Title: Paradigm Shift
Author: Harper Kingsley
Genre: mm sci-fi, mpreg
The first inkling he had that he’d fallen asleep was the startled jerk that went through him at the loud crash and the echo of footsteps outside the tank. There were people in the fishery. He wasn’t alone.
Gregor held perfectly still and strained to listen for any sound. It could be Duadenora out there, cleaning up after the attack. Or it could be Hanson’s Acolytes hunting for new victims after killing everyone else.
He didn’t like the idea of all those people being dead, but he didn’t put much past Hanson. The man was known for mass murdering a stadium full of people. He’d lost a few of his Acolytes in the ensuing pursuit, but it was widely accepted that he’d owned the situation.
Gregor didn’t put anything past Hanson. Which was why he slipped further beneath the water until only his mouth and nose were exposed.
The world became muffled by the water and he hated not knowing what was happening. But sometimes it was best to stay perfectly still and let curiosity take the backseat.
He floated and forced his breath into quiet puffs. He could only hope that his Scent was obscured enough, otherwise he would have to fight. And that was definitely not his first choice in dealing with Hanson or his followers.
He closed his eyes and tried to imagine himself somewhere far away. But with Hanson so dangerously close, his mind insisted on feeding him images of that long ago life, when he was young and careless and the light in Hanson’s–Virgil’s– eyes hadn’t read as danger but excitement, adventure, a chance to get away from everything he’d grown to hate.
His only consolation was knowing that no matter how foolish and in love he’d been, he’d held onto the secret that he was a Third. His paranoia and inability to trust had paid off, otherwise he would have been raising the child of a psychopath. Because he had no doubt that if Hanson had known he was a Third, Gregor would have had Hanson’s baby. Whether he wanted to or not.
Life with Hanson hadn’t been horrible. There had never been anything he could outright term abuse, and Hanson had always made it seem as though the things they did were ones Gregor had agreed to. Except there’d been a sense of unease, a wariness that had grown and grown until all Gregor knew was that he had to get away. So he did.
Gregor Wilkes moved to a new city where he visited the Records Office and had his last name officially changed to Tierney. He lived in a studio apartment in Green Sector and gave the name Rusty Drummond to anyone that asked. And somewhere in there he grew up and grew older, and he stopped being that dumb kid that equated sex with love and let every partner walk away with a chunk of his heart.
Thirds were built to survive. There was a genetic predisposition to bend without breaking and to make it through every one of life’s challenges. So even when his mind screamed at him to lay down, to give up, Gregor couldn’t do it. He adapted and changed instead.
He wondered if young, naive Gregor Wilkes would have recognized the man he’d become. And he felt sorry for that boy, who’d faded away and died under the loving attentions of Virgil Hanson.
But while Gregor Wilkes had been malleable and weak, Gregor Tierney was not. And if Hanson tried to take him away, Gregor would show him how ruthlessly practical a Third could be.
He’d smack Hanson across the face with the metal bar, then he’d gut him with his knife. And if Hanson still wouldn’t let him go, Gregor would keep cutting with the dull four-inch blade until there was nothing left in Hanson to fight back.
It was survival of the fittest, and Gregor Tierney refused to die.
* * *
There was blood drying tacky and thick against Dylan’s cheek. He could feel it cracking and bending like half-dried paint while he gave commands, but he didn’t care. He followed the trail where Hanson and his few surviving Acolytes had fled and his heart sang with the savage desire to hunt, kill, destroy.
There were bloody footprints on the Italian tile of the walkway. Drips and splatters where someone was slowly bleeding out. There was the sour stink of stomach acid and a punctured bowel–he hoped it was Hanson. He could still feel the exhilarating slide of his guan dao punching through belly armor and scraping against bone.
He was still angry at that skinny bitch for pulling Hanson away. The boy had been young, wild-eyed and frantic, but he’d been quick with his butterfly blade, fast enough that Dylan had barely ducked away from that backhanded slash to the eyes. Dylan’s forehead stung where skin had slit like paper, but he could still see, so it was all right. He’d get stitched up later, once he was sure Gregor was safe. Once he’d killed Hanson for good and all.
He could hear the two Law Officers pounding along after him. They weren’t at Prime level, but they didn’t try to keep up with him, contented to save their strength for the fight ahead. He could respect that wisdom even as he ran faster and faster, tracking his prey, breath coming in even puffs as he felt himself slipping into that savage mindset of a First on the hunt.
Senses sharpened, scents became trails of color and light as his brain began processing information differently. His pupils expanded to let in more light, his vision shifting closer to the infrared. His body processed oxygen more efficiently; he could feel his muscles loosening as cells expanded, knew that he was reaching that point where berserker strength was effortless and natural. It felt good.
This was why Hanson and his Acolytes were the way they were. As Firsts living in a civilized age where violence belonged to the Law Officers and citizens were forced to behave, tasting that save high of hunt-kill-eat was startlingly addictive. Firsts were not meant to be constrained, but they could not be allowed to run wild either.
Hanson fed that addiction in his followers. He got them believing that as Firsts they had a right to hunt and kill sheep. Except the sheep were people, and Hanson was a crazed beast with a hunger for blood and violence that was never going to be satisfied. Psychologically speaking, Hanson was a black hole, and no matter how many victims he claimed he was never going to be satisfied.
It was the curse of all Firsts that tasted the hunger, to crave violence and the thrill of the kill. It was why the katas were so important; they brought stability and control, giving the Firsts somewhere to focus their aggressions. Only some, like Hanson, refused to control themselves, choosing instead to gather followers–packs–and gave into their savage natures.
Dylan could relate. He’d tasted the hunger, knew what darkness lurked inside himself. It was why he’d become a Law Officer, why he’d fought and clawed and climbed his way up to being a Prime. Because while he refused to be a savage beast murdering people because he could, he still needed that taste of violence.
The Law brought order to his world, forced him to curtail his darkest impulses, while at the same time he was allowed to indulge himself. He kept himself under strict control because he knew what kind of monster he could become.
Dylan Park without the breaks on would be a thousand times worse than Virgil Hanson. He was a First Prime. Violence was in his nature.