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Fuel Season 2: Episode 16 – Crown Favourite

Series: Stories of the Fuel Speedway

Feeling completely outmatched by Solo, King Jim tries to prove himself to the fandom

Pole Position: The first spot on the starting grid of any classic championship style race like the illustrious Scramble Race.

24th of January – Season 2

EARLIER THAT DAY

Whack! The slap was painful but when it was followed up by a sweet and passionate kiss, King Jim couldn't complain. He'd just told his latest conquest that he was breaking up with her and she'd taken it like a champ... kind of. This was not the first woman who'd gotten together with him because he was King and she wouldn't be the last. He'd picked her up at a bar using the same line that had worked since mid-December: "My name is Jim. You know I'm a King, right?"

He'd had plenty of fun with that over the five-week festive break but promised himself that he'd stop and focus on his racing and keeping his title... but old habits died hard and even now, two weeks into the second half of the season, he was still hooking up with hot women who had a thing for royalty.

Thandi – his latest conquest – had still offered him a ride to the Fuel Speedway, desperately wanting to maximize any time she had left with him but when they arrived, Jim had to stop her from kissing him again. "I'm sorry baby, but I have to leave you now and figure out how to keep this," he said pulling his Crown from the backseat. Now it was time to go to work...

 

IN THE PADDOCK

Ever since becoming King, Jim Kieck had taken it upon himself to do everything over the top going as far as to give himself a make-over. To go along with his pick-up lines straight out of the 70s, Jim had begun slicking his hair back like a greaser and wore a black leather jacket with a giant red rose on the back in "honor" of his rosebuds – what he called his conquests. As he settled in next to his vehicle, Kissed Off, his eyes accidentally met Brenda's and he immediately felt ashamed. It wasn't lost on him that there was a possibility that this attitude was all due to striking out with the woman he really wanted. But he'd been through all that. They weren't right for each other.

Fortunately for the King, he was distracted by the last person he wanted to talk to. "King Jim Kieck."

Why was it that when Thawn said his title, it felt like an insult? Nevertheless, Jim smiled. "I see you're finally paying me the proper respect. What can I do for you, Mister Box Office?"

"I just wanted to find out if you'll be entering the Scramble Qualifiers tonight."

This was an interesting question. Jim remembered back to a year ago when Thawn – Formula-X King at the time – decided not to enter the qualifiers and subsequently went on to lose twofold: first in the title race and then by not entering the Scramble Race. "What, you afraid I'll make the same mistake you did."

"Yes, actually." Thawn smiled when he noticed that he had his attention. "It's not news that you are not the favorite to win this Sunday, you do know that, right? So, not to give you the same advise as I gave Mandla a year ago, but you might want to enter the Scramble Race so that you at least have a chance of winning that."

"Look Thawn, I don't know what business my title race is of yours considering that you lost your chance to challenge me to Solo last week but if I chose to enter the qualifiers, it will be my choice and not because I don't believe I can win against Solo."

Thawn smirked and raised his hands as if to say 'I give up'. "Hey, don't say I didn't warn you. Good luck with your contract signing up on that stage," he said walking away. "Since this is your first one as King, you might find it a bit nerve-wracking at first and then... well you'll see."

Jim couldn't help but be bothered by everything that Thawn had just said. Was he trying to get him to not enter the qualifiers? What game was he playing? One that involved him getting rid of his competition? Either way, Jim had meant what he'd said. He wasn't going to enter the Scramble Race simply because he didn't believe he could beat Solo. That was the same reasoning Thawn and Mandla Xulu had used last year and as far as Jim was considered, the logic still stood.

 

THE CONTRACT SIGNING

The contract signing for pay-per-view title races had become tradition. However, just like everything else, Jim was aware that it wasn't about making anything official as much as it was about giving the opponents an opportunity to size each other up and get anything they needed to off their chests. It was all for drama, hence why Moodswing insisted on having all of them take place on the middle-stage.

Jim signed the contract and then passed the contract across the table for Solo to sign. That's when he heard the chants from the crowd: "Solo! Solo! Solo!" Jim watched as Solo paused on signing and looked out at the crowd. Seeing the support of the thousands of fans did make Jim a little uneasy... but not Solo.

Solo then picked up a microphone and the crowd dropped to a hush so they could listen to their hero. "I'm sorry, Your Highness, for the delay but I wanted to just take this moment in. Three weeks after arriving here in Formula-X, I was in this exact same position: challenger to the King and I just can't help but think about how far I've come and yet, I'm back where I started. So, I wanted to take this moment in because, I made a vow this morning and it's the same vow that I'm going to make to the fandom. And that vow is that this is the last time I'll be sitting on this side of the table." A mighty roar from the crowd. "This is the last I'll be in one of these contract signings without that Crown under my arm." Another roar from the crowd.

Solo continued. "Now, while I also decided to enter the Scramble Qualifiers and go on to the Scramble Race, rest assured that I didn't do it because I don't think I can take your title, Your Highness. Instead, I did it because I have a wrong to right. Last season, in the qualifiers, I won the pole position but then I didn't win the Scramble Race. This season, I will." Another roar from the crowd.

The King listened to the cheers from the crowd and couldn't help but feel that he was being overlooked so he decided, there on the spot, what he was going to do. Jim got his hands on another mic. "Then I guess I will see you there because I, too, will be entering the qualifiers."

While the crowd wasn't very reactive to this, Solo was impressed. "Wow, Your Highness, gracing us with your presence at the qualifiers. I'm impressed. But allow me, if you will, to one-up you and suggest that we omit a certain clause in this contract. The return race clause." The crowd began to get restless and Jim noticed a smirk on Moodswing's face. "What do you say we do away with it and say that there will be no return race. The loser of this race goes to the back of the line."

Jim realized that Solo had successfully one-upped him and the only thing he could do to one-up him back was to accept the suggestion. "Let's do it." Moodswing didn't need to be convinced. With a quick stroke of a pen, Moodswing struck out the relative lines in the contract and initialed followed by Jim and Solo. And just like that, the title race and the stipulations were set in stone.

 

LATER THAT NIGHT

As Jim made final preparations on Kissed-Off before heading to the racetrack, he was once again confronted by Thawn Oberhauser. "So I just came from Glen, wanting to ask him to give me the first slot in the qualifiers only for him to tell me that someone else already had dibs on first entrant. That was you, wasn't it?"

"I wanna get this over and done with," Jim spoke as he moved.

Thawn shook his head. "You know, I didn't think someone could make a more foolish mistake than I did a year ago but lo and behold: King Loverboy takes the cake."

"I've got a Scramble Race to qualify for," said Jim putting the Crown on his head and climbing into the vehicle.

"Mark my words: getting rid of that clause in the contract will be the end of you, Kieck. Solo played you and you fell for it."

Jim had finally had enough and drove out of the paddock and onto the racetrack. He circled the track for his warm-up lap before stopping at the start line and awaited for the race marshal to start him off. He knew the objective: all he had to do was get the fastest time to get the pole position... the position Solo got a year ago.

The field marshal waved his flag and Jim was off his mark. It was surreal to be circling the speedway alone. It almost felt like one of his training sessions at the Clubhouse track. But Jim made sure to refrain from thinking of this like that. This was real and it was important. While he was sure Thawn was just speaking out of his ass, the man had something of a point in that Solo was definitely playing some kind of mind game: letting him know that he had the King's number.

His qualification session came to an end and Jim took off his Crown to see a big digital board that showed his time as 0:58:12. Remembering Solo's time from last year, Jim swore that was not nearly going to be good enough... not unless Solo choked. He'd just have to wait and see.

As Jim watched the other racers, he dawned on him that Solo didn't have to get a worse time than his. He just needed to not get the best time. Jim found himself smiling as Touch Mkhize, Brenda Koek and Doris Koek all failed to beat his time. However, the tide began to change when former two-time Duchess of Drag, Penny Potgieter clocked in at just over 57 seconds. She was eventually topped by Thawn at 55 seconds who, in turn, was topped by reigning Scramble Winner, John Kloof at over 54 seconds. Unfortunately, he himself was topped by Mandla Xulu who beat him by 8 split seconds.

Eventually, the man he was waiting for went onto the racetrack. Jim waited anxiously for Solo to complete his session and wanted to throw something when not only did Solo get the best time so far but had topped himself by 60 split seconds. However, as he wasn't the last qualifier, Jim put his hope in 'The Diamond in the Rough' only for her to get the second-best time meaning that Solo had captured the coveted pole position for the second time in a row.

Listening to the crowd celebrate Solo's victory, it dawned on Jim that his reign was in serious trouble. He realized that he very well could be losing his title in just 6 days. Would this week be the last time he could use that pick-up line?

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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