot summary[]


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Aboard the Imperial prison barge Purge, Trig Longo and his older brother Kale Longo had just watched their father die at the hands of Jareth Sartoris. Their father sold weapons to inmates. After their father's death, the Longo boys attempt to make a sale with Delphanian Face Gang leader Aur Myss, who had killed their previous contact and was planning to kill the Longo boys. Predicting this, Kale tried to strike a deal with the Delphanian by giving him the weapons free of charge. Myss would not have this as he had promised his goons that they could kill the boys. Kale reacts by ripping the piercings out of Myss' face, and the Longo boys run back into their cell for safety from the prison gang.

Jareth Sartoris, captain of the guard on the barge, is called into the warden's office. Warden Bissley Kloth explains to Sartoris that the Purge's engines are breaking down but that a derelict Star Destroyer is in the vicinity. Sartoris questions why the Empire would leave a Star Destroyer in the middle of space, but Kloth nonetheless orders Sartoris to retrieve spare parts from the Star Destroyer to fix the barge's engines. The warden criticizes Sartoris's interrogation techniques because his subjects keep dying, like Von Longo. Sartoris recommends that he cancels his duty on the Purge and then leaves to board the Star Destroyer.

Zahara Cody is the Chief Medical Officer on the prison barge, aided by her 2-1B surgical droid, Waste. She is an outcast among the Imperial Personnel due to her daily interactions with inmates. She has attachments to some inmates and would rather be around them than the Empire. After seeing Sartoris kill Von Longo, Zahara handed in her resignation and planned to leave the Empire for good at the barge's next stop. She also had a connection to the Longo boys since she carried out their father's last request to bring them to him.

Sartoris takes ten men aboard the Vector. They split up so Sartoris and his men can find the parts while the other group finds the medical bay. In the medical bay, the men find lungs in tubes, breathing in unison, and the men realize they are not alone and are unable to escape. Sartoris's group get back to the lift to return to the Purge. With one guard coughing violently and an engineer vomiting, the group rushes to the barge's medical bay. All of the guards are now coughing and vomiting, and then inmates and other guards begin coughing and vomiting. Soon the entire medical bay is full. Sartoris, however, is unaffected by the new virus.

In the medical bay, Zahara works to deal with the illnesses. Waste concludes that the virus only activates after there are enough infected cells that the body cannot defend against. Zahara realizes that their containment measures are useless and rips her isolation suit off. Knowing that everyone is going to die, she tries to make everyone comfortable before they succumb to their fate. Waste notes that Zahara has yet to be sick and that she must be immune. Using her blood, they attempt to create an anti-virus to stop the sickness. But at this point, it is almost too late.

The Longo boys are stuck in their cell watching everyone die around them. As the noises subside, they begin screaming to be let out. The cell doors open, and they walk out, forgetting Myss is in the next cell. Myss attacks Kale and is about to kill him when Trig jumps on his back and tries choking him. Myss flips Trig off of him and is about to kill Trig when a blade comes through Myss' mouth. Kale states that he was attacked with it and they both get up and run out of the cell block. When they reach the end, they realize that their friend, Wembley, let them out but died shortly after. They start running for the escape pods. In the next cell block, they see a young Wookiee in a cell with his dead family around him. Trig insists they help the young one and unlocks the doors. They try to get the youngster to go with them but the little one stays with his family and holds them. The boys leave and when they reach the end of this cell block, they hear the young Wookiee screaming and a noise that sounds like something is eating it.

Sartoris finds that he too is immune and goes to the warden's office. He picks up two E-11 blaster rifles and kills anyone who seems infected near him. At the wardens office, Sartoris discovers that the warden is infected. Sartoris demands the launch codes for the escape pods. The warden gives them up and asks Sartoris if he wants to know what he scored on the psychological exam. Sartoris says "I think we both know the answer to that question" and pulls both triggers on the blasters, disintegrating the warden's head.

Zahara decides to get her newly created anti-virus to anyone alive on the barge. At the bridge, she initiates a bioscan to find that there are six people alive, with two in solitary. She reluctantly goes down to solitary, tripping over bodies on the way. She finds and pockets a note that a guard was going to give to his wife. She reaches the first solitary door, blaster in hand, but finds no one there. As soon as she opens the next door, a huge Wookiee comes out screaming, ready to attack, but she calms him down. Zahara unlocks the next door and a man comes out and introduces himself as Han Solo and the Wookiee as Chewbacca. The two are initially defiant against taking the anti-virus, until they see the bodies around the corner. Han takes it first then Chewbacca. Chewbacca did not receive it in time and starts showing symptoms: screaming, delirium, and a swollen throat. He begins to pass out, but Zahara saves him by emptying the blisters starting around his neck with a syringe. The swelling subsides, and Chewbacca returns to normal. As they return to the medical bay, they discover the bodies Zahara had stumbled over before are missing. They find the medical bay now completely empty with Waste on the ground in critical condition. Zahara asks about the bodies, and Waste replies that they came back and ate. Waste deactivates, and Zahara turns around to discover that Han and Chewie are gone.

Kale and Trig get to the escape pod and are trying to figure out how to work it when Sartoris appears. He tells them both to get out, he gets in, activates the launch codes, and launches away. Kale quickly realizes that there is another escape pod opposite of the position they are in. They start running that way because they feel the thing that was eating the baby Wookiee is following them. At the other escape pod, they run into Han and Chewie. The boys hold their blasters at them, but Han and Chewie disarm them. Zahara then arrives and tells them that they are all getting out together. They realize the escape pod's hatch has been sealed by security measures. Han, Chewie, and Zahara go to the bridge to disable it, while Kale and Trig stay at the escape pod. The Longo brothers hear something outside and Kale leaves to investigate. Trig hears something moving inside the escape pod, scratching at the door. Despite his pleas, Zahara opens the pod.

When Kale comes back, he sees his brother is gone and the escape pod is opened. He frantically searches for him, ultimately finding him in a maintenance tunnel scratched up and scared. Kale hears things moving toward him through the tunnel. Kale picks up Trig and runs to the bridge.

Zahara opens the escape pod but doesn't hear anything back on the comlink. Soon after, the bridge's computer says that there are more life-forms since the last bioscan. They look at the map the computer brings up and realize all the life-forms are headed for the bridge. Soon after, Kale bursts through with Trig in his arms and yells at them to run. They run to the turbolift, which leads to the Star Destroyer, and activate it. Trig comes to and sees his father. Trig runs for his dad, and Kale pulls him back, but their dad gets Kale and bites him on the leg.

Kale awakes in the Star Destroyer's hangar bay. Kale realizes he has been bit, and blood starts spurting from the wound when he stands up. Zahara says that she and Kale would stay there while Han, Chewie, and Trig go to the bridge to start the engines. Struggling with having just seen his dead father bite his brother, Trig reluctantly leaves with Han and Chewie.

As Han, Chewie, and Trig walk along a corridor, the ceiling explodes and zombies pour out. The group runs away from the horde and ends up running in circles. Back at the turbolift, Kale tells Zahara to cut his leg off. She notices that his leg is turning grey and soon after realizes it has moved into his abdomen. Zahara cuts into his stomach and pulls out a big infection cell, which is still moving and trying to find an opening. Zahara disposes of it and cleans up Kale's wounds.

Han, Chewie, and Trig arrive at the top of the main Turbine with a small catwalk to cross. Trig decides to stay behind while Han and Chewie press forward. Trig thinks he sees Kale run into a door and runs after him, while Han and Chewie find a baby Wookiee crying in the corner. Chewie insists that they open the door, where they find three Wookiees eating human remains. The Wookiees turn around and run toward Han and Chewie, and Han instinctively starts blasting them. The baby Wookiee jumps on Han's back and starts clawing at him when Chewie blasts the young one's head open. After a moment of silence, they go back and try to fix the engines.

Zahara and Kale realize that zombies are coming up the turbolift. She grabs Kale under the arms and drags him across the hangar. The zombies start coming out of the turbolift, equipped with blasters. They start shooting at them with wild and inaccurate shots. Adrenaline pumping, Zahara ignores Kale's screams to drop him and keeps dragging him. She notices that the zombie's shots are getting better, and a blaster bolt hits Kale in the side of the face. Zahara leaves him after that and goes into the medical bay, where she is attacked by a zombie. She sticks anti-virus syringes in its head, and it briefly starts to act human again and scratches out "Blackwing" in the ground. The cure doesn't last long, and it attacks Zahara again. She is saved by another 2-1B surgical droid that reminds her of Waste. The droid leads her to a console that will tell her whats happening. She continues to call the droid Waste and thanks him. Leaving the droid confused, she leaves to go to the console.

Sartoris awakes inside the escape pod. He realizes that the Star Destroyer's tractor beam had sucked in the escape pod. Hearing blaster fire, he jumps outside and finds zombies all around him. He enters an abandoned X-wing and fires. The ship skids across the hangar floor and crashes into an Imperial shuttle. He climbs into the shuttle and finds four men. One of the men, Commander Gorrister, explains that the outbreak resulted from a weapon that the Empire created and that the zombies can learn: what works, what doesn't, and how to make it work. All the men keep licking their lips. Gorrister explains that they have been stuck in the shuttle for ten weeks, starting out with 30 men and now down to 6. As two men grab Sartoris, Gorrister explains that they did what they did to survive, implying cannibalism. A blast hits the shuttle, and Sartoris breaks free. He realizes the zombies learned from what he did and were getting into scattered ships in the hangar. Sartoris starts throwing the men into a crowd of zombies, but grants the last man, White, mercy and learns from him that the tractor beam is keeping the shuttle from leaving. Sartoris runs through the zombies to disable the tractor beam. He reaches the other side of the hangar and finds a lifter but also discovers that he has been bitten.

Using the password "Blackwing" to access the records, Zahara also finds out that the zombie virus is a weapon and goes to disable the tractor beam, finding it is already disabled. She gets boxed in on the bridge by zombies on the other side of the door.

Trig followed who he thought was Kale into a room with a mountain of bodies. A zombie comes through the mountain and chases him up the pile of bodies into a ventilation duct that leads to where Han and Chewie had crossed. The zombie catches up to him and Trig realizes it is Kale. Kale starts to climb over a stunned Trig to bite him when Trig pushes Kale down the shaft and into the turbine room. He sees Han, who tells Trig to climb down to the catwalk. Meanwhile, the zombies at the bottom are shooting up at them more and more accurately. Trig tries to climb but falls into the lifter that Sartoris was piloting. Sartoris flies around to get Han and Chewie. The overloaded lifer slowly descends into the crowd of zombies. In a moment of redemption, Sartoris gives Trig the controls and says "Your father was a good man. Unlike me" then jumps over the edge into the zombies. The group flies to the bridge to get Zahara but find the bridge on fire and only a hand and assume her to have been killed.

They get to the shuttle, where they find White dead inside. Han and Chewie fly the shuttle out of the hangar. They hear a noise and find a zombie inside the shuttle with them. The zombie kills the two men that were originally in the shuttle and is staring at Han. Just before it attacks, a blaster bolt from the back of the shuttle kills the zombie. Zahara steps out and explains that since the zombies are away from the source of the infection, the zombies die more easily. She explains that the hand they saw on the bridge was White's. He came to save her and while he did he said "A stranger saved me too." referring to Sartoris.

The crew fly off and reach a cantina. Han and Chewie leave to get the Millennium Falcon back. Zahara and Trig meet the wife of the guard who died on the barge to deliver the note Zahara had found on his body. The wife begins to cry and asks them to come in for tea. Zahara and Trig ultimately settle on the planet.



Cover gallery[]


By type
Characters Creatures Droid models Events Locations
Organizations and titles Sentient species Vehicles and vessels Weapons and technology Miscellanea


Dramatis personae

Other characters


Droid models



Organizations and titles

Sentient species

Vehicles and vessels

Weapons and technology


Behind the scenes[]

In September 2009, the tie-in Death Troopers: Recovered Messages from Purge was released over various Star Wars fan sites. In October 2009, Star Wars Galaxies released an update in which players could interact with the Death Troopers story:[5]

The novel was developed in conjunction with the "Game Update 14" of the video game Star Wars Galaxies that featured the Blackwing virus outbreak on Dathomir.[6]

In 2012, Gentle Giant released a Death Troopers mini-bust and a 1/6 scale statue.[7][8]

In 2014, Death Troopers were added to the game Star Wars: Commander.[9]


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Notes and references[]

External links[]