The Final Predicted Outcome

By Laura Schiller

Based on: Matched

Copyright: Ally Condie

Irene Standler, Official of the Matching Department in Oria City, pinched the bridge of her nose and sighed. It was long past curfew for most of the Society; the apartment building she could glimpse between her window curtains, gray and square and identical to all others in the Singles District, was completely dark. Only her rank allowed her the dubious privilege of working until the small hours of the morning. But even so, she knew she made more use of it than she should. A colleague from the Health Department was already giving her sideways looks.

As soon as I finish sorting the results of the Reyes-Markham Experiment, she told herself for the dozenth time, I'll go to bed.

She squinted at the rows of black letters on the blindingly white screen of the scribe. They danced and blurred in front of her eyes, refusing to stay put, as unpredictable as the subjects in question. Reyes and Markham. How had such an outwardly simple psychological experiment gone so spectacularly wrong?

Experiment 666 – On The Validity Of Matching

Authorized by the Chairperson of the Matching Department

Subjects: Citizen Cassia Maria Reyes (link to file) & Aberration Ky Markham (link to file)

Premise: The unauthorized entry of Markham's data into the Matching pool led to his being Matched to Reyes, a resident of the same Borough. Due to Markham's status, I, the supervising Official, intervened to Match Reyes with a suitable Citizen instead. I selected Xander Carrow (link to file), a close friend of Reyes since childhood. The situation is uncommon, but rather than treat it as a cause for concern, I suggest taking advantage of this rare opportinuty to prove the infallibility of our Matching System.

Officials' code for "don't let the terrorists think they're getting to us", she thought cynically. They all knew the Rising had to be responsible for botching up the system like this, but nobody dared to say it.

Hypothesis: The subjects, being an optimal genetic Match, will connect to each other on a biochemical level despite every social and moral influence keeping them apart.

This, at least, had happened according to plan. She clicked forward on the keypad at the bottom of the thin plastic rectangle that was her scribe. A photograph appeared, taken by their hiking instructor: Reyes and Markham, her auburn head bending close to his black one in the sun-dappled shade of a tree, his hand on hers, using a stick to sketch shapes in the ground. According to one of the junior agents of the Information Department, codenamed "Livy", they'd been drawing the trees – a strange pastime, but not as subversive as, say, writing by hand would have been. Words were dangerous. If Markham could write, cunning as he was, he obviously kept it to himself.

There they were. Close enough to breathe each other's air, to whisper sweet nothings. Teenage hormones at their finest. It should have been so simple.

(Note: Both subjects have shown themselves as unfailingly loyal members of Society, despite a history of subversion in Markham's family (see file on Sione Finnow). Markham is led by a wish to blend in with his fellow workers, Reyes by the authority of her parents and her responsibility for her younger brother. Chances of this experiment causing harmful effects to Markham's productivity or Reyes' quality of life are estimated at 7.2 %.)

It was those 7.2 % that had come back to bite her. Here, she realized, she had made a capital error. Motivation, she had learned, was the key to predicting people. What if she had their motivations entirely wrong?

When her superior had ordered her to cut the experiment short, she had been at a loss about how to do it without alienating their subjects' shaky allegiance to their Society. Her hasty solution, drafted in yet another midnight session, had been harsh but simple: to shock them back into compliance by playing on their greatest fears.

For Reyes, it was the responsibility of having another person's life in her hands. She had been made to sort her lover, manipulated by false information into sending him to his death. Then she had been faced with causing the Relocation of her family (a timely warning for Molly Reyes as well – two birds with one stone, how very efficient). Three years ago, when Bram Reyes had caused a disturbance on his first day of First School, his sister had silenced him to preserve public order. Twenty-one days ago, she had been seen incinerating a piece of paper at her father's Restoration site, dutifully destroying some illegal writing to keep him out of further trouble after the tissue preservation incident. Her family's influence had always made her compliant in the past – so why not now?

As for Markham, his greatest fear was being singled out. She'd had him publicly dragged into a car and drafted as a decoy villager, knowing that his lover was to blame. So much for his productivity, she thought with a careless shrug. The Foreman at the nutrition disposal center had not been pleased to lose the most efficient percentage of his workers, but who else would combine an expendable value with the ability to survive as long as possible in harsh conditions? Markham had certainly been dealt with by now, and good riddance to him. It was the girl who kept Official Irene Standler from sleeping.

Where was Cassia Reyes? According to recent intelligence, she'd gone and smuggled herself onto the airship picking up Aberration girls for decoy duty. She must have gone to look for her lover, throwing away everything she had – family, career, friends, Match – just for him. How could the Officers not have noticed she didn't belong? And what, in the name of the Leader, would posess that intelligent girl to do such a foolish, reckless thing?

Irene remembered the night of Markham's removal, when that most quiet and obedient of boys had fought the Officials like a wild thing, and that equally passive girl had run barefoot down the street, shouting his name to the whole neighborhood. She remembered Reyes' face as the girl pretended to swallow her red tablet; ghost-white under the streetlights, only her eyes blazing like burnt holes in a blanket.

Letting her remember had been the fatal error, the last one in a long chain adding up to betrayal. If only Reyes had woken up to believe that the Markhams had been promoted to Central, she might be contributing to the Society's perfection as a sorter-in-training this very moment. If only she had been convinced that Markham was well and happy. That, after all, must have been her primary motivation. Now that Irene finally understood, it was too late.

She thought of the last look that had passed between the young lovers as they were pulled apart. A look charged with meaning, a silent promise. That secret symbol of pointing to the sky. That was more than biochemistry between them. It was a bond on every level: physical, emotional, mental. It was a Match that junior department members dreamed of making.

No wonder Cassia Reyes refused to give it up.

I suppose this is it, thought Irene, pushing her scribe away. Back to entry level for me, after all those years working to get to the top. It clattered onto the floor, a too-sharp sound in the silence of her apartment.

She stood up and stretched, trying to work out the kinks in her neck and back after sitting for so long. A half-finished tray of casserole and a box of orange juice still sat on the desk. She cursed under her breath and tossed them both down the recycling chute, where the meal truck would pick them up the next morning. When she forgot a simple thing like this, no wonder she was headed for demotion.