The iCandidate: Looking for Heroes - 5th Installment
To begin with Installment 1, please click here.
The iCandidate is a unique interactive thriller about a political reality show to choose a potential President of the United States in which the reader has a key say in how the plot unfolds.
In The iCandidate, eight finalists from all walks of life face the kind of challenges they might have to deal with in the Oval Office:
• Will they use the nuclear button?
• What will they do about ISIS?
• How will they cope in a crisis?
At the end of each round the reader gets to cast an iVote to help determine who stays and who goes home. It is democracy in its purest form, free from party loyalties, donor obligations and antiquated electoral practices.
In the novel, serialized weekly on NoteStream, the eventual people’s champion goes on to challenge the political establishment in an iCampaign for the presidency climaxing in an explosive finale in Washington on November 8.
But The iCandidate has even greater aspirations to trigger a revolution in the way America selects the most powerful man or woman on the planet.
Change America one iVote at a time by choosing your iCandidate.
Join the NoteStream Book Club iCandidate: Looking For Heroes – Election 2016 and cast your in-app iVote to save your favorite iCandidates!
Watch out for the release of a second unique contemporary novel - DIVAS by Bill Wagner - this Spring.
"Setting up for an interesting ride. Diverse set if contestants. Looking forward to how they compete against each other" 5 stars by keith
NoteStreams are readable online but they’re even better in the free App!
The NoteStream™ app is for learning about things that interest you: from music to history, to classic literature or cocktails. NoteStreams are truly easy to read on your smartphone—so you can learn more about the world around you and start a fresh conversation.
For a list of all authors on NoteStream, click here.
Read the NoteStream below, or download the app and read it on the go!
Chapter 5 - The Judges
The stage manager was nodding frantically at Kristoff; she held up both hands and counted down from ten.
A buzz reverberated around the studio and everyone realized it was time. TEN, NINE, EIGHT...the last dab of powder...SEVEN, SIX, FIVE... everyone in their place.
Kristoff moved to the center of the stage, the crowd roared and then died as a voice boomed across the loudspeaker: “Complete silence please until the introductions are made”... FOUR, THREE, TWO, ONE...
The Journey Began
“Just six short weeks ago, the journey began,” said Kristoff. “One hundred and fifty thousand of you came forward to audition in states across America. You came from farms, towns and cities. Lawyers, actresses, bankers, cowboys, post office workers, athletes, teachers, doctors, and construction workers. Black, white, Latino, Asian, you all had a common purpose, a shared dream - knowing that given the chance you could make a difference and have your life mean so much more.”
It was pretty much the same speech he gave at the opening of StarStruck.
“You came, you tried, and 8 of you succeeded. Now, America, it’s come down to this. We have your eight finalists competing for a chance to achieve what only 43 people have done in history. We’re giving the winner an opportunity to seek the most powerful position on the planet. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to THE iCANDIDATE!”
The screaming and applause was deafening. Cameras panned wildly around the audience as fans jumped up and down waving banners covered in names and decorated with the pictures of the nation’s most talked about reality stars.
“Thank you. Thank you, everyone.
I have to thank you all for being here tonight.” Kristoff shouted over the noise, using his hands to try and bring the levels down.
“I also want to thank everyone for watching at home. We have been told that we are officially the number one watched show this season and we are just getting to the contest proper. We’re changing politics one iVote at a time.”
Kristoff walked quickly across to the giant plinth facing the stage. “Before we get going, I would like for you to meet my three incredible judges.” The camera crews kept trained on Kristoff.
“First, we have a man who knows a thing or two about the comings and goings at the White House, America’s former Vice President, Walter Penske.” Walter, a giant bear of a man, nodded his patrician head while his chest puffed out in acknowledgment of the applause. He wore a tux with white shirt and bow tie; he looked like he’d taken a wrong turn on the way to the opera.
“Our second judge is beautiful, talented, and, dare I say it on a family TV show, a little sexy? She is one of the country’s top lawyers and best known as former general counsel in the Bush administration. Please welcome my friend, the lovely, Jacqueline Toscane.”
The audience went crazy. With her expensively teased blonde hair and plunging necklines, Jacqueline was clearly a fan favorite, especially with the men. She responded with a smile toward the host and a wink at the camera.
“Lastly,” Kristoff put on his serious face, “I am honored to introduce a man who is not shy to voice his opinions. He is actively involved in charitable organizations around the world; he’s a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations, speaks at many rallies and meetings, sharing his political opinions with world leaders and anyone who will listen. He just happens to also be the lead singer for the multi-platinum rock band, Legacy. Please welcome, Rob Balfour!”
This time the screams drowned out any attempts to move the show along and Kristoff stepped back to enjoy the crowd’s excitement.
Rob looked like he'd just climbed out of bed; he pushed back on his chair and waved at the crowd.
When he could finally get his voice heard, Kristoff managed to ask the question that had been stuck on his auto-cue for what seemed like a lifetime.
“Rob, let me ask you, are you surprised how popular this show has become in such a short space of time?”
“No man, not at all. The iCandidate has captured the imagination of the people.
It lets you believe that we truly do live in a democracy. Hell, the winner could go on to become the next President of the United States. Dude, That’s crazy!”
“And Jacqueline. A political reality show? Why does it work?”
“You know Andy, everyone loves reality shows—I love them! But how many of them really affect our day-to-day lives? Sure it's cool to find a good singer or dancer, but to find someone who wants to change the world, someone who's in tune with the American people, and will listen to them, someone who's smart, politically astute and, of course, has millions of people behind them, now that’s what really matters.”
“Walter, you were Vice President back in the day,” Kristoff said.
“Do you think one of our eight finalists could fill your shoes, or the President’s for that matter?”
Walter moved his large frame forward in his seat, one hand rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “I don’t know if anyone back there has what it takes to lead our country, I’ll be honest. You have to be incredibly knowledgeable and sharp in the game of politics.”
“Like you, you mean,” Kristoff smiled.
“Of course!” he replied without a trace of humor.
Are They Ready?
“You’ve watched their journey, it’s been a tough battle to get where they are today. Do you think they're ready?” asked Kristoff.
Wait And See
“That remains to be seen,” said Walter. It’ll be interesting though.
I will say this to the people out there voting: America has quite a responsibility. ” Penske was clearly enjoying his moment. “Be very careful whom you give the power to. You don’t want it in the wrong hands.”
“Dramatic words indeed from our former Vice President,” Kristoff quickened the pace, heeding the anxious appeal in his earpiece to wrap it up.
“The contestants are going to have to show something very special to impress Walter. Thank you, judges for your thoughts. With that said, let’s introduce them America...your eight finalists.”
Chapter 6 – The Finalists
The curtains at the back of the stage swung open to reveal the silhouettes of the eight finalists standing in front of a massive American Flag. The National Anthem blasted out as the eight slowly walked forward to their assigned stools, smiling and waving.
Finally the crowd calmed down and Kristoff tried not to shout.
“Congratulations all of you. Now, I have good news and bad. The good news is you made it through to the final eight. The bad news is if you thought it was hard getting to this point, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Now you are really going to be tested. The challenges are going to get even tougher.
“You all know our iCandidates by now, but in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last few months, here they are.”
Kristoff walked across to where Todd Greenacre was standing at the other end of the stage. They shook hands.
The tech mogul wore a gray turtleneck and towered over Kristoff.
“Todd Greenacre is a man going somewhere, and he’s only 34-years-old. Todd’s hero is Bill Gates, but don’t let his casual good looks confuse you, he has swept through his opponents with all the ruthless skills of a born winner.”
Kristoff edged a little closer. “Todd, if you were accused of stepping on people to get ahead, how would you respond to that?”
Todd paused, looking deliberately around the audience, making eye contact with a few in the front row. “I’m not afraid to tell the truth if I believe in a cause. As Winston Churchill once said, ‘You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”
Born To Run
“It seems to me that life usually works out your way, Todd,” Kristoff said.
“I like to blow people away with my brilliance!” His expression didn’t change and the audience didn’t know how to react.
“You seem pretty intense, Todd. What do you do for fun?”
Todd seemed suddenly unnerved by the question.
“What’s your favorite movie,” Kristoff asked. “Your favorite song?”
Todd relaxed. “Star Wars,” he laughed. “The Empire Strikes Back.”
“And the song?”
“Bruce Springsteen…Born to Run.”
“Good choice,” shouted Rob. “I like him, he’s got taste.”
Kristoff joined the applause and turned to the next iCandidate.
Next up, from New York City, was Jennifer Flynt. A few boos were clearly heard amid the thunderous applause. The public relations powerhouse known for representing some of the biggest names in the fashion world was the contestant who’d attracted the most controversy - and the most hits on Google images. Kristoff was more than happy to move in closer.
“How’s your journey so far, Jennifer?” he asked her.
With not an ounce of fat on her 37-year-old figure, Jennifer’s straight blonde hair framed her perfectly made-up features.
“When I first entered this competition I truly thought I might run into some trouble keeping up with the more experienced contestants, but that hasn’t been the case at all.
If anything, it's exactly the opposite.” A collective murmuring of disapproval together with some appreciative oohs could be heard; Jennifer smiled and jutted her chin playfully.
“You seem to thrive on controversy,” Kristoff said. “So here’s a question for you; what public figure do you most despise?”
“Donald Trump. He’s tacky. And his hair…” She left the comment hanging in the air.
Image by BostonJerry, via Wikimedia Commons, (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Kristoff put his hand around her waist. “Funny, he speaks very highly of you.”
She shrugged. “Well, of course he would.”
“You don’t seem phased by anything, Jennifer. What’s your biggest fear?”
“That’s where you’ve got me, Andy.” She struck a pose. “All this takes a lot of time and effort. It would depress the hell out of me to be a Size 4. I’m sorry but it’s true.”
Again, the crowd’s reaction was mixed. One woman shouted out: “Have a burger - put some meat on those bones.”
Kristoff greeted Los Angeles native Rich Francombe like an old friend.
It was the way he liked to behave with other famous people. “You’ve surprised a lot of folks, making it this far, Rich.”
The 6-and-a-half-foot tall athlete turned on his megawatt smile and Kristoff watched the cogs turn as he struggled to find an answer. The 42-year-old football legend lifted his hand to his left eye, trying to disguise the familiar nervous twitch. His legendary career as a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback had required little more reading than the coach’s playbook. This show, so far, had involved way too much thinking for him.
“So, Rich, tell us a little about yourself. I know you’re a great student of football, but what kind of books does a guy like you read for fun?
“Which one, Rich?”
“There’s more than one?”
Kristoff coughed and slapped the sportsman on the shoulder. “Nice one, Rich. Let’s get serious for a second. Here’s one of the questions our voters sent in via NoteStream. If you had to make the choice, would you bomb North Korea or make peace with Putin?”
“Who’s Putin?” Rich shot back.
There was an awkward silence in the studio. “I’m just kidding. I’d bomb Korea, of course,” said Rich, furiously rubbing at his left eye.
Grace Conwright, 45, was the only African-American contestant.
She also had one of the most compelling stories. Never one to shy away from a TV “moment”, Kristoff put his arm around Grace’s slight shoulders.
“Everybody knows by now that you lost your parents. Your father, Steadman Conwright, was one of our best-loved Senators and a leading light in the struggle for equality. His death, along with your mother at the Freedom March in your home town of Chicago, shocked the world. I know how much they meant to you.” He paused a second. “They would be so proud of you, Grace.”
Lost For Words
Grace was wearing a white wrap around dress and coral pumps.
Her ebony hair was straight and cut to her chin, which accentuated her flawless skin and high cheekbones. The political science professor from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill looked young for her age and was more uncomfortable in the spotlight than her competitors.
She smiled, embarrassed. “That’s kind of you, Andy, but I don’t need any sympathy. She spoke in a soft, yet surprisingly firm voice. “I just want to carry on the work my parents gave their lives for.”
Kristoff was momentarily lost for words. He found real emotions tricky to handle.
Illustration by F. H. Townsend, 1868-1920
“Going back to our NoteStream questions,” he said, looking down at his tablet. “Favorite song? Favorite book?”
“I have loved Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte since I was a teenager at school and my all time favorite song has to be Marvin Gaye’s, Let’s Get It On.”
There was a burst of applause. “That’s my kind of woman,” said Jacqueline, clapping enthusiastically.
Gillian Lawfull was next.
Her unkempt chestnut, shoulder-length hair was pulled back in a loosely tied ponytail. She was wearing a simple blue dress and had fought off the makeup artist.
"If anybody thinks our only single-mom finalist from Seattle is a push-over, they haven’t been watching closely enough.” Kristoff introduced a clip of an earlier debate showing Gillian the nutritionist, 47, demolishing a cocky stockbroker in a debate on health reform.
“See that? He didn’t stand a chance. I’m sure he went home and sobbed after that pummeling.” Kristoff, back in control, feigned being afraid.
“Oh no, he was fine. We chatted afterwards, he gets dreadful migraines you know, so I gave him some complex B vitamins. Always does the trick,” she said with a smile.
Image by Ragesoss, (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Complex B Vitamins
She’s crazy, Kristoff thought to himself. “Your turn then, Gillian. What’s the trait you most deplore in others?”
“I can’t abide liars. That’s my pet peeve.”
“Not too keen on politicians then?” said Kristoff.
“Isn’t that why you came up with this show? We don’t need another Bill Clinton.”
“Excellent answer,” Kristoff was wrapping it up. “She’ll go far, America.”
Tom Jodes was the surprise survivor of the group.
He stood on stage in a lime green dress and a short, wavy brunette wig. Kristoff still wasn’t sure what to make of him.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, we found our sixth finalist at the Denver, Colorado auditions. Tom, do you think the fact that you, well…err, you prefer to dress as a woman will harm your chances of winning this competition?”
“Would you vote for a 61-year-old man who was pretty ugly even before he started dressing up as a woman? No, I don’t suppose you would,” Tom said cheerfully.
Best of Both
“So why did you enter The iCandidate? Did you hope to further the gay and transgender agenda?”
“That didn’t actually cross my mind, but now you mention it, that would be a good thing, don’t you think? No, I remember thinking one day, that I do a pretty darn good job at being Mayor in my home town of Rayville, and would like to have a go at becoming President. I think I’d probably be quite good at it. Hillary Clinton may have boobs and Donald Trump certainly has balls. But I’ve got both!”
Trait You Deplore
Gillian put her arm around him and kissed him on the cheek. “He’s such a sweetheart.”
Tom blushed and curtsied. “Frankly, I didn’t realize I could get so far purely on my looks. My master plan is to bring my personality into play now and wipe the floor with the rest of my rivals.” The audience cheered and Tom smiled.
“One last question from our online voters, said Kristoff. “What is the trait you most deplore in other people?”
“Intolerance.” Tom wasn’t laughing any more. He was serious.
Fifty-two-year-old advertising millionaire Cameron Banks, from Washington D.C., was already a hot favorite with the women.
“Your critics are labeling you a flirt with an over-sized ego.” Kristoff acted like it was a compliment. “If you get to the White House one day, will you be able to keep your libido in check?”
His question was greeted with laughs and sniggers from the audience.
“I'll be totally professional, just as I am now in my working life." Cameron paused to think.
"But that’s not a bad chat up line is it? Hello, I am the President of the United States. Can I buy you dinner?”
“LOVE you Cameron!!” Various calls from the audience had Cameron smiling and waving.
Image by Abbie Rowe, 1905-1967, Photographer, National Archives and Records Administration
President Harry Truman
Kristoff pressed him. “So why should you be President?”
“Because I’m not just a pretty face,” said Cameron. “I’m a master persuader.”
Now women in the audience were whooping.
“Calm down, calm down.” Kristoff pleaded. “But seriously, Cameron, who is your hero?”
“President Harry Truman. His parents couldn’t even afford to send him to college and look what he did with his life? He lived the American dream.”
The video of Cameron’s journey included an angry behind-the-scenes argument with Todd, a rivalry the producers had done their best to exploit.
“Hey, if I agreed with everyone’s opinions it wouldn’t be much of a political show, now would it?” Cameron quipped as the lights came back up. “I enjoy the debates, not just with Todd, but with all the contestants. We have some real firecrackers here, I can tell you.”
A ripple of laughter went through the audience. Cameron clearly meant the women in the group and caught a sultry look from Jennifer. Grace rolled her eyes, unimpressed.
Dulce Ramirez, stood just over 5-feet-tall and had levered into a tight-fitting pale blue suit.
She looked up fiercely when Kristoff took her hand. She’d started out with a tiny family diner close to the El Paso Texas border with Ciudad Juarez and turned it into a massive international restaurant chain. She was 59 and an outsider in the betting.
What’s your biggest fear, Dulce?” Kristoff was worried about running over time.
“Well, I have five kids and I’m a fierce Latina mother, so keeping them safe is my biggest worry. As a matter of fact, Andy, I feel like that about all children.”
Author Unknown - USIA
“Who’s your hero?” Kristen looked into Dulce’s eyes.
“It’s Rosa Parks. No doubt.”
Kristoff checked his tablet. “Our NoteStream voters have an interesting question for you. Would you rather witness the birth of Jesus or hunt with a caveman? Not a question you’ll be asked every day.”
“I don’t like violence; I don’t like guns or spears.
I’m a religious woman. I’d love to see the birth of Jesus. Wouldn’t everyone?”
“Do you have a message to your supporters and people out there who may be thinking about voting for you?” Kristen asked.
Dulce spoke with a slight accent. “I want all those other Hispanic ladies out there still cleaning rich people’s houses and doing menial jobs, beneath their capabilities, to know that the sky really is the limit. If I can do it, so can you.”
Kristoff joined in the polite applause while moving back center stage, where he was most at home.
“Well you’ve met them folks; our finalists. Could one of these men or women be your next President?
We’re taking a short commercial break, don’t go anywhere though. The unveiling of our iVOTING SYSTEM is happening right here. It’s going to revolutionize the future and how YOU vote at the next election. BRB!!!”
Be sure to complete your profile to be notified of the first in-app iVote on March 1st - Super Tuesday! Help your favorite iCandidates through to the next level!