29th of November - Season 2
Captain Khumalo never really understood why they insisted on calling the monthly racing events "pay-per-views". To him, events of this calibre were called grands prix and nothing else, but he'd gone along with it. Currently, Ken Khumalo was sitting on a plane that was making its final descent into King Shaka International Airport. Captain Khumalo had only been in Durban three times in his life and two of those times had been for a wedding. Having grown up and lived in Cape Town, Captain Khumalo had never seen the appeal of this coastal city.
The plane itself was littered with Formula-X personnel, the racers to be specific, and from what Captain Khumalo could tell, everyone who wasn't a racer was a fan as the entire plane trip was just a parade of autographing and selfie-taking. It had tired Captain Khumalo out. By the time they landed, Captain Khumalo wished that he'd taken Glen up on taking the flight with the Club Committee yesterday. But alas, he hadn't.
It only got worse when they exited the baggage area to screaming fans with signs and camera phones. Captain Khumalo escaped that nonsense and made his way to the pick-up parking lot and waited for the next available cab. However, he was surprised when Glen pulled up in a white BMW X3. "Hey, Captain. Care for a ride?"
Captain Khumalo didn't need to be asked twice. As they made their way away from the airport, through a toll booth, and onto the N3, Captain Khumalo noticed that Glen wasn't using a GPS. "You seem to know your way around here."
"Yeah, I have family here. Visited them all the time as a kid."
"Hmm. Let me ask you something, Glen. How old are you?"
Glen risked a glance at the Captain. "About as old as you," he said earning a chuckle from the Captain. "Why do you ask?"
"Well, I was just wondering how comfortable you were with what's going on around here."
"What do you mean 'going on around here'?"
"Well, I mean with this series." Captain Khumalo realized that he needed to explain. "For a racing series, you guys have a lot of drama. I mean, I've been here for just three months and already I've heard about racers sleeping with reporters; racers dumping slime on other racers; secret deals behind closed doors and now there's sangomas about the speedway."
Glen smiled but in a way that suggested that he used to have the same opinion. "That's sports entertainment for you, Captain."
"Huh. Well, I find it utterly ridiculous. A racing series should be about racing."
"Well believe me when I say that I share the sentiment. That's why when I heard that you were coming on board, I was jumping for joy. Because I believed that was the kind of legitimacy this series needed. But at the end of the day, a series that's just about racing only attracts racing enthusiasts. Moodswing wants to attract casual fans too which is why I'm on board with the whole sports entertainment thing."
"Hmm. Fair enough, Glen. Just as long as you keep the drama away from me."
AT THE SHOW-DOWN TRACK
After being dropped off at 320 Pixley Street, Captain Khumalo made his way to the 15th floor (where the commentary booth was specially located for the day). He'd been told that Moodswing had hired out the empty office space specifically because it overlooked the street track far down below but when he walked into the office, his face immediately dropped. So much for keeping the drama away from me.
"What the hell are you doing?"
Sherry Detwiler was standing provocatively against the announcing table wearing a buttoned up trench coat wearing a notably flirty face. "Well I heard how you booted Belinda out of your booth at Hallow's Eve for coming uninvited so I thought I'd be upfront and come up here to ask permission to join you."
"You want to hang out with the commentary team?" Captain Khumalo rolled his eyes. "Why do I find that hard to believe, Sherry? All you F-X reporters care about is the biggest stories."
"Fine," said Sherry playfully, "you got me. I'm here for this view. You guys can see absolutely everything from up here."
It was true. The street circuit for the pay-per-view had been laid out all around a small but iconic shopping mall called The Workshop and worked around to the busier streets of the city that had been closed for the event. The planning for the event could not be downplayed. Captain Khumalo was actually impressed by the set up including the location of their table in a corner office so that they had a wider view of the action.
"Yeah we do but I had this conversation with Belinda at Hallow's Eve. You only come here when invited."
It was at that point the trench coat came undone to reveal Sherry's black lingerie. "Then invite me."
Captain Khumalo, having guessed where these shenanigans were going had already averted his eyes and moved around Sherry, preparing the table. "I think you've spent way too much time in this series if you think this is the way things get done."
Just then, Captain Khumalo's broadcast partner Miss Honeycomb walked in and barely reacted to Sherry in her underwear. "Well excuse me. Am I interrupting something?"
Sherry shook her head. "Oh no. Don't mind me. I was just trying to seduce the Captain into letting me stay."
Miss Honeycomb scoffed. "Good luck with that." Miss Honeycomb then thought about something and looked at Sherry with narrow eyes. "Where's the camera?"
Sherry hesitated, thinking of her next move before relenting and pointing it out in the corner of the office. Upon seeing Captain Khumalo's death glare, Sherry explained. "Okay, you were right, I don't care about hanging out with you guys. I was just trying to get something on you so that I had leverage."
"Leverage?" said Captain Khumalo. "Leverage to do what?" Captain Khumalo had to continue averting his eyes since Sherry wasn't shy at all and was still standing there with her coat open.
"I want to know more about the Academy. And I know everything about it is secretive so this was the only thing I could think of."
Captain Khumalo was livid and could barely contain himself when he told her to get out. Sherry was smiling as she shuffled out of the room but she wouldn't be if she knew how important it was for the Academy to remain a complete secret. When he finally turned around to see Miss Honeycomb smiling, he didn't bother to engage with her. "Let's get ready for the races, alright?"
DARCY STEVENS vs. BLACKCAT MATHUNZI
Captain Khumalo was still angry when the first race kicked off so it was Miss Honeycomb who had to introduce the contest. "Hello, ladies and gentlemen and welcome to Show-Down in Durban. That's right folks, this is indeed the first Formula-X pay-per-view to take place on mainland South Africa and boy do we have a line up for you." Miss Honeycomb continued to welcome the fans watching the PPV at home while Captain Khumalo collected himself just in time to call the race.
"Thanks very much, Miss Honeycomb. It's a very exciting experience way up here watching the action more than fifteen stories down and we are now ready for our first race of the night where 'The Diamond in the Rough' will take on the self-proclaimed Master Spell-Castor, Blackcat Mathunzi. While Darcy Stevens picked up the win last month at Hallow's Eve, it would there's still some business that needs to be settled. Now, remember, it was Mathunzi that made the challenge which Stevie was very upset about because these two, get this, are relay partners later on tonight. But that's later tonight. Right now, can Stevie make it two-and-oh against the occultist?"
The race itself was beautiful although Captain Khumalo felt that it was because it was the opening contest on this track and the first to take place in Durban. Captain Khumalo for one was interested in the main event of this whole thing: the feature race of the night: King Kloof vs. Mandla Xulu vs. Jim Kieck! That's when Captain Khumalo realized what he had to do. "Beatrix," said Captain Khumalo offline, "can you get word to Belinda?" When Miss Honeycomb looked at him questioningly, he continued. "I want to invite her up here for the feature race..."
PENNY, DUCHESS OF DRAG vs. TOUCH MKHIZE
By the time the second race was almost away, Captain Khumalo was in the zone. "Now this one is one I'm very interested in seeing especially after Mkhize lost his title to Potgieter back in October. The history between these two is just so rich with Touch Mkhize being the first-ever Duke of Drag who lost his title to Potgieter at Year End Bash only to regain it from her at the Formula-X Grand Prix before losing again when Potgieter pulled some underhanded backstage moves. And ladies and gentlemen, it has all lead to this."
As with all drag races, this race was a fast-paced spectacle. Miss Honeycomb had decided to use this time to find Belinda as Captain Khumalo preferred to call drag races alone since they were that short. The drag race had taken place down the conveniently straight street of Dr. Xuma Street. While the race was close it was Penny who came out ahead, successfully defending her title.
FOUR WAY RELAY RACE
Miss Honeycomb was back in time to call the one race on the racecard that the Captain couldn't call by himself. "Ladies and gentlemen," she said, "this may be the race that will steal the show. Four teams of two, forty laps of track but only one title on the line. In one corner you have Duchess of Drag, Penny Potgieter reuniting with Dime."
"A hostile reuniting if there ever was one," added the Captain. "And you have to imagine the drag race that Penny just had will affect her performance here so perhaps we'll see her taking the even-numbered laps."
"In another corner, we have former Relay Barons, Longitude & Latitude."
"That's right. Longs & Lats are surely the crowd favourites as they look to regain the titles they lost just a month ago which, up until then, they'd held for a full year."
"That's right. In the third corner, Captain, we have Blackcat Mathunzi teaming up with the racer that defeated him earlier tonight, Darcy Stevens."
"It will be interesting to see what strategy that these two develop for this one considering that they're in a heated rivalry of their own."
"Indeed it will be interesting but not as interesting as it will be to see if the reigning and defending Relay Baronesses, Brenda & Doris Koek, will come out of this with their titles."
The race was a spectacular showcase of what Formula-X was all about as everyone was cheering with every overtake and out of their minds when one of the racers pulled an impressive move. As he'd predicted, Longitude & Latitude were leaders for a majority of the race, eager to regain their most prized possessions and being brothers, they were in tune with every lap switch. However, Brenda and Doris proved that their sister bond was more powerful than Longs & Lats' brother bond when they did the unthinkable and retained their titles.
THE GAUNTLET RACE
Captain Khumalo had to admit it: this, this was the race that sold Show-Down in Durban for him. While the feature race was what it was all about, this gauntlet race was what this event would be remembered for, for the rest of time. In the Captain's mind, this race was what made Formula-X special. Miss Honeycomb introduced it perfectly: one racer runs the gauntlet taking on three racers one after the other with each having ten laps to defeat the gauntlet runner.
Captain Khumalo added. "Now what I find very interesting about this race is that it's not particularly important that the gauntlet runner lead every phase of the race. He need only win laps ten, twenty, and thirty: each the final laps in the corresponding phases and I personally believe that Solo Magubane is going to do it."
"Yes," said Miss Honeycomb in complete agreement. "And not just that but Solo could very well be immortalized as a legend after this one and catapult himself back into the title picture."
"But that's if he survives the gauntlet. And that's already going to be a tough nut to crack when you look at who he's up against."
"That's right, Captain. The gauntleteers, as they're called, are Thawn Oberhauser, Styles Sithole, and Juan van Zonder in that order. Now here's the question, which one of these gauntleteers has the best spot? Is it 'The Impaler' going first? Styles, getting Solo after his first ten laps? Or is it Jay-Vee-Zed who will go last after Solo's been through twenty laps with no breaks?"
Everyone watching knew that they were watching something special and while it took them a while to get into it, with almost everyone thinking Solo had won when he beat Thawn, they began to figure it out when Solo crossed the line first in the 20th lap. So, by the time he was facing off with JVZ, they were on their feet in anticipation and lost their minds when Solo pulled it off and was announced as the winner of 'Gauntlet One'.
"Gauntlet One?" said Belinda Baartjies entering the office. "That's unique. Does that mean there'll be a 'Gauntlet Two'?"
"Hello Belinda," said the Captain. "I'm glad that you accepted our invitation. How do you feel about being a guest commentator for the feature race?" Belinda responded by simply smiling.
KING JOHN KLOOF vs. MANDLA XULU vs. JIM KIECK
Before they could get started calling the race, Belinda decided to pick at the Captain. "So I heard that Sherry tried to seduce you. Do you wanna comment on that?"
Captain Khumalo couldn't believe the audacity of these F-X reporters. First Sherry and now Belinda was trying to get a story. But this time, the Captain managed his anger and even managed to quip. "And I heard Jim Kieck successfully seduced you. Do you wanna comment about that?"
Belinda laughed, clearly impressed with his ability to banter at will. "Fair point. But you have to admit, for a woman in her mid-forties, she had a banging body right?"
When he didn't answer, Miss Honeycomb responded. "He didn't even look at her. But if my two cents count, I have to say that if I had abs like hers, I'd probably be in a different line of work like fitness modelling."
Captain Khumalo audibly sighed, rolling his eyes. "If we're done sexualizing each other, can we get back to the racing action?" The Captain didn't wait for the answer. "Now Belinda, we brought you up here because you've been covering the ongoing protesting known as Amandla's Rebellion. What can you tell us about the atmosphere out there?"
"Well, first of all, I'm hard-pressed to call it protesting because these fans are not nearly as rowdy as the kind of protests that we're used to in this country." Amandla's Rebellion was an overall strange time in the series as Mandla's rampant fans were eagerly trying to get him back on the Formula-X Throne. "But I have to say that, as it stands, this one could get ugly if John Kloof, or worse, Jim Kieck come out victorious. Because I just don't know how the fans on the mainland will react if Mandla doesn't win."
"Mmhmm, and do you believe that Jim Kieck actually has a shot in your opinion?"
"I think he's definitely the dark horse," said Belinda.
"Mmhmm, Miss Honeycomb?"
"Oh, my money is on the Formula-X King. He has experience in keeping his title and he has experience in three-way races in case you've forgotten the awesome three-way he won against Stevie and Solo late last season."
"Yes, he does. Anyway, the racers are on the track and it's time to get to it." As the race got on the way, Captain Khumalo found his mind sliding to Sherry and what these ladies had said about her. While he hadn't checked her out, he was amused by this idea that she was in shape at her age. The Captain had to shake his head of these dirty thoughts and focus on the race.
It was a beautiful race as Mandla took advantage of the King fighting with Jim. While it had taken half the race for Kloof to shake off Jim, he eventually overtook Mandla late in the race. While the victory was hard-fought, in the end, King Kloof successfully defended his title with Mandla only narrowly coming in second. Once again, the crowd went silent, not sure what to make of this. However, the complexion seemed to change when Mandla came face to face with King Kloof before he entered the Winner's Circle. It looked like it was about to become a fight when Mandla suddenly extended his hand and King Kloof shook it.
"Well it would appear that this rivalry has finally come to an end," said Belinda, surmizing this series of events.
The Captain agreed. "Indeed. This ladies and gentlemen, is Mandla Xulu acknowledging the Formula-X King as the better driver. Now, it will be interesting to see if Jim Kieck will finally get his one-on-one title shot."
Glen had offered the Captain a ride back to the airport earlier so he didn't have to look for him after the event. As Glen drove, he had a smile seemingly permanently etched on his face. The Captain asked him about it. "Oh, it's just that I heard about Sherry trying to seduce you."
The Captain rolled his eyes. "Jissis rumors spread fast around here, hey."
"And I heard that you resisted the urge. I'm impressed."
"Are you? Because most men I know would think me an idiot."
"Well considering that she planned on recording your... Whatever, I wouldn't say that you were an idiot at all. Bravo. But I am curious if you ever thought about it."
"No," said the Captain quickly. When this response earned a long look from Glen, he elaborated. "I told you that I'm not interested in drama. And I knew that getting involved with her would only lead to articles being written about me. And if these reporters are writing about me then they're not writing about the racing."
"But man, what an article it would have been? I mean it doesn't get any juicier than 'famed Academy Captain getting it on with Formula-X's own intrepid reporter'. Now that's sports entertainment."
This successfully earned a smile from the Captain. "Well I'll do the sports and you guys can do the entertainment from here on out. Deal?"