Jul 20, 2019 12:07 PM
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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Then she can pass.

The dock area contains lots of piers for airships, two proper enclosed docks on one end, cranes and similar equipment, piles of crates sitting here and there, and various people hauling crates, talking to each other, or standing around.

A bunch of bars, two restaurants, a theater, an auction house, and two 'Houses of Merchants' are all crowded up against each other, competing for dock-facing space.

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She's going to explore the entire town.

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There are wide and surprisingly neat streets designed for foot traffic or light carts. Aside from the narrower side roads, there are five main roads per island - one winding over the top, one hanging underneath, one straight through the middle, and two curving around the sides. There are a few elevators, mostly people use stairs and ramps to go up or down. There are apartment buildings, workshops, smithies, tailors, paper-makers, bookstores, parks, glass-makers, floatstone carvers, recycling shops, livestock pens, chemists, carpenters, rope-makers, laundromats, breweries, and dozens of other little industries.

Each island has five solidly built wood-and-rope bridges connecting it to the next, matching the five main roads. It looks like they're designed to flex a few degrees without disrupting the walking path. The bridges are well-maintained, no sign of rotting wood or frayed rope, unlike some of the buildings.

The first half a dozen islands are apparently middle class, the middle ones are more ramshackle and poorer and built very densely, and the final three islands are filled with large, clean, fancy-looking buildings, with elaborate gardens that aren't even growing veggies like the gardens in the rest of the city.

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Gosh.

Is there any sign that there is a way to work metal anywhere on this island?

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There are smithies here and there, advertising metal tools and jewelry repair and cash-for-scrap deals. Mostly not in the poorer areas.

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Okay. She asks around trying to find out how many people live here and how often they meet other towns.

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Meeting other towns? Maybe once every two months they're close enough to another one for gliders and personal corvettes to cross over, for a few days. Twenty years ago they were going to join up to another town, but then the Mayor died and that plan fell through. If she wants to see the censuses she should probably go to city hall.

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She goes and checks out the census.

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City hall is on the rich islands. A bored secretary-or-something finds the latest census.

In year 738, there were 13643 people in the city of Harven-lin. 383 died of age or disease, 81 died of accidents or violence. There was 1 execution (for murder). There were 347 births, 152 immigrants, 60 emigrants.

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And she investigates the availability of lodging and the spending power of her three coppers.

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There are boarding houses near the docks, a short ways past the bars. There are a few apartments looking to rent.

Three coppers will get her a boarding-house room for a week, or a room and meals for three days, or a new shirt, among other things.

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What is there in the way of work?

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Hauling things around, waiting tables at a bar, or cleaning seem like the ones she could get right away just by walking up and asking.

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Which pays best?

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Waiting tables if she thinks she can get good tips - they do seem to do tips here - hauling otherwise.

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Hmm, she'll try her luck waiting tables if they'll have her.

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Here's a uniform, here's the menu - try to remember most of it, smile and be charming, we're definitely not saying it's a job requirement but unbuttoning a couple buttons tends to cause increased tips from the men, if anyone harasses you or touches you come tell us and we'll kick 'em out, here's Henry he's your boss, go get 'em!

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She goes! She gets 'em! She memorizes the whole menu! And then she'll take her cabin for the one night of grace period.

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She's a new face, a very pretty and charming one. She gets good tips. Rem finds her and feeds her something buttery and experimental and looks slightly wistful.

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Mmm, butter. "It was really nice helping out in here since the Tricky Ray picked me up. I'll miss you."

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"I'll miss ya too. But I'm used to meeting people and then missing 'em again - well, you know, I already told you about the sailor's life, yeah? I wish you fair winds and good fortune and all that."

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"Thanks!"

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"I'll let ya sleep now I guess." Out she goes.

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And Tarinda sleeps, and helps Rem fix breakfast and eats some, and goes to work.

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Her next shift at the bar isn't until the afternoon, but the delivery service across the street is happy to have her carry boxes across the city until then.

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