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Sep 24, 2020 12:14 AM
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"I can chat. Look around, we're not about to hit anything."

He is glancing over dials and gauges and writing things in a little book every once in a while though.

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"All right, I'll trust you to tell me to shut up if you suddenly need to concentrate.

She's a beautiful ship."

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"If you're talking about the greenhouse, that was mostly Walta. And we keep the weight right by putting all the ballast dead at the bottom."

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She thinks about this for a few seconds. "...Yeah, that makes sense."

"What's in the log book? Are wind currents stable enough that you can chart out reliable routes?"

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"Air pressure, airspeed, bearing, and time. And fuel and weight estimation. It's getting harder to know exactly where everyone else is - only big towns have radio beacons anymore. But there's enough small farming villages in the upper altitudes that one is much like any other if you've a mind to visit a small farming village."

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"Has the knowledge of how to build radios been lost? I think it has something to do with rapidly changing electrical current – moving electricity makes magnetism, moving magnetism makes electricity – something like that – this feels like the sort of thing you probably know if you can build a charger.

I have no particular opinion about small farming villages."

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"Yep, we know radio, but it's expensive. Fancy metals like silicon are too rare and expensive and good solid Lost Tech tools get harder to find every year."

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"Ah. Inconvenient."

Pause.

"I'm trying to think of ways to make beacons that don't involve metal... what kind of distances are you talking about here? Miles? Tens of miles?"

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"Depends on what you want your radio beacon for. I think this is something to explore when I can devote full attention to it, though. And perhaps you ought to get to know what we do have in spades on Cloudbank."

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"All right then, what is abundant around here?"

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"Hydrogen. Water. Floatstone. Plants. Sunlight, at higher altitudes. I'm not sure what all is actually in surface smoke, but in some places they gather up dust from the great plumes that well up and get more raw material that way."

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"Signal fires? Flags? ...no, those probably can't be made big enough before they tear off in the wind.

What's floatstone?"

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"It's the stuff islands are made out of! It floats. Despite this, it is nowhere near as fragile as a balloon - some sort of crystalline structure with hydrogen. It's not tough like wood or metal, but it holds up well enough to most things. And it floats. It's what my ship's hull is made of, too, I don't need as much gas bag compared to the rest of the ship's size."

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Some things click together.

"Floating islands? Like, floating in the air?"

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"...Yes. Hold on..."

He pulls up a telescope from a hidden stand and adjusts it and points it. "Have a gander. Er, carefully."

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She looks through the telescope. Carefully.

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Yeah that sure looks like a floating island. It looks big enough for a smallish neighborhood, and there is at least one house there. Craggy rock that ends, plants, grass, and a few trees on top. A nest of jellyfish-things is hanging around near the underside of the island.

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eeee this is so cool

Kind of unsettling, too.

She steps back from the telescope. "Is there – ground – under us at all? Or is it just... sky, all the way down? ...I guess you said it's a planet, but is it a gas planet?"

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"You can't go into the deeps. It's too hot down there, too much pressure. And acid. So up in the air is what we have to live with." He shrugs.

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Yeah that's. A thing.

"Unsettling. On Earth you're almost always on solid ground.

I suppose I'll learn to adapt. Get used to it in time."

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"I suppose it probably is unnerving. Fact of life, for us."

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"You have a telescope... how expensive is glass? Mirrors? Signal mirrors could be pretty useful."

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"Glass is cheap. Mirrors are a bit more pricey, but not too bad. Yeah, that's a decent idea. I think a few places do something like that. But it's not standardized at all, so it's not all that useful, so nobody does it, so there's no incentive to standardize..."

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"Well, the most basic signal is 'I'm here', that doesn't take any coordination or setup. Maybe with moving mirrors an island could set up something like a lighthouse, shine a rotating beam in all directions... I'm not sure how to adapt that to three dimensions, though. Maybe something with a curved mirror...?"

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"A lighthouse being a house with a very, very bright light? ...A curved mirror to fire it out in a narrow crescent wouldn't kill the range too much to be useful. If you can see it a mile or two out that's enough to avoid a collision."

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