|Motto:||Machine is better then meat|
|Enemies:||Various Kansas communities|
- "Machine is better than meat"
- ―Iron Klaw slogan
The Iron Klaw are an unusual raider gang based in the wastelands of northern Kansas. The group are defined by their use of cybernetics to augment themselves, treating human modification as an almost divine purpose and goal. Harsh and brutal by raider standards, the Klaw’s fearsome reputation is aided by their often horrific modifications.
The origins of the Iron Klaw lie with the Reaver movement that flourished in the Midwest during the late 22nd century. The Reavers worshipped technology to the point of building a mythology and pantheon around misunderstood pre-war concepts. At the same time, they used pre-war cybernetics to augment themselves and their abilities. The bulk of the Reaver movement were either wiped out or captured by the Chicago chapter of the Brotherhood of Steel or the Calculator’s army, but a number of them would survive the conflict.
Mark Benjamin Michaels was a descendant of one of those survivors. While long separated by time and distance from the Reavers, his family had maintained their cybernetics, passing them down from generation to generation. By the time they reached him, most were no longer functional, their use more ceremonial than practical. None the less, at his coming of age, he did undergo modification and received optical enhancements as well as a sensor unit to enhance his abilities.
However, rather then just trying to preserve what he saw as a dead culture, he chose to use these gifts to their fullest. Taking the name Black Klaw, in 2279, Michaels muscled his way into a local raider gang and seized control of it after killing their leader. Many within the gang, who at the time were mostly low-technology tribals, saw him as being possessed of magical abilities, given his supposedly supernatural eyesight and senses, and treated him with a degree of awe. Using this reverence, Black Klaw was able to reshape the gang into his own image, turning a group of rabble into a deadly fighting force. He absorbed several other gangs by force, taking control of a large swathe of the northern Kansas wastelands and uniting them under the banner of what he called the Iron Klaw.
While he had a powerbase, Michaels saw himself as being more than just another petty raider warlord. He had maintained an interest in human augmentation and modification, and sought out sources of technology that could be used to further enhance himself and others. He came to believe that the Reaver movement was correct to embrace technology, but ultimately flawed in its reverence. Rather, he developed his own beliefs that machinery was superior to human flesh, and that one should embrace that superiority through cybernetic augmentation. However, he was still limited by a lack of technology; the Reavers’ original sources were long-depleted, and there were no groups that he knew of with the capacity to manufacture cybernetics.
Reports reached him of a town called Clay Centre where there had been unusual technology passing through the markets. Iron Klaw sent agents to the town to learn more about it and where it had come from. After confirming that the tech was indeed cybernetic upgrades, Klaw captured and interrogated the merchant to find the source of his wares, tracing them to an abandoned typewriter factory on the outskirts of the town. While much of the above-ground portion of the facility had long ago been stripped by scavengers, he found something far more interesting lurking below.
Before the war, the Factory had been converted into a cybernetics research and development facility and assembly line. While much of the machinery was non-functional, there was still an ample stockpile of cybernetics simply awaiting installation. Iron Klaw took this as a validation of his cause, and took it upon himself to undergo several further modifications using the stockpiled technologies. Emerging from the factory as half-man, half-machine, he convinced the Iron Klaw of the power of his ‘gifts’ and offered those loyal to him a chance to embrace what he preached was the way of the future.
The gang descended upon the factory in force, taking control of it and blockading it against any further intrusion. Over the course of the next month, the majority of the gang members underwent upgrades. Those that chose not to for whatever reason were simply killed to make an example, or used as test subjects for the rest of the gang to try out their new abilities. And while there were a few who died during the surgical process, their cybernetics were immediately reinstalled into the next willing subject.
During this time, the people of Clay Centre gave the factory a wide berth, hoping that the raiders would simply take whatever they wanted from it and then leave them be. Instead, the town was descended upon by an army of crazed half-men, who slaughtered anyone who offered even a hint of resistance. Having secured the town, Black Klaw declared it to be his new seat of power, renaming it Steelgrave.
Having established a foothold, Black Klaw set about expanding his reach. He began aggressively pursuing other raider gangs, offering them the chance to join his ‘cause’ and undergo cybernetic upgrades themselves. Those that accepted became members of the Iron Klaw, equipped with whatever augmentations that were available. Those that refused were either enslaved or killed. The Klaw were far less magnanimous towards their targets, the communities, traders, farms and whatever else they raided. Anyone who offered even a hint of resistance was gruesomely killed, with the Klaw taking whatever they wanted. However, Black Klaw were careful to avoid any entanglements with the Chicago Brotherhood of Steel, knowing full well that his gang lacked the strength to take them on.
After their initial explosive growth, the Iron Klaw has entered into a consolidation phase as it solidified rule over its conquered lands. For the moment, a finite supply of augmentations remains their biggest concern, as the gang have no way to create more beyond their scavenged stockpile and repurposing other technology. In response, Black Klaw has ordered that the gang search for new sources of technology that they can use to further upgrade themselves, or even possibly restart production of cybernetics at their factory.
The Iron Klaw are defined primarily by their use of cybernetics, as well as the philosophies behind their employment. At the heart of their beliefs is the concept that technology is superior to humanity, and that the most fit to rule are those that have shown a willingness become more machine. This belief, however, covers only human augmentation. The Iron Klaw do not hold robots or artificial intelligences in any reverence; in fact, they are more likely to destroy a robot for parts then anything else.
At the base of their philosophy is the idea that such modifications must be done voluntarily entirely of the individual’s own free will. The key point in the initiation of a potential new gang member is what they call the Sacrifice of Flesh, where a would-be recruit voluntarily gives up a healthy, functioning part of their body to replace it with cybernetics. Many in order to further prove themselves will self-mutilate, plucking out eyes or slicing of hands to prove a point. Somebody who took a prosthesis as a medical replacement would not be eligible to join unless they were willing to further mutilate themselves. The Iron Klaw do not hold any biases on the basis of race, gender or species, as long as one is willing to undergo the sacrifice of flesh.
Further ascension within the Iron Klaw’s ranks is based on a combination of loyalty, drive, ruthlessness and the willingness to undergo further modification. It is the latter element that is the most prominent, as the more modifications a gang member has, the higher they rise in its ranks. This is based on both their own desire to further ‘embrace the machine’ a well as a recognition of their sacrifice and dedication. Of course, given that the gang has no ability to manufacture its own augmentations, there is often harsh competition for rare and valuable resources and technology. So much so that the dead bodies of fallen gang members are recovered wherever possible so their augmentations can be ‘recycled’ for other members.
Coupled with this drive towards physical augmentation is a philosophical creed based around the destruction of the old world and those gorups that would seek to recreate or preserve it. To the Iron Klaw, the Great War was proof that the old world and mankind had failed. They see it as their purpose to ‘cleanse’ the world of the remnants of the past and to sweep it clean to build a new order upon, a technocracy modelled upon themselves. Groups such as the Brotherhood of Steel that try to preserve the old world are seen as their greatest enemies. However, the Iron Klaw do not destroy indiscriminately, and deliberately seek out technology that could aid them.
Due to a scarcity of technology and available augmentations, the Iron Klaw make extensive use of “baseline” (unaugmented) troops to fill out their ranks. These soldiers (known as the ‘unworthy’) are usually conscripts or the remnants of raider gangs that have been absorbed into their ranks, and are kept in line as much by greed as a fear of their cybernetic overlords. Some of those who are drafted into their ranks become enamoured of the Klaw and their ways, and so undergo the sacrifice of flesh to ‘ascend’ to their ranks.
The lack of ability to create new cybernetic augmentations is the single biggest current obstacle for the Iron Klaw. Numerous efforts have been made to get their factory restarted, but those have so far proven to be unsuccessful. While the Klaw have the skills to implant technology into their members (aided by the few functioning elements of the factory and medical robots) the combination of age, neglect, experimental technology and the sheer scope of the project has so far proven to be an insurmountable obstacle. As such, while the Klaw do have a stockpile of parts, the ability to recycle components from fallen gang members and the repurposing of other technologies to draw upon, their capacity to continue upgrading themselves is effectively limited.
The signature equipment of the Iron Klaw is their cybernetics. All of the gang’s leadership and ranking members have at least one cybernetic augmentation implant, provided to them following their sacrifice of flesh. The actual modifications will vary wildly between individuals, based on the combination of their seniority, the technology available to them and how much of their bodies they are willing to rip away. In the most minor cases these will be minor ones, such as optical implants or sensor modules. In more extreme cases, they will include entire limbs. In all cases, the Klaw’s members will make their augmentations obvious as a sign of their power and prestige.
Most of these implants are sourced from the pre-war stockpiles that Black Klaw discovered in the cybernetics factory. Others come from other sources, such as battlefield scavenging or repurposing of other technologies such as robot parts. Wherever possible, the Iron Klaw will recycle components by stripping them from the dead bodies of fallen members in order to increase their lifespan (Conversely, the Iron Klaw show no reverence at all for the bodies otherwise).
While not compulsory, many of the Iron Klaw wear masks to cover their faces while also making them seem more machine-like. Many feature deliberately frightening or disquieting designs. Otherwise, the bulk if their armour is made from repurposed scrap metal and other junk, although some of the higher-ranking (or luckier) members wear pre-war body armour. Similarly, their weapons run the gamut from blades and machetes to scratch-built ‘pipe’ weapons and pre-war firearms, but energy weapons are almost entirely unheard of. Some raiders have various weapons grafted onto their cybernetics, such as blades or claws.
Formerly known as Clay Centre, this town was largely destroyed in the aftermath of the great war. Left for decades without clean water in the dust bowl that Kansas had become, the town began to crawl back to life in the late 22nd century as a crossroads for traders travelling along the old US Interstate system. Even then, much of the pre-war town remained in ruins with the population instead concentrated in its centre. Many of the old buildings had fallen down or were in disrepair, and new construction had taken their place. The result is that Clay Centre resembled something of a shantytown.
In 2284 the town was conquered by the Iron Klaw in a short but bloody battle. The surviving population were enslaved, and put to work supporting the gang’s needs while being kept in line by harsh punishments and the simple terrifying presence of their cyborg overlords. The town now serves as the gang’s base of operations for many of their operations and raids, as well as their expeditions in search of technology. The Iron Klaw have set up a pair of surgical centres here to provide augmentations to their members, as well as new recruits.
Ace Typewriter Factory No. 1
Located outside of Steelhaven, the Ace Typewriter Factory No. 1 was rediscovered by Michaels in 2284 after lying idle for two hundred years. Not just any pre-war factory, it was, in fact, the seed from which the Iron Klaw were born. Formerly a typewriter factory as the name suggested, it was rebuilt before the war into a secret cybernetics research facility by its owners, where work was done on human augmentation and implantation. At the same time, a series of assembly lines were constructed to mass-produce augmentations once they were perfected. Below ground, the factory had considerable laboratory and medical facilities for experimentation and development.
Production had only just begun when the Great War had broken out, with the first few production runs stockpiled for transport. While the building survived intact, the majority of the staff either died in the fallout or fled. This left Michaels and the nascent Iron Klaw with the materials they needed to create their own cybernetic soldiers. However, to date, all efforts to restart production have failed. Despite this, the Iron Klaw are determined to reactivate the factory so they can build their vision of the future. Several of the subterranean medical laboratories are functional, however, and serve as the main cybernetic modification facilities for the gang.
Fortified since its rediscovery, the factory serves as the seat of power for Black Klaw and his gang. However, the majority of the group usually reside in Steelgrave, or are in the field. The factory is also home to several reconditioned pre-war Robots that are either used as surgical assistants or their reconstruction efforts.
The leader and founder of the Iron Klaw, Mark Benjamin Michaels (alias Black Klaw) was already a towering and imposing figure before he underwent augmentations. The creator of the philosophies behind the gang, Black Klaw is thoroughly convinced that the only way forward for humanity is to become more machine themselves, while also destroying any lingering remnants of the past that might try to drag them back down. He is thoroughly ruthless in the pursuit of his goals, seeing mercy and compassion as being weaknesses that should be purged from his ‘better’ humanity.
He has thoroughly embraced his own beliefs, having undergone extensive cybernetic reconstruction over time. All four of his limbs have been replaced with mechanical prosthesis, all stronger and more powerful then the originals. The also boasts optical enhancements, sensory augmentations, spinal reinforcement, data processors and other modifications. The result is that not only is he a powerful killing machine, but he is also able to efficiently and effectively monitor and command his troops, which is a massive advantage in the often disorganised battles of the wastelands.
Klaw’s face is rarely seen, and instead is usually hidden behind a metal mask. Over time, legends have grown up about what lies beneath, ones that usually are horrific in and of themselves. He does very little to discourage these, feeling that it adds to his presence, transforming him into some sort of living legend.
A member of the Iron Klaw, Amber Flores earned her nickname for two reasons. The first was her unerring marksmanship, which is considered to be the best in all of the Iron Klaw. The second are her occular implants that have aided that accuracy, which as left her with lifeless, featureless, cold white eyes. Even within the Iron Klaw, many find this look to be unnerving, seeing her as being inhuman even by their standards.
Dead Eye’s behaviour does little to discourage this perception. As a sniper, she is utterly cold and merciless, quickly and efficiently dispatching targets without the slightest hint of emotion or concern over who her target is. In many cases, she has been used to quietly eliminate ‘problem’ individuals, including members of the Iron Klaw. While a latecomer to the gang and relatively lightly augmented, her actions and unquestioned execution of orders has made her one of Black Klaw’s personal favourites.
A mid-ranked member of the gang, Talon is an enforcer who is most recognised for her artificial limbs. Rather than being purpose-designed cybernetics, they are in fact modified from a destroyed C-27 Humanoid Robot. The result is that the limbs, while oversized for her frame, are also superhumanly strong. They end in wicked claws (hence her name) that allows her to effortlessly rend human flesh and makes her a danger to other targets. Added to this, she is a skilled infiltrator which has seen her employed as a way to discretely take out ‘problem’ targets.
What nobody within the gang is aware of is that Talon is in fact Mary Durant, a spy for the Chicago Brotherhood of Steel who is observing the Black Klaw gang from within. Durant has been reporting on their activities and quietly subverting their goals; for example, many of the targets that she has been sent to kill have, in fact, been rendered to the Brotherhood. However, Durant has also been using her time in the gang to undergo further augmentations, had has been showing signs of faltering loyalty.
The closest thing the Iron Klaw had to a medic before they found the factory, Frank Phlunkay was largely self-taught from pre-war texts, bolstered by field experience. None the less, when the Iron Klaw realised what they had discovered, he wholeheartedly embraced these new technologies and the chance to work with them. Having learned what he could form the few operational computer terminals in the factory, Phlunkay became their chief cybersurgeon in charge of performing upgrades on the gang’s members. This includes himself, with Phlunkay now having ocular implants and hand augmentations to aid him in his work.
While seen as being reliable, Phlunkay would be considered anything but stable. He takes an almost gleeful delight in the opportunity to hack into a patient and rip away chunks of their bodies, and has been known to giggle and talk to himself while he is working. In many cases, he has performed ‘experimental’ surgeries on gang members to simply see what the results would be. He also takes a perverse delight in removing the augmentations from dead bodies so they can be reused for other gang members.
He is assisted in his role by several reconditioned robots. Some have said that they would prefer being operated on by the machines then Phlunkay himself.
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