The iCandidate: 28th Installment cover

The iCandidate: 28th Installment

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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!





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The iCandidate: 28th Installment

Chapter 86 – Press Conference

David Mason was standing at a shabby lectern outside the Downtown court building with Desmond, and Tom next to him. Standing just behind them with a couple of burly bodyguards were Kristoff and Jacqueline.

Mason read out a brief statement explaining that the judge had dismissed the complaint brought by the Democrat and Republican presidential campaigns.

“The iCampaign would like to thank Judge Peter Wilson for agreeing to consider this application so quickly, and for his prompt adjudication. I can confirm that he found there was no evidence of electoral malpractice. The iCampaign is very much still on track, and we hope you will all vote for The iCandidate Grace Conwright.”

Pressed

Pressed

Mason introduced Desmond to answer any questions.

“What do you say to claims that you weren’t transparent about your fundraising methods?” The CNN reporter jumped in first.

“There was no secret. We were going to put all the details on the website. We just didn’t know that Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton were going to take legal action. That just meant we had to get moving.”

Simple

“So, tell us how it came about?”

“It was the simplest idea in the world,” Desmond said. “We sent out millions of emails to everyone who voted during the season of The iCandidate and asked them to contribute to the iCan Party. They could donate up to the $2,500 limit for individuals.

We also posted a request on The iCandidate website. There really was never any mystery to it.”

How Much

“So, how much did you raise and how long did it take?” The elderly ABC Political Editor veteran was a known pal of Paddy Cahill.

“The donations totaled more than $120 million. We closed the fund after 24 hours.”

“Why did you do that?” The ABC man seemed irritated.

Kristoff leaned in to answer. “We didn’t want to appear greedy. To compete with the big boys, Grace needs all $100 million at her disposal. That’s not really so much if you have the right strategy.”

Chapter 87 – VP Debate

As much as it still secretly riled Todd that he was forced to play second fiddle to Grace, the Vice Presidential Debate was his chance to shine. With the first Presidential Debate still two weeks away, he finally had the stage to himself. And he was loving it.

Without a party line to defend, he was allowed free rein by Kristoff, while his rivals were becoming increasingly frustrated as the debate wore on. While Hillary’s running mate Senator Tim Kaine was a comparative newcomer, he was still firmly socialist in his outlook. Republican Governor Mike Pence came from the evangelical Christian right of his party, and they wouldn’t work out where Todd was coming from.

Wild Card

Wild Card

He was for free trade and raising taxes on the rich. He wanted more offshore oil rigs to help lower the cost of gas, and more green energy projects to cut carbon emissions and help save the planet. He wanted to get rid of earmarks allowing lawmakers to pin their vanity projects to bills, but didn’t see why lobbyists couldn’t work effectively in Washington.

Madness

“This is plain madness,” said Kaine, as the televised debate got under way. “Your views are a mass of contradictions and they don’t even match those of your party’s presidential candidate. It’s virtually impossible to have a meaningful debate when there is no correlation in the issues you are discussing.”

“That’s the whole point,” Todd argued. “You just don’t get it, do you? Issues aren’t black and white like you try to make them in Washington, and especially on the campaign trail. Everyone’s an individual and they have their own unique take on life. These are the people we represent.”

Governing

“But it’s not realistic.” Pence couldn’t get a handle on Todd’s strategy either.

“Answer me this, then,” said Todd. “How many times have you seen a President make all sorts of ideological promises on the campaign trail and then backtrack when they get into office? They have to wheel and deal and compromise to get anything done.”

“But that’s what governing is all about. What you are talking about is creating constitutional chaos,” Kaine insisted.

Game Plan

“What is chaotic about the iCan Party’s plan to cut the deficit?” Todd replied. “I’m saying that we can cut $4 trillion by raising taxes and by cutting benefit programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

It’s a tough pill to swallow for both parties and it obviously would involve sacrifice by the public, but it would stop this country spinning out of control and falling further and further into debt to China. Okay, we would raise taxes for the wealthy, but there would be cuts in the corporate rates and for the poor and middle class.”

Jacqueline stood in the wings watching with a keen eye. She’d been rehearsing with both iCandidates and Todd was sticking exactly to the game plan.

Talker

Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock

Talker

“Kaine will talk the whole debate without taking a breath if you let him. So don’t,” she had told Todd in the final moments before he went on stage. “Be sharp and to the point and hold your own. Don’t underestimate Pence either. Some of his views may be a little out there, but he’s bland compared to Trump, and he’s there to balance out the ticket. He’s no fool, no matter what they say.”

One Question

She’d nodded approvingly at Todd’s appearance. “Nice suit.”

It had all been going so well when the adjudicator, Paul Field from PBS, asked Todd the one question he dreaded most. Pence stumbled through a long-winded monologue about the importance of family values, ignoring attempts to keep within his allotted five minutes, when he turned to face Todd.

“So, everybody knows you well from your TV reality show, but how can you expect to understand American families when you’re single?”

Explain

This was the one bone of contention between Todd and his handlers. He didn’t believe his personal life was relevant. Now it seemed he had to explain his thinking to the American public.

“I’m not ruling out marriage, when the time is right, but I’ve been a little busy lately…”

There was a twitter of laughter from the audience.

Plowing on, Pence asked bluntly: “Do you really think people will vote for a bachelor Vice President?”

Right To Know

“I don’t see why not. President James Buchanan never married and Grover Cleveland waited until he was in the White House to get hitched, so, it’s not like it would be a big deal to have a single VP.”

Todd had stuck to his guns right from his first appearance on The iCandidate. “I don’t feel it is necessary for everybody to know all of my private business.”

“But Todd, surely you understand that the public has a right to know about who you might be dating.” Kaine finally had something to work with.

Wrong

Wrong

Todd wasn’t backing down. “I truly believe the celebrity culture is everything that is wrong with public life today. I am not asking for privacy for myself, I am asking it for every American. That is our right. And, by the way, this campaign is not a reality show – it’s the real thing.”

Growing

The applause from the audience was surprisingly warm. Enough so that Pence and Kaine backed off.

The post debate opinion polls showed The iCandidates were closing in on the leaders. A “Meet the Viewers” tour of battleground states Florida, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Ohio had been huge.

The iCampaign movement was growing.

Chapter 88 - Double Trouble

Ayesha had spotted Bilal and Salman that morning on The T train she took from Cambridge to Boston, although they hadn’t seen her. They were walking ahead on the platform and she got onto the busy carriage behind them.

Rush hour would soon leave much more room, but she liked to get into the city early for her walks around Boston Common-- it was still less crowded than the buses in Karachi, where she never got to sit down.

Bilal looked daggers at her whenever their paths crossed in school, but she would smile at Salman, who always looked so nervous he made her feel better about her shyness.

Exploring

As Ayesha grew in confidence, she ventured further afield from the Harvard campus, and had taken to heading for Boston Common or walking along the Charles River Esplanade, marveling at the row boats, and the girls in tight Lycra shorts and skimpy vests running along the waterside.

She had stopped wearing her niqab, but she could still never imagine being that daring.

She hadn’t paid the two Pakistani boys a second thought until she went in search of a soda off Boylston Street. Walking past a narrow alleyway she almost bumped into Salman, who looked like he’d seen a ghost.

Chance Encounter

f11photo / Shutterstock

Chance Encounter

“Ayesha, what are you doing here?”

“Just walking. How about you? Are your studies going well?” Ayesha felt like she should make some effort at conversation. Salman looked terrified.

“Yes, yes. Well, have a good day.” He spoke in excellent English but looked down, clearly not wanting to talk.

Study Project

Over his shoulder, Ayesha could see Bilal with another, much older man, who was putting what looked like two thin metal tubes into a big linen sack. It was hard to see the man’s face in the shadows, but he had a graying beard.

Salman moved over to block her view. “See you at Harvard,” he said, his face damp with sweat.

Zia had told her not to worry about the boys. She assumed it was something to do with a study project and carried on past. She’d walked about five yards when a hand grabbed her shoulder and pulled her back.

Why

“Why is your face uncovered?” It was Bilal and he was yelling in her face. “Why are you following me?”

Knocking his hand away, Ayesha told him to leave her alone. “I didn’t know you were here. I just saw Salman as I walked past – and what I wear is no business of yours.” He was carrying the linen sack in one hand.

He didn’t move. Salman was cowering behind him.

Threatened

Bilal was his usual scruffy self, in a pair of ill-fitting jeans, a t-shirt and a baseball cap. He seemed, to Ayesha, tenser than she’d seen him before. It was like he was running through options as he stood silent in front of her.

Finally, he stepped aside. “Stay away from us. You’re a bad Muslim.” He spoke in Urdu.

The threat sent a chill down Ayesha’s spine.

She hurried on and didn’t look back.