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Baron Wulfenbach took a hive engine aboard Castle Wulfenbach so he could study it. When it was activated, Gil and Agatha were trapped and herded toward it.

Gil: We'll be taken over — and then our job will be to defend it.
Agatha: Kill me first.

Why were they afraid, given that it was common knowledge that the wasps don't work on sparks?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Common knowledge, especially in Girl Genius, is often very far from true. In this case, the wasps could easily be a genuine danger to sparks. (Supporting evidence: Clearly both Wulfenbachs think the wasps are a real threat, and neither is inclined to panic easily.)

Two possibilities come to mind:

  • Lucrezia's slaver wasps, once created, were frequently redesigned and repurposed by other sparks to enslave for them. Redesigning them to work fine on sparks is an obvious next step. Since the Baron can't be sure who's been using the hive engine first, it's a huge threat. (Selnikov is clearly worried about something like these in the section you linked; he expressly claims that Tarvek's in danger from other kinds of wasp than Lucrezia's.)

  • "Wasps don't work on sparks" is known to the Order, not the general population - and it's another deception. Actually there are specific protections known to - and used by - the Smoke Knights, but not by sparks in general - and specifically, not by the Wulfenbachs. (The fake Heterodyne's protection against becoming the Other suggests that this is at least possible. Her mental defences accomplished something much more sophisticated and difficult.)

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