chapter 614 – marshall the colony

It was almost funny, Mendant thought to herself, that such a highly anticipated and foreshadowed invasion would result in such frantic activity on the part of the Colony. None of them were surprised, and yet all them managed to be in the wrong place and behind the pace when the enemy finally arrived. She herself was rushing through the main nest, organising teams of healers about to depart for the front lines.

Or what were soon to be the front lines. The real fighting was yet to begin, and like every time the Colony started a fight, there would be many, many of her siblings that needed healing. Her other priority for the moment, the construction of the massive ‘hospital’ inside the nest, was behind schedule also.

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The idea of a central location in which to tend the most severely wounded made sense to Mendant, though she hadn’t realised that there existed a term for such a facility until recently. The hospital was intended to house those that would require an extended period of time and a preponderance of resources to bring back to full strength. Being monsters, even the most severe injuries would heal quickly, given the application of healing fluid, magic and a hearty feed of Biomass, but the regeneration process could take days. Also, the discovery that more highly evolved and mutated members of the family were more difficult to heal had come as something of a shock to the Colony.

Perhaps the Queen was the first high tier ant to be injured, but none could remember that time, before the Colony had truly come into being. The Eldest had recovered from severe injuries during the escape from Golgari territory and the amount of healing fluid used to heal those wounds was incredible. This had led to the disturbing discovery of increased healing times for the growing number of tier four ants in the Colony.

Thus the hospital. The worst injured might need a full week to recover, and drain resource that would not be available at the front. Alas, the carvers where being pushed the brink, constructing two whole new nests, new surface nests, myriad layers of defences throughout Colony territory as well as major construction projects here in the main nest.

The last team departed, loaded with precious Biomass containers to fuel the troops on the frontlines and Mendant turned to run back to the construction site. The healers would be just as busy as the carvers soon enough.

Something that Cobalt would likely dispute. She herself hadn’t entered torpor in three days, and had been forced to flee from rest enforcers twice in that time. She was pushing her limits right to the edge and she knew it, but circumstances were forcing her hand. The amount of construction going on in Colony territory was mind boggling. Managing the flow of resources, the extraction, processing and installation of each and every piece was a nightmare of logistics that (in her opinion) put the grand strategy of the generals to shame in its complexity.

Hundreds of tons of material were moved by carvers each and every hour, thousands of them, hauling stone and ore with their mandibles, shaping the Dungeon with their magics. That didn’t even include the dozens of ongoing research projects! Forcing Dungeon veins from an area? Top priority, according to the council! Unravelling gate technology? Top priority! Developing new rune combinations for combat enchantments? Top priority! Better gates! Stronger doors! More cunning traps! It never ended!

The carver focused her mind and tried to shake away her complaints. They didn’t matter! Only the work mattered! She herself was deep into the process of designing another addition to the nest. The Colony’s intake of materials from the resource gathering outposts would soon outstrip their current capacity to process and refine them. They could expand it, obviously, but such a solution was inelegant and inefficient, something that would twist in her guts like a knife. If they took that approach, the carvers would need to constantly be adding onto a system on the brink of failure forever. It would take up too much space, weaken the internal defences of the nest and fail to process the materials in a timely manner, which would hamper the war effort.

No, a new system was needed. And since the forges, smelters and refiners within the nest were being redesigned, why not the mining stations? And if the mining stations were being rebuilt, why not develop a better transport method?

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Alone in a chamber, Cobalt slumped to the stone, slipping into torpor against her will. In the centre of the large chamber stood a grand stone carving, ten metres by ten metres it depicted the carver’s section of the nest, not as it was, but as it would be. A revolution was coming.

The mages were flagging. In the lead up to the invasion, Propellant and Coolant had led their caste in a concerted drive to raise combat effectiveness as high as possible in the shortest possible time frame. This had necessitated that the mages begin active combat training, mage against mage. The injuries had been… more extensive than anticipated, but the results were worth it. The rest of their caste was engaged in research alongside the carvers, desperately bending their minds to pry open the secrets of gates and Dungeon ‘folding’ as they had come to refer to it.

The final push had been a twenty four hour duelling marathon in which mages had slung spells at each other without pause, until their brains had almost started leaking out of their ears. Every ounce of experience they could gain had been squeezed out of the exhausted ants until they’d collapsed into torpor. Now that the enemy had arrived, the troops were being woken and organised, Propellant moved through the rest chambers and training areas, designating each and every individual a deployment plan according to the arranged schedule. In ones and twos, the mage ants of the Colony filed out of the nest, met up with teams of scouts, soldiers and healers, before moving out to the front line.

Wills was in a good position to see it happen. Outside the main nest a flood of ants poured out the main thoroughfares, dashing past the open gates and into the Dungeon in a tide of soldiers. Tens of thousands of them, row after row, marched past her, formed into their assigned teams and left. They would travel as fast as they could to make it to their assigned positions in the plan, the pheromone trails had already been lain, ready to lead them to their place.

The sight of her family marching to war gave the lithe scout mixed feelings. There was no fear in them, no regrets or hesitation. Many of them were only weeks old, didn’t even recall a time when the grand nest in the second strata didn’t exist. Now they went to defend it with their lives against an unknown enemy.

She cleaned her antennae in the elbow joint of her legs. A soothing gesture. What would come would come. There wasn’t anything they could do more than they had already done. Preparations had occurred at a frenzied pace, ants working themselves into the dirt. All that was left was to measure their strength against what Pangera would throw at them.

The Colony would triumph, as they always did, of this she was sure. With the Eldest to lead them, how could they fail?


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