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Fuel Season 1: Episode 18 - Going All-Out

The King is dead... Long live the King. There is a new F-X King on the speedway and his name is Xulu

Return Race: a race where two competitors who have faced each other before, compete again. Title races have a specific clause in the title race contracts that allow the former monarch to get a return race for the title.

27th of January - Season 1

Mandla Xulu is the new Formula-X King. That was what all the headlines said. That was all Thawn had heard. And it had only been twenty-four hours. But a lot can happen in twenty-four hours. That’s how long it had taken the fans to develop a song that literally sung the praises of the new King… something Thawn never got. That’s how long it had taken Thawn to lose all his privileges such as being driven right up to the paddock through the back way. That’s how long it took for Moodswing to lose Thawn’s number on his speed dial apparently which was why Thawn had had to walk all the way up to Moodswing’s office to have the conversation he wanted to have with him.

As Thawn sat in the waiting area for his meeting with Moodswing – something he’d never had to do as King – he picked up the Azania Chronicle sitting on a small table and flipped to the sports section where the Formula-X newsletter fell out. He wanted to throw up just reading the headline: AMANDLA AWETHU: BAYEDE INKOSI. But it was the spelling of his name that bugged him. He’d been born Thorne Oberhauser, but Moodswing had told him that they’d be spelling it “Thawn” to distance the name from the word “throne” which was now bugging him as he sat there looking at it repeated over and over again.

Fortunately, Moodswing finally asked him to come in, relieving him from reading any more about his loss. “So,” said Moodswing. “How are you doing? I imagine you must be feeling upset.”

“Amongst other things,” said Thawn, trying not to reveal his anger. “I feel naked without my Crown.” Moodswing nodded as if he knew the feeling. Thawn continued. “I want it back.”

“Well lucky for you, you did have a return race clause written into your contract for that race at The Scramble.”

Thawn remembered this. He also remembered how everyone had quietly ridiculed the idea of signing a contract for a race. Thawn had done the same, admittedly, but now he was grateful that he’d signed the thing. The return race clause allowed a former monarch (a term he really hated) to challenge the new monarch for his or her newly won title. In layman’s terms, it was the racing equivalent to a boxing rematch clause.

“I’d like to activate that return clause tonight,” said Thawn, emphasizing his desire to become King again as quickly as possible.

However, Moodswing was shaking his head already. “No can do, Your—” Moodswing cut himself off before accidentally giving Thawn a courtesy of being called 'Highness' that was now rightfully Mandla’s. “The return race is going to happen at the next pay-per-view.”

“Which is when?” said an impatient Thawn.

Moodswing smiled cautiously. “I’m not telling you that.”

“Why, because I’m not King anymore?” said Thawn, passive-aggressively.

“No, because you have the habit of revealing them to the public before we want them to know.”

Thawn didn’t say anything this time. While it had only happened once, back in December when he revealed the name of the Year-End Bash (which he incorrectly called Year-End Celebration), he’d never really heard the end of it from Moodswing or Glen. But while Thawn had lost his Crown, he was still The Impaler and decided to prove that he hadn’t lost his teeth.

“So Mandla’s father was at The Scramble yesterday. I saw you shaking hands with him after the event went off the air. What was that about?”

“The Deputy mayor was just congratulating me on my success with the franchise.”

“Oh,” said Thawn as unconvinced as ever. He stood up to leave before halting to say one more thing. “Well, you might want to be careful who sees you with him. They might start thinking that you and he are in cahoots.”

What happened next surprised Thawn as what was supposed to sound like a warning ended up making the Club President smile. “Now that would make for an interesting story.”

Unbelievable, thought Thawn. Was Moodswing so desperate to make things entertaining that he was willing to make himself news? Thawn left before Moodswing revealed any more of his crazy.

 

IN THE PADDOCK

There was a different feel in the air as Thawn sat in the paddock. He could almost feel the other F-X racers looking down on him. Thawn sought to distract himself by listening in on the other racers. It wasn’t hard to find drama as the racers had long since assimilated to the ways of sports entertainment, willing to find even the smallest of excuses to pick a fight and have a race. Luckily for the fans in attendance, if it wasn’t caught on camera by official F-X cameramen, there was always an F-X reporter or even another racer with their phone at the ready.

As far as excuses to have a race went, half of them weren’t bad. The first race on the racecard for the night was between Jim Kieck and Styles Sithole as the latter (who came 5th in the Scramble Race) believed that the former (who came 4th by just a few precious centimetres) beat him by luck and that his vehicle was faster than the Playboy’s. The next event on the racecard saw a drag race demonstration by reigning Duchess of Drag, Penny Potgieter who was challenged to do one by Stevie. But the news surrounding the Duchess came from the argument she had shortly before with Dime where Dime declared their partnership over. The argument was so juicy that Touch Mkhize immediately invited both of them to be guests on Talking with Touch after Fuel to hash things out.

Ironically, it was Thawn himself who wound up getting bitten by the drama bug when the absolute last person in the world he thought he’d ever be caught talking to came up to him to give him some unsolicited advice. When Juan van Zonder greeted him, Thawn was convinced the beach bum was talking to someone imaginary standing in front of him. For starters, the man’s body was facing away from Thawn with only his head facing Thawn like he had a crick in his neck.

“You know man, I saw your race with Mandla last night. I mean, King Mandla, and I have to say, you were looking all wrong, man.”

At first, Thawn had every intention to ignore the bum, but his words got to him. Ignoring him was not going to cut it. He was ‘The Impaler’ dammit. “Is that so? And how many feature races have you been in? Huh, Mister Jay-Vee-Zed?”

“Oh no, it’s just Jay-Vee-Zed, man.” JVZ ignored Thawn’s eye roll and went on. “And I’m not worried about feature races, man. I put it all in Zeus’ hands.” That earned another eye roll. “Anyway, about last night. You looked wrong, man. You looked like you weren’t all there.”

“Excuse me!?” Thawn had spoken louder than he’d wanted to.

“Yeah, man.” JVZ then looked like he was searching hard for the words which didn’t surprise Thawn, who imagined that he had a limited vocabulary. “You looked like you weren’t going all out. You have to go all out in these things, man. Otherwise, you’re going to lose.”

“Why you son of a—” Thawn had already grabbed him by the scruff of the neck when he remembered the rules. He also noted two F-X reporters with their phones out and the cameraman in the distance, advancing towards them. Thawn switched gears, playing to his newly found audience. “You know what, Jay-Vee Zed,” he said, uttering his name through gritted teeth, “if you say I should go all out, then I’ll go all out. And I’m going to start tonight. With you.”

 

TEN MINUTES LATER

When Thawn had told JVZ to meet him on the racetrack, the bum had actually smiled. But it wasn’t a sinister smile like someone who had just manipulated him into getting what they wanted. Instead, it was the smile of a person who was proud of his work. The bum actually believed he’d helped him with his advice. Well Thawn was going to show him how helpful he was.

Thawn wasn’t particularly a fan of the remodelled racetrack. On the oval, things were simpler. Everything happened in one direction. So, when he was in the lead, he tended to keep that lead. The ‘Slanted L’ on the other hand, tended to reveal one’s weaknesses. In Thawn’s case, the turn on the end of the broadside – or as the other racers had come to call it, the longhand – of the track always made Thawn slow down way too much… mostly because he’d come flying towards it after that quarter-mile of straight. JVZ on the other hand, who was a much more controlled racer, tended to keep a steady speed throughout the race.

The race they were currently halfway through was a support race, meaning that it was 10 laps to a finish. Thawn hated that. It required a whole different strategy. He found this ironic because racers who were used to support races – which racers like him derogatorily called support racers – had difficulty in feature races due to the five extra laps. Now here he was, wishing that this race had those five extra laps.

So when JVZ managed to steal past him in lap 9, Thawn began to panic, knowing very well that he only had one more lap to get past him. Unfortunately, JVZ was too smart and managed to block him all the way to the finish line, effectively gaining an upset victory. The fans, of course, loved it. Just the idea of Thawn losing a race was like payday to them. Well, he hoped they enjoyed it because come the next pay-per-view, Thawn was going to make sure he won his Crown back and make them eat their cheers.

As if to make matters worse, while Thawn made his way off the racetrack to the delight of the fans, John Kloof and Solo Magubane made their way on to the sheer delight of the fans, who cheered their heroes. Thawn remembered how this race came about and why it was the feature race of the night. After winning the Scramble Race last night, John Kloof had gone onto social media to ask whether this meant he was a feature racer now? While his post got a massive amount of positive feedback from fans and followers alike, it was Solo who stood up to him saying that he wasn’t a feature racer until he went past him. Moodswing had immediately sanctioned the match race as the main event of the night.

All of this made Thawn think about JVZ’s words, this time really thinking on them. Thawn realized that JVZ had a point. Looking at John Kloof, Thawn realized that here was a man who was truly going all out. He’d defeated his rival, overcame mechanical difficulties, rose above being screwed out of a title shot (when Thawn was still King) and gone on to win the Scramble Race – one of the most unique races in the series. Kloof was on a mission and he was hell-bent on completing it… which was exactly what the mode Thawn needed to be in. If he was going to get his Crown back then he really did need to go ALL-OUT!

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Copyright © Copyright © 2020 by Sphu "Beesting" Kubheka
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