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Chrysalis - Chapter 583

Published at 20th of October 2020 06:35:49 AM


Chapter 583: The great working pt 1
Deep beneath the surface, under layers of rock and stone, burned a flame that had never been seen on Pangera before. No ordinary flame, this. It did not burn, yet its heat was unbearable. Had no colour, yet glowed bright with the light of molten steel. Made no sound, yet contained the ringing of a thousand hammers on a thousand anvils. The flame of insect industry had roared to life within the Colony of Formica Sapiens and its intensity grew day by day such that should it continue unchecked, it would consume all the world.


The Eldest had commanded his siblings to look upon the humans, on their sciences, skills and craft, and learn from them. The Colony had done, as they always did, their utmost to comply. No effort was spared, no question left unasked and every observation was discussed, disseminated and dissected so that every kernel of wisdom would be extracted. The blacksmithing trade was one that the Colony had initially dismissed. What need had they for tools? Their mandibles could dig better than any spade! Cut rock better than any pick! Not only that, what need had the ants of swords, spears or axes? Their bodies were not soft and weak, like the humans were. The opposite was true! Where the humans sought to compensate for their sagginess with more solid materials, the ants were already armed and armoured from birth! What need had they for metal?

Yet, there were other concerns. Many valuable minerals could be found in the Dungeon. If the Colony learned to extract and refine them, trade became possible. As knowledge of construction grew, the ability to manipulate metals became more valuable. As Skills at finer manipulations were uncovered and levelled up, more detailed metal work was possible. Suddenly the ant smiths were called upon to make brackets, fittings, moulds and pins for any number of widgets. Yet the initial assessment still rang true within the Colony: they did not need smiths to forge arms nor armour.

The crafter startled from her torpor and began to drag her antennae through her elbows for a clean, still feeling groggy. Ever since she'd evolved to tier four her rest just hadn't been the same. Antennae clean, she began to pick over herself in the way that only insects would recognise. A fastidious need for cleanliness was born into all the ants of the Colony, and it never left them, no matter how intelligent they had become. Her first task of the day complete, she stretched all six of her legs and then, slowly at first, began to crawl out of the chamber she shared with her sixty two roommates. At least this time she hadn't had to sleep whilst clinging to the roof. That was always a less restful torpor.

Entering the tunnels, she felt the ever present messages of the Colony waft into her antennae. "Go this way for such and such", or "go that way for things and stuff" none of it was relevant to her, yet it always helped invigorate her. She felt immediately connected to the larger organism, the super-organism, that was the Colony itself. Her chamber wasn't far from where she performed her work and she was eager to return to it, so she made good time through the tunnels, the twists and turns as familiar as her own legs.



One more left turn and she was in her element. The temperature rose with each step and the ringing sound of metal impacting on metal filled the air. Every chamber she passed was part of the great machine the Colony had built within its nest. A powerful production line that took raw ore at one end, processed it, refined it, blasted it in a crucible and produced ingots of strong metal at the other end.

She herself had been part of developing that project, the frustrating days of experimentation, of trial and error as the detail obsessed carvers iterated on what they'd learned from the humans, always seeking to improve by even a fraction of a percent. She was aware that those tests continued still, elsewhere in the nest. Waste was inefficient and inefficiency was not something the Colony was prepared to tolerate. Thus they strove to improve their processes. Every ingot that formed with impurities was an indictment on the entire carver caste, an insult that burned inside their carapace and drove them to do better.

But she had long graduated from that more menial labour. Her Skills at handling the refined metals had grown at a prodigious rate, such that she had been given a new task. Entrusted with the finished product of the long refinement process, her new task was the final and most important of all: smithing.

She came to her own chamber and eagerly leapt inside, ready to begin. A fresh stockpile of ingots lay waiting, delivered as she rested, as they always were. Now brimming with energy, she rushed to her station and began preparing it for work. Enchantments were activated, the fire primed, the air circulation hummed to life and the quenching stations were meticulously examined for faults. As she busied herself preparing, she was interrupted by a somewhat unwelcome visitor.

"The materials consumed by your project are becoming a drain," the message wafted around the chamber, disturbed by the airflow that was necessary for the ants to work in such hot environments.


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With a sigh, the crafter turned to the entrance and came face to face with what humans would consider a 'boss' or 'supervisor'. Such roles didn't really exist within the Colony. Each ant was given responsibility that best suited their abilities and inclinations. This particular carver had a talent for organisation and an excoriating eye for detail. Giving her responsibility for managing the resources of the foundry made perfect sense.

"My Skills continue to improve day by day." the crafter defended herself, "I'm confident that the next rank up will be crucial in unlocking the techniques I need to complete the work."

"How many levels is your blacksmithing skill from its next rank up?"

"Three."

The newly arrived crafter's antennae twitched as she envisioned the amount of raw materials required to provide enough metal for those three levels.


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"I know I don't need to remind you, there isn't much enthusiasm for your project within the caste. Some have even begun to suggest you are being selfish by pursuing such an unneeded piece of equipment."

"Selfish…"

That stung. To learn that her own caste, her own contemporaries would say such a thing about her… did they really have so little faith in her abilities? Nameless she may be, but it was no conceit to say that she possessed the highest Blacksmithing Skill in the Colony, at Expert Blacksmithing (III) 17, so close to the fourth rank. She'd been working with metal longer than almost any other ant. Did they really think she would be pushing ahead with a project such as this if she wasn't firm in her resolve?

She shook her antennae. It mattered not. Only results mattered.

"I have utmost belief that I will produce results. All that is needed is time."


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The other crafter nodded.

"I will give you as much time as I can. Though you burn through ingots like none other in the Colony, it's also true that you level up faster than anyone else. Hard to think that you'd be in the wrong."

"I … thank you."

Without another word, the ant departed, leaving the crafter to her own devices. Unwilling to waste any time, she began to renew her preparations. Her mandibles and legs were busy, but her mind was focused on something different. Ever since she'd been introduced to the concept, she couldn't help but be captivated by it. The idea of an ant, bedecked in armour, a steel insect juggernaut, had possessed her. Should she succeed in creating it, an all-new type of soldier would be born, one with an entirely different sort of strength!

Her heart ablaze with passion, the ant grasped hold of the first ingot in her mandibles and put it to the fire. Her last prototype had failed, but she had learned much, and her Skills had grown. Perhaps this time, she would break through.


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