The delegation's leader stepped on the porch of Norman Cole's condo. He was a middle aged man of fifty-five, slightly overweight and a little less than six feet tall with a full head of dark hair speckled with gray.
The group following him consisted of another man in his mid-twenties, and two women of equivalent ages to the men. They each carried a black briefcase and wore similar dark business attire with what appeared to be standard issue wrap-around opaque sunglasses.
The younger man, standing several inches taller than his senior counterpart, looked down at the leader and remarked, "We've arrived almost an hour behind schedule." He continued by asking, "How many times does this make for you?"
"Six. And this is my last one. Twenty-four years is enough." The leader replied as he rapped on the badly peeling paint of the front door with his knuckles. Time seemed to drag, sounds could be heard from the inside but no one came to answer the door.
The two men wiped the sweat from their brows. The day was oppressively hot and humid. The four United States Marshals accompanying the perspiring government delegation, showed no sign of any effects from the heat.
The leader frowned, glanced at his watch, and said to the group, "We've got to get a move on! The laws are strict about having the Odd Man in protective custody by three o'clock."
He made a fist and banged loudly on the door. From the interior of the condo they heard, "Just a minute! Be right there."
A few seconds later the locks rattled and the door swung open to reveal a thin, unkempt brown haired, hazel eyed man of about forty years of age. Most would say he was good looking even though unshaven and rumpled. Dressed in cut-offs he displayed a tempered body evidencing a life time work out regimen. His informal seemingly forced domesticity was indicated by the large kitchen whisk in one hand and dishtowel in the other.
"Norman Cole?" The leader of the delegation asked.
"Yes. Can I help you?" Norman inquisitively replied as he wiped his hands on the dishtowel while trying to balance the whisk.
"Mr. Cole, we are government representatives of the Odd Man Program. You should feel honored, sir. You have been selected to be this election's Odd Man!" The younger man exclaimed excitedly holding out his hand to shake Norman's.
"W ... w ... what? H ... how? Why me?" Norman questioned as his eyes darted from one person to another.
The older woman pushed her way to the front and squeezed passed Norman into the interior of his home. "Come people, we have to hurry! Norman! May I call you Norman? Norman, please go pack a bag, we have to be at the Kansas City airport in two and a half hours and it's a long drive from Topeka."
Norman simply gaped as the remainder of the delegation and two of the marshals followed the woman into his home. The other two marshals took up guard positions at his door.
Norman still stood at the doorway looking at the uninvited guests now spreading out through his house. He was in shock as his mind numbly tried to process what was happening. I'm the Odd Man? How the hell did they come up with me as the Odd Man? Somebody's screwed up badly ... royally in fact!
He started to argue with the older woman but was interrupted by the younger woman as she snapped her cell phone closed with a loud click. "That was HQ. The info has leaked to the press. We've less than ten minutes before every news hound in Kansas and Missouri arrives here. We've gotta move -- now!"
"Norman, don't worry about packing a bag. Just change into some comfortable traveling clothes. Everything you'll need for the next ten days will be waiting for you at the Odd Man compound," the older man said with authority. He turned to look at the younger man. "Fred, go help Norman get ready would you?"
The younger man steered Norman into his bedroom and rifled through his closet and drawers. He found a pair of soft, faded blue jeans and a gray sweatshirt that proudly announced that Norman had been at the Hog's Breath Saloon in Key West.
Norman reluctantly began to remove his t-shirt and cut-offs and was just placing a leg in the jeans when the young woman ran through the door. She showed no embarrassment at finding Norman in his underwear as she announced, "We've got two minutes. News helicopters have been spotted less than six miles from here heading this way. We have to go, now!"
The young man replied, "Okay Fran. Come on Norman. I've got your shirt. You can put it on the car. Let's move!" He pushed Norman toward the door as Norman was still fastening his jeans. "Don't worry Norman. Our people will lock up plus let your neighbors and your boss know that we didn't kidnap you."
The two marshals that had entered his home flanked Norman and the government delegation walked in front of him. The other marshals stationed at the front door had already returned to stretch limo and accompanying SUV and had the motors running. Norman was steered to the limo and was placed between the two marshals. The two older government representatives got in the SUV ahead of the limo.
The woman, Fran, and younger man, Fred, entered the vehicle and sat in the seat facing backward in front of Norman. The young woman's skirt was hiked up to show some very shapely legs that Norman could not help but notice.
She saw his face and a brief smile played on her face as she adjusted her skirt to a more proper position. She took a laptop computer from her briefcase, opened it and began keying. She continued to key as the vehicles pulled away from Norman's house and the neighbors watched the strange abduction take place.
After several moments, she hit a final key with a sigh and looked up. "Okay. We're good. The diversion team arrived just after we left and waited for the helicopters to show up. They took off on I-70 going westbound. Every news hound in two states is now chasing them in the opposite direction."
Norman looked at his seatmates. The marshal to his left was looking out of the heavily tinted window intent on spotting any sign of trouble. The marshal on his right was eyeing the terrain on his side of the vehicle with the same diligence. Norman looked across at the young woman and asked, "Miss. Can I ask ... what's a diversion team?"
The woman's mouth crinkled into a smile as she replied, "its simple, Norman. There are two additional convoys with vehicles exactly like ours that are now being used to divert the attention of anyone trying to follow us. Diversion team two took up the duty in front of your house immediately after we left there and is now proceeding away from us going in the opposite direction. They're drawing away those people we would rather not have around us. Diversion team one is ten miles ahead of us going the same direction we are. We hope that anyone clever enough to look for a convoy going that direction will start following them. Oh, by the way, Norman. My name is Francine, Fran for short, and I'm going to stay by your side for the next ten days until your Odd Man duty is completed."
Norman could only nod in reply as he was still overwhelmed by his selection as the Odd Man. Norman inspected his seatmates, the two U.S. marshals. They both stared out of their respective windows looking for any hint of trouble. No Odd Man had ever been attacked or even threatened and these men were determined not to be the first to experience such an event.
Fran spoke again, "Norman, we will be taking you directly to the airplane and ask that when we get there, you move quickly to the plane. Stay close to your escorts." She indicated the two marshals seated next to him.
She continued, "The trip to Odd Man Center is two hours and forty-five minutes by air. We have our own airstrip at the Center. The Center is actually a compound containing all facilities needed for your comfort and protection. As the selected Odd Man, you have the right to know where the Center is located, but we strongly suggest you don't ask for particulars. If you don't know, you can't accidentally divulge it to others. We will tell you that it's located in Virginia."
Norman just nodded his head and said nothing. He was still overwhelmed at being selected as the Odd Man. He could only hope that his role would not be required in this upcoming election. He was already getting that feeling of panic that he might be called on to take action and what if he decided wrong.
Fred cleared his throat and stated, "When you arrive at the Center, you'll receive a full physical and any medical needs you have will be dealt with. You'll also receive a battery of psychological tests to ensure you're of sound mind. It's the Center's responsibility that you are in the best physical and mental condition possible in case you're required to fulfill the Odd man duties. Don't worry though. Our mainframe computer has never selected an Odd Man candidate that failed to pass all of the tests."
Fran chimed in, "The process starts in six days. The Odd Man may be needed on the eighth day. Once the Odd Man duty passes you will spend one more night at the center for a rest and short debriefing. Then depending on circumstance we may return you to your home. You will probably have protection assigned to you until a new Odd Man is selected. It's our experience, that once your successor is named, even most nuts lose interest in you."
Norman simply nodded a response as he mulled over what they had just said. Oh great! Now I'm a target for every maniac looking to shoot first and think second. What the hell have I gotten myself into? What if I really have to perform the duty?
At the Kansas City airport, the caravan moved at full speed through a perimeter gate directly onto the parking apron where a rather expensive looking Learjet sat with its engines roaring. The car containing Norman stopped just six feet from the stairway leading into the plane's interior. The marshal on that side of the car swung open the door, jumped out and surveyed the area around the plane. He nodded and the marshal on the other side of Norman prodded him gently and said, "Sir, time to move. Be quick now, please!" Norman all but leaped out of the car and ran to the stairs. He took them two at time and disappeared into the plane. Fran and Fred followed at a more leisurely but still brisk pace and chuckled to each other about Norman's apparent fears.
The delegation leader heard them snickering and joking over the incident and he immediately dressed them down. How dare they make fun of the Odd Man. Didn't they know what an honor it was to serve the Odd Man?
Neither responded except to lower their heads and mumble a short apology to their leader. He immediately dismissed them and the incident from his mind as he moved into the plane.
The flight to Virginia was uneventful, other than the sudden escort by an F-16 fighter jet off each wing. It was obvious that the Odd Man was considered a national asset requiring military protection.
The plane touched down exactly two hours and forty-six minutes after leaving Kansas City. It came to stop in front of a small, low, whitewashed building with several oversize bay windows and what appeared to be a large opening with no apparent doors. The building nestled into some heavy woods of oak and pine.
It seemed to resemble a pool house. Norman thought. There was movement from within the structure and two heavily armed uniformed Army soldiers appeared at the opening. Each went to a side of the building, scanned the area and ran up to the door of the plane. Fred pulled the release handle opening the plane's door. The outside air was comfortable, in the low seventies, and contained a woodsy aroma of decaying leaves.
Fred stepped down to the tarmac and turned to wave the other travelers out. Fran prodded Norman and shepherded him from the plane. The two elder members of the delegation followed them off just a few steps behind.
The soldiers had disappeared behind the building and returned in a Hummer. One soldier stepped down from the vehicle and opened the rear door for the delegation. They climbed up into the vehicle and positioned themselves pretty much as they had been on the plane with the two younger members of the delegation fussing around Norman as the two senior members just looked on. The soldier jumped onto the rear of the vehicle and they were off at a slow speed on a wide path cleared through the woods.
Even though many of the oak trees had begun shedding their leaves for the winter, the pines sufficiently blocked the riders' views to less than thirty feet in any direction. There were several twists and turns in the trail which filtered into a large, well-manicured Kentucky Blue Grass opening. The luxurious grass yard ran about four hundred feet from the edge of the forest up to a large whitewashed two-story antebellum style great house. The path the Hummer was following changed from a brown gravel covered dirt road to a white crushed seashell surface lined with honeysuckle. Running at forty-five degree angles to the right and left of the house were squat, whitewashed, rectangular buildings about seventy feet long. Norman had glimpses of additional low buildings disappearing behind the great house.
The vehicle braked to a stop at the front door of the house and the group made their way to the ground. They stood at the vehicle's door as Fran explained to Norman. "This is your home for the next ten days. Welcome to the Odd Man Center. When you're not busy, you can walk these grounds to your content." Fran waved her hand in the general direction of the huge yard they had just traversed. Norman looked out at it and was amazed how pleasing and soothing the setting appeared.
Fran continued, "It's over a mile from here to the front gate and about a half mile to the airstrip. Twelve foot high fencing surrounds the entire perimeter. Motion sensors are all over the perimeter; so if you go hiking through the woods, don't get any closer than thirty feet from the fence. If you do, the Army detachment guarding this facility will be very unhappy with you for causing a false alarm."
With that, she turned and taking Norman's arm steered him to the front door. Fred opened the door and they entered the house. A large reception hall some thirty feet by forty feet swallowed the sounds of their footsteps on the Italian tile floor. Stairs winding upward on either side of the hall led to the second floor some thirty feet above where they now stood.
However it just didn't look right. Such possible grandeur given the house exterior and setting but lacking soul inside. It was quietly disturbing, bland ... and almost austere. It seemed deigned for a different purpose. Norman wondered if he would ever really get out of here.
The two senior members stepped forward and the man shook Norman's hand. "Norman, we're leaving you now. Fred and Fran will take care of your wants and needs during your stay here. Congratulations on being chosen the Odd Man!" The woman hugged him, squeezed his hand, and then they were gone.
Fran was still holding his arm and steered him to the stairs. "Come on Norman. You only have two hours before your physical. You can get some rest in your quarters upstairs. We all have rooms up there, but yours is a suite." At the top of the stairs, a landing running the width of the hall below led to massive doors at both ends. A long hall with at least a sixteen-foot ceiling ran straight toward the back of the house from the very center of the landing. Norman could see heavy wooden doors every twelve to fifteen feet down the hall.
They entered Norman's quarters through a set of highly polished mahogany doors about twelve feet high and eight feet wide. It was, indeed, a suite. The room they stood in had a massive sofa with a large coffee table facing a six-foot high-def television. Next to the TV was a stand of video flash storage cards containing the entire inventory of movies currently running at theaters, as well as the most popular movies of the past fifty years.
Fran laughed as Norman touched the big screen. "You can get any current TV programming, including news. You might need to make The Decision and we want you to have all possible information you might need to do that. Over the next two days, you will be briefed on how the other Odd Men have made The Decision. It's a rare thing, but twice our Odd Men have had to make The Decision."
Norman had read about them but couldn't remember anything about them after their duty ended. Puzzling and troubling.
Fran opened the door to the left of the sofa and showed Norman the bathroom with a six foot by six foot walk in shower, a hydro-jets tub, a closet full of fluffy towels and a supply of his favorite shaving cream, soap, body wash, shampoo, and toothpaste. All of the cleaning and grooming aids he used at home were available to him here in this mansion. They knew more about him than his mother had, the poor soul.
Fran opened the door to the right of the sofa and they entered a large bedroom. Large was an understatement. It was huge. A four-poster king size bed barely occupied part of one wall of the room. Across the room stood a massive chest of drawers. She pulled open the top drawer and motioned for Norman to look in, "Here's a dozen pair of new underwear and socks. Fred snooped in your drawers at home and wrote down your preference for boxers and v-neck t-shirts. As well as your sizes."
She pulled open the next drawer and said, "And here are some shorts, a couple of jogging suits, and two sweaters for those cool mornings."
She shut the drawer and opened the walk-in closet, "and in here are new pairs of pants, some wind breakers, some golf shirts, and two long sleeve dress shirts."
She turned to Norman and continued, "All of these clothes are yours to keep at the end of your duty." She glanced at her watch and walked over to the bed. She sat down and curled her feet up under her. Her skirt had crept up again to reveal those shapely legs Norman had eyed on the way to the airport.
She patted the bed next to her and said, "Come sit here."
Norman hesitantly sat down where she indicated.
"Norman, you can take a nap for the next hour. Then we'll start your medical and psych evaluations." She gently pushed him down on the bed. As his head hit the pillow he struggled to get up. Fran gently restrained him and whispered in a low voice, "Sleep now. You're tired. Rest." She continued the low tone as she rubbed his forehead and shoulders.
Suddenly, Norman felt himself being shaken. Opening his eyes he saw Fred grinning down at him, "Up and at 'em, Norman! You've been sleeping for almost an hour. Let's go. Time for your checkups."
Norman was disappointed that Fran wasn't around when he awoke. But he didn't know how to broach the subject with Fred without looking like a lecher.
For the next four hours, the medical and psych testing besieged Norman. He was poked, prodded, made to cough, questioned, and evaluated.
That evening, Fran visited with him for a while and shared an after dinner drink. She smiled as he told her of all of the poking, blood tests, and bodily function samples taken. She sat with him as he listened to Bach on the sound system and finished his bourbon.
He soon fell asleep on the sofa, so she covered him with a blanket and tiptoed out. Norman didn't move until the sun was far up in the morning sky. He awoke to a sore neck plus the smell of bacon and coffee and a knock at his bedroom door.
In response to his "Who is it?" Fran swept into the room pushing a covered breakfast cart. She placed the cart by his bed and pulled a chair up to the other side. She raised the cover and displayed two settings for breakfast. She announced, "Breakfast is served. I'm going to eat with you this morning if it's okay with you."
"Sure. But why?" Norman responded as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes.
"Because you need some stability right now. The last few days and the next few will be whirlwinds. You need something to anchor you to real life, and I'm it." She replied.
"Are you going to be my mother?" Norman laughed.
"No way. I'm going to be your best friend. I'm going to be whatever it is you need. Whatever you need." She said dead seriously as they both dived into their breakfast plates.
Norman raised his eyes and looked at her. She nodded her head and said again, "Whatever you need." Then she dropped her eyes in what on any other woman would be considered a bashful manner.
The tests continued into the afternoon. His teeth were cleaned and he had two cavities filled. He identified ink blotches as people, animals, and objects. He said the first word that came into his head as he heard a word spoken.
After many hours, the medical staff left proclaiming him fit. The psych team left an hour later proclaiming him sane and competent.
The weather was warm so he had put on shorts, golf shirt, and his sneakers. He wanted to walk the grounds to clear his head. As Norman walked out the front door, Fran stepped up beside him. She wore plaid shorts and an electric blue blouse that accented her attributes. Her legs were tanned and strong. She grabbed Norman's arm and together, without a word between them, they set out to explore the grounds.
They talked as they walked with Norman telling her of his tests and she explaining to him what she knew of the Odd Man program. At least as much as she knew at this time because this was her first Odd Man duty. Fran told him that he would be getting a series of briefings starting later in the day from several historians and government officials on the Odd Man role, how it all came about, and what was expected of him.
He stopped thirty feet from the perimeter fence and sighed. "I'd just like to jump that fence and be gone. I'm a real brave Odd Man, eh?"
Fran giggled and said, "That's what they all say or so I've been told."
She leaned on his arm and said, "But every one of them has stayed and done their duty. I'm hoping you're no different. I'm sure you'll be no different."
They walked back to the great house as the sun went behind a cloud and the temperature seemed to plummet. Together, they entered the house and stood shivering as the warmth of the interior slowly dispelled the cold.
Fred walked up and curtly said, "It's about time you got back. You have an Odd Man briefing in ten minutes in the library. That's the first building on the left at the rear of the house."
Fran said, "I'll take him there."
Fred replied firmly, "No. You have to report to the psych team, pronto. I'll take Norman myself."
Fran nodded and turned to Norman, "Duty calls. I'll see you later tonight. Okay?"
Norman nodded in agreement and turned to Fred, "Let's go. I've got a lot of questions that need answering."
Fred talked casually with Norman on the short walk to the library. He seemed to hold no opinion as to Fran's sudden interest in Norman. It became clear to Norman that Fred felt Fran was just doing her job. But what was her job? Norman mused.
When they arrived at the library door, Fred opened it, stepped back to let Norman enter, and then closed it in leaving.
Norman stepped into the dark interior of The Library. It was indeed appropriately named. The walls were lined in shelves with books occupying every inch of available space except for a large floor to ceiling window picturing the woods.
In the middle of the space was a large conference table. Two very academic looking men sat at the end of the table. They looked up as Norman came in. The closest 60ish man rose and hurriedly walked to the door to shake Norman's hand. The younger man stood but waited for them to return to the table.
"Mr. Cole. It's a great honor to meet you. You are the fiftieth Odd man. That's quite an honor. Not only to be The Odd Man, but to be the fiftieth. That means we're celebrating our two hundredth anniversary! Let me introduce myself. I'm Henry Fowler, the Odd Man Project Historian."
As they arrived at the table, the other man leaned across and warmly shook Norman's hand. "Congratulations, Mr. Cole. The projections indicate that your services might be needed to make The Decision! My name is Riddick Blunt. I'm the Odd Man mainframe computer analyst."
Fowler somberly said, "We're here to give you a preliminary briefing of the Odd Man role and a brief history of how it came about and some insight on your predecessors."
"Then tomorrow we'll give you a view of the current situation." Blunt added as he pointed to the chair at the head of the table between them. "Please sit, make yourself comfortable and take notes if you wish. We'll get on with the briefing and then try to answer any questions you have. You'll leave this room with a disc copy of this meeting should you later have need for the details discussed."
Norman took the chair indicated and with apprehension awaited his fate.
Henry Fowler commenced. He turned on a small overhead projector and touched the screen on his laptop. An image appeared on the screen showing Willy Noland, the first Odd Man that made The Decision.
"I'm sure you recognize Mr. Noland. He was the seventh Odd Man and had the honor of being the first to actually execute the duty of the position. But before we talk about him, I'd like to review why the Odd Man position is with us today and how it all started."
Norman nodded for Fowler to continue. Fowler touched the screen and a new slide full of text appeared.
"It was the middle of the twenty-first century... 2056 to be exact. The political situation of the country had become a quagmire. There were only two well recognized political parties in those days with the others shunned as ultra radicals.
"The process for selection and election of our members of Congress and the Presidency, as well as state and local offices were becoming too costly, too lengthy, too constrained and farcical to actually have qualified candidates available or any that wanted to run for these offices.
'The national parties ran what was called either "Caucasus or Primaries" in most states over a one year period prior to the general election. With so much at stake for the party's power agendas the political manipulations and infighting for these events started almost two years prior to the actual election date with dozens of candidates on the ballots. The candidates spent millions of special interest dollars attempting to get the voters' attention and backing.
"The tally of money spent by just the presidential winning party candidates in the actual election was well over half a billion dollars. The tally of all candidates including presidential, state and local primaries was closer to three billion dollars.
"Predictably those with the larger special interest bankroll most often won their primaries quite handily. So toss in another 500 million to a billion dollars for the final promotional and voting costs which push the total election process costs close to 5 billion dollars with more than half spent to manipulate the vote and perpetuate the myths of the voting process.
"Then to display the ultimate power of monetary manipulation, occasionally special interest money was spent as a misdirection to cause nomination of a weaker issued candidate instead of a more worthy one who could have won.
"This pre-election process was lengthy, costly and limiting candidate wise. Especially because as the candidates wrestled each other for votes, the campaigns would always degenerate into mud slinging, negative message tactics that turned off and confused the majority of the voters. Eventually it became clear that "Created Apathy" was truly the power brokers best friend. Quite simply, the fewer voters the easier they could be influenced.
"Because this contrived process was so lengthy and costly, the best-qualified candidates usually fell by the wayside or gave up or never came forward as the inferior candidates always smeared them by covertly exposing their family skeletons, distorting their career dealings or simply broadcasting implied concern for contrived shadowy personal issues.
"Arguably as important, it was also determined that by the actual day the candidate took office, the prior important issues of the country had invariably changed in part or substantially. So those qualities of the individual that had appeared to make them a viable candidate were now useless or benign in the current real world crises of today's "true issues."
Norman interrupted at this point, "But wasn't that whole system designed during our nation's birth and then carefully evolved to cause the best candidates to surface and run?"
"Well yes and no. Hypothetically and as intended the system allowed anyone to attempt to run and be elected, but the backroom deals were still made to freeze out or smear any candidate not handpicked by the moneyed power brokers. You, I and the common populace generally know what I mean, the men behind the scenes who actually controlled the wealth of the country. Plus the mostly guided news media played favorites by carefully cast words would attempt to sway voters one way or the other instead of just reporting the news"
"That was the way it was or evolved since the 1940s or 50's. Most power brokers who previously had undeniable loyalty and dedication to our country were slowly being replaced by people who only had one god ... the money of any country's origin regardless of their birthplace. The world began to be their sandbox or some say their Monopoly Board with no concern for any national honor, pride or loyalty.
"The game was on with each country's common folk the pawns. Payoffs, pork bellies and misdirection through spin meisters became the rule of each day with even the major manufacturing business wannabe players becoming eventual losers. They selfishly couldn't believe they were being used as well until it was too late for their survival. Not surprisingly they were eventually sold to multinational conglomerates for pennies on the fleshless pound of their contrived losses.
"It really hadn't been any different through the years in Europe, England and other countries. The strong were made weak by shifting labor, facilities and products to other countries while increasing taxes for the enlarging governments fighting for their place and security in a preordained diminishing lifestyle.
"Then the worlds mercenaries came back to pick the bones clean of any future national growth until the country said uncle and played the new game until there was no real middle class and apathy ruled as it did in the middle ages."
A boggled Norman was openly stunned but eventually nodded and sat back as Fowler continued.
"After the pre-election primary cycle, the actual election followed a similar pattern. Another four hundred million dollars was spent on such nonsense as each party's convention to officially nominate a candidate that had already been anointed by the states primary processes in the public's mind.
"It seemed the money spent justified each party's selfishly contrived process and importance. Smoke and mirrors of immense self justification were the modus operandi of the major political parties of that day.
"The actual election expense ran to a quarter of billion dollars in campaigning. Another quarter of a billion was spent by the State and Federal governments on the actual election voting process. The equipment, staffing and vote counting, recounting, legal fees for contested results, and sundry other expense cost each State a minimum of fifty million dollars each election.
"All in all, almost four billion dollars was spent in just electing our president! Who was mostly an inferior candidate that the mostly apathetic public knew was inferior."
Fowler stopped and touched the screen, a new slide imaged on the screen in front of Norman.
"Thus was the situation in the middle of the twenty-first century. The process was badly broken and corrupted. The public felt disenfranchised and frustrated. The states were tired of the exorbitant expense of the election process.
"America needed to change or perish as others had before them. This was when Elias Hanover, the leader of the then new Common Sense Party brought forth the idea of the Representative Election.
"The Representative Election would select one individual to represent a specific political view, a constituency, a trait of a demographically related group, or some other socio-political nuance. The best thinking at the time said there were three hundred and thirty distinct geographical, social, and political representations requiring political coverage. So, three hundred and thirty carefully chosen people could vote for President and Congress, and completely represent the now nearly half billion American citizens.
This could be accomplished by having these representative voters secretly chosen by random computer selection ten days before the actual Election Day and brought immediately to a central election center so no one could inappropriately influence their decisions.
It took Hanover and his party over twenty-eight years to get enough support in the country to actually change the laws and force the new system in place. It took the election and impeachment of President John Righter, known forever after as John the Incompetent, to sway enough people to vote in the new election measures."
Norman stopped him, "Yeh, I know all about John the Incompetent, and how he almost left the country without a friend in the world and our financials in shambles. No need to go into that whole dismal history. Although the question remains ... how could any one man be that inept?"
Then Fowler nodded and touched his laptop screen several times, "Fine, I'll skip the slides on his failures and how the country viewed things at the end of his truncated administration. Just remember, the public was squarely in the corner of the proposed Representative Election Process from that point forward. After that time the process became known as the 3-3-0 for the three hundred and thirty representatives involved."
Fowler sipped a glass of water and then began again.
"Following the early years of the process we found that there were actually four hundred and ten different aspects of the socio-political landscape that needed fine grained representation. But the public still calls it 3-3-0.
"When put in place, it was apparent that with the appropriate even number of representatives, there was chance, albeit remote, for a tie in the vote. To explain the process, we first have each representative cast a secret vote for either a declared candidate or a write in candidate. The only allowed exposure and expenses of listing the interested candidates and their positions is borne by a small government entity, whose locally elected board rotated in part every year. We then tally the representative's votes and the top ten candidates names are placed in the round two balloting.
"At this point we actually bring the top ten in and sequester them from any other person or persons. Then one by one, without the others present, the candidate has one hour to discuss his or her positions and opinions in a presentation followed immediately by a question and answer session from and to the four hundred and ten representatives.
"Prior to that exploration process the representatives are brought up to speed on each candidate. They are lent lap tops to access to the FBI files on each of the 10 candidates.
"The representatives then vote again in a round two ballot. If any of the 10 candidates gets a clear majority of fifty-one percent or more of the votes, they are elected. In only two cases has a candidate had the majority at the end of round two.
"We then proceed to round three where we take the top three candidates from round two and have the round three voting.
"Usually we have a winner at this point but on the occasions, when neither of the three candidates achieves a 50% or more margin of the vote, we have to go to a round four ballot.
"In round four we have only the top two candidates from the round three results.
"In only two cases in the last two hundred years that we have used this process, have the two candidates ended up tied. That's where the Odd Man comes in.
"If a tie occurs, the two candidates will come in and present their platforms and opinions to the Odd Man in a one on one sit down meeting. The Odd Man can ask anything of the candidates. At the end of the meetings with the two candidates, the Odd Man casts the tie-breaking vote. Who ever the Odd Man picks is our next President. This is publicly known as The Decision."
Norman took a deep breath ... rubbed his sore stressed neck muscles then nervously raised his shaking hand and asked Fowler "This Odd Man is now under an unbelievable amount of pressure to make the right choice. How're we picked? What are the criteria? I think someone has screwed up big time in selecting me. I've turned down floor managers positions because I hate pressure or deciding anything more critical than what to have for dinner according to my long gone ex."
Both men at the table laughed comfortably at Norman's remark. Riddick Blunt looked at him and replied, "The election mainframe selects the Odd Man. Only the Representative Election Scientific Advisory Board knows the perimeters for selection. I know the pool of Odd Man candidates is constantly updated by the mainframe from real time information being obtained about every voting age citizen in the country. When the time draws near the mainframe randomly selects from that pool. So don't worry, you meet the selection criteria and will do as good a job as both of your predecessors who had to make The Decision."
Fowler continued with the briefing, "Willy Noland was the first Odd Man making The Decision. He obviously did well. He selected Benjamin Fortson who became as great a President as Washington, Lincoln, or Gentry were. Fortson finally fixed the illegal immigration problem almost seventy-five years after it first became known. He also made the country loved by almost all people around the world. How he did it takes hundreds of books, movies, and makes up entire curriculums at our major universities."
The image of Willy Noland reappeared on the screen. This was the well-known picture of Willy taken on his ninetieth birthday as former president Benjamin Fortson helped him cut his cake.
"The next and last Odd Man that cast the deciding vote was Kirk Kilpatrick. He voted for Edwin Gleese, the President that gave our country our current national economic system with the checks and balances preventing another ENRON-type crisis, and ending the mortgage industry financial disasters that had occurred six times in the nation's history."