The iCandidate: 30th 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 92 - Ole Miss
The set up at Ole Miss, two days later, was different from the VP debate; three chairs set around a semicircular table, and the host, former NBC anchor Tim Bogart, sat nearly in the audience. It was to have a more town hall format, with questions asked by selected students in the crowd.
All three participants received warm applause, but it was obvious that Grace Conwright received the biggest welcome.
Jacqueline had warned Grace that Hillary would try and use her experience to make her look naïve and stupid.
“But it’s going to be more difficult for Hillary to attack you now. She might risk losing the female vote and that would be disastrous for her,” said Jacqueline. “She may take a different approach and be sympathetic, even a little condescending towards you, and save all the vitriol for Trump.”
Jacqueline was concerned about Grace’s skinny political resume becoming the dominant talking point. But it didn’t seem to worry Grace.
“Trump has less political experience than I do, so he can’t take me on for my lack of experience, and Hillary has been around so long she risks being seen as too much of a Washington insider. I don’t think it’s going to be an issue,” she insisted.
The more time she spent with Grace, the more Jacqueline was impressed. The iCandidate hardly needed coaching.
It was Donald Trump who jumped straight off the blocks to dominate the debate’s early parries. He scored strongly with his attacks on the administration’s failure to sustain the economic recovery, and maintained a vehement criticism of the President’s overhaul of the nation’s health system.
Cahill’s strategy and advice to Hillary was clearly to ignore Grace while being deferential to Trump; the opposite advice the President offered and, initially at least, disconcerting to both women.
Towards the end of the debate, with the honors roughly even, the expected question came up as to how Grace could possibly expect to govern on her own without any support in Congress.
“What makes you think we don’t have any support on Capitol Hill?” she shot back.
Trump twisted the knife. “Because there are no iCan Party representatives. It’s as simple as that.”
“I think you will find that we have more support than you might expect from such a new organization. We’re not the only people who are sick and tired of the political dogfights. Ladies and gentlemen, would you please stand up so we can see who you are?”
With that, two rows of senators stood up along the back of the Gertrude C. Ford Center, about 15 in all.
All The Way
The gang of four had spent four days on the phone laying down the line to all of the iCampaign’s potential supporters in Congress. It was time to stand up or get out, and they convinced the lawmakers to go public. Mason was more direct. “Piss or get off the pot,” he told one cautious congressman.
“These fine representatives, ladies and gentlemen, have pledged their support to the iCan Party. They will remain Democrats and Republicans, but they will join with me in getting this country to work when I win on November 8th. Others will join them, of that I am absolutely certain. We’re not talking small change here, we’re going all the way.”
Zammerman, Wikimedia Commons, (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Hillary half-heartedly congratulated Grace at the end of the debate – the first time she’d actually looked at her - as the audience surged forward holding out their programs for autographs.
“That was an interesting little stunt you pulled off there.”
“Yeah, I’m sorry. That’s the problem with having TV people run your campaign.
They get carried away with the dramatic impact thing.” Grace caught Jacqueline’s eye across the room, and got an enthusiastic thumb’s up.
Chapter 93 – Cahill's Fury
On the eve of the election, an army of minions in pinafores were tidying tables, chairs, and a mountain of food left over from the $10,000-a-plate campaign fundraising dinner. Guests were still talking in clusters sprinkled around the giant marquee set up in Patrick Cahill’s front yard.
There was the usual mix of politicians, Hollywood types, and wealthy donors happy to buy the opportunity to take their photos with Hillary Clinton and her husband. It was a Democratic Party pre-election tradition to hold the event at Cahill’s Connecticut mansion, and although the President had agreed to attend he was in-and-out in minutes, on his way back to Washington.
Good Old Days
“The man’s an idiot,” Cahill told his son-in-law as they walked back to the main house to escape the evening chill. Cahill was in no hurry, leaning on his stick and picking his way carefully down the stone path.
“The way he talks about his days as a community organizer in the bowels of Chicago, you’d think he’d rather be back there.”
“What do you mean?” Daniel Grey asked. “He seemed on top form to me.”
“Is that what you’d call it? If he said one more complimentary thing about that damned woman Conwright I was going to throw up. If I were his wife, I’d be getting a little worried. He’s got a major crush on her and her party of half-wits.”
Grey spent his entire courtship of Cahill’s daughter, and the first few years of their marriage, as much in awe of the old man as everybody else. But lately his father-in-law seemed like he was losing the plot.
“That reminds me, how is your plotting with Ainsworth going? An unlikely meeting of minds if ever there was one.”
“You and Ed did a good job getting the attack dogs riled up. Those ads are putting pressure on all the main players, but it’s not enough. We’re going to have to step it up.”
The two men climbed the steps to the front door, with Grey supporting the old man up, one at a time. They walked through into the parlor where Patricia Grey had already set down a tray of tea and shortbread on a table in front of the fire.
A copy of the New York Times was also on the table, its front page almost entirely taken up by a photograph of Grace.
“I know she’s on the other side, dad, but don’t you think she’s just wonderful?” Patricia picked up the paper. “I do love Hillary, of course, but when Grace talks, it’s like she’s giving voice to my thoughts.”
“Not you, as well. This is getting ridiculous,” Cahill grumbled, settling down into a battered brown leather armchair. “Can’t you see how you’re all being played? These people are patsies for the business interests in this country who want to take power away from the elected institutions that have protected the American people for generations.
First the President, then my own daughter. Next you’ll be standing up for them, Daniel.”
“No, but I think they should be given a fair crack.” Grey grimaced as he waited for the inevitable explosion. “I think we should go after them, yes, but we should keep it above board.”
“What do you know? You’re barely out of diapers and you want to tell me how to deal with this threat to everything I’ve worked for my whole life?” Cahill’s face turned puce and he spat out a shower of shortbread crumbs in his finger-jabbing fury.
“How dare you support those TV losers? I’ve shown you nothing but kindness, you married my daughter, took my patronage and this is how you repay me – with betrayal?”
“I’m not betraying you, sir. I’m only urging a measure of caution.” Grey had never seen Cahill like this.
“This iCampaign business could destroy America. It is not a time for the weak and the cautious. Your generation has grown soft. It’s all been so easy for you. Now’s the time for action before it is too late. ”
Shocked at the tirade, Patricia burst into tears.
W. G. Harding, 1920, author unknown
“Stay out of it, Patricia. Go and help your mother.”
Patricia looked from her father to Grey and backed out of the room. She was used to her father’s temper, but he’d never shouted at her. She was his only daughter, and he’d always been so good to Daniel. But lately, her husband had become increasingly worried over her father’s obsession with destroying the iCan Party.
“I don’t get it,” she told him. ‘They are just saying a lot of things we’ve always believed in as Democrats.”
Patricia was raised to speak her opinions and she simmered in the kitchen for a few minutes as her mother barked orders to the staff. First, she had to stop crying. Then she decided to vote for Grace Conwright – but she was never going to tell her father.
Chapter 94 - Taking Sides
It was just after 9:00 p.m. when Ayesha’s intercom buzzer went off, just as she was about to get in the bath. She’d turned off the phone Zia gave her days ago and the only person she could imagine who would call at this hour was his father, trying to blackmail her again.
Perhaps he thought her refusal was simply an attempt to push up her price. He would think something like that. She ignored the buzzer and climbed into the piping hot water. She wasn’t going to fall into the same trap this time.
Forty-five minutes later the buzzer was still going off every couple of minutes. Sitting in the bath she could hear it through the door; there was no way she could go to bed like this.
Eventually she cracked and picked up the phone. “Leave me alone or I’ll call security. I don’t want your son or your money.”
The voice on the other end sounded like Zia, but it couldn’t be him.
“Ayesha, please listen to me. Why aren’t you answering my calls? What has happened?”
She wanted to put the receiver down but she didn’t. She just held it there.
“Ayesha, are you there? Please speak to me.”
“Your father has made it clear what you both want, so what’s left to discuss?”
“I don’t know what he… oh, hello, Alma. Let me help you with your books…”
“NO! Alma! Don’t let him.” But it was too late. They were on their way up.
Ayesha was furious. She was waiting for him, hands on her hips, when he came to the door. She refused to let him in, closing the door behind her. They stood in the drafty corridor. “You have ten seconds.”
“I had no clue my father had come to see you. He had no right.” Zia pressed his two hands together to his chest.
“Well, he was very clear that neither of you wanted me in your life, and that you have no time for romance right now, certainly not with a Pakistani girl.” Ayesha paused a moment. “But he did offer to move my family out of the slums if we stopped seeing each other. How very generous of him.” Her voice shook.
“Ayesha, my father doesn’t know what I need. He could never understand what we have together.” Zia’s voice softened. “If I could only see you for two seconds on any given day, those two seconds are the best part of my day.” He could see Ayesha’s resolve weaken just a little.
“So, what if we don’t have too much time for romance right this minute, we will. Things will calm down. Then I can show you just how much I love you.”
Ayesha’s hands dropped from her waist. She longed to believe him, but Tariq had been so definite. She couldn’t face any more hurt.
“Ayesha, my father was wrong and I’m so sorry he put you through this. I promise you I had nothing to do with him coming here.” Her eyes held him at bay.
He wanted her to know everything. “I did tell him we were over because I had so much to deal with; I couldn’t handle his meddling as well. I was just waiting for the right time to explain it to him. I’m so sorry. I was weak. Please, can you forgive me?”
A group of students shuffled past, paying little attention at first, but then turning around and whispering to each other, watching Zia drop to one knee.
He pulled out a tiny box from his pocket and Ayesha gasped.
“Ayesha, I love you, with my heart and soul. Marry me? Let me spend my life proving that to you every day?”
Suddenly it was like every bone in her body gave out. Leaning back against the wall for support she slowly slid to the floor beside Zia.
“Of course,” she said, stunned. “Of course I’ll marry you…but you might want to tell your father this time.”
Ignoring the gallery of students who burst into noisy applause down the corridor, they kissed and Zia knew beyond doubt that whatever plans his father had for him, they would have to include Ayesha.