If you look like you belong there, and if you look like you know what you're doing, no one questions you. Getting the janitor uniforms, "City Center Mall", emblazoned on a shoulder patch, was actually the easiest part. A few trips to the Salvation Army and Goodwill stores had us set up with five of them- exactly the number that we needed.
The food court was a long rectangular stretch, a pair of escalators rising and falling in the middle, creating a railing lined pit. On the far side of the railing was a sparsely used set of tables, backed by a twenty-foot high bank of windows looking out onto the parking lot.
The perfect place really, to hold Court.
Phase One, the Setup, involved clearing out those tables. There were few there to begin with, and so we quietly moved them around, distributing them into the regular population of tables without disrupting the food court's business at all. The customers didn't even notice our existence, though a few of the worker's at those cookie cutter fast-food joints kept half an eye on us. At one point, one of them wandered over, on break apparently, and asked what we were doing.
Sticking to the script, we simply said, "No idea man. They just told us to clear out tables and set up a platform. Must be some contest or somethin'."
No one else asked.
The final step for phase one was to hang a pair of red curtains against the windows- something we hadn't considered was how this was to be achieved. The duct tape refused to stick to the glass for any period of time- in the end, strips of tape had to be used to reinforce other strips, which in turn reinforced others, yielding a rather ugly, unprofessional effect. That however, was the best we could do- there was no time for anything else, for those curtains, appearing in the window, signaled the start of Phase Two.
Our "janitorial staff" cleared out, scattering across the mall to different restrooms to make the costume change. Meanwhile, out in the parking lot, our "King", marshaled the manpower that was required for the mall. With military precision, about one hundred people poured out of cars, about half of them dressed in armor cobbled together from sheets of plastic cut from car-wash detergent barrels. The local medieval re-creationist group was invaluable for this part of the mission, providing instructions and tips on how to make the plastic armor look realistic, using home-sewn tabards to hide the plastic. Many of the metal helmets were borrowed from some members of the group, who were told it was a "School Project". We also made limited use of paint for ours- they actually struck each other with wooden swords, making paint an exercise in futility for them. We just needed to look good.
And look good we did. One hundred people, hailing from all over the country (we even had a small international contingent in the form of some study-abroad students from a nearby college) had been gathered on the Internet for one big act of conquest. Dressed in clothing hastily sewn together, they all looked a bit rag tag, but made for a passable medieval entourage.
The majority of our force entered at the base of the escalator in the food court. They rode up, two armored men in front, followed by our best dressed "nobles", who were in turn followed by our "King" and his retinue. Another two guards took up the rear, while another two stayed below, guarding the entrance.
The other armored guards that we had gathered for this mission leapt from their cars, marching a double time pace across the parking lot to the nearest entrance, where they assumed an attention posture, prepared to defend this stronghold against aggression.
The original design for the plan called for placing two guards at every entrance to the mall, but a quick glance at the floor plan made us realize that this was impossible. The large anchor stores, like Filene's and Lord and Taylor had as many as four entrances. And then, when we took into account that there was an emergency exit for each screen in the theater, as well as a few dozen others scattered around the mall, we realized we would never get the manpower together to pull that off.
Instead, we place a pair of guards at each entrance to the mall proper, and a pair at mall entrance for each of the major anchor stores. In total, it only took forty guards to cover those entrances, instead of the hundred and fifty our original plan would have called for.
All of this happened at the same time, synchronized via cell phones. By the time every guard was in place, our "Court" had begun the process of setting up their stage, erecting a wooden collapsable throne for our king, scattering expensive looking cloths about that portion of the food court, and turning the far end of the food court into a believable medieval court.
All of this done, the King stood and addressed the throng in the food court.
We had expected that all of this commotion would have gotten the attention of the mall goers, and because of that, we wouldn't have to try terribly hard to get attention focused on the King. As it turned out, this was a sincere underestimation of the jaded and careless nature of the mall-goers. Around us, in the food court, business proceeded uninterrupted, though there were a handful of spectators, mostly a cluster of kids in the arcade that flanked our "Throne Room".
The King raised his voice to make his announcement and begin phase three, but it was drowned out in the din. Our agents looked among each other, suddenly fearful that this plan might fail for lack of being attention getting enough. It was one of our exchange students that came to the rescue, a young man from France.
He leapt up on a table that we had left against the railing, and threw his arms wide. With a rolling base and a clipped almost Middle-English sounding accent, he proclaimed, "Oy-yea, oy-yea." There was such a volume to his announcement that the food court noise dimmed from a roar to a mutter. "You are in the presence of his Majesty, King Roderick the First of The City, bow and humble yourselves before him, and may God forever bless the Crown."
That said, our King rose from his thrown, all attention now on him as people tried to piece together what strange performance art this might be. "Citizens of the City, be warned, you are no longer within the Nation that once owned this Mall. It is now a Keep in the Nation of Roder, and it where I shall make my capitol. Shopkeepers, mall owners, and patrons, be aware that you are no longer subject to any laws but mine own. This," he pointed to one of the standing signs that had been in the food court when we set up, and we left it within easy reach of the King. On it were emblazoned the "City Center Mall Rules of Conduct". "This, is no longer the law of the land." He hefted the sign and tossed it down into the escalator pit. "I am the Supreme Ruler, by the Divine Right of Kings, and it is now my word that is law. My first proclamation is this: 'All lawgivers that have, thus far, guarded this establishment, will not be molested by my guards, so long as they accord themselves in a manner consistent with normal citizens. Should any of them attempt to enforce any law within my borders, they are to be summarily exiled from this land.'"
An operative that we had waiting in the audience waited until the end of this proclamation to make a mass txt to the cellphones carried by the one set of armored soldiers that we had not yet brought into the mall. Coming in from multiple entrances, they carried with them flyers and duct tape (we orignally planned to nail this proclamation to the walls, but realized that the marble tiles wouldn't cooperate), and began placing this proclamation on the walls, pillars, and even handing it to the mall security guards who came to see what they were up to.
Thus started phase three, and that's where things started to get really messy.