1st of November – Season 3
“Yami,” shouted the karate instructor. “That’s enough kumite for today.”
“Oss Sensei,” said Savana and her sparring partner in unison.
“Savana here still has a big night ahead of her,” said Sensei Jannie as he came up to Savana and lifted her chin to check her face. “We wouldn’t want her to look like she’s been through a war zone.” He gritted his teeth looking at the growing bruise on her cheek. “Eina. That’s going to leave a bruise.” Sensei Jannie was a middle-aged Afrikaans man with six black belts to his name. When Savana had come to South Africa from Western Sahara, she’d searched for the best karate instructor and found him here, in the City of Ngelosi.
“It’s my fault, Sensei. I should have blocked.”
“Yes, you should have. But still, maybe I shouldn’t have involved you in kumite on the day you go on national TV for the first time.”
Savana shrugged. “Maybe it will make me look tough.”
Sensei also shrugged. “Or maybe it makes you look like you’ve been in an abusive relationship. You might want to put some makeup on that.”
“I’ll think about it.” That was a lie. Having grown up in the Saharan Desert, Savana had never cared about make-up and dresses and dolling herself up at all. Yet, she’d somehow become known for her looks. That had given her too much male attention and rather than find out what would have happened when the wrong man paid her attention, she’d taken up karate and fallen in love with the martial art.
However, after moving to the Island Province of Azania, South Africa, Savana had fallen in love with something else: motorsport. Savana had heard of Formula-X when she moved to the island when the series had just kicked off. She thought it was amazing. However, she’d been shocked when the F-X Racing Club President, Terrance ‘Moodswing’ Moodley had ‘discovered’ her and offered her a job just a few weeks ago. It had been a surreal experience. And now here she was, on her way to the Fuel Speedway.
AT THE FUEL SPEEDWAY
The first thing that Savana thought as her Taxify cab dropped her off at the Fuel Speedway was that she was underdressed. She was wearing her favourite grey tracksuit top and bottom, wondering if she, perhaps, should have been wearing something showier. To that effect, as she walked through the concourse, she took note of racers that, until tonight, she’d only seen on screen and marvelled at how well put together their wardrobes were.
There was Penny Potgieter who looked like she’d just come from a job interview or a courtroom; there was Fiona who was dressed like Xena and then there was Devì who looked like she was heading to a nightclub, dressed in tight leather. However, Savana became more at ease when she saw the Formula-X Queen arrive dressed in her black and pink biker leathers despite being the top brass.
“Don’t worry, you’re not underdressed.” Savana turned around to find one of the brightest personalities on Fuel.
“You’re Sylvester Sithole.”
He laughed. “Actually everyone calls me Styles.”
Savana looked at his very elaborate outfit that included glow-in-the-dark fabrics and sparkles. “I can see why. And you say I’m not underdressed?”
“The way we dress is more about our personalities than it is about looking good. You see, Penny is a wedding organiser; Devì was a model, Fiona is apparently a witch doctor—”
“And them? The Koeksisters, right?” Savana pointed to the three young Coloured women entering the concourse. While they weren’t showing as much skin as they used to earlier in the season, they were still dressed in attractive outfits.
“Yep. Brenda, Doris, and Teresa.” Styles’ face changed just as he was pointing them out. “Oh boy. Here we go.”
Savana saw what Styles was referring to, noticing Devì approaching the trio and she didn’t look happy. “What’s going on here?”
“This, new girl, is your introduction to sports entertainment.” And what an introduction it was. Devì went straight up to all three sisters and immediately called them out for making fun of her new nickname, ‘Daughter of Divinity’ on the Formulary. While the trio tried to gang up on her, talking trash, Devì would retaliate, not with violence, but with a challenge. “I’ve beaten you and you,” she said pointing to Brenda and Doris, “so what do you say I make it a hat trick and beat baby sister, Teresa?”
Teresa got the nod of approval from her sisters before accepting the challenge. Just as Savana had thought she’d seen her share of drama from the concourse, there was suddenly a scuffle from the other side where Touch Mkhize and Temper Kunene were being pulled apart. Styles began to explain when Savana cut him off, letting him know that she was up to date.
“Temper was Touch’s guest last week on Touching Base where they got into Temper’s issues. Touch didn’t like what Temper had to say and kicked his chair from under him. Of course, this, what’s happening here, is about the fact that Temper got up and kicked Touch’s chair from under him.”
Styles smiled. “Nice. New girl’s a fan.”
“Well I hope so,” said Moodswing approaching them from behind, “otherwise hiring you might have been a mistake on my part.”
IN THE PADDOCK
Since it was Savana’s first night on Fuel, Moodswing decided to introduce her to the aspects of the show which he was explaining as they walked to the paddock. “As I’m sure you know all about the on-screen stuff like using terms such as monarchs instead of champions, tourneys instead of tournaments—”
“—Claimants instead of contenders. Yeah, I know. I’ve watched every episode of Fuel.”
“Good, then you’ll be familiar with the episode format. Every race on the racecard is interposed with segments which can vary from video packages to backstage interviews to middle-stage interviews with the idea being to give the show a reality-like subtext.”
Savana smiled. “Moodswing, I said I was a fan.”
“I hope so because there’s something I wanted to tell you before I hand you over to Toney Kunene over there.” Moodswing pointed to the F-X reporter in her forties who was currently conducting a backstage interview with someone who Savana hadn’t met before. In fact, it dawned on Savana that she wasn’t the only new racer and Moodswing noticed her noticing it. “That’s Jane Deyi. She’s new here too.”
Savana watched the interview which, while being taped now was set to be broadcast later between races making Savana wonder how often ‘live’ interviews were actually live. “Well, what brought me here is seeing the phenomenal rise of women in motorsport. F-X is just on point. As for what makes me different. Well, can’t you tell? I’m fabulous!”
Savana took in this skinny Xhosa girl who couldn’t seem to keep still as she danced her way out of the interview area. Despite dressing in bright purple colours and calling herself fabulous, Savana couldn’t help but think her nothing but ordinary. And it appeared that Moodswing thought the same thing.
“Actually, I think I’ll call her ‘Plain’ Jane Deyi.” Moodswing shrugged when Savana gave him a raised eyebrow. “What, it’s a play on words. It doesn’t mean I actually think she’s plain.”
“Mhmm. What was it that you wanted to tell me before my interview?”
“Oh yes. Your name. You’ll just be going by your first name: Savana.” He responded to another look he was giving her. “What? It’s called a mononym. Trust me.” She’d given him a smile to reassure him that she was okay with it. “Anyway, do you have any questions before I leave you to it?”
“Yes,” said Savana, surprising him. “The Formula-X Cup: how does that work again?” Moodswing had rolled his eyes, clearly expecting a question relating to her induction, not his latest creaction. But it was a valid question as someone who truly was a fan because she was confused.
By the time Savana was standing in front of Toney, she was much more excited to be here. It all had to do with Moodswing’s latest creation designed to honour the hardest working racers of the year: the Formula-X Cup. Contested at the Year-End Bash, the Cup would be competed for by six racers who would qualify after being awarded for certain performances since the beginning of the year. (Admittedly, Moodswing had confused her again by calling these award-winners ‘nominees’ as Savana understood a nominee to be different from an award-winner). Regardless, Moodswing explained that all would become crystal clear when he named the first nominee (and entrant to the race) later tonight.
Currently, Toney was introducing Savana as the first international racer in the series hailing from the Saharan Desert before asking her first question. “So Savana, what inspired you to come to Formula-X?”
“Well, I’ve always been a fan of open-wheel racing, but I was instantly hooked to F-X because it had something different. And more importantly, it had the girls kicking all sorts of ass on a level playing field with the guys. That’s what brought me here.”
“And I understand that, besides being known by one name, you also have a nickname. Care to share?”
Savana knew that Toney was trying to lead her to mention her martial arts prowess. “My friends call me ‘The Dojo’ because I’m a first-degree black belt and I’m not afraid to get into a fight.”
LATER THAT NIGHT
“So you’re not afraid to get into a fight, huh?” said Thawn Oberhauser, approaching Savana. “Well, you’ve definitely come to the wrong place if you want to hit something. But if you want to prove you’re faster than everyone else, you’re in the right place.
Savana only knew Thawn by reputation but what a reputation it was. Lord, here’s a person I’d love to hit. Too bad Thawn was right. “Well, do you want to put your money where your mouth is?”
Thawn looked at her before bursting out laughing. “I’m sorry but you’ve done nothing to earn a race against me. Besides, I have bigger things to worry about.”
“Well, how about for starters: guaranteeing that I’m going to be in the first-ever Speedway Derby next week.”
What the hell is he talking about now? “But you lost your qualifiers last night. Penny beat you.”
“Well there’s another qualifier tonight, isn’t there?”
“Yes, between Styles and Jim Kieck. You’re not invited.”
“I will be when I hand Moodswing my lawsuit for the damages to my car.” Thawn was recalling Penny's grand theft auto last week while Thawn had been on the middle-stage.
Oh, now I really want to hit you. “So that’s your excuse for ducking me?”
“Well other than that, there is the small issue of my nomination tonight.” Thawn smiled at the confused look on her face. “Rumour has it that I’ll be the first nominee and qualifier for the Formula-X Cup race. What was it again? Ah yes: the award for Outstanding Performance in the Scramble Race.” His smug smile only got smugger. “Over and above that, I still wouldn’t face you. You’re too green.”
While Savana didn’t like being told what she was especially by men who she knew were weaker than her, she did consider Thawn’s comment. Maybe what she needed was a race to start making her name…
SAVANA’S DEBUT RACE: LAP FIVE
Savana swore. JVZ had just taken the lead after Savana had dominated the first half of the race. Savana had planned to hold onto that lead for the entire race and prove her dominance. But alas, she was relegated to being the attacker. Fortunately, attacking was one of her strong suits and she expertly slipped behind JVZ and drafted the resident F-X racer.
It wasn’t until the tenth and final lap that Savana finally managed to overtake JVZ, slipping out of the draft and using the extra acceleration along with a soft tap of the power boost button to blast past him like the wind and take the race.
As Savana made her way to the Winner’s Circle, she took in her first night. It had only been a 90-minute show and yet there had been a whirlwind of drama. While Thawn had correctly predicted his nomination to the Formula-X Cup race, it had been Styles who won the second Speedway Derby qualifying race. Plain Jane Deyi had done the unthinkable and defeated the reigning Duchess of Drag, Brenda Koek to be crowned the new Duchess in her debut appearance. And the night wasn’t even over yet.
If there was anything that she was sure about, it was this: there would be no dull days on Monday Night Fuel!