The city of iRemember shimmers in the desert haze, watched over by the Bureau, a government agency that maintains control through memory surveillance and little pink pills made from the narcotic plant Tranquelle.
It looks like an oasis under its geodesic dome, but the city is under siege. ‘Off-Gridder’ insurgents are fighting to be forgotten.
Bureau Inspector Icara Swansong is on a mission to neutralise the threat. Her investigation leads her into iRemember’s secret underbelly, where she finds herself a fugitive from the very system she had vowed to protect. She has to learn new rules: trust no one. Behind every purple Tranquelle stalk lurk double-agents.
A sci-fi noir with a psychedelic twist, iRemember explores the power the past holds over us and the fragility of everything: what is, what once was, and what will be.
SV Bekvakac and Lightning Books have shared an extract today. Enjoy.
***** beginning of extract*****
Government Inspector Icara Swansong, Bureau Rank 4, has been sent into Desert Ring 2 to collect evidence on a suspected insurgent (Off-Gridder) ring-leader, Lucian Ffogg. She has only just arrived. And already things aren’t adding up. Here she is, trying to connect to the mnemonic surveillance network iRemember to help with her investigation. It’s a network of absolute surveillance. Yet she can’t get through. Which shouldn’t be possible. As she tries and fails to get a connection, we learn more about Icara’s mission and the Bureau’s internal power struggles, as well as discovering what it is that Icara wants. Really wants. More than anything. And it has nothing to do with her mission in the Desert…
…iRemember remembered everything. There couldn’t be nothing on file. Every time she tried to access an engram – the endless spiralling circle. She was getting tired of waiting. She didn’t feel safe out here. Noises were making her feel quite jumpy. She expected an Off-Gridder ambush at any moment. She felt for the tube of Liquid Scream and her service weapon in its holster.
Lucian’s psych-evaluation had not been flagged red by iRemember. If it had, the situation would have been much easier to deal with. She would have landed in the Lot, and, enacting Bureau Code Points 79-100 (Serving Employees whose Mental Processes Make Them Unsuitable for Service) she would have stuck an enormous hypodermic syringe deep into Lucian Ffogg’s neck. The Code outlined exactly what she would do with him then. None of it involved pretending to inspect the guttering or looking at rooms full of ancient computers.
The Lot had been flagged as part of a large interior operation. Nicknamed Project Eraser by the Board, it was an attempt to identify and erase any suspected corruption in the Bureau. It was a pet project of the Temple and was being spearheaded by the Bishop.
Only Inspectors with the highest academy scores and with unimpeachable records of comportment were selected to join Project Eraser. Icara had been among them.
She believed in iRemember. She loved the Bureau, that old concrete block, with a glass dome on top in the shape of a pre-frontal cortex. And as soon as she stepped into the Bureau building, she had known exactly what she wanted. She wanted to be architecturally elevated. Up on the top floors, with the decision makers. And eventually, she wanted to hit the ceiling. By which she meant she wanted to be at the very top. Sitting in Frome’s big green Chesterfield.
Icara was proud to be involved in Project Eraser. Partly because she thought it would get her closer to the top. But also because she really believed in iRemember. She believed that it was possible to make the City a better place. She believed in the rule of law and the importance of working for the greater good. The Bureau had always been beset by corruption. But in the ten years since Icara’s graduation from the Academy, there were increasing whispers that the Bureau was actively covering up criminal activity. Still only whispers. For the moment.
Icara was convinced that the Bureau was ultimately a good place. So it was a little dirty. That could be cleaned up. There was no place in the State for people like Lucian Ffogg. People who did not respect the rule of law. People who put the stability of the City in danger. People who fraternised with insurgents.
With Helena Frome leading it, the Bureau could never really be corruption free.
Frome was a drunk who took bribes and gave them as freely as Tranquelle pills – a leader willing to forget Bad Memories, at the right price, if she had a use for you in her system. Look at Fergus. Her head of media and digital advertising. A philandering ex-con. He had been fined on several occasions for trying to purchase firearms and combustion engines in the Sub-Urbs. Frome and her entire Cabinet belonged to the old guard. These were different times. And they would require a different leader. To really make the City a place of justice for all of its Citizens, the Bureau needed a replacement for Helena Frome. A leader who understood the needs of the Citizens. A leader who could sacrifice her own hedonistic pleasures for the good of said Citizens. A leader with a chignon, who had spent time in the desert, getting to know the dark side of iRemember.
Icara wouldn’t let herself think about who the most suitable candidate might be. After all, the Head of State was freely elected as part of a democratic process. But the less she tried to think about it, the more she blocked the desire out of her mind, the more of a narcotic hold it took. After she had tried not to think about being Head of State for two weeks, she wanted the leadership of the Bureau so badly she was regularly accidentally walking into Frome’s office when she arrived at work. She could taste the Bureau Bourbon. She could feel the itch of the grey woollen suit of office on her calves. When she went to sleep at night, the walnut interior of Frome’s office would slide across one pupil and then the other.
Even as she stood out here in the desert, alone with a dangerous insurgent type, the feel of the shagpile carpet in Frome’s office was at the back of her mind.
A digital Fibonacci vortex stared out at her from the screen. The files still wouldn’t download. There was something very wrong here.
***** end of extract*****
SV Bekvalac was born in 1987 in Croatia, in what was then Yugoslavia, but grew up in London.
She studied German and Russian at Oxford, and went to film school in Prague. After almost becoming a film-maker and then an academic, researching cities and films, she found herself writing fiction about cities instead. She started off with screenplays and short stories, but they got longer and longer. iRremember is her first novel.
She has lived in cities all over Europe. Now she lives in London, or in one of her own imaginary cities.