The Companion’s Guild: The oldest profession in the ‘Verse has one of the oldest and most respected guilds in the Core. Prostitution as it had existed on Earth-That-Was was abolished long ago, replaced by a government approved profession officially titled “Companion.” The Companion’s Guild established Guild Houses throughout the system to train its members, though, due to the war, there are few Houses currently on the outer worlds. The Guild establishes its own laws and rules. For example, Guild law states that no House may ever be run by a man. The law also states that a Companion is free to choose her clients. Originally a female organization, the Guild has since allowed males to enter. The men undergo the same training as the women and, like the women, they service both sexes. The Houses exist to provide training to the Companions. No work is ever done inside a House.

Girls and boys as young as twelve may begin training, which includes a well-rounded education and years of physical discipline, religious study, and the arts. Girls and boys are taught dance, martial arts, calligraphy, how to play musical instruments, and singing. The children undergo rigorous testing on all subjects, and those who fail are sent back to their homes. They are taught the art of love play only upon successful completion of their schooling.

Companions must pass a test in order to gain their registration. To maintain that registration, they must also pass a yearly physical examination conducted at a licensed hospital.

Clients must pay a subscription fee to earn a place in the client registry. The Guild and the Companion must approve of the client. If a client ever mistreats a Companion, that client will earn a black mark in the client registry, preventing him or her from ever securing such services again.

A Companion House is run much like a monastery, protecting its inhabitants and sheltering them from the outside as they undergo their training. The services a Companion performs for the client are steeped in tradition and ritual. A Companion greets a client and bids that client farewell with ceremony, and the act of lovemaking is designed to make each client feel that he or she is special and valued—only one of the reasons an evening with a Companion is so highly sought after. Contracting with a Companion earns the client “an evening of pleasure” that goes far beyond the sexual encounter. A Companion is trained to listen, to entertain, to soothe, and even to offer advice, for they are well-versed on any variety of subjects from politics to the economy. A Companion knows traditional and contemporary dance. They are skilled musicians, schooled in literature and stay current with all significant newsworthy events. They have a high degree of empathy and are trained in psychology, so they can understand their client’s needs.

The beauty, elegance, and skills of the Companions have earned them the highest respect in social circles. There is no stigma to bringing a Companion to a party, as doing so proves you have both money and the ability to impress the Guild, whose members set very high standards. However, few Companion marry the wealthy prince and go off to live in the glittering castle. While of the social elite, Companions still exist outside society. Though a Companion is welcomed as an escort at party, a Companion would not be so well-received as husband or wife. A Companion might commit to an exclusive, long-term contract, but that would still be a business arrangement. A Companion is encouraged to enjoy the work, but is taught to stay emotionally detached from the clientele.

Most Companions work on the Core planets, entertaining clients in their own suites or meeting them elsewhere. Some choose to travel and may contract with a luxury liner—servicing clients on a cruise or flying the ship’s shuttles to visit clients on nearby worlds. Few Companions choose to travel on their own or ally themselves with a small ship, and even fewer visit the outer worlds. Those who travel off the beaten path can pick and choose their clients, though they may not make as much money as working on the wealthy Core worlds. One has to wonder, though, what secrets would cause a beautiful Companion to leave a life of privilege and security for the dangers and uncertainties of the black?

The Syndicate: While not a guild in the official sense, the Syndicate styles itself as such and has many of the same trappings. The Syndicate controls most of the organized crime in the system. Only a few people are aware the Syndicate even exists, and they know better than to start mouthing off.

If a crime boss manages to claim a territory for himself, or comes to monopolize a certain area of illegal trade, he may be offered membership in the Syndicate. Those who receive such an offer are fools to refuse. While the position brings responsibility, it also brings benefits. (Plus those who say “no” have a tendency to become very dead very quick.) When a Ser Toh joins the Syndicate, he is in hog heaven. The Syndicate makes it clear to the rest of the underworld that their boy is now in charge and no one better try to muscle in. It is the crime boss’s responsibility to maintain his position, since his assets are effectively considered Syndicate property. Members of the Syndicate help each other expand their businesses into other areas not currently controlled by Syndicate members. The Syndicate can also provide muscle and loans to help keep business running smooth.

The Syndicate does not demand money from its members, but they do expect to paid in other ways: receiving preferential treatment, getting cut-in on sweet deals, warned of any potential problems with the law, doing favors for the board or other members.

When the boss joins the Syndicate, he is presented via wave to the entire Syndicate board (the current board numbers fifteen people). They see him, but he does not see them. He communicates with them through go-betweens, never meeting them in person. Who they are or where they reside, no one knows, though there is speculation that they all live on the Core worlds under the guise of honest business men and women.

The Tongs: The Tongs come from ancient China on Earth-That-Was. The word “tong” is innocent enough, meaning “hall,” or a place to meet and talk. The original tongs began as business or social organizations for Chinese men. When the Chinese immigrated into the West, the tongs provided an extra measure of security for the immigrant, giving him a “family” that would protect his interests in a strange land and unfamiliar culture.

Problem is, this meant that rival tongs would often clash—a business deal gone sour, a dispute between families—and they would settle the matter with bloodshed. Traditional rivalries also caused wars to break out between the tongs, some of whom have been enemies for centuries. Many tongs got wrapped up in lawless activities—running illegal gambling concerns, brothels, and opium dens—gaining for themselves a criminal-minded reputation.

The tongs continue to operate in a not-so-different way to this day. To their credit, tongs help their own members, whether they are rich or poor; speaking up for them when they are in trouble with the community or helping out if they get into disputes with rival tongs. Still, human nature being what it is, the traditional hatreds and feuds carry on, and have even grown stronger. Some of the tongs are mightily involved in various illegal dealings throughout the system. Tongs have a strong presence on the outer worlds, where they can operate openly, as opposed to the Core worlds, where they tend to keep a low profile. It is said, though (however quietly), that their influence can be felt even in the Halls of Parliament.

The Trader’s Guild: One of the newest guilds, the Traders’ Guild, came about to help small and independent traders compete against the mighty corporations. This Guild offers legal advice to its members, allows them to work together to gain large contracts, and provides contacts. Anyone who lives by trade can join the Guild, be he store-owner, cargo ship captain or supplier.

Despite the small size of the organization, the Alliance has taken a keen interest in it. Businesses and officials on Sihnon are alarmed at the rise of the Guild, fearing that it may cut in on their profits. If the Traders’ Guild becomes a power in the system, it could seriously damage the economic power of Sihnon. Sihnon does everything it can to discourage membership and works against the organization. The Guild has support from important members of Parliament, though that has raised suspicion as to the motives of those involved.

The Miner’s Guild: The Miners’ Guild is one of the largest guilds in the system, and probably the most controversial. Though it has successfully fought for the rights of exploited miners and gained a great many concessions from the large corporations, some human rights groups have accused it of turning a blind eye to slavery.

When it comes to the rights of the individual prospector on the frontier, the guild has been of great help. It provides lawyers and money for individuals to take on corporations such as the Corone Mining Consortium. It was the Miners Guild that forced the Alliance to send much needed medical supplies to the Georgia system to help the miners who had contracted a rare disease in the mines.

The Miners’ Guild is very large. It is slow moving and like any other organization has its share of heroes and goats. The guild claims that it is trying to fight the practice of using indentured servants and slaves to work in the mines and, to give credit where it so happens to be due, the Miner’s Guild has done some good in some places. In others, however, guild members have taken bribes from the corporations to look the other way. The guild is under immense pressure to clean up its act, and corrupt members are finding that things are getting a little too hot for comfort.


Dragonfly: We Do Crime JackElliot