A few hours later we were on the lawn in front of Denver’s City and County Building in Civic Center Park—a big park with pillared government buildings all around it. The State Capitol building’s gold dome shone in the sunset on the far end of the park.
We’d arrived hours before the actual fireworks for the obvious reasons that it would be easier to find parking, and stake out a spot on the lawn.
We could have gone to Castle Rock’s fireworks display, but Lim had sent an email to everyone encouraging students to spread out. We’d have an easier time blending in in Denver. In fact, everyone in the Stapledon program could have gone to Denver’s show and not skewed the look of the crowd appreciably toward young adults.
We’d bought cheap camping chairs on the way there, and set them up on the lawn. Near me Daniel and Izzy talked with Cassie. Haley, Jaclyn and Camille were laughing about something behind me.
I had my League phone out, and open to the folder on the League’s servers where I’d had Hal put the transcripts.
Hal had overdone it. By far.
I barely noticed Vaughn opening up a chair next to me.
“Hey Nick, do you mind if I sit here?” Vaughn pulled his chair out of its carrying bag, obviously not expecting me to say no.
I didn’t. Haley’s chair sat to my left, and even though she wasn’t sitting in it at the moment, I was covered.
“Cool.” Vaughn sat down. “So what are you looking at?”
“You know the email I sent everyone? I’m looking at the link.”
I sent a thought at Daniel. Are we safe to talk about the project?
I heard his voice in my mind. No one’s listening to us.
Even now, hours before the Fourth of July fireworks, people were already on the lawn. A band played in the bandstand in front of an enormous pillared building.
Keeping my voice low, I said, “Hal overdid it. In addition to the transcripts and the executive summary, he included several strategies for overthrowing the government.”
Vaughn laughed. “Just like that? Did you ask for help?”
I shook my head. “Not that kind of help, but it’s interesting. Hal thinks the regime’s weak. They’re strong in supers with wide area attacks. There’s the fire guy, and a guy who can cause earthquakes. The rest of them are powerful, but not world class—like the speedster who hits a couple hundred miles per hour, and the president turns into metal. He’s tough, but slow.
“The real problem isn’t their powers though. It’s mostly that there’s already an organized opposition, and the populace hates the country’s leaders. Hal thinks that the moment you take out their big fighters, and give the opposition a reason to think they can win, it’ll be all over.”
Vaughn snapped his fingers. “Just like that? Crazy. You wonder how many other places are like that. Get rid of the leadership, and bang, you’ve got normal country.”
“Don’t know,” I said. “We’d have to bug a bunch of governments to find out. After a little while, I’m betting they’d be watching for us.”
Vaughn nodded. “Oh, yeah, but it’d be funny. Imagine if a bunch of second rate dictators gave it up because they were afraid of us? Too cool. That’d be a real effect. Stop a mugger, and that’s a good thing, but get rid of a dictator and whole lot of people have a new lease on life.”
“Assuming you don’t replace him with someone just as bad, yeah. But anyway, if you open up the link in your League phone, you can look at all of this yourself. It’ll only work on a League phone or back in HQ though.”
“Sure,” Vaughn said, looking toward the band. “I figure I’ll take a look at it tonight maybe. Heck, or maybe tomorrow. We’ve got four days with no training. This is the best news since we got here. I’ve been sore all over for the last two days.”
Amy walked up and stood next to Vaughn, pulling the chair out of her carrying bag. “I hate these chairs already. They don’t come out of the bag easily.”
Vaughn laughed. “I noticed. Mine got easier after the first third. I don’t know why.”
I looked at how she held the carrying bag. “You flipped the upper third of the bag over on itself. It’s got a thick fabric. That might constrict the opening.”
Amy stopped and then shook her head, but she did fold the bag back over. It came out in one pull. “I wasn’t actually looking for help, but thanks.”
She opened up her chair and placed it next to Vaughn’s. “I’m not taking anyone’s spot, am I?”
Vaughn smiled up at her. “Nah. Everyone’s got a seat.”
As Amy sat down, I went back to my phone, suddenly remembering the faerie Amy thought she detected in my lab. I’d done something stupid. I shouldn’t have said anything to Vaughn, or I should have had Daniel relay it.
Of course, I was probably being paranoid. It wasn’t likely that that it was hanging around here.
Well, unless it was following us everywhere. Still, Amy hadn’t detected another.
Daniel broke into my thoughts. I can’t sense anything around us, but I’ll pass the warning along to everyone. It’s probably nothing to worry about.
Nothing much happened for a while after that. We watched the fireworks—which included lighting up the courthouse with multi-colored lights, and it was good.
After the fireworks ended, we packed up our chairs and tried to leave the park. It would have been easier if thousands of people weren’t trying to do the same thing at the very same time.
We’d made it to the edge of the park, but as we passed a line of port-a-potties, Vaughn asked, “Do you mind waiting? There’s something I have to do.”
No one had a problem with it, and he went in and shut the door.
The problem came when he didn’t come out. I don’t know how long we waited, but in one moment it seemed as though there were a lot of people waiting to use the toilets, and in the next we were one of the last groups standing there.
Daniel blinked and turned to me. “Vaughn’s not in there.”
Next to him, Izzy swung her head around, staring into the darkness, and pointing into the park. “He’s there.”
Visible in the streetlights, Amy’s face tightened. “Damn it, I was watching for something.”
Following Izzy’s hand, we ran back into the park.