Title: Paradigm Shift
Author: Harper Kingsley
Genre: mm sci-fi, mpreg
“As can easily be seen, you were traumatically effected by the death of your mother. It is unfortunate that you did not receive the support you needed to handle the afterward. Would you be interested in psychiatric care now? Ah, no, I see. You do not trust doctors, and psychers in particular. What a pity.”
Gregor’s stomach felt tight and uncomfortable. There was a knot in his throat and the acid flush of terror. To be looked at with such a kind expression but such a cold appraisal of his parts, it made him want to squirm.
“You Thirds are psychologically hardy as a rule. The old adage of ‘That which does not kill, makes stronger’ has proven true in the case of Thirds. Given some form of support structure, you will bounce back from nearly anything.” Tobin turned to Analise again and Gregor dared to take a breath. “Make note that I recommend monthly Wellness Checks, but otherwise he is stabilizing.”
A Wellness Check involved a Psycher Assessor observing the behavior of a subject for a length of time. Gregor had once had a coworker on Assessment and it had been creepy watching the Psycher Assessor follow her around, cybernetic eyes recording her every move, a silent observer judging her every action and reaction.
Gregor had spent his time ducking away from that disturbing gaze, nervous that he was going to be outed as a Third. At the time it wouldn’t have meant much–the Plague hadn’t hit yet and Thirds were simply a strange anomaly–but he’d been unregistered and that would have drawn attention to him and his activities.
Sedition was sedition, and to the State, anyone that refused to follow the Law was seditious. Even at seventeen, he would have been sentenced to at least one term of service. Two years on the Frontier or four years on the Labor Farms, that would have been his choice. Either would have been more than he could bear. So he’d avoided Dana and her shadow as much as he could without being obvious about it.
The idea of having a Psycher Assessor of his own seemed dreadful. To constantly have to fear being called out for his behavior. To have whatever mannerism forcibly corrected. It would be a slower transformation, his personality picked apart piece by piece rather than reformed all at once, but at the end he would find himself remade just the same.
He still remembered the strangely fixed smile Dana had worn after her first session. Her eyes had silently screamed until well after her third session, when she had come in one morning and he’d felt like he was meeting a completely different person. Everything that had made her quirky and fun had been smoothed away. She’d become sleek and new and Gregor had wanted to run away screaming every time he dealt with her.
“You fear the Psycher Assessor,” Tobin said. Gregor blinked, pulling himself back into his skin, back into the present. “It is understandable that you might dislike the idea of your behavior being monitored, but you should not fear. The Psycher Assessor will simply be observing your behavior as your pregnancy progresses. Any modifications will be handled by myself as I have been assigned your case.”
“What?” Gregor licked dry lips. “Pregnancy?”
Tobin smiled, revealing perfect teeth. “Congratulations. Your blood results show that you conceived during your Heat. You are pregnant.”
Gregor wondered if he were going to vomit, but he swallowed the terror back down. He would have time for an emotional breakdown later, away from all the calculating eyes.
“Does this mean I won’t be rematched?” he asked.
“We will continue to monitor your mental state,” Tobin said. “The rematching process is a messy one and nothing we would want to begin while you are pregnant.”
Which didn’t mean Tobin wouldn’t order it done once the baby was born. This was a nine month reprieve, nothing more. He could be taken from the maternity ward and strapped to a table for his first session of reconditioning.
“I can see that my words have upset you,” Tobin said. “Is it the pregnancy? No, you’ve chosen not to focus on that. It’s a classic Third coping strategy to prioritize problems by their level of importance. You see the possibility of rematching as the more actionable threat. Hm. Are you happy with the Duadenora? Wait, don’t answer that. You haven’t known them long enough and any answer you give will at least partly be a lie. Instead, allow me to ask, are you content with the idea of remaining affiliated with the Duadenora Family and Prime Park?”
“Yes. They’ve treated me very well and I feel that I would rather remain with them. Please.”
“Of course you would feel that way. Your brain chemistry has been rewritten by your Heat to see Prime Park as a safe haven. Until you give birth, you will seek security and harmony with him. You are instinctively driven to protect yourself and any young through partnership during your vulnerable pregnant state. Once the child is born, I will ask you again and you will more honestly be able to answer.”
Gregor tried to breathe even and deep, but he felt trapped, confined in an ever smaller space. The air felt thin in his lungs and his head wanted to spin.
He held on to the narrow thread of his self-control and forced his breath deep and strong. He would not fall apart. He would not break. He would not …
“Well,” he said, “I suppose we’re done here, aren’t we? At least until after the birth.” Until after I give birth. No, don’t think about it, not now, not now.
“Yes. You are a typical Third that suffered a stress response due to the death of your mother. With regular Psycher Assessor appointments there is hope that you will become a well-adjusted member of society. I am making a note in your file. You will receive a schedule of Assessor appointments and I will expect you to keep to it.” Tobin smiled, the expression of a kind older man.
Gregor hopped off the table and tugged his shirt straight. “Well then, I suppose I should retrieve my clothing and be on my way. I feel as though I should be the one to tell my Bondmate that we’ll be expecting a bouncing bundle of joy.”
“Ah, well, I will refrain from passing on the blood test results for a few hours. That should give you enough time to share the wonderful news. I’m sure Magister park will be overjoyed at the expansion of the Duadenora Family.”
“I’m sure.” Gregor subtly wiped his sweaty palms on his pants. “Well, I really should be on my way. I can feel the news burning a hole right through me.”
“Analise, please return Blessed Tierney to Magister Park.” Tobin gestured with two fingers and the woman smoothly rose to her feet. “And make sure you give him one of those packets of yours. It’s very helpful information, Blessed Tierney, everything a newly expectant parent might wish to know.”
“Thank you,” Gregor said.
Numbly, he followed Analise out of the room, away from all those evaluating eyes. He forced himself to put one foot in front of the other and refused to let anything show on his face as he changed back into his own clothes and accepted the thick envelope Analise presented to him.
Park was waiting, but he was wise enough to ask no questions once Gregor said “Just take me home.” He simply took Gregor’s arm and led him out of that awful place and back into the sunlight, the air just beginning to grow cool.
Gregor climbed into the hovercar and crossed his arms once he’d put on his seatbelt. He stared out the window for the entire drive back to the Duadenora compound.
His mind was a spinning mess, so tangled he didn’t know what he felt. All he knew was that he wanted a bath–to soak in hot water until he stopped feeling as though his body had been invaded. Hands on his skin, needles gouged into his flesh, and a parasite succoring itself within him.
I think I’m going crazy.
He stared as the world passed by and he trusted that Park would get him back safely. He had to trust becase he had nothing else to give. Not when it was taking all his strength to keep from screaming and screaming until men in coats came to take him away.
He stared out the window and he breathed and he didn’t let himself do anything else. Not until he could be alone.
* * *
Dylan kept a wary eye on Gregor and worried. He didn’t know what had happened with the Psychers, but it had obviously left Gregor traumatized.
He had to walk Gregor to his room, where Gregor firmly closed the door in his face. Dylan might have been offended if Gregor’s last words didn’t ring in his head.
“I’m going to take a long bath. Bring my dinner here later and we can talk, but I need to be alone now. Though I’d just like to say congratulations. You’re going to be a father.”
A rough laugh escaped Dylan’s lips and tears stung his eyes. He clutched a hand to his chest–it felt as though his heart were swelling, almost to the point of bursting.
A baby. There was going to be a baby. A child of his own in a world where only a handful were born. A daughter or son of his blood. Another heir for the Duadenora throne.
Earlier chapters: Paradigm Shift Masterlist.
01 – 02 – 03 – 04 – 05 – 06 – 07 – 08 – 09 – 10
11 – 12 – 13 – 14 – 15 – 16 – 17 – 18 – 19 – 20
21 – 22 – 23 – 24 – 25 – 26 – 27 – 28 – 29 – 30
31 – 32 – 33 – 34 – 35 – 36 – 37 – 38 – 39 – 40
41 – 42 – 43 – 44 – 45 – 46 – 47 – 48 – 49 – 50
51 – 52 – 53 – 54 – 55 – 56 – 57 – 58 – 59 – 60