By chance, a certain trio of Jagers stumble across an adorable five year old Agatha separated from Barry Heterodyne. What follows is Agatha's childhood in Merchanicsburg, raised by Mamma Gkika and the von Mekkhan family. A peculiar way to grow up, but not one prone to a boring lack of Death Rays.
Noted for its often understated but witty humor and attention to detail, particularly in the worldbuilding. Also of note are the original characters, some of whom have become as popular as the canon characters themselves.
The central story, It takes a village (or sometimes an army), covers Agatha's discovery and early childhood and University years. A second story, Keep it under your hat, chronicles a collection of drabbles that did not fit into the larger narrative.
This fanfic contains examples of:
- #1 Dime: Ducky has a pfennig coin she won from the neighborhood bully in a bet. She keeps it on her nightstand.
- Adapted Out: Moloch, as well as all the Castle Wulfenbach characters (including Theo and Krosp) and all the circus characters (including Zeetha), do not make an appearance due to differences in the way the story flows. Agatha never spends any time on the Castle, and never encounters the circus.
- Adaptation Relationship Overhaul:
- Agatha and the Jaegers, of course. While her relationship with them was never bad in canon, here she grew up with them and knows every single one by name.
- Mamma Gkika ends up raising Agatha as a daughter. This also means that she doesn't meet Adam and Lilith until much later in life, and while she likes them, she doesn't see them as her parents.
- Agatha goes by "Agatha Heliotrope" because she is supposed to be Van's cousin. They grow up very close.
- Rather than being Beetle's Ditzy Secretary who he keeps around because of her family, Agatha is his Hypercompetent Sidekick and he doesn't know anything about her. She is able to avert much of the early parts of the comic by "accidentally" sending a message to the Baron about the Hive Engine, meaning Beetle doesn't get a chance to commit treason. Likewise, she has Merlot's (very grudging) respect.
- Her relationship with Gil starts out much more positive, since they're able to skip the whole "killed someone in front of her and then kidnapped her" thing.
- Her relationship with Tarvek has both upsides and downsides: Since he never participated in a plot to kidnap her, she doesn't have any major reason to distrust him. On the other hand, since he never helped her escape from some kidnapping, she doesn't have much reason to trust him, either. She gets a much less competent impression of him overall, since he's largely dragged along as Ducky's "souvenir."
- Agatha is well aware that "Higgs" is one of her generals from the start, since without the Other in her head there's no reason to hide it.
- Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?: As Agatha Heterodyne's top minion, Petra's work is to think whatever her liege lady is thinking and start carrying it out."We didn't follow it," Petra replied, "but it was in the direction of the Castle, if you're thinking what I think you're thinking."
"Well, it is your job to think what you think I'm thinking," Agatha said, and gave Petra a toothy grin. She turned to Van, Carson and Tarvek. "We may have just found our way in."
- Bavarian Fire Drill: Gil once again uses his old "mimmoth inspector" routine, this time to get close to Agatha's medical lab under TPU.Construct: You got a badge or somethin', boy?
Gil: Why would I need a badge? What possible reason would anyone have to impersonate a mimmoth inspector?
Footnote: The answer would shock and confuse decent upstanding folks.
- The Call Put Me on Hold: Agatha's ancestor, Persiflat Heterodyne, had the embarrassment of only breaking through when he was thirty-four. He proceeded to Show Them All.
- A Child Shall Lead Them: Radovan Heterodyne, aged ten, was left with the Jaeger Generals while his father was busy with something. Radovan led a raiding party all the way up to Warsaw.Footnote: "Well, at least he didn't cause any real trouble," had been Lord Heterodyne's reaction when he received this report, before casting his attention back to his experimental musical guinea pig assassins.
- Child Soldiers: Mentioned. Mechanicsburg schools teach Invasion Preparedness, Efficient Torture Techniques, and children are instructed in the use of small arms at an actual firing range. It is worth noting that the children are not expected to use these skills as actual soldiers, and are just learning them to make more efficient minions for the Heterodynes.
- Chronic Hero Syndrome: Agatha quickly gains a reputation at TPU for walking in right as something is about to explode (literally or metaphorically) and saving everyone. She gained this trait in Mechanicsburg, where everyone knew who she was and everything in town was by definition her business.
- Conditioned to Accept Horror: Minor example, Played for Laughs.Footnote: The seneschal Gyula von Mekkhan had had some peculiar views on children, also shared by his brother, who served as the first Schoolmaster. They were both convinced that children found skeletons extremely jolly, and had thus decided to cover every surface of the school in them. While in any other town, this would have revealed itself to be a horrendously bad decision leading to countless traumatized children, the children of Mechanicsburg were usually quite inured to the aesthetics of their home town by the time they reached school age, and if they felt anything at all about the school's choice of decoration, it was merely a mild puzzlement about why it was so overdone.
- Cute Monster Girl: By Mechanicsburg standards, Ducky's torture scars and the resulting new cybernetics are considered cute.Footnote: Though in most parts of Europa, obvious signs of experimentation or of being a construct could mark a person as undesirable and put them at risk of being persecuted, in Mechanicsburg these same things tended to be taken as a sign of the Master's favor, and thus highly desirable. Aesthetics did tend to run contrary to most of Europa in Mechanicsburg.
- Deadpan Snarker: Both Ducky and Petra take this role from time to time.
- Escape Artist: Ducky casually escapes from her bonds after being tied up for weeks. Her captor is annoyed that she could have done that at any time.Ducky: My father's a locksmith, he thinks knowing this stuff is important.
- Everybody Knew Already: It only takes a few years for the people of Mechanicsburg to realize that Agatha is the Heterodyne (partly due to her habit of heterodyning while thinking hard). They do a great job of keeping it a secret from outsiders, but by the time she's fifteen the various spies in town are starting to realize that something is up.
- Expanded Universe: Keep it under your hat serves as one for stories that cannot fit into the main story's narrative.
- Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon: Heterodynes are apparently rather good at this.Footnote: The best innocent mien had been perfected by Iscarriot Heterodyne, who could look downright angelic even while in the act of physically stabbing someone in the back. He was a real people person.
- Footnote Fever: Early chapters have footnotes, usually to give a little bit of exposition on Agatha's ancestors.
- Friend to All Living Things: Agatha grows up in Mama Gkika's Jager hospital and the Mechanicsburg sewers. As such she has contact with a lot of strange Spark-made constructs and critters, and her compassion towards them is a defining character trait.
- Funetik Aksent: While it's not obvious in the text, living in Mechanicsburg and spending all her time around Jaegers has given Agatha a rather noticeable accent.
- Girl with Psycho Weapon:
- Agatha, often, usually with a Death Ray. In her first day at Gkika's, she grabs Pyrrhus Heterodyne's old sparker off the trophy wall and threatens the Jaegerfrau with it when they make fun of her. When it goes off accidentally, Agatha and Gkika have a serious conversation about what it means to point a weapon at someone.
- In Keep it under your hat, Agatha and Ducky work together to construct a better harmonica, with... predictable results.
- Hands-Off Parenting: Mamma Gkika's method of dealing with children and Jaegers (who she considers functionally the same). Someone wants to do something stupid? Let them. They'll figure out why it was a bad idea soon enough. Da Boyz spent several months having a lot of trouble getting a young Agatha to bed on time, but after one night at Gkika's where she could stay up as late as she wanted, she finally understood the importance of obeying bedtime.
- Hard on Soft Science: There's a riddling sphinx that preys on the Philosophy Department, with great success.Footnote: Philosophy students and faculty members alike were notoriously susceptible to riddles, which were known to bring the entire department grinding to a halt for weeks as the answer was debated. Nobody outside the Philosophy Department noticed any difference.
- Known Only by Their Nickname: Ducky, to the point where referring to herself as Evdokia in front of a lie detector will make it go off.
- Magnetic Hero: Agatha, as a Spark, is of course one. In the first chapter she has a conversation with a boy her age and he is confused when he instinctively calls her "mistress." At TPU, even while hiding her Spark, she still corrals all the students and most of the staff.
- Nice Hat: All the Jagers wear one. Ducky also loans one to Agatha. Only Ducky and (possibly) Agatha think it looks good, however.
- Noodle Incident: The Great Wall of China is apparently sentient, though less bloodthirsty than Castle Heterodyne, but has a higher bodycount.
- Original Characters: Many, surprisingly they are applied to the betterment of the story!
- Put on a Bus: Interestingly zig-zagged. Ducky gets put on a bus for an entire arc, but the readers are eventually filled in on the shenanigans she's gotten up to, and in the end it almost feels like Agatha was the one put on the bus. It's used to help fill out a time-skip to great effect.
- Pyrrhic Victory: One footnote claims that the trope name in Europan parlance is a reference to Agatha's ancestor Pyrrhus Heterodyne, who tended to invoke these in his foes and single-handedly embarrassed an entire generation of heroes.A Pyrrhic victory, in Europan parlance, refers to the inexplicable event in which a Spark defeats you even though he spent the entire battle dealing grievous damage only to himself.
- Sink-or-Swim Mentor: The professors at TPU largely view lab accidents as a way of weeding out the stupid. They are therefore rather annoyed that Agatha keeps saving people, but she also prevents expensive property damage, so they can't get too mad.
- Spared by the Adaptation: Agatha subtly goads Tarsus Beetle into upgrading his clanks, with the result that Beetle becomes too busy with proving he can keep up with the younger clank-designers to wallow in his grudge. Later, Agatha sends a message to the Baron about the Hive Engine. Consequently, Beetle doesn't get a chance to commit treason, and since he does not know who Agatha is, does not get killed while trying to murder her.
- Super-Powered Robot Meter Maids: Gil helps put down a large, dangerous clank that was rampaging through the university. When asked what it's for, he is informed that it represents the Roman Empire. That's it.Agatha: Some of the students find it helpful to have a visual aid.
- The Stations of the Canon: Zig-zagged, Agatha still ends up a student in Beetleburg, but not before she has a number of adventures along the way.
- Taught by Experience: Agatha did her best to help with the Jaeger medical treatments growing up, but she didn't know what she was doing and had no teacher. Mamma Gkika couldn't teach her much, since she wasn't a doctor or a Spark. When she gets to TPU and has real medical classes, she discovers startling gaps in her knowledge, and realizes that the only reason she never killed anyone was because Jaegers are Nigh-Invulnerable.
- Too Dumb to Live: Agatha's classmate at TPU, Kyril. Moments after being told not to touch anything in a lab, he presses the big red button and is nearly killed. Agatha doesn't even know whether Kyril is his first name or last name, but figures she'll find out at his funeral.
- Underestimating Badassery: Ducky might be a minor Spark who is such a shameless minion that she is outranked by quite a few people who don't even have the Spark, but she is still a Spark. She proves to be an excellent Escape Artist, is able to compensate for her missing eye simply by practicing with a coin for a bit, kills one of the most dangerous Sparks alive, and turns a fake rescue into a real one because she memorized the layout of the castle while drugged and figured out the local politics.
- Undying Loyalty: Ducky is a born and bred citizen of Mechanicsburg, who has also been best friends with the new Lady Heterodyne for most of her life. That means she is completely, impossibly loyal. She survives being tortured for weeks without giving anything up, and then kills her captor on the way out, and makes it clear that dying in captivity would have been fine with her.Ducky: I killed him because he was a threat against the Heterodyne. And the only reason I didn't kill you when I had the chance is because you're not going to be any kind of threat to her.
- We Have Become Complacent: Subverted. After Agatha subtly hints that his clank (combat robots) are painfully obsolete, Tarsus Beetle becomes driven to prove he can keep up with the younger designers.