“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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“So,” said Mme. Waschbaer, “have you concluded your interviews?”

“For the moment, perhaps,” said Inspector-General Baumkopf. “The investigation is ongoing, of course.”

“Of course,” Waschbaer said smoothly. “We can’t let these girls, patriots all, do too much for the war effort, can we? Think of the scandal if they were to be decorated for valor by Emperor Karl.”

“I think that the investigation is ongoing,” Baumkopf said, an uncomfortable expression on his face.

“You can be honest with me, Inspector-General,” said Waschbaer. “If you and your men wish to dally about behind the front lines doing repeated interviews with beautiful girls, you need not stoop to such levels. I of all people wouldn’t deign to pass judgment. How could I?”

The inspector-general bristled. “I did my best to select men to assist me that would be unlikely to fall prey to such…temptations.”

“Well, now, if you brought men like that, how would you ever inspect Flik 76J? All those young, virile men in tight flying pantaloons…”

“Married men!” cried Baumkopf. “I meant married men, Madame Waschbaer. I chose married men because they would be less tempted.”

“Goodness, sir, I feel you have grievously misjudged the situation,” laughed Waschbaer. “If I may be so bold, I think your men may wind up marrying my girls, or at least taking them on as concubines.”

“S-surely not all of them,” said Baumkopf.

“Of course not, don’t be silly,” Waschbaer said. “Some of the girls are too Sapphic for anything like that.”

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Kaiserliche und Königliche Luftfahrtruppen Flik 77J “Flying Hoes” Personnel File
Name: Tereza Aurel
Rank: Leutnant
Decoration/Call Sign: Spread-winged bat

Unlike many of the other ladies interviewed by the inspectorate general, Lt. Aurel was quite open about her family name and history. She is from Kolozsvár, also known as Klausenburg or Clujnapoca, in Transylvania and is an ethnic Romanian. She seemed to have an excellent memory for the various conquests of that territory since antiquity, and spoke at length about Vlad the Impaler and Elizabeth Báthory, speculating the chances that her father, a grain merchant possibly descended from minor nobility, was related to either. After she had been asked to chance the subject, Lt. Aurel speculated on the length of life the interviewer had remaining to him, claiming to have memorized the relevant actuarial tables. Incidentally, the inspectorate general did look up the figures and confirmed that hers was accurate, if rounded up to the nearest year.

Obviously, an ethnic Romanian is quite suspect given that kingdom’s alliance with the Entente, but Lt. Aurel seemed indifferent to anything but the casualty numbers from the Romanian front, which she seemed to delight in. Naturally, this aroused the suspicion of the interviewer; her reply was that ‘ours is a land of ghosts and we will find it well-stocked for the future.” When pressed, she did indicate that she felt no loyalty to Romania and felt that its ineptitude on the battlefield was a just reward for its perfidy. Other notes on Lt. Aurel include her predilection for wearing black when not in uniform, and–according to all accounts–near-suicidel recklessness on missions.

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Kaiserliche und Königliche Luftfahrtruppen Flik 77J “Flying Hoes” Personnel File
Name: Gina Bauer
Rank: Leutnant
Decoration/Call Sign: Labrys (double-headed axe)

The interviewer found that Lt. Bauer kept making references to her comrade-in-arms, Lt. Kovács, that made him uncomfortable. She seemed to know every detail of Lt. Kovács‘ personality and habits, shared the same bunk, and also acted as the tail gunner for Lt. Kovács‘ reconnaissance plane.

Of course, it is the firm opinion of the inspectorate general that sacrifices for the greater good of the Empire must be made, and if that means temporarily turning a blind eye toward Sapphic nonsense at the aerodromes, that is certainly no greater an ask than allowing Viennese prostitutes to pilot airplanes.

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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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