21st of February – Season 3
Solomon Magubane wasn’t known for being impatient but today seemed to be testing the theory as he’d been waiting at the petrol pump for what felt like ages. He was currently at the Sasol fuel station, showing some solidarity for his Auto One team. But when he looked across the street at the Shell fuel station, he couldn’t help but wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to go there. It wasn’t like it would be disloyalty since Monday Night Fuel was sponsored by Shell.
“Penny for your thoughts?”
Solo had genuinely forgotten that he was not alone. However, instead of his usual carpool buddy, Styles Sithole in the passenger seat of the Mustang, it was the F-X Club Vice President, Glenwood Jacobs. Knowing that the only reason Glen had asked him for a ride was because he was up to no good, Solo wasn’t interested in sharing his own thoughts. “You know something, I’ve never understood that saying. Why a penny?”
“I have no idea.” Glen grasped that Solo wasn’t interested in talking about what he was thinking. “So, I never thanked you for agreeing to give me a ride to the Speedway.”
“Sure, but don’t overthink it. I did it because I feel like I still owe you for my career in Auto One. Not because I think that what you’re doing is right.”
“And what is it that you think I’m going to do?”
“Something to screw up Moodswing’s night.”
Glen scoffed. “That’s your first mistake right there: thinking that it’s Moodswing’s night. The night belongs to the fandom, not to the club’s president who’s been in power long after his first term ended.”
“Don’t you, as the club committee, vote on who gets to be President? So surely, that’s on you, isn’t it?”
“Yeah well, maybe it’s time for a change.”
Is he saying what I think he’s saying? “Wait, are you saying that you’re running for Club President?” Solo finally put two and two together as the petrol attendant finished up his work. “Wait, is that what this is about?”
Glen nodded. “I want to sneak into the production booth and tape a video package where I declare my intention to run for Club President. And I want it to play right in the middle of the show. That’s why I’m sneaking into the Speedway.” It was unfortunate that it had come to this, but Moodswing had banned Glen from coming to Monday Night Fuel until the next pay-per-view. This was why Glen was now being forced to sneak onto his own show. “I have no doubt that Moodswing will have something to say at the top of the show, himself.”
This time Solo scoffed. “That’s if he can pull himself away from torturing poor Stevie. You know she has yet another three-way race tonight.”
“Really?” asked Solo. “How? I thought you’ve been on hiatus since last week.”
“I’ve got feelers everywhere. So, I’m aware of a lot of things. I’m also aware that Stevie is the Formula-X Queen and has what it takes to deal with it. Believe me, she can take it. Or have you forgotten?”
“I haven’t forgotten. She’s a tough girl. Speaking of tough girls, what do you know about Savana and her new blesser? Since you’re aware of everything.”
“I know that you should have accepted the challenge she made you this past week. It might have afforded you the redemption you’re after.”
“I already have a race tonight, which I’m sure you know about.”
“Oh, then why ask about Savana and her lover? Look, all I know is that those two are on the fast track to becoming Formula-X’s power couple. I’m talking about mainstream attention. Which is impressive considering that they are by far the newest couple in the series.”
Solo thought about all the couples: JVZ and Teresa; Jim Kieck and Brenda Koek – which was being referred to as a situationship since they weren’t actually a couple – and Touch Mkhize and Plain Jane Deyi, a couple almost as new as Thawn and Savana. Solo smiled. “I’m sure Moodswing must be really happy. Now he gets to milk all those romances for storylines.”
Glen shared the sentiment but shook his head, not liking it. “And the bastard just keeps going with these things. I mean look at Jim and Brenda. They aren’t even an item but if you check on the Formulary, there they are, linked by hashtags.” The two of them laughed. While Solo had expected them to travel to the Speedway in relative silence, they’d managed to fill the void with chatter, going on and on about the other racers.
When they finally approached the parking lot for the Fuel Speedway, Glen put up his hoodie and lowered himself. “Okay, now we need to be careful. I can’t be seen or else that’s the end of that.”
“And what if this doesn’t go the way you want it to, Glen? Will that stop you from running for Club President?”
“No. But it will lose me the element of surprise. Okay, no one’s watching and there’s a side entrance there. Drop me off right here and don’t come to a complete stop.” Solo slowed the car right down to a snail’s crawl but not because Glen asked him to, but because he’d been shocked by the request. Nonetheless, Glen had opened the door and trotted out in a crouch, successfully reaching the door without being seen… or so Solo thought.
LATER IN THE PADDOCK
“So, who was that you snuck into the building, huh?”
Solo turned around to find Devì with a sneaky but sexy smile on her face. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Devì.”
“Don’t play coy with me. I saw you, letting someone out of your car and sneaking in through a side door. The fact that they got through it tells me that they know this building intimately meaning it's most likely a member of the committee, am I wrong?”
“So very much,” lied Solo.
“The only committee member I can think that needs to sneak into the building is Glen after Moodswing banned him. Was it him?”
“Like I said: I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Oh, okay. Then I guess you won’t mind if I go tell Moodswing about this person that doesn’t exist coming out of your…” Devì trailed off when Solo took her arm, to stop her from heading to Moodswing. From that gesture alone, Devì knew she had him. “Ah, so it was Glen, wasn’t it?”
“Let’s dispense with the games, Devì, and move on to what it is that you want.”
“Oh, but the games are all part of the fun, Solo. Take, for example, the game of blackmail. You give me what I want in exchange for me not telling Moodswing that you let Glen through the door.”
“Again, same question.”
“The answer: your spot in your race tonight.” Instead of answering, Solo simply raised his eyebrows as if to say “really” and moved to walk away. But Devì was cunning, stopping him in his tracks with her words alone. “I know what you’re thinking.
"You’re thinking that Moodswing knowing that Glen is here because of you is not worth your spot in a race to earn a spot in a number one claimant’s race. But that’s because you haven’t thought it through. In case you didn’t notice: Moodswing is half mad these days, impulsive, temperamental. What do you think he’ll do to you if he heard that you’re the reason that Glen is going to do whatever it is that he’s going to do tonight? Do you think you’ll make it to that Number One Claimant race at the pay-per-view?”
“And the alternative is to throw it all away altogether?”
While Devì knew that her charming smile didn’t have any effect on Solo, she wore it anyway. “Well at least this way, you will get to earn your shot organically. Or did you really think you earned your spot in this race tonight?” Devì knew she had Solo’s attention because his eyes narrowed. “News flash: you didn’t. You've lost so many times this season, it would be a miracle if you get a title shot before the season ends.
"No, you were put in this race by special demand by an old friend. Or should I say, old enemy. In exchange for doing an interview tonight to promote his debut at Festival of the Fall, he asked that you be given a chance to stand against him that night. You know who I’m talking about.”
Solo knew alright. It was the racer that Moodswing had promised them last week: the ghost from his past; the man who didn’t even need to earn his way into the PPV Number One Claimant race. “Deak de Villiers.” Just the name alone ran a silver down Solo's spine.
Devì nodded. “So, you see, you shouldn’t even be in this race. So let me take your spot while you, accept Savana’s challenge and steal the show tonight. Show up this de Villiers guy by not facing him while you earn your way to the top, the right way. Show him and Moodswing that 'The Franchise' doesn't need to be handed opportunities.”
Solo nodded, accepting Devì’s deal. But what she's couldn't know was that it wasn't because of anything she said but instead, it was because of one man: Deak de Villiers. Solo didn't want to be anywhere near the man.
Having gotten what she wanted, Devì made to leave, but Solo grabbed her arm a second time. “Don’t think for a second this is over. One day, you and I will meet, and I’ll avenge my loss from the Grand Prix, do you understand?” Devì didn’t acknowledge. She didn’t have to. It wasn’t a threat. It was a promise.
LATER THAT NIGHT
By the time Solo drove onto the racetrack, it had already been a whirlwind of a night. First there was the shocked response from the fandom when the race that was supposed to be between him and Mandla Xulu was changed from Devì vs. Mandla to Devì vs. Mandla vs. Dime vs. Styles. It was only the third race on the racecard but it stole the show, even more so when Styles upset all the former monarchs.
The shockers continued when the show was interrupted for Glen’s secret broadcast where he successfully declared his intention to run for Club President this year. It had received a much better response than Moodswing’s own middle-stage speech ( which kicked off the show as Glen had anticipated) which saw Moodswing once again mount the odds against Stevie for Festival of the Fall by sanctioning her to defend her title against the other reigning monarchs in a four-way main event race. So, by the time it was time for Solo to face off with Savana in the penultimate race, the crowd was at a fever pitch.
Solo wasn’t sure that their race would live up to what had come before but when Savana showed up to the race with Thawn on her arm, she looked like she was going to sure as hell try. She’d managed to get right in front of one of the cameras and spoke directly to the audience. “All eyes on me.”
It was only now that he was Savana’s opponent that Solo took in just how much Savana had changed since Love ‘n War. It was like she was a completely different person. And it wasn’t the dresses and the makeup. It was her attitude. It was like she’d been reborn into Thawn’s other half. It was this thought, lodged in Solo’s mind, that caused him to be distracted during the race.
While the race had gone Solo’s way for the first eight laps, Savana had used her power boost to swoop past him in the ninth and penultimate lap and held onto the lead to take the race. Solo watched as the couple celebrated with a mouthy smooch that was hardly appropriate for a PG audience.
While Solo wanted to wallow about how this night had gone so wrong, from Devì’s blackmail to losing this race, he found some satisfaction in the fact that Devì had failed to gain anything from the blackmail and that it was his carpool buddy that eventually won the race. He found himself worrying about Styles who now had to contend with de Villiers, a force to be reckoned with, and how he could even hope to topple him and go on to face Queen Stevie at the next PPV.
While Solo wondered all of this, he looked on at Savana and Thawn reveling in their newfound fame and fortune. Savana’s words now seemed prophetic as all eyes indeed were on them. These two really were the power couple of Formula-X, if not motorsport in general. The sky was the limit for them.