The Explorers' Guild is one of the most influential - and secretive - organizations in the Human Space. Their job is to explore the untamed wilderness beyond the colonized and controlled systems, serving as early warning system against threats dwelling there and discovering (and selling) archeotechs and xenotechs of all types. Officially, it's merely a big suborganization of the Confederation of Mankind. It is however a journalist secret (at least among the Confederation of Mankind personnel and higher echelons of its member-states) that it hides a lot of things. At this point its connection to the Confederation remains only because its useful for the leadership of the Guild. It has grew into an almost impossibly wealthy (de facto) NGO that enjoys Confederation's protection. An NGO whose true goals remain unknown to the Galaxy at large.
The internal structure of the Guild is obscured by a long-term disinformation campaign continued by the Guild for generations. What is known to the Galaxy at large is the Guild is divided into a number of branches, each of them playing different role and having their own internal structures. However, what complicates situation a lot, is that they are divided not according to the territory but job. Because of that a Guild's outpost in the sector will include a mix of personnel from most if not all branches, under joint command of an appointed sector/subsector commander. Most of the departments are pretty straightforward. There are departments dealing in bureaucracy, logistics, finances and so on. Those really 'interesting' departments are those who possess their own armed forces. Two exist officially. Three are believed to be a myth or a legend, but in fact exist and might be more important than those officially known... 'Finding them', however, is hard. Due to both extreme secrecy in which the Guild operates, and the fact that quite often the only person who is aware of the truth is captain of the ship - the rest of the crew thinks they are a part of the more common departments.
Department of Survey and Exploration - DSE is the main reason for the Explorers' Guild existence. DSE includes majority of the ships of the Guild. It's task is to discover new things in the wilderness beyond. They are the ones doing the excavations, the survey of space beyond the light of civilization, discovering the archeotechs and so on. Department of Threat Prevention - DTP was created in the aftermath of the Machine Wars, to serve as a fast-response unit in case the DSE starships detected some unspecified threat in the No-Man's Land beyond the habitable zone. At this point it's mostly acting as space police, attempting to prevent the forces of the Council of Woes, Truthseekers Corporation or hostile aliens from gaining footholds there, that could be in turn used to attack colonized areas. Department of Special Operations - DSO is one of the three secretive and downright mythical field departments of the Guild... the one that its leadership is least likely to admit its existence. That's because DSO's job is to actively sabotage outside attempts to find out secrets hidden by the Guild, and any attempts to learn too much about the nature of archeotechs, the truth behind the Wall of Faith or too much about Hyperspace. . This goes as far as actually causing experiments to end with disasters, eliminating key scientists and causing things, data and people to disappear. They are also called when one of the higher ranked members of the Guild goes renegade. Department of Extermination - DE is a secret and downright mythical field department tasked with liquidation of threats from outer space. At least those threats that are believed to be better left outside of the common knowledge of the Human Space at large. They are recurring talks of entire extermination fleets, one per sector or subsector, well hidden outside of the inhabited zone. Department of Containment - DC is last one of the secret field departments, that is essentially tasked with ensuring that things that cannot be exterminated are safely kept at bay, ensuring that they cannot threaten the inhabited zone of the Human Space. Even among the already weird and secretive field departments, the DC takes the cake. Various forms of occultism (or even straight 'magic', at least in 21st Century meaning), 'unique' outlook on standard religions, extreme level of superstitions and borderline paranoia seems pretty common among the Department of Containment. And nobody is sure why.
There are at least several levels of it, most of them self-contradictory. Officially, the Explorers' Guild is a self-governed organization of captains (and lower personnel) ready to risk the wilderness beyond the civilization, under the auspices of the Confederation of Mankind. They work to survey the unknown, find worlds ready for colonization and discover archeotechs, that they then sell in order to maintain their organization - after thoroughly hiding or destroying all forbidden technologies they recover. That's the official agenda of the Guild, that at this point very few people believe. The Guild grew too strong, too influential. It seems to manipulate the archeotech market in order to maximize the profits. Some go as far as to see it as an ever-growing financial and military power that is often there to do things that the Confederation of Mankind is unable to do. There are even talks of ships dissappearing in the Hyperspace with the Explorers' Guild ship operating in the area, always with some politically troublesome individuals aboard that disappear forever. This is all true. However the Guild is by no mean a political monolith. Dozens of coteries coexist in its leadership, each with their politic. This typically starts at the level of ship captains (and its equivalents in non-field departments), though most of them will have at least some close allies, typically some (or all) officers. Though even the captains don't even everything, changing the entirety of the Guild's leadership into a truly byzantine group. There are even cases of captains of Explorers' Guild' ships engineering 'accidents' and 'disappearances' of the fellow members of the organization that happen to not be a part of their coterie...
The ancestor of the modern Explorers' Guild was the Survey Corps of the Solar Commonwealth. It was an organization doing exactly the same thing as the Guild does now, though in a much more civilized times. Survery Corps collapsed in 2329, merely three years before the utter collapse of the Solar Commonwealth. Its remaining assets went independent, however lack of centralized organization and cooperation between the expeditions caused a major stagnation in exploration of the borderlands. This stagnation lasted for close to one hundread years. In 2425 the Confederation of Mankind succeeded in pushing forward a bill that served as a foundation for the establishment of the Explorers' Guild. Ever since then it continued growing in power, the greatest leap in power occuring in the aftermath of the Machine Wars when it was tasked with ensuring that such a cataclysm would never happen again. This led to the creation of the Department of Threat Prevention and massive rearmament of the Guild (it is highly unlikely that it possessed ships heavier than heavy cruisers before that time, though it is possible.
Officially, the forces of the Explorers' Guild are divided between a multitude of Survey Fleets, each assigned to a single sector and subsectors connected to it. The numbers, however, vary highly between the fleets, as the Guild is heavily decentralized. Officially all captains are independent ship owners, that simply happen to cooperate within the Guild' framework. They are free to move from one sector to another, as long as they come say hello to the Survey Fleet leadership (which is normal thing to do, as it is required to receive support from local Guild' infrastructure. This means that the forces of the Guild are highly disorganized and flexible. There are also no predefined squadrons or task forces of the Guild (are ships are equal and mostly independent), but there are rear admirals that can take control of a group of Guild' ships operating together. This happens typically when the captains of those ship will likely murder each other before reaching their destination. Otherwise the captains choose the leader from among themselves. Just as ships are varied in design and equipment, so is the lower-level organization structure, rules and so on. Captains of the Guild are second after God aboard they ship, so they can do everything they want aboard their little kingdom. Because of that a ship with a crew organized like a holy Christian order (or a crew of professionals from some APD countr) might operate close to a ship where half of the crew are slaves and the captain has his own harem. This doesn't help to quell the secret war of the coteries.
Per aspera ad astra.
- Expedition, Military