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The Colony part 5

The queen-to-be was named Nauqenet.  Since her birth, Queen Blix didn’t say anything to anyone.  She simply did what a queen was expected to do, and nobody found it strange that her behavior changed so much.  The drones were glad to have things running smoothly and quietly again.

Nauqenet grew quickly to maturity but behaved in a manor very similar to her mother, which did not surprise anyone.  She spoke many thoughts and ideas to those around her despite the fact that nobody ever added to the conversation or encouraged her to share with them.  They disliked her tendencies, but they still loved her as a sister and member of the colony.  They also gave her the respect any drone was expected to show a queen.  After all, she was their physical superior, and she would presumably one day start her own colony.

Outwardly, Nauqenet seemed very sure of herself, which nobody had any idea was actually very unusual for a young ant of any class, but inside, she was conflicted.  She felt like there was something very important she had forgotten.  She had a drive to leave the colony and be on her own, but she somehow understood on a deep level that there were many dangers on the surface.  Nobody could give her any advice, and it was that that proved to be what convinced her to leave.  She entered the queen’s chamber before she left, feeling like she owed her a goodbye.

“I’m leaving now, mother,” she said.  The queen nodded in acknowledgment.  “I don’t suppose there’s anything about the surface that you know that might help me to survive.  You’ve been up there, haven’t you?”

Queen Blix didn’t seem to understand the request.  Giving up, Nauqenet turned and left.  She crawled through the tunnels she had come to know so well over the weeks of her life and stepped carefully out to the surface.  It was almost as dark out there as it was under ground because it was night.  Nauqenet had never seen the sky.  Dotted with little white points of light, it was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.  There was a much larger light up there as well shaped like a crescent.

That must be their queen, she thought.

Nauqenet wiggled her wings a little to make sure they worked and then beat them as quickly as she could, lifting off into the air.  Everything below her looked so much smaller.  The grass jungle stretched out and stopped at a row of smooth, rectangular mounds in many different colors.  There were also much larger blades of grass that were brown except for leaves growing on top.  Nauqenet flew toward one of them and landed on it.  She had flown for only a few minutes, but she was tired and hoped to find some food.  There was something else she wanted, but when she thought about it, it felt wrong.  She wanted to find a mate, but she also didn’t want that.

That’s what all the other queens do.  I don’t want to be like them.  Mother is just as mindless as everyone else.  If I start a colony, I’ll become like that too.  I’d rather be dead.

She decided to explore instead.  Once she had regained some energy, she flew toward one of the colored mounds.  Light came out of it somehow, and Nauqenet found that there was an opening in the side.  She landed on the side of the mound and crawled inside.  The mound was hollow inside, filled with piles of wood, stone, and cloth.  It smelled like food.  Taking again to the air, Nauqenet ventured further in but was startled to the ground when she heard what sounded like semi-melodic thunder.

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The Colony part 1

Queen Blix always took the deaths of her children hard. They were more than her offspring. They were a part of her. When they died, she died a little as well. A scout had just come in and reported that a human stepped on Drone 997754810 while she was out on food patrol.

“No!” the queen sobbed.  “She was new to the job.  She didn’t deserve that!”

“She certainly didn’t,” the scout concurred.

“Humans are a menace!  I wish I could wipe them all out.  All they do is lumber around without any regard for where they’re walking.  We’re not invisible!  Look down!”

“I couldn’t agree more, your highness.”

Queen Blix glared at her subordinate.  Sometimes she hated it when they agreed with her without thinking for themselves, but it was part of their way of life.  Colonies survived on drones following orders even when those orders got them killed.  Nobody would feel what Blix felt when a drone died.  Nobody would question her decisions when they got ants killed.  They would go on doing what they were born to do, and the queen would wallow in her grief all alone among her thousands of daughters.

“I want to talk to Queen Aaq,” Queen Blix said.

“I’ll summon the transmitters,” the scout replied, turning to leave.

“Wait!”  The scout stopped to listen to her queen and mother.  “Thank you for bringing me this message.  You are a valued member of this colony.”

“Yes, your majesty.”

The scout didn’t understand.  Queen Blix wanted to express her gratitude for her subordinate’s excellent service, but the sentiment was wasted on someone unable to understand the concept or the emotion.  It was so frustrating to love her children so much but for them to not know it.  They followed her every order without question or delay, but they could not love her back.  They were like machines.

A few seconds after the scout left, three communication drones entered single file.  The opening to the queen’s chamber was too small to allow more than one drone to pass through it at a time, which meant that the much larger queen was trapped in there.  She could have had them dig it larger, but why would she leave?  The drones stood in front of the queen in a circle, touching their antennae to form a circuit.  Queen Blix concentrated on sending a message to the queen of a neighboring colony with whom she was friends in her youth before she had children.

“Blix!” exclaimed Aaq mentally.  “It’s so good to hear from you!  It’s been too long.  How are things?”

“The colony is running fine, Aaq,” Blix replied.  “I just wanted to talk to somebody with thoughts of her own, you know?  It gets lonely in here.”

“Whatever do you mean, dear Blixie?  You have your children to keep you company.”

“It’s not the same.  All they do is agree with me and do what I tell them.”

“What’s wrong with that?  Colonies owe their survival to the willingness of the drones to blindly obey orders.”

“I just… I don’t know.  997754810 was stepped on today.  She was one of my favorites.”

“Favorites?  Blix, you never cease to perplex me.  I think it’s what I love most about  you.  One drone is as good as another.  They’re all the same – disposable.”

“My children are NOT disposable!  I can’t believe you think that about yours!”  Blix remembered why it had been so long since she last talked to Aaq.  She severed the link be pulling her head back and breaking the circuit.  “Thank you, 7898511, 7898510, and 7898508.  I will call on you the next time I feel like talking to someone, though I don’t know who else is out there.”

“Would you like to send a scouting party?” asked drone 7898510.

“No!”  Blix protested so strongly because she was still grieving for 997754810.  7898510 wasn’t taken aback by her reaction.  She just stood there and accepted the answer.  “I’m sorry,” Blix apologized uselessly.  “You all did a fine job.  You can go back to what you were doing.”

As the communication drones left, Blix’s antennae shook.  That was how she cried.  She mourned the loss of drone 997754810 the same way she dealt with everything else, completely alone.