Stepping through the yawning lab door into the room beyond, the investigators tried to ready themselves for whatever horrors they would encounter next. The air in “Lab 02” was arid, almost devoid of moisture – particularly noticeable coming from the wasp-invested hallway outside. With nose wrinkling, Tommy searched the wall for a light switch. Blinding fluorescence flooded the room, the sounds of anxious and scared animals erupting with it.

They found themselves in the middle of a cold, sterile medical lab, with large cages against the near wall. Shabby-looking owls hooted and screeched from too-small aviaries, unkempt goats from paddocks, and more sounds of distress came from more distant containers. “This is terrible,” Ismene whispered, her heart going out to the research animals.

“They were trying to find hosts,” a frowning Roger surmised. “Trying to combine extradimensional entities with native fauna.” He spoke with certainty, as if he had seen similar experiments before. “Make sure the room is clear, then we’ll continue.”

“I’ll check in on James and the other soldiers,” offered Ismene, stepping out of the lab. The immediate threat posed by the wasps had been dealt with, but she wanted to ensure their backup, likely much less used to the supernatural than she herself, were handling the stress well enough. Tammy, Tommy, and Seth helped Roger verify there were no dangerous experiments loose on the prowl in the lab, debating whether or not to release the captured animals. “Either we succeed and we can free them later, or we fail and it doesn’t matter,” Roger sighed.

“I don’t want to see these poor creatures attacked by the wasps,” Tammy added, which resonated with the team – there were many more dangers in the underground complex, and at least in the cages the animals were, for the time being, safe. With a final check of the area to make sure they hadn’t missed any information that would be useful to stopping the terrible ritual happening below, the team returned to the airlock.

“James?” one of the posted soldiers asked in response to Roger’s question. “Haven’t seen him. That nice fed lady you had with you stopped here and then went looking for him a few minutes ago.”

Seth clenched his teeth and narrowed his eyes. Everyone re-drew their weapons, and turned toward the unexplored hallway to their left. If Ismene had left to search for James, only one possible passage remained, a dimly-lit and humid corridor not unlike the one they had previously cleared. “Find her,” Tommy barked redundantly – nobody was going to leave their friend to whatever horrors awaited in the darkness.

Cautiously making their way down the hive-encrusted passage, the companions sought for any sign of their missing friend. The sound of beating wings came from every surface, but for the moment nothing had disturbed the otherworldly wasps which had proven so dangerous before. Trying to get their bearings, they passed more laboratory doors – some heavily encrusted with the hive structures that seemed to permeate the rest of the structure, some utterly spotless like that of Lab 02. Tammy gestured to one such door, silently wondering if Ismene had gone inside in search of James, and whether they should follow suit.

A fierce battle-cry – unquestionably Ismene’s – echoed from deeper in the dim hallway and creatures began to emerge from the hives.

A new battle had begun.