In a dark back alley of Ahno’ma Topia City…
A large man in tights placed a smaller man named Baxter down on the damp pavement.
“Er, thanks, Mad Smart Pirate.”
“Anytime, friend. But I must warn you, dumpster diving is an inherently dangerous activity.”
“Right…” said Baxter. “Thing is, I wasn’t dumpster div—“
“I calculated a forty-two percent chance of you contracting Havervill fever from this particular dumpster. Havervill fever is a form of rat-bite fever caused by the organism Streptobacillus moniliformis most often spread through the consumption of food or drink contaminated by rat feces.”
The alley filled with an awkward silence that seemed to stretch on forever. At last, Baxter said, “Hey, is that a Wiffle bat?”
“Um, yes,” said Mad Smart, lowering the bat and hiding it behind him. “Yes it is.”
“You know what? You’re all right, Mr. Pirate. You’re really a nice guy after all. I don’t know why they call you Mad.”
“Oh,” said Mad Smart, shuffling his feet uncomfortably. “No, no. It’s not mad as in angry. It’s an alternative definition, typically meaning ‘a lot’ or ‘really’. As in, ‘I’ve got mad skillz’ which some elect to spell with a ‘Z’ instead of—“
Mad Smart froze suddenly, his eyes fixed on the brick wall behind the dumpster. “Hey, you okay, buddy? Hello?” said Baxter, snapping his fingers in Mad Smart’s face. “You need a doctor or something? Your…” Baxter waved his hand over his head in a circular motion. “…head bowl thingy, it’s gettin’ all fogged up. You all right?”
Without altering his gaze, Mad Smart lifted his right knee, bringing his thigh parallel to the ground. Then, slowly and deliberately, he extended his foot upward and then laterally, in a sweeping slow motion arc, and when the tip of his shoe finally touched the ground four feet nine inches to the right of where it began, the rest of him immediately followed, so that he had, in effect, scooted entirely out of the way of the oncoming bullet, a full sixteen milliseconds before it was fired.
Baxter dropped to the ground, clutching his chest. Mad Smart turned, but the Doppler Effect frequency calculations he’d just completed told him the perpetrator was already long gone. He did not attempt to help Baxter.
“How did—” said Baxter, blood sputtering from his lips. “How did you know?”
“Simple really. I took what I knew of you based on visual cues and body language, ran it through a Markov probability matrix, and concluded there was an eighty-seven percent chance you were a currently employed henchman engaged in a subtle ruse to distract my attention while your colleague attempted to pierce one or more of my vital organs via gunfire. Then it was simply a matter of basic timing and trajectory calculations. The only question left is…” Mad Smart returned his attention to Baxter. “…who do you work— Oh.”
Baxter’s lifeless eyes gazed back at him. Just to be sure, Mad Smart checked his pulse. It wouldn’t have been the first time someone had feigned death while he was explaining elementary inductive reasoning, but, no, this guy was really dead.
Behind him, a soft thwump sound—like a cat in ballet shoes landing on a pillow—followed by the hissing of flammable gas. “He worked for me,” a sultry voice said.
Mad Smart spun around. In the middle of the alley stood a masked woman brandishing a flamethrower. A rush of possible calculation vectors—ranging from thermal permeability ratios to escape route efficiency quotients—flooded his thoughts and pleaded to be performed, but the most persistent of these, the calculation that refused to be rejected, no matter how hard Mad Smart fought to dismiss it, was the one calculation that he—the last of the legendary Celibate Pirates—had never attempted: Exactly how tight is her outfit?
Mad Smart gulped, then his head bowl thingy fogged.
To be continued…