"We're supposed to operate as a harmonious unit, you godless Snake!"
The Black Talons are nothing new. Essentially a very elite guerrilla warfare organization, their goal is to harass and hurt the CEF, enabling the Terranovans and their allies to win a war against the NEC. The best historical parallel I can draw is that of the OSS, SOE and other Allied special organizations involved in causing havoc in Nazi-occupied Europe in the Second World War. They were in constant contact with the Resistance, just as the Black Talons are in constant contact with the various indigenous resistance movements on other planets (as an aside, many resistance movements in Heavy Gear work against each other while they fight the CEF together. This has an historical analogue during the Second World War as well). In writing these alternate rules, I'm going to vaguely model the Black Talons on these sorts of organizations.
The Talons are organized in a fairly loose structure. On top is Talon Command, which answers directly to the Westphalia Cabinet. Subordinate to Talon Command are the various branches of the Talon Program. They include:
Intelligence: Briefly mentioned in the Black Talon Field Guide (p. 55), the "Black Talon Safety Net" has two important jobs: first, to compile and analyze information that field units uncover, second, to act as a counterintelligence service on Terranova. Consequently, the Intel Branch is divided into the Analysis Office and Counterintelligence Office. The Counterintelligence Office is also assigned the task of guarding the high-level members of the Westphalia Cabinet.
Research and Development: This is the Black Talon Werks, as outlined in the Black Talon Field Guide. It operates in close cooperation with the surviving research and development assets of Paxton Arms. This can result in some territorial battles over technological developments, as the 'Werks may not wish to share information with Paxton Arms. However, these confrontations are rare, as most of the Paxton personnel are fully committed to the Black Talon Program. The Black Talon Werks is currently busy developing a third generation gatedrive, among other things.
Exploration: This is the least developed and currently most superfluous of the branches in the Program. While the long-term goal of this branch is to eventually map out the gate network, it is currently tasked with reestablishing contact with former colony worlds. The first Black Talon teams on a former colony world are always accompanied by at least one member of the Exploration Branch. The Exploration and Intelligence Branches are currently hard at work updating the records on all the former colonies.
Field Operations: This is the largest Branch in the Talon Program. It handles all special operations against NEC assets. The immensity of the aforementioned task necessitated that the Field Ops Branch be divided into Planetary Offices, although this division is quite informal and is just there to help the Intelligence people compile information. A Black Talon team that performed a raid on Caprice may end up going to Utopia on its next mission. Most Black Talon teams are gear-commando units, but there are a large variety of specialist teams in existence.
"Now, let me get this straight. You want us to drop onto Caprice, blow up a whole ton of keffer stockpiles, escape to the Liberati and teach them how to use gears? Do I get a dental plan?"
Caporal Orlie Gauchin, 85th Black Talon
Black Talon Program entry requirements are substantial, but not impossible. First and foremost is a commitment to Terranova as a whole. This is the primary requirement of Talon recruiters and has not diminished in importance since the early days when recruiting had to be done secretly. Of secondary importance are the talents the potential recruit can contribute to the Program. Good pilots and gunners are needed, but even front-line gear-commandos need to be well rounded and accomplished.
Here are the recruiting requirements listed by Branch. They are intended to be quite flexible; depending on the needs of the Program and the talents displayed by the potential recruits, any or all requirements can be dropped. The idea is to promote flexibility and quick thinking in the field.
The 'Werks recruit separately, drawing from the small pool of surviving Paxton technicians, and anyone else that they need. 'Werks recruiters look for technical savvy, but are very careful to weed out those prospective recruits who cannot improvise.
Counterintelligence agents are recommended to have basic military training, but this is often waived.
"All will become clear in time, my children."
Sgt. Jakob Petrush
The Black Talon Program is fortunate in that all personnel who join are already experienced in their field. This precludes the extensive training that is normally required. However, some advanced training is necessary, as well as extensive cross training in order for the Black Talon teams to be fully effective in the field. Furthermore, field agents must train together in order to forge cohesive units.
The following training regimens will only provide a level 1 in the indicated skill if the character does not have the skill. The training is not extensive enough to improve an already existing skill. The entire regimen, including space training, takes two seasons (84 days) to complete. In deference to play balance issues, I do not recommend generating characters and then putting them through this training regimen at the outset. That's pretty weak. Make those new characters work a little before giving them access to things like Dark Cheetahs and Fury shuttles!
While the following list is not exhaustive, here are a few suggestions for Black Talon units to fill out the ranks of the Westphalia Cabinet's elite program.
Wet Drop HALO: The Talon team lucky enough to get sent to Atlantis on infiltration and sabotage missions has a rather unique insertion technique: High Altitude, Low Opening parachute drops into water. Not only do the operatives have to be expert swimmers and submersible pilots, but also they have to be veteran parachutists.
Summer Camp: Perhaps one of the most important roles any Black Talon team will take on is that of teaching other colonies how to pilot Heavy Gears. In addition to gear pilot training, Black Talon members may have to teach rebels basic guerrilla warfare techniques. The Teaching skill will be very important here.
Techheads: Commando operations, both in and out of heavy gears are going to be a standard mission for Black Talon teams. However, the need for infiltration and intelligence gathering teams has also been recognized. The infiltration of Caprice by Black Talon teams presents a problem due to the high level of computerization that has gone on in Gomorrah. Doubtless, a team of computer, cryptology and security specialists will be very valuable in the Cat's Eye Trench.
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