Chekhov's Armory
vonzinzer hmm1
Note: This is a re-post and extension of the list that originally was at I'm putting it here because some people apparently had trouble accessing it at its former location.

[Revision history is at end of post]

If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there.
— Anton Chekhov

The Professors have been adhering to the Law of Conservation of Detail. What they've shown us or told us in the narrative has been put in for a reason -- it's there for purposes of world-building, to establish characters' personalities, or because it's important to the plot. Okay, sometimes it's there just to be funny or cool. Some of the details that later turned out to be significant weren't immediately obvious as being important when we first encountered them ... in other words, they were Chekhov's Guns, waiting to be fired.

<small><small>This discussion is rather long, so I'll hide the rest behind a cut to spare all the minions who aren't interested ...</small></small>Collapse )

Thinking about revenants ...
vonzinzer prime

This exchange from the Professors' recent Ask Me Anything session got me thinking:

I have a question about revenants: You've said before that the wasps are just a vector for the parasites that really exert the control. Are those transmissible any other way? That is, are revenants contagious?

Kaja: Not yet.
Warning: Rampant speculation followsCollapse )

Friday's comic!
vonzinzer prime

"With great awesomeness comes great vulnerability."

Friday's comic!
vonzinzer trilobite

LiveJournal site:

Ja, it never hurtz!

A Prediction about Time Travel ... and Other Speculations
vonzinzer prime

... with an Update (2011/09/13).

Okay, we know that time windows are possible -- we've seen both Enigma and Agatha using them.

We have been told by Othar, a kinda-sorta-reliable narrator, that physical time travel is impossible because of the difference in energy levels between past and present. The energy requirement to transfer a physical object is just too great for any available power source.

According to Othar's Twitter journal, though, in the alternative future of a devastated Europa the (probably lethal) level of ambient radiation provides sufficient energy to make possible the transfer of a mind from future to past, but not a physical object.

A prediction: The Heterodyne Device/Lamp Thingie will turn out to be the key to providing the near-infinite amount of power required to make physical time travel possible. The bolt holes on its base will enable it to be attached to the rest of the Time Portal mechanism.

Time travel of physical objects opens up any number of opportunities for mischief ... and can solve some mysteries, too. Lucrezia may have used it to go back in time to the beginning of recorded history to establish the Cult of the Goddess among the Geisterdamen. And time travel could explain where Bill, Barry, and even Original Lucrezia are -- they're in transit from past to future, and will make their appearances at the end of the story.

And when the story is done, the Good Guys will prevent time travel from ever again being misused by Evil. The Lamp Thingie itself will be the very last thing transported back in time through the portal ... to the curio shop in Paris where Gil found it.



Good heavens. I just realized that time travel can clear up most of the mysteries about Higgs. When we hear the tale of how Airman Axel Higgs saved Klaus, he's a heroic but seemingly undistinguished fellow who suffers some severe wounds (broken arms and legs) during the crisis. (He looks pretty young here, doesn't he?)

Yet when we meet Higgs in Mamma Gkika's a short time later, he's completely healed. No explanation is provided for how he escaped from the hospital and wound up at Mamma Gkika's. After this point, Higgs seems to be well-nigh unkillable, shrugging off sword thrusts through his body. He also looks older, and when we see his bare chest, much later, it's covered with scars. What happened?

I've been assuming that Higgs was some kind of undercover Jäger. But what if Higgs really had been just an ordinary airman until he rescued Klaus? What if he was snatched out of the Great Hospital through a Time Portal by the Good Guys, was given some sort of medical treatment that granted him extreme hardiness, had various adventures with the Good Guys both in the future and in the past, and then was returned to Mamma Gkika's in Volume 8 to assist the Good Guys in the Castle?

This can explain why Higgs is aware of things that happened hundreds of years earlier, why Castle-in-Otilia recognized him, and why he knows his way around the interior of Castle Heterodyne. His extreme hardiness could be explained by his being a very "fresh" Jäger who still looks human. It would even explain why he's so imperturbable and why he doesn't seem to display much concern for Agatha's safety: Higgs already knows how the next dozen volumes of the story will turn out.

Yet Another Scenario
vonzinzer prime
*** Revised 2011 September 9 ***

*** Revised 2011 October 23 ***

Many people have remarked on how much like brothers Gil and Tarvek behave. But one thing struck me today: Tarvek seems like the son Klaus was hoping he would have.

Gil is still optimistic and sees the good in people; it doesn't occur to him that others might be conspiring against him. Given his position, that isn't a very healthy attitude. And he doesn't seem to particularly want to follow his father in overseeing Europa and keeping the peace among a bunch of quarrelsome petty tyrants.

Tarvek survived in a family of psychopaths by staying ahead of their games and giving as good as he got ... if not better. He believes he's destined and deserving to rule, by virtue of being able to claim the title of Storm King. He definitely has his flaws, but he seems to have more of a conscience and sense of ethics than you'd expect from someone in his family, and he does seem to be trying to become a better person.

Right now, Tarvek has one little problem -- well, one more in addition to having a rival for Agatha's love and trying to keep alive amidst threats from Klaus, Zola, Lunevka, Othar, a psychotic Castle, and perhaps Gil. Tarvek wants to claim the Storm King throne, but by the rules of the Fifty Families, he can't -- he has died and been revivified. And Gil knows it. Gil can keep him from achieving his lifelong goal, just by spilling the beans that Tarvek was temporarily dead.

But there is a way to achieve a happy ending: Change the game.

Everything would work out much better if Tarvek were Klaus's son and Gil were the Storm King, wouldn't it? Tarvek rules Europa and keeps the Pax, while Gil the Storm King and Agatha the Heterodyne Heir fulfill the prophesy by marrying and becoming heads of state who don't interfere with the machinations of imperial government. But alas, Tarvek is the Sturmvoraus and Gil is the Wulfenbach.

However ... there's a way to make this happen: Using Lucrezia's mind transfer technology, Gil and Tarvek can swap bodies! And if Tarvek (in Gil's body) wants to marry Agatha, there's a way to make that happen, too: install a copy of Agatha's mind in Madame Olga's currently untenanted body, last seen floating in a vat in Castle Wulfenbach.

*** REVISION ***

Hey! There's an easier and less-squicky way to accomplish the same end: The HMS Pinafore Gambit. All they have to do is announce that Gil and Tarvek swapped identities while they were small children on board Castle Wulfenbach. The story doesn't need to be true! All it requires is for people to accept it.

This could work! Most of Tarvek's family is dead, with Violetta and possibly his mother (whoever she is) as the major exceptions. Theo and Otilia might be able to refute the claim of a swap, but I think they'd play along with the ruse for the sake of everyone's happiness. Lucrezia-in-Agatha recognized Tarvek as Aaronev's son, but with luck we'll be rid of her by the end of the story.

Heh. And this would explain the foreshadowing of "And you're the gol-dang Storm King!"


Strictly speaking, even the HMS Pinafore Gambit isn't needed if Gil actually does have a valid claim to the Storm King throne. (Go here for speculations about Gil's and Tarvek's ancestries, and why they both might be descendants of Andronicus Valois.)

If that's the case, all that's necessary is for someone -- Gil, Agatha, von Zinzer -- to accidentally or deliberately reveal the fact that Tarvek has died and been revivified. Tarvek would be out of the running. Gil would still be a valid claimant to the throne, perhaps (if one of those speculations is correct) the only valid claimant. Tarvek would be upset, but perhaps he would accept the title of "Grand Despot of the Pax Transylvania" as a consolation prize, while Gil and Agatha reigned -- but not ruled -- as the Storm King and Heterodyne Princess.

GG Speculations
vonzinzer prime
I first posted this as a couple of comments on elsane's LJ page, in response to some intriguing speculations there that paralleled my own. Here's an expansion of those ideas, plus a few new ones ...

OK, these are my suspicions about what's going on:

⊕ Why did Barry hide Agatha from Klaus?

We know that Barry thought Klaus was not to be trusted. Some of the reasons for this were set forth in Doctor Beetle's notes, which Merlot conveniently destroyed. But Klaus was able to decipher some of the notes, and he was genuinely puzzled -- they didn't make sense to him.

This can be explained if Klaus has access to a Time Portal, in a later part of the story that we haven't seen yet. Klaus may have tried to warn his earlier self, or someone else, of the danger posed by the Other. Perhaps the warning took the form of "Agatha must die!" If Barry or Beetle found out about that, it woud explain why they hid Agatha and were convinced that he was a bad guy.

If he'll have access to a Time Portal, it might even turn out that Klaus -- acting while wasped and controlled by the Other, or acting from a sincere desire to avert the terrible events of the history that he has seen first-hand -- is the one who attacked Castle Heterodyne.

⊕ Higgs ... and Jenka

Why is an Airman Third Class, who had served without distinction for a decade, so darned competent? Why is he so ... unstoppable?

I'm becoming more and more convinced that Higgs is a Jäger. He's just not a "regular" Jäger -- he's an irregular, in the military sense. Where is is written that Jägerkin must mutate and become monstrous? Obviously, some do, but do all of them?

I think there's a Jäger Intelligence Corps, and that Higgs is one of their undercover agents. This explains why he's only an Airman Third Class. As a member of the Jäger Intelligence Service, Higgs has to keep a low profile. Therefore he needs to be able to vanish every decade or so and assume a new identity, or else people will notice that he doesn't age. And he can't stand out or advance in rank, or his disappearance will be noted ... and someone may recognize him in his new identity if he was sufficiently well-known in his old one.

When Castle-in-Otilia says "Your ... ah ... Higgs here says/says you claim to be the/the Heterodyne" ... I'll bet the second word in that sentence would have been agent.

I strongly suspect that Jenka is another Jäger Intelligence Corps agent. (Has there ever been a corps with only one member?) That would explain why she keeps her face covered: so both Jägers and ordinary people won't recognize that she looks human. The existence of a Jäger Intelligence Corps might be a secret that even most Jägers don't know!

If Jenka's an agent, she'll have a cover identity as a human. Hmm. Since Jenka hasn't revealed her face, could it be that she's a character we've already met?

⊕ The Assistant

Who is Agatha's as-yet unnamed Assistant? Why doesn't the Assistant have a name? Why doesn't Vanamonde know who she is? And what is the significance of her lightning-bolt sigil?

Possibility #1: She's Jenka's cover identity. Both Jenka and the Assistant show up in Mechanicsburg at the same time. As near as I can tell, their eyes are the same color; it's hard to tell about Jenka's eyebrows. However, the Assistant has ordinary-looking hands, and Jenka seems to have Jäger-style claws rather than human fingers -- could Jenka be wearing clawed gloves? Also, Jenka shows up next to Gil soon after he zaps the battle clanks; could she have come down from the top of the city wall that quickly? On the other hand, Violetta can move very, very quickly, so why not Jenka? On the gripping hand, the Assistant -- unlike Higgs -- doesn't wear a hat.

Possibility #2: She's another Smoke Knight. She's very competent, she wears a sigil that might indicate allegiance to the Storm King, and she wears clothes that (to my eyes, at least) seem to be a pale shade of violet. Note that Violetta and Veilchen are also clad in violet.

Possibility #3 [added 2011/07/20]: Duh! She wears clothes that are a pale shade of violet. Who else does this, besides the Smoke Knights? Carson and Vanamonde von Mekkahn, alias Carson and Vanamonde Heliotrope. She's Vanamonde's sister! She was with him in the coffee house, she stuck with him when the battle was looming and was ready to put him to bed ...

⊕ The Dénouement

It all hinges on this: The Foglios like to hide things in plain sight. In this case, the major revelation is in the opera The Storm King. The good guy, Andronicus, looks just like Tarvek, and the bad-guy rival for Euphrosynia Heterodyne, Ogglespoon, looks just like Gil. (Including his hat!) This is the Vienna Mechanikopera, so the "actors" are clanks, and their physical appearance is no accident. Note too that the Heterodyne Princess is always clothed in pink.

The opera is based on a legend. (Can you say "unreliable narrator," boys and girls?) But how did that legend come to be? What we "know" via the opera might be only the version of history put out for public consumption ... and history is written by those who survive the battle.

There's also a prophesy in the opera ... And Moxana can foretell the future with her cards! But this is a world of Science! Not magic! What are prophesies doing here?

Now, what can all this mean? Well, we have at least two very advanced technologies -- maybe three -- that can drive the plot.

First, we have mind transference, with effects that we've seen in Lucrezia-in-Agatha, Lucrezia-in-Anevka, Castile-in-Otilia, Otilia-in-von Pinn, and even Old Othar-in-Young Othar (see Othar's Twitter feed*).

Then there are space-time portals, which can give you a doorway to any place on earth and a window to any time. We've been told, by Future Tarvek in Othar's Twitter feed*, that you can't send physical objects into the past because the "energy states" are different. But is this absolutely true, or just mostly true?

The third piece of technology is the Heterodyne Device, otherwise known as the Invisibility Field Generator or the Lamp Thingie. This device is an extremely potent energy source; perhaps it would be powerful enough to overcome the time barrier if it were attached to a portal.

So ... I suspect that by the end of the story it will transpire that Tarvek is indeed the Storm King -- the original one. Either Tarvek will physically go back in time a couple of hundred years to become the Storm King, or his mind will be sent back to occupy the body of Andronicus Valois. (Possible scenario: Tarvek is dying, and putting his mind into another body is the only way to save him.)

And Euphrosynia? Either she's a woman of the Storm King's era whose brain receives a copy of Agatha's mind, or she's Agatha's mind downloaded into the body of a woman from Agatha's time who goes through the portal with Tarvek. Zola (with her pink fetish) would be a good candidate for this host body, if only we could wipe her personality and then somehow get rid of that darned neural trap. Olga would be an even better candidate, since her body and brain are currently untenanted. (Oooo! Chekhov's gun!)

Result: Gil and Agatha wind up together in "the present" (whenever that is), and rule Europa; Tarvek and "Agatha" wind up together in the past, and rule Europa. Win-win!

If Tarvek goes back to the time of the first Storm King, he could tell Moxana what's going to happen ... or program it into her. That would explain how he could give the plot of the opera to Portentius Reichenbach.

ALTERNATIVE ENDING: Tarvek goes back in time, but he doesn't take Agatha (or a copy of her) with him. This would be consistent with the implied ending of The Storm King.

Possible scenario: Tarvek turns out to be Not Entirely Good, and tries to do something at the climax to take Gil out of the picture. The two fight, and Gil throws Tarvek through the Time Portal window into the past. (Gil is definitely strong enough to do that.)

Hmm. Tarvek might turn out to be van Rijn instead of Andronicus. We know he's good at repairing the Muses -- perhaps it will turn out that Tarvek made them in the first place.

COUNTER ARGUMENT: The personality that animated von Pinn was originally Otilia, one of the Muses built by van Rijn for Andronicus. Yet there's no evidence that von Pinn ever recognized Tarvek, either while he was a child on Castle Wulfenbach or later when they were in Castle Heterodyne. This would argue against the scenario of Tarvek's body going back in time, unless there were some really good reason for Tarvek as the Storm King (or as van Rijn) to order Otilia not to appear to recognize his future self. It wouldn't rule out Tarvek's mind traveling back in time, though.

Time travel also can account for where Bill, Barry, and even Lucrezia are during the GG story: they're in transit from the past to the future. Agatha can snatch them from the past via Time Portal and transport them directly to the end of the story, safe and sound.

With mind transfer technology, perhaps Lucrezia can be "cured" of possession by The Other. Or perhaps Lucrezia herself was never possessed by The Other! The Other might be merely a defective recording of Lucrezia that got away, or (as others have speculated) Lucrezia tried to separate ther good impulses from her bad ones so she could be a better wife to Bill, and The Other is Lucrezia's spiritual Evil Twin.

We still haven't seen the final act of The Storm King, and I think that's because it would give too much away. But from what I've seen of the Professors' penchant for "purloined letter" foreshadowing, I'll bet a roller-skating giraffe really does turn out to be involved somewhere ...

* For convenient reference, here are Othar's tweets regarding time travel, in earliest-to-latest time sequence:

# He asks me if I would be willing to try to set things right. Ah. This would be another crazy person who's been thinking about time travel. 11:12 AM Jul 2nd, 2009 via web

# I patiently explain that time travel can't work. The energy requirements needed to move physical masses are insurmountable. I worked it out. 11:12 AM Jul 4th, 2009 via web

# Tarvek shrugs and says that this won't be a problem. The dust around us is apparently a high energy source and now, I am too. Interesting! 12:13 PM Jul 6th, 2009 via web

# He takes me to a control room and powers up some odd looking devices-Good lord! It's a hole in the air! There's people and-this is the past! 12:40 PM Jul 7th, 2009 via web

# He says that this isn't just a viewer, it's an actual portal into the past. I ask why we couldn't just step through. Ah. It's "complicated". 12:05 PM Jul 8th, 2009 via web

# Apparently the past has a different "energy state". Tarvek questions me a bit and spins some dials-why, that's me! Standing outside Paris! 11:24 AM Jul 9th, 2009 via web

# Tarvek says that he will send my consciousness back in time and it will "take over" my younger body. Okay, I've heard enough. Smack time. 11:31 AM Jul 14th, 2009 via web

# AAAAAGH! My head! My head is killing me! I sit up. A young girl, who was churning butter, jumps up and runs out. Uh-oh. I feel myself passi- 12:43 PM Jul 29th, 2009 via web

# There is an old man looking at me. He asks me how I'm doing? Good question. My head doesn't hurt. Good. The rest of me...Man, I feel GREAT! 11:39 AM Jul 30th, 2009 via web

# I sit up. My hands…my body! Damn! I look good. Amazing! That Tarvek fellow has done it! I'm back in the year-Oh! Oslaka is still alive. 12:12 PM Jul 31st, 2009 via web

Mad speculations about identities (long)
vonzinzer prime
As the adventure continues, we -- and the cast of Girl Genius -- are finding out that many people aren't who they had been thought to be. Might there be more surprises in store?

On re-reading the archives, I've been looking for clues "left in plain sight" by the Professors, and I've been wondering about some mad possibilities ...


1. Is Zola a Heterodyne? Or more precisely, does she at least have Heterodyne blood?

Zola on the Mongfish family (is she talking about herself?):

"Well, they were very gifted -- especially when it came to biology. Well, they just made sure that there was an appropriate heir."

Zola: "Yonder lies the castle of my father!" (Could Barry be her real father?)

Agatha:"I am Agatha Heterodyne. You are in my town. In my castle. And in my way. This little play of yours is over."
Zola: "But -- But I am --"

UPDATE: People seem to think this one's unlikely. Probalby so, but I still think there's something funny going on ...

So far none of the Jägers have met Zola. If she encounters a Jäger, either she'll smell like a Heterodyne or she won't.


2. Is Tarvek a Heterodyne? Or more precisely, does he at least have Heterodyne blood?

Tarvek apparently can heterodyne:

Zola on the Mongfish family (is she talking about Tarvek?):

"Well, they were very gifted -- especially when it came to biology. Well, they just made sure that there was an appropriate heir."

(If Tarvek has Heterodyne blood, that would complicate the controversy about 'shipping, wouldn't it?)

UPDATE: Almost certainly ruled out! Thanks, Corgi!

LATER UPDATE: Unless Tarvek has very diluted Heterodyne ancestry, via the hypothetical offspring of the Storm King and Euphrosynia Heterodyne. Tarvek's blood probably wouldn't be accepted by the Castle and he doesn't pass the smell test ;^) but he can still heterodyne a little bit.


3. Is Gil the Storm King?

Gil can call down the lightning:

The Purloined Letter meets Chekhov's Gun:
"And you're the gol-dang Storm King!"

Another hint here:
"He had all kinds of crazy ideas about what we'd find. Like, maybe he was a long-lost Heterodyne -- or the Storm King --"

UPDATE: No comments on this yet. I think there are too many ironic hints to ignore the possibility.


4. How many children could Lucrezia have had?

Carson von Mekkhan re: Klaus Barry Heterodyne:
"I want to make this crystal clear: He was named at Master William's insistance. And was born two years -- two years and three months, technically -- after the Baron had disappeared. That's very important."
Gravestone: "WITH US BUT 407 DAYS" -- 13.5 months

The Heterodyne heir was a boy?
Zeetha: "Mm. In the stories, it's a night of confusion. The Heterodynes return to find Lucrezia and the young son kidnapped."
Agatha" "The 'son' part confuses me."
Krosp: "Maybe they didn't know. I mean, your eyes might not even have been open yet."

Guard: "Yeah. I guess she missed the part about the baby being a boy."
Zeetha: "Oh, but maybe --"
Guard: "pft. I was born and raised here. My aunt was one of the midwives. I remember when he was born, and they rang the Doom Bell. There weren't any daughters."

UPDATE: Just to clarify, when a character says "Pay attention, this is IMPORTANT!" there's something worth noticing. Perhaps Carson's intention was to make it clear that Klaus could not have been Klaus Barry's father. But were the Professors hinting at something else as well?


5. Who was Tarvek's mother? Could it have been Lucrezia? We know Aaronev had the hots for Lucrezia, and she worked closely with the Sturmvoraus family. Could Tarvek be Agatha's half-brother? Could Tarvek be the Holy Child?

(Yeah, Lucrezia-in-Agatha was making noises about gettin' it on with Tarvek. But Lucrezia's evil -- she wouldn't be squicked out by that.)

UPDATE: If Tarvek was telling the truth about his mother, Lucrezia would have had to have been descended from the Storm King for this scenario to fly. Odd that she wouldn't have mentioned it. Plausibility is decreasing ...


6. Are Tarvek and Gil related?

"... I was secretly hoping we'd turn out to be related."

UPDATE: Boy, there are a lot of possible hints on that page, aren't there?


7. Is Gil really Klaus Barry Heterodyne? Gil looks a lot more like Bill and Barry than he looks like Klaus, doesn't he?

We still don't know much about the attack on Castle Heterodyne. Could Klaus Barry have been rescued -- perhaps by use of a portal -- and someone or something substituted in his place for the burial? A portal would also enable transport of the baby to Skifander, where Klaus could adopt him. (Why do this? I don't know!) And it would explain why Klaus expected someone to try to kill him, although it wouldn't explain why that someone would have green hair. And it would mean that Gil and Zeetha aren't siblings ... although Gil and Agatha would then be brother and sister.

OK, this scenario is apparently ruled out by Word of God that Gil and Agatha are not in a "Luke and Leia" situation. (Unless Agatha is the offspring of Lucrezia and Barry ...) But I wanted to mention it to touch all the bases. And that leads to ...

UPDATE: Definitely ruled out -- the combination of Word of God and lack of Heterodyne scent is dispositive.


8. Do we even know that Lucrezia had more than one child? Are we all assuming too much?

Countess Olga's body -- minus personality -- was restored from a charred corpse. Why wouldn't Bill or Barry do this for Lucrezia's baby? Or maybe the tale about Klaus Barry being crushed was just a cover story? ... And how to hide the fact that the baby had been revivified or rescued? Well, they're looking for a boy, but ... that can be fixed ...

Could Agatha be Klaus Barry?

UPDATE: Nobody's commented on this yet, and it's The Big One.

LATER UPDATE: Corgi and stalkingheron comment on this.

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