Jul 16, 2019 4:38 AM
Tarinda and Page bring a seed of the super-AI Sing to Cloudbank
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Cloudbank is a beautiful place, from a certain perspective. Blue sky and white clouds above, all around, and misty white clouds below.

Here is an island of solidity in the sea of sky. The wind is a steady breeze, the floating island sitting just barely on top of a dense, foggy layer of air. It's not an especially large island, perhaps two hundred feet wide and three hundred long all told, curved slightly like the back of some giant beast.

The sandy soil is thin, and wears straight through to a porous-looking sort of rock in places. There are grasses and weeds and shrubs and a few trees, plus a few small creatures. Some familiar, like the wild onions. Some alien, like the thickets of not-quite-grass with flimsy, transparent, bulging seeds straining upwards against their mooring.

A songbird casually swoops from its nest and catches one of these seeds in its bill, while something with tentacles and a large gas-bag clings to the island at the edge, nibbling on the alien leaves of something reminiscent of mangroves, a three-dimensional web of stems and flaxen roots.

And then someone else arrives.

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"I have burly friends and knives now. He's welcome to-" She looks fierce, then sheepish. "...I'd say he's welcome to try, but it's probably better for all concerned I never see him again."

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Tarinda nods.

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"Heh. Look at me, complaining to ya. You've probably had it worse."

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"I really haven't."

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"If you say so..."

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"It wasn't fun being stuck but I wasn't there that long!"

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"How'd you end up there, anyway?"

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"My ship had an accident."

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"Geesh. You must be really lucky to land on an island after something like that. And not break your neck doin' it."

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"I was injured but not too badly to heal before you found me."

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"Thank Captain Flint and the rest of the crew. I don't help fly the old girl. I cook." She glances at Tarinda's plate.

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"You cook wonderfully." There is barely anything left of the meal.

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"Thanks! I can show you to a cabin in a minute, looks like you're almost done. Or if you want to keep chatting, come to the kitchen. Can't let the day get too far away from me, even in nasty weather like this."

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"Do you want help cooking?"

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"If you're offering, sure!"

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"I'd love to help." She follows her to the kitchen.

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"If you're any good, I might be able to convince Flint to actually pay you for it too. Instead of saying that you're working for room and board, that is."

The kitchen follows the spacious-but-spartan style of the rest of the ship. Almost everything is made of a different-looking variety of skycoral instead of the wood of the rest of the ship. It's mostly counters and cabinets, with a sink, an oven, and a knife rack. The knives are... Glass?

"How do you feel about peeling and cutting potatoes? We got tons of them cheap and if we don't cook 'em they'll turn themselves to goo trying to sprout eventually."

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"I can absolutely do that."

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"Great." She selects a particular knife from the rack, then hesitates. "...I was assuming you know how to hold a knife, but sword-fighting is probably pretty different from vegetable-chopping. So do you?"

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"I don't chop vegetables a lot but I do know how!"

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"Okay, I believe you. I just didn't want to hand you a knife and say 'chop to it' if you didn't know how to do it safely. Losing a fingertip is not my idea of a fun afternoon, yeah?" Rem laughs. "Here, hold this while I get the cutting board and the first sack. You don't set knives down in a ship kitchen, it sways and lurches."

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"Got it!" And she waits for the potatoes.

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And here are some potatoes! Rem joins her with a second knife and also cuts and peels potatoes.

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Peel peel peel chop chop chop! "What are you going to do with this batch?"

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"This batch is probably going to get chunked into stew. You can throw almost anything into a potato stew and it'll be good. And the odd small pieces will get shredded and turn into cheesy potato pancakes for dinner."

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