Kayel awoke in the dark recesses of Slave I, her head spinning. Her first thought was to scream, but as she attempted just that, she realized that her captor, famed bounty hunter Boba Fett, was very capable with sound sponges. Alone in the dark, bound and unable to hear or make a sound, Kayel pondered her fate. Of course there was a bounty on her seventeen-year-old head. That tended to happen when you hijacked a load of Jabba the Hutt's illegal spice. What she didn't know, and what worried her, was exactly what painful punishment Jabba would exact before she would be blessed with death. Escape from Boba Fett was unheard of, and Kayel didn't even contemplate it. The young thief was in a strange position: unable to do anything.
How long she lay in the dark, immobile and silent, Kayel never knew. Finally, a faint light flickered on, followed by the gradual return of sound, and then her captor stalked into view.
"I must admit," Boba Fett said coolly, "I'm impressed. You, a teenager and an orphan, hijacked a powerful, expensive ship and managed to dispose of both it, the spice and any credits you might have gotten without arousing so much as a flicker of attention from the authorities. Unfortunately for you, though profitable for me, Jabba the Hutt does notice when a shipment goes missing. It was only a matter of time for me to figure out who had done it and where you were. "
Kayel was silent, keeping her face impassive.
Fett paused midstride. "You're pretty young for your line of work; who taught you?"
"I was a slave for Eiben Stellar until I was ten years old. Then he gave me one hundred credits and kicked me out; he said something about an old debt." Kayel shook her head disbelievingly. "After that, I learned pretty quickly how to slip unnoticed into luxury ships and pickpocket the passengers. I teamed up with Syndrill of Saytuck and we started bigger and better heists. She got herself killed in the hijacking...you know the rest." Kayel
"You're bright," Fett resumed his panther-like stalk, his voice leaving it's normally calm pitch "But what has it gotten you? A cell in my ship for the short trip to your death? You're just like her: you don't think!"
"What do you mean?" Kayel shot back, knowing well that hijacking was not an easy thing to do.
Boba Fett turned on her, his hands rising slowly and deliberately. Kayel bit her lip, awaiting the blast that never came. Instead, Fett removed his Mandalorian helmet. Kayel drew in her breath sharply, knowing she was one of the few to have seen his face. She imprinted it upon her memory, branding it onto her synapses.
Dark, close-cropped hair framed his caramel-skinned face. Features that would have been pleasing to look at if not for the battle-hardened glint in his bark-brown eyes were regarding her with a strange expression. It seemed as though a war were going on in the bounty hunter's head.
"You look so like her," Boba Fett finally said, a strange gruffness in his voice. "It's almost like seeing her again, like seeing my worst nightmare and my wildest dream brought to life."
"Who are you talking about?" Kayel managed, her throat constricting with fear and anticipation.
"Annbri," Fett answered, as though that explained everything.
"Annbri," Kayel repeated quietly. She remembered Stellarâs last words to her, as he had stared disgustedly into her face. âAnnbri, you have cost me another gem.â She knew. "Annbri is my mother."
Boba Fett's head snapped up to stare at Kayel. After a long moment, he answered. "Yes. Annbri was a slave of mine. I trusted her, cared for her, and watched her die." Fett braced himself against the vision Annbriâs pained eyes, bright pools of Alderaan, filling with tears that trickled down her face onto his chest, burning invisible holes in his heart. "Her blood is on Jabba's hands; she paid that price so you could live. How can I send you to your mother's doom?â Fett jammed his helmet back on his head. âYou have probably heard of my personal moral code? You owe your life to it." Fett stiffened, a flood of bitter memories threatening to destroy his calm. He turned on his heel and headed for the cockpit, leaving Kayel in a whirl of relief, hope, and--strangely--sorrow. She knew she would never hijack again.
Boba Fett watched the young woman walk slowly out of his ship, onto the floor of a hangar in Coruscant. She moved with a grace that belied her young age, and as she slipped into the shadows, Fett was reminded once more of Kayel's mother, a flower cut prematurely by Jabba's scythe.
Kayel stared at her reflection in the shiny side of a passenger ship, trying to envision her mother. She stared into her own bark-brown eyes, and was surprised to see tears sparkling therein. Something was tugging at her soul, something tied to Boba Fett. As she turned to watch Slave I disembark, she twisted a caramel-colored finger around a jet-black lock of hair. "Father...."