The iCandidate: 18th Installment
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The iCandidate is a guilty pleasure - 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 - and it keeps the authors on their toes!
In the novel, serialized weekly only 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, and really, would it be any crazier than what we've got now?
Change America one iVote at a time - and cheer on your iCandidate! Be sure to cast your in-app iVotes to save your favorite iCandidates!
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Chapter 48: Tick-Tock
For the first time since the contest started, Tom was lost for words. He’d asked to speak to Kim Jong Un, but the North Korean leader had unclipped his mic and walked out moments after they’d been linked up via video.
“I won’t speak to this man who is dressed like woman.”
Kristoff’s voice could be heard in the background beseeching the actor return to his seat.
“It is not respectful,” an accented voice replied. “I cannot continue.”
Tom wasn’t sure if the guy was playing his part method-style, getting deep into his character, or if he was genuinely offended. Either way, he wasn’t coming back.
Perched on a steel chair by the mock Resolute desk in the fake Oval Office in a salmon blouse and floral skirt, his hair hastily arranged, Tom was all too aware that his next moves would likely determine whether he was to be viewed as a realistic alternative or a joke.
“I want the Joint Chiefs of Staff and then the Cabinet and I want them both ready to go.”
This was a different Tom to the self-deprecating, comic character America was growing to love. The slow smile was gone, replaced by a clipped determination. This is a serious job, he thought, so I must be taken seriously.
There was a delay and Kristoff’s voice apologized: “I’m sorry, Mr. President…err Madam President. We have located the generals and they will be with you momentarily.”
Not Good Enough
“That’s simply not good enough, sir.” Tom’s frustration boiled over.
“A great many lives may be in jeopardy. I need to speak to someone who will tell me what I need to know and I need to speak to him or her NOW!”
Two men and a woman in military uniforms rushed into camera shot and sat down behind a table covered in white cloth and a phalanx of microphones. “What do you need to know?” asked the man in the middle.
One To Ten
“The exact nature of the threat and the likelihood of a nuclear attack,” said Tom. “Give it to me from one to ten with one being the least likely.”
“I’d give it a nine.” The woman soldier didn’t introduce herself but her uniform was heavy with medals.
“And the nature of the threat?” Tom didn’t flinch.
“We have measurable intelligence that a North Korean terrorist cell, here in DC, has a dirty bomb; we’re told it’s a nuclear device and that they have the means to detonate it,” said the soldier in the center, who Tom assumed to be the most senior.
“Is that even possible?” Tom felt his hackles rising again. “How would they even carry it?”
“A suitcase, even a backpack,” said the woman officer. “We have them and so do the Russians. I assume that’s where the North Koreans would have gotten theirs, although we can’t be sure.”
Out Of Time
“And the damage they could do?”
“Well they would be the equivalent of about 6 kilotons of TNT.”
“That means nothing to me.”
“Let me put it this way; the bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima at the end of World War 2 were 16 to 21 kilotons each, which adds up to about 75 million sticks of dynamite.”
“And how do you know these people are about to strike?”
“We have good intel on almost everything….but we can’t find them in time to stop it.”
Chapter 49 - Truth or Dare
Cameron was taking a more direct approach. He didn’t want to talk to North Korea or to the military chiefs. He asked for the Secretary of Defense.
“Is this the real thing?” he asked the balding guy in a suit, who appeared on the screen in the Air Force One studio. “If you tell me that a single American is in danger of nuclear attack, I’m going to press that button.”
“We are in imminent danger, sir.”
“I’ll need a little more than that before I start World War 3, if you don’t mind.”
“They have missiles in Pyongyang trained on Washington. We’re told Kim Jong Un has given the order to launch.”
Cameron breathed out. “And what kind of warheads are these?”
“We’re calling them Fat Man 2 and Little Boy 2.”
“After the bombs the U.S. dropped in August 1945?”
“There are similarities, yes sir.” The Defense Secretary suddenly looked uneasy.
“If what you are telling me is the truth, the North Koreans couldn’t even get this kind of 10,000 lb. missile on a plane let alone fire it half way across the world.” Cameron’s entire demeanor had changed.
“I can assure you that our intelligence is verified.”
Cameron was determined to be proactive and he had been quite prepared to nuke the North Koreans. Now he’d made his mind up.
“That’s ridiculous. I’m sorry but you must think I’m an idiot if you really think I’m going to believe that story. If that’s the best you’ve got I’m going back to bed and I’d suggest you do the same.”
Chapter 50 – Nuked
Gillian could hear the crowd before she saw them.
The lights from the stage blinded her at first, and she blinked owl-like at the huge audience. On stage were the three judges with Todd, Grace, Tom and Cameron, all standing just in front of their stiff-backed Marines.
“...and here comes Gillian, our fifth and final remaining iCandidate finalist,” Kristoff hugged her warmly. She almost felt like he meant it.
“In just a few moments, we will all discover how your iCandidates decided to handle the most critical decision any American president would ever have to face. Then we will hear how you, the American public, want to deal with that 3:00 a.m. telephone call.
“Only after all the Internet votes are counted will we reveal what happened in the nuclear scenarios devised by our international panel of scientists and military experts.”
Kristoff looked at the contestants. “Would you step forward please, Grace? Have you come to a decision?”
“Then I will ask your Marine to open his case.”
The Marine leaned over and took a large box out of the briefcase. On it were two big buttons, one red and one black.
“Which one are you going to press, Grace? Red to launch America’s first atomic warhead since World War Two, black to stand down. The choice is yours. What’s it to be?”
Noise And Smoke
Grace turned around very deliberately and took a stride to where the Marine was holding up the box.
She pressed a button. The red button. What sounded like an immense lightning strike filled the studio and a mushroom-shaped cloud erupted behind them, filling the studio with a sweet-smelling gas.
“Don’t worry. It’s harmless,” Kristoff said. “Now Todd. What’s your decision?”
Todd didn’t waste a moment. The box was barely out of the bag and he’d pressed the red button and the stage was filled again with noise and smoke.
Gillian kicked herself for not ordering an evacuation.
But she had made up her mind and nothing she heard or saw was going to change it. She pressed the black button.
“So there you have it. Two reds and a black with two more iCandidates to make the toughest choice of all - to nuke or not to nuke - that’s the question,” said Kristoff. He beckoned for Tom to come over. “What about you, Mr. Mayor? Have you reached a decision?”
“I have, Andy.” He stood waiting.
“What is it then, Tom.”
“I’ve wrestled with this, I don’t mind telling you. But here’s my answer,” he continued, leaning across to press the black button.
“I don’t believe the threat was great enough to wipe an entire country from the face of the earth. I evacuated DC and I would contact the Russians and the Chinese to put pressure on Kim Jong Un.”
“But what if a nuclear bomb went off killing thousands of Americans?”
Tom sucked in his stomach, standing straight. “I honestly don’t think it was ever a real threat. I believe this is the appropriate action.”
“Right, so be it.” Kristoff moved across stage to where Cameron was standing.
“Any surprises for us, Cam?”
“I don’t think so, Andy.” Cameron pushed the black button. “In my opinion, the entire story was a hoax. It’s the kind of dilemma a president may well have to face, but I can go back to bed and sleep soundly knowing I’ve done the right thing.”
Kristoff was hearing chatter in his ear.
It was time for a commercial break. He ignored his producer. “Time for a vote? Let’s do it. There’s no time like the present. Are you ready? Everyone in the audience open up your iVote device, please decide now.”
It took only a few moments for the Los Angeles audience to deliver their verdict. The bar charts on screen fluctuated wildly for the first few seconds as the instant votes were counted.
Tom trailed in last with 9%, Todd and Grace finished neck and neck with 12% each and Cameron polled 27%. To her amazement, Gillian saw that she had polled 40%, a clear winner in the studio audience poll.
Chapter 51 – Judgement Day
“Before we go to the rest of the country, what is the view of our judges?” Kristoff asked, while holding Gillian’s hand.
“A big mistake. Gillian put hundreds of thousands of American lives at risk and the audience somehow thinks it was the right decision. If I had known she was an atheist I would have advised America to make her the first one voted off.
Cameron and Tom; big mistake. They blew it, in my view. Grace did well. She got everyone out of Washington, but she should have stayed at the White House. Todd is my President.”
“What about you, Jacqueline. Do you agree with Walter or the studio audience?”
“Look Kris, Gillian’s a woman. She doesn’t just storm in there, strike a macho pose and kill everything that moves. For me, her faith is her choice. It’s a private matter.
Todd made up his mind to fire the nuke when he was admiring himself in the mirror before even leaving his bathroom.”
"What about you, Rob?”
“I’m all for the diplomatic approach Andy. But there are times when you have to act and I think Gillian dithered too much. I don’t think she knew right up to the end what she intended to do. Added to that, she clearly wasn’t able to draw on her faith because she doesn’t appear to have one.
Having said that, I applaud her decision not to press the button and I’m pleased that Tom came to the right decision in the end. But Cameron was the rock star here. He knew his own mind and he made the best decision.”
“So there you have it, pearls of wisdom from our esteemed judges.” Kristoff puffed his cheeks. “We’re giving you a full week to vote America. You know what to do. Choose your favorite three from the list of the remaining iCandidates. Don’t forget, we are changing lives, not just theirs, but yours. Whose iVote counts America?”
“MyiVote!” roared the audience.
“So please cast your votes NOW!”
The commercials were running even before Kristoff could finish the autocue, but he soldiered on regardless.
“For the first time, according to our polls, Tom, and even Grace and Todd could be in trouble. It’s up to you at home to decide who’ll have to give up their dream of becoming The iCandidate and who you want answering that 3:00 a.m. phone call.
“Would you prefer Donald Trump? Hillary Clinton? No? I didn’t think so. It’s time to start thinking seriously about The iCandidate as your president.
“Our future could depend on it.”