Mark A Davis
"No, no, no!" exclaimed Hairsplitter Man. "I did not say I would gladly murder tens of thousand of people. Please pay attention, Mr. Anarchy! First, I'm not happy to see anyone die -- and if the cruise ship operators will just meet my generous ransom demands, then I won't have to. Second, this ship barely holds three thousand at full capacity, so my killing tens of thousands is an impossibility. Under optimal conditions I would only have the deaths of three thousand on my hands."
Grandpa swung a fist at the villain, who dodged easily and floated ten feet overhead. He hung by wires from a small, helicopter-like device. Hairsplitter Man was tall and impeccably dressed in an expensive Armani suit with an opera cloak and velvet mask. He contrasted sharply with Grandpa Anarchy, who as usual wore a rumpled gray suit with a silver anarchy symbol stitched over the left breast.
Meanwhile at the highest point of the ship, Grandpa's current sidekick -- the heroine known as the Harlequin Rabbit -- was chained to a radio tower. Boxes of explosives were gathered around her feet at the tower's base. Her costume was alternating brown and white, with floppy ears, a fluffy tail, and a mask that was bisected -- white on one side, brown on the other.
"Don't worry about me, Grandpa!" she called out, while furiously tapping at her smartphone. "I've got a plan! I just need to update Tumbler first!"
The Argent Queen was a luxury cruise liner headed from New York to the Caribbean. The sun sparkled brightly on the water, and the ship glided over it like a curling stone, in no hurry to get anywhere but unlikely to be deterred in her journey. Wind buffeted Grandpa's clothing and whistled past his ears. Seagulls cried out overhead. The decks were crowed with screaming people, although the area was clear where the hero and villain fought, and where the sidekick was strapped to the bomb.
Four sharply-dressed thugs charged Grandpa. They did not look comfortable in their expensive suits -- like unruly children forced into tuxedos before an older sibling's wedding.
Grandpa clocked the first with a well-aimed fist to the jaw. Two more pinned him against a bulkhead. The last landed a blow to Grandpa's gut. Grandpa wheezed, but then raised a foot and kicked the thug in the face. Grandpa twisted out of the grip of the two that held him. In the next moment he slammed their heads together.
As Grandpa and the thugs fought, Hairsplitter Man called out, "Do watch where you step, Mr. Anarchy." He brandished a small device in one hand. "Get too close to your rabbit friend and she -- and most likely you -- will be sleeping with the angels. Mind you, that phrase is strictly used as an euphemism for being dead from an explosion, and does not in any way constitute my endorsement of, nor any belief in, the afterlife, nor any concrete knowledge on my part of the existence of angelic beings. You see, sometimes even I am not as precise with my language as I ought to be -- it is a great failing on my part." He laughed a little laugh.
"You'll never get away with this, Hairsplitter Man!" Grandpa growled. He brought interlocked hands crashing down on one thugs's head.
"Good one!" Harlequin Rabbit called out, phone extended. "That one's going on Instagram!"
"Now, Grandpa, have we not had this conversation before?" asked Hairsplitter Man. "Never implies no chance at all, but I think even a hero like you should acknowledge that there is some chance, however small, of my plan succeeding. As I have said previously, imprecise language is the bane of modern existence, and this does include the making declarative statements of this sort which logically cannot always be true."
"Da boss is right!" one thug exclaimed. "Youse gotta use da proper language!"
Hairsplitter Man rolled his eyes. He produced a gun and shot the henchman in the head.
Grandpa's eyes widened. He glared at the villain hovering overhead.
"But it is true," he insisted, dodging a punch from one of the remaining thugs. "Good always triumphs over evil. Always. Anything less would simply be a bad story."
"Indeed?" asked the villain. "And when Carnival Act blew up Arco Arena, killing thousands including your sidekick Circuit Girl, and you let him escape and refused to pursue him? Was that a good story? Was that good triumphing over evil? What moral victory did you claim on that night, I wonder? That at least he didn't kill fifty thousand?"
"Oh! Good comeback!" exclaimed Harlequin Rabbit. "I need to tweet that!"
Grandpa's face filled with fury. He sent one thug flying over the side of the ship and into the water far below. He punched another so savagely that you could hear bones break. That left one thug, who circled Grandpa warily.
"If you two could just move to the left," the Harlequin Rabbit called out. "I'm trying to post a hostage selfie with you fighting in the background!"
"Never say never, Mr. Anarchy," Hairsplitter Man said. "That's the lesson here. Also one must ask: get away with what, exactly? What is it to which you refer, specifically? That I will fail to extort millions from the owners of this luxury liner, as was my original goal? That much seems likely, as you have appeared to interrupt my plan. I certainly did not anticipate having Grandpa Anarchy among the passengers on this trip. But of course, now I have altered my plan...."
Music emanated from the villain's pocket -- the strains of I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General from Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance. He paused and produced a phone. He stared at the screen for a moment.
"Well," he said, "would you look at that? Argent Cruise Lines has agreed to my demands! What do you know?" He smiled, then read further. "Oh. No, no, this is no good." He glanced back at Grandpa, who had just dispatched the last thug. "They used there when they meant their. Oh, and here's a double negative also. No, I cannot accept this, it's too poorly worded...."
Hairsplitter Man was too distracted to notice Grandpa running to the top level of the ship. Grandpa launched himself from the rails. He sailed out and tackled the villain midair. They crashed to the deck below. The bomb device skittered across the deck. Grandpa punched the villain in the head, knocking him out. Cheers erupted from the watching crowd.
As Grandpa was untying his sidekick, the Harlequin Rabbit said, "Glad I could help out, Grandpa! We make a great team!"
Grandpa Anarchy frowned. "You didn't do anything," he said, "except tweet and post photos."
"Who do you think distracted him with that fake note with all of the grammar errors?" she asked. As Grandpa stared at her, open-mouthed, she snapped a photo and added, "I told you I had a plan! Oh, and that's going on Instagram too!"