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Recap / Gunnerkrigg Court Chapter 21 "Blinking"

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Time for lessons.
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Kat's received a delivery at her workshop, and asks the attending robots to set it down in the corner. Kat continues inspecting a mechanical arm she found, that Annie can't wrap her head around. Annie says, since Jones said every student had a special skill, perhaps mechanics is Kat's. Annie shivers, so Rey brings over her jacket. Kat notices something. "What's up with you two? You've been tiptoeing around each other for ages!" Kat then orders them to be friends again, and Annie sheepishly pats Rey on the head. The delivery robots come over and ask Kat if they can go to the basement, and Kat happily gives them directions. Robot has been spreading the word among the other Court robots of the portrait of Jeanne in the basement.

Anja arrives, and says hello. She's come to teach Annie more about her blinker stone. Lesson 1: You can never lose a blinker stone. Anja left hers in her jewellery box at home, and yet it appears in her hand. Kat thinks her mom just palmed it, so Anja hands Kat her stone and tells her to hold onto it very tightly. She then summons it to her hand again, to Kat's surprise. Now it's Annie's turn. Anja, holding Annie's blinker stone, asks her to picture it in her mind, then picture what's around it, then imagine herself holding it — and the stone appears in Annie's hand, and she drops it. Kat exclaims that it must be some kind of matter transference.

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For the second test, Anja goes and hides Annie's blinker stone outside. As she reenters the workshop, ducking under the door, a necklace falls out of her shirt, with a pendant of an eye with a line through it, which she quickly tucks back under her shirt, but not fast enough for Annie and Rey not to notice it. This time, when Annie finds the stone with her mind, it's on the roof. She can see the entire area, with many colours coming from the forest. Anja tells her she's a natural, as most people can only focus on a very small area. Annie summons her stone again, and this time she catches it.

Kat asks if anyone can use the stone, and Anja says no. Some people can use them easily, and even develop their Psychic Powers to the point where they don't need it. For others, it is impossible. Jones can't use them, which is why she couldn't teach Annie herself. Mr. Donlan can't use them either. Annie asks Anja if she's a magician. Kat is flummoxed, and Anja is surprised. Annie says she's seen Anja do inexplicable things in the past, such as restraining Reynardine. And there's that pendant she's wearing. Anja suggests they talk in the office, and Annie leaves her blinker stone on a table in the main workshop before she follows.

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Anja: Tell me, do you girls believe in magic?
Kat: Hah, of course n—
Annie: Yes.
Kat: What? Come on, magic is just something that hasn't been explained yet.
Anja: But what would you call something that can't be explained by scientific methods? Take the blinker stone. Under extensive analysis it appears as nothing more than a simple monocrystal, but it is clearly much more.
Kat: Okay, so there just isn't a process to explain how it works yet.
Anja: No scientific process, perhaps, but there are other methods of explanation. For a long time people thought alchemy was a valid methodology. Others may call these methods "magic". The Court, on the other hand prefers to define them as "etheric sciences".

Anja further explains, however, that her restraining of Reynardine wasn't "magic", but rather a computer program designed to prevent him from using his body-snatching powers. That's what the struck-out eye means. Anja and Donald designed it together. Anja built the computer, and the pendant is a link to it. It's intended to keep Renard in check. Kat states that she's never seen her mother using computers, and Anja explains that the computer is a specialized piece of information tucked away in a secure location. Donald is a sub-user on the system, which explained how he made the shield to protect Annie at the parley last summer. At this point, Kat and Anja go into a complicated technical discussion that Annie can't understand, so she goes into the ether. When she pokes Rey in the ether, he pops up to tell her that Anja forgot to mention that spying with a blinker stone is not recommended.

Annie summons her stone back to hand. Since the technobabble is over, she mentions that people have been using symbols to invoke or ward off spirits for a long time. Anja confirms that it's the same principle, and states that both Mr. Eglamore and Mr. Donlan have tattoos of the symbol that have protected them from Reynardine in the past. Kat is floored by this revelation, and even more so by the fact that Anja was the tattoo artist. Annie is surprised, given that Rey was granted his body-snatching ability by Coyote, that they found a way to manipulate it with technology. Anja responds that it's both yes and no. Her computer is based on work they did trying to find a way to control Reynardine. However, just as with blinker stones there's a lot they don't understand.

Anja: Basically, we cheated. The computer is a hybrid of Court technology and just enough etheric technology to allow it to work. Because of this, though, the Court sees it as a useless system.
Kat: That's not fair... I mean, it works, right?
Anja: Some say that isn't good enough. Not if you can't fully explain how it works.

Anja asks which boy gave Annie her blinker stone. Annie says it was Mort, and asks how Anja knew it was a boy. Anja explains that blinker stones are traditionally given between couples. Donald gave her hers a long time ago. Kat laughs, and Anja asks Annie if she wants to see a few more tricks.

After Anja leaves, Annie and Kat go see Mort. To both Kat and Mort's surprise, Annie is furious about the gift of the blinker stone, thinking that Mort was trying to stake some sort of "claim" on her, and yells that he can have it back, slamming it on the table and storming out of the room. Kat follows Annie to give her a piece of her mind, telling her that she's being ungrateful, especially since Mort likes her. Annie retorts that Mort isn't a boy, he's just a ghost. Mort comes out and informs Annie that the gift of the blinker stone wasn't his idea, it was Muut's. He didn't even know what it was, and since the Guides aren't allowed to interfere in the living world, it had to be someone else's idea. Annie asks why a blinker stone, and Mort says he wouldn't know, since he's just a ghost, and disappears. Annie tries to find him to apologize, but he's nowhere.

Time to summon a Guide, then. Annie and Kat capture an ant, and Annie kills it to summon the insect Guide, Ketrak. She apologizes for bothering him, and asks him to get Muut. Muut, upon appearing, scolds Annie for wasting a life like that, but she points out that she doesn't know any other way of summoning him. She also asks him to make himself visible to Kat, as there's no need to be rude. Annie asks Muut why the Guides wanted Mort to give her the blinker stone. Muut explains that they need her help because of the woman on the banks of the Annan Waters. The Guides have no power to help her move on, and they don't even know who she is. Annie does, though. "Jeanne." Annie asks why they didn't just ask her for help, and Muut asks in return:

"Would you have agreed, had the request come from us?"

They arranged to give her a blinker stone because it helps her extend her reach into the ether, so she can be an anchor for Jeanne. Kat has one last question, though: Why is Annie so angry with the Guides? Annie tells Muut to tell Kat.

Muut: The night Surma passed on, none of us came for her.
Kat: But... then... oh no...
Annie: I had to do it myself.

Kat gives Muut a Death Glare, hits him in the stomach and walks off. Anne thanks Kat, and Kat says it was no problem. Annie has a tiny favour to ask of Muut, however, and it's not interfering in the living realm. She holds up an envelope.

Elsewhere, Mort is terrified by the sudden appearance of a crowd of demons chanting "WE ARE HERE TO DESTROY YOU!!" One of them then explains that it's just a joke, and they're actually here to make a delivery, and he hands Mort an envelope. Mort pulls out a card with a heart on it, and opens it to read an apology from Annie for earlier. Mort, upon finding out that Annie sent the demons, cracks up laughing.


Tropes:

  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Kat's seen several kinds of weird stuff, including two ghosts, and yet doesn't believe in magic at all. She's shocked to discover her mother has magical powers and built a magic-using computer.
  • Blah Blah Blah: Annie can't make heads or tails of Kat and Anja's computer-related technobabble, and it is replaced with things like "jargon babble strange words" and "computer wizardry technical jargon".
  • The Bus Came Back: The Guides Ketrak and Muut.
  • Call-Back:
    • Kat's new workshop from "S1" returns. Robot hasn't kept his mouth shut about the portrait of Jeanne in the basement, and robots keep flocking to see it.
    • As she promised back in "The Fangs of Summertime", Anja is finally going to teach Annie how to use her blinker stone.
    • Anja has a necklace with the symbol of an eye with a line through it last seen in Rey's prison. Annie and Rey notice, and Annie brings it up when she asks if Anja is a magician.
    • When Annie asks Anja if she's a magician, she mentions when Anja restrained Reynardine in "Of New and Old".
    • Donald is a sub-user on Anja's magic computer, which is how he cast those shields to protect Annie back in "The Fangs of Summertime".
    • In the ether, Rey takes his true form of a fox.
    • Annie mentions that Rey's body-snatching power was granted by Coyote himself.
    • Kat is somewhat shy around Muut. When Annie described him to Kat in "A Ghost Story", Kat said he sounded attractive.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Annie brings up Jones' mention back in "The Medium Beginning" that every student had a special skill.
    • As usual, Annie has the cut on her face that Jeanne gave her in the ether.
    • After last time, Kat asks Annie to make sure she can't see Ketrak when he arrives.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The demonic-looking nasties that scare Mort are just there to deliver Annie's apology card, and are actually excited that it has a heart on it.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Why does Anja have a necklace with the struck-through eye symbol from Rey's prison?
    • When Annie's mother died, none of the Guides came for her, so she had to guide her mother into the light herself.
  • Insistent Terminology: The Court prefers to call magic the "etheric sciences".
  • Jump Scare: Rey gives Annie one in the ether.
  • Magical Computer: Quite literally. Anja built it to run a program that restrains Reynardine.
  • Ms. Exposition: Anja explains the basics of the etheric sciences, also called "magic".
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Annie feels incredibly guilty after she gets angry at Mort for giving her a blinker stone after finding out the traditional significance of such a gift, only to find out that giving it to her wasn't his idea and he had no knowledge of what it meant.
  • One-Word Title: "Blinking".
  • Post-Modern Magik: Anja built a computer to run magical programs in order to restrain Reynardine.
  • Power Limiter: The magical computer Anja built runs a program that prevents Reynardine from body-snatching.
  • Power Tattoo: Mr. Eglamore and Mr. Donlan both have tattoos of the struck-out eye symbol to protect them from possession.
  • Powers as Programs: The computer Anja built allows anyone connected to it to use magic like a computer program.
  • The Reveal:
    • We learn what the symbol of an eye with a line through it means.
    • It wasn't Mort's idea to give Annie a blinker stone. It was the Guides', and they used Mort as a proxy because they're not allowed to interfere with the living world.
    • The Guides have been manipulating Annie because they want her to help Jeanne move on into the light, which they are unable to do.
    • Annie is angry with the Guides because when her mother died, none of them came for her, so she had to guide Surma into the light herself.
  • Running Gag: Remember how everyone hates Boxbot? Well, everyone loves his opposite number, Robox.
  • Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: Kat believes that what others call "magic" is just something that hasn't been explained yet.
  • Summon to Hand: A non-weapon example. The owner of a blinker stone can never lose it, because they can call it to their hand whenever they want.
  • Technobabble: Parodied. When Kat and Anja start talking shop about the computer, their dialogue turns into things like "But what did you use to jargon jargon babble strange words?" It provides the trope image.
  • Wham Episode: Annie had to escort her own mother's ghost into the afterlife.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Annie, in a moment of anger, tells Kat that Mort isn't a boy, but only a ghost.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Kat gives this to Annie for throwing the gift of the blinker stone back in Mort's face.


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