Jul 17, 2019 12:32 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'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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"Mmm, cheese."

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"Cheese! Fresh milk and cream is delicious, but cheese keeps."

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"Do you have different kinds of cheese?"

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She laughs. "Of course, what kind of cook do you take me for? But I don't make cheese, I just buy it from farmers. If I tried to pursue all possible culinary goals at once I'd completely overrun the ship!"

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"Oh no!" giggles Tarinda.

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"I think that'd be great of course. But everyone else would rather not trip over planters in the corridor, weave around cheese hanging in their cabins to age, or help take care of chickens." She looks thoughtful. "I might do the chickens anyway. Eggs are useful."

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"Yes they are. If you have sugar you can make meringues out of 'em."

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"Oh? Haven't heard of those. Sugar is tad pricey, but I do like new recipes."

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"You separate out the whites, beat them really really hard in a clean bowl, and then add in the finest sugar you can get, and then bake them low and slow till they're all dry."

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"Ooh. That sounds like it'll make a pure white dessert, as fine as any cake. I'm gonna write that down and try it first chance I get."

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"And a pinch of salt. And you can flavor them, too, you could put crumbled nuts on top before you bake them or whatever you like."

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"It will be a day of food experimentation. The best kind of day." She writes all that down.

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"Glad I could help."

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"More than with potatoes, you mean? Yeah, glad you could help!"

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"Are you headed anywhere specific or do you just sail around till you see someplace?"

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