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Election Returns, Live

 The bulky figure stooped, bringing its head close to the ground, as if sniffing out a trail. Its electronic eyes whirred and the machine pistols mounted on the shoulders of the armored exoskeleton swung from side to side, searching.

“That, of course, is Governor Moose Howery of Nebraska. He came from behind late in the campaign to decisively win the primaries in several key states, and he’s certainly proven himself a fighter.”

“That’s right, Jim. Get a look at those machine pistols mounted on his shoulders! They don’t seem to interfere with his mobility or speed, do they? He just crashes through that jungle. And with that chest rocket launcher, and the strength-amplifying armor, he’s going to be tough to beat.”

“Now just a moment ago, Mark, we spoke to an analyst at Defense Systems Corp, who pointed out that the Republicans have reportedly skimped a bit on the armor this year. Will that be a problem?”

“It’ll be hard to say until we’ve seen the other candidates, but Republicans have often decided to go for firepower over strong defensive systems. Their philosophy is that if you can knock out the opposition early with a quick attack, you won’t need to cart around a lot of heavy armor plating. And with the hot conditions on this island, heavy armor could trap the heat your devices generate, causing problems. It’s a trade-off.”

Howery rose to his feet and crashed off through the jungle, gray disappearing into the green.

“There he goes. Think he’s registered someone on his sensors, Mark?”

“Could be. Maybe we can pick him up on another camera?”

“Or a competitor. So far, all quiet… Now, of course we know that too much armor can also be a danger.”

“That’s correct, Jim. Just four years ago the Greens attempted to use what they called the ‘Turtle’ – virtually no offensive systems at all, just a super-tough shell surrounding a life-support system. The idea was that the members of the opposing parties would kill each other off, using up their energies, with the Green candidate safe in the shell, leaving an open field.”

“I thought we had a view of another combatant, there, but apparently it was a monkey or something. Yes, Mark, but the Greens failed to realize that the Turtle could roll, and that the Turtle could sink.”

“It certainly could, and did! And of course these contests are always held on islands, so that really cost them.”

“You got to wonder how long the Green candidate survived, sitting on the bottom of the sea down there. They planned to have the Turtle hauled up, but it was too expensive. Of course, the Greens have long suffered from a lack of strong corporate sponsorship.”

“I can picture him crouching in there, marking off the days with a charcoal stick! Anyway, since then the Greens have abandoned their go-nowhere pacifism plank, of course, though there has been no evidence of that change in action yet. But everyone is wondering — any word on what the Democrats have prepared this year?”

“It’s always hard to predict what they’ll do. They concentrate on going on the offensive one election, defensive the next; they don’t always strike much of a balance. And sometimes, even with the biggest cannon in the field, they just inexplicably don’t shoot.”

“We caught a glimpse just then – if we can roll back the tape a second – yes, it looks like the Communist Party entry.”

“Ah, yes. I see they’ve opted for a chainsaw-type blade on one arm, and what looks to be a sonic weapon of some kind. Fairly light armor. Of course, the Communists’ options are also rather restricted, because of the limited amounts of funding they get.”

“That’s how the system works, Mark. But what is the chainsaw for? Could it cut through the armor of, say, the Republican candidate?”

“No way, Jim. In fact, he wouldn’t even be able to get close enough. My guess is that he’s planning to topple a tree down on his opponents, try to pin them down until he can safely approach – or, barring that, just leave them there for thirst to do them in.”

“Now in the ’36 campaign the Communists went with a powered shovel. Tried to dig traps.”

“That was the Libertarians, Jim. An interesting approach, but their lack of armor really killed them.”

“And that’s no metaphor, Mark! They didn’t even make the semi-finals this cycle. Well, the Communist candidate is Anatoli Treba, it says here. Yes. A lawyer from Maine. His wife is a published poet. Relatively unknown, with few corporate sponsors, but the Communists keep trying.”

“Look at that! He must have a pretty good sensing package, because he just took off like a shot up that hill.”

“Moved fairly fast. I thought for a second we’d caught whatever he was chasing, but it seems to have eluded our cameras, at least for the time being.”

“The chestcams most of the candidates are wearing will give us a more complete picture later, of course, but it can be frustrating to those, like us, watching the fun in real time.”

“All part of the excitement of an election, Mark. For those just joining us, this is Broadcast Services News – BSN, your top pick for politics and entertainment news. Not much to see, now… A lovely island they have this year, anyway.”

“Yes. In 2040 they had that little rocky islet off the Alaskan coast. Brrr! But the sunny conditions here can actually play a little havoc with some of the equipment, which has to be cooled. The temperature on the island has been in the mid-to-upper 80’s all day, and the humidity’s been climbing. Getting kind of muggy.”

“Now what is that, Mark? Looks like a section of the jungle just moved. A blanket?”

“Oh – beautiful. Now that’s just lovely. It’s a very nice camouflage system. And I’m being told that this is Pedro Sabrosa, the Democratic candidate, under there.”

“Somewhere. Is this a variation on the Turtle, Mark?”

“Much more sophisticated, which isn’t a surprise, given that the Dems have much greater financial resources to draw on.”

“That’s democracy – supporters translate into dollars, and success in the election. But that just looks like a blanket. It is hard to see, though.”

“Very hard to see. It seems to be a sheet of very smart camouflage. But you can make out a really nasty gun there, on top, and at least a couple of grenade launchers. Oh! There goes one now!”

“Did he hit anything?”

“I think – yes. That’s a piece of armor there hanging on that tree – and there’s the chainsaw. Looks like the Communists have been taken out.”

“Well, of course we never expected them to last, and they actually hung on a bit longer than any of us would’ve thought. But now it’s just the Dems, the Republicans, and of course the, ah, the Green Party left. Now, the Greens have never—whoa! That was a direct hit!”

“The camouflage didn’t do the Democrats much good, apparently! Pedrosa just went up in a fireball! He has three kids back home, all in high school I believe. One rides horses.”

“Yes – look at that – trees down all around the crater! Did that come from Howery, do you think, Mark?”

“I expect so. If we can cycle through the cameras, maybe we can get a view–”

”Now, what was that? Some kind of monkey?”

“I don’t know, Jim, but it wasn’t the Republican – ah, there’s Howery now. And that rocket launcher in his chest is still smoking.”

“What a shot! He was quite far from Pedrosa, Mark. At least halfway across the island. How did he manage to get a lock on his opponent from that distance?”

“We’ll have to take a long look when we do the replays and analysis. But lately the Republicans – all the major parties – have been bringing along some pretty impressive detection gear. They look for electromagnetic signals, machine noise – they can even spot atmospheric irregularities, find the exhaust the others are giving off. Even though these powersuits are designed to run quiet, they just can’t mask it all. And these new systems filter out the natural jungle noises, focus on the machines, the tech.”

“Well, it looks like the Republicans have won the Presidency.”

“As soon as they find and eliminate the Green Party candidate, Jim. By the way, says here the Green candidate used to play some baseball in college, briefly considered going pro. He’s probably regretting not doing so. Eliminating him is kind of just a formality, at this point. I can’t see the Green presenting any hardware that could face the kind of killing machine the Republicans have brought with them to this contest.”

“No, I’d agree with that. But Howery is off, tromping through the jungle, in search of his quarry.”


“Yes, victim. Now, we still haven’t seen the Green Party entry, have we?”

“No. I suspect they’ve gone into hiding. But that detecting array we mentioned earlier should smoke them out pretty fast.”

“Wouldn’t want to keep the voters waiting!”

“Yes, but also all that gear Howery is toting around – ”

“Well, as you said, Mark, once he finds the Green, the election will be over pretty quick.”

“Looks like Howery is heading up the hill, there. Once on top, he becomes an easily-visible target, but he’ll be able to sweep the whole island for electronic signatures.”

“But as a target – why would he take such a risk?”

“He’s betting the Greens don’t have any long-range weaponry, I guess, at least nothing that could punch through that considerable armor. It’s a fairly safe bet – and he will eventually have to face that time constraint. Better to just get it over with.”


“Welcome back to our continuing coverage. Coming up on hour eight of this long campaign, and the Green candidate has yet to be found. And now it looks as though Moose is doing something to his suit.”

“That’s right, Jim. With this hot sun, and all that weight, and all the gadgets he’s been running, the air-conditioning units on that suit will be shutting down. If Howery doesn’t get the helmet off, he actually could suffocate in there. Moose’s first job was to work in his mother’s dry-cleaning business as a young teen. She raised him after his father passed away.”

“Well, it’s been a surprisingly long campaign. The longest before now was the ’36 campaign, which went on for nearly four-and-a-half hours.”

“With modern equipment, that can sense electromagnetics, infrared, pollutants, noise – it’s just unheard of for a candidate to stay hidden this long. I’m beginning to wonder if the Green candidate even made it onto the island in the first place.”

“Here comes the helmet off now.”

”And not a moment too soon, judging by his red face.”

“That evening air has just got to feel real good.”

“And he’s enjoying every minute of it.”

“Now, just to remind our viewers, once the sun is fully down we go into sudden death – the remaining candidates, in this case the Republican Moose Howery and his Green opponent – or their people, I should say – will agree on a time and setting for a rematch.”

“And you can bet that won’t be a drawn-out affair like—“

Behind the sitting figure of Howery a man smeared from head to toe in mud stepped out of the bush, naked except for a pair of shorts, carrying a heavy stick. Before the suited figure could turn to look, the man brought the stick down upon his head.

Howery slumped down into his armor, just the top of his bloodied head showing.

“That was—that was—“

“Jim, I think the Green Party has made its appearance! Howery, known for his ability to come up swinging when he’s down, looks to have been put down permanently.”

“But is that legal, Mark? Come up behind him like that—“

“The sun hasn’t fully set yet, Jim, so it’s perfectly legal, if a bit underhanded. Clever, actually – he knew that the others would be searching the EM bands, looking for anomalies, and he just kept out of sight, blending in like one of the local flora and fauna.”

“It may be legal, Mark. It may. But I think we can all agree that this behavior violates the core principles of our democracy. The will of the people and corporations is demonstrated by their willingness to fund their candidate’s protective and offensive equipment, not buy him a pair of gym shorts and a stick!”

“I suspect the stick actually came from right there on the island, Jim.”

“But can this in any way be considered a reflection of the will of the people?”

“You may be right, Jim, but until the lawmakers can change things in time for the next election, it looks like the U.S. is going to get its first Green Party president. Just look at the guy, smiling through the mud. He’s happy as a clam. We should get his name.”

“Election Returns, Live” originally appeared in The Fifth Di.

Art by Open ClipArt Vectors, from

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