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Black Wolf is the nickname of former Russian Commonwealth submariner and Commander of the prototype Death Bringer submarine, Volodymyr Nikonov. Though he usually operates under contract to the Commonwealth he now runs a large and powerful mercenary outfit. Funded, in part, by the Tsar himself, the Black Wolf Company have a reputation for daring assaults and sudden ambushes that make them a force to be feared the world over.

Captain Volodymyr Nikonov had a reputation as a daring and unconventional officer even before joining the Commonwealth White Navy’s submarine development programme in 1864. He had honed his skills as a destroyer commander, running ‘unofficial’ covert missions in the Black Sea against the Sultanate navy, as part of the Stavka high command’s brief to assess the defences of the Dardanelles.

However, such skills also inflated Nikonov’s substantial ego. Wiry of build, dark-haired and charismatic, his subordinates nicknamed him ‘Black Wolf’ for both his appearance and hunting prowess. He came to think of himself as more of a corsair than a naval officer; styling himself upon such piratical legends as Blackbeard Teach and Sir Francis Drake. Not surprisingly, he found regular naval convention suffocating and dull, and was particularly aggrieved by the Navy’s perpetually subordinate position to the White Army. Nikonov was transferred to the submarine programme with the promise of additional status. His reputation as a maverick went before him, and his superiors believed that submarine duty would make the best use of his skills, and keep him conveniently isolated. He was offered command of the powerful experimental submarine Death Bringer. It seemed a perfect promotion for Nikonov and one he seized hungrily.

Begun in 1861 Proyeckt Pobeda (Victory Project) was one of earliest examples of Tsar Vladimir’s initiative to work with the Enlightened overseers known as the Troika. Thanks to the work of Commonwealth loyalist Helsinki Markov years earlier, the Russian Commonwealth was undergoing a resource-intensive push to advance their military to a technological level with their neighbours on the global stage. For too long the Tsar had lamented the sturdy but unsophisticated nature of his people's military might. Now with projects like this and the development of the infrasonic cannon, the Commonwealth was poised to push back against the likes of the Prussian Imperium, British Crown and Celestial Empire. 

At first, all seemed well. However, what the Black Sea Fleet Command did not know was that Nikonov’s resentment had already boiled over barely a year into his new commission. Rapidly tiring of his posting and seeing it as just more donkey work, Nikonov had become enamoured with the fine living he saw the Russian nobility and his commanding officers enjoying. Bitterly any hope that he might achieve this through marriage was dashed by repeated humiliations he felt his isolation placed on him. Nikonov saw the Death Bringer as a faster means to achieve what should rightfully have been his. This resentment was fostered amongst his crew, aided by his personal charisma and the close-knit bond that develops between all submariners. 

In 1866 During the final live-armed sea trials of Death Bringer, in front of the Tsar himself.  Nikonov led the submarine’s crew in a mass mutiny and they overwhelmed the Oprichnia agents and officers on board, ejecting them bodily through Death Bringer’s torpedo tubes. In this daring action, the Death Bringer easily eluded both sea and air patrols around the demonstration area and Nikonov took the sub to the Enlightened research and development facility in Kerch from where the Death Bringer was developed. Landing at night with a hand-picked shore party, he infiltrated the base, overpowered the constructs and babushka creations guarding it and stole the master copies of Death Bringer’s blueprints. His party then fired the magazines and fuel reserves, destroying the submarine dock and crippling Proyeckt Pobeda.

In the carnage and confusion, the Black Wolf escaped with Death Bringer. White Navy command sought him frantically, tracking him by the trail of destruction he left across the Black Sea. He pillaged and sank six Russian freighters before entering the Bosphorus, where his pursuers lost track of him. Nikonov followed his dream of becoming a pirate, operating as both corsair and mercenary, he became a scourge of the seas – hunted by many, but never captured.

For several years the tales of the Black Wolf became a regular source of gossip in the Royal Court, particularly with Princess Anastasia who seemed to delight in provoking her father by referring to the dashing Nikonov. Tsar Vladimir was a pragmatic man and with no hope of replicating the craft and fearing that his navy would be dealt a humiliation yet again in trying to capture Nikonov, his errant commander needed to be returned to the Commonwealth embrace by some other means. To that end the Tsar sent his eldest daughter, Anastasia, to meet with the legendary Black Wolf in the city of Novo-Arkhangelsk in Alaska. What happened during that meeting between two headstrong and ambitious individuals is not known but by Christmas 1871 the Black Wolf was engaged to Anastasia and tales of his exploits continued as he blazed a path of devastation throughout the Commonwealth's enemies. 

Nikonov finally has a lifestyle and status that he believes befits him. He can see a future where he marries Anastasia and claims the Tsar’s throne for himself. When not at court or in action Nikonov operates out of a gigantic converted Murmansk class vessel near Novo-Arkhangelsk. From this fortified harbour-ship he not only has the safety but has established a planning room to help with the execution of even more daring raids for pleasure and profit. The Tzar’s favourite story features the Black Wolf in a daring exploit to sink the Union battleship Hornet and Crown carrier Wessex. This attack was all the more thrilling (when Nikonov retells it) as the commanders of the two vessels were allegedly discussing a potential alliance and that the Black Wolf had to infiltrate the heavily-guarded Thames Estuary in London in order to sink them. 

In between carrying out missions for his future father-in-law, Nikonov has the latitude given to his growing fleet of submarines and assault craft to allow them to be deployed as mercenaries alongside many rival nations around the globe. Each battle adds not only to the coffers of the Black Wolf but also his prestige at court, even when to some observers such raids do little to further the Commonwealth…

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