2: Blind Ants

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Doc spun around and dashed toward the cave entrance. The intervening men scattered as best they could. Our leader was a lot faster than the humans, but I knew that it was giving them a chance to get out of the way without getting hurt because I had seen Doc move like a literal blur when it wanted, even to my vision.  During those moments, I'd imagine to human eyes Doc would have seemed to vanish and reappear somewhere else.

Gillian dropped Wasim and scuttled into the cave.

Two men didn't quite get out of Doc's way. One aimed a high sword cut, which it parried, then eviscerated the unfortunate with a vicious counterstroke. The other cocked and began raising his rifle. Doc sheared off the man's right hand at the wrist and shattered the wooden stock of his weapon. It did all of this without breaking stride.

I grabbed Wasim and pulled him up with my top arms under his armpits and my bottom arms around his waist. He was heavy. I dragged him backward toward the cave. I never would have managed it if he had struggled. Wasim clutched at his leg with both hands; blood leaked between his fingers. Shot by one of his own men! I shielded him as best I could. A riderless camel hustled into the midst of the fray. The roaring beast stumbled over a dying man in front of us and two became tangled. This gave me the moment I needed to gain the protection of the cave.

Doc appeared at my side and seized Wasim with its ventral arms and hefted him up none too gently. He screamed and shouted an oath. Odd how the human mind often turned to thoughts of bodily waste products in moments of great stress. The three of us hustled further into the cave.

"Notice all the ants?" Doc emitted while simultaneously noting, "The burrower attacked me; find out why while I deal with the humans."

I replied, "Yes. Hard not to," and acknowledged its command.  I find it interesting trying to translate how we communicate to not just writing, but writing that humans feel comfortable with.  What I put down as a back and forth flow of conversation most times is all happening in the same moment.  Still, even if I'm not quite getting the flavor of how we talk quite right, I think I'm accurately transcribing the essential meaning, which is the important thing.     

The floor of the cavern while not exactly carpeted was covered with eyeless ants. I could smell they were mostly males and a few winged virgin queens. Reproductives. Their stink set my mandibles on edge.

How strange! The idea of Gillian attacking Doc seemed about as likely as my left antenna suddenly picking a fight with my right. Our antagonists weren't following us into the cave, probably because they couldn't see in the dark and were afraid. They knew that darkness was nothing to us. I proceeded down the passage. I noticed sections of the walls had been worked so they were smooth and decorated with artwork. There were a lot of small patches where a human had placed its hand and blown or painted colored material of some sort leaving a hand-shaped outline with all six fingers spread. There were mostly white hands, but also red ones, black ones and a sprinkling of others in various colors. The effect felt like a hundred people telling us to halt. The further I went into cave, the greater the number of hands. The passage ended.  There had been a cave in and there was Gillian covered with ants, curled up in a ball shivering in the debris.

Doc smelled my impressions. "This wasn't a cave in; someone collapsed the tunnel though it happened long ago – high ammonia content, interesting ... something off about those ants too." Doc was primarily a leader but also had the enhanced senses of a forager for gathering information, though it invariably left figuring out people – humans and ants and such – to me.

"Ah, all of these bugs! By Hubal, where are they coming from?  What are they?  I can't see!" Wasim brushed them away, not very successfully. The blood welled up from his wound and made a muddy mess of the dirt around his leg.

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