THE DEFECTOR (Book #0.3)
He would be despised. By all of them, he would be despised.
The shadow of the Rooks hangs over Revik’s head––a constant reminder of the dark warrior he used to be.
Hidden away in monastic caves after he leaves the network of terrorist seers, Revik no longer knows who he is, or what his life means.
When a delegation from renowned holy warriors, the Adhipan, appears, asking for his help, his first impulse is to say no––until they tell him it is Kali who needs saving, Kali who rescued Revik from the dark, when no one else would.
Revik agrees to fly across the world, facing off against his old friends, the Rooks, including his ex-partner, Terian, who is clearly holding a grudge about Revik’s defection. When they come after him, either to kill him or bring him back into the fold, Revik finds himself faced with old demons and new temptations, and the ongoing decision of which side he will fight for, the light or the dark, and what he’s willing to give up to be the man he desperately wants to be.
In the end, he thinks he’s got nothing left to lose.
It turns out he’s wrong about that, too.
From USA TODAY and WALL STREET JOURNAL bestselling author, a psychic warfare adventure set in a gritty alternate version of Earth. Contains strong romantic elements. Apocalyptic SciFi. Psychic Romance.
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CHAPTER 1: DECONSTRUCTION
“That’s not something we hear in here often, brother…”
Revik looked up, sharp.
His body had already tensed halfway into a fighting stance.
He hadn’t heard the other male walk in. He hadn’t heard the door. Something about the silent, ninja-like steps and movements of the monks still made him jump like a cat whenever they snuck up on him.
They would give most seer assassins a run for their money.
“…The music,” the monk clarified.
The aged seer smiled at him, holding up a hand in a peace gesture. He waited until Revik stepped back, eliminating or lessening the more aggressive aspects of his posture. Once he had, the monk changed the direction of his hand, without a single hint of accusation.
Revik followed the other seer’s eyes back over his own shoulder, towards the small music player and its faintly crackly speakers.
Sitting on a stone bookshelf, it blared a poor recording of one of Revik’s old albums. The tinny strains of music echoed strangely against the walls of his small, cell-like room, which was really more of a cave than a normal monk’s cell.
Somewhere in those few ticks of silence, Revik understood the monk’s remark.
His eyes shifted back towards the older seer.
Remembering himself finally, he bowed.
Like most of the permanent residents here, the male monk wore a loose-fitting, sand-colored robe. With his guileless smile and open expression, he was more friendly and cheerful than many of the older monks, especially those who spent most of their time meditating.
He was also more curious, particularly about Revik.
“What is it, brother?” the monk asked, his light blue eyes holding a flicker of interest. “The music you are playing. It is human, is it not?”
Revik fought to stifle a snort.
Gods. He’d been lost in his own kind of bubble over the past few years, but never in his life had he encountered beings so out of touch with the wider world as the traditional seers who lived here, in the caves of the Pamir.
He’d been warned to curb his sarcasm, though.
Especially with senior monks.
He’d been warned to show respect, to remember himself when he responded to sincere questions from his betters, no matter how they might sound to his more jaded ears.
Revik’s current teachers viewed his tendency to twist a lot of his off-the-cuff responses into sarcasm as a means of avoidance.
They were probably right.
Still, negativity, sarcasm, cynicism… they were proving difficult habits to break.
“It is, brother,” he said politely. “It is human. This music.”
“And what is it called?” the seer asked, his eyes and voice still curious. “It has a name, does it not? This type of music? Would I know it?”
Fighting the pounding in his head, that denser feeling of claustrophobia that tugged at his chest whenever he spent too much time in the hollowed-out stone room, Revik kept his blank infiltrator’s mask in place. Still fighting to control his light, he made an inviting gesture with one hand for the seer to enter the room.
“They call it rock and roll,” he said, deadpan.
The seer grinned like a kid, clasping his hands in front of the robe.
“Rock and roll? That is a curious name, is it not?” He looked back at the music player, as if examining the nature of the beings making the sounds through the speakers. “That is the type of music though, yes?” the Chinese-looking monk persisted, his blue eyes holding that curiosity. “What is this exact group called?”
“Band,” Revik corrected thoughtlessly.
“They call them bands. Not really groups. Not anymore.”
A flush of impatience hit Revik’s light as the monk nodded with interest.
Revik struggled with a denser annoyance at being disturbed, and seemingly for no reason at all, other than for a curious monk to stare at a cheap cassette player. Rubbing his forehead, Revik tried to shove his irritation back, avoiding the eyes of the other male.
His resentment didn’t dissipate.
It’s not like he got a lot of time alone here.
They were on him pretty much all day, every day, when he wasn’t asleep.
Why the fuck wouldn’t they just leave him be, the few minutes he had to himself? He couldn’t possibly pose any kind of danger to them, not anymore.
The mind wipes Vash and his infiltrators performed when Revik left the Rooks made certain he’d be as harmless as a neutered kitten. Hell, he could barely function on his own at all these days, after so many years lived inside the Org’s Pyramid.
He felt toothless.
More than that, he felt he had nothing to offer to anyone––whether in terms of a threat, or… gods forbid… some kind of benefit.
Even as he thought them, Revik struggled with his own thoughts.
He knew why the seer had come.
Revik had been indulging in more than a little “negativity” for the last hour or so, including around one of the worst bouts of separation pain he’d suffered in quite some time. He’d already been warned against trying to seduce any of the monks living in the enclave, male or female, so he’d taken to hiding in his room when he got like this.
They should have taken the fucking hint and left him alone.
Even knowing that compassion likely led the other male to come find him, Revik couldn’t seem to make his anger less.
When the old monk stepped deeper into the room, Revik saw a flash of image behind his eyes. Dark, swift. It was gone as soon as it was there, but disconcerting enough to make him flinch, and leave a harsh taste in his mouth.
It also caused him to step back, to increase the physical distance between himself and the other male.
Somewhere in that image, he’d jabbed a flip knife in the male seer’s eye.
Something about the light there, maybe.
Something about the monk staring at him––seeing him.
Something about the fucking innocence there, the…
(sheep-like, his mind muttered)
…openness of monk’s light, the compassion devoid of cynicism, of any guile whatsoever.
Something about the fact that they wouldn’t leave him the fuck alone.
“Brother?” the monk said.
The older seer’s voice held patience, along with a denser light. The warmth of his light wove into Revik’s as he stood there…
(Insidious, Revik’s mind accused. Unwanted, unasked)
…holding him, providing him with a measure of stability, grounding his light in a less angry, less aggressive space.
Reluctantly, Revik let the other male coax him out of the worst edges of his anger.
A few seconds later, he exhaled sharply.
Then he shook his head, clicking under his breath, rubbing his temples with a hand.
He didn’t look at the old monk at all now.
“The Stones,” he muttered tonelessly. “They’re called The Rolling Stones, brother.”
The other seer sent a warm pulse of light to Revik’s chest.
Humor lived there, but also a denser understanding, one so complete, Revik had to fight not to yell at him. The compassion there threatened to pull more words out of him, even as his own reactions sickened him, bringing a surge of self-hate strong enough that he had to fight not to yell at the other male again.
Patience, brother Revik, the male sent softly. You are too hard on yourself.
And if I stab one of you in the throat, my good brother? Revik sent back bitterly. Will you think the same charitable thoughts of me then?
You will not.
You cannot know that. I’ve done it before. Many times.
What difference does it make, where I am? Revik’s mind growled. Who I am with? Do you think me so religious, I would not kill a man of the cloth? Because believe me, I would. I’ve done that before, too.
The truth was, though, Revik hadn’t.
Not that he could remember, anyway.
Moreover, unlike some things he could not remember but suspected he had done anyway, or somehow knew he had done, he didn’t feel that way about this. He didn’t think he’d killed a lot of monks in his life, whatever other horrible things he may have done while living inside the Pyramid of the Rooks.
Something in hearing the lie in his own words caused him to relax, if only a little.
The old monk’s blue eyes sharpened, even as a faint smile touched his lips.
In point of fact, brother, you are doing far better now, to express these thoughts where we can see them. It is progress, although it may not feel like it.
Revik let out a short laugh.
He nearly choked on it.
The monk, Tulani, only smiled.
Thoughts are powerful with seers, it is true, Tulani sent, humor still in his light, even as he looked at Revik thoughtfully. But thoughts are still not the same as actions, dear brother. Not even in a seer of your stature.
He ignored the openly disbelieving look Revik gave him at the “stature” comment.
Thoughts carry karmic repercussions of their own, the monk added. But do not make these things equivalent in your mind. Just because you think something, you should not treat that impulse as something you have already done, beloved brother.
And if I want to do it? Revik sent, his jaw hard. What then?
The old monk clicked softly in rebuke.
Do not waste time worrying what you may or may not do based on passing impulses alone. He made a calming gesture, using his light. We fear you far less now than we did before, brother Revik. When you would not express any feeling in front of us, when you refused to talk to us about anything going on inside your light… that is when we feared you.
Revik shook his head.
He did not attempt to argue, though.
The monk’s smile teased higher on his lips.
Anyway, brother, I somehow doubt it is violence that truly motivates you at the moment. At least not violence of the sort you seem to imagine. I think if I was more your type in other respects, the impulse would have struck you somewhat differently.
At that, Revik snorted a short laugh.
That one was almost real.
He still didn’t look directly at the other male, though.
When the silence stretched, he conceded the monk’s point with a gesture of his own, then backed deeper into the room when the monk walked towards him.
Rather than maintaining the distance between them, Revik doubled it, one of his arms folded tightly over his chest. He felt the gesture as protective, but couldn’t quite decide if he was protecting himself from the other seer, or the reverse.
You are too hard on yourself, brother, the monk repeated. Do not beat yourself up for feeling. The karmic repercussions of our thoughts are quite heavy enough.
Truthfully, though, he wasn’t really listening.
He only listened to about half of their words, even now.
He fought to push away the part of him that was tired of this, that wanted to sink into a different kind of depression, one based in a heavier futility.
The silence between them stretched.
“Are you ready, brother?” the seer said aloud.
Revik nodded, but made no effort to move.
Without waiting, Tulani turned smoothly on his bare heel. He left out the only door in or out of the cell-like room, moving as silently as when he’d walked in.
After another sharp exhale, Revik resigned himself to follow.
Walking over to the bookshelf first, he leaned down to switch off the small cassette player, right as “Paint it Black” started playing.
He couldn’t help but find that fitting, too.