Two a.m. spent in a lab on a Saturday night can feel awfully lonely. The brutal winds of Switzerland shook even the heavy-duty glass casing around the telescope farm. Len watch the room shiver from the window of the lab, which was separate from the farm itself. He’d rarely set foot in that room. It was more like a labyrinth of telescopes focused on every accessible coordinate of the universe.

Pictures of kids who’d been matched during Len’s last trip to Chile were tacked on the bulletin board next to his computer. Kids loved knowing their stars. The past two years had seen huge increases in math and science literacy in children around the globe.

“Thanks so much, Dr. Riese!” read one note from a third grade teacher who’d witnessed the growing level of engagement in her students.

He sat back in his chair and tried to bask in his success. It was just a silly system, really. It was easy to translate DNA into stellar characteristics with a little knowledge of both subjects. And it worked.

But the latest headlines he’d seen stuck with him. People were seeking out others who shared their same star categorization or general location, and with questionable motives. Just last week a clan of red giants in Palo Alto beat one of its members in the street for socializing with a brown dwarf. Earlier in the year, a child had been sold to the person who was matched with her binary star by the child’s parents.

Len knew that people took any well-meaning system and found ways to negatively alter it, but selling children based off binary pairing and enforcing stellar segregation seemed like history repeating itself in a very sci-fi way, which he had not expected.

Footage of the Palo Alto incident showed the clan dressed in solid black outfits with military-like haircuts and faces void of emotion. “I am Ace Stosel,” said the leader into the camera. “I did not condone this incident, nor do I believe in using violence as a way of provoking change.” He stopped as though he was finished talking, but continued. “Although a red giant should have nothing to do with a brown dwarf.”

Len tried to assure himself that it was just a small fraction of the population using Telestellar adversely. As long as he kept at what he was doing with the best intentions, he wasn’t to blame.

@2015 Kayla Lewis