Gyro met Launchpad McQuack because of - what else - a crash.
It was some ungodly early hour in the parking garage, and his prototype hover car was a smoldering wreck at his feet.
However, Gyro felt oddly disconnected from the entire ordeal. It could be the lack of sleep over the last three days that was to blame, or the coffee that had likely replaced the blood in his veins, but for a moment it was as though Gyro was watching the scene from afar, in a bizarre but not unwelcome out of body experience.
The limousine had rammed into the hover car seconds before Gyro could get inside, practically crushing it beneath the front bumper. He calculated three inches of distance between himself and the side of the limo in the span of time before it started to back up. The wreckage of his hover car crunched and squealed as it was wrenched out from under the car, leaving a crumpled and slightly smoking mess behind.
Gyro’s hand was still slightly raised, poised in midair to open the door to his hover car.
The driver’s side of the limousine swung open, and a tall figure fairly tumbled out in their rush.
“Oh man, you okay? What did I hit?”
Gyro vaguely recognized the duck as Scrooge’s chauffeur. He was red haired and barrel-chested, wearing an aviator jacket and chauffeur’s cap. His eyes were wide and distressed.
Over the roaring in his ears, Gyro heard himself reply, “My...my car.”
The limo driver crouched beside the warped shrapnel and paneling with a perplexed expression.
“This was a car? Funny, I don’t normally crash this bad. At least not in a car. And it’s...so small?”
Gyro could hardly look away from the invention that had stolen a month’s sleep from him.
“It was a prototype,” he responded, feeling numb, “it was supposed to start out small.”
“Prototype?” the limo driver started to repeat, only to brighten suddenly. “You’re Dr. Gearloose! Mr. McDee mentioned you—” He looked up at Gyro, only for his brow to furrow in concern. “Hey, buddy, are you okay?”
Gyro pushed his glasses up to rub his eyes, feeling the weight of exhaustion and the work ahead of him fall crushingly on his shoulders.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” he said, rather more sharply than he intended.
He knelt down and began collecting the broken pieces of the hover car, which for the purpose of making the prototype more aerodynamic weren’t very heavy. The limo driver almost immediately started doing the same.
“Let me help!” he insisted, piling his arms high with twisted metal. “This was all my fault, anyway!”
Gyro didn’t respond, still half in disbelief and barely restrained fury. He hadn’t even given this one the chance to turn against him, and he was already on cleanup!
He touched something hot amid the wreckage, almost blisteringly so, and Gyro jerked his hand away.
The limo driver looked over in surprise, his arms already heavily laden with pieces of his destroyed hover car. “Something wrong?”
“Something burned me,” Gyro replied disbelievingly. His hover car hadn’t even been running . He’d been about to take it on its first test drive!
Gyro carefully poked around with a longer piece of metal to find the source. It took only a moment to uncover the hover car’s battery, spitting sparks and smoke.
The limo driver whistled. “Geez, you can never trust delta batteries, can you? Don’t even need to be on and they’ll blow you sky high! Good thing you didn’t drive off, huh?”
The duck chuckled at his joke, standing up with his large arms cradling at least half of the hover car’s remains.
Gyro stared at the smoking battery for a little while longer. His mind boggled over the high likelihood that he’d be gravely or mortally injured if not for the oafish duck beside him.
“Earth to Dr. G!” the limo driver said cheerfully, “We’ll need to let that battery cool down for a little while. Where do you want this stuff in the meantime?”
Gyro blinked. “Oh, uh, we’ll take it down to my lab.”
“No problemo!” the limo driver said, “lead the way, Doc!”
Gyro gathered his pile, meager in comparison to the duck’s load, and headed for the elevator. With some careful juggling he was able to press the button to call for it.
As they waited the eternity it took to descend, Gyro glanced sidelong at the limo driver.
“What…” he began haltingly.
The duck looked over at him curiously.
Gyro didn’t look up from a particularly interesting stain on the ground as he tried again, “What would you recommend...instead of delta batteries?”
The duck perked up. “Supercapacitors all the way! Completely insulated, and they charge five times as fast!”
Maybe not as oafish as I thought, Gyro acknowledged with a glance.
“What’s your name anyway?” Gyro asked.
“Launchpad McQuack, at your service!” the limo driver announced, offering his hand for a handshake and allowing half of his load to crash to the floor in the process.
Launchpad was smarter than he appeared at first blush. And it seemed like he didn’t want anyone to know it.
Well, anyone beside Gyro.
The scientist ran into Launchpad and Scrooge in the lobby a few days later, near the end of business hours.
Gyro had learned that although Launchpad had been Scrooge’s driver for the better part of three months, he almost never entered the Money Bin, and only ever stayed in the parking garage long enough to drop off their boss. Their (somewhat) disastrous meeting the week prior was nothing short than a stroke of luck.
Scrooge was apparently in the middle of a rather terse diatribe with his driver, who looked as cheery as ever, when Gyro stepped out of the elevator.
“Evenin’, Gyro,” Scrooge muttered, his customary greeting. Though Gyro considered himself fortunate when his boss grunted at him in acknowledgement.
Launchpad raised a hand in a somewhat reserved wave, smiling hesitantly. Gyro could only imagine that he was still embarrassed about destroying the hover car 1.0 prototype , despite its potentially lethal consequences.
But Gyro smiled upon seeing the broad-shouldered duck, moving his pile of paperwork under one arm.
“Launchpad! Mr. McDuck!”
He reached out a hand toward the former, who accepted the handshake with a broad, surprised smile.
“Hey, Dr. G!”
“I’ve gotta drop off this paperwork real quick, but after would you two be interested in coming down to the lab to see what I’ve been working on?” Gyro offered, though his gaze strayed to Launchpad.
After helping him carry the mangled pieces of the hover car down to his lab, Gyro had shown Launchpad the device’s blueprints, curious to see if he had more input. And did he ever!
Not including his advice on the batteries, Launchpad offered suggestions on the design itself, the aerodynamic shape of the frame, the thickness of the metal. He’d even offered, jokingly, where to strategically place airbags for maximum protection in the case of another run-in with the limo’s front bumper.
And when enough time had passed for the battery to cool down, Launchpad insisted on retrieving and disposing of it himself.
“You look like you could some shut-eye, Doc, no offense,” Launchpad had said, not unkindly. “Like Granny McQuack always said, you’re no use to anyone if you’re dead on your feet!”
With all that in mind, Gyro turned to limo driver in particular.
“Launchpad, I’ve already got a preliminary design of the supercapacitors, if you wanted to check them out yourself—“
Scrooge interrupted with his trademark abrasiveness. “Ach, Gyro, you’re wasting your breath! Launchpad understands your technobabble even less than I do!”
Confused, Gyro turned to look at Launchpad. The taller duck chuckled with only a tinge of nervousness, stuffing his hands in the pockets of his jacket.
“Got it in one, Mr. McDee!”
“I’ll stop by your lab tomorrow morning, Gyro, how does that sound?” Scrooge asked, even as he walked past him to get to the elevator. Launchpad silently followed him .
Gyro took a moment to respond, turning to continue addressing them. “Uh, yeah. Yeah, Mr. McDuck, that sounds fine.”
“Excellent,” Scrooge replied succinctly. “Good night, Gyro.”
“Night, sir,” Gyro said, and Launchpad waved goodbye with a little chagrined smile before the elevator doors closed.
Later that night, so late it was practically dawn, Gyro fell asleep at his workstation thinking about that smile in the seconds before it vanished from view.
“Why do you pretend that you’re not as smart as you are?”
Launchpad froze for a moment, almost elbow deep in the guts of the hover car’s new engine.
Gyro was almost loathe to disrupt the amiable silence and easy conversation that had built between them, something he’d never been able to cultivate with his own meager staff. But he was ever one to press his advantage.
The night of their first meeting, Gyro had invited Launchpad to help him with the construction of the new hover car. He’d like to say he did it without thought after Launchpad demonstrated his obvious skills and know-how, and that as a scientist Gyro was obliged to use all the resources at his disposal.
The truth was that Gyro could scarcely make the offer without stammering, flustered by Launchpad’s wide-eyed earnestness and gentle nature (his muscular build and winsome smile also hadn’t helped).
But this question in particular had been on his mind since that night in the lobby, where he witnessed Launchpad’s silence in the face of Scrooge’s assumptions. The dichotomy had seemed so stark; he couldn’t help comparing Launchpad’s excitement in poring over blueprints with him to his embarrassment and hunched shoulders as he stood behind Scrooge.
Gyro could only wonder what the point of the ruse was.
Launchpad looked up at him, his cheek smudged with engine grease. For only a instant his expression was indecipherable, a jarring look for him. But then he chuckled, eyes crinkling attractively as he ducked his head to continue working on the engine.
Gyro pretended his heart hadn’t skipped a beat at the sight.
“You say that like I’m some sorta secret super genius!” Launchpad replied, grabbing a wrench with one grease-covered hand.
Gyro sniffed with mock-pretentiousness, taking off his goggles. He’d been working on the wiring for one of the hover car’s anti-grav boosters, and sparks tended to fly annoyingly in his face.
“No, that would be me ,” he corrected.
Launchpad’s answering smile was warm and only a little wry, “Nothing secret about that.”
Gyro fumbled with the goggles, his face flushing. Not knowing what to do with his hands, he then fiddled with his glasses, but his agitation at the compliment was sobered by the realization that Launchpad was deflecting .
“I’m serious, Launchpad,” Gyro insisted, “you might act like it’s no big deal, but you’re sitting here building an engine from scratch. An engine for a hover car .”
Launchpad’s smile remained unperturbed. “Y’know, Doc, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about the name,” he said blithely. “I mean, ‘hover car’ is pretty basic right? How does the ‘Astro’ sound? Or the ‘Gyromobile’—”
Gyro moved a little closer to Launchpad’s work table with an exasperated sigh. “I’m not joking, Launchpad! You’re underselling yourself, and I can’t understand why.”
Launchpad was quiet for a moment, his natural smile still in place, though Gyro watched as nervousness edged into the corners of his beak.
“Why...why do you care?” he asked, and he sounded slightly confused, not accusing or upset.
It was a fair question, and one Gyro had hoped Launchpad wouldn’t ask.
He knew he didn’t have a reputation as the most sociable guy. Gyro found solace in robots and his inventions, a sense of safety that only came from that which he had created, even if it inevitably ended up turning on him.
His solution was to look at each one like it was a puzzle. Once he was presented with puzzle, he often found it difficult to move on without solving it, or at least work himself into the ground in the attempt.
The bottom line being Gyro didn’t usually puzzle over people . He didn’t bother trying to figure people out, not when he’d always felt rather apart. There was a sense of safety in robots and calculations, even if they weren’t completely reliable, because there was always something to solve. He had the tools to solve it.
With people, he often felt like he was treading water, just trying to stay afloat. So he often didn’t bother with them.
But then came Launchpad.
Launchpad, who not only puzzled him, but who he found interesting . Who gave advice without insult, and whose energy reminded him of a child.
Gyro recalled the look of wonder on his face when they went down to his lab that first day. Launchpad had marveled at the large portholes offering glimpses of the ocean floor, and turned to Gyro with a grin, his features bathed in otherworldly blue light.
“You’ve got one heck of a view, Doc!”
Gyro couldn’t help but that compare that scene to their next meeting a few days later, where Launchpad was quiet and reserved, allowing Scrooge to speak for him and dismiss his intellect.
While others might have let it go, Gyro wasn’t quite wired that way.
So. Why did he care?
Gyro shrugged, crossing his arms in an attempt at appearing nonchalant.
“Well, I care because I...I care about you,” he explained, if somewhat haltingly. “And I know you’re smart. Smarter than most. I mean, if it wasn’t for you my first hover car could’ve blown up with me inside it—”
“It was an accident,” Launchpad blurted.
Gyro looked at him skeptically. “I know, Launchpad, I didn’t think you’d crashed on purpose—”
Launchpad shook his head, looking down at the table in front of him. His smile almost looked forced at this point.
“Oh, no, that-that was an accident. I meant I wasn’t gonna say anything about the battery. I just blurted it out, y’know? I didn’t want you getting hurt.”
Launchpad lifted his hand and made to rub the back of his neck, but remembered at the last minute that it was still covered in engine grease. Instead he closed his hand in a fist and lowered his arm.
“I’m really not some genius, like you think I am,” he chuckled, looking chagrined. His expression reminded Gyro of how Launchpad looked in the lobby, just before the elevator doors closed on him.
There was a beat of silence, expanding under the high ceiling of the laboratory like a bubble set to burst. After a moment, Gyro shook his head with a wry smile, ending the silence before it could go disastrously long.
“Who said you were a genius?” he snarked, “I just meant that you’re smarter than most people, which isn’t too difficult to accomplish.”
The bubble burst, and with it came an almost instant easing of tension. Launchpad laughed, far more genuinely than before, judging by the way his eyes crinkled at the corners.
“Now, I’m an expert in most things,” Gyro began, and Launchpad guffawed.
Gyro pointedly cleared his throat. “I’m an expert in most things,” he repeated, “and vehicles are, unfortunately, not one of those things. But they are for you!”
Launchpad looked bashful, but he replied with a smile and a shrug that Gyro couldn’t help but find charming.
“Well, I used to build all sorts of things in my spare time, before I started working for Mr. McDee,” he explained, “Cars, motorcycles, planes.”
“Planes?” Gyro sputtered, and Launchpad nodded, his eager grin full of pride.
“Oh yeah, I built three different ones by reusing the same parts. My favorite one could hover in midair, and accelerate vertically—”
“Why wouldn’t you want people to know you can do those things?” Gyro interrupted, serious if mildly incredulous. “Why wouldn’t you want Scrooge to know?”
Launchpad’s expression was wry when he asked, “You mean why haven’t I told anyone I’m a better mechanic than a driver?”
Gyro didn’t respond, and simply held Launchpad’s gaze as evenly as he could. After a few seconds Launchpad just shrugged again.
“I don’t know, Doc. I guess it’s just always been my thing, y’know? I’m not making super-smart robots or time machines, things that help people. I never saw a reason to tell anyone.”
After a moment of silent debate, Gyro reached forward and placed a comforting hand on Launchpad’s forearm.
“Well, thanks to you, we’re developing a groundbreaking new form of fuel efficiency with the ‘Gyromobile’. I’d say that’s helping people.”
Launchpad’s arm was warm under his hand, and coupled with his soft expression had Gyro blushing from the neck up.
“Thanks, Gyro,” he said honestly. “But we’re not actually gonna call it that right? ‘Cause I was mostly joking—I can come up with better names—”
“I can’t believe that’s what you fixated on!” Gyro cried in disbelief, throwing his hands in the air.
“I fixated on all of it!” Launchpad retorted defensively, but he was laughing too much for it to have any effect.
“Yeah, yeah, get back to work!”