Jul 17, 2019 12:27 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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In descending order: Anything metal, usable wood and cloth, broken glass or ceramic shards, plastic, paper, compost.

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Good to know. Can people buy things directly off them or is it all processed and marked up?

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Sure, she can buy stuff direct. 

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Good to know.

Are there any lost technology items around here?

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There's a rumor that Mr. Griffing, who owns one of the merchant houses and a bunch of other stuff, has some tucked away in a study somewhere.

There's a rumor that she has lost technology, but she probably already knew that.

There are various other rumors that are either obviously crackpot or obviously scams.

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Well, if anything obviously crackpottish is easy to follow up on she might do that - can't be too careful.

She swings by the merchant house to scope it out.

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The police mind control device and invisible smuggler ship will be hard to check up on. The man who claims to have a portable sun has... Something bioluminescent.

The merchant house is basically a mall, though leaning more to catering to visiting ships selling and buying bulk goods.

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Tarinda swings through it, looking for useful information to bring to its operator to justify his time. Queuing and traffic theory if it's crowded, maybe. Mold control? Are they already using floatstone chunks to make elevators?

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There are elevators! Heavy duty cargo type ones with thick ropes and pulleys.

Some traffic theory wouldn't go amiss. Or the sort of psychology of color and placement that makes people spend more on average, maybe. There's at least one argument about the weight of someone's coins, perhaps better scales?

It does have mold problems. The climate control is kind of janky, too hot here and too cold there and too damp in that corner.

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Page assembles some recommendations and she looks for a customer service location to ask where she can submit them.

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The customer service desk can forward suggestions to management if she leaves them here.

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She doesn't offer everything at once. She writes a note saying she's from somewhere else and they organize queues differently, for example thus and such, she'd be happy to meet to share more.

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"The merchant house management is very busy, miss. I can make sure they see this, but I can't promise anything."

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"I understand."

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If she comes back the next day, customer service has been told to arrange an appointment. Mr. Griffing is sufficiently interested in the new arrival who has complicated intellectual ideas and some kind of rumored affiliation with technology to skip the rest of the layers of bureaucracy. Does 5 in the afternoon work for her?

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Yes it does. She'll trade away a dinner shift if she has to.

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In that case she is invited into his very nice office on the fifth floor with lots of books, thick carpet, dark furniture, lots of paperwork, and a view of the open sky. Mr. Griffing is 40-something, sharply dressed, bespectacled and clean-shaven (unlike most men).

"Thank you for coming to see me. Your idea with the queues is interesting but I'm not sure I fully understand it."

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"Do you have some tokens I can use to represent people to show you?"

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"Of course. I was hoping for a demonstration, actually, here..."

He unrolls a big paper map of his mall on one side of his expansive desk, showing all five levels, and sets down a stack of coppers and a few silver coins, and watches attentively.

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And she demonstrates what she outlined in the letter under various assumptions about customer throughput and segues into something she didn't mention.

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He's pretty sharp, and takes notes. At some point he asks, "Have you actually tried all this as an experiment somewhere or is it all very clever ideas on paper? Frequently, those don't hold up well when tried out."

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"They'll hold up! If you want to figure out how to settle a bet, I'll bet you."

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"I'd be making a bet if I tried your ideas at all, you know. Changing things around takes time and attention and might not actually help anything."

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"That's true. You could skip it if you'd rather."

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"It does make a lot of sense on paper. I'm pretty curious where you got the idea, to be honest."

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