We get in and we get out. That's the fundamental truth of this raid and I'm going to stick to it like a sticky substance applied to another, less sticky thing. There must be a better analogy, but I'm too pumped up to iron it out right now. It takes a little convincing but eventually we get Sarah down into the tunnel and fleeing with her buddy Jim. With her mental state as muddled as it is, I don't want her hanging around for the rest of what's going to happen around here. Namely, robbing the facility blind and running off with the loot.
We don't plan to destroy the Shapers themselves in the process, but it's inevitable that a few get caught up in the crossfire. I've made peace with that, seeing as they didn't particularly care if I myself was broken in the course of constructing their super monster. Leaving the arena, I crawl back down under the surface and immediately I'm covered in a goop like darkness that wraps itself around me.
[Master! I've completed my task and returned to you.]
[Yes I noticed. Good job, Crinis. Did the other Shadow monsters get out safely?]
[Most of them did, Master. I believe that between the pets and I we were able to secure almost all of the cores.]
[Great. I'm sure you managed to make yourself plenty distracting up there.]
[Ah Nothing! Just that you have a very striking appearance!]
[Why thank you!]
[ACK! Don't squeeze me!]
I'm glad I sent Crinis with the Core Shapers as part of our distraction. Not only would she be able to support the others and the show of force that much more terrifying, it gave me a bit of time without being choked. I quite enjoyed that time. Sadly, it's over now, and as I make my way through the tunnel, it becomes clear that Crinis has no intention of relinquishing her grip.
The network of tunnels dug throughout the outpost are swarming with the Colony as ants rush to complete their objectives. After securing Sarah, I only have one more stop on my schedule: the leading triad. I don't intend to rub my freedom in their faces or anything, as nice as that would be, I just want to be present to make sure they don't cause any problems for my siblings. As irritating as those three were, I have to respect the power and authority that they possess inside the outpost. If anyone will be able to rally the Shapers against us, it's going to be them.
So with Crinis attached, I rush through tunnels and burst out into the corridors of the Shaper outpost, tracking my target. Pandemonium reigns everywhere I can look as ants ransack rooms and herd shellshocked Shapers into corners, keeping them isolated and confused. Nice to see my instructions being followed, not that I doubted it. If we can avoid heating up the inevitable Golgari counterstrike any more than we already have, then I'll be pleased. No need to throw more fuel on to that fire. I instructed the Colony to put them down with a vengeance if they tried to fight back though. With the element of surprise on our side, not to mention a rather ridiculous numbers advantage, it was never going to be hard for us to overwhelm the place.
[I still can't believe these scum held you prisoner,] Crinis bristles as we rush through corridors not quite large enough for my frame.
[Settle down, Crinis. Most of these people had nothing to do with that decision. Let's just leave them be.]
[You're too nice, Master. I still think you should let me spend some time with a few of them. They won't ever come after us again!]
As she imagines getting her tentacles on the Shapers I can feel her barbs start to form and grate against my carapace. I shudder to think what would happen to any Golgari that falls into her clutches. Is there a Geneva convention on Pangera? Any laws regarding being partially rendered by a void beast from the depths of madness and despair? Probably not, now that I think about it. This world doesn't muck around when it comes to the war between surface and Dungeon creatures.
[Do you have any idea where Tiny and Invidia wound up?] I ask.
[I haven't seen them, but they shouldn't be far away. Can you reach them?]
[Tiny! Invidia! Where did you guys wind up?]
[ Inivida, where are you right now?]
[We have found the rest of the monsssters. Sssssoon, we will take their everything.]
So I'll take that to mean they've broken into the monster cells and have started fighting the remaining tournament contenders. That's some juicy experience and biomass right there and I don't intend to let it go to waste. My siblings would be able to overwhelm them, of course, but the casualties would be unacceptable. Better to leave it to Tiny and Invidia. Those two working together will be able to crush any one monster, no matter how well designed it is.
All of those precious resources, I'll be taking them for my pets, thank you very much! Muahahahaha!
[You remember the plan, Crinis?]
[We find the leaders and give them pain.]
[We find the leaders and I will give them pain.]
[You're too nice, Master.]
[Stop choking me.]
If I didn't have a carapace I'd have been torn to bits by Crinis' unconscious tentacle flexing. It's a pain that she's like this, but I feel so bad for sending her off on her own that I can't bring myself to say anything about it! I can only pray in my heart that she'll get over her abandonment issues soon.
"These corridors are confusing! Where's a damn scout?!"
"Right here, Eldest!"
A wiry ant sticks her head out of a nearby doorway and salutes with an antenna.
"Have we located the leadership yet? I'm getting twisted about in these damn corridors."
"We haven't, but the only remaining pocket of resistance is up two levels. We theorise that those you're looking for are there."
"Resistance?! Still?! I'm on my way!"
Don't worry, my siblings! I'm on my way! The need to protect my Colony rages like a fire in my core and I lean back on my hind-most legs to begin chomping at the ceiling.
[We're going up, Crinis!]
[I'm with you, Master!]
[Stop choking me!]
After the reinforced rock around the outpost, chewing through the floors is nothing. A couple of bites and the rock cascades down around me, bouncing off my carapace and Crinis' exposed flesh. Reaching up, my claws grasp hold of the stone and I pull my large frame through the gap and I attack the ceiling once again. I can feel it now, in my mana sense. There are dozens of spells being worked above my head. This won't do!
The ceiling collapses around me and the sound of battle begins to batter against my antennae.
"What the heck is going on up here?!" I rage.
"The Eldest is here"
The ants react with surprise as I burst my way through and some of them even freeze for a second before they resume their tasks. That's unusual. For an ant to forget their work for even one second is odd.
"Eldest, glad you made it," Burke calls from nearby. "Join me over here for a second."
The air is awash with pheromones as the Colony battles the foe, making it difficult to pick out each particular scent. I suppose people talking over each other is much the same situation. The area is a ruin, rooms smashed apart and walls crumbling in every direction. It appears as if the two sides are separated by a solid stone corridor and I've surfaced on the ant side. Spells are being constantly hurled toward the ants, who've bunkered down behind cover and retaliate with acid barrages when they get the chance. Classic stalemate.
Burke is nearby, clinging to the ceiling and keeping a close eye on the enemy down the corridor from behind a pillar.
"What's going on?" I demand. "Any casualties?"
"A few," she admits, "those spells are no joke. The healers are doing what they can but we lost a few in the first barrage."
"I'LL KILL THEM!"
"Hey, Eldest, remember your own plan?"
"This is slowing us down and we need it resolved right now. Judging by the heavy resistance, we have to assume that something or someone valuable is down this way. Think you can break us through?"
"Burke, you shouldn't ask stupid questions."
"Of course, Eldest."