The Ant-Surfer

A bottomless hunger ended by a peerless hunter

Written by Barron

THIS ARTICLE IS WORK IN PROGRESS

  The Circle of Ozahn floats and grows upon a sea of myths and legends of its deeds. The newest legend tossed in taverns and sensationalized on the Æthernet is of the Village-Eater. It is the story of an insectile queen who held an entire planet of natural wealth under its pincers and claws, and the fearless Letomont Mara who slayed her with only her wits, her bow, and her meta.  

The Legend

The allure of Dastroz

A planet of sprawling jungles, deserts, and giant oceans; Dastroz has all the working of a new world rich with opportunity. It was discovered by the The Verin Haimarchy. Scouting went well, small groups came and went telling stories of native plants suitable for farming, a crust rich in mineral, and an ecosystem that could support Sophont life.   Dastroz was a diamond in the rough for the Haimarchy, and they wanted to move quick before any other Banner had a chance to colonize. One small colony ship was dropped within three months of the planets discovery. Hundreds of Verin souls landed in the verdant jungles seeking new lives and new riches.  

Danger besets Beauty

Three months passed, the colonists spoke of wonderful fruits, fantastic new spices, and gold that shimmered in the rivers. The fourth month came, and when the Colonists were asked for their updates, only silence was received. Something had gone wrong, terribly wrong. The Haimarchy sent a satellite to survey the colony. No movement, no corpses, just the empty husk of the ships and the foundations of planned buildings. The colony had died.   The Haimarchy was baffled by the sudden change. The annihilation of so many lives happened without warning and within a month. They needed to find the culprit, and so turned to one of their own scouts. The Circle of Ozahn Letomont, Mara Tyrau was dispatched to the planet. Mara had conquered the fauna dozens of worlds, learning their secrets and arming Colonists with the knowledge to protect themselves.   If a creature was causing all these deaths, a Letomont of the Circle would be well suited to taking it out. Mara accepted the job without hesitation. It was another challenge for her, one rife with mystery and danger. She was ready to drop in a weeks time, with nothing but her trusted Meta bow, The Wrath of Ohzan, and her survival bag.  

Grim Discoveries

Mara dropped onto the planet only five miles away from the colony ship. It was a quick hike marked with splendorous vistas, mountain ranges, and forests so vast they met with the sky at the horizon. To Mara, it seemed to good to be true for her. Unlike the colonists who had perished, she had evidence that was exactly the case.   The Letomont approached the colony ship with bow in hand, arrow notched and ready to taste the flesh. It was an eerie scene for Mara, there were no bodies, just caked blood and gouges in the packed dirt as wide as her forearms. Something had taken the bodies. Her answers came when she kneeled to inspect the gouges in the dirt. A chittering from the ajar hanger door of the Colony ship. She stood and drew her bow, her finger touching her cheek and a crackle of sparks arcing from the barbed arrow head.  

The Colony-Eater

A clamoring tide of jet black carapaces poured from the hanger door, riled into a frenzy from her presence in their hunting grounds. Venomous bugs the size of her fist. Thousands of Saprofag Ants and Soldiers. She was already stepping backwards when her arrow let loose. It flew true, slapping into the dirt just before the head of the chittering horde. The crack of thunder was like a sledge hammer to her ears, but the flash of pure electricity that traced between arrow and bow did far more damage to the ants. Dirt was turned to glass, and bugs were vaporized, cooked alive, and crippled.   It gave her a chance to retreat, the bugs turning on themselves in the confusion. She knew the threat, and she was going to need to formulate the plan.  

To Track a Queen

Mara retreated to her original landing site to reminiscence and plan. She had dealt with knowing full well she could not hope to kill every Saprofag crawling through the colony ships. She had dealt with these giant ants before, but she had never seen them so aggressive. Mara knew that only through killing the queen and sabotaging the hive could the area become livable again. She drew out the plan in her mind; four steps to get rid of a Saprofag nest.  
  • Track down the Hive
  • Smoke out the Saprofags
  • Hunt the Queen
  • Poison the Hives food
  She slept on her plan, knowing that she would have a long day in the morning.   The next day she returned to the colony ship, keeping a distance from the entrance of the ship itself to avoid detection from the insect undoubtedly inside. She scaled the tallest tree, perched atop a branch, and observed for Saprofags moving between sources. She noticed the occasional group leaving, scavenging around the ship and then returning through the hanger doors. She sat in that tree for six hours, she only broke her concentration to eat and urinate. Nothing. No big migrations back to a nest, only groups of bugs leaving and returning with food and shiny rocks. This left only one explanation   The ship had become the hive.  

Plotting Regicide

Mara exhaled in her realization. This changed things. Not for the worst unless money was an issue. She knew these ships, had to visit many of them in her line of work. She had ample fuel for a fire here, it would just be the problem of protecting herself while smoking out the nest. She couldn't just kill everything that came out of the hive, a few bites from their venom would paralyze her. Not the way she intended to go.   She had to make a call. Smoke wasn't going to work. They were too aggressive to get close enough. She hatched another plan. Saprofags used pheromones to communicate. If she could capture a few live workers, she could potentially mask herself long enough to get inside the hive. Once in, she could hunt the queen down, poison their food and be out in an hour.   The call was made, and she scaled down her tree. The first step was to capture live ants, easy enough with her adhesive nets. Mara traced one of the many ant paths she had mapped out and laid down the nets. The wait began, she ventured to her landing site to rest. She would need her energy for tomorrow.  

Into the Nest

She returned the next day to find a dozen insects in her trap, the adhesives holding them in place. She took the entire lot to her camp and set to work. It was an arduous process, euthanizing each ant one by one, extracting its pheromone glands and mixing the results in just the right way to avoid any alarm raising scents. The remaining glands she refined into an propaganda pheromone. She dipped three arrows in the result; a last resort to part any wayward ants in her way and avoid a frenzy.   She looked to her 'disguise.' It smelled foul, but it would buy her an hour. She returned to the colony ship, ready to see just what lay inside and to put an end to the bugs reign.  

The Ant-Surfer

Mara stepped into the clearing of the Colony ship, popping the lid to her pheromones and rubbing herself down. While she did not pray often, she asked for the Wheel to watch over her for this one time. If anything was wrong with her mix, she would die a painful death. With every second counting, she approached the first wave of worker ants to return to the hive. They did not attack her on approach, a good sign. She stepped into line with the group, standing just behind the last ant. Just as she hoped, they were heading into the colony ship. No alarm was raised, she was clear for now.   She passed through the hanger doors, and was welcomed with the terrible scent of rotting meat and Saprofag waste. Grime mucked every inch of steel and bulkhead of the ship. Ants crawled on every available surface, each was just as lethal as any bullet. She had to shuffle her feet to move, one injury to a worker could send them into a rage. A sigh escaped her lips, and she parted from her group. She had to track down the queen, all while navigating her way through a living minefield. Thankfully the electronics on the ship were still intact, without light this would be an impossible endeavor even with her adjusted eyes.   Mara thought of the rooms large enough to host a saprofag queen. They were known to be massive creatures. With a nest of this size, it could be the size of a horse. She had two options; Mess Hall and Storage. Both were in the center of the ship. She moved fast, recording the adventure where she could with her Camera. She was appearing to do the unthinkable, surfing through the hordes of bugs in their without being bit. These videos would spawn the legend of the bug surfer, a hunter of the Circle so skilled that she could step unprotected into a Saprofag nest and live.   She ventured for twenty minutes through the halls, the stench growing more foul the closer she came to the hives storage of food. Rotting carcasses were stuck to the walls, she spotted some that walked on two legs. No doubt the Colonists did not survive this invasion. The queen would be near the food, tending to the nearby nests.   Time was running out, she had twenty minutes to kill the queen and sabotage the nest.   She found the nest first, intricate ebony octagons had been formed into the metal bulkheads of the ceiling. Some were filled with a viscous white substance and writhing larva. It was certainly the largest nest she had ever seen, based on the amount of cells should guessed the hive must be several thousand strong. No way she could burn this nest and survive. She had to find another way.  

Killer Queen

Her train of thought was interrupted. Loud clangs of chitin against steel rang out just in the next room. The broken entryway flickered just enough to illuminate the grime-covered sign. "Storage." Mara approached, pulling her bow. The Queen might be able to discern her true nature, they had sharper senses. As soon as she took her out, the hive would slowly be driven into a rampage, seeking out the killer of the queen. She thought of her plan to get out of this. A new train of thought came out of each slow step.   The Climate Control was just down the hall past storage. If she could kill the queen, get past her and into climate control she could potentially turn the heating coils up enough to make the entire hive burn up. There was not another option to deal with this hive that would not see her dead.   Her skin began to crawl, each flicker of the doorway light increasing her desire to run. She was the predator here, and she would not leave without her quarry dead and her mission accomplished.  

The Fight

Mara stepped into storage, it was the queens chambers without a doubt. Saprofag nurses hurriedly ventured across the floor. She could not hope to lift her feet in a situation like this. She would have to shuffle to avoid stepping on any of them. A more pressing matter introduced itself, the Queen. A massive beast with a bloated abdomen and gnarled blade like pincers. It was the size of a draft horse, the largest she had ever laid eyes upon. She plotted her course before pulling her bow.   The Climate Control was right behind the queen, she would sneak past hit the heater and take out the Queen on her way back. She shuffled her way through the nurses, having to pause twice to allow an inquisitive nurse to prod at her legs with antennea. The minute of travel felt like a year. She was only feet away from the queen. Multi-segmented red eyes caught the light, it certainly could see her but it did not attack, not yet.   She tapped the door unlock of the climate room. Her blessing continued when it slid open on greased hinges. This place was still so well maintained mechanically, a testament to just how quickly this ship had been eradicated. The climate controls were easy enough to figure out, and with the doors to the room still sealed there was no waste soiling the consoles.   She kicked on the heat to sweltering levels, she was no programmer but ironClad turning the heater to unreasonable levels took a bit of tinkering with safety measures but soon the ship hummed with the draw of power and a heat began to rise from the metal plates of the floor. The timer grew shorter, the ants would no doubt be agitated by the heat and sounds.   Drawing in a long breath and drawing back her bow, she stepped out of the open door to find the queen staring directly at her. It lunged, seeing through her pheromones. She rolled just in time to dodge the razor-sharp mandibles of her attacker. She let her arrow fly, the short range shot finding its mark just below the jaws of the queen. Viscera painted the ceiling, coating the nurses and sending them into a confused rage. Like the aftershock of an explosion, the ants began to ravage each other from the point of impact outwards. She had to go. Now.  

The Escape

She had no time to tip-toe her way back, she had to beat the wave of pheromones chasing after her like an invisible tidal wave. With all the grace of a viper striking, she flicked her survival knife from her waist and lopped the queen's head from her shoulders. Another trophy for her wall should she escape her death. She had no time to dress the prize, she had to move. She stepped like a gazelle, fast and wide. Each step was kept only to her toes, avoiding as much of the pincer covered floor as possible. The could hear the clacking of chitin against metal behind her, the wave growing from just a scent to a physical uproar. The heat from the climate control was licking at her face, the sharp nips from irritated ants began to cut at her boots.   Her lungs began to burn with every step, boots skidding around corners until the light of the sun greeted her. She could not stop there, the ants would pursue her for a mile at least. Her pheromones would be worn off by the sprinting. She never looked back until her campsite greeted her. She had survived.

Comments

Please Login in order to comment!
Powered by World Anvil