Bella retreated from the Queen's chamber, an inexplicable excitement building in her thorax. The evolution of the Queen was a subject of particular import to Bella and her partner Elligant. The two Core Shaper members of the council had struggled ever since they had evolved into their current forms and responsibilities to get a handle on their purpose, to forge ahead on their path, and they'd been making great strides.
Bella followed the winding tunnels of the nest this way and that, climbing over and around other ants going about their tasks until she made her way into the crafting research and development area. Here it was that those chambers put aside for the mage ants, the carvers and the core shapers to experiment and develop their skills were situated. Bella charged into the room designated for the shapers to use, almost nocking Ellie over in her haste.
"Bella! What the heck?" Ellie bellowed, disentangling herself from her exuberant partner.
Chastened, Bella pulled back slightly and straightened her antennae out as she collected her thoughts. The chamber was much as she had left it before, one side dominated by small indents they had carved into the dirt to hold the cores that were delivered to their chambers every day. Rows of the small, basic cores sorted into monster type and organised by evolutionary level, settled in neat lines that were each labelled via pheromones were the pride of the Carver department. It had taken a lot of agitation from the pair of them to get even this many cores from the soldiers who farmed them in the nest below.
Ellie and Bella had originally wanted every core collected by the colony to come through their claws, that they might practice their skills as much as possible in order to advance through the tiers, but it had been deemed both unreasonable and unnecessary. It was fair enough, seeing as the Core Shapers couldn't possibly work through that many cores in a single day and there couldn't be any delay in dispersing the cores to the hatchlings who needed them desperately in order to fuel their evolutions.
Even so, they had arranged to be delivered a number of cores each day that they could manage, along with their four assistants. With these cores they strained their minds as hard as possible to push their Core Shaping skills to the limit, pushing until their heads were near exploding and they collapsed in a heap, at which point the core would be put in a corner with the others which had been manipulated and collected at the end of the day for delivery.
It all came down to cores! There just wasn't enough of them!
Since the Elder insisted on fuelling the evolution of as many hatchlings as possible, the colony consumed a ferocious number of cores and farming efforts had expanded to try and meet the ravenous demand. Other than providing water to the farm chambers in order to give the monsters a source of mana infused water, there was yet to be a development in the methods used to increase the speed and likelihood for a monster to develop a core and this was shaping up as a key challenge facing the expansion of the colony.
It was just one of the project that the Core Shapers had bent their minds to, fuelled by their potent Will.
"Big news Ellie! The Queen is getting ready to evolve!" Bella told her partner.
Elligant wiggled her antennae in excitement, her mind instantly buzzing with the possible outcomes.
"We'll need to make sure we are there when she emerges from her evolution sleep" Elligant gushed, "when she tells us her species, we'll be able to add it to the logs!"
Bella nodded enthusiastically, taking in the logs which were carved into another wall in the chamber. This was the collective knowledge that the colony had amassed so far about monster types and evolution. The most key information was obviously that which referred to their own species. The Queen's evolution should be a rare and unique one, which would give them the opportunity to record an evolution pathway that wouldn't often be seen. The only evolution that would be more tantalising would be the Eldest, since that particular member of the colony walked down a path of evolution that no other ant had, and in all likelihood no other ant ever would.
Whilst the two members of the council nattered at each other about the possible paths the Queen's evolution might take, their four assistants continued their diligent work drawing from the collection of cores to be manipulated, carrying them back to their own individual work stations in their mandibles and then touching them with antennae and forcing change to the information inside in order to train their skills.
One by one the poor ants slumped into the dirt as their minds hit their limits and they rested to try and gather strength for another attempt. This was their day, each and every day, and they loved it. To the Core Shapers of the colony, this was heaven, grinding skills and forging a path into the future as the experts of evolution, all things core and crafters of pets for the colony.
"How's our main project going?" Bella enquired of Ellie, getting back onto their actual tasks.
Ellie shook her head.
"Still inconclusive. The main drawback is still our lack of skill ranks and support skills."
The two ants moved toward their joint work area beyond the four assistants who remained crumbled in the dirt. In their station a single core sat on a raised mound of earth and the two shapers crowded around it.
The Core Shapers had been designed by the Eldest in order to fulfil one primary function, which was to design and shape cores that could be reconstituted by members of the colony to assist in work and much of their theory crafting and brainstorming had been toward working out exactly what sort of pets the colony needed.
The Eldest had certainly proven that they could be powerful when raised properly, but the Shapers had very quickly abandoned that avenue of thought. They would never have the kind of resources to spare that the Eldest had lavished on those pets, they didn't have enough for the ants, let alone any pets they might create!
No, that path of enquiry was pointless. Instead, they had focused on pets that would be immediately useful, able to fulfil some sort of need without having to be strengthened and reinforced. They should be useful after they were fully grown and should only expect to evolve once, perhaps twice over the course of their lives.
Bella drew her antennae forward and placed them on the core, their first effort at designing a creature to serve the colony in the capacity of a pet. Activating the Core Shaping skill, she took in the rush of information contained within and sorted it into a readable status.
After contemplating the results she drew back to consult with her fellow Shaper.
"I'm just not sure if it serves the purpose well enough for us to go with it" she sighed.
Ellie nodded. They'd attempted to design a pack animal to act as logistics support using the evolved Dragon Wolf Hound as the base. The idea behind the concept being that if a soldier or worker had this pet along they'd be able to move heavy loads much more quickly with fewer ants, speeding up the transport of Biomass, dirt, stone, logs and anything else that they needed to shift.
The problem was that it was extremely difficult to find something that be better than just throwing more ants at the problem. Need to fight stuff? More ants. Need to move stuff? Send more ants. Need to solve a difficult problem? Get some extra ants in there.
The two Shapers had been both chagrined, and extremely pleased to be confronted with the superiority of the design of their own species.
"Let's turn to our other concept then" Ellie suggested and Bella readily agreed.
Logistics was a bust for the time being, time to go back to combat oriented pets.