Maarek Stele was a famous Imperial fighter ace and one of the Emperor's Hands. A native of the planet Kuan, he served in the Empire from an early age, helped save Emperor Palpatine from betrayal by Grand Admiral Zaarin, and finally ended up serving with Grand Admiral Thrawn in the Unknown Regions before eventually resigning. He came to the New Imperium in 10 ABY, hearing of the new government his friend Xar Kerensky was establishing, and offered to help. He then flew for the New Imperium in the war against the Altarin'Dakor, surviving narrow brushes with death both in the Battle of Mizar and the Battle of Varnus.
Maarek Stele had an illustrious career before he ever came to the New Imperium. Highly in-depth information can be found on the Maarek Stele page in the Star Wars Wiki.
In the New Imperium
Maarek Stele joined the New Imperium in 10 ABY, when he brought his personal TIE Defender into Epsilon Sector after hearing a rumor that his onetime friend Xar Kerensky and others had started a new government there. Arriving on Varnus, he met with Xar, who asked Maarek to head the Jedi Division and Varnus' fighter squadrons, and Maarek agreed.
Stele helped the NI in the early days of getting established, including an attack by Imperial COMPNOR forces, where he shot down longtime rival Mitch Remmac. He was also on a mission in the Danube System when he saw a massive ship pass overhead - an Altarin'Dakor Titan-class Battleship - and the encounter spooked him badly. Then within a couple of years, Maarek grew tired of desk-work and overseeing so many forces. Sending in a request to the NI Navy, he began to assemble a special squadron of elite pilots, hand-picked by himself, called Inferno Squadron. Searching across the NI, he assembled his team, which included many accomplished pilots, including Bast Vlagen, Rann Wosper, Tanya Vinikoro, Salle Darl, the Sigman Kikitik, Petur Kien, and others. His team meshed well, and they became an accomplished squadron performing special missions for the NI.
Return of the Altarin'Dakor
When the Altarin'Dakor attacked Varnus, Maarek and his squadron helped the fleeing forces there, and also helped drive the invaders off. Spurred on by their success, the NI attacked the enemy in the Mizar System. The ensuing battle was one of the NI's worst losses of the war. Four of Maarek's squadron were killed, and Maarek himself was shot down. The brutal battle took its toll on Stele and everyone else there.
Maarek awoke on the planet Arcadia, where he was taken in by a mysterious man calling himself Victor. He asked Stele to pilot a new, experimental fighter called the Archon, which had a special system integrating the fighter with its pilot, making them virtually one machine. Stele agreed, and was surprised when he bonded with the fighter immediately - through an implant placed unknowingly in the back of his head by the Altarin'Dakor. Maarek flew the Archon, but was unprepared for the sense of power it filled him with - he went on a rampage, destroying both enemy and ally ships, and returned to Victor sick, confused and overwhelmed.
Victor returned Maarek to Varnus, where he continued to serve the NI once more, though he felt a rift forming between himself and Xar Kerensky, who no longer seemed to take much interest in him. He led Inferno Squadron on several missions, including a campaign to stop rogue Sigman Admiral Xantak from causing a coup and attacking the Krri'Graq at Moro, and another patrol along the border with the New Republic, where they encountered and shot down an AD cruiser. After that, Maarek set course for Varnus again, riding onboard the Titan Nexus, belonging to the Shok'Thola Zalaria. Suddenly overwhelmed with the temptation to fly an AD ship, he sneaked aboard a fighter and flew it out, but was immediately captured. For his insubordination, Maarek and Inferno were sent to the backwater planet of Jengar to do system patrol work there.
The War Continues
Maarek felt guilty for what he had done, but his squadron mates forgave easily. Little did they know that the Jengar would be one of the first targets of the renewed invasion, this time led by the Shok'Thola Nimrod. As they helped the inhabitants of Jengar flee, Maarek encountered an Altarin'Dakor pilot named Kamren Thansil, an ace and the commander of the Titan Ascendancy's Black Rain Wing.
After Jengar, Maarek and his squadron were sent to the planet Laan in the Talas System, to begin evacuations there. The AD attacked swiftly, however, and Inferno defended. Maarek and his flight fled through the crooked and jagged canyons of the planet's surface known as the Path of Fury to escape.
The next time Inferno met Altarin'Dakor pilots was at the Battle of Sigma. There, Maarek met Kamren Thansil once more. Stele shot down Thansil's second-in-command, Vos Quinlan, and in retaliation Thansil killed Petur Kien, Maarek's youngest and most promising member. Then the two dueled, and Thansil gained the upper hand. He would have shot Maarek down had Rann Wosper not saved him at the last second. Kamren vowed they would meet again, one last time.
Finally Inferno returned to Varnus, where the system was preparing for an imminent Altarin'Dakor attack. Maarek was disappointed there by the rejection of Rynn Mariel, on whom he had developed something of a crush, and then he was outraged when Grand Master Xar Kerensky appointed Maarek's rival, Rivian Donitz, as the leader of NI fighter forces in orbit. He truly felt that Xar, his former friend, had completely changed, and abandoned him. Maarek was limited to fly in the atmosphere, but when the Altarin'Dakor came down, he more than had his hands full.
The Battle of Varnus
Fighting amongst the skyscrapers of Vectur, Inferno fought valiantly, downing many enemy fighters. However, once Jedicon fighters entered the scene, Maarek knew it was all over. Desperately he tried to lead Inferno away to safety, but to no avail. Bast Vlagen was shot down, and then the Jedicon used their powers to cloud the minds of Maarek and his flight members, Rann Wosper and Tanya Vinikoro. Maarek recovered at the last second, pulling out of a dive, but was unable to help Rann and Tanya, who drove their fighters into the surface and died.
Panicked and terrified, Maarek went for cover, but he was pulled out by the taunts of Kamren Thansil, who had descended for a final confrontation with Stele. With no choice but to fight, Maarek complied. The two pilots engaged in a dogfight between the buildings of Vectur, finally going head-to-head. In the ensuing clash, both pilots were shot down. Maarek ejected and crashed through the window of a nearby skyscraper; Kamren hit the street and rebounded into the side of a building, killing him instantly.
After the battle, the surviving members of Inferno, led by Salle Darl, found Maarek by following his transponder code. He was rushed to the infirmary in the Royal Palace, where Dr. Vannik tried desperately to heal the damage that had been done.
When Maarek awoke, he did so to bad news. Though his injuries would heal, his brain had suffered irreparable damage from the crash. He had spacer's vertigo, which would prevent him from ever flying again. Devastated by the news, Maarek turned over Inferno to Salle and left the New Imperium in disgust. In one last, desperate gamble, he sought out Victor again, hoping that he still might be able to fly the Archon once more, and perhaps receive help and healing from his condition, even if it was from the Altarin'Dakor. He was willing to deal with anyone, even evil incarnate, to get his life - and his piloting abilities - back once again.
Shortly thereafter, Maarek was approached by a representative of Victor, a Jedicon named Alona. She told him that not only could she safely transport him back to meet Victor, but that if he flew the Archon without suffering any of the effects of vertigo. Maarek, disillusioned with Kerensky and the New Imperium, followed her. He was taken to meet Victor, who it was revealed was actually the Altarin'Dakor Warlord known as Strife. The Warlord told him that Maarek had shown a higher affinity to the Archon System than any of his other pilots. Therefore he was offered to fly the Archon again, an offer that Stele gladly accepted. In return, Maarek asked Strife to teach him the ways of the Force, something that he had avoided his entire life. However, Maarek wanted to be sure that he could never be vulnerable to Force-related attacks while flying again, and deemed it worth the discomfort.
Maarek began training to fly the Archon along with a wing of Jedicon pilots, including Alona and another female named Chele. Together they began training Maarek how to guard his mind against Force attacks, and how to initiate attacks himself. During this time Stele became romantically involved with both Jedicon, although all too soon Chele perished during a mission, in which she was killed by Lasitus. Maarek then dedicated himself to a relationship with Alona, and the pair grew closer and closer.
During Strife's final attack on the Warlord Akargan, Maarek personally flew Strife to the enemy's fortress, then helped his wing of Archons to hold off Akargan's forces until the battle could be resolved. This was the first major test of the Archons against their foes. At this point, Maarek realized he was in love with Alona, and began contemplating spending the rest of his life with her. Knowing that she was completely devoted in her service to Strife, Maarek swore himself to follow the Warlord also, an act he surely never would have thought he could take.
Soon after, Maarek's wing was deployed in the Second Battle of Mizar in order to help rescue New Imperium forces and distrupt the actions of other Warlords. During the battle Maarek accidentally crossed paths with his old Inferno Squadron, now led by Salle Darl. Not recognizing her old commander, Salle attacked Stele, who was able to escape without damage. He could not bring himself to communicate with Salle, knowing that they could never understand the choices he had made.
Following the battle, Maarek continue to fly with Strife's wing. Meanwhile, Alona offered to heal him of his vertigo, something Maarek had not thought possible. After he was healed, the two were married in an Altarin'Dakor ceremony. They continued to fly together up until the final battle against the Altarin'Dakor at the Galactic Gate.
Personality and Traits
Maarek was very confident of his flying abilities, but his cocky attitude extended only as long as he was in the air.
On the ground he was more reserved and aloof, though he opened up to his few close friends. Though he knew that a good commander never invested himself too much emotionally into his men, he ignored this rule with his Inferno Squadron, and was devastated at each pilot he lost. He began to lose his edge after facing off against Kamren Thansil during the war, and the death of Petur Kien. He became terrified of the Altarin'Dakor pilot, and it took all of his skill to overcome his fear and face him once again. After the battle and his injury, however, Maarek was devastated at not being able to fly anymore. Feeling his sense of purpose lost, he turned the squadron over to Salle Darl and decided to leave the New Imperium. His desperation at wanting to fly again, however, was too great, and he was willing to even visit a man he came to know as an enemy Shok'Thola in order to get what he wanted.
Maarek was of medium height and build, with dark hair, though his hair started to thin after the Battle of Varnus and he started balding in later years. He was an incredible pilot, with lightning-fast reflexes, on the same level as other legendary pilots including Baron Fel, Wedge Antilles, and Rivian Donitz.