26th of September – Season 3
Devì stared at the Arbour Games poster that had her and Stevie on it and couldn’t help but be disappointed. Does this make me look fat? Looks were very important to Devì and she was unapologetic about it. Devì wondered why they’d chosen to put her on the poster wearing her racing suit considering she was something of a bombshell. It couldn’t be in an effort to pander to the more conservative “think of the children” folk because right there, hogging all the glory for themselves were those damned Koek sisters in bikinis!
Devì hated the fact that, despite them stealing her spotlight, they looked gorgeous in the poster. Of course, Devì was well aware of why they were featured so prominently: they’d spent the past three weekends hosting beach parties (under their own volition) which had given Moodswing an idea to alter the theme of Arbour Games and give it a more ‘Spring Break’ vibe. The ploy had worked as the pay-per-view had sold more tickets than the past two years combined with patrons showing up in casual wear, ready and game for an after-party at the beach. It only helped that Heritage Day had been on Friday and was well known for unofficially being ‘National Braai Day’.
Devì had arrived early for the pay-per-view, wanting to get a lay of the track. It hadn’t escaped her that she was going to have her work cut out for her tonight considering that her opponent would be racing this track for the third time in her career while this was her ‘Falling Boot Track’ debut.
It had only been six days since Devì had called Darcy Stevens a bitch and the girl had smacked a coke onto her clothes in retaliation. It had been such an interesting experience for Devì – her first true venture into what they called ‘sports opera’ – that she couldn’t even be mad, having been smirking throughout the whole experience. Devì had found out later that it had been all for naught since there had been no camera present to capture the events.
It was a shame too that it hadn’t been caught on one of the reporter’s cameras because what a good way it would have been to kick off the build-up of tonight’s main event. It certainly could have used it considering that Stevie had won the finals of Royal Tourney; signed the contract for tonight’s race and had a press conference with her all in the space of a night. For a twenty-year-old woman, Stevie was one strong woman.
Devì was currently in the middle of the street – specifically closed off for the PPV – not giving a damn about the spectators. Devì had expected to be alone on the asphalt only to be joined by someone she’d seen a few times about the Fuel Speedway. “And here I thought I was the only one who had this ritual.” When Devì gave Miss Honeycomb a blank look, she explained, “Walking the racetrack before the pay-per-view?”
“I wouldn’t call it a ritual. I’m just trying to lessen my opponent’s advantage is all.”
Miss Honeycomb gave her an ‘I’m impressed’ look. “That’s very strategic. It’s good to know our Queen is more than a pretty face.”
“Yeah, I’m aware of what people are saying about me.”
Miss Honeycomb’s eyes narrowed. “So you’ve been listening to the Captain’s commentary these past few weeks?”
Devì hadn’t but considering what they were talking about, she doubted the man had been praising the ground she walked on. “What has he been saying?”
While Miss Honeycomb tried to hide it, her face clearly showed a person that had just spoken out of turn. “Maybe you should ask him.”
“If that’s an invitation to be a guest commentator for the support races then I think I will.” Devì flashed her devastatingly charming smile which always got her what she wanted.
Miss Honeycomb smiled. “Fair enough. Shall we?”
IN THE COMMENTATOR’S BOOTH
The commentator’s booth was a mobile container purpose-built on stilts two stories above the ground. According to Miss Honeycomb, the container was an upgrade from the previous booth, specifically designed to be put up and collapsed with ease and driven by truck to the next PPV.
When Devì entered the booth, Captain Kenneth Khumalo was sitting at one of four stations, preparing for the event, filing through notes. He didn’t even look up when they entered. The first thing that Devì noticed was the view. The booth was perfectly positioned to overlook the finish line and the starting grid.
“Captain, I brought a guest to join us tonight.”
Captain spun around in his chair and simply looked at the Formula-X Queen, his face unreadable, almost measuring her. When he did finally speak, he spoke to Miss Honeycomb as if Devì weren’t even there. “So you think having her here will bring something to our broadcast rather than take away from it?”
Devì instantly despised this man but didn’t register that on her face. Fortunately, Miss Honeycomb didn’t agree with his thinking either. “She’s the reigning Formula-X Queen, Captain.”
The Captain almost smiled. “So?”
“Excuse me,” said Devì, finally earning the Captain’s attention. “Are you seriously going to sit there on whatever high horse you think you’re on and disrespect me when I’m standing in front of you?”
“And what exactly have you done to earn my respect, huh?” Devì merely raised the title that she’d been holding in her hand since she’d arrived. He scoffed. “So your sense of entitlement is solely based on your one victory last season. Huh, you might want to rethink your value around here before you embarrass yourself by thinking you’re more important than you think.”
Devì was seething but she didn’t show it. “I think that you need to get out of this booth once in a while so you can see the bigger picture. Maybe then you’d realize that despite being here all of three weeks in earnest, I’m the biggest draw this franchise has.”
The Captain nodded animatedly, admitting that she had a point while still resisting respecting her. “Okay, point made. But correct me if I’m wrong but you’re only a box office because most of that audience is comprised of men that have seen you in a state of undress.”
“Oh c’mon, Ken,” said Miss Honeycomb, now a bit mad herself. “Forget that she’s the Queen, you can’t talk to a woman that way.”
“So are you saying I’m wrong?” said Captain Khumalo, now struggling to keep his calm. “Tell me I’m wrong and that I’m not talking facts and I’ll apologize right now.” Neither woman did because they knew they couldn’t.
Devì had had enough and decided that the only way forward was making peace. “You know what, I agree with you, Captain. My box office appeal may be intertwined with my sex appeal so maybe we should leave it at this: if I win tonight and retain my title, I leave with your respect. But until then, let us agree that whether it’s because I’m a symbol or not, my ability to put butts in seats can only be good for Formula-X.”
Captain Khumalo finally smiled, as if impressed by Devì’s tenacity. “Fair enough. So what do you have to offer for us here on commentary tonight?”
Devì smiled. “I’m here to give my impression on my support races.”
The Captain’s eyebrows rose. “Your support races?” Even Miss Honeycomb gave her a curious look.
Devì, still smiling, nodded. “Mhmm. Since I am the feature of the night, those races exist to support mine.” Devì’s smile did her work for her as both commentators simply shrugged and handed her a headset so they could all get to work.
THE ONE KILOMETER DERBY
Following a highly hyped introduction by the duo, Miss Honeycomb was the one that led the charge when it came time for the first race, using her role as the color commentator to build the story of Penny Potgieter vs. John Kloof.
“So this all began just three weeks ago when former Formula-X King, John Kloof arrived at the Fuel Speedway looking to start his re-ascension to the F-X Throne only to find out that he wasn’t in the Royal Tourney to determine the next Number One Claimant. This only got worse when Penny Potgieter – who was in Royal Tourney – mocked the family man. However, when Penny got knocked out in Heat One, the rivalry only heated up.”
“That’s putting it mildly,” added Captain Khumalo. “These two are so hell-bent on climbing that ladder and proving themselves that they challenged each other to a One Kilometer Derby and as with all One K.M. Derbies, there are stakes. While Penny Potgieter has staked any claim to the Relay Baron titles for the next four months, John Kloof has stakes any opportunity at the Formula-X title. Queen Devì, your thoughts?”
“Well for starters, I definitely think Penny was the smarter of the two to stake something of lower value than a title shot at the Crown.”
“I have to disagree with you on that one,” said Captain Khumalo. “I don’t think a shot at the Relay Baron titles is any small thing.”
“Oh c’mon, Captain,” said Devì. “Please.”
The Captain rolled his eyes while Miss Honeycomb sighed. “You know what, it's people like you that make it so hard for those relay titles to be taken seriously. Anyway, you’re entitled to your opinion. Now it’s time to get to the action on the racecourse.”
The race ended as quickly as it started, with Penny defeating John Kloof, successfully knocking the ex-King off the line of succession until the end of the year. When Miss Honeycomb introduced the next race, Devì could almost hear the Captain guilt-tripping her.
THE RELAY RACES
“Now despite what our special guest thinks, it doesn’t get any better when it comes to any team sport in the history of sport than this: a relay race with the Relay Baron titles on the line. This is the best of the best facing off decide who the best is. Will it be Blackcat Mathunzi and Fiona retain their titles or will Longitude & Latitude prevail and become three-time Relay Barons here tonight.”
Put off by the Captain’s offence, Devì kept her mouth shut out of spite and waited for the next race. After Blackcat & Fiona retained, Juan van Zonder & Styles Sithole donned the race track to take on the surprising team of Temper Kunene and Dime. Devì immediately felt bored but the Captain seemed intent on being on her case.
“So, Queen Devì, what are your thoughts and predictions about this race?”
“My thoughts? I think that there’s no point of this race being on the racecard since there’s no title on the line.” The Captain threw his arms into the air. “At least with the previous race, Blackcat and Fiona got to prove me wrong and show that relay races are worth the time of day but that was because it was for the titles. What is this race for?”
The Captain wasn’t impressed and moved on, ignoring the Queen. The race was won by Temper and Dime but more importantly, Devì recognized that she may have been coming off as unlikable which was not good. She was going to have to turn this around. But she’d have to wait until the next race to do it.
BABES AND BIKINIS
Devì decided to take charge and not wait for the Captain to put her on the spot. “Well, well, well,” said Devì. “If it isn’t the Duchess of Drag and her baby sister, Doris. Now, Captain, I’ve gotten the strong sense so far that you have a high respect for the competition around here so I have to ask you: how do you feel about the attire of these two racers?”
Brenda and Doris had their race suits unzipped and hanging all the way down, around their waists, low enough to show off their bikinis in all their glory. The reason for this was because they’d run a poll on the Formulary, asking the fandom what they should wear under their suits tonight: bikinis, daisy dukes, or leather… bikinis had won out by a large margin.
“Well, I think their attire should make you feel right at home, does it not?”
However, the Captain’s words did not affect her this time. “On the contrary, it’s the fact that this is an all-woman race that makes me feel at home. Not to mention that one of these ladies is the Duchess of Drag meaning three out of four monarchs are women. Now that’s my kind of franchise.”
“So, does that mean you’re rooting for Brenda in this one?”
“I think that there’s more at stake for Brenda to win here tonight. Because title race or not, she has to prove that there’s a reason she’s the champ and not her sister.”
It was Miss Honeycomb that indicated that this wasn’t a drag race meaning that perhaps there wasn’t as much at stake as Devì was suggesting. But Devì had disagreed. The race was fun to watch with a notable amount of support from the male component of the crowd. However, their support was split, with them clearly not caring who won.
After Brenda managed to capture the win, the Captain decided that he wasn’t done picking on Devì. “So, Your Highness, do you think that the crowd will be that split with your race, or do you think they’ll just hate on you wholesale?”
THE GRUDGE RACE
“So,” said Miss Honeycomb, “I have it on good authority that many have been waiting a long time for this one. Some, even, since Season One when these two headlined Sunday Night Easter. Back then, Mandla was King and hadn’t liked that Touch had been named the highest-grossing racer of the season.”
“And why should he have?” said Devì. “Mandla was King and had every right to be called the box office champion around here.”
The Captain, not liking that he’d been cut off, went after Devì again. “But now you’re Queen. So, do you believe that you’re the highest-grossing racer around here after being here, what, a minute?”
Devì had had enough and took off the headset to call the Captain out. “What is your problem with me? Is it because I’m a woman and I’m on top?”
“I have no problems with a woman being on top. In fact, that’s why I’ll be rooting for Stevie in the main event.”
“So, then what is it?” Miss Honeycomb, half mad that they were now fighting with each other and half happy that they weren’t doing it on air was trying to hold the commentary together by herself, explaining the current beef between Mandla and Touch being about pride.
The Captain, meanwhile, answered Devì. “My problem with you is that I don’t believe you’re worthy of that title, at all. You’re nothing but a publicity stunt that got lucky on one night.”
With the truth finally out, Devì had no more compunction to sit here with this man and got up and left, not caring for the results of the last support race of the night. Now it was time to prepare for her title defense.
THE MAIN EVENT
As Devì sat inside her vehicle, The Avatar, she tried to get the Captain’s words out of her head. She thought about the race and its profile in the franchise. While they called it a feature race because it was motorsport, it was, in fact, a main event. It was the reason that everyone had bought a ticket. They were here to see her and Stevie face off.
Devì looked over at Stevie in The Candyfloss and wondered if the Captain had a point and whether someone like Stevie who had been around since the beginning was more worthy of the Throne. No, knock it off. I didn’t end up here by happy circumstance. I’m the Queen.
The thoughts had left her just in time for the five red lights to go off signaling the start of the race. The first thing that Devì noticed was that her vehicle was faster than Stevie’s, having managed to garner the lead. She hung onto it for the first six laps before Stevie managed to overtake her. Damn, her cornering is excellent.
Devì managed to battle back in the straight section, managing to get her lead back by the Lap 10 halfway mark. She held onto it – using her prowess on the straights to her advantage – before losing again in Lap 18 which scared her. Fortunately, she won it back in the same lap but only narrowly because they were now neck and neck throughout the 20th and final lap.
The stress was real as Devì pushed her engine as far as it could go, realizing the humiliation she was about to suffer. But it was all for naught… all of it: the press, the promoting, the bragging as the photo finish saw Stevie manage to win by mere inches and be announced as “the nneeww Formula-X Queen!”
How had it ended so badly? How had Captain Khumalo’s dream come true and not her own? And she had already purchased a bombshell of a bikini for the afterparty to show up the Koeks. But now she didn’t have a title to go with it. She’d held the title for all of a month in earnest and now she no longer had it. Devì felt like she’d failed as a woman despite losing the title to another woman.
As Devì walked away from the racetrack, she gave one final look at the poster and realized how futile her worries about it had been after all. Now nobody would care when they looked back at the event… at least she hoped that they wouldn’t. Arbour Games was now the worst day of her life.