In The Culture
, Iain M. Banks
's fictitious future of a utopian society, Contact is the closest thing to a government that exists. It is an organized group of Minds, drones
, and humanoids that exists to act as an intermediary between the Culture and the rest of the galaxy. It sends ambassadors to worlds that are have made First Contact and are immersing themselves in Galactic politics, to the galaxies older more established races and to worlds that have yet to make contact and may be many centuries from it. On those pre-involvement planets, Contact agents move in, as doctors or advisors offering seemingly miraculous help in moving that civilization toward a political climate that would favor pacifism, benign relations with other space-faring species, and eventually the utopia
that the Culture itself enjoys.
Being members of a utopian civilization without scarcity, the typical Contact agent has got to be slightly more eccentric than others to jump into the sort of situations that Contact gets itself into.
The sole perk to the job is linked to the reason Contact exists in the first place. It's because they care about the future of the universe and they want other less enlightened sapients to be able to have all the benefits of their society. The perk, the reason Contact work is so satisfying, is that because Culture citizens have full control over their biology, they are able to live very long lives and thus are able to enjoy the fruits of their labors. They get to see the civilization they lived in, the princes and kings the advised, the patriarchs they taught to read, the democratic revolutions they began, succeed and make their worlds better. Now that is job satisfaction.
Many of its higher profile spy work, its insertions into pre-spaceflight civilizations, its really dangerous behind the scenes work is done by Contact's dirty tricks division, Special Circumstances.