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The staff appears to have two functions. The first collects and directs ambient electrical power generated by "atmospheric concentrators" which had been installed at intervals along the exterior walls of Mechanicsburg, facing a large plain which provided attackers an illusion of easy approach. The user points the glass (or quartz) bulb end of the staff at the target and triggers an electrical discharge by an unknown trigger, causing a massive explosive aerial strike. The second effect is much smaller -- an energy burst or beam directly from the staff itself which can be aimed at an individual target. Whether or not this second function requires the power of the atmospheric concentrators is a point that seems to have been left deliberately fuzzy.
The lightning staff was Jovian war stompers, after which the power feed was disrupted due to multiple concentrator . As of his meeting up with Sleipnir O'Hara and Theopholous DuMedd, Gil hooked it up to the Heterodyne device as a power source, rendering it functional (and more mobile as well), where it was used to in a show of... well, showiness. Lastly (as of August 2009), we cannot be certain, but it may have been damaged by an accidental discharge by an inexperienced user. While Fräulein Snaug seems to be unharmed for the time being, the Heterodyne
lamp device has yet to make a reappearence and seems to have been forgotten for the moment. The staff itself appears to have been disconnected from it and was in Agatha's possession.
During the Siege of Mechanicsburg after the Castle had depleted all its power, Wulfenbach forces had since devised a countermeasure against it, as a Battering Ram unit was completely unfazed by a lightning strike from it. However, Agatha had an epiphany: Remembering that even Punch and Judy needed a jolt of electricity every now and then, she took aim with the staff at Franz Scorchmaw , the Great Dragon of Mechanicsburg, who was at the time " " against a Wulfenbach-allied dragon, and . After being jolted, the fight . Traveling through Mechanicsburg while fleeing Wulfenbach forces out to capture her, ( ) implemented a to the device, resulting, at its completion, a significantly longer staff (about the length of a quarterstaff) with a lot more hardware affixed to it. After completion, a quick test of its new potential was performed . Upon reaching the lightning rods atop Castle Heterodyne's highest spire, she into the lightning rods, fully re-energizing the Castle, and enabling it to exert its full destructive potential upon the attacking Wulfenbach forces.
After Agatha emerged from the time-frozen Mechanicsburg, Gil had created a second device in the original format, and Martellus von Blitzengaard with it.attempted to dispatch
While inactive, the original staff appears to be a simple, if elegant, wood and bronze swagger stick with an unusual glassy head. The only component from the original still retained by the fully upgraded version appears to be the glassy head as well, suggesting that it may be the "business end" of the device.