Helper and I got quite a lot of tagging done along the coast yesterday. But today something happened. I was compiling a migration report when Helper called. Usually helper is quiet. That is why it’s mine. So I know something was happening.
“They’re building a road,” it said. “I thought you might want to know.”
“I told them I didn’t need one,” I said.
“Well, you mentioned it before you left. They might have forgotten.”
“I’ll talk to them,” I said. “How many are there?”
“I can put you through directly.” Helper was like that.
“No, don’t busy yourself with this. I’ll go out and talk to them.”
Helper assumed that I would not be taking to Volkie. It knows my habits very well. “Get the allweathers on. It’s cold. There are two of them.”
“How far away are they?”
“About four ks from the house.”
Helper told me where they were and I took the allweathers and went out, walking quickly. I know the terrain around the house very well now.
The weather was more wet than cold and I reached them about a kilometre and a half from the house. The two construction drones were the durable heavy-duty type, the kind with the yellow stripe. They were working very fast.
“Hello, Erth,” the closer one said when it saw me. “You’re getting your own road, now.”
“I don’t need it,” I said.
They were finishing the bridge that linked my bit of the archipelago to the main island. It was a sleek and delicate structure. It’s a classically Kingdom thing: light on the material, big on the structure, unobtrusive. Volkies can fly without any problem but they spend a lot less energy when going overground. This road linked my place to O.’s, and O’s to the next one over three hundred ks away, and so on.
“Oh,” the C.D. said. It was very polite. It tipped towards its partner for a moment to indicate that it was talking to it. “We weren’t told. We’ve just finished the bridge.”
“I know,” I said. “But I’m fine without the road, really.”
“It will be very convenient for you,” the C.D. said.
“I mentioned this when we were all in the Main Building,” I said. “I said it was okay, I didn’t need the road to come to my place.”
The C.D. talked to its companion again. “It’s really no trouble for us. We’ll be quick about it and we won’t make much noise.”
I felt like telling it to take apart the bridge and the road all the way back to O.’s place. I’m the last one in this line, after all. “I don’t want a road,” I said, and then I asked them to take it apart. But I felt bad about it. I could imagine the two C.D.s all alone in the wildness, building that road for thousands of ks, following their instructions, avoiding all the sensitive spots, trying to disturb as little of this world as they can. I guess in a strange way I felt sorry for them. It was an irrational feeling. They like building; they were made for it. In any case I couldn’t simply tell them to take that the road and bridge apart. That seemed a bit – cruel? Maybe. Of course they could have said no to me, but c.d.s aren’t particularly assertive. The few I’ve met don’t like fuss. So I said, “It’s best if you stop here, just after the bridge. They can walk the rest of the way.”
“Are you sure about this? It’s about two kilometres to yours.”
I looked at the bridge. “Look, thanks a lot for the bridge. I think that’s good. I think that helps. But, you know, I’m not really trying to get people to come over to mine or anything like that.”
The C.D. tugged a large bundle of carbon fibre into the air. “I understand. For a moment there I thought we might need to get rid of the road all the way back to Ogford’s place. I hope we’ve not caused any trouble.”
“None at all. I hope you’ve been having a good time.”
“This is the best assignment we’ve gotten so far. It’s interesting. We’ve got the next road on the far side to build. Do you want us to put up a sign here?”
It is silly, putting up a sign there, since I suspect nobody will take the road, and anyone who does will know where they’re going. But I said, “That’s fine.”
“We need to tell the rest about this, just in case – you know.”
“No, no, that’s not a problem.” My hair was dripping now. I was starting to feel sheepish.
That’s all that happened, really. I can see the bridge if I go a little way up the mountain. No harm done, I guess. It’s not ugly. If it looked bad I might have had a real problem. But it was never going to be that.