Jul 16, 2019 4:04 AM
Tarinda and Page bring a seed of the super-AI Sing to Cloudbank
Permalink

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.

Total: 209
Posts Per Page:
Permalink

"No family name, but I could make one up if you prefer."

Permalink

"As a warning, city hall might decide to give you one, but no need to do so on my account. Thank you for coming to see me today. It's been a pleasure. Is there anything else you want to discuss now?"

Permalink

"Nope. Have fun with your queueing tips."

Permalink

"I intend to."

The next day, nothing is changed. The day after that, parts of the merchant house are arranged a bit differently and a woman with a clipboard is wandering around, people-watching and writing things down. On the third day, Mr. Griffings would like to meet her again.

Permalink

She is available.

Permalink

He's a lot less serious and businesslike this time. He has a fancy lunch and tea brought in, he shakes her hand and smiles.

"Thank you for coming by again! I had to verify it, of course, but the results of the changes were nearly exactly what you said they'd be. It's hard to measure the effects of easier traffic, especially short-term when people are getting used to changes, but there are definitely some benefits."

Permalink

"Yup! Inconveniences do more than they seem like they will."

Permalink

"People are happier to be inside, more people see more different stores, people buy more things. I have ideas about rearranging signage and products as well, building on what we discussed. But that can wait - I'm very excited to work with you or have my people work with you on other projects if you're interested in that. I hope that today we can discuss in general what kinds of things you might have ideas for, and I can give you an idea of the resources available to me."

Permalink

"I'm interested! I bet you can beat waiting tables by a long shot."

Permalink

Heh. "Quite."

He names an hourly rate five times waiting-tables-with-good-tips. "...And that will go up when you have a track record of more than one good idea."

Permalink

"That sounds great."

Permalink

"Excellent. Now, I already mentioned placement and signage changes... I'm interested in introducing organizational ideas into my teamster division, or into workshops and industries. I'm interested in any advances of chemistry, since my most stable ventures all involve processing chemicals and materials. I'm interested in useful things involving electricity," (He almost definitely has lost technology lying around somewhere, but can't power it, Page can guess.) "-But large quantities of metal seem to be required, which may be a challenge. I have money to invest, I have some talented people on payroll, many books, and the ability to get at least some of more or less anything produced in the city on short to medium notice."

Permalink

"Electricity does require metal or very precise chemistry and I'm not actually sure which is harder. I'll need to know what your resources are to know where to start with any of those problems."

Permalink

He can describe everything he has access to in some more detail.

Plastic/rope/canvas/paper/leather/ceramic/starglass makers. A chemist/pharmacy/doctor's office. She should meet the chemists and doctor for details but Mr. Griffings assures her they are competent - they can make a reasonable variety of plastics and medicines and dyes. An engine-building company that makes ships' engines and sells them to the shipyard. A smith, a maker of precise tools and instruments, a lens-crafter. A weavers' workshop with powered looms and other machinery. A botanist that grows herbs, medicinal plants, and flowers in steam-heated greenhouses.

Permalink

"I might be able to make you an electrical generator out of that! It could get pricey, what's your budget like and local prices of things?"

Permalink

"I'd like to keep the budget modest for things that don't have an obvious short or medium term goal. Maybe consider electricity a hobby project. I can't justify spending more than a few hundred coppers a month on it. But for things we can predict will be useful and profitable in the medium term, as much as you need, unless you need more than a percent or two of the entire economic output of Harven."

And as a merchant magnate, he knows all about local prices, of course. He has tables.

Permalink

She - well, Page - memorizes it all at once. She has ideas.

"I heard you have some lost technology," she mentions, when it seems like an opportune time.

Permalink

"Tch. Rumors," he deflects without hesitation and not-quite-perfectly. "I think some people want to see a reason - any reason - for others' success compared to them."

(He doesn't actually deny it.)

Permalink

"Are you saying you don't have any?"

Permalink

"If I had any lost technology, it would be extraordinarily rare and deserving of extreme caution. People will die and kill for lost technology. I couldn't discuss it with a recent acquaintance, as delightful as you have been so far."

Permalink

"I bet it doesn't work and you don't know how to fix it."

Permalink

Look how much he doesn't know what she's talking about! He's not a great actor. "As I said, if I had anything like that, I couldn't discuss it with a recent acquaintance. Martian or not."

Permalink

"You're gonna feel silly when I fix it."

Permalink

"It's very convenient that an ancestor or traveler from outside Cloudbank just so happened to be particularly interested in my lack of queues."

Permalink

"As you like."

Total: 209
Posts Per Page: