Title: Paradigm Shift
Author: Harper Kingsley
Genre: mm sci-fi
By the next morning he’d managed to get a lid over his emotions. He’d had his breakdown in the bathtub, then he’d stayed awake most of the night and thought his way around how he was going to handle the current situation and the future.
He was a Third. It was not something he could change. The State required him to have a number of children. That also was not something he could change. Those were the two things that he could do absolutely nothing about.
He did have some control over his choice of mates, and if he ended up with someone that he didn’t like he could arrange to only see him during the Madness. His biology would take care of the rest and he could live his life the way he wanted. There would always be someone to watch after the children.
Gregor calmed himself down by working his way through the problems he faced and in the end he could admit that he felt better. He was able to look at himself in the mirror and promise that everything would be all right.
Because he had options. He had choices. No one would ever be able to rip the rug out from under his feet again because he wasn’t that same careless boy that trusted every smile. He was a survivor, that’s what being a Third meant.
He could feel Park’s eyes touching the side of his face during breakfast, but the man didn’t say anything and Gregor was grateful. Crying was bad enough, but having Park say that he’d heard him would make it even worse. It felt better just to pretend that it never happened.
* * *
His schedule was changed and he was happier because he’d actually been given something to do. He wasn’t just watching a bunch of kids play or socializing with people he didn’t know.
Park took him down into the basement levels, which turned out to be a whole city beneath the compound. There was no way the Duadenora were going to be caught flat-footed if the next apocalypse hit. They had everything they needed to last out another Long Winter.
The pragmatic part of Gregor looked around and approved.
Park introduced him to a woman named Ariana that arranged the supply lists for the Duadenora main household. Other people in the Family told her what they wanted, and she made it happen. She was probably one of the most important people in the Whole Family. She was also cheerful and funny and she made him feel as though he was doing something to really help when he helped fulfill some of the orders.
He’d never considered how a Family worked on the inside. Some part of him had always just assumed that members were handed whatever they wanted and their every wish became somebody’s demand. It was kind of like that, but really everything was run on requistion lists as nothing was allowed to come directly into the compound without first passing through Ariana’s department.
When a Family member wanted something, their small household would make a list that was sent to Ariana who would send out her purchase agents. They would get everything from groceries to jewelry to vacation homes. Ariana was the barrier between the Family and the outside world.
And for four hours he got to be right there with her, protecting the Family. It was an eye-opening experience and it felt to him almost as though he were seeing the Duadenora in a brand new way.
He got to input orders into the computer, then he joined Security checking things over when they arrived. There were always threats to the Family and that was the main reason why nothing was allowed into the compound without first being examined by Security.
The idea of assassins wasn’t a new one. He understood that it was an everyday fact of life for people with wealth and means. He’d just never had to worry about it before. Because if someone had ever tried to come after him, he would have had to handle it by himself.
But watching men and women in the uniform of Security running Bomb Sniffers over packages before they were allowed past the first gate, Gregor realized what it would be like if he wasn’t alone. There would be other people risking themselves to protect him. He wouldn’t have to try so hard all the time.
He didn’t have any current enemies, but he’d had some in the past and it had always been so stressful. He wasn’t physically imposing, more scrappy than anything else, and to some he had seemed like the perfect victim.