[personal profile] hat_writes_stuff
Title: Smells Like Hope Part 2: Missing
Author: Almighty Hat
Fandom: Girl Genius
Characters: Jorgi, Stosh, Boris Dolokhov, Klaus Wulfenbach, Gilgamesh Wulfenbach, OC Beetleburgers
Word Count: 3,823
Rating: G
Pairing(s): Agatha Heterodyne/Jorgi, frustrated?
Warnings: Warnings for this chapter include: discussion of the ability to take 'No' for an answer, abandonment/rejection issues, privacy issues (searching the house of someone you're into is weird that way), and Oddly Indulgent Klaus Wulfenbach (he's not, actually, he just doesn't want to do paperwork so he's Looking For Clues and also distractions).

Author's Notes: With thanks to Para and Lilithqueen for inspiration and gracious permission, and Celaeno for beta-reading. (Sorry I started you reading a fifteen-year-long comic archive!)

All canon characters, situations, and plot elements are property of Studio Foglio; no money is made from this fanwork and no infringement is intended.

Summary: Jorgi has been invited to call on Miss Agatha Clay, but when he arrives Clay Mechanical, the house and forge are worryingly empty. (Also, for crying out loud, Boris, Jägers know more or less how to behave in a city they aren't actively sacking.)

Previous Part


Klaus Wulfenbach controls Mechanicsburg, the ancestral home of the Heterodyne family-- powerful Sparks whose history as raiders has only recently been offset by Bill and Barry, the famous Heterodyne Boys, who decided they’d rather use their intellect, inventions, and inheritance to be heroes. But Bill and Barry are missing, presumed dead by cynics, fighting the good fight by romantics, and by realists, anywhere from the Lost Americas to a potter‘s field. Castle Heterodyne stands half-ruined, as do the once legendary defense systems of Mechanicsburg, now a tourist trap (not usually literally). The Jägerkin-- the most loyal and vicious of the old Heterodynes’ armies-- serve the House of Wulfenbach as hired soldiers, with the mutual understanding that they will not return to Mechanicsburg until a Heterodyne (Bill, Barry, some bastard or descendent of a bastard) is found and recognized, at which point the Doom Bell will ring.

It always surprised Jorgi how many people were openly shocked that Jägerkin had love lives outside their own kind.

Sure, they were terrifying creations of mad science, implausibly strong, surprisingly fast, and deadly-dangerous even without a separate weapon, as the Jägerbrau generously supplied them with teeth, claws, and sometimes horns. They came in a rainbow of colors and a wide range of textures, skin or fur or stranger things. They were weird.

But humans liked weird.

Not always the same kinds of weird, of course, the world would look very different if everybody liked the same things, but there were plenty of humans (and constructs, and maybe someday there would be the odd clank) who looked at Jägerkin and thought yes, that’s what I’ve been waiting for all my life. And sometimes you just started talking with someone and before you knew it, you had, if not a lover, then a statistically-significant other who was a decent enough person not to mind silly little things like skin color or pointy teeth.

So when Mister Boris (who really preferred not to be called Mister Boris, but it was the sort of respectful disrespectfulness that the Jägers could play as willful ignorance) reacted to Jorgi asking if anybody knew who sold flowers in Beetleburg with, “… What on earth do you want with flowers?” Jorgi just sighed.

“Vell, if Hy is calling on Miz Agatha today, Hy dun want to show op vitout flowers. Young vimmin likes flowers.”

“Chust pick some,” Stosh advised. “Dot vay dey’s free.”

“Yah, but vimmin alvays know vhen hyu just pick flowers, und Miz Agatha is a city gurl. City gurls vant hyu to buy flowers. … Hy dunno vhy,” Jorgi had to admit, “but dey alvays do.”

“Miss Agatha as in Agatha Clay, the unfortunate lab assistant from yesterday?” Boris asked, folding half his arms. Jorgi shot him an extra-toothy grin and nodded. “Jorgi, don’t bother that poor girl, she’s obviously very fragile.”

Jorgi and Stosh exchanged a look. Fragile. Of course she was fragile. Everyone was fragile when you were a Jäger. Traditionally, the first six months after surviving the brau, no Mechanicsburger (human, Jäger, or otherwise) would hand a new-minted Jäger anything they wanted back in one piece. But Agatha had spent all day yesterday smelling of nothing but her own fear (fear of that drunk thief, a little bit of Jorgi, of being late, of the Baron, of Young Wulfenbach, of the hive engine, of being exploded, of Merlot)-- but she could’ve gone home to cry on her mother a lot earlier. She’d stayed, done her job, and even shouted at the Baron a little, even though she was terrified and had other options. She was fragile like the glass cover of a hurricane lamp, Jorgi thought, but stopped himself before he could get farther into the metaphor than ‘delicate, pretty, and protecting a flame.’ “Vell, she said Hy could call today,” he said, shrugging, “Zo Hy dunno if dot counts as ‘bothering,’ but it dun sound dot vay.”

“You seriously expect me to believe that after everything that happened yesterday, after she broke down crying in the lab, Miss Clay will be delighted to see a Jägermonster at her doorstep?”

“She didn’t break down crying,” because… because. Boris didn’t get to use Agatha’s difficulties against her. “Miz Agatha gets dese nasty headaches vhen she gets upset, dot’s all. Vit de shouting and de exploding and de dying, she vas pretty upset. Und den she vas hurting.”

“Leave her alone, Jorgi,” Boris warned, as though Boris had any right to warn Jorgi off. “She’s not the sort of young woman who has any… interest... In Jägermonsters.”

“… Vot hyu tink Hy’m gon’ do,” Jorgi started, only glowering a little, “Hif Miz Agatha or her momma und poppa says ‘go avay’?”

“They may not know to be that direct,” and… well. Yes, okay, Jorgi could see how Boris might get a little confused. Jägers weren’t always very good at subtle, or at polite.

“Hoy, Stosh. Hyu know vot’s it mean if a gurl’s momma or poppa says de gurl is ‘not receivink visitors’?” Jorgi was still looking at Boris.

“Yah.” Stosh was looking at Boris, too. “Dot means ‘get lost.’”

“Howz about vhen dey say she’s ‘not at home’?”

“Dot means ‘go avay.’ Also sometimes it chust means ‘not today,’ so hyu gots to know how much de family likes hyu, dere.”

“Und ‘schtop sneeffing around hour dotter hyu monstery ting hyu’?”

Dot vun usually means dey got de gurl locked up in de house cos she likes de Jägerkin better den her poppa does,” Stosh mused. “But she still gon’ be mad if hyu breaks de vindows or her poppa’s face getting her out.” … That’s right, Stosh had learned that one the hard way.

“… That’s… reassuring,” Boris admitted, slowly, more surprised than Jorgi really would have liked for somebody who spent so much time with the Baron.

“Hey Jorgi,” Stosh started, grinning. “Hyu know vhy dey say Jägerkin is irresistible to de vimmin?”

“Sure, Stosh,” Jorgi replied, all his own teeth on display. “Dot’s cos vhen dey say ‘schtop,’ ve say ‘hokay’ de first time.” Boris flushed red. “Hokay, vell, if dere’s no flower shop on de main street, Hy guess Hy just get some of dem sugar frog tings dey sell here.”

And he left. It was past two; he was off duty anyway.

Jorgi didn’t exactly fume about Boris’s reaction, but he did turn it over in his mind as he browsed the market street. People often forgot that when the Jägers hadn’t been out raiding under the Heterodynes, they’d largely lived in Mechanicsburg, right in the city. Customs were different but the rules were the same: if the girl said ‘no,’ accept it, check your strength, and never show up with a severed head without being really sure the girl wanted a severed head and wanted that particular severed head. Everything else, a Jäger could usually apologize for.

Jorgi ended up buying sugared frogs.

Clay Mechanical smelled mechanical; iron and copper and steel, smoke and oil. It overpowered the scents of the people who lived there, including Agatha, but nothing smelled hot. And Jorgi didn’t hear anything from inside the forge. He knocked-- on both the forge’s doors, on the front door to the attached house-- and no one answered. He resisted the temptation to peek through the windows.

Were Agatha’s parents that strict? Usually a blacksmith would figure he could threaten a Jäger-- and if he went for a hot iron instead of a hammer he might be right-- so this… this was weird. Especially if they were home and pretending they weren’t.

“Hoy,” he asked a shopkeeper, glad he had a fairly anonymous box instead of a bouquet of flowers, “Hyu know if de smith is avay for lunch or sometink?”

“Haven’t seen the Clays all day,” the shopkeeper admitted. “Strange, now I think of it-- they didn’t even put the ‘closed’ sign out.”

“… Hokay, dot’s veird. Hy’m gon’ try de door.”

The front door opened easily, unlocked and well-maintained, without so much as a creak. The kitchen smelled strongly of beets and constructs.

Where the devil was Agatha?

“Hoy,” Jorgi called out to the shopkeeper again-- a shoemaker, he noticed. “Hyu gots an apprentice Hy can borrow?”

“… Is this Baron’s business?” the shoemaker asked. “The Clays are good people.”

“Hy knows dot, dot’s vhy I’m tinking it’s not so good dey just vanished. Mebbe it’s Baron’s business, mebbe not, but Hy had an appointment, und Hy ain’t dot forgettable.”

The shoemaker considered, a crease appearing between his brows. “Hans! Get up here, boy, I got an errand for you!” Hans was maybe fourteen, and clutched his broom like it could protect him from the big bad Jägermonster.

Jorgi held up two silver coins-- small denominations, but still silver. The boy’s expression changed from wary to interested pretty much instantaneously. But he unpinned one of the Wulfenbach badges from his uniform and handed that to the boy, instead. “Hy vants hyu to run on op to dot University. Show de Vulfenbach folks dot badge und tell dem hyu needs to see… Meester Boris, ennyvay, und probably Stosh. Tell dem Jorgi found de Clay house vas empty, und he’s schtupid so he’s goink in, but he’s not dot schtupid so he’s tellink dem to hurry up und help him. Hyu gots all that?”

“Find Mister Boris and Stosh at the University, tell them the Clay house is empty and Jorgi is going in,” the apprentice repeated. “Do I have to tell them the stupid stuff?”

“Dey von’t get mad abouts it, dey knows Hy’m a Jäger.” He handed one coin to the shoemaker-- “Dot’s for hyu, for borrowink hyu apprentice,” and held the other in front of the boy. “Dis vun, hyu gets all to hyuself-- vhen hyu gets back vit Meester Boris-- he’s got four arms, dot guy, ken’t miss him-- und whoever else Meester Boris says should come.”

Jorgi waited until Hans was halfway up the street-- kid was a good runner-- before heading into the Clay house.

He couldn’t put his finger on why it felt abandoned-- it was clean, and the kitchen shelves were loaded with food (someone either really liked pickled things or really liked to pickle things), but it had the intrusive silence of a home nobody intended to come back to. The stove was dead cold, for one thing-- the coals doused, not banked-- and the only sign of anything out of place were papers on the kitchen table.

Jorgi started snooping properly there-- one set of papers all rolled up and tied tightly with a green ribbon, and one sheet of paper folded in half…

… With Jorgi’s name written neatly on the flap.

He wasn’t sure whether to be afraid for the Clays or just Agatha or just his own bruised heart (far too early for a bruised heart, he’d only just met the girl-- but Jaeger hearts came pre-bruised, and he’d been braced for rejection on a much smaller scale than finding the house abandoned), but reached for the note while telling himself that nobody was so afraid of Jägers that they’d try to escape a town Baron Wulfenbach had sealed, especially not if they’d managed to raise a daughter brave enough to invite a Jäger to call.

Dear Jorgi,

I hope this note finds you well, and I apologize for my unexpected absence. I assure you, it came as a shock to me, as well. As Beetleburg is now under Baron Wulfenbach’s direct control, my parents insist on leaving town. My parents help constructs who would otherwise struggle with civilian society, trading food and tips on where to find work that won’t discriminate for favors, paid back and forward both. They’ve never trusted the Baron, I think because wherever he goes, he seems to roll constructs up into his army. I’m not sure how that translates to ‘pack everything important, we’re leaving’ rather than simply trying not to attract attention to ourselves, but I’ve always known Dr. Beetle was going out of his way to help me stay at University (with my headaches, studying and focusing for long periods on intense material can get difficult). Perhaps he was giving my parents more protection than I knew, as well?

I would like to write to you again, if that’s agreeable, though I might not be able to do so until I find out how to write to a Wulfenbach soldier when all you know is his first name and what sort of construct he is. You were the only good thing about today, and I’m not quite ready to give up on ever speaking to you again. I invite you to write once I have a return address.

Sincerely,

Miss Agatha Clay

P.S. I have written out my notes about the electrical anomaly that sent me fleeing down that alley, as Baron Wulfenbach expressed an interest in the matter. My parents’ distrust of him is strong, but if the event turns out to be dangerous somehow, it’s probably best the Baron knows about it.


Jorgi sat at the Clays’ kitchen table, not entirely sure how to feel.

Well, he felt like he wanted to punch something, but also like if he didn’t stop and figure out exactly why he wanted to punch something, he’d just sort of keep punching until he ran out of things, and risked not feeling any better by the time he was done.

On the one hand, it turned out Agatha’s parents didn’t hate him, and it sounded unlikely they’d have a problem with him being a construct. Maybe they wouldn’t even have a problem with him being a Jäger. Agatha herself wanted more of him, which was fantastic. True, being called ‘the only good thing’ about a day that had included being slapped, robbed, intimidated by the Baron, bossed around by Young Wulfenbach in the madness place, explosions, the death of her protector, expulsion from university, and being forced to move house sort of set the bar for ‘good thing’ really low-- but it still felt like one hell of a compliment, somehow.

On the other hand, Agatha and her parents were gone, and it sounded like Agatha’s parents might have a problem with him being a Wulfenbach soldier. Which was funny, in a way that fueled Jorgi’s desire to punch something, because most other people were starting to think the Jägers in the Wulfenbach army were the civilized ones. The Baron, after all, made much more use of military discipline than the Old Heterodynes ever had, and after almost fifteen years now, that had certainly rubbed off on some of them.

She wanted to write to him. That was going to get embarrassing (literacy in the Jäger ranks ran from ‘can’t sign own name’ to ‘reads books for fun,’ but most of them pretended to be allergic to the written word), but it was also something he’d never done before-- writing back and forth with a girl-- and if they could manage it, he wanted to try it. When you lived as long as Jägerkin tended to, novelty got precious fast, and for as much a soft townie girl as she was, Agatha did have a fire in her.

He was definitely going to write to her, once she had somewhere letters would reach her.

He wondered if she had her parents’ permission to write to him.

He wondered if she’d care if she didn’t have their permission. She certainly couldn’t have asked their permission for leaving him a note in the first place.

Then Stosh showed up, barreling through the open door, and Mister Boris, and on their heels, Baron Wulfenbach himself. (He’d brought Young Wulfenbach, too, probably planning to turn the Clays’ house into another puzzle for him.)

“Miz Agatha left dot vun for hyu,” Jorgi told the Baron, nodding to the untouched roll on the table.

He collected it, unrolled it, and read aloud, “‘Notes on and Observations of the Electrical Anomaly seen in Beetleburg’ by Miss Agatha Clay. She goes into some detail. … There’s a sketch,” he added, sounding pleased. The Baron sat across the table from him. “May I assume she informed you where she is?”

Jorgi shook his head. “Dun tink she knows vhere dey’s going.”

“Did she mention why?”

“… Ken I esk hyu a schtupid qvestion first?” The Baron gestured for Jorgi to continue. “Vat vould hyu do if hyu found out somebody vas running a support ting for constructs who looks too… construct-y to get by oddervise?”

“Father.” Young Wulfenbach directed the Baron’s attention to the shelf full of glass jars-- pickled beets and onions, metal tins stacked on lower shelves. Nothing Sparky, all foodstuffs, but far too much food for a family of three humans.

“Being a construct myself,” the Baron told Jorgi, “I might be inclined to throw money at such a person, so that they could continue what they were doing and perhaps expand their operation.”

“Dot’s vat Hy figured hyu’d say. Hy tink,” Jorgi continued, slowly, “Dot Beetle guy had de Clays tinking dey’d get in trouble for not… handing constructs dey vas helping off to hyu for de army or sometink.”

“… And being a blacksmith, a piano teacher, and a student with difficulties whose continued education depended on Beetle’s goodwill, I don’t doubt they trusted his word on the matter,” the Baron sighed. “The house will be searched,” he declared, and cut Jorgi off before he had a chance to do more than sit up straighter, “I mean no disrespect to the Clays, but if they missed some scrap of written communication from Beetle in their haste, it may aid in making sense of what Beetle was thinking.”

“He vas tinking krezy, vit dot vasp engine,” Jorgi grumbled. But-- “… Herr Baron… ah. Miz Agatha vants to… keep writing to me?” Jorgi wasn’t sure he really wanted to ask-- if he didn’t ask, he couldn’t be told not to write to her, or to turn over her letters, but a Jäger getting letters regularly would be odd enough to make people curious. It was probably better, this time, to go aboveboard and risk getting an order he didn’t want to follow.

The Baron raised an eyebrow and gave the impression he was smiling without actually smiling. “I trust you to bring any remotely solid details about Beetle’s motivations to me-- Miss Clay did know him for some time. I do have a vested interest in knowing why a previously-reliable administrator suddenly decided to hoard a hive engine. That information is valuable to Europa’s safety.”

“… Hy understand.” He understood that the Baron had very carefully not said ‘you will bring’ or ‘your orders in this matter are.’ He left Jorgi loopholes, if he needed them, and he hadn’t demanded to see Agatha’s letter.

(Also the hive engine stuff really was important, but also the kind of thing he could apologize for if Agatha didn’t like him reporting back on what she wrote. It was slaver wasps.)

“I do try not to interfere in my subordinates’ personal lives. Good luck,” the Baron offered. “She seemed taken with you yesterday.”

“… Hyu tink so?” The Baron thought so? When had he had time to notice?

“Every time she noticed she was near you? She moved closer. It was most evident while Gil was dismantling the Dihoxulator, but the pattern continued.”

Jorgi grinned. He hadn’t exactly been unsure of his welcome with Agatha, but the Baron spotting evidence of it when Boris had only seen her as extra-delicate-- well, that was heartening. “Now Hy just gots to hope her parents dun mind her trading letters vit a Vulfenbach soldier.”

“Add it to the list of reasons Beetle’s death is unfortunate-- it doesn’t help to shout at him now.”

“Hah! Dot’s true.”

The Baron made Jorgi help with searching the house-- mostly the forge and the kitchen, because sending him to search Agatha’s bedroom would be a recipe for distraction, and searching her parents’ bedroom would be weird if he confessed to having done it later. Nothing seemed out of place at all in the forge beyond the fact that most of the tools were missing, just a recently-fixed tractor and a set of financial books. They brought the books to the Baron anyway-- to find him sitting at the kitchen table, still or again, looking over a whole spread of papers.

“I thought I recognized this handwriting-- she wrote many of the reports coming out of Beetle’s office,” the Baron mused. “I rather wish I’d gotten to her with an administrative job offer.”

“I don’t see how you could’ve talked her parents into that, Father.”

“Is dot Miz Agatha’s schtuff?” Jorgi asked, curious and not sure if he should get defensive.

“School papers,” Young Wulfenbach said. “She has a good hand for technical drafting.”

… Well, if they were going to praise her, that was fine. “Ho yez?”

“I believe she was honestly assessing herself when she told Merlot she was a good student with occasional problems,” the Baron agreed. “Which is not particularly informative, but either the Clays didn’t write sensitive information down or they were careful about not leaving anything behind.” He held out his hand for the ledger from the forge, skimmed it, quickly, and sighed. “This seems straightforward as well, though apparently he did a brisk business.”

“Neighbors seemed to like dem hokay.” Or at least the shoemaker had taken Jorgi’s concern seriously enough to lend him an apprentice-- who he still owed a coin.

“Her parents may be constructs passing for human,” Young Wulfenbach said. “Stosh says house smells like forge, cooking, Miss Clay, and constructs-- no hint of anyone related to Miss Clay by blood.”

“Ho-- yez, sorry, she vas adopted-- didn’t know it vas by constructs, though.” That might have explained the general air of abandonment the house had-- constructs could smell like all kinds of things, machines or dead meat or different kinds of animals. It all depended on what they’d been made of.

“It’s a piece of their puzzle,” the Baron decided. “Beetle kept the girl close; if the Clays thought he could take their daughter from them, or that only his protection allowed them to keep her and raise her…”

A lot of constructs couldn’t have children through the, ahem, usual channels. If Agatha had been her parents’ only chance at a child, what wouldn’t they do to protect her? “Still too late to punch dot Beetle for it.”

“What could he have hoped to gain from it?” the Baron wondered aloud.

But by the end of the search, it was pretty clear the Clays hadn’t left the answer to that in their house. Jorgi paid the shoemaker’s apprentice and got his badge back-- then went back to the market-street, munching sugared frogs (well, no sense wasting them) and shopping for stationery.

There was going to be letter-writing in his future, and the teasing would start slower if he wasn’t requisitioning paper and such onboard Castle Wulfenbach.



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