Black Swan
Black Swans The Black Swan

Perhaps the most enigmatic figured in modern aviation is "The Black Swan," a pirate (or privateer, depending on your point of view) currently operating in and around the Empire State. The Swan (real name unknown) is a woman of mystery, indeed of many mysteries. Fliers in all corners of North America seem to revel in tall tales about this beautiful pirate, most wildly contradictory (and often outrageous). The Swan seems to be aware of each of these tales, and in fact seems to go out of her way to acknowledge all of them as truth (while simultaneously hinting that none are the whole truth).

The fact remains: no one knows where she was born, what her real name is, nor even her nationality. (She has claimed to be a Russian.) Public fascination with the Swan is not limited to her exploits as a pirate; society columns and magazines routinely feature stories of who she has been seen with, and speculations on who her current paramour is. Many men have tried to win the heart of this raven-haired, exotic beauty—some of whom have died under the Swan's guns in battle. All of this has contributed to make the Black Swan one of the most romantic, flamboyant figures currently in the public eye.

The Swan's first documented exploits occurred in 1924, in eastern Alaska. A small community newspaper contained a brief notice of a new "pit fighter" (an unsavory, violent sport favored by local pirates), a young woman named "Talia." "Talia" moved from the fighting pits to the cockpits of airplanes, proving as graceful and deadly a pilot as she had been a pit fighter, earning the nickname "The Black Swan."

The Swan became a pilot with Kunetsov's Kestrels, a White Russian pirate band preyed upon expatriate Russian, Eskimo, Canadian, and American outposts indiscriminately. The Swan's career with the Kestrels ended in a dispute with the group's leader, Anatoly Kunetsov. (The Swan reportedly challenged Kunetsov to an air-duel. Kunetsov survived, but has refused to go near an aircraft ever since.)

After leaving the Kestrels, the Swan moved on to Mexico, where she effectively disappeared. Various stories claim she flew from Mexico to Havana, went to Europe, or was merely felled by the influenza pandemic of 1927, which rolled into Mexico in early 1928.

After the collapse of the United States, the Swan moved back north in 1930, where she jumped from one pirate bands to another. During this period, the Swan was featured more and more prominently in the popular press (which painted her as a modern Robin Hood). In fact, the Swan—a dangerous flier and ruthless adversary to be certain—encouraged her pirates to be careful and circumspect in their selection and treatment of targets.

The Swan's fliers minimized damage to structures, particularly civilian buildings. The Swan often made sure that certain captured cargoes (medicines, for example) were delivered to the communities for which they were meant, sacrificing the profit she could have made by selling them on the black market. (Such actions are likely the source of the rumor that the flu almost got her in 1927.)

Also unique among pirates is the Black Swan's addition of a chaplain to every group she has ever joined. Devoutly Russian Orthodox, she attends services whenever possible; rumors abound of her entering churches humbly dressed, joining a community in worship, then leaving to raid elsewhere but leaving her fellow worshippers alone. In early 1932, the Black Swan again vanished, this time for approximately six months, after which she returned to Colorado and joined Red Sky's pirate band. She remained with Sky's group for a year and a half, but left in 1934. Shortly after, the Swan formed her own pirate band, and pirates who had flown with her over the years scrambled to join up.

In Amarillo, the Swan's new hijacked a Republic of Texas zeppelin (which has since become the Swan's flagship). In the four years since then, the Black Swan has systematically staged raids in the People's Collective, the Industrial States of America, Dixie and the Republic of Texas. Recently, the Swan and her band have received letters of marque from the Empire State's President (presumably to prevent her from attacking local shipping). As a privateer, the Swan mostly preys on Dixie and I.S.A. shipping, so successfully that the price on her head now tops $10,000.