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HomeDrama Stories Fuel Season 2: Episode 19 - Rise of the Third Gauntlet (Part I)

Fuel Season 2: Episode 19 - Rise of the Third Gauntlet (Part I)

Series: Stories of the Fuel Speedway

When Gauntlet III is announced for the next PPV, Stevie takes fate into her own hands...

This is the first ever two-part episode in the series.

15th of February - Season 2

Gauntlet III: No Holds Barred. As soon as Darcy Stevens had read the title of the race on Moodswing's announcement on Feeder, she knew she wanted in. That was the reason that she was sitting in front of Glenwood Jacobs in his office, lobbying to be involved. "So what do you say, Glen? Put me in the race."

Glen smiled and they both knew why. This was what he wanted: both him and Moodswing. From the moment they'd created the gauntlet race, they wanted it to be treated like it was made of gold; like just being mentioned as a participant in the race was like being a part of history. "Stevie, you should know by now that I'm not just going to put someone in the race, especially as the Gauntlet Runner. No, that position has to be earned."

He has a point, thought Stevie. Even King Solo, had had to earn his way into Gauntlet I. But that reminded Stevie. "But Solo didn't earn it for Gauntlet Two. No, you guys just gave him  that shot."

"It's King Solo to you and me and the King's case is slightly different. After missing out on the first three months of the series, he'd built himself a ridiculous amount of hype. Not to mention, that King Solo ended Amandla's Rebellion. Make no mistake about it, he'd earned his spot. And as will you if you win tonight's race."

I guess that's only fair, she thought. After all, this was Formula-X where nothing was given away for free. "Okay, so who do I have to beat to become Gauntlet Runner?"

"Oh don't count your chickens just yet, Stevie. First, you have to qualify for that race which takes place next week."

Stevie made a face. "Are you kidding me? So, I have to win tonight just to qualify for that race and then win again next week before I'm Gauntlet Runner?"

"That's correct."

Stevie wanted to hit something but restrained herself. "So who am I facing?" Glen answered by placing a piece of paper in front of her. It was the Formula-X Newsletter. He pointed at the second article on the first page: The Most Gifted F-X racer on the Racecard was what the heading read. The article spoke about one man: Styles Sithole. But Stevie was curious about something else. "What about the other qualifying race? Who's in that?"

"That one's big. The three gauntleteers from Gauntlet Two will face off to decide who faces the winner of your race tonight."

But that wasn't what Stevie really wanted to know. "Which race is the feature race? Ours or theirs?" But Stevie could tell the answer just from the look on Glen's face. The others were going on last.

 

IN THE PADDOCK

When Stevie left Glen's office, she couldn't stop thinking about the fact that Solo — or King Solo rather — and how he hadn't needed to jump through so many hoops just to be apart of what was clearly becoming the most exciting type of race in the series. What made him so special, she wondered. While she doubted that Glen and Moodswing were being fair with the way they were going about putting these races together, she had no doubt in her mind that this race was going to be huge. So huge, in fact, that Stevie felt compelled to keep tabs on her rivals.

While her immediate rival, Styles Sithole, was nowhere to be seen in the paddock, Stevie managed to see the participants of the other qualifying race: Touch Mkhize; Juan van Zonder and Blackcat Mathunzi. Each of them had something preoccupying their time at the moment. Touch Mkhize was being pestered by Dime who wanted to be his guest on Touching Base tonight with Touch clearly not wanting that. Juan van Zonder, on the other hand, was on the phone and wore a worried look on his face.

"Yeah, I know the odds man but I want you to give me a grand on Jim anyway. Yeah, I know the race is about to start but I'm in a jam and desperate for money so c'mon. No, I can't bet on any other race tonight because the others aren't sure things." JVZ looked at the racecard in his hand. "King Solo versus Penny are both monarchs so it's a coin toss with them; Stevie and Styles could go either way and I'm in the last race so I can't bet on that one." At that point, he noticed that Stevie was eavesdropping and took off, heading outside.

Someone standing next to Stevie let out a sigh. "Betting on races: dark stuff."

Stevie smiled. "Hey, Belinda. Working on your latest article? I read what you wrote about Styles in last week's edition. Didn't know you could flatter someone so much."

Belinda Baartjies laughed. "Oh, it's not flattery when he has what it takes to back it up. So you should watch your back tonight."

Stevie wasn't surprised that Belinda knew about her race tonight already. As the most proactive F-X reporter, Belinda was always on the ball. And with an inviting smile complimenting her attractive blonde-haired, green-eyed good looks, it was little wonder that she could extract information from anyone. "So what's your story for this week, Belinda?"

"With everything that's going on with the build-up to Gauntlet Three, it seems almost obvious. It looks like that subtitle is right: no holds barred, huh."

Stevie definitely had to agree with Belinda but something she said just now stuck with her. "Wait, betting on races, is that a thing?"

Belinda gave her a wary look as if to warn her. "Yeah, there's an underground market for it. Very professional but unlike with horses, it's very illegal. Trust me, you don't want to get in deep with the bookies down there, especially if you're a racer. They tend to prey on you guys. I was planning on writing an expose on it with the sole purpose of getting rid of the bad element but it's tough to do without excluding the racers knee deep in it."

"And Jay Vee Zed; is he knee-deep in it?" She nodded. "If it's dangerous, then why doesn't someone pull him out?"

"Because it's not dangerous, surprisingly. It's all civilized, Stevie. They don't do anything a casino wouldn't do and you can't even bet on your own races. But at the end of the day, it's gambling and it can easily lead you to debt. That's why it's troubling to see Jay Vee Zed getting involved." Before Stevie could question her more on the matter, something caught Belinda's attention. "Damn. It looks like Sherry got her next story."

Stevie followed Belinda's eye line to see Sherry reentering the paddock with both Brenda and Doris Koek in tow, whispering about something. Thinking on what Brenda and Doris could possibly be planning with the series' scandal-hunting F-X reporter, Stevie noticed that Blackcat and his partner Fiona had managed to sneak out. And since they were the Koeks' mortal enemies at the moment, it didn't take a genius to know that the Koeks and Sherry must have been spying on the Master Spell-Castor and his apprentice.

Belinda, quick as ever, was already speaking to John Kloof, hoping to get a scoop about his race with Mandla Xulu last night.

"Eyes on the prize, Diamond in the Rough, Eye on the Prize."

Stevie turned to see none other than the Formula-X King, Solo Magubane standing next to her. "Your Highness," she said, cheekily giving a curtsey. "Shouldn't you be preparing for your race with the Duchess?"

"Is this what it's like for the kettle when the pot calls it black."

"What are you talking about? I'm ready for Styles."

King Solo chuckled. "You think you are but fair warning: The Cryptic Crusader is on a mission. He's hellbent on no longer being canon-fodder. If you're not careful, you could find yourself playing reserve at Festival of the Fall."

Stevie found herself smiling. While she wished more than anything that she was wearing that Crown he had tucked under his arm, there was something about Solo as F-X King that was charming. Being King became him. It was like everything about him screaming 'Formula-X King'. But she especially loved his insistence on calling a racer by that nickname if they had one.

However, now that she had the King alone for a moment, there was just something she had to know. "What was it like, being the first Gauntlet Runner?"

King Solo surprised her with his answer. "It felt like an honor. You see, while I don't have Moodswing's compunction for making a profit with making these races, I do agree with him on one thing: this series is going to last for a long, long time and me being the Gauntlet Runner in Gauntlet One is now cemented in history." He then went back to his original point. "Now Styles understands that which why I give him the edge in your race with him. Do you understand that?"

 

LATER THAT NIGHT

Stevie swore when she saw Styles overtake her. But it wasn't just that he'd overtaken her, it was that he'd done it while drifting around the clubhouse bend. It was breathtaking to behold. Stevie realized that Belinda had been right: Styles was the most gifted F-X racer on the racecard. Styles managed to hold onto the lead and did the unthinkable when he won the race. Stevie watched Styles celebrate, half-shocked at his own victory.

As Stevie headed back to the paddock and Styles to the Winner's Circle, she realized that everyone would call this race an upset. She also realized that King Solo had been right about Styles... he did understand the importance of being the Gauntlet Runner. But in hindsight, Stevie realized that she shouldn't have been shocked at all to hear the King gushing about Styles since they were carpool buddies after all. King Solo had won his race but Stevie was more interested in seeing the result of the feature race.

She passed the three racers making their way onto the racetrack and noticed that JVZ was sweating and she knew why: Thawn had beaten Jim meaning that he'd lost his bet. She wondered how in debt he was. Stevie watched Styles' Winner's Circle interview where he spoke about the tough road ahead and that he'd be watching the feature race closely. Stevie detected an element of nervousness in the man, even when he finally reentered the paddock. As the other racers congratulated him, he looked like he was being overwhelmed by it all. She decided right there and then to do the right thing.

A few minutes later she was standing next to Styles as they both watched the three-way race on the big screen. "You know you deserve to be in that gauntlet race, don't you?" she said to him.

"I think you're counting your chickens before they hatch there, Stevie. I still need to win next week, against whoever wins this race," he said pointing at the screen."

"My point still counts. You deserve this, Styles." She saw that he needed more convincing. "If what was written in that article is even remotely true, then you deserve to be the Gauntlet Runner."

He nodded as if begrudgingly allowing it to enter his mind. "It's just that this race is so big. So high profile and I'm scared I might choke."

Stevie smiled as warmly as she could. "If what I saw tonight is anything to go by, then you have nothing to worry about. If you do your best then you'll have nothing to be worried about." Stevie wasn't usually one for words but she'd found those ones because they were true. But perhaps they'd been premature because moments later, Styles' opponent was revealed when the announcer named the victor." Ladies and gentlemen, here is your winner... The Host of Boast, Touch Mkhize!"

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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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