The iCandidate: 36th 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 114 – The iPresident
Todd marched out alone to the middle of the stage at the Lincoln Memorial.
“They all said it was impossible,” he shouted over a roar from the crowd. “They told us we were dreamers. They said we had no right to take on the big two. What do you think they are saying now?”
With the rest of the iCampaigners following him, lining up against the show’s familiar American flag backdrop, Todd enjoyed his moment. This was his triumph just as much as it was Grace’s. He worked as hard, if not harder, and he had won his share of the votes.
Ryan Rodrick Beiler / Shutterstock
“The iCan Party doesn’t just talk about change. We are making changes right now and we will keep making changes until America’s government is back where it should be – in the hands of the people.
Today, we have been given a mandate to forge a new way of running this great country. We will not let you down. Now it is my great pleasure … to introduce you to … the next President of the United States…Grace Conwright!”
The crowd stretched all the way from the stage in front of the Lincoln Memorial to the steps of the Capitol nearly two miles away. The people had crowned their queen and now they rejoiced in her coronation.
Chapter 115 - The Baton
Grace hugged Rich, Dulce, Jennifer, Tom, Cameron, and Gillian one-by-one, then Todd led her to the microphone before leaving her alone in the middle of the stage; a single spotlight shining down on her..
For a moment, she appeared too overwhelmed to speak. Dressed in a simple white gown, she looked tiny in the grandeur of her surroundings. Then she looked up with a huge smile on her face that filled the National Mall.
“We did it,” she said. “We did it!”
And the entire country went wild.
“This is not the same America as it was yesterday or last year. This day marks the start of something new, a reappraisal of what we think is important. The nation has come together in the very best tradition of our great democracy to send a message.
The message is that we have to work together for the common good, not against each other. Party politics is dead. Now, we must all take responsibility for our beliefs.”
Spelling out her vision for the future, Grace didn’t touch on the fact that she was voted America’s first woman President until she neared the end of the speech.
“I am proud to be a woman and I am proud of what I have achieved, but I do not think this is about me being a woman. I believe this is simply my time. It is the iCandidate’s time.
Ten years ago, my parents were killed on a stage such as this, if not quite so grand. They had a lot of dreams for our country, and for me that they were never able to see fulfilled. But I hope, as a very dear friend said to me just now, that they are looking down on us and saying, ‘You go, girl!’
I know this isn’t about me, it’s much bigger than that. But for my part, I would like to dedicate this day to my parents and to everyone’s parents, the people whose sacrifices make all of this possible.”
Fighting back tears, Grace acknowledged Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
“I do feel for my opponents, who are both worthy adversaries. But this is a new day. Change really has come to the new America.”
She still hadn’t heard anything from Trump. Grace turned to the welcoming cluster of her jubilant iCampaign team when she saw the President heading from the side of the stage towards her. This was a huge surprise, and a big political gamble, on his part – a Democrat President appearing to show support for a new President from a new party.
He made it easy for her, putting his arms out for a hug.
The night sky filled with a fireworks display of flashbulbs as the moment was captured for websites and the morning news.
“Who could have thought so much change would come so fast?” he said to the crowd with a big grin on his face. “I was just hanging out at the White House, checking out the jobs wanted classifieds, so I thought I’d pop over and join the party.
David Peterlin / Shutterstock
I don’t mean that literally, they look like they’ve got a pretty good leader as it is. But seriously, what The iCan Party has done is truly remarkable. What Grace Conwright has achieved is awe-inspiring. Our first woman President, ladies and gentlemen,” he added to deafening applause.
“On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King changed the world with his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech from this very stage. In the years to come, I believe this moment may be spoken about in the same breath. If only Dr. King could have known that his brave, powerful words would lead to this: a black woman in the White House.
His dreams, I am sure, have now come true and I, for one, will be offering all my support to make sure Grace achieves her dreams of change, just as I achieved some of mine.
My commiserations of course to my old colleague and adversary Secretary Hillary Clinton and to Donald Trump; but the truth is, America is digging politics right now – and that’s a huge feather in the cap of The iCan Party and the iCampaign.
“Congratulations, Grace. I’m proud of you; and I wish you the very best of luck. God bless and God Bless America.”
The President leaned over to kiss Grace on the cheek.
Chapter 116 – Say Grace
One mile across the Mall, Bilal Fazlullah watched the celebrations through a pair of binoculars from a prized viewpoint in the observatory on top of the Washington Monument. He wore a ‘Say Grace’ t-shirt and appeared as swept up in the moment as everyone around him in the scenes being relayed on giant screens.
He’d camped out all day to be sure of his view. He was friendly and polite to other people in the line, telling them he’d traveled from Oklahoma to be there; but he spent most of the wait reading a paperback.
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock
Making sure to get a prime spot looking down from the west side rectangular window, 555 feet above the Mall, he appeared unmoved by the mayhem that greeted Grace’s appearance; and if he was surprised by the President’s sudden arrival, nobody would have known.
In fact, he didn’t even take out his earphones.
Just before the President leaned in to kiss Grace, Bilal pressed two buttons on a small mechanical device and fled his spot to beat the rest of the crowd back down to the obelisk base.
Down on the stage a moment later, the President was confused as Grace went limp in his arms. He thought at first she’d fainted from the excitement, but soon and then saw the blood on his white shirt and dropped to the ground with his arms still around her. Bewildered and covered with blood he realized it came from Grace, now lying on the ground, lifeless, with a tiny bullet hole in her chest.
In that instant, the President was literally hurled off the back of the stage by a scrum of Secret Service agents .
With the spotlight still trained on Grace’s body, Cameron reacted, running across the stage to cover her.
As he reached Grace, a second bullet hit him; his shoulder erupted in pain.
The second shot broke the spell. Mayhem broke out on stage with everyone ducking for cover, fearing more shots from the unseen gunman.
Ignoring the danger, Gillian ran over and cradled Grace’s head, trying desperately with her bare hands to stem the flow of blood from her chest.
Cameron, too, was losing blood, but he cried out for Grace to stay with him.
Unsure whether to move back or move in, armed police ringed the stage without a clue where to look for the assailant. The crowds had no such qualms, falling back in the Mall, many being trampled in the process.
Joining the throng rushing away from the mall, Bilal slipped down a side street. He no longer had any interest in the events unfolding on the iCampaign stage.
He still had work to do.
Chapter 117 – Room Service
Ayesha and Emily were sitting on the edge of the sofa in their hotel room, watching the never-ending TV re-runs of the moment Grace slumped into the President’s arms. Suddenly there was a knock on the door.
Zia had called a couple of hours earlier and asked them to stay put; he would speak to them later. But Ayesha was worried. He sounded different.
Emily was a mess. She was trembling uncontrollably and kept staring at the birthday photo. Only the election drama had shocked her out of her meltdown.
Ayesha thought food might help and had ordered some soup and sandwiches. She was just about to open the door when she had a thought. “Emily, why don’t you go in the bathroom for a moment. We don’t want anyone to know you’re here.”
“It’s only room service.” Emily got up wearily anyway.
“Better to be safe.”
Ayesha waited for a minute to let Emily lock the bathroom and opened the door to a female server waiting with a food trolley. Gesturing towards the table, the girl moved through the door. Before Ayesha could close it, a young man in a t-shirt pushed through behind her.
He looked surprised to see her. “Ayesha?”
They stood stock still for a second as the server hurried out.
“What are you doing here?” Ayesha’s mind was racing and coming up blank.
“I have some business to do.” He was speaking in Urdu. “It has nothing to do with you.”
“Then why are you here?” It still made no sense to Ayesha.
“I need to speak to your friend.” Bilal pulled a pistol with a long silencer out of a sports bag he was carrying. “You shouldn’t be with these western devils. We saw you with your big shot boyfriend. You’re a whore!”
Bilal grabbed Ayesha and held the gun to her head. “Come out, lady, wherever you are.” He was talking in English now. “If you don’t I’ll kill Miss Ayesha and we don’t want that do we? Are you going to leave her to die while you hide like a coward?”
The TV was still re-running the assassination attempt, but Emily heard the accented voice over the commentary.
She really had no choice. She unlocked the door and slowly walked out into the suite’s living room. “Let her go,” she said softly. “It’s me you want. Please, just let her go.”
“No!” Ayesha cried out as she was pushed roughly onto the floor.
“Stay there, both of you. Bilal spoke in English, adding in Urdu: “If you move, bitch, I’ll shoot you.”
He turned to Emily and told her to sit quietly and watch the television. “Don’t look around,” he barked. “Look straight ahead.”
As he said it he raised the gun and pointed it at Emily. There was a moment’s hesitation as he tightened the silencer barrel and Ayesha screamed and jumped on the gunman’s back, scratching at his eyes. She hugged his neck, making it impossible to aim the gun at her, all the time digging at his face.
Caught by surprise, Bilal fought to stay on his feet but lost his balance and fell backwards; the gun clattered onto the wood floor towards Emily, who dived to pick it up.
Ayesha couldn’t keep hold of the wiry shooter as he ran over to where Emily was holding the gun. She pulled the trigger and a bullet ricocheted harmlessly off the food trolley. Bilal was on her in an instant, wrestling the pistol from her grasp.
“Such stupidity! Now I’ll have to kill you both. Don’t move!”
The re-runs were still playing on TV, the grave voices of the commentator discussing the assassination attempt in hushed tones, and Bilal gestured for the two women to sit back on the sofa.
“Where is your Gorah boyfriend now?” he said to Ayesha. “Too busy for you,” he laughed, aiming his gun at her head.
Sitting side-by-side on the couch, Emily reached out and held Ayesha’s hand. They closed their eyes.
Chapter 118 – Panic Stations
“For Christ sake, do something,” Kristoff yelled at his security chief. Grace still lay on the floor, a red circle was spreading across the white dress.
Desmond crossed the stage, pushing the guards out of the way, and kneeled beside Grace. “We need help now!” he shouted, scanning the area for any sign of the paramedics. His eyes found Todd.
Todd froze when the first bullet was fired and remained glued to the spot as everyone rushed around him. But after the second shot he dashed to where Gillian and Desmond were helping Grace, to see how badly she was hurt. He clutched his head in disbelief, fighting to keep his composure. This couldn’t be happening.
He knelt down beside Grace and took her hand. “Stay strong, you’re going to be fine. You’re going to get through this.” Taking one last look across at Desmond, Todd scrambled back to his feet and ran off the stage.
After checking to see if Grace still had a pulse, Desmond ordered everybody to stand back so the emergency services could reach her. He gently removed the flag pin from her bloodstained dress so the paramedics could get to the wound.
The platform quickly filled with police and paramedics. Grace, unconscious but still breathing, was stretchered into a waiting ambulance with Gillian by her side. Cameron, weak from loss of blood, was taken in another ambulance with Tom. The other iCampaigners followed in a police car.
The shooter was never found. It was only later that police discovered two futuristic-looking gun barrels attached to an electronic timer with titanium sensor triggers disguised in the rigging at the side of the stage.