The iCandidate: Final 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 119 – Hostages
Zia exited The Jefferson Hotel elevator on the eleventh floor and sprinted down the corridor to the suite he’d arranged for Emily and Ayesha fearing the worst. The door was ajar; he recognized the two heads of the women turned towards the flickering television.
Standing over them was one of his father’s Pakistani students, a gun in one hand and a phone to his ear in the other.
“I’ve been trying to get hold of you. What should I do with the girl? You didn’t say anything about her.” Zia recognized Bilal speaking Urdu, but didn’t understand what he was saying. “That wasn’t part of the deal,” the young man continued in English. “Okay, okay,” he said and then hung up the phone.
Zia didn’t have the time to reach Bilal before he opened fire. He had no choice. “Put the gun down!”
Bilal’s gun swiveled around to point at him and Ayesha screamed out.
“Put it down, Bilal. There’s been a mistake. This isn’t part of the plan.”
Zia could read the confusion on Bilal’s face; the gun now cocked and pointed at him.
“I spoke to your father. He said to kill both of them.” The teen waved the pistol back towards his captives.
“Are you going to kill me as well? Do you really think you could do that?” Zia walked slowly towards Bilal, his hand out for the gun. “My father would hunt you down and kill you himself.”
The gun was pointed back at Zia who kept walking forward. Bilal put both hands on the trigger trying to steady himself.
“Do you really want to tell my father you shot me? Is that your plan? Perhaps you should call and ask him about that, too.” Zia was almost close enough to touch the silencer and stopped. “Just give me the gun and leave.”
Ayesha stood up behind the gunman but was powerless to act.
For a second it seemed like Bilal was going to do as he was asked, but when his phone began to ring he raised the gun up again and took aim at Zia’s forehead.
“AYESHA, NO! ”
Zia watched in horror as Bilal was bowled onto the ground as a loud crack reverberated around the hotel room.
Ayesha staggered into Zia’s arms, her green kameez covered in blood. Her eyes were wide with terror; her hands clutched at her stomach.
“Put her on the sofa.” Emily helped Zia lay her wounded friend down and tried to stem the blood. She felt around the cloth at Ayesha’s stomach. She looked up at Zia, tears rolling down her cheeks.
“There’s nothing here,” Emily said. “She wasn’t hit.”
They looked down to see Bilal’s lifeless body, his t-shirt and jeans stained with blood.
Zia slumped onto the sofa next to Ayesha and Emily. CNN was still playing the presidential assassination attempt over and over on the TV. He knew now that Emily was his mother. He also knew just how far his father was prepared to go to get what he wanted.
Hugging Ayesha and Emily close, as close as he possibly could, Zia felt a chill go down his spine. Everything was spinning out of control.
Chapter 120 - ER
The beep of the monitors pricked the silence inside the hospital room; a faint rustle of fabric tapped the air as nurses moved swiftly through the corridor outside. Muffled voices could occasionally be heard somewhere in the distance, but here, cocooned away from the world, Grace was finally safe.
Gillian stood to stretch and walk to the window. It was snowing with soft steady flakes settling on the darkened streets below and in the branches of the trees sprinkled sparsely across the hospital grounds. She hadn’t slept and only left Grace’s side to go the bathroom.
Grace hadn’t woken up. The bullet punctured her lung, and although the surgery was successful, she had lost enough blood to induce a coma.
Gillian returned to her seat, holding Grace’s hand, and started to tell her about the snow and about Cameron, who was down the hall recovering from surgery to his shoulder injury.
Grace had shrunk under a web of tubes.
Gillian had no idea if she could hear her voice. But for now, talking to Grace was all she could do; that, and pray that at some point, she would move just one muscle, one eyelash, anything to let Gillian and the others know that she hadn’t left them.
“The others will be coming back to visit you soon, Grace. I wish you could see the room. It looks like a beautiful flower shop in here. At least maybe you can smell the flowers.”
She stared at her friend’s face. There was no reaction. Gillian closed her eyes for a second, but quickly opened them again.
She couldn’t get the image out of her head; Grace lying in the middle of the Lincoln Memorial.
A nurse came in the room to change the IV. Gillian walked back out into the hospital corridor to find Rich and Jennifer helping Cameron towards Grace’s room.
“It’s a miracle she’s still alive. The bullet just missed her heart,” Tom was telling Dulce.
Seeing Gillian come towards them, they all stopped in the narrow passageway thinking the same thing: it had been a long road, but they never dreamed it would come to this.
Dulce moved first, arms open, and one-by-one, they all did the same. They made a peculiar sight - the hulking physique of Rich’s football frame, his arm cradling Dulce’s petite frame, who in turn had tightly clutched Tom’s ample waist.
Wearing an emerald green chiffon dress, Tom’s pudgy arm wrapped around Cameron, who linked arms with Gillian as she embraced Jen, who leaned on Rich’s shoulder, thus completing the circle. They stood together for a minute or two, finding a brief comfort in each other. “Let’s get some tea,” Tom said, leading the way to the hospital cafeteria.
“The doctor told me earlier that they can’t predict if Grace will come out of the coma or when. It’s too early to tell if she has brain damage, and to what extent. It could be days, weeks, even months.” Gillian glanced at Cameron. “That’s if she comes out of it at all.”
Cameron’s jaw stiffened.
“She’ll be fine,” Tom said, trying to sound upbeat. “She has to be.”
“Has Todd been in?” Jen asked.
“Not yet,” Tom answered. “He’s been hounded by the media. They want to know if he’s taking over as President. Nothing like this has ever happened before. Kristoff has him lying low for now.”
“So you’ve talked to Kristoff?” Rich wiped his eyes with the front of his t-shirt.
“Yes, he was here,” Tom explained. “I’ve told the media that we’ll be arranging a press conference later today to explain Grace’s progress. I spoke to them earlier, as well. As things stand, I believe Todd will take over as interim President if Grace doesn’t…” He trailed off.
“Let’s pray for Grace everybody,’ Dulce beckoned, and six heads bowed as they joined hands around the white plastic cafeteria table.
Chapter 114 – Amazing Grace
After all the planning and all the work making the iCandidate dream come true, the Gang of Four sat in shocked silence inside Jacqueline’s Watergate apartment.
Mason was the last to arrive. He’d been updating the media every 30 minutes on Grace’s condition. But the doctors had told him there wasn’t likely to be much change in the near future, if at all.
Kristoff and Jacqueline had been to the hospital with the President. Desmond had been working with the White House to decide what was going to happen next.
“It’s pretty straightforward really,” he told the others. “As the duly voted VP, Todd will be sworn in as President in January, unless Grace makes a miraculous recovery, which at the moment, I’m afraid, looks highly unlikely.
I’ve had Cahill on claiming a constitutional crisis and talking about emergency powers and a bunch of other BS, but the reality is that we will still have an iCandidate as President.”
“So much for changing the world. It’s still the same cruel, nasty place.” Jacqueline’s eyes were red from crying and Kristoff put an arm around her shoulders to comfort her. “It’s just not fair,” she sobbed.
“I know this is tough,” Kristoff said quietly. “But we owe it to everybody – we owe it to Grace – to make this work. We’ve got to focus and make sure the iCan Party can rule properly.”
Desmond stood up from the kitchen table. It was 6:00 a.m. “You guys try and get some sleep. The President has organized a meeting with Clinton, Trump and myself in the West Wing in about an hour. I want to check on Grace and then I’ll head over to the White House.”
He called for his driver to come and take him back to see Grace. He also desperately needed to speak to Todd, but he had to get his own head straight first.
On the way he asked to go back to the National Mall to get his glasses he’d left behind in the studio.
Morning rush hour hadn’t yet begun, and the trip from his hotel to the Mall should have only taken a few minutes, but there was still heavy traffic all around the area. Impatient to get to the hospital, he got out of the limo and asked his driver to wait for him just up the street. He came in from behind the Lincoln Memorial and walked around to where the massive stage had been constructed.
Grabbing his glasses from the empty control room that was already being dismantled by the night crew, he walked around to the back, wanting one last look at the spot where Grace’s dream had died.
His security chief was still there and helped him past the lines of yellow tape and the scores of police officers and agents working the crime scene.
Desmond expected it to be dark; it was hard to see as he made his way around the scaffolding at the rear of the stage, where the noisy generators were still running. But as he came out onto the side of the platform it was bathed in soft light.
At first he thought there must be a full moon, but he looked up to see the Mall still full of people.
Some had candles and others held their cell phones high in the air.
As Desmond moved to the front of the stage, away from the hum of the generators, a sea of faces, young and old, looked back at him.
They were all singing ‘Amazing Grace.’
Chapter 115 – The Switch
The beauty of the moment overwhelmed Desmond as he stood there alone, staring out at the real heart of the most powerful city on earth.
Then a movement from the other side of the stage caught his eye and Todd came striding out purposefully towards him.
Desmond stood his ground and waited until Todd was close. Then he pulled the younger man closer so nobody else would hear.
“We did it, Zia. We really did it. Just you and I, my son.” He made no attempt to hide his excitement. “It’s everything we always dreamed of.”
Todd stiffened and pulled back from the embrace, staring at his father. This was the man he had looked up to his whole life and wanted so much to believe in. But in the last hours the truth had turned to dust.
“You were always going to be President, Zia. Nothing was going to stop us.” Desmond’s eyes were shining with victory. “Look at these people. They’re all here for you.”
Todd didn't trust himself to speak. Not yet. He had to hold it together.
The singing gradually died away as Todd turned to face the huge crowd and the applause slowly swelled to a crescendo as the people hailed the next President of the United States. He waved and tried to smile before stepping unsteadily back into the shadows. His overriding emotion wasn’t one of excitement or anticipation. It was dread.
With a chilling certainty, Zia now realized that his father had manipulated The iCandidate to get his way. And now, Zia was complicit in the plot. His entire life was building up to this exact moment.
“Zia, get back out there,” Desmond said through gritted teeth, reveling in the adoration of the unwitting crowd. Little did they know they were enthusiastically welcoming the Islamic State’s Trojan Horse behind the walls of the White House.
Perhaps this wasn’t the beginning at all, Todd thought, as tears streamed down his face. Perhaps it was the beginning of the end…