25th of October – Season 2
Belinda Baartjies woke up with a start. She'd just had a nightmare. For a second she didn't recognise where she was until she looked next to her in the bed and realized where she was and instantly rolled her eyes, resisting the urge to slap herself on the forehead. Upon realising how big a mistake last night was, Belinda slipped out of the bed, eager to avoid any further humiliation only to almost immediately be caught before even putting a shred of clothing on.
"Leaving already? Is it something I said?"
Belinda, ever the quipper, responded with something clever. "What can I say, Jim? I'm not exactly the cuddling type. Besides, I have to get to work."
Jim immediately looked out the window, at the first sign of daylight shining through the window. "You do realize that the pay-per-view only begins in the evening, right?"
Belinda had finally managed to put on her underwear. "That's the difference between me and you, Jim. I don't just show up to work a few minutes early. I make sure my homework is done first."
"But baby you are my homework."
There was that smile that got her in trouble in the first place. Jim Kieck was an F-X racer known for having an eye for the ladies. While Belinda had managed to go an entire year without falling for his charms, she'd finally given in, realizing that one night of passion wasn't going to kill her.
"I do hope you realize that last night was a one-time thing."
Jim's smile widened. "You know you're speaking my language, right?" Jim then got up and approached her while she was trying to put her dress on and stopped her. "Although today, I'd like to make an exception. Stay a while? Let me make you some breakfast?"
Belinda had a sneaking suspicion that when he wasn't talking about eating. Nevertheless, Belinda allowed him to take the dress off again. Surely a few more hours of passion couldn't hurt...
LATER AT THE HALLOW'S EVE STREET CIRCUIT
By the time Belinda arrived to the part of the city where the roads were closed for the PPV circuit, it was already packed. Looking around, Belinda was not surprised that there were more kids in the crowd than the previous PPVs as it had been well advertised that there would be a trick-or-treat after the event. However, when Belinda looked around at the adults, what she saw wasn't eagerness for fun but rather fear.
Belinda had never really feared anything since she was a kid. She knew, rationally, that fear was simply the brain's way of telling her body to 'watch out'. In this instant, she knew that the fear she was sensing wasn't because it was Halloween but rather because of what could happen if this night didn't end the way the fandom wanted it to. What they feared was Amandla's Rebellion.
As Formula-X's self-proclaimed top F-X reporter, it was Belinda's job to cover the biggest stories and without a doubt, Amandla's Rebellion was the biggest story. However, she quickly realized that it wasn't the most interesting as there was a buzz in the crowd even though the show hadn't started yet. She followed the eyes of the fandom and saw what they were looking at.
Entering the makeshift paddock was a man in what looked like a black Jedi hood. What was particularly awe-inspiring about this man was the fact that he was moving slowly surrounded by lingering fog. This man was the debuting Blackcat Mathunzi. As if his entrance wasn't creepy enough, when he got to his vehicle, the lights went out and a spotlight came on, singling him out as he took off his robe and got into The Voodoo Vervent and drove it out to the start line. What made this creepier was that with the lights off, the full moon was prominent in the sky. The lights only came back on when he got to the line.
"Wow, now that's an entrance." The person that spoke was known by the name Latitude, complimenting the nickname of his older brother Longitude. They were the reigning Relay Barons. Longitude wasn't impressed and Latitude picked up on it. "What, you never seen magic before?"
"There's no such thing, brother. It's just fancy lightwork and clever trickery."
"I don't know, Longs. I mean, how did he part the clouds to reveal the full moon?"
Belinda, eavesdropping, looked up and saw that the night was mostly overcast now.
"The full moon doesn't matter. What matters is that Stevie is about to kick this guy's ass...
DARCY STEVENS vs. BLACKCAT MATHUNZI
After such an elaborate entrance, the crowd was on the edge of their seats as they watched 'The Diamond in the Rough' take on the self-proclaimed 'Master Spell-Castor'. Both racers were off their marks fast with no clear leader in the first half of the race. By the sixth lap, Blackcat had begun to pull ahead only for Stevie to recover and overtake two laps later. While she'd hold onto the lead, the victory was slight as Stevie won by half a car length.
Longitude immediately began laughing. "So much for magic."
"Oh whatever," said Latitude. Latitude then spied Belinda eavesdropping on them. "Well if it isn't Belinda Baartjies. Do you believe in magic?"
Belinda didn't. "I believe he calls it occultism."
"You didn't answer the question," said Latitude.
Longitude jumped in before she could. "I think the only magic she believes in is the kind that Jim Kieck creates." They both started laughing which confused Belinda. It was the juvenile nature of their joke that bothered Belinda far more than how they knew that she and Jim had spent the night together. It wasn't until a moment later that Belinda realized why they even bothered with the joke. Standing behind Belinda was Brenda Koek and her sister Doris.
"If that statement was meant for my sister's ears, you ought to know that she's way over that womanizer," said Doris. "Isn't that right, Brenda?"
"Don't worry, Doris," said Brenda. "I'm not gonna let cheap mind games like that keep me, keep us from taking those titles."
Latitude laughed. "Oh please, lady. We don't need mind games to take you two out. We've been Relay Barons for a year. Count it, a year! All we need to do is show up. Ain't that right, brother?"
"That's the truth, Lats. Mind games, no mind games. You two," said Longitude pointing to the Koeks, " are going down."
LATITUDE & LONGITUDE vs. BRENDA & DORIS KOEK
After hearing the two relay teams talking smack, Belinda was interested in this race. She wondered where the cameras were to catch the interaction because it was good stuff and it was what sports entertainment was made of. Poetically, the older siblings Longitude and Brenda started things off with Longitude establishing the lead of his team. Longitude switched with Latitude, giving him the lead with Brenda switching with Doris who began to give chase to Latitude.
This continued until Lap 12 when Doris finally managed overtake Latitude and handed the lead over to Brenda for the 13th Lap. The Koeks clung onto the lead with Brenda almost losing it to Longitude but managed to perform a perfect switch with her sister while Longitude and Latitude failed to do the same. The Koeks held the lead just long enough to cross the finish line first making history by becoming the first female holders of the Relay Baron titles, which would now be styled 'Baroness' titles.
With the second race over and having been distracted enough, Belinda made her way to the highest point of the stands to get a better look at the fans. She saw the sea of green and immediately became worried. The fans in the green t-shirts were members of the C.M.A. and the people determined to get Mandla Xulu back on the throne by protesting week in and week out. Belinda got a fright when they all started booing.
For a second, Belinda thought that this was it. They were about to burn the place to the ground. But when she looked to see if it was the Formula-X King that they were booing at, she relaxed upon seeing the Duchess of Drag, Penny Potgieter. While Penny had reason to be booed after screwing fan-favourite, Touch Mkhize out of his title, she wasn't nearly as hated as John Kloof. As Penny went onto the track followed by Styles Sithole (to cheers), Belinda began searching for someone to interview about Amandla's Rebellion.
DUCHESS OF DRAG, PENNY POTGIETER vs. STYLES SITHOLE
"So tell me, why do you feel that Mandla deserves to sit on the Formula-X Throne?"
"He's our true King. That Kloof guy got lucky at the Grand Prix and then he abused his power boost at Arbour Games."
"That wasn't abuse," said Belinda, interrupting the fan. "King Kloof was behind when he used the power boost and immediately stopped when he got ahead," she said recalling the climactic moment of the previous Arbour Games.
"That's not what the Deputy Mayor says. If Kloof wants to prove that he's King, then he needs to beat Mandla tonight when that power boost is banned."
While Belinda was bewildered by how far this fan had been persuaded by the Deputy Mayor in his beliefs, she held onto the one positive. "Wait, are you saying that if King Kloof wins tonight, with the power boost banned, then you'll end the rebellion?"
The fan simply smiled. "He won't win." The fan then left so that he could watch the next race but before Belinda could collect her thoughts from the interview, she was interrupted again by a familiar face who'd been eavesdropping.
"Do you think I will win?" said Jim with a charming smirk on his face.
Belinda rolled her eyes. "Shouldn't you be down on the racetrack already?"
"There's fifteen minutes before my race begins. Which is just enough time to give you an exclusive interview. What do you say?"
"I say that I think I got enough of you last night," she said failing to hide her pleased smile, "and this morning."
"Mmhmm, and don't forget this afternoon."
"Oh, Lord. Did you come all the way over here to torture me about this? I'm already embarrassed enough for lowering my standards like I did."
Jim gave her a very animated 'ouch' expression, sarcastic as ever. "So does that mean we can't go out again tonight?" When Belinda laughed and began walking away, Jim followed. "Oh c'mon, you could be talking to the next Number One Claimant here."
Belinda scoffed. "And that's supposed to impress me?"
"Well, I don't know. What would impress you?"
Belinda stopped, thoroughly intrigued by Jim's determination. "I tell you what, if you win tonight, I'll let you buy me dinner where you can give me an exclusive. If you behave, we'll see where we go from there."
He smiled. "Fair enough," he said before starting for the racetrack.
"But before you run off, you might want to know that your-girlfriend, knows about last night."
Jim paused for a moment before considering her words. "Yeah well, Brenda was never my girlfriend. So her loss, right?"
JIM KIECK vs. TOUCH MKHIZE
The crowd was on their feet when Jim Kieck and Touch Mkhize made their way onto the circuit. Following their qualifying races two weeks ago on Monday Night Fuel, everyone was interested in finding out who would face the winner of the night's feature race at the next PPV. Belinda herself was only half-interested. While she wasn't specifically rooting against Jim, she wouldn't mind getting an exclusive out of his victory.
As the two budding feature-racers navigated the unique curves of the PPV street circuit, Belinda decided that she needed a better view of the fans in the stands and headed up to the makeshift tower where the commentators were located. When she entered the booth, she was immediately met with hostile looks from both Captain Ken Khumalo and Miss Honeycomb. While the Captain continued to call the action, Miss Honeycomb muted her mics to scold Belinda.
"What the hell are doing up here?"
"No one comes up here unless by invitation. NO ONE. Not while we're commentating."
"I'm not here to join you guys on audio. I'm here to get a shot of the crowd before they go crazy for the feature race."
It was Captain Khumalo who spoke next, expertly switching between talking to her and calling the race. "Well get them somewhere else. And here comes the 'Host of Boast', navigating his way expertly past 'The Playboy' and on his way to becoming the next challenger for the throne. We're busy here. But Kieck with the come back. Clearly, he wants this just as badly as Touch. Now get lost."
Belinda ignored his rudeness. "Host of Boast? Who's that, Touch? Who gave him that nickname?"
"I did. Now did you hear me? I said get lost. We're in the endgame now, ladies and gentlemen. Two laps left and the 'Host of Boast' is in the lead. I won't ask you again."
"Aye, aye, Captain." Just before Belinda left though, she heard the Captain make the defining call of the race.
"And would you look at this? Not only has Jim Kieck recovered his lead but he's pulling away. 'The Playboy's' going to do it! Here it is. And, he's done it. Jim Kieck is going to Show-Down!"
Belinda ignored the fact that she would now be going to dinner with Jim Kieck and focused on the fact that this was the first time that she had gotten confirmation that Show-Down would indeed be returning to the PPV calendar this season. Even though the Captain of the mysterious Academy had a bit of an edge to him, she couldn't hate him for giving her the best break of the week. But now it was time to get on to the big story of the night...
KING JOHN KLOOF vs. MANDLA XULU
In any other sport, a third return match or race between two competitors wouldn't generate this kind of hype, but this race was different. With the power boost button banned from being used, this race was the climax of what had become an epic rivalry that told the tale of a city. Every green shirt in the stands was chomping it at the bit for Mandla to win while the reigning Formula-X King was up against the biggest challenge of his career.
While the King and the Claimant stood at the ready on the start line, Belinda took in the crowd, using her camera phone to capture the people coming alive at the sound of the engines roaring. When the race started, the engines barely managed to drown out the crowd as they were glued to the action. When Mandla got the lead in Lap 2, the fandom became electric. They were still 18 laps from the end and they were already certain that Mandla was going to do it.
As the race went along, Mandla's lead was threatened several times but otherwise maintained as the green shirts loved what they were seeing. By the time the race got to the 18th Lap with Mandla having managed to hold onto the lead, the crowd believed it was all but settled when King Kloof finally managed to mount a comeback. He would gain the lead temporarily in the 18th lap only for Mandla to recover. However, when King Kloof passed him at the beginning of the 19th Lap, it appeared that he had the lead for good, leaving a bewildered crowd in agony.
So when King Kloof did the unthinkable and passed the finish line first after being last for 80% of the race, the crowd was stunned speechless. Belinda waited in anticipation for the riot to begin but nothing happened. Belinda wondered if this was the end of it? Then the hissing began. To say that it was creepy would have been an understatement because when Belinda tried to pinpoint which fans were hissing, she couldn't pick out a single fan in the crowd with their mouth open. This was even creepier than Blackcat's entrance.
"Maybe it's witchcraft."
Belinda turned around to see the new Number One Claimant standing behind her again. "There's no such thing as witchcraft. Just lights and clever trickery," she said, remembering Longitude's words.
"So you're not creeped out?"
"I didn't say that."
"Sooo," said Jim, ever the smooth talker, "do you need a shoulder to lean on or," he said, raising a single eyebrow, "lie on?"
Belinda tried not to laugh. "You just never give up, do you?"
Jim shrugged. "It's part of my charm."
"Well," said Belinda starting away, "may I suggest trying to use your charms on Brenda?"
This swerve surprised Jim. "Why are we talking about Brenda?"
"Because," said Belinda now serious with Jim for the first time, "I think with Brenda you could have something real. With me, there's no future. I'll be real with you, I'm more interested in my work than I'll ever be in you. Being with you is fun but it's inevitable that we'll end up breaking each other's hearts and for what?"
Jim seemed to understand that this was serious. "So, that's it? We're done?"
"The truth is that I never should have gotten involved with a racer. It's unprofessional. So maybe you should get Toney or Sherry to do your exclusive and I'll just do my job." By the time Belinda managed to make away from Jim, the hissing had stopped, King Kloof was in the Winner's Circle and the PPV was about to come to a close. But that was no bother. With no more distractions, Belinda was off to put the finishing touches on her story.