She had killed men for less…
Mara Jade sat at the small, wooden table for two, fuming. She downed the last of the Whyrren's Reserve, savoring the woody taste against her tongue and slammed the empty shot glass onto the table. Signaling the wait droid, she glanced again at the flimsiplast given to her as she signed in.
At the sound of the bell you will have three minutes to ask the questions listed on the flimsie. Please do not deviate from the list. You must work quickly and precisely down the list in order to gather the information you need to make an informed decision of possible date choices.
This cannot be emphasized enough. Do not deviate from the list. At the end of the three minute period the bell will ring again, indicating that it is time for the interviewees to move to a new table.
"A refill, ma'am?" The wait droid hovered near Mara's glass with the nearly full flask of amber liquid.
"Yes…and keep it coming." She downed the glass before extending it back toward the droid.
"I'm sorry, ma'am…but we have a two drink maximum until after the exercise."
"Exercise?" Mara muttered to the back of the retreating droid. "Is that what we're calling this? She slumped back against her chair and cursed Talon Karrde's name for the fifth time that evening. I will absolutely kill him for this, she thought.
"Ladies…may I have your attention, please." A hush fell across the crowded bar as a man in a cheap suit and a bad haircut stood near the door with a microphone in his hand. "Welcome to Bernie's Bar and Bowl-a-rama."
"We love you Bernie!!!" sounded several female voices from the back.
"Now ladies…" began the red faced announcer. "We are thrilled that you've joined us tonight. We just hope that you'll be thrilled by the end of the evening."
Mara heard several of the women around her break out into giggles and thought she just might puke. It seemed the amount of giggling was in direct proportion to the number of drinks with tiny umbrellas in them.
"It is our pleasure, as well as yours….to bring you the finest in male companionship this evening…"
First I'll kill him and bludgeon his body beyond recognition…
"Just a reminder. You only have three minutes, so work quickly down the list taking notes as you go. There's room for ten names on each list. If you need room for more names then….what a lucky lady you are!"
…then I'll cut him up into tiny little pieces and feed them to his ysalarmi."
"At the sound of the bell…" the announcer rang a small crystal bell and smiled a smarmy little smile. "…the interviewees will rise from the table and quickly move to the next one."
A green haired human raised her purple nailed hand and tittered. "What if we don't want them to leave?"
Several women giggled again, driving Mara to lift her glass in hopes of catching just one more sustaining drop.
"Now, now…only three minutes each. That's the rule. However what you do after the exercise is up to you." The ladies broke into spontaneous applause and began to stomp whatever appendages available to them.
"Ladies…are you ready?"
Mara felt the beginning of a headache coming on as the women roared their approval.
"Very well!" The announcer rang his tiny bell as males of all kinds entered the bar. Quickly sizing up the room, several of them hurried over towards Mara's table only to be beaten out by a tall, green skinned Falleen.
"Name…" asked Mara, not even looking up from the flimsie.
"My name is Rzadi of the house of Sizhran."
"I am one hundred and seventeen cycles old."
"Listen to me, my lovely lady of the fiery hair…"
"…leave this place with me—now! I will take you to my secluded hide away, not far from here, where we will experience glorious sensations of such magnitude that it will drive away any desires for mere human men you may have."
Mara looked up from the list. "How about I grab you by your family jewels and quickly end the house of Sizhran's family lineage."
He smiled slow and lazy. "That would work, too."
Several groans erupted from around the room.
"Your three minutes are up ladies…move along now gentlemen."
Rzadi stood and leaned across the table. "I'll be back."
"I'll be gone," Mara said, eyeing her empty glass.
Several males fought for position as a red skinned Devaronian dropped into the chair next.
"I'm Yemm Ma—"
"Occupation..." Mara rubbed her throbbing temples with her fingers.
"Are you feeling all right?"
"I could use another whiskey…"
The Devaronian stood, taking her empty glass. "Allow me."
Her mouth fell open as she watched her latest interviewee race to the bar and return with another glass of Whyrren's Reserve without spilling a drop.
"Here you are, miss."
Mara grabbed the glass and downed the entire contents in one large gulp.
"My, you certainly know how to—"
"—drink copious amounts of liquor?"
The Devaronian reluctantly rose and made his way to the next table.
"Wes Janson?" Mara stared at the rogue six pilot as he pulled out the chair across from her.
"Mara Jade? What are you doing here?"
"I-I lost a bet…"
Wes laughed. "That must've been some bet." He sat down, scooting his chair near the table.
"Uh-uh, Janson…this is not gonna happen."
"Aw come on, Jade! Think of the great story this'll make to tell our grandchildren."
Mara fingered her hold out blaster and laid it on the table. "I said—"
"Okay, okay," said Wes holding his hands up defensively. "Geez, I thought they made you girls check your weapons at the door."
"You're killing me here, Jade."
"Don't tempt me!"
He backed away laughing as he crept toward the front of the bar. "You don't know what you're missing!"
Mara looked up into the long billed face of a two meter Gungan.
"You have got to be kidding me…"
"Heyo-dalee." The lanky Gungan sat down, crossing his floppy arms behind his back and stretching his three-toed feet out into the aisle.
Mara groaned. "Name…"
"Mesa culled Roos Nass and mesa luv yous."
"Mesa tenka-ninee and mesa luv yous."
"I'm afraid to ask…occupation?"
The Gungan's green stalked eyes rotated towards her. "Ex squeezee me?
"Occupation…you know, like job?"
Roos Nass continued to stare.
"Job? Work? What you do to make money?"
"Mesa doen nutten!"
"Great—just my luck, the only guy worth getting to know and he's unemployed."
"Mesa luv yous."
"Look pal, there is no way—"
"But mesa luv yous." The Gungan leaned towards her as his ears drooped down the sides of his face.
"Yeah? Well then how about you go get mesa another drink." Mara handed her glass to the sad face Gungan and watched as he drooped his way up to the bar.
"I am so killing Karrde when I get back to the ship," Mara muttered as she buried her face in her hands.
Startled, Mara looked up and gasped. What in Hutt space was he doing here?
Luke flushed to the tips of his ears. "I lost a bet."
Mara gasped. "So did I!"
He stood there with that helpless bantha pup look on his face, staring at her blaster.
"Oh, sit down for star's sake." Mara reluctantly holstered her weapon.
"Thanks!" Luke said, quickly pulling out the chair and sitting down. "You have no idea what it's like out there."
Mara couldn't help but laugh. Was that lipstick on his face? "Oh I think I have a pretty good idea." She picked up her napkin and gently wiped across Luke's mouth and right cheek and then held it up for his inspection.
She looked over the Jedi's shoulder to see Roos Nass with a glass of whiskey in his hand heading her way.
"So who'd you lose your bet to?"
"Me, too!" said Luke, leaning towards her. "That's pretty strange."
"Yeah…almost too strange." Mara winced as the Gungan tripped over a Twilek seated at the bar, spilling the whiskey onto a group of Gamorreans. "Karrde said I had to bring him a list from here with ten names on it."
"I have to get my name on ten lists."
Mara thought for a moment. "But, how will he verify that?"
Luke frowned. "Gee…I hadn't thought of that."
The group of Gamorreans now had Roos Nass by the throat and began pummeling him with their fists.
"What's going on over there at the bar," said Luke, turning his head toward the commotion.
"Trust me, you don't want to know."
Bernie, the announcer walked by the table and leaned in. "Now remember…only the questions on the flimsie."
Mara gave him a look that would've caused most Imperials to go into hiding. "Occupation…"
Luke grinned. "Jedi Master, but then you already knew that."
The announcer left, hurrying toward the door.
"Don't you dare get up from this table!"
Luke looked around the room. "But Mara—I have to get my name on ten lists. So far I only have six."
"Karrde will never know!"
"If you value your life, do not get up from this table."
"Hey, pal," said a well muscled human with a various markings. "Didn't you hear the bell? Time to leave so I can make nice with the redhead."
Luke gazed up into the large man's face and waved his hand. "You don't want to sit here..."
"I-I don't want to sit here…"
"You want to go help out that Gungan over there getting pummeled to death…"
The man turned heading to the bar. "I want to go help out that Gungan…"
Mara's mouth fell open. "I can't believe you did that!"
"Better than getting into a barroom brawl," Luke said, guilt washing over his face.
They both turned as a loud crash rang out from the group of Gamorreans.
"OYI, MOOIE-MOOIE! HELP MESA HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELP!"
The Gungan was lifted overhead, while the burly human desperately tried to take out as many Gamorreans as possible.
"GENTELMEN, PLEASE! THERE WILL BE NO FIGHTING IN BERNIE'S BAR AND BOWL—AAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRGGHHHH…."
With a mighty heave the Gamorreans tossed Roos Nass onto the announcer, causing the two to slam into a large group of miners.
"GET THE PIG-FACES!" screamed the head miner, as all heck broke loose.
"Not good," Luke said, grabbing Mara by the arm and pulling her under the table with him.
The scuttled together as Luke put his arm around her shoulder.
"Oh, this is much better…I don't even want to know what this is on the floor, Skywalker."
Luke wrinkled his nose. "I think the pink stuff is vomit, but I have no idea what the green stuff is."
Several broken ale bottles suddenly landed at their feet along with the half dazed Gungan, his tongue lolling. "Ah…pretty dallee…mesa luv yous."
"We've got to get out of here," cried Luke, grabbing Mara's hand.
"What about the Gungan?"
"He's helpless, Luke…and it's…sort of…my fault."
Luke sighed, releasing her hand and ducked out from under the table. Using the Force, he hoisted the unconscious amphibian over his back and shoulders, crawling toward the exit. "Come on!"
Mara darted out from under their wobbly haven following closely on her hands and knees.
"Hurry up!" Luke yelled, scurrying around a pile of injured Twileks.
"Just enjoying the view, Skywalker."
"Can I help it if you've got a nice derriere, farmboy?" Mara swore she could see Luke's neck and ears flush red. "Are we almost there?"
Mara flattened herself to the floor as Bernie and several pieces of furniture flew over head and smashed into the wall. Luke reached over and pocketed something, then started to stand.
"Now's our chance," grunted Luke, hoisting the Gungan over his shoulders. "Head for the door."
Mara leapt up from the floor, running full speed for the exit. She turned to see Luke right behind her.
"Go-go-go!" he yelled, huffing as he ran. "Where's your speeder?"
"I took a taxi."
Luke swore something Mara thought sounded like Huttese. "So did I."
They ran till their legs would no longer move and they were out of breath. Reaching a deserted park, Luke dumped the Gungan on the nearest bench and fell to the ground, panting.
Mara dropped down beside him, breathing hard. "Well…I'll say one thing…you sure know…how to show a girl…a good time…."
Luke broke out into a breathless laugh and rolled toward her, plucking a piece of glass from her hair. "Hey I don't take just any date to Bernies Bar and—"
"BOWL-A-RAMA," they finished together, laughing like a couple of snoods.
Mara looked up into Luke's smiling face and felt her heart skip a beat. Has he always been this handsome?
"What?" Luke asked, still grinning.
"Nothing," Mara answered, staring at his full lips.
"OH!" Luke dug into his trouser pocket. "I thought you might want something to remember our first date by." He dug a little deeper and pulled out a small crystal bell.
"Bernie's bell! Luke you shouldn't have…" Mara took the small handle and gave a little shake. "Oh…the clapper's broken."
"We're lucky that's the only thing that's broken."
She reached over and caressed the side of Luke's smiling face. "Thanks to you."
He caught her hand in his and brought it to his lips. "You would've done fine without me."
"I'm not so certain," she whispered, leaning closer and savoring the warmth of his touch. "Luke…"
"Yes?" he whispered, brushing her bottom lip with his thumb.
Mara moaned as his soft lips captured hers, hesitant at first, but then insistent and urgent. She felt his strong arms wrap around her waist, pulling her close as his lips moved to her throat. "Luuuuuuuuuuuke…"
She heard him moan in response as he brought his lips back to hers, exploring and tasting. Stars—the man could kiss!
"Mesa ah betta now."
"Wha…?" Mara looked up and blinked.
"Mesa sayun—ah betta now, dallee."
The Gungan was bent over the two of them, caught in their embrace.
"Oh—oh, th-that's good!" She scrambled to get up, brushing grass from her clothing.
"You sure you're all right?" Luke rose to his feet as well.
The Gungan smiled, as least Mara thought it was a smile, and began to walk away. "Mesa goi home now. Sorry dallee…it not be very goo for us."
They watched as the lanky Roos Nass ambled his way toward the city and out of sight.
"I'm really gonna miss that guy," said Mara, shaking her head.
"We'll name our first born after him."
Mara burst out laughing. "What if it's a girl?" Bending over, she retrieved the crystal bell and tucked it into her vest pocket.
"We'll think of something." He smiled as he took her by the hand and started the long walk back.
Mara looked up at Luke and grinned. "I can't wait to see where you take me on our second date."