Our mission is divine. Passed down through the centuries from our forebears who were fortunate enough to hear the words of the great one. To complete the circle, to finish the work that was begun but never completed. Only then can the path be opened and the way to a greater existence be made manifest.
What is this world, with its endless trials and monsters, but purgatory? This is not where we are meant to be. This is not a place where anyone belongs. Only at one point in history was it possible for our lord to reach out to us, to enlighten us to the truth. Our society was told many secrets which we recorded in the Book of Red Truth.
Since that initial communication, we have not heard from our master, but messages have been passed through intermediaries and we know that progress has been made.
Nineteen is not enough. Twenty are required. There are those with potential out there, we have seen them, found them. If we can raise one up, lift it to the pinnacle that is required, then the circle will close and the way will be opened.
We are everywhere, in all nations and amongst all peoples. It is only a matter of time.
From the writings on the Red Truth, Author Unknown.
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Victor was struggling.
When she had first evolved into a General, she'd thought it would be simple. Despite all the lessons that the Eldest had drilled into her and her siblings, about tactics, about preserving lives, her instincts had been clear. Ants would fight as they had always fought: overwhelming through superior numbers and avoiding anything that didn't work on.
Even with her increased intelligence, it didn't seem as if that generic plan had any holes in it. When the Eldest had insisted that every ant, every soldier and worker, be given the utmost opportunity to survive, she'd listened but not understood what that would mean.
You couldn't throw ants at a fight until it went away if each of those ants needed to be preserved to the best of your ability. You couldn't adopt attrition tactics, when you were charged with preserving the lives of your soldiers at all costs.
And the thing that was most grating, the thing that gave Victor the most stress, was that she was starting to care. She'd seen it already in the others, in Wills most of all. Every ant in the colony would happily die for the sake of the family, but now they were reaching a point where they were not willing to sacrifice each other. This level of care and emotion felt alien and strange to Victor, but she feared it was only a matter of time before it spread throughout the colony.
Increased cognitive function had brought many blessings to the species but it also meant a shift in behaviours and attitudes. Victor just wished that they'd had time to learn these lessons without a crisis hanging over their heads.
"How's the word from the front?" she turned to one of her aides and asked.
The large soldier ant shook her body slightly, intimidated at being in the presence of one of her seniors.
"Yes, General! There has been a message from the scouts delivered in the last five minutes! The Kaarmodo acolytes appeared at the front line and began a spell offensive against our skirmish forces. We've had multiple accounts of the acolytes appearing from thin air, the scouts suspect some advanced kind of magic is at play."
Victor winced. They'd been worried about that.
"Casualties?" she asked, not wanting to hear the answer.
"Four groups were destroyed before the general retreat was effected."
Victor sighed. That meant twenty ants had been killed, most likely in an instant. When each soldier had such potential it was an incredible waste for them to die, that was the real shame of it. Their numbers would be replenished shortly, in fact, only twenty casualties meant that their numbers would increase when the next wave of soldiers arrived, but Victor could no longer think of it as the dead being replaced. They couldn't be replaced.
The Eldest had started something strange in the colony and Victor could hope that they knew what they were doing.
"I need to speak to Wills, do you know where she is?" Victor asked her aide.
"I haven't heard General. Last report I received had the scout leader making her way toward the front."
Victor cursed. Wills had shown an increasing tendency to try and take matters into her own hands. It meant that the scouts' operations tended to work smoothly but it also meant that Victor could never get hold of her sibling when she needed to.
"I'll go find her. You hold here and inform me of any developments when I get back."
"Yes, Ma'am!" the soldier saluted with one antenna.
Victor crawled out of her chamber, with its increasingly detailed map of the terrain and the horde on it. The enemy would reach this forward base within the next twenty four hours, the ants would have abandoned it by then. According to projections the horde would then take two days to make the final push to the nest.
Victor could only hope that preparations had been finished at the nest by that time. The digging teams from the front had already been sent back toward the nest, laying their traps and digging ambush tunnels. It wouldn't be long before that work was complete and they could return to the main colony to assist in construction there.
As Victor crawled through the tunnels the soldiers and workers didn't give way for her, that wasn't the ant way. They simply crawled over the top of each other and called out with their pheromone glands.
"Keep working hard General!"
"No slacking now, General!"
"Almost time for us to start getting serious, isn't it General?"
Victor chuckled to herself. At least some things about the colony hadn't changed, they'd only become more prevalent. These ants would happily work themselves to death if they were allowed. Actually, that reminded her.
"Don't forget your mandatory breaks!" she shouted so everyone in the tunnel could hear.
A chorus of groans and curses rang out, tickling her antennae and making her laugh out loud this time. They were still ants, no matter what else had changed.