chapter 693 – waves gonna wave

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When word finally came back from the satellite nests the sense of relief in the Colony was noticeable. Burke herself was the first to receive the message and made sure to pass it on as quickly as she could. The smaller nests had held up well, suffering no more than a few probing attacks intended to keep them in place. They hadn’t been able to stock away Biomass as the main nest had though, the lack of food growing into a real problem over the course of the siege. Now that the wave was underway, that problem was in the process of rapidly rectifying itself.

The Eldest and their pets continued to guard the most vulnerable points of entry into the nest itself whilst a flurry of activity continued behind them. Burke and Wills where everywhere, running messages, coordinating scouting parties and doing the legwork that kept the Colony running as one efficient unit. The two bumped into each other sprinting in opposite directions down a long tunnel and decided to take a short break to catch up on news.

“I heard about the satellites, that’s good news,” Wills told her, “from the sounds of things, the Queens haven’t been able to maintain production over there. Our need for graduated hatchlings is dire.”

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“We could double the number of scouts and I’d still have work for them to do,” Burke agreed, “but there’s little we can do about it right now. Once the nests are secure, we can move forward from there.”

“Agreed. Have you seen what the mages are up to in the brood chambers?”

Burke indicated to the negative and Wills quickly filled her in on the new technique and the massive scale of the earthworks taking place in the heart of the nest.

“That’s a big deal,” the scout clacked, “if they can do that for the entire nest…”

During their conversation a roaring shadow beast erupted from the wall right between the two. Reflexes and instincts highly trained, they both turned as one and snapped at the creature, ending its existence in the Dungeon as quickly as it had begun.

“… things will get a lot easier to manage around here,” she finished.

Wills nodded.

“From what I hear, the carvers are raving mad about it. The constant spawns are making it almost impossible to do any sort of industrial work. Their workshops are crowded as is and now they need to cram soldiers into every nook and cranny to defend them. It’s a mess.”

The ants who focused their attentions on crafting were indeed being ‘driven mad’. Workshops were being upended as monsters crawled out of the floor under their work stations, screamed out of the walls and generally made a mess of the place as the soldiers and scouts charged forward to battle them. The only group of production style ants that weren’t too perturbed by the whole thing were the core shapers. Maintaining their concentration was hard, but the never ending monster spawns provided an endless stream of experience and biomass for their weaker creations.

If the mages were actually able to achieve what they had set out to do, life in the nest might return to some semblance of normality. And this was only the beginning. In another section of the nest, Victor and Sloan huddled together, along with dozens of other high level generals working together in teams. The enormous scale model of the section of Dungeon they were in had been expanded to include every piece of new territory the Colony had explored and the two council members were busy identifying potential choke points, trying to anticipate problems and organise the troops within the nest.

“What’s the status at the gate?” Sloan asked a passing scout.

“The Eldest is still there, very little has managed to approach the gate itself,” came back the report.

The two generals breathed a sigh of relief. The Eldest was buying them precious time to re-establish their defences and get some control back. The two generals were determined to make the most of the opportunity. It wouldn’t last, they both understood that. How could it? Right now the Eldest and their guardians would be holding off the monsters with ease since they were level one, tier one creatures springing into the tunnels the moment they were spawned. Although the constant ‘waves’ of spawns were draining, disrupting and all around irritating, the Colony had grown to a point where even in the second strata, they weren’t much of a threat. The real danger of the wave had only just begun to take shape and was yet to appear. It was the survivors, the winners, the monsters who, for whatever reason, were able to survive and thrive in the mess of the Dungeon. Be they newly spawned, fresh out of a wall, or perhaps had already had a few evolutions under their belt before the wave got going, it was those creatures who would rapidly rise in power that would become a threat.

Then, after that, would come the creatures from below. They hadn’t had to experience it during the first wave, apparently the Legion had been holding off the beasties from the depths, unintentionally saving the Colony a great deal of pain. Perhaps even saving their lives. This time, there would be no such protection. The creatures from the third strata would come screaming up from below and begin to batter against the Colony in earnest. It would take a little while before they arrived, but they would.

“What about here?” Sloan indicated a particular section of tunnel with an antenna.

Victor leaned closer.

“Feasible. We’ll need to coordinate with the fortification teams. We’ll need to find a carver with a high level of the ‘defensive fortification’ Skill and place them with each design group. These barricades cannot be weak.”

“Good idea,” her sibling agreed, “I think we also need to ask the core shapers to take a greater role in the tunnels. This environment is perfect for them and they’ll leap at the chance.”

“With so many soldiers and scouts injured, it’d certainly take a load off our shoulders,” Victor sighed.

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The two of them were fatigued to a dangerous extent. It wouldn’t surprise either of them if they were to be seized and dragged away at any moment, but they both refused to go for torpor until the bones of the strategy for tackling the wave had been constructed. The Eldest had been right about this wave. The Colony wasn’t the same as it was the last time. There were well over a hundred thousand of them now. They were smarter, stronger, better prepared. If they moved fast, were smart, and gripped this chance tight in their mandibles, they could come out the other end in a far better position than they went in.

All around them, teams of generals dissected the Dungeon layout and planned. Patrols, aggressive sweeps, defensive emplacements. They targeted areas that could be controlled, areas they could build in. They paid particular attention to areas with water sources or particularly high concentrations of mana. Every expanse they had encountered was being analysed for their potential as a threat, but also as a resource.

The largest farming operation in the history of the frontier kingdoms was beginning to take shape. 

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