The Duckburg Incident
The city of Duckburg lay on a bend in the Drake River between Bear Mountain and Audobon Bay. Scrooge McDuck sat on the large terrace behind McDuck Manor, enjoying the early morning sunshine, along with the view and a cup of nutmeg tea. In the middle of the bay, at the end of a long stone pier, the gilt finial of the Money Bin glinted in the morning sun. On the far side of the bay, he could clearly make of the shapes of skyline of New Quackmore, in the early morning haze. Farther along the coast, the skyscrapers of St. Canard were only barely visible. Scrooge took his eyes off the view from the top of Bear Mountain and turned to the leather folder next to the bone china tea pot emblazoned with a gold dollar sign. He opened the file folder, took out the papers inside and scanned them quickly. They were mostly the mundane details of running a large corporation. A mining operation in Wronguay. The construction of a new factory in Cape Suzette. Stock price updates. An update on the repairs to Von Drake Seed Vault. Same old, same old, he thought. He continued scanning through the various reports and projections until one in particular caught his eye. Ah, he thought. The heading at the top of the page read:
Inter-dimensional Einstein-Rosen Bridge
Dr. Gyro Gearloose
What have you cooked up now, Gyro, thought Scrooge eagerly. He began to read the file more intently. It was full of technical jargon, physics equations and and exploded engineering diagrams. A stable inter-dimensional gateway, thought Scrooge eagerly, very impressive. Scrooge’s thoughts were interrupted by the sound of footsteps behind him on the terrace. He turned to see his maid, cook and confidant, Mrs. Beakley approaching.
“Good morning, sir,” she said. “I have your schedule for today.”
“Oh, yes about that,” said Scrooge, “please cancel my morning appointments, and have Launchpad bring the car around to the main entrance, oh, and have Della and the kids meet me in the front hall in ten minutes, I’ve decided to go down to the Bin. Gyro has a new project that he wants to show me, and I thought I’d take Della and the kids.”
“Very good, sir,” said Mrs. Beakley. She picked up Scrooge’s breakfast tray and disappeared back into the mansion.
Ten minutes later, Scrooge stood in McDuck Manor’s vast entrance hall. Sunlight fell on through leaded windows onto gleaming suits of armour. Portraits of past patriarchs and matriarchs of Clan McDuck hung on the oak and mahogany panelled walls. The footsteps of his niece, Della Duck, and her three sons, Huey, Dewey and Louie, along with Mrs. Beakley’s grand daughter, Webbigail Vanderquack, echoed off of the black and white checked marble floor.
“Ah, good,” said Scrooge excitedly,“you’ve all arrived. I’ve got a special treat for you today. Gyro has new project he wants to show us.”
“Ooooh!” said Huey excitedly. “I wonder what it is.”
“A new Gizmoduck suit?” speculated Dewey.
“A time machine?” wondered Webby.
Louie said nothing. He could always be counted on to feign disinterest.
“Actually, you’re all wrong,”said Scrooge, “Gyro has built an inter-dimensional wormhole generator.”
“Whoa! Cool!” said Huey, in amazement. “Gyro cracked inter-dimensional space folding? How did he do that?” Huey pulled a battered and well thumbed book out from under his red baseball hat and quickly rifled through it. “According to the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook it would take the energy of a neutron star to hold open an inter-dimensional wormhole.”
Scrooge merely smiled at his three nephews. “I‘m sure Gyro will be happy to answer all your questions.” He pulled a gold pocket watch out of his red and black frock coat. He glanced out of the leaded windows on either side of the double front doors in time to see the limousine tooling around the large circular front drive. A tall, barrel chested figure in a battered flight jacket, boots and a baseball hat got of the driver’s side door. He walked around to the rear passenger side door and opened it, then covered the distance from the car to the front door in three or for long strides. “That’ll be Launchpad with the car.”
No sooner than Scrooge had spoken, than the front door was yanked open and Launchpad McQuack stood framed into the opening. “Good morning, Mr. McD!”
“Morning, Launchpad,” said Scrooge genially.
“Hi kids,” said Launchpad garrulously to Huey, Dewey, Louie and Webby. The kids gave him an enthusiastic wave in return. For the last decade Launchpad had served has Scrooge’s driver and personal pilot. Launchpad was the only person that Scrooge knew who was as crazy and dangerous as he was. Launchpad stuck out a friendly hand and said, “Morning Della.”
Della gave Launchpad a cool and reserved, “Hello, McQuack.” Della had disappeared a decade earlier, shortly before the birth of her three sons. In the intervening ten years she had been stranded on the Moon. Della had missed a lot and was still trying to figure out where she fit in Scrooge’s unorthodox family. Returning only to find that Launchpad had replaced her as Scrooge’s pilot hadn’t helped. Scrooge, Della and the kids piled into the back of the limo. Launchpad shut the passengers’ side door and walked back around to the driver’s side door. He sat down behind the wheel and turned the key in the ignition. The engine rumbled to life and Launchpad put a big, booted foot down on the accelerator. The limo tooled down the long winding driveway that led up McDuck Manor and through the elaborate wrought iron gates.
The drive down from McDuck Manor through downtown Duckburg to the Money Bin only took half an hour. At this early hour, there were very few cars on the road and Launchpad was able to negotiate through the light morning traffic with ease. The limo turned off the highway which ran along the waterfront and onto the long stone pier which stretched like a long finger into Audubon Bay. Ships of various sizes rode at anchor far out in the harbour. The Money Bin loomed large in the near distance., casting a long square shadow over the pier that connected the rocky island on which it was built to the mainland.
The limo pulled into the yawning garage at the base of the Money Bin and rolled to a stop in front of Scrooge’s private elevator. Launchpad parked the limo, turned off the engine, got out and walked around to the rear passenger side door. He opened it and Scrooge, Della, Huey, Dewey, Louie and Webby piled out. The seven of them walked from the car to Scrooge’s private elevator. On most days, Scrooge and the kids would have gone up to his office, which occupied most of the top floor of the Money Bin. Scrooge’s inner sanctum consisted of his private study which contained his desk, a display case containing his Number One Dime, a stock ticker and a vault door ten feet in diameter and four feet thick which allowed access by way of a diving board to the cavernous space that contained the majority of Scrooge’s considerable fortune and made up the majority of the Bin’s internal volume. Various doors led from Scrooge’s study to a waiting room which was accessed from a different elevator, a private dining room and attached kitchen, a bedroom and an attached bathroom, as well as a large conference room and a secure archive which could only be accessed by himself and Miss Quackfaster, his personal archivist. On the floor below, which was accessible from a spiral staircase concealed behind a false bookcase in Scrooge’s study, were the heart of the Bin’s formidable security system, secure storage for the more valuable or dangerous artifacts that Scrooge had collected in his travels, a worry room, in which he would often pace and think out problems, and a fully stocked armoury, should the Money Bin need to be actively defended.
Today, however, was different and as the seven of them entered Scrooge’s private elevator, he pushed the button, not for the top floor and his private study, but the bottom most level of the Money Bin’s basement. The Money Bin’s basement was eight levels deep and consisted mostly of storage rooms for the Bin’s more mundane needs and filing cabinets which contained the records of McDuck Enterprises’ various business activities. The elevator stopped with a gentle bump on the bottom most level of the Money Bin’s basement and the doors parted with a soft chime. Scrooge, Della, Huey, Dewey, Louie, Webby and Launchpad stepped out of the elevator into a spotlessly clean corridor. It was lit with utilitarian fluorescent lighting fixtures spaced at regular intervals on the ceiling. The concrete walls were unadorned and painted hospital white. The floor was covered with drab looking linoleum tiles. They walked from the elevator to the far end of the corridor and came to a stop in front of the security door that marked the entrance to Gyro’s laboratory, which took up most of the Bin’s deepest sub level. Scrooge place his hand on the biometric scanner next to the door. They heard a loud beep as the Bin’s security system read his palm, and a flat electronic voice said, “McDuck, Scrooge, access granted.” The corridor echoed with the sound of electronic tumblers sliding back into some hidden recess and the security door opened. The seven of them stepped inside and the door automatically swung shut again. They could clearly hear the electronic tumblers slide back into place.
Gyro Gearloose’s laboratory consisted of a well equipped workshop where the eccentric scientist did most of his fabrication and assembly, a design studio, secondary lab for basic experiments and a library filled technical manuals and a wide variety of academic journals on a wide range of subjects. As with Scrooge’s inner sanctum on the top floor, Gyro’s laboratory was his personal fiefdom and contained a kitchen with an eating area and a bedroom with an attached office and bathroom. He also suffered few trespassers gladly and fools not at all.
At the sound of the security door opening and closing, a head appeared through an open door, beyond which a large electron microscope and a mass spectrometer were partially visible. Fenton Crackshell-Cabrera stepped out into the corridor. “Mr. McDuck,” he said, “what an unexpected surprise. Nobody told us you were coming.”
Scrooge shook Fenton’s hand in friendly greeting. “Yes, I’m sorry for dropping in unannounced like this, I know that Gyro doesn’t like surprise visitors,” or visitors at all really, thought Scrooge, “but I read Gyro’s report and-“
“Oh,” Fenton interjected excitedly, “so you’re here to see the Einstein-Rosen Bridge, actually that was my idea.”
“Was it, now,”said Scrooge, clearly impressed, “well, it seems that you and Gyro are both to be congratulated. A stable doorway to another dimension is no small accomplishment.”
“Why don’t you come with me and I’ll show you the bridge,” said Fenton eagerly. He turned, and the others followed him down the corridor. They eventually stopped in front of a hermetically sealed clean room. Fenton took several clean white smocks off of the hooks by the door and began handing them out to Scrooge, Della, Launchpad and the kids. “You’ll need to put these on before we go inside.” Fenton began pulling on his smock. “The bridge’s components are built to the smallest possible tolerances that we can measure. The slightest speck of dust could affect the functioning of the bridge.” After Scrooge, Della, Launchpad and the kids had finished pulling on their smocks, Fenton placed his hand on the biometric palm scanner next to the door. The scanning plate glowed blue and beeped. The same flat electronic voice said, “Crackshell-Cabrera, Fenton, access granted.” The outer door opened with an almost silent swish. They stepped into the chamber within. Fenton pushed a button on a panel next to the inner door and the outer door closed. He pushed a second button and they felt a blast cool air, then heard gentle sucking noise as the air in the room was recycled. The inner door swished open.
The interior of the clean room was absolutely spotless. The walls, floor and ceiling shone immaculately under the bright overhead lights. As Scrooge, Della, Huey, Dewey, Louie, Webby and Launchpad followed Fenton into the room they all squinted momentarily as their eyes adjusted to the bright light reflecting off of the walls and floor. Several work carts bearing tools, diagnostic equipment and computers were scattered around the perimeter of the room. In the centre of the room stood a pair of vertical black rectangles. They were six feet tall, three feet wide and placed four feet apart from each other. They stood a foot off the floor on a raised circular platform. A thick power cable snaked from the platform to appeared to be some kind of generator standing in a corner. It hummed quietly and green and blue lights blinked in sequence on its face. A thin figure stood with his back to them muttering and inputting data into a tablet. At the quiet click of Scrooge’s cane on the concrete floor, the figure turned in annoyance and began to say, “I don’t know who you are and you got in here-“
“Good morning, Gyro,”said Scrooge calmly.
Gyro Gearloose gave Scrooge his full attention.“Good morning,” he said. “I see you read my report.”
“Of course, I read it,” replied Scrooge. “I read everything that relates to McDuck Enterprises. This is truly a remarkable accomplishment. You and Fenton have my most heartfelt congratulations on your achievement.”
“Yes, well, Fenton may have helped a little,” said Gyro. He cast a suspicious eye over Huey, Dewey, Louie and Webby. “The little people can stay, but they can’t touch anything.” Louie was poking around some cryogenic coolant tanks in a corner. Dewey and Webby were looking at the generator in the opposite corner. Huey was examining the bridge itself. He pulled the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook out from under his baseball hat and began flipping through it again.
“Ummm…..Dr. Gearloose,” he began hesitantly, “I have some questions about the bridge, according the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook, a stable wormhole requires the energy of a neutron star to hold open the-“
Gyro didn’t let Huey finish his question. “The Junior Woodchuck Guidebook was written by small-minded people who have no idea what they are talking about. The mirror utilizes negative matter to stabilize the event horizon.”
Huey’s eyes widened. “You figured out negative matter,” he spluttered in amazement. “But how did you do that. Negative matter violates the laws of physics as we know them.”
Gyro sighed in annoyance. “Alright, I’ll just show you shall I?” He turned back to the tablet in his hand and swiped aside the calculations that he had been working on. He tapped open a different app and his fingers began dancing over the computer screen. As soon as he began inputting commands into the tablet, the overhead lights flicked from white to a deep electric blue and klaaxons blared loudly. Dewey, Louie and Webby stopped what they had been doing and looked around.
“What ever it is, I didn’t touch anything,” said Louie.
“What’s happening to the bridge?” asked Webby. She pointed at the centre of the room. In the deep blue haze that had descended over the room, the tendrils of energy writhing between the two black rectangles seemed extra bright. A rod telescoped upward from the platform bearing a pair of curved panels. It began to rotate, slowly and first, then faster and faster until it was a spinning blur. It pulled the writhing tendrils of energy toward wrapping them around itself. A needle thin beam of energy shot down from the ceiling. There was a loud noise like a thunderclap. A bright flash of white light caused everyone to shield their eyes. When the noise and light faded away, they were met with an impossible sight. It was as if they were looking through a window at two boys in a suburban backyard sitting under a tree, on a bright sunny, summer day.