The Best of Intentions


cedric_icon.gif harding_icon.gif medina_icon.gif praeger_icon.gif

Also Featuring:

elisa_icon.gif greg_icon.gif

Scene Title The Best of Intentions
Synopsis As America unites around their candidates for President, dark forces align to drive the nation apart.
Date September 29, 2020

A small, portable radio sits on an old wood table under the dim glow of lantern light.

«A very early good morning to you here in the UK, where it is just past midnight here in London.»

Settled into a low-backed chair at the table in the kitchen of a dimly-lit farmhouse, Gregory Sharrow — Freyr — folds his hands and leans forward, eagerly listening to the broadcast.

«We are one hour away from our live coverage of the United States Presidential Elections, for those of you with us at this very early hour.»

Standing behind and beside him, Elisa Zolotov listens with her head tilted to the side and one brow raised. “This is his make or break night, isn’t it?” She asks at Greg’s back.

«We now go live to our US correspondent Chris Buckler, in Washington KC for pre-debate coverage.»

Greg nods slowly, making a small noise in the back of his throat that may be an agreement. “One way or another…” He quietly agrees.

“…he’ll seal the deal.”

Meanwhile, A Thousand Miles Away

Kansas City Music Hall
Washington, KC

September 29th, 2020
7:00 pm Local Time

After a logo cut, a dapper man in a sleek suit comes the broadcast, adjusting a few loose sheets of paper. Kansas City glitters in a backdrop behind him. "Good morning UK and good evening to those of you watching here in America. I'm Chris Buckler. We are preparing for our coverage of the 2020 US Presidential Election which is set to begin shortly."

"Today's debate is the herald of one of the most unconventional and unprecedented Presidential elections in modern US history," Buckler says as a screen appears over his shoulder, depicting the four presidential candidates in asymmetrical colored slides in mid-speech. "Four candidates will join moderator Rebecca Walton today on the floor of the Kansas City Music Hall, a first for this late in the stages of the election and the first election in over a century without a representative from the Republican party."

The camera pans back, revealing two people sitting down the desk from Buckler. "I'm joined tonight by a man whose face may not be recognized, but whose name is synonymous with some of the most challenging times in recent American History. The son of deposed former President Allen Rickham, Vincent Rickham."

The camera cuts to a middle-aged man with a square jaw and narrow eyes, salt-and-pepper gray hair and weathered lines at the corners of his eyes. He is the spitting image of his father. "Vince," Buckler says with a motion, "thank you for joining us tonight."


Vince nods solemnly and folds his hands in front of himself. "It's an honor to be here to offer some insights and commentary. I wish my father were here to see this."

"Vince, your father Allen was the last duly elected president of the United States before the onset of the Second American Civil War," Buckler says with an appropriately somber tone. "History now knows the truth behind your father's abdication of power and what the Petrelli Administration did to him. How do you feel Allen's legacy lives on today in this upcoming election?"

Vince looks down at the desk, hands folded. "Well," he says quietly. "My father and I had a complicated relationship. But at the end of the day I know deep in my heart that he was an honorable man, and I know the American people see that now too. The only reason he wasn't sitting in the White House when America reached a breaking point was because of bigotry, corruption, and dishonest politics that still plagues this nation today."

Buckler nods, motioning to Vince with his cards. "Powerfully stated. How do you think your father would have looked on the candidates that have gathered here tonight?"

Vince can't help but laugh as he says, "Well he would've been looking down at them all. He was a very tall man."

Buckler joins him in his laughter. Vince segues to a more serious tone, shaking his head as he starts to talk. "I think he'd be dismayed at how little has changed since his time. The same struggles that he fought against a decade ago are on display here. Violent bigotry, blind hate, and fear of Ev— Expressives. Of people with power. Fear of the American People having the power to enact change that isn't contingent on the US military."

Buckler checks his cards. "Your father was famously branded a terrorist later in his life as he fought against the Petrelli Administration."

"Freedom fighter," Vince corrects. "My father was a freedom fighter."

"Of course," Buckler corrects. "He was."

"America has seen an increasing rise in anti-Expressive violence across the country in the years since the Civil War's end. If Allen were alive today, what do you think he'd say to the American people about that?" Buckler wonders.

Vince breathes in deeply, then exhales and lets his shoulders slack. "He'd stand tall, look the American people straight in the eye, and tell them to have hope."

"Powerful words, Vince." Buckler says thoughtfully, shifting his cards. "Now, most people may not realize that you are a professor of history at Champlain College in Vermont where you teach, among other things, US history with a personal focus on civil rights."

"This will be my last year before retirement," Vince says with a tired smile, "but that's correct."

"Vince, I wanted — and I'm fairly certain America would want to know…" Buckler angles his head to the side, "what does the son of Allen Rickham think of the candidates gathered here tonight?"

"That's a complicated question." Vince says as he refolds his hands and looks down at the desk. "It's unprecedented, all of it. Four major presidential candidates and no representation from one of the largest political parties in the nation is… well it's unheard of. Obviously America is in the condition it's in — love it or hate it — thanks to the efforts of incumbent Raymond Praeger. Raymond actually knew my father, he'd come by our home in Vermont on a few occasions. My mother, before she passed, was very close with Carol. I'm not sure that I can give an impartial judge of Raymond Praeger, except that he has had the single hardest job in modern American history. More than Roosevelt and Truman, if I had to weigh it appropriately."

"That's a very powerful statement," Buckler says with a motion of both hands toward Vince. "What about the other candidates?"

"Cedric Hesser represents, really, the first realistic Libertarian candidate in modern politics," Vince suggests. "From my purely academic understanding of his platform, Senator Hesser has quite possibly the most efficient plan to reinvigorate the American economy of all the candidates I've seen, but it comes at a great cost to social progress and protection of people at risk like Expressives. Hesser's done the math, but I'm not convinced he's done the emotional calculus, so to speak."

"Moving on," Buckler says with a shift in his cards, "Frederick Medina has been a polarizing candidate, but he has ignited the— "

"The only thing Medina has done is remind the country why it went to war in the first place," Vince says firmly.

"That's certainly one perspective," Buckler starts to say, "but isn't— "

"There's no buts here," Vince affirms. "Frederick Medina is spouting the same hateful rhetoric that cost millions of lives in the single bloodiest war in this country's history. You might be able to cherry pick an idea Medina has that's got merit, but it doesn't matter how sweet the fruit is if the entire tree is rotten from root to stem, Chris."

Buckler looks off camera for a moment, then switches cards. "Then we have late-comer, Florida Governor Joshua Harding. Now, Harding's entry into the election cycle was as close to last-minute as possible, and yet he has made an absolutely meteoric rise into the forefront of the political landscape. What are your thoughts on that entire situation?"

Vince takes in a deep breath, then exhales a sigh through his nose and nods. "Governor Harding seems like a solid candidate, but his platform runs almost parallel to Praeger's. Historically speaking, this kind of blurred line politicking is what cost George H.W. Bush the 1992 election. Ross Perot was just similar enough in policies with a stronger campaign toward taxation that it was able to drive people from the middle away from Bush's vote. I don't think that we would have seen Clinton's victory without that vote split."

"So, you think Harding has a chance of damaging Praeger's chances at re-election?" Buckler wonders.

"I think they're hurting each other," Vince explains with a spread of his hands. "Harding is just a hair more liberal than Praeger, and that's going to pull the left-of-middle voters toward Harding's camp. But when you divide that polarized thinking the only real voter base you have left tend to vote conservative or libertarian in ideology, and without a true conservative candidate — especially considering Medina's extremely liberal policies outside of SLC-Expressive rights, you've got a head-to-head between Medina and Hesser."

"Thank you Mr. Rickham, for your insightful and poignant look into the 2020 US Presidential Elections," Buckler says with a drum of his cards on his desk before turning to the camera. "We're going to cut for a commercial break, but when we return we will take you live to the floor of the Kansas City Music Hall for the start of the 2020 American Presidential Election coverage here on the BBC."

You are watching:
BBC America simulcast on NBC Television Networks

After an animated BBC logo that transforms into the NBC Peacock, the video feed cuts to a packed theater in Washington KC where a live audience sits in silence before four podiums lit in a pale blue light. An intense blue-eyed woman with long, dark hair pulled back into a bun sits with squared shoulders behind a curving white desk. From the left and right sides of the historic stage at the Kansas City Music Hall, Raymond Praeger, Frederick Medina, Joshua Harding, and Cedric Hesser approach their podiums.

"Good evening from the Kansas City Music Hall in Washington, KC." The Moderator says with a subtle upwards tilt of her chin. "I'm Rebecca Walton, and I welcome you to the first presidential debate between the Democratic candidate for president, Frederick Medina of Missouri; the Libertarian candidate, Senator Cedric Hesser of Montana; Independent candidate Governor Joshua Harding of Florida, and the incumbent President of the United States of America, Raymond Praeger. The debates are sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates, and they will be conducted within formats and rules agreed to by the commission."

"The questions and the subjects were chosen by me alone," Rebecca says clearly. "I have told no one from the campaigns or the commission or anyone else involved what they are. There's a small audience in the hall tonight — they are not here to participate, only to listen. I have asked and they have agreed to remain silent for the next 90 minutes, except for right now, when they will applaud as we welcome our candidates…"

A loud applause rises from the crowd, and each of the four candidates stand with practiced smiles and raised hands in greeting. As the applause slowly dies down, Moderator Walton moves swiftly to the first card in her stack. "And now, the first question. As determined by multiple-elimination coin toss, it goes to Senator Cedric Hesser."

"Senator Hesser," Walton says with an angle of her attention in his direction, "Simply put: Do you feel America has successfully recovered from the Civil War?"

Hesser's brows lift and he has to work to suppress a half-smile. "Wow, that's… I mean, obviously not. I don't know how hard that answer was supposed to be or how deep I had to dig for it, but. It was right there." He says with a hand over his heart. "If you stand on the street outside this theater and squint, maybe you can imagine that the America of Today is the America of yesterday. But, I mean… no. It's just plain no. Look at what happened to the American heartland? It's choked in refugees from major cities that fled by the millions — millions — from the war. Refugees that are still there today, struggling to survive."

"Now, we might have a Safe Zone, but it's a shadow of the New York that I used to visit with my family. The goddamn Statue of Liberty is in pieces at the bottom of the Hudson River!" Hesser says in an impassioned outburst. "I mean, what the hell kind of message does that send to our kids? To their kids who are still gonna be picking up the pieces of this mess? To other nations when they look to us as a symbol of what's right in the world?"

Hesser's brows pinch together. "I'm sorry but," Hesser breathes in, then exhales sharply through his nose. "No, ma'am, America barely even survived. Let alone fully recovered. We have a long way to go, and reinvigorating America's industry and economy is the only way we're going to do it without tying a noose made of foreign money around our necks."

"Thank you Mr. Hesser," Walton says with a look to the camera. "I would like to let our audience know that the Commission on Presidential Debates has mandated that other candidates' microphones be muted when they are not directly answering a question and save their rebuttals to allocated rebuttal time. Senator Medina, you will have to wait your turn." Medina, who was practically swallowing his microphone trying to talk into it, stares vacantly into the camera with a flushed red face.

"President Praeger, Governor Harding, and Mr. Medina, you will now be given an opportunity to make your own statements and rebuttals. President Praeger, you may begin." Walton says flatly, before turning her attention to Praeger as his microphone is activated.

"Thank you, Rebecca," President Praeger says, with a polite nod of his head in her direction. "Can I say we've recovered from the war? Completely? No. Of course not," he says, with a shake of his head and lips flattening into a regretful line. "The wounds of a war take much longer to heal than a mere few years. Some might say America never fully recovered from the first Civil War, in fact. I do believe we are on the right track and have made great strides, and that we will continue to make great strides in making this a better nation than it was in 2011. "

He pauses, looking at his fellow candidates, before he begins to speak again.

"We cannot say we have fully recovered until we can restore our infrastructure from coast to coast and once again offer the full protection and opportunity to all citizens as promised in the Constitution and Bill of Rights," he continues. "Many cities and some states are well on their way but we need to continue our work throughout the country. This is not something I deny or am trying to hide."

He glances to Hesser and smiles that mild-mannered smile that's almost a grimace. "Restoring the Statue of Liberty hasn't been my priority these last few years, I concede. We've been a little busy, but when we have recovered from the war, as an entire nation, then we can erect a new statue that is worthy of respect from the world."

"Mr. Medina, the floor is yours," Walton says as Praeger's mic is deactivated and Medina's is turned on. Medina, still a bit red in the face but more from embarrassment rather than frustration, straightens his tie and sniffs audibly as he looks down at his podium.

"Honestly I…" Medina's voice cracks a little, "I'm a little surprised by Mr. Hesser here." Blinking a few times, Medina looks down at his podium, wrinkling his nose, then back up to one of the cameras focused on him. "See, Cedric here he— his platform— has it been mentioned how one of his largest campaign donors is a uh, a mechanical manufacturer who helped develop the parts that went into the AETOS II drones?" Medina flashes Hesser a smile, then looks around the floor.

"For everyone who doesn't uh, who isn't following— who doesn't know aeronautics, the AETOS II was the automated defense drone that caused the Cambridge Massacre," Medina says with a flash of a nervous smile. "The uh, the Commonwealth Institute assembled the whole thing. But the flight systems and turbines were developed off-site by Allegiant Industries. So… the money moving into Cedric's campaign, I mean, it… his idea of recovering from the war?" Medina grimaces. "Means putting money back in that company's hand, right?"

"Now, my…" Medina presses a finger down onto the podium, "my perspective on this is that the war wasn't what damaged America." He looks up and around the theater. "It was precisely one percent of the American population, acting without consideration for the repercussions of their actions. Which is how we get what happened in Detroit in February, which is how we get what— what happened in— " Medina looks a little nauseous. "You know, all across America. Where these people— where dangerous people threaten the lives of ordinary citizens."

Though the microphones in the theater are tuned to cut out background noise, a hint of the murmuring that comes over the audience is still picked up on Medina's microphone. "And I for one," Medina says over the noise, "don't think America is going to recover from that until we look at the hard truths!" He jabs his index finger down on the top of his podium repeatedly. "Until we look the Expressive population of this country in the eye and say, you want power? Then act responsibly. Because right now— right now? They're getting to hide behind anonymity, when the whole reason— the whole reason this country fell apart was— "

"Mr. Medina you're over your allotted time," Walton says sharply. "Closing remark."

"This is on them," Medina says with a quaver in his voice. Then, nothing.

Walton breathes in deeply through her nose as Medina's mic is cut and she turns her attention to Harding. "Governor Harding, your response or rebuttal?"

The mic picks up the tail end of Harding's deep and drawn out sigh. He's silent for a moment, shaking his head before turning a look over at Medina. There's visible anger on Harding's face, evident in the tightness of his jaw and the furrow of his brows. He takes another moment, eating up his response time, to compose himself so he doesn't respond in anger. "It's very hard to follow up something so ignorant and hateful," Harding says with a hint of the venom he would have had a moment ago lingering in his voice.

"America has not recovered," Harding says quietly. "I was Governor of Florida when the first bombs were dropped on Miami. Though I remained Governor in name only when the war began in earnest, I watched my state collapse. I watched the United States Military deploy chemical weapons against civilians in their homes. I watched my Expressive brothers and sisters bring the Atlantic Ocean up onto the land to wash entire battalions of troops off the beaches. I watched Jacksonville burn while I carried a wounded man out of that city over my shoulders."

Harding closes his eyes and shakes his head. "We don't know the number of casualties in my state. The estimates are somewhere upward of two million dead," he says with a vacant shake of his head and a distant stare. "As some of you know, I don't sleep. That's my gift." He motions to his chest. "So I stay up at night, and I read the reams of names of the people we've been able to confirm. I read reports about the cities that are struggling to have running water and electricity. I read about the bottomless pit of despair that are the coastal cities that sank into the ocean after the terrakinetic counteroffensive."

Harding exhales a sigh and closes his eyes. "The question's…" He scratches the back of his neck with one hand. "The question is flawed. America didn't fully recover, because it can't. There is no going back to what we had before. The good, the bad, the ugly." He looks at Medina on that last note, then back to the cameras. "We have to build something new. New monuments, new cities, new ideals… and that's going to take time. America was built on the systematic oppression of powerless people. So yeah, I do agree with Medina on something."
Harding's jaw flexes. "It's on us to lead the way. Because America isn't going to get anywhere being divided between Expressive and Non-Expressive. We have to go forward together."

Moderator Walton switches to her second card. "Our second question goes to President Raymond Praeger. The Apportionment Act of 2015 allocated portions of the United States of America to two corporate interests — Yamagato Industries and Praxis Heavy Industries — for the express purpose of rebuilding the worst-hit and largest American cities to revitalize American society and economy. In the light of recent revelations regarding Human Rights violations by Praxis Heavy Industries, what is your stance on the effectiveness of the Apportionment Act and the Safe Zone project?"

While Praeger listens, he remains mostly stoic, though small tells show both the anger he feels when Medina speaks and the grief and sorrow brought about by Harding's words. He nods as Joshua finishes his comments, looking to the other man's podium and holding his gaze for a brief moment, before returning his gaze to Walton when she speaks. He listens carefully, and then nods to indicate he's heard and understood.

"I would say we’re batting .500 there. Hopefully I used the sports metaphor correctly," he murmurs, chuckling a little softly, before he shakes his head more ruefully. "More seriously, though — Yamagato has been a stalwart ally, and, frankly, we could not have achieved as much as we have without their resources and aid. Of course, there are those who feel that any loss of land, any single grain of American soil, should be avoided."

Raymond shakes his head in disagreement. "The payoffs when it comes to Yamagato’s presence in New York have far outweighed the small amount of land they’ve occupied. We have improved technology, infrastructure, entire neighborhoods that, quite frankly, we owe to Yamagato. It is a debt that can never truly be repaid, because it goes far beyond monetary value."

The but is coming, and he takes a breath before addressing it.

"Unfortunately," Praeger continues, tone more solemn and expression grim, "Praxis, in hindsight, was an unfortunate, grave, and costly mistake, and one we will learn from and not repeat in the future. Of course we cannot recover the loss of life that came with Praxis' activity in February. However, we will recover from that, as surely as we are recovering from the war. The hallmark trait of the American people is resilience, after all."

"Mr. Medina," Walton says with a hint of a mother's warning tone in her voice, "you may use your time to comment or rebut."

Medina sniffs audibly again, swiping at his nose before glancing over at Praeger, then down at his podium with a vacant stare. "There's that, ah, that David Bowie song. The Man Who Sold the World?" Medina looks up and around and then back down. "I do wonder if that plays at Praeger campaign rallies." There's a twitch of a smile that creeps up as he says that. Under the stage lights, Medina is visibly and heavily sweating. "But look at— you look at this. Look at what happened. We sold three slices of America to foreign corporate interests. Seattle and New York to Yamagato, San Francisco to Praxis and we almost gave them another!"

"But these corporations," Medina says with a slow shake of his head. "Yamagato? Owned and operated by an SLC-Expressive person. Praxis Heavy Industries? Wouldn't you know it, the real power behind the throne was an Expressive terrorist. There's an old adage that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and while— I mean it feels a little cliché these days, there's truth in it. Were I elected President of the United States of America, my first act as President would be to sign an executive order halting any further development from the Apportionment Act until such a time as a congressional hearing can be held to re-evaluate the extremely poor deal we've gotten ourselves into."

"We have no recourse to reclaim that land by the Apportionment Act's written rule. Not without another nation's assistance. We don't even know if China is going to help us get back San Francisco or if it will just be some sort of legal no-man's land. There are thousands of immigrant citizens from the midwest living in the California Safe Zone that are stranded because of the Praeger Administration's lax ability to vet corporate interests thanks to desperation fueling a desire for quick results." Medina looks, at least for a moment, like his former self. Maybe it's a talking point he'd always intended on using, but it's a little less podium-hammering and a little more critical.

"I want to—" But just as he's getting his momentum, Medina is cut off.

"You're out of time, Mr. Medina," Walton reminds him and Medina sighs and stares up at the ceiling.

"Governor Harding, you may rebut or comment," Walton says as she redirects the floor to the Florida Governor.

"We got a bad deal," Harding is quick to say. "I don't envy the President on being in the position he was in, but it was a bad deal. Even before the Praxis Hack brought all of this to light, there were ethical questions about the corporation's drone and robotics initiatives. Praxis sold a whopping nine billion dollars in automated defense systems between 2018 and 2019, primarily to Middle East and EU nations. The writing was on the wall. We might not have been able to read every word, but it should have — and maybe did — raise red flags."

"But I don't have to make that call. As President, I'd have to make a harder one. The Apportionment Act has had success, New York is thriving in ways it absolutely could not without the act. The SEA-TAC Safe Zone is well on its way to being operational. We don't know how many skeletons Yamagato Industries has in its closet, but I'm not an ignorant man. I'm not a naive man. Every company has skeletons, there is no purity in capitalism." Harding grips the podium with both hands. "But we do need to take a big, steady step back and re-evaluate. I don't think we should just stay the course because we think the worst is behind us. There are US companies that, with some financial and tax relief, could do on a smaller scale what Yamagato Industries is doing to major cities. I'm not talking Chicago or Dallas. I'm talking Akron, Ohio. I'm talking Provo, Utah. I'm taking Main Streets across the US. One by one, link by link."

"We've tried doing it all in one go," Harding says with a slow shake of his head. "Maybe it's time we reconsider our cadence."

Walton turns to Hesser. "Senator Hesser, the floor is yours to comment or rebut."

"Oh I get a turn now?" Hesser says with a huff of a laugh. "Okay, well, hi folks I'm Senator Hesser. You might remember me from a while ago before I was back in rotation." He grimaces, scrubs a hand over his mouth, and recollects his thoughts. "So, I just want to address for a second the— that accusation about the AETOS drones? You see, I'm— Allegiant didn't know what those engines were going to be used for. That was all— everything was top secret. Mind you the one person who did have clearance to know all of that is standing in this room, right Raymond?" Cedric's brows rise. "The whole DoEA thing just… conveniently not addressed, again?" There's frustration in Hesser's expression and his struggles to regain his footing.

"The ah, the Apportionment Act isn't the damn boogeyman," Hesser says with a dismissive wave of his hand. "It honestly, is a solid framework for building the country back. My thought is that it doesn't go far enough. We had two companies out of fourteen that submitted applications. So of course the odds of one blowing up is going to make it look huge. It is— was huge. But I think all of this was set up in haste. We need to focus on the development of US-based companies within the rights of the Apportionment Act," he says, echoing Harding's last beat, "but we have to be willing to keep our eyes open to foreign companies with strong, proven track records. InVerse Technologies and its parent company Crito Corporate were among the original submitters for the Safe Zone project and…" Hesser trails off, looking down for a moment. "And I think we should reconsider them for another major city."

"Question three," Walton says, shifting to her next card. "Mr. Medina, the Chesterfield Act's stated purpose was successfully providing security to Expressives and Non-Expressives without the cost of Constitutional freedoms. Under your administration, what would SLC-Expressive registration look like?"

Medina suddenly looks exactly on his game. "It would look a lot like the UK," he says flatly and, nearly, unequivocally. There is a prolonged beat of silence after that statement before Medina speaks again. "The EUSR Act is the international gold standard for Expressive registration. Right now America is cut off from the entirety of the EU's financial and political sphere because of the Chesterfield Act's loopholes and regulatory failings. That is costing America trillions of dollars in trade revenue annually. We are hemorrhaging our future at the cost of contemporary comfort, but where precisely has any of that gotten us?"

"My administration would propose sweeping mandatory Registration changes that would begin with the end of the Chesterfield Act and the instatement of a EUSR-Compliant Registration system for Expressives and Non-Expressives alike with twice-annual blood screenings and mandatory Expressive blood testing to receive employment. The latest wave of manifestations around the world, including a rise in the population of extremely dangerous mosaics like Sylar, means that everything we thought we knew about the Suresh Linkage-Complex can go straight out the window. We need to adapt, we need to be aggressive, and we need to be careful," Medina says clearly and succinctly.

"Governor Harding, you may use your time to comment or rebut," Walton says quickly.

"We can't tighten things up more than they already are," Harding says firmly. "It's just the reality of the world we live in. Yes, there are real and actionable causes to tighten registration, but this isn't a black and white issue. This is a complicated and nuanced topic, even more so than segregation was when I was a boy. Look at the nations with the strictest EUSR compliance ratings. Look at the violence in those countries directly stemming from armed opposition to heightened regulation. Even the UK has daily riots. They don't make the news because of the media's—”


“— so we have to play it safe," Harding notes with a slow shake of his head. "We have to take it year by year, re-evaluate the Chesterfield Act's legislation to adapt to our understanding of SLC-Expressives and our society. We're all pioneers right now, and no successful pioneer rushed into things without taking catastrophic losses. America can't afford that again."

Walton subtly turns her head to the side, then looks into the camera. "It would seem we had a slight hiccup in our satellite feed, but I am told it has been corrected. Governor Harding's full response will be made available on the Commission on Presidential Debates' website as soon as this broadcast has ended."

"Senator Hesser, you may use your time to respond or rebut," Walton goes on to say.

"Well, most people who've followed my campaign know that I'm what you like to call a hands-off parent," Hesser says with a broad, pearly smile. "Now, I raise my little girl much in the way I'd take care of this country. A firm hand, a firm tone, but the freedom to live your life." He looks up into the camera. "I don't think there should be a Registry in the United States. In the Hesser administration we'd abolish the Chesterfield Act entirely. Not its protections for Expressives as minorities or at-risk people, no. Those are all well and good. But the Registration, the databases? No. No we don't need that in America."

Hesser rests one hand on his podium. "I would instead build a system of reimbursement and incentivization for Expressives to join the workforce specifically leveraging their abilities. Can you spot-weld with your bare hands? Well, by golly, Uncle Sam is going to pay to send you to trade school. Are you a technopath? SESA would like to train you up to be a field agent. Can you control fire with your mind? Well, we're gonna make you the world's best firefighter, if that's what you want, and America is going to cover your training."

"Can you imagine the world we'd be living in if every hypercognitive, mechanical aptitude, and technopath was incentivized to work for the government or the private sector?" Hesser asks with a look to the audience. "We'd already have cities on Mars. That's the dream I have."

"President Praeger," Walton directs attention to the incumbent President, "you have the floor to comment or rebut."

Once again, Praeger does a good job of only giving mild reactions to his opponents, lifting a brow now and then or shaking his head very slightly. He dips his head to Walton, before he begins to speak, his words schooled into an even, calm tone.

"First of all, I would like to remind Mr. Medina that the Civil War was not caused by the one percent of SLC-Expressive citizens in our country, but because of how we as the government, myself included, failed them before 2011. As far as losing trillions of dollars, there are more important things than money, and the ideals this very nation was built on — equality and justice — are among them. It is not for 'contemporary convenience' that we refuse to kowtow to their demands for how we choose to run our country."

He pauses, letting that sink in for a moment, before he clears his throat to continue.

"There is a fine balance between protecting people and protecting privacy, and I believe that the Chesterfield Act does an excellent job of finding that balance," Praeger continues. "Stricter requirements, as we’ve seen in the past, can be oppressive and dangerous for our SLC-E individuals, the vast majority of whom are simply trying to live quiet and peaceful lives. By allowing those individuals to opt out of registration, we are protecting them from those who might use that knowledge against them. They have that right, just as any citizen has a right to keep personal information private."

Praeger looks to Medina again, then back to the camera. "Some argue that the public has the right to know about dangerous abilities that could do harm, that if you have to register a gun or a car, you should have to register a power. The problem there is a gun or a car are mere objects, not part of the genetic makeup of a human being. A person. A son. A daughter. A husband. A wife."

He looks to the studio audience, smile turning a little more personal, before he turns back to the camera. "I stand by the Chesterfield Act as providing protection for all. Once the trust is violated, then, just as with any criminal, some rights are taken away. Trust until we are given reason not to. Innocent until proven guilty."

"Thank you President Praeger," Walton says as she shifts to her next card. "Governor Harding, the next question is yours. What is your plan for the reconstruction and revitalization of the American Dead Zones?"

It takes Harding a moment to compose an immediate response. There's a beat of silence that goes just a little too long before he speaks. "I feel for the people left in the Dead Zones," Harding finally says with a heavy heart. "America is divided by the starkest line of have and have-not that it's ever faced. The EMP that darkened half our nation will take decades to truly recover from. It's a macrocosm of the plight I've already been fighting against in Florida. While we had the good fortune of keeping our cars and electronics running, most of Florida is still without reliable power today." Harding looks down at his podium. "Rebuilding from that kind of devastation requires a miracle."

"But we live in an age of miracles." Harding comes back with that slug-line. "We live in an era where people of power and insight can help rebuild America starting from the ground up. Our Safe Zones are bastions against the dark of near armageddon, but they can't be the only plan we have. We need to push into the Dead Zones, we need to ensure that we divert funds to bringing power, water, and hope to the people who have been unable or unwilling to leave their homes. With Yamagato Industries backing, with their technological advances and the help of America's Expressive population, I think we could make miracles of our own."

Walton waits a moment before nodding and moving on to Hesser. "Senator Hesser, the floor is yours to rebut or comment."

"Well, I'm glad that Governor Harding supports my plan for an American renaissance," Hesser says with a broad smile and a laugh. "Not to say that I'm surprised or anything, but this is the first I've heard of any push into the Dead Zones from his campaign. In fact it's the first time I've heard the word Dead Zone out of his mouth since he jumped on this campaign trail. I noticed," Hesser says with a look at Harding, "and I'll tell you the people of Missoula, Montana noticed when I was there campaigning in the dark of night in the headlights of my truck." Hesser spreads his hands, shrugging. "I'm the only candidate who's been out there. Half of my constituents are in the Dead Zone. Montana is divided in half by this damage, I've seen it first hand, I've looked in the eyes of people who were presented with the choice of leaving their family and their identities behind to live in a refugee camp in another state… or dig in for cold winters and long hauls." Hesser swallows dryly. "Not all of them make it through those winters."

"I've outlined my plan, it's available on my campaign website. I've talked about it earlier in this debate." Hesser says with a motion over his shoulder to indicate the past. "I'm done talking about a plan to repair our country, I'm ready to start doing it."

"President Praeger, the floor is yours to comment or rebut," Walton says firmly.

The president smiles at Harding's talk of miracles, and then dips his head in a small concession to Hesser's eagerness to get moving.

"We all are eager to fix the wounds of this nation, but it's not something that can happen as quickly as we'd like," Praeger says, somberly. "You have to have a command center of sorts to fix it from, and it is unfortunate it's taken so long to get to where we are today. It would be fast by most standards, to accomplish what we have, but we hold ourselves to higher standards than most. All of us do."

He spreads his hands slightly, then folds them on the podium. "My plan is to initiate a new public works program, much like Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, to replicate and build upon the efforts we’ve made in cities like New York and Kansas City, now Washington. By establishing safe zones in each state, we can focus on the rebuilding efforts in a localized area, and then expand outward. Each safe zone will provide the people of surrounding areas with jobs, bolstering the economy as well as providing a hub that will serve as the governmental center, the capitol, of each of those states. Economy builds economy, and jobs create jobs," he says.

He gestures to Hesser. "I appreciate the need to address our citizens in the Dead Zones. They should not have to live like that any longer, but it would take a miracle," he nods to Harding, "to fix it as quickly as they deserve. It’s a slow and steady process and isn’t something we can do effectively and properly in a hurry. Eventually, however, these small cities will succeed and grow, spreading outward, just as they did in America’s past."

"Mr. Medina, the floor is now yours," Walton states flatly.

Medina breathes in deeply through his nose and nods slowly. "The Dead Zone is full of fine Americans. Wonderful, heartfelt people who were impacted by an escalation of violence that they had no control in. Missouri may not be Montana, but the horror stories I've heard from people who came flooding into Kansas City during and after the war were harrowing. Now, I'm not a builder. I'm not an architect. I do like to think of myself as a pragmatist. Do I have a plan to rebuild the Dead Zone? No, absolutely not, because that isn't my place to."

"What I have is a plan to build a discovery committee to develop a real plan. One headed by architects, and builders, and visionaries that can build a road map ahead for the people of the Dead Zones so that they have a future they can look forward to. I don't want the people of Medford, Oregon to feel forgotten any more than I want the people of El Paso, Texas to. No matter where in the Dead Zone you are, I want you to feel seen and know that someone has a plan for you. Someone will be coming," Medina says with a glance down at his podium.

"This question is for you, Senator Hesser," Walton redirects her attention to him. "With inflation resting at just over 300%, unemployment at a historic high of 36.3%, and domestic production jobs showing no improvement between 2018 and 2019, what roadmap do you have to repair the American economy?"

"Our future is in automation," Hesser says without a moment's hesitation. "Some of the best and brightest Americans are lying in graves after the Civil War. Our industries are shattered. But you look at the exemplars of American innovation that are still running strong; Allegiant, LCI Industries, Raytech, Pilgrim's Pride… they survived a Civil War and are continuing to be the backbone of American innovation and industry. But we don't have the labor force we used to. Yamagato has the right idea," Hesser says with a wave of one hand, "with the construction drones they have buzzing around the Safe Zone. We need mechanical automation to rebuild our cities. We need to get over our fear of the past and understand that — like an assault rifle — a robot is only as bad as how it is used."

"We need to incentivized our disenfranchised Expressive citizens to leverage their abilities to trade or government roles," Hesser says as he extends his thumb, "we need to develop a dedicated automated construction system to work in places like the Dead Zone and the Oregon Exclusion Zone," then sticks out his index finger, "and we need to make sure that we're giving our businesses and corporations the freedoms they need to get the job done without worrying about tripping over red tape." Then his middle finger. "That's a three-point solution. That's what it will take. I've done the math."

"President Praeger," Walton redirects, "the floor is now yours to rebut or comment."

Praeger listens with a thoughtful expression to some of Hesser's reply, then smiles at Walton when she gives him the floor.

"Thank you. I've already addressed the plan for a New Deal, creating jobs to build the Safe Zones and the infrastructure in them and between them," he begins. "Certainly, we would want the help of the talented expressives among us in that work. I would say that 'not worrying about tripping over red tape' sounds wonderful, but we've seen what happens when we didn't vet enough in the past. You may say red tape while someone else sees that red tape as important background checks and ensuring that the bids we accept as a government are responsible ones."

Raymond touches his chest to indicate himself. "I've made mistakes, in the haste to try to heal the country, when I should have been more careful. So while the promise of fewer regulations sounds more expedient, it can be a dangerous path to follow."

He lifts a finger. "However… while we can't in good conscience raise taxes when so many are struggling, we can get creative with our funding. Corporations perhaps could sponsor the public works projects that we need to make this country a viable, thriving power again. Much like they sponsor sports parks, the businesses you named — Raytech, for instance — could sponsor the funding of a road or a bridge. These new landmarks would serve as a symbol of regrowth — with the donor's names on them, for their contribution."

"Mr. Medina, you have the floor for comments or rebuttals," Walton says flatly.

"Our future is in equality," Medina says very carefully. "We don't have equality right now, we have some Frankenstein's monster of equity that is… I mean if Hesser is elected, Non-Expressives might as well start lining up at Social Services now, because if it isn't the Expressives taking their jobs, it'll be robots." Medina throws his hands up in the air. "We need to remember that statistically one percent of America is SLC-Expressive, what about the other 99 percent? What about the 99 percent of America who are the same ordinary, hard-working people that built this nation? No, my opponents want to give away benefits, tax cuts, and incentives to Expressives when that money could go to reforms in education and teachers’ salaries. You don't need to be able to shoot nails with your mind if you're a teacher. We don't have enough qualified teachers right now, and none of these pie-in-the-sky cities on Mars daydreams are going to amount to a hill of shh— a hill of beans if we don't have an educated country."

"We need to recognize that one percent of our citizenry thinks they're better than us, and they've connived their way into government." Medina says with small, spidery hand-gestures. "They've gotten an entire multi-billion dollar government agency for precisely one percent of the population. You want to know how I'd afford education reform and economic incentives? I'd defund SESA, day one. Let's start there and cut that fat."

"Governor Harding, you have the last word to comment or rebut," Walton reminds.

"Our economic future lies in our partnerships with friendly foreign powers," Harding explains. "Yes, we need to support American innovation, but we also need to establish profoundly strong trade ties with nations that have not cut us out due to the Chesterfield Act's non-compliance with the EUSR. Canada, Mexico, Japan, China, and other nations are rapidly becoming our strongest trade partners along with many South American and African nations. We must remember that America still has plentiful natural resources we have yet to tap." Harding motions to the crowd. "The Praeger Administration already opened up offshore drilling on the Atlantic Coast and I want to double our oil output over the next four years. Alaska remains unimpacted by the EMP and expanding our oil infrastructure in the northwest will be key not only to economic stability in a world that is growing increasingly uncertain regarding Mid-East oil, but also to bring new pipelines into the Dead Zones."

"At the same time," Harding explains, "we have companies that are developing brilliant new green technology that we need to leverage side-by-side with petroleum products. We need to build our base with fossil fuels and hope that we can eventually have a strong enough economic footing to support global green energy conversion as that, financially, isn't a sensible path at the moment. But we always need to plan for the future. Because whether you like it or not… the future is coming."

"There are two questions left tonight." Walton says with a nod toward Praeger. "President Praeger, the second to last question of the night is yours. "Earlier this year the city of Detroit was attacked by SLC-Expressive extremists. Many lawmakers have called for a repeal of the Cambridge Act which prohibits the development of anti-Expressive weapons technology — like the AETOS drone — within the US. If you are elected President, would you uphold the Cambridge Act or see it repealed and how would you balance this decision against escalating violence against SLC-Expressives nationwide?"

Praeger clears his throat, pushing his glasses up his nose once again, before looking past Walton and the cameras to the audience once more, then back to the camera with a solemn expression.

"It will come as no surprise that I stand by the Cambridge Act, both personally and as a matter of principle. The horrors that occurred in Cambridge in 2011 were among the most heinous crimes inflicted on human beings by other human beings," he says firmly, shaking his head to punctuate the sentiment.

"There will not be another Cambridge Massacre under my watch, perpetrated against citizens of the United States by citizens of the United States. Allowing anti-Expressive technology to be developed in this country is the same as condoning violence against expressives, and I frankly won't have it," he continues, his hand curling into a loose fist that rests on the podium's edge.

"I support looking into non-lethal alternatives for the detention and restraint of anyone who is violating our laws in a violent way, Expressive or otherwise, but not products expressly aimed at harming the SLC-E population."

"Mr. Medina, the floor is yours for comments or rebuttal," Walton says as flatly as she can.

"We have to level the playing field." Medina says with a look over at Praeger. "Expressives may only represent one percent of Americans, but that one percent led a successful coup against the United States Military, I might mind you. Obviously non-Expressives served in the civil war, but you cannot diminish the significance of Expressive contributions. Governor Harding mentioned the terrakinetic counteroffensive. That attack, led by a pair of Expressives able to manipulate the earth sank the city of Tampa and its surrounding suburbs into the ocean." Medina waves one hand in the air. "Where are either of them now? No one knows. No one even knows who they were. But they destroyed a seacoast with a thought. Let's not forget Sylar, or more recently Adam Monroe…"

Medina runs a hand through his hair. "We have to level the playing field, and the Cambridge Act has tied our hands at combatting SLC-Expressive threats domestically and abroad. What happens when Mazdak or China launches a full-scale offensive against the United States? What's your AK-47 going to do against someone made out of molten lead or someone who can explode your head with a wink at a hundred yards?" Medina shrugs angrily. "Nothing. It's going to do nothing, and then you die. The Cambridge Act is a reactionary law put in place by fear and not rational thought. I would move to repeal it without a second thought."

Walton blinks slowly and breathes in deeply, looking to Harding. "Governor Harding, your floor."

"I don't need my full time for this, so I'm just going to say the Cambridge Act will never be repealed under my administration. There are some lines that we cannot cross, and I stand firm by that. It will never happen again." Harding says with as firm a tone a voice as he can use. "That said, I'd like to use my remaining time to correct something."

Harding looks at Medina. "You cited El Paso, Texas as being in the Dead Zone, but it's over a hundred and sixty miles east of the Dead Zone border." Medina begins to turn red again, mouth pressed into a thin, irate line.

"That's all." Harding adds.

"Senator Hesser," Walton directs, "you have the last word on this topic."

"I think there's a line we need to walk. The Cambridge Act is extremely comprehensive in that it doesn't just target technological development like drones, but also some pharmaceutical and biotech research areas as well." Hesser shakes his head slowly. "It might have made sense five years ago when it was drafted, but right now that's not the world we live in. If we don't have this technology someone else is going to, and Praxis Heavy Industries is a prime example of that. They had an array of robotic weapons platforms deployed in Detroit and we're lucky that the siege of the city didn't end with more loss of life. The heroic sacrifice of Benjamin Ryans on national television effectively brought down their entire operation, but without that moment?" Hesser spreads his hands. "We don't know what might have happened."

"Furthermore," Hesser angles his head to the side, "we have no way of effectively combating Expressive military assets from other nations aside from risking the life and limb of our own Expressive soldiers. We moved away from deploying soldiers to theaters of war like Iraq toward the end of the last decade, leveraging automated defense systems far less sophisticated than what was on display in Detroit this winter. We're falling behind and the rest of the world is galloping ahead." Hesser spreads his hands. "What happens when a nation with both Expressives and Anti-Expressive technology decides to swoop in while we're pulling our pants up and finish the job Mitchell started?"

"Our final question of the night segues from the previous topic," Walton explains. "It is for Mr. Medina to answer: Mazdak has shown itself to be an international power with a vested interest in the forwarding of extremist pro-Expressive ideology. With the mounting evidence that Mazdak played a role in the February attack on Detroit and the discovery of their militant arm Shedda Dinu operating in Rochester, New York, concern regarding this organization is at an all-time high. How do you intend on combating the threat Mazdak represents to the US?"

"Mazdak is the single greatest threat to the United States of America in the entire world," Medina explains with a hint of manic energy in his voice. "Mazdak pushed us out of Iraq while we were fighting our own Civil War, they took control of Syria and are making strides in every direction globally. Our allies in Turkey are crumbling to Mazdak's chemical weapons programs and devastating Expressive force. They have declared war on the United States with their actions, and they need to be treated as such. Not only would I repeal the Cambridge Act, like I said before, but I would employ every single Anti-Expressive weapon in our arsenal to ensure that we eliminate every single enemy of Democracy and the Rule of Law that threatens us with force."

"We need to cut the heads off of this serpent now and cauterize the wound like Hercules fighting the Hydra before they turn their full attention on us again," Medina insists. "Mazdak is already in the United States, we have proof! They are recruiting our own people, turning them against us, and using the Expressives radicalized by the civil war and the propaganda pushed by the Praeger administration to find a foothold in our own nation! How many more cells of hidden extremists exist out there? How many have gone unseen? We need to find them, we need to eradicate them, or the Second Civil War is going to be the second to last page in American history."

"Governor Harding, your response or rebuttal," Walton says smoothly.

"We can barely fight our own battles right now," Harding says with a grieved tone. "It's not a pretty truth, but it is true. The first question of the night asked in America was fully recovered and it was unilaterally no. How is a wounded nation going to fight a war when there's one brewing at home?" Harding's voice takes on a steely edge. "In 2019 the US Military participated in a joint operation with a private military company to crush a massive Humanis First operations center located in the Dead Zone. That didn't end the militant bigotry in this country, it just… like Medina said… cut a head off the hydra."

Harding presses his palms together and dips his head down toward his fingertips. "We have to clean our own house before we start trying to save the world. Pure Earth, Humanis First, all these clubs are heads on a hydra of our own making. Fueled by the rampant bigotry of the past and fears of the present. If we can't trust our own people, how can we fight alongside them? Georgia Mayes, the woman who pulled the trigger on the Cambridge Massacre was alive up until just two years ago. The shadow that woman casts is long, cruel, and wicked. We've only just started to pull them up by the root…"

Harding sighs. "We fight our battles one at a time."

"Senator Hesser, your comments or rebuttal?" Walton directs.

"I'm in agreement with Harding on this. We, as a nation, can't fight a war we aren't armed to win. We need anti-Expressive weaponry before we engage Mazdak, and there's no getting there fast. Yes, it's going to mean there are consequences to our staying out of the fight…" Hesser says with an incline of his head, "but look at the potential consequences of us going in unprepared. We need alternatives before we can thoughtfully engage an enemy with that kind of tactical and military advantage. But we do need to, it just shouldn't be the next administration's first priority. There are other options we could explore, private companies that specialize in combating these kinds of threats — Wolfhound, Durandal, — that could be leveraged against something like this until the US military is fully ready to commit."

"President Praeger," Walton finally comes to the incumbent. "You have our final response for the night, and you may make your closing statement."

There's another arch of Praeger's left brow at the words 'propaganda' and 'extremists,' but he otherwise listens, standing tall, hands folded, to each of the other men speaking before the floor comes back to him.

"I share those concerns regarding Mazdak, of course," he says quietly. "Unfortunately, as has already been said, we are not in a place as a country where we can effectively combat Mazdak at the current time, especially overseas. We simply do not have the manpower or the resources, and we cannot accomplish all of the other tasks before us if we do."

He gives a rueful shake of his head. "I am not going to make the people in the Dead Zones wait longer for their homes to be rebuilt, to head off to fight a war we simply cannot win at this time."

His hands open, again. "For now, we will continue to gather intelligence and work to protect our people on American soil. Our resources and money must be spent on rebuilding efforts first and foremost. Mazdak is a danger worldwide, and I think that this time, we need to let other global powers take the lead — until a time we have the resources to be on equal footing, without it coming at the expense of the people on the homefront."

Praeger touches his chest again, hand over his heart for a moment. "My closing remarks are these. It has been both the hardest thing I've ever done and the honor of my career to serve the United States as your president. I've stumbled at times — all presidents do, and not all presidents have had as rough of a path to tread on."

He smiles, and dips his head, before gesturing to the other men at the podiums. "My opponents are good men, and each has the best of intentions, each thinks their way is the best way. My advice to the American people is that, as was said earlier, very few things are black or white, that most things fall in the middle. The answer is rarely in the extremes. Balance is what we need, moving forward."

He dips his head a little, eyes finding first Walton, then the camera again. "Thank you."

"Mr. Medina, your closing remarks," Walton says curtly.

"America is a struggling, flawed, wounded animal. It's making mistakes in haste, and if we aren't careful we're going to reopen old wounds and die," is Medina's bleak start to his closing statement. "America is unprepared for the horrors that are just around the corner. We don't— can't fight what we don't understand— what we aren't prepared to face. We need to understand that Expressive violence is disproportionately effective when compared to non-Expressive violence. For every hundred Ted Kaczynski's there's one Sylar. Those numbers aren't equal."

Looking tired, leaning on his podium for support, Medina stares off into the distance. "We need to understand that, or we're going to wind up extinct."

Walton draws in a slow and steady breath, then looks to Harding. "Governor Harding, your closing thoughts."

"I echo Raymond's comments that my opponents here all believe that their path to America's future is the best one. We're all people of conviction and the American People will ultimately be the ones to make that decision." Harding explains thoughtfully. "I've seen the true heart of American people. It's as much a bucket brigade three hundred strong putting out house fires in Tallahassee as it is evil men like Leon Heller. We have to square that our history is a hard, ugly, and brutal one and that we're either going to carry it forward… or we're going to put the past where the past stays, and build something newer and better together."

"Thank you, America," is Harding's closing words.

"Senator Hesser, you have tonight's final closing remarks," Walton states clearly.

"America was always billed as a land of opportunity," Hesser begins, leaning on the podium with both hands. "We lost our way long before the first shots were fired in the Civil War. That bar, the land of opportunity is what I want to move back to. Opportunity for Americans first and foremost. We need to find what made us an international powerhouse and rebuild that drive. We need to aspire to the stars, we need to remember that rugged individualism is the spirit this nation was founded on, and from those people, great innovations that changed the world." Hesser spreads his hands. "That isn't the America of my childhood, but it's the America of my dreams. All I'm asking is for the American people to help me make that a reality."

"I would like to thank our candidates for joining us tonight on the stage in the nation's new capital, and thank the BBC and NBC for making this broadcast happen," Walton says, looking to the camera.

"Goodnight America, and remember to vote on Tuesday, November 3rd."

Meanwhile, A Thousand Miles Away

The Pine Barrens
New Jersey

Greg turns off his radio and looks over to Elisa. His expression is an inscrutable cypher half-lit in lambent orange. She waits for some tell, or a verbal cue to act. When Greg smiles it’s all she needs to hear.

“I’ll contact Mr. Naidu…” Elisa says with a small smile.

“…and tell him it was a success.”

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License