Chapter Four

The weather was getting worse and food was in short supply. Although they had had to gather more food for the grasshoppers, every single piece of food had been left outside. Brave workers had hurried outside the second the rain had stopped in order to get as much of the food as they could back into the anthill before it started again. But this still meant food was in short supply.

Because of the weather, there was no way the circus bugs could return to the city very easily or very safely so they had no choice but to remain on Ant Island until spring. Although they were welcome, it also meant more mouths to feed and with the little amount they had, despite strict rationing, it didn't look like there would be enough to get them through the winter.

'Anarchy will occur if the food supply runs out!' Thorny had pointed out.

'Anarchy!' Cornelius had echoed.

'And who knows what else,' Dr. Flora had added, 'the colony could result to cannibalism!'

'Shh! Not so loud, Flora!' the queen had whispered urgently, 'If Atta hears the word 'cannibalism' . . . She's worried enough as it is about Thistle and the food supply . . .' But Atta had heard and did feel more worried. Something had to be done.

The next morning, she happened to wake up exceptionally early. She went to the entrance of the anthill for some fresh air. She looked out. The rain had stopped. The queen had specifically told her not to . . . but . . . No-one was awake; at least no-one seemed to be. If she was a worker she might even have been expected to go out at this opportunity. Her mother would never know; she would surely think it was one of the workers or there had been a miscount . . . She looked around; she had made her decision.

She stepped outside and the cold suddenly hit her. She gave a shiver. She stretched her wings and flapped them up and down in order to warm them up to prepare for take off. She would surely be able to get to the food faster than the workers. She would get some grain quickly then return to the anthill. Just a few pieces.

Atta had collected nine pieces of grain so far and it was starting to get light. It had now become easier to see the large areas of snow beginning to cover the island. She knew she should've gone back ages ago. Surely getting one more piece couldn't hurt? To make it a round number? And with the snow beginning to settle, it could be the colony's last chance to collect food. She set off to find one more piece of grain.

She soon found one near the edge of the island. Atta was just about to pick it up when she heard something. She could hear the sound of wings. Her mind was surely playing tricks on her? But just incase it wasn't, she hurriedly tried to conceal herself among the clovers. She gasped. Her mind hadn't been playing tricks on her. The grasshoppers landed.

'This is it?' a dark green grasshopper snapped.

'Well . . . yes Spur . . .' Molt murmured. The others nodded in agreement.

'Hopper must've been so incredibly dumb not to be able to cope with this!' Spur replied with some sort of satisfaction in his voice.

'You don't know these ants,' another grasshopper said.

'Yeah,' a second added, 'there's this particular one . . .'

'Ants are only dangerous when you're young. After that . . . Hey, there's one over there!' Atta froze.

'That's their princess, Spur.' Molt told him.

'Well, what are you waiting for!' Spur yelled, 'Grab her!' Atta took flight in an instant. She didn't stand much chance of getting away from the start. She was still recovering from the Hopper situation and had tired herself out by collecting grain as quickly as she could, not even taking into account Spur's exceptional flight speed.

Surely not even Spur would dare enter the anthill? At least not at first. But that would give her enough time to alert the colony. If she could just get a little further . . . Spur grabbed her.

'Let go of me!' she yelled, glaring at him.

'Hold your tongue, Princess, or I'll break your neck!' Spur spat. Atta gulped.

'Er, Spur?' Molt began, 'I don't think . . .'

'Did I ask your opinion, Molt?'

'But, Spur . . .' said another.

'Did I ask anyone's opinion!'

'He's not gonna be happy when he finds out . . .' Molt murmured.

'What are you on about Molt?' Spur asked in an exceptionally grumpy tone.

'That ant,' one of the others said.

'The one that stopped us before,' added a second.

'Well, what about him!'

'The princess,' Molt explained, 'she's his girlfriend. At least I think she is.' The other grasshoppers, excluding Spur, began to panic.

'Who knows what he'll do!' one exclaimed.

'Or what powers he possesses!' another said.

'He has powers beyond your imagination,' Atta told them with a small smile. The grasshoppers began to panic even more. Atta was having trouble preventing herself from laughing.

'Let's get outta here!' yelled the first.

'Let the princess go, Spur! Let her go!' the second shouted. A growl of frustration from Spur silenced the gang.

'We're taking the princess hostage. If that ant wants his precious girlfriend back, let him try!' Spur growled. Suddenly, a pile of snow came shooting through the air, only just missing the grasshoppers.

'I think he's trying, Spur,' Molt said.

'What!' Spur looked down to see Flik, the blueberry scouts and the circus bugs. They were using Flik's old catapult to shoot snow into the air.

'Oh, he looks mad,' said Molt in a worried tone.

'Maybe you should do what the others say and let me go before you get busted.' Atta said in a calm voice.

'I thought I told you to . . ! Ah!' Spur had been hit by a large amount of snow. The bugs below cheered. The other grasshoppers were getting away as quickly as they could.

'Fire!' Dot shouted as they shot more snow into the air. This time, Spur let go of Atta. Atta rapidly flew down to them. The bugs cheered again. Realizing that there was no way he could win, Spur flew off.

'Are you okay?' Flik asked Atta. She nodded. The circus bugs had begun to take the catapult apart in order to take it back inside. The blueberry scouts hurried inside.

'Flik! You shouldn't be out here,' Atta suddenly cried, 'Dr. Flora precisely told you . . . and you're shivering!'

'I'm f-f-fine,'

'Get inside;' Francis told them, 'we'll manage this.'

Everyone was disturbed that the grasshoppers were hanging around and that they had a new leader. A council meeting was called almost immediately. Meanwhile some of the workers were ensuring that the blueberry scouts were warmed up quickly. The circus bugs were having their own discussion.

Flik was in the Council Chamber where the meeting was being held but he wasn't contributing anything. He didn't feel so good. He went up to Atta in order to tell her but she brushed him away.

'Flik, we're in the middle of an important meeting!' Flik slunk off to sit at the edge. He didn't know why, but he just couldn't stop shivering.

4