Paradigm Shift 13


A trip to the Image Makers and he felt as if his entire world had been changed for the better.

A massage that left him relaxed and loose. His hands and feet were lavished with attention, every suggestion of a callous wiped away. His hair was washed and cut before being styled. His skin was pampered and lotioned and his face received more care than he'd ever thought to give it.

When the treatment was over, he saw himself in the mirror and was amazed. He had never looked that good in his entire life. He could actually see why some of the richest men in the world might fight for *him* and not just his womb.

"I'm gorgeous!" he cried, only a little facetiously. He twisted and turned in front of the mirrors once he'd gotten his tuxedo on. As promised, the garment bag had been waiting with a young member of Security when they got back.

"That you are," Park sounded amused. He was sitting on the couch, his legs neatly crossed at the knee, his black gloved hands folded on top. He was already dressed in his own tuxedo, which looked as natural on him as a second skin. He showed his Magister status with the gloves and the medallion hanging to mid-chest from a thick silver chain. He was a dapper killer, secure in his power.

Gregor barely spared him a glance, completely taken in by his own transformation. The tailor had been creepy, but she knew her work.

The tuxedo fit him closely, making his legs look longer and his ass was better than he'd ever seen it. He tugged the lapel of his tuxedo jacket and fingered his black bowtie, making sure it was completely straight.

"I should wear this everyday," he said, giving himself a toothy grin in the mirror. "I'll be beating them off with a stick."

"No doubt." Park stood, smoothing down his jacket. "We should hurry if we don't want to be late."

"You mean that *I* should hurry so we're not late." Gregor dashed over to the dressing table. He'd been given a ton of jewelry as gifts and he'd made it part of his routine to load himself down with sparklies. If he had to run, he had a good source of liquid capital covering his body. All he had to do was hit up a pawnbroker and he'd be able to pay his way out of town, possibly out of the country. He didn't foresee having to get that desperate yet, but he left his mind open to any possibility.

Soon he was sparkling like a mini-sun and it was time to go.

He turned to find Park holding open a long black coat. "It's chilly outside."

"It's nice for you to be so concerned, but I'm not that delicate," Gregor said. He walked over and slipped his arms into the sleeves anyway, letting Park smooth the fabric over his shoulders.

"You look very nice," Park said, as though it were the most natural thing ever. He wasn't giving a compliment; he was speaking the simple truth.

Gregor smiled at him and walked to the door. "Let's go to the theater," he said. "We'll see a show, listen to some music, and rub elbows with the hoity-toity side of Society. It'll be an adventure."

"An adventure."

The worst adventure of his entire life.

Gregor wished he could turn back time and pretend he had a stomach ache so he could be back in his lavishly appointed suite sipping mint juleps and eating hummus. As it was, he was huddled under a row of seats with only Park's arm around him to keep him from running far and fast.

"We should get out of here," he whispered.

Park squeezed his arm to silence him. He was poised in a ready crouch to dart forward, a needler held in one hand, a curved Slasher blade in the other. There was a drying spray of blood marring the right side of his jaw and the white of his shirt collar.

One minute they'd been enjoying the show, the next there had been sharp explosions as the doors were burst open by armed men and women in the black half-masks and camowear of The Halcyon Horde, rebels against the State. They'd shot anyone that made a threatening move and went about the business of making a political mess.

Gregor hadn't resisted when Park pulled him down and forced him to crawl into a little hidey hole. He wasn't stupid. He knew what would happen if he was discovered as a Third, and it wasn't anything he wanted to experience first hand.

Bad enough to be forced to breed like an animal, but at least it would be his choice who he ended up with. The Halcyon Horde might have a cool name, but their reputation for brutality was a thing of nightmares. Disaffected youth turned to a mass of ruthless rapists and killers, force recruiting anyone that struck their fancy.

And he had a pretty good idea that he was just the sort they'd want to keep.