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Lensmen: The Brave and the Bold
Our Witches at War
another serial experiment
© 2015 Eyrie Productions, Unlimited
501st Joint Fighter Wing
As of April 1946, the 501st is based at Château Saint-Ulrich, near Ribeauvillé in Alsace. This is not far from the Rhine (and thus the Gallia-Karlsland border), and so very near the line of the Karlsland campaign's western front. Unlike during the Gallia and Romagna campaigns, the wing is at (in fact somewhat above) its full nominal strength of 12 fighting witches at this time. Morale is high. The 501st has an international reputation as an eccentric outfit, irregular even by the irregular standards of Allied Joint Fighter Wings, but also one that gets things done.
Generalmajor, Luftwaffe des Karlsländisches Kaiserreich
Brigadier General, Imperial Karlsland Air Force
Nationality: Karlsland (Polonia)
Date of birth: March 11, 1925
Familiar: Grey wolf
Striker model: Messerschmitt Bf 109K-4
Weapon of choice: MG 42
Notes: Commander of the 501st since its inception. And re-inception. And re-re-inception. (You'd think the brass would learn to stop disbanding them.) Reaching the age where witches start nervously eyeing their shields; has limited her flight hours in an effort to economize however much active time she has left (though, as Mio noted in New Tricks, she's busy enough as wing commander that she'd have had to do that anyway). Calm, graceful, caring, easily embarrassed about some things. Mio still hasn't made an honest woman of her, citing the war and the chain of command, though by this point everybody in the squadron knows they're a Thing and it's had exactly zero effect on discipline (and a positive one on morale). She's a classically trained singer and can really rock an evening dress, not that either skill is much-called-upon in her current line of work. She also has an odd fondness for foods with really powerful flavors, even (perhaps especially) powerfully bad ones in most people's estimation. (She's quite fond of lamprey liver oil, for instance, which even omnivorous Mio gags at.)
Her radio callsign is a reference to her singing ability, by way of the illustrious 18th-century singer (and second wife of Johann Sebastian Bach) Anna Magdalena Bach, née Wilcke (1701-1760).
Chūsa, Dai-Fusō Teikoku Kaigun Kōkū-tai
Lieutenant Colonel, Imperial Fusō Naval Air Service
Date of birth: August 26, 1924
Striker model: Kawanishi Model 53 N1K7-J Shiden-Kai 7
Weapon of choice: Type 99 autocannon; daishō
Notes: Executive officer, training officer, and the undisputed alpha dog of the 501st. Everyone still calls her Major (or Sakamoto-shōsa, if speaking Fusōnese) despite her promotion. Founder of the Sakamoto Hikōmajokenryū (Sakamoto Flying Witch Sword Style) of kenjutsu, an evolution of Asagiri Katsujinkenryū with very similar philosophical principles. Hopes to be able to teach other "elderly" witches to use the Force, as she now does, to sidestep the effects of age, but the war being in an active phase has prevented her from sitting down to write out her thoughts on the matter, or taking more than one student (and the one she has really doesn't need help maintaining power levels right now). She's a natural battlefield leader but views the "business" aspects of military command with distaste; her forté is training. If the war hadn't come along, she would probably have ended up being a gym teacher. Cheerful and forthright, but surprisingly awkward about personal matters. Will eat basically anything.
Her radio callsign, invented by Minna, is a reference to Empress Jingū, the legendary (and possibly mythical) warrior queen of early-third-century Fusō.
|Gertrud "Trude" Barkhorn|
Major, Luftwaffe des Karlsländisches Kaiserreich
Major, Imperial Karlsland Air Force
Date of birth: March 20, 1926
Familiar: German (Karlslander) shorthaired pointer
Striker model: Focke-Wulf Fw 190D-12 Würger
Weapon of choice: MG 42 (x2)
Notes: Karlsland's #2-scoring ace. Gallant, intrepid, not as hung up on procedure as she once was; still one of the best-put-together soldiers to be found in an outfit as irregular as the 501st, but no longer as inclined to be annoyed that the others aren't up to the same standard. She's very protective of her colleagues, particularly the younger ones, and has a particular attachment to Yoshika owing to the latter's curious resemblance to Barkhorn's little sister. Her particular magical talent, enhanced strength, takes place mostly internally, and so doesn't lead to magical expenditure as extravagant as some others; this may explain why, though she recently turned 20, she shows no sign of the usual magical atrophy expected at around that time. (Or maybe, as Shirley Yeager speculates, she's just too busy to age so long as Karlsland is still under Neuroi control.) Unofficially married to Erica Hartmann, despite Hartmann's being one of the least soldierly soldiers around. Can't drive a car.
In typical Barkhornian fashion, her callsign is simply evidence that when she first saw active duty, she was the fifth element in a flight codenamed "White", and never bothered to come up with anything flashier.
Hauptmann, Luftwaffe des Karlsländisches Kaiserreich
Captain, Imperial Karlsland Air Force
Date of birth: April 19, 1928
Familiar: Long-haired dachshund
Striker model: Messerschmitt Bf 109L-4
Weapon of choice: MG 42
Notes: The ace of aces, number one in the world. Cares about that about as much as she cares about folding her laundry, which is to say not at all. A weapons-grade slacker who prefers to sleep at least 12 hours a day and an inveterate tease, but big-hearted, cheerful, and almost impossible to dislike. So completely uncompetitive that she avoids games that have winners and losers, because she doesn't care about winning to such an extent that her opponents can't enjoy beating her. Erica likes to say that she's a lover, not a fighter, which is a little odd when you consider that she's the most effective aerial combat witch in the history of the world, so focused and persistent in battle that she almost transcends her normal existence. (Pointing out that discrepancy is one of the few things that can get a knowing little smile out of her unofficial spouse, Trude Barkhorn.) Loves sweets, particularly Helvetian chocolate, which has been shown to actually recharge her magic reserves.
Her callsign, "Sweetheart One", is a nickname that was tagged onto her by Waltrud "Gräfin Punski" Krupinski when they served together in JG 52, early in the war. (Krupinski also calls her "Bubi", which is a bit weird since that means "little boy". Could be a reference to her hairstyle.)
|Charlotte E. "Shirley" Yeager|
Captain, United States of Liberion Army Air Forces
Date of birth: February 13, 1927
Striker model: North Liberion P-51D/K Mustang
Weapon of choice: M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle
Notes: Cheerful, boisterous, pneumatic. Completely unconcerned with rank and protocol, which most people pass off as a Liberion thing, but it's really more of a Shirley thing. Used to be a test pilot and land-speed-record racer. The most mechanically-minded of the 501st's witches, she developed a number of one-off modifications to her personal P-51D during the squadron's Britannia posting in 1944, most of which the manufacturer incorporated into the production K-model late the following year. Holds the undisputed speed record for reciprocating Striker Units - no one else has even come close to taking one supersonic. Shirley's one of the few witches who can also fly a regular airplane, and the only other member of the 501st who ever used Gryphon's jetpack back in '43. She's the first witch he met and seems to consider that a special distinction; sometimes calls him "Buck" (as in Rogers), even though, as he's pointed out, he's from the 25th century, not in it.
Her callsign comes from her penchant for speed, obviously, but it's also a reference to the time she "borrowed" Gryphon's jetpack.
Tenente, Sovrana Aeronautica Romagniana
Lieutenant, Romagnan Royal Air Force
Date of birth: December 24, 1931
Familiar: Black panther
Striker model: Fiat G.55S Strega
Weapon of choice: M1919 Browning machine gun
Notes: The youngest member of the 501st, Lucchini is nevertheless an experienced combat veteran, having been in active service since the age of 11. She shows no signs of growing out of her little-sister role in the squadron, however, nor of particularly wanting to. Possibly an even more committed slacker than Hartmann and capable of sleeping basically anywhere at any time, but furious and unhesitating in battle. Appears to be a DC of an ancestor of WDF pilot Mark "Haywire" Luchini (no one's sure where the other C got off to, though Gryphon suspects a possible Ellis Islanding). A proud Roman and a lover of the finer things in life, including food, places to nap, hot baths, and copping feels off her wingmates - albeit, oddly enough, not with any especially erotic intent; she just... likes cleavage. (As such, it is perhaps no surprise that Shirley's her favorite.) When not sleeping or eating, she can usually be found demanding piggyback rides or scouting for new nap sites. She was among the first of the witches to accept Gryphon's presence fully in 1943, largely because he's good at both of those things.
Her callsign, shared with her meta-descendant, was all but inevitable, particularly given her combined penchants for out-of-combat mischief and wild recklessness in action. She would prefer to be called La Gattina Nera ("The Black Kitten"), but it doesn't often happen.
|Eila Ilmatar "Illu" Juutilainen-Litvyak|
Yliluutnantti, Suomus Ilmavoimat
First Lieutenant, Suomus Air Force
Date of birth: February 21, 1929
Familiar: Black fox
Striker model: Messerschmitt Bf 109L-4
Weapon of choice: MG 42
Notes: Prognosticator and prankster. Sometimes her pranks have something of a mean edge to them that's generally lacking in Hartmann's or Lucchini's, which makes her wingmates slightly wary of her, but she generally means well. She's a bit catastrophically bad at expressing positive emotions (which limitation has been described as the Suomish national disease), so her attempts to be kind and thoughtful often come across with a certain brusqueness. Her wingmates are used to it by this point; many of them even find it rather charming. The one exception is in her obvious and unstinting devotion to her wife, Sanya, whose welfare she places well above her own. Unlike the other marriages in the squadron, theirs was recognized by the Tsaritsa of Orussia, and is thus as official as it gets in their world. Eila has been known to be a little bit smug about that from time to time. As a Suoman, she also likes foods that no other people on Earth (apart from Minna) even consider food, let alone like.
Eila's callsign is a reference to the Tarot Major Arcanum The Chariot (VII), signifying victory in war and the union of opposites - an obvious callout to her habit of reading Tarot, her status as an ace, and her partnership with quiet, introverted Sanya.
|Aleksandra Vladimirovna "Sanya" Juutilainen-Litvyak|
Starshiy Leytenant Aviatsii, Imperatorskiy Voyenno-Vozdushnyy Flot Orossiskaya
Senior Aviation Lieutenant, Imperial Orussian Military Air Fleet
Date of birth: August 18, 1930
Familiar: Orussian Blue
Striker model: Yakovlev Yak-9M PVO
Weapon of choice: Fliegerhammer multi-launch rocket system
Notes: The 501st's redoubtable Night Witch, Sanya remains something of an enigma to some of her wingmates: rarely seen during the day, but indispensable to the security of the base and its perimeter in darkness. All have grown very fond of her over the years the squadron has been together, even if some would still say they don't really know her. Quiet and reserved, she enjoys the company of others more than she appears to, which the others have all come to understand. She also has the squadron's widest (geographically speaking) network of friends, since she's in regular contact by radio with Night Witches all over Europe and beyond, although she's never met many of them in person. She can sometimes become ever-so-slightly frustrated by the way Eila dotes on her - a person would think she was a little glass doll, not a seasoned Orussian sky soldier - but cherishes the love that prompts Eila to do so far too much to ever show it. For her part, Sanya demonstrated the depth of her side of that bond by writing to Tsaritsa Olga I of Orussia, asking that her sovereign recognize their marriage - and her value to the war effort is shown in the fact that the Tsaritsa did so.
Rakas is a Finnish/Suomish word which can, depending on the context, be a noun or adjective, and means variously "beloved", "precious", and/or "special".
|Pierrette-Henriette "Perrine" Clostermann|
Capitaine, Forces Aériennes Galliaises Libres
Captain, Free Gallian Air Forces
Date of birth: February 28, 1929
Striker model: Arsenal VG 39bis
Weapon of choice: Bren light machine gun
Notes: Proud, passionate, and often more than a little pushy, Perrine sometimes appears to be a central-casting Gallian aristocrat, but since the liberation of her homeland from the Neuroi, she's become a lot less haughty and abrasive than she used to be. This has allowed the innate kindness and generosity that are also stereotypes of the Gallian character to come to the fore, and both she and her wingmates are happier for it. It hasn't escaped her wingmates' notice that she could have retired, covered in glory, with the liberation of Gallia, and again after Venezia's, but keeps coming back to help them carry on the fight. Of course, Perrine would say it's the only decent course of action for a chevalière of the Legion of Honor to pursue. She has lately rediscovered her childhood interest in fencing, drawing her nearer to the unit's other active swordswomen, Yoshika and Major Sakamoto (the latter of whom she idolizes less, but has more genuine affection for, nowadays). She's also learned to cook, at least a little, though her attempts at pâtisserie still tend to be a bit tragic.
Obviously her callsign (often rendered "the Duchess", as in "tell the Duchess to cover the southwest flank") is a once-derogatory, now-affectionate reference to her upper-class background, although in actual practice she's only of the minor nobility.
|Lynette Bishop VC|
Warrant Officer, Royal Britannian Air Force
Date of birth: June 11, 1929
Familiar: Scottish Fold
Striker model: Supermarine Spiteful Mk XVI
Weapon of choice: Rifle, Anti-Neuroi, .75in, Bishop Mk IV
Notes: Lynne (as her friends call her), one of the many children of NWI ace Minnie Bishop, presents an interesting contrast in her 1946 form. On the one hand, she's still the same almost unbelievably English girl she ever was - good at making tea, cheerful and pleasant but a little diffident, and given to apologizing reflexively to anyone and anything she might've offended (including inanimate objects she's just tripped over or run into). On the other hand, in battle she becomes the other English stereotype: a cool, precise, and deadly markswoman, able to place all six rounds from her anti-Neuroi rifle's magazine in a space no bigger than a Britannian shilling in as many seconds. (She designed the weapon, a scaled-up extrapolation of the old Boys anti-tank rifle, herself.) Like her mother, she holds the Victoria Cross, Britannia's highest military decoration, in her case for the role she played in the climax of the Gallia campaign - and like Perrine, she could have retired with honor after that battle, but chooses to keep fighting primarily to be with her beloved wingmates. She's particularly close to Perrine, whom she helped extensively with the Gallian reconstruction, and Yoshika, whom she unofficially married during the Romagna campaign.
Lynne's callsign, a reference to the famous 19th-century British army nurse Florence Nightingale (mother of modern nursing), comes from her habit of helping Yoshika run the 501st's sickbay... and Yoshika's habit of insisting that she wear the nurse outfit when she does.
|Miyafuji Yoshika, MD|
Chūi, Dai-Fusō Teikoku Kaigun Kōkū-tai
First Lieutenant, Imperial Fusō Naval Air Service
Date of birth: August 18, 1929
Striker model: Kyūshū J7W1 Shinden
Weapon of choice: Type 99 autocannon; katana
Notes: Daughter of the late Miyafuji Ichirō, inventor of the modern form of the Striker Unit. A talented flier and one of the most powerful witches Fusō has ever produced, but almost completely indifferent to military policy and protocol, she has a scattered disciplinary record that includes a dishonorable discharge for desertion and insubordination and the Order of the Golden Kite Fourth Class for the same battle, as well as reinstatement and elevation to an officer's commission in recognition of valorous acts committed six months later. Relentlessly honest and upbeat, she more or less compelled her wingmates to let her be their friend through sheer force of personality (in Shirley Yeager's phrase, "she befriended the crap out of us"). Having been awarded a Helvetian medical degree by acclamation during the downtime after the Romagna campaign, she now serves as the 501st's flight surgeon. She's also Major Sakamoto's first student of Hikōmajokenryū and has lately taken to wearing her IFNAS uniform and the sword they gave her when she was commissioned, when she isn't dressed in a medical smock (which, admittedly, is most of the time). She's the one who issued the impassioned speech about living in the moment and leaving behind no regrets that ultimately led several of her wingmates to get married (one of them to her).
Her callsign was all but inevitable, particularly after she received her doctorate; but unofficially, some of her wingmates prefer to call her "Beast" - which, as Lucchini will happily explain to anyone who asks, is short for "Lustful Beast Miyafuji", a winking reference to the somewhat-less-fresh-faced-and-innocent side of her personality that slips out sometimes.
Gunsō, Dai-Fusō Teikoku Kaigun Kōkū-tai
Sergeant, Imperial Fusō Naval Air Service
Date of birth: August 18, 1931
Striker model: Kawanishi Model 25 N1K5-J Shiden-Kai 5
Weapon of choice: Type 99 autocannon
Notes: The FNG (Lucchini has convinced her that stands for "Fusō New Girl"). Sgt. Hattori ended up joining the 501st more or less by accident, having gotten sucked into the maelstrom when she was supposed to be simply escorting Yoshika to medical school. Yoshika never made it there and Shizuka never went home. An idealist and a stickler for regulations, she finds plenty to be dismayed about in the highly irregular nature of the 501st's operations - but at the same time, she's realist enough to know that you don't argue with results. The others find her bemusement at their ways a bit endearing, and hope she'll eventually adapt. She's particularly nonplussed by the militarily slack attitude of Yoshika, whom she rather idolized before they actually met, and the way Major Sakamoto - although every bit the legendary soldier she's viewed as back home - indulges it. The fact that the pair of them have established a reputation for craziness on the part of Fusō witches in general across Europe also pains her more than a little. Still, she's a good kid. She'll adapt - or she'll have a psychotic episode.
Shizuka hasn't earned a callsign yet, though she's such a gung-ho soldier-type that there is the possibility of someone sarcastically tagging her "War Rocket Ajax" (as in "Dispatch War Rocket Ajax over here to bring back her body").
|Heidemarie W. Schnaufer|
Major, Luftwaffe des Karlsländisches Kaiserreich
Major, Imperial Karlsland Air Force
Date of birth: February 16, 1929
Striker model: Messerschmitt Bf 110G-4
Weapon of choice: MG 151/20
In its third incarnation, the 501st JFW is unique among fighter wings in possessing two Night Witches. Heidemarie Schnaufer served under Minna-Dietlinde Wilcke out of St. Tronde during the interim between the 501st's second and third operational periods. When the 501st reactivated following the Neuroi offensive in the Ardennes in the fall of 1945, she went with them - an unusual state of affairs which the Allied Command decided to let stand because of the uniquely challenging position of the 501st's new headquarters in Ribeauvillé, Alsace. Since Alsace lies along the Rhine and forms something of a salient - a corner of free territory jutting into Neuroi-occupied Karlsland - the 501st's operational area is judged particularly sensitive and in need of greater-than-usual night coverage. In practice, Heidemarie customarily patrols the southern perimeter while Sanya patrols the northern, their territories overlapping with those of 602 Squadron of the Gallian Air Force and the 511th JFW, respectively.
Quiet and withdrawn even by Night Witch standards, Heidemarie is still a little surprised that she's in an elite, close-knit unit like the 501st, and though her schedule (like Sanya's) causes her to miss out on a lot of the wing's group activities, the others are making a concerted effort to bring her more into the fold, and with that bunch on the case, it shouldn't take long.
Heidemarie's callsign is short for her old nickname from her days based in Belgica, "The Phantom of St. Tronde".
|Christiane "Chris" Barkhorn|
Fähnrich, Luftwaffe des Karlsländisches Kaiserreich
Flight Cadet, Imperial Karlsland Air Force
Date of birth: November 13, 1933
Familiar: Karlslandic (German) Rex
Striker model: Arado Ar 96
Weapon of choice: StG 44
Gertrud Barkhorn's beloved younger sister, who has by this time fully recovered from the coma she was in at the start of season 1. Having recently manifested her own magical abilities, she's now in training to become a fighting witch herself - a bit behind schedule, but then she was in a coma for a year and a half. Technically the 501st is not a training squadron and a flight cadet like Chris has no real business being there, but when you're Trude Barkhorn, you basically get whatever you want from the Kaiser, and Trude wanted her little sister to stay close by. Besides, it might not be her official job, but flight and combat trainers don't come better than Mio Sakamoto. Chris is not rated for combat (her Striker is a trainer model, much less powerful than any intended for battle, and in the context of anti-Neuroi operations, the StG 44 is really only useful for familiarizing the operator with automatic gunfire in general) and so does not sortie with the group, but often trains with them on off days. She hasn't yet discovered her particular magical specialty, if she has one (not all witches do).
Something of the squadron's mascot, she's often to be found helping out around the base, endeavoring (with a slightly less fervent version of her elder sister's Karlslandic diligence) to be of help in any way she can. She and Yoshika (whom she resembles) are particular friends, and she often helps out in sickbay - and Yoshika makes her wear the nurse outfit too, which Trude finds... challenging.
Date of birth: June 20, 1923?
Striker model: n/a (but see below)
Weapon of choice: Fusō Type-99 autocannon, daishō
The man called Gryphon claims he's from an obscure, enclaved country tucked away in the woods of North Liberion ("it's like San Marino, only poor and remote"). Though plainly not a witch, he displays seemingly supernatural abilities, such as an equivalent to basic magical body reinforcement and a power very similar to a witch's standard shield spell (oddly, close inspection reveals that his magic circle is on the Fusō pattern, not the Liberion). He also carries Fusō-style swords and prefers their Type-99 aerial autocannon, though he packs a Liberion-style M1911A1 sidearm (for all the help that is against Neuroi). Most startlingly of all, he flies with the aid not of a Striker Unit, but of a backpack-mounted miniature jet propulsion device (or "jetpack"). Such a device is not just unknown, but widely considered impossible, previous efforts to develop something similar always having ended in disaster. With it, he can out-accelerate almost any Striker-equipped witch and outpace most of them, but he's less maneuverable. Since his fuel supply isn't connected to his will, it's strictly finite, although on the other hand, flying to the edge of the envelope doesn't personally exhaust him as it would a witch.
This is Gryphon's second sojourn with the 501st, the first having happened in 1943 (as shown in the LB&tB episode "The Longest Weekend", and referenced in the New Tricks special, of course). It's now the spring of 1946, or roughly a year after the scene at the end of New Tricks. The Allied forces have pushed the Neuroi entirely out of northern Gallia, the Low Countries, and Daneland, but have been unable as yet to dislodge them from Karlsland. Obviously, Gryphon's presence in the combat theater is completely undocumented and, indeed, very much unauthorized. He's considered a myth by most and a menace by some others, but the 501st and certain of their closest allies trust him implicitly and will go to great lengths to shield him from the unwanted, unhelpful attentions of the brass.