Paradigm Shift 02
Paradigm Shift By Harper Kingsley Genre: mm sci-fi A/B/O CHAPTER TWO Barely home a day and already sent out again, this time for a domestic reason, but just as important. He left his accustomed body armor behind and wore a soberly professional suit, his rank tabs pinned to his collar. "So why have I been called out?" he asked the Attache sharing the back of the car with him. Her smile was a wide stretch of lips painted vivid red, complementing her raptor's eyes. He thought he caught a whiff of old blood lingering on her skin. "Your Family has shown much interest in acquiring another Third. As a mark of Command's favor, you've been offered first crack at the Third discovered through the latest blood draw. You should say thank you." "Thank you," he drawled, settling his hands on his knees. He'd known he'd done good work with that last mission, but he hadn't expected to have a Third handed over to his Family. The State must be pleased with him and all he'd done to give him preliminary Courting options. Grandfather would be happy. "This is my stop," she said. The car slowed and she stepped out before it had fully halted, slamming the door behind her. Dylan amused himself with the image of her tumbling off the sidewalk and under the wheels of the large truck following behind them. It was an unkind wish, but he'd dealt with the Attache before and she was nothing but a mad dog. When she was let off the leash she barely differentiated friend from foe; it made him wary of her. He picked up the case she'd left him and settled back into the seat to read. He had received a Third as a reward, he might as well find out what he could about-- Dylan opened the file and looked at the picture of the dark haired young man. A handsome face that might have looked cold if it wasn't for the sly slant of his brows, the hint of laughter curling his lips. Staring out of the picture was a pair of expressive brown eyes, mesmerizing against the man's rich olive-toned skin. --Gregor Tierney. * * * Waking up took a lot out of him. He opened heavy-lidded eyes and it took so much effort that he just lay there afterward, exhausted. He listened to the world around him while he acclimated to his surroundings. From the sounds 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 been allowed to even walk past before. Except now he was a Third, destined to have so much more than he had ever deserved or even wanted. It made him afraid. Nothing came for free. There was the sound of the door opening and footsteps approaching from an angle he couldn't see. He would have preferred that his bed face the door; it would have made him feel more secure. As it was, he had to 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 didn't let anything show on his face, 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 of the prisoners. Just being in the same room with her made his skin creep. He wanted to clamp his legs tight together, which was ridiculous; it wouldn't protect him. She would use her scalpels to cut him from breastbone to the soft dip beneath his belly button and scoop out his insides. She would dissect his organs while he was still alive, then she would monitor his brain's responses while he screamed. 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 a reason for his preference other than the truth, that he was absolutely terrified of her. 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. He was a Third and that had already been registered to his identity. He'd heard of people getting fake IDs, but it was expensive and required connections that he didn't have. He 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 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 stared 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 going to give up. They could lock him away and force him to breed, but he would make the best of what he was 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 a whole group of people appeared in his field of vision. He felt the pinching sensation of a nervous need to urinate, 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 being so much trouble, but I don't think I could have stood having her handle my care." "I understand. It's a common affliction," the doctor said, approaching the side of the bed. He waved his hand behind himself at the group of people hanging back from the bed in a mass of dark clothes. "There 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, right?" The doctor nodded with a kindly smile. "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. He still needs to rest." The men came closer to the bed, four dark haired men in sober gray suits. "Hello, Blessed 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 he was in a bad situation. He'd been expecting the Primes, which the other three men definitely were, but he'd never imagined that his crimes could warrant the attentions of a Magister. It made him afraid. There was more trouble going on than he could safely talk his way out of. "I know I shouldn't have been taking the suppressants, but I was scared to just stop using them," he blurted. "I always heard that 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 personality flaw. It would make them less likely to offer to Bond with you." Gregor shook his head. "Who cares what they think? I don't want to Bond with any of them anyway." Park looked intrigued, his eyebrow going up. "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 licked his lower lip. "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 a confused Third that hadn't known better as he took a bunch of illegal drugs and lied about it. Easy. "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 the 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 would be locked up. You're much too important." Gregor had to fight the urge to give the doctor a flutter of his lashes--that would be too much. "So I'm not going to go to prison?" he asked. He was wondering how much his fine was going to be and what he was going to have to do to pay it. He wasn't 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 public response 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 the 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 earned him a serious check-up that included a complete blood chem panel 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 you would not have faced serious repercussions for going off them." Gregor licked his lips. Perhaps there was a need for him to show a bit of truth. "I don't 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 another one of those faint smiles 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 pleasant. Definitely not as nice as the treatment he was receiving. "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. Unless there was a clear case of abuse, he would have to honor their Claim. He didn't have any other choice. "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.