17th of January –Season 3
EARLY MONDAY MORNING
Blackcat Mathunzi had never been much of a teacher, but unfortunately for him, practicing this ancient form of African Occultism came with a price. It was a disclaimer of sorts: Everything you have learnt must be passed on to another; a worthy successor who will become more wiser and far more powerful. Blackcat admittedly never liked this part of the practise. Why couldn’t he be the wisest and the most powerful of them all? But alas, here he was, putting all his trust in Fiona – a woman who called herself ‘The Feline’ – a person who he had to hope would live up to what it meant to be a spell-castor.
They were currently in a dark room only lit by candles. As the master between the two, Blackcat always got to choose what their next spell would be with every spell proving to be a lesson for his apprentice. And as always, he always tried to concoct the spell to suit his needs. “Today, we shall be concocting a good luck spell.” Blackcat noticed Fiona’s dark facial features beam in the feint light. “I see you’ve heard of it.”
“Of course. I remember the tale of how you used it over a year ago in a three-on-three race leading up Show-Down in Durban. They called it—”
“‘—shadow of the Show-Down’, yes,” said Blackcat cutting Fiona off. “Except that wasn’t a full-blown spell. That was merely a good luck charm: a smaller more intimate work not designed to last longer than a few minutes. Enough for my part in a relay race, but not enough for something that, if done right, can positively impact one’s entire career.” Blackcat remembered his master regaling him about how he’d used it to maintain a decent income in the stock market while also affording him time to do his spell-work. It worked on any career meaning there was nothing stopping it working in Formula-X.
“What did you have in mind?” asked Fiona.
“That’s simple, my young apprentice: we’re going to put me in the Scramble Race’s Winner’s Circle.” Blackcat noticed Fiona’s face changing again, this time turning sour. She was upset that this was all about him. “You think I’m being selfish, do you? Well, that’s because you’ve never experienced the side effects of such a spell. Otherwise you’d know that you have so much to gain simply by working with me on this. Now, are you with me?”
Fiona took a moment before nodding. “How does it work?”
Blackcat smiled, the candlelight making his features more striking. “As you know, every spell has three parts with each part being tailored to the spell. For example, the banishment spell is comprised of—”
“The Confession of the Maiden; the Kiss of Passion; and the Denial.”
Blackcat smiled. “You’re learning. Well, this spell requires the following: the Act of Power; the Threat of the Rival; and the Wager.”
THE FIRST TWO PARTICIPANTS
Blackcat and Fiona had spent the whole day speaking about the spell and its requirements. Even after all these years, Blackcat still found it funny that their spells didn’t actually require chants. Instead, the spells were comprised of meditation (on their part) and the participation of others for the three parts (willing or unwilling). Blackcat and Fiona had done the meditating so now it was time to find the participants.
It was hard for Blackcat to focus on the task at hand as he was quickly caught up in the excitement of the upcoming Scramble Race. The qualifiers were next week and following everything they’d learnt about the Formula-X Cup, everyone now knew the stakes of the race and what winning meant. And in case they didn’t know, they were given a reminder at the top of the show when a pre-taped interview between resident F-X reporter Toney Kunene and Formula-X Cup winner, Solo Magubane played on all screens.
“It’s an honour to be recognised with such a distinction,” said Solo, referring to his new moniker of ‘Mister Formula-X’. “Being acknowledged as the best, while nice, also carries a responsibility to deliver which I hope to do.”
As Toney asked what was next for ‘The Franchise’, Blackcat paid close attention, eyeing Solo as the first of three participants in his spell. “Well there’s no point in this cup saying that I’m the best if I’m not carrying this series’ most prestigious prize, now is there?” Solo was referring to the Formula-X Crown.
“That’s it, isn’t it?” said Fiona “The Act of Power?”
However, Blackcat wasn’t sure. “I’m not so sure. It was a bit vague.”
“What are you two conspiring about?” said Latitude who was standing behind them with his brother Longitude. “Oh, let me guess, a spell.”
“Don’t make fun of them, brother.” Said Longitude. “When you just don’t have the skill, you have to try something, right? Even if it is, unnatural.”
“Could you two go away?” said Fiona, still naïve enough to care what other people thought. Blackcat on the other hand, hadn’t even turned around. “We’re busy at the moment.”
“Doing what?” said Latitude. No answer.
“So, have you guys gotten your qualifying numbers yet?” The qualifying numbers – known among the racers as ‘Q-Numbers’ were numbers that let them know the order in which they’d be qualifying for the Scramble Race.
This got Blackcat’s attention. “They’re handing those out already? I thought they only did that on qualifying day.”
“I guess Moodswing didn’t see the point in waiting.” Latitude pulled out what looked like a casino chip with a number on it. However, he hid the number with his thumb. “Oh, you want to know my number? Well too bad. It’s a secret.”
“Probably because it’s a bad number,” said Fiona.
“And what would count as a bad number?” asked Longitude.
“Everyone knows that the later you qualify, the worse your chances are.”
“Solo and Stevie,” answered Latitude.
“The exceptions that prove the rule.”
Blackcat had had enough of this back and forth. “If you two don’t have anything useful to contribute, Fiona was right. We are busy.”
The brothers shared a look. “Whatever,” said Latitude. “We have more important people to speak to anyway.”
“Like those two,” said Longitude before finally walking away but not before pointing out the new Relay Baronesses, Doris and Teresa Koek. Currently, they were talking to Touch Mkhize, presumably about a spot on Touching Base after Fuel.
Fiona continued to badger him about why Solo’s interview was not an act of power but Blackcat didn’t respond. She just didn’t get it. If it was an act of power, she would not have to ask. Fortunately, what they were looking for didn’t take too long to find. Following the opening race that saw Penny Potgieter & Savana upset the team of rivals, Queen Stevie and Devì, Moodswing made his way up to the middle stage with Thawn. After announcing another Speedway Derby set to take place at The Scramble with two qualifying races tonight, Moodswing handed over the microphone to Thawn who went on to do what he always did: make everything about him.
“You know, I’ve read all the reviews; I’ve heard all the praise for Mister Formula-X and I have to say that it makes me sick. Everyone’s walking around here like he’s God’s gift to racing yet the man was absent for the first three months of the season. And now you people think he deserves a shot at the Crown. No,” he said shaking his head. “That shot’s mine. I deserve to face Queen Stevie at The Scramble because unlike your precious hero, I have been here since the start of the season, dominating. And that is why, I should get a title shot against the Queen.”
As Moodswing took back the mic, presumably to sanction a race between Solo and Thawn, Blackcat was smiling. “Now that’s an act of power.” While Fiona tried to wrap her head around what the difference was and Glen put Solo and Thawn in the feature race, Blackcat thought about the next part of the spell and realized that it had been right in front of his eyes. “And I think I know where to find our rivals.”
Fiona had barely heard what he’d said and could only watch, puzzled as Blackcat approached Longitude and Latitude once again. It didn’t take much to get a race out of them… only a small wager.
OUTCOME OF THE SPELL
Blackcat wasn’t sure what had happened. How had it come so undone at the end? While Blackcat didn’t know the answer to that question, he was sure enough that it was Fiona’s doing. Perhaps it was her sheer confusion as to what was happening. After all, he’d had to explain three whole times to her that their spell was complete, with her not believing it. The last part had been fulfilled when Blackcat had wagered their Q-numbers against Longitude and Latitude’s. Yet, somehow they’d lost.
“Let’s recap what happened,” said Blackcat as they stood in the paddock now watching the Derby qualifiers.
Fiona sighed. “Why? You were there.”
“Well, I think it started with us not playing to our strength in taking the odds and evens. We both know, you finish better. Atop of that—”
“I am not talking about the race, Fiona. I’m talking about the spell.” Blackcat was not a fan of the look on her face. What was so confusing about what he was saying. “I want to know what you did wrong.”
“Why do you always assume—”
“The Act of Power. Did you follow my instruction? Did you picture Thawn in your mind to lock him in as a participant?” Blackcat’s cold eyes bore a hole through Fiona’s soul so it was not surprising when a guilty look swept across her face.
“I may,” she stuttered, “I may have been thinking about Solo.” She reacted to Blackcat’s disappointment. “Come on, Blackcat. You have to admit that his words were—”
“The Threat of the Rival,” said Blackcat, simply. He didn’t need to pose it as a question. He didn’t even need to look at her to know he would be disappointed again. She tried to complain that she didn’t know what he was up to and thought Thawn’s words were this rather than an act of power. “And the Wager? What, praytell, did you have pictured in your mind with that?”
Fiona pointed at the flat screen mounted on the paddock wall to answer the question. The Derby qualifiers were over – with Jim Kieck and Brenda managing to advance – and in their place was a pre-race graphic advertising the upcoming feature race: Solo Magubane vs. Thawn Oberhauser, Number One Claimant Race.
It took a moment for Blackcat to see how Fiona saw this as a wager. Both racers were gambling for a chance to face the Queen. However, something else occurred to Blackcat and his eyes bulged. “You pictured Solo as all three participants?”
“I guess. So?”
Blackcat was shaking his head. “You should never have done that. Remember when I told you that this spell has side effects. Usually, when done right, the good luck spreads to those that ally with the one that cast the spell. But when one does as you did, the side effects cannot be predicted.”
As if to demonstrate Blackcat’s explanation, for the first time in the seventy-five-episode history of Monday Night Fuel, the feature race ended in a photo finish when Solo and Thawn crossed the finish line at the exact same time. There was an explosion of shock from the crowd as the title race for The Scramble was thrown into disarray. Blackcat, meanwhile, was stunned silent.
Fiona risked speaking. “So, what does this mean?”
“It means, my apprentice, until this spell wears off, May the Lord help us all.”