October 2020


“We’ve got another call that’s come in.”

“Let me guess, it’s Bill? Set his brush a little too on fire for his liking again? Well, the law requires that we take an engine over, but damned if I’m not taking the long way around.”

“No, it’s Sarah Gillian.”

“Her damn cat again?”

“Yeah.”

Dammit, she needs to start feeding the cat in that tree. Build it a cat house up there or something, since it spends so much more time up there than it does on the damn ground!”

“We still have to go.”

“You’re right. The law does require that we respond. However, as when I thought it was Bill again, I say we take the long way around.”

“Okay.”

“And put in a call to Vinny. See if he can set some fires or something. Someplace that won’t burn too fiercely, just enough to get us out of hauling that cat down again.”

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The daughter of a trader in Gravelines, Andromeda Fisher is a skilled wheeler and dealer but her great passion is and continues to be the freeing of the town from Lady Exor’s ‘corrupting’ influence. Believing that the people of the village need more say in their own affairs, and that the militia is little more than Exor’s puppet, she has long sought to rally the people to her cause.

A cause, in this case, which is a radical decentralized commune, with no militia, no money, no organized government, and no limitations on personal freedoms. She bases this project on the old Republic of Iskandria, which existed before the Verdant Empire took over the town.

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“This isn’t the kind of music I thought you’d like,” Jen said.

“You expecting country-western?” Alan said. “I can take it or leave it. Too many songs about guys who love their truck more than their wife.”

“Don’t you like your truck?”

“Not enough to write a song about it.”

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Gravelines was first grew up as a site where pilgrims visiting the nearby Grassblade tombs could stay, purchase votive offerings, and more. As the flow of pilgrims gradually dried up, it became instead an important way station on the road between Iskandria and the Inner Empire.

With the near-cessation of all trade along the Imperial Road, it has fallen on hard times and is now little more than a marketplace for the various smallholders and farmers from the surrounding countryside. The Grassblade garrison has long since been recalled to fight in the civil wars, replaced with a lightly armed militia that can barely afford to keep a handful of men-at-arms in the field.

As a measure of its onetime importance, there was an office of the Sickles in Gravelines, though it has been abandoned and neglected for some time. Lingering fear of the organization means that the building has generally been left alone, even when strange noises began echoing in it late at night…

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The largest landowner in the Gravelines area is known as Lady Exor, even though she does not actually possess any titles of nobility. Instead, she gained the title as a courtesy after creating a large estate from several smaller, failing, farms and it is her operation that largely allows Gravelines to keep itself fed.

Lady Exor prefers to pay lip service to the Verdant Empire and the current Emperor, while acting in what she sees as the best interests of the town. This includes organizing and bankrolling the small militia, attempting to escort people and goods safely along the Imperial Highway, and of course tending to her own profits.

The latter is particularly difficult of late, as she is facing calls from Andromeda Fisher for the confiscation and redistribution of the large Exor estate.

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Kaiserliche und Königliche Luftfahrtruppen Flik 77J “Flying Hoes” Personnel File
Name: Zoë Kovács
Rank: Leutnant
Decoration/Call Sign: Encircled Rose

The inspectorate general found it very difficult to conduct an interview with Lt. Kovács due to her reticence, with most queries returning a monosyllable, sentence fragment, or awkward silence. The interviewer was able to glean that she is originally from Budapest, the daughter of a farrier in Pest specifically.

It was at this point that the interviewer found it prudent to bring in another of the pilots, Lt. Gina Bauer, who talked enough for both of them combined. Lt. Bauer went on to reveal much about Lt. Kovács that the interviewer frankly found quite beyond the scope of this report. But, the inspectorate general must acknowledge that there is now an official record of Lt. Kovács‘ favorite color, food, dish, wardrobe, and “position.” The interviewer declined to elaborate on that final point, and the full weight of the inspectorate general is behind him.

One thing of note that Lt. Kovács did reveal in great detail was the exact aerobatic parameters of her plane, including the length of time, in seconds, that it could fly inverted before the fuel cut out. She was also observed spinning loops before landing, an incredibly risky maneuver that seems at odds with her reticent persona.

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Kaiserliche und Königliche Luftfahrtruppen Flik 77J “Flying Hoes” Personnel File
Name: Liska Hrdy
Rank: Leutnant
Decoration/Call Sign: Crossed parasols

The inspectorate general is, again, of the opinion that “Liska” is not Lt. Hrdy’s actual given name, and it is furthermore of the opinion that her surname is unlikely to be authentic either. This is because the former means ‘fox’ and the latter ‘proud’ in Czech, thus it could be read as “proud fox” by the one Czech-fluent member of the interview staff. The use of pseudonyms may be popular in Vienna brothels for obvious reasons, and noms-de-guerre have been used since time immemorial, but they do so complicate proper recordkeeping.

Lt. Hrdy is a study in contrasts. Outwardly, in the manner of her dress, she is by far the most ladylike of Flik 77J, favoring parasols, fashionable hats, and well-cobbled boots. In fact, the interviewer was rather surprised to find that she sewed all the garments herself, and that they have been extensively modified with luxuries like pockets. For that is the contrast in question: Lt. Hrdy is an inveterate tinkerer and inventor, always dabbling with a hundred inventions at once. She described, in exhausting detail, a pistol-caliber carbine disguised as a parasol to the interviewer, as an example. While a competent mechanic, she seems to spend more time tinkering with the planes’ other systems. Capt. Waschbaer credits her with improvements to the aircraft synchronization gear, the design and construction of the small bombs Flik 77J drops on the alpine front, and the like.

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Kaiserliche und Königliche Luftfahrtruppen Flik 77J “Flying Hoes” Personnel File
Name: “Kitty” Cohen
Rank: Leutnant
Decoration/Call Sign: Smiling face

Leutnant “Kitty” Cohen is from Krakow, and claims to be the daughter of a Jewish rabbi in that city’s Kazimierz quarter, but the inspector general’s office has its doubts about this which are compounded by her refusal to divulge her given name. One cannot but think that no rabbi would name his daughter after a humble street cat, and while the nickname is often known to stand in for Katherine, there is no Katherine Cohen attested in any records available to this office. Lt. Cohen is apparently unconcerned by this faulty paper trail, unlike the inspectorate general, and when frustration was expressed she encouraged the interviewer to “relax.” No relaxation is noted in the report despite her recommendation.

Lt. Cohen is noted as being exceptionally calm and carefree to nearly the point of apathy, preferring play over work, dancing and singing over martial discipline, and in short being exactly what the inspector general’s office feared when the foolhardy plan of using Vienna prostitutes as fighter pilots was first mooted. However, it can and must be noted that her calmness and optimism extends to the air as well; she is an extremely stable flier with a spotless record of bombing, strafing, and dogfighting. According to Capt. Waschbaer, Lt. Cohen was in particularly high demand at the Catseye for overworked and stressed “clients” who wanted a sympathetic ear in addition to the “services” on tap. It is worth recording that the interviewer did spend two hours longer with her than the others, and had to be retrieved from the aerodrome bar.

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Kaiserliche und Königliche Luftfahrtruppen Flik 77J “Flying Hoes” Personnel File
Name: Anna Novak
Rank: Leutnant
Decoration/Call Sign: Clenched fist on jagged background

Leutnant Anna Novak is the longest-serving member of Flik 77, longer even than Capt. Waschbaer, and it was her liaison with a pilot in the Imperial and Royal Air Service that led to female pilots being recruited first for transport duties and later for combat. Despite these notable achievements, she has been superseded in the hierarchy by Oblt. Müller and is equaled in rank by several later recruits. The office of the inspector general attributes this to her fiery Croatian temperament, argumentative and sarcastic nature, and willingness to resort to fisticuffs. No less than four officers of the inspector general’s office were taunted, struck, or first one and then the other by Lt. Novak following thoroughly harmless remarks about her appearance and proclivities. If not for the explicit administrative magic worked by Capt. Waschbaer, she would no doubt have been at courts-martial several times, demoted, and possibly worse.

As to her background, it is believed that Lt. Novak is a member of a merchant family from Zagreb in the Triune Kingdom, but she was adamant in insisting that this was none of the interviewer’s business, that the interviewer had better watch their back, and that she had been merely holding the torque wrench steady while the interviewer walked into it. Regardless, she has earned an impressive record of kills and has shown a particular proclivity for ground attack and pursuit missions, strafing enemy formations and relentlessly dogging enemy aviators in a relationship that much resembles that she has with the inspector general’s office.

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Kaiserliche und Königliche Luftfahrtruppen Flik 77J “Flying Hoes” Personnel File
Name: Erna Müller
Rank: Oberleutnant
Decoration/Call Sign: Hammer and Nails

Oberleutnant Erna Müller is the second-in-command of Flik 77J, and its most experienced aviation mechanic. She appears to have come from an ethnic German family of good breeding, though all attempts to confirm this have been met by stonewalling from Vienna. Than again, all attempts to confirm most things lead to stonewalling from Vienna, so perhaps too much need not be read into this. By Oblt. Müller’s own account, she left her family to pursue a life of small-engine repair, and worked in the Catseye brothel strictly as a means of making ends meet while trying to support herself.

The office of the inspector-general has been impressed by Oblt. Müller’s dedication, devotion, and skill, which belie her feminine charms. Were it not for the exceptional circumstances around Flik 77J and her female sex, she would be a candidate for field promotion and command of her own Flik.

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