If things had only gone right from the start. First the shoulder-fired missile had forced them down on less-than-friendly terms. Then they’d picked the survivors, and there weren’t many, from the wreckage. Lastly, night fell. That’s when it got bad. Had they not been heavily armed and equipped, chances were they likely would have lost a few more. Luck, or the Force, had it that they’d been assembled for one purpose.
The Brotherhood was not the only rival of the reestablished Jedi Order. Among those that dealt in Force Cults, Dark Side religions, or in cultural uses of the Force, the Brotherhood was known well. Envy of the Brotherhood’s martial might, organization, territorial situation, and numbers were common among anyone who would have otherwise been their allies. For this reason, the Grand Master found it useful at times to flex his muscle, to demonstrate to his would-be competitors that there was good reason the Brotherhood was top dog.
From his lips, to the hands of the VOICE, directives were given to small strike teams. Infiltrate the Almas System, cause enough of a stir among the Believers Cult to show them the reach of the Brotherhood’s saber, and return home.
"Damn it, damn it, damn it, damn it!"
Those were the two words that cranked out of Ronovi Tavisaen's constricted throat like a broken record as the ship spiraled through the stratosphere, its right wing completely torn off. In her designated quarters on the ship, she was bracing herself against the sloped wall, attempting to keep her footing as the metal body she was encased in began to nosedive.
She knew that her Arconan allies, Solus and Socorra, were down the corridor from her, in the same situation. She also knew they were probably both doing something she should be doing: Meditating. Delving deep enough into the Force so that when the crash finally occurred, they'd be safe.
As air rushed to meet the ship, it rocked back and forth and sent the Epicanthix to the floor, rolling on her side. She let the ship lift her then, her body flopping about like a fish. She let all of her muscles relax, all of her tendons loosen. And the one thought that replayed in her head like a lazy floater in her eyes would not cease as the earth of Almas met the ship:
Why the Hell did I agree to do this?
Cut forward to hours later. Ronovi gingerly lifted her head from her scraped hands. The wound in her head was beginning to shrink, the effects of her healing abilities working.
"How many what?"
"How many survivors?"
Not looking at Solus or Socorra, Ronovi stood up slowly. She patted herself up and down, grinning as each bone seemed to be set back into place. The Force Shield she had erected had done wonders.
"A good handful," she said, "from what I can sense. All Brotherhood people."
"And they're all going to the same place?" inquired Solus, one eyebrow arched.
"Almost," replied Ronovi. "The directions to the Almas Academy, according to the transmission, are pretty vague. If it's abandoned like our sources say...or if those remaining are that weakened...we should be fine."
"But if they're that weakened," Socorra asked, "how were they able to shoot us down from orbit?"
Ronovi glanced skeptically at her. "You think someone from the Believers shot our ship down?"
"It's a hunch."
"Don't rely on hunches unless you can sense it. Assumption doesn't get you far."
Of course, the Primarch felt like she was talking out of her ass when she said that. Assumption had in fact propelled her fairly forward in her quest for power. When the Force had failed her, guesses and luck had kept her intact. Now, as she reached into her coat and pulled out the datapad that had oh-so-conveniently remained intact as well, she surveyed the surroundings, discomforted by the warm air.
"Before we go anywhere," she said, "go back to the wreckage and see if you can scrounge up some gas masks. I'm not going to talk on this forsaken piece of land without one."
"There is no way respirators could've survived that crash."
"Then we need to find people who do have them, or we don't make it."
Already this whole mission was becoming less and less logical. Everything had seemed fine at first; everything had been prepared, the mysterious Almas Academy like a prize to them. The Believers Cult were said to reside there, after losing numbers in other parts of the Cularin system. Now, as Solus, Socorra, and Ronovi patrolled the area near the plume of smoke that continually rose from the ship, it didn't seem like this had been the best idea.
Ronovi could already feel her chest tightening from breathing in the traces of methane in the otherwise oxygen-rich air. She should never have left Lyspair.