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Fuel Season 1: Episode 20 - The Rosebud Racer

After a wild night of fun, Jim Kieck must put his money where his mouth is when he faces Fuel's best

Feature-racer: A status bestowed upon the best racers in the series who are the top claimants for the Formula-X Crown. All other racers are considered "support racers"

10th of February – Season 1

Jim woke up with a start and immediately knew he must have had a hell of a night because his head was buzzing. He was familiar with this feeling. He was also familiar with the feeling that came with it: loss of memory of what happened last night. That’s usually what happened when he drank that much. While this didn’t usually bother Jim, when he looked at his smart watch and realized that it was Monday morning, Jim rolled his eyes in realization that whatever he did had not been a good idea.

It was only now that Jim looked around and saw where he was: the clubhouse. The Formula-X Racing Clubhouse was the home to the Formula-X Racing Club (and its committee) and was located on the complete opposite side of the old Azania Airport. Like the Fuel Speedway, it also had a racetrack which was completely dedicated to the training of the F-X racers, giving them somewhere to practice.

It was now that Jim remembered why he was here: Sunday afternoon had been the only slot available after the other racers had booked the other morning and afternoon slots. But that didn’t explain why when he looked through the lobby window, out at the racetrack now, that it looked like he hadn’t practiced anything yesterday.

As Jim tried to work out what he was doing in the lobby waiting area, he suddenly heard a key jiggle in the front door only for the person trying to open it realize that it wasn’t locked and came inside. It was Dime and he had a confused expression on his face.

“What the hell are you doing in here?”

Jim thought about that and realized that he had no discernable way of explaining why he was still there. So, he simply smiled. “Uhm, I could ask you the same thing. Isn’t Fuel only tonight? It’s a bit early, no?”

“I’m not here for Fuel. I’m here for my training session.” Dime was still confused, now wondering if he’d been double-booked.

However, Jim’s mind was on something else. “Wait, you took the Monday morning slot?”

Dime shook his head. “It was the only slot available. All the others were taken. Now that I’ve answered your question, do you plan on answering mine?”

However, before Jim could try and come up with an answer, another door (which led to the recreational area of the clubhouse) opened and two gorgeous women came out. They were both dressed like they’d been clubbing the night before and then slept in their clubbing clothes, holding their heels in their hands, clearly having attempted to sneak out and avoid a walk of shame.

“Oh,” said one of them. “Hi James.” This earned a giggle from the other girl.

“Hi,” said Jim, smiling.

After an awkward, but seemingly sexually-charged moment of silence, it was Dime that spoke. “Okay, what the hell is going on here?”

Jim hesitated a moment before attempting an explanation. “You’re going to have to ask them because I can’t remember a damn thing.”

“I’m not surprised, James,” said the first lady. “After last night, it’s a miracle you’re still standing.”

Dime rolled his eyes. “Okay, first of all: why do you keep calling him James? And second,” he said, looking at Jim, “you know that going on a date before Valentine’s Day is a breach of your Derby contract, right?”

It was a third lady coming from the same room that answered. “We call him James because we wanted him to be our James Bond last night. And rest assured, nothing happened. James knows how to show a good woman a good time without laying a finger on her.” While the lady’s words let Jim breathe a sigh of relief, he was too distracted to care because unlike the first two women, this one was half-naked and seemingly didn’t care as she only got her dress back on after walking outside. She did pop her head back in for a moment. “By the way, James, thanks for the rose,” she said flashing a smile before leaving.

The first two ladies took that as their cue to leave as well but not before attempting to flirt with Dime. While Dime revealed to them that he was gay, Jim made his way to the back to see if any other ladies would be making an appearance. When he opened the door to the rec room, his eyes popped open, complimented by a very wide grin. “Wow,” said Jim before closing it again, proud as ever.

 

LATER THAT NIGHT: AT THE FUEL SPEEDWAY

By the time Monday Night Fuel went on the air that night, Jim had mostly recovered from his hang over – by eating a lot of greasy food – and had been handed the biggest fine he had ever seen. What really sucked about the fine was that he couldn’t even recall whether it was all worth it. However, the one thing he did remember about last night and all the women he invited was that they were all women he’d given out roses to over the past couple of weeks.

Jim had planned to sit back in the paddock through the show and watch the others work while day-dreaming about what could have happened with all those women – who he was now calling rosebuds – but it seemed fate had other plans.

“So, I hear that you almost breached the contract we signed for the One K.M. Derby.”

Jim looked up, over the top of his dark sunglasses, to see John Kloof standing in front of him. This was the last person that Jim wanted to speak to. They’d both spent months trying to put their rivalry behind them and now here he was taunting him. Well Jim had never backed down from Kloof before, so he wasn’t going to now. “And I hear that you’re having trouble breaking that glass ceiling.”

It was true. While his victory at Show-Down in Down Town was meant to catapult Kloof into the feature-race picture, the man had hit a few stumbling blocks along the way. And while he’d bounced back by winning the Scramble Race, he was still being denied the status he wanted by both Stevie and Solo Magubane – two already established feature-racers.

“Well, it’s not as much trouble as you think. I mean, I am in the feature race tonight.”

“Oh yeah. You get to team with The Impaler. I bet that will be so much fun,” said Jim sarcastically.

“It’s not about fun as much as it’s about sending a message to our opponents tonight, Stevie and Solo. But at least I’m getting somewhere. At least, I’m cracking that glass ceiling. What are you doing?”

Now officially insulted, Jim stood up, sunglasses off, to look Kloof dead in the eye. “I’ll have you know that when I’m good and ready, I’ll break that glass ceiling just like that,” said Jim snapping his fingers. “Who knows, maybe when that day comes, I’ll break that glass all over you.”

Kloof then surprised Jim, by ignoring the dig at the end and concentrating on what he first said. “You’ll break the ceiling just like that?” said Kloof, reenacting Jim’s finger snap. “Becoming King, that simple, huh?”

“Yeah, that simple,” said Jim. This time, instead of answering, Kloof simply smiled and pointed. Jim followed his finger to see an F-X reporter filming their conversation. And judging from the sound of the live crowd out in the stands “oh-ing”, they had clearly seen their conversation on the big screens. However, it was someone in the paddock watching as well that got Jim’s attention… It was the Formula-X King, Mandla Xulu. And he did not seem pleased.

 

LATER THAT NIGHT: THE FEATURE RACE

As ‘The Playboy’ sped around the speedway following closely behind the Formula-X King, he tried hard not to think about how this 10 Lap Match Race came about. After seeing what Jim had said to Kloof, King Mandla had challenged Jim to a match race which Glen had quickly sanctioned. What Jim did think about was a strategy to defeat the King right now.

One thing that did come to mind for Jim was that he could play to King Mandla’s fatigue. The man had been busy this week. He’d made history by becoming the first Formula-X racer to feature on Top Sport – a big time sports channel in South Africa – which made waves for the franchise. And then earlier in the night, he’d had both a press conference for the upcoming P.P.V.: Heart-Attack and a contract signing with Number One Claimant, Thawn Oberhauser.

Halfway through the race, Jim finally managed to overtake the F-X King in Lap 7 which got a massive roar from the crowd. Even Jim was shocked, caught so off-guard that he struggled to defend his position, narrowly keeping King Mandla from using the inside track to regain the lead.

It was only in the penultimate lap that King Mandla finally managed to regain the lead by pulling a feint-and-switch like maneuver fooling Jim into thinking he was going one way before going another. In the end, Mandla captured the victory to the joy of the crowd.

While Jim might have lost the race, he didn’t dare hang his head. He’d done a good job and he knew it. However, it was what King Mandla said in the Winner’s Circle that made Jim believe that what he’d said before to Kloof was the truth. “I think that Jim Kieck is a lot more than meets the eye. He is a strong racer and definitely belongs in the feature-race picture. Tonight, he was the epitome of the experience-over-skill trope and if he didn’t get himself distracted by all this lovey-dovey stuff, who knows, he might have actually pulled one over the King.”

Despite King Mandla throwing one hell of a backhand toward Jim, Jim didn’t mind because despite what the King thought of his personal life, even he admitted he had the skill. Which meant that it was only a matter of time until he reached the top of the mountain!

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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