A blade of wind smashed against the rock barrier raised by the Irisval where most of the exploration team had taken cover behind, sending rock fragments and dust raining down on the pinned elves and humans. Pike leaned out and popped a few shots at the ants that tried to flank them and dodged back to cover as another wind blade smashed into the barrier again.

"Thorn!" Pike yelled, "Any ideas on how to defeat it!" The rest of the team had scattered when the Spider Ant Queen suddenly threw blades of wind at them, with Loke taking a glancing hit to his chest, where his armor plate buckled under the force of the wind blades.

"I'm not sure! She appears to have a wind barrier up!" Thorn's voice came over the entrance of the room, "It should be a wind element creature! Use fire based attacks!"

The Queen kept at its throne of dirt, sweeping its scythe-like arms, throwing wind blades at the intruders. Irisval managed to throw up a rock barrier, providing cover from the deadly blades of wind while Hitsu, dragged Loke back under cover of the barrier and Young quickly tended to his injuries.

The wind blade had sliced past the thick anti spalling cover and into the graphene armor plating and inner trauma plating, before weakening but still had enough force to slice open Loke's upper chest and shoulder to the bone. The shockwave following the wind blade slammed enough force that dented the armor plates and broken his collarbone while ripping open the surgical-like cut.

Blood gushed out as Young and Kristine ripped off his armored vest, "Minor Heal!" Young cast a healing spell, placing his hands over the gaping wound. The wound closed slightly, but the degree of damage was too much, and blood continued to flow freely. Kristine slapped a couple of self-sealing bandages over the wounds and the medical nanites started to work on the wound, repairing as much damaged tissue as possible. "He's going into shock!"

Kristine dug out a tranq shot from her own medical supplies from her own first aid kit and jabbed the shot into the meaty portion of Loke's thigh while Young cast another healing spell to try to stabilize Loke. Kristine next grabbed Young's medical bag, pulling out an automated external defibrillator device, placing the electrode pads on to Loke's chest, startlingly white looking, against the amount of blood staining his body. "Come on!"

"James, take your team and suppress the Queen from the left on my command!" Pike yelled over the sound of gunfire and monster cries. "The rest of you guys take care of the minions!"

"NOW!" Pike yelled. And James' team sheltering behind a rock formation swung out from cover and fired at the Queen, causing it to scream in anger and pain as dozens of 6.5 mm rounds hammered her exoskeleton. A few stray rounds punctured the Queen's soft ovipositor, causing jets of slimy fluid to burst out.

The Queen reared its head and screamed the high pitch frequency of the scream momentarily stunning the explorers, and the clusters of eggs cases started to wriggle.

"What the fuck?" Pike covered his ears, wincing in pain, luckily everyone was wearing earplugs for protection against gunfire and the high pitch scream did not badly damage their ears. "Now what?" Pike cursed as he noticed the clusters of eggs around them started shaking and wriggling.

The Queen jerked itself and shooked her rear end, ripping the gutted ovipositor off and started to climb down her throne. Her heavily depleted worker and soldier ants gathered around her and prepared to charge the humans and elves again.

"Hit them with explosive shots!" James cried as he recovered from the sonic attack. He raised his M2 and fired at the Queen, the lead rounds leaving marks on its thorax carapace. Explosives erupted among the gathered ants and yet the ants continued to rush forward.

"Chain Lightning!" A bolt of lightning streaked out from the opening of the cavern, jumping from one ant to another, roasting them perfectly as Thorn cast his spell from outside the cavern. "I am not strong with fire based spells!"

A charge of lightning leaped onto the Queen which she dismissingly gave a swept of her forelimbs, shattering the lighting charge into a shower sparks. The Queen raised her forelimbs and swept down, sending two wind blades directly at Thorn, who gaped and disappeared in the explosion of rock dust and fragments, the sides of the opening shattering as the wind blades smashed with a huge force, leaving two cuts in the walls.

"Thorn!" Pike roared, "Goddammit, as usual, there is always some fuck up in Intel!" He dropped his M2 on its sling and pulled out his M7A1 from his back and ducked out of the badly degraded rock barrier, leaning forward into the recoil as he fired his M7A1 at the Queen.

The 6.5 mm armor-piercing tungsten steel core rounds punched through wind barrier around the Queen, the magical barrier slowing the power of the rounds down by half. But still the armored piercing tips of the bullets slammed onto the hard exoskeleton of the Queen's chest, dumping all its remaining kinetic energy into the internal organs of the Queen, shocking the heart and sending the Queen spasming and vomiting out bile from its massive jaws.

"Damn, I should have shot that bitch up with my M7 earlier," James grumbled as he pulled himself up, switching over to his M7A1 as well and joining Pike in taking down the Queen.

The Queen stumbled backward as the hard hitting advanced weapons broke both its forelimbs which she used to block the barrage of bullets, and spasmed as a couple of three round burst blew her segmented neck apart, tearing her head off and a small pulsing fountain of ichor shot out from the Queen's severed neck. Her remainings legs kicked and spasmed as her heart continued to pump hemolymph, still not knowing that the brain has died.

A cheer went up from the teams as the Queen stopped her movements, laying on her side with her body curled up like a ball next to the mound of rock and dirt.

"Erm, are they supposed to do that?" Tyrier asked, his weapon pointing at the moving eggs. "Are they hatching?"

"Uh oh," James gave a curse as the egg casings nearby broke, and a slimy whitish ant crawled out. "Arghhh!" James used his machete and hacked the newly hatched ant in half. "Damn, it is not over yet guys and gals!"

"Incoming!" Tyrier yelled, as more and more of the eggs hatched new ants out. "Destroy the eggs! Don't let them hatch out!"

Irisval grabbed a handful of rock fragments from the floor and whispered a spell, "Rock Spike!" Throwing the stones and fragments through a magic circle in front of her, turning the stones and rocks into dagger sharp spikes. Her spikes smashed the clusters of eggs nearby, killing the ants before they hatch.

Kristine and Young seeing Loke stabilized from his wounds helped engage the surviving ants and the newly hatchlings, with Kristine picking up Loke's dropped M2, her hands sticky with Loke's blood, firing at the monsters with precision.

Altied, Hitsu, and Don fired their shotguns loaded with explosive shots, shredding huge clusters of eggs and hatchlings in the process. "Come on! Have some!"

A lightning bolt streaked out again from the rear, rupturing more eggs clusters, and Thorn appeared from the doorway, his robes and hair caked with dust and a trail of blood over his forehead. "I am getting too old for this," He grumbled as another magic circle appeared before him. "Chain Lightning!"

Clean up of the cavern took them roughly half an hour. A platoon of Marines had joined in on the cleanup when Blake at the Operation Center deemed them to be in big trouble and dispatched the Marines in.

"Talk about being late for the rescue," James shook his head, watching the Marine medics strapping Loke onto a stretcher and transporting him out gently. "Damn, I am tired!" He stood next to Kristine and gave her a hug, "How are you doing? Any injuries?"

"Stop that," Kristine pushed James away, "People are watching!" Irisval looked scandalized at the open display of affection and blushed, looking away hurriedly as Kristine gave her a wink. "Yes, I am ok, all this blood is from Loke." She raised her hands, the blood covered up to her upper arms and her vest and uniform.

"Glad you are ok," James ignored her protests and hugged her again, kissing her on the forehead. "Who cares if everyone watches." He grinned back at the Marines catcalling on the side.

Pike walked up to Thorn who sat on a platform of rock, a Marine medic, cleaning up his wound on his head. "How is he?" Pike asked the elf medic.

"Just some minor concussion and torn skin, nothing serious, just head wounds tend to bleed a lot, Top," The medic slapped a piece of a band aid over the wound and nodded to Thorn, "Sir, all done."

Thorn sighed, "I am too old for this kind of action," and he gave a grin, "But it was fun while it lasted."

"Damn it, old man," Pike said, "Please take care of yourself, the Princess and the Captain will have my hide if anything happens to you!"

"Haha, I am alright," Thorn grinned, dusting his robes as he stood up. "Well good job on killing the Queen!" He watched the newly arrived Marines clearing the dead ants and pointed to the dirt mound. "The entrance down to the next level will be there."

"Is it gonna be this hard each time?" Pike asked, watching Loke on the stretcher disappearing into the tunnel out of the room.

"Hmmm, my theory is that due to many many years, there have not been any creatures had killed the Queen, and thus it grew stronger and stronger over time," Thorn guessed, "And we are the first to enter the dungeon for maybe hundreds of years?"

"Wait, so if and when the dungeon 'respawns' the Queen will be easier to kill the next time?" Pike asked with a raised eyebrow. "So meaning all the Boss monsters and Champions from the next level onwards are way harder than usual?"

Thorn nodded, "If my theory is correct then yes. The monsters will have many many years to grow their strength and we will be the first to encounter them. But there should be a good catch to this, the stronger the monster, the better the materials it provides." Thorn gestured the Queen, "I suspect that it should have a very high quality mana stone in its body."

"Great, just great," Pike shook his head and sighed, "Damn, I hoped this would be a walk in the park with our modernized weapons, I can't imagine how adventurers fought with cold steel against these monsters and lived to tell the tales."

"That's why mages are highly respected and in demand," Thorn gave a wink to Pike, "Magic makes it easier to clear a dungeon."

Pike shook his head again, and waved for Thorn to take a rest, while he went to gather up some volunteers from the Marines, "Alright, you pukes, I need volunteers!" He randomly pointed at the loitering group of Marines. "Yes, you, you and you. YES, YOU! There is no one behind you!"

"Carry your entrenching tools and start digging that mound up!" Pike led the group of volunteers over to the Queen's dirt throne.

The elves worked rapidly, clearing the mound and soon a large pair of doors appeared among the dirt, and the elves worked faster, excited at finding the door.

"Hey guys," James called everyone involved with the exploration over. "We found these buried or dropped here and there in the room."

Placed on the floor at James' feet were a large pile of treasure, from pieces of gold and silver nuggets to gemstones of all kinds. "We also find a lot of mana stones," He shone his lamp to another larger pile to the side, "In fact, there are a few dozen piles of these mana stones all over the place, I am guessing these came from either monster the ants hunted or they themselves that died naturally over time."

Thorn went over to the pile of mana stones and picked one up, the thumb sized greenish crystal glittered prettily against the lights cast from the lamps. He dropped the stone back to the pile and rubbing his hands and grinned at the ragged looking bunch.

"Now isn't this the best part of exploring a dungeon? Loot!"

A note from neo Koh

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neo Koh


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