When Sarah woke, she felt a deep sense of peace. She remembered this feeling, from before, when the rage had burned itself out and she had collapsed, exhausted, in a tunnel. When she woke, the fear and anger were blessedly muted, consumed. It wouldn’t last long. She would slowly rouse herself to find the signs of battle all around her, claw marks dug into the walls, remnants of Biomass hanging from the ceiling and no idea what had happened.
From there it was only a matter of time until she succumbed again.
This time, it was different. She woke surrounded by ants, the warm light of their healing magic covering her and offerings of food placed in front of her. She ate gratefully. Replenishing her energy would be just as important as the healing.
With food in her stomach and the worst of her wounds on the mend, she felt comfortable enough to stand up and make her way back toward the ant fortifications. No doubt the fighting continued somewhere, but she was not ready to contribute, emotionally or physically.
She looked forward to a break. Some time to relax and relish this sense of peace would be wonderful.
It lasted a full ten minutes until she remembered something she really shouldn’t have forgotten.
He’d reached out to her just before she’d fallen asleep. Surrounded by the Colony, there was no chance he would be able to get away!
Immediately, her peaceful bubble was burst, replaced with guilt, sadness, anger, and a sick, gnawing fear. Jim was her friend. Had been her friend. She’d spent years with him. Held captive by the golgari, they had relied on each other for support. He’d been the first and only other reincarnated monster she’d ever seen until Anthony had dropped in to disturb their quiet little world.
They had supported each other, laughed together. For years.
Then, he’d betrayed the Colony. Despite the terrible consequences, the eggs and larvae who had been killed without ever really having a chance to live, it was difficult to think of her friend as a villain. She couldn’t flip a switch and delete the memories she had of him.
In some way, she understood that he’d done it for her. How and why his mind had twisted to that point, where he thought his actions were right, she had no idea. What he’d done was so alien, so removed from the Jim she thought she had understood.
And what would the Colony do? What would Anthony do?
They had none of her reservations when it came to Jim. He wasn’t their friend, he had been their ally only for a short time. To them, he was nothing less than a killer of the young. She couldn’t think of a worse crime in the eyes of the ants.
But Jim wasn’t just a monster! He was a person from Earth. Would Anthony really be able to just… kill him? Even though they were the same?
When Sarah stopped to analyse that thought, she realised just how wrong it was. Just a monster? What did that even mean? How were any of the thousands and thousands of ants in the Colony less worthy, less a living creature with thoughts, desires and beliefs, just because they were born in the Dungeon?
And was Anthony the same as Jim? No. The two were fundamentally different. Anthony had dived into his new life as a monster, creating a new existence and bringing his new family along for the ride.
She and Jim had been kindred spirits, uncertain, afraid. Neither had been able to properly adjust to Pangera, or what they had become. In some ways, she felt that Anthony was happier to be an ant than he’d been as a person. Almost as if he were born to be a monster.
Even so… would he really be able to just kill another former human? Someone with similar experiences, similar memories? And what if he did? Would she have the right to ask for leniency? Would it even be right to do so?
Confused and troubled by such thoughts, she wandered the tunnels until she made her way back to the Colony staging grounds. No matter how she thought about it, she couldn’t find any good answers. What was morally right had never been clear to her in her previous life, why would this one be any different?
Nothing was easy when sentient beings got involved.
She comforted herself with one thought: Anthony was probably struggling with this just as much as she was.
She walked around the final corner and into the bruan’chii village. There, she found a large gathering of ants around Jim, who had been tied horizontally to a pole. The trapped worm writhed helplessly as Brilliant danced atop him and Anthony, the giant glittering ant, ran circles around him, poking him with antennae and taunting him.[Gonna tenderise you just right Jim!] he cackled. [The grubs like soft food after all. We wouldn’t want to give them an upset tummy now would we? That’d be terrible!]
The crowd gnashed their mandibles, clicking them aggressively as they darted in and out, making it seem as if they would take a chunk out of the worm at a moment’s notice.[How does that feel, Jim?] Anthony taunted. [Are you scared? Feeling helpless? Like a grub? Just wriggling on the ground, unable to protect yourself when the big bad golgari come? That must be terrible Jim. Awful! However will you cope? MUAHAHAHAHAAA!]
Sarah watched dumbfounded as the cruel scene continued, with no sign of slowing down.