behind the scenes: the beginning
In light of the launch of Episode 3: The Final Draft, I (Erin) thought that it would be a good time to talk a little about one of the characters.
NK, who makes an appearance toward the end of the episode, was the very beginning of it all: Satellite, Jack Hart, the Watchdogs, etc. etc. He was named after natural killer (NK) cells, the cells in the body authorized to "attack self", which immediately became the metaphor used to describe the relationship of the Watchdog Program to the dystopian structure of Satellite.
As a special gift, following the introduction of a character near and dear to my heart and integral to the story of Satellite, I thought I'd leave you with the prologue to a book as-of-yet unpublished, the entrance to the world of the Watchdogs, the perspective of one of their most elite members.
Art by Erin Bentley
The voice was accompanied by a crackle of static from my hood, the suddenness of it making me flinch.
“Yeah, Control?” I slumped against the hard plastic of the seats in the train car, the growl of hunger rumbling distantly in my stomach, the hand gun hanging against my ribs rubbing under my arm.
Your sister’s calling.
Do you want me to patch her through?
She sounds worried.
“Not interested.” The train car jerked with a loud screech, the swaying making the lights flicker. Outside was lit by the glimmer of billboards, the rare headlight of a taxicab several stories below. Few people drove cars nowadays, unless it was to travel the shorter distances between the train stops, and for those trips, taxis were better suited. I followed the trajectory of one as it blinked in and out of existence between the buildings, a momentary illumination swallowed by the city of Satellite and erased by the speed of the train.
NK, it’s bad.
“What do you mean it’s bad?” I said, leaning back and closing my eyes again.
It’s her husband. She tried to leave and--NK, the call cut out.
I ran a hand over my hood, jaw clenched, uncertainty twisting in the pit of my stomach.
“He’s a citizen, Control, what am I supposed to do?”
Use your influence?
“Yeah...shit, yeah, fine. Send the Wasps to her location. How far out am I?”
You’re close. Get off on the next stop and, well, run.
When the train cars opened I bolted, shoving through a group of people that started to protest, but stopped abruptly, eyes diverted, apologies stammered. I made it up the steps and past the guard almost before he noticed me.
“Hey! What are you--”
The man next to him grabbed the guard’s arm and shook his head, and I barely caught his words as I turned the corner.
“He’s a Watchdog.”
I got to the doorway just in time to hear something hit the ground inside and shatter. I quickly dug into the outside pocket of my cargo pants for a slim black box. Things inside the house appeared to be escalating, loud shouts, a child’s scream, but I took the time to pull out a short, fat glass bottle that had the words MECH-EM in small black font on the label. I drew a full dose up into the needle and slipped it into the pit of my elbow, then tossed the needle aside, replaced the vial, and shoved open the door.
The living room was a mess, broken glass, vase knocked off the mantle, discarded, pre-packed luggage lying just inside the door. The fight had started here.
My brain began to think in a checklist, the emotions of dread and anxiousness sliding away from me rapidly as most of the color, most of the darkness, faded from the room. I moved toward the back of the house, where the sounds of the fight were the loudest.
I stepped into the kitchen. In the center of the room there was a woman on the floor, a man above her. I heard the sounds of a child’s scream muted by the walls of an adjacent room.
I caught the man’s hand as he raised it above his head, he turned and looked at me. The woman lay on the floor, eye black, blood leaking from the corner of her mouth.
“This is the third time you have been reported in the last month.” I said, voice flat.
“Get out of my house!” He struggled, his breath smelling of alcohol. He swung his other hand at me but was too drunk to be much of a threat. He staggered with his own weight, and I shoved him to the ground. She yelled at me.
“A three-time offender is a repeat offender.”
The man on the floor looked at me. Scared.
“You’re a Watchdog?”
My hands closed around his shirt as sirens began to wail outside. I dragged him through the wreckage of the house, throwing him onto the ground at the feet of the Wasp officers as they arrived.
“You will prosecute this man for his crimes, or I will.” My voice sounded like the monotone voice of the train operators, tinny and flat.
The Wasp’s lips pressed together tightly, eyes diverted to the ground, though they kept looking from the man at his feet to the red tattoo on my arms that marked what I was.
I nodded once, turning my back on my sister’s voice, the drunken man’s curses, and the mumbling of the Wasps. Under the mech emphasis, it was nothing to me but white noise.