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Year End Bash [S2] – A Fuel Story

Series: Stories of the Fuel Speedway

As the end of the year approaches, the F-X racers look to finish off at the top...

History will be made tonight, one way or another as this pay-per-view gives birth to the 12 Rounds Derby while Gauntlet II looks to live up to the hype of its predecessor. Headlining the event is King Kloof against Jim Kieck.

13th of December – Season 2 

Growing up with a legendary racing father, Beatrix Honeycomb had learnt how to tell the difference between having skill and having talent. In fact, it was this ability that made her realize that no matter how much she knew about motorsport, she was not destined to be a driver like her father.

Fortunately, she'd figured this out by the age of 18 so that by the time she went to varsity, she knew what she wanted to do. While they say those that can't do, teach, it appeared that those that can't become racers manage racers.

By the age of 21, Beatrix had garnered her first client and by the age of 26, she'd successfully gotten three a dozen racers she managed into Auto 1: Africa's top leading open wheel racing series... for now.

It hasn't taken much for Glenwood Jacobs – a former client of hers – to convince her to come onboard to Formula-X. With her now being in her thirties yet with a wealth of encyclopaedic knowledge about motorsport at her disposal and decades ahead of her, it was the opportune time to help a franchise grow.

Beatrix was currently standing in the middle of a road that would have otherwise been busy if it hadn't been closed off for this evening's pay-per-view. The Year End Bash is what Moodswing and his committee had called it. 'New Year's Eve Come early' others called it, what with the fireworks show afterwards at the honest-to-God bash.

As Beatrix stood in the middle of the road, she looked around and tried to imagine the atmosphere to come. It was becoming a ritual of hers to walk the street circuit of a P.P.V. before it began. The feeling lended itself to how she was going to call the races. And as the color commentator of the series, it was important that she be able to express that feeling to the listeners.

Beatrix's phone rang. She looked at the caller I.D. and sighed. "Hello Captain."

"If you're done with your walk, perhaps you can join me up in the broadcast tower so we can prep." He then dropped the call.

Captain Ken Khumalo was a character to say the least as Beatrix found him to be arrogant, boardering on obnoxious. Insisting on calling races by himself, calling himself the lead announcer, persisting with his title. However she also had to admit that the man was an enigma.

Even now, as she entered the purpose-built announcing booth on stilts, there was just something about this man and his cap that never came off. While she once believed it to be because of the mystious racing academy where he taught, she realized by sitting next to him every week that it was him.

"Sorry for interrupting your routine, Beatrix." said the captain when she arrived. "It's just a night of firsts and I thought that called for us being prepared."

"I'm always prepared, Captain. That's how you end up retired by thirty."

"We all have our successes, Beatrix. Throwing yours around won't make our job any easier." Beatrix picked up on it again, that thing of his. It's was this cool, calm and collected thing about him that made him the way he was.

"What do you wanna talk about, Captain?"

"Well for starters, the Twelve Rounds Derby. I heard that it's being raced for money now. What do your sources say?"

Beatrix looked at him through squinted eyes. "Mine say the same thing. Wait, you have sources? You're the play-by- play guy. Why do you have sources?"

The Captain shrugged. "People like to tell me things. Now, the derby?"

The Twelve Rounds Derby was the newest race Type in the series and a concept developed by Moodswing to be the One K.M. Derby's little brother: a 12 lap race with the winner being the racer that wins the most laps. Beatrix and the Captain discussed the story.

Touch Mkhize and Thawn Oberhauser had won qualifying races to be in the groundbreaking contest but it turned out that there was much more to it than that. After Thawn had presumptively said that he was Solo Magubane's successor in being the biggest box office draw, he'd then asked Moodswing to confirm it on social media only for Moodswing to blindside him by naming Touch as the biggest draw instead.

"Sounds like you're on top of that," said the Captain. "I'll be sure to cue you up for that. Next up: Gauntlet Two."

Gauntlet Two was the highly anticipated sequel to the gauntlet race from Show-Down in Durban. It was a sequel in the truest sense of the word as Solo was running the gauntlet again. The gauntleteers facing him this time around were Styles Sithole, Blackcat Mathunzi and Darcy Stevens.

The Captain stroked his stubby chin as he thought. "I think with that one, we have to emphasize how big it would be it would be if one of these guys beat Solo. We'll call it 'breaking the gauntlet', make it sound special."

"Hold on. But with Gauntlet One, you wanted us to focus on how hard it would be for Solo to survive the gauntlet. Now you're putting the odds on Solo?"

"Yeah well that was then and this is now." 

Beatrix ignored his tone. "And why do you wanna call it breaking the gauntlet? Why don't we just call it winning?" 

"Because it's about branding," said Moodswing entering the room. "Glad to see you guys are settling in and are already starting." He looked at the Captain. "Breaking the gauntlet, I like it. I just wanted to come up here and ask you guys to really play up the 12 Rounds Derby as well as the Gauntlet Race. The next challenger to the King will be between the winner of those two contests."

This was exciting news to them. "And how will you decide between them?" asked Beatrix. "You thinking a race between the winners on Fuel when we come back from holiday?"

Moodswing shook his head thoughtfully. "Nah. I prefer Number One Claimant races take place on pay-per-view. And since there won't be a pee-pee-vee between now and The Scramble , I was thinking I'll just see whose more popular." 

While the employee in Beatrix wanted to accept what she was hearing, the motorsports enthusiast in her couldn't believe what she was hearing. "What? You cannot be serious. Moodswing, this isn't a popularity contest. The next claimannt needs to be the best person for the job."

Moodswing looked at her curiously before diving into his lesson of the day. "Okay, first of all this is sports entertainment, not motorsports. Second of all, we've already seen Thawn versus Solo multiple times and without a new twist to the story, it's a waste of Fuel airtime. And thirdly, is there anything more pure in giving the people what they want than letting them decide who gets to challenge the King next? They'll have five weeks from now until we come back to chose their hero."

Despite being rather cold all day to her, the Captain surprised Beatrix by siding with her. "Well Moodswing, that's all well and good but let's face it: it won't be much of a popularity contest. We all know that Solo is a fan favorite and Thawn is, well... Not."

Moodswing rolled his eyes. "It's not gonna be that kind of popularity contest. I'm not gonna conduct a vote or a poll. I'm going to look at the number of eye balls on the races. I'm gonna look at who drew bigger numbers in the box office that Thawn is obsessed about. I'm gonna look at who the star of the night was. Now if you two are quite done, I've got a lot of work to do."

There was a moment of silence after the Club President left before either of them spoke. Beatrix was the one who broke it. "Why do I doubt that he has any actual work to do? I mean, we all know that Glen handles all the day-to-day around here."

 "Actually, my sources tell me Moodswing is actually plenty busy tonight. After all, this could very well be the last pay-per-view of the series what with the protesters out there. I mean with no Mandla in the feature race, this could turn ugly."

Beatrix thought about that for a moment. "Nah,  I have faith in our fandom. They won't burn the place down. That's as long as we continue to give them competitive motorsports and not a popularity contest. I mean, what is Moodswing thinking?"

The Captain shrugged. "You heard him. It's not motorsports, it's sports entertainment."

 

AFTER THE SUPPORT RACES

Beatrix and the Captain had fired through the support races like they were on fire. Despite their differences, their ability to work together as professionsals gave them an unbelievable chemistry. They'd made good use of their notes as well as Moodswing's request to make a big deal out of Thawn winning the 12 Rounds Derby (along with the prize money) and Solo surviving another Gauntlet Race. In between those races, Dime managed to narrowly hold onto his Duke of Drag title against a very game Penny Potgieter. But now it was time for the main event of the evening.

However, before the feature race could begin, Beatrix made good use of the fifteen minutes before the race to head off to the ladies room only to find resident F-X reporters Belinda Baartjies and Toney Kunene in a cat fight with the ever sneaky Sherry Detwiler standing by and spectating. Beatrix broke it up. "Ladies, ladies, LADIES. Break it up." Once she got them to pause for long enough, she dug into it. "Now girls, what the hell is going on here."

"She started it by pulling my hair!" said Belinda which almost restarted the fight but Beatrix managed to bring it back down and asked again, this time allowing Toney to speak. 

"It started when I managed to get the scoop on the feature race by interviewing the Deputy Mayor about Amandla's Rebellion. I then told Belinda that I planned on running it this week as the headline article. But then Belinda here said that that wasn't going to happen and that she'd already spoken to Moodswing and she was the only front page reporter... "

"Yeah and then she accused me of sleeping with Moodswing... "

"And then you chirped me about my love life."

"Lack  of a love life," said Belinda, chirping again.

"Which was when the hairpulling began," added Sherry finally.

Beatrix silenced Sherry with a look before turning back to the other ladies to begin setting things straight. "Okay, first of all, Moodswing hasn't slept with anyone. Believe me, I know his wife and despite him being an ego-maniac, he's hopelessly in love with that woman. Second of all, you guys know the rules around here: no fist fights. Everything gets settled on the track."

"That rule is for the racers," complained Belinda. 

"Ya. Mina, I'm very comfortable getting me a piece of this bitch!"

Beatrix struggled to hold them apart and finally managed to get Sherry to help. "That's Enough! You guys might not be racers but you can still handle your issues on the race track and this is how we're gonna do it. You're going to bet on the feature race. Belinda, if King Kloof wins, you get the headline. But if Jim wins the Crown then Toney gets to write the front page article. You got it? "

They indeed did get it as they left the ladies room in peace. That left Beatrix alone with Sherry who was grinning like a smug snake. "Betting on races, huh? I'm pretty sure that goes against club policy there Miss Honeycomb."

"Oh bite me, Sherry. What the hell is wrong with you not breaking that up? I'm half shocked you weren't egging them on."

Sherry shrugged. "Maybe I'm just a sadist, getting off on the suffering of others. Speaking of which, how do you feel about blackmail?" Sherry watched in seeming amusement as Beatrix's face distorted into one of confusion. "Because I, for one, am a fan which is why I'm going to enjoy what happens next."

"Sherry, what are you talking about?"

"I think it would be a shame if Moodswing found out that there's organised betting going on."

Beatrix finally caught up, realizing that Sherry was going to hold this over her head. "Oh c'mon, Sherry. I was trying to defuse the situation, you saw that."

"What saw is irrelevant. It only matters what Moodswing thinks." Sherry let that sink in before delivering her offer. "Unless you do something for me." Sherry watched Beatrix hold back from asking "what?" as if by not asking, this would all go away. But Sherry was determined. "I want you to find out everything you can about the Racing Academy from your broadcast partner."

Beatrix's eyes open. This was the same information that Sherry had tried to seduce out of the Captain back at Show-Down in Durban, lingerie and all, and failed spectaculary. Now she was sub-contracting her into doing it. "Oh come on. You know how guarded Ken is about that place. No one even know's its name let alone where it is." It was true. All anyone knew about the mysterious academy was that it was located in the North African desert somewhere.

"Well I can safely say that that's your problem now. Because if you don't find out what it's called, where it is and which racers have attended this illustrious school, then Moodswing finds out what you did. And I think you know I'm not bluffing."

Beatrix looked at Sherry, appalled. She felt helpless not for herself but for the man she was being forced to victimize. "why are you doing this?"

Sherry took a breath. "Because it makes for a good story. The story is all I care about. Now if you don't mind, I'd really like to go watch this title race. Now that it has such high stakes for my colleagues, I can't wait to see the outcome." Just before leaving, she turned around for one last word. "Oh and, Miss Honeycomb. Happy holidays."

As Beatrix stood alone, taking in these last moments of peace before she had to go to work, she thought about this story and how she'd played a victim in it. This is what she got for trying to help keep the peace. It was suppose to be a time of festivities and joy not coldness, manipulation and despair. And now if she was going to keep her job, she was going to have to do the impossible: pierce the mind of the enigmatic Captain of the Academy.

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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