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Dominions of the TalonEdit
The Order of the Talon is not a small organisation. Not simply in numbers, but in reach: the Talon's claws reach across the world from hidden bases and fortress-monasteries scattered across the globe. The mobile crawler cells form the mailed fist of the order, but it is these secretive bases where the majority of the Order's non-combat personnel reside and manage the non-militant functions of the Order as well as supporting warriors in the field by forging weapons and equipment, among other things.
|Name||The Sanctum Majoris|
|Function||Central Headquarters for the Order of the Talon|
Following the loss of their headquarters in Spain to Napoleon hundreds of years ago, the Order of the Talon was forced to relocate. Over the next hundred years the Order shifted locations several times, until an opportunity arose following the First World War. While the Talon already had strongholds within the Ottoman Empire, with that empire's formal dissolution the Order was free to establish a new headquarters in Palestine, briefly ruled by the Crusader states. The Order built a new, grand fortress-monastery in the country that had birthed the Judeo-Christian religions. Since then, the Sanctum Majoris has seen extensive construction and development, so much that it no longer resembles a citadel so much as it resembles a small, oddly archaic city blossoming amidst the desert sands.
The choice of location was more than merely symbolic as well. Asia Minor is perfectly situated for rapid access to Europe, North Africa, and Central Asia where the Talon most often operates, while the harsh environment and scarce population afford the Order with relative secrecy. Today, the Sanctum Majoris is where the vast majority of Talon military personnel reside when not on active service, and most importantly is the site of the Aperta Scriptum forges from whence the Order's famed walkers and Crawlers are produced. The recent global upheaval also saw the Order making ready for the now very real possibility that the Sanctum Majoris may face attack in the not too distant future, and the monastery city is now bustling with the construction of the finest defences the Order can conceive.
|Name||Saint Peter's Bastion|
|Location||File:Vaticanthumb.gif Vatican City, Rome|
Italy may be largely lost to the Syndicate's corruptive influence by now, but there is one final redoubt of morality and justice on that blighted peninsula: the Vatican City, an island of civilization in the bleak morass of the Rome MegaSprawl. This has less to do with any shreds of ethics or morality that might linger in the husks of Syndicate executives than it does the city's black-armoured defenders. The Catholic Church is not aware (publicly, at least) of the Talon's continued existence, but no one who lives in the Vatican City can miss the unmistakable signs that the Holy See has been made into a fortress. The average Vatican resident does not know who has fortified the city, or why Syndicate officials on anything but strict official business tend to disappear from the streets at night, but the symbol of an eagle, claws outstretched, is a popular sigil on public buildings throughout the city.
Saint Peter's Bastion, as the urban fortress is called by the Order of the Talon, is home to many of the most fanatical and ruthless warriors in the Order. To these men (there are no women - the Talon's institutional sexism is out in the open here), the Vatican must remain pure and free, no matter the cost. More than one Syndicate strike team has either vanished completely, or died in agony during a confusing battle against bizarre weapons and many, many flame weapons. The bastion is as close to invincible as the Talon is likely to ever make a place - a full-scale open Syndicate assault might be enough to crack it, but the Syndicate's own reluctance to harm the Vatican has saved it from the devastating battle that would ensue. The Talon defenders give no quarter to those who would defile the city, and expect none in return.
|Name||The Dagda Forge|
Unmarked factories churning out strange weapons and vehicles of war are not an unusual sight in Europe and North America these days, and very few civilians raise an eyebrow if they see a fantastical or downright bizarre piece of equipment roll out of a factory and into an equally unconventional transport. What is a fact of life for the Allied military-industrial complex is also the primary defence of the Talon's primary factory for armoured fighting vehicles - and it's a good one. The Dagda Automotive Company began life as a would-be producer of armoured fighting vehicles for the Allies during World War One, but problems in its designs threatened it with bankruptcy. Instead, the Order of the Talon quietly co-opted the company and its factory to produce tanks and support vehicles for the Order.
The forge itself is completely anonymous right under the Allies' noses - the factory's mysterious owners are known to pay well and be especially considerate of employees with strong religious convictions, and no one bats an eyelash at the story that the Allies want steam-powered tanks. Stranger things are employed by the Allies, after all. Much stranger things.
Port Vigilance, or Cocytus as it is known to the usually disgruntled personnel assigned there, is a secretive base of the Order of the Talon located on the desolate, frozen coast of Greenland. The base has little to recommend it - temperatures only a Russian could love, no trace of civilisation for days of journeying (save an Allied cryo-prison that has no idea they are not alone in the icy hell of Greenland), and little to do but work. On the other hand, the work Port Vigilance specialises in continues to attract volunteers year after year: here is where the Order of the Talon conducts the majority of its weapon trials, ensuring that they will work in the freezing cold as well as the boiling heat of the Sanctum Majoris, and safely away from intrusive eyes.
Every once in a great while, the Order is forced to render an Alert Icebreaker missing in action for unknown reasons in the icy seas, a fact that the Allies attribute on Soviet submarines lurking in this backwater region. To the amusement of some personnel at Port Vigilance, the Allies' Greenland Cryo-Prison has developed a healthy mythology of ghosts and other bizarre phenomena that stalk the ice, and some suspect that aliens have secretly landed in Greenland with strange black walkers that make great bangs and other strange noises, with an appropriate increase in ghost stories told to new arrivals at, supposedly, the only outpost of civilisation in Greenland.
|Name||Ayers Rock (Talon's Reach)|
Australia is an eminently agreeable location for the Order of the Talon - the Outback is little different from the deserts that the Talon now regard as their home territory, population is low even with the recent arrival of refugees, those same refugees have been fertile grounds for a Talon-inspired religious revival, and most importantly, the Outback is a wonderful place to hide. The Talon's official headquarters for East Asia and the Pacific is not, despite the name, actually located on or under Ayers Rock - rather, Ayers Rock is the nearest landmark of note, and the name stuck. The site of the facility is actually the location of an old watering hole converted Aborigines showed to the Talon, as water is the most important resource in the Outback. Ayers Rock is positively bustling with activity today in response to the Empire of the Rising Sun and Atomic China, which the Talon are intent on analysing and infiltrating.
The facility in turn has chosen to hide in plain sight as a small refugee town called Talon's Reach maintaining a tenuous livelihood in one of the more desolate regions on the planet. Not only does this subterfuge deflect Allied suspicion, but it also had an unexpected side effect of proving a lively source of intelligence and income for the Order as increasing numbers of tourists intent on seeing the Outback stop at the convenient and charming little town of Talon's Reach on their trips. This development has left the base's commander scratching his head, but he's not complaining, and it is now remarkably convenient for Talon operatives coming and going from the base to masquerade as tourists. The watering hole where the site is based is actually connected to a cavernous underground reservoir, so large that unlike any other camp on the continent it does not have an Allied water-conservation authority. Where the Talon would hide their crawlers before deployment on a crusade in the Far East is still a mystery to most speculators.
With the growing storm in Asia, the chances for the Cult to cause chaos were growing daily. Although the Cult could not operate openly in these areas, the radiation scorched plains of China, the war-torn areas of Vietnam, and the abandoned laboratories in Japan all gave places for the Cult to hide, recruit, or steal technology. If the Cult were to get their hands on nanotechnology, or wave-force technology, or even the monstrous weapons the Chinese were said to possess, the results would be catastrophic. However, the only base of operations in the area was Talon's Reach, which did not have the population to undertake any sizeable campaign. Should the need arise, they would require a large city of some importance in order to prevent this from occuring.
Since the Talon could not have such a city, they settled for Adelaide instead.
As Adelaide was a capital city, yet not as scrutinised as larger cities such as Sydney or Melbourne, it would allow them some level of political leverage along with protection from investigation. As well as this, despite having a relatively small population, it was still massive compared to the chronically understaffed Talon membership. Thus, the Talon set to work setting up a covert recruitment system, hoping to increase the number of foot soldiers they could field. Through years of work utilising of Talon-sympathetic priests, a carefully orchestrated religious revival movement, and underground propaganda, Adelaide has become the main site of Talon recruitment in the Australasian area. Of course, the program was helped especially by its numerous recruitment sites hidden in plain sight...
Another innocuous outpost of the Talon directly beneath the watchful eyes of the Allied Nations is what the Talon knows as Revelation Base and the Allies know as one of Imperial Germany's foremost regional news channels. Revelation Base has no access to Allied military information networks, but it allows unprecedented access to civilian news throughout the Allied Nations. It must be noted that only a very few members of this civilian media company know that their facility has been co-opted by the Order of the Talon, or that the assignments of reporters and their taskings are occasionally made for reasons other than what the employees are told. Revelation Base functions as a passive intelligence hub for the Talon, gathering news from the Allies and quietly passing it on rather than actively spying on controlling agents throughout Europe.
|Name||The Glade of Embers|
It is a sad fact that the Order has suffered immense casualties over the nine and a half hundred years of its existence. Some fell to the Cult, others to more mundane threats. The Talon's main headquarters relocated from Spain after being sacked by Napoleon, but a secondary facility in Spain remains: the shrine where the Talon intern and honour their fallen. Outwardly, the Glade of Embers is indistinguishable from any other private mausoleum or crypt in the old parts of Spain, and the occasional formal funerals held there are nothing unique. But here lie many of the Talon's greatest relics, from the remains of Aperta Scriptum to the coats of arms of each Grandmaster of the Order. It is even rumoured that the mortal remains of Joan of Arc are hidden somewhere in this crypt, protected by the greatest measures of defence and deception the Order can muster. But it is only a rumour, and the sheer size of the Glade's quiet halls is a sobering testament to the price the Talon have paid for their vigil.
Although the capital of Denmark no longer has a strong industrial base, it retains a few factories churning out war material for the Allies, and one aircraft factory that, unbeknowest to the city's populace, manufactures aircraft for a very different organisation. The Copenhagen Aeroforge is a relatively recent addition to the Order of the Talon, established in 1922 when the Order covertly bought out a section of disused residential buildings that had become a temporary base for the Cult and established a new sacred forge in its place. Here, to better blend in with the native Danish industry, it was decided that Copenhagen would be home to the Talon's first dedicated aeroforge, manufacturing the mighty Lazarus Air Dreadnoughts plus whatever else the forges might develop in the future. It has been a successful operation to date, and today over sixty percent of all aircraft used by the Order were forged in the Copenhagen facility.
Large camps filled with drilling individuals of all ages, carefully watched over by towers and armed guards while loudspeakers blare orders are anything but an unusual sight in Russia, and it would never occur to the Soviets that there is one such camp in particular that the Union never authorised. Fort Absolution, as the Talon named it, is one of the major facilities where suitable candidates for conversion to the Talon doctrine and brought, and the last place such candidates will ever see until they embrace the Talon cause. Taking a lesson from the Soviets themselves, here the Talon carefully monitor all candidates for conversion and place them in an intensive regimen of re-education and indoctrination.
Outsiders might call the techniques employed at Fort Absolution "brainwashing", but the Talon would disagree and outsiders are unaware of Fort Absolution's true masters in any event. That said, the garrison at this facility does not take chances, and there are only two ways for guests to leave: in a Talon transport bound for Palestine, or in a body bag bound for an unmarked grave.
|Location||Death Valley, United States of America|
|Function||Elite combat training|
Pain is weakness leaving the body, or so the saying goes. If that is true, then the graduates of Azrael Academy must be free of weakness indeed. The base is located in one of the harshest environments the Talon could find: Death Valley in the United States, and here are trained the very elite of the Talon's ground forces. Demanding religious and tactical instruction is married with brutal combat training and wilderness survival, and the Allied Nations would find the facility's death toll sufficient grounds to try its commandant for war crimes. The Talon, however, accept such losses as the necessary price to be paid for purity and strength. Lady Maria herself is a graduate of Azrael's full intensive training course, and all would-be Crusaders are required to survive at least one of the academy's gruelling physical and tactical courses before their name will even be considered for command of a Crawler Cell, and the vast majority of Crusaders spend years in this miserable hellhole. The land, the weather, and even the instructors are without mercy or pity for the weaknesses of students, but then, so are the enemies such students will be expected to fight.
|Name||St. Rita's Hospital|
|Location||Rochester, Minnesota, United States of America|
|Function||Triage of wounded Talon soldiers|
With so few Talon soldiers, and such intensive training and resources invested in each one, the Talon cannot afford to lose any wounded soldiers. The first-class medical facilities of Rochester, Minnesota, home of the Mayo Clinic, serve the Talon's needs perfectly. The Mayo Clinic, known to the Talon as St. Rita's, was bankrolled by the Mayo Brothers, a wealthy pair of investors who started the hospital after a devastating tornado ravaged southeastern Minnesota. The public officials that authorised its construction never knew that its true purpose was to treat the injured survivors of the latest sparrings with the Cult. Neither did they know that the Mayo Brothers were important monetary contributors to the Talon's efforts. As a relatively small city with no military targets, Rochester was the perfect place to hide in plain sight for the Talon. Entire wings of the hospital have been ostensibly "Closed for Renovations" to the public, but the wards are full of injured Talon soldiers, being treated by the best of the country's doctors and nurses.
|Location||Wyoming, United States of America|
|Function||Command and Control Hub|
An ambitious American project to hollow out Cheyenne Mountain and refit it as a massive self-contained bunker and communications hub was cancelled by the Allies at the conclusion of World War Two, reasoning that there was no longer a need for such a facility - the Soviets had no intercontinental weapons, and their ability to strike at North America directly was clearly limited, and so all funding for the project was cancelled. No one told the contractors this, however, and Cheyenne Mountain was completed to specifications and on schedule.
The Order of the Talon, which had secretly assumed financing of the project when the Allies canceled it, promptly moved in and began using the massive facility for precisely the same function as the Americans had intended to use it for, with the only alteration to the original plans being the installation of powerful clockwork computing devices in the largest concentration of such machinery outside Jerusalem itself. The elders of the Talon are surprised but pleased with the relatively smooth functioning of Cheyenne Mountain, and have recently begun using it as a stockpile site for weapons and supplies as well. The signs outside the facility still proclaim it to be the property of the United States of America, and the Order has encountered no trouble masquerading as a secretive branch of the American government. Although, some of the staff are now concerned that they may be a target for the Confederate movement sweeping across the nation.
|Name||The Leviathan Deep|
One of the more stunning technological feats of the Order was its success in building a popular concept from science fiction: a self-sustaining undersea base. Located on the bottom of the Caribbean Sea, and accessible only by a Talon Steel tunnel buried in the ocean floor connecting to the Order's outpost in Martinique, Leviathan Deep is nothing less than a steam-powered miracle to the very, very few members of the Order who know of its existence. Built into an undersea cavern that the Order sealed and pumped dry, then converted into a base station, the secrecy surrounding the base exists for good reason - here rest the primary archives of the Order of the Talon, as far away from prying eyes as the Order can conceive. Built to withstand hundreds of direct hits from torpedoes, depth charges, and even sinking shipwrecks that might strike it, the Leviathan Deep archive safely hides many of the Order's most precious documents and relics. In the event that enemies somehow invade the base, there are no fewer than twelve independent mechanisms in place to evacuate the archives of all material without alerting intruders.
The Talon's regional headquarters for the Western Hemisphere can be found deep in the Amazon jungle, a hidden fortress of steam and steel in a verdant sea. Here, not even a mighty Crawler could hope to penetrate the jungle, and hence must make the journey on the Amazon River itself and its tributaries. New Eden is a recently established facility by Talon standards, and is still being expanded and brought up to speed with other Talon installations. As a result of the climate and environment, the Talon have problems maintaining their equipment in this hidden outpost, and there is active discussion within the Order of re-establishing a regional headquarters elsewhere, such as the Cheyenne Mountain facility once the current American civil war settles down or perhaps in the cold hinterlands of Canada. For now, though, New Eden continues to grow in preparation for any new Crusades that might have to be launched in the Americas, and Talon missionaries have had limited but promising results in their initial efforts to contact nearby deep-jungle tribes and begin evangelical operations.
|Name||The Redemption Grounds|
|Function||Redemption, Iron Mining/Refining|
To the Talon agents monitoring the Spanish exploration of the New World, gold was not the most valuable resource the conquistadors could find. Nor was it slaves or silver or gems. Rather, the Talon were most interested in the New World as a source of iron ore for the Order's forges. Ideally, the Talon needed to secure their own supply of iron rather than relying on false traders and, later, shell companies. They succeeded, and Talon operatives established a de facto Order-controlled iron mine in the mountains of Venezuela, and had access to an incredibly rich deposit at that. Other agents, of course, saw to it that the mine never appeared in Spanish logs, and for centuries now the Redemption mine has been supplying the Order with the raw material for Talon Steel, among other uses for the ore.
However, beginning in the nineteenth century, the Talon found another use for the mine. Previously, traitors to the Order were summarily executed, and the Talon refused to take prisoners under any circumstances. Both of these approaches had begun to change - though members of the Cult were always executed, a policy that stands today - and the Talon decided to put traitors and prisoners who would not submit to the Order to work in the Redemption mine, lending it the new name of the Redemption Grounds. Sophisticated steam and clockwork technology ensure that the labour is difficult and strenuous but not health-threatening, and more than a few prisoners put to work in the mine have re-evaluated their position on the Order in time, precisely as the inquisitors intended. The Redemption Grounds are not a place for slave labour (though the prisoners might disagree on that point), and stints in the mines are a useful alternative to death or fasting as a punishment for serious offenses within the Order's rules.
|Location||Cornwall, United Kingdom|
|Function||Communication, Intelligence Analysis|
A few miles along the coast from the Cornish town of Penzance, lies a small, whitewashed, wooden hut, secluded in a small bay. Decades ago, it was from this hut that the British Empire ran dozens of under-sea telegraph cables, reaching to every corner of the Globe, from America in the west, to India in the east. Nowadays, the hut stands disused, its white boards bleached and peeling, its windows cracked, and its abandoned telegraphy equipment silent, and uncared for. An unheard-of monument to a bygone age of imperialism and industry.
Few have examined the hut in any detail, since it was last abandoned. Certainly nobody has noticed that the cables buried beneath the hut have been spliced into, and redirected to Penzance Abbey, on its nearby scenic overlook of the bay. To all who have seen it, the Abbey is little more than a closed monastery, the only contact with the outside world being the occasional lay-Brothers who infrequently journey into town to buy tools and supplies. Nobody would even begin to suspect that beneath the Abbey's grounds lies a hidden labyrinth of catacombs and caves, filled with many of the Talon's brightest Forgemaster staff and Inquisitorial agents. Their purpose is to maintain communications with the the Order's cells around the world, aided by one of the Order's largest Analytical Engines. Due to their vast network of informers, hundreds of reports flood into the Abbey's Engines every week, through which its diligent staff filter and sift for the vital clues that may lead them to the next Cult stronghold.
|Function||Shipyard, Trade Port, Naval Headquarters|
A casual tourist visiting Malta might remark that Malta seems to be a picturesque island in the Mediterranean, with towering age old fortresses from centuries past to the modern and bustling harbor present for all manner of ships, be they military or commercial. While the island may appear to be a nice tourist destination in the Mediterranean that is not controlled by the Syndicate, what actually lies beneath this careful facade would surprise many.
The history of the island is grand, dating back to the first ancient seafaring civilisation, the Phoenicians, and continuing to the glory days of Rome, and reaching its apex during the Renaissance when it was under the control of the Knights Hospitallers. After having fought off a brutal siege by the Ottoman Empire, most likely influenced by the Cult, the Hospitallers were then suddenly greeted by the Talon, an Order they thought was destroyed. After careful negotiations and deliberations, the Knights Hospitallers ceded de facto control of Malta to the Talon only if they were allowed incorporation to the Order with status as equal members. As it stands today, the Hospitallers are an essential part of the Order as they are the best seafarers and naval tacticians due to their history of dealing with the threats of piracy from the usual band of raiders to the cunning Barbary Corsairs.
Unsurprisingly, due to its history Malta is a predominantly Catholic country with approximately 98% of its population being Catholic. This is one the factors that drew the Talon to Malta, as with such a large proportion of Catholics the Talon would be able to recruit many into their ranks while being to operate without suspicion. However the main reason for why the Talon prize Malta is due to its strategic nature. One would wonder where the Talon seems to obtain the finances necessary to fund their operations. The Order has many sources of funding, and Malta provides them with a major source of funding through tourism and trade, thanks to its strategic location and picturesque scenery.
In addition, the strategic location of Malta makes it an excellent naval base for the Talon. A large portion of the Talon fleet is stationed in Malta as a deterrent to any power who plans to potentially invade Palestine, to counter the growing Syndicate threat due to the close proximity to Italy, and to act as a strategic reactionary force for any conflicts that involve the Talon in the region. This is all possible due to the natural harbour present which allows for easy access for the Talon and is easily defended. To the many residents of Malta who are unaware of the Talon, the archaic looking steam powered ships that make up the Talon fleet are easily passed off as a bunch of historical re-enactors using steam powered ships. As of late Malta has become a booming and bustling tourist destination for many, including Talon members themselves. The Talon understands that even its members need to relax and wind down sometimes, and Malta is one of the most popular destinations for Talon members going on vacation. Only time will tell if this island that has withstood the assaults of Carthage, the Ottomans, and quite recently the Syndicate will hold up to its reputation as a stalwart redoubt in these dire times.