Title: Paradigm Shift
Author: Harper Kingsley
Genre: mm sci-fi, mpreg
The testing began with a horribly awkward round of medical exams. Wearing a paper thin gown, Gregor was poked and prodded and asked to give every kind of sample by fully-clothed medics. There was something exposed about it all.
He felt snappish and out of sorts, but he forced his expression into pleasant blankness. He lifted his arms when he was asked and didn’t flinch when cold hands palpated his abdomen. He stared at the poster on the wall — bright geometric shapes that vaguely resembled trees.
Once the physical check was complete, he was handed a pile of loose-fitting clothing to wear. None of the clothes were his, leaving him with the impression that they were purposefully leaving him off balance. There was something discomfiting about standing around in strange underwear while being forced to take a psych eval.
He wondered if they hoped to make him lose control and throw a temper tantrum. It would be used against him as proof of his mental instability.
Gregor let himself be ushered down a neutral green corridor to a large classroom. There were raised rows of desks all facing the podium at the front. A metal table had been added near the podium and he was told to sit on it. A thin sheet had been laid across the top, supposedly to keep him from touching the cold metal.
“What’s going to happen?” Gregor asked. He clambered up onto the table, not liking the way the whole thing shifted beneath him. He sat with his legs dangling and tried not to move around too much. The table felt like it was going to collapse.
The young woman shrugged. She was wearing a long white lab coat and her dark hair had been cut into a severe bob. “The honorable psychers will be here shortly. They ask that you remain patient.” She sat at one of the desks in the front row, watching him.
Gregor folded his hands in his lap and gazed down at his bare feet. He wanted to object to being made to wait, but he figured this was part of the test.
They would attempt to annoy him until he lost his temper. Psychers were not known for their kindness. They were ruthless in their duty to the State.
He pushed his fear away and tried to hold onto some semblance of serenity. It was hard because he’d heard all the horror stories. He knew the psychers had taken his mother’s mind apart before her execution, had ripped her every secret thought out of her head.
A trip to the psychers had always been one of his greatest fears. They would tear him down and remake him, and Gregor Tierney would die.
He would forget his mother, his life, himself. They would open him up and craft someone new to take his place. Someone that would spread his legs with a smile for whoever the State chose and would never question anything. They would strip the sedition from his mind and obedience would take its place. And he could only hope that he would truly be gone, as the idea of helplessly watching his body live without him was horrifying. He would rather cease to exist altogether.
He squeezed his fingers together and maintained his blank expression. He wanted to run, to hide, but there was nowhere he could go. His only hope was to stay and face his fears, to pass their tests and remain under the umbrella of the Duadenora. The alternative was untenable.
The double doors opened with a loud bang and twenty men and women dressed in white trooped in. They carried tablets and their cybernetic eyes passed over him with a chill, recording everything.
They filled the first two rows of desks, an older gentleman with silver hair the only one to mount the stage and approach Gregor. He had a kind looking face, but Gregor didn’t trust him.
“Hello, Blessed Tierney. It is such a pleasure to meet you. I am Psycher Tobin.” He didn’t offer his hand, for which Gregor was grateful. The thought of touching those red gloves made Gregor’s skin creep.
“Hello,” Gregor said.
Tobin smiled, warm and grandfatherly, his cybernetic eyes dilating as they focused on Gregor’s face. There was no lying to a psycher.
“Well, I hear that you had quite a time of it. Hiding your Third status for decades and going through your first Heat so late in life. The medics have expressed relief that you did yourself no permanent harm through your self-medication. Were you concerned at all?”
“Ah. I see from your records that your mother was Kincaide Wilkes.” Tobin leaned against the podium. He hadn’t looked at his tablet. “She was executed as a traitor to the State.”
“Yes,” Gregor said.
Tobin smiled. “Well, that was a bad business. Such a loss to the literary world, wasn’t she? Very sad. And you were left all alone after her execution?”
“I went to my father.” Who resented me. “He did the best he could, considering he’d never had much interest in children.”
“But he was your father, yes? He loved you… Oh, hm, I see. Your mother though, she truly loved you, she was simply busy with her… mission. That’s what she called it, right? Her mission to help humanity?”
“Still, she loved you a great deal, and you knew that, yes? She was your mother and the loss of her effected you a great deal. Do you still think of her?”
“Ah. You are a good son, aren’t you? But you never considered having children of your own until your discovery?”
“You fear the idea of children. Is it the birth? No, it’s the afterward. You fear raising a child, making the mistakes of your father… no, your mother. You fear leaving a child alone the way your mother left you. Were you given any psychiatric assistance?”
“Because you fear the State? Ah, I see. So young when your mother died. Left to a negligent father that took you in out of obligation. And you were a Third on top of it all, with heightened empathy and a strong will to survive. It is a measure of your strength and intelligence that you were able to hide yourself for so long. Would you have continued to hide your status if you hadn’t been discovered?”
“I see, I see. You hold resentment toward the State, but would you ever act against it?”
“You simply wished to hide yourself. You are somewhat selfish, aren’t you? Oh, don’t fear facing that truth. Aggressive self-interest is one of the hallmarks of a Third.”
“What?” It slipped out before Gregor could stop it.
Tobin smiled. “All Thirds are inherently selfish. They care only for themselves and for their children. You are all survivors. It’s bred into your genes. You are born with a need to survive no matter the adversity. Even before the Cure, those predisposed to be Thirds were the ones with a will to live no matter the circumstances. You cannot be blamed for following your instincts.”
Gregor squeezed his fingers tight. The less he said, the better.
“You feel unsafe. You don’t trust your own capabilities. It’s not surprising that you would be hesitant at the idea of children. You worry that you will be like your own parents, don’t you? Ah. It’s regretful that you did not receive the proper care after the death of your mother. Some counseling would not have gone amiss. Your file states that you received psychiatric assistance to help settle your grief, but you did not.”
Tobin glanced toward the woman that had brought Gregor to the room. “Analise, order a full investigation of Dr. Schuldin. Defrauding the State is a serious offense.”
“Yes, sir,” she said, scrawling a note on her tablet with a stylus.
Gregor found himself the center of Tobin’s attention once again. He wanted to hide from those too-knowing eyes, but running was not an option. He forced himself not to fidget.
“They say you chose Prime Park while in the midst of the Madness. You rejected his brother to seek out the more viable alternative. While instinct was controlling you, you chose Park as the better mate. Why?”
It was an actual question that wanted an answer. Gregor froze for a moment, not sure how he wanted to respond. Not with those eyes focused directly on him, ready to peel him open at a moment’s notice.
“I… Park is a very nice man. He’s strong and he’s brave and I can tell that he’s loyal to the things most important to him.”
“And you would like to be important to him,” Tobin finished. “I suppose that Prime Park would make a logical choice for you. Even if you do not want children, you understand that it is required, and Prime Park is not the kind of man to ever abandon his children. He has been indoctrinated from a young age with a powerful sense of family.”
Gregor shrugged. “I don’t remember a whole lot from the Madness, but I know that he smelled right. I chose him. I don’t want that choice taken away.”
“Ah, there you are.” Tobin smiled brightly. “All the passion and verve of a Third. You made your choice and you’re sticking to it. Very good.”
Gregor hated the little thrill he got at being praised. Hated how much he needed to hear the words.
“How do you feel about Judge Rulf Tersoe? Oh, you dislike the man, but not always? Ah, there was a time when you were somewhat fond of him. Did you love him? No. He was simply a means to an end for you. But you are fond of Prime Park? Yes. Very interesting.”
It was frightening to be read so easily. Gregor felt stripped bare to those eyes. If he could have fled the room, he would have. As it was, he endured.