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Fuel Season 1: Episode 22 - Headliners

JVZ attempts to balance popularity with his spot on the food chain in Formula-X

Talking with Touch: Touch Mkhize's talk show, which takes place directly after every episode of Monday Night Fuel, is known for featuring the stars of Fuel and for it's nail-biting, hard-hitting questions.

24th of February - Season 1


"And let me introduce to you at this time, my first of two guests for the night: Juan van Zonder!"

JVZ rolled his eyes at the huge introduction as he made his way onto the stage. Touch always had a way of building hype every time he introduced his guests on his talk show. It was his gift: making things seem bigger than they were. He'd seemingly done the same thing for his career. Even though Touch wasn't a feature-racer, he'd somehow managed to carve himself a huge piece of the pie as he was a highly valued part of Monday Night Fuel.

"Hello Jay-Vee-Zed, how are you doing tonight?"

"I'm doing well, man."

"Well I'm glad to hear it. Now before we bring on our second guest for the night, I want to ask you Jay-Vee-Zed, how does it feel to be the most-talked about racer on the island. Or at least, one of the most-talked about racers."

As JVZ thought about the question, he couldn't help but think about events earlier in the night.



When JVZ arrived at the Fuel Speedway, he was thinking about what Touch had said last week on his talk show when he gave him a backhanded compliment by saying that while he was one of the most popular racers on Monday Night Fuel, he also had the misfortune of having one of the worst pay-per-view records of all the racers mostly because he's barely featured. He'd been so busy thinking back on last week, that he was caught offguard when a fan came up to him while he was walking through the concourse and asked him for his autograph.

"It never gets old," said Brenda Koek from another merchandise stand, signing autographs of her own. "I take it this happens in public for you too?"

JVZ nodded. It did happen in public. In fact, JVZ remembered just this past weekend back in Engels Bay, when he'd been approached by fellow beach-goers for a selfie. It was crazy the reach that Monday Night Fuel had achieved. Although there was an argument to be made that this new found bump in popularity was because of Touch's show last week. It wouldn't be the only thing that was affected by it as Glen was quick to announce the opening race of this week's episode as featuring him and the other racer that Touch insulted: Styles Sithole.



"And now, for our second guest on tonight's episode of Talking with Touch, he is the Cryptic Crusader, Styles Sithole."

As JVZ watched Styles come onto the stage, he gave thought to Styles' new nickname: the Cryptic Crusader. JVZ liked it. He really did and he also understood what Styles was going for with the nickname. He was trying to make it emulate the name of his race car, poetically: The Cursed Conundrum... Cryptic Crusader.

Now that Touch had both his guests on the show, it was time for the fun to begin. "Now," said Touch, "I know that the two of you were watching last week's episode of Talking with Touch and probably have some choice words for me right now but let me assure you–"

"You damn right we have some choice words for you," said Styles, quick off the mark. "Where do you get off talking about us and our pay-per-view performances? You know something man, you've got a big mouth."

JVZ listened to Styles go on and call Touch out while Touch pushed back by saying that they needed to have P.P.V. performances for him to make light of. While Styles continued to push, Touch persisted on saying that he was just rocking the boat, trying to get them to become news because they weren't. This got JVZ to thinking about two people who did make news this last week.



Before JVZ and Styles made their way to the racetrack for their race, they witnesed a monumental confrontation between Thawn Oberhauser and the arriving King Mandla who'd used his priveledges to drive right into the paddock. Mandla was barely out of his personal car when Thawn got in his face saying that he wanted another shot at his title TONIGHT! While King Mandla looked to brush off the entire idea of Thawn challenging him again, Thawn said something that got King Mandla's attention: one last shot. That was when the F-X King conjured the idea for them to have a race that hadn't been seen in three months: a One Kilometer Derby!

"You want one last shot, Oberhauser, then this is how we do it. One kilometer, one last shot. I'll stake my Crown and you stake your claim to my title for as long as I'm King. That means if I win, then you never get another shot at my title. Take it or leave it."

Watching all this, JVZ noted, just as Thawn did, that Thawn was never going to say no. There were too many eyes on them. He'd created too much of a scene. But it wasn't just the other racers watching, but the F-X reporters who had their camera phones out meaning the whole fanbase was watching this too. And just like that, Thawn had made himself headline news.

"I don't believe it." JVZ turned to see Jim Kieck standing next to him.

"Yeah, sucks that he's getting another shot, huh?" said JVZ, conversationally.

Jim shook his head. "No. He challenged me to best out of three races last week after he lost to me. Now he's not only chickening out but also denying me another shot at kicking his ass in the feature race tonight." Jim then muttered something about a plan before slipping away. JVZ just knew that whatever he was going to do was going to be news-worthy.



"Now," said Touch, "despite what I said to you guys about your dismal pay-per-view performances, I can proudly say that you two are definitely on your way to the next P.P.V. But before you get there, there's something that I want you two to see." Touch's show had always been impressive considering that it had basically been retrofitted from an auditorium belonging to the old airport with an elaborate stage setting and fans completing the atmosphere as a studio audience. Now, he'd managed to set up a remote-controlled projector which currenlty beamed an image of a table onto the screen behind them. "Now, this is a poll I ran on all my social media to determine, between you two, who is the more popular racer. And according to that poll, Styles Sithole is the more popular racer.

While JVZ, with his zen-like nature, was willing to admit that Styles was more popular, looking at the poll and the 20% margin between their popularity, JVZ hesitated. There was something in him that didn't want to just let this be it. And Touch noticed.

"Van Zonder, you look a little quiet. Tell us, what do you think about this?" said Touch gesturing to the screen. "How does it feel to lose in the polls to a racer you defeated earlier tonight?"

Touch hit the nail on the head. That was what was bothering JVZ. How was he going to admit any kind of defeat to a racer he had just proved himself better than...?



While it may have only been the opening race, JVZ and Styles took to that race track like it was the feature race. But how could they not? After the massive confrontation that resulted in a Title Race at the top of the racecard, they had to prove that they weren't just canon-fodder. But while everyone else seemed eager to reach the top by creating soapie-like rivalries, JVZ was still adamant on leaving it all on the blacktop. The race itself started with JVZ taking control in the early going.

While JVZ used bread and butter tactics to keep his lead, Styles performed breath-taking power slides in his rear view, earning massive cheers from the crowd. While it only looked futile in the first few laps, JVZ was surprised when Styles managed to use one of his power slides to slip right past him in Lap 4 of their 10 Lap Match Race.

To his own credit though, JVZ didn't panic or lose his mind but instead kept to his bread and butter method of racing and looked for the gaps. Knowing that he couldn't count on Styles making a mistake, even though he knew that it was lightly, JVZ looked for the chance for the overtake. It finally came in Lap 7 when JVZ managed to overtake Styles just as Styles tried another power slide. JVZ then managed to keep the lead to capture the win. While JVZ didn't much like how the race had come about and Touch's part in it, he definitely liked how it had ended. JVZ had proved himself.



"How do I feel?" asked JVZ. "I feel that your poll doesn't show the whole picture. I think your poll ought to show how my skill behind the wheel is better than Styles' skill behind the wheel. That's how I feel man."

Styles' eyes widened. "Really?" While JVZ expected Styles to be upset that he was basically insulting him, instead what happened surprised JVZ. "Wait, so when I talked to you about telling this ass off, you said no out of some misplaced sense of morality, but attacking me is okay?"

"Whoa, when did this happen?" asked Touch.



Following their race, JVZ had quietly returned to the paddock to watch the rest of the races and immeditely found himself watching another confrontation. This time it had been Jim Kieck confronting Moodswing, seemingly executing his plan. And his plan was to ask Moodswing to name him the Number One Claimant since Thawn had decided to abandon their return race. But before Moodswing could make any kind of decision, Solo Magubane, Darcy Stevens and budding feature-racer, John Kloof decided to lay their claim as well which resulted in Moodswing sanctioning a 4-Way match race for the first time ever.

"So, what are we going to do about this talk show tonight?" Styles was standing next to him. When JVZ gave him a face, Styles continued. "You heard what Touch said last week. We have to say something about that."

"C'mon, man. You know that I don't start fights. I like to leave it all on the blacktop."

Styles gritted his teeth. “Dammit van Zonder. You’re not going to get far here if you only rely on skill. You need teeth. You need to be able to bite.” Styles then left in a huff, having not gotten what he wanted.



JVZ remembered Styles' words from earlier. "Well you're the one that said I need to have teeth. Well I guess that was my bite. But rest assured, I'm still not interested in being in a rivalry with you." JVZ then stood up. "But what I am interested in showing you, is that I'm better than you," he said, pointing away, "out there on the race track. Not in here." JVZ then left the show, but not before Touch proudly announced that "it looks like this rivalry just turned into a best of three series. Let's hope that neither of these guys flake out like The Impaler."

While JVZ wasn't happy with Touch basically playing puppetmaster with the two of them, JVZ was definitely happy with getting another chance at proving that he was better than Styles. While Styles cared about popularity and Touch cared about making headlines, all JVZ cared about was leaving it out on the racetrack. So that's what he was going to do... next week, the following week and the week after. If Touch wanted a headline, then there it was.

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

Copyright © Copyright © 2020 by Sphu "Beesting" Kubheka
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