The idea of peaceful cooperation between nations or even species is quite the foreign concept to these ants and I shouldn't be surprised. They are Dungeon monsters after all. I may have made them smarter but their fundamental nature as ants is to serve the colony to the exclusion of all else. Convincing them not to throw their lives away in pointless sacrifice was hard enough of a chore, diplomacy and trade may be a bridge too far!
It seems that Vibrant at least has begun to grasp the greater picture here.
"Nope!" she chirped brightly, "I just think we shouldn't eat things that are willing to help us! There are toooons of things that want to kill us that we can go eat."
Well… Good enough.
"Vibrant does raise I valid point" I declared to the others, "during the wave we have a near infinite supply of food spawning in the Dungeon below us, most of the Biomass is going to waste as the monsters battle and feed on each other, only to die and be fed on in return. How long until we are ready to start sending hunting parties into the Dungeon in numbers?"
It's Antionette the Juvenile Queen who stepped forward to answer this time.
"The third hatching since the change of species occurred several hours ago and are for now awaiting the commencement of their training, which means we have more than four hundred of the new workers as well as the numbers we sustained during the wave. The colony has a total workforce of just over one thousand now, but a large proportion of those are not battle ready."
Over a thousand?! That's great news! We lost a lot of workers over the journey and to finally reach this tipping point is a wonderful moment!
"It shouldn't take too long to get them up to speed surely? How did you go with the first two hundred?" I asked eagerly.
The twenty shifted slightly in their places.
"It was, challenging" admitted Advant the soldier, "drilling into them the basic concepts of self-preservation was extremely difficult and due to the sheer number of them it took some time to accrue the recquired Biomass and experience to allow all two hundred to evolve."
"Wait" I gasped, "does this mean all two hundred have undergone a maxed out first evolution?"
That would be insane!
The second Juvenile Queen, Victoriant, coughed. "As you are aware Senior, we don't have the resources to allow each individual to absorb a special core. We did as best we could, each ant evolved with a core, maxed out mutations and having absorbed all of the cores we could supply. To do any better we would have had to delay their evolution for too long."
I nodded. That made perfect sense, they did the best they could with the resources that we had available. I can't complain too much since I was only too happy to hand the task over to them.
"So what sort of evolutions did they choose? Did we get another even spread like with you guys?"
Theresant smoothly broke in before anyone else could speak. "As it turned out almost half of them chose to be soldiers, the remainder were mostly workers, with a few artisans mixed in. They are all still in the juvenile stage and it will be some time before they are ready for their next evolution. Our hands are very busy since we already have another two hundred hatchlings to tend to, and another two hundred coming in three days."
In three days?!
"Just how quickly is the Queen able to lay eggs right now?" I demanded.
"Oh, we get spikes in Biomass every now and again, the creatures spawning in her chamber supply a steady flow but things have slowed down now that so much is being funnelled into the hatchlings. We project that the Queen will be able to lay one clutch of two hundred eggs every four days at the moment. Mostly thanks to Vibrant and her team bringing up so much from the tunnels."
Hearing herself praised like this, Vibrant suddenly turned bashful.
"Aww, it's nothing! Just doing what an ant can do!" she giggled.
Two hundred every four days?! With most of the food going into the hatchlings!
"So if we were to start sending hunting parties into the Dungeon in, let's say a week, what sort of speed would we expect to see?" I asked, almost afraid of the answer.
The general, Sloan, was the one to answer this question.
"If we are able to get the first batch of two hundred up to their second evolution and then take them into the Dungeon for hunting missions, presuming we are able to achieve this in the stated time frame, I expect that the Queen would be able to hit her production limit of two hundred eggs per day."
TWO HUNDRED PER DAY?! That's six thousand in a month! We could be ratcheting up to that kind speed in just a week.
Without thinking about it, my head turned toward the two juvenile Queens in the room.
"Yes" Sloan noticed my look, "if that were to occur then developing Victoriant and Antionette would become our highest priority. After one more evolution they'll be able to begin producing eggs and one more evolution after that before they can match the Queen's output. We forecast it would take just over a month to get to that stage."
So that would be six hundred eggs per day, and eighteen thousand workers per month…
Just. Hold on a moment. I knew that ants could have large colonies, obviously I knew that! Being faced with this sort of growth and these kinds of numbers is rather shocking to me!
"That's … good?" I managed to say, still somewhat shocked.
Just how much Biomass are we going to need to fuel that sort of growth? How many cores will we be able to harvest?
"Do we need to expand the farms again?" I ask nobody in particular.
It's Cobalt the Carver Ant who answered, "we have a team on farm expansion pretty much constantly. Whilst this period of endless spawning continues we need to take everything we can get."
We sure do. Hold on, constantly expanding the farms?
"So how many farms are we up to?" I asked the smaller, delicate looking worker caste.
Cobalt thought for a moment. "Around thirty? I haven't checked with them today, I apologise, Senior."
Yikes! This is all snowballing rather quickly. I should have known that when I turned the management of the colony over to ants they wouldn't stuff around! These guys mean business!
It's a good thing really. I want our family to be successful and prosperous, to dominate the Dungeon and seize it's lands for the glory of our mother, I just didn't think it would start to happen this quickly.
"Well, I mean, that all sounds great! I guess, so long as we are clear on the not killing the humans, or any other sapient society we happen to encounter, I'll just get back to exploring and … eating?"
It sounds kind of lazy now that I've said it out loud…
"Actually" it's Burke who broke in at this moment, "we've been doing some preliminary scouting over the surface and it seems like something is going on to the north. There's been smoke, seen at long distances from immense fires, and more humans have been fleeing this way."
"Indeed" Wills picked up where Burke left off, "the situation on the surface is beginning to look dire. For the time being it seems as if the threat from below has abated, but we feel that only you, Senior, would be able to safely determine the nature of the situation on the surface right now."
Massive fires? More refugees?
"What is going on up there?" I wondered out loud.