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(Author’s Note: No sex, whether explicit or implied, occurs with characters under 20 years of age.)
Sometime in a possible near-future…
After three years lobbying to Congress, the Global Media Consortium finally succeeded in rolling back the FCC’s regulations on acceptable programming, resulting in the creation of a major loophole allowing any television program to technically allow criminal activity with no legal recourse, so long as all parties involved in it are part of a television show. This led to the launch of reality shows that focused on taboo subjects like drugs, prostitution, and many other “technically victimless” crimes.
Within months, many of these programs became some of the highest-rated in American history, and the groups which protested the change were drowned out both by an onslaught of public opinion as well as the deep pockets of the Consortium.
Taking advantage of this new status quo, an all new television network launched: the Metropolitan Broadcast Company, or “MBC Studios” for short, which promised viewers fresh and risqué programming that they’d never seen the likes of before. The MBC was a powerhouse conglomerate created as the brainchild of a dozen or so media moguls. It boasted a greater budget and stronger creative talent than any television network before it.
The centerpoint of the network’s lineup was the comedy game show “Double or Nothing”, which pitted contestants against each other with vast amounts of cash and various other prizes on the line. The catch was that contestants competed against each other in various contests ranging battles of wits to predetermined physical ordeals with money on the line as collateral. The show was immensely controversial, as what the contestants could be demanded to do were often random and very questionable, but this only fueled its popularity. Viewers tuned in every weeknight to watch people wager away their homes, their pets, and even their academic degrees and other priceless belongings. However, The Studio made sure that whenever one contestant lost big, another won bigger than those losses combined. Because of that, MBC asserted that they weren’t “ruining lives”—after all, someone always benefitted.
That meant that even more incredible stakes could be wagered, and this level of legality allowed MBC to enforce the stipulations of the wagers; in a sense, “Double or Nothing” now acted as a defacto court of law, a form of concrete legal control that would equivocate to judicial authority.
My name is Sonia. I was born Sonia Takahashi and was a second-generation Japanese-American. My maiden name changed to Ramirez after marrying my Phillipines-born husband, Georgio.
It was during this time that my husband and I were struggling to find the finances to send our oldest child to medical school. Georgio Jr., named after my husband but called “Geo” for short, was a brilliant boy and possessed the academic clout to become anything he liked. His dream since the fourth grade was to become a neurosurgeon, and we did everything we could to provide him with the best education in that field. However, in his third year of pre-med school, Geo was caught with several pounds of weed in his dorm room, and once word got out, he lost all of his academic scholarships.
Understandably, my husband was beyond angry about it, but I was a bit more sympathetic.
“I can’t believe you did something this STUPID!” Georgi screamed at Geo as he sat in our living room, twiddling his thumbs and waiting out his father’s tirade. “You had a free ride! The pick of any school you wanted, and you blew it just to smoke some goddamn weed?! What is WRONG with you!”
Geo knew better than to try and speak up while his dad was in this mood. Georgi was hard to reason with when truly irritated, and this was the most angry I’d seen him in some time. While I wasn’t afraid of any violence happening against our son, I thought that anger had probably taken us as far as it was going to in this debate, and that it was time to cool off a bit. Besides, just because he wouldn’t hit Geo didn’t mean he wouldn’t hit the walls, and I didn’t want him ruining my favorite brilliant white paint job.
“Honey, ease down just a little. Yeah, he messed up, but it’s not entirely his fault.”
“Oh come on, Sonia! He–“
I shook my head and gently laid a hand on his shoulder. “He was doing what just about every kid does in school. Including us, remember? Besides, isn’t this a bullshit legal loophole?”
Georgi sighed as his shoulders ebbed. He knew I was right.
These days, citizens were allowed the free use of cannabis, even without a medical prescription. In other words, he couldn’t be arrested on criminal charges for their use. Unfortunately, most universities (both private and public) still had strict rules against it, and there were probably a number of years to go before those laws ended up being challenged.
So technically, Geo didn’t really deserve this. He just had the misfortune of escort ataşehir being a few years ahead of the law.
That left us with little option but to search for new ways to earn money for his education. At that point, even a substandard medical school seemed out of reach…never mind the top schools which had been all but assured before that unfortunate mistake. But I refused to give up on my son. He meant everything to me, and I was determined to give him the best of everything.
And that’s when I clicked on a certain email in my Inbox.
“Mrs. Sonia Ramirez, would you like to earn hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for a dream home, a dream car, or a child’s education? Click now and find out how that could be possible in only a few hours!”
It felt too good to be true. It smelled like bullshit, but I wondered what I could possibly have to lose. Just reading the entire offer couldn’t have hurt, and there was the off chance that the deal was legit.
I was asked to fill out some forms and provide personal information such as my occupation (which was easy, since I was just a simple homemaker), my family size (a husband, a son and a daughter off in school), and other seemingly normal inquiries of that sort.
About a week later, I received both an email and postage informing me that I’d been chosen as a potential contestant on “Double or Nothing”. They couldn’t guarantee I’d make an appearance yet, but I’d beaten thousands of other applicants to make it to the next phase.
When I explained to him what was going on, my husband was all for the idea.
“There’s really no downside,” he said, beaming at me as we discussed it in the living room. “If you win, we can walk away with hundreds of thousands of dollars…or even millions! Even if you lose, it won’t cost us anything. We’ll just be back where we started, as long as you don’t wager something like our house.”
I shook my head. “Honeeeey, I’d never do that! If they ask me to wager something personal or embarrassing, like giving up my necklace, dancing in my underwear, or wearing a clown suit, I wouldn’t mind that. But I’ll never agree to any wager that takes something precious from our family!”
Georgi smiled and leaned over the tiny wooden cocktail table, delivering a gentle kiss to my forehead. “I know, honey. That’s what makes you so spectacular…the way you put the family first.”
Then he coughed and grunted. “But, uh…maybe ixnay on the dancing in under-yays?”
I punched his arm and laughed. “Your Pig Latin is awful.”
The next phase was an interview, which could be conducted either in person or on video call. I chose to go down in person, because I thought it might help my chances. Once inside, I was greeted by a lovely blond secretary, who checked off my name on a clipboard and asked me to wait in the reception area alongside the other interviewees. Looking around amongst them, I felt slightly overdressed; I’d chosen to wear semi-casual business wear, including a blue jacket that I’d tied around my shoulders, a blue-tinted white button-up blouse, and a blue pencil skirt. I’d even even been to the salon and had my hair done up in a businessy bun, and professionally-applied eyeliner, mascara, lipstick and contour had been added to accentuate my looks.
I had to admit, I looked the best that I had in years. Like a perfect movie star. Even my husband did a double take as I left the house and jokingly asked if I was going to meet my secret boyfriend.
I arrived at the studio via taxi, and the interview went well..almost too well, in fact. They barely asked me anything. Just my age, height, weight and what my daily routine consisted of. They didn’t really seem interested in learning whether or not my personality was compatible with their program, and throughout the interview, the three executives conversed whispered amongst themselves. I would often see one of them whisper to the other, then he would look back at me, taking notice of something about me. Once or twice, I had the feeling that some of the interviewers were checking me out the moment that I looked away from them, but their actions were too swift and subtle for me to truly be sure.
It barely lasted thirty minutes, and in the end, I was told that I would definitely be making an appearance.
My turn to appear on the show came on a Friday, the final showing of the week. My family was invited to sit in the audience at no charge, so Geo and Georgi both accompanied me to the MBC Tower downtown. Maria couldn’t fly home from school in time, so we just told her to watch on TV as a token of support. By this point, it was my third trip to the MBC studio, so I knew my way around almost like my second home. I arrived and the same secretary as before greeted me, with her pretty ruby red smile.
“Oh, you must be Mrs. Ramirez!”, she cooed, clasping her hands together.
I smiled back. “How did you guess?”
“I was told to expect ‘an Asian woman with a hispanic name’, kadıköy escort and here you are. Glad to finally have you on our show!” She turned her attention to my guests, Georgi first. “Ah, and this is your family? This must be your husband, and…oh my.”
She tilted down her glasses and took a long look at Geo’s face. Geo wasn’t especially tall…he shared roughly the same height as his father and I…but he was broad and built. His face was framed by wavy, dark brown hair that extended down from thick sideburns and all the way into a full beard. If you stared at him long enough, Geo almost looked like a great, powerful lion.
Georgi was clean shaven, which in my opinion made both of them look more handsome (although Geo never listened to me on that note). He didn’t have Geo’s berth, and that meant that he didn’t typically stand out in a crowd like Geo did.
“Nice to meet you. You must be Mrs. Ramirez’s son,” the secretary said, finally shaking hands with him.
“That’s Geo, and this is Georgi,” I said, proudly showing both of them off.
“You have an incredible family, Mrs. Ramirez,” she told me. “If the circumstances allow it, we’ll try to give them some camera time, so the world can appreciate what you’ve got.”
Georgi laughed nervously and scratched his neck. “Really, that’d be great, I guess.” He seemed rather wishy-washy about it, like he didn’t mind the attention but was afraid of the spotlight. I smirked at him, wondering if he now understood even a crumb of how nervous I felt at that moment.
Geo was a lot more excited about the chance. “Really? Are we gonna appear on the stage?!”
“It’s possible, but I can’t guarantee anything,” the secretary assured him in her usual sweet tone. From the way Geo’s eyes lit, I could tell that he was mostly interested in the gorgeous, flirty secretary batting her eyelashes at him. Geo was popular with girls, but always shy of making the opening move. His girlfriends had always been the girls who’d managed to ask him out first.
Like father, like son, I supposed. Both of them seemed to prefer assertive women.
At last, the show began and the hot studio lights beamed on me and the other contestants as the studio erupted into thunderous applause. The host gave his usual introductions and then introduced us. Aside from me, the other contestants were a retiree in her fifties, a college professor who looked like he was younger than I was, and the returning champion.
The rules of the show were simple: each contestant would have to make a ‘wager’ to one of their opponents, who would then have to either reject the wager and lose some cash or bid higher. Once the wagers were complete, the challenger would then state what the other contestant would need to do to win–usually saying or doing something that would be difficult or embarrassing. Merely answering questions had next to no cost, but forcing an opponent to attempt a predetermined physical feat always cost half of whatever your current total was.
So it was sort of like a very expensive version of Truth or Dare.
The first round always started out slow, because the contestants didn’t really have much to wager. However, as time passed and people began gaining or losing points, more outrageous and difficult tasks would be demanded.
For the most part, I got off somewhat easily in the first round because everyone picked on the poor retiree and gave her physical challenges they KNEW she wouldn’t be able to do. When the buzzer sounded for the first round, she was the only one of us left with zero points, which meant she was out.
In the second round, the stakes were raised and the wagers had to get higher. Some of the contestants finally started coming after me, asking me to tell some of my most embarrassing secrets. I was now outnumbered by guys, so the questions targeted at me were always sexual. They wanted to know my bra size, my favorite sexual position, whether or not I’d ever done a threesome, and whether or not I had ever cheated on my husband.
Those answers were easy money: 30 DD, Cowgirl, No, and No.
But asking questions was always a problem in this game because the challenged person could simply lie. MBC warned me that there were consequences if a lie were ever discovered, but I didn’t really care either way. My sex life had been so boring that I had nothing to hide.
At the end of Round 2, the professor had no points and suddenly, I was in 2nd place. My total had reached up to $12,000,000 cash, just behind the champion at $13,000,000.
We took a break before the third and final round to get something to drink and stretch our legs. I was enjoying a quick cup of coffee when Geo and Georgi met with me to say how great I’d been doing.
“A walk in the park, huh?” Geo said, smiling.
“Yeah. Lucky I got a bunch of pervs for opponents,” I said.
“Holy shit, hon. Maybe I was wrong about this after all. I was worried they would try to trip you up or maltepe escort bayan make you do something embarrassing,” Georgi said, “but so far, it’s been incredibly easy.” With a warm smile he then said, “You might even win this. We could be millionaires.”
With Georgi’s words, the reality had finally sunk in.
If I won this, forget Geo’s school…all of us would be set for life. As long as I played my cards right, I couldn’t lose.
Bring it on, I thought as I headed back to the stage. I can take anything you guys can dish out.
When the third round started, I immediately got a hefty lead by wagering half of my points for a physical challenge. When the champion accepted, the challenge turned out to be trying to vomit on demand. He couldn’t do it within the time limit, I won the bet, and took the lead 18 million to 12.
He tried to get his points back by issuing a physical challenge of his own, but he got unlucky. My wager was just that I couldn’t or wouldn’t take my bra off without removing my blouse. Unfortunately for him, I had lots of practice, since I liked to go braless all the time. It took me a minute or two to get it right, but I managed to get it off before the clock ran out and dropped it to the stage in triumph to the cheers of the crowd.
Georgi seemed a bit uncomfortable at the act, as well as the fact that the whole world could now see his wife’s nipples poking through the threadbare of my blouse…but he still nodded at me and smiled.
Looking over at the production crew, I saw someone in a suit and earpiece whispering something to another. As they talked one of them looked right at me, and then quickly turned away. Then they nodded at each other and went back to their business, acting as if the conversation had never happened.
With my challenge completed, I now had three times the champion’s score. I no longer had any reason to risk half of it, which meant that all needed to do was hope he didn’t get a really stupid physical challenge.
To my surprise, he didn’t try any more physical challenges. He just tried to ask more embarrassing questions. With my lead, this would be an easy win for me. This wasn’t a matter of IF I could complete the challenge, but whether I would CHOOSE to. And of course I’d choose to. As long as my answers weren’t deliberately false, it was a guaranteed win. That meant that my eighteen million would grow by 20% each question without any possibility of losing!
As the final seconds ticked away, the final score was 20 million for me, and eleven for the former champion!
The host pressed his earpiece, apparently listening to the judgement of the higher-ups. Eventually, he nodded his acknowledgement and then smiled at the contestants.
“And that’s time! Unfortunately, Charlie, it seems your reign as champion is at an end. It was an impressive run, but this time, you just got beat.”
“Yeah, looks like I just got outplayed this time,” the champion responded. “Good game, Sonia. Nice work.”
I smiled and thanked him, but I couldn’t help but wonder why he seemed so nonchalant about losing. He had been the champion for weeks at this point, and I had just waltzed in and taken it with barely even a fight.
It seemed almost surreal. The first round had been pretty much a cakewalk for me, and though they had tried to team up again in the second, the fact that they tried to embarrass me instead of asking tougher questions or taking more risks with the physical challenges had led to their downfall.
But it didn’t matter, I supposed. All that was left for me now was the Final Round and the Final Challenge, and then I was home free!
When the Final Round started, I was called up to stage alone next to the host.
“Alright, Sonia, let me explain the rules of our Final Challenge. First, you’re going to pick a category from up on the board there that will determine a type of challenge you’re willing to take.”
He motioned to the large glowing monitor in front of us showing the four different categories I was allowed to choose from.
The host then called each by name and explained what they entailed:
“Shamefully Easy: These are braindead easy challenges that absolutely anyone could do. So easy, in fact, that you’ll definitely feel ashamed.”
“Boringly Average: These challenges may be a bit more tricky, but with just a little effort and ingenuity, you could almost certainly succeed.”
“Wonderfully Challenging: These challenges live up to their name. You’ll need a little bit of skill and a whole lot of luck.”
And “Painfully Difficult: Only for the most elite of our contestants. Completing these challenges will not just double your winnings but add on a hefty bonus!”
Shamefully Easy? That seemed like just the sort of thing I needed right now.
I did not want to take any risks.
“Shamefully Easy”, I told him.
“Good,” he said, grinning devilishly. “Next, I’m going to pull out a card and make you an offer. If you accept the offer, then the amount indicated will be deducted and the game will be over. But if you reject, then we begin the Challenge and go Double or Nothing. Keep in mind that the challenge could be anything, and failing it would mean you would owe us twice the original amount.
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