The Second Dalek War sounded the death-knell for the dominance of Earth’s over-mighty corporations. As the Earth Federation evolved into the Earth Empire, it deliberately and systematically broke their power.
Some of the great dynasties that had controlled the interstellar conglomerates managed to retain their wealth and power, becoming the aristocracy of the new Empire. Others were left impoverished and embittered, looking for ways to regain their former status.
Some of the latter group had accumulated fabulous collections of historical artefacts and objects d’art, often by morally dubious means. When they fell on hard times, they were forced to sell off their collections to make ends meet, which, since many of their treasures had been acquired illegally or immorally (usually both), tended to involve dealing with criminal intermediaries.
The Alexandrian Society traces its origins to as a cabal of university students, all of them children of former corporate families which had built tentative alliances with gangs of thieves and fences. Unlike their parents’ generation, they felt no particular need to keep their illegal connections at arms’ length out of aristocratic pretensions to respectability. They wanted power and money, and they weren’t fussy about how they got it. They were all highly educated, very intelligent, and amoral practically to the point of sociopathy – qualities that served them well as they built their own interstellar criminal syndicate. They rapidly suborned or eliminated the gangs who had been dealing with their families, most of whom had dismissed them as ineffectual spoiled brats until it was far too late.
The founders knew their own strengths and decided to play to them. They understood what would fetch the best prices from the members of Earth’s wealthy, jaded elite, and they still had enough of their family connections left to know which members of that elite would be willing to buy without asking too many awkward questions. They became “acquisitions specialists”, dividing their time between stealing valuable items themselves and acting as fences for other thieves. They named themselves after the Library of Alexandria, a not-so-subtle boast about their ability to obtain items that everyone else believed lost.
By the late twenty-seventh century, the Society had spread throughout the Earth Empire. Their structure was simple and quite decentralized. A four-person Board set overall policy, with senior agents – so-called “Representatives” – running their own operations semi-autonomously, subject to Board approval.
The Alexandrian Society might have remained a mere historical footnote – a nasty but petty example of human viciousness and venality – but for an accident of fate. In 2682, on a colony world called Badonicus, they managed to get their hands on the power of time travel, and with it, the ability to plunder all of human history.
The Alexandrian Society’s time machines are fairly crude. They are essentially primitive Vortex Manipulators fitted to modified starship escape pods. Constructed using twenty-seventh century technology, the Manipulators are a far cry from the compact wrist units of the fifty-first; they weigh about three tons and occupy more than a dozen cubic metres of space, but they work. The machines take the form of a hexagonal central “turret” (the escape pod), mounted in a curving disc about seven meters in diameter (the Vortex Manipulator). Some of the machines are equipped with anti-gravitational drives as well, allowing them to be piloted like conventional aircraft once they materialize. Another common feature is a holographic “Shimmer” that provides the vessel with a limited camouflage. The pods can accommodate a maximum of half a dozen people or an equivalent amount of cargo. A combination of the Society’s meagre understanding of temporal science and the restrictions of twenty-seventh century technology prevents them from building larger vehicles, although they have occasionally attempted to do so, with disastrous results. Consequently, they look for low-bulk, high-value items to steal when they raid the past.
The Alexandrian Society is a product of human history, so they are quite wary about altering that history, fearing that they might accidentally “unmake” themselves. Since they can’t transport large groups of their own thugs into the past, their usual modus operandi is to send back a small team of agents who recruit “hired help” from the local criminal population of whatever era they happen to be visiting.
Although it has the theoretical ability to travel into its own future, the Alexandrian Society rarely uses it. It prefers to have the advantages of technological superiority and foreknowledge when it operates in other eras, neither of which would be available to it after its own era.
The Society doesn’t usually involve itself in slave trading, finding it too much trouble and risk for the profit margins involved. But some of their wealthiest and most amoral clients will pay through the nose to own their own limited-edition copy of Julius Caesar, Richard the Lionheart, or Mata Hari. In 2678, the Society retained the services of Dr Oskar Gregersen, a brilliant and totally amoral bio-engineer, wanted throughout the Empire for supplying tailored bio-weapons to criminal and terrorist groups. Dr Gregersen now runs what the Society refers to internally as its "Make Your Own Elvis" project.
The King of the Thunder Lizards is almost as big a seller as the King of Rock and Roll. A Tyrannosaurus Rex makes a prestigious guard animal if you happen to own an exclusive private compound on an exclusive private planet, and viable dinosaur eggs are worth their weight in gold. But what would happen if an Alexandrian dinosaur-hunting expedition found itself face-to-face with the Silurians?
The Vikings stole priceless treasures from unguarded monasteries. The Nazis ransacked Europe for its artwork. Spanish galleons carrying treasure from the New World vanished without trace. The Library of Alexandria, which gave its name to the Society, burned. The Fourth Crusade looted medieval Constantinople mercilessly. The Dalek invasion of Earth in the 22nd century caused incalculable damage to humanity's artistic and cultural heritage. Alexandrian Society operatives have posed as SS agents, Barbary corsairs, Viking raiders, 22nd century black marketers, and medieval knights to steal priceless artefacts whose disappearance won’t be "noticed" by history.
The Society knows that a highly advanced alien civilization influenced ancient Egypt. They are reluctant to travel back to the time of the Pharaohs, since they don't want to risk an unfriendly encounter with the aliens in question, but they have made several attempts to infiltrate Egyptian archaeological projects in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. They have also tried to place agents within Torchwood, the Forge, and UNIT's Black Archive, looking for "lost" xenotech that they can steal and reverse-engineer.