Flash: Computer Matching

Photo by Kelli McClintock on Unsplash

Summer studied the sheet. It would be her first date since she and Hammer parted ways. Sure the Utopia Match Personality System had matched them, and they got along, even signing a three-year contract with an option for another seventeen with offspring clauses. The mating should have worked; they had been successfully matched on many levels. But somehow it wasn’t enough for him, even at a nine on the compatibility matrix. He wanted to restrict further than code-acceptable and paired outside matrix options with a coworker.

The matrix disapproved of coworker matching for romantic purposes as the community narrows too far for emotional support.

But to drop from a nine to a mere five, the lowest the system allowed. Scary. Had she failed that badly? Did the code punish failure?

Especially her only failure. Her work was a standard seven, but she excelled at it and recently got upgraded to a specialty making it an eight match. Her housing, now that she no longer needed to take Hammer’s needs into account, allowed her to move into the tiniest studio apartment, gaining her a ten approval. Her circle of friends between work and housing ranged from seven to nine.

But five, a five for a potential love interest?

The male describe stood taller than her. Yes, it was superficial, but her chemical programming just didn’t do well when the man was shorter than her. Hammer soared eleven inches above her five four. This man, Merc, income was from handwork, physical labor, plumbing of all things in this day and age, with a side as art installment, whatever that means, while hers came from interviewing for work matches, in particular logistics and cataloging. His housing was the weird greenhouse mix on Mason Rd, with trees on the balconies and vines and flowers covering the façade set aside for those needing green spaces but not qualifying for employment in food production or other high land usage. She didn’t even bother looking at the personality traits and expansions.

May as well get it over with so she can get a different match next week. She clicked acceptance, then followed the prompts through possible food service locations midway between their homes. After picking three choices, she skipped activities. Hammer didn’t like to do much of anything but work training videos and encouraged her to do the same. His support got her three levels of promotions in two years, but the pursuit of labor had made her other interest fade to nothing. Since the person she would be meeting made his work through physical labor, he likely would be happy just sitting doing nothing except eating.


Merc growled at the newest match sheet. A cookie-cutter woman, average worker, gaining social status but claiming the smallest housing footprint allowed. The second page showed run of the mill opinions on political and social matters, coded within a character of the school standards. If the Utopia System didn’t require everyone to meet certain number of community credits weekly he would burn it and work on his sculpture all weekend. On the fifth page of the package, he discovered why the matrix thought he could tolerate the blonde yes-er for the two hours required meeting. She danced, or had opted for it in the adolescent levels. No indication of doing it since graduation and her first match.

Two years in that match with a small social penalty for leaving the contract early. That might explain the housing option, trying to regain points. A yes-er dropping below seventy-five on Optimal Community did desperate things. He wondered what she thought of his forty-six rating. He barely qualified for food benefits, not really a problem because of his work specially drew so few people and no matter how much Utopia pretended everything was computerized, people still drunk water and need to take shits. Plumbing let him live at an eighty Optimal.

The match sheet indicated acceptance on her part and gave three food options. The first ever-popular hydroponic Calorie Requirement Site and the other two recent upticks on Community links. His mistake for taking so long to respond. Having just rewired the hydroponic levels at the CRS in midtown, he knew the food would be substandard for about three weeks until the kinks worked out. And he hated places working on climbing the rankings, their food became the blandest repeatable inoffensive unimaginative product possible.

She had left the activity option blank, offering now options. He called up the midtown activity list for approved Community Activities for first Interactions, the list automatically set to show from most popular to lease, so he scrolled down to the bottom then worked up, The fourth from the bottom was in the same building as one of the uptick restaurants she had chosen.

Clicking, he made reservations for the calorie outlet and the activity provider for the next night.


Somehow Merc had made the meal conversation all about her, where Summer had grown up, gone to school, and her electives in school. He missed his calling in interviewing, she barely noticed the food in a place rated eight of ten.

After turning down dessert for the both of them, though as a physical worker his calorie allotment had to exceed what they ate, he offered his hand. “I know you hadn’t picked an activity, but I found one three floors up. Want to try?”

“Is it intensive?” she asked, shaking her hair back behind her shoulder, “I wouldn’t want you to put you out after you worked all day.”

He snorted. “I just ran pipes in crawl spaces for six hours, I could use something to shake things out.”

Together they walked out the restaurant and headed to the elevators for the City Block they were in. Looking up, she asked, “So what activity did you choose or is it a secret?”

“Level sixty-four,” he said stepping into the slide cart, with her taking the next one.

Hammer and her often shared carts, but Merc shoulders touched either side of the box on his own and she wasn’t ready to be that close to him, even for a three-level rise. He was a gentleman for the dismount, holding out his hand to steady her.

“No secret.” He stepped aside, allowing her to see the entire level was dedicated to ice skating.

She had never ice skated in her life. “I … how does this work?” Her eyes studied the few people gliding across the surface. What did this rank as for Community Activities, a fifteen? She had never seen an emptier place within Utopia.

“Don’t know, but should be fun to find out, that looks like the intake module over there.” He kept his hand on her elbow as they walked across the carpeted area.

The machine accepted their Community Credits and recorded their interaction. The ranking for points including bonuses for physical activity and creativity, and even then barely broke a fifty. Still, it didn’t drag down her numbers. Her regular midday calorie outings with her co-workers and evening activities in her City Block residence keep her records high. The Ice Skating, being outside her normal community and activities got additional bonuses for expanding her community.

While Merc had been fast about entering his information, his low Optimal Community rating had shocked her. How did anyone get that low?

After watching the required tutorial, Merc helped Summer get the ice skates on and she did the same with him.


“Then we made complete fools of ourselves.” Summer told the three co-workers on her next work day over their calories.

“Just how many times did you fall Summer? I noticed you having problems walking back and forth from the waiting room to the interview room today.”

Summer felt heat rise up her neck, indicating a flush which she hoped they would take the obvious reason for embarrassment. “A lot. I picked up some bruises.” She bit her lip, figuring what else would be Community Appropriate to share about her extremely long and unexpectedly energetic recreational days. “We laughed a lot.” She stuffed the some of the hydroponic leaves into her mouth.

“So second match meeting your next romantic require day or back to the matrix?” Jessmaine asked.

Grifter swirled her cup, so the bobbles knocked together. “With laughing, I vote for second meet, even if he left your bottom bruised.”

Summer managed to swallow her leaves without choking. “Yes, we made arrangements to meet again. He wants to go to the Tower Gardens but needs my Standing. They raised the minimum to get in the doors again. It’s like they don’t want the people who need open spaces the most from getting in.”

“You know it is just to encourage everyone to be part of the Community.” Jessmaine said, while folding up her recyclable plate and napkin. “Disruptors have to be controlled.”

Glancing down at the last of her salad, Summer swallowed the words, Do they though?

“Kind of you to take him there.” Grifter downed the last of her stimulant liquid before standing. “I hope you get more laughter.”

“I’m sure I will.” Summer picked up her scraps and joined them at the recycle area, controlling her gait for leftover soreness of the ice skating and the other activities she enjoyed with Merc. “Grift, don’t forget we need to fill five slots for the Hogshead Street Storage. I interviewed six people today and none of them had any businesses asking for transferred to new skill areas.”

Grifter pinched her nose bridge. “How much longer before we can put in a request to code training for logistics?”

“Three more work days.” Summer replied.

“Five days too long.”

(words 1,612, first published 1/12/2024)