The twenty young ants depart the chamber of the eldest in silence, allowing their Senior the rest and quiet that they seem to crave. They don't quite understand it, this desire for solitude and a reprieve from work, an unnatural concept for an ant, but due to the individual making the request, they respect it.
Without communicating they move as one, through the Queens chamber and towards the upper chambers. Now there are six hundred of their kind waiting to be born here, the Queen has been pushing herself towards full production as fast as possible and only yesterday another clutch was laid. It will be one day, maybe a little more, before the first wave of two hundred is born. There is much to do.
Filing into an unoccupied upper chamber, the twenty arranged themselves into a rough circle. They haven't planned or discussed this council, but by some instinct they knew it would occur. The mantle of leadership does not belong to any one ant, all members of the colony understand this, but the twenty, despite being so young, understood that after the eldest and the Senior known as Vibrant, they were the eldest of their race, thus they were expected to lead.
"Much to be done" the Carver known as Cobalt was the first speak.
"Indeed" several others answered.
The general Victor waved their antennae in a gesture of frustration. "The Eldest has many ideas, but the implementation has not been carried through."
"You speak of the farms?" Burke the scout asked.
Victor nodded. "I do. Their capacity is woefully inadequate."
Ellie the Core Shaper stepped forward to speak. "If the Queen is laying at full capacity then we can expect two hundred new hatchlings every few days. Currently, the colony is woefully underprepared to feed and groom that many workers, certainly not to the standards the eldest hopes for."
All twenty lowered their heads in contemplation. The eldest, the first and progenitor of their species, was something of a puzzle to them. As their Senior and indeed, the Eldest of their race, they revered and respected that individual as every member of the colony did, but they were frequently confused by them. Un antlike concepts and behaviour, such as the insistence on the nurture of each individual to the best of the colony's capacity, went against their instincts, even if they could intellectually understand the benefit.
Antionette spoke for herself and her fellow Juvenile Queen, Victoriant. "I believe we are all agreed that the farms must be dramatically expanded. At least double, perhaps as much as five times the size" she offered softly, "we must ensure that the young are able to grow without want."
The twenty all nodded. This was the first priority. The wave was a temporary phenomenon in theory, but whilst it persisted they could exploit it to harvest the Biomass and cores they would need to fuel the rapid expansion of the colony. The workforce required to hunt and acquire such an amount of food under normal circumstances did not exist at the moment, so exploiting the current circumstances made a lot of sense.
"Let us discuss the composition of the workforce moving forward" rumbled Grant, "I would like to hear your thoughts."
The Eldest had insisted that each worker be allowed to choose their own path, which the twenty acknowledged, but again didn't quite understand. Of course, each individual ant would choose whatever it was that the colony needed. They themselves had been quite conflicted upon being told they would need to decide for themselves what to evolve into. Only after a lengthy discussion had they decided that what would best serve the colony was for a representative of each caste to be represented amongst them, thus allowing the ants to choose the caste that best suited their temperament without concern.
The new wave of hatchlings would be desperate to know what it was the colony required, and would then be overjoyed to evolve and fill that gap.
"We all know why you do not want to speak first" grunted Tungstant, "the colony needs soldiers more than anything else. We have pressing need for strength in combat, scouts and leaders in order to protect ourselves and increase our hunting efficiency."
"Indeed" seconded Theresant the Brood Keeper. "We also require more workers to tend to the brood. If we wish to ensure that the young are given the best start to life we can manage, security, sustenance and care in the larval form are required."
The twenty all nodded. This was reasonable, and also ran into the other problem that the Eldest had dropped on them unwittingly.
"Those of us from the specialist classes should begin to experiment and research skills as quickly as possible" Cobalt spoke their thoughts. "The Eldest has procured information from a source outside the colony but we should not trust that source implicitly. Each skill unlock and fusion combination needs to be tested. Not to mention" Cobalt continued wryly, "some castes do not have a clear purpose as of yet. We will need to discover it from scratch."
The others nodded. Exactly how the Cavers and Core Shapers were supposed to operate, what exactly they were intended to produce, was completely nebulous at present. Not understanding, with exacting precision, their purpose in the colony was unnatural and intolerable to the ants. It was unlikely they would rest for a moment until they were able to discern a function they could fill.
"I agree" Sloan pitched in, "we need to establish a complete map of all skill options, fusions and mutations as quickly as possible. For all castes. Peak efficiency is to be sought at all times."
How the eldest had blundered forward, choosing this and that with seemingly little thought to future possibilities and consequences, yet still managed to become the most powerful individual in the family, was faintly miraculous. The workers did not wish to take any chances, all things should be planned and mapped as much as possible.
"Now we come to most difficult question" Coolant the mage spoke solemnly.
All the ants fell still as they contemplated this, most serious issue.
"What exactly are we going to do with the Eldest?" Burke muttered.
The strangely puzzling, compelling and powerful progenitor of their race, followed loyally by the two guardians, each a powerhouse in their own right, represented a tremendous asset to the colony, but also a somewhat random and chaotic element.
For now it would appear that their Senior intended to … rest. Surely after a time the Eldest would wish to continue to work for the colony and what should be done then? Should the Senior just do whatever it is that they wanted? Should the twenty make suggestions? As a potent asset to the colony, they certainly didn't want to see the Eldest pass away during a poorly though out escapade in the Dungeon.
"We may need some time to consider this issue" Victoriant broke the silence. "I suggest that we rally the colony and commence work for the time being, let us reconvene just prior to the next wave of pupae hatching."
In silent agreement the twenty turned and rushed out into the bustle of the colony, dropping scent trails and gathering workers for the project they had in mind. It was going to get busy around here.