Grime Beneath the Gilding

The Valhalla Megacity on Callisto was housed beneath a single continuous dome. It was 3,800 kilometers across, which easily gave it entry to the club of the Seven New Wonders of the Sol System. It helped tremendously with tourism. Valhalla was divided into 361 equal-sized territories; one for each one-degree sector beneath the circular dome, and a self-governing region at the center. Each territory was roughly the size of Belgium. It was quite a sight to behold.

In fact, more than 95% of Callisto’s population—permanent or otherwise—resided beneath the Valhalla dome. That made Galen something of an outsider.

He’d been raised across the moon, under the thin dome of Arcas. There were less than a million people there; life was simple. The problem for Galen was that he’d become a big fish in a little pond, and in short order. He’d only wanted to be a peacekeeper, like his father. But he couldn’t—he was too damn smart.

His entrance exams had made it all the way back to Earth where they’d been looking for years for someone just like him. Someone intelligent and capable. Someone who knew the customs and spoke the local language. They were sending him to Valhalla—Central Region—as a mole.

For all its glitz and glimmer, Valhalla had dry rot. There was grime beneath the gilding, plaque in its shining heart. And someone in an office a billion kilometers away thought Galen was the guy to find its source. Just reading the paperwork made him ill.

He wasn’t a bad guy, but he wasn’t sure he was a good guy either. He’d never really had to make the choice. That’s what worried him. He could learn, could infiltrate, could blend in and rise through the ranks. But how high would he go before enough was enough? He hoped the self-doubt was a good sign. Time would tell.

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