In Spark, Evie learns that her DNA has been genetically engineered by the Affinity Project. The Affinity Project is big on jargon, acronyms and aggravating alliteration. There are many specialised terms in the AP lexicon but this little glossary might be a good place to start:

Affinity Project: creators of ‘Optimal’ a synthetic gene used to manipulate and modify human DNA in the development of lethal combatants with enhanced physical and telepathic capabilities: Shields & Strikers. Originally established to provide mercenaries for hire, the organisation underwent a volatile period of Reform establishing strict Primary Objectives after government intervention.

Shields: (Assets) genetically engineered combatants who exhibit the defender/protector affinity.

Strays: genetic mutations, originally classified as Strikers, who exhibit the attacker/pursuer affinity. The Fixation Effect causes Strays to develop psychotic delusions and extreme homicidal tendencies towards their Spark.

Sparks: civilians who carry the enzyme that triggers ‘Optimal’ in Shields and Strays. Victims of the Fixation Effect, Sparks are considered by the Affinity Project to be collateral damage.

Fixation Effect: the irresistible compulsion that spurs the defence affinity in Shields and the attack affinity in Strays. It is the core of the psychic tether that binds Shields and Strays to their Spark.

Primary Objectives: After the Reform, the Affinity Project disestablished its mercenary operations focusing entirely on damage control. Two Primary Objectives remained:

  1. Acquisition of Assets.
  2. Elimination of Strays.

ETR: Electro-Telepathic Radiation, the unique signals transmitted by Shields, Strays and Sparks.

AFS: Active Frequency Sensitivity, the ability to recognise and interpret E.T.R.

KMT: Kinetic Memory Transfer, the ability to project physical memory for telepathic review.

KMH: Kinetic Memory Harvest, the ability to telepathically access the physical memory of others.

Wardens: A select group of senior Affinity Project agents with pronounced sensitivity to ETR. When telepathically boosted, Wardens are able to recognise the ETR of Shields and Sparks across great distances. Wardens regularly sweep districts for new signals, deploying Extraction Teams or Supply Protection where necessary.

Extraction Teams: are made up of trained Shields who serve the Affinity Project professionally. An extraction team will usually include an Asset Liaison and two service agents. They are responsible for bringing in newly identified Shields for Orientation at the AP compound.

Supply Protection: in order to protect their Assets, the Affinity Project only deploy trained Shields into active Spark zones in the hopes that one of the selected agents will respond to the active Spark and form a bond for the completion of the assignment (the Stray is eliminated and Spark kept safe).

Orientation: a month long, intensive training program designed to indoctrinate newly acquired Assets into the Primary Objectives of the Affinity Project. New Shields are appointed Watchers and trained in combat. Their ETR, telepathic, sensory and physical abilities are tested and analysed. They also receive trackers, a small monitoring device inserted in the back of the neck at the base of the skull, ensuring on going monitoring, protection and observation for when Assets return to ordinary life.

Additional Terminology found in Stray, book two of the Spark trilogy:

Synergists: Two Shields who emit rare complimentary ETR, resulting in a magnetic attraction that causes their signals to sync, amplifying all ETR related abilities: sensory, telepathic and physical. Prolonged exposure to a Synergist will accelerate signal maturation. The condition is considered dangerous as it increases the possibility of spontaneous Sparking and synaptic imprinting, resulting in territorial possessiveness towards their mate.

Coolers: Two Shields who emit rare counteractive ETR, resulting in the reversal of signal development. Prolonged exposure to a Cooler can result in deactivation but the process is long and painful and requires the couple to remain together permanently to ensure full remission.

Signal Threshold: It takes 3rd generation Shields approximately 5 years to reach full signal maturity from the time of their first Spark. Once a Shield’s ETR reaches the threshold of full maturity their DNA locks and they will never be able to deactivate.

Sanctioned Affiliations: due to the dangers surrounding signal amplification, Shields wishing to enter a long term relationship may request a Sanctioned Affiliation. Their ETR is tested and matched with a safe partner. Official bonds are formed in an affiliation ceremony including a mantra designed to seal synaptic pathways coupled with physical ‘ceremonial acts’. ETR is monitored until their signals sync, reaching an Accord.

Proxy: Rare, gifted telepaths raised in the Affinity Project Compound, used to boost the ETR of Wardens before district sweeps. The Proxy system is the backbone of the Affinity Project’s ability to function. Before the intervention of the CIA and the rise of the AP Reform, Proxies were regularly used for invasive/interrogative Harvests known as ReProg. These mind probing procedures were coupled with physical and psychological coercion to enforce the compliance of Assets who committed serious breaches in protocol. Post Reform, these Harvests are only permitted in extreme cases. Proxies have pale skin, silver eyes and bleached hair from spending hours suspended in the saline vats of Isolation Tanks.

ReProg: Interrogative Harvests, behavioural and psychological manipulations, performed by a Proxy, under the direction of the Executive Council, in a specially designed room where three of the walls are made of panelled glass filled with a chemical known as the Symbiosis. During Kinetic Memory Harvests the Symbiosis converts the telepathic transmission into visual footage on the glass walls for analysis.

Isolation Tank: in order to boost Wardens and to perform interrogative Harvests, a Proxy is submerged in an Isolation Tank filled with a saline based solution. The solution is infused with nano-technology that amplifies the Proxy’s ETR. As ETR is produced by the whole body, full submersion insures the strongest possible amplification of telepathic power. The process is a painful, ‘artificial’ drowning. The Proxy is starved of oxygen triggering the release of a potent chemical designed to activate the ‘Optimal’ gene’s regenerative power. One of the side effects of this chemical is a massive surge in the strength of the Proxy’s ETR.

Rachael Craw

Rachael is a member of the New Zealand Society of Authors and the Top of the South  branch. Her publisher is Walker Books Australia