30th of April – Season 3
“If you’re standing here tonight, then you’re part of the rebellion.” Angela’s words were filled with passion as she spoke to the small group of people in front of her. “If you’re standing here tonight, then you want what I want, which is to save Formula-X from self-destructing, which it will if my husband and your boss continues to go on unchecked.”
Elenor Coetzee was one of the people listening to Angela and looked at the others in the room, wondering if this was a joke. “This is it? Your rebellion consists of me, an F-X reporter, a color commentator, and a couple of secondary club committee members?” While Beatrix and Toney didn’t flinch, Thando and Bandile gave Ellie a look, with one of them taking exception.
“Excuse me. Who are you calling secondary?”
“Relax Bandile,” said Thando. “I’m sure she didn’t mean anything by that.” While Thando was seemingly defending Ellie, it was well known that they were not getting along these days.
“Remember, you’re on the same side,” said Angela. “And rest assured, this is just the beginning.”
“Okay, and how do we begin?” asked Bandile. “How do the five of us change anything?”
“We begin by beating Terrance at his own game,” said Angela.
Bandile looked around and noticed that everyone else seemed to already know what she was talking about. “Okay, and what game is that?”
They all shared a look before Angela answered. “Human chess.”
AT THE PPV RACETRACK
While he’d been upset at being called it, the truth was that Bandile Khoza was a secondary committee member with his job being to assist the primary committee members like the treasurer or events organizer. It was a job he’d been happy with because his ambitions didn’t lie in sports management but in racing and this was simply a means to an end. But then Moodswing had to go and make that speech, declaring himself Club President for life or whatever and freezing the committee positions for the foreseeable future.
That was the reason that he’d joined up with Angela. He didn’t want to be stuck and he believed that her way offered him a way forward. But now she was talking about playing human chess with the man? How long was that going to take?
Even now, Bandile was hard-pressed to understand the plan. As it stood, Bandile was meant to simply go about his business which was, thankfully, to assist Ellie these days. This meant that Ellie could help him understand this human chess that was going on.
“It’s quite simple, actually,” explained Ellie. “Glen is the white king and Moodswing is the black: the most important pieces on the board. Stevie is Glen’s white queen while Deak is Moodswing’s because he serves the greatest threat to Glen’s queen. It used to be Brenda but then she traded her ‘speeding ticket’ for a shot at the title on pay-per-view where she lost.”
“So Deak is a queen, even though he’s a guy?”
“The queen is the most important piece on the board, gender be damned. So don’t knock it, Deak is important. And the centerpiece of Angela’s plan.”
“What? What plan?”
Ellie realized that she might have said too much. “It doesn’t matter. What does matter, is our part. We have to fool Moodswing and his allies into believing that our plans are other than what they are.”
Ellie pointed to the racetrack where Brenda was having one last talk with Jim Kieck – her partner for the night – before their relay title race against Thawn and Savana.
THE BATTLE OF THE SUPER COUPLES
Thando had been watching the opening race alongside Zandile Mthethwa, impressed with the fast-paced nature of the three-on-three relay race. It saw Brenda, Doris, and Teresa Koek working like a well-oiled machine, switching off effortlessly and making up for each other’s weaknesses. However, Thando was even more surprised by how well Blackcat, Fiona, and Dime were working together. While it had been a while since Thando had gotten to do some freelance racing down on the track, her brain still worked like a racer and she could almost predict the moves the racers were going to make.
“Hey Two-Bar,” said Zandi, calling her by her racer name. “Stop daydreaming and let’s work huh.”
Thando followed Zandi as they made their way through the makeshift paddock. “You know I wasn’t daydreaming, right?”
Zandi didn’t even look at her as they walked. “Really? You dream of being a racer and it's the middle of the day. There’s an argument to be made that you’re always daydreaming. Unfortunately, it isn’t our job to watch the races. It’s our job to keep today’s costs down to a minimum. So, I’m sorry but if you want to know the outcome of a race, you’re going to have to buy the pay-per-view.”
“Fair enough. So, where are we going? I thought the bulk of our job happened before and directly after the event. What costly expense could have come up now?”
“An untimely one,” said Zandi, unhelpfully.
Thando picked up on her general disgruntled demeanor. “What’s bothering you?”
“Nothing,” she lied. Seeing that Thando wasn’t buying the lie, she continued. “It’s just that… when was the last time you heard from Ellie? I feel like I haven't seen her in ages.”
This was awkward for Thando because she knew exactly why that was the case. “I didn’t know you two were friends.”
“I believe the appropriate term would be ‘work friends’ but I don’t think our lack of deeper friendship is what’s keeping her from me. I think she’s up to something.”
This got Thando’s guard up. “What makes you say that?”
“Well, the last time we spoke it was about Moodswing and his megalomaniacal shenanigans and now she’s avoiding me. I just hope she isn’t doing anything shady because right now, the best thing to do is keep our heads down. And that’s advice for you too, by the way.”
Thando had no idea how to respond, so she was glad when they got to the paddock and she didn’t have to due to the distraction of what was going on. Although considering that what was going on was directly due to Ellie doing something shady, Thando didn’t know if this was better or worse.
Currently, there was an argument going on between Moodswing and the pair of Plain Jane and Touch. “We want in on that Relay Title race.”
“That’s not happening. The racecard is set. Thawn and Savana will defend against Brenda and Jim. It’s the race we’ve been building up to for an entire month now. What makes you think you can just come here and demand a change to my racecard?”
“Maybe because it’s not your racecard,” said Glen, seemingly overeager to disagree with Moodswing. “This pay-per-view belongs to the people who bought it.”
“I’d beg to differ but begging is your sort of thing, isn’t it?”
Glen took the high road and ignored Moodswing’s dig. “I think including Plain Jane and Touch is a good thing, Moodswing, professionally speaking.”
“Yes. Think about it: this race has been billed as ‘Battle of the Super Couples’, right? Well, Plain Jane and Touch are a couple so it’s not out of place to have them involved.”
“Mhmm. And what about the fact that Plain Jane already has a race?”
“So does Brenda. This would be her second race, remember?”
Moodswing’s lack of quick response was telling as he was forced to revert to the obvious. “And what of the fact that we spent weeks building to the race on the card?”
To this Glen shrugged his shoulders. “Whatever happened to your sense of suspense, Moodswing? C’mon, let them in on the race. Be unpredictable.”
Moodswing thought about it for a moment before nodding subtly and then leaving. While Thando and Zandi worked on the financial implications of the now-three-way relay race, Thando thought about how well the first stage of the plan worked as the three teams took their spots on the racetrack. It had all been a con to make Moodswing believe that Glen’s plan to steal his presidency had something to do with this race.
The race itself was titanic with the crowd eating up every second of the action. As it turned out, the decision had been a universally beloved one. It had added a new wrinkle to the rivalry giving Thawn and Savana a new challenge to overcome which they appeared to be up to. But while the race raged on, Zandi was smelling a rat.
“Hmm, white knight to black rook.” Zandi had clearly meant to say the words under her breath.
“What was that?”
“Oh nothing, just a metaphor.” Zandi elaborated. “Moodswing and Glen are playing human chess with the racers and I think Glen just made a bold move. I think Plain Jane and Touch are his white knights and he just announced that he’s about to take out Moodswing’s castles,” she said, pointing to Thawn and Savana.
While Thando knew better, she was intrigued to hear Zandi’s theory and wanted to hear more. “Moodswing’s castles?”
“Yeah. Well, judging by the sheer amount of screen time he’s given them not to mention everything seems to revolve around the ‘Millionaire Affair’, it only reasons that not only are they in league with Moodswing in this war but they’re also his unmovable lines of defense, just like…”
“Castles.” The metaphor was brilliant and, despite Zandi grabbing the wrong end of the stick, quite accurate. However, Moodswing’s rooks were the last thing Angela was after. Not by any stretch of the imagination…
TWELVE ROUNDS OF POWER
Toney Kunene had never really liked liars. That was one of the reasons that she took up journalism. And that was the reason she was part of Angela’s rebellion. Unfortunately, Toney was hard-pressed to understand her role in the rebellion. That was until she was approached by Angela just before the 12 Rounds Derby.
“Angela,” greeted Toney. “You’re smiling so I take it, all goes well.”
“Oh yes, all goes well. The knights have attacked the castles and the rooks have been forced to move. So, are you ready to play your part?”
“What part is that?”
“We’re fighting a war on multiple fronts here, Toney, and one of those fights is a preventive fight.” She elaborated. “I believe that Devì is going to give her winnings to Terrance who is going to use them to buy one of Glen’s racers.”
“What? Why? Doesn’t he have plenty of his own money to do that?”
“Not anymore. Not after your article shed light on his alleged embezzlement.”
“You mean the article I didn’t write? Angela, I couldn’t prove anything.”
“It doesn’t matter. Just the idea of you snooping around was enough to make him behave. Well, I want you to do it again. Interview Devì. Collaborate her intentions for the money so that she's forced to live up to her own word.” Angela was smart enough to read the room and noticed Toney’s reluctance in all of this. “What’s wrong, Toney? If you’re not onboard…”
“...No, no it’s not that. It’s just,” Toney sighed, “evil dictators; rebellions, knights, castles? This is all starting to sound more like Star Wars than Formula-X.”
“Huh. Well, I would have gone with Game of Thrones but point taken. I get that you didn’t sign up for all of this, but what I’m trying to do is make sure that there is a Formula-X next year.”
“I get that, which is why I signed up in the first place. But, I only ask that once this is over and Moodswing is no longer president, can we leave all this fantasy stuff behind us.”
“Oh we will,” said Angela with conviction, “when democracy is restored.”
As the conversation came to a close and Toney headed to find Devì, she thought about Angela’s last words and laughed. Angela had made it sound like they were freedom fighters in the struggle all over again. Did her husband form such a threat to her?
“What am I going to use the money for? Well that’s none of your business, is it?”
“But come on, Devì. The people want to know. You don’t want to let the people down, do you?”
Devì gave Toney a narrow-eyed look and in the space of a few seconds, they played a mental game of blitz chess where it was clear that Devì knew what Toney wanted to hear and she also knew that Toney knew, making it clear that her best option was to say nothing: give no cause for anyone to accuse her of perjuring herself. “No comment.”
“That’s too bad. It would have made one hell of an article if you won.”
“Oh, I am going to win. In fact, I’m so sure of myself that I’ll make a deal with you. If I lose, I’ll tell you exactly what you want to hear. You know: loser to loser.” The words made Toney clench her jaw which made Devì smile. But that wasn’t the big story here. Once again, Devì knew that Toney knew what she was talking about.
Toney swallowed the insult and shrugged. “I guess that’s the best I can hope for.” Of course, it had never been part of the plan to actually get Devì to confess; just to get Moodswing’s guard up that the plan was being uncovered. And it worked too as both Glen and Moodswing had walked into her paddock space looking for her just as they finished talking.
“Toney,” said Moodswing, “why are you bothering my racers just before a race? You know better than to mess with my schedule.”
“There you go with the ‘my’ thing again,” said Glen, continuing towards Devì.
“I’m sorry, Moodswing,” said Toney. “I just had one thing I had to ask her for my article.”
“What article is that? You know full well that any and all newsletter articles are run past me before being published.”
“Chill Moodswing. I’m still just writing it. I haven’t actually published anything.”
“And you won’t be publishing anything. Not on Devì. Sherry will be covering this race.”
“Sherry? But why, there’s no scandal here?”
“There is no rule that says she can only report on scandals. You will be reporting on the Koeks.”
“And say what, Moodswing? There’s no storyline there?”
“Well, I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”
Toney pretended to be in a foul mood all the way until she was out of Moodswing’s line of sight and reunited with Angela. “So, did he fall for it?”
“Hook, line, and sinker. Although, it did cost me a good story to do it.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Nah, don’t worry about it. Just, also, don’t judge me for what I’m going to do,” said Toney, gritting her teeth, playfully.
“Why? What are you going to do?”
“Insight a rivalry. I think Devì can afford to be taken down a peg or two.”
Angela’s eyebrows rose. “Okay. Well, she just might be taken down that peg now.”
That was true, made even better by Devì’s own promise. “Here’s to hoping.”
The contest was spectacular with high drama right from the word go. It started with Devì taking her first three rounds before John Kloof bounced back with two of his own in Lap 4 and 5. Devì would capture the lead again and take another three rounds putting Kloof in a do-or-die situation. Fortunately, he took the lead again and managed to do the impossible: he took another three rounds back-to-back putting the score at 6-6 in Lap 12. The suspense in the crowd was at a fever pitch as they waited to see who would win the first-ever sudden death lap. In the end, Devì found her gap and came out the victor.
Angela saw that this bumbed Toney out. “Not to worry, Toney. The plan is still afoot. They’re playing right into our hands.”
“Right. So, what's the next step?”
“Our next step is something of a long con. But for this, I’m going to need the help of someone who grew up in this world…”
PLAYING DOUBLE DUTY
Beatrix Honeycomb always imagined being a spy as being exciting with globetrotting galore involving lots of fancy wine, food, and sex. Instead, from what she could tell, it merely involved saying one thing and doing another which seemed simple on the surface but was actually traumatizing internally, with allegiances being as simple as a point of view. In an effort to push through it, Beatrix thought of herself as someone who was simply playing double duty.
She saw herself as someone who had two jobs to do today: one as a commentator, and one as a negotiator. As far as she was concerned, it was no less different to what Brenda had done and what Plain Jane was doing now.
So far, Brenda had won her first race and lost her second. If the trend was to keep, since Plain Jane had also lost the relay title race, then she was set to win this race now: her Drag Title race. The racers were lined up for the straight shot and it was Beatrix’s job to add the color to the commentary. Being a natural, she spoke about how Plain Jane was having one hell of a rookie year and how she’d won the title in her debut race while also pointing out that Styles Sithole was looking for his first title in the series. She also spoke about Plain Jane’s experience factor against Styles’ advantage of having not already raced tonight. All textbook stuff. But where Beatrix was focused was on her secret texts with none other than Deacon de Villiers.
Deak de Villiers was the Number One Claimant to Queen Stevie’s Crown and also Beatrix’s primary mission for the night. It was fairly simple: all Beatrix had to do was make Deak an offer so good that he’d forfeit the race tonight and walk away. And since Beatrix had ample experience as a racing agent and all the Auto One connections to go with it, she’d been called up. But so far, Beatrix had come up short. And she was running out of time. In fact, the moment the lights went out for the drag race, Beatrix knew she’d failed.
Not a minute later, they were looking at a new Duchess (styled Duke) of Drag in Styles Sithole. And while everyone celebrated and Beatrix spouted a few words about Plain Jane’s reign coming to an end, internally she was panicking. She swallowed her shame and told Angela that she’d failed.
“Not to worry, Bee. I’ll take it from here.
Angela had not been worried when she got the phone call a minute ago from Beatrix. She hadn’t expected Deak to go for her offers at all. But it had laid the groundwork for her own offer.
“Let me get this straight,” said Deak in his raspy voice, still with a toothpick sticking out of his mouth despite being minutes away from racing, “you want me to win the title and then not do anything that Moodswing tells me to?”
“What game are you—”
Judging from her snappy answers, Deak could tell that Angela was in something of a rush which made Deak curious. “Human chess? And that makes me—”
“Ah. The most powerful piece on the board.”
“Yes. Now look, I don't have much time. Are you in or out? Because if you’re out then—”
“—I would have thought you’d throw your weight behind Stevie if you wanted to win this war between Glen and Moody.”
“Who said this has anything to do with Glen and Terrance’s war?”
This actually made Deak laugh something sinister. “Lucky for you, I love to misbehave. Count me in. But, in exchange, I want what Honeycomb promised me: a tryout for Team Shell in the winter.”
“You got it. Now go out there and win.”
The anticipation for the main event of the night was off the charts and it was abundantly clear that Stevie was the favorite. Angela felt bad that this part of the plan relied on Stevie losing tonight. But it was the only way to keep Terrance off her real trail. Because the truth was, her true plan had nothing to do with this game of human chess.
“Enjoying the show?” Terrance snuck up behind her to whisper the question in her ear.
“Oh you know me: I’m a sucker for a good feature race.”
“Oh then you should be thrilled for what you're about to see,” he said, tracing his hands around her waist. “You will soon see the end of The Diamond’s reign, followed by the end of Glen’s pathetic attempt to overthrow me.” As Angela slid naturally into her husband’s embrace to watch the race, she thought about the stakes. While Stevie and Deak were jockeying for position throughout the first half of the race, neither of them knew just how big a deal this was.
If Stevie won, it would be seen as a sign of the series being liberated from Moodswing’s grasp, while if Deak won, it would see the Crown going back into Moodswing’s grasp and a continuation of the dark times. Unfortunately for both of them, Angela’s plans were bigger than this and neither of them could know.
“Dammit,” said Terrance as Stevie managed to put in an impressive move midway through the race that saw her extend her lead by a few seconds. It was as if Terrance was watching his whole world slip away and Angela knew why. She knew what he was up to and why it was important that whoever wore the Crown at the end of the season be on his side.
Fortunately (for Terrance), Deak proved to be a hell of a racer and closed the gap, so much so that by the last lap, he was neck-and-neck with the Formula-X Queen. And with everything on the line, it all came down to the wire with the finish being so close, a replay was needed. As they waited for someone to be declared the monarch, Terrance decided to do some evil gloating, that for Angela, came across as sexy as hell.
“So how does it feel, to watch this world you love so much now come fully in my grasp. Does it scare you: the idea of what I might do next?”
“You could never scare me Terrance. Because as long as there are people who will oppose you, you’ll never truly rule this franchise, not the way you wish you could.”
“We’ll see.” Not a second later, boos erupted as a new King was declared. Queen Stevie was no more. Terrance’s smile was the stuff of legend. “But for now my wife, enjoy the show because what comes next will be epic.”
While Terrance made his cocky exit, Angela couldn’t help but think about how masterfully her plan went. Terrance had bought it. He’d bought the idea that he’d won. He believed that he was victorious. But he could not be further from the truth because like the heroes who had won them their country, Angela knew that time was on her side and freedom was coming. It was coming!