Title: Paradigm Shift
Author: Harper Kingsley
Genre: mm sci-fi
Squick Warning: contains mention of mpreg
Gregor rubbed the tip of his nose. "As long as you're there, I think tomorrow will be okay."
"It will be fine," Park said. "I've been to the theater many times before and Persephone's Lament is a great mix of beautiful costumes, singing, and the dancing is fantastic."
"So you've seen it before?" Gregor cocked his head.
Park shrugged. "I was sent there in the course of my duties. I didn't get to watch the whole thing, but what I did see completely blew me away." The corners of his lips turned up when he glanced at Gregor. "I think I'm going to enjoy the opportunity to see the entire show with great company."
Gregor chuckled. "Well, it's nice that someone will be enjoying my company." They came to his door and he used his thumbprint to release the lock before they went in.
"What do you mean?" Park asked. He kicked the door shut behind him, then did that thing of his where he had to walk through the entire suite before he was able to relax. Being a Magister must be a dangerous job.
Gregor shrugged and went to the mini-fridge in the living area. "The only reason any of these people even bother to put up with me is because I'm a Third. Otherwise I'd be less than the muck beneath their boots."
"That's not the way it is." Park came out of Gregor's bedroom before walking into the bathroom. "They are just very reserved people. We're a Family here; it's always strange bringing in new people. It will only be awkward for a little longer until everyone becomes used to your presence."
Gregor popped open the lid of a fruit punch flavored vitamin drink before flopping down on the couch. "Well, maybe I don't want to wait forever to be accepted. Maybe I want to get the heck out of here as soon as possible."
He hadn't meant to blurt it out like that, but there was just something about Park that brought the honest out of him. It was like
some crazy honesty Tourettes he couldn't control.
"You don't really mean that, do you?" Park came out of the bathroom to retrieve a drink of his own and join Gregor on the couch. "Do you really not like it here at all?"
Gregor sighed and drank his juice. "It's not that bad, but it's not that good either. The food is the best I've ever eaten and this suite is beautiful, but there's more to life than luxuries." He gave Park an earnest look. "If all I'd wanted was to be pampered and to live some kind of lavish life, I would have come out as a Third before."
"You wouldn't have gotten as much before the Plague," Park said.
Gregor shrugged. "I could have gotten a lot. It's the same reason the Duadenora want me. A homosexual male Third is extremely rare. Someone would have been willing to shower me with all the wonders of the world."
Park snorted. He was cradling the unopened bottle between his palms. "You are about one in five million. Even rarer because your UnBound."
"You make me sound special when you say it like that." Gregor couldn't resist a smirk at Park's look.
He knew he was a rare commodity, but that didn't mean he liked the thought of having all the personal choices taken from him just because of his biology. He was a Third, sure, but that didn't mean he wasn't human.
After the Plague hit, he'd thought about revealing himself, but he just couldn't manage it. He wasn't ready to be locked away for his own protection, not before he got the chance to live first.
"You're not dumb," Park said. "You have to realize that you have no choice about Binding. My Family is probably the best offer you're going to get."
Surprisingly, it hurt to have Park trying to sell him on the idea of Bonding to Zero. He'd begun to see Park as a friend, somewhat of an ally here in enemy territory.
"I'm tired," he stated abruptly, setting his nearly full bottle on the table. "I'm going to bed."
Park made like he was going to object, but something on Gregor's face stopped him. "Have a good night," he said instead, standing up and heading toward the door. "I'll bring the tailor by in the morning."
Gregor nodded and hummed agreement, anything to get him out so he could be alone.
Park left, keying the lock behind him as he closed the door.
Gregor went back to the couch and flopped down. He thought about turning on the entertainment screen, but the quiet fit his mood.
He was a genetic miracle. It was something he'd learned young from his mother before she'd died. Then he'd been left with his father, and hiding his true nature was the smartest thing he'd ever done, because Desmond Tierney would have gotten his money's worth out of a Third for a son.
The cure to the Phage Virus had stopped the whole "zombie" thing, but it had also caused a permanent mutation to the human genome.
The Firsts had been the kind of aggressive, take charge people that rushed toward a fight instead of running away. They might have been seen as type-A personality people in the Before Times.
Twos were normal baseline humans. They were the most common. They had been the most vulnerable to the Phage, as the Firsts had some slight immunity that meant they'd needed a more thorough exposure to the Phage before they got sick. Twos had nothing and could be turned by a single bite or a tiny drop of infected blood.
The Thirds were completely immune to the Phage, even producing some rudimentary antibodies, that unfortunately hadn't lasted long outside their bodies. Still, they had been the lucky ones. In towns and cities overrun by the rampaging zombies, if they could avoid being outright killed, the Thirds hadn't had to worry about dying and coming back.
Dr. Athena Merciel had been the one to come up with the Cure. She had been brilliant and she was recognized as the savior of the human race. Even with the side effects, the Cure had saved everything.
Firsts became stronger, faster, smarter than before. They had heightened senses and were physically more capable than Twos. They were also more aggressive and possessive, which could be a slight drawback in maintaining control over Society.
They were the reason the Morning Prayer had become mandatory. The kata that every man woman and child practiced each day offered grounding and balance for the emotions and the body both. Most Firsts were required to do supplementary katas to maintain their Personal Health, but the Morning Prayer was universal.
Sometimes Gregor wished that if the Cure had to grant him anything, that he had become a First. He pictured himself with muscles and fast reflexes, and it didn't seem so bad. But no, instead he'd been born a Third.
A Third was considered whatever sex they identified with, but it didn't really matter. They all had the ability to bear young.
The outwardly female had ovipositors for impregnation as well as normal female genitalia. Some had tried to call the organ a penis, but there had been an outcry from the female Thirds and a vote had been held as to what the new sex organ would be referred to as.
The male Thirds had gotten the same choice, only it hadn't really held up to popular opinion. People still insisted on calling it a womb, even though it was more like a marsupial pouch. Sperm went in, a baby came out–womb.
No one could explain how a Cure for a virus that reanimated dead tissue could result in Thirds, but after some weirdness and violence, it had become a sign of prestige to have a Third. Sexual fantasies at first had led to real reverence, especially when the Heat developed.
Some kind of continuing adaptation provided by the Cure, but a few generations in and Thirds had developed a heat cycle. For two weeks every three months, Thirds would start pumping out uncontrolled burst of pheromones that drove Firsts and some Twos into a sexual frenzy.
For a while, it was a lucrative business for Thirds to be hired to work in clubs to add mood enhancement to the air. Except there'd been a few bad instances and it was made illegal.
Thirds were an interesting oddity, but they weren't all that important in the grand scheme of things.
Right up until the Plague hit five years ago. It had burned through the population fast–fever, chills, vomiting and diarrhea. It had been awful, but once someone got it they didn't get it again. It was just "something going around."
Right up until the first reports of female infertility sprang up, then more and more. Nearly every woman on the planet had had their eggs destroyed by the Plague and there were only so many in cold storage.
The human race was doomed.
Except Thirds seemed to have been just as immune to the Plague as they were to the Phage. The tiny population of Thirds was more important than ever before. More restrictive laws were passed for the Greater Good.
Gregor had already been hiding as a Two when the Plague hit. To him, he'd missed a few days of work at his lousy job and that was the whole Plague thing. Then news of infertility spread and there were people crying all over and the entire world was in mourning, right up until the new miracle to do with Thirds made the rounds.
All the Third worship pretty thoroughly freaked him out. He wanted nothing to do with it and the thought of him giving birth was the
scariest thing ever and he wanted to avoid it at all costs.
He wanted to live his life. He didn't want to be treated as a walking womb.
"I want to be happy," he whispered miserably. "Is that really too much to ask?"
He was afraid the answer was "Yes."