Title: Paradigm Shift
Author: Harper Kingsley
Genre: mm sci-fi, mpreg
Eyes flicked to Gregor and away. He kept his shoulders square as he walked beside Park. His expression was bland as he pretended that he wasn’t stressing out. He knew he was on display and he wasn’t enjoying it.
He wanted to retreat back to his room, but he knew this moment had to happen. Better sooner than later.
Everyone knew that he’d rejected Zero and chose Park. There was a hint of scandal to the whispers he overheard, but there was a lot of romance as well. There was nothing like forbidden love to spice up a story. In other circumstances he might have been flattered by all the attention.
But it wasn’t like he’d consciously chosen Park and put in the time to form a relationship. He’d been out of his mind during the Madness and his baser instincts had chosen Park.
He still didn’t know why he’d rejected Zero. He’d been ready to have sex with the man, but his Heat affected brain had screamed “No!” It made him wonder what had been so objectionable about Zero.
Because whatever it was, the instant he walked into the meeting room and saw Zero seated at the long table he felt an instant aversion.
He fought to keep his expression under control when his lips tried to twitch into a sneer. There was something about Zero that put his hackles up and until he knew what it was he wasn’t going to be able to control his response.
Gregor kept Park between him and Zero when they sat at the table. He didn’t wince at the hardness of the chair, but it was a near thing. He still felt sore.
Family members kept coming, filling twenty-seven spots at the table. The only empty chair was at the head of the table waiting for Hizel. The chair looked like a throne.
Gregor accepted the glass of ice water Park offered. There were clear glass pitchers stationed along the table. The water was beautifully clear and lacked all chemical taste.
The Duadenora always seemed to have the best of all things. He wondered if he was getting spoiled by their way of life.
The door opened and Hizel crossed the room with measured steps. There was a slight stiffness to his right let, a remnant of an old injury. He took his seat and stacked his hands together on the table in front of him. His gaze was piercing as he looked at Gregor.
“Well, I suppose congratulations are in order,” Hizel said. “Welcome to the Family.”
Gregor fought not to shift uncomfortably. “Thank you, sir.”
Hizel hmmed. “Judge Tersoe has decided to call into question your Bonding to my son. He doesn’t think you are mentally and emotionally capable of making a choice for yourself. He feels that the State should have a hand in choosing for you. What do you think of that?”
“I think that I feel insulted and belittled,” Gregor said. “I think that the only one with any right to choose anything for me is me. The very idea that they can forcibly rematch me is disgusting and I want no part of it.”
Hizel’s smile was wintry. “It’s good to see that you seem to have all of your faculties. Representatives of the State will be coming tomorrow to assess you. It is unfortunate, but Judge Tersoe is pushing the idea that your mating has compromised your ability to make rational decisions. Your biology as a Third makes you incapable of caring for your own well-being.”
“That’s such bullshit,” Gregor blurted.
“I agree,” Hizel said. “Unfortunately, Judge Tersoe has a lot of political pull. and if he is able to push his motion through, there will be questions raised about the mental competence of all Thirds.”
Gregor felt a chill. “What does that mean?”
“Simply put, he and the Restoration Movement would happily see all Thirds declared property of the State. There will be no choice given to any Third, and at the age of majority any unattached Third will be assigned a mate. Some currently Bonded Thirds will be rematched with more proper mates.” Hizel’s voice was unemotional, but Gregor could see the rage and disgust in the man’s eyes. “They are also pushing that the child quota for male Thirds be raised from ten to twenty-five.”
Twenty-five. They wanted him to give birth to twenty-five children. Even at one a year, he would be fifty-three years old before he would even be able to think of being free. He would be a near constant incubator and a miscarriage didn’t count against his quota; only live births mattered.
He gasped and twitched when Park touched his hand, a gentle brush of fingers against his clenched knuckles. Gregor couldn’t resist the offer of comfort. He grabbed Park’s hand tight, needed something to stop the dark spiral of his thoughts.
“How can they do something like this?” Park’s cousin Anara asked. she looked as horrified as Gregor felt. “Giving birth to that many children would be unhealthy. The risk of miscarriage or death… Even the process of rematching could kill so many Thirds. I… I don’t… Why are they doing this?”
“Because they don’t see us as people,” Gregor said. “They want to use us as breeding stock and taking our rights away and declaring us mentally unfit lets them do anything they want without having to feel guilty. To save the human race, they’ll use us up until we’re dead.”