As the voices of the new hatchlings ring throughout the room, and I start to wonder just what it is that I've done, another voice sounds within my mind.
[Original Species has been detected. New species type has been assigned.]
Gandalf?! What the heck are you on about?!
Is he saying that the new hatchlings are recognised by the system as a different species to mine? I did make a lot of changes…
Does this mean that the workers will attack them? That would be terrible!
Before I can process the implications of what is being said, the voice of the grey one continues to speak.
[You have been designated as the progenitor of this new species. Do you wish to align your species, and that of your colony, with this new archetype?]
The instant I assent within my mind, there is an audible rumble around and within me. A lethargic feeling rises up through my limbs and claws towards my mind, dragging me down into the lassitude I recognise as Torpor.
[Crinis! Watch me …]
Before I can finish the sentence, my thoughts slow like congealing grease until they move no more.
[Crinis! Crinis! How long was I out?!]
I sway my eyes across the scene around me and try to process what has happened. To all appearances, not much has changed. The hatchlings are still congregating together, shouting and arguing with each other with increasingly loud voices. Something that has changed, is the workers. Their movements are slowing, some of them are already still, and I recognise the creeping lethargy of torpor in all of them.
[Master?! Is everything alright?] Crinis asks, worried.
[Just tell me how long it's been since I last spoke to you!]
[Only a few moments, I haven't even made it up the tunnel to you yet!]
Just a few seconds? What in the name of heck is going on here?
The voice of Gandalf mentioned something about new species and I agreed to have mine changed. Maybe I should check my status and see if anything has changed.
Sure enough, when I bring up my status, my species has changed. No longer [Formica], but [Formica Sapiens].
As time passes, workers are crowding into the nest, crawling down the tunnel from below and stuffing themselves into chambers only to immediately grow still.
Wait a second!
Bursting out of the chamber, I rush down the main tunnel of the nest, passing Crinis on her way up. I ignore her confused questions and throw myself into the Queens chamber. Behind me I can see more workers making their way in from outside, crowding the entrance and crawling over each other to make their way inside the nest.
Inside the Queens' chamber I find the perpetually shifting guard of workers around her has grown eerily still. The stillness feels so strange here, in this place of motions and activity in the heart of colony.
Gently shifting the workers out of the way I find the Queen herself, silent and still.
Oooooh boy. I hope I didn't make a booboo.
So, if I'm reading the situation correctly, the moment the new generation was born, the system recognised that a new species had been created, then gave me, the creator of that species, the right to change the entire colony to a new designation?
I wait restlessly in the Queens chamber for any sign of motion. It only took a few seconds for my species to change, why is it taking so much longer for them? Is it because I'm already quite close to what the new generation can evolve into, whereas the others aren't? What's going to happen to the workforce? Will they all change into new hatchlings? What exactly is going to happen here!?
I'm so confused!
The new hatchlings!
I rush back up the tunnel into the chamber, once again passing Crinis who was carefully climbing down, trying not to obstruct any workers entering the nest.
In the egg chamber, the twenty small hatchling haven't ceased their shouting match, even as the workers who had tended them have grown still around them. Feeling somewhat anxious about the changing situation, I don't have that much patience for them right now.
"All of you, shut up!"
That was quick.
As I bellow at them, the twenty small hatchlings turn to me, immediately quietening down. I didn't realise I had this much charisma as a leader. I'm impressed with me!
"We have a slight situation in the nest at the moment, so I need you to keep still for a second so I can sort things out."
"Okay senior!" they respond in unison.
[Tiny, I want you to guard the nest from below the Queen's chamber. Crinis, head to the top of the nest but stay within the anthill, don't let anything but workers come down, understood?]
[I understand, Master.]
Tiny just grunts.
Alright. They'll protect the colony for the time being. All I have to do is keep these twenty workers contained and wait for the rest of the colony to wake up again. It shouldn't take too long… right?
When the last of the workers has entered the nest and found a chamber to sleep in the nest becomes unnaturally still. In every chamber, workers, eggs and larvae sit unmoving, completely silent, completely still.
It doesn't take long for the situation to start to grate on my nerves. I feel like the sole survivor of some hideous disease, surrounded by the perfectly preserved bodies of their former family members. Wake up siblings! Wake up mother! I can't take being alone like this!
As I wait, growing increasingly frantic as time passes, I speak to the new generation intermittently, keeping them settled as we wait for some sort of motion in the colony.
The first one to recover was Vibrant, of course.
"Hey senior! What's going on? This is so weird, right? I was hunting down the Dungeon and bringing up some food when this powerful feeling came over me. I rushed back the nest, dropping my food on the way, how strange is that, right? Then as soon as I got here I just took a nap and now I have a different species. Isn't that strange? And who do we have here? New hatchlings! They're so small, what's that all about? Are they sick? Undernourished? I've been bringing so much food lately, it's impossible they haven't had enough to eat! Have you been eating? You're looking stressed. You aren't hungry are you?"
"Oh my god! STOP!"
"Every member of the colony is having their species changed. I don't know how long they are going to be out so try and help me keep watch on the colony. Can you do that?"
"Oh, sure! Not a problem!"
"Okay. If you are doing that, then I might as well get started teaching these new workers. No time like the present I suppose. Not like I can do anything here to help."
"Alright senior! Have fun!" Vibrant waves an antennae cheerfully as I gather up the new hatchlings and take them towards the farms.
Nothing is ever simple around here.