Ariella snuck through the trees. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted May, Arona, and Vytanni doing the same, approaching a metal door in the side of a cliff. Etlo was also tagging along, mostly because he was the last person to have seen her, in Greenshade Caverns.
Knowing Aislinn, if she was gone for more than 5 hours, she'd probably been captured, or had gotten herself into some other sort of dilemma. So once the 5 hours had expired, Ariella had gone to search for Aislinn, run into Elto, decided Aislinn was probably in trouble by now, and gathered a rescue party.
Ariella had been able to track Aislinn's Aethermeter into the forest around No Man's Landing with the Aether-powered scanner she'd made back during the Evercity mission.
Now the scanner was leading them directly into the side of a cliff. Everyone made it to the door without any problems arising--except for the fact that the door was locked.
"Thwarted! And by a locked door, too," Ariella exclaimed, snapping her fingers.
"No problem. I'll just pick the lock," May said, taking out lockpick from her pocket and leaning down by the door.
"Everyone get ready," Vytanni said, and everyone quickly unhostered their pistols, put on their gauntlets, or took their dueling canes off of their belts.
In another minute, the door swung open with a click.
There was complete silence. Beyond the doorway, stairs descended into inky darkness.
"Aislinn? Are you down there?" called May, aiming her pistol down the stairs. "It's May!"
There was no answer.
Ariella took the first step, then had half a mind to go back. She forced herself to take another...and another. Then there was another dull...click... this one more muted that the click of the door.
Ariella's eyes widened and she mounted the stairs as quickly as she could, nearly mowing down Arona and Etlo, who had to duck to get through the doorway.
Behind her there was the sound of a gunshot, but everyone was clear of the doorway by that time. Arona and May fired into the darkness, and Ariella released a stream of electric energy from her Dulcet Defensive Vambrace.
Someone let out an exclamation, and Ariella figured she'd hit them. She took a smoke bomb off her belt and asked Vytanni to light it with her flamethrower.
As smoke began pouring from the green orb, Ariella tossed it into the tunnel and slammed the metal door shut with a loud CLANG.
"Any minute, whoever's down there will be scrambling to get out of the smoke, so we need to be ready to grab them. A whack from your hammer should be just the thing, May," Ariella suggested.
"I'm on it." May swung her large hammer off her back and positioned herself by the doorway.
In another minute, the door banged open and two people burst out. Two familiar people.
"Hans! Matt!" May shouted, too surprised to smash either of them.
"SMASH FIRST! ASK QUESTIONS LATER!" Ariella shouted, aiming her Vambrace at Hans. The smoke that was pouring out of the tunnel was becoming very thick...almost too thick to see.
"Uh...don't do that. We're friends!" Hans said brightly--too brightly.
"Why do you have Aislinn, then? HMMM?"
Hans hesitated. "We're working on a secret project."
"Let's see what Aislinn has to say about that," May said, pulling on a gas mask and disappearing down the stairs.
When it was clear we didn't believe him, Hans tried to slink into the woods, but was stopped by Etlo, who seemed to have no qualms with "Smash first, ask questions later." His optics flashed red.
Ariella looked around for Matt, but he seemed to have already disappeared, making a hasty "tactical retreat."
All this made Ariella realize something terrible. Matt Bonnetfolly and Hans Oddcraft had betrayed the Resistance.