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Fuel Season 1: Episode 28 - The Feature-Racer

Series: Stories of the Fuel Speedway

John Kloof accepts a challenge after declaring that he'll go undefeated until the Grand Prix.

Formula-X King: a coveted role that means more than being champion. It allows for special privileges, an increased income and is synonymous with being the face of the series. Fame, power and glory go hand in hand with the title.

20th of April - Season 1

"I hereby declare that I will go undefeated until The Formula-X Grand Prix." Those were the words that came out of John Kloof's mouth last week in the Winner's Circle after he defeated Juan van Zonder. He knew how he must have sounded: pompous and maybe even arrogant. But he had to say them. It was do or time. Now, it was about making a statement. With only six weeks to go until the end of the season, how else was he going to get everyone's attention?

While John had expected his declaration to put a lot of eyes on him, it didn't go that way immediately, not with the big marketing campaign overshadowing everything between episodes. Two weeks back, it had been photoshoots and magazine interviews. Last week, it seemed Moodswing was going bigger. He had invited all the F-X racers back to the Clubhouse to shoot an elaborate video with them talking about glory, pride and destiny while walking through smoke and awkwardly looking to the heavens. While initially thinking it was ridiculous, after seeing how the video was edited and made into a nifty looking TV advert, John had to admit that it did look ridiculously cool. Having taken most of the week to shoot, John was glad that, according to the Club Committee Events Organiser, there had been a bump in ticket sales for the Grand Prix.

So, with everyone still buzzing from the TV spot, John was shocked when someone challenged him to a race this week on F-X social media. Now calling himself "The Cryptic Crusader", Styles Sithole was far from being the enemy and even when he made the challenge, he'd done it respectfully saying that he wanted to see first hand what The Big Boot was made off. Of all the racers that could have challenged him, John was glad that it was someone he got along with. He'd had his fill of rivals this season.

As John arrived at the Fuel Speedway and made his way into the building, he thought about all the rivals he'd made. While his most recent rivalry with Darcy Stevens and Solo Magubane had been lacking in animosity, it had been an important rivalry as getting past them had been important to prove that he belonged in the feature race picture. And how better to do it than facing the best. In fact, it was his first and most personal rival that had aptly described it as breaking the glass ceiling. Now there was a man that John was happy to stay away from. And just as John recalled Jim Kieck and their three-month-long feud, his race car suddenly came flying around the corner as if on cue.

The Kissed Off wasn't alone as it was swiftly followed by two vehicles, Heads and Tails: the race cars of Longitude and Latitude. They were moving at lightning speed, except that this wasn't a race... it was a chase, almost identical to the one John and Kieck had back in November. In fact, John was still standing on the concourse, watching patrons dive out of the way as the three race cars turned a corner and made for the exit into the parking lot just as him and Kieck once had.

John quickly made his way to the paddock (and out of harm's way) so that he could find out just what in the world caused this. It didn't take long as John saw a crowd of racers that had gathered around one of the racer's designated areas just as they had gathered around Brenda's last week. In fact, when John finally managed to get a look at what they were all looking at, he was shocked to find exactly the same thing as what happened last week: banners defaced with the word worthless on it. It didn't take a genius to know that the area belonged to Longitude and Latitude. And the person that had done the defacing had been Jim.

Their attention was then diverted to the big screen where Glen once again put a stop to the unsanctioned race when it got to the racetrack and this time immediately sanctioned a two-on-one race for Sunday Night Easter but not before fining them. John smiled. Clearly he wasn't the only one interested in making an impact on the highway to the Grand Prix.

 

A FEW MINUTES LATER

"Well that was something," said Styles, who had approached John.

"That's one word for it," said John who was getting ready. "I'm just glad I wasn't involved this time. That fine is not cheap."

"Oh right. I forget that you've done something like that before." Styles changed the subject. "So, are you ready for our race?"

"You bet. Just waiting on this relay to finish and then it's on." Currently on the racetrack, Stevie and Thawn, in a continuation of their odd alliance, were taking on Penny Potgieter, the Duchess of Drag and Brenda Koek, her next challenger. The race had been billed as 'Strange Alliances' which was a good way of describing both pairings.

"Oh, we're not going on right after this." Styles continued when John gave him a confused look. "Didn't you hear? They're going to do a special installment of Talking with Touch on the middle stage."

"Really? Moodswing would rather have a talk show than racing?" John scoffed. "The man really likes his sports entertainment."

"Well I think he wanted to make an exception with this one. Touch's guest is King Mandla." Now that made sense.

As if on auto-pilot, as soon as Styles had spoken his name, John's eyes immediately scanned the paddock to lay eyes on the Formula-X King who, true to Styles' explanation, was getting ready for the segment. But if John was being honest with himself, his eyes hadn't gone to the King... they had gone to his Crown. That 18-karat golden helmet was beautiful, seeming to always catch the light just right so that it glistened like the gem it was. John wanted that Crown so badly he could taste it.

John was snapped out of the moment by Styles who pointed to the big screen. The relay race had ended. Thawn and Stevie had won the race and as such, were afforded the luxury of the Winner's Circle interview where they could speak their minds. The Winner's Circle was one of Moodswing's more ingenious ideas as not only did it shine a spotlight rightfully on the victors, but it also allowed the racers to create drama, whether on purpose or inadvertently. This time around, John was sure that Thawn had done it on purpose.

Hijacking the interview, Thawn proceeded to seize the moment. "While I'm sure that Stevie had some nice words for you, some inspirational speech, I have something would like to say; something I would like to ask. After the revelation just a few weeks ago that Touch Mkhize had somehow stolen the label of being the biggest draw, I got to thinking that maybe what it takes around here to get some respect is putting on one of the greatest races you'll ever see against a great opponent." It was then that Thawn earned an "ooohhh" from the capacity crowd when he turned to Stevie. "And Stevie, I choose you!"

While, on the surface, John thought that the race was a fantastic match up two of the best going mano-e-mano, on a deeper level, John was with the fans in seeing this for what it was, betrayal. Thawn was turning on Stevie, right before their very eyes. They had clearly formed an alliance at the beginning of the month and now Thawn was turning his back on her. While he didn't approve, John understood what Thawn was going for, it was the same thing he was going for: making an impact before the Grand Prix. After all, Moodswing and Glen had yet to name the Number One Claimant for the F-X Crown at the Grand Prix. Hell they didn't even know if Mandla would still be King going into the Grand Prix. That would be up to his current Number One Claimant...

 

TALKING WITH TOUCH LIVE

John had never had the luxury of being a guest on Touch's talk show. While John had never cared much about that, his wife Debra – who loved the show – wanted more than anything for him to be a guest. And judging from how much traction in hype Touch had managed to get for JVZ, Styles, and himself heading into Festival of the Fall, it was clear that being a guest on his show led to a bump in popularity. But tonight's installment wasn't about getting his guest more popularity. No, tonight was about Touch getting to sit across the man he would be facing for the title at Sunday Night Easter.

As the two pay-per-view rivals measured each other up, John couldn't help but think about the enormity of the moment and hoped that Touch appreciated it. He was getting an opportunity of a lifetime. It was not every day that you got an opportunity to be at the top of the food chain. Fame, glory and destiny was all good but Touch was getting a chance to tell the entire world that he was the best at this thing he loved doing. At least that's what an opportunity like this would mean to John so he hoped that Touch didn't blow it. But it seemed that Touch was vibrating at the same frequency because when the King asked Touch what made him a bigger draw, Touch proved why he deserved his shot.

"The reason that I'm the bigger star here in F-X is that I don't have an agenda. These people know it and so do you. I don't have a powerful Daddy who built me up on his name then allowed me to use his fame to get over with these people. I had to earn my fame from scratch." It was at this point that the crowd roared, Touch seemingly proving himself to them too. "You see, Your Highness, with me, what you see is what you get. And all of my focus is on Formula-X." While Touch couldn't know it, John and many of the other racers were smiling at hearing this, proud as ever of their resident loudmouth.

 

TEN MINUTES LATER

By the time John and Styles were on the racetrack, lapping around it, they were as hyped up as ever. As it turned out, Touch's show deserved the segment that it got. Touch's monologue was still running through John's mind as he exchanged the lead with Styles. Unfortunately for Styles, it wasn't just Touch's words that were running through John's mind. It was also his own words; his own goals. John was determined to go to the Grand Prix. And he was going to get there without losing another race. So when he won the race and his hand was raised in victory, John simply considered this a stepping stone... to his destiny in becoming Formula-X King.

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 © All stories are Copyright © 2016-2020 by S.T. Kubheka (also known by the pseudonym Bernard "Beesting" Bayede). ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This story or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

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