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HomeDrama Stories Fuel Season 2: Episode 21 – Ahead of Steam

Fuel Season 2: Episode 21 – Ahead of Steam

Series: Stories of the Fuel Speedway

Mandla takes his beef with John Kloof to a new level when he literally raises the stakes...

The Middle-Stage: Located on the infield of the Fuel Speedway, the middle-field was purposefully designed to give the showrunners and F-X racers alike a place where they could address the live crowd.

1st of March – Season 2

As Mandla Xulu walked towards the middle-stage, he wondered how things had come to this between him and John Kloof. After all, Amandla's Rebellion was over and neither of them were competing for the Formula-X Crown. So why couldn't they bury the hatchet? But as Mandla took a microphone and prepared his address, he remembered why it had come to this. It was because rivalries like his and Kloof's were what the series was built on. And if he wanted to make it back to the Crown any time soon, then he had a job to do.

While the renewal of their rivalry went back to a month ago when Mandla walked out on John Kloof when they become Relay Barons and reached something of a climax at Heart-Break City two weeks ago in the drag race he won, it wasn't until this past week that their rivalry truly turned a chapter. And it had all gone down at a political rally.



The masses had gathered to hear his father speak. With the Congressional Metropolitan Alliance having won the provincial election for the sixth time late last year to continue its rule over the Island Province of Azania, it was only fitting that Mandla's father and Deputy Mayor of Ngelosi share his mission statement for the next five years. But Mandla also had a role to play. His father wanted him to use his considerable influence in Formula-X to show that the C.M.A. was strong and that they were winners.

Mandla went up to the podium. "Amandla awethu!" he said, bellowing the powerful South African phrase to the people. "So the reason I am up here today is because as most of you know, I am a racer in a series that I'm sure all of you are familiar with by now called Formula-X. In fact, once upon a time, you had the honor of calling me King directly due to Formula-X and as you know, I ruled with a mighty fist," he said before gesturing to his father, "just as my father taught me to." That put a smile on the D.M.'s face. "But unfortunately, that reign was cut short when a man named John Kloof defeated me for that title inciting what was known as Amandla's Rebellion.

"Now eventually, the Rebellion ended and we both moved on with our careers until John Kloof saw fit to seek me out and have the audacity to ask me to team up with him. This man that had wronged me so badly thought we could be friends. Well, I am here today to tell you that I will not be making friends with my enemies until they have felt what I felt. Now I am not here to preach violence or revenge but rather I am here to tell you that as a proud member of the C.M.A, I believe in balance and justice. I believe that all of us should have the same opportunities and my father and I will not stop until this place we call home: the paradise that knows no color also becomes known as the paradise that knows no favoritism!" This earned a loud cry from the crowd as they broke into a praise song, chanting his name.



Mandla brought himself back to the present where he looked out at the crowd awaiting his follow-up from Thursday. "By now, most of you have heard my speech at the rally outside City Hall on Thursday. Whether you saw it on Top One, YouTube, or more likely on the Formulary, you're all probably wondering the same thing: what was I going on about when I mentioned balance and favoritism. Well, allow me to explain.

"Just under two weeks ago, following my victory at Heart-Break City, John Kloof approached me about having another go at each other on the racetrack. But it wasn't the challenge that made me react the way I did at that rally but rather his motivation for why he wanted another race. Kloof explained to me that the reason that he wanted to race me again was because of the payout. Now that, in and of itself, wouldn't have been an issue. I know that there's money to be made here. But Kloof went on to say that when he became F-X King, he'd been able to afford a better lifestyle for his family. His daughter goes to a better school now, they replaced their Citi Golf with a Golf Five and they even bought a house.

"Now, while this was all well and good while he was still King, when he lost the title, the paycheck naturally diminished which brings us all the way around to his motive for wanting this race: he wants to cash in on our rivalry so he can afford to maintain his new lifestyle. Now, I'll admit, that at first, I was upset that Kloof wasn't willing to let go of whatever privileges he was able to afford as King, hence my speech at that rally. But I have since calmed down and realized that there's nothing wrong with wanting to provide the best for your family. In fact, I admire the quality. But what I don't like is the fact that John Kloof is hiding behind his family."

It was at this point that Mandla looked directly at the closest camera, directing his attention directly to Kloof. "You are a coward, John Kloof, for not having the guts to do what I'm doing and stand center-stage like a man and tell it like it is. But I'm going to give you what you want, John. I'll accept your challenge under one condition. We make it a Twelve Rounds Derby and we both put our money where our mouth is; literally, put money in the pot, and winner takes all. You say you want to provide for your family, then this is how you do it: you put the very food you want to provide on the line against me." Mandla then dropped the mic and left the stage.



Mandla had requested to play reserve tonight, wanting to make sure that when the people thought of his actions tonight, they were thinking of that speech and not some race. However, he did regret his decision momentarily when he learnt that the reigning Formula-X King didn't have a race either. It would have been nice to square off with the man known as 'The Franchise'.

"Nice speech. But what else could I expect from a politician."

Mandla turned to find King Solo standing there. Well, speak of the Devil... "Your Highness. I see you're making good use of your royal privileges." Indeed, they were currently in the V.I.P. section – one of the old terminals overlooking the racetrack – which while Mandla had to pay to be there, the F-X King got in for free.

"I thought I'd enjoy the races in luxury for a change before I go to Touching Base.

Mandla smiled. "You're Khabazela's guest tonight. Well, I'm going to make sure not to miss it."

"Well, it's me and 'The Impaler'." This earned a look from Mandla. "Apparently the 'Host of Boast' is trying to instigate some drama. But I guess that's why he earns a bigger paycheck than the rest of us. Well, some of us."

Mandla looked at him. It was clear that he was trying to ruffle his feathers about what he said regarding Kloof wanting a bigger paycheck. "I never said there's anything wrong with someone earning more money than someone else. Especially if you've earned it which you and Touch have."

"But John hasn't?" King Solo was amused by Mandla not answering. "Well if it's any consolation Steamroller, I'm definitely looking forward to your race with John."

Eager to have the last word, Mandla made a point to remind the King of something. "It's not a race, it's a derby."

They watched the races in peace, not eager to talk anymore. They'd both rooted for Touch to beat Dime in the opening race – with Touch being the latest to want to shut Dime up – while they were both surprised by Blackcat Mathunzi & FIona regaining the vacated Relay Baron titles. They were both impressed when Juan van Zonder managed to get the better of the reigning Duchess of Drag, Penny Potgieter – albeit in a regular match race rather than a drag race – to earn a gauntleteer slot in the upcoming Gauntlet III: No Holds Barred before finally reaching a difference of opinion on who would win the feature race.

"There's no way Thawn's taking it," said King Solo. "Not when there's so much at stake. 'The Playboy' knows how to switch it on when there's a shot at the Crown at stake not to mention the loser playing reserve at Festival of the Fall."

"Hmm, interesting," said Mandla, who believed Thawn Oberhauser had this one won. "Care to make a wager."

King Solo rolled his eyes. "I don't bet on races. I've heard about the guys that do and the debt on their head and I'm not interested."

"It's just as well. Because you would have lost."

The race, which was the third encounter in just as many weeks between Thawn and Jim saw both competitors displaying vivid determination at the start line, revving their engines, eager to get to work so that when the flag dropped, they shot off the line like lightning from the sky.

Thawn took the first lap and maintained it in the First Third of the 15 Lap Match Race by sticking close to the inside of the track. Mandla found this interesting because he wasn't defending his position as much as he was pushing ahead towards the finish line. Lap 7 proved that Thawn's strategy was flawed as Jim finally managed to overtake by zipping through the biggest gap Mandla had ever seen a 'defending' driver leave.

Jim, on the other hand, made no such mistakes, making sure 'The Impaler' didn't regain his lead. However, before the Second Third came to an end, Thawn proved why he was the first ever Formula-X King by ending up neck and neck with 'The Playboy' in Lap 9.

As the Final Third began, Mandla took note of the cheering crowd who were on their feet, not getting enough of how tight this race was. Mandla couldn't help but think of the brilliance of the storytelling of this rivalry and how it culminated in this nail-biting race. Would his and Kloof's race live up to the hype as much as this one?

It all came to a head in the 13th Lap as Jim managed to pull ahead making the crowd scream in cheers. With them having no love for Thawn, there was no surprise there. Unfortunately, Thawn thrived on being hated and seemingly used that as fuel to squeeze past Jim with a beautiful move that saw him execute a pass on the clubhouse bend at high speed in Lap 14. Thawn then successfully maintained his lead to pick up his second and most important victory out of their three races.

"I told you." When the King simply rolled his eyes again and got up to leave, Mandla once again wanted the last word. "You better hope that your luck is better at the Festival, Your Highness. Because if it's not, you won't be King for long."

Unfortunately for Mandla, the King had an affinity for last words as well. "Festival of the Fall isn't about luck. In fact, stick around and I'll tell you and 'The Impaler' what it's about in a few minutes."



Mandla had decided to stick around after all and watch the after-show. However, his reasons had more to do with whether there was anything the King could say that would top his middle-stage speech. On the screen, he watched Touch Mkhize ask both competitors why they believed that they were walking out of the Festival with the Crown.

Thawn answered first. "It's quite simple: I'm better than the current King." Thawn then went on one of his sanctimonious tirades declaring how one off day didn't keep him from being better than Solo.

When it was King Solo's chance to answer, Mandla knew right away that the King was about to give his own speech a run for its money. "I believe I'm going to win because when push comes to shove and all eyes are on me, I don't choke, I'm at my absolute best. And I believe that this coming pay-per-view is a big deal. And I mean bigger than you think it is." The King leaned forward. "Do you know why they call it the Festival of the Fall? Because on the highway to the Grand Prix, this is where the pretenders fall off."

And just like that, King Solo had established, what Mandla knew, would become an iconic line, remembered in the annals of F-X history. Now, no matter what happened, this day wouldn't be remembered for his speech at the top of the show but rather the King's words after it had ended.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

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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