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A note from Vnator

Sorry for missing yesterday's upload, but here's todays! I'll have to upload a few more from the "backlog" I've created during the writathon so I can keep up with the 25k word halfway deadline. Enjoy!

  “Do you know what keeps the Shostran army running so smoothly? Of course the answer to that would be logistics, but here’s another question; what is the purpose of logistics? To keep soldiers fed, clothed, armed, and otherwise content.

  'A soldier marches on their stomach.'

  'You can’t hold a spear or perform any fancy tricks when your fingers are frozen solid.'

  'A happy soldier is an effective soldier.'

  I could go on with more of the stereotypical army platitudes, but the point stands. Content soldiers are more effective than malcontent ones, and they don’t cause problems for their officers.

  So that is the open secret behind the effectiveness of our army. Don’t worry, neither of us will be executed for espionage if you publish that. But you’d think the idea would be more well known.

  The Johovians down South sure didn’t know it. When we fought them back ten years ago, their army was practically falling apart by the seams when they reached our borders! They were forced to eat half-rotten gruel, and on a holy day that occurred during their march, let alone celebrate it!

  As a result, all of our skirmishes between Sys-equal groups, that is to say both sides had the same number of soldiers with roughly matching Classes and levels, resulted in a win for us just about every time! You never see that in any other war!

  So what I’m saying is that by taking care of your soldiers, they’ll take care of your enemies.”

  -Excerpt from an interview with Magnus Silvershell, retired general of the Shostran Army


 

  A home with a security alarm was only as secure as who that alarm would call out to. A state of the art system that made use of several scouts that would relay the alarm through a network of webs to a high leveled web spider? That was good. But only having a gang of juvenile hunter spiders answering the call? Not so much. Which was why it was time for Click to raise an army.

  The [Spider Commander] looked upon their soldiers. Eager, but young, and weak from inexperience. To be fair, Click was just as old as they were, but simply had much more experience. And with that experience, the lead spider learned how to share it.

  [Command Subordinates] Click called out the Skill and led a band of web spiders over to a rocky outcropping near their white pillared home. The hunter spiders followed along eagerly, but something about their mannerisms changed when their leader began to order the web spiders to begin netting up the area.

  The hunters outright froze when they received their next order.

Form a line.

One at a time, climb onto the closest web.

Place webbing on it.

Move to the next web.

Repeat the previous two steps until you reach the last web.

Climb off the last web and return here.

  Click looked at their army with a hint of confusion. For a few seconds after the Skill activated, the faces of the hunters were covered with utter bafflement.

  Click

  The show of frustration snapped the spiders out of whatever fugue had caught them, and they scurried to their task.

  It was a slow process, as most of the hunters had never used [Silk Spinning] before. Some of them took to it better than their brethren, but that only caused more problems, as the speedier spiders would constantly be bumping into whoever was next in line, and the slower members would hold up the line and create massive gaps.

  Another application of [Command Subordinates] to have the remaining spiders split into three lines instead of one helped alleviate the worst of the delays, but didn’t do anything about the core problem. But it didn’t matter, as soon enough, the hunters were finished adding to the massive web.

  They even began to jitter afterwards! It was likely out of happiness, Click figured. Or relief.

  The [Spider Commander] was beginning to feel that their subordinates might start to get restless soon. They were hunters, they needed to hunt! And that was exactly what they would get to do next.

  The spiders stood to attention as Click took their place in front of the group and directed the hunting party out into the cave. Their previous enthusiasm returned when they made contact with a small swarm of flying insects. The hunter spiders readied themselves to pounce, fangs bared and eyes sharp.

  Before they could jump at the flies, the [Spider Commander] directed them to walk around the swarm, but while keeping their eyes locked on it. Once more, the hunters wavered for a few moments before committing to the instructions, but otherwise followed Click’s lead. Venom dripped from the hunting party’s fangs as they stared unblinkingly at their would-be prey, kept away from their prizes by their leaders’ instruction. Order or not, they still held faith they would get their prizes in the end.

  When they were finally on the other side, the command Skill finally released and the hunters were let loose. The spiders ran, jumped, and otherwise themselves swarmed the insect swarm. The first few waves of hunters caught many of the flies and began to consume their spoils, but were interrupted once more.

Keep chasing the swarm forward!

  They did as they were told, pushing the swarm back the way they came. Some of them still had a bug dangling from their mouth as they ran, and even tried getting a few chews in between jumps.

  Eventually, they reached the webbing they had contributed to, and the swarm flew right into the sticky silk.

  The hunter spiders looked on as their quarry suddenly stopped in place. They didn’t know what to do, as for most of them, something like this had never happened before. It took a minute of Click pointing at the webbing and running into it themselves before they finally understood. This was what webs were for!

  The hunting party lethargically approached the web, their excitement from chasing the flies as dried up as the insects were after the spiders had their fill.

  Click regarded them with even more confusion. Food always made spiders happy, what was going on? The [Spider Commander] figured it might have been that there wasn't enough food to satisfy everyone, and had the hunter spiders follow along for another expedition.

  Another swarm of flies fell as efficiently as the first, and a third was trapped and consumed just as quickly.

  [Skill level up! Command Subordinates (17)]

  Click was proud of how they’d streamlined experience gain through their discovery of experience sharing from cooperative webs. For the bugs that gave out five experience points each, they would provide all of those five points if one spider caught and killed it. When those insects were caught in a web weaved by multiple spiders, each spider would get three experience points. And it didn’t matter how many spiders contributed to the web, they would all gain three experience points each! Click could see that it added up in a way that would allow for much greater experience gain if everyone worked together rather than alone.

  It was what let Click evolve out of his juvenile form so quickly compared to the others, albeit by taking advantage of the others rather than working with them, but adding cooperation to the mix was letting several members of the hunting party evolve right now.

  No white glow or magical symbols surrounded the spiders blessed with a transformation. They simply began to grow and change shape, morphing into their non-juvenile forms. Most of them became the next stage of Hunter Spiders, according to Click’s [Observation] Skill. A few others, who happened to take well to spinning webs, became Ambush Trapper Spiders.

  The [Spider Commander] was ready to celebrate this explosive growth, but had to put that idea on hold. Some of the newly evolved spiders began to kick and shove their smaller brethren. Of course, their tinier counterparts fought back, and neither side seemed to be pulling their punches, judging by the spider blood that began to drip from everyones’ forming wounds.

  What are you doing?! Click screamed internally. [Command Subordinates]!

  [Skill level up! Command Subordinates (18)]

  The spiders settled down under the influence of the Skill. That didn’t last long. Mere moments after its effect ended, the members of the hunting party began to fight each other once more. But this time, it was the smaller spiders starting things.

  Click

  Of course, the sound went ignored by the others, but going through the effort of making the noise let Click clear their head. In that moment, they realized that [Command Subordinates] can’t outright overwrite instinct, but it can override it for as long as it's active.

  But what instinct is causing them to lash out at each other like this?

  One juvenile hunter leapt onto the larger one like they did with the predators. An evolved ambush trapper shot a wad of webbing at a smaller spider from behind, taking the tiny target by surprise.

  Wait, that’s it! It all made sense now. It was their hunting instinct! These were hunter spiders, and their instincts yearned for violence. Click’s excursions had been to chase bugs, but not kill them. The hunters' meals were served up to them on a silk platter, depriving the spiders of the true thrill of the hunt!

  A very recent memory came to the [Spider Commander], of the satisfaction Click felt when joining the [Alpha Hunter]’s party to assassinate it. Click themself had the same exact instinct, albeit somewhat muted, and already had it satisfied.

  The lead spider’s mandibles drooped as they accepted their own hypocrisy. There was only one way to fix things now.

  [Command Subordinates]!

  The hunter spiders looked at Click, but with frowns and lethargy.

  Sorry for whatever this was just now. I’m going to make it up to you all with a real hunting trip. Right now!

  Click let go of their control and the spiders immediately began to cheer. Arms raised in the air and mandibles formed into the facsimile of smiles.

  That was, before a loud creak echoed out from the far reaches of the cave, of rusty metal sliding on earth and rock. Every single spider looked at it, and without even thinking, began to rush towards it.

  A terrible, new instinct gripped the entire group of hunters, from the juveniles to the adults, from the mundane spider to the ambusher, and not a single one was immune. Not even Click.

  They all charged towards the sound, and they didn’t even know why.

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Vnator

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