Faction:Interstellar Shipping and Mercantile Guild
|Interstellar Shipping and Mercantile Guild|
The Merchants' Guild
The Interstellar Shipping and Mercantile Guild, better known as the Merchants' Guild or Mercantile Guild, or simply "The Guild", is a powerful indepenent group of merchants. Though mighty, they do not possess a standing military per se, relying instead on private contractors to be their muscle. They do, however, possess potent political clout within the Confederation, and therefore in most of inhabited space.
Trade with Other Factions
There is no love lost between the Forsaken and the Guild: the much lower profit margins available on return trips never enticed much Guild investment, and Guild price fixing has long raised the ire of the Forsaken. Guild presence in Forsaken space, like the Uln and Rlaan, is thus limited to border stations.
Contact with alien trading partners was a great boon to the Guild, as Guild political clout ensured that all major alien traffic would pass through Guild trading stations, that Guild shipping would be awarded nearly all lucrative inter-government contracts calling for human merchants, and so forth. Moreover, no independent trader can so easily call upon the shared resources of the Guild in obtaining appropriate permissions from the Uln and Rlaan governments to conduct business within their borders, or the expertise of a cultural specialist in determining the likely intentions of an alien customer.
Promotion in the Guild
Though the upper echelons of the Guild are still plentifully stocked with CMT personnel, the Guild favors success over nepotism, and many rise through the ranks to positions of power – unlike the larger meme-groups, no grand conversion of belief system is required for acceptance, merely the conviction that profit conquers all, and timely payment of portions thereof.
The lower tiers of the Guild are full of all sort and manner of small time traders who were willing to trade a fraction of their profits for protection, access, and opportunity. Unlike CMT in the pre-SPEC period, the smaller independent traders are not actively squashed, and those who achieve success are always initially courted rather than destroyed outright. This is largely because any emerging independent group which appeared to offer a real threat would be rapidly legislated out of existence by favors called in from the Confederation Senate.
The Guild began its existence as the CMT, the Cherryh Mercantile Trust. For the early history of the CMT, see that article.
The Fall of the CMT
Cherryh Station had been a vital trump card for the CMT in the early portions of the Reconstruction period, but mankind had recovered somewhat, and was once more advancing. The age of the station was beginning to show. Bulk freighters are in many ways much easier to build and avoid obsolescence much longer than the tiny craft that protect them, and Cherryh Station was only up to the task of constructing these larger, but simpler craft.
More modern shipyards, though not on the scale of the CMT's aging beauty, were being constructed all over, and the competitive advantage the CMT had enjoyed due to their production capacity was waning. At this point, however, the CMT feared very little: there was no longer any competition of note to gain upon them. All other transport of goods was in-system, governmental, or doomed to obscurity or absorption. The CMT used this time to increase its wealth, strengthen and modernize its infrastructure, and deepen its influence on various governments. The resettlement of Bantam was in full swing.
The CMT's opportunity to rest did not last as long as they would have preferred. The development of the SPEC drive dramatically changed the landscape of trade routes, altered latencies, and made runs by smaller vessels much more practical. Rapidly expanding borders made for new regions for local competitors to exploit more rapidly than the CMT might be able to react. Geared to build larger vessels, CMT's usefulness as a producer took a sudden hit.
However, like the age itself, the CMT had matured. There would be no massive wave of assassinations or stream of engineered third-party blockades. Rather, there would be the ultimate buy-out – the largest recruitment effort ever mounted, a clarion call summoning all traders to a common banner with the offer of common profits. What could have been the death knell for the CMT merely announced the birth of the Interstellar Shipping and Mercantile Guild, which if it still had the CMT at its core, was, by the nature of its creation, intended to be a beast with a very different public face.
The Confederation Era
The emergence of the Confederation only served to strengthen the position of the Guild, being included in the Confederation Senate's Committees despite technically only owning a single star system (the plethora of commerce stations and trading outposts in the star systems of other powers not counting as seats of population) – an important technicality, as it would otherwise be difficult to pretend they were a governmental entity in the same sense as the other Senate members. The newly formed Confederation Navy and Homeland Security forces served to decrease piracy along standard trade routes, even if the decline of several independent powers in the face of enforcing new Confederation regulations gave rise to a whole new breed of paramilitary forces. In internal Confederation matters, the Guild maintained an increasingly less fictitious neutrality on matters not of self-interest.
The Guild Today
The current Guild is rivaled only by the logistical corps of some major meme-groups that did not desire to give up the independence of their internal supply chains, but even these entities are dwarfish by comparison. Though still not a military power, nor aspiring to become one, the Guild's numerous shipyards, kept modernized under lucrative Confederation contracts, now churn out capital and sub-capital military vessels for the Confederation Navy alongside their freight bearing kin. With the renovation of Cherryh station over the last few decades further boosting production, the Guild shipyards maintain a distinct lead, by tonnage, as the largest suppliers of Confederation military vessels.