The iCandidate: Looking For Heroes - 8th 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.
"Love that they put trump in this" 5 stars by Savannah
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Chapter 15 – Slipping Away
When the final lights went down on the Results Show, Chrissie kept her eyes locked on Jennifer.
Sitting way behind the section where the other family members and friends were, gathered close to the front of the stage, it was difficult to see the expression on her face.
Chrissie didn’t want to be seen; she’d promised Jen faithfully that she wouldn’t come.
She found it hard to believe that after two years of marriage, Jennifer kept her hidden away like some guilty secret.
To keep her one step ahead of her opponents, Jennifer had four junior members of her PR firm working around the clock to help her prepare for The iCandidate. That’s how she tried to explain it to Chrissie, as her excuse for pretending to be single. Jennifer had enough to worry about trying to become America’s first woman president, let alone America’s first bisexual president. Chrissie had to stay away.
The researchers told Jen that was her best bet – to use her sexuality to win over the men, and to not confuse them.
Chrissie first met Jen at the gym. Back then, she was crazy for her, but now she wasn’t so sure, not while she didn’t exist.
The lights went down and Chrissie joined the line crowding out of the exit. She turned one last time to see Jennifer laughing and hugging one of the men on the show. She looked very much at home.
As Chrissie headed back to her hotel alone, Jennifer and the other would-be Presidents were ferried in a fleet of limos to the whitewashed, coastal mansion in Malibu, the producers had named ‘The White House.’
Chrissie couldn’t help feel the further her wife went in the competition the further she slipped away.
Chapter 16 - Sexting
Jen headed to the bathroom as soon as the show finished.
Grace was already there washing her hands. She tried to make conversation.
“So Jennifer, good first challenge, don’t you think?”
“Yep.” Jen studied her lips intently as she applied a red lipstick.
“Did you want to ride back to The White House together? Maybe you, Gillian and I could have a drink and hang out. You know, just us girls?”
Jen ignored the question as she pulled out her phone. She had a new text.
My room? Champagne?
She smiled before replying. Sure, give me a few minutes…
I’ll be waiting…
Jen walked out of the bathroom and as an afterthought looked back at Grace.
“Sorry, I have plans.” There was no smile, no warmth, as she looked back down at her phone.
“Nice chatting with you!” Grace called out breezily to the closed door. Grace went straight into the green room to collect her things. She almost u-turned straight out again. Cameron was alone, leaning against the wall and texting, with that lopsided smile on his face. She had a pretty good idea who he was talking to.
She slipped her simple navy jacket over a cream Nicole Miller dress and picked up her bag. Grace liked to mix designer with cheap, cheerful accessories she found in vintage stores and street market stalls.
Cameron glanced up and she decided to make the effort.
He would probably be a real ass, but maybe not.
“I thought you did good in the challenge Cameron, really good.”
“You sound surprised.”
“Well, I am surprised. I didn’t know you cared about anyone but yourself.”
“There are a few things I’m actually pretty passionate about,” he smiled, glancing back at his phone. “Other than myself.”
“Well, I’m not interested in your other passions. You did a good job during the earthquake, that’s all I wanted to say.” She walked across the room, almost dropping her things in a hurry.
“What’s your problem?” he asked.
Grace pulled the door shut behind her.
Cameron shrugged off Grace’s reaction. He'd expected to go out. Thank God for women voters, he thought. He looked back down to a new text.
Chapter 17 – Madam Mayor
Tom was in no hurry to leave the studios.
He had lots of friends in his hometown, Rayville, Colorado. They liked him enough to vote him Mayor. But in Los Angeles he felt more like a freak outsider.
Gillian came over and gave him a hug.
“Congratulations, Tom. You stand up there in some old, silly outfit, looking like a dumpy, brunette Meryl Streep with a five o’clock shadow, and then you have this way of making better people of us all. I just don’t know how you do it,” she told him.
“Estrogen capsules and a pair of melons.”
Keeping It Real
“No, I’m serious.
You know I love you, but every ounce of logic tells me you should be laughed out of there. And yet, here you are. ”
“It’s my legs, you know. They’re sensational!”
Gillian frowned. “What I want to say...what I’m trying to say, Tom, is that I am honored to be your friend. You are a wonderful man and I genuinely believe you would make a first class President.”
Tom was genuinely touched. He relied on jokes for protection, but allowed his guard down. “That’s a huge compliment coming from you.” He kept his head bowed to hide his tear-filled eyes.
Chapter 18 – Seven Degrees Celsius
Jen felt bad about Chrissie, but she really was willing to do anything necessary to become The iCandidate.
Instead of going back to her room at The White House she crossed to the other side of the building and slipped into a dimly lit room. She locked the door behind her.
On a table next to the bed, two glasses of Veuve Clicquot were still bubbling; the bottle had been placed back in a silver ice bucket by the window. Stepping out of her dress, she crossed the room in stiletto heels and tasted the champagne. It was heavenly.
“Seven degrees Celsius, the perfect temperature.” He wrapped his arms around her.
“Is that a fact?” she started to turn around.
“Stay still.” He rested his hands lightly on her waist as he kissed her neck and shoulders.
“You didn’t waste time getting here.” His voice was low and soft.
“More to the point, will this be worth missing my beauty sleep?” she responded, turning slowly.
“You should already know the answer to that, Jennifer.”
“Ah, well, you should never assume.”
“I’m finding that impossible to do with you.”
She downed her glass of champagne.
“Do you want more?”
Jen pushed him on the bed. “I guess that’s a no,” he smiled.
Chapter 19 - The Today Show
Matt Lauer thought he’d seen everything in nearly 20 years of hosting The Today Show.
He’d interviewed presidents and princes, argued with Tom Cruise, and been handcuffed to Sacha Baron Cohen. But the more he thought about the next segment, the more he worried.
The makeup girl rushed over to dab some powder on his face. That almost never happened. He was sweating.
Not The Usual
The commercials were over and the light flashed.
He was on.
“In the studio this morning we are hosting an impromptu debate that is, well, something of a departure for this presidential campaign season.” Matt went to straighten his tie and remembered he wasn’t wearing one.
“But the people on our debate panel aren’t the usual suspects you’ve been watching over the past couple of months in the nomination process. In fact, they're not running for office at all - they’re trying to win a reality show.”
Matt stood and led the cameras through to the familiar Studio 1A. His appearance led to a huge cheer from the early morning crowd huddling up to the barrier outside. They weren’t holding the usual “Hello Mom” and “Good Morning, Ohio” banners. Once the roar of recognition died away they were replaced by a cacophony of chants that sounded like football fans trapped in an elevator.
“I love you, Gillian.”
“Rich for President.”
Back In Rhythm
Matt walked across to where the seven remaining iCandidates were standing, each behind individual lecterns, as if they were taking part in a televised Democrat or GOP debate.
The producers had gone to the trouble of getting the furniture out of storage from the last CNBC debate in Boulder, Colorado and hauling it across the country.
“As many viewers will know, The iCandidate political reality show has been pulling in huge ratings, bigger even than the debates in this strangest of presidential campaigns.” Matt was settling back into his rhythm now, as he always did.
The producers had been pushing this segment for days.
He’d worried about political impartiality. Now he’d just have to go with it.
“An op-ed in the New York Times even went so far as to suggest that The iCandidate offered better and more qualified people to be president than the politicians fighting it out in our primaries and caucuses.”
Matt moved back towards the window and smiled at a familiar face hidden from view of the public outside.
“This man needs no introduction - my old friend Andy Kristoff, host of The iCandidate. Andy, tell us what this is all about?”
“Well Matt, we’re really pleased to be here.
We shook things up in the competition last week with our Earthquake Challenge and I’m afraid the lovely Dulce Ramirez was the one to leave us after our viewers’ iVote. Now we’re trying something a little different, thanks to you and our friends on The Today Show.”
Kristoff pointed across to where judges Jacqueline Toscane, Walter Penske and Rob Balfour were sitting at the desk where Matt usually presented the show alongside Samantha Guthrie, Al Roker, and Carson Daly. “We’ve brought our judges…and now we want to put our iCandidates to their second test.”
“But Andy, don’t you have a surprise for them?” Matt interjected.
The two men had worked together on WNEW-TV in New York City during the 1980s and remained in touch.
“Thanks Matt. We do, indeed. We wanted our moderator for this unique, Today Show debate to be someone who knows all about this political process - and who understands a thing or two about perception and reality. We wanted someone who knows about holding an audience and motivating that person who’s never cared enough to vote, that’s key.
“We invited all the nominees from both the GOP and the Democrats, to come and put our iCandidates to the test. We received just one reply.” Kristoff looked at Matt and took a half-step back.
The Today Show presenter paused a moment.
“Please welcome…Donald Trump!”
Image by Gage Skidmore, Trump: Make America Great Again
Trump wore an unbuttoned, navy, pinstriped Brioni suit with a red Hermes tie. He marched on to The Star Spangled Banner and shook hands with Matt and Kristoff before walking down the line of iCandidates.
He sat in a chair facing them.
An assistant handed him a sheaf of papers and a white trucker cap with the words, “Make America Great - Boycott Megyn Kelly.” He put both of them down on the desk in front of him.
Outside the glass, the audience was going wild. Nobody had warned the iCandidates they’d be seeing Donald Trump when they arrived at the crack of dawn. The atmosphere had suddenly become static in the studio; sparks were going to fly.
“Right, let’s get to it then,” Kristoff had promised the producers he’d keep the segment under 20 minutes. “Mr. Trump, Donald…they’re all yours.”
Not All Of Them
Trump cleared his throat. He was loving this.
“Todd, you seem like a sensible kind of guy.” Trump leaned back, stretching. “The media has been causing trouble by twisting my words over this Muslim thing. They’re acting like I’m against all Muslims, when I have very good friends who are Muslim and they agree with me.”
Up until this point, Todd was looking his usual calm, unflappable self. Suddenly the studio lights seemed to have turned up ten degrees. Sweat prickled his armpits.
“Of course, I don’t mean all 1.6 billion Muslims around the world hate America,” Trump continued. “That wouldn’t be right…but I do mean a lot of them. There’s some tremendous hatred out there.”
Trump looked up at Todd.
“What I want to ask you, Todd, is whether you agree with me that all Muslims who have this hatred of the United States should be stopped from coming into the country. Common sense, right?
Todd was a deer in headlights. “I don’t…well, I know what you’re saying but…” He felt like he was about to be fired. He took a deep breath and started again. He’d practiced over and over for such a situation. He couldn’t allow the surprise appearance to throw him.
“Of course I don’t believe we should allow Muslim extremists into the U.S. and I do happen to believe, Mr. Trump, that you’ve been misrepresented by the liberal media.
I, too, have Muslim friends and they are every bit as much concerned as we are about the Islamic State and al Qaeda terrorists. They are distorting Islam in the eyes of the rest of the world.”
Trump was nodding his approval.
“Where our opinions diverge, however, is that I don’t believe there should be a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country; too many good people with genuine business and other interests will get caught in that net.”
Trump stopped nodding.
“I do believe, nevertheless, that the Watch List compiled by the security services should be widened to include anyone with even the slightest question mark over them.
If more funds are needed for the intelligence services to make this possible, then so be it.
I understand when you say, Mr. Trump, that a lot of Muslims hate us, and that may well be true in some Islamic countries, but much of that is achieved through brainwashing by antagonistic governments or plain ignorance.
We must try to change that, not just block them out.”
My Own Man
Trump was nodding again. He even joined the applause from the crowd outside. “And here I was thinking you’re a Trump guy,” he smiled.
“I am, sir. But I’m also my own man. I like to go my own way…like you.” Todd may have been sweating under his jacket, but it didn’t show. He smiled back and the spotlight moved across to Tom.
Where Do You Stand?
Trump was still grinning.
“We’re the guys around here that get all the grief about our hair. Oh, I’m sorry, Tom, is it okay if I call you a guy?”
“You can me whatever you like, Donald, just as long as you don’t insult my wigmaker, Joan. She gives me a terrific discount.”
“She’ll be giving you a cut of the business after that plug!” Trump was smiling.
“Tom, I didn’t want to ask you the obvious question, but I can’t help it. I’m very much in favor of traditional marriage and I’ve taken some flak from the liberals for questioning gay unions. Where do you stand on the issue?
Quick To Judge
Tom wasn’t in the least phased.
“Donald, I’ll tell you what I tell the people of Rayville, when they come to see me, the Mayor, and expect me to tell them how they’re supposed to behave.
The Rayville Middle School principal, Mrs. Collins - who can be rather quick to judge at times; I’m sure she wouldn’t mind me telling you that - she wanted me to recommend the trustees suspend a young fella who was wearing an NRA t-shirt to class.
I asked her, ‘Mrs Collins, does the shirt say anything offensive?’
‘Just NRA,’ she said. ‘But it’s not appropriate.’
“So I said to her, ‘Mrs Collins, is there a dress code at the Middle School?’
‘Well no, but…’
‘Well Mrs Collins,’ I said to her, ‘If there’s no dress code and the shirt doesn’t say anything offensive then I can’t see why he shouldn’t wear it. It’s a free country, after all. It’s what makes us great. It’s why people with hair like us can be here on The Today Show, Donald.”
Trump joined in with the applause again, but stopped short. “I took you for more of a traditionalist, Tom.”
Tom waited a beat.
A New Time
“Donald, you’ve given the traditional route a try three times.
Perhaps it’s not working so well and members of the gay and transgender community may suggest it’s time to allow people to try the untraditional route. What would you say to them?”
Trump put up his hands. “I’d probably say they have a good point.”
Clearly comfortable with the setup, Trump moved on to the next question.
“Before I decided to run for President, most of you know I was the host on my own reality show, The Apprentice, which was hugely successful and made many millions for this network, NBC.
If you were given the opportunity to create a reality show of your own, what would it be about?”
Matt winced at mention of the conflict of interest but Trump didn’t care.
He studied the iCandidate faces, his eyes screwed up in concentration. He settled on Jennifer. “This question is for you, Jen.”
“Well hello Donald,” her voice was low and smooth.
“That’s an easy question actually. I would devise a show to find the next Editor-in-Chief of Vogue magazine, the next Anna Wintour.”
“Why am I not surprised, coming from a lady of such obvious taste and class?” Trump didn’t try and hide his interest.
“And how would your contestants prove they have what it takes to run Vogue?”
“They would be expected to achieve the impossible, of course, and under the most ridiculously intense circumstances. The challenges would involve tasks that have to be completed in 24 hours straight with no sleep, maybe having to write an article to deadline with no resources, or to get an interview with a celebrity when no one else can.”
“Okay, but what will make your show fresh? What will you bring to the table that hasn’t been done before, Ms. Flynt?
She left it hanging in the air for a second before adding: “Just kidding, I’m actually friends with Anna, Donald. I think she’d love to be one of the judges. As you know, she doesn’t suffer fools gladly, neither do I. That’s why we’re friends.”
She tilted her head slightly and smiled at him. Trump’s wife, Melania, was looking daggers from the side of the studio.
Matt quickly moved in. “Well, Jen, thank you. It seems like you answered the question satisfactorily. Do you agree, Mr. Trump?”
Trump pursed his mouth. “Well if she doesn’t make the finale of The iCandidate, maybe I’ll choose her for VP. Beats Ted Cruz or Ben Carson.”
Grace and Gillian exchanged a look.
Jennifer was clearly going to be playing by her own rules.
Trump glanced across at his wife, looked at his papers and moved along. “Okay, so everyone knows what I think of Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act. It’s gotta go! Do you guys agree with me on that?”
“I’d like to take that question if I may,” Gillian perked up. “I actually think that Obamacare is a great program. Lots of people that have been able to navigate the website successfully and now have health insurance that’s both affordable and provides them with the coverage they need.”
One Or The Other…
“You have to be kidding,” Trump went on the attack.
“You must surely agree that we should leave the health system to the experts. That’s the only way America can be great!”
Gillian was wary. She knew she could bury herself now if she said the wrong thing. But this was close to her heart.
“Mr. Trump, with all due respect, you have been quoted as saying that you hate Obamacare, but when asked what you would replace it with, you have sometimes said you like the single payer system adopted in Scotland and Canada, and other times, you’ve bowed to the private companies.
I still have no idea what your position is…”
“The Affordable Care Act is a joke. Everyone knows it doesn’t work. But I’m supposed to be the one asking you questions young lady.”
“Well here’s what I think, health insurance here is ten times more expensive than in any other country in the world. Prices are inflated and a three-day stay in a hospital or an operation should not deplete a family's savings account that they have spent years building.
In a civilized nation such as ours, we should not be afraid to go to the Doctor because we cannot afford the bills.”
“Yeah well I think you may find this is your last week on The iCandidate, Gillian. America does not agree with you.”
The camera picked up reactions from the other iCandidates.
Jen raised an eyebrow, a slight smirk on her porcelain features. Tom looked nervously at Gillian whose expression was stony. Grace squeezed her friend’s hand and shook her head.
Rich was sitting stock still on his stool and hadn’t joined in with the laughter.
He was trying so hard to think about what he knew about Trump, he was hardly listening to what the others were saying. He knew the guy had a bunch of casinos in Atlantic City, and that he might end up being the president, but he had been so busy with The Candidate, he hadn’t paid him too much attention.
Trump turned to him and he almost winced. “Rich, how you doing? It’s been a while.”
In the dim recess of Rich’s mind a light switched on. He thought he remembered Trump from somewhere. For now it was safest to smile and nod. “Good. Very good.”
“Remember when we hung out after the Super Bowl. Great times.” Trump was the one who came off star struck.
“Good to see you again.”
Rich vaguely recalled meeting Donald Trump, but there had been so many famous faces after the Super Bowls. He mostly remembered actresses and models.
Trump pursed his lips and lobbed Rich an easy catch. “You must be a big fan of my campaign to make America great again. Hell Rich, you’re the kind of guy we should be holding up as a symbol of greatness. Two Super Bowl rings. Man, you’re terrific. What do you like best about my campaign?”
The only thing Rich knew for sure was that Trump had a hot wife. He was pretty sure she was standing behind the camera. Then he remembered.
“You were with those Miss Universe finalists, a blonde and a brunette. Both perfect 10s.”
It was out before he thought about it. “Don’t you own that show?”
“I was and I did,” smirked Trump. “You actually went home with the blonde. Miss Sweden, if I recall.”
Rich smiled at the memory. “I have to say, Mr. Trump, that the work you do with that show, bringing the world together to discuss peace, allowing guys from all walks of life and nationalities to check out gorgeous women, well, it’s inspiring to me. That’s what makes America great.”
Trump looked happy enough with the compliment.
But Rich hadn’t finished. “I’m not saying we have the best looking women in the world; obviously there’s beautiful babes from all over. But you, well, you put them on TV and, to be honest with you, Miss America always looks like a winner to me!”
“Thanks Rich. I really appreciate that. America certainly is the greatest country in the world and I think there’s a danger that people might forget how great we are.”
“Not me,” beamed Rich, relieved his spot was over.
Trump turned to Cameron.
What do you think of the Chinese?”
“No Cameron. Not the noodles, I’m talking about trade and the ways the Chinese stack the odds so they can come over to America, steal all our business and then make their own tariffs so meteorically high that American businesses can’t get a foothold into China’s markets. Do you think that’s fair?”
“I’ve actually been to China a bunch of times. My view is that yes, we do have to seek parity over tariffs with China, but if you start a trade war it is the American consumer that is going to be hurt. Let’s not threaten another super power; that’s not how the world is going to work in the future.”
Cameron was usually so flip, his serious frown surprised even his fellow contestants.
“Let’s initiate trade talks and see if we can work something out. The problem is that China has a huge, cheap workforce and we simply can’t compete with their costs.”
“The U.S. has to be strong, correct?” Trump was insistent.
“Yes, but flexible. It’s the only way.”
Trump was looking down at his notes. He no longer looked like he was enjoying himself. He had been avoiding Grace. He had his own campaign to think about and had achieved too much and come too far to allow Grace to derail him. But he’d come to the last iCandidate.
He couldn’t avoid her any longer.
Strike A Deal
“Grace, how nice to meet to you.
I’ve been very impressed by your work so far. Can I rely on your vote in November?”
He hadn’t meant to say the last bit. Something about the nonchalant way she was looking at him made him confrontational. It was the dealmaker in him; always deal from a position of strength.
But it didn’t work. She held her ground. “I’m afraid not, Mr. Trump. Can I rely on yours tonight?”
“I’m afraid not yet, Miss Conwright. But you have a chance to change my mind.
Public Domain Image by Nofx221984
“Grace, do you agree with me that a wall along the United States border with Mexico is urgently needed? The bigger and longer the better?” Trump was trying to stare Grace down.
“No, I certainly do not.” Grace stared back. “I think it’s a terrible idea. I don’t think it would be appropriate to turn a nation founded and settled by immigrants into a fortress.”
Trump had been down this road plenty of times before in the past few months.
“Do you think it’s okay for people to come illegally into our country and steal our jobs then?”
“To me, a wall covered in barbed wire is the kind of idea the Nazis would have come up with. We are a rich and diverse culture and we should continue to cultivate such a mix. Mexico isn’t going to pay for a wall, and surely you have better ways of spending the country’s money, Donald?”
Trump’s complexion turned a pinker shade of orange, and for the first time, he looked angry, so much so that Grace instantly regretted the Nazi comparison.
Wrap It Up
He was about to answer when Kristoff came from side stage and put out his hand.
“Thank you so much, Donald, for being an amazingly good sport. We’re going to have to wrap it up now or Matt is going to kill me. The news is coming up in a couple minutes but we have to go to commercials first.”
“Thank you, Donald and thank you, Matt and The Today Show.”
He shook hands with the anchor and with Samantha Guthrie, who was also standing there, and turned back to the camera. “Thank you so much for watching this morning and I’ll take this opportunity to invite everybody to tune into our next iVote show tomorrow night.
“We’ll round up tonight’s Trump Debate and get the verdicts from the man himself on each of our iCandidates; we’ll get the judges’ views and perhaps hear from a couple more special guests. Then it’ll be time to iVote again.”
“Thanks Andy and that’s it for us. From The Today Show, here at the Rockefeller Center, this is Matt Lauer and all the team wishing you a great rest of your day.”