29th of November – Season 3
Solo Magubane tried to relax as the plane made its final descent, making fists with his toes. Solo always flew with flip-flops on so that he could slip them off when he needed to and he needed to now, having never liked this part of the journey. When the plane finally landed, Solo exercised patience, taking his time to make his way to luggage collection. He was surprised to find adverts for tonight's episode of Monday Night Fuel on some of the digital LED boards.
While Solo wasn't surprised that the franchise had generated enough cash to have these otherwise expensive marketing programs, he was surprised that his image was being used prominently on the adverts with the words 'THE FRANCHISE COMES HOME' displayed prominently in them. It caused many a passenger to turn and look at him.
After trying as hard as he could to keep his head down, Solo finally made his way to the pick-up zone where his colleague, fellow racer, sometimes opponent, and all-times friend was waiting for him, putting a smile on his face.
"Nkomose," said Styles Sithole, calling him by his praise name.
"Jose," said Solo, returning the sign of respect. "Trust you enjoyed your trip?"
"You know I hate flying, mfwethu."
Styles laughed. "Says a man whose primary job has him jet setting across the continent." They got into Styles' bright green Toyota 86 sports car and sped out of the airport. "So, you want to stop somewhere and get something to eat before going to the Speedway? I reckon we've got an hour to kill."
"No can do, mfwethu. Moodswing sent me a message saying he wants to see me before Fuel, so I've got to use that hour."
"Jeez. You don't even get a little time to relax." Styles thought about that. "Actually, that's on you. Why didn't you fly in yesterday?"
"Flights are cheaper during the week, Styles," said Solo closing his eyes as if resting. "Anyway, tell me what's going on. Who's fighting, who's dating? What's going on behind the curtain? I've been stuck watching what everyone else is watching," which was only what Moodswing wanted everyone to see.
As Solo continued to rest his eyes, he listened to Styles recap the latest saga including Devì hating on the Koeks; Stevie still trying to get a handle on the extracurricular parts of being the F-X Queen; Touch's rise to the feature race and the arrival of the new girls. "Come to think of it, I'm actually surprised that no one's hit on one of them. I mean, that Plain Jane is cute."
This got Solo to open one eye. "Are you thinking of making a move there, Jose?"
"Oh, just go back to sleep, okay." Solo laughed as he tried to get some rest. But he couldn't. He was too excited.
LATER AT THE FUEL SPEEDWAY
After finding out what Moodswing wanted him to do, Solo had wished he'd paid the extra bucks to get some rest between his flight and his first appearance. Because now, here he was, on the middle-stage, standing in front of six thousand people all chanting his name, with a microphone in his hand. Moodswing had wanted him to give some kind of address. And not one to disappoint his fans, Solo had agreed.
"Oh, you have no idea what it’s like to be back in this arena. You know, I’ve been all over Africa; had the privilege of racing some of the best racers in our continent; and despite living my dream, this is the only place where I want to be." This led to a violent cheer from the capacity crowd as his name continued to be cheered.
Solo went on. "Now that I’m home, I think it’s only appropriate that I answer the one question you’ve been dying to know." He paused to build up suspense. "I want it. I want it back. I want what’s mine. I want my Formula-X Crown back!" It was at that point that the crowd went ballistic with cheers. It almost brought a tear to his eye. Fortunately, before he got too emotional, the crowd suddenly turned into a boo and Solo turned around to see Devì approaching the stage.
While this would have been annoying to anyone else – maybe even Solo himself at another time – it was not tonight. Tonight, it was thrilling to her. Devì's interruption reminded Solo of everything that he'd missed about Formula-X, which was the sports entertainment of it all. It was the idea that this show was not just about motorsport but about entertainment. And unlike other brands of sports entertainment, this was unscripted making it unpredictable even to the stars of the show. Just like now.
As Solo put on his game face, going with the flow and acting annoyed at the interruption, Devì grabbed another microphone to speak. Internally, Solo was smiling, imagining Moodswing and Glen allowing this to playout for the benefit of building a storyline on the fly. "Look Solo," said Devì, " I’m just as glad as these people are that you’re back but when it comes to the F-X Crown, there’s a line and your name does not appear above mine." The crowd's boos got louder.
She continued. "Now I appreciate that when you left, you had a return race clause in your contract for a shot at the title. But face facts: your rematch clause, by another name, lapsed when you left."
Solo, not to be outdone, interrupted her right back. "I think you mean it lapsed when you lost the title." Another cheer from the crowd.
Devì ignored the salt in her wound and pushed on quickly. "You said it."
"When you lost my title. And now I'm back and I want it back."
Devì, not one to lose an argument, continued to make her point. "You want a shot, that's fair. All I'm saying is that your shot will be against me when I'm Queen again."
It was at this point that Glen came out, holding a third microphone, and didn't wait to get to the stage to sort the issue out. "I think there's a simple way to sort this issue out. A Number One Claimant's race, tonight. And the winner gets a title shot in the feature race of Year-End Bash!" While not as loud as Solo's, Glen earned a cheer from the crowd.
THE NUMBER ONE CLAIMANT'S RACE
By the time Solo was sitting in The Abominable Seduction, a couple of things had happened. First, the fifth participant of the hotly anticipated Formula-X Cup race was announced as Dime, who was shockingly nominated into the race for his OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE IN A DERBY. This was followed by the first four nominees participating in a relay race where Thawn Oberhauser & Brenda Koek took on Mandla Xulu & Styles Sithole. Solo then found out that his race against Devì wasn't going to be the feature race as that was being reserved for a title race: Queen Stevie vs. Penny Potgieter.
Solo had completely forgotten that Penny had announced tonight as the night she would be "punching her speeding ticket" as the commentators had called it. This meant the entire complexion of the title picture could have changed by Year-End Bash because surely if Stevie lost the title tonight, then she would be entitled to a title shot too.
The race was a fury of action as the first quarter saw Solo manage to come out ahead leading the entirety of the second quarter. Devì made a move to overtake in the beginning of the third quarter only for Solo to recapture the lead by the time the two went into the fourth quarter. The race ended how it started, with the two opponents neck and neck for a photo finish that saw the ‘Daughter of Divinity’ take the race thus managing to defeat Solo for a second time.
The crowd was shocked. The second time. This was the second time that Devì had beaten him and no one could believe it. But while the crowd at least had a feature race to look forward to, Solo had nothing. Not only had he lost his shot at the Crown, but now he didn't even know if he'd be at the pay-per-view. Now, it didn't matter if Queen Stevie won or not later tonight...
LATER THAT NIGHT
Solo had reluctantly watched the feature race and was glad that he had because it was a critical gem from the word go! The race started off with the ticket holder gaining control in the early going, managing to lead the race in the First Third of the race. Penny maintained the lead until the ninth lap in the Second Third where Queen Stevie briefly took the lead by inches only for Penny to utilize her power-boost to regain it going into the tenth lap and Final Third.
It was at this point that the race got heated as Queen Stevie applied pressure from behind, keeping the Claimant on her guard until eventually passing the ‘Dollar Sign Girl’ in the thirteenth lap to take the lead and maintaining it to take the race and retain. It had been spectacular. Solo knew this because he hadn't known who to root for which was always a good thing. It meant the racers were well matched which meant Penny was more than up for the task of being a feature-racer.
Solo was all set to leave and approached Styles by his race car. "You ready to go?"
Styles shook his head. "Na-ah. I wanna watch Touching Base. Moodswing is the guest and I hear Moodswing is pissed."
"He is? He didn't seem pissed when I saw him."
"He was probably just fronting. Bra, you haven't been here in a while. So, you don't know what it's been like now that everyone knows that Moodswing's past is shady."
Solo didn't say anything. Styles didn't know about his own past and how it intersected with Moodswing's. Instead, he decided to stay and watch Touch's talk show with Styles.
Touch looked to be in a determined mood as he called the Club President to the stage and did what he did best. "While it managed not to make headlines, I have it under good authority that you weren't present last night in Pretoria for Show-Down."
Moodswing stared a hole through Touch before smiling. "Is there a question in there or are you going to kick my chair off the stage now?"
"I want to know if you're in charge around here or not."
Moodswing's mood did not deter. "Oh, I am in charge. Yes, I missed Show-Down which is regrettable but don't think for a second that my impression was not present at Show-Down."
Touch then pushed on by asking the Club President to prove that he can leave an impression, claiming that Glen seemed to have left the biggest impression on the upcoming pay-per-view.
"Oh, you think I can't make an impression, Touch? Well then watch this. You know that pretty little feature race that Glen's put together for Year-End Bash: Stevie versus Devì? Well, I don't know about you but I'm not interested in seeing a threequel of that race so here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to add to it. What do you think about that?"
Solo's heart rate picked up. For a second, just a split second, he wondered if Moodswing might cherry-pick him and add him to the main event of the pay-per-view, only for 'The Franchise' to be completely blindsided.
"What would you think if I added you, Mister 'Hoast of Boast', to that race and make it a three-way? Would that make an impression?" While Touch didn't answer, Solo knew that Moodswing had indeed made an impression. Now, if only Solo could find a way to leave his own impression.