Gabriella had garden duty again. It was the third day in a row and she was bored. She wiggled her antennae in annoyance. What was worse, she was stuck with Gabi again. Gabi was just about as banal as a solider got, contributing nothing to relieving the monotony of garden duty. Gabriella found herself wishing for the effervescent Gabby at times like these, but she had not seen Gabby since her first day guarding a leaf foraging trail.
Gabriella stood in the darkness, listening to the workers in the garden. The colony was growing strong on the steadily growing shoulders of the fungal gardens. As long as the gardens grew, the Queen laid, and the colony flourished. Gabriella knew that guarding the gardens was an important job; that she should feel prestigious and helpful, yet she was bored. This particular garden was near one of the main colony entrances, so many workers were piddling about. Gabriella always found the tiny minor workers interesting. They would ride on the leaves that the larger foragers carried back to the nest, cleaning as the foragers marched and keeping a look out for parasitic flies. The dastardly parasitic flies would lay their eggs on the forager’s head while they carried leaves back to the colony. Gabriella abhorred the parasitic flies. They have no respect for the hard working ants. They are no good, destructive, free loaders.
The ground shook, snapping Gabriella out of her ruminations.
“What is that?” Gabriella asked.
Gabi was silent.
The ground shook again.
“Mammals” Gabi responded, lazily.
More shaking. More mammals?
Shake, shake, boom! A sharp impact resounded through the colony. The workers immediately began losing their cool, scurrying about in panic.
“What is that? What is that?” chanted frantically through the garden.
Gabriella stayed where she was. Garden soldiers stayed in their assigned gardens. The entrance guards would be investigating now. The first reconnaissance squadron would already be deployed.
Another rumble, another impact, more scurrying. Many of the workers in the garden were already scuttling around in panic. Gabriella stayed where she was. It was not her time to mobilize. She was mildly annoyed; of all the days to be stuck on garden duty, it had to be today. Gabriella wondered how the entrance guard were doing. The threat would probably be neutralized quickly.
Suddenly, a large metal object crashed through the roof. Hot, equatorial sun blazed down into the garden, illuminated the precious white fungus and the panicking garden workers.
“They’re stealing the garden!” a worker screamed. The roar of the scraping, scooping object overshadowed the sound of scurrying feet of thousands of ants. At this point, the queen was already being safely escorted lower into the colony; however, losing the garden would be a setback. More and more of the roof was removed. Sunlight now streamed into the entire garden. Multiple, large, bipedal mammals gazed down through the gigantic gash in the ceiling.
“Workers! Retreat deeper into the colony!” Gabriella yelled, but the panicked workers raced around in utter confusion and panic. Many workers started running up the scarred edges of the garden walls, attempting to run and hide in the forest. Gabriella was surprised to see very few of the entrance guards attacking the intruders. Where did they go?
Large scoops of fungus were stolen from the garden. In a matter of seconds, nearly all the fungus had been excavated. It was strange for mammals to steal their fungus. Gabriella had never heard of this happening to the colony before. It was time for Gabriella to take action in this time of disarray.
Gabriella rushed to the edge of the garden, struggling to scale the tattered walls as she climbed over panicked workers attempting to flee. Her superior height allowed Gabriella to ascend the walls more easily than her more diminutive sisters, whose progress was slowed by the now loose dirt lining the walls. When she reached the surface, she found utter chaos. Workers scurried aimlessly in all directions. Soldiers careened toward the gargantuan mammalian intruders, often running straight over foragers, gardeners, and excavators along the way. There were more mammals than Gabriella had realized, over a half dozen ape-like mammals surrounded the large hole in the colony. One of the mammals was scooping up the fungus and Gabriella could see dozens of her sisters buried in the debris of the scoop, screaming as they were lifted from the earth. Others of the large apes had long pinching apparatuses that were grabbing Gabriella’s sisters by their thoraxes and throwing them into containers. No wonder the entrance guards had been overwhelmed; the mammals had abducted them!
Gabriella charged toward the intruders, flexing her mandibles, ready to strike. She had to help before it was too late. A little minor worker grabbed onto Gabriella’s leg, slowing her charge.
“Get off!” She demanded, “I must protect the colony!” but the poor minor worker clung to Gabriella in terror.
Gabriella had no choice but to keep charging, regardless of her impediment. She surged forward, calling to her fellow soldiers to push on. As she reached the front lines, dozens of her sisters were being plucked from the ground and relegated to containers. Gabriella performed her evasive maneuvers, scurrying in diagonals and frequently changing directions. The minor worker finally could hold on no longer and fell onto the ground. She was instantly taken by a large metal pincers.
There was no holding back now. This was for the colony. This was for the Queen!
Gabriella reached one of the creatures’ feet and climbed atop it. She raced upwards, attempting to gain altitude before biting to make a bigger impact. Finally, Gabriella plunged her mandibles into the mammal’s skin, biting with all her might. This success, however, was short lived. Within seconds of biting her foe, Gabriella was grasped about her thorax and plucked from her enemy. Gabriella struggled against her opponent, whipping her legs back and forth and snapping her mandibles to no avail. Long metal sticks gripped her firmly. She was helpless, but she could not give up. She was fighting for her sisters, for her colony, for her queen.
Finally, she was thrown into a container filled with a clear, acerbic liquid. The container was already full of Gabriella’s sisters. Most were no longer moving.
Gabriella attempted to swim toward the walls of the container. If she could climb out, she could continue fighting. She had to keep trying, even if it meant sacrificing her life.
“So long as the queen survives, the colony lives on!” Gabriella shouted as she attempted to climb the slick, smooth wall.
“Fight my sisters! Fight and survive!” she shouted as she slipped back down into the caustic liquid.
“For the Queen!
For the Queen!
For the Queen!
For the- “