I stood on the podium, facing my opponent, James Branigan, a very powerful man; a man who would win and win and take out anyone who gets in his way. I watch as he is miked up and powdered by a makeup artist. He smiled at me like an old friend; but I dislike the man. He would see me dead to win the big chair; but get ready for a fight, you pompous dick.
"Good evening ladies and gentleman; and, welcome, America, to the first Presidential debate. On my right is the Democratic candidate, Senator James Branigan; and, to my left, Senator Bryce Noda. Gentleman, welcome," Laura Turner introduced.
"Thank you," we both responded, smiles plastered on our faces like good politicians.
"Gentlemen, you have each agreed on the topics at hand. Tonight's topic is the national debt and the budget. Senator Noda, you have five minutes for an opening statement, as do you, Senator Branigan; and, after the drawing of lots, Mr. Noda, you speak first."
I stood and smiled at my opponent. I was going to cut off his attack at the knees, and enjoy doing it.
"Laura, Ladies and Gentleman… my fellow Americans, we live in difficult times, and our economy is struggling. I am not an accountant; I am a patriot, and a hard working one at that. I have worked tirelessly to help the less fortunate and the downtrodden. We need to make savings and we need to invest; and balancing both will be hard, but we will do it. This great Country was built on blood, sweat and tears, and hard work, by hard working men and woman."
"But, there is a part of our society that needs more help than others. We need to also protect our great nation from the ever growing threat of terrorism. America is not easy, and any man who has worked in public office will agree with me. I am an honest man, and from what I have told you, America, I could not be more honest than I have been. I am a gay man who has served this country with pride, and given blood and given sweat, and I will proudly give more. America is not easy, but I revel in the challenge… Thank you," I ended, and waited for an attack from Senator Branigan.
"Senator Branigan," Laura started.
"Thank you, Laura, and good evening Ladies and Gentleman, and good evening my fellow Americans; and a very nice speech, Mr. Noda".
"But somewhat flawed, don't you think? I will explain that bit, as I go on. America is not easy, you are quite right; and your party has almost made it bankrupt. America is broken, and I aim to repair it," he stated, and I watched and waited for the attack.
"I have heard on the hill that the present administration intends to make cuts and hurt the parts of America that can least afford the cuts. I have heard that the present administration intends to cut the defense budget, and cut back our troop strength in the process; thereby crippling our ability to defend ourselves and our allies."
"Ladies and Gentleman, are you not tired of this mismanaging party? Let me fix what should never have been broken. Thank you," he ended.
"Laura, may I rebutt some points, so we can move on?" I asked.
"Yes, you may. It was phrased as a question, so respond, Senator Noda," she replied.
"Senator Branigan stated that if I win I intend to hurt America. He is sadly misinformed. He also stated that if I win, I intend to cut the defense budget from a service that I served with honor for many years. Again, he has been misinformed. If the people of this great country elect me as its next President, I will serve with the honour the office demands. Remember people, I work for you. I will not reduce one red cent of either budget; that is an election promise, and most important to me, is that you have my word. Go ask anyone in New York and find out if anything I declare has been a lie. Can you say that, Senator Branigan?" I ended, feeling somewhat smug.
"Senator Branigan?" Laura asked.
"I trust my sources, so I will reply over the coming weeks of the campaign, regarding Mr. Noda's response."
The following questions flowed, and we both answered with the authority that was expected from a future head of the country. We shook hands, and his wife joined him; and, thankfully, my mother joined me, along with my father. Families always look good at the end of these things, and I felt it went well.
I stood and waved at the crowd and the cameras, and then it happened; a single shot from above the lights, and it hit me square in the shoulder and I dropped. If I had not turned to kiss my mother, the shot would have killed me, stone dead.
All I heard through the confusion was shouting. I saw Senator Branigan hustled off the stage, and people running and screaming everywhere. Secret service firing up at the lights, and then I blacked out.
I came to on a gurney at the hospital, as I was being pushed into an exam room. I had a mask over my face and I was hurting. Doctors were yelling and nurses were running. I saw Sarah beside me as I was being pushed.
"Clear the way," I heard someone yell loudly, and I blacked out again.
A few hours later I was in a recovery suite, and my mother was sitting, holding my hand, as I came to. Danny Logan was sitting on the other side of me.
"Hey Mom, you look tired. Where's Dad?" I ask, a little groggy.
"Bryce, honey, you are awake," she beamed at me.
"How long was I out?" I asked, looking at Danny, who looked shattered.
"Eight hours, give or take. They got the bullet out, no serious damage" Danny responded.
The TV was on in the corner and a banner in red scrawling along the bottom, read, "Presidential candidate shot, live, after debate. Condition unknown," it stated.
"How are you feeling?" Danny asked.
"Like I've been shot. Not the first time, I may add" I replied.
"Honey, you should rest," Mom said, as she re-took my hand, as Dad walked back in with a doctor. "Bryce, my boy, you are awake. Told you dear, made of stern stuff" dad gushed.
"Hey Dad, you look well," I respond.
"I wish I could say the same to you, son," he replied, touching my elbow. But a few days rest should see you right," he added.
"I am checking out tomorrow. I have a campaign to run and an election to win," I insisted.
"Bryce, see some sense, will you? Let the authorities do their job for once. They did not catch the shooter, and he is still out there, waiting," dad added.
"Dad, look, I am sorry, but I cannot be seen to be hiding. I have to set an example and show that these people do not scare me. Okay, they do, but I cannot be seen to be scared," I demanded.
"Bryce, please listen to your dad; give it a couple of days, at least," Danny piped in.
"Danny, please, you of all people; I need you to support me," I said, looking at my lover, looking for a little understanding
The doctor left, and it was just me, my family, and Danny, my life.
"Mom, Dad, I need to tell you something," I started, and Danny looked at me, and looked like the old deer in headlights. "Mom," I started.
"You love this man, don't you?" she responded, and I smiled.
"You can tell?" I replied, the pain meds now kicking in.
"I could see how he looked at you when you were unconscious. The concern was more than a friend," she added.
"And you look at him like I looked at your mother at your age; so, yeah, we guessed," dad added.
"I wasn't looking for it, Dad, it just happened; and yeah, I do love him… very much," I said, now gripping his hand. He leaned in and kissed me softly on the lips.
"But, still, it does not change anything. They will not win, not this battle. I will walk out of this hospital and say a few words to the press, as I do so," I said, stating a fact, not asking permission.
"You are as stubborn as your father," Mom scorned, and kissed me on the cheek. "Okay, if that is your wish, I will not go on. Get some sleep, and I will see you in the morning," added Dad, as he and Mom left the room, leaving me and Danny alone.
"I mean it, you know," I said, looking into Danny's eyes.
"I do love you, very much," I add.
"I love you, Bryce… with all my heart. I realized that much, today. I need you in my life. Fuck, I thought I had lost you today," he began to cry a little.
"Hey, Hey, I'm still here. Look, some fucker shot me, but look at me, Danny, look at me," I insisted. "I'm still alive and in love with you, and I am still here," I add, holding his chin up. He again leaned in and softly kissed my lips.
A few hours passed, and several networks were speculating, still trying to work out what my condition was. Mike Longo came in after Danny left, to see how I was, and he looked shattered. It had been a very long day.
"You look like shit," he said, as he took his seat.
"Thanks," I replied.
"So, what is the plan, Bryce?" he asked.
"Plan?" I respond.
"Are we withdrawing?" he inquired.
"Why ask that?" I ask.
"The party is already looking for a contender to take on Branigan," he replied.
"Do you want to pull out, Mike?" I ask.
"No, do you?" he responded.
"Mike, I will be back at work tomorrow; so, no, I am still running, and I hope you are still in for a fight," I respond, and the smile from the old campaigner told me all I needed to know.
I had a restless sleep, dreaming of being shot, over and over again. I kept waking up in a cold sweat. I did eventually get a little rest. My father arrived just after 8 am, with a clean, pressed suit; as the blood and bullet hole sort of destroyed my other one.
"Good morning, Dad, thanks," I say, as I took the suit out and removed the pressed shirt and tie that came with it.
Sarah and Dan came in after I was dressed. Dan, my press guy, had informed the press that I would be out in five minutes. They thought he was joking.
I was pushed in a wheelchair to the exit. Hospital policy, apparently, but I had the orderly stop before he opened the door. Secret service had been warned well ahead of time, and swept the area for possible areas of interest.
I stood up, walked out and approached a hastily supplied podium.
"Ladies and Gentleman of the press, I will make a small statement, but I will not be answering any questions at this time. I will, at a later date, and of my choosing."
Someone yelled out anyway.
"Are you standing down, Senator?"
"As you are all well aware, I was in a debate with Senator Branigan, and was shot at the end of that debate. As you can see, I am neither dead nor dying; and, to answer the question from the lady from the Post, no, I am not standing down. This attack on me was an attack on democracy, and an attack on our rights and principles. No, I am not standing down. When I am finished here, I will be heading for my office and back to work… thank you," I ended, and was hustled to my waiting car.
I sat in the back of the Crown Vic and I was shaking. I was terrified, but more determined than ever. But, then, not far from my office, I realized something; it wasn't terror, it was anger.
"Bring it on," I said to myself, as we drove down Pennsylvania Avenue.
To be continued...
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