Title: Paradigm Shift

Author: Harper Kingsley

Genre: sci-fi mm

Summary: After twenty-eight years of playing Two, he was about to be outed as a Third. So I'm building this whole side world thing that has sprouted out like some kind of monster beast. This is part of Paradigm Shift, one of the stories set in that universe.


CHAPTER ONE

The state was instituting mandatory blood tests. He'd known it was going to happen sooner or later, but he'd let himself believe it was going to be more later.

Dread pooled in his belly. There wasn't a single doubt in his mind that he was going to be busted.

After twenty-eight years of playing Two, he was about to be outed as a Third. The very idea horrified him.

"Whatcha staring at?"

Gregor nearly jumped out of his skin at the sudden hand on his shoulder. "Geez Marcus, way to give me a heart attack."

Marcus chuckled. "Way to be dramatic. Seriously, what are you looking at?"

Gregor pointed at the notice on his ePad screen. "They're forcing everyone to go to the Public Health Stations and give blood. They want to find any unregistered Thirds."

"Good," Marcus said. "They shouldn't be out on the loose because what if something happens? We could be facing extinction; there's no room for them to be obstinate. We need them too much."

"You don't think it's wrong to force them to breed?" Gregor could feel a cold sweat breaking over his body. He would have thought Marcus would understand, but it was looking as though he was wrong. "They're not being given any choice."

"It does feel a bit exploitative," Marcus said, "but we need them or we could be looking at the end of the human race. They are the only ones able to bear young. And it's not like they're being tortured or anything. They are allowed to pick the First they're going to breed with."

"It's awful. They're being made to have sex whether they want to or not. It's sick." Gregor's hands had curled into fists so he tucked them in his jacket pockets.

"It's unfortunate that in vitro fertilization doesn't work with Thirds. I wish things could be different." Marcus sounded genuinely sympathetic. "But as it is right now, our species must do everything to survive."

Gregor felt sick to his stomach. He couldn't face what was going to happen to him without a little fortification. If he was going to lose his freedom, he might as well have something to miss.

"Come on." He grabbed Marcus' surprisingly muscular arm. "Let's go get cleaned up. We're going out tonight."

Marcus' grin was a little weak, but Gregor wasn't in the mood for weakness. "Come on," he pleaded, even going so far as to flutter his lashes and make himself as cute as possible.

It seemed oddly easy to hustle Marcus to his own apartment. Maybe it was the rebellious part of him looking for one last hurrah before he was locked away in a bower somewhere.

. * . * . * .

A lifetime of secrets ending, he didn't know how to deal with himself. But he was afraid, very very afraid.

Gregor held his coat tight around himself as he stood in line with all the other T-Vs waiting for their blood tests. It was a quiet crowd, one that had been waiting long hours in the cold and most everyone just wanted to get it over with and head home.

He was probably the only one hoping his turn would never happen. He would happily stay in line until he died if it meant never being discovered.

"Ooh, coffee," the woman ahead of him murmured to her companion. "I'm freezing."

Gregor craned to see, and sure enough there were people moving through the lines with carts steaming with coffee. No one wanted a potential Third unhappy, and until it was proven otherwise, everyone here was being treated as though they could be the holiest of holies.

When one of the carts reached his position, Gregor took a disposable cup with a grateful "Thank you."

He sipped the coffee, wishing for milk and sugar, but grateful for something hot to hold in his hands. He had been waiting for what had seemed like a small eternity with dread growing in his stomach. Fear of discovery had evolved from a nagging reminder to something much deeper.

Idly he wondered what they would do to him. Would he be hailed as some kind of precious find, or would he find himself locked in some bower servicing alphas until he produced enough children for the state? The uncertainty is what bothered him the most.

The line jerked forward and he went with it, coming closer to the doors and the doom awaiting him within.

Gregor calmly raised his cup to his mouth, sipping at the bitter coffee. The taste steadied him somehow.

.

The sudden warmth of the building interior made him have to fight a flinch. His legs ached from standing for so long, but he knew there was no recourse for it. The building was only big enough to hold a certain amount of people and the appointments all overlapped so if he had tried to hang back, he could end up missing his slot and receiving a Public Sanction. He already had two on his record and he couldn't afford to pay the fines a third one would cost him.

He followed the line forward until he suddenly found himself in front of a nurse with a scanning tool. His throat acquired a hard knot and he watched as a woman received a prick on the finger and several red drops were dropped into a white cardboard disk that was examined with the scanner, which gave a cheerful busy sound.

Gregor looked around as casually as he could manage and knew there was no way he was escaping, not with the dozen or so guards in his vicinity alone. He would give his blood and be exposed. There was nothing else for it but to act with dignity.

The woman walked toward the exit and the line drew forward until Gregor was next. He could feel himself sweating under his winter coat, but it was a cold sweat. His hands had clenched into fists, but he couldn't make them unfold. He could barely keep his teeth from chattering and he could feel the adrenaline he'd been battling all day suddenly increasing until all he could hear was his heart thrumming hummingbird fast and the voices of the people around him were just a confusing murmur of sound.

When the nurse spoke to him, he saw her lips move, but there was no meaning behind it. He let her guide him by the arm to stand in front of her machine. He felt the tug of the blood being taken, just a quick sting and only a few drops. And yet his fate was sealed.

He saw it on the nurse's face when her machine made a new noise and she gave him such a look of awe that he could feel his blood pressure dropping. There was the rushing sound of the ocean in his ears and a copper taste in his mouth.

His knees folded suddenly and Gregor dropped, unconscious before he even hit the floor.

.

.

CHAPTER TWO

Waking up took a lot out of him. He opened his eyes and it was so difficult he just lay there afterward, exhausted. His listened to the world around him while he acclimated.

From the sounds of the place and a glance around the room he was in, Gregor assumed he was in a very expensive hospital, the kind of place he wouldn't have even been allowed to walk passed before.

Except now he was a Third, destined to have so much more than he had ever deserved. It made him afraid.

There was the sound of the door opening and footsteps approaching from an angle he couldn't see. He would have much rathered his bed face the door; it would have made him feel more secure. As it was he had to w wait until his visitor stepped into view before he knew what was happening.

"Ah, I see that you are awake. Good." It was a dark haired woman in a white lab coat buttoned all the way to the top and serious pumps on her feet. The smile she gave him seemed completely alien to her face, but there was obvious sincerity behind it. "I am Doctor Elizabeth Czernada. It is very good to meet you."

Gregor licked lips that felt impossibly dry and had to cough before he could speak. "I am Gregor Tierney Citizen G9375-41-8344."

She waved it away with her hand. "We don't need any of that. We know who you are. We are simply very happy to have found you."

"Really," Gregor said. He held the blankets tightly with both fists; if he didn't hold on he felt as though he would float away. He wondered if they'd hit him with some Calm while he was passed out. Unpermitted drugging seemed like something a doctor like Czernada would do.

He hadn't let anything show, but he'd recognized the name, though she was filed in his mental banks under her nickname, The Butcher of Clavell. She'd been there during the Reclamation Movement's last stand and had experimented on the bodies.

Just being in the same room with her made his skin creep. He wanted to clamp his legs tight together, which was ridiculous. She would use her scalpels to cut him from breastbone to the soft dip beneath his belly button and scoop out his insides.

When she stepped closer to the bed he couldn't help cringing away. He didn't want those devil hands to touch him.

"Is there something wrong, Blessed Tierney?" she asked.

He nearly winced at the sound of the formal title coming out of her mouth. "Can I..." He paused for a breath and tried to keep his voice level. "Can I please have a different doctor? Preferably male?" He threw in that last to give himself a reason for his pickiness other than the truth.

Dr. Czernada gave him a surprised look. "Oh, oh yes, of course," she sounded as though her feelings had been hurt. She turned toward the door. "I will get you a male doctor."

"Good, thank you." Gregor pulled his blankets closer around himself. "I will be waiting here."

The minute she left the room, he started thinking furiously about what he was going to do. There weren't a lot of options though.

He was a Third and that had already been registered to his identity. He'd heard of people getting fake IDs, but it was extremely expensive and required connections that he didn't have. He simply didn't have the resources to start a new life.

Gregor was well and truly caught and there was nothing he could do about it. He would just have to deal with his new life the best that he could. So what recourse did he have?

He'd never been able to pull off the wide-eyed ingenue, but he hated playing the part of the tough guy. Still, he had to play at being just dumb enough that they would give him leniency for the hormone suppressant use. That was a Class C felony and could see him doing some serious prison time. He would be an old man by the time he breathed free air again.

He didn't try to practice, knowing there were cameras in the room and the footage would be checked in the course of the case against him. But he visualized the person he wanted to become and started unblinking at the blankets across his chest.

Gregor Tierney needed to be a somewhat relaxed but at the same time shy individual. He needed to be a bit of a follower, enough to break the more minor laws of Society, but not enough to get too serious. He had a conscience. There were some laws he would not break.

Taking suppressants was something he had been led into, as was hiding as a Two. He felt bad about his father's soon to be tarnished reputation, but the man had always liked a cruel joke or twelve. Being the one to lead him down the road of sin would have made Desmond Tierney give that barking laugh he'd made famous in their social circle.

Gregor sat up and folded the blankets down across his lap. He smoothed his hands over his hair, making it lay down straight. Gregor Tierney was the kind of man that cared about his appearance to the point of concern. It was the kind of thing the Mental Health Bureau of Medical loved because it wasn't a completely incurable problem. They would think he was fixable, which assured him more of a chance at a free life.

He'd spent his whole life dreaming of being free and it wasn't something he was just going to give up. They could lock him away and force him to breed, but he would make the best of what he would be given. There was no time for bitterness if he didn't want to end up in Stricture.

Gregor found his center and waited with outward patience until the door opened again and it was a while group of people appearing in his field of vision. He felt the pinching sensation of a sudden need to pee, but he ignored it.

"Blessed Tierney," the man in the white lab coat said, "I am Dr. Samuel Haden. I understand that you prefer a male physician?"

Gregor bobbed a nod. "I'm sorry I'm so much trouble, but I don't think I could have stood having her doing my care."

"I understand. It's a common affliction people have," the doctor said kindly, approaching the side of the bed. He waved his hand behind himself at the group of people hanging backwards from him. "These are some Assessors here to speak to you. I promise that I will watch out for you and if at any time you would like the interview postponed just let me know. Are you willing to talk to them? They have some questions about your use of suppressants."

Gregor licked his lips. "I need to talk to them now, otherwise I'll never be able to do it. It's better to just get it over with."

The doctor nodded. "That's probably for the best." He turned toward the waiting group of solemnly dressed bureaucrats. "He says he's willing to talk to you. But only for a little while."

The men came close to the bed, four dark haired men in sober gray suits.

"Hello, Mr. Tierney, I am Magister Dylan Park," their leader said. "I have been instructed to ask you about several irregularities that have been found in your record."

Gregor swallowed, knowing that he could definitely find himself in a bad situation. He'd been expecting the Primes, which the other three men definitely were, but there was no way his crimes should warrant a Magister.

It made him afraid.

"I know I shouldn't have been taking the suppressants, but I was scared to just stop using," he blurted. "I always heard that just stopping without having a doctor or someone to monitor you, it could be deadly. I was scared to go to Medical because it was too expensive. And I was scared they would have to report me."

Park cocked his head. "So you're rather high strung are you? Some could see that as a flaw."

Gregor shook his head. "Who cares what they think? I don't want to Bond with any of them anyway."

Park looked a bit intrigued. "Who do you want to Bond with?"

"I don't know." Gregor shrugged. "I haven't found anyone I'm interested in yet."

Park smiled, a tiny little thing, just a slight curve of the lips, but a smile nonetheless. "You are a man of discerning taste I see. A little foolish, but a person of character."

Gregor was a bit intrigued. "You confuse me," he said.

"I will take that as a good thing," Park said. "Now tell us how long you have been taking the suppressants and where did you acquire them?"

This was where things could get dicey. Gregor's father had been dead for nearly three years; any crimes committed after Desmond's death would have to be claimed as his own, there was no way around that. He just had to make sure that he came across as just a confused Third that hadn't known any better as he took a bunch of illegal drugs.

"My father told me I would be better off not acting like a Third. There are people out there that would want to take advantage of me. He said I would be better off if I passed as a Two until I find someone I want to be with." He twisted his fingers in his blanket. "After he died, I just... I kept taking the suppressants because I didn't know what I was supposed to do. What doctor was I supposed to go to? I don't want to go to prison."

"There's no reason for you to worry about that," the doctor said, reaching forward to take Gregor's hand in a comforting grip. "Though it was illegal for you to have the suppressants, you are a Third and there's no way you could be locked away. You're much too important."

Gregor had to fight the urge to give the doctor a flutter of his lashes-that would be a bit too much. "So I'm not going to go to prison?" he asked. Really he was wondering how much his fine was going to be and what he was going to have to do to pay for it. He wasn't very hopeful about that end of things, but a fine was better than hard time.

"No! Of course not," the doctor sounded shocked. "Could you imagine the result if a Third was sent to labor service? There would be protests and riots, it would be an ugly situation."

"Doctor, if you wouldn't mind," Park said, gesturing the man out of the way so he could face Gregor himself. "How have you been getting the drugs?"

This was where things got snakey. "My father knew someone and set up an auto pay option. I just never told them that my father had passed away." Gregor shrugged. "The money was taken out of the account my father set up and the suppressants were delivered every three months."

"And who have you been getting them from?" Park asked.

There was only so far Gregor was willing to go for someone he'd never met in real life. "I don't know," he said. "I just made sure there was enough money in the account and that the package was delivered."

"You weren't frightened by taking drugs from a stranger?" Park asked, his eyebrows raising in sharp question.

Gregor shook his head. "They always looked the same and the bottles never looked like they were tampered with or anything. My father was known to have a dangerous temper. I don't think there's anyone that wants to mess with him."

"We will be running a thorough physical on you," the doctor said. He pulled his com out of his pocket. "I'll make all the arrangements."

It was a battle for Gregor to control his need to roll his eyes. The last thing he wanted was a big exam, but he wasn't going to be given a choice. The usage of the suppressants had assured him a serious check up including complete blood work and body scans.

"The use of suppressants displays a frightening lack of care for yourself," Park said. "You must understand from the announcements just how important you are as a Third. You are one of the hopes for the survival of the human race." He looked at Gregor with a disappointed expression. "Why would you continue to use the suppressants after the Plague? You must have realized that there would be no way you would face any serious repercussions?"

Gregor licked his lips. Perhaps there was a need for him to show a bit of truth. "I don't want want to be bred like an animal. I don't want my children taken from me to be raised by someone else." He drew in a shuddery breath. "I want to love and be loved, and I don't want my biology to decide things for me."

Park examined Gregor's expression closely, then finally a faint smile turned up his lips. "That is an explanation I can better understand." He turned to one of his men. "Track down the supplier," he ordered. "We can't have this kind of willful disregard for the Laws. Someone must be punished."

Gregor felt a twinge of pity for his black market dealer, but there was nothing he could do about it. He hadn't given up any names or anything, had made sure not to know any in case he was ever discovered. Still, he knew the dealers were going to be facing the full might of the State, and it wasn't going to be nice.

"What's going to happen to me?" he asked.

There was a modicum of sympathy in Park's gaze. "By the will of the State you will have to reproduce, there's no getting around that. A powerful Family has already displayed interest in having your Choice and have put in a Claim."

A Claim meant the Family had already declared his membership into their ranks. There would be a chance for him to reject them or for them to reject him, but he would have to spend thirty contiguous days in their Household before he would be able to voice his refusal of their suit. They would ensure he was comfortable and cared for, but he wouldn't be able to leave them.

"What Family?" he asked.

Park's eyes were serious. "The Duadenora."

Gregor's breath caught in his throat. The Duadenora Family were one of the Seven Great Families. If they took him in... there would be no getting out.


A/N: Let me know if you've enjoyed this. I'm going to be looking for beta readers in the near future :)