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Fuel Season 1: Episode 9: Claim to the Throne

The only thing better than being King? Getting a shot at being King. Will Brenda capitalize on hers?

The Formula-X Crown: the most prestigious prize in the F-X Racing Series, a lineal "championship" that can only change hands when it's holder is defeated in a race, passed on from best racer to next best racer.

28th of October – Season 1

Brenda Koek: Number One Claimant. It has a good ring to it, thought Brenda as she waited patiently in Catering for her meal to be prepared. It had been a long two months for Brenda but after Moodswing and Glen had approached her last night at the Trick or Treat following Hallow’s Eve to tell her that she would be headlining tonight’s episode of Fuel, she couldn’t help but feel that all was right with the world.

Brenda thought about the three-way race she was going to be competing in. She’d be facing ‘The Diamond in the Rough’, Darcy Stevens and ‘The Franchise’, Solo Magubane: arguably, two of the best racers in the series. But it didn’t matter because this was still a huge opportunity for her. If she won tonight, then she would go on to headline the next pay-per-view across from the Formula-X King, Thawn Oberhauser. Brenda rolled her eyes at just the thought of that guy.

If King Thawn had been arrogant before he got the Crown, he was far more so now that he had it. The guy actually believed that he was royalty, wanting people – including the racers – to wait on his every need and want. While Brenda knew why referring to him as King was important, she didn’t understand why it had to be taken this far. Or maybe she did. After all, didn’t everyone want to be treated like a King?

“So, I heard that you have a shot at being Number One Claimant tonight,” said Jim Kieck, walking up from behind her.

Brenda frowned at the sight of him. It was his smile that was putting her off. He always wore this flirty smile like he was forever trying to charm people. Well she wasn’t going to fall for it. “What’s it to you?”

“Nothing. It’s just that I’ve won two pay-per-view races in a row and I’m just wondering: what does a guy have to do to get some action around here?”

Brenda gave him a dirty look. She knew what he was talking about and what he was suggesting with the pun. It was so blatant that there was nothing subtle about it at all. “What, you jealous or something?”

“Not at all. I mean, what’s there to be jealous of? You have to become Number One Claimant first for you to have something I want.” Jim then made a thinking face before laughing to himself. “Number One Claimant. Interesting expression right. Sort of like 'line of succession'. Where does Moodswing come up with this stuff anyway?”

Brenda almost laughed too. Jim had a point. Moodswing was adamant about using expressions like Number One Claimant instead of ‘Number One Contender’. He also insisted that the list of contenders be called the line of succession, all in an effort to keep with the theme of royalty in regard to the series’ top prize being called ‘King’.

“I sort of like it,” said Brenda. “It lets us know exactly where we sit in the pecking order.” The cook finally called to her and Brenda took her meal but turned to Jim to have one last word before leaving. “Where do you sit in the pecking order, Playboy?”

 

LATER THAT NIGHT

Brenda wished that she hadn’t spoken so soon when Moodswing and Glen not only announced that after the successful launch of the Relay Baron titles that they were launching a drag racing title at the next PPV with Jim Kieck and Touch Mkhize competing in the first qualifying race tonight for a spot in the Title Race. It occurred to Brenda upon hearing this that if Jim somehow managed to win his race tonight and advance to the Title Drag Race at the next PPV and she didn’t win the three-way race, then he would technically be higher in the pecking order.

So, it was a relief when Touch managed to overcome Jim Kieck in their race just a few minutes later – and thus vindicate his words from last night at the PPV – and ensure that Brenda wouldn’t have to hear more from The Playboy. Unfortunately for Brenda, just as she was daydreaming about being at the top of the line of succession and second in the pecking order, the man who was first made his way to the middle stage for an interview to the booing crowd.

“These people here tonight would do best to recognize royalty when they see it,” said King Thawn, smugly. “I proved for a second pay-per-view in a row that I am racing royalty.” When the crowd responded by more booing, putting a smile on Brenda’s face, the interview asked how he felt about the response. “I know how this game is played. This is sports entertainment and these people came here to be entertained. The difference between me and all these other F-X racers is where they’re vying for popularity, I have no qualms gaining notoriety.”

This time when the crowd booed, Brenda didn’t smile. It hit her that King Thawn just might not be the scumbag that he was making himself out to be. Was he doing this on purpose for this crowd reaction? Was he making himself out to be the villain? Because if he was, then that made him a sheer and utter genius… albeit, an evil genius.

As if reading Brenda’s mind, the interviewer then asked King Thawn if that meant that all this was an act. The F-X King responded with a smile. “I wouldn’t say it’s an act because I don’t have a script. Did Muhammed Ali have a script when he showed off his arrogance. And to this day, he’s considered one of the best boxers of all time. Well now you’ve found your Formula Racing equivalent. The fact and the matter is this: I know that every time I open my mouth and make you people hate me, I give you a reason to come back. You see, you want to see me get my ass handed to me." That got a massive cheer. "But as long as I’m faster than whoever your beloved hero is, I won’t lose sleep at night.” The King then smiled before telling the F-X reporter that the interview was over.

“What an arrogant asshole,” said Touch, joining her. “That’s what you’re thinking, right?”

Brenda smiled. “Amongst other things. Congratulations on winning your race tonight.”

“Thanks.” Touch then held his head up high. “Touch, Duke of Drag: has a nice ring to it huh? I think I’m actually going to call myself that when I win. You know, lose my last name like real Dukes and Duchesses.”

Brenda wanted to roll her eyes at the name that Moodswing had bestowed upon the new title. ‘Duke’, ‘King’, ‘Baron’: the man clearly had a thing for monarchy. “Well at least you understand that you won’t really be a Duke. Unlike this guy,” said Brenda pointing at King Thawn who had reentered the paddock area.

Touch surprised Brenda by what he said next. “I dunno, Brenda. I don’t think he’s as full of himself as he’s letting on.” When Touch saw Brenda’s reaction, he continued. “I mean, you heard him out there: sports entertainment. He’s putting on a show, acting the part.”

“Yeah, and he also said that he wasn’t following a script. Which means that he means what he says out there. Don’t fool yourself, Touch. That guy, he’s a bad guy.”

“Yeah, probably,” said Touch. “But he is our King.”

Brenda contemplated this as she stood there and watched King Thawn prance through the paddock. She couldn’t help but wonder if Touch had a point. After all, wasn’t this all about entertainment? This was storytelling, just like the rivalry between Jim Kieck and John Kloof. And every good story had a good villain. King Thawn was just playing his part as the evil King. So, then shouldn’t she play the part of the hero?

“Hey,” said Touch, snapping her out of her thoughts. “Good luck tonight. Because you’re going to need it.” Touch then pointed to who the F-X King was talking to now. “Because it looks like the King already has an idea as to who he wants to face.” Brenda followed Touch’s eyeline to see that he was pointing to the King who was shaking hands with Stevie: one of her opponents.

 

LATER THAT NIGHT: THE FEATURE RACE

By the time Brenda headed out to the start line for her race, the Duke of Drag Title Race for the upcoming PPV had already been set as Penny Potgieter had just won the second qualifying race having managed to defeat both Longitude and Latitude in a two-on-one race to secure her spot. Whatever relief Brenda had felt watching Jim Kieck lose his race had been swept away watching the woman who had betrayed her two weeks ago not only qualify to stand a chance to be ‘Duchess’ of Drag but also prove that she really didn’t need her by knocking off two people they’d tried to beat at Arbour Games all by herself.

Brenda tried to put those thoughts out of her head as she sat in her white and gold race car named The Amazing Grace. As she looked to her right at Stevie sitting in The Candyfloss, she couldn’t help but wonder what was going through her mind now that she had the King himself supporting her. Although in her defense, that was only what it looked like. Brenda looked to her left and saw Solo Magubane in The Abominable Seduction and couldn’t help but recall her loss to him in the premiere episode of Monday Night Fuel. Brenda put that thought out of her head too, as she was determined to keep that from happening tonight.

Bang! The race commenced and Brenda immediately found herself in trouble as Stevie and Solo fought over first position while she sped on behind them. Brenda realized how unprepared she was for having an extra opponent. While she’d adjusted well to the one-on-one match racing that was the standard in Formula-X, she realized just the addition of one extra racer, made everything different.

Fortunately for Brenda, what was different for her was also different for Solo and Stevie as Brenda managed to take advantage of their fighting with each other, to sneak past on the inside lane and lead the race as they went past the half way point of the 15 Lap Race. That was when Brenda ran into another thing she wasn’t prepared for. Having managed to hold on to the lead until the end of the 10th lap, Brenda realized that it wasn’t over.

While the support races in the series tended to be ten laps for one-on-one match races, Fuel feature races were fifteen laps which meant that Brenda’s experience in the past nine weeks did little to prepare her for the extra five laps in the race. Even in relay races which were twenty laps, each teammate only did ten laps, alternating. Meanwhile, both Stevie and Solo had experience with these 15 Lap Races. This proved to be true when, first, Solo overtook her to take the lead and then Stevie did the same in the final lap. Stevie followed through by passing Solo in the dying moments of the race to take the win.

Brenda couldn’t believe it as she got furious with herself upon finally coming to a stop. She’d come dead last! How had this happened? She had been afforded an opportunity of a lifetime: a chance to be at the top of the line of succession and what had she done? She’d squandered it. However, just as Brenda came to terms with the humiliation, she got out of The Amazing Grace and locked eyes with the last person she wanted to see: Penny Potgieter. And more than ever she wanted to hit her as she was actually smiling. But Brenda managed to fight the urge and laugh it off. Because it looked like the people were going to get the story they wanted so badly. Because one way or another, she was going to wipe that smile off her face.

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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