Having assembled five additional reinforcements from the surface, Roger talked to them as if he were General Patton detailing the post-Normandy invasion of France. “We’re going to go in, we’re going to secure this base, and none of you will ever talk about what you see here – we are now engaged in an operation that is vital to the continued security of the United States of America! Give them no quarter, for they will give you none. Follow my instructions and we will get out of this foxhole alive, soldiers.”

Armed with police batons and holstered pistols, the much-expanded group – Ismene, Seth, Tommy, Roger, and Tammy plus the six private security guards – began to make their way to the bowels of the subterranean base, after ensuring the large door to the surface was sealed.

Encountering no sign of hostile forces on the way to the second basement, eyes narrowed and noses wrinkled as the smell of sickly-sweet, burnt honey filled the air just before the 1950s-era airlock that stood between them and the path forward.

“It’s like a bee hive,” Seth frowned, “all humid and gross.”

Ismene nodded in agreement, her attention drawn to several small puddles of gelatinous, dark-orange goo in the corners of the room. “Tyenx is the lord of swarms, isn’t he?”

Tommy and Tammy nodded solemnly, looking to the antiquated vents and air ducts for any sign of infestation.

“Something came out of the airlock,” Ismene remarked, examining the patterns of ocher slime dripped on the floor and smeared against the walls. “Something that made its way up to the first floor.”

“The door was a shield,” Seth murmured under his breath, sensing an ebbing mystical resistance within the aging metal as he ran his fingers over it. “It was meant to keep something inside. We’ll have to break through it if we want to get downstairs.”

Tommy pulled chalk from his weapon bag and began inscribing mystical symbols and arcane signs on the door.

“Remember, you don’t see any of this,” Roger cautioned the uncertain guards, who looked incredulously at the strange markings Tommy was applying.

Tammy sighed at Tommy. “You don’t need that stuff – faith will get us through.” Without waiting she tried to spin the airlock handle, attempting to turn it with all of her supernatural strength. It didn’t budge. Instead a bright flash erupted without sound, blinding and dazing the militant group.

The silent explosion knocked Tammy backwards, into Tommy, into Seth, into Ismene, into Roger, all of them landing in a bruised heap on the small metal staircase leading to the airlock.

“That did not go as I expected,” Tammy admitted from atop the pile, her pride bruised more than her body.

“I have an idea,” Ismene offered, taking a firm hold of one of the mystical coins she carried in her pocket. With a light touch she tried to spin the door lock, which moved freely beneath her hand. An ear-splitting screech accompanied the door swinging open on old, rusted hinges. “It worked!”

Roger began to question his new friends’ wisdom.

Inside the airlock several contemporary gas masks rested on a small shelf. Ismene, Seth, and Tommy quickly put them on, thinking of the questionable biological matter in the previous room. “I saw people wear these in the clubs!” Seth grinned widely, his elation at being one of the team showing in his eyes.

With Tammy and Roger eschewing the masks, several were available for the guards’ use. “Kim, Ruiz, Draper – you three hold this line of retreat at all costs,” Roger commanded, ordering those without gas masks to stay behind. “We press on,” he said to the general assembly. Forcing the other end of the airlock open by toying with wires inside the keypad, Roger opened the door.

Even through the masks the stench of roasted meat and sweet honey permeated the air, the elongated next room having a strange amount of waxy build-up, not unlike termite mounds, on almost every surface – a non-Euclidian damask that even tainted the light coming from the overheads, bathing the room in a dull, ruddy wash.

“Lab 1,” Tammy read from one of the three inner doors, the only object not coated by the dark buildup. “That seems like a good sign,” she shrugged, tapping the clean, metal portal, the sound echoing through the chamber.

A dull droning, a constant hum, began to fill the air.

“I think they’re here,” warned Ismene, her eyes flitting from hive-like structure to hive-like structure, moving her bat into a more defensive position. “And they know we are too.”

Roger frowned. “Between trying to sneak our way to the queen and burning a path directly toward her, I voice we kill everything on the way down. Leave no enemies behind to flank us.”

“I don’t want to trip every alarm on the way,” Ismene disagreed. “If we’re quiet, we’ll have less to deal with.”

Skipping Lab 1, the careful and cautious investigators followed a half-beaten path on the floor toward the right, the walls pulsating with the beat of oversized wings inside otherworldly hives. Roger, in turning his head to check on the soldiers following them, misstepped and bumped into the moving walls, angering the inhabitants therein.