West of Eden

Quiverwing Duck, or more accurately for the moment, Drake Mallard, sat in the only chair in his mostly empty office. The space was small, mostly unfurnished, on the shabby side and closer to the warehouse district than most law abiding citizens might find comforting.


On the other hand, the rent was cheap and it was on the second floor of a building that also contained a crappy hole in the wall diner, so in some ways it had a lot going for it.


It was also a place he could be that was not the frankly depressing room he lived in, nor a prime brooding spot on top of a dark building. He sat for a while, idly toying with a scuffed business card that had been handed to him by a girl who was not his daughter, bearing a phone number for a man who was not his father.


Calling that number might be a bad idea. However, if he were a drake who shied away from bad ideas, he wouldn't routinely run around in a cape and mask, clobbering dangerous felons.


He called. If it went to voice-mail, he could just hang up, after all.

    • DarkwingPsycho
      DarkwingPsycho

      "Your file," Lolita said shortly as she delivered the folder across the desk and dropped it on top of the mess of half filled out forms.

      Jacob glanced up from his computer screen and smirked.  "Gee, thanks."

      "I have added some of the communication intelligence we gathered over the last week.  See if that helps you to track them down.  Last known whereabouts were Cape Suzette."  Her stony gaze stared at him across the gulf of their estrangement, and despite his insistence to himself otherwise, it ate at him.

      "Special Agent Mikhailov," he said formally, since she seemed to want to keep the distance between them.  "I know things did not go well betw--"

      The phone on his desk rang, scattering the well-meaning sentence to oblivion.

      "You should answer that, Agent Mallard," she said evenly, then left the office.

      "Lolita, wait -"  He gave a frustrated sigh then picked up the receiver a bit more violently than he'd intended.  "Mallard."

      • Quiverwing Duck
        Quiverwing Duck

        Surreal.


        Drake was silent for a moment, then cleared his throat. "Hello, Mr. Mallard. I... apologise if I've caught you at an inconvenient moment."


        He stood up, running the fingers of his free hand through his headfeathers as he paced a little around his chair. "Your grand-daughter gave me your number as she thought it might ah, be in my interest to speak with you."


        After another quiet throat-clearing, he added, "Although it might... uh, it's a slightly odd situation." He rolled his eyes at himself.

        • DarkwingPsycho
          DarkwingPsycho

          "No, no, not at all," he said, running his hand through his hairfeathers then down his face.  The barely contained exasperation in his voice gave him away.  "What is it?"

          If he hadn't been caught in that exact moment, he might've recognized the voice on the other end.  As it was, he gave a tense pause.  "My granddaughter?"  He felt his hackles rise at the obvious conclusion.  "Who are you?  What have you done to her?"  Although he hadn't seen the redhead in months, he had felt a certain affectionate connection to her.  Only Drake's wariness kept Jacob from interacting with her more.

          • Quiverwing Duck
            Quiverwing Duck

            Drake was faintly chagrined at the insinuation that he might have harmed Gosalyn. "Sir, I haven't done anything to her. I'm ... "


            Well, this might earn him a slamming hang-up, but there was no point in lying.


            "My name is Drake Mallard. Except," he hurriedly continued, "I'm from a different dimension, and I'm stranded here. That's ... not my reason for calling, though. Uh, I... Gosalyn... when I told her my parents died when I was a kid, she told me about you and..."


            He trailed off into silence. It was only then that it occurred to him that perhaps he should have written down some speaking notes before attempting this sort of call. Hindsight.

            • DarkwingPsycho
              DarkwingPsycho

              At the name, Jacob felt himself tense again, for an entirely different reason.  Drake hadn't reached out to him in months...  Then came the rest, and Jacob wasn't sure what to think.  He leaned back in his chair, thinking.  The silence on the other end must have been excruciating.

              "Is this some kind of joke?" he said finally, sounding tired.

              • Quiverwing Duck
                Quiverwing Duck

                Tensed and expecting to hear a disengaging click, Drake's shoulders eased down slightly.
                "No, sir. Frankly, I wish it was," he admitted. "My travel here was unintentional, and I'm uncertain when that situation will be solved."


                After another quiet throat clearing, he said, "I apologize, normally I'm not uh, this nervous. You... really sound exactly like my father and it's uh... heh, it's a little strange for me."

                • DarkwingPsycho
                  DarkwingPsycho

                  Despite himself, Jacob smiled a little.  The mallard on the other end did sound a lot like his son, too.  Still, it was a rather odd phone call to be receiving out of the blue.  SHUSH had no intel on any unauthorized dimensional bursts.  The cynical part of him wondered if this was a ploy to get at him.

                  And yet...

                  "Well, Drake," he said, his voice a little lighter this time as he sat up and leaned against his desk.  "I'm sure Gosalyn had a good reason to give you my information.  What can I do for you?"

                  • Quiverwing Duck
                    Quiverwing Duck

                    "I uh." Drake rubbed at the back of his neck. He sounded sheepish. "I'm sorry, sir, this might sound creepy or dumb. Mostly I uh,  just wanted to hear my father's voice again." He went awkwardly quiet for a long moment.


                    Then, "So uh. Yeah. Thank you for that."

                    • DarkwingPsycho
                      DarkwingPsycho

                      The silence on the other end might have suggested the elder mallard was creeped out by the sentiment.  Just when Quiverwing might have thought of hanging up, Jacob said quietly, "Would you like to meet face to face?"

                      He didn't really know why he'd said it.  It had just come out.  But there it was.  Perhaps it was the apparent and genuine vulnerability in the younger man's voice, or perhaps it was the persistent void that had haunted Jacob since that fateful night over fifteen years ago.  Either way, at the very least, he was curious.

                      • Quiverwing Duck
                        Quiverwing Duck

                        Drake stopped pacing around. Did he actually want to meet this man in person?


                        Well, it wouldn't be the first living ghost he'd encountered in this world.


                        Quietly, he finally said, "I would appreciate that, sir, if it wouldn't be an imposition. I realize you must be busy, so thank you for that offer."

                        • DarkwingPsycho
                          DarkwingPsycho

                          "Just tell me where.  I can have my schedule cleared.  I must admit, I am very curious to hear more about your situation and how you came to be here."

                          • Quiverwing Duck
                            Quiverwing Duck

                            "Oh, uh..." Drake clutched at his necktie with his free hand, trying to fight down the anxiety rising within him. "Do ... you know a good bar? Because the ones I tend to visit are uh, you'd probably not want to sit down in those places."


                            If he got judged for that, so be it; he suspected he might not be able to handle such a meeting while completely sober.

                            • DarkwingPsycho
                              DarkwingPsycho

                              Jacob gave a low chuckle.  If this Drake only knew the places he chose to frequent.  Still, he did know a rather upscale place that could pass as above-bar.

                              "The Querido Quetzal," he said.  "Corner booth in the back.  Two hours?"

                              • Quiverwing Duck
                                Quiverwing Duck

                                "That would be great," Drake said, allowing a little more enthusiasm into his voice than he had meant to. "Thank you, sir. I will see you then."


                                Of course, he would have to figure out just where that bar was located, but what was the point of being a detective if you couldn't procure information?

                                • DarkwingPsycho
                                  DarkwingPsycho

                                  A little after two hours later, Jacob found himself wandering into the Quetzal.  It was only his third time there, but he was already beginning to feel at home.  Surreptitiously he glanced around for Piper, then made his way toward the empty booth in the back.  He slid in easily.  It wasn't too busy, as it was mid-afternoon, and when he was approached by a waitress he ordered his usual bourbon.

                                  He wasn't sure what to expect, but it couldn't be too crooked if the man had agreed to meet in a public setting.  If he had been a kidnapper or worse, surely he would have made his demands known immediately.  This talk of dimensions...it had touched on his own obsession with the Negaverse.  It made sense that there were other universes out there, but to meet someone who was potentially from a completely different one...a mallard who bore the same identity as his son.

                                  When the drink came, he gratefully downed a mouthful.

                                  • Quiverwing Duck
                                    Quiverwing Duck

                                    When the other-dimensional Drake Mallard arrived, he paused just inside the doorway to glance around. He did not seem to be looking for anyone in particular--he had been told where Jacob would be seated, after all--he was simply taking in the details. Exits, windows, hiding spots, patrons.


                                    Dressed as he was in a dark sage green sport coat with a pink shirt and lighter green necktie, he did look more suitably dressed for this establishment than the dives he tended to frequent. Taking off his fedora as he headed for the back, the moment he caught sight of Jacob he stopped dead in his tracks. Then, he took just a single step backwards.

                                    • DarkwingPsycho
                                      DarkwingPsycho

                                      Jacob didn't see him.  He was twirling the glass on the table with one hand and watching a certain brunette behind the bar with a faint smile.  For a few minutes he forgot the strange phone call and the person he was waiting for.  He didn't realize he was staring until her eyes met his and startled him out of the daydream.  He gave her a smirk and a nod of acknowledgement, then glanced at his watch.

                                      He downed the rest of the glass and ordered a second.

                                      • Quiverwing Duck
                                        Quiverwing Duck

                                        Would it be inappropriate to toss down a smokebomb and vanish? Probably. The thought still crossed Drake's mind, however.

                                        He had thought he would be prepared for this situation. This was not his father. That man simply looked, sounded, and even moved exactly like his father. That was all.

                                        It would be a lot easier if he could hide behind a mask when dealing with it, though.

                                        A small flare of anger ignited within him, directed at himself; his cowardice was what led to him being stuck in this dimension in the first place. Enough of that.

                                        He started forward again, stone-faced as he approached the table. With his habit of walking so quietly, he cleared his throat lightly just to announce his arrival.

                                        • DarkwingPsycho
                                          DarkwingPsycho

                                          Jacob caught movement out of the corner of his eye and turned his head just as Drake was clearing his throat.  He blinked.  Thoughts of a set-up or practical joke vanished from his mind.  The mallard before him looked exactly like his son, aside from the absence of emotion.  There was a tug of camaraderie there, one he hadn't felt when he'd finally confronted his Drake.

                                          It was an odd, confusing mix of emotions that couldn't be pinned down, but rather than bother to sort them out, Jacob did what he always did.  He hid behind a mask of irreverence.

                                          A smile moved across his bill to crinkle his black eyes in greeting.  "Ah, Mr. Mallard, I presume?" he said with amusement in his voice.  He motioned to the booth.  "Have a seat.  Your phone call earlier was very...intriguing."

                                          • Quiverwing Duck
                                            Quiverwing Duck

                                            "Yes, sir. Thank you for meeting with me." Drake extended his arm to Jacob for a handshake, still looking quite solemn. Beyond that, he sat down, dropping his fedora on the seat beside him.


                                            "I know the story I told you might have sounded unbelievable. I suspected you might hear me out though, ah..." he glanced aside before he said, "Your granddaughter did mention where you work. But only because she knew I had affiliations there as well. Where I'm from, I mean to say."


                                            Rubbing at the back of his neck, he finally gave Jacob a faint and sheepish grin. "I deal with strange stuff regularly, but this is still one of the strangest for me."

                                            • DarkwingPsycho
                                              DarkwingPsycho

                                              Jacob regarded the other mallard with an unreadable expression.  The resemblance was uncanny.  He hadn't really known what to expect, but it was rather remarkable.  Even after having been faced with his own self from another universe, seeing a twin of the son he had left behind...

                                              "You're not alone there," Jacob said, mirroring the faint smile.  "I've seen some strange things myself.  How long have you been here, son?"

                                              The word slipped out, and he'd meant it as an offhand nickname like "sport" or "guy."  But the double meaning hung in the air awkwardly like hazy cigarette smoke.

                                              • Quiverwing Duck
                                                Quiverwing Duck

                                                For too many reasons, Drake had cultivated an excellent poker face, so his expression remained unmoved. It was impossible for him to prevent the slight flush of red that appeared at his cheeks and top of his beak, however. He just pretended it was not happening.


                                                "A few months now," he explained. "While I was attempting dimensional travel on purpose, this wasn't my intended destination." He glanced up and around, not so much at the establishment they were currently in, but more of a gesture implying he was looking at the world in general. "A lot of things are nearly identical to what I know, yet slightly different. Sometimes significantly different."

                                                • DarkwingPsycho
                                                  DarkwingPsycho

                                                  Jacob quirked a brow interestedly.  Dimensional travel had become something of an obsession over the last decade, so naturally he glommed on to the topic.

                                                  "How were you attempting this travel?  And where were you trying to go?"  He didn't mean to be intrusive, generally, but Drake had his attention.

                                                  • Quiverwing Duck
                                                    Quiverwing Duck

                                                    "It was through experimental means by... uh." Drake paused, uncertain of how freely he could speak in that establishment. So, he erred on the side of caution. "Your employer. The version of them where I'm from, of course, since I'd often worked with them. I volunteered for it because it would be mutually beneficial... testing their technology, and getting me where I wanted to go."


                                                    Rubbing his chin as he looked around again, he said, "Clearly, they need to do some adjustments. I was trying to..." he trailed off. Oh well, why stop being honest now. "I was trying to get to a dimension that was essentially exactly the same as my own, with the exception that I ... that version of me... would be dead in that world."

                                                    • DarkwingPsycho
                                                      DarkwingPsycho

                                                      Jacob blinked, having not expected that answer.  For all his careful pretense, he couldn't hide the surprise on his face.  "But why?"