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Genre - Science Fiction
Rating - 18A
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Or so she keeps telling herself, though she says nothing of this to Luka. Instead, she just stares out at the rain while he picks nervously at the dirt under his fingernails.
He knows, though.
He can see it in her eyes.
“This wasn’t your fault,” he tries to assure her.
He’s speaking of her imprisonment, and she becomes instantly frosty.
“No? Then whose was it?”
Luka doesn’t have an answer for that.
Before an awkward silence sets in, he tries to deflect it. “You haven’t lost everything, El.”
If her eyes weren’t so pathetically dull and lifeless and begging for a bullet or some sweet poison, the glare she casts upon him now would be fearsome.
“Home, job, self-respect, sense of purpose, freshly brewed coffee, filtered water …” she lists.
Lover, she thinks, but keeps that sad thought to herself.
“You still have people who care about you,” Luka insists. “People who love you.”
Either way, “Maydevine’s going to go stir crazy in the Police Division.” Silver shakes her head. “It’s a mistake.”
“He’s only trying to do the right thing.”
Silver throws her head back against the sandbags, frustrated. “Then maybe he shouldn’t have talked them out of enforcement.”
She doesn’t mean that, and Luka knows it. She’d rather die at her own hand, on her own terms, than face the barrel of an Omega instructed Enforcer.
Contemplating this, they fall into silence again. Her shirt is soaked through from the rain, and there, upon her glistening chest, lie her old Hunter Division dog tags … and Alex’s.
Ford 99 Test - SILVER: Acheron (A River of Pain)
One of the central themes in Acheron is that of Silver’s broken heart. She was banished from her home in the Sentinel District and sentenced to spend the rest of her life in the Fringe—a prison district filled with murderers, thieves and rapists.
Forced to split from her lover, Alex, she finds herself desperately alone. And when her childhood sweetheart, Luka, reappears in her life as the Police Division Agent assigned to be her Liaison when she’s recruited into the Bounty Hunter Program, she becomes lost in a swell of confusing and conflicting emotions.
By page 99, it’s become clear that they still have feelings for one another. In the opening paragraph, I wanted to convey a sense of Silver’s struggle to come to terms with all the changes in her life. She wants to accept that her old life—the one she shared with Alex—is in the past and can never be revisited. She wants to forget. She wants the hurt to go away, as if her heart were made of stone. This is her ‘Medusa complex’.
But as much as she tries to convince herself and the world around her that she doesn’t care, Luka can tell that the very opposite is true. He knows that she feels responsible and guilty for her banishment, even though she was innocent of the crimes she was sentenced for. He can tell that just by looking at her; he can read her like a book. This is intended to give the reader an indication of their deep connection with one another, and implies a history of close personal contact between them.
Hitting right at the root of the problem, Luka tries to tell Silver that it’s not her fault she was banished, but that makes her instantly defensive. She doesn’t want his pity, and she certainly doesn’t appreciate being read so easily and having her vulnerability exposed. He tells her that she hasn’t lost everything, but she chooses to ignore the insinuation. She knows full well that he’s referring to himself, and she’s not ready to let him in. The hurt of her separation from Alex is still raw, and Luka’s been trying to pounce on her loneliness since she first arrived in the Fringe.
She deflects by listing some of the many things she’s lost due to her imprisonment (home, job, freshly brewed coffee, etc), and deliberately leaves ‘lover’ off the list. Despite this—despite both of Silver’s attempts to steer the conversation away from emotion—Luka’s not dissuaded. He tells her that she still has people in her life who care about her, again implying that he’s readily emotionally available to her.
Again, she rejects him. This time, she turns her thoughts to her father, Maydevine. He quit the Hunter Division and took a new position as the Chief of Police so that he wouldn’t be separated from her, and that’s a sobering thought for her—just one more reason for her to feel guilty.
She jokes that she’d be better off ‘enforced’ rather than to drag Maydevine down with her into what she imagines will be a very unhappy future for both of them. That means: she’d be better off dead. But that’s a hollow statement and they both know it. She would never allow herself to be made a victim of their government, the Omega administration. She still has some fight left in her. Luka can sense it.
At the conclusion of the page, it’s become apparent to Luka that Silver’s not going to let him break through her defenses just yet. He gives up trying to force the direction of the conversation and they slip into silence. The dog tags around her neck are a constant reminder to him of the only thing preventing the rekindling of their past romance: Alex. They’re his, and they’re resting right by her heart—which is precisely where he will always remain.
When I wrote this scene, I wanted to explore some of the more complex emotions between Silver and Luka. This is the first time in the book that Luka really starts to expose his feelings for Silver, but he’s still just testing the water with her. He knows better than to dive at her with a full-on proclamation of love, because she’s still vulnerable after her separation from Alex. So instead, he tests her reaction with a few subtle hints, and the fact that Silver doesn’t outright tell him to shove it is especially revealing. She’s a very upfront, outspoken person. If she really wasn’t interested in his advances, she wouldn’t have spared his feelings in telling him so. The fact that she rebuffs him by deflection rather than by blunt refusal suggests that she’s not so much saying ‘no’ as she is ‘not now’. And is that a hint of what’s to come? Maybe…