The iCandidate: 24th Installment
To begin with Installment 1, please click here.
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!
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 72– HEART-TO-HEART CHALLENGE
In a black tuxedo, Kristoff described the final Heart-to-Heart challenge to TV viewers and the audience packed into Hollywood’s Kodak Theater.
He wasn’t holding back the hyperbole.
“This is going to be the biggest Town Hall meeting in political history, right here in Hollywood! This is the future folks. If our estimates prove accurate, The iCandidate will be the single most watched TV show in history!
The front rows were crammed with celebrities; the entire theater was filled with signs and banners touting the finalists’ names in bold colors. Kristoff held out his arms. “Welcome once more, America, to The iCandidate.” The theater erupted as the lights slowly dimmed.
The Heart to Heart Challenge
“Throughout this entire season, you’ve been writing in with your stories and your questions and we’ve picked some of you to be here tonight to present them to our three finalists face to face. There will be no hiding behind political jargon, just answers straight from the heart. The iCandidates have just 30 seconds for each answer.”
“What are we waiting for? Let’s meet our first iVIP!”
Janet Wilson, a single mom from Mississippi, stood up and Kristoff went down into the audience to join her.
In a halting, nervous voice, she explained how she discovered she had breast cancer shortly after her husband, Mark, died from a tumor two years earlier.
“I was terrified,” the petite mother began. Her hair was beginning to grow back. “I lost my husband - the children’s daddy - so having the disease back in our family was devastating. How could I look after my children, pay for the expenses, and survive?”
“So, on your darkest days, Janet, how did you cope? What kept you going?” Jacqueline asked.
“My children. It is as simple as that. They did the housework, helped with the shopping, the cooking.”
The young mother’s voice started to break and Kristoff jumped in.
“Janet, I know you have a question you want to ask the finalists - and in consideration of allowing all our competition winners a turn, please pick the two you want to hear from most.”
“Okay. My first choice is Todd. Do you think there is a cure for cancer out there, and if you were to become President of the United States what would you do to fight the disease?”
“I want to believe we are very near to getting a cure for cancer,” Todd started. “I dearly wish we had the answers and the cure already, so that your family could have been saved from so much suffering, Janet.” He ran through a quick list of statistics and government bodies and comparative survival rates that seemed to confuse everybody, including the questioner.
Grace glanced at Janet, who looked blank.
“Janet, please choose either Tom or Grace for their response…”
Tom cleared his throat. “Can I just ask you Janet, what treatments did you have?”
Janet smiled. “I had all the recommended courses of chemotherapy, and felt absolutely awful throughout, so I changed my strategy and went natural - juicing every day, blood cleansing tonics, herbs, homeopathy, you name it, we did it.”
“We?” Tom asked.
“My children. And they prepared it all for me, and they had it too. I have no doubt in my mind, that’s what saved me. Sunshine fixes they called them!”
No Magic Pill
Tom’s eyes filled up with tears. “Janet, I believe you are right.” As he looked around, it hit him. There were so many people here and they were all listening. There was a chance to make a real difference.
Finding Gillian in the audience he winked at her. “One medicine doesn't cure all, how could it? We are all so different. Janet, do I believe there is a cure for cancer? I don’t believe in a magic pill, no.
But I wholeheartedly believe in an integrated approach. It is the only one that makes sense. If I become President I would fight to have more natural therapies approved, and money allocated to those areas.
“That’s the answer I’m looking for. Thank you Tom.” Janet took her seat.
But the audience reaction was muted. No one had really set the place on fire. So no home runs.
CHAPTER 73 - HERO
Returning from the commercial break, Kristoff tried to whip up a little enthusiasm. “Welcome back, folks, be ready to lose your heart to a military family.”
Nicholas Byrnes stood up, brushing his hand through a straggly mop of graying hair.
“Nicholas is a session musician from Rutherford, New Jersey. Ever worked with the Boss?” Kristoff asked.
“I’ve played a chord or two with him,” The audience burst into rapturous applause. “You’ve certainly impressed this crowd, maybe we can have you play for us later?”
“It would be an honor,” Nicholas was bursting with pride.
“So, I know you have two sons. They didn’t follow you into the music business then?”
“John, our eldest, was a fine musician, but out of the blue he decided to join the military, and my youngest, David, who had just finished community college, had his AA degree and was transferring to a four year, signed right up with him. Both were deployed to Afghanistan.”
It was very quiet in the concert hall, and Kristoff knew this was going to be one of those memorable moments.
The Ultimate Price
“That was four years ago. David is here with me but John, he…he never made it home.”
Kristoff waited, allowing a few moments of silence out of respect for the father’s loss, of course, but it had to be said, for it’s dramatic effect. The audience was transfixed.
“So, what is your question for the iCandidates, Nicholas?” Kristoff asked softly.
“Military officials told me that my son died a hero, protecting his country. Well, as it turns out, he was a victim of friendly fire. It was a terrible mistake. Even though I know the facts, the military chiefs will not admit it to me. They insist on telling me that he was a hero killed in action with the enemy.”
A ripple of discomfort ran through the crowd. “If you were leading this country, and you knew the real story, would you tell me what you think I want to hear, or would you just tell me what I need to hear, which is the truth? I’d like to hear from Grace first.”
Kristoff walked into the audience to Nicholas, putting a hand on his shoulder. “It doesn’t get any more real than this. Grace, you’re up.”
Grace swallowed hard. “I am so very sorry for your loss, Mr. Byrnes.”
She didn’t want to do this. She was aware of how quiet the room was.
Finally Grace found the words. “My parents served the public, too, not in the military, but in politics. I was there when they were gunned down in cold blood. The killers were masked and to this day I do not know who murdered them, and probably never will. And although knowing this won’t bring them back, the truth is a necessary component to heal.” Grace’s voice shook slightly.
“I believe you can wholeheartedly support our brave troops fighting to protect us, but at the same time have an opinion on whether a war is right or wrong.” Grace looked at Nicholas, but his expression was impossible to read.
“Nicholas Byrnes deserves our respect and that of the military. He deserves nothing but the truth.”
The applause was again muted. Kristoff moved forward. “Thank you, Grace.” He nodded at Nicholas Byrnes.
“I’d like to hear from Todd, please.”
Todd decided that there was only one way to play this. He moved away from his lectern, and towards the father. He was going for glory.
Silver Star medal with case, ribbon pin, and lapel button. Lt. James Robert Barnett earned this Silver Star for “gallantry in action” during the Vietnam War.
“I believe your son was awarded the Silver Star, is this correct Mr. Byrnes?”
Nicholas nodded and Todd continued. “John Byrnes earned the silver star because of the example he set throughout his service to our great nation, not just on that fateful day that he fell.” Todd paused and looked around the room. He had everyone’s attention and he savored the moment.
“In my mind, John is a hero however he died. John made the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terror simply by choosing duty to his country over an easier life, and for that reason, and I think everyone in this room and at home will agree with me when I say this, John is, and will always be the people’s hero! That is the truth here.”
Todd punctuated ‘people’s hero’ with such emotion that the audience was on its feet giving him a standing ovation.
Nicholas had his head bowed, his shoulders shaking. Even the judges were standing and clapping.
Man, he’s good, thought Grace. He didn’t even answer the question.
CHAPTER 74 – Q & A
The next iVIP was Sally Baker, a flight attendant for American Airlines who lost her best friend on 9/11. Kristoff had his arm around her when they returned from the commercial break.
“I don’t understand why Muslims hate Christians so much?” she said. “What can you tell me that will make me believe you would do everything possible to stop another attack? I need to believe there is a future for my children. Todd, please?”
“Of course you do, Miss Baker,” Todd said gently. “I am a believer in defending our great country with nothing left to chance.
I would invest in the very best technology to beef up the security posts at the airports, in the air, and we would have more military patrols at all our borders. I want you to be able to sleep soundly in your bed at night, secure in the knowledge that I care. If anyone is going to stay up at night it will be me, protecting you and your family!”
Sally blew Todd a kiss. “Tom, please.”
Again, Todd had avoided the question. But this time Tom didn’t hesitate.
“Sally, I am so sorry that you lost your best friend because of 9/11, but let me be very clear when I say this: It was not a religion that attacked us on that awful day. It was al Qaeda; it was a despicable and evil act of mass murder and not the Muslim faith targeting Christianity.
We cannot negotiate with terrorists and we cannot live in fear either. We are stronger than that, and Sally, you must believe and pass over that strength to your children.” Sally nodded thoughtfully, but she clearly wouldn’t be voting for Tom.
Kristoff crossed over to the other side of the auditorium. “I’d like to introduce Eric Gonzalez, a Mexican construction worker from Santa Ana, California. Go ahead Eric.”
“Good evening, Grace, Todd, Tom. I have always worked hard. My employer laid me off a year ago because there were no houses to build. I have a wife and three kids to support, but there are no jobs. Tell me something I can tell my wife when she cries at nighttime? Please can I hear from Grace first, and then Tom, please?”
“My answer has two parts. Firstly, we have to keep the jobs here and not watch them being outsourced to China and India.
Secondly, we need to invest money in the country’s highways, bridges, tunnels, and even government office buildings.
Mr. Gonzalez, you would be able to use your skills in construction in these areas and not just have to rely on a buoyant housing market for your line of work.”
“Good stuff.” Kristoff moved it on. “Ready, Tom? Thirty seconds to answer Eric’s question.”
“Job creation is vital and the only way to go is to increase our access to all reliable domestic energy, wind, solar, nuclear, and yes, oil and natural gas.
Our nation has ample energy reserves that can contribute to our economy for decades to come. We need to tap into those resources. And for Mr. Gonzales in your line of work, there would always be a job for you in the construction side of things.”
Kristoff was getting antsy. He wanted more drama.
“Next is Madison Grey, a nurse from San Antonio, Texas who has a multiple choice question for you all. Go ahead, Madison.”
“We all agree that many professions such as teachers and nurses do not receive incomes to match the important work they do.
If you could play Robin Hood, which one of these would you take from to pay us more?
a) Professional athletes
b) Hedge fund/investment guys
c) Pharmaceutical giants
Todd jumped in. “I would make it my business to ensure nurses and teachers salaries would be raised significantly. My ideas for clean energy programs would boost our economy, resulting in our budget deficit being reduced. My energy bill will result in the growth of jobs, which, of course, will bring more money into our programs. That is how I will give you your raise, Madison.”
She didn’t look impressed. “Okay. Thank you, but you didn’t actually answer the question. Tom, what would you do?
“Well, I like to think myself as a bit of an athlete,” he quipped, “and I’m not sure I would want to penalize all the investment guys; there are some good ones out there trying to help folks save for a rainy day. So I would have to go with c) Pharmaceutical giants.”
“Grace?” Madison Gray looked disappointed with the answers she had heard so far.
All Of The Above
“Hello, Madison. I agree with you that salaries paid aren’t always reflective of the important work our teachers, nurses, and other healthcare professionals do. So I would have to say… a, b and c.”
Madison jumped up, clapping wildly. The majority of the studio audience followed.
“Thank you, that was easy,” Grace said shyly.
Kristoff moved in quickly. Time was running out…
CHAPTER 75 – THE CLAWS ARE OUT
The clock was almost out and the debate remained deadlocked.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have time for just a couple of questions from the audience.” Kristoff was still hoping for some last minute fireworks. Desmond had vetted the questioners and was in his earpiece urging him to choose a woman wearing a white hat in the front row. “Yes, the lady in the front, what is your question ma’am?”
“Do you think that America really is ready for a woman President.”
“This should be interesting,” Gillian whispered to Jen and Dulce, who were sitting by the side of the stage.
I’d like to hear from all three if we have time, starting with Tom.”
“Well, this is an interesting question, and my answer will be unique. I was born a man, so I have plenty of testosterone running through my veins, and yet, I always felt more in touch with my feminine side, hence the outfit, ladies and gentlemen.”
The audience laughed as Tom gave a little curtsey in a red and white dress with oversized blue buttons.
Not An Issue
“Growing up. I never knew if I was supposed to be a man or a woman. I felt stuck between two places, a man in a man’s world, but knowing in my heart that it wasn’t really me.
Confused? Yes, I was, too. But all I can say, is when you choose your leader, gender shouldn’t be an issue.
Think about the essential qualities you want in a leader such as integrity, loyalty, focus, love for the American people, and a deep desire for a better world. There’s no confusion about that.”
The audience was on their feet. “Thank you, Tom, well said. Now Todd?”
Ask A Woman
There was a pause as Todd looked around the room. “I love women!” The audience cheered.
“I also have the absolute utmost respect for women as equals in the workplace. I would go so far as to say I have seen many women kick ass in the corporate world. I have so much admiration for my opponent, Grace Conwright, and it has been an absolute honor to compete against her in this competition.” He paused, smiling at Grace.
“Likewise, Todd. But I think Britain’s Dame Margaret Thatcher said it perfectly, ‘In politics if you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman.’ No offense.”
The audience laughed. Todd’s phone vibrated. He risked a look.
Use the attack!!
Todd’s heart sank. “Sorry, Grace, I hadn’t quite finished.”
“Go ahead, Todd.” Grace smiled tightly.
“But I have to say this, ladies and gentlemen. I truly believe that America needs a leader who has the physical presence to stand up to countries across the world. There is a reason why our leaders have all been men.”
Todd walked purposefully over to Grace and put his arm around her shoulders. It was easy to see that he stood a foot taller and weighed 100 pounds heavier. “No offense meant to you, Grace,” he squeezed her slim shoulders before walking back to his podium.
Editorial Credit: Twocoms / Shutterstock.com
“Oh, none taken, Todd, but I disagree,” Grace said, her ire up. “It takes the right man, or the right woman, to run anything, be it a country or a business, and to say otherwise is naïve and sexist. And there are a growing number of strong women leading their countries in Europe and South America, as well as other parts of the world. In fact, the UK just chose a woman for their Prime Minister for the second time.”
Grace received a powerful round of applause and Todd felt his phone vibrate again.
He’d gone too far to go soft now. “Strong? That’s such an interesting word isn’t it? We use it to describe so many things don’t we? Strong words, strong actions, the strength of our convictions, or morals.
But what if we choose to concentrate on strength in the pure physical form. Who is stronger? I don’t think anyone here would argue that a man is usually physically stronger than a woman. So, if an enemy were to attack us, and let’s just say, for arguments sake, that enemy was a man, he is physically strong, aggressive and unyielding. Who do you think will offer the best defense? A man or a woman?”
Grace’s eyes bored into Todd. “I think a woman would fight to the death,” she said deliberately.
“Yes, but a man wouldn’t have to. He is on equal footing, and has a better chance of overpowering the attacker. A woman starts at a disadvantage.”
Grace’s voice was like steel. “That depends on the tools she uses.”
“But at the end of the day, that wasn’t enough was it, Grace?”
Grace stopped. Flashes of her attacker’s fist on her cheek and the memory of being slammed against the gravel filled her head.
The judges whispered to one another. Like the audience, they didn’t understand what was going on.
“What are they talking about, do you know?” Jen asked Gillian.
“Todd’s knifed Grace in the back,” Gillian said so quietly the others didn’t hear.
Grace and Todd continued to eye each other. Kristoff waited. Time was almost up. Too late to ask another question.
Grace finally found her voice. “A smart leader builds a team of trust and unity. Do the people ultimately want someone who acts alone and thinks they are better than everyone else?
No, I think the people want a leader who mirrors their thoughts, their wishes, and conveys those ideas with conviction. When strength is needed, strength lies in banding ideas and power together.
The leader, be it a man or a woman, is never alone. In the immortal words of one of our own great Presidents, Franklin D. Roosevelt: ‘Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.’”
The audience went wild – particularly the women.
Todd tried in vain to come up with a line that would floor her, but it was too late, Kristoff was running on to the stage.
It was over.