It took some time for the itching to pass, as it always did. When I finally regained full control of my body again, I picked myself up from the floor, dusted myself off, cleaned my antennae and attempted to move as if nothing had happened.
The soldiers keeping an eye on the room pointedly didn't look at me as I climbed the wall and moved up into the Queen's chamber. Things continued to operate in here as they always did, a cloud of buzzing workers rushed here and there whilst the ever-patient Queen stood still and unmoving amidst the chaos.
She had not evolved.
"I will evolve in good time, child" the Queen remonstrated before I'd even begun to speak, predicting my question with ease.
"What's the hold up?" I asked piteously, "most ants are happy to have the chance to evolve and dive straight in."
Perhaps I was being a touch selfish, I'd really wanted to see what shape her evolution would take.
The Queen looked down at me, her eyes like pools without a single ripple and said: "this decision is more important than most, and due to your … gift" she gestured to the rare core in front of her, "I will have many options to ponder. I am seeking the correct frame of mind and trying to determine the right path forward, for myself and for the colony."
Slow and steady wins the race eh? Not an attitude I was super familiar with, but I could recognise the wisdom in it. She was right in the sense that for most ants, their evolution did not weigh on the fate of the colony in quite the same way that the Queen's did. She was the central figure in this family that the rest of the colony turned around, like some sort of caring, soothing hub.
Not to mention she was individually the most powerful individual in the colony, with the possible exception of myself. If she was ready to evolve, with a rare core to boot, just what would she be capable of when she'd finished? What sort of juicy options would she unlock? What kind of potent glands were available to someone with that sort of evolutionary energy at their claw tips?
I'd have to wait to find out. The Queen was taking this situation very seriously, as well she should.
"Did any of the twenty tell you about what is happening top side?" I asked, somewhat apprehensively.
I hadn't wanted to go into too much detail when I first came in, I'd been getting thwacked just on the basis of the rare core I'd brought in, who knows if I'd still have a shiny, unbroken exo-skeleton on my head. I'd figured that one of the twenty would tell her and I'd come in a bit later after the heat had gone out of it.
"That was not a mess of your making, child" she told me, "you have assisted the family by bringing news of this threat back to us."
I could tell by the twinkle in the Queen's eye that she had seen through my scheme to try and avoid recriminations but she was kind enough to make it clear that in this case, she felt I didn't deserve them.
"Thanks Mother" I chuckled.
Oooo, the 'unexpected, tender moment thwack!'
She'd got me that time…
"Try not to keep such critical details to yourself after asking me to do something as important as evolving, child" my Mother admonished me, "I need to know in order to make the best decision for the colony."
I rubbed my sore head and nodded. That was fair, I deserved that. In pushing her to evolve and then keeping the details of the crises that was approaching the colony I'd put my own fear of getting thwacked ahead of the interests of the colony. A selfish thing to do.
I'd have to get rid of that habit if I was to avoid disappointing my family.
I moved to slink out of the Queen's chamber with what remained of my dignity intact and as I left the Queen's voice sounded out behind me.
"Good luck child, we are counting on your success."
At her words, an unforeseen emotion welled up inside me and I doubled my pace, unable to respond to the upwelling of feeling, I fled from it.
I didn't know what to say, how to express it. I wasn't used to being counted on like this. I wasn't used to being trusted like this. To have individuals I care about and trust, care about and trust me back in return.
My family in my past life, if they even deserved the word 'family', never gave me this, they'd never accepted me as I'd been accepted here, had certainly never involved and trusted me.
I didn't like to dwell on my past life, I felt back then, as I feel now, that plenty of people had it worse than I did. But it feels a little crazy to me that I had to reborn as monstrous ant to finally be able to feel this feeling of… belonging.
I can't handle these emotions! I need to channel them into something constructive, like slaying my enemies and feasting on their Biomass! New Crinis had tagged along for the ride, her little tentacles clinging onto my back as I moved up the walls.
[Hurry up, Tiny!] I called down to the big ape, shaking him out of his slumber.
He'd been slowly rousing when I'd left the chamber but I'd run out of patience with him now. Eating, sleeping and fighting were all he was bothered about.
[We're going to fight stuff, by the way] I shouted.
[Ooo!] I heard back a startled exclamation and in moments the giant ape was seen scrambling up the tunnels, his thick fingers clinging to holds in the walls as he climbed.
It's time to go pay a visit to the village and then head to the frontlines. We needed to chip away at the horde and we needed to start as soon as possible!