28th of November – Season 3
Eleanor Coetzee was uncomfortable. She was currently sitting in the back of a black Hyundai SUV with the Formula-X Racing Club President, Terrance 'Moodswing' Moodley. She didn't know what was worse: being called to his office or being picked up by him to go to the pay-per-view.
Ellie – as she preferred to be called – was a 23-year-old Afrikaans woman who had taken advantage of Moodswing's penchant for hiring talented young people who lacked experience, to become the Club Committee's Event Organizer. She'd been elected to the post for three years in a row but sitting here in silence for the past ten minutes, she wondered if she'd finally overstayed her welcome.
"I apologize for keeping quiet, Ellie," said Moodswing startling her. "I just found myself rather enjoying this week's newsletter."
Ellie peaked at the piece of paper in his hand for the first time and recognized the articles. "Yeah. The F-X reporters sure know how to put that thing together. Considering—"
"Considering that they're all competing against each other? Yes, it is rather impressive, isn't it?"
Ellie's discomfort suddenly grew. She felt that this was about more than the newsletter. "Yeah."
Moodswing's smile was dark. "Do you know why? It's because, despite their competitiveness, they know that at the end of the day, they're on the same team; after the same goal: producing this newsletter." Moodswing saw that she was thinking: what is he getting at? "Who's team are you on, Ellie?"
Ellie's blood ran cold as a shiver travelled up her spine. Fortunately, it was an easy question. "Yours."
"Hmm. And what, may I ask, is your goal?"
"Same as yours: to put on the greatest racing this country has ever seen."
"Hmm," he said again.
What, does he not believe me? What is going on here? "Moodswing, have I done something wrong?"
He didn't answer for a long time. "No. I just want to know where your loyalties lie. I just want to know if you're grateful for your job. I just want to know that you know that you're easily replaceable." Once again, Moodswing guessed what she was thinking: who would replace me? "Did you think your shadow was just there to assist you? She's learning how to do your job. So if I were you, I'd go out there and prove to me that you value your position. Otherwise, you might find yourself lacking in votes at this year's election."
As if he'd planned it, the car came to a stop just as he stopped speaking. They'd arrived at the Pretoria street circuit. "Understood." Ellie was surprised when, after exiting, the vehicle turned around and left instead of continuing to the back. Is he leaving? What was going on around here?
AT THE SHOW-DOWN PPV RACE TRACK
Ellie had never been to Pretoria. While she'd been to Johannesburg before, she'd been told that the two places were not the same and never to say that a person from the Capital City was from Johannesburg if you wanted to live.
Ellie made her way to the production booth to make sure all the cameras were set up the way the production team needed them before heading down to the paddock which was where she ran into Zandile Mthetwa – the Club Treasurer.
"Hi Ellie," said the Zulu 24-year-old, greeting her with a smile. She saw the look on her face. "What's wrong girl? You look like someone peed in your morning coffee."
Ellie wanted to laugh but the situation was too serious. "Zandi, do you think I'm loyal?"
Zandile's answer surprised her. "So Moodswing called you into his office too?"
Ellie's eyes had bulged. Once again, this was not the answer she had expected. "His car, actually. Zandi, what the hell is going on around here?"
Zandile looked around as if to make sure no one was listening before speaking in a more hushed voice. "Well I don't have a proper answer to that but I did notice something strange with the books. Moodswing is moving money around."
Ellie tried to hide her surprise. "He's imbezzling?" But Ellie immediately felt stupid for saying that. "Wait, that doesn't make sense. Formula-X is his business. Why would he steal from his own business?"
"Ah, but you're forgetting about the silent partners. They own a slice too. Here's what I think: I don't think he's stealing so much as hiding the money in plain sight so that Glen doesn't have access to it."
"Why? Are they fighting?"
"I think Moodswing feels threatened by Glen. I think he thinks Glen's after his job. So now, he's reporting less-than-normal earnings to the silent partners so that they won't be suspicious."
"But how was he hiding it from you?" Ellie saw the look on Zandile's face: guilt. "Argh Zandi," said Ellie in a disappointed tone, "you're in on it?"
"Of course not. I discovered it and he threatened my job saying he'd make sure I got replaced in the next Club Committee election."
"So if he threatened you too, then I'd suggest you do what he says."
"Fortunately, that only requires that I do a good job."
STYLES SITHOLE vs. SAVANA
Ellie had never been one for politics, even club politics so she was relieved when she could get back to her job. Everything seemed to be going as planned so far meaning she actually had time to enjoy the first race.
As a woman herself, it was thrilling seeing even more women in the series than before. Savana had proven, since arriving three weeks ago, that she was a force to be reckoned with. A first-degree black belt and a badass driver? What on earth couldn't she do? She was currently leading a race against Styles Sithole.
Styles had managed to put in one of his classic performances with those breathtaking power slides but it wasn't enough to deter Savana who was in a winning mood, crossing the line to cap a dominant performance. Ellie had enjoyed that race.
PLAIN JANE, DUCHESS OF DRAG vs. DIME
When Ellie saw the next racer come onto the street circuit, she had mixed feelings. While Plain Jane had arrived on the same night as Savana, she'd gotten a title shot immediately and shocked the world by beating the three-time former Duchess of Drag, Brenda Koek. While Ellie loved the idea of yet another female monarch, she disliked the fact that where Savana was clearly working her way to the top from the bottom, Plain Jane had seemingly jumped the queue.
Nonetheless, Ellie was preparing to watch Plain Jane's first title defence when she caught a glimpse of her shadow down by the Winner's Circle. Thando James, who was also a part-time freelance racer for the series going by the racer-name '2-Bar', was a general member of the committee assigned to assist the Events Organizer. Ellie felt that shiver down her spine again until she saw Thando directing a pyrotechnician and her blood began to boil. What was she doing?
Unfortunately, Ellie didn't have enough time to stop her as the race had begun and would be over before she got there. All she could do was watch as Plain Jane's victory was punctuated by a small fireworks show as she entered the Winner's Circle.
Ellie was fuming. Thando had undermined her authority and for what? Because she wanted her job. I thought she wanted to be a full-time racer? Perhaps that was what this was about. Was it possible that Thando was allowing Moodswing to use her so that she could get a contract to be an F-X racer? Because if that was the case then the political mind games around here we're intense!
JOHN KLOOF vs. TEMPER KUNENE
By the time Ellie had made her way down to the Winner's Circle, Thando was no longer there. However, the pyrotechnician was and Ellie had given him such a tongue-lashing that she wondered if this was what one of the competitors of the next race felt like during one of his temper tantrums.
While John Kloof was a somewhat mellow family man, his opponent – also a family man (albeit a broken family) – was known for his temper. In fact, everyone had gotten a glimpse of that temper on his debut when he lost it after losing to Penny.
Ellie was too angry to enjoy the race. She'd told the fireworks man never to do that again unless she authorized it and stormed off to the pitlane. She grabbed the nearest headphones from one of the pit crew guys and switched to the production team frequency. "Yeah Tim, make an all-call for Thando James to come down to the pit lane, now."
"Now? Don't you want me to wait for the race to finish then make—"
"NO," said Ellie almost desperately. "I want her down here now!" After throwing the headphones back at the pit crew member, she almost instantly regretted it as the announcement rang over the PA System. "This is an all-call, this is an all-call. Would Thando James come down to the pitlane, please? Thando James."
It felt very awkward hearing the all-call just as the race was about to begin but Ellie hardly cared. What she was more concerned about was Moodswing's warning and not letting Thando undermine what little authority she had.
While barely paying attention, the race fired away, mercilessly regaining the crowd's attention away from the all-call. When Thando showed up, she hesitated upon seeing Ellie. "What the hell was that, Thando?"
"What? Are you talking about the fireworks? I was just trying to add some excitement to the show."
"You can't just start using fireworks without telling me. You need approval and licenses. Things that I need to coordinate."
"Relax. The pyro guy has a license and I got approval from Moodswing."
Ellie realized in that moment that perhaps she was being played. "Moodswing specifically told you to arrange fireworks for the winning racers?"
"Not exactly. He mentioned that he would love for the monarch victories to stand out."
"But he didn't tell you specifically to do that." When Thando shrugged, Ellie continued. "So, really, you didn't have approval. Meaning you put my job on the line..."
"Whoa Ellie," she started.
"No, just admit it, Thando. You did this to make me look bad so that you can be elected to Events Organizer in the next election."
Thando's eyes bulged, clearly not having expected the accusation. It was at this point that the one-sided scolding became a full-blown argument. The argument spanned the entirety of what was left of the race and Ellie and Thando were too heated by each other's words to notice John Kloof pulling in a victory. Unfortunately, the pit crews watching were also too distracted to notice something else.
As Kloof made his way towards the Winner's Circle, nobody close by noticed Temper climbing out of his vehicle, so incensed and shaking with rage, that he grabbed a heavy tool close by and made a bee-line for Kloof's race car!
By the time Ellie, Thando, and the pit crews managed to stop him, the damage had been done. The Big Boot was a mess. The crowd had seen everything and had reacted with shock and silence. Ellie was guilt-ridden. How had she allowed this to happen?
MANDLA XULU vs. PENNY POTGIETER
When Glen had finally gotten down to the pitlane, he was beside himself. The first thing he did was suspend Temper Kunene immediately and indefinitely. The second thing he did was give Ellie the rest of the night off, holding her personally responsible before telling Thando to take over her duties for the night.
While Ellie was upset that Thando had gotten away with it, she let it go recognizing that if she had stuck to her job rather than let Moodswing get to her and focused on putting Thando in her place, none of this would have happened.
It was fortunate that Glen hadn't banished her from the building meaning she could still watch the races from the paddock. Unfortunately though, she was no longer in the mood, which was sad because the face of the so-called 'Women's Dynasty' was racing next.
Penny Potgieter had been on a roll since the beginning of the season. And what was more impressive was that she'd called her shot and predicted it. It was by no accident that she was facing a former F-X King. She was climbing to the top and using big names to do it. Last month, she had defeated Thawn Oberhauser to earn a slot in the Speedway Derby.
As the race continued with Mandla showing more fortitude than Thawn did at Hallow's Eve, Ellie thought about the Speedway Derby and what Penny's victory meant. It meant that she could now challenge the F-X Queen at a time of her choosing. Of course, a twist had been introduced.
A clause in the contract stated that Penny had to announce the night she would punch her 'speeding ticket' and it had to be before Moodswing announced another Number One Claimant otherwise Penny would have to wait until after that challenger got their title shot.
Fortunately, Penny had an idea in mind and called her shot again saying that she intended on ending the year as Formula-X Queen, meaning she'd challenge the F-X Queen a week before Year End Bash. And judging from how Penny managed to overtake Mandla and defeat him, she was certainly ready for the Queen.
THE 3-ON-3 RELAY RACE
If there was one topic that was bigger than the perpetually trending #Women's_Dynasty, it was #Show-Down's_Real_MainEvent. The fandom had been clamoring for this epic encounter to close the show and Ellie could see why...
The former and first-ever Formula-X Queen teaming with reigning Relay Baron and Baroness, Blackcat Mathunzi and Fiona to take on the three Koeks teaming together for the first time led by former three-time Duchess of Drag Brenda Koek. Moodswing had caught lightning in a bottle with this one so it was a shame he hadn't thought to end the night with it.
Ellie was about to settle into it when Zandile came up to her, clearly having heard what happened. "You got played, my friend."
"You don't think Thando knew exactly what she was doing with the pyro guy and exactly how you'd react? She wanted to best you and humiliate you in one fell swoop."
While Ellie was inclined to agree, Zandile was missing one small but critical detail that changed the complexion of her argument. "I agree with you that I was played but I think it was Moodswing that was pulling the strings," Ellie explained what happened.
"Hmm. So you think that Moodswing deliberately set these events in motion knowing this would happen?"
Ellie did think that but she was too tired to think about it anymore. "What I think is that there's a storm coming soon and a power struggle that's going to shake the foundation of this franchise. And I think that we, on the committee, are the pawns."
"Wow. Sounds bad when you put it like that."
"You think that's bad, Zandi." She pointed at the ongoing racing war on the asphalt. "We may be the pawns on the board but they are the back row pieces. They are the coveted ones; the ones Moodswing cannot afford to lose."
THE SHOW-DOWN FEATURE RACE
By the time F-X Queen, Darcy Stevens, and Number One Claimant, Touch Mkhize took to the asphalt, Ellie was fed up. She was so fed up, she'd barely noticed Devì, Blackcat, and Fiona winning the 3-on-3 race. Why did politics always have to spoil everything?
As Ellie watched the crowd get excited to see if Touch could knock off Stevie, she wished more than anything that she could be one of them: people who didn't see chess pieces but only saw motorsports. That's what it's all supposed to be about!
Ellie calmed her mind and tried to forget about all the power moves and focused on the racing. The race was a fun one with Touch showing how he'd improved his game over the past two years. While Stevie had led the race in the early going, Touch proved to be a good attacker.
When he finally managed to overtake the Queen, the crowd lost it, cheering the 'Host of Boast' on, wanting nothing more than to see Touch crowned King. However, while Touch had shown his strength in the straights from his experience being a two-time Duke of Drag, he also showed his weaknesses, lacking the stamina to keep up the strong performance in the later portion of the race.
Queen Stevie regained the lead in the Fourth Quarter and held on it for the victory. The crowd showed their respect by applauding with no hate for defeating their favorite racer. While Ellie had enjoyed the race for its pure motorsports appeal, she couldn't help but go back to her thoughts on the upcoming power struggle.
It occurred to her that maybe the power struggle was less like chess and more like a race with Moodswing trying to get to the finish line as soon as possible. Maybe they weren't like pieces on a board at all but more like parts of a race car engine with old parts needing to be swapped out for new ones in order to win the race.
Was it possible that she really had overstayed her welcome? Would this really be her last year organizing events for Formula-X? Lord help me, this is going to be a bumpy few months ahead.