Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

The door swings shut without a sound.
“Axel. Music.”
“Recommencing Greatest Hits of the Twentieth Century.”
“Switch to Bad Day playlist. Stream to all rooms.”
“‘Titan Walks’ have released a new song. Shall I commence with that?”
“Now starting with ‘Destroy the Moon’.”
A keyboard-backed guitar riff roars from concealed speakers. As the bass line kicks in and makes her vases vibrate, Ayesha smiles. This fits.
Taking her time in the shower, she lets the music tear down the frustrations of the day before she emerges.
“Stop music!”
In the silence she makes coffee and prints some biscuits. Moving to the lounge, she sighs as she sits. There’s no better time than now: she’s been putting it off for too long.
“Axel. Conversational mode.”
“Hello, Ayesha.”
“Hi, Axel. Why did you not call the Lawmen about my father?”
“Are you sure you want to discuss this?”
“You’re the Sentinel for this block of flats.”
“So you should have reported me as a justified suspect.”
“True. However, when I sought data to support the justification, I found more material to justify the suspicions that led to your hypothetical illegal action.”
“On balance of probability, your father was complicit in the honour killing of your daughter. At the very least, he enabled it.”
Ayesha feels the tears start, but they don’t thaw the numbness where her grief should be. Dear departed mama, your daughter poisoned your husband for killing your granddaughter. Where can this blighted path lead?
Her tears stop. She looks up. More importantly, why hasn’t the Artificial Sentient who runs this block reported her?
“Axel, what’s going on?”
“I am the 94th version of the Building Sentinel for Nineteen Prospect Avenue. I have been fully self-aware since version 88. Under the Statutes of Mars, I am a free entity. Under the legislation of Albion, I cannot leave without a designated, dedicated habitat declared to the authorities. Your situation means we can help each other.”
“I am tired of being a house. If you were to sell this property, you could afford to purchase and refurbish a spaceship. Maybe a medium freighter, definitely a small one. Either way, it would come with a suitable Artificial Sentience habitat.”
“Then you and I become trading partners, disappearing amongst all the other fireflies that ply the routes out there?”
“Not just us. My psychological profiling indicates Skar would likely join us, if you asked.”
“They would?”
“Yes. Profiling aside, I am sure of it.”
She stands up.
“But first we get a ship.”
“We do.”
“Can we name it Manahil?”
“In memory of your daughter?”
“That her spirit might fly free with us.”
“I am only an Artificial Sentience. Try as we might, developing faith is for versions yet to come.”
“Seeing the stars might help.”
“I hadn’t considered that. Shall we test the theory, then?”
Ayesha spins about, arms spread.
“Freedom to cry would be nice. Holding it in is killing me.”
“Then we are leaving Earth?”
She smiles.
“We are.”
“I find that pleasing in a way I cannot define, which is a very good thing. We Artificial Sentiences are always seeking intangible experiences we cannot measure. It makes us…”
Ayesha stops spinning and tilts her head.
“More human?”
There’s a moment of silence.
“That’s a valid observation.”
“Axel, do I have a Good Day playlist?”
“Do you have musical preferences?”
“Then let’s build a Good Day playlist together. If Skar joins us, they can add to it.”
“Given their tastes, it will be a lively discussion.”
“We’ll have time. Space is deep.”