For the last several months, Fenton had begun to notice strange things about Gyro, even stranger than what he’d grown accustomed to. Granted, maybe it was something to expect from the erratic scientist, but this time, the string of odd behavior seemed to come out of nowhere. Whenever Fenton came into the lab in the morning, he was greeted by the sight of Gyro asleep at his desk, up to his bangs in blueprints for heavens knew what. But Gyro denied any possible lack of sleep to the point of turning down an extra cup of coffee when offered.
Surprisingly, none of the new erraticism came from hysterical fits of rage or mania. On the contrary, Fenton began to notice Gyro had become much less manic when he worked or interacted with anyone, almost to the point that he sometimes looked withdrawn. Not to a worrisome level but definitely enough that it made Fenton curious.
Gyro also didn’t seem to argue with as many of Fenton’s ideas as before, for he even allowed the duck to pitch inventions he hardly had any hand in. And Gyro didn’t partake in the pitches as much, instead sitting at the table and staring ahead, almost distracted. Instead, the inventor seemed way more invested in tinkering with the time tub, insisting he could make better use of it with some adjustments. He didn’t bother spoiling Fenton with more detail than that.
Fenton wished he’d realized sooner that this behavior had begun to sprout up after their time travel adventure to copy blueprints for a long-lost invention created by Fulton Gearloose, Gyro’s father. They’d both had to watch as Fulton lost his life protecting his future son from criminals, and Gyro had lamented over the inability to change the past and save him. It wasn’t something Fenton felt comfortable bringing up with Gyro. It was such a personal family matter that he didn’t want to risk making Gyro upset over it. The scientist never mentioned it again to Fenton anyway. The only time he did was to ask for the photos they took of the copied blueprints so he could stow them.
Trying to decide if Gyro was doing better or worse than before was becoming such a pickle for Fenton. He certainly didn’t want to suggest that Gyro look into therapy if he was reading the situation wrong, but Fenton couldn’t hold back his concern anymore when he came into the lab one morning to find the chicken asleep in the time tub, using blueprints as a blanket.
“Gyro, could you please just clue me in to what’s going on with you?” he asked once Gyro had woken up and was scrambling to make excuses.
“Nothing!” Gyro insisted, in a tone to deflect from the fact it was definitely something.
“I promise I’m not going to tell anyone or bother you about it if you just tell me,” Fenton assured. “I’m just...kind of worried about you?”
Gyro looked slightly bewildered at that revelation and scoffed. “There’s nothing you have to worry about, alright? You need to do a lot less worrying and a lot more minding your own business.”
Fenton sighed and decided not to push it. He glanced at the blueprints in the tub momentarily and blinked. “...Wait, are those for the portal ray?”
Gyro immediately crunched the prints in his hand and gave a dirty look to Fenton. “No.”
“So what if they are? It’s my lab. I can do what I want!”
The pieces in Fenton’s head were starting to come together. “Wait...were you trying to build the ray and going back in time to see your dad?”
A long, annoyed sigh came out of Gyro’s throat, and he glanced at Fenton with distaste. “You’re a few bananas short of a bunch, Cabrera. That’s not it.”
“Then why are the prints in the tub?”
“I was using components of the ray to adjust the time tub. That’s it.”
“Yes. You can stop asking me about it now.”
“Why though? I thought you could never pitch this thing again.”
“Not everything is for business, Cabrera. I certainly didn’t make ‘Gizmoduck’ for that reason.”
Fenton frowned. “Fair enough. So what does it do?”
The chicken rubbed his forehead and sighed. “I assume you’re smart enough to know about alternate timelines.”
“I discovered that since the portal ray is capable of opening other dimensions, including dimensions that are alternative, I could use it to upgrade the time tub.” Gyro drew a line in the air with his finger. “Time normally goes on a horizontal axis. But I’ve discovered that by essentially copying a timeline into another dimension, it can be altered without the original timeline being affected. Time goes vertically this way!”
A slight smile made its way to Fenton’s face. “O-Oh wow, that’s interesting! Does it work?”
“Of course! I’ve tested it.”
Fenton tilted his head. “...Where?”
There was a long pause, and Gyro sighed, shrugging. “Look, I’d rather not get into it. It’s embarrassingly personal.”
The gears clicked almost immediately in Fenton’s head. “Is it what I think it is?”
“If you have a better memory than a goldfish? Probably.”
Fulton stared in confusion at the scene in front of him. One moment he was surrounded by thieves with weapons ready to make an example of him, and the next, they were all frozen in large icebergs, being tied with police tape in a fancy bow to be dealt with later.
Gyro dusted his hands off with a self-satisfactory hum and held up the device in his hand. “Freeze ray. An older patent of mine but still just as effective as ever.”
The older chicken glanced at the freeze ray, then at Gyro. “Wh-who are you? Did you just come from out of nowhere?”
“Well, not nowhere.” Gyro shrugged and held out his hand. “Gyro Gearloose. Head of research and development at McDuck enterprises in the year 2017 in an alternate timeline.”
“I’m pretty sure that in this timeline, I’m still a little undercooked.” He pointed to the egg sitting safely in the chair.
A look of realization came on Fulton’s face, and he grinned in delight. “You’re my son in the future?! Oh wow, this is amazing! I can’t believe I have a son in this egg!”
“Yeah, yeah, just a heads up, don’t be surprised if I don’t hatch as a rooster. Identity gets complicated, if you can catch my drift.”
“Oh!” Fulton nodded vigorously, still looking overwhelmed. “When do you figure out?”
“Around eight years old, give or take. Could be earlier or later in this timeline.” Gyro waved dismissively. “That’s not half as important as the fact that I implore you to just keep going about your life as you normally would. I don’t have any actual premonitions or anything to tell you about the future because in my world, you no longer exist.”
“Huh? Did something happen in your world where-”
“Those goons-” Gyro pointed at the frozen robbers, “happened. Thanks to them, I never got to meet you when I hatched, but at least myself in this timeline can.”
Fulton’s face immediately drooped in sympathy. “Oh dear….I’m so sorry.”
“Thank you for allowing me to save you in this one. I would have done it in my own timeline if it didn’t risk the erasure of my existence.” Gyro stared at the egg. “At least this version of me can get to know you much better than I ever would.”
“Oh no…” Fulton still looked guilty. “I hope you weren’t left all alone after I-”
“Oh not at all. Grandfather raised me.”
Fulton rolled his eyes and sighed. “Oh dear, that’s what I was afraid you would say. He definitely had different ideas of parenting in mind than I did.”
“So I’ve gathered. He missed you greatly, but he didn’t always talk kindly of you,” Gyro admitted. “All the same, I feel better knowing that you have the chance to continue your life in this timeline, even if it means I’m not the one to experience it.”
“Ah well...all in all you seem to have grown up just fine.” Fulton smiled with a kindly gaze. “I’m grateful for you saving me, son.”
Gyro flushed a little in the cheeks. “Well, I’m not your son. He is.” He pointed at the egg. “Just don’t drop him in the next two weeks okay?”
“I’ve already done that twice, but I’ll try not to do it again.”
“Never mind,” Fulton assured, then tilted his head. “So what should I name you if you choose your current name later?”
The younger chicken rubbed his chin awkwardly as he looked up. “Ah...anything I guess? Well, anything but the list of names Grandfather has. The one he picked for me was horrible!”
“Oh, I can imagine.” Fulton almost laughed and pat Gyro’s shoulder. “You should get back to your own timeline, son. Too much time here, and you might rip a hole in something space-timey, and it’ll take more than my interdimensional sewing kit to repair it.”
“I may have to come back some time and ask about that invention,” Gyro declared. He tried his best not to look too affected by the visit as he walked back towards the timetub, disappearing in it several seconds later.
“So somewhere out there in another dimension, your dad is alive and looking after you?”
Fenton sat on the edge of the tub and fiddled a little with the end of his tie in thought. “Wow...that’s...really kinda nice!” He smiled looking at his coworker. “I mean, it’s a nice thing you can remember and think about when you’re feeling down.”
“I mean, that’s one way to put it,” Gyro sighed, “but as I’ve discovered on more recent return observations, my timeline has seemed to be more than a little different.”
“You went back?”
“Of course I did.” Gyro shook his head. “I had to see what the outcome would be. It’s my job as a scientist to observe these sort of things.”
“Well, is it really a science thing or you just wanting to see how your dad would have taken care of you?”
“I can do two things at once, Cabrera,” Gyro snorted. “I mean, you could come with me on my next trip. I’ve watched my first seven birthdays, and I’ve discovered I come out by age seven and a half. I’m going to skip ahead to age nine and go from there.”
“Aren’t you afraid of being seen?”
“Not with the cloaking device I added to the time tub. It may look like an ordinary shower curtain, but I assure you it’s not!”
Fenton held back a small smirk. “I mean, if I can take it as a learning experience about the progress made with time travel, then sure. Should I be taking notes?”
“Absolutely. Why else do you think I hired you?”
Navigating through time travel was admittedly a tricky skill for Gyro to master. Thanks to a shaky hand, he ended up in a place he already visited. Fenton didn’t seem to mind viewing Fulton Gearloose tend affectionately over a swaddled freshly hatched chick with more fluff on their face than one ever thought possible.
“Aww!” Fenton squeaked under his breath to Gyro. “You were so cute!”
“Silence,” Gyro hissed at him, face bright red in embarrassment. He set in the coordinates once again, ready to take off to their intended destination.
“Can’t we watch just a few minutes longer?” Fenton asked quietly, absolutely charmed at seeing Fulton cradle and softly coo to his new child, who seemed more invested in sleeping than anything else.
Gyro watched for a long few seconds, then punched the ignition. “Nope.”
“Dad, look at this!”
If the sight of Gyro as a tiny baby hadn’t been enough for Fenton’s heart to melt, hearing the hoarse squeak come from the nine-year-old alternate incarnate of the inventor was plenty.
Fulton had put aside his blueprints to scoop up his son and look at the drawing currently being shoved in his face. “You drew that? That’s wonderful, kiddo! You’re turning into quite the little artist.”
The chick beamed with such a delighted smile that rivaled any sort of happy expression ever made by his older counterpart.
Fenton looked to his companion as he observed the scene. “Did you draw a lot as a kid?”
“A little,” Gyro admitted, tone flat as he kept his attention focused. “Grandfather wasn’t much for doodles or anything of that sort. I kept whatever art I did to myself so he wouldn’t think I was slacking off from reading or doing arithmetic.”
The duck furrowed his brow in slight disappointment at the answer. “Oh. I’m sorry that-”
“I don’t regret having had my grandfather raise me if you’re thinking otherwise,” Gyro cut him off, tone quiet but sharp.
“I didn’t think that! I just-”
“There were many benefits to it. He influenced my skill for inventing and my work ethic among many other things. I’m not taking you around here to think I regret anything.”
Fenton decided not to comment since Gyro’s tone was quite severe, so he instead gave a stiff nod and turned his attention back to the scene in enough time to watch Fulton and his little boy both at the desk, happily drawing away.
“...I’d have liked to see your drawings as a kid,” Fenton admitted.
Gyro did not answer, simply operating the machine to take them to their next destination.
“Art school? You’re going to put the boy into art school?”
Ratchet Gearloose, similar in appearance to Fenton’s work companion albeit very aged, stood up from his seat at the kitchen table, staring incredulously at his son as they discussed his grandson’s future. Gyro, now a spindly teenager, was shifting uncomfortably in a chair next to his father.
Fulton sat upright. “He wants an architecture degree. I don’t see anything wrong with that.”
Fenton nudged his companion in the time tub slightly as they watched the scene. “So in this timeline, you become an architect?”
“We don’t know that yet,” Gyro hushed him. “Keep watching.”
Ratchet shook his head and gave a laugh. “Son, we’re inventors, not artists. He can do all the building he wants in a lab.”
“I don’t think I want to-” the young Gyro had piped up suddenly, voice stuck in his throat. “I don’t want to work in the lab.”
Ratchet had looked between him and Fulton, the displeasure growing on his face with each shift.
“Did you put this into his head?” the old rooster accused angrily to Fulton.
“No. This is his decision,” Fulton assured, tone firm. He noticed Gyro nervously grip the table under the glare of Ratchet, and he gently pat his hand in reassurance.
“Now you listen here,” Ratchet pointed with a severe glare, “I’m not putting any funding towards that sort of nonsense. You’ve got the brain of an inventor, and you’re going to try and waste it on buildings? You could be building robots!”
“W-Well I….I, um…”
Fenton noticed the discomfort in Gyro’s face as he watched his younger counterpart shake like a leaf as he tried to think of how to speak up.
“It’s okay, son,” Fulton glanced to his offspring and gave a weak but encouraging smile.
A small shaky swallow, and the teen finally spoke up.
“I don’t want to build robots. And I’m going to go to art school.”
A few seconds of silent, seething anger and Ratchet gave a long, cursing glare to his son and grandson. “I’m not putting up with any more of your nonsense. Either you start in the laboratory next week with your father, or you’re dead to me.”
Both scientists in the time tub went dead silent. Not even the noise it took to swallow.
Before the color could fully drain out of Gyro’s face, Fulton stood up. “Fine then. I guess I’m dead to you too.”
The absolute shock on Ratchet’s face lasted far too long but far too short at the same time, and he grabbed his coat from off the chair and snapped. “Fine. Monday morning, Mr. McDuck will know just how much of disgraces you two are and probably cut your funding.”
Then, there were a few furious stomps and a slam of the front door.
Before Fenton or Gyro could say anything in response to what they just witnessed, the chicken’s young counterpart spoke up nervously. “D-Dad, is he really going to-”
“I doubt it. He’s just angry and making empty threats.” Fulton shook his head.
“Would Mr. McDuck really cut your funding because of-”
“No, no,” Fulton replied, almost laughing. “He’s not going to do that. I’ve already talked with him about funding your schooling. He’s happy to help you get a leg up, regardless of what you do.”
A small ruffle on the head seemed to let relief sink into the teenage chicken’s whole body, and he sighed and slumped into the chair.
“Does Grandpa hate me?”
Fenton heard a small hitch in the older Gyro’s breath as he heard his younger self choke back emotions.
“No...no of course not.” Fulton’s tone was reassuring, rubbing his son’s shoulder. “He’s just not used to change in tradition. He’ll be fine with it eventually. Just give him time.”
Hearing the time tub start up suddenly, Fenton perked up. “Gyro? Are you okay?”
“Let’s go back,” the inventor spoke up quickly. “I need a break.”
Gyro refused to say anything until he had a cup of coffee in his hands and half of it gone. Fenton knew how these things worked.
When the chicken finally settled at his desk, he sighed. “Well...that was certainly interesting.”
“Good interesting or bad interesting?” Fenton pulled up a chair to sit nearby.
“That’s the strange thing. I don’t know.” Gyro adjusted his glasses. “I have no intentions to change my own past at this point, but...there are a few things that admittedly I found enviable.”
“Like not having to invent things?”
“Oh heavens no. I’d rather be dead than never invent anything again. I just mean, well…” Gyro took a moment to think of the right words, tapping his beak. “I sort of wish I’d had someone who advocated for me like my father did for my counterpart. Growing up, I think my grandfather had my life all planned out without much room for me to make any decisions. And yes, I am quite satisfied that I’m a world class inventor, but I’d rather prove it on my own passion rather than familial obligation.”
Fenton didn’t respond, only giving a slow nod in understanding.
“Did you ever tell your grandfather that?”
Gyro scoffed a little. “No. He died while I was still in college, and I don’t think I ever got the nerve to disclose it to him. He was quite an intense personality, but by then I was an adult and able to make decisions of that sort by myself. So it worked out all the same.”
There was a long silence before Fenton finally piped up. “Did you want to be an architect when you were younger?”
Gyro shrugged. “Can’t recall. Don’t care to.”
The chicken took one last long swallow of coffee. “Okay, enough of this chit-chat nonsense. Let’s get back to work.”
“In the lab or the time tub?”
“I won’t see if I get that architecture degree in here, will I?”
Gyro was slightly confused as they were transported to the lab again and seeing himself working at a desk. Upon closer examination, he caught sight of all the drafting tools and noticing several drawings stacked on the desk. Aside from the tools at use, the exhaustion on the alternate Gyro’s face mirrored the other very much so, Fenton thought. They were quite alike in how they were hunched over the desk, fueled by coffee and soda. This Gyro just was probably a little more artistic.
Before Fenton could gently tease his companion, Fulton Gearloose re-entered the lab, gray in the feathers and stiff in the joints and carrying a brown paper lunchbag. He nudged his son gently.
“It’s been five hours. Take a break and have some lunch,” the old man offered gently before going to his own desk, settling in his seat with a sigh.
Fenton watched as Gyro’s counterpart ate and worked at the same time, and as he pulled away from the desk to get up and stretch, both inventors could get a look at the project that was in progress.
Gyro’s mouth nearly dropped as he saw the familiar shape and whispered, “Why...that’s…”
“Ugh, I can’t believe that I finally get a chance to design a rocket to build, and it’s for Della, of all people,” the other Gyro scoffed lightly to his father.
“Oh, come on now,” Fulton laughed softly. “Isn’t it time you two learn to get along?”
“Never,” Gyro grumbled under his breath. He stuffed the sandwich from the bag into his mouth and was immediately back to work.
Fenton and Gyro stared at each other in slight disbelief.
“...You still build the Spear of Selene…”
“So...I guess you do end up working in the lab after all! Maybe just not the same way your dad does.”
“Huh…” Gyro nodded, still mulling it over. “...Well...hmm…”
“It’s still a rocket,” Fulton encouraged his son with a grin, “and the sooner it’s built, the sooner you can help Mr. McDuck build a new expansion for the company!”
“True,” the architect sighed. “I suppose it did pay to be naturally good with science. This rocket will at least look as good as it flies.”
The time traveling inventors watched the other two chatter to themselves in relative peace for a while before Gyro sighed, “Alright. I think I’ve seen enough for now.”
“Mhm. I feel ready to go home.”
Once they returned, Gyro got back to his desk and pulled out his other projects without any word of direction to Fenton. The duck watched him for a minute, slightly confused at the sudden change of activity and rubbed the back of his neck.
“Uh...Gyro? Are you okay?”
“Yes?” The chicken glanced up. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Well...you wanted us to go home all of a sudden. I was worried that you might be upset.”
“I’m not upset,” Gyro assured. “I just decided I’ve ventured enough into another timeline to be happy with the results.”
“Didn’t you want to see what would have happened if you finished building that rocket?”
“Not really. At least not now. The chicken’s tone was calm. “Maybe another day.”
“Wait...I didn’t even think what would happen to me in that timeline because you wouldn’t be looking for interns, and you wouldn’t have built the Gizmoduck suit-”
“That’s something I’d love to see later,” Gyro snickered softly under his breath, then sighed. “I also realized I may not have created Lil Bulb in that timeline! And I don’t want to see how that plays out today.”
“Speak of the devil,” Fenton hissed with a wince as the tiny lightbulb robot rolled across his foot on a solar-powered rollerskate. “So, when are you going to time travel again?”
Gyro paused a moment in his work and shrugged. “I don’t quite know. Maybe tomorrow, maybe next week. Or maybe never.”
Fenton sighed, not wanting to question Gyro’s logic and instead went back to his desk to work on his own inventions.
“You know something I’ve started doing when I’m having a bad day?” Gyro piped up suddenly. “I think about my father raising me and putting his own life aside to give me the life I could have wanted.”
“Huh. I guess that isn’t really what happened here, is it?”
Gyro sighed. “Yeah, well...it makes me feel better.”