“Six seconds. And you still look fine, despite the remaining pink from yesterday’s session. That was the first of ten.”
Dr. Floyd flipped the switch. Soapy slip invaded Max’s senses. The thought that he was getting the hang of this fled from Max as soon as he looked around him at the sunny plaza packed with spectators. His feet were on a wooden platform. He turned around and found a masked man with a large axe.
He went with his first instinct and worked the latch free on the stockades on either side. Once they had their heads and hands were loosed, he gave them shoves in hopes that their attempts to flee would be just enough distraction for him to make good his slip. He walked up to the man with the axe, since he hadn’t budged. Soldiers were running for the stairs. Max flicked a jab to the hand holding the tall axe. The nerves in the hand went into a spasm and Max easily pulled the axe loose. He ran at the soldiers with his upraised hand finding the balance point on middle of the axe. The axe spun over his head, gaining momentum. He let it loose at the men in chain mail and metal cone hats, but immediately cut right and dove towards the crowd. He caught his foot as he launched himself, however. His hands grabbed for purchase as his head went over the side of the platform.
Without meaning to, Max found himself swung onto his feet and scooting into the shadows between the wooden legs of the platform. He took advantage of that and ran hard in a half stoop the opposite way he’d been going while on the platform. People were murmuring. Soldiers were shouting. Max eyed an old overweight man in a loose brown robe that appeared to have no opening in the front, just a rope at the waist. An idea occurred to him.
Max scrambled straight for the man with a wreath of hair under a bald head. He pulled the tie at the waist loose, dove at his ankles, and stood up inside the man’s loose robe. Max quickly climbed his backside, put his head through the robe’s opening near the guy’s neck, and stepped off the man’s shoulders wearing the robe. Max’s feet found other shoulders for a little ways, but dropped back down into the crowd when there was a gap. He changed directions as he half crouched and made his way to the edges of the court yard.
The soldiers had the exits blocked off. More had arrived. They were beginning to check people out and move them out of the area. Max scanned around him as he doubled back into the crowd near the platform. He spotted some round metal covers with slits in them set into the stone pavement in regular intervals. He pulled on one, but found it only budged a little. He continued on to others. Maybe he would find one was a bit more movable.
The crowd had thinned very noticeably. The soldiers in the middle had rallied at the platform and were moving outwards from there in a circle, pushing the last of the crowd towards the exits. They spotted Max. Five charged at him. Their halberds rose to point at Max’s chest. His head went into the robe. Then the robe suddenly became a puddle on the stone pavement.
The shouts of alarm from the more superstitious soldiers covered the clang of a metal grate going back into place.