The Queen was in her chamber much the same as she had been over a day ago, covered in workers and resting peacefully. She hasn't had any reason to go out and fight lately so I hope she's enjoying a period of relaxation.
Considering the measly supply of Biomass that the workers have been extracting from the surface there hasn't even been much laying to do. I'm not sure if Queen ants can get bored but perhaps she might be feeling that things have become a little dull?
[Bored?] she responds when I ask her, sounding for all the world like she didn't even understand the word, [why would I be bored?]
[Well, there isn't much to do at the moment?]
[Foolish child] she chides me, [the colony is not under threat and you have provided food and a great hope for our family. I am content, as we should all be]
How is this giant ant monster always so positive?! Such a good mother!
Before I can get too emotional I need to focus on the present.
[So you've received the Biomass we sent up?]
[Yes. The children have been working as hard as they can. They found it and brought it to me]
I stare hard at the Queen for a moment, trying to judge whether she's upgraded herself as we discussed. Rather than accuse my own my own mother of lying, which would be rather tactless, I try a different angle.
[Is it ok if I check on your core? There may be more that I can do to improve our chances]
[of course child]
She answers without hesitation. I seriously doubt that she's even capable of doubting her own children. I wonder if all the ant Queens are like this?
Bringing my antennae forward I activate the core surgery skill and spin my mind up into overdrive to handle the flood of information that nearly knocks me off my six feet. Okok. Here we go then. Ah, this is the bit I'm looking for!
Trying to arrange all of the details in my mind I find the information I want and check in on the Queen's mutation advancements. Oh ho! I would not have been surprised if she had neglected my advice in order to produce more young. I believe that she considers producing young as her primary responsibility and the best way to serve the family as a whole, so it's only natural that she would prioritise it over everything else, but in a pleasant shock she has constrained herself!
In front of me I can plainly see the upgrades to the three egg production organs than she has selected:
[Efficient Biomass Deconstruction Organ +5, increases the efficiency of the organ to produce more deconstructed Biomass per point of Biomass spent]
[Smooth Biomass Recoding Gland +5, the recoding process utilises less deconstructed mass to encode the same material, increasing efficiency]
[Boosting Egg production Gland +5, Gives a bonus +2 to all stats for each egg produced]
The first two upgrades were exactly the sort of thing I spoke to the Queen about. After studying the organs carefully, I estimate that these two advancements will synergise together to boost the egg production by 10%! Possibly more!
That might not sound like much, but it isn't as if the Queen will be producing ten eggs per year once the colony gets rolling. My dream scenario would have the Queen producing about a million ants a year, so an extra 10% would represent an increase of 100,000 workers. Not a small number at all.
The thing that really grabs my attention is the +2 to all stats in the egg production gland. +2 might not seem like much but it's enough to make my mind boggle! That's a huge deal! The ants will be so weak that +2 to their physical stats is going to be significant enough but +2 to the mental stats is fantastic!
If we were to think of the Croca beasts and how much Biomass would be needed to create one as opposed to a hatchling worker, I would guess that for each Croca Beast that was hatched would be able to make eight worker ants, perhaps more. An extra two stats on one Croca won't make that much difference but for eight workers? The difference is huge!
In fact… I can make use of this…
Knowing that every worker is going to be getting this boost from the Queen I make a few minor adjustments, bending my mind to its limits to enforce them. I trim down on the workers a little, basically shaving one point from each stat and giving clear paths for the bonus stats to slide into.
The end result of this trade-off is that the ants will be produced more cheaply than before but still be a little stronger in the end. Win-win! However there is a chance we can go further.
Withdrawing my mind from the Queen's core I immediately congratulate her on the wise choices she made.
[Those mutation advancements are fantastic! The two efficiency upgrades will mean more workers and the +2 to all stats was perfect. Great Job!]
[Thank you child] the Queen sounds genuinely pleased to be praised in this way. [Are we ready to lay the first generation of new workers? How many are needed? 200? 400?]
[Whoa there! Hold on a second! 400?!]
I can tell the Queen is pumped up to get back to growing the colony and the promises I've made about the next generation are clearly exciting for her but she needs to hold onto them horses for a bit longer.
[No way! Not yet!] I say firmly.
[What? Why?] I can tell she is genuinely disappointed. Sorry Mother!
[First of all we are going to get that egg production gland to +10 for sure. If it's possible to get another +2 to all stats to stack with the existing advancement that will absolutely insane. Game breaking even. I'm not kidding, +10 for the egg laying is a must!]
The Queen is silent for a moment. I can almost feel her sadness…
[It's ok! It won't take long! We brought up a huge feast from below, it'll surely get you to +10! I'll make sure the workers bring every bit of it here for you, ok?!] I say desperately.
[Thank you child] she says gratefully.
[as for the first generation] I continue, relieved her mood has improved, [my suggestion is that we keep it small. Only twenty workers]
[So few? I haven't laid a clutch of eggs that small since the first. Is that really alright?]
[absolutely. These workers will be completely different than the ones in the past. I'll have to teach them a few things and bring them up carefully. Once they hatch I'll start teaching them and you can save up on Biomass. When they're ready you can lay the second generation of 400 and the workers I've trained will be able to take care of them. See?]
[I understand. I'll be patient]
I chat to the Queen a little longer before sending my crew down below into our little chamber and making my way back to the surface to make good on my promise. I personally lead the workers to the food cache and instruct them carefully before supervising them transport the massive load of food directly to the Queens chamber for her to feast on.
If that organ can be doubled up to +4….
Things are going to get crazy.
Filled with hope for the new workers I wander over the human area and see what the pests have been up to whilst I was below. As I approach I can see they've erected a few crude shelters and unpacked most of their stuff. Someone took the time to use some fallen branches to put up a picket line for the beasts of burden as well.
As I draw closer I observe the people a little more carefully, it doesn't take long before something strikes me as a little odd…
Why are these homeless refugees looking so chipper?
It's true. Where I expected to find weeping, gnashing teeth and fists being shaken at the sky there appears instead calm people, many smiling and joking with others as they go about their labours.
Also, aren't there more of them?