Debt to be Paid

Radiation reached his skin through UV-resistant clothes.

“Four-hundred-thirteen billion credits for today’s contestant! If he survives…”

A hidden crowd cheered.

He retrieved his only permitted secret ingredient with a blistered hand.

“What’s today’s contestant chosen for us?”

Blinding light. The crowd gasped.

The glare receded and he staggered forward, balancing a platter, alien delicacies piled high.

“I… think he’s done it!”

Thunderous applause.

“Come. Into the shade. There. Tell us, what’s your secret?”

“I saved… a Moru life… once,” he wheezed, stumbled, “they owed me- Ma! I can finally fix the air-con now!”

The crowd laughed, his grin lopsided.

© 2021 Rebecca Glaessner


September 9: Flash Fiction Challenge « Carrot Ranch
In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about the cooking show. It can be any cooking show, real or imagined. Who is there? What happens? Make it fun or follow a disaster. Go where the prompt leads!

Submissions now closed. Read the full collection here.

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28 thoughts on “Debt to be Paid

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  1. I thought of you when I read the prompt and wondered how Rebecca is going to mange to incorporate this into a Sci-Fi story. Well, you did! I think what made the story for me was this line: “A hidden crowd cheered” because it just gave it a really cool futuristic feel to the whole thing and it made me imagine this crowd watching from home and connected in some way to the event. Anyway, good story and I hope he sticks around to be able to enjoy the AC with his mom.

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    1. Thanks for the feedback Michael! It’s always fantastic to see these pieces from the reader’s perspective. I’m honoured you wondered how I’d turn the prompt into a sci-fi piece too. Glad it didn’t disappoint! As for the character, I’m not sure who he is or where he came from, he was one of those that appeared out of nowhere and grabbed the reigns. I wonder if he’ll be around again too.

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  2. No matter the prompt, you find your way through, sticking to your genre. It’s in the details you choose and the mastery over conveying emotion. That touching moment when the contestant wheezes a promise to fix ma’s air-con tips the scales on the dangerous risk he took. We know what is at stake and what was won. Good writing.

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    1. Thanks Charli! The first draft had him arguing with his ma at home before heading off for the comp. I think the reveal at the end instead did their now-cut interaction justice, and I’m glad you did too! I’m proud of this one. Those high stakes moments are always fun to write!

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  3. I’ve just started watching a (new to me sci fi series) Discovery (Star Trek) with of all things a never before mention adoptive half sister to Mr. Spock – Michael Burnham.
    “Burnham was born to human parents, who were killed when she was a child during a Klingon raid on a Human-Vulcan research facility on Doctari Alpha, where the family lived.”

    It’s a bit slow moving. I’ve only watched 4 shows of season 1 and there apparently are 5 seasons (that hadn’t been available to me before).

    Food and money – always good for conflict and resolution. I haven’t gotten into the Hunger Games at all. But I have seen enough to know that it is a competition for survival. I just hope the monies you guy won can get him medical attention to relive the radiation poisoning!

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    1. The new Star Trek is absolutely breathtaking! The other half and I devoured each season as it was released. It’s deeply character based but the action does pick up later. It doesn’t have quite the same atmosphere of wonder and awe as the classic series but it’s intellectually inspiring in its own modern way and the characters are just as admirable and real. I hope you enjoy it.

      Hunger games is dystopian, less tech and futurism than Star Trek, more tension/oppression/lives-at-stake-action focused instead. Not a favourite, but I enjoyed the series’ unique take on a potential future.

      And I too hope he puts the money toward his own health and recovery. As I wrote him, he seemed kind-hearted with the right motives but perhaps too much so, and not enough for self-preservation.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My hubby may drop out… but so far I’m good. At least the last episode we watched explained Michael’s ‘origin’. But then Hubby has shows I don’t watch – The big police drama. And he used to watch the firefighting serials before they got to be too soap opera-ish. There really isn’t a whole lot of good free TV.

        Did I mention I got to watch the movie musical: “Come From Away” – if you can watch that – I think you’ll like it. Not sci fi but about 911 and a town called Gander in Newfoundland, Canada. :D

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        1. My hub and I are the same. I love dark psychological thrillers when watching TV whereas he prefers the comedies. Despite this, we’ve found a baseline recently, in the cop show Castle (hilariously arrogant but huge-hearted writer finds himself consulting long-term for the NYPD and stuck in a tense will-they-won’t-they? friendship with the inspiring but walled-up female detective he’s shadowing and using as a muse) after not watching together for a long time, it’s fantastic.

          I haven’t heard of Come From Away though, I looked it up and it sounds like a powerful Stageshow. I’ll add it to my list! It’s also great to hear you’re still enjoying Discovery, Michael is a fun character, keep me updated with how you find the rest!

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          1. I really enjoyed Castle. They had to end that series because the two leads didn’t get along. But it was a fun ride!

            We also enjoyed the police show “Instinct” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instinct_(American_TV_series) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mentalist.

            I’ve found a few of ‘British’ mysteries I enjoy too. ‘Death in Paradise’, ‘Father Brown’ and ‘Shakespeare and Hathaway’

            We just watched the episode with Harcourt Mudd (Discovery) and I had remembered that there was a villain on the ‘original’ Star Trek with Kirk called Harry Mudd as well (it first aired on October 13, 1966.) Amazing what the brain remembers. When my hubby looked up the ‘original’ Mudd… well yes they do look alike!

            Apparently it is the same character!
            …”(Mudd’s Women) This is the first of several episodes to feature Harry Mudd. He also appears in “I, Mudd”, the animated series (TAS) episode “Mudd’s Passion”, and in Star Trek: Discovery, as a recurring character.

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          2. The mentalist is fantastic! Watched a bit of that a few years back too. However I have not heard of Instinct before. The premise sounds similar to castle but with a darker atmosphere and the writer is/was actually a cop.

            As for Mudd, he’s definitely memorable! I think there are a few throwbacks to classic Star Trek which my other half thoroughly enjoyed recognising (I haven’t seen much of the original shows at all). I believe Discovery is set just before Kirk’s era?

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          3. Just because I could:
            Star Trek Chronological Viewing Order
            1. Star Trek: Enterprise (Year: 2151-2161)
            2. Star Trek: Discovery seasons 1-2 (Year: 2255)
            3. Star Trek: The Original Series (Year: 2265-2269)
            4. Star Trek: The Animated Series (Year: 2269-2270)
            5. The first six Star Trek films (Year: 2273-2293)
            6. Star Trek: The Next Generation (Year: 2364-2370)
            7. Star Trek films 7-10: Generations up to Nemesis (Year: 2293-2379)
            8. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (Year: 2369-2375)
            9. Star Trek: Voyager (Year: 2371-2378)
            10. Star Trek: Picard (Year: 2399) (a movie)

            Of course it’s as confusing as the Star Wars movies that jump back and forth in the timeline… ;)

            Liked by 1 person

          4. Thanks for that! I love it when universes become so complex that the timelines overlap and intersect. It makes the brain tick and wonder and put the pieces together for ourselves. So much fun! I watched the Alien and Predator movies recently, following the chronological order, and that was one hell of a ride! The backstory and set up adds so much depth to the classics.

            Also, I happened to read the Legends of Dune trilogy prior to ever knowing about Dune itself, that was a wondrous experience, sparked my love of sci-fi and a deeper appreciation for the world of Dune too I like to think.

            Liked by 1 person

          5. I remember (I think) reading at least one of the Dune books. It was thick, but I don’t think it was all three. One of the things that stuck out to me was how they ‘walked’ in the desert to avoid ‘waking’ what was under it. ;)

            I devowered the Star Trek Series with Scott Bakula because I had enjoyed him in the Quantum Leap. But then I also enjoyed the “Wild, Wild West” because of (perhaps one could call it) the Steam Punk solutions the pair came up with to solve crimes.

            Liked by 1 person

          6. I’m not sure what it says about me but I’ve never been able to get into any of the ST franchises. I can watch TOS on a loop but that’s it. I came close with DS9 but then I eventually got bored. Maybe it’s the sense of adventure I react to? I loved a lot of Sci-Fi shows over the years, but the ST shows have never done it for me.

            I don’t know if Orphan Black is considered a dark psychological thriller, but it’s kind of dark and kind of a thriller. I liked that show a lot.

            Liked by 1 person

          7. I don’t know what that says about you either, but I’m sure it’s not negative. We’re all unique in our preferences, none less valid than the next. I’ve never watched more than the odd ep of TOS, however my hubby’s favourite is Voyager, have you given that one a go? Though there isn’t any more adventure in that than TOS. Discovery on the other hand is action packed, I highly recommend it.

            As for Orphan Black, I believe I started it but couldn’t get into it. I can’t remember why, perhaps it was the main character’s acting.

            Have you tried Firefly? A sci-fi cult classic, that one. Packed with endless adventure and high stakes (the writer(s) were brilliant), but sadly, it ended way too soon.

            Liked by 1 person

          8. I love Firefly (and anything else that Joss Whedon has done)! Dollhouse was another of his shows that got cancelled too soon. I agree about the main characters acting in Orphan Black but I loved the premise so much that I kept watching and eventually forgot about it. I think she would have been good doing just one role, but she was doing so many and it just got campy. I did start watching Voyager but I didn’t like Neelix and I wasn’t crazy about the Doctor. I hold everything Star Trek to Captain Kirk which really isn’t fair.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. Brilliant, with a touch of innocense the scene completes with a laughter ✨👏 Blinding lights, alien delicacies, it’s a challenge to bring in the picture especially with sci fi. not everyone imaginations are same, and you gracefully writing It to help us imagine better each time ❤️. Great shot🥂 on this new prompt.

    Liked by 1 person

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