Shades of Light

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Chapter 1

“We really shouldn't be letting conscripts anywhere near such strategically important locations but Command seems more interested in having the professionals police the Republic instead of protecting it.” The man muttered angrily as he looked down the cliff. His long brown coat flapped furiously in the wind.

“You doubt the wisdom of the Command Council?” Caroline asked. She was attempting to tie back her hair but wind kept messing it up.

“Oh please,” The man said with a sly smile. “, don't go all 'commissioner' on me already. This will be a long trip if you don't loosen up a little.”

“The Brotherhood of the Night is far too lax, if you ask me,” Caroline said. She sighed as she shook her hair loose again and started over. The Brother of the Night just stared at her with an amused smile on his face. He looked tired and dirty. His hair hadn't seen a comb for at least a day. A slight stubble was only barely hidden by the shadows of dawn. It was downright vulgar in comparison to the standards of the other orders.

“Just wait until you see what I have to deal with on a daily basis,” he said.

“Besides,” Caroline continued “, this wouldn't have happened if you had done your job.”

“Just you wait,” he muttered before continuing in a polite conversational tone. “Shall we go then, Sister?”

“With all due haste.” Caroline nodded and held out her hand.

“Brother Isaac,” he said as he grabbed her hand and shook it. Before Caroline could introduce herself he pulled her over the edge.

“My name is Caroline,” she said when she regained consciousness. The sight of green fields under a bright blue sky stretched out around them. She was familiar with it but Isaac gasped audibly and whirled around, trying to take it all in.

“Welcome to Asgard, Brother Isaac,” she said as she stood up and started checking if all her equipment had made the transition.

“It's amazing,” he said. “Do you feel different too?”

“Yes, this is a realm of happiness and health,” she said. In Asgard's eternal light all of the man's flaws were painfully apparent. She supposed that he thought the same about her. He finally managed to tear his gaze away from the landscape.

“This is your area of expertise,” he said, his tone professional. “Where do we go from here?”

“We check our equipment,” she said. It came out more stern than she had intended but he didn't seem to take offense. “Then we can trust our senses to take us on the path of the intruder.”

He nodded and let his backpack slide from his shoulders. “I'm sorry for pulling you over the edge, by the way. My Brothers and I do that kinds of shit to each other all the time. I'm not really used to working with a...”

“...woman? It's okay.” She smiled at him. It came easier here. “Why would I be afraid of coming here?”

“I see your point,” he said and straightened himself as he started to check his gun. It was a sturdy sniper rifles which looked like it had seen much action. Caroline was armed with a shiny new sub-machine gun besides the sidearm and knife they had both been issued.

“Don't you have any women on...your side?” She asked as she rifled through her pack. Birds were singing and a pleasant wind blew but without any conversation the silence was still deafening.

“Very rarely do they make the transition,” Isaac said. “I think Command wants to spare women from the circumstances of the Below. Women there suffer in exceptionally tasteless ways.”

“Ah,” Caroline said as she quickly tried to think of a way to steer the conversation in another direction.

“Hey,” Isaac said and laughed uncomfortably. “, there isn't a Board of Procreation in this realm, I know that. Maybe you and I could...”

Caroline's expression tightened. “I will forget that comment for the sake of the mission, soldier.”

“It was worth a try,” he said, still smiling, and hoisted his backpack back into place.

“Besides, humans are incredibly fertile while in this realm. Are you ready to be a father?” She said and relaxed somewhat. Using a combination of sight, smell and the feeling in the bottom of her stomach she identified where they needed to go and started walking in that direction.

“I think we're done here,” Isaac said and followed her. “Yes. Let us not speak again until you've found the objective and I have to start killing shit. That will be far easier!”

Home base contacted them ten minutes after their landing. The radio signal was clear with only the occasional hint of static. Caroline briefed them on their landing and told them they were currently in pursuit of the target. Isaac said that there was still no sign of it. They were commended for their bravery by the officer who was overseeing their mission and he bluntly stated the rewards which would be awaiting them if returned after a successful mission. Command was always wary that the people they sent into Asgard might not want to come back. It sounded like all the relevant experts had finally been assembled. The two members of the two orders had been sent through as quickly as possible, as per the protocol, which meant that the supporting base was still in the process of being activated. This was the first time in a hundred years that containment had not only failed but also let something through into the next realm. No doubt the Council would have a lot to answer for when this was over. As would the two knightly orders who were now tasked with damage control. Caroline and Isaac had just been the (lucky) first to arrive at the base when the news came out. The future of the Sisterhood of the Sun and the Brotherhood of the Night now hinged on their performance.

Caroline was just happy to finally be able to do what she had been trained for since birth. As the daughter of a knight in her order she was destined for an executive function, perhaps even as the head of the order. Like all of her Sisters before here, this was the only time during her life she would ever be allowed into the sweet embrace of Asgard. When she came back, and almost all Sisters of the Sun who were born into the order did, she would not see these lands again until her death. So the order had taught her. She intended to make the most of this chance. If she ever wanted to be worthy of the title of Knight-Commander she would have to.

She knew little of Isaac's order. Citizens of the Republic weren't expected to show interest in information that didn't concern them. Those that did never lasted long. From what she had seen during gatherings of the different orders, mostly during her time as an apprentice, the male-only orders ran on machismo and took on high-risk jobs. Dealing with Hel (which Isaac insisted on calling the Below) certainly fit that job description. The turnover rate in the Brotherhood of the Night was probably high, with only those at the top having a life expectancy close to the national average. Isaac was around her age and claimed to have a position which was senior to hers. He would be lucky to make it through his third decade of life. He seemed to think of this 'little expedition into paradise' as a vacation.

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