There is a bar. The bar is quite pleasantly outfitted, with booths and tables and a lovely fireplace with couches in front of it. The couches must be quite comfortable, because a young woman is sleeping on one of them as though it were the grandest featherbed. Or perhaps that's just exhaustion. She—and the other woman in this currently otherwise-empty establishment—are both plenty the worse for wear. To an inexperienced eye, it might seem only as if they had been out camping for a while, from the roughness of their clothes, but if you know how to look—that's the sleep of one who's found decent sleep a precious commodity for a long time. And her sister, the one whose eyes you can see—those are the eyes of someone who's found an unanticipated path out of Hell, an unexpected part in the Red Sea.
"It's not that you're wrong, it's just...I'm pretty sure I could come up with more than five examples of the way you're right. Although I suppose it's possible you have fewer atrocities in your spacefuture," she allows.
"My... space future... contains a couple of interplanetary empires that have made forays into interplanetary conquest. As motives for killing a lot of people go, greed and pride are both worse than fear. I think what puts your example above the standard case of 'they're terrifying, let's kill them' is how much better it could have gone if the people with visions of peaceful cooperation had got there ahead of the people with murderous robots. I have a deep personal loathing of wasted potential."
"They did," she says wistfully. "I guess it wasn't enough. And that's a fair reason, I suppose."
"Visions of peaceful cooperation can be... difficult to carry out. And there is little glory in the trying, sometimes."
"Peace...is never the easiest option," she agrees.
"That depends on the alternatives. And on whether you're taking the short view or the long. This is not a popular philosophy among mercenary admirals, but I've always held that the ultimate objective of any combat effort is to achieve peace as efficiently as possible."
"You're right, of course. The problem is how people define peace, because an absence of peace isn't just the presence of active combat. I've heard that there's a difference between a negative peace, which is the absence of violence, and a positive peace, which is the presence of justice, and obviously that's not a bright line, but sometimes you have to choose between one and the other. And some of the real problems start when people decide that things count as an absence of justice that shouldn't."
He sighs. "Yeah."
"Anyway. You mentioned wanting coffee, right? The Bar," she waves at the countertop, "is magical and sentient and will give you a free beverage."
"...The most devastating ways that could go wrong are... unsettling to contemplate."
"I suppose you have a point. I didn't really have much to lose, so I didn't think much of it. But now I'm imagining something that explodes when in contact with low enough pH."
"My inner paranoid tips his hat to your inner paranoid."
"Did I mention I've survived for seven years in a post-apocalyptic wasteland?"
"You implied something along those lines, yes."
"You don't do that without learning a thing or two about paranoia. Anyway, since you're the one who can hold the door to the universe not filled with death, it's pretty much on you to decide when to leave, although if it's all the same I think I'll let my sister sleep until it's time to go. She's had a rougher time of it the past few days than I have."
"...Should I ask? I can refrain from asking."
"Magnetism includes pushing off the Earth's magnetic fields to fly. Sentinels can't fly. She got us away from a couple of them, but there were others nearby. We had to keep going."
"Mm. Yeah. I think I get the idea." He gives a sympathetic glance to the sleeping girl.
She continues to sleep, oblivious to all sympathy.
"I'm really glad we found this place when we did. I'm not sure how much longer we would have lasted."
"Well, now you have your choice of... coming with me to the admiral's cabin of my flagship, or waiting and taking your chances on the next sympathetic stranger, I suppose. I can wait a little while myself but I'm irrationally reluctant to try the questionably hallucinatory coffee, so I don't want to make it more than a few hours."
"We'll come with you, I think; she can sleep later if we're really rid of those machines. We've no idea when anyone else will arrive or how interested they would be in letting us in to their universe. And, frankly, you've already made a very good impression. I can wake her now, if you'd rather leave sooner rather than later."
"Might as well let her sleep at least for the moment. I'm not in a rush on the scale of minutes, and a better prospect might come along."
"True. So...what's being a spacefuture mercenary admiral like?"
"I find it a very fulfilling career, personally."