Once I confirm the upgrade that strange trickling sensation flows over my brain, like someone tickling my mind. When the feeling eventually fades I eagerly attempt to think about my tunnel sense and something shocking appears in my mind.
It's a map! It's a three dimensional map of all of the tunnels I've seen! This is insanely useful! Suspended in my thoughts like a picture for which I can suddenly recall all of the details I can see every tunnel I've been in, everywhere in the open space and the inside the nest connected together in one giant map.
I can even make out the marking I left in the tunnels when I fled the upper chamber, this is so good! I'll never be lost again no matter where I go underground, I'll always be able to dig my tunnels exactly where I want them to! I can already make out that my trap network has almost been connected to the nest, only a little further and a slight course correction are needed.
My Tunnel Map skill is level one though, which means it must be able to level up. I shouldn't think of it as perfect, there must be something to improve about it or it wouldn't gain xp, surely?
At any rate.
All praise the Tunnel Map and all praise to Gandalf!
Full of cheer I get back to digging my tunnel, I really want to reconnect with the colony so I can see how things are going and help out as needed, whilst my trap network can assist the colonies growth as a safe way to secure Biomass.
Once I've achieved this I'll keep hunting until I've evolved and then, fortified with my immense new strength (hopefully) I'll keep scouting, pre-emptively protecting the colony from danger whilst seizing whatever chances I can find to improve myself. At least this is the plan.
It takes another hour of digging to finally break through to the nest. My tunnel has connected to the shaft that descends from the ant hill about a third of the way down. I didn't want to dig further down, it would make the tunnel significantly longer and if I did connect to the brood chamber it would pose an unnecessary risk to the colony itself.
As I break through there is some dirt and rubble that falls down the tunnel, dropping down to the colony below. Oops, sorry about that! A few workers making their way up and down look at me oddly before going back on their merry way. Everything seems fine I guess? I might wander down and check how things are going.
Descending back into the nest I can see the workforce continues to be busy in my absence, food is being shuffled around and the nest being constantly maintained. Poking my nose in on the brood chambers I can see that the larvae are bigger now but don't look nearly so full. In the new chamber the many eggs that were stored there have hatched but the larvae look anything but full.
We have a food issue.
Not to worry little grubs! I shall provide!
Straight back to the trap network I go!
Tiny is still sleeping when I return, slumped against the tunnel wall with both arms tucked under his chin. The guy is much taller than me now, which is an achievement for him even if I am much longer than I am tall. Gone are the days I could look down on his bat face.
Seems all of the traps are set but no prey thus far. Hmmm. The colony needs an injection of food in order to keep the brood growing quickly. I could leave my trap network and risk hunting in the open, but that could get complicated very quickly. Best case I get into a nasty fight which may drag the workers in again, worst case I get myself killed, buried beneath a flood of monsters.
Reluctantly I decide to wait. The idea behind the trap networks is solid and has proven to be effective so far, allowing me to fight prey one on one and quietly dispose of the Biomass without attracting unwanted attention. With humans scurrying about above ground and the hordes of monsters swarming everywhere, discretion is called for.
If the trap network is not getting results quickly enough, add more traps!
Work on traps four and five begins immediately! Before they are finished a small group of Wolf-Dragon cubs tumbles into a pitfall and Tiny joins me in battling them. Between the two of us they are quickly dispatched, Tiny even steals one last hit from me! I won't mind that however.
I give one body to Tiny and use two others to ensure all of my traps a baited which leaves me one to donate to the colony. Gripping it in my mandibles I carry it back to the junction between my tunnel and the colony and drop it on the edge.
It isn't long before a worker spies the Biomass and grabs it, carrying it back down into the heart of the colony to be dispensed.
Good on you buddy!
Feels good to contribute to the colony again, even only a little.
Back to the network I go. I spend another day battling the soil and occasional monsters before my new traps are fully prepared and baited. Tiny takes a good chunk of the Biomass and I forfeit my share to the colony for the time being. Those larvae need feedin'. I'm so exhausted by this point that I fall into a very welcome state of torpor.
Feels good to nap!
I startle awake to the welcome sound of snapping branches and rustling vegetation as another pitfall cover collapses under the tread of a monster. Hopefully not an unevolved centipede again, what is the point of fighting a single centipede, honestly?
I prod Tiny awake and scurry off towards the trap, six legs flickering with speed. Time is always of the essence when a trap is triggered, the faster I get there the more disoriented and tangled the prey will be.
An ear splitting, shattering roar echoes down the tunnel.
The sheer power of that roar hits me almost like a physical blow. I can feel the blood inside me running cold. What the heck was that?!
As I approach the pit I can see the head of a terrifying monster glaring at me down the tunnel. It seems this monster is too large to fit entirely in the pitfall, it appears to have stepped on the pit with its front legs and tumbled into the pit head first. I can only imagine the rear of this creature is currently sticking out of the pitfall above ground, its bum exposed to the air even as its face is ground into the dirt.
It would all be so amusing if it weren't for just how fearsome this creature looks.
It's a bear. A massive, massive bear. Thick dark brown fur streaked with green frames its brutal, furious eyes. It's snout opens wide to reveal its gaping map as it roars again, stunning me senseless with the force of its rage.
Two front paws, each the size of my midsection, scratch and shove at the ground as the bear tries to push its massive body out of the hole. On the end of each paw, long claws gouge into the ground, raking long grooves into the dirt walls of the pit.
You know what. I don't have to fight everything that drops into my traps, right? Not sure if ant vs bear is something I want to experience, could just let this one go, right?
As I'm wavering in my decision, watching this enormous bear, almost blind with rage as it struggles to right itself, I hear a shuffling noise behind me and my heart just drops.
My silent pleas go completely unheard on this occasion as Tiny dashes past me, his eyes alight with the joy of battle and his body radiating enthusiasm for the fight.
I mean… I … fine.
You may be dumber than a stump that has been uprooted and carved into the shape of a smaller, less intelligent stump but nobody could question your courage Tiny.
Or are you just too stupid to understand odds?
How could I let Tiny risk himself and not assist? Obviously I cannot! This action will not stand! Onward Anthony, to battle!
I kick the motor into high gear and hurl myself forward as fast as I can. I want to try and reach the bear before Tiny does so I can draw the aggro and protect my ape friend.
You haven't finished paying me back yet Tiny, you're not allowed to kick the bucket!