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The Light Inside

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It was David’s 16th birthday, but he hadn’t exactly been looking forward to it. He had nothing to celebrate, no friends to invite, no presents he wanted. At next month’s MYIP celebration he would graduate early and top of his class, and immediately start his internship in the Science Department. So, 15-year-old David Knight was almost perfectly happy. The only thing to look forward to was what every person his age was looking forward to: the complete activation of his dating profile.

He already had his student profile from when he was 14, but that only included other students, and for the last two years he had already gone through enough dating that went nowhere, with people that he might have been compatible with, but who didn’t really like him, or at least not for long.

To better understand his situation, he had even calculated MarsCorp’s population distribution, and found out some interesting but frustrating numbers. Of the 14.387 MarsCorp employees, 42 % were under 14 years old, and were therefor too young. After deducting people over 21, those would only be added after his 16th birthday, he was left with the few hundred potential partners that were in his age bracket. Which didn’t sound bad at first, but then of course he had to consider that only a handful were his compatibles.

He didn’t understand how many of his classmates had literally dozens of compatibles, and no interest in dating someone that they were not compatible with, or as they called it, ‘wasting their time.’ He had concluded that the reason he was not compatible with almost all students was that he must be too mature for them, he would finish school early after all, and had no great desire to spend any more time with students that would only talk about school anyway. Which is why he had started focusing on interns and kept an eye out for slightly older employees, in hope of finding someone without help from the dating algorithm.

But now, that his upgrade lay imminently before him, his focus had shifted. He was no longer searching for a compatible partner, but looking for validation that the person he had picked was truly his compatible.

David had also managed to get confirmation for something everyone considered an unspoken truth. The average Martian life expectancy was just over 53 years. Which means that by the time he was 20, a third of his life would probably be over. So maybe his classmates were right, there was no time to lose on Mars. He had read that Earthlings used to live much longer because they didn’t work hard enough.

So when his profile was activated at midnight on his 16th birthday, he immediately started filling out the additional details, correcting his somewhat childish answers from two years ago, and updated his picture and physical details. 

When he was finished, a green window started blinking at the bottom of the screen. ‘Check compatibility’ it said.

He tapped his fingers nervously, a name floating to the forefront of his mind. The name of a person he couldn’t get out of his head recently. His future boss, the Head of the Science Department, Colin Denham. He had helped him with his graduation, well he had basically made it possible, and he was so interesting, and smart and amazing. And, David just wanted to know, because he was curious, and Colin had told him that curiosity is one of the most important traits for a scientist.

He typed Colin’s name and took a deep breath before hitting enter.

The calculation took mere seconds, before the screen changed into a disgusting red.

52 %.

Everything below seventy was not considered a match.

No, it was wrong, it had to be wrong. With all the horribly outdated tech on the base, how could this stupid algorithm presume to tell him that his feelings were wrong? He just knew that Colin was … he was so nice to him, treated him like he was a real person and not just some kid. And during all the preparations for his internship he had been so cool and David felt like there was something else between them, like Colin maybe liked him, too?

So there was no way 52 % was the correct result. He restarted the dating application and tried again. And again.


David was still sulking at the breakfast table, when his mother sat next to him. “What is it, honey?”

He sighed. He couldn’t tell her the truth, he had to think of something, and fast. Who was the last person he dated that his mother knew about?

“Mhm, Maxamillian and I had a fight, and I think we broke up.”

They had actually stopped dating weeks ago, well, they had never even changed their relationship statuses, as they didn’t officially date, but his mother didn’t know that.

She frowned. “Aw, I’m sorry. Who, hm, who was he again?”   

“He’s interning for the Culture Department. I told you about him.”

Suddenly his mother’s expression changed from a pitying look to a haughty silence. “Well, then it’s good that you don’t see him anymore. You know I don’t like him and this whole obsession with Earth culture. It’s inappropriate!”

David rolled his eyes. Avoiding his actual problem had turned out to be easier than he’d expected. Now that she was retroactively mad, she would at least stop bothering him. He quickly ate the rest of his breakfast and got ready for his last month of school.