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Fuel Season 1: Episode 16 - Season's Greetings

Five weeks have passed and the F-X racers of Fuel are back, but are they better than ever...?

The Number One Claimant: the first in the line of succession and the next immediate challenger for the Formula-X Throne. A coveted position and one not bestowed on a racer lightly.

13th of January – Season 1

“Season’s greetings, Stevie.” When Darcy Stevens looked up to see who had greeted her, she’d nodded and smiled at the fan while secretly judging them. She hated when people used that expression after more than a week into the new year. But what was she going to do? It had become customary.

Stevie was currently standing at a concession stand in the concourse, buying herself a snowball as they didn’t offer them up in Catering. Due to her insistence on not cutting the line simply because she was one of the racers, she was forced to watch Moodswing’s speech from the giant screen hanging above them, opposite the escalators, as he stood on the stage out in the middle of the upgraded racetrack.

In fact, Moodswing was currently speaking about all the upgrades to the Fuel Speedway, which included the giant screen which looked like it was repurposed from the Old Airport’s Flight Information Display; the new “slanted L” shaped racetrack – which, in Stevie’s mind, was absolutely brilliant; and the confirmation of something that Glen had let slip on his guest spot on Touch’s show, Talking with Touch: the biggest racing event on the Formula-X calendar… THE FORMULA-X GRAND PRIX.

“They’re going to be talking about that one for months,” said Glen just as Stevie got her pink coconut-covered treat.

Stevie had bitten into it so she had to swallow before she could speak. “Yeah, but isn’t that the idea? You want the hype, don’t you?”

“I know. But we’re still four months out from the event. It was a mistake to mention it this early. But Touch…” said Glen, saying his name in a frustrated tone.

Stevie understood. Touch Mkhize’s talk show that took place just after every episode of Fuel in one of the many unused rooms in the building, (but the only one that resembled a lecture hall for some reason) and had become an immediate hit and one of the reasons for that was because Touch loved opening his interviews with a hard-hitting question that usually caught his guests off-guard, immediately creating tension. This was how Glen had been suckered into revealing the name of the final event on the F-X racing season calendar.

Stevie saw Glen’s guilt over the issue, so she tried to shift the subject. “Let me ask you something. Why call it a Grand Prix? With all the colorful names for the P.P.V.’s, I thought you guys were making a point of avoiding the term altogether.” As if to emphasize her point, at that exact moment, Moodswing announced the name of the next pay-per-view: The Scramble.

“Well that was the point. We’d avoided using the expression so that when we eventually did use it, it would feel special.” Glen explained that Moodswing’s idea was to bring back that sense of epicness and awe that the words 'Grand Prix' deserved and according to him, that could not be done if the term was used for every single pay-per-view. Glen then surprised her by smiling. “We’re nicknaming it: ‘The Granddaddy of Them All’. Cool right?”

A thought occurred to Stevie. “Isn’t that copyright infringement or something?”

Glen knew exactly what Stevie was referring to. “Not if they are refraining from using it. Besides, it can’t be copyright if it was already being used way before wrestling was big.” Glen continued on Stevie’s puzzled look. “The first event to use it was called The Rose Bowl Game.” Glen then thought for a moment before correcting himself. “Excuse me, first event to still use it. It’s one of the oldest football events to be played for a trophy.”

While Stevie was still buzzing from this trivia, Glen took note of Moodswing concluding his speech and swore before telling Stevie the real reason he came looking for her. He asked where Longitude and Latitude were because he couldn’t find them anywhere. While Stevie didn’t know, she offered to go look for them. It took a moment, but she figured out where they might be.

 

ON THE ROOF

When Stevie opened the door to the roof, she was shocked to find Longitude standing on the edge of the roof, overlooking the parking lot. “What the hell is GOING ON!?”

Everything then happened at once. Longitude, startled by Stevie, reacted by spinning around which caused him to lose balance and go plummeting off the edge! But before Stevie could start screaming, she noticed a rope that had been lying on the ground suddenly getting pulled off the roof before becoming taut which was when Latitude slid out from behind an air-con cooling tower and came to a stop at the parapet wall on which Longitude had been standing.

“You son of a biscuit, you need to lose some weight, man.” said Latitude seemingly to no one.

The crackled voice of Longitude then answered on a walkie talkie attached to Latitude’s hip. “Hey, who are you calling a biscuit, man. That’s our mother, pal.”

“Yeah well, if you’d lose some weight, I wouldn’t have called her a biscuit.” It was abundantly clear that they weren’t being serious with their conversation over the radio. But when were they ever, what with them bungee jumping off the roof of the Fuel Speedway instead of getting ready for their race? Latitude finally looked up at Stevie. “Hey Diamond in the Rough, how’s it hanging?”

Stevie ignored the pun… and the ridiculous posture in which Latitude was standing, clearly battling at his job as a counterweight. “Uhm,” said Stevie struggling to concentrate, “Glen sent me to get you guys. Your race is next.”

“Fantastic,” said Latitude. “Now to figure out how to get this clown back on the roof…”

 

BACK INSIDE THE BUILDING

“So,” said Longitude now that they were back in the building and making their way to the paddock, “how were your holidays, Diamond?”

“They were good. Just don’t say ‘season’s greetings’ otherwise I might have to punch you in the face.”

Longitude’s younger brother laughed to which Longitude gave him a look. “There are rules against that, you know, Stevie.”

Stevie parried swiftly, pretending to think. “You’re right. Maybe I’ll just call you by your real name on camera.” Stevie pointed at Sherry and the cameraman who were currently interviewing Penny Potgieter – the new Duchess of Drag in front of a Fuel banner in what was to be the new official interview area. “I wonder what they’re talking about anyway.” The three of them stopped to watch the interview which was being broadcast live across the Speedway on all the screens.

It was just as well that they’d stopped to watch because the payoff was beautiful. Just as Penny was getting into what it felt like to close off the previous year with a title in her hands, Dime interrupted the interview (while still live) and told Penny that they were going to be challenging Longitude and Latitude for their titles once again at The Scramble. Penny immediately complained, pointing out that she already had a drag race against Touch who was exercising his return race clause and she was entering the Scramble Race.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” she said before storming off. This earned a loud “oh” from Longitude and Latitude who laughed out loud at Dime. The cameraman expertly did his job by turning from the bewildered Dime to the pair of them as they continued to laugh at him. Stevie found herself amused by all this having not realized just how much she missed this drama-infused show until right this minute.

However, something else was bothering her. Remembering to how Penny claimed to be competing three times at The Scramble, Stevie realized that she missed something. “Guys,” she said to the brothers, “what’s the Scramble Race?”

As they had missed the announcement too, the three of them had been forced to ask the other racers what this race was. And what a reveal is was. It was explained to Stevie that the Scramble Race was a race where all the F-X racers – or at least those that qualified next week – would all go onto the racetrack at the same. This was unprecedented for two reasons. The first was that this would make it the first time that classic ‘championship-style’ racing would take place in Formula-X history as every other race had been mostly one-on-one. The second was because this race and the pay-per-view would be taking place right here, at the Fuel Speedway.

Before Stevie could begin thinking about next week’s qualifying session, she was approached by John Kloof. “Stevie, I need to talk to you.” His hurried tone caught Stevie by surprise.

“Hello to you too, John. What’s the hurry?”

“The hurry is that the racecard is moving along fast and I want to go to Moodswing to put us in the feature race.”

Stevie’s eyes widened… in glee. This would be her tenth feature race on Monday Night Fuel since it started. She already held the record for the most times one racer had headlined Fuel. Now, here was John Kloof offering to help her break it. “What did you have in mind? Relay race, match race?”

“A match race. But not just any match race. I want us to go to Moodswing and convince him to make it a match race to name the next Number One Claimant.”

Wow, thought Stevie. She needed little convincing as they headed straight for Moodswing’s office. While Stevie wasn’t new to being Number One Claimant and relished another shot at King Thawn’s title, this would be the first time that Kloof got a shot. Stevie wondered if he was ready after the mechanical problems, he had late last year. But Stevie pushed these thoughts out of her head as he’d had the whole festive season to sort out any problems with The Big Boot. They found Moodswing outside his office who seemed amused by the suggestion of a Stevens/Kloof feature race and said that he’d consider the winner the new challenger for the Crown, meaning it was game on!

 

LATER THAT NIGHT: THE FEATURE RACE

Stevie wanted to slam on her breaks as she headed towards the bend. But she refrained from doing so and regressed the impulse as she navigated the new bends of the racetrack. Compared to the old racetrack, the new one was a vast improvement. The old track was an oval track which had its pros and cons. The benefits were that the fans could see the whole race from wherever they were sitting while the main drawback was that it tended to be boring with the races, over time, coming to feel repetitive. It didn’t help at all that the street circuits of the pay-per-views were astoundingly unique.

As Stevie zipped around what she called the ‘long hand’ of the new track –as she thought the track looked like the hands of a clock if the time was ten-to-three – she thought about the one reason she absolutely loved the new track: the righthand turns. In the old oval track, one could only turn left. But in the new track, one had to go right to go from the ‘short hand’ of the track to the ‘long hand’ of the track. In reality, it wasn’t called the ‘short hand’ at all as the F-X racers and fans alike had come to call it the ‘O.G.’ section as that was the part that consisted of what used to be the oval track.

As Stevie led the race going into the Final Third, she took in the cheers of the crowd. They were a lively bunch and Stevie couldn’t figure out if it was because they missed Fuel after the Festive Break; they were enjoying the splendors of the new track or if they were just big fans of The Candyfloss and The Big Boot. She wondered if they would still be cheering when she took The Candyfloss over the finish line first as she knew just how much support Kloof had coming out of his rivalry with Jim Kieck.

In the end, Kloof managed to expertly carve a gap for himself to overtake at the start of the last lap and retained the lead for the win. The crowd came even more alive at the sight of Kloof becoming the new Number One Claimant as everything seemed to finally be right with the world. However when Moodswing’s face appeared on the huge screens out on the racetrack – the ones that allowed the live audience to know what was going on backstage as it happened – there was a hush, almost as if the crowd knew that the penny was about to drop.

“John, John, congratulations on your victory,” said Moodswing. “It’s good to see you start off the second half of the season strong. That’s good. Now I said that I would consider the winner of this race the new Number One Claimant. And that is true. I did,” he said now smiling smugly, “consider it. But now I’ve decided. I’ve decided that Mandla Xulu is still the Number One Claimant and he will go on to face King Thawn for the title at The Scramble.” The crowd immediately began to boo loudly as they watched in sadness as the much-deserved opportunity got screwed away from Kloof right in front of their eyes. “Have a nice day and seasons greetings to all,” ended Moodswing, now laughing.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than storiesspace.com with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © Copyright © 2020 by Sphu "Beesting" Kubheka
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