Chrysalis - Chapter 693 - The wonders of science

Chapter 693 - The wonders of science

They'd done it. After so much time and effort had been expended, they'd finally done it. The mage caste had put themselves through the ringer during the siege, they had battered their minds against the invaders until they bordered on shattering. It had been a painful regime of brutal mental warfare seemingly without end. What had made things even more difficult for the brainy caste of spell-slingers were the critical research tasks draining their numbers. The Colony had decided that the gates and Dungeon vein removal projects were so critical, so vital to the future success of their kind, that even the threat of imminent destruction was not enough to curtail the development of these techniques.

Progress on the gates remained painfully slow. It was clear that without higher levelled specialists in both enchantment and the as yet unseen space magic would be required to make significant headway there. On the other hand, the teams assigned to reverse-engineering the methods witnessed in the city of Rylleh had achieved a breakthrough.

As jubilant as she was, Propellant couldn't help but look askance at the team of mages and carvers who had worked together to make this possible. She studied the complex, almost wavy, interlocking series of walls in front of her once more.

"And you're sure this is going to work?" she asked them.

One of the mages stepped forward, her antennae waving furiously.

"Of course it's going to work you old bat! What the heck do you think we've been doing down here while y- HRCK!"

With extreme speed, a team of previously stealthed ants leapt from the ceiling of the chamber and tackled the mage to the ground mid-rant. Before anyone could think to intervene, the new arrivals had swarmed over the downed ant, expertly knocking her out with a precision bite to cut off circulation to her brain before the shadows enfolded them once more. In less than a second they were gone once more, taking the furious mage with them. The only sign of their presence was an ominously lingering pheromone message that hung in the air long after they were gone.

"Sleep well…" was all it said.

Even Propellant felt a chill run down her carapace at the display. The sleep monitors took their work deadly seriously. They were clearly starting to manage their evolutions and skills in a direction to better allow them to perform their role, making them terrifyingly capable. The sudden disappearance of their colleague had an even greater effect on the rest of the research, their terror was clear to see in every inch of their frames.

"Just how long as it been since your team leader slept?" Propellant asked.

"T-t-t-three days," stammered a carver.

"And how long have you been awake?" she followed up.

The little ant trembled so violently Propellant was worried her exo-skeleton was about to crack.

"She's been awake for two days and twenty-two hours," another team member helpfully supplied.

Propellant clacked her mandibles.

"Better get through this quick then. So, someone else this time, preferably someone not driven near delirious from lack of rest. Are you sure this is going to work?"

The much smaller ants consulted amongst themselves for a moment before a pair stepped forward, one carver and one mage.

"According to our calculations, there is a strong chance of success," the mage spoke with crisp words, "although we were unable to derive the exact method used in Rylleh, we believe that this is as close as we can get to an approximate recreation."

Math. The council member tried to be too repulsed by the sudden mention of 'calculations'. That stuff was far more up Coolant's alley. She herself was firmly in the 'blow stuff up and think about it later' school of magic. Whichever cursed fool on the surface had introduced the concept to the mage caste, it had spread like wildfire and split her siblings right down the middle. She turned to the carver.

"What do you think?" she asked.

The smaller ant rubbed one of the strange claws on her foreleg across the top of her head.

"It's a butt load of work, fine work at that," the ant sighed, "but it's held up in our tests so far. Only problem is, we haven't been able to try it on as large a surface area as the nest, so we can't be certain everything will be the same."

She didn't like the sound of that. Propellant wandered over to the mock-up the team had erected in the centre of the room and tried to ignore the battles going on elsewhere in the chamber. Damn waves made it so hard to concentrate. It really was precise work. The team had erected no fewer than ten separate walls in a space less than a foot wide, each one folding back on the others in pattern so complex it could pass for a magic construct. It was only possible to create such razor thin walls and shape them in such a way by reinforcing and compressing them to an absurd degree with magic. The level of earth magic on display was formidable. To replace the outer walls of an entire chamber with this layered wall formation would be… a monstrous undertaking.

They'd attempted to explain it to her, something about guiding the veins, folding them and then 'rolling' them along 'pre-determined channels of high mana sensitivity'. It didn't make a whole lot of sense to her, but she hadn't spent weeks working non-stop to develop the method.

"You've got the go-ahead," she told them. "I want the egg-laying and brood chambers to be done within forty-eight hours. We'll mobilise the entire mage caste and every carver with an earth magic Skill of rank four or above."

The team went wild with joy, slapping each other with their antennae, high-fiving and clacking their mandibles with glee. Propellant watched them celebrate with a warm feeling until she noticed the shadows extending from the walls, drawing closer to the team each second.

"BUT-", she suddenly shouted, before she lowered the intensity of her scent and continued, "but only after you rest. This work is too important to trust to tired minds. Six hours for all of you, minimum, in the meantime I'll start organising the shifts and getting the antpower we need."

The team grumbled amongst themselves about the delay, but she paid them no mind, instead watching as the darkness began to recede back to the walls.

By the Eldest, she thought to herself, that's terrifying.

"Congratulations to all of you," she told them, "this breakthrough will go down in the history of the Colony and I believe the Eldest will want to come and congratulate you personally on your achievement. Our whole family is proud of you."

The delighted team continued to celebrate and praise each other as they made their way to the mage torpor chambers, never realising the dark shadows that trailed along behind them the entire way.