12th of December – Season 3
Toney had never liked the rain so when she saw that it had seized up last night, she was very happy. She would have hated for the pay-per-view to be postponed. But alas, the show would go on. But if the show would go on, then it meant she would need to get a story. And this time, she wasn't interested in backstabbing or fighting with her fellow F-X reporters over an article. This left her with a conundrum. She needed a captivating story and she wasn't going to be underhanded to get it.
As Toney made her way to the PPV street circuit with her daughter, Katlego, she thought about what she needed to do when Katty – as she preferred to be known – gave her an idea. "Ma, I always wanted to know. Is being a journalist as dangerous as it seems on TV?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well those journalists on Special Assignment and Carte Blanch always seem one step short of being beaten up. I just wanted to know, does it ever get that way with what you do at Formula-X?"
"No. But that's mostly because what we do isn't investigative reporting. So, there's less danger. We don't sneak around, eavesdropping, reading people's messages, and listening in on people's conversations."
Katty nodded, understanding before a sneaky thought occured to her. "Well have you ever tried? You know, being an investigative reporter? Just once. Have you ever tried doing some investigative journalism? Imagine the kind of secrets you could uncover."
That was enough said. Toney knew what she was going to do. For one night only, she would become an investigative reporter.
LATER AT THE PPV STREET CIRCUIT
Toney was shocked when she stumbled on her first source almost immediately upon arriving. It was Elenor Coetzee. The young Events Organiser had asked a simple question that sparked a thousand more for Toney. Ellie wanted to know if she knew anything about her job being in danger. Why would she be worried about her job? That had been the first question. It would not be the last. Believing that Ellie couldn't possibly be the only committee member fearing for her job, Toney approached Zandile Mthetwa – the Club Treasurer – who had shocking news to tell her.
"Moodswing's imbezzling what!?" Toney realized she might have spoken too loud and looked around to see if anyone heard them. They were currently in the parking lot where fans were still making their way to the stands. Fortunately, no one had heard.
"He's moving money around," explained Zandi. Toney asked from where to where. "Well, for one thing, the ticket sales are supposed to be immediately placed in the Formula-X cheque account. That's not happening."
"Okay. Where's he putting it?" Toney was a bit anxious. She wanted to hear Zandi say it: that Moodswing was putting money into a private account. But Zandi disappointed her.
"Into the Club's thirty-two day investment account." Zandi saw the disappointment in Toney's face. "What? He's not supposed to do that. He's hiding the money there. He's hiding it in plain sight. Because even if the committee asks him for the money and he points out that it's there, there's nothing anyone can do for more than a calendar month."
"It doesn't matter even if that's true. As long as it's still in a Formula-X Club bank account, then it's not embezzling."
"So, does that mean you can't write an article about that?"
Toney was already shaking her head. "Not unless there's more to it. I mean, how is that connected to all of you fearing for your jobs?"
"Well, it has to be connected, right?"
"Because, Toney, there's a war coming." Zandi must have expected this to be a bomb but when she saw that it hadn't landed, she came close to whisper to her. "Apparently, Moodswing is scared that Glen is gunning for his job so he's hiding the money from him. He's testing our loyalty to see who he can rely on when it comes to choosing sides. Don't you see that?"
Toney didn't answer but strangely enough, she did see that. While she couldn't use any of this, she had to acknowledge that it did make sense. But if she was going to find out more, then she was going to need to investigate, interview some of the other racers, perhaps.
SAVANA vs. LONGITUDE & LATITIDE
By the time the opening race got underway, Toney had already made some headway by interviewing 'The Dojo' moments before the race. Toney wanted to find out more about Savana's recruiting. What Toney had found out was that Moodswing had discovered her at a racetrack after asking the track owner about her. One thing that stood out about Moodswing's questions was that they seemed to have been focused on the fact that Savana was from North Africa. 'Apparently he wanted to know if I was born and bred in the Saharan Desert," she'd said.
From this, Toney gathered that Savana's recruitment was a strategy on Moodswing's part. It was clear that Savana's talent was only the secondary objective. The primary objective was her international appeal. Fortunately, by the looks of this race, Moodswing had accidently hit paydirt because Savana had talent. So much so that she defeated two former two-time Relay Barons. Toney wondered who else Moodswing had brought on for pseudo-political reasons seemingly to be on his side.
"Rothschild," greeted Toney. Wikus wasn't Toney's favorite person since late last season due to using her ex-husband's debut and stirring drama all in the name breaking a story.
Wikus, ever the mild-mannered reporter, just didn't have it in him to stand up for himself. "I heard you were writing a story about Moodswing."
Dammit. Why couldn't sources just keep their mouth shut? "Who told you that?"
Wikus didn't bother telling her. "Do you think that's such a good idea? I mean, it could get you fired."
"I don't see why that's any of your business."
Wikus realized that there was no changing Toney's mind. "Well if you're certain about doing this, then I might be able to help you." This earned a curious look from Toney but no words. Wikus continued. "I recently heard that Moodswing is manipulating racecards for some reason."
"What reason is that?"
"I think it has something to do with wanting to make the series in his image. Fuel, the pay-per-views, all of it. That's why he created the Formula-X Cup, the Speedway Derby, and the feature races, all of it. He's manipulating everything."
"Technically, that's not exactly illegal. Short of fixing races, this information means nothing. How many times have we been told that this is like a reality show? That means soft-scripting is allowed. So why are you telling me?"
"Because if you're doing this then surely you need to get to the bottom of it before Moodswing does something that's not allowed. Don't you think?"
THE OTHER SUPPORT RACES
Wikus' words had remained in Toney's head with the next race actually cementing the idea in Toney's mind, particularly Penny and her rise through the ranks. It had all started when she coined the term 'Women's Dynasty' at the beginning of the season and went on to challenge and defeat former F-X Kings. Jim Kieck was the latest in line and Penny looked hellbent on cementing her legacy on her way to the top. But Toney wondered why Penny was succeeding so much. Was it possible that Moodswing had paved the way?
However, Toney almost immediately decided that this wasn't the case as she watched Penny stand toe-to-toe with Jim and even outclass him as they battled it out. It was clear that she had earned her spot. She also had the fandom on her side which was strange considering that it was known that she didn't give a damn about them. Unfortunately, Toney didn't really get a chance to see the ending because an argument in a hallway caught her attention.
While the two people arguing tried to keep a low profile and speak in hushed voices, they were not quiet enough for someone like Toney who was on the hunt for a story. The two people arguing: Terrance and Angela Moodley.
"Please, Terrance. You can't do this. Formula-X needs both of you."
"No. It just needs me. I dreamed it; I created. Formula-X belongs to me. Glen is just a means to an end. He's expendable; replaceable. Me, I'm inevitable."
"You're wrong. And getting rid of him is wrong."
Moodswing scoffed. "Who said anything about getting rid of him? I'm just trying to make sure I remain Club President."
"I'm not lying. But even if I was, all of this isn't my fault. You're the one that started this ball rolling. Well now, you have to live with it. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a pay-per-view to run."
When Moodswing had walked away, Toney decided to take advantage and approached Angela who quickly wiped away a tear when she saw Toney. "Angela. Is this is a bad time?"
"Kinda." Instead of admitting what was really wrong, Angela switched gears. "Aren't the Relay titles on the line? We should go and show our support." When Angela tried to walk away, Toney gently held her arm. "Angela. Tell me what's going on?"
Angela looked at Toney's hand then her eyes and realized that there was no fooling the reporter. "This one is not for the newsletter," she said shaking her head. "Let it go." Angela was looking back at the hand-making her sentence ambiguous.
"If what's going is actually going on, then I can't do that."
"And what do you think is going on?"
"I think that Moodswing is playing politics to keep his position. I think he's willing to bury Glen to do it. And I know he's threatening to boot any committee member who doesn't do his bidding. Am I close?"
Angela didn't answer immediately as the sound of the relay teams making their way onto the racetrack went on in the background. They heard the boos when reigning monarchs, Blackcat Mathunzi and Fiona went on, and the cheers when Doris and Teresa Koek went on. It was only after the race began that Angela spoke again.
"I made a bad mistake. Remember when I mentioned Moodswing's past with illegal racing? Well, there was a side-effect."
"You call your husband becoming a prick, a side-effect?"
She was shaking her head. "That didn't happen overnight. Moodswing's tyranny truly started when the shareholders heard what I said and confronted him. They told him that this news becoming public was bad press. And then they gave him an ultimatum: double the ratings or they'll pull their funding. And that's why Terrance has seemingly gone crazy."
While it was beginning to make sense, Toney wasn't satisfied feeling that this was only backstory. "So that's why he's threatening to fire people and trying to get rid of Glen?"
"He's trying to get rid of anyone who can stop him. But it's not just about the ratings or retaining their funding, it's also about staying in charge. He's fighting a war on two fronts. One to keep Formula-X up and running and another to ensure that he remains in charge."
Now Toney understood. However, she still felt this entire thing felt wrong. "You can't tell me that you think that justifies Moodswing getting rid of Glen and tormenting his committee."
Angela shook her head. "It doesn't but I can't stop him either." Angela knew Toney was going to ask 'why'. "If you take Moodswing down then there's a good chance Formua-X will fall."
"But you said it yourself, Angela. Formula-X needs both Glen and Moodswing. You need to tell Glen what's up. Maybe he can help with the ratings maybe—" Angela suddenly grabbed Toney.
"No. You can't tell Glen. You can't. Don't you get it, Toney? This is all happening because of me. If you tell him what's happening, he'll blame me."
However, Toney wasn't so convinced. "You don't know that." Toney then walked away, starting her search for Glen.
THE FORMULA-X TITLE RACE
By the time Toney caught up to Glen, Doris and Teresa had been crowned the new Relay Baronesses and Plain Jane Deyi had retained her Duchess of Drag title against Juan van Zonder. That meant it was now time for Queen Stevie to defend her title against Touch Mkhize and Devì. But before that race got underway, Toney found Glen and told her what Moodswing was up to.
"What a fool I am for not even noticing what's been going on around here for so long," said Glen. "And here I thought Moodswing was just on a sports opera high or something."
"Glen, what are you going to do. Good people on that committee could end up losing their positions because of this."
"Because of me, I think you mean. I'm the only true threat on that committee. If I'm not there, Moodswing wouldn't pay anyone else any attention. But the idea that I might be voted in as Club President scares him. And for good reason."
"I disagree. He thinks if you're in power that it would spell the end of the franchise. Do you believe that?" Glen shook his head. "Then fight for it, Glen. Fight for it, win Club President and take this series into the future."
"Oh that's what I intend to do. But to do that, I need soldiers, Toney." That's when he looked down to the racetrack where the three-way was about to begin. Glen saw that Toney didn't understand. "This isn't a normal war, Toney. I can't bully, buy or cheat my opponent. This is sports politics which means the pieces on the board are the racers. What I need, is to get the best racers as allies. Once I have that, I will have influence. Influence I can use to become Club President and influence to grow this place even more than it has."
Toney was following but that left one more question. "So, who are you going to throw your weight behind in this race?"
"Stevie," said Glen without thinking. "I've known her the longest and I know how good she is. I believe in her and I think she'll side with me. Also, I think she'll retain here tonight."
And while the trio racing down on the street circuit couldn't know it, this race had just become much more interesting now that there were major stakes attached. Suddenly, it felt like the fate of the franchise was on the line. Toney wondered if it was in her head but the three-way race was phenomenal. Right off the mark, Touch showed that he had something to prove by taking the lead in the first third of the race followed by Devi and Queen Stevie in the rear.
As the ninth lap approached, Devi made a move for the #1 spot only for the F-X Queen to snatch her opportunity and capture the lead going into the second Third. Laps 10 to 20 saw a fury of overtakes as Devi — not to be outdone by the Queen — captured the lead in her own right before Queen Stevie regained it and in her effort to keep Devi from taking it back, Touch passed them by to take it back.
As the only man in the title feature-race, the ‘Host of Boast’ felt like the odd man out and the crowd seemed to sense that as there was an uneasiness in the audience as Touch rode the #1 spot into the final third. However, the emotion of the crowd shifted when Queen Stevie regained the lead in the twenty-third lap before temporarily losing it to Devi in the twenty-sixth only to regain it and keep it in the twenty-seventh. As Glen had predicted, Queen Stevie had retained her title.
Wow! Toney was beside herself. That was the best title race that Toney had seen to date and that was including the two previous Grand Prix feature races. But there was still a mission for Glen. "Well I guess you now have a powerful ally," said Toney, smiling when she noted the imagery. "And the Queen is the most powerful piece on the chessboard."
However, Glen wasn't as convinced. "I'm not ready to count my chickens just yet. I may have the Queen, presumably, but Moodswing still has moves he can make."
If you have the Queen, who could Moodswing possibly have? "What moves are those?"
Glen answered clinically. "This isn't just about having a powerful racer on your side, Toney, to just parade around and say 'hey, look who's on my team'. This is about having someone who can showcase what your sport is all about. In gridiron football, they call that a franchise player. And sometimes, the franchise player isn't the champion."
Toney thought of Solo Magubane who, in the first season already, had been called the franchise player of the series even though he didn't win the title until the second season. So, maybe Glen had a point. "Okay, so what is Moodswing's move?" Glen simply pointed at the racers preparing to take to the racetrack. There were six of them: the nominees for the Formula-X Cup!
THE FORMULA-X CUP RACE
Toney understood what Glen was saying. After the way Moodswing had built this race up — a race comprised of racers who had put in award-winning performances throughout the year — there was no way that the winner of the race could be ignored. There was a reason that this was the main event of the night. This was the biggest race of the year! It was a spectacle just watching Solo, Styles, Mandla, Brenda, Thawn and Dime ready themselves on the starting grid. Only the Scramble Race at the beginning of the year was bigger.
The race began with Thawn showing that he meant business. However, Mandla and Brenda showed that they were no slouches by contending for First Place like their lives depended on it, or at least their careers. And they might as well have. Toney swore that the winner was guaranteed a title shot the way they were fighting. Even Dime was in it to win it. Who knows, maybe the winner would get a title shot. They would surely deserve it the way this was going. It was vehicular warfare down there.
Eventually, Solo made his presence felt and was leading as the halfway point came about. Toney noticed Glen react positively to this. It was clear who he was backing and why not. Surely Solo would be the last person that would be a pawn for Moodswing. Glen flinched and Toney saw why as Thawn overtook Solo and controlled the race. If he won, that would spell certain disaster. There was no way Thawn wouldn't side with Moodswing.
Fortunately, the tide turned and Solo took back the lead and held onto it tightly eventually winning which put a broad smile on Glen's face. This was clearly the result he wanted.
"So, how's the story going?" It was Ellie asking. But Toney's lack of an answer was all she needed to know. "That's what I thought. So the war's begun then?"
Toney wasn't surprised that Ellie presumed that it would come to this. She must have known that she was just a pawn. Perhaps all of this was just a means of taking that war out of the shadow and into the light. "Yes, the war has begun."