Jul 16, 2019 4:51 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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"Faith is trusting in something you cannot see or know... Ah, I've been thinking about old religions too much since we started this. But I suppose you're right - I trusted you."

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She giggles.

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He shrugs. "Well, it's true. Though I did make you impress me first."

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"Yeah. I figure at this point it's safe to admit that if it had taken much longer I woulda broken into your house to check out the stuff. The fabber would have been hard enough to move that I'd probably have stuck it out once I got a look at it though."

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He grimaces. "Well, this way is much less acrimonious, I'm sure."

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"I'm pretty sure I could have done it without being noticed but yep this is way better."

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"To peace and cooperation and trust. I think I'm going to go... Cloudwatching, maybe, and think. Wistfulness is a weakness of mine sometimes. Nobody knows it but us yet, but today is one of fallen Cloudbank's final days..."

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"It's going to be gorgeous. Sing, ETA?"

16 days, Sing prints on the tablet.

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(...He kind of wants to kiss her, but will never, ever, acknowledge that openly. Or so he tells himself.)

"I will look forward to it." He heads for the stairs.

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(Good thing too 'cause she's super gay.)

She acts as Sing's hands.

One day she sneaks out to illegally drop something off the edge of the island.

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The local government would probably approve it after a few weeks of debate if it had a full explanation, surely. But this is faster.

The lower atmosphere and surface of Cloudbank is hostile.

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Yes, it was expecting that. It can handle it.

It mines. It builds. The things it builds mine and build.

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The sheer heat and acidity of the surface slows this process down by a day or two. Industrial processes are hard under these kinds of conditions. But it expected that.

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It did. It's on schedule. And it cuts way down on fuel costs.

It sends a much more sophisticated machine back up to chew up the fabber and spit out a much better one that runs on a battery charged from the surface after a few days.

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The bank is getting grumbly towards Mr. Griffings again. A raid on his basement is not likely but probably worth heading off.

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By devouring a neighboring island in broad daylight? That will probably distract them.

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"What the hell did you make-"

"Something that is worth your incredibly generous investment ten thousand times over. Just a little patience, my friends."

The bank backs off. The rest of the town chews wild rumors a lot.

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Sing chews islands. It makes things.

When it can make things fast enough, things fly hither and yon. It can save a little time on the medical front by sticking a rather scary looking needle into Tarinda for a sample to doctor and clone, so it asks nicely and does that.

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Mr. Griffings has stubbornly continued working his businesses as normally as possible. Even if it's all going to disappear. It's almost... Serene, doing something that he knows so very well but like as not won't matter soon.

People have very, very mixed reactions to the robots. Some are curious. Many are mostly indifferent unless directly confronted. A lot of them panic and flee/attack/set things on fire.

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Sing definitely has fire suppressants figured out. Seemed like it'd come in handy.

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Then various attempts to harm robots pretty much all totally fail.

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Oh good.

Then it can start saving dying people without permission and upgrading non-emergency cases with permission.

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Dying people are in relatively short supply. They're mostly already dead.

A lot of non-emergency cases want to know what the heck is going on before they agree to anything. Some want their amputated foot/persistent cough/poor vision/teeth/arthritis fixed. Some of them are nervous about this and want the 'bots to stay away from their family, or want them to fix a mangled hand and nothing else. Some of those who want something fixed don't manage to verbalize an objection to further upgrades, and a few risk-taking perfectly healthy people want upgrades.

There are caches of lost technology here and there, mostly in the far north and south or in the hands of rich people. Perhaps a few thousand such items all over the world. But at this point Sing doesn't really need them except maybe as a source of raw materials.

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Sing can do "and nothing else", assuming they aren't about to die of heart disease. It will not honor requests to stay away from people's families without hearing it from the families, but it's not particularly sinister about that.

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Some parents and spouses attempt to attack or chase away robots rather than let them talk to their families, or tell their family not to talk to the robots, or similar.

People want to know where it came from, why now, what it wants from them, whether it's going to eat all the islands and native wildlife.

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