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Fuel Season 1: Episode 21 - Popularity Contest

With Valentine's Day now behind them, Touch looks for the next big news story for his talk show

In Sports Entertainment, rivalries form an important part of the show as they produce competition, drama, suspense, emotional lows, climatic highs and breath-taking action that keeps you coming back week after week.

17th of February – Season 1

Touch slammed his fist on the table, rubbing his temple with his other hand in frustration. He’d been at this for an hour already but felt like he was getting nowhere.

“And then?” When Touch looked up and saw Brenda Koek, he didn’t say a word so Brenda continued. “What you banging the tables for?” No answer. “Never seen someone so upset after winning a pay-per-view.”

Touch tried to ignore Brenda. “I’m not upset. I’m concentrating.”

“Yeah, I can see that. You haven’t touched your food.” It was true. Brenda had found Touch sitting in Catering. And it looked like he’d been there a while because he’d ordered food and proceeded to take exactly one bite out of his toasted sandwich. “What’s with the pen and paper?”

Touch sighed, really not appreciating the interruption. “I’m busy trying to figure out who the most successful racer on Monday Night Fuel is. In case you didn’t know, I have a talk show I need to prepare for. So, if you don’t mind.” Touch then put his attention back to his paper.

Unfortunately, Brenda was too persistent to stop there. “The most successful racer?” asked Brenda, almost laughing. “Isn’t that kind of obvious?” Touch didn’t answer her.  “It’s Mandla. He’s the King, after all.”

Touch wanted to ignore her but felt compelled to correct her. “That’s a technicality. He might be King but that doesn’t make him the most successful racer. I’m talking about the most victorious F-X racer on Monday nights.”

Brenda seemed to understand the difference, now wearing a surprised look on her face. “Okay, so who’s the most successful?” Touch didn’t answer. “Hey, who is it?” Nothing again. “Hello?” He was now bluntly ignoring her, so she tried something else. “Khabazela.” Upon hearing his clan name, Touch looked up. “Is it me?” she said smiling.

Touch shook his head. “No. But if you must know, it’s kind of impossible to figure out. We all seem to win as often as we lose. Hence my dilemma.”

Brenda contemplated that. “What’s your show about tonight?”

“Well I was going to interview the most successful racer in the series, but I see that’s a futile effort.”

“Well that depends how you measure success.” Brenda’s comment earned a curious look from Touch. “Remember that you need both skill and popularity. So why you only looking at victories? You should be looking at headlines in the Formula-X newsletters.” Brenda noted Touch’s inspired expression. “Hey, why don’t you interview Thawn. After what happened to him, I’d love to hear what he has to say.”

While Touch would have loved to have Thawn Oberhauser on his show following the events of the V-Day Ball which saw his date for the night in the arms of Jim Kieck, he'd decided against it already, feeling that the F-X reporters would be all over it. There was a reason he didn’t choose red-hot topics for his show: because he wanted to make news not report on it. Otherwise he might as well have reported on the Duchess of Drag, Penny Potgieter getting herself suspended by punching Dime’s lights out last night.

“Nah, I already promised my fans that my guests would be the best F-X has to offer which means that either I’m giving them the King, who’s not here tonight; the racer with the most victories; or, as you suggested, the most popular racer in the series.”

“Okay, so who do you have in mind?”

 

IN THE PADDOCK

Touch had left Catering without even bothering to answer Brenda’s question. That was mostly because he didn’t know how to answer her question. He didn’t know who the most popular racer was, but he knew of a sure-fire way of finding out. He was currently in the paddock, looking at the other racers, accessing them. He watched as the cameras of the F-X reporters went to work capturing all the drama and listened as the live audience out on the stands reacted, watching on the big screens.

The first race of the night came about from when Dime, who was sporting a black eye from what he was calling “Penny’s assault of him” challenged any racer in the paddock to a drag race to prove that now that Penny was suspended, he was the best drag racer in the series. It was Styles Sithole who’d stepped up and proceeded to defeat him. But it was the crowd’s lively reaction that got Touch’s attention as he took note of it.

“What’s with the pen and paper?” This time, the person that asked Touch the question was John Kloof.

“I’m taking notes for my show.”

“Ah yes, Talking with Touch. My wife is quite the fan.”

Touch gave him a curious look. “And you aren’t?”

Kloof immediately put his hands up. “Whoa, whoa, whoa. I’m not looking to make an opponent out of you, Touch. So, settle down. Actually, I wanted to know if you wanted to be my partner for the night.”

“Your partner?” Touch wasn’t well-versed with relay races as much as he wished he was so it was strange for someone to be asking to team up.

“Yeah. I have a relay race. Stevie and Solo are teaming up tonight against me and a partner if I can find one.”

Touch’s interest was piqued. Getting it on in a race with two established feature-racers and teaming with an up-and-coming one would definitely do wonders for his career but he didn’t like showing his hand immediately. “Well that depends. Was I your first choice?”

“Honestly. No. I was going to ask Styles but he’s busy.” As if on cue, the fans in the crowd cheered Styles into the Winner’s Circle.

“Styles, huh?”

“Yeah. He is the most popular racer in the series.” Just as Touch began to believe that his work for the night was done, Kloof continued. “But this guy seems to be giving him a run for his money.”

Making their way onto the race track was Juan van Zonder, followed by Brenda. Touch had to admit that there was something about JVZ that made him a hit with the fans. He suspected that it was his Zen, laid-back nature. It seemed to appeal to the younger members of the audience. But as for Touch himself, he wasn’t a big fan. Touch felt he was a little too laid back… like he didn’t take anything seriously.

“Okay John, I’ll be your partner.” Kloof thanked him and then told him that their race was next. “But before you go,” said Touch taking out his cell phone, “care for a short interview? I need to prepare some material for my show later tonight.”

 

LATER THAT NIGHT: THE RELAY RACE

Touch and Kloof were currently trailing in the relay race as ‘The Diamond in the Rough’ and ‘The Franchise’ led the way. Touch was currently waiting in his team’s pit lane, as Kloof took his lap around the speedway, giving Touch time to think.

He’d decided that he didn’t need a special guest for his show tonight. Instead, he’d make it a clip show having already accumulated a number of short recordings from his fellow racers about what success meant to them in Formula-X. He’d formulated a plan that was going to come to fruition on his next show so he’d use this week’s show to build it up.

Touch’s thoughts were interrupted when Kloof came speeding around the corner and entered their pit lane giving Touch the green light to reenter the race and once again chase after Solo. They were currently 12 laps deep into the race which meant that him and Kloof had 8 laps left to overtake them.

The race had been appalling for them from the word go. Touch and Kloof had built their strategy for the race around the fact that despite being teammates tonight, Solo Magubane and Darcy Stevens were not friends… at least not on the racetrack. There, they were rivals. But it looked like that strategy had been unwise as the two feature-racers were making good work out of them. In fact, it appeared to Touch like they were competing with one another to see who could outrace their opposite number with every lap they alternated.

With Kloof deciding to start the race, Touch had been relegated to racing every even numbered lap which also meant that he was going to be the one to end the race for his team in Lap 20. But with him once again losing the 12th and the 14th lap to Solo, things were not looking good for him.

Once again in the pitlane, Touch thought about what a loss tonight would do for him. While nobody considered him a feature-racer, he realized that he still had a lot to say in this series which was why Kloof had asked him to team up in the first place. As he sat, confined to the small space in his race car, he realized Brenda was right: success wasn’t just about wins and losses. It was also about popularity. And while he wasn’t ready to say that he was the most popular racer in the series, his words could go a long way in deciding who was.

So, when Touch and Kloof lost the race, Touch didn’t sweat it and instead started making final preparations for his show.  He’d approached Styles and JVZ, asking them both to be guests on his show next week, but he’d also asked that they tune in this week. But before he could go to the studio, Brenda caught up to him again.

“So, I guess you were right about winning as much as losing.” She was clearly referring to both their losses tonight. “I was sure your win at Heart-Attack was going to be the beginning of something.”

“Well it’s like you said, Brenda. Winning races isn’t everything.” Brenda reluctantly agreed with a nod of the head. But before she walked away, Touch added, “and last night wasn’t the beginning. Tonight, is the beginning. You should watch my show after this, Brenda. Because tonight will mark the makings of an iconic rivalry.”

Just then, there was a pop from the crowd. Both Brenda and Touch looked at the nearest big screen in the paddock and saw Jim Kieck and Thawn Oberhauser being pulled apart just outside the Winner’s Circle following their match race which had been the feature race of the night. “It looks like tonight already has marked the makings of a rivalry.”

Watching Jim and Thawn argue, Touch was now thankful that he hadn’t invited them to his show. They were already news. Touch wanted to make the news. He wasn’t going to simply name the most popular racer in the series… he was going to create the most popular racer in the series. When it was all said and done, whomever came out of this as the most popular racer in the series would have him to thank for it.

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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