|Chronological and political information|
- "Fel is the best Imperial pilot alive."
- ―Tycho Celchu
Soontir Fel was considered among the best starfighter pilots in the galaxy, becoming an Imperial hero, but his journey to those heights was anything but easy. Born on Corellia to a farming family, Fel developed his piloting skills over the fields before gaining entrance to the Imperial Academy and beginning a career as a TIE fighter pilot. He served dutifully, demonstrating a strong sense of responsibility for his men. After a series of events out of his control tarnished his career, Fel was exiled to the lackluster 181st Imperial Fighter Wing, which he revived, eventually gaining its command and the title of Baron of the Empire, winning Fel a reputation as the Empire's most deadly pilot and the 181st as its most elite starfighter unit. During that time, Fel met and married the famous actress Wynssa Starflare, who he discovered was actually the sister of Rebel ace Wedge Antilles.
When Director of Imperial Intelligence Ysanne Isard sent Fel and his men to die at Brentaal IV for her own political gain, Fel was captured and defected to the New Republic, tired of the growing corruption after Palpatine's death. He joined his brother-in-law Antilles in Rogue Squadron, serving the New Republic faithfully, but shortly thereafter Fel was recaptured by Isard and sent to Grand Admiral Thrawn's base on Nirauan. There, Thrawn showed Fel the myriad threats awaiting the galaxy in the Unknown Regions, and Fel agreed to serve in Thrawn's Empire of the Hand, fighting against warlords and would-be invaders beyond the knowledge of galactic civilization.
There Fel raised a family, surrounded by hardship, before once again making contact with the galaxy at large during the hoax proclaiming Thrawn's return. When the Yuuzhan Vong War broke out, Fel sent his son Jagged and a handful of Empire of the Hand forces to the New Republic's aid. During the course of the war, the Empire of the Hand was dissolved, with Fel joining the Chiss Ascendancy and becoming a senior officer in the Chiss Expansionary Defense Fleet. A failed guarantee of parole on Jagged's part during the Dark Nest Crisis bankrupted and dishonored the Fels, but their difficulties would not last forever—Jagged was able to restore the family's honor in one final act before taking the reins of the Imperial Remnant, which was revived with Jagged and his descendants ruling as Emperors.
- "We're a family. Family does for family."
- ―Soontir Fel to his father
Soontir Fel was born in the Astrilde Bottomlands region of the planet Corellia in 28 BBY to a tight-knit rural Corellian family, the eldest child. The Fels lived on an agro-combine owned by Allied Grain and Roughage, where Fel's father worked as a transport pilot for the company; his mother and much of his extended family were employed by AGR as well. He had at least one younger brother, Todr, and possibly another brother and sister as well.
As a Fel, he was taught the family values of strict loyalty, virtue, and dependence on each other. Fel learned to put his family first and to always look out for them. Among his fellow farmers, he also developed a skill in raising plants, and the love of growing things would always remain with him. The greatest skill he honed on the agro-combine, though, was piloting. Fel grew to be an accomplished pilot as he soared across AGR's lands in a skyhopper. In 11 and 10 BBY, Fel won the airspeeder race at the AGR harvest festival two consecutive years.
When Fel's father accidentally suffered contact with poison and couldn't make his rounds for the company, Fel stepped in and flew for him, saving his job. The job was long enough for it to become an open secret that he was filling in for his father despite being underage. Once Fel turned eighteen in 10 BBY, around the time of the harvest festival, his father arranged for Soontir to take his place while the elder Fel took a job in the department shop. Fel spent a month delivering supplies and parts and making field repairs in his own right, adding another source of income for his family.
The night of the harvest festival, Fel came upon Pamr, a female friend, about to be raped by Ilir Post and two other young men, all the sons of figures in AGR's management. Fel defended her, beating all three assailants into submission. The local police, however, were loyal to AGR and Fel knew they would not prosecute the children of company managers—in Post's case, a member of the board. He therefore went to the Corellian Security Force, where Inspector Hal Horn took his statement and arrested Post.
This was not to the liking of AGR, which could face potential embarrassment. AGR director Ivr Drop called Fel, employed for only a month, into his office. He told Fel that he had secured for him a last-minute senatorial appointment to the Imperial Academy on Carida. In order to take it, Fel would have to depart at once—before his testimony at the trial of Post the next week. This was a tremendous opportunity for Fel, but Drop pushed even farther, offering to make sure that Fel's family was well-cared-for in his absence. If Fel didn't take it, however, Drop threatened repercussions for his father, who had allowed Fel, technically an unauthorized individual, to fly company property. Fel was reluctant to halt justice, but felt that for his family's sake he had no choice. He accepted the appointment and the case against Post fell apart. Inspector Horn met Fel before his flight to Carida, assuring him that he had made the best choice he could, and that Horn would watch Post and be sure to prosecute if he ever infringed upon the law again.
The Imperial Academy
- "By taking this appointment, you're avoiding a mistake that would ruin your life and your family. Don't regret it, just make the most of it."
- ―Valin Horn to Soontir Fel
Fel soon arrived at the Academy, and found little time to adjust. His long ponytail was shaven off upon the induction to the Academy, and a life in the fields turned to one of discipline and rigid obedience. Fel did not care for the more intellectual studies forced upon him, such as astrogation, but excelled nonetheless, taking full advantage of the educational opportunities afforded by the Galactic Empire's most elite academy. He took much greater enjoyment from physical pursuits, though, such as combat training, mechanical classes, and grav-ball, where Fel, wearing number seven, captained Carida's Inter-Academy League team and often led it to victory.
Fel's favorite part of Academy life, however, was piloting. He trained in TIE/LN starfighters and simulators until only fellow cadet Han Solo rivaled his skill and set new heights for cadet performance. He studied their technical systems, learning to repair the starfighters as well as fly them. Fel gained a reputation as a hotshot cadet, among the Academy's elite. Despite their similarities, fellow Corellian Solo did not care to befriend Fel, whom he regarded as too rural and quietly disciplined to fit in with his roguish friends. There was, however, a mutual respect between the two, and Fel regarded Solo as a heroic officer with a bright future ahead of him. One friend he did have, though, was a close one: Darv Eldon, who had been a tight friend on Corellia before applying to the Academy himself.
Fel performed as well academically as he did in the cockpit and graduated from the Imperial Military Academy as salutatorian behind Solo. Darth Vader and Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin themselves were present at the ceremonies, and Tarkin congratulated Fel on his accomplishments. When Fel replied that they paled in comparison to the honor of serving the Empire, Tarkin made a point to watch Fel's career.
- "My talent is for killing the Empire's enemy, and that is the mission you'll give my men."
- ―Soontir Fel to his superior officer
Fel graduated with the rank of lieutenant in 7 BBY and was inducted into the Imperial Navy's pilot corps. He was assigned to command a flight of the sixth squadron of the 37th Imperial Fighter Wing under Captain Lun Tessra, considered a prime assignment for an up-and-coming officer. Based aboard the Dreadnaught-class heavy cruiser Abrogator, Fel quickly cut his teeth on combat with a mission to Saloch², suppressing remnants of the Lortan Fanatics and saving the local Tunroth.
The 6/37th continued its campaign against the Lortan Fanatics leftover from the crushing of the Reslian Purge, and Fel guided his men through many battles, taking special care for their welfare and taking the fight to the enemy. He became a strong leader, as Captain Tessra suffered from what was known as temp-flu: with only weeks left in his one-year tour of duty in a TIE fighter, Tessra hung back and took no risks, neglecting his men and hoping to be one of the lucky pilots to survive a year in a TIE. During that time, Fel took the initiative to protect his men and provide a firm leader to the squadron. After Tessra's tour was up, Fel took on command of the squadron, drilling it and building habits of order and study, emphasizing post-battle analysis. Under his guiding hand, the 6/37th became a squadron known for its fierce and efficient performance, considered among the Empire's best.
After a year of fighting the Lortans, Fel was promoted to captain and set to be transferred out of the squadron and into fleet operations, as was customary. However, when he learned that the last refuge of the Lortans had been discovered and would be assaulted in what would likely be a bloody fight, Fel felt that it was his duty to stay with his men. It was a feat to survive one tour of duty, and few would have blamed Fel for choosing to move on. However, he volunteered for another tour of duty in the 6/37th, claiming that it was where he could do the most with his talents. The offer was accepted, and Fel served out another full year with the squadron; his survival marked him as an elite pilot indeed. Tessra had been scheduled to take command of the squadron after Fel's departure, as his performance after his transfer had been lackluster; whether he or Fel ultimately took command after Fel decided to stay is unclear. Fel's extraordinary performance marked him out as an outstanding pilot, and his exploits became well-known throughout the starfighter corps.
- "At the Academy I never thought I'd be fighting smugglers off Nal Hutta. Get me back to the Lortan Fanatics."
- ―Soontir Fel, during the Battle of Nar Shaddaa
When his second tour of duty was finished, Fel finally accepted a transfer to fleet operations in the Imperial Navy. He earned the naval rank of captain; being 24 or 25 years of age, he was one of the youngest men to ever achieve that honor. Fel commanded patrol ships for the Imperial Customs agency long enough to develop a healthy respect for the capabilities of smugglers. The great majority of his time in fleet operations, though, was spent aboard his largest command: the Dreadnaught-class heavy cruiser Pride of the Senate. For two years Fel commanded the Pride, which he found old, outmoded, and underwhelming in performance; he longed to move up to command of a Star Destroyer. If not that, he would have preferred to be back in the cockpit; he certainly did not care to make a career aboard the Dreadnaught. Nevertheless, he was determined to do the best job possible with the command he had. Fel's men, including his executive officer Commander Toniv and his navigator Commander Rosk, admired and respected him, for his past accomplishments and for his command style and care for those under his command. He had a strong rapport with the TIE pilots aboard the ship, who had even more reason to be impressed by his past and with whom he felt a special connection. By 2 BBY, Fel was attached to the Sector Group for Hutt Space, under Admiral Winstel Greelanx; he, Captain Reldo Dovlis, and Admiral Greelanx commanded the three Dreadnaughts of the relatively under-supplied fleet under Moff Sarn Shild's command, making Fel one of the senior officers in the Sector Group. Commanding the Carrack-class cruiser Vigilance was Captain Darv Eldon, Fel's old friend with whom he remained close.
In 2 BBY, Moff Shild, who had previously been benefiting from Hutt graft, responded to Imperial scrutiny by declaring a hard line against smuggling. He would send his fleet to blockade the Hutt homeworld of Nal Hutta and raze its city-covered moon, Nar Shaddaa, to ashes in a Base Delta Zero assault. The Hutts joined together to defend their worlds and business; when attempts to bribe Shild were rebuffed, they paid off Greelanx to give them his battle plans and retreat at the first opportunity. This succeeded, though it ultimately proved unneeded; a high-level Imperial communiqué instructed Greelanx to secretly throw the battle as part of a plot to discredit the newly ambitious Shild. Fel was not at all happy with his orders; he felt sickened by the instructions to perform a Base Delta Zero. Fel had until then avoided engaging in any massacres, which were all too common in the Imperial state, but he reluctantly accepted that he must carry out the orders no matter how personally distasteful he found them. Fel also objected to Greelanx's battle plans, which were simplistic and relied on the assumption that the Hutts would be able to put up no significant resistance—Fel, of course, did not know the plans were deliberately poor. He found the plans foolishly overconfident, and seemed to have little confidence in Greelanx's leadership; Greelanx himself knew that Fel was likely to question his orders and was therefore the greatest threat to his ability to lose without being accused of incompetence.
When the battle commenced, Fel found that the smugglers of Nar Shaddaa had organized an efficient defense; what he did not know was that it was commanded by his former classmates Mako Spince and Han Solo—Fel had been surprised and disappointed to learn that Solo had lasted only eight months in Imperial service before being court-martialed for defending a Wookiee slave. The smuggler coalition launched an ambush of the Vigilance, which was serving as an advance picket. Trapped in Nar Shaddaa's debris field, a swarm of smaller ships overwhelmed it, killing Fel's old friend Eldon. Deeply saddened, Fel's resolve to destroy the smugglers was strengthened. He suggested to Greelanx that the smugglers, having demonstrated the capability for coordinated attacks, should perhaps be taken more seriously as threats. Greelanx, obliged to lose, dismissed him.
The smugglers engaged and defeated elements of Greelanx's skirmish line before he moved in his wedge formation of capital ships: three Dreadnaughts and four bulk cruisers. Fel, in the Pride of the Senate, anchored a flank. The Imperials were surprised, however, to find a massive fleet awaiting them as they closed in on Nar Shaddaa; in fact, most of the ships were holographic with falsified transponder signals in an illusion orchestrated by the magician Xaverri. Fel's Dreadnaught was engaged by elements of Drea Renthal's pirate fleet, sustaining proton torpedo attacks from her Y-wings but emerging without significant damage. Instead, Renthal's fleet moved on to Dovlis's Dreadnaught, the Peacekeeper, which they were able to cripple, whereupon it succumbed to Nar Shaddaa's gravitic pull. This provided all the justification Greelanx needed to pull out, and he ordered a full retreat. Fel, who thought that the Empire could still manage a victory, felt that Greelanx lacked courage.
When Commander Jelon, Greelanx's executive officer, relayed the orders to retreat, Fel angrily objected that there were still TIE fighters remaining in the arena of battle which could not be abandoned. Jelon and Greelanx did not care, and Fel was unwilling to disobey orders. However, he knew that he could obey only the letter of the orders, if not their spirit, by taking his time in the retreat. He ordered the broadcast of an emergency recall of all TIEs to the Pride and followed Greelanx's remaining ships at only one-quarter speed. The docking bays had room for only twelve fighters, but fifteen remained on the field; Fel fit the additional three in his shuttle bay and, satisfied that he had saved all the men he could, caught up with the retreat. Greelanx angrily contacted him, contesting that Fel had disobeyed orders; Fel replied that he considered the retrieval of the pilots and their fighters crucial. Greelanx threatened to end Fel's career, but Fel implied that his own report would depict Greelanx as cowardly and incompetent. Greelanx seemed to back down, but Fel wondered if his decision might cost him his commission. He was, however, relieved that he had not had to carry out a Base Delta Zero, one of the few bright spots of the engagement for him.
- "I am Captain Soontir Fel. I will teach you how to fly and how to survive. If you think you know better than me, all I can teach you to do is die."
- ―Soontir Fel in his opening address to his class
Greelanx was killed days later by Darth Vader, but the failure of the battle still reflected poorly on Fel. Fel had hoped to receive a transfer to command of a Star Destroyer in the future, but shortly after the battle he was instead transferred to the Imperial Naval Academy on Prefsbelt IV and returned to the pilot corps, likely with a demotion to the piloting rank of captain—inferior to the naval rank of captain.
At Prefsbelt IV, Fel served as a pilot instructor, training his cadets relentlessly in all subjects, striving to build the best possible pilots and men for the Empire. Fel's class included cadets Tycho Celchu, Biggs Darklighter, Derek Klivian, Laine, Rens, and the future DS-181-3; Celchu, Darklighter, and Klivian all went on to become legendary pilots, but none were ever able to defeat Fel in simulations. Fel looked out for his students and built a bond of mutual respect with them, fostering trust among students and between the students and himself. When Cadet Laine insulted Cadet Celchu's Alderaanian heritage, Celchu took a swing at Laine. Rather than discipline Celchu, Fel covered for him, holding that Laine had been at fault by insulting a fellow cadet while reminding Celchu that his loyalties no longer lay with Alderaan but with the Empire. During Fel's tenure, a Rebel Alliance cell was found among the cadets; Fel used the opportunity to remind his students that the Rebellion was dangerous and disorderly. When some objected that citizens across the galaxy were feeling that the Empire's methods were too harsh, Fel insisted that the Empire represented order and the protection of those unable to protect themselves; Rebels broke that order and created chaos and danger to the galaxy's citizens.
Fel's methods inspired his students to new heights, and the exceptional performance of his cadets gained attention in high places. Nar Shaddaa had damaged Fel's reputation but could not destroy it; Grand Moff Tarkin himself remained interested in Fel, and Fel hoped to join Tarkin's bodyguard unit, an elite squadron which would put Fel at the pinnacle of his career. After two years at Prefsbelt, Fel's class of prodigies graduated. At the ball following the graduation ceremonies, Tarkin extended to Fel an invitation to join his guard. Fel was ecstatic, but the opportunity was abruptly cut off when two of his top protégés, Darklighter and Klivian, on their first posting, mutinied and took the frigate Rand Ecliptic over to the Rebel Alliance in a planned defection. Though his superiors understood that Fel was not to blame, the defection reflected poorly on Fel and he could not be allowed to continue instructing; instead of transferring to Tarkin's guard, Fel was punitively transferred to the 181st Imperial Fighter Wing, a disreputable unit. His chance at restarting his career had been destroyed.
Around 1 BBY, Fel spent a brief period of time at the Imperial Classified Flight Yards, where he flew a number of prototype TIE models. He wrote up overviews of several fighters—the TIE Aggressor, the TIE Hunter, and the still-in-development TIE Defender—for the publication Imperial Handbook: A Commander's Guide, which was published soon afterwards.
From disgrace to ace
- "The Empire gave you everything you are. The Empire elevated you from being a farm boy and made you a galactic hero."
- ―Sate Pestage to Soontir Fel
The 181st, nicknamed the "One-eighty-worst", was a notoriously poor unit, a posting for those whose careers were in the gutter. Under the nearly nonexistent leadership of Colonel Evir Derricote, an unimpressive pilot and mediocre officer who was more interested in cultivating his garden than commanding his squadrons, the 181st had almost no discipline and even less motivation, simply whiling away time until the political enemies who had placed the men in the wing sent them to die. This was far from acceptable to Fel. In command of the second squadron, he requested Derricote's permission to bring his men to a sufficient state of discipline and training; Derricote, saying that at least the 2/181st could then die as men, casually agreed. Fel instituted a strict training regimen, raising his men up to his exacting standards.
In 0 BBY, not long after Fel's transfer but after he had whipped his men into shape, the 2/181st was assigned to retake Ord Biniir, which had been lost to Rebel Y-wings by an entire wing of Imperial fighters. Fel was dismayed at the odds, but his squadron performed superbly, destroying many enemy fighters and driving the Rebels off Ord Biniir. Fel's performance was enough to merit attention on its own, but it so happened that the Second Battle of Ord Biniir occurred on the same day as the Empire's catastrophic loss at the Battle of Yavin. Ironically, had Fel's career not been damaged, he would have been aboard the Death Star with Tarkin's bodyguard unit when it was destroyed.
The Empire rushed to propagandize Fel's victory and minimize news of the Death Star's loss at Yavin 4. Fel was promoted to the rank of major at a gala event on Imperial Center and feted as a hero. There, he was pigeonholed by two older senators who wished to share war stories, but a beautiful woman abruptly intervened and swept Fel away. Fel was shocked when she introduced herself as Wynssa Starflare, the famous actress. She was Corellian herself, and Fel's accent sparked her nostalgia; she also found him attractive. She took him out of the gala and on a tour of the Palace District, flirting gently with him.
Fel and Starflare began dating, seeing the sights of Coruscant. This was made much easier by the transfer of the 181st to the Imperial capital, where it was downsized from a wing to a group and rebuilt into an elite unit. Fel spent much of his time recruiting new, elite pilots such as Captain Turr Phennir; he wanted only those with truly exceptional skills and strong devotion to the Empire, accepting no political appointees or glory hounds. Though Colonel Derricote remained officially in command, Fel effectively ran the 181st by himself, shaping it into one of the Empire's most feared units.
Somewhen following the Battle of Yavin, Fel flew a TIE/In interceptor during a skirmish against at least one Rebel pilot. Fel was defeated in the fight and he managed to escape the engagement with his life in his crippled starfighter, fleeing into hyperspace. Around this time, Fel also flew a TIE interceptor during space battles in the Corellian, Naboo and Tatoo systems.
Fel had fallen deeply in love with Starflare, and after nearly a year of dating, he proposed to her. She wanted to accept but was terrified; her great secret, which she revealed to Fel, was that Wynssa Starflare was a stage name. Her real name was Syal Antilles, and her brother was Rebel ace Wedge Antilles. She feared that if that secret ever got out, her career would be ruined, and marriage to Fel would take him down with her. She was also frightened that Fel might be called upon to face her brother in combat and that one would kill the other; Fel was likewise concerned but reassured her that such an occurrence would be unlikely and that, married or dating, the hurt she felt would be the same. He also cast aside doubts about his career, saying that he was marrying her, not her brother. With those reassurances, Fel was able to convince Starflare to join him in marriage. Always cautious, however, Fel began devising plans for the couple's safety if knowledge of Starflare's true identity were ever to come out.
Fel and Starflare were married near the beginning of 1 ABY in a lavish ceremony that became something of a public event, one Imperial propaganda heartthrob marrying another. Starflare arranged the pair's honeymoon, with Fel never having become aware what planet they visited. They spent two weeks at a luxury resort, rekindling Fel's love of nature. Starflare became pregnant early in their marriage, giving birth to Fel's eldest son, Davin, and then again to another son, Chak. Perhaps due to worries over his brother-in-law's impact on the family's safety, Davin and Chak apparently were kept secret; they were never mentioned to anyone outside the family and were raised among Fel's relations on Corellia.
When they returned, Fel took it upon himself to cultivate a garden on Imperial Center; Derricote, ever the botanist, joined him in caring for it. Fel continued to train the 181st as an elite unit, taking his men through mission after mission with Derricote leaving the unit entirely to Fel's management. Fel enjoyed married life with Starflare, continuing life as an Imperial celebrity, but he worried over having to face Antilles, growing more and more convinced that a conflict between the two elite pilots was inevitable.
Derra IV and doubts
- "Relying on the alien to save the Empire, the Emperor undercut the foundation for belief in the Empire. This continued what he had begun when he sent Isard to test my loyalty. The Emperor himself finished that job, though it was a time before I let myself see it."
- ―Soontir Fel
In 3 ABY, Fel was approached in his garden by a special visitor: Director of Imperial Intelligence Ysanne Isard. She attempted to seduce him, both sexually and with offers of power, but Fel swiftly rebuffed her advances. She brushed them off as a test of loyalty mandated by Emperor Palpatine which he had passed, but Fel could perceive that his rejection had made her an enemy. Isard presented Fel with his reward for passing the test: the opportunity to help destroy the Rebellion at Derra IV. After her departure, however, Fel remained disturbed by the fact that Isard was now aware of him and likely hostile. He ordered his wife to draw up her own set of contingency plans, unknown to him, so that she could disappear at a moment's notice if Isard ever moved against them. Fel would disappear independently and seek out his wife.
Fel and the 181st were briefed for the Battle of Derra IV by none other than Darth Vader himself, but Fel noticed, also on stage, an alien admiral. Fel concluded that, in the xenophobic Empire, the only explanation for the admiral's silent presence was that the battle plan was, in fact, his. Fel was familiar enough with Vader's style of battle to analyze the plan and determine that it did not appear to be crafted by Vader, further reinforcing his suspicions. This undercut Fel's belief in the Empire and its humanocentric policies, which justified themselves by promoting the duty of Humans to protect "lower species" who could not protect themselves. Instead, this alien admiral was the one protecting the Human Empire.
Nevertheless, Fel set aside the issue and performed spectacularly in the battle, where the 181st targeted Rebel transports, destroying supplies that were vital to the Rebel Alliance. Fel took on the fighter cover as well, killing Commander Arhul Narra of Renegade Flight. Fel did not care for the slaughter of the almost helpless transports, but knew that he and his men had done their duty to the fullest and helped deliver a grievous blow to the Rebellion.
In the aftermath, the group was relentlessly debriefed, but Fel always kept an eye on the alien admiral, noting that he got no recognition at all. As a result of their stellar performance, an elaborate ceremony was held on Imperial Center in which Derricote was promoted to the rank of general and given command of the defense of Borleias and Turr Phennir was promoted to commander and given Fel's squadron, the 2/181st. Fel himself was promoted to colonel, given formal command of the entire 181st, and granted the title of Baron of the Empire by the hand of Emperor Palpatine himself. With the barony came a vast estate on Corellia, to which he moved his family members, who were able to live a life of quiet comfort. The alien got nothing, and Fel's opinion of the Empire's policies soured. Later learning that he had been exiled to the Unknown Regions, Fel was no longer able to believe so purely in the Empire as he once had. Combined with the presence of the treacherous Isard, Fel found less to like about the Empire's leadership. He continued to serve its order, but his vision of it was less idealized.
Command of the 181st
- "He was a legend when I was at the Academy."
"You're making it sound like this Fel is nastier than Darth Vader ever was."
"From everything my instructors told me, he just could have been."
- ―Feylis Ardele and Isplourrdacartha Estillo, discussing Soontir Fel
The 181st became attached to Darth Vader's Death Squadron, serving at the Battle of Hoth with the assignment of picking off the fleeing Rebel transports, as they had done at Derra IV. Not long after Hoth, the unit was upgraded to the TIE/In starfighter, one of the Empire's most advanced starfighters. Those pilots of the 181st with more than ten kills also began marking their TIE Interceptors with red stripes along their wings, which would become a distinctive sign of the 181st Imperial Fighter Group; few if any pilots failed to meet the ten-kill requirement. Baron Fel, as commander, took the callsign Saber 1. His executive officer was Commander Turr Phennir, who received a promotion to major within the year. Fel's wingman was a former student of his from Prefsbelt, nicknamed "Fel's Wrath", who frequently hung back to give Fel room to maneuver.
The 181st was present at the Battle of Endor, where Fel flew against the full weight of the desperate Alliance Fleet. His fighters protected the Star Destroyers Avenger and Chimaera, as well as the battlecruiser Pride of Tarlandia. Flying as part of the 181st's elite Saber Squadron, Fel destroyed many fighters from the Alliance's Blue and Green Squadrons. However, due to the large number of Alliance vessels and the contradictory orders that he had received from his superiors, Fel was powerless to avert the destruction of the Tarlandia by the Alliance. He was also unable to prevent the destruction of the Second Death Star or the death of Emperor Palpatine and several other high-ranking officers in the disastrous defeat. In the aftermath of the battle, Fel retreated to the planet Annaj, the Moddell sector capital world.
Grand Vizier Sate Pestage took the reigns of the Empire, and Fel continued to serve it as the Rebel Alliance became the New Republic and launched an organized offensive. He gained a rival in the Countess Iran Ryad, a noble who dabbled in piloting before purchasing a modified TIE Defender, the most advanced TIE-series starfighter ever made, and joining the pilot corps. A player in military politics and proponent of the Defender, she somehow angered Fel, who became a fierce critic. When Ryad and her Red Star Squadron began attacking any unexpected ship they came across, she was convicted of treason and hunted down and killed by Fel. In this time, Fel also gained the skills of Emperor's Hand Maarek Stele, another legendary Imperial pilot who transferred into the 181st. Like Fel, Stele had grown to doubt the Empire in the months after Endor, but in seeing Fel's strong sense of personal honor and dedication to service, Stele was inspired to keep fighting.
By this time, Fel had gained legendary status among Imperial forces. A normal pilot considered himself lucky to survive a year of combat service in a TIE; Fel had not only survived but excelled for over six. A propaganda hero, his face adorned recruiting posters, and academy instructors spoke of him to their students as the ultimate example of piloting talent. New cadets looked upon him as a legend, while those he had actually trained felt even more strongly of his skill, having seen it firsthand. Rumors throughout the pilot corps had the renowned Darth Vader himself fearful of Fel's talent in the cockpit, though no evidence of an actual rivalry existed. With Vader's death, Fel was widely considered the best Imperial pilot alive, and his brother-in-law Wedge Antilles was generally considered his rival for the title of best starfighter pilot in the galaxy. Though Fel's name was well-known throughout the Empire and the upper echelons of the Rebellion, many younger Rebels were unaware of his existence, never having flown against the 181st and having little access to Imperial sources of information.
The Battle of Brentaal IV
- "Save your games for Pestage, Isard. I know my duty. I will do it. Rogue Squadron will die."
- ―Soontir Fel to Ysanne Isard
Nine months after the Battle of Endor, a squadron of the 181st was tasked by Isard, now one of the top figures in the Imperial government, to defend Brentaal IV against the New Republic. Isard, however, had no intention of holding the world; instead, she planned for it to fall, manipulating the situation so that Pestage, not she, would seem responsible for its loss. A squadron from the elite 181st was dispatched, but the planet's defense remained under the command of Admiral Lon Isoto, an officer more interested in debauchery than defense and widely regarded as completely incompetent. When the squadron of Fel's pilots was defeated by Antilles's elite Rogue Squadron and Brentaal IV's moonbase taken, Fel was enraged that Isard had spent their lives in what he could perceive were her political games. She ordered Fel and the rest of the 181st to Brentaal, taunting him with the possibility of having to kill Antilles; by this time Isard had apparently found the pair's connection. Fel angrily told her that he could see through her manipulations, but that he would follow orders nevertheless and destroy Rogue Squadron if required.
Fel arrived in Vuultin, Isoto's capital. He did not care for Isoto's offers of carnal pleasures and found the admiral's dismissal of tactical matters worrisome. Isoto assumed that the enemy would come to his capital and so fortified it, dismissing Fel's assessment that they would seek out Oradin, a city with the necessary spaceport facilities to bring down troops in large numbers. He allowed Fel to send fighters there but demanded that some be kept at Vuultin to defend his headquarters. With Fel thus spotted in Vuultin, New Republic intelligence mistakenly identified Vuultin as being the base for all Fel's forces.
Fel was in fact based in Oradin, which the New Republic task force attacked, led by Aggressor Wing, while Rogue Squadron feinted at Vuultin. Immediately before the attack, Fel was approached by Phennir, his executive officer, with the suggestion that Fel disobey the incompetent Isoto, remove himself from Isard and Pestage's political games, and take control of Brentaal IV with the 181st as a warlord. Fel was sympathetic but rejected Phennir's ambitious call, saying that his duty was not to Isard or Pestage but to the citizens of the Empire, and he would protect the Imperial citizens on Brentaal and follow his orders.
In the battle, Fel downed multiple Y-wings, putting to use anti-Y-wing attack patterns which he had pioneered, before he was recalled by Isoto to Vuultin, where Rogue Squadron was attacking Isoto's headquarters. Phennir urged Fel to ignore Isoto and focus on the main Republic assault at Oradin, but Fel followed orders and returned to Vuultin, ordering Phennir to see to it that the Republic was denied as many assets as possible in the retreat from Oradin. Rogue Squadron, however, retreated before Fel arrived.
Back in Vuultin, Isoto held a celebration, feting the 181st for its supposed great victory in devastating the Republic's assault force at Oradin; what Isoto ignored was that, despite the significant losses, the Republic had taken Oradin. Isoto handed out the "Oradin Diamond", an award Isoto manufactured himself, to all Fel's pilots; Fel, however, refused the meaningless decoration. Isoto then praised Fel for his humility and declared the holiday of "Fel's Day" in honor of the baron. Phennir engaged Fel at the celebration, uplifted by the "victory", but Fel attempted to disabuse him of that notion, telling him that Brentaal IV was a political trap from which no glory would come; Fel in fact could perceive clearly that Isard intended to throw away the lives of his men for her political gain. Fel spoke with his wife by hologram, reassuring her that he would survive. When Imperial citizens began an attempted evacuation of Brentaal IV with their private yachts, Fel confronted Isard via hologram, revealing his knowledge of her manipulations and accusing her of treason and of wasting his men; he considered himself effectively a dead man, but planned to save the citizens of Brentaal IV nevertheless.
When the New Republic deployed to prevent the evacuation and looting, Fel and his men mounted up for combat. Fel engaged the Republic forces in the air, though the battle eventually moved to space, where Fel crippled Colonel Horton Salm's Y-wing. Before he could finish Aggressor Wing's leader, however, Fel was fired upon by Antilles and forced to break off, taking minor damage to the edge of a solar panel. Fel then made a head-to-head pass against Antilles before slipping in behind him. Fel nearly had Antilles when the Republic pilot dodged starboard, revealing Salm's disabled Y-wing, which scored a direct hit on Fel's interceptor with its ion cannons. Fel's disabled fighter was captured by the Republic and he was imprisoned.
Capture and defection
- "I now stand ready to offer you my life, my skills and my knowledge. I ask you only one thing in return. My wife will have fled by now. Help me find her, save her, and the finest weapon the Empire ever created will be yours to command."
- ―Soontir Fel to his captors
Upon hearing of his capture, Starflare fled into hiding with the children. Fel was kept in a cell aboard Home One, where he had Antilles summoned. When his brother-in-law arrived, Fel revealed to him that Wynssa Starflare, the Imperial actress, was in fact Syal Antilles—Wedge's long-lost sister. Fel was interrogated by his Republic captors; in one interview he recounted his life story, remarking that, had things turned out differently, he could have been Luke Skywalker and Luke Skywalker could have been Fel; both were farmboys who loved flying. Had Skywalker gotten his wish of acceptance to the Imperial Academy and Fel not gotten accepted when he had no wish, their roles, he felt, could easily have been reversed. At the end of that interview, Fel expressed a desire to defect: he had lost faith in the Empire ever more and more since Derra IV and realized that the ideal he served had not existed in the Empire for a long time. If the New Republic would help him find his wife, he would agree to serve in the New Republic Starfighter Corps.
Fel's offer was accepted, and he was assigned to Rogue Squadron, the New Republic's most elite starfighter unit. There, he was surrounded by pilots at or approaching his level and could be contained if a traitor; however, Antilles firmly believed in the truth of Fel's conversion. Fel was assigned the callsign Rogue Ten and the wingmate Avan Beruss, one of the squadron's newer pilots. Fel retained the title of colonel, though Antilles, only a captain, was in command of the unit; the use of "colonel" may have been honorary, or Fel's rank may have been part of a special arrangement. Fel began vigorous training on X-wing simulators and in the cockpit, gaining a feel for the New Republic's primary fighter, to which he swiftly adapted. He enjoyed the presence of shields, an added defensive bonus.
Many of his fellow pilots, however, were deeply mistrustful, suspecting Fel of being a spy or still loathing him for his Imperial past. Nrin Vakil and Isplourrdacartha Estillo especially felt that his defection, even if genuine, was too little too late. His former students Klivian and Celchu, however, were much readier to give him a second chance, having known him personally and being former Imperials themselves. Fel remained distant from his fellow pilots even two months into his defection, spending much of his time alone, longing to reunite with his wife. He recognized this as negative behavior, but felt isolated from the unit; Antilles, Celchu, and others had to approach him and engage him for him to socialize.
Fel believed that the Imperials remained unaware, for the time, that he had changed loyalties. Antilles dispatched Estillo, Klivian, and Wes Janson to Fel's estate on Corellia to seek out Starflare or information on her, and to invite the rest of Fel's family to join him in the New Republic before the Empire became aware of Fel's defection and retaliated. There the three pilots found that Fel's young nephew, Fyric, had been kidnapped by Ilir Post in an Imperial Intelligence-backed operation demanding Starflare's location from the Fel family, which they felt knew it. Fel's brother Todr and sister-in-law Ajai used the Republic pilots to attack Post and retrieve Fyric. The three escaped with the Rogues, but, from the way they spoke, they were not Fel's only living relations on Corellia. They were, however, the only ones to take the New Republic up on its offer. Starflare, however, could not be found. Fel remained convinced that Isard merely suspected Starflare, however, and did not know for certain that Fel had in fact defected.
New Republic service
- "I fought to maintain order. I thought … I hoped things would change. They did, but not for the better. There came a point when the truth couldn't be denied, so I'm here. My life is gone, my wife in jeopardy, but I am here."
"It's a tough choice, but the right one."
"I hear you. When I find my wife, I might even believe you."
- ―Soontir Fel and Han Solo
Once properly trained, Fel began flying with the Rogues. On a training mission one month after his defection in which the squadron encountered unexpected pirates, he saved Rogue Six from three TIE-wing Uglies on his tail. Following that mission, Fel learned that he would be assigned, along with his former student Celchu, to escort Minister of State Leia Organa to a summit on Eiattu, where his squadron-mate Estillo ruled. Fel's presence would serve as a powerful sign of the Empire's decay, convincing the potential members at the conference that they were best served by joining the New Republic. Fel was worried, however, that revealing his presence would cause Isard to order his wife's execution for certain, rather than the possibility of detention, but was convinced that it was a covert operation and that more New Republic worlds meant more safe havens for his wife.
Fel, Celchu, and Organa were transported to Eiattu aboard the Millennium Falcon, during which time Fel was reunited with his old classmate Han Solo. The pair discussed their past, especially Fel's Imperial service. Upon landing, Fel attended the diplomatic reception wearing his old Imperial uniform; despite defecting, Fel continued to favor his red-striped 181st uniform and, at times, flight suit. At the reception, he chatted with some of Eiattu's nobles, offending Count Arian Laabann by emphasizing service and dismissing the idea of a natural order to society placing noble bloodlines at the top.
Not long into the summit, however, Organa and Celchu with her were kidnapped by an unknown party. As knowledge of the hidden passageways used to execute the kidnapping was restricted, suspicion immediately fell on Laabann, who had an anti-Republic past. Estillo, Fel, Solo, and Estillo's consort Count Rial Pernon prepared to interrogate Laabann, with torture if necessary, but Fel persuaded the others to allow him time alone with Laabann. Fel told Laabann that his defection was a ruse, and issued a high-level Imperial code: the AT3 Directive, compelling the cooperation of Laabann, an Imperial asset. Laabann confessed that he had sold Organa's location to Leonia Tavira, the former Moff of the sector and now leader of a gang of pirates.
Fel, Solo, and Chewbacca then set out in pursuit of a ship which had been detected leaving the system with a false registry shortly after the kidnapping. Fel and Solo again discussed their pasts, comparing their disillusionment with the Empire and their joining the Rebels. They tracked the ship to StarForge Station, where they confronted Rayt, a small-time smuggler who had transferred the kidnap victims. Rayt was unhelpful, nearly driving Fel to physical violence, but Solo stole his ship's repair log and found that a stop had been made on Axxila. On Axxila, the Millennium Falcon, with Fel on a quad laser turret, arrived just in time to intervene in the battle between Tavira's pirate squadrons and Rogue Squadron, supplemented by the escaped Celchu and Organa in a stolen Y-wing. Only after defeating the pirates and putting down did Fel realize that "Organa" was not Organa at all, but her friend and double Winter, who had served as a decoy at Eiattu while the real Organa negotiated a secret settlement with Pestage on Axxila.
Their escape was complicated when Admiral Delak Krennel arrived in orbit with the Star Destroyer Reckoning. Fel devised a plan in which the Falcon captured a TIE fighter and Fel used the Imperial comm system aboard to contact Krennel and issue another AT3 Directive ordering Krennel to allow their escape, again posing as a spy. The order was confirmed with the aid of Pestage, aboard Reckoning and now ready to defect to the New Republic, and the group escaped. One month later, Fel and the Rogues received a new assignment: Pestage had been caught on Ciutric during his attempt to defect and was in the custody of Governor Brothic. Rogue Squadron and Aggressor Wing would fly cover while three commando teams under Kapp Dendo extracted Pestage. Before taking off, Fel was confronted by Lieutenant Telsij Cayr, a Y-wing pilot Fel had shot down over Brentaal IV, killing her gunner and grievously injuring her. Fel expected an angry outburst, but instead she congratulated him on his defection and made clear that she held no hard feelings against a fellow New Republic loyalist and would be proud to fly with Fel in the future.
Gratified, Fel set off on the mission, which went smoothly until Krennel, again under Isard's orders, arrived with Reckoning and the Interdictor Star Destroyer Binder. Prevented from escaping, the Rogues were forced to go to ground while Aggressor Wing fled. While encamped on the ground, Fel went to speak to Pestage, in New Republic custody. Fel attempted to persuade Pestage to see that the Empire was broken, that Pestage belonged in the New Republic. Pestage dismissed the New Republic as incompetent power-grubbers, and insisted that Fel owed everything he was to the Empire and could never truly become a New Republic partisan. Disappointed with what he saw as Pestage's willful blindness to his actual situation, cast out of power and enemy of the Empire, Fel walked away.
Fel went into combat again, taking down several of Krennel's patrolling TIEs in a plot to draw down their numbers; the battle cost the life of fellow Rogue Ibtisam. Nrin Vakil, who had feelings for her, nearly killed Pestage in his grief, but Fel restrained him, causing another argument over Fel's defection, with Fel attempting to persuade Vakil that he had in fact changed his attitudes as well as his side. The Rogues then went into space, downing several TIEs before Mirax Terrik arrived with Aggressor Wing, which had fled only to the edge of the system, at her side. Having significantly dented the number of TIEs Krennel could throw at them, the pilots refueled and made another run, taking down Reckoning's shields and damaging Binder, causing the pair to run. With the interdiction field gone, the New Republic forces escaped, though Pestage slipped away before being evacuated to rendezvous with Krennel, who he thought would conspire with him but instead murdered the former leader of the Empire.
With Fel's identity as a defector out, the Empire undertook a campaign to vilify Fel, depicting him as a traitor and the villain of Brentaal, making Isoto the hero. Fel continued serving the New Republic in Rogue Squadron long enough to get to know Luke Skywalker, and his confidence in his choice was vindicated five months later when he was reunited with his wife who, now safe in the New Republic, dropped her Imperial stage name and went by the name Syal once more. Ecstatic, Fel served a few more months until his key role in defeating Isard's forces in a critical battle caused her to take steps against Fel. Already furious with him due to his continual evasion of her plans, she sought out Fel. Grand Admiral Thrawn himself planned the trap which kidnapped Fel. With his disappearance approximately one and a half years after Endor, the New Republic assumed him dead at Isard's hands. Antilles believed Fel to be dead and in 6 ABY, shortly before the Liberation of Coruscant by the New Republic, Antilles recorded an account of Fel's life, which was included by the historian Voren Na'al's Oral History of the New Republic.
The Empire of the Hand
- "He brought me out here. Showed me what it was we faced, and what we'd have to do to stop it. Showed me that even with all the resources of the Empire and New Republic combined, and with himself at the head, there were no guarantees of victory. […] Once I understood—once I really understood—I had no choice but to join him."
- ―Soontir Fel to Mara Jade, speaking of Thrawn
Fel had not been killed, or even imprisoned, by Isard. Isard turned Fel over to Thrawn, who had been the alien admiral at Derra IV. The cause of Fel's first doubts of the Empire was the tool of his reconversion. Thrawn, stationed in the Unknown Regions, showed Fel the myriad deadly threats to galactic civilization found in those isolated parts, and convinced Fel of the need to battle against them. At Thrawn's secret base on Nirauan, the Hand of Thrawn, Fel was introduced to Thrawn's Empire of the Hand, an organization made up of Imperial assets under Thrawn's command and Chiss auxiliaries known as Syndic Mitth'raw'nuruodo's Household Phalanx—"Mitth'raw'nuruodo" being Thrawn's full name. Fel accepted a position in the organization, convinced that it was doing vital work and that it was not the corrupt Empire of Palpatine or Isard but an unprejudiced, non-oppressive government of the sort he had once believed himself to be fighting for.
Thrawn and Fel arranged for Syal to join them on Nirauan; when she disappeared a few months later, it was assumed that Isard had captured her as well. Later analysis showed that possibility to be less certain, but the actual events were never uncovered. Davin and Chak made the transition as well, though no evidence exists that anyone in the New Republic or Empire, even Antilles, ever knew of their existence, which was a secret kept even more closely than Syal's identity. Fel served loyally in Thrawn's forces and gained the rank of general. Fel also returned to the use of his noble title, which he had previously declared lost to him. Whether the title was legitimately restored or was simply a sign of respect was unclear; those in the New Republic continued to use it as well despite being unaware of Fel's return to Imperial service.
In 7 ABY, Warlord Zsinj undertook a scheme in which he hired actor Tetran Cowall to impersonate the recently disappeared Fel's voice and mannerisms from inside the cockpit of a TIE Interceptor rigged with droid-assisted piloting routines designed to mimic Fel's skills. Zsinj also created a false 181st to go along with the deception, which was designed to impress others with the legendary ace's supposed presence in Zsinj's arsenal and to draw in Wedge Antilles and destroy him. The impostor Fel was never seen, only his starfighter, but the deception took in many individuals, including Antilles and the New Republic, until Antilles shot down Cowall and exposed the ruse at the Battle of Selaggis.
At some point, Fel became the commander of the starfighter unit Gray Squadron and he participated in an Empire of the Hand military campaign against the forces of the alien warlord Nuso Esva. In 8 ABY, the Imperials tracked Esva to the planet Quethold, where he had formed an alliance with the Queen of the Red, the leader of the world's inhabitants, the Quesoth. In preparation for a strike against Quethold, Thrawn held a strategy session aboard the Star Destroyer Admonitor, where he discussed Esva's situation with Fel, Senior Captain Voss Parck, the stormtrooper commander Balkin and Stromma Council Liaison Nyama, an envoy sent from the Stromma species. During the meeting Fel had a disagreement with Nyama over Thrawn's tactical abilities and the starfighter pilot took a dislike to the Liaison. After some discussion,Thrawn decided to send a Quesoth to make a holocam recording of an art collection that Esva possessed, to aide the Chiss in analyzing Esva's military strategies. Once the footage had been obtained, Thrawn, Fel, Parck, Balkin and Nyama reconvened to review the recording. They developed a plan to attack Esva in the Red City on Quethold, whereby some Imperial juggernaut vehicles would draw fire from the forces of Esva and the Quesoth, while Fel and Gray Squadron would fly through a gap in the city's shields and destroy the shield's generators and some laser cannon emplacements.
Shortly afterward, the battle commenced and Imperial forces landed on the edge of the Red City, while Fel and three TIE fighter squadrons under his command gave cover to the landing site. Thrawn contacted Fel via a comlink to check how the deployment was proceeding, and the Chiss Admiral commanded Fel to report in to him if the fighters began detecting the use of Quesoth Soldier Speak—the language that the Queen used to communicate with her Soldiers—by the Quesoth. The Imperial juggernauts subsequently headed toward the Red City, per the plan, and Fel ordered Gray Squadron to form up behind him and search for holes in the city's shields. However, he immediately came under fire from the laser cannons and was forced to take evasive action to avoid being hit. Once the locations of all the loudspeakers that communicated the Soldier Speak to the Soldiers had been discovered by the Imperials, Thrawn granted Fel permission to assault the city. Fel flew toward the shields and activated some fake fire damage on his craft to trick Esva's gunners into thinking that he had been hit, while his Chiss wingmate Kres'ten'tarthi flew towards the shields. A gap in the shields momentarily opened up to allow the laser cannons to fire upon Stent, and Fel simultaneously activated some explosive bolts that were fixed to his starfighter, causing the wings to fall from his ship. With his vessel rendered slim enough to fit through the hole, Fel directed the fighter through the hole and he subsequently attacked and destroyed all of the Queen's communications loudspeakers, except for one, which Thrawn planned to use to deceive the Quesoth soldiers. Fel then maneuvered his fighter into a position from which he could defend the remaining speaker, and Thrawn had it play a recording that ordered the Quesoth Soldiers to defend Esva and the warlord's associates. The Imperials eventually won the battle and both Esva and the Queen of the Red were killed.
When Thrawn departed the Unknown Regions in order to assume control of the Empire's military, Fel stayed behind in command of the Empire of the Hand's fighter corps, serving as a top lieutenant to Voss Parck, who was now an Admiral and had been appointed as the steward of the Empire of the Hand in Thrawn's absence. Fel provided genetic material for Thrawn's Mount Tantiss cloning facility, where hundreds of his clones were produced and seeded across the New Republic and Empire in sleeper cells ready to rise up if called upon or if the galactic invasion Thrawn feared were to take place. When Thrawn was killed in 9 ABY, Fel was devastated, but continued on with faith in Thrawn's promise that, if he were ever reported dead, he would return in ten years. With Thrawn's death, Parck became the Empire of the Hand's commandant; together with Fel's former Gray Squadron wingmate Commander Kres'ten'tarthi, the Chiss master of the Household Phalanx, Fel and Parck seemed to make up the senior leadership of the Empire of the Hand. Fel, though, outranked Stent—Kres'ten'tarthi's core name.
Fel undertook the raising of a family in the harsh Unknown Regions. Davin and Chak were joined in 7 ABY by brother Jagged, named after Syal's father. Sisters Cherith and Wynssa followed. Fel also raised his fourth son Cem as a shadow child—kept secret from all others, the shadow child would assure the survival of the family line in the event of an attack, a Chiss tradition. Raised among the Chiss, the Fels were subject to their harsh self-discipline and early maturation. When Davin was of age, Fel sent him to a Chiss military academy with links to the Empire of the Hand; Davin's entrance was secured by Stent and Fel became the only Human to know the location of the academy. It was believed by those at the academy that Fel was a liaison between the Chiss Ascendancy and the Imperial Remnant, as the Empire of the Hand was unwelcome to mainstream Chiss society due to its embrace of preemptive-strike tactics. When his time came, Jagged was sent there as well. Chak, apparently, did not attend that particular academy, though he achieved the rank of commander in the Empire of the Hand, leading a fleet-arm of clawcraft. Jagged had command of his own squadron by age 16 and reached the rank of colonel and command of a wing of clawcraft, force Spike, by age 18. Davin and Cherith served in the Empire of the Hand's military as well; at the age of 20, Davin died in the service of the Empire of the Hand, and Cherith died at an even younger age, both before 25 ABY.
Fel served not only as a commander, but also in the front lines of the Empire of the Hand's many wars against the Unknown Regions' marauders, carving out a vast swath of territory. In the final battle of the campaign against one warlord, Fel lost his right eye. As medical resources were limited in the Empire of the Hand, Fel declined to receive a cloned or prosthetic replacement eye, instead wearing an eye-patch, so that the procedure could be available for another man; he would later jokingly brag that, even with one eye, he remained the best pilot in the region. At some point Fel also picked up injuries which left him with a minor limp.
Relations with the galaxy
- "There's no time for pride out here, Jade."
- ―Soontir Fel to Mara Jade
Fel and Parck refused to turn the Empire of the Hand over to the mainstream Empire or its successor state, the Imperial Remnant, holding out for Thrawn's return. When rumors that Thrawn was alive and active in Remnant space found their way to the Unknown Regions ten years after Thrawn's death, the pair found it suspicious that Thrawn had not first contacted his most loyal servants. The timing, however, was too close to ignore. Fel dispatched several Nssis-class "Clawcraft" fighters to seek out Mara Jade, whom Parck had determined would be an ideal intermediary in reestablishing relations with the galaxy due to her Imperial past, New Republic ties, and position as second-in-command to Talon Karrde, the galaxy's most knowledgeable information broker.
Jade was able to triangulate the location of Nirauan from the ships' vectors and followed them back to Nirauan, where she was shot down. Luke Skywalker undertook a rescue mission, and together the two infiltrated the Hand of Thrawn. Jade was taken captive and brought before Fel and Parck, where she learned Fel's fate and the basic history of the Empire of the Hand. She was offered a position with them, negotiating with the Remnant and Republic, but declined. Fel and Parck made the decision to send an emissary to Bastion, the Imperial Remnant's capital, and finally reveal their existence to the galaxy at large. Jade strongly opposed that course of action, however, and Fel prepared to wound her with his charric just badly enough to force her into a healing trance but not enough to do serious damage. Skywalker intervened in time to prevent that, enjoying a momentary reunion with his former colleague Fel and then escaping with Jade. Fel and Parck debriefed Sorn, the pilot who had scouted Bastion for them, and prepared to launch a ship to make contact, but before they could, Jade steered her ship, Jade's Fire, into the Hand of Thrawn's hangar bay, damaging or destroying all Fel's craft and preventing him from sending anything to Bastion. In their escape, Jade and Skywalker reluctantly killed a clone of Thrawn which had been programmed to awake soon—the Grand Admiral's actual promised return, as the "Thrawn" in the Remnant was shortly thereafter exposed as a con man serving in corrupt Moff Vilim Disra's attempted power grab.
A fleet of pirates detected the Hand of Thrawn's vulnerability due to Jade's sabotage and capitalized on it, forcing the evacuation of the Hand; Fel survived and the base was retaken, though the pirates discovered the Chiss academy which Jagged attended as well. Fel's son was crucial in fighting them off, and in doing so won much greater confidence from his instructors. In the wake of the events, Fel and Parck became aware that Thrawn's return had been a hoax; with Skywalker and Jade aware of them, however, they opened cautious relations with Supreme Commander of the Imperial Fleet Gilad Pellaeon, a protégé of Thrawn, and with Chief of State Leia Organa Solo of the New Republic, though they concealed the extent of their territory and never cooperated very strongly.
In 22 ABY, Aristocra Chaf'orm'bintrano of the Chiss Ascendancy, a sometime ally of the Empire of the Hand, undertook a plan to goad the Vagaari—a nomadic pirate race that represented one of the Unknown Regions' greater threats at the moment—into war, as Chiss military doctrine disallowed the Ascendancy's making the first strike. He enlisted the help of Parck and Fel, who sent a four-man unit of stormtroopers from the 501st Legion under the command of Fel's son Chak along on a supposed diplomatic mission to the remains of Outbound Flight. Skywalker and Jade, now married, were also aboard. When the Vagaari finally attacked, the Jedi and the Imperials proved vital to repelling them, exactly as Aristocra Formbi had intended. After this point, Parck largely faded from sight in the Empire of the Hand while Fel remained prominent and was the only high-ranking officer of the original three leaders seen to give orders; given his age, it was possible, though unproven, that Parck passed away and Fel inherited leadership of the Empire of the Hand.
When Pellaeon issued a complete recall of all forces in 25 ABY in the face of the Yuuzhan Vong invasion, the Empire of the Hand detected it, and Fel sent out three squadrons, including force Spike, to the aid of the Imperial Remnant, led by his son Jagged. Jagged participated in the defense of Ithor, where he served valiantly and was reunited with his uncle Antilles. When Pellaeon's Moffs forced him to return to Imperial space, Jag sent a squadron back to report to his father and kept the other two to continue liaising with Rogue Squadron and fighting the Yuuzhan Vong. Fel recalled those squadrons not long after, finding them better put to use at home, as he felt they were not receiving full enough support. He felt that the New Republic could handle the fight on its own while the Empire of the Hand fought its own battles, though his wife attempted to persuade him otherwise.
Fel continued in his duties, founding several secret bases; the facility at Nirauan was abandoned for unknown reasons. In 27 ABY, Fel learned of the Battle of Coruscant. He was deeply concerned by that development, and now felt that the New Republic needed his aid. He called Jagged into his office, now in one of his secret bases, and they discussed once more deploying Empire of the Hand forces to aid the New Republic; Jag wished to do so, but Fel was more reluctant. He finally decided to send Jagged and Shawnkyr Nuruodo to learn more of the Yuuzhan Vong and formulate tactics before large-scale forces were deployed against them. He was deeply uneasy, knowing that he might be sending his third child to die, but knew that hard decisions must be made in war. Jag fought the Yuuzhan Vong at Hapes and Borleias before sending his report back to Fel; he, however, stayed to continue the fight—and his budding romance with Jaina Solo. Fel chose to reinforce him with a full squadron of Chiss; originally assigned to scout, Jag decided to keep them on to fight when they were supposed to return.
Among the Chiss
- "I have given the Chiss my all since I joined you; surely I have the—"
"You joined Thrawn, Fel! That's not the same as joining the Chiss. We have ways and traditions he turned his back on, and by joining him you proved that you don't respect them, either."
- ―Soontir Fel and Ina'ganet'nuruodo
A great shakeup took place by 28 ABY, however. Fel moved from the Empire of the Hand to the Chiss Ascendancy itself, taking up the rank of Assistant Syndic in the Chiss Expansionary Defense Force and gaining an estate on the capital world of Csilla; this move was public enough to be made known to the Skywalkers. Fel was one of the very few Humans to meet the demanding Chiss standards for acceptance, though they desired more Humans to bring galactic experience into their previously insular society. Fel's incorporation occurred during the Chiss Civil War, and Fel came in on the winning side, helping to destroy some of the three losing families. One of Fel's early initiatives within the Ascendancy was to push for the utilization of droid technology in battle; he supervised the design of a prototype droid starfighter.
In 28 ABY, the Skywalkers and Jacen Solo arrived at the head of an expedition seeking the living planet Zonama Sekot. They requested Chiss aid in finding it, and had to meet with representatives of the Four Families and the CEDF. Fel would have represented the Expansionary Defense Fleet, but was concerned that he might not be fully impartial due to his past with the Skywalkers; he instead sent his subordinate, Chief Navigator Peita Aabe, also a Human, as his representative. When the decision was made to allow the party access to the Expeditionary Library, Fel spoke with the Skywalkers and offered them a ride to the library. There, his daughter Wynssa aided the team. During her time with the Galactic Alliance representatives, Wynssa mentioned Cem; she was notorious for spilling secrets, but Fel's ally Formbi was convinced that Wynssa only revealed what her father instructed her to.
When several of the party had left, Wynssa was led away by Aabe in what turned out to be a kidnapping. At the same time, Fel was aboard an ice barge, ferrying most of the Skywalker party back to their ship. He was ambushed and forced off course by several agents of a rival, conservative syndic who resented his attempts to bring change to Chiss society, and whose family had been devastated in the Chiss Civil War; this syndic had bought Aabe's cooperation. Fel and the group faked surrender before attacking with the aid of a distracting burst of timed fire from the ice barge's cannons. They downed the enemy craft and captured Ina'ganet'nuruodo, leader of the rival syndic's phalanx; meanwhile, Jacen Solo rescued Wynssa and captured Aabe. The exposure of the plot gained Fel more support as the Chiss saw the unsavory actions of his opponents and caused them to give fuller support to the Skywalkers' mission. Fel apparently took advantage of his access to Chiss medical facilities to replace his right eye shortly thereafter. The mission to find Zonama Sekot was a success, and the Galactic Alliance was able to win the Yuuzhan Vong War with Sekot's aid. With the war over, Jagged Fel was appointed to the position of liaison between the CEDF and the Galactic Alliance, where he continued his romance with Jaina, nearly bringing Fel into the Solo family by marriage before the couple broke up. Fel's state was not entirely happy, however, as Chak died during the later years of the war, leaving him with only Jagged, Cem, and Wynssa surviving—half his children were dead.
The Killiks, an insectoid species dominated by a hive mind, had been the catalyst for the Chiss Civil War, as they had been used as labor before their ability to absorb others into the hive mind absorbed two houses of Chiss. Five years after the end of the Yuuzhan Vong War, the expansionistic Killik Colony sparked a war with the Chiss. Jagged, now a commander in the CEDF fleet, led a task force against the Colony's outpost on Qoribu, where he found that several Jedi, summoned mentally by former Jedi Raynar Thul, now the injured and mind-warped leader of the Colony, were aiding the Killiks. This was a point of great concern for the Chiss, who were invited to the Ossus Academy by Skywalker in an attempt to assure them that the Jedi Order as a whole would act to end the conflict and any Jedi fighting solely for the Killiks were rogues. Fel himself was invited, though he declined on the basis of his position as an officer on the general staff of the CEDF, meaning he should not consort with a current enemy; he did suggest that they attempt an exchange of information on the Jedi. Aristocra Chaf'orm'bintrano was sent instead, where he was accidentally informed of the existence of Cem, but promised to keep it secret.
During the conflict, Jag captured the Wookiee Jedi Lowbacca and, after a Jedi peace treaty was forged between the Ascendancy and the Killiks, guaranteed Lowbacca's parole upon his release back to the Jedi. Jagged was promoted to captain for his role, but the Fels' situation came crashing down when the Killiks, with the aid of the Joiner Jedi, restarted the war. Lowbacca fought once more, and the Fel family was, through their guarantee of his parole, held responsible, morally and financially, for his damage to the Chiss Ascendancy. Additionally, Jag was shot down during the final battle of the war, where he was marooned for two years. Fel financed a private recovery operation after the Chiss recovery team was killed in the jungles, though that expedition was destroyed as well. A second private recovery effort was able to find Jagged, who was able to make use of the first team's equipment to contact the second team. The Fel family was unable to pay for all the damages caused by Lowbacca, however, and Jag was forced into exile; banished even from technical membership in Fel's family. He reentered the known regions of the galaxy, where he intended to hunt down Alema Rar, the last remnant of the Killik Dark Nest and restore his family's honor, though he himself could never return. Soontir Fel himself was dishonored and impoverished.
Fel would not remain in dishonor forever; in 41 ABY, with the aid of Jaina Solo and the Jedi Zekk, Jagged succeeded in killing Rar and restoring the family's good name. Jagged soon after became the head of state of the Imperial Remnant as part of the Second Galactic Civil War's peace settlement and in 43 ABY became engaged to Jaina Solo. Eventually, Jagged reestablished the office of Galactic Emperor and took the throne of the Imperial Remnant, transforming it into a new Galactic Empire which Soontir Fel's descendants ruled for at least three generations.
Personality and traits
- "Only a fool thinks he can escape his past."
"I agree, so I atone for mine."
- ―Sate Pestage and Soontir Fel
Fel was raised by his family to be dutiful, loyal, upstanding, and a hard worker. The Fel family placed a strong priority on looking out for each other, and fiercely opposed the betrayal of anyone in the family group; instead, any family member should put the rest of the family above himself and be willing to make sacrifices for them. Fel followed this ideology in his decision to accept the appointment to Carida; though he valued justice for Post, he could not bring himself to pursue it at the cost AGR would have imposed upon his family. Fel did remain ashamed that he had been forced into such a compromise, however.
Additional values were forged into Fel during his time at the Academy. Fel learned to value discipline, order, and responsibility. He dutifully devoted himself to his studies; Fel was always determined, at all times, to do his very best at whatever task he was assigned, whether he cared for it or not. When he graduated, he took responsibility for his men, building camaraderie with them and taking close care of them, just as he did with his family. He always maintained strict discipline and training, however, as he later did with his children. He considered himself a conscientious and involved commander and was as devoted to do right by them as he was to perform to his fullest in his duties. One of the surest ways to infuriate Fel was to endanger his men, as Isard did. Han Solo claimed that Fel was the best pilot that he had ever met, but that Fel's rigidity prevented him from becoming an even greater pilot. Fel also preferred flying as a starfighter pilot to serving as a command officer on the bridge of a starship, and as such, he did not enjoy his tenure aboard the Pride of the Senate.
Fel believed very strongly in the Empire at the outset. He felt that the Empire brought order and protected those who could not protect themselves; he initially believed as well the Human High Culture rhetoric that aliens were lesser species who needed Human protection. However, Fel reconsidered his views on non-Humans after the Battle of Derra IV, where the intellect of the alien Thrawn led the Empire to victory. Fel felt that the Rebellion was unjustified because it disrupted the Empire's order and brought war and anarchy upon those he was sworn to protect—and Fel took his obligation to protect the Empire's citizens extremely seriously.
Fel did not approve of all Imperial practices, however; he did not care for the execution of Base Delta Zero attacks, the destruction of Alderaan, or other such massacres, being opposed to causing the deaths of civilians. He appeared to regard them not as inherent to the Empire, though, but as the result of orders on the part of individual officers whom he felt, if he were ever assigned to one, he could and should counsel away from such measures. Fel did accept, however, that such extreme actions could sometimes be carried out for a greater good and was resigned to follow any lawful orders he received.
Fel's disillusionment with the Empire grew, however, after witnessing Thrawn, an alien, perform a central role in winning a crucial battle. Aliens, he saw, were capable of performing as well as Humans and could indeed outperform them in defending the Empire; therefore, the Empire's rationale for its humanocentrism fell apart in Fel's eyes. Isard's testing of Fel's loyalty also contributed to his doubts, though he constantly reminded himself of his duty to the Empire's citizens and hoped that the regime would change its ways. When the Empire dissolved into infighting and chaos after Endor, Fel's belief was further undermined. Isard's sacrifice of his men for her own aims was the final straw.
Fel had time during his captivity to think over the conclusions he had avoided drawing during his Imperial service. The Empire was not, and perhaps never had been, the shining institution which he had originally viewed it to be. For the first time, he considered that the New Republic might, at this juncture, represent order and stability better than the Empire, and that its values might now be more in line with his own than the Empire's. He joined and in short order became a true believer in the New Republic cause, championing equality and democracy, and he wanted more Imperials to see that the New Republic could represent the best values of the Empire without its oppression, though he was struck by occasional doubts about turning his back on all he had fought for previously, especially with his separation from his wife. Fel considered himself as having genuinely turned over a new leaf with his conversion, and was determined to make amends for any previous sins. However, he did not care to have his Imperial past held against him by others, given how many Rebels were former Imperials themselves.
Fel had little conflict over returning to Imperial service, however, when approached by Thrawn. In the Empire of the Hand, he saw an Empire which lacked the flaws of the Empire proper, and he considered its mission absolutely vital. Furthermore, he was not called to fight against the New Republic himself, though how he felt about Thrawn's war against it was unclear. Both with the Empire of the Hand and later with the Chiss, Fel found a culture which matched his devotion to duty, discipline, and order, and Fel fully embraced Chiss values.
Despite his noble title, Fel was not an aristocratic man. He believed that those with power should serve, not be served by, those without as their duty. He enjoyed gardening and physical activity and, while he did not unnecessarily deny himself, Fel did not indulge in extravagance or excess during his time as an Imperial hero. When he moved to the Unknown Regions, he was satisfied to exist in harsh and unforgiving circumstances with little or no luxury.
Fel was deeply in love with his wife, Syal. He was quite devoted to her, and refused to cheat on her when given the opportunity. When she disappeared, he was extremely distraught, and spent much of his time alone and brooding, looking at holos of her. She was the only person known to call him by his nickname Tir, and he spoke tenderly to her where he usually kept his emotions hidden with most others. Fel loved his children as well and was quite proud of them, but also served as their superior in the military and so was required to deal with them more brusquely in that role. He was deeply saddened by the deaths of half his children, but accepted it as part of serving in the armed forces—even given that he had issued the orders which sent them to their deaths and had brought them up with his own military-centric sense of duty and unrelenting high standards. Syal, however, he was absolutely unwilling to risk, and remained quite protective of her, who had not been raised in the same way, throughout their time in the Unknown Regions.
Behind the scenes
The character of Soontir Fel was created by Michael Stackpole for the Star Wars: X-Wing Rogue Squadron comic series. Editor Peet Janes asked Stackpole to come up with an "Imperial Red Baron" to complement the New Republic aces of Rogue Squadron, a concept Stackpole thought was in line with fan desire to see an Imperial fighter pilot perspective. Timothy Bradstreet illustrated Fel for the trade paperback covers of In the Empire's Service and Blood and Honor using his brother, Bob Bradstreet, as reference. Bradstreet and Janes wanted Fel to have a similar look to the renowned World War I fighter pilot Manfred von Richthofen, known as the Red Baron, appearing to be a "master of the skies." Stackpole used Fel throughout the X-wing series in order to explore issues surrounding the Empire. Upon Stackpole's mentioning him to Timothy Zahn, Zahn decided he could use the character, causing Fel's appearance in Zahn's Hand of Thrawn Duology. Zahn and Stackpole worked together to outline Fel's entire career as backstory material in preparation for his appearances. Zahn is enthusiastic about the character and has described Fel as "shamelessly borrowed by me every chance I get" in an interview.
Fel first appeared in the In the Empire's Service story arc of the X-wing comics, but the novel The Hutt Gambit was released shortly thereafter, in which Fel made a cameo as an Imperial officer during the Battle of Nar Shaddaa. Stackpole had done a favor for The Hutt Gambit author A. C. Crispin, helping her with questions about space battles, and in return she introduced the character into the events of the novel. Those releases were followed up with Star Wars: X-Wing Rogue Squadron 25: The Making of Baron Fel, in which Fel's extensive backstory, already given broadly in In the Empire's Service, was detailed. The events of The Hutt Gambit were themselves incorporated into this telling. Fel continued to appear in the X-Wing: Rogue Squadron comics until their cancellation ten issues after The Making of Baron Fel.
Stackpole intended to explore Fel's story further in the X-wing comics before they were canceled, telling the story of his return to Imperial service. He has indicated that he had the story ready to tell when the series was canceled. Stackpole has also stated that he and Zahn had additionally worked on story ideas featuring Thrawn and Fel. Presumably, Stackpole referred to The Reenlistment of Baron Fel, which he created with Zahn as a six-part comic. When the X-wing series was canceled, the storyline was reworked as a four-part short story, a format in which Stackpole and Zahn had collaborated before. While both versions remain extant, in Stackpole's and Zahn's possession, neither has been sold and the story so far has not seen public light.
A Fel impostor appeared in the later X-Wing novels, and the backstory of his disappearance from the New Republic was given. Fel did not appear again until the Hand of Thrawn Duology, in which Fel reappeared in the Empire of the Hand and a sleeper cell of his clones aided the New Republic. Fel's only other novel appearances were in The New Jedi Order: Dark Journey and The New Jedi Order: Force Heretic II: Refugee, though he received frequent mention throughout the New Jedi Order series and subsequent Dark Nest Trilogy and Legacy of the Force series due to the prominent role of his son Jagged in those series. Despite his relative scarcity of appearances, Fel has a significant fanbase. Fel's popularity is enough that he received his own action figure, a relatively rare achievement for an Expanded Universe character, in the X-Wing: Rogue Squadron Comic Pack.
In August 2011, Fel was added as a character in the online game Star Wars Galaxies, as part of the game's "Ace Pilot System." Fel featured as one of a number of Imperial ace pilots that could randomly spawn if a Rebel-Alliance-aligned player character approached certain space stations and performed particular Duty Missions. If Fel spawned, he attacked the player while flying TIE Interceptor and if he was defeated, the player received an award and Fel immediately departed from the system and entered hyperspace. Fel and other elite Imperial pilots could also be found flying in various space battles that took place in the Corellian, Naboo and Tatoo systems.
The loss of Fel's eye was first established in Vision of the Future, and the text of Refugee establishes that Fel still wore his eye-patch at that time. The canonical Japanese cover art of Refugee, however, shows Fel with both eyes. No official explanation for the discrepancy has been provided, though this article accepts that the art is a canonical depiction of Fel at some time around the events of Refugee.
Fel's transition to the Chiss Ascendancy has never been fully described beyond Chaf'orm'bintrano's very vague mentions in The Joiner King, but seems to stem from authors Elaine Cunningham's and Sean Williams and Shane Dix's conflation of the Empire of the Hand with the Chiss Ascendancy; Formbi's discussion in The Joiner King effectively represented a retcon of the conflicting material.
Formbi's discussion also retconned the discrepancy in the number of Fel children. No Fel children were ever named before the New Jedi Order, but Dark Journey established five Fel siblings—Jagged, his older deceased brother Davin, his younger deceased sister Cherith, and two other unnamed children. Refugee filled in the missing two as Cem and Wynssa. Survivor's Quest, however, created the character of Chak, a Fel son older than Jagged; the shadow child retcon allowed there to be five public Fel children and one, Cem, hidden. Chak's existence also created other complication, as his age—approximately early or mid twenties—did not allow him to have been born after Fel's transition to the Empire of the Hand, as the other Fels' ages did; in fact, it barely allowed time for him to be born after, rather than before, Fel's marriage. Therefore, he must have existed during Fel's time in the New Republic, but no mention of him was ever made, while Fel constantly fretted about his wife, and no one in the New Republic displayed any knowledge of any Fel children, only of Syal, suggesting very strongly that Chak's existence was kept secret. The Official Star Wars Fact File 122 established Fel as having multiple children before his defection; given the established chain of ages, these could only be Chak and Davin; this requires yet another child kept secret. While that issue of The Official Star Wars Fact File was riddled with errors regarding the Fel family, this piece of information does not actually conflict with any canon and so has been incorporated into this article.