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Fuel Season 2: Episode 11 – Shadow of the Showdown

Series: Stories of the Fuel Speedway

Blackcat Mathunzi makes a challenge as the upcoming pay-per-view begins to loom...

As is now tradition, before every pay-per-view, the racers in the feature race of the upcoming PPV take part in a press conference where the local press get to ask the questions about the race and the rivalry. This takes place in the Fuel Conference Center.

16th of November – Season 2

Blackcat Mathunzi wasn't one to mince words. When he'd pressed "send" on the Formulary post, he'd meant every word of it. Already, the comments section was blowing up with the fandom expressing their thoughts:

"Is this dude for real!?" 

"Doesn't he already know that he has a race at Show-Down?" 

"Is he messing with us?" 

"So I guess occultist is another word for crazy" 

However, all these comments were irrelevant to Blackcat as there was only one answer he was looking for. And if Stevie wasn't willing to give it to him over social media, then he was just going to have to get it from her at the Fuel Speedway. 

 

AT THE FUEL SPEEDWAY

As Blackcat made his way through the concourse, he paid no heed to the stares he was getting. For all Blackcat cared, they were staring at his colorful long-sleeved African tunic or the literal black cat that he carried with him every Monday night under his arm. Of course, he knew better. He knew that they were more likely staring at the rather thick brown leather book he was carrying under his other arm and his mouth which was chanting the spell he recited every week.

Blackcat wasn't always a believer in witchcraft. In fact, once upon a time, he was just like everyone else: mundane. That was until he found himself homeless, jobless, and penniless after arriving on the island from the mainland.

It was then, in his darkest moment, wandering the streets of downtown Ngelosi that he was found by a man. Like everyone else, when Blackcat saw him: how he was dressed, the witchy objects in his home, and his spellbook, he assumed that he was into voodoo. But the man explained that what he practiced wasn't voodoo but an ancient form of African occultism long believed dead but in fact passed down from master to apprentice. The man – this Master Spell-Castor –then told Blackcat that he'd been watching him and believed that he was a worthy successor to continue his ways.

While initially resistant and only going along for the food and roof over his head, Blackcat was eventually convinced of the practice when he saw it at work and came to understand that occultism wasn't magic at all but rather a science of astrology, alchemy, and natural spell work. Blackcat eventually found his fortunes turned around by combining his new skill with odd jobs working as a mechanic, delivery boy, and eventually a Taxify driver. But by using his spells, he also managed to master certain arts like race car driving.

Blackcat had just set his spellbook down along with his cat when Stevie approached him with a scowl on her face. 

"The answer is no."

Blackcat was aware that his dark features gave him an intimidating look. "No?" He knew that that one word had sent a shiver down Stevie's neck.

Stevie ignored the shiver and soldiered on. "The answer to your challenge for a one-on-one race at Show-Down in Durban? The answer is no, Mathunzi."

Blackcat didn't answer immediately, letting intimidation settle in the air a bit. "We have a destiny you and I, Darcy Stevens. And that destiny is to do battle on that racetrack."

"In case you've forgotten, we've already done battle on the racetrack. And when we did, I whooped your ass. So the answer is no. Besides, we already have a race at Show-Down."

"And you believe teaming with me and winning the Relay Baron and Baroness titles is more in line with our destiny?"

"I didn't ask for that four-way relay race."

"Our fate has us as enemies, not allies."

"Well, I don't believe in fate. Or destiny for that matter. There's no fate but what we make ourselves." When Blackcat gave her a blank stare, she explained. "Terminator Two?" Another blank stare. "You ought to put down the spellbook and watch a movie once in a while."

"Well I believe in fate," said Moodswing approaching the pair. He wore a smile on his face. "I believe that fate wants Show-Down to live up to its name this season which means you and Blackcat will be facing off one last time at the mainland pay-per-view."

While Blackcat smiled, Stevie rolled her eyes, not caring that a cameraman had his lens pointed straight at them. "Oh c'mon. That's not fate, Moodswing. That's you that wants that."

Moodswing shrug cockily. "Same difference. Hasta la vista baby," he said attempting to walk away.

Not caring for the classic Terminator 2 line, Stevie prevented him from having the last word. "Nah-ah. Hasta ahora baby." Stevie's perfect Spanish response was enough to keep him there momentarily. "You really want us as teammates and opponents on the same night? How the hell is that going to work?"

Moodswing put his hands up as if to say 'I've done my part.' "Ask Glen. He's in charge of building up the Show-Down races. I'm currently just interested in selling out Durban." This time, Moodswing managed to leave with the last word. Stevie let out another sigh before doing the same. 

 

 

LATER THAT NIGHT

Blackcat found himself thankful that Moodswing had left tonight's racecard to the Racing Club Vice President because if he hadn't, then Blackcat might not have ended up in what was surely to be the show stealer of the night: a three-on-three relay race where the team of Solo Magubane, Stevie and the reigning Duchess of Drag, Penny Potgieter would take on himself, Dime and Mandla Xulu. Glen had called it: 'Shadow of the Showdown'.

However, before they got to the big time race, there was still the traditional PPV feature race press conference at the top of the show to get through which was anything but traditional. After all, this was the first press conference with three racers involved. As Blackcat watched King Kloof, Jim Kieck, and his teammate for the night, Mandla Xulu answer questions, he couldn't help but overhear the conversation between his opposing team: Solo, Stevie, and Penny.

"Why should you be team leader?" asked a disgusted Duchess.

"You know damn well why, Penny," said Solo. 

"No I don't because between the two of us, I'm the one with more experience with relay races." 

"Guys, guys, guys," said Stevie, the mediator. "Why do we even need to have a team captain?"

Blackcat's eavesdropping was suddenly interrupted by the arrival of Dime who was already dressed, helmet in hand, smiling. He gave a head gesture to the other team. "You hear that? They're already bickering. I think we've got this nailed down."

Blackcat made a point to not even look at him. "I'm glad you're so confident. I for one have reservations." 

"About what? Listen, man, if you don't think we can win..."

Blackcat still didn't look at him. "My reservations are not about the race. They're about the consequences." When Dime didn't answer, he was forced to look at him and discerned his confusion. "It's called Shadow of the Showdown for a reason. This race is meant to foreshadow what's going to happen. And I for one have my work cut out for me, as not only do I have Stevie as an opponent, I also have her as a partner. So I have to pick out her weaknesses while at the same time figure out how to help eliminate those weaknesses by the time our four-way relay takes place."

Dime took a moment to take the complexity of Blackcat's dilemma in before blindsiding him with his comment. "Well, who's fault was that?" 

The comment didn't surprise Blackcat as much as it should have. He'd known for weeks that Dime wasn't exactly overcome with joy about having an occultist on the roster. But before Blackcat could respond to Dime's cheap comment, Mandla appeared, now done with his press conference.

"Evening gentlemen. I trust we're getting along more than they are?" said Mandla, also throwing a head gesture towards the other team.

"Oh yeah," lied Dime. "We were just agreeing, in fact, on you being team leader."

Mandla noticed this was a lie but went with it. "Well, that's good because before our race gets on the way, I wanted to talk to the race marshals. If that's okay with you guys? While Blackcat and Dime were still confused, Mandla started for the track. "It should only take a few minutes..."

 

 

TWENTY MINUTES LATER

After a few minutes turned into 10 which turned into 20, the race finally kicked off. Blackcat and Dime had finally found some middle ground to agree on in both being irritated by Mandla delaying the race asking the race marshal question after question. It had forced Moodswing and Glen to play back-to-back vignettes of training sessions and interviews to pass the time. Surely Mandla knew that Fuel ran on a schedule? 

Having decided to go last in an effort to race opposite 'The Franchise', Solo Magubane, Mandla had then suggested that Blackcat go on second across Stevie and Dime kick off the race across Penny. Blackcat recited a good luck charm just before the race and waited patiently as Dime completed his lap before taking off like a rocket after Stevie. He had to admit that Stevie was good, managing to take the lead quickly. But that was the reason that Blackcat wanted another crack at her at Show-Down: to become the best, you had to beat the best.

Mandla seemed to understand this, as he zeroed in on Solo but ultimately failed to take the lead! In Lap 4, Dime was once again the "legal racer" chasing after Penny like his life depended on it. In fact, if one wasn't paying attention, it would be easy to forget that these two were teammates at Show-Down. Nevertheless, Penny transferred her lead to Stevie as Blackcat once again chased after her.

The cycles continued until Lap 13 when the ever-zealous Dime, eager to pass Penny, accidentally rubbed his tire against hers. Desperate not to cause an accident, Penny backed off which, for the first time in the race, allowed his team to garner the lead. Blackcat remained focused, not wanting to be the fool that let them squander the lead. While he succeeded in Lap 14, it would be Lap 20 where he would allow Stevie to catch up.

Unfortunately, the race had 21 laps and not 20 meaning it would up to Mandla to keep the lead and win the race. It turned out to be a tall task as Solo managed a beautiful overtake and captured the win for his team. As was proven on the night of Solo's return, Solo was rebellion-proof as despite racing opposite Mandla himself, the fandom cheered him on like a hero. But Blackcat was more interested in Mandla's expression.

Mandla seemed indifferent about the result and it wasn't until Glen went on stage a few minutes later that he realized why. Glen announced that due to running behind schedule, the feature race of the night may not take place. This earned a boo from the crowd, but again, it was Mandla's expression that told the tale. The feature race of the night was set to be King Kloof vs. Jim Kieck with power-boost banned. But due to the schedule slip, that would no longer happen. No. Due to Mandla causing a delay, that would no longer happen. 

While Blackcat recognized that it was Mandla's sly mind that caused his fortune, he couldn't help but consider his good luck charm. His master had told him that the charms, spells, and curses don't always work the way we want them to but always work the way destiny wants them to. And it seemed that destiny wanted the charm to work for his teammate. But as his master had taught him, the more you master the craft, the better you become at fine-tuning the charms. And since he was now the Master Spell-Castor, he didn't foresee a problem with fate siding with him at Show-Down! 

 

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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