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HomeDrama Stories Fuel Season 2: Episode 20 – Rise of the Third Gauntlet (Part II)

Fuel Season 2: Episode 20 – Rise of the Third Gauntlet (Part II)

Series: Stories of the Fuel Speedway

It's do-or-die time as the Gauntlet Runner is decided and his gauntleteers selected...

Part 2 of the two-part story: "Rise of the Third Gauntlet".

22nd of February – Season 2

Styles Sithole tried to relax as Formula-X King, Solo Magubane sped down the freeway in his Shelby Mustang GT500. "Okay, why are you driving so fast? We're not even late."

King Solo gave him a giddy smile. "Because, Jose, when you own a high performance car, it's your duty to let it loose, you know, allow it to prowl."

Styles scoffed. "Oh yeah," he said sarcastically, "I'm sure the Metro Cops would agree."

The King laughed before giving Styles a deeper look. "So, are you ready for your race tonight?"

Now there's a question. "Ready as I'll ever be."

"Now what's that supposed to mean? Let me ask you something, brother: do you believe you're going to win tonight? And don't tell me we're going to have to wait and see."

This was not what Styles wanted to talk about right now. "You and I both know that Touch has better odds. Of the two of us, he's the one that's headlined a P.P.V. before."

"So what if he's headlined a pay-per-view? As I recall, he lost that race and that was almost a year ago. I'm more concerned with you and right now. And I want to know if you're ready to step up. Because if you are; and if you can win tonight and then survive that gauntlet race; then I can see what I can do to put you in a P.P.V. feature race."

Styles' eyes beamed. "You'd do that for me?"

The King was quick to bring Styles back down to earth. "It wouldn't be a favor. I don't roll like that. I help people who've given it their all and want it badly. So, how badly do you want it?"

 

LATER AT THE FUEL SPEEDWAY

Styles wanted it badly. But it wasn't just about being in the feature race of a P.P.V. for him, it was about no longer being seen as canon fodder. After rising in stock at the end of last season when he earned the nickname 'Mister Monday Night', Styles had found himself stagnating, playing reserve more often than he would have liked. Well no more.

As Styles made his way through the concourse, he noticed Touch Mkhize speaking to Jim Kieck by one of the concession stands. At first he wondered what he was up to. Then he realized that it was probably about his show later on tonight, Touching Base. King Solo was quick to point out that Touch shouldn't be a big problem especially if he was more worried about his talk show. By the time they got to the paddock, King Solo had left to go see Glen about getting a race of his own tonight, eager to put Dime in his place for his persistent complaining. But Styles was soon joined by another friend of his.

"Well if it isn't the 'Cryptic Crusader'; 'Mister Monday Night' and future Gauntlet Runner, Styles Sithole."

Styles smiled. "How's it going John?"

John Kloof smiled. "Well as can be. Yourself?"

"Optimistic, actually. We missed you last week."

"Yeah well I opted to play reserve hoping to get the stench of my loss in that drag race at Heart-Break City off me." Kloof then smelt his top animatedly. "Apparently it doesn't come off that easily."

Styles laughed. "Yeah, I think what you need to get rid of that stench is a good old fashioned victory. It's what I plan on using tonight."

Kloof smiled. "Well look at you, all confident and stuff. You know, one of the reasons I came to you was because I thought you might be nervous and need a little pep talk. Seems I was wrong."

If only you'd come to me earlier, thought Styles. "No pep talk needed here. What was the other reason?"

"As it turns out, I'll be looking for that victory you spoke about because I've got a race with the 'Diamond in the Rough' tonight. And the winner of that race is going to be a gauntleteer in Gauntlet Three. So I might be standing across from you at Festival of the Fall."

"Nice."

"So, since you beat her last night, any advise?"

Styles told Kloof what he could about Stevie but ended up basically saying that he had his work cut out for him. "So, if you're trying to get in on Gauntlet Three, does that mean your rivalry with Mandla is over?"

"Not if I have anything to say about it." Kloof looked around as if to make sure no cameras were pointed their way. "Don't tell anyone this, but I've challenged Mandla to another race, but on the down low." Kloof explained that ever since losing the Crown, he hasn't enjoyed the same amount of financial freedom... that was until Mandla walked out on him and challenged him to that drag race which was when his pay check got a little bump due to the renewed rivalry. "I explained all that to Mandla but I'm currently waiting for him to respond."

As Kloof was speaking, Styles naturally scanned the paddock when his eyes finally landed on 'The Steamroller'. What he saw bothered him. "John, you need to see this." Kloof turned to see what Styles was looking at: Mandla speaking to Sherry, the most notorious F-X reporter in the series.

When Sherry and Mandla saw Kloof spying on them, they ended their discussion and Sherry headed over to Kloof. But before she could get to John, she was intercepted by Juan van Zonder. "Hey Sherry, I spied a secret today. Care to hear what it is?"

However Sherry shook her head. "Vee Zed, if you're trying to buy me off running that story about your gambling problems, it's not going to work."

"Even if it's about the Club Committee? Because rumor has it that they're hiding something big and it could affect the Grand Prix." This seemed to entice Sherry enough to not only consider forgetting her gambling article but also that she wanted to speak to Kloof.

"It looks like you're off the hook, for now." said Styles.

"Yeah, for now." It was clear that Kloof didn't want anyone to know about his financial motive for challenging Mandla. He changed the subject. "What were they on about? What gambling problem has Jay Vee Zed got?" Styles explained the rumor he'd heard last week about JVZ being knee-deep in race gambling, which gave Kloof an epiphany. "Well that explains why, earlier on, he was speaking to someone about doubling down on Jim Kieck in his second of three races with Thawn tonight."

Styles rolled his eyes. "Well if he wins, I hope he has the good sense to stop."

Ironically, Styles was glad to have gotten the series of distractions as they'd successfully taken his mind off his nervousness about he race tonight. His mind was now clear and free to focus on the task at hand... becoming the Gauntlet Runner.

 

THE GAUNTLET RUNNER QUALIFYING RACE

Styles smiled. While he was trailing behind Touch, he could see the gap he was going to take. But Styles being Styles, he wasn't just going to zip past him... he was going to do it with style. Adjusting his speed to account for the bend, Styles then spun the wheel accordingly and executed a power slide before loosening it into a drift. Touch predictably backed away to give Styles room for his drift thus allowing Styles to take the lead.

They were ten laps deep into their 15 Lap Match Race and Styles couldn't help but think about the first time that him and Touch tore up the Fuel Speedway. The race had been named 'The Tale of Curses and Whispers' which was a subtle nod to the names of their vehicles: The Cursed Conundrum and The Moyeni. The race had been critically acclaimed from the word go and since last week, this return race had become one of the most anticipated races in the history of Fuel.

Styles knew what was at stake here. As did the first gauntleteer who had beaten his friend John Kloof. While it hadn't concerned Styles in the slightest, he'd found a little joy in Jim defeating Thawn thus giving JVZ the gambling win he'd wanted. But at the moment, Styles was focused on getting in that race too. And to do that he needed to keep his lead and become the Gauntlet Runner.

Currently, Styles was in control of the race. Now that he had the lead, he'd lowered the number of stunts, focusing on bread-and-butter blocking. This was one of the things he'd decided to improve on during the offseason, which had successfully improved his game. Now he was able to be a killer as well as a thriller. Indeed the crowd was on their feet when Styles crossed the finish line first.

Styles was still tingling from the victory, beside himself with joy by the time he entered the Winner's Circle. It was only just occurring to him that he'd overcome the odds: He almost laughed at the idea that he'd been nervous just one week ago. But he knew better than to get ahead of himself because now the real work began. If he had any interest in taking up King Solo on his offer, then he knew what he had to do... he had to win. "Gauntlet Three, here I come."

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Copyright © All stories are Copyright © 2016-2021 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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