Maddalena Santos is an agent with the Corps Galactia.
The Corps Galactia, known to everyone inside it and most others as just the Corps, is the organization inside the interstellar federation of a large number of planets. Exactly how many worlds there actually are in the group is not spelled out but it is easy to feel that the number is large and that the breadth of its influence is impressive.
In any civilized collection, it is important to have a policing force to maintain order and to enforce rulings, as well as slap down any group, be it of a few individuals or a planet, that tries to interfere with the normal function of the government. That is where the Corps comes in. And one of the best ways that it has to perform its function without backlash is to do so as quietly as possible. Which is where the secret agents of the Corps come into play. The men and women operatives are trained and skilled to assimilate into a planet's culture as best as possible so as to not be recognizable as outsiders and then, again as subtly as they can, enforce the dictates of the Corps.
Santos is one of those agents - or more accurately, she wants to be. So far her tenure has not gone anywhere like she had imagined and now on what will be her first real assignment, she bristles at the fact that she is addressed as Probationary Agent rather than Lieutenant as she had expected.
This disappointing status comes hard for her to grasp but not a problem for those who have had to deal with her up to now. She is 25 years old and very inexperienced in, well, anything, but she truly has no grasp of how little she knows of the worlds out there. She is from Earth which means she has had a very privileged and fairly easy life so far. Working hard to succeed therefore is new to her and she resents it. The word 'petulance' comes to mind when talking about her and that really galls her to learn.
But all the aggravation that she is forced to endure (in her mind, at least) and the come-uppance she gets (in the opinion of others) make for surprisingly entertaining reading. She has a good number of issues to overcome but she will indeed overcome them.
However, this series is really two parts of her life. All that mentioned above is the first part. The second part is in the second recorded adventure of hers which takes place two decades later with a Maddalena Santos who is far more mature, intelligent, and capable operative than we followed before. She has learned her lesson many times over and the Santos we see now has paid her dues. Moreover, she knows what she is doing.
Just ask one of her superiors in the Corps, Major Langenschmidt, the man who will have to whip her into shape for the first mission and then work with her in the subsequent one.
I want to make a comment about an interesting aspect to why Santos, or any of the other agents in the Corps do the sometimes unpleasant and usually deadly work that they do. It is not for the paycheck they receive, especially for Santos who it seems came from wealth in the first place.
Most of the worlds in the collection (but none that Santos will have to work in for her missions) are so prosperous that money is almost not needed (my interpretation). This raises the question - why work if you do not need to in order to survive? The answer is to be able to survive longer. Technology exists, but apparently is not immediately available to everyone, which can extend a person's life expectancy. As we are told:
"The pay was the highest in history, because you were paid in life. But because the rewards were so high, the conditions were stringent. In other branches of government service you could earn on a four-for-one basis, or six-for-one, or even seven-for-one. Only in the Corps Galactia was pay on a ten-for-one scale. Straightforwardly, for every year you spent in the Corps, you would be guaranteed ten healthy, youthful years of extra life. If you survived to claim your due."
To someone as frankly vain and self-centered as Maddalena Santos is when we first meet her, that life extension is very much prime in her thoughts. To the older, wiser Santos, having served for two decades and thus having earned two hundred more years of quality life, the situation is quite a bit different.
- Put to a petulant Santos by her first supervisor, "What use are you going to put an extra lifetime to if you can't make proper use of the first one?"