A political statement thinly disguised as a "what-if?" story
By Kim McFarland
"I AM THE TERROR THAT FLAPS IN THE NIGHT! I AM THE 'EXACT CHANGE ONLY' SIGN ON THE VENDING MACHINE OF JUSTICE! I AM DARKWING DUCK!!"
A blue smoke cloud burst into existence in the middle of the office of J. Gander Hooter, the head of S.H.U.S.H. He was not startled; he had been expecting Darkwing and was used to his dramatic entrances. He waited for the smoke to fade.
Agent Gryzlikoff, next in command, was not so blase. He waved a newspaper at the smoke to blow it away. "Why can you not use door like sane people?"
"Hi to you too, Chuckles. Eaten any good books lately?" Darkwing replied.
Launchpad stepped back involuntarily. He never got used to Darkwing's habit of needling Gryziikoff. One of these days DW was going to push the bear's temper too far.
Hooter waited while the two exchanged barbs. Their arguing did not particularly bother him. The best agents were incurable individualists, and their idiocycracies often clashed. So long as they got down to business when the time came, he overlooked their squabbling.
After a suitable amount of time he cleared his throat and said, "Gentlemen, please."
Darkwing broke off in mid-insult and turned his back on Gryzlikoff, dismissing him. "Yes, J. Gan.?"
"Once again, we have a case that I believe will require your assistance, Darkwing."
"Of course. When your best agents fail, you can always call on Darkwing Duck!" He picked up a manila folder marked "TOP SECRET".
"Nyet!" Gryzlikoff snatched the folder out of Darkwing's hands. "Can you not read? This is a top secret S.H.U.S.H. matter!"
"Oh, for crying out loud! Do you want me on this case or not?!"
"If I had my way-" Gryzlikoff began.
"Agent Gryzlikoff means that this is a matter which must be discussed only among personnel with Top Secret clearance." Hooter interrupted.
"And that's you, me, and Gryz here. Let's get on with it already."
"Nyet. He does not have clearance." Gryzlikoff looked at Launchpad.
"Oh, for - he's my SIDEKICK! Anything you can discuss with me, you can tell Launchpad!"
"It is against regulations to discuss with civilian present." Gryzlikoff stated flatly.
"Well, then fill out your form A-OICU812 or whatever and GET him clearance already!" Darkwing replied through gritted teeth.
"Uh, DW, why don't I go wait outside?" Launchpad said.
"Stay right here, sidekick!" Darkwing ordered. "Look, what's the problem? He's worked with me for years! Why the fuss now? If your regulations dictate that he's gotta be cleared, then let's get it done now."
"Is no time. Procedure requires much paperwork, investigation,-"
Darkwing appealed to Hooter. "Look, you called me in because I can get things done when 'proper S.H.U.S.H. procedures' fail. I am the knife that cuts through the Gordion Knot of bureaucracy! What's the point of it if Laughing Boy here is going to suffocate me with red tape?!"
"Darkwing, I'm sure that if you vouch for him, in light of the circumstances-"
"SIR-" Gryzlikoff addressed Hooter. "I have ordered a background investigation of these two. On this Darkwing Duck we have turned up little-"
"Naturally. That's what secret identities are for."
"-which makes him very questionable! But I know that we cannot grant clearance to this Launchpad."
"WHAT? Why?" Darkwing sputtered angrily.
"We have found that he is vulnerable to blackmail, sir." The bear spoke to Hooter.
Hooter looked surprised. Darkwing shouted, "Blackmail? Launchpad's as honest as Gryz here is bullheaded! There's nothing on earth that you could blackmail him with."
"You do not know your comrade as well as you think, then." Gryzlikoff said darkly.
"Uh, why don't I go check on the Thunderquack. I think the parking meter's run out." Launchpad was edging towards the door.
"All right, go on." Darkwing said. When the door closed again Darkwing turned on Gryzlikoff. "You've insulted and threatened my colleague. You have one minute to explain yourself before I leave this office!"
Gryzlikoff said nothing, expecting to call Darkwing's bluff. Annoyed, Hooter said, "Agent Gryzlikoff, please tell us what you have found."
"Yes. Do tell!" Darkwing added.
"This Launchpad McQuack person lives at 537 Avian Way, with a... strange family."
"Strange? Well, the kid's a little hyper, but what's that got to do with it?"
"You know of this family?"
"Of course! D'you think I'm gonna reveal my secret identity to someone without doing a background check?"
"Then you know that he is not married to a woman!"
"Neither are you." Darkwing retorted. He had suspected what Gryzlikoff had been driving at; now he was stalling for time, hoping that the bear would back down.
"Don't play stupid at me, duck!"
"Don't BE stupid with me!" Darkwing retorted heatedly. "Your minute is up, and I still don't know what you're babbling about!"
"Is it not obvious?! He is married to a man!"
Hooter looked surprised at Gryzlikoff's outburst. Darkwing waited for several moments, letting the silence stretch. Then he replied evenly, "You're saying that you don't want me working on S.H.U.S.H. cases with Launchpad, who has proven himself, both to myself and to S.H.U.S.H., time and again, because he doesn't have the proper clearance, and that he will not get the proper clearance because you suspect that he's gay? Have I got that right?"
"That is right."
"Now let me make a counterproposal. You don't know what the devil you're talking about. For the first thing, I know the people he lives with. Drake and Gosalyn Mallard. Decent citizens; I like 'em myself. Second, he's been my sidekick for years. He has been along on most every S.H.U.S.H. case I have handled, including some pretty hush-hush ones. If he was going to leak info he would have done it before now. Has he? No. Third, as my sidekick, he has saved my life more than once, and I'd rather depend on him than the best of Gryz's pencil pushers. Fourth, I don't think he is gay - he sure doesn't act it, and neither does Drake - but even if he were, it would be nobody's damn business but his own!" He paused for effect. "Have I made myself clear?"
"You ignore fact that someone who discovers this fact can blackmail him into revealing S.H.U.S.H. secrets. He must not have high clearance." Gryzlikoff stated flatly.
"Blackmail's what you're afraid of, huh? Looks like YOU'RE the one doing the blackmailing here!" Darkwing accused.
"I am following proper procedures. He is bad risk."
"You can take that procedure, fold it until it is all sharp comers, and shove it - in your desk chair!" Darkwing was on the edge of losing his temper. "Do you recognize the phrase 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness'? I thought that was what we were supposed to be protecting in the first place! Or is that in your book of regulations?"
"Duck is avoiding the issue!" Gryzlikoff objected. "He expects to be above our regulations!"
"Oh, can it, Gryzlikoff. The reason S.H.U.S.H. called on me was because your boys in suits couldn't handle a case. But if my sidekick isn't good enough for you, then I don't think I can take this case. In fact, I believe I'll take a few days to rethink my association with this organization." Darkwing started towards the door.
"Good riddance." Gryzlikoff muttered, earning a harsh glance from Hooter.
Darkwing opened the door, then turned back. "And I don't care if he's wearing lacy underwear under his clothes night now, he's still more man than any of your red-ink-for-blood desk jockeys!" Leveling a finger at Gryzlikoff, he spat "NYEH KUHLTOORNEE!"
Barely able to control his anger, Gryzlikoff shouted "The only thing worse than your manners is your accent!" But Darkwing had already slammed the door behind himself.
Darkwing stamped out of the S.H.U.S.H. Headquarters building, fuming all the way. When he got to the parking lot he jumped into The Thunderquack. "Let's get out of here!"
Launchpad closed the dome. The ship lifted into the air. Launchpad said nothing; he knew better than to speak to Darkwing while he was busy seething.
Halfway through the flight home Launchpad looked over again. Darkwing was still shaking, but he was no longer red-faced with anger. He had gone pale. Launchpad asked, "DW? What's the matter?"
"They found out."
This is dedicated to Margarethe Cammemeyer, and anyone else who has gone through what she has.
All characters copyright © Disney. Story copyright © Kim McFarland. Permission is given by the author to copy this story for personal use only, provided no changes are made to the story or the credits.
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