Tentatively, I bring my antennae into contact with the Queen's and then activate the skill.
With what I learned during the skill upgrade I know that all I need is to be touching a part of the body on the monster I'll be 'operating' on but with an ant it feels like the antennae are the most appropriate place.
As soon as the skill is activated I feel a massive burst of information as the details of the Queen's core explode in my mind.
The Queen has by far the most complicated and powerful monster core I've seen with the exception of Formo's worm! Frantically I put my sub brains to work processing all of this information before the onslaught of data just straight knocks me out. With my backup dancers doing their part the pressure eases off instantly and I look in awe at the elegance of the Queen's core.
She's actually a very powerful and rare creature isn't she?
I got the impression that ants weren't common in the Dungeon, based on what the Queen told me, usually appearing randomly at the bottom of the first strata or sometimes even lower than that. After all, they have the extremely rare ability to produce their own offspring, rather than waiting for the Dungeon to spawn more of their kind. We ants aren't the only ones in the Dungeon with this ability but we are among the most feared.
Looking at the Queen's core I can finally see how this function works. The Queen actually has a network of glands and organs that work together to perform this job. I had thought I'd just find an 'Egg-laying organ +10' or something in here but it isn't the case. The Queen has three total organs that contribute to producing her offspring.
The way the offspring are produced is also not what I expected. Rather than being made from nothing, as eggs that then need to mature, the Queen actually converts Biomass that she eats into eggs that can then be born. THIS is the reason that the workers bring her almost all of the Biomass that they catch. Biomass points are directly converted into new workers inside the Queen!
In a flash I make another realisation. This is why the Queen's egg producing rate has gone down ever since we came up to the surface! Like me, she has a powerful core and is a higher tier monster. She doesn't get much Biomass from eating surface monsters or weak, lower level creatures. She was born at the lowest reaches of the first Strata, her natural prey are down there! With so little Biomass points being produced, her rate of laying has plummeted.
This also explains the connected organs for egg producing.
Firstly she has an organ attached to her stomach that is designed to drain off Biomass and covert it to some kind of liquid sludge. This is the Biomass Conversion Organ and it looks as if the Queen hasn't upgraded it at all
I bet she spent almost every bit of Biomass on eggs and healing upgrades
Sure enough, when I check through all of her organ data she's upgraded her antennae to +5 for healing channelling and upgraded her healing mana gland to +5 to take burst heal upgrade that lets her wave out the energy over an area, perfect for healing a huge army of ants.
She's really too unselfish. This also shows a little lack of wisdom due to her being a young monster. Upgrading the egg production organs is by far the fastest way to grow the colony's power. I'll have to convince her to upgrade all the organs related to producing eggs as quickly as possible, all the way to +10 if we can, but at least to +5.
The second organ in the process is the lifeform recoding organ. If the job of the Conversion Organ is to strip the Biomass of its properties, turning it into a multipurpose goo, then this organ is for reshaping that stuff into the necessary material for ant egg making.
Finally there was the egg production gland itself. This was responsible for taking the reformed goop and making it into ant eggs, essentially encoding ant DNA on the sludge.
This process is going to be more complicated than I thought. I figured I could just go to the 'baby ant' section and whip up some magic but apparently not! I may have to make changes to multiple organs here and rework them slightly.
I think I'll have to work backwards. I'll start at the last step, the egg production organ. Reaching in with the most delicate control my combined minds can muster, I ever so carefully begin to make fine adjustments to the design of the eggs produced by the organ.
I don't have any intention of changing the early life phases of the ants. They'll go from eggs to larvae, as usual. In fact I actually extend the early, development phase of their lives. By increasing their youthful state I gain leeway to develop them into more complex organism at the end of the process. The longer the gestation period the more 'allowance' I get. I don't want to keep the young in larval form for ages but a little longer than they do currently gives me a little wiggle room, I'm looking at adding a lot of complexity to these guys.
The first thing I do is give the hatchling worker a much more complex brain, beefing up the cunning stat considerably. I won't be able to get them to the same level of Cunning that I had when I was reborn as an ant and I'm not aiming too. If I gave them a brain that complicated they'd be larval for a year and the Queen would need so much Biomass to produce a single egg it wouldn't be worth it. Instead I'll give them the intelligence of a young human child which they can build on over the course of their evolutions.
The next thing I do is give them the pheromone language gland at birth. This way I'll be able to communicate and teach them right from the moment they are born. If they can ask questions and talk with each other then they should all advance at a faster pace.
These complicated additions are really stressing the system here. I've overdrawn on my budget. To balance out the changes I've made I'm forced to reduce the physical stats of the hatchlings to an even more horrible floor than they already started with. They'll be smaller and weaker than the current workers by a significant margin. It shouldn't matter though. My goal is to raise them up myself until they achieve their first evolution, then I'm hoping they'll be strong enough to take care of the next generation without me.
Next I push my current core engineering skill to the very limit and begin to change the evolutionary paths available to the workers. At the very least I can alter the first few tiers. The inbuilt knowledge that comes with my skill tells me that the system will be able to fill in the rest even if I don't settle it myself. I just have to hope that it can carry on with the foundations I lay in a sensible way.
For the future ant society I'm envisioning I create three basic paths of evolution. The soldier path for those ants dedicated to battle, the support path for those who will be healers, tend to the young and become the future Queens and the artisan path for the ants who will indulge in their love of digging and making stuff. I'm extremely curious to see exactly what sort of things a highly intelligent ant decides to create!
The Soldiers will obviously focus on physical stats and resilience. Their future paths include leaders with auras, tanks and scouts. Each individual can flavour their own path with whatever skills and mutations they like so hopefully this allows enough individuality.
The Support or Worker class will be more intelligent, focus on the work of the colony, caring for the brood and the Queens. Their future paths include Juvenile Queens, Healer ants and Brood tenders.
The Artisans are the caste I'm depending on to take over my core manipulation duties. I don't want to have to form special cores myself for every ant in the colony after all. These guys are highly intelligent and have a strong will but are the weakest physically by far. Their paths include Core Manipulator, Ant Mage and Carver ant. The last one I gifted with exceedingly mobile claws on their front legs, almost like hands. I'm not sure what they'll be able to do with them but perhaps they'll surprise me.
I also manage to put in place special evolutions for each of these paths. I don't think an entire colony of ants will be able to fully reinforce their cores or anything but it doesn't hurt to be prepared.
By now the changes are really starting to push back hard and my mind is hitting the wall. I judge I won't be able to do much more before I can't go any further. I carefully check over my work so far to make sure I haven't made any massive mistakes like shift their antennae into the middle of their eyes or something.
With that task settled I sit back and take in my work, figuratively speaking. Despite the downgrades I've made the rate of egg production for the new ants is still going to be about half of what is was before. I'm ok with this though. If each of the new workers can prove to be twice as effective as the previous then it'll work out just fine.
Next I move onto the secondary organ and make the minute adjustments to ensure that the Bio-Soup being produced contains the extra bits and pieces needed to produce the new juiced up eggs.
By this point my head is on fire. There isn't anything more I can do here even if I wanted to. Hopefully the work I've done here is sufficient to make my dream a reality.
With that I withdraw my mind from the core of the Queen.