Claire wanted to fly.
It was an overcast day but the clouds were high in the sky and the air was calm when she walked out onto the River City Base tarmac for pilot tryouts.
Claire had joined the Ladies Division of the Avaline Air Guard to work on the hangar deck refueling and towing aeroplanes. Working alongside men who flew the machines that sailed among the clouds was the closest she might ever come to flying them herself.
But even that wasn’t enough for her any more.
The concrete airstrip stretched out to her left, bright white in the diffused sunlight. The dreadnaught Omnipotent hung in the sky to the west, black and angular. The hangar deck crew were there in their canvas coveralls, but the fly-boys wore their leather flight jackets like badges of pride. None of them knew that the C. Genaille who'd signed up today was a woman, but they would in a moment.
Someone called out names. “Sebastien Sine, Quentin Chevalier, Rene Dufont, C. Genaille.”
Three young men stepped out towards the training planes taxiing onto the ramp. Claire steeled herself, held her head high and followed them, flight goggles in hand.
Across the ramp, the first to notice her was the Admiral's bastard son, Michel Prideaux. Ace pilot, call sign Redwing. He liked to play with people like a cat plays with a mouse, for no other reason that he was bored. Claire's stomach turned to ice at his gaze.