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HomeDrama Stories Fuel Season 2: Episode 12 – Order of the Gauntlet

Fuel Season 2: Episode 12 – Order of the Gauntlet

Series: Stories of the Fuel Speedway

As Show-Down in Durban draws closer, JVZ attempts to gain advantage in the upcoming gauntlet race...

In medieval times, "running the gauntlet" was a lethal punishment meant for traitors. In modern times, the expression is used as a metaphor for a gruelling series of tasks done in one go.

23rd of November – Season 2

The calm before the storm. This was a concept that Juan van Zonder was very familiar with as a man accustomed to the movements of the ocean. The ever-changing tides had actually taught him a lot about the world including how one needed to adapt to one's problems which come and go like waves.

JVZ's latest problem wasn't one that he had alone: the gauntlet race and who was going to be the first to take on the Gauntlet Runner, Solo Magubane. It had started innocently enough with Solo asking on the Formulary who his first opponent would be at Show-Down. But after the comments section blew up on the social network, it had ended with Moodswing making an announcement over on Feeder that tonight would have the three gauntleteers (JVZ himself, Styles Sithole and Thawn Oberhauser) facing off and the winner deciding when he'd like to enter the race.

When JVZ arrived at the Fuel Speedway in his signature old VW combi, he realized that the upcoming gauntlet wasn't the only storm brewing... not by a long shot. Firstly, there were the protesters of the ongoing Amandla's Rebellion outside the front entrance who seemed to have become even more rowdy after Jim Kieck ascended to the top of the line of succession (despite their hero, Mandla Xulu being added into the feature race just to appease them). 

Secondly, was the storm brewing inside the building as JVZ entered the paddock to seeming chaos amongst the racers as almost all of them were involved in an argument. Naturally, King Kloof and Jim Kieck were arguing with Mandla over screwing them over last week in the feature race (or lack thereof) by delaying his own race to create a schedule slip. Blackcat and Dime were also arguing about last week but rather about who the weak link in their team was. Brenda and Doris Koek were arguing with Glenwood Jacobs about exactly the opposite: how strong a team they were, so much so, that they wanted to prove it by putting their Relay Baroness titles on the line against the former title holders tonight! 

Not to feel left out, JVZ quickly found the argument he was meant to be involved in when he eyed Thawn and Styles across the paddock. It didn't take a genius to know that they were arguing over tonight's 3-Way race. When Styles saw him, he pointed and they started towards him. As the duo made their way to him, JVZ wondered about the wild card in this argument, the man who'd started it: Solo Magubane. JVZ spotted 'The Franchise' and saw that he was one of the only racers not in an argument as he was having a nice conversation with Stevie and Penny, Duchess of Drag – his teammates from last week. 

"Hey Jay Vee Zed," said Styles. "Glad you're here. Maybe you can settle this argument for us–" 

"Less an argument and more a disputed fact, really," said Thawn, as obnoxious as ever. 

JVZ interrupted before they could get started. "Guys, can't we leave the arguments for the racetrack?" 

"It's not what you think, man," said Styles. "The Impaler and I have a difference of opinion of which slot is the best: first or last." 

"Which slot?"

Thawn rolled his eyes. "I knew we shouldn't have asked him. Damn hippy doesn't even know what we're talking about?" 

Styles jumped in before JVZ could say anything. "The gaunlet race, Vee Zed. The gauntleteer slots; the order we race Solo in this Sunday?" Styles saw that JVZ had caught up and continued. "Right, so this moron here thinks going on last is the best slot while I think being the first guy to face him is the best."

Thawn was too touched by Styles calling him a moron to let JVZ decide. "Last is the best slot, idiot because by that point in the race, Magubane would have raced both of you two numnuts and will be fatigued. That's twenty straight laps before I've even gotten on the board."

JVZ wanted to jump in but Styles beat him to the punch. "Yeah,  but that's assuming either of us hasn't beaten him already. Remember that if either of the first two gauntleteers beats him, the race is over." Styles then picked up on Thawn's presumption and screwed his brow. "And why do you just assume you're gonna go last like you've already won tonight's race."

This time Thawn jumped in before JVZ could. "Because you two don't stand a chance tonight. Just like you don't stand a chance on Sunday."

Styles jumped in again. "Listen here, Impaler. If you end up going last in the gauntlet, it will be because I won tonight and I chose to enter first." As Styles continued to make his argument for entering the gauntlet first, JVZ decided that he'd had enough and prepared to whistle loudly to put an end to it only to be beaten to the punch by Glen.

While Glen was clearly irritated, he was far less stressed out than he'd been in the past in situations like this, having assimilated to the bickering of the racers on race night. "Okay, listen up ladies and gentlemen." Glen purposely paused to allow the cameras to focus on him. "I'm hearing a lot of arguing tonight and it's clear that something has to be done about it. So here's the game plan." 

Like the expert showrunner he was, Glen went on to systematically resolve all the arguments in the paddock by sanctioning a spectacular racecard.  It started with him granting Brenda and Doris their request for a relay title race tonight despite the epic 4-Way relay this Sunday. Glen then went on to sanction Blackcat and Dime to team up against Touch Mkhize and the increasingly frustrated rookie, Caliber Kid as the second race of the night followed by JVZ's own 3-Way race which Glen billed: "Order of the Gauntlet".

This made JVZ – and notably Thawn –curious that if their race was third, then what was the feature race of the night? That's when Glen sanctioned the biggest race of the night: a three-on-three relay race between the reunited team of Solo, Stevie, and Penny against the Show-Down headliners: King Kloof, Jim Kieck, and Mandla Xulu. Once again billing it "Shadow of the Showdown", JVZ could clearly see why it had to go on last: it was clearly the biggest race of the night... But not by far.

JVZ had every intention of not only stealing tonight's race but the entire racecard. Styles and Thawn's argument had proven one thing: that they had both underestimated him and now he was going to make them pay for it.

 

LATER THAT NIGHT

The number 21 seemed to be a running theme these days as it was clear that Moodswing and Glen were experimenting with the number of laps in the different race types. But JVZ had figured out that the idea was for the number of laps to be divisible by the number of competitors in the race. While fifteen would have been the go-to figure for 3-Way races, it seemed the showrunners were reluctant to have any race that's wasn't the feature race be a 15 Lap Race.

The race had started with Styles taking the lead with JVZ in close second and Thawn trailing behind. While the first five laps went by with this formation, JVZ couldn't help but think that Thawn wasn't really worried. Why would he be when he had a whole sixteen laps left to go? This was why JVZ was surprised when Thawn went for the overtake in Lap 7. Did he plan to hold the lead for 14 laps straight? Well, that wasn't going to happen if JVZ had anything to say about it.

Despite the fact that he was dead last, JVZ kept his head about him, remembering his bread and butter tactics, and expertly attacked Styles, gunning for his number 2 spot. Meanwhile, Styles refused to look back and aimed to pass Thawn. It was in Lap 15 that Styles opened up his best opportunity and finally managed to get up alongside 'The Impaler'. Styles finally managed to overtake in Lap 17 but forgot that JVZ was still gunning for him!

Having taken advantage of Styles' slipstream to tailgate him right past Thawn, JVZ then executed a dangerous but spectacular move when he pulled out of Styles slipstream and tapped his power boost button to give him an extra kick as he passed 'The Cryptic Crusader' in Lap 18. While not as impressive as Solo's use of the power-boost three weeks ago, JVZ had become the latest in a shortlist of racers to at least attempt to use the power-boost... Even if only for a split second of boost.

Nevertheless, the risk paid off as not only did JVZ take the lead but he held it long enough to convert it into a victory. As JVZ celebrated his victory and began making his way to the Winner's Circle, he pondered the question he knew that Geeza would ask him: which slot would he take. Both Styles and Thawn had a point but JVZ would have to make up his own mind. There was definitely a storm coming this Sunday and JVZ was gonna need to get ahead of it.

"I've decided that I will be entering the gauntlet race first, Geeza. But not because of strategy or because Styles had a point or because I wanna enter before Thawn but because of Solo. I recognize Solo as a machine and a man destined to be King one day, probably soon and I want first crack at having an opportunity to test myself against him. I wanna take on Solo with no excuses, no fatigue, no wear and tear. I want him at his best. If he's the hurricane in the ocean, then I wanna prove that I won't get swept away at sea. I wanna prove that I can hold my own and venture into Poseidon's domain."

 

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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