Vibrant bit down hard on her prey and the System notification rang within her head a few moments later. Without pause, she flung the Biomass behind her and pressed forward whilst a silent throng of furious monsters swarmed in her wake. Her group was all around her, she could feel them now, ever since her latest evolution, sharing her strength. She'd become something between a Soldier and a General now, empowering those members of the colony who were willing to join her group. Not only their speed was enhanced, but also their Skills, an increase to movement and bite-related abilities that turned them into Dashing, Dodging and Chomping machines with boundless energy. Vibrant pushed hard and they pushed hard alongside her. Always the vanguard. No retreat.
The Eldest had called them, and the family had answered. In all directions, the colony had exploded outwards in aggressive expansion. Thousands of ants filled the tunnel, ripping and tearing everything in sight and dragging it back to Queens to fuel future expansion. The academy had graduated many new siblings for Vibrant and her fellow council members and all were hungry to work for the family. The colony was exploding with energy right now and the catalyst had been the arrival of the guardian.
The pheromones were thick in the air as ants battled and communicated with each other, trying to coordinate, calling for assistance, it was hard for Vibrant to make out the scent of who was trying to contact her. Frustrated, she backed out of the fight and allowed others to climb over her to reach the front.
The tingle in her antennae told her what she needed to know and she turned to her left to find Victor waving in her direction. At first, Vibrant didn't recognise her sister, there had been quite a change.
"Nice. We need more Tier fours in the deep."
"That is why I have come. The Soldiers have already evolved, and we are pushing hard to evolve as many support roles as we can, but it's going to take more time."
"We can try and feed more experience to the healers, in particular," Vibrant proposed, "we need them more than anything else right now. They're keeping our momentum up."
Victor considered for a moment before she agreed.
"You're right. I'll tell the scouts to get the word out. That's not why I'm here though. The guardian found something and we need you to take a look."
Vibrant wasted no time and asked where she needed to go. Not a single member of the colony was willing to wait for even a second whilst the Eldest languished in need of help.
As Vibrant followed closely behind the newly evolved General a hundred other ants peeled off the fight to follow in her footsteps, quickly replaced by fresh soldiers who had been hovering behind the front lines. Off they raced, through the dark and cold of the second strata. All around them the air was thick with the scent of pheromone trails. The colony was battling on many concurrent fronts, in tunnels, in various expanse' and every battle was being fought with overwhelming numbers.
The colony had quickly realised that teams of ten members weren't going to be enough in the Second Strata, tier three and intelligent they may be, but the danger in this world of shadow warranted greater security. After all, wasn't it the Eldest who had taught them that every death of a colony member was a waste? A waste of potential, a waste of labour, a waste of resources! It couldn't be borne! As new soldiers, scouts, generals and healers had poured out of the academy the number of ants in each conflict swelled instantly. With hundreds of ants working together they'd swept everything before them.
It didn't take long for them to arrive. Vibrant started when she noticed the huge, menacing form of the Eldest's guardian looming in the tunnel. Powerful, writhing tentacles filled the space around the gaping mouth filled with razor teeth. It would be intimidating to any creature not of the colony, it certainly wasn't going to cause any fear in Vibrant.
"Crinis! How've you been? I haven't seen you for a few days!"
The two monsters were much larger than they'd been when they'd first met but their friendship remained strong. Neither could suppress a burst of happiness at seeing the other, Vibrant bounced up to her friend full of energy and Crinis's tentacles wriggled with joy for a moment before they returned to their aggravated lashing at the air.
A nearby mage ant struggled hard for a minute before connecting the two of them with a mind bridge.
[I keep forgetting you can't talk ant. What have you found, Crinis?] Vibrant quickly asked.
[This is the place where Master vanished, I'm sure of it. At the end of the tunnel.] She used a tentacle to indicate the solid wall in front of them. [I couldn't get close enough to see what happened, but this place is a dead-end and when I followed after they were gone.]
[Great! We're finally getting somewhere!]
[No, we aren't!] That massive mouth snapped at the air in frustration. [I don't see anything! There's no hidden door or tunnel here, I'm sure of it!]
Already a team of ants were combing through every inch of the tunnel with their antennae tapping furiously at every surface. If there was anything to find, they would surely find it.
"Do we have any of the mage caste coming?" Vibrant turned to Victor.
"We do," she nodded, "I think Propellant is coming personally."
[The mages are the way. There's bound to be something here. We'll find it.] Vibrant assured her friend.
[This is taking too long. I need to get to my Master. I feel strange Vibrant, I'm worried.]
Agitated, the guardian of the Eldest, Crinis, become more and more knotted. Her tentacles extended and split before they twisted back on themselves again and again until she'd become little more than a gigantic mass of tentacles. Vibrant could easily sympathise with the sentiment. Ever since Crinis had arrived at the colony and told them the Eldest had been abducted, every member of the colony had felt as if their core had been gripped by an icy pair of mandibles. The already obsessive and workaholic ants had become infused with a desperate frenzy. Every project had been pushed forward and caution had been thrown to the wind.
[Don't' worry Crinis. We'll find the Eldest and return them to the family. Anything that tries to stand between us will be annihilated, be it the Dungeon or anything else.]
A cold fire burned in Vibrant's eyes as she spoke. The Eldest had sacrificed all for the colony. The colony was prepared to sacrifice all in turn.