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The vast edifice that is the British Space Empire is upheld by many pillars, some of them wonkier than others. However, there is nothing shoddy about the Imperial Guilds, as any guildsman worth his cap will tell you at considerable length.

A vital cog, 'appen

The mighty guilds represent the working people of the Space Empire, and as such count the great majority of colonists, savants and skilled labourers among their membership. Almost anyone human (organic or synthetic) can join, provided that they have a suitable trade and have mastered the obligatory (semi-convincing) Yorkshire accent.

The guilds oversee not just employment, but the provision of labour and, in some cases, voters. They agitate for better housing, improved wages and longer tea-breaks, on the grounds that doing so increases general moral fibre. The guilds also play an important part in ensuring that Imperial society is not over-automated, thus providing jobs for citizens and making sure that the inevitable robot uprising is at least postponed for a while. Unsurprisingly, there is a considerable overlap between guild membership and membership of the Empire's more experimental construction department.

A workman's tools

During the sad time of the Over-Empire (or the Interimperium, as it is also known) the criminarchs who controlled Earth's industry attempted to suppress the guilds, and many notable members were slain. The guilds remember these founders with almost religious intensity, and retain the tools of great guildsmen like relics. Every guild has its own heraldry, as displayed on its banners, and every guildhall is decorated by statues and ornamental cogs.

Of particular note are the True Shovel of Gerrard Winstanley, which is guarded day and night by the Guild of Excavators; the bones of Betsy the Grand Whippet, who for twenty years ran ahead of the Clifftop Workers' Guild, until she ran a bit too far; and the Spanner Banner of the Guild of Engineers and Savantry, which gives the slightly ominous order to "Leave No Nut Untightened".

Guildsmen at war

The guilds are so large, and so powerful, that in times of crisis they have been able to raise small regiments of their own. Unsurprisingly, these tend to be largely comprised of engineers, and are noted for their dogged tenacity in battle, even though they do tend to hold a ballot every time they are given an order.

When the guilds go to war, they bring their sacred items with them. The sight of these heraldic banners and ancient relics fills the guildsmen with righteous determination. The citizens of Signis Secundus still speak in awed tones of the revelation of the guildmaster's holy tool.

In these difficult times, all sorts of citizens' groups have banded together to purchase equipment for the troops: indeed, the tank "Steel Fist of the Little Binfield Women's Institute" was the first vehicle to punch through the Ghast defences at New Luton. The guilds are no exception, and tanks paid for by the guilds are often heavily scrollworked and decorated with symbols denoting hard work and regular tea breaks. Construction machines are often converted into siege weapons and the like: in fact, the current Leveller and Philanthropist models of warbot are derived from industrial templates. Their hardiness and reliability is much prized on the battlefield. Further, in terms of psychological effect, there isn’t much that can compete with thirty feet of armoured construction machine, hefting a sledgehammer the size of a tree and bellowing “That’s enough of your shite, lad”.

What it says on the tin

The motto of the Guild regiments is "Always Ready to Strike".