The Wanderers

Jason Mori always did the right thing. He spoke only when spoken to, recited his allegiance pledge every day, never missed a class, and always did his homework. He was a perfect little sheep in a perfect little herd. Except for one thing: Jason Mori liked boys. With Jason's matching ceremony rapidly approaching, he tries to rig his compatibility test so he can match with a boy.
Unfortunately for Jason, that is against the rules. [Inspired by Peter Pan] [3rd in the Beauty and the Beast Competition]

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3. Chapter Two: 100% Mismatched

Chapter Two:

100% (Mis)Matched

Please state your name.

The grinding robotic voice nearly broke my ears. The cubical was small, suffocating, and had nothing but a dim, blue screen, a chair, and a little keyboard. Everything else was dark. We got a seat, a robot to dictate our responses to, and a metallic voice telling us what to do. The only option was to answer. I fidgeted with the flash drive in my hand, trying to calm my nerves.

“Jason Mori.”

Welcome to the 177th annual compatibility test, Jason Mori. The robotic voice was replaced at the end with the recording of me saying my own name- which was somehow even more unsettling. Please put your ticket into the slot below the prompt screen. I pulled out the ticket I had gotten before coming in with my unique test number printed on it: 0020457. After taking a moment to memorize the number, I slid it into the slot, just as I was told. I was going to need that number later if I was ever going to find that test. Without the specific test number, the program wouldn’t work. And I had spent way too much time on that program to just give up, or forget the test number.

Thank you, Jason Mori. Before we begin, please take a moment to look at your screen. If you need assistance, please press the red button in the bottom left hand corner. To advance forward, press the right arrow, and to go back, press the left. Questions will be presented in pairs of three. Please answer all questions thoroughly for optimum compatibility. All answers are final. Answering a question with the intent of matching with a specific person is strictly forbidden, and punishable by law. Once begun, you will have 60 minutes to finish. If uncompleted, your test will be terminated, and a new time will be given.  Do you have any questions?

The chilling robotic voice paused, which was my queue to respond. I took a deep breath, slipping the flash drive into my pocket. “No.”

Once you begin the test, you will be unable to pause or exit the room until the test is completed. Would you like to proceed?

“Yes.”

You may now begin the compatibility test.

The robotic voice clicked off, and a blinking green button with the BEGIN written on it in large, white letters appeared on the screen. I held up a shaking finger and pressed it. No turning back. I heard the door behind me lock shut.

No escape either.

The first set of questions appeared on the screen, all frivolous things. Favorite color, favorite genre of movie, favorite food and so on. First was the favorites category, then the “hopes and dreams” category (funny, since nothing in the Inner City was decided based on dreams), then the family medical history, how big a family you want, and so on and so forth. It was nearly endless. At least it was based on mutual interest, but there was nothing really deep. It was all surface information—sure, the test knew your interests and likes, but it didn’t know you.

But I guess that didn’t matter much to Etona.

 

            Would you like to submit your answers?

            My finger had been hovering over the “yes” option for about five minutes. I couldn’t hear anything other than the pounding of my own heart in my chest. I only had one shot. This was it- the end or he beginning. The start or the finish. I either lived happy, or died a criminal. It all came down to that test, and tricking the computer into filing my profile so I could match with a guy.

            But everything seemed so pointless in that moment. Why was I risking everything just to end up with someone I might actually love? Might was the key word in that statement. I didn’t have any one person I wanted to match up with, I just didn’t want to match with a girl. There was no guarantee I would like the person the computer matched me with. And there was no guarantee that the person I matched with would like me.

            Your session has been idle for over 330 seconds, Jason Mori. Are you in need of assistance? The robotic voice roared to life, nearly causing me to fall out of my chair. I cleared my throat.

            “N-No! No, uh… I’m good,” I answered, my voice cracking in an embarrassing way. Not that the robot cared—it couldn’t actually hear me. Still, it was strangely embarrassing just knowing that I was scared by a robotic voice.

            Please follow the prompts on the screen to complete your test. This is your 15-minute warning. If not completed, your session will be terminated, and a new test time will be appointed for you, or you may choose to differ the test and file your answers with the Tymael.

            I groaned. Taking that monster of a test again was the last thing I wanted. Yeah, I could have differed, but becoming Tymael basically meant marrying yourself to either religion or physical labor, and I didn’t really want either of those lives—I didn’t even want to settle for one of those choices. I wanted to get married. I wanted to find love. Was that really so wrong? I finally let myself press the submit button, sealing my fate. The compatibility test wasn’t about choices. Not yet, anyway.

            I was going to make it about choices.

            An hourglass appeared on the screen, slowly filling up with sand while the word Processing… blinked underneath it.

Processing…

Processing…

Processing…

            Congratulations, Jason Mori! Your compatibility test has been completed. Please proceed to the arena for snacks and entertainment while your test is being scored. The matching ceremony will begin half passed Seventeenth hour. In the meantime, please enjoy all of Neverland Parks’ wonderful attractions, curtesy of Pixie Dust & Co.

            The lock on the door behind me clicked, allowing it to swing open. Of course, I had no intension of rejoining everyone in the arena. I had 15 minutes of test time left, according to the most recent time check. So, I had 15 minutes to get to the computer, upload my virus, and slip back out to the arena without anyone noticing. At least, that was the plan. The further I got in the stark, white halls, the more I wanted to throw up. Every time I thought I heard the echo of a guard’s voice, my heart dropped into the pit of my stomach. I knew I had to keep going, but the more I walked the more I realized that I hadn’t actually thought anything through.

            Any motivation I had left died as I stood at the gates of my fate. There was something incredibly nauseating about the large set of metal doors standing between me, and the computer scoring my test. I had done the simulation a thousand times in my head. I had practiced hacking the Pixie Dust & Co security key pads a thousand times. As long as I was quick and quiet, no one would figure it out.

            Well, until the matching ceremony—but if I did my job right, there would be no evidence linking the computer glitch to me. Besides, I wouldn’t even call it a glitch. It was more like… an opportunity. An opportunity that may let other people like me have a fairer compatibility test in the future. One based off of actual likes and interests and not off of a number. Maybe it would mean something.

            Then again, there wasn’t any guarantee that it would mean anything. They could just write it off as a mistake, and rerun the numbers. They could just make all of us take the test again. The only thing that would come out of that would be Pixie Dust & Co.’s public embarrassment over the mistake.

            It was that embarrassment I was counting on. The pride of the company outweighed most law and order in the society. If the glitch was embarrassing enough, or caused just the right amount of stir, it is likely they would try and take credit for the computer’s choices. Claim they have decided to take a step forward in the matching algorithm. Then, it would be worth it.

            I sucked in a breath and raised my fingers to the keypad, desperately trying to remind myself why I was doing this. It was for the good of others. It was for the good of myself. There were plenty of other reasons that were pushing me forward, but only one holding me back.

            A true Etonian would never do something like this.

            Before I could change my mind, the metal doors opened. 

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