The iCandidate: 13th 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.
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 30 – Going For it
In the third Army tent, Grace was busy surprising Cameron.
He considered his politics neither left nor right, but practical. Until the previous presidential election he hadn’t even bothered to vote. But as soon as the challenge was explained to them he expected trouble, because in his eyes Grace was a trendy lefty in every sense.
Peace and love and big government and to hell with the budget deficit. He prepared himself for a head on collision that would leave both their chances mortally wounded.
Then she started talking.
“What kind of assurances do we have that this man knows where our targets are?” she asked the officer, a Lieutenant Colin Ellis.
“We have three different sources saying that he just came from there. He was almost certainly with the terrorists two days ago.”
“He says he's married and a local merchant. Is that true?”
“If he has a wife and children, he hasn’t seen them for years. Our information says he has been recruiting al Qaeda fighters and shipping them over to fight in Syria with ISIS.”
“In that case, I say we should go ahead with the water boarding,” Grace declared.
“Go ahead with it?” Cameron looked at Grace in disbelief. “Did I hear right?”
“That’s what I said, didn’t I?”
“But I thought you were going to say no.”
“Why would you think that?”
“Because you’re a bleeding heart socialist. Or at least that’s what I thought.”
The prisoner stared at the floor, occasionally looking up at Grace and Cameron with mournful eyes.
“You thought wrong. I try my best to make the right decision. Not right or left, just right.”
“Well I think you’ve made the right decision here.. We have to try everything possible.”
“Well, Hallelujah! So glad I have your approval.”
Cameron could not understand this woman at all. “Perhaps we should stick you on the waterboard table. See how long it takes for you to shake off that attitude.”
Grace ignored him. “What about you, Rob?” Grace asked Rob Balfour, the assigned judge to their team. “It looks like we’re doing it anyway.”
“I am your bleeding heart liberal, guys. I’m 100 percent against invading anyone's personal freedoms using torture, whatever the reason.
You start saying this is okay and where does it end? Do you start putting people on the rack? Chopping off their fingers? Putting electrodes on their packages? No, man. It’s not cool with me, but it’s your call. I guess I’m outnumbered.”
The soldiers went ahead with the drowning procedure, but when Grace and Cameron’s resolve showed no sign of breaking after several minutes, they allowed the prisoner to sit up and show them the breathing tube he had in his mouth to avoid the full effect of the treatment.
“Oh, thank God,” Grace finally took a breath, glancing at Cameron.
Cameron felt the relief wash over him too. Although he had been pretty sure it was just a test, in those last seconds, he was beginning to wonder.
“You’re badass, Conwright.”
Chapter 31 – Twenty-Nine Palms
Cameron and Grace were led into another larger tent where they joined the other four contestants and the Army officers. As it turned out, none of them were soldiers.
“We all work on stunts at Warner Brothers ,” said the man who introduced himself as Lt. Ellis. “It’s just Colin Ellis, actually. Perhaps we can start up a sideline in water boarding. We could do it on the politicians to make sure they tell us the truth.”
“Great idea,” Tom said. “Which reminds me of a joke. Why do politicians envy ventriloquists?
“Because they can lie without moving their lips.”
The actors and soldiers laughed simultaneously; then the group walked out of the tent to find the whole area besieged with real servicemen and women. Word got out quickly that The iCandidate contestants were at the base even though the visit had been shrouded in secrecy.
They signed autographs in a sea of camouflage fatigues as hundreds of servicemen and women joined the fray, taking photographs and asking the iCandidates to scribble their names on every conceivable surface.
“It’s pretty warm but I really thought it would be hotter than this,” Grace remarked to one of the Marines.
He started to laugh.
“What’s so funny,” she asked.
“You’re not actually overseas. You’re at Twenty-Nine Palms Marine base in the middle of the Mojave Desert, about 130 miles from L.A.
Grace was stunned. “No, you see, that’s not possible. We were in the air forever. How long would you say, Tom? Eleven hours?”
“At least.” Tom answered.
“Well ma’am, I’m afraid you were duped. Most of your flight time was simulated to get you disorientated, and make you believe we were over there.”
Gillian couldn’t believe her ears.
Cameron laughed. “There’s no way that happened. Where are we, really?”
The Marine just shrugged and walked away.
Little Baghdad Training Facility, Twentynine Palms Marine Base at Twilight. Image by Jessie Eastland, (CC BY-SA 3.0)
With his secret out, Kristoff explained: “We needed you to believe in the authenticity of the challenge. Water boarding in Palm Springs doesn’t quite have the same ring, does it now?”
Chapter 32 – Out For Blood
It still took a while for Kristoff to convince the iCandidates they weren’t in a war zone before they were whisked back to L.A. in limos.
In the end, Kristoff showed them an app on his iPhone that pinpointed the nearest coffee shop. It was a Starbucks.
Safely away from the others, back at the White House, Gillian started to cry; Grace hugged her before gently wiping away the tears. “The producers know my husband died over there Grace, how could they do this?”
To The Bar
“Gillian, I’m sure they didn’t even think when they set up the challenge. But even if they did, you have to show them what you’re made of; that you can do anything, even put your grief aside.
They are expecting us to be more weak and vulnerable than the men. But we’re strong. You’re a leader.”
Gillian thought for a moment. “You’re right. Annoying as hell, but right.”
Grace smiled. “That’s my girl. Why don’t we head down to the bar so you and I can go and do what any normal man would do after a day like today…”
“Have a beer?”
“Don’t be such a wimp. We’ll have ourselves some whiskey!”
Out Of Control
Back in her room in Malibu, Jen was grateful to be alone. Just for once she’d started something she couldn’t control. The texts were flashing up every couple of minutes. It was insane.
First things first, she had to nix the affair.
She lit a candle, ran a bubble bath and was just lowering herself in when there was a knock on her door. She ignored it. Five minutes later her phone beeped.
I’m outside, let me in???
I’m in the bath.
I’ll join you?
I need to save my energy for the competition
No Means No
Later that evening, as Jen was getting into bed, the texts resumed:
Let me come over? ...Please Jennifer, I want you so bad! ! Don’t play hard to get ...Why aren’t you answering? ...That’s it, I’m coming over.
Exasperated, Jen jabbed at the buttons.
Please understand that NO , actually means NO!
There was no response. “Thank God,” she said out loud, turning her bedside light out.
She awoke with the bright sunlight streaming through her windows and another slew of ever more aggressive texts.
You know that we’re great together.
She had breakfast in her room but still her phone flashed over and over again.
Tonight. Let’s talk...Jennifer?
Hadn’t she made it crystal clear? She texted back.
No thx…it’s over by the way.
But it wasn’t.
The texts continued all evening and the next day, each threatening to expose her racy behavior or intimate details from her professional life: client names, people she worked with, restaurants and bars she frequented. He knew where she shopped, where she had her hair styled.
Where was he getting all this information?
Then it hit her. He was stalking her, obsessively digging up every little thing about her until she got the text she knew was going to come.
We have 2 talk otherwise…
He was playing with her. She opened the text with dread:
…I’ll tell them u r married
She knew what was next.
…to a girl!!!!!
With a sickening jolt, she realized she had picked the wrong man to mess with. He was out for blood.
Chapter 33 – Bad Timing
Tariq studied Zia as he walked towards him across the parking lot at Los Angeles International Airport.
For the millionth time Tariq thought it incredible how much his son looked like his mother.
It wasn’t so much a physical resemblance, although the similarities were there. Zia had her casual smile; the same full lips and cheekbones. What always struck Tariq was the way Zia moved, his body loose and fluid; so different from his own stiff and formal gait.
“Hello, my son, you look well.” Tariq reached out for a handshake.
They were traveling in different directions but Tariq wanted to see his Zia, even if it was just a few stolen hours between flights. They were both so busy with their careers they rarely had time to talk these days.
“I always worry about you, growing up in this country, that you will forget what is important.” Tariq didn’t want to waste precious time with small talk. “Everything is good?”
There hadn’t been a single conversation with his father that Zia could remember when he hadn’t been reminded of what was expected of him.
Short On Time
“Have I ever given you any reason to doubt me father? Everything is going to plan.” As happy as Zia was to check in with Tariq, he had a plane to catch. He had a date with Ayesha and he didn’t want to be late.
“No, of course not, Zia, but there are things we must discuss.”
Zia’s heart sank.
Tariq had rearranged his schedule so they would have a little longer together. “I’ve spoken to your assistant and put you on a later flight. I have a room booked for the evening for us at the Marriott , just a couple of minutes away. My car is waiting.”
Zia couldn’t tell Tariq about Ayesha. Not yet. All he could think about as his father talked and the minutes ticked away was that he had no way of contacting Ayesha to let her know he wouldn’t be there. She had no phone and there was no answer at the residential hall number.
After so many years devoted to his work and his father, Zia finally had something for himself. Now she was probably lost to him.
Chapter 34 - Jilted
It was very different this time. Ayesha sat on the same bench by the same black gates, looking in the same direction down the street, and suddenly everything on the outside seemed full of possibilities; Harvard’s campus paled in comparison.
She hadn’t dared to go out alone since her date with Zia; she was comforted now only because she knew she would soon see him. They would drink hot chocolate and walk along the river. They may even hold hands.
There were those butterflies again.
Dressed With Care
She chose a brighter Kameez with new jeans and took special care with her make-up. Her mother certainly wouldn’t approve of that, any more than she’d approve of Ayesha going out with a boy unaccompanied. But Zia was a man, wasn’t he? A Pakistani man.
She was there 30 minutes early. What was the point waiting in her room on such a wonderful evening?
Thirty minutes after the time they agreed to meet, Ayesha had a very different feeling in the pit of her stomach. She felt sick.
She’d somehow believed this stranger would care enough to return to her, but of course she was foolish. He was playing with her. Why would a man like that be interested in a slum girl from Karachi?
Count The Days
She tried to leave the bench but kept waiting and hoping, her eyes locked on the corner she’d seen Zia confidently striding from, just a couple of weeks earlier.
The Pakistani boys walked past at one point and she flinched from their glares. It was like they knew. She felt ashamed.
After two hours, Ayesha stood up, and told herself what she should have done the first time – go back to her room and count the days before she could go home.