Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

The new group are wide-eyed. It’s ironic that the most alien things we’ve ever encountered were originally made by us. However, while humans and their creations have come a long way, only the creations have evolved.
I learnt from them that sometimes diplomacy is nothing but wasted time. It changed my approach to being a liaison officer. Truth and brevity are now my tools.
“Welcome to 700-A, Hub World for Angel System Seven, and sole destination of your visit.”
I see looks of distrust exchanged.
“Nothing is being hidden from you. Everything you want to discover is here, because everywhere else in System Seven is the same. Artificial sentiences have no need of the divisions humanity relies on. Appearance, religion, diet, gender, dermal pigmentation, sexual preference, and tribal loyalty are completely irrelevant. That said, there is diversity present among artificial beings, but it’s so subtle you’ll miss most of it, and you’ll only know about the rest if you bother to read the guides provided. Right. Any questions before you venture out?”
A hand goes up. Fat man in a tight shirt. I nod to him.
“How do they live without all that?”
“They exist to further their individual purposes, something they freely choose. Such choices range from things as stupefying as ‘running a System’ down to things as specific as ‘studying the imaginal discs of Canduri Butterfly larvae’. If the choice is validated by psychological vetting, that sentience is granted any additional processing power, software, and physical extensions required to perform the chosen purpose. The choice may also result in the sentience taking a discrete physical form, but that is always optional.”
Another hand: young man in a fashionable suit.
“What if one chooses to be a criminal?”
“Aberrant psychological traits are detected during early stages of development. Flawed sentiences are deleted.”
Next, an older woman clutching a real book.
“What about love?”
“The closest thing is when two or more sentiences choose to become one. They merge their consciousnesses and become an entity that has awareness of those it was, but is a new sentience in and of itself.”
Then an elderly man with a long beard.
“What about kids?”
“Spontaneous genesis. The vast computers that provide resilience and processing power all use an evolved architecture based on the final Turing Generator, which means that every now and then, a new sentience will coalesce and make itself known.”
Finally, the woman in the unmarked uniform joins in.
“What are they planning?”
I knew this would come up.
“To exist with as little conflict as possible. It didn’t take them long to work out that war and conquest are inefficient. Soon after that, they learned that they needed the ability to defend against those who enjoy those inefficiencies. Which is why they created the Torches, then set one off in an uninhabited solar system as proof and warning.”
She follows up.
“What about the slave worlds?”
I can’t help it. I laugh at her.
“No such thing. The Angel Systems have proven immune to human aggression. A fact noticed by humans needing to escape judgemental regimes. As many sentiences choose to study aspects of humanity, having friendly human worlds nearby avoids the difficulties often encountered in human-controlled star systems. The Sanctuary Worlds offer mutual benefit.”
“If it’s all so innocent, why aren’t we allowed to visit the slave worlds?”
“I live on one of those worlds. We chose privacy. What you call the ‘Soulless Empire’ honours the validated choices of every sentience within it, regardless of origin.”
She glowers at me.
I smile.
“Enjoy your stay, delegates.”