As the villagers return to their homes and the rapidly expanding buildings that make up their new town, I breathed a deep sigh of relief. That was not something I had expected to have to deal with upon my return. Turning to one side I face Sloan, the general and organiser of this human round up.
[Gather your siblings together Sloan] I growl at him, [I need to have a word.]
[Of course Senior.]
He scuttled off to find his siblings. I'm sure I'll find them later down in my chamber, where I'll have to explain a few things to them. It's not their fault. I failed to explain the relationship I was trying to cultivate with the village and its potential benefits to the colony. I forgot to explain the concept of leaving friendly people well enough alone! In truth, a dramatic oversight on my part and not a fault of theirs. They saw a wealth of Biomass and experience in such close proximity and sought to claim it, as any good monster should.
At least disaster has been averted and the workers have been warned off attacking the villagers. My insides sweat when I think about how close to a massacre we had been. The only reason the workers would have left the humans alive was so they could feed the experience to the Queen since they weren't resisting in any way. The thought of those men, women and children being funnelled into the Queens chamber, believing they were about to experience something miraculous, only to have their lives ended by my mother's jaws … it's disturbing to say the least.
No need to think on what might have been! The worst case scenario has been averted and I'll work hard to make sure that something like this doesn't happen again! For now, it's time to introduce the Queen to my new creation!
Climbing up the nest with Tiny and Crinis close behind I pass numerous workers who are all happy to call out with their customary advice:
"Work hard, Senior!"
"Make sure you're working till you drop!"
"Hi there Senior! Work!"
I GET IT.
Yeesh. I know they're called 'workers' but come on. I wonder if I can create a hobby or something for them, some sort of ant diversion. Perhaps I could invent a sport of some kind? It would have to involve digging in some way.
Musing over ants and their lack of diversions I climb down the main shaft of the nest into the Queens chamber. Below the surface level and packed full of workers, the Queen continues to spend almost all her time in this room, being defended from the ever-spawning nightmares of the Dungeon by her loyal guards who make sure to pass on as much Biomass as possible to their mother.
"Hello, Mother!" I called out, trying to see the vague outline of the Queen between the seething mass of workers that crawl over her.
"Hello, child" her warm voice emerges from within the swarm and after a few moments she shifts closer to me, the workers peeling away from her head so that I can see her.
Big, as always, the Queen is still at least twice as tall as I am and several times longer. An ant the size of a minibus is really quite the impressive sight. I can only image the havoc that would have occurred on earth had something like the Queen ever been discovered!
"What brings you back to the nest so soon child? I had heard that you were out exploring?" she asked mildly.
"I was! Much exploring was happening! But I've managed to cook up something that I think will be extremely useful for the colony and I need your help."
The Queen's antennae wave back and forth in curious patterns. "What is it that you need me for young one? You usually don't require my assistance to meddle with the colony."
There is definitely a tone of amusement in her voice as she continued to look down on me kindly.
I take a little time to explain what I found in the marsh expanse, a species of monster that can extract nutrition from plant life and convert it into Biomass that it offers up in exchange for being left alone. I went on to detail the poison that I had detected within the creatures and the steps that I had taken to remedy the situation with my own custom designed species of Aphid.
"With these loyal aphids, we will have another reliable source of Biomass for the colony, one that doesn't even require us to have to fight and makes use of resources that we otherwise wouldn't be able to utilise. Those trees offer no sustenance to us, but through these aphids we can farm an infinite amount of Biomass over time! If the Dungeon Wave ever recedes, then our farms in the nest will be useless, this could help offset that loss!" I declared with pride.
I can see that the Queen is interested. She leaned down to inspect the core that I had Tiny place on the chamber floor. The gem glittered brightly in the blue light emanating from the veins of mana winding through the walls of the nest.
"It does sound like it would be useful" the Queen pondered out loud, "what would I need to do?"
"Not that much" I said eagerly, glad to see that she was interested in my scheme. "The core here is for the aphid Queen, someone needs to reconstitute the core and keep her as their pet. I thought that you would be the best candidate for that. Aphy can stay here with you and the colony will provide the Biomass she needs to produce the aphid for us. We can then send workers down into the expanse to clear out the existing aphids and replace them with our own kind. Some workers will need to remain in the expanse, tending to the aphids, keeping them safe and collecting the Biomass they produce, but they should be safe up in the trees since not many monsters go up there."
The Queen fell silent as she contemplated my words. I'm not sure exactly how she felt about having to give up some of the Biomass that would normally be directed to her and instead let it be fed to the Queen of another species, but I'm certain she was intelligent enough to realise that the colony would get far more back from the aphids than we spent to create them.
As far as I know, monsters don't actually age. As long as the aphids are kept safe, they can go on producing Biomass for the colony for eternity. They may not be able to make a ton of it in one day, but with enough aphids over enough time, it'll add up fast!
Sure enough, mother was more than smart enough to understand the benefits of my scheme.
"Very well" she acquiesced, bringing her antennae forward to rest on the core.
Immediately, the core began to glow and expand, taking shape and changing colour until a brand new Aphid Queen sat blinking on the chamber floor.