Terminology:Cherryh Mercantile Trust
The Cherryh Mercantile Trust, more commonly known simply as the CMT, was the precursor to the Interstellar Shipping and Mercantile Guild. The CMT was named for its base of operations, Cherryh Station.
The invention of the SPEC drive led to a complete reinvention of galactic trade. Rather than let itself be ground down through inability to change, the CMT simply folded into something new, becoming the core of the Interstellar Shipping and Mercantile Guild.
Colonisation of Bantam
A latecomer to the great sowing of Earth's seeds, Bantam was a too-small planet, previously passed over. It became the new home for a group of slowboat colonists united more by a desire to leave behind their varied existences in Sol than by any common ethos. The colonists struck out from their settlements in the deep canyons and valleys where the air was thicker, clearing out the simple layers of native life, ever so slowly etching humanity's presence indelibly into the planet's crust. However, the future of their efforts did not lie on the surface of a world, but in the cold of space surrounding it.
No too-small world can hope to passively hold on to the sort of atmosphere that gives rise to sunny, green meadows alight with frolicking schoolchildren. The release from the domes and deep places, would be a Herculean task, but the insights bestowed by modern science had given mere mortal men more abilities than the authors of the ancient demigod had foreseen. With a common goal, the residents of Bantam found new unity and identity. They labored together tirelessly to construct the centerpiece of their terraforming effort: a colossal station that would serve as both the shipyard producing and maintaining the resource gathering fleet and the processing center that would amalgamate the offerings of the entire system into sustenance for Bantam's development. They named this project "Rainbow Station".
It would likely have worked.
The nano-plague struck without warning, long before the first human FTL ship would visit the system. Only the near-paranoid levels of over-engineering with which Rainbow station had been constructed saved it from the fate of many of Bantam's residents, too reliant on cheap and plentiful nanites. It was far too early in the terraforming effort to live in the open, and suddenly overstrained environmental systems caused entire cities to suffocate. Bantam was devastated, losing all vibrancy and vitality in a matter of weeks. What before had been a growing planet-wide civilization was now a collection of frightened outposts of inhabitation. Thus were Rainbow station and its infant fleet of resource gatherers nearly orphaned, the mother planet an invalid. With the station barely able to sustain itself, the stationers were left with the unenviable role of deciding whom amongst Bantam's survivors they could afford to save.
FTL Travel and Highborn Aid
As the Diamond Dust Age progressed, and Bantam continued to wither away to a pale shadow of its brief heyday, Rainbow station endured, growing throughout the period of isolation, if at a glacial pace. Warning messages, lazily arriving at the speed of light from their neighbors, came in one after the other, followed sometimes by descriptions of chaos, and sometimes by silence. There was no official expectation of assistance, but humans are renowned for their counter-empirical optimism.
Thus, it was with great surprise and anticipation that the arrival of the first FTL ship was greeted, and numbing disappointment the feeling that swept the stationers when they learned that it was not a portend of any mission of mercy. All, however, did not look grim. The visitors were High-Born explorers, but from a family of lower standing. The Marcos family realized that they had much to gain from control of Rainbow Station once it began producing jump-capable vessels. With FTL technology and the silent threat of a second abandonment for leverage, the Marcos family gained a large stake in Rainbow Station.
This Highborn interest became a great windfall for the struggling people of Bantam and Rainbow. Not only were much needed resources flowing in from Highborn space, payments for an ever increasing list of ship construction orders, but Rainbow soon proved itself to occupy a prime location in the jump network, a hub on what would remain for many decades the only practical routes connecting several populous systems to each other – including Sol.
Formation of the CMT
Some colonies had fallen far and some had not had far to fall. The lone merchant was a valuable target in a starved land. Neither were the financial benefits of collusion upon profit margins lost upon the increasing number of traders operating out of or, less commonly at the time, passing through Rainbow. The first of the great mercantile cartels was formed, again under the leadership of the Marcos clan, a silent, nameless cartel that worked to establish a near monopoly on interstellar trade in much of human space during the Reconstruction period. Coercion, cooption, and even the occasional assassination were all valid tools to grow the blossoming financial empire centered on Rainbow and the slowly awakening Bantam. The Rainbow Station Cartel was one of a few groups to capitalize upon the realization that, in the absence of any overarching authorities, whomsoever dominated the trade lanes now could well be able to do so for centuries to come, barring fantastic advances in interstellar travel.
Generations passed. Competitors fell as they came, though some struggled valiantly, and only the governments of the larger meme-groups were sufficiently imposing to hold their own at the bargaining tables. Shares of control of Rainbow Station changed hands, and it became wholly an instrument of the cartel. In turn, Bantam and Stationer descendants still held a plurality of control of the cartel, a sizeable majority if one included the increasingly integrated Marcos clan. The name of the station changed then as well, rechristened Cherryh station, and the cartel became the Cherryh Mercantile Trust (CMT) to suit.
Though flagrantly in bed with Highborn interests, the CMT maintained a resolute official neutrality, even going so far as to make a point of hiring other parties for anti-piracy protection rather than building their own combat fleets. While many at the time took this to be a purely political maneuver, those more informed knew that it was actually a necessity.