It approached me and eyed me coldly. While I knew 'it' was a 'she,' but I could not help but think of her as 'it.' Cold, artificial. The reason was simple, righteous bigotry. She was definitely a she. However...I could not think of her as anything more than it.
Its next response would dictate the rest of the summit. If it bowed, the summit would be a formal meeting of peers. If it shook hands, the gesture was meant in a friendly, but formal manner. If it kowtowed, then the heretics were ready to finally surrender and be brought back into the biological fold. Those, at least, who could be. Those that could not, would be ended.
Such was the teachings of our Great Prophets Shrouded in Time, Apostles of Holy Mother Glendinning.
Its hand was extended. Though loathing contact with such a technological entity, I followed through with the diplomatic act and shook its hand. My palms sweated. Its did not. It felt cold and metallic to me. Though it wasn't. Its hands were anything but the ancient material of steel. Their technology had marched on from such ancient materials, ones that in their world, were only used in architectural highlights. It still felt wrong and metallic to me even so.
It was my beliefs speaking again. Some would say prejudice. I'd say holiness.
We turned and walked. Neither side allowed either to bring more than one envoy within a kilometer. Their machines could do devastating damage. Our natural friends could do almost as much, but we had more. Their nanites could ooze and destroy. Our slime mold friends could match infinitesimal bite for bite. Then there were the big guns. No one wanted to bring out their BFGs.
We discussed the diplomacy of the moment. Trade. They had bioessential materials on their colony of Minsky. On the other side of the planet, our colony of Mander needed those elements. The local biota, while mostly compatible, had certain deficiencies for Gaian life. Their colony wanted more of the ore we lucked upon and were now extracting with the roots of the mining trees. Trade was in all interests here. At least until The Day.
Likewise, the discussions also touched on the skirmishes both sides both attempted to alternately suppress and encourage, our respective colonies of Tre Arrow and Yudkowsky. Both agreed, for now, until The Day, they and we would attempt to stop the latest round of clashes from getting worse. Even defuse the situation. It was doubtful though. We both knew it. We both said otherwise. This was diplomacy, not truth.
Finally, our last business, we discussed the possibility of opening embassies in Sanderberg and the Holy City of the Twelve Earth Months. This too was diplomacy. This too would never happen. After all, were we not standing alone, the two reliable narrators for our respective beings - I could not bow to calling them people. It through its implants that could directly share data and I through the viral memory sharing.
We stood still and regarded one another one last time. I still could not see it as her. It was too artificial in my eyes, though had I not known and could not smell and see the spectroscopic differences, I would not had seen it as such. It would appear to be an unremarkable person then. Attractive, if not a machine, but still a machine and hateful because of that. For a moment though, I wondered what it thought I was thinking. It was probably better it did not.
To my surprise, it must have registered something in me, for it raised its arm and placed a hand on my shoulder. I flinched and trembled. I tried not to lash out. This was diplomacy, not war. I was tasked by the Apostles on High with peace.
"We are not so different, despite what you think. Neither of us are truly Human in the old sense. I am a member of Homo cybernetica. You are Homo amplectinatura. We are both transhuman. Our forebearers would find us strange. Strange but wonderful. We can find a bridge between us, despite our differences, despite seeking different paths, we are both still, in soul, Human."
I was insulted and outraged. I flushed green and pushed away its unwelcome manus. I couldn't even call it a hand. My own had stayed at my side for I had used one of my long, muscular spinal crinisi to remove her hand: I would need to shave them off when I was done reporting to the Apostles' Disciples. They would grow back.
"We are the only Humans. You are contemptible machines. The ultimate and final expression of a decadent and foul Western Civilization."
I turned and walked away. Once I was clear, I unfurled my wings and took to the air, leaving it in the dust far behind.