Mining Guild

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The Mining Guild is a loosely knit trade organization that represents companies and megacorporations which control the extraction process, processing and transportation of roughly 75 percent of the Valcarian Empire's raw materials. The other 25 percent is produced by intrasystem mining companies, government operations, and non-members.

As a trade association, the Guild represents the interests of the owners of member companies. It exists primarily to allow member companies to pool resources, collude in fixing rawmat (raw material) prices, and present a united front to governments and megacorporations bent on controlling them. Resources and services are made available to member companies as requested.

The range of resources and services is vast. The Guild possesses an immense fleet of rawmat transports which can be leased out to member companies. A large team of high-powered lawyers and lobbyists look out for the Guild's interests on Valcaria, and ensure that Imperial nationalization efforts do not encroach on the assets of Guild member companies. The paramilitary Guild Enforcers step in when member assets need protecting from harm - usually from pirates or civil wars.

There are also hundreds of lesser services which are nonetheless important to members, from commercial insurance packages offered at below-market rates and access to exclusive commodity trading markets, to legal services and negotiators who can step in and arbitrate with local governments. The high Guild dues partially subsidize these services, but most come with additional charges.

To outsiders looking at the mighty marble Guild headquarters on Valcaria and other Valcarian worlds and the huge fleets of ships bearing Guild markings teeming through space, the Guild looks all-powerful. The Guild leadership likes to encourage this belief, but despite its many resources, the Guild's power is greatly diluted because it is an extremely decentralized organization.

With over 300,000 member companies in the Guild, this is only to be expected. While the upper echelon may attempt to devise grand strategies of resource allocation and price fixing, the whole system is far too complex and unwieldy to be manipulated by any one group of individuals. This doesn't keep Guild officials from trying, but even they know there are limits; the Guild has traditionally been highly wary of external authority - a definition broad enough to include overzealous Guild administrations.

Were the Mining Guild actually as powerful as its reputation suggests, Altharra would almost certainly disband it at all costs - a unified entity controlling 75 percent of the Empire's raw materials would pose a threat to his rule impossible to ignore.

There is one area where Guild officials are very focused in their duties, and that is in locating non-member mining operations and inviting them to join the Guild. Guild membership is strongly encouraged (read "required") for mining installations which do most of their business in intersystem trade. And most "outed" companies prefer to pay the exorbitant Guild initiation fees than face the crippling sanctions and boycotts which amazingly always follow a refusal to join. Naturally, there are many operations which get by without Guild membership, either because they are especially clever in evading detection, or too small or remote to warrant attention.

The Guild has no interest in installations genuinely operated by governments. Some companies, however, try to get out of Guild membership by being "acquired" by pliant local governments, but Guild investigators keep a close watch on government-controlled companies, and usually ferret out the abusers.

Mining Guild Recruiters

Such rouge operations are sought out and invited to join the Mining Guild by specialized operatives employed by the Mining Guild. These operatives, called recruiters, vary in skill and capabilities, but the best of them rival bounty hunters and scouts in their resourcefulness and ability to avoid "accidents," ambushes, and other deadly surprises arranged by rogue mine officials who don't want them filing a report with the Mining Guild.

Recruiters are also empowered by the Guild and the Valcarian Empire to apprehend claim jumpers when they find them. Few actually make arrests, preferring to gather evidence and turn it over to local law enforcement agencies.

Not surprisingly, recruiters spend a lot of their time in odd, out-of-the-way locales, and turn up in the most surprising places. A number of recruiters secretly freelance for other groups, including the Empire and criminal organizations, all of whom are always on the lookout for new places to hide secret bases. Some recruiters can be bribed to ignore illegal settlements they discover that don't involve mining, but even they balk at accepting bribes from rogue mining officials. Other, more law-abiding types, will report any questionable site to local law enforcement officials.

History of the Guild

The Mining Guild is an extremely ancient organization. No one knows today how it began, when it began, or even where. It reaches back into the shadowy early days of civilization. About the only thing that historians can say for sure is that the Mining Guild originated in the area of space now fully controlled by the Valcarian Imperial Republic.

In one respect, the Mining Guild has never left the Empire. Valcaria has been the center of galactic power for millennia, and the Guild has always concentrated its best agents, lobbyists, and representatives on key imperial worlds, the first of which has always been Valcaria.

However, those who look beyond the impossible buildings and skyhooks of the Valcaria offices soon discover an interesting fact: the true power of the Guild no longer resides on Valcaria. Indeed, it no longer resides in the Empire.

The reasons for this are not hard to fathom. The early imperial power brokers of the Guild obtained their positions because their worlds produced vast amounts of raw materials. They represented billions and billions of tons of ore being produced per month, and behind that, still more billions of credits pouring into the coffers that bought their Guild positions.

Eventually, these Imperial worlds exhausted their raw material reserves, and shifted their economies into new channels. Naturally, the Empire's need for raw materials did not change, and new concerns and young settlements in other regions, like the Par'tha Expanse, began to fill in the void. Through sheer inertia, Imperial concerns controlled Guild activities for a few more centuries, but gradually and inevitably the center of power shifted towards the Par'tha Expanse. It has remained there ever since.

The Empire and the Mining Guild

When Altharra came to power, he immediately realized that he could not build the mighty war machine he desired without the support of the Mining Guild. Gaining the support of the Guild would be a delicate procedure, since the Guild historically had always held itself at arms length from all governments large and small. But Altharra was a master at seduction, and set about bringing the Guild into his camp by offering honors and powerful government positions to its most prominent and influential officers.

This had the desired effect, and the Guild is now both an Imperial puppet and a fiercely independent entity in roughly equal parts. The dichotomy is, at least for now, largely invisible because the leadership and the body of the Guild support Imperial ends. Should Imperial goals ever diverge from Guild goals, however, the fault line would rupture - and likely spell the end of the Guild as it has existed for thousands of years.

The Emperor has taken measures to prevent this, of course, by infiltrating his own operatives and servants into leadership positions. Should the Guild ever show signs of opposing Altharra, they are prepared to help him nationalize its assets and bring it directly under the control of the Empire.

They also eliminate data the Guild gathers which might tell outsiders too much about Altharra's activities. For example, since the Guild tracks rawmat shipments everywhere in the Empire, a trained intelligence analyst could readily determine where certain strategic ores were disappearing from sight, and so locate top-secret installations where components of the Emperor's arsenal are built. The agents quietly and efficiently slice such incriminating data out of the Guild databases on a regular basis.

The Guild and the Underworld

Naturally, such a powerful organization has its dark underbelly and dealings with criminal elements. Because the Guild is so decentralized, crime guilds and organizations often come to dominate various member elements of the Mining Guild. Control of a mining cartel brings many advantages to a crime syndicate: economic power through regional control of rawmat shipping; a large fleet of transports available for smuggling, and businesses which can be used to launder funds generated through the sale of ores, Spice, slaves, and other contraband.

Laundering money through mining concerns is especially attractive to crime organizations because huge amounts of credits can be processed over a relatively short period of time with very low risk. Galactic governments do a moderately good job of tracking ore and the credits generated from ore sales, but the job is simply too massive to catch everything. There are plenty of opportunities for clever crime lords to exploit the situation.

It is the decentralized nature of the Mining Guild which allows criminal elements to take over bits and pieces, but this same decentralization make it extremely difficult for them to have much of an effect on the Guild as a whole. Some crime lords have managed to penetrate the inner circle of the Guild over time, but only those with an immense legitimate power base can make a mark. Few criminal syndicates can provide their leaders with such power; Shadizaar is the only such organization to survive into the Imperial era.

The Par'tha Mining Companies

The systems of the Par'tha Expanse are extremely rich in both common and rare ores. Several hundred mining operations are active in the sector at the moment: a handful of large corporations, a few dozen major cartels and cooperatives, and hundreds of smaller concerns. Nearly all of these organizations are members of the Mining Guild.

Par'tha Mining Guild Concerns

Mining in the sector has become highly politicized over time, because ore originating from the Expanse had to pass through the Freeworlds, where it was saddled with tariffs, thus raising its price above competitive levels on the galactic market. This is a problem for the Expanse-based companies, because most of the sector's ore is located in the interior.

The only alternative to shipping through the Freeworlds was to ship through Kerraron and Rettaan territory. This is a very roundabout route for most companies not based in Barahn Province and thus just about as expensive a detour as paying the Freeworlds tariffs. Not that the Barahn-based companies get off scot-free - since House Barahn is a political rival of Kerraron and Rettaan, companies based in its territory pay a tariff even larger than that demanded by the Freeworlds!

Needless to say, there is a lot of friction between mining companies located in the Expanse and those based in the Freeworlds, who could get their goods to the Kaen'anti Bypass and thence to the rest of the galaxy for a good deal less expense and bother.

The governments of the Expanse and Freeworlds got involved in turn, as had the Mining Guild itself. Despite endless talks, strikes, walk-outs, acts of sabotage, accords, and agreements, nothing ever seemed to change for long. Sooner or later some incident arose which the Freeworlds and their client mining companies used as a pretext to boost the tariffs back up to previous levels (or in a few extreme incidents, temporarily shut down the trade routes to Expanse ore shipping - which caused untold economic chaos).

The Expanse mining companies didn't much like being at the short end of the stick, and continuously plotted to get around the situation (they even sponsored scouting expeditions charged with blazing new routes out of the sector, none of which met with satisfactory results). Naturally, the mining companies in the Freeworlds liked the arrangement just fine and did all they could to maintain the status quo.

The Mining Guild, while ready to rush to the aid of member companies being repressed by local governments, was loathe to get drawn into local inter-Guild feuds. So, it had done little more than send arbitrators to assist at the periodic talks, and, at the bequest of member companies suffering suspicious losses and accidents, sabotage investigators.

Then, suddenly, the Kaen'anti Bypass stopped running. The Romulans disappeared, and the other races found along the Bypass stopped trading. As quickly as this happened, the majority of ore being shipped out of the Par'tha Expanse was finding its way out the opposite end of the region, into the Valcarian Imperial Republic. Tadere and Beruna Provinces, being located adjacent to the Empire, almost immediately found themselves in an unfamiliar position, one where they could determine tariffs, rather than paying them. Political alliances between houses keep the shipping costs in the Par'tha Expanse fluctuating.

Expanse Mining Companies

The majority of the mining companies operating in the Par'tha Expanse are located in the Expanse. While in theory most of the companies fall under the jurisdiction of the various houses, the reality is that the mining companies get more or less a free hand to operate as they see fit (within certain reasonable boundaries of the law).

Many mining company executives have loyal patrons among the house lords, while many nobles serve on the boards of these companies, making the issue of who is running what a little hard to define. In the final analysis, each side knows it needs the other to thrive, which tends to curb excesses on either side.

Freeworlds Mining Companies

There are several major mining companies active in the Freeworlds Region, and dozens of smaller ones as well. Tenchi Mining Consolidated and Staffa Heavy Ores are fairly representative of the larger concerns. Both companies are associated with the Mining Guild, and have sympathetic representatives in the Freeworlds Council.

Claim Jumpers

Some Par'tha worlds contain valuable ore veins - valuable enough to make it worthwhile for small-time claim jumpers to slip into established mining operations and strike small claims in inactive areas. Skilled and stealthy miners can extract several tons of ore before being discovered. Many pull out before this unhappy event occurs, so they can return to the same spot later. Others continue to load ore into the bellies of their ships until the last second, fleeing only moments before security forces arrive to apprehend them.

Claim jumpers usually sell their ore to shady buyers in the Freeworlds who ask no questions. Since they mine only the most valuable of ores, they need only small ships to transport their cargoes.