The planet's public face is the machinery of Imperial government: military might, ancient landmarks, ridiculous costumes and ceremonies.
To the cynical, this means a hive of strutting soldiers, arrogant bureaucrats, and corrupt officials.
All this is true. And to most of the outside world, even to the assiduous researcher, this is the only face accessible.
But behind the facade, locked away behind almost impenetrable security, the remaining 99% of the planet presents another face entirely.
Step outside the capital city, steer clear of the official Imperial palaces and residences, and you could be on just about any planet.
There are towns and villages, farms and factories. Most of the two billion inhabitants live lives that could be lived practically anywhere. There's rich and poor, honest folk and scoundrels, fishermen, artisans, teachers, doctors, merchants, just like anywhere else.
These people just happened to be born here. They live their lives, and have their own dreams and aspirations that have nothing to do with Empire and conquest.
Shayla never suspected this face of Magentis until she slipped through the tight security and began living and working amongst its people.
Even within the exalted walls of the Mosaic Palace, the people - all those Imperial lackeys, as she would have put it - were pretty darned ordinary. Motivated by the same petty hopes and fears, greeds and lusts, as anyone else.
This ordinariness catches Shayla off balance when she comes face to face with the reality she's setting out to destroy. It sows the seeds of doubt needed to sway her from her deadly course.