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Fuel Season 2: Episode 15 – The Dark Night

Series: Stories of the Fuel Speedway

It may not be Christmas, but it's Die Hard tonight as Solo tries to thwart Thawn's evil ploy...

The Racecard: Every episode of Monday Night Fuel is structured the same way, with an opening segment followed by 3 support races and a feature race all interspersed with vignettes showcasing the F-X Racers.

18th of January – Season 2

"So what's going on with you, man," said Styles.  "Are you ever going to start posting on your Formulary page or what?"

Solo Magubane let out a deep breath. "C'mon, just drive the car, man." Besides the fact that this was the fifth time that Styles had asked him about that in the space of a week, Solo was also irritated because he remembered just how much his carpool buddy could talk. Since starting back up with their two-man car pool last week, Styles seemed determined to make up for all the car rides they hadn't taken together since the beginning of the season. This week, it was Styles' turn.

"I'm just asking man because all of us have one now each with our totems." 

Solo had opened a lollipop he'd had  no intention of eating before and had been forced to momentarily remove his excuse not to talk from his mouth when something Styles said caught his attention. "What's a totem?"

"It's a logo specific to you. We use those on the Formulary  instead of profile pictures. Mine's a green African tribal symbol. Now you would know that if you used it." 

Solo rolled his eyes and saw that Styles wasn't going to let this go. "Look, the reason I haven't posted yet is because I don't wanna live my life online."

"Hmm. Well just remember that it was designed to connect you to your fans not as a diary you have to write everyday. Oh-oh, " he said, referring to something else. 

"What the hell?" Coming into the parking lot of the Fuel Speedway, in front of them were uniformed Metro cops, trying to keep a very rowdy crowd from storming the building. It was Amandla's Rebellion. "When did it become this bad?"

"When Jim became King. From what I've seen on the Formulary, most of this noise is mainly to do with Jim's coronation tonight."

Solo was shocked to hear that... and see this. "But they can't be this upset that Mandla is not King? What did they think was going to happen: that he was going to stay King forever?" 

"Well there is a rumor that this is about the racer that beat John Kloof for the title being white."

"Styles, stop it. You know Azania is above all that." Even though Solo had spoken the words, he couldn't really be sure. But he really hoped this wasn't about race. He quickly changed the subject. "So any idea how we're getting in?"

 

IN THE PADDOCK

After being allowed through the back entrance – a once in a life time opportunity to feel what it was like to have the King's privilege –they parked the car off and entered the paddock to something of a controlled chaos. "What the hell is going on here?" asked Styles. "Why is everyone running around like a headless chicken?"

Solo concurred. "Where's Glen?"

"If you're looking for Glen, you missed him," said Ellie, the 22-year-old Events Organizer.  "He's outside, trying to help calm the protesting." She anticipated Solo's next question. "Moodswing is with him. They were advised that having both of them out there would be a good sign of strength from our side."

Solo nodded. "So does that mean you're in charge, Ellie?" 

She shook her head adamantly. "Nope. Got my hands full, literally," she said, indicating the various items in her hands. Indeed, her job on race nights was to be more of a runner and make sure people were where they were supposed to be. "Glen is running the show remotely." Ellie reacted to Solo's raised eyebrows.  "Welcome to the fourth industrial revolution." Ellie then took off, with Styles following after her to give her a helping hand.

Solo was almost immediately joined by Touch Mkhize. "Nkomose," he greeted, using his clan name. "So what's your plan." 

Touch had lost him. "My plan for what, Khabazela?"

"Haven't you heard?" Touch saw that he clearly hadn't. "Well, I put feelers out to get my usual Intel on the racecard and lo and behold, Thawn Oberhauser has two vignette slots tonight."

Solo furrowed his brow. "Two? That can't be right. There's more than ten racers on the roster. Glen specifically uses those slots to feature racers he can't put on the card. Why would he have two?"

"I'll tell you why: because he's making a play for Number One Claimant. A right, that many of us, believe belongs to you." 

There was little doubt about that. After surviving not one but two gauntlet races, he was definitely next in line to face Formula-X King, Jim Kieck... But not if Thawn cheated him out of that shot. "How's he going to do that? Two vignettes are not enough, surely?"

"Not unless you're also trending on the Formulary which he is courtesy of his latest post, highlighting how he's now the biggest box office attraction after defeating your truly – last year's biggest draw." Touch showed Solo the post on his phone. "He's even calling himself 'The Box Office' now.

Solo kicked himself for being so distant from the Formulary. It was clearly doing wonders for gaining popularity. But even then, Solo didn't believe the number of likes he was seeing." Is that right?"

Touch saw what he was referring to. "Probably not. I think he bought the likes using an illegal boost function. But how you gonna prove it, right?"

While it was lost on Touch, Solo realized that something big was going down tonight that would secure Thawn the popularity he needed to get that title shot. Thawn planned on using those two vignette slots somehow. "Touch, Ellie said that Moodswing and Glen were advised to go outside to deal with the protesters. Do you know if Thawn spoke to them today?" Touch's reaction spoke volumes. Yes. "He wanted them outside. He's using the protesters to take over the show." Solo started for the front entrance, already almost at a run. "Touch, go to the Film Producer's Booth and find out how the Impaler's controlling the show." 

"Okay, but where the hell are you going?" he said quickly before Solo disappeared around the corner. 

"I'm going to get Glen and Moodswing. Put a stop to this thing. "

"You can't," explained Touch, stopping Solo in his tracks. "Those front doors aren't opening for no man, brother. But maybe you can get their attention somehow!" Solo was gone as soon as he understood Touch's warning. 

 

ONE MINUTE LATER

Solo came running through the concourse and approached the front entrance just in time to see a glass bottle smack against the giant glass doors of the building. While Solo was impressed by how well protected the Fuel Speedway was, with Moodswing getting bulletproof glass for the doors, he was not happy to see that there was no way he could get out and there was no visual of the showrunners.

Dammit! I need to talk to Glen and Moodswing and get them in control of the show before Thawn gets a title shot. That was when Solo thought about it. How was Thawn planning on getting a title shot without either Moodswing or Glen sanctioning it. That's when it hit him. Thawn was going to bypass them altogether. That's what the two vignette slots were for. He was going to use the first one to confront the F-X King and get him to make the challenge!

Solo started sprinting again, this time back to the paddock. While he arrived just in time to see the coronation come to an end, he couldn't see Thawn anywhere in sight. That's when she caught just a glimpse of him exiting the other side, heading for the racetrack to confront Jim. He was too late. Solo watched with the others on the big screen as the confrontation. 

King Jim managed to spoil Thawn's plan by saying that Thawn would have to wait for Moodswing and Glen to sanction the race and called Thawn desperate when he pushed him. This allowed Solo to breathe a sigh of relief.

"If you think it's over, think again Nkomose." Touch had walked up to Solo. "Thawn will still have something up his sleeve." 

"Like what? His plan failed."

"Not necessarily. He could still goad King Jim into a title race. Tonight's feature race is still a mystery, courtesy of Thawn. And if that fails, Thawn could still convince Moodswing and Glen to name him the Number One Claimant if he makes enough of an impression tonight by making himself the talk of the night."

Touch was right. With one vignette down, another one to go and a feature race he could do as he pleased with, Thawn could still turn this around. "Okay, so then how do I stop him?"

Touch was one step ahead of Solo and pointed dead ahead. "Get ahead of the story. Talk to Toney and remind these people of who you are." As if on cue, the lights went out. "But you'll need power to do that. What the hell is this? There's no loadshedding on this island."

"It's Thawn. Look, I'm gonna go switch the power on. What I need you to do is make sure that Toney or any of the other reporters don't go anywhere until I get back."

 

ON THE ROOF

When Solo got to the roof, he burst through the door. Before he went over to the electrical conduit, he noticed that the floodlights lighting up the racetrack were very much still lit. Smart Thawn. Kill the lights in the building but not on the racetrack so that the show will go on. Solo put the power back on but then got a text from Touch. 

Nkomose. Thawn's outsmarted us. He's sent the reporters out to the crowd where the lights are on. Game over. 

Solo swore. He then looked across to the other side of the roof and wondered if it really was game over. He sprinted across the roof and looked down to the protesting outside. He managed to spot Glen and Moodswing at the front of the crowd and realized that his original plan would have to do. He looked around and spotted a fire hose and unrolled it. 

Solo then pointed it over the side, pointed right at the protesters – at Glen –and opened fire. The water sprayed hard and fast but instead of getting just Glenn's attention, it got all of their attention and they grew rower causing the show runners to focus on them more. This is not working! Solo thought about his options. He had to act fast before Thawn sanctioned himself into the feature race. That's when he got it. He knew what he had to do. 

 

OUSIDE THE FILM PRODUCER'S BOOTH

Solo smiled when he saw Thawn come out of the booth and turned off the lights to the corridor. He watched Thawn look around in confusion before he stepped out from his hiding place. "Taste of your own medicine, Impaler?" Thawn didn't speak. "I know what you've been up to."

Thawn played dumb. "Whatever do you mean, Magubane." 

"I'm talking about you manipulating tonight to your own ends in an effort to steal what's mine." Solo was momentarily surprised when Thawn shined his camera phone light at him. The beam navigated his body and Solo realized he was looking for his phone. "Oh I'm not wearing a wire, Impaler," he said turning out his pockets. "It's just you and me here."

This made Thawn comfortable. "Your haven't been named Number One Claimant yet so I'm not taking anything that's yours. Once Moodswing and Glen see that was the star of tonight, they'll be out of their mind not to name me as the next challenger for the title. Not to mention that you're looking at this year's biggest draw." 

Solo shook his head all smug." No you're not, Impaler. Glen told me the news earlier this week. am the biggest draw this week." This earned Thawn's fury. "That's right. You can call yourself 'The Box Office'  all you want but it means nothing... Unless, you face me in a race tonight and we settle this. You versus me: winner faces King Jim at The Scramble."

Thawn's torch gave him the once over, once again looking for any means of recording the conversation. "It's too bad you don't have your phone on you because now this whole conversation is, as lawyers would say, inadmissible. It's like it never happened. So when I tell you that you and I are not happening tonight, no one's going to hear it. So you can go to help and I'll see you once I have that crown back." 

At that exact moment, Solo smiled and lifted up his shirt to reveal his phone masking-taped to his stomach. The live recording feature from the Formulary was on meaning their entire conversation had just been posted on his page." A friend of mine has been bugging me to get with the times and get onto this social network so I figured I'd give it a shot." Solo checked the comments section which was already overrun with fandom responses. "It looks like everyone wants to see us face off tonight. What do you say Impaler?"

Solo knew what his answer would be. And this was the way it should have been decided all along: not with sports opera shenanigans but on the blacktop: one on one, mano-e-mano. Now they would find out who really deserved that title shot. 

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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