I'm back with a new Trace update.
This is part two of mission A Background for Trace.
Trace, a newly-retired fire ant major, was making good time. He continued despite being saddened by the fact that all the locals were afraid of him. The former major had a leg up with his size advantage, venom, and ability to kill any one of them, but still. Trace often found it positive that he wouldn't have to slow down for others; although, he would have gladly done so.
The sun would be out for a while still, but Trace didn't want to slow down. Every minute was precious. However, this would be required in a few short moments. He was not oblivious to the fact that a medium-sized ladybug had lodged herself in his way. Trace knew ladybugs weren't stupid, they were actually extremely intelligent.
When Trace was just a young larva, a ladybug had made a nice stink near his home nest and disturbed the queen's pheromone control over her workers. It had injured his pheromone receptors somehow and allowed him to think freely most of the time. He owed his freedom, if not his life, to a ladybug.
He felt a bit sympathetic for the ladybug he was approaching. Trace could see in color, but ladybugs only see in black, greys, and white. Their sense of smell and touch tended to amend for that and made them formidable opponents. This one would have been no exception, but Trace wasn't interested in any fights. That wasn't his style anyway. He typically tried to negotiate and persuade before resorting to force.
When Trace reached the ladybug, she went into a defensive posture, as he had expected. He backed up two steps and went to walk around, but she blocked him. This happened several times until Trace sat down in defeat. This surprised the ladybug tremendously and she seemed to loosen up a little bit.
Trace asked her if he could walk by, but she said she required information about him and where he was going. Trace, wanting to not cause a fight and waste more time, consented; however, thinking it would be too embarrassing, he didn't tell her the entire story. He told her that his name was Trace and that he had gotten separated from his colony. The ladybug gave him a quizzical look. It was obvious that she found it rather unbelievable that he had gotten separated from his colony.
Trace ignored this and continued that he was just looking for shelter and saw a carpenter bee heading towards the fence not to long ago. The ladybug gave him a knowing look before telling him that he wasn't like the typical fire ants that roamed certain parts of the garden. Trace felt very much relieved by this.
The ladybug gave him directions and hastily added that her name was Poka. Trace gave a small nod and told her that he hoped that this first meeting would be the start of a great friendship. Poka agreed and sent him on his way.
With directions, it was easy to find the home of the carpenter bee. Well, there were technically two of them according to Poka, but Trace didn't really care. His jaws weren't serrated like regular worker ants so he hadn't been able to have food all day.
By the time Trace got to the fence post he felt almost utterly exhausted. He chastised himself for starting to give up hope and started making his way up the fence post. Trace almost fell off several times, the last one being particularly dangerous due to the amount of air between him and the ground. Then he saw the hole. He was almost there!
Trace heaved himself over the edge of the hole. Then he crawled into the hole a little bit to make sure he didn't fall. The next thing Tace knew the ground beneath him had disappeared and he was half sliding, half tumbling down a very steep slope. Then everything went black.
When Trace awoke, the space around him was almost completely dark. He could feel the stickiness of nectar around his jaw, a great thing for a bee to try and revive an ant with. Trace instinctively looked around for the giver of the kindness he had just received. He heard voices in the distance, an argument between the two individuals that lived there.
It did not surprise Trace that the argument revolved around him. He was pretty dangerous to most insects due to his size and venom, not to mention his intimidating jaws. Trace was starting to get the feeling that the bees felt like they had everything under control. Which was a good thing for him, it meant he could talk them down.
The buzzing grew closer and Trace shifted himself into a more comfortable upright position. It wasn't a threatening stance as he was on the ground and vulnerable. When the first carpenter bee arrived, he stated that his name was Doug in a rather raspy voice. Doug said he needed to ask some questions, to which Trace complied. When Doug asked why Trace was all alone, Trace replied that he had gotten separated from his colony.
Doug was apparently more gullible or just had more reasons to think that an ant would simply get stranded from his colony. Whatever the case, Trace was simply glad that Doug seemed less defensive. He also felt rather guilty that he was lying to everyone about why he didn't have a colony. A half-truth was just as bad as a lie, and Trace knew it would catch up to him sooner or later. He just hoped it would be later rather than sooner.