It's All Who You Know
Standard fanfic disclaimer that wouldn't last ten seconds in a court of law: these aren't my characters, other than L. K. and V. B. H. I'm just borrowing them for, um, typing practice. That's it, typing practice. I'll return them to their actual owners (relatively) undamaged. This is an amateur work of fiction; no profit beyond pleasure was derived from the writing. Originally published in the fanzine Our Favorite Things #27, this story was a FanQ nominee for Best MultiMedia Story, but (regrettably, but deservedly) lost to Lorraine Anderson's NCIS/QL story.
It's All Who You Know
by Susan M. M.
The Wizard/Hogan's Heroes
a FanQ nominee
Dr. Simon McKay walked down the corridor of the Pentagon. He passed people in various uniforms: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps. Simon wore a uniform of sorts. Like most of the scientists in the R & D Lab, he wore a white lab coat. Unlike them, he did not wear a suit and tie beneath it. His lab coat (thank goodness!) covered green and white striped pants and a gray striped shirt. The pants were striped vertically. The shirt had alternating horizontal light gray and dark gray stripes. Although he walked quietly in his red sneakers, people turned to stare at Simon McKay.
They might have been staring because he was a civilian in a building full of military personnel. It might have been because his carroty hair was in need of a good combing. It might have been because he was only 3'11". There aren't many Little People in the Pentagon.
Little brains, yes.
Simon stopped outside a door, knocked once, and went in without waiting for an answer. An attractive African-American woman sat at the desk, typing a report. She was in her mid-twenties.
"Hello, Louise. Is the general free?" Simon asked. He spoke with a slight British accent.
Staff Sergeant Louise Kinchloe smiled at the scientist. "Hi, Simon. Yes, he's expecting you." She pushed an intercom button. "General, your three o'clock appointment is here."
"Send him in please."
Sgt. Kinchloe gestured at the door to the inner office, but didn't get up from her typewriter.
General Robert Hogan, Chief of USAF Military Intelligence, stood up and reached over his desk to shake hands. He was a handsome man, who'd aged well, wearing his years with dignity. His hair was silver, but still thick. "Good afternoon, Doctor. How are you doing?"
"Very well, General. And you?" Simon asked as he shook hands.
"Can't complain. Sit down, sit down," Hogan invited. He gestured at the chair in front of the oak desk. Then he glanced at the chessboard lying on the desk. "White or black?"
"Black, please," Simon seated himself in the padded chair. His feet dangled in the air, but he was used to that. The world was not designed to accommodate itself to Little People; it gave Simon a certain sympathy for left-handed people and people in wheelchairs.
"Feeling lucky?" Hogan asked.
Simon's hazel eyes twinkled mischievously. "No, just going easy on an old man."
"Them's fightin' words," Hogan declared. He reached out and moved a pawn forward.
Simon jumped his queen's knight over the row of pawns.
One silver eyebrow rose at the unorthodox opening move. The general said nothing for a moment or two. "I'm sorry I had to miss last week's game." He moved another pawn forward.
Simon smiled. "I'm not vain enough to think you plan your schedule around our weekly chess game. I know I can't ask where you were or what you were doing, but may I at least ask if things went well?"
"As well as can be expected." Hogan kept his voice neutral, his tone indifferent. "What about you? How are the things I'm not allowed to ask about going?"
"Badly," Simon confessed. "Although if you really wanted to know, instead of just making polite conversation, you'd already know."
"A high security clearance does not equal 'need to know'," Hogan pointed out.
Simon harrumphed. "Your security clearance is higher than President Ford's. Anything you don't have 'need to know' on, just means you're not interested in it."
"I can neither confirm nor deny that." Hogan moved his bishop.
There was a gentle tap on the door.
"Come in," Hogan ordered.
Sgt. Kinchloe came in carrying a tray. She set the tray on the desk. "Your coffee, General. " She picked up a mug and gave it to him. "Your tea, Doctor." She handed him the cup.
"Thank you, Sergeant," both men said, only a few seconds apart.
Simon took a sip of the tea. He closed his eyes in appreciation. "Sgt. Kinchloe, you are the only American I know who knows how to brew a decent cup of tea."
"Have you forgotten you're American, too?" Hogan teased.
"I'm naturalized. She's the real deal."
"My Uncle Peter taught me," Sgt. Kinchloe said.
"And taught you well." Simon glanced at the tray. A plain Brown Betty teapot sat there, next to a pastry sprinkled with powdered sugar. The scent of apples, cinnamon, and sugar wafted up from it temptingly. "Is that what I think it is?"
"Apfelstrudel," she said in perfectly accented German.
"Homemade apple strudel," Hogan emphasized. "Expert marksman, types sixty-five words a minute, wonderful baker, and pretty to boot. Sergeant, if you weren't young enough to be my daughter, I'd ask you to marry me."
"I think Aunt Victoria would have something to say about that," Sgt. Kinchloe reminded him. Although she and the general were completely professional in their relationship on duty, he had changed her diapers when she was a baby. She'd called him Uncle Rob until the day she enlisted, and still did off-duty.
"I'm not old enough to be your father," Simon pointed out.
She smiled, but didn't say anything to him. "Hold your calls, General?"
She took that as both an affirmative answer and a dismissal. She stepped quietly back into the outer office.
"I ought to warn you, if your interest becomes anything more than aesthetic appreciation of a very pretty girl, her father is an ex-Golden Gloves champion."
"And her boss is a general with the power to pull my funding if I am anything less than a perfect gentleman. I am duly warned, sir." Simon didn't mention that although Sgt. Kinchloe was always friendly to him, she'd turned him down the last time he asked her out. He hadn't had the nerve to ask her out again. He wasn't sure if she wasn't willing to date a Little Person, wasn't willing to date a white man, or if the combination had been too much for her. Maybe if he'd been black and short, or white and taller, she might have gone out with him. Or maybe she had simply had been busy the time he'd tried to ask her out. He took a bite of the apple strudel and returned his attention to the game.
They played in silence a few minutes, concentrating on their strategy and the strudel.
"Are you familiar with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, General?"
Hogan shrugged before moving his rook. "I've heard the song. I've seen the cartoon."
"Do you know the story behind the story?" Simon persisted.
"Can't say that I do."
"Back in the '30s, there was a father whose children were driving him crazy."
"That's no drive. That's a short putt," Hogan quipped.
"It was nearly Christmas, and his kids kept bugging him for a Christmas story. But there weren't so many Christmas stories then as there are now, so all he could do was repeat 'A Visit from St. Nicholas' and the Nativity story from the Bible, over and over. Naturally, the kids got tired of the same stories over and over again."
"Naturally," Hogan agreed.
"They nagged. He lost his temper. Finally, he just yelled at them. He told them that if they'd shut up and go to bed, he'd write them a brand new Christmas story."
Hogan nodded. He'd yelled at his kids plenty of times - sometimes when they deserved it, sometimes when they didn't. Every parent did.
"Well, a day or two later he invented Rudolph. His kids were delighted. He retold the story to some friends at work, and they told their kids. That's when the trouble started."
"Because Gene Autry started singing it, or because one of his friends had a kid named Rudolph?" Hogan took a second piece of strudel. Sgt. Kinchloe used her godfather's recipe, and made it nearly as well as he did.
"No, because the father was a copywriter for a department store. They said that since they hired him as a writer, everything he wrote was theirs. Big nasty lawsuit, with appeals and counter-appeals. Went back and forth for years." Simon moved his king's knight forward.
"Hardly in the Christmas spirit." Hogan moved his bishop. "Check."
Simon castled his king and rook, having them change places.
General Hogan asked, "So why are we discussing Christmas stories in spring? Just making idle conversation, or is there a moral to the story?"
"If I invent something that's not military-related, does it belong to me or the Pentagon?" Simon asked.
"Depends on what it is, and whether you came up with it on company time or on your own time," Hogan replied. He moved a pawn forward; it was about to become a queen, and then it could take Simon's king. He smiled. He seldom managed to beat Simon.
Simon jumped his knight backwards, capturing the pawn. Hogan frowned. "What, didn't you think I saw that one coming? It's a toy, and while the original idea occurred to me while I was here, I've only worked on it when I was off-duty."
"Ideas come when they come," Hogan acknowledged. "As long as you're only working on it evenings and weekends, and it's nothing with military potential, it should be okay." He looked over the board, then moved a piece.
"I don't think it has any military potential. It's just a toy."
"You'd be amazed what has military potential in the right circumstances. You might want to talk to one of the pen-pushers in JAG to be on the safe side. Double-check exactly how your contract is worded," Hogan advised.
"Check," Simon announced.
Hogan swore quietly. He moved his king out of danger.
Simon sipped his tea as he studied the pieces. "The sergeant's Uncle Peter did a good job teaching her how to brew tea properly. Most Americans just can't manage it."
"Oh, Peter's not American. He's as Limey as you are. Were," Hogan corrected himself. If Simon hadn't been a naturalized U. S. citizen, he never would have been hired by the Pentagon as a civilian researcher. "Matter of fact, you may have known him when you were younger."
Simon shook his head. "Can't say the name rings a bell."
"You probably knew him as Magnifico Terrifico."
"Magnifico Terrifico? The magician on The Captain Rainbow Show?"
Hogan nodded. Newkirk had never achieved the fame he'd hoped for as an entertainer in London's theaters and nightclubs, but he'd made a generation of British children happy as the prestidigitator sidekick of Captain Rainbow. And he'd managed to combine his career as the number two man on the BBC's number one children's show with a career in MI6, although he was now retired from both. At least, he was retired from show business, and as far as the general knew he was retired from serving Queen and country.
"I loved him when I was young!"
"I'll let him know the next time I call," Hogan promised. "So what are you going to do with this toy?"
"First I need to finish the prototype. Then ... then I don't know. Contact a patent lawyer, or call Mattel, I suppose."
"Are you familiar with the Schatzi Toy Company?"
"Of course. It's one of the biggest toy companies in Europe. By the way, you're in check."
Hogan moved to block the threat. "Well, I know the president of the Schatzi Toy Company. The ex-president, actually. Schultzie is retired now and his son Oskar has taken over the company. But if I call him up and he likes your toy, Schultzie will talk Oskar into working with you."
"Is there anyone you don't know?" Simon asked.
Hogan shrugged. At the top, everyone knew everyone else. "I never did get to meet Betty Grable. Hans Schultz and I, though, we go way back. We've been on 'du' terms instead of 'sie' for years." German, like many European languages, had different forms of the pronoun 'you' for formal and familiar circumstances. He picked up his coffee mug and drained it. "If we were in Germany, I'd be telling you 'bitte, duzen'. Haven't we reached the point where it should be Rob and Simon, instead of General and Doctor?" Hogan asked.
"Not to be rude, General, but you are old enough to be my father," Simon pointed out.
"We're drummers. Among drummers there is no age, only music," Hogan countered.
Simon nodded. Robert Hogan was one of the few people at the Pentagon he both liked and respected.
"So, shall I have Sgt. Kinchloe call Schultzie for you?" Hogan offered.
"Well, that's very nice of you, General. Rob," Simon corrected himself. He moved his bishop. "Especially considering I've just checkmated you."
Author's Note: The Wizard was a short-lived show in 1986, about a weapons designer who left the Pentagon, disappeared for seven years, then re-emerged to become a toymaker. Hogan's Heroes was a comedy/action-adventure about prisoners who ran a sabotage ring behind enemy lines from a POW camp. It ran from 1965 to 1971. Both Simon McKay and Robert Hogan did play the drums, and in civilian life, Hans Schultz, Sergeant of the Guard at Luftstalag 13, was the head of the Schatzi Toy Company. ** I know this version of the story of Rudolph's creation contradicts both the Wikipedia article and the advertising used by a certain department store 10-15 years ago. However, my great-aunt was housekeeper/nanny to the family of the original author, and this is the way my father told the story to me. ** Richard Dawson played Cpl. Peter Newkirk. November 20, 1932 - June 2, 2012. RIP