I serve the Empire, as I always have.
Much more than your average Imp buckethead.
Max Harkov, nicknamed "Mauler", using the callsigns Delta Leader but later Alpha Leader, and mockingly called "Vader's pet" by other Imperials, was a human male ace TIE pilot in the Imperial Navy. He born in 19 BBY on the planet of Sepan in the Inner Rim Territories, which was undergoing a civil war. He was taught to pilot various starfighters at an early age, and thus was later recruited into the Galactic Empire after they intervened in the civil war. His own father, Yasvan Harkov, was an admiral. He was considered by his instructors at the Corulag Officer Academy to be a good pilot, and was trained to become a test pilot. As a result, Max flew most of the Empire's advanced fighters. His personal favorites were the TIE/ad Avenger and TIE/D Defender. Early on, Max often was stationed at remote facilities where he saw no action. Shortly after the Battle of Yavin IV, he was deployed as a member of the Delta Squadron.
His own father, Yasvan, ended up making a deal with the Alliance to Restore the Republic. As a test of loyalty, Darth Vader assigned Delta Squadron to fight the rogue Harkov's forces. Max preformed well, and Vader dropped suspicion of him. In the mid Galactic Civil War, he fell under command of Grand Admiral Demetrius Zaarin. The officer admired his skill, and upon betraying the Empire to overthrow Emperor Palpatine, tried to get Max to join his forces. He refused, and instead reported it to Vader. Max went on to defeat Zaarin along side Vader and another ace named Maarek Stele. He took part in several battles against Rebel Alliance forces prior to the Battle of Endor. Vader stationed him on Coruscant during the battle, and thus he did not take part in the battle.
Max was considered to be a cold and emotionless person. He was willing to risk the lives of his men or innocent civilians at the battleground to achieve victory. He attributed to serving so often under Vader, who constantly forced him to suppress his emotions. Max served under Vader in so many missions that many called him "Vader's pet".
That was why he fell in love with almost an equally cold hearted woman, Moff Hirono Tavira. However, she manipulated him into joining her splinter government after the deaths of Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader over Endor, the Second Imperium. He did so, though had her permission to leave and fight for mainstream factions such as Grand Admiral Thrawn's confederation and the reborn Palpatine's Dark Empire. After both men died in 12 ABY, he returned from his campaigns to protected Tavira's secret project, the Death Star III. When the New Republic found out, they deployed a fleet under Admiral Ackbar himself. Max was aboard one of the three Imperial-class Star Destroyers that was charged with defending the station, the Imperator. In the battle, he fought well but was unable to prevent the Republic from destroying the station and killing Tavira.
After her death, he went with an Imperial Intelligence agent who also served Tavira, a female Twi'lek named Terra Zaarin, to join the new Imperial Remnant created by Gilad Pellaeon and Natasi Daala. Max fought in the Yuuzhan Vong War and the Second Galactic Civil War, eventually reaching the rank of general and marrying Terra.
Oh, yeah, the good old days . . .
Max was born shortly after the end of the Clone Wars in 19 BBY to Yasvan Harkov, a Republic Navy captain, and an unknown woman on Sepan; a planet in the Inner Rim Territories. Being an officer in the Galactic Republic, Yasvan joined the Imperial Navy. He was then away from Max for long periods of time, putting him in his mother's supervision. She did not care too much for what Max did, but from an early age, he seemed to take an interest in speeders. His mother was working nearly all day, and thus did not notice he rode speeder bikes he could find.
In 7 BBY, his father Yasvan became an admiral. Max, meanwhile, began to drive various kinds of speeders. He became a better and better driver, having quick reflexes. In 4 BBY, when he was 15 years old, got an S-swoop for his birthday. It was essentially a faster but harder to control speeder bike. It did not take him long to master it as well, and so he began swoop racing. Max was good, winning numerous races. Also, in 3 BBY, he bought a T-16 Skyhopper, in which he practiced piloting. Due to driving speeders, Max seemed to have a natural skill with it.
Around the same time, a civil war began on Sepan. It was fought on many parts of the planet, but luckily Max's town was away from the fighting. The war got intense in other regions, causing the Galactic Empire to come in and help break it up. Max was recruited, or more specifically drafted, into the pro-Imperial faction. His reputation as a racer and pilot was planet-wide, prompting them to force Max to be a combat pilot for them. Having no choice by to accept, Max flew an old V-wing starfighter.
Max quickly became a skilled fighter pilot (or at least more skilled than the others on Sepan) and virtually mastered the V-wing. He had a record of fourteen kills in total. Meanwhile, his mother was constantly worried. However, she was glad that at least he was fighting on what most of the population considered to be the "good" side. His father, upon finding out, agreed, as that side was pro-Imperial. At one point, Max and several other Sepan pilots took part in an operation with Imperial TIE pilots. During the mission, only three Sepan pilots survived, and Max had preformed the best out of them (though half of the TIE pilots did better).
The Imperial squadron leader made note of that, and filed it in his report. Max continued to fight for his side until victory was almost assured. By that point, he had nineteen kills. The civil war finally ended when the other faction surrendered, and unknown to Max's side, only to be taken to various Imperial labor camps across the galaxy. However, before leaving the system, the Imperial commanding officer, Admiral Sancor Mordon decided to recruit several natives. Max was asked to by an Imperial recruiter sent down in a shuttle to inform the potential soldiers.
Max, after asking his mother and father (though the latter was reluctant), decided to enlist as they agreed. He was taken by Admiral Mordon out of the system, and to the Officer Academy on Corulag, as Mordon saw a lot of potential in him and wanted to make Max into his prodigy.
It's not my fault I am that skilled!
—Max to a jealous cadet
Sancor used his connections to get Max into the Corulag Officer Academy in 2 BBY. On Corulag, Max began training for the Imperial Navy as a TIE pilot. At first, they did grueling physical training, as well as marksmanship, melee combat, and survival skills. They were in the case that the pilot crashed or was forced to fight off boarders along side Imperial Navy troopers and Imperial Marines. After six months of the grueling physical training, which he came to hate but benefited from, they began actual flight training.
Starting in the simulators, Max and the other cadets began familiarizing themselves with the controls of the standard TIE/ln starfighter. From earlier experiences, Max was able to essentially master it in a matter of days, while the majority of cadets were still learning. Once several others had finished, his instructors let him try out the combat simulators. They had several mock battles, though Max almost always won. Some of the other cadets got annoyed. Finally, they went on to flying actual TIEs, as by then everyone learned the controls.
Max and the others began flying the TIE Light Duty fighters, which had weaker weapons and armor. They were specifically built for training purposes and garrisoning small remote worlds. Going through the flight obstacle courses quite easily, some of the others asked Max on how he did it so well. He answered that he was in a war already, which surprised most of them as he was only 17 then. After a while, they moved on to flying regular TIE fighters. Max passed the courses in them as well, doing everything with perfection as a result of already mastering it in the Light Duty.
They eventually returned to the flight simulators for more dogfights, in which Max usually won. He also worked well in team dogfights, in which he showed good leadership over his squad even though there were no assigned squad leaders. The instructors noticed that, as well as his quick thinking and decision making in battle. They then went on to learn just that; leadership and tactics/strategy. Max did well in leadership, but was about the same as everyone else in tactics and strategy. Near the end, he witnessed many to drop out and receive other roles like Imperial gunner.
Finally, in 0 BBY, he graduated the Corulag Academy at the top of his class and was given the rank of captain. The Naval Command decided to send him to be a test pilot, though let other officers reassign Max to combat duty. As a test pilot, he was not assigned to a squadron at first.
Interesting to be one of the first to fly starfighters, before anyone else in the Imperial Fleet even knows of their existence.
For several months, Max was stationed at a secret TIE fighter testing facility in the Outer Rim Territories known as ZA-13. It was run by Grand Admiral Demetrius Zaarin, an officer who specialized in TIE research and spearheaded new projects. The admiral also took and interest in Max's abilities as a pilot, and put him in command of an informal defense squadron of his facility. Max generally had no opinion of Zaarin, but liked his TIE research. While some comrades found it a boring job, he enjoyed test flying new fighters before any other pilots could even know about them. The fact that some of them were reserved for specialized units that normal Navy personnel couldn't access, like the TIE/H Hunter starfighter of the Storm Commandos, helped his satisfaction.
During his time at the ZA-13, Max tested several other fighters as well, such as the TIE Phantom, TIE Interdictor, and TIE Oppressor. But as he flew them, though Max liked all of them, he didn't get a feel that it was his craft. Max hoped one of the experimental fighters he tested would end up being the one he would fly in combat duty. Max realized around that time that he had not seen any action since he left the academy, baying to shoot some Rebel Navy pilots. However, he then started a test of a new fighter: the TIE/ad Avenger.
It was a space superiority starfighter. Zaarin told Max it was the next generation of TIE fighters, and let him be the first to fly it. Just by seeing it and reading informational datafiles, Max could tell it was going to be great. It was a sleek fighter, similar to the TIE/In interceptor. However, unlike it's predecessor, the fighter was even more maneuverable. It carried heavier laser cannons, able to destroy asteroids in a single burst. It carried warhead launchers, allowing the Avenger to fire proton torpedoes, concussion missiles, or a space bomb. Though the most groundbreaking thing to Max was the tractor beam installed onto the Avenger, allowing him to "grab" enemy fighters and hold them in his line of fire. For defense, it had as much armor as the interceptor, but unlike it, the Avenger had deflector shields.
Max flew the Avenger in a demonstration flight, preforming several maneuvers that would be difficult in a regular TIE, challenging in an interceptor, but easy in an Avenger. That was another feature he noted, it's small size and maneuverability made it a hard target to hit. Max proceeded to destroy three aligned T-65/I X-Wings on a platform of the ZA-13. He preformed a stunt in which he flew the Avenger in front of the view screen where Zaarin was standing. He couldn't help but notice a dark form next to the admiral.
After landing the craft, he was greeted by Zaarin and Darth Vader. The Dark Lord of the Sith went on to tell him he was impressed: both with the Avenger and his piloting skills. Vader then brought up some bad news: Imperial Intelligence found that his father Yasvan was a traitor, and was joining the Alliance to Restore the Republic. Even worse, Vader told him to fly as his wingman in a mission to destroy his father's Star Destroyer and kill him. The Dark Lord sensed Max's emotions of fear, and told him to suppress them. Max later recalled that it was when he began to grow cold and emotionless.
Hunt for the TraitorEdit
His traitorous father gathered his small force in their home star system of Sepan. When the Star Destroyer that Vader and Max were on entered the system, Yasvan attempted to contact Max, but it did not work. Max and the new unit he was assigned to, Delta Squadron, was deployed among the regular TIE fighters and interceptors. Max was glad to get to test the new TIE Avenger in combat.