Key the Metal Idol
Episode 2

Version 2: Cursor I

Teaser

At a station in the town where Key and Sakura grew up, a train is pulling away from the platform. Aboard the train is Sakura, several years younger than present-time; she and her family are apparently moving away. Key is standing on the platform. Sakura is leaning out of a window, her hand clasping Key's. As the train moves away, their hands finally separate as Sakura looks back somewhat endearingly at Key. Key is left alone, hand outstretched, as the train recedes into the distance.

Key is then seen alone in a classroom, cleaning out her desk. At home, she gathers the few items she will need for traveling; only her school uniform and a picture of her with Sakura remain behind.

Opening Titles

Part A

In the present, Sakura and Key arrive at Sakura's studio apartment after eluding Tamari's cameraman. Sakura is quite winded after all that running, and between gasps of air voices her amazement at Key, "You're a robot all right; you're not even breathing hard! I'm dying over here!" Key remarks that she is amazed that Sakura knew where to find her. Sakura replies that she had no idea Key was at Tamari's, that it was just a coincidence; she was only there to deliver the pizza. Sakura laments that she managed to bring the pizza home but left her scooter behind, and as a result she'll end up getting fired from yet another job. Key apologizes but Sakura says not to worry about it, but why was Key ever at Tamari's in the first place? Key explains that she went there because Tamari said she could get 30,000, even 40,000 friends by doing what he said. Sakura wonders what finding 30,000 people is supposed to mean, and says she'll listen to Key's story after a shower.

At Tamari's, the cameraman returns, apologizing that the girls got away. Tamari doesn't seem too surprised and says not to sweat it, for the pizza girl left her calling card: the scooter.

During her shower, Sakura mulls over why Key ended up in Tokyo. Perhaps she ran away from home, she thinks. Could she want to settle down here? In any case, Sakura resolves to get Key to take a shower, even if she is afraid of rusting. Key, during this time, has attached a sensor cuff to her wrist and is monitoring her body via an attached portable analyzer. The analyzer completes its diagnosis, and three small yellow tablets drop out of a slot on the box's side. As Sakura emerges from the shower, Key has placed the tablets on her tongue and swallows them.

As Sakura dresses and fixes her hair, Key asks if Sakura is going out again. Sakura says she is, and Key wonders if Sakura is going shopping. Sakura says no, she's going off to work again. Not the pizza delivery job, but another one. Sakura explains its the only way to get by, and tells Key not to wait up for her and that Key can help herself to the pizza if she wants. Sakura then remembers that Key is a robot and won't eat the pizza, so Sakura decides the pizza will be her breakfast in the morning. Sakura tells Key to please stay put, but then remembers that she promised to listen to Key's story. Sakura invites Key along to her workplace.

On the way to Sakura's next part-time job Sakura learns that Key's grandfather passed away. Sakura wonders (as Tomoyo did) whether Dr. Mima was serious. Key asks if Sakura thought he was delirious, and doesn't she believe what her grandfather said? Sakura asks Key how she expects 30,000 people to help her, would they rebuild her as a human? Sakura chokes up a bit, realizing that to Key, this is all she has left. Sakura apologizes for her selfishness and resolves to help Key achieve her goal. In addition, Key is welcome to stay at her place for as long as she likes.

As Sakura and Key continue walking we see that they are being tailed by Tamari's cameraman. Even further back is the silhouette of a figure that is unmistakably Tomoyo.

Sakura's next job turns out to be the graveyard shift at a video rental shop. Key is watching a nondescript horror movie on the in-store monitor while Sakura idly sits behind the counter. A customer comes in and Sakura, recognizing him, quickly looks lively and turns off the movie. She is standing with her back to the counter, with a hard-to-read expression on her face. The man greets her, calling her Miss Chuukawa. Sakura whirls around and tartly informs him her name is pronounced Kuriyagawa. The scene holds for a moment, then they both start laughing--it is an old joke between them.

The man gives Sakura a promotional video he would like her to play on the store's monitors. Sakura says she'd be happy to and puts the tape on, then notices the man looking at Key. Sakura introduces Key as her old friend Mima Tokiko. The man says his name is Tataki and is pleased to make her acquaintance. Key returns the compliment, then turns her attention to the video.

Sakura asks if the tape is an image video; Tataki replies that it is live footage from last year's concert tour, and that the final performance is just two days away: playing the tape is a marketing gesture. Sakura remarks that Tataki certainly is putting a lot of business-like effort into his work, whereupon Tataki says its just all part of his special service since Sakura is being so kind. Tataki promises to impose on her again soon (a bit of grammar-based humor) and Sakura with mock huffiness tells him do call again, by all means.

Sakura notices Key looking at Tataki as he wanders away from the counter and explains to her that Tataki Shuuichi is the president of "her fan club." At that moment, someone enters the store and starts gathering up a random pile of rental tapes. As this is happening, Key asks whose fan club and Sakura describes the enormously popular "idol" singer Miho Utsuse, a girl who was a good but not particularly noteworthy singer up until a few years ago. "But lately," Sakura explains, "she's gotten really good. It's like she's cool, but not too cool for her own good." As Sakura ponders Miho's skyrocketing career, the customer who was collecting up tapes dumps them on the counter, and as the camera pans up Tamari's grinning cameraman asks to have all these tapes put on Sakura's tab, please. Sakura is thunderstruck and starts to ask how they found her, and a suddenly-concerned Tataki looks over from where he was choosing a few tapes to rent. The cameraman informs Sakura that Tamari would like to speak with her a moment; he is waiting outside.

Outside, Tamari sauvely describes how he was concerned that Sakura left her scooter at his place and he decided to do her the favor of bringing it back. He asked her manager at the pizza shop where he might find her, and the worried manager told Tamari everything, even where she lived. Sakura accuses Tamari of tailing her. Tamari responds by stating he would hardly have come all the way over here in the middle of the night if he didn't have something important to discuss with Sakura.

The store's door chime rings as Tataki and Key step out. Tamari says hello to the "little robot lady"; Key thanks him for trying to help out earlier. Sakura tells Tamari he has nothing to do with Key anymore and to leave her alone. "My sentiments exactly," he says. "Didn't I say that you, the cute pizza chick, were the one I had business with? Oh, you're a video chick now?" Sakura thanks him for returning the scooter, and as Tamari suggests they talk business she tells him that they have no business to discuss. Tamari continues on, telling Sakura he wants to scout for her; he thinks she could be a knockout idol singer. Sakura nervously laughs him off, saying she has no time for such fantasy, that all her time is taken up just by working at her various jobs to earn enough to get by. Tamari tells her that he would pay her a salary substantially more than that of all her jobs, with two days off and his share just 10% of the profits. Sakura seems uncertain for a moment, but then appears once again resolved as she explains that money aside, she just doesn't want to be an idol right now. Undaunted, Tamari comments that perhaps she might change her mind later. Sakura decides this meeting is over and dismisses Tamari. Tamari, not taking the hint, is still sweet-talking Sakura when he makes the mistake of comradely clasping her hand. Sakura slaps him.

Eyecatch

Part B

Tamari gets the message (punctuated by a welted cheek), but is not put off. As he leaves he tells Sakura they'll talk again, perhaps next time at her apartment. For Tataki, who witnessed the whole event with mounting anger, this is the last straw. "She told you she wasn't interested, but you keep needling her anyway!" he snarls. In response Tamari smiles and makes a sign at his cameraman, who advances on Tataki. Tataki, however, expertly lunges under the brute's arms and lands a hard uppercut. The cameraman keels over, and Tataki grabs Tamari by the shirt collar. What happens next is left to the imagination as the camera reverts to the Miho video, which is finishing up.

Back inside the store, Tataki offers to hang around until closing just in case Tamari decides to show his face again. Sakura offers her thanks, but she thinks Tamari's gone for now and reminds Tataki he'd better get home if he wanted to watch the tapes he'd rented. He agrees, noting that the overdue fines are pricey. As he leaves he says goodbye to "Chuukawa" and Key, but can't remember Key's name. Sakura reminds him it is Mima, but Key says just to call her Key. Tamari stops just outside the store, looking about uneasily. Is someone here?, he wonders for a moment. As he leaves the camera shows a figure (Tomoyo) crouched behind the corner wall.

Later that night Sakura and Key are back at the apartment thinking up jobs for Key that would result in making a lot of friends. A baseball player? But Key is a girl. A politician? Sakura dismisses the notion almost immediately. How about religious figure? (Nice bit of prefiguration, that.) King? Queen? A President? Key wonders what else, but Sakura is silent. Key then says, "I'm sorry, Sakura. It was my fault." Sakura says it's OK, but Key continues. "You wanted to take Mr. Tamari up on his offer, didn't you?" Sakura, stunned by the truth of this remark, nervously asks Key whatever is she talking about? Key says being an idol pays really well, and that Sakura might have even agreed to try if Key hadn't been there. Sakura comes back to herself. "Yeah, right! You take it, then! Sure, you'd have 30,000 fans...a bunch of perverts!" Key seems on the verge of saying something else but stops. At that, Sakura retires to bed but spends the night tossing and turning, unable to sleep. One time, Sakura looks upside-down from her bunk at Key, who is sitting much like a rag doll on the threshold of the porch door staring unblinking out at the night. The sound of wheels turning is heard, and as the light of dawn approaches the camera pans across Key's eyes, which seem to stare, still unblinking, into the far distances.

The scene changes to the town where Key grew up. D and his engineer assistant are going through Dr. Mima's deserted house. They enter Mima's ruined basement lab, the condition of which causes the engineer to ask what could have caused it. D replies that he did it. He did it while Ajo was upstairs with Dr. Mima; it seems they were here to steal the old man's work. D remarks that the place looks just the same now as it did then. D enters Key's old bedroom, her school dress hanging on a hook and a framed picture of Key and Sakura from their junior-high days are the only things left. D, with a sudden look of contempt, spits forth another of his "marbles" so forcefully that it shatters the picture frame and chews plaster out of the wall behind it.

In the late morning at Sakura's apartment Key starts awake, having slept for some time after all. Sakura, who left for her day job hours ago, left a note asking how Key manages to sleep like that and that she went to work. At the end of the note is a post script saying that Key should take a shower. Key stands and unties her smock in one motion, then steps into the shower. As the shadows lengthen in the apartment it is apparent that Key has been in the shower for hours.

At a concert hall the stage crew is hard at work building the set for Miho's upcoming concert. The director explains to Ajo that they had a tough time of it, but they're pulling out all the stops to have everything ready for tomorrow's rehearsal. The director also confides that at first he wasn't sure about the tour in the beginning, but as concert after concert sold out he was finally in a postion to relax. Ajo asks the director if he has that much faith in the set. The director say that no, the tour's success is most certainly due to Miho's talent; he was just happy that he and his crew were able to do their part.

Ajo's personal secretary, Assi, finishes a phone conversation and approaches Ajo. Assi informs Ajo that Miho wants to cancel tomorrow's performance; that she is weak to the point of not being able to get out of bed. Ajo replies that she'll sing even if she has to do so laying down. Assi then informs Ajo that D has returned. This bit of news makes Ajo suddenly angry. As he prepares to leave he motions toward the set and tells the director to tear it down. The sounds of carpentry fall silent as Ajo tells the flabbergasted director that Miho will improvise with the set from the last scene; that this tour will end with Miho and nothing but. She'll get no help from a set. As Ajo departs the director mumbles that its going to be two hours of Miho Unplugged.

Key is still laying on the floor of the shower stall, her eyes half-open as if she were half-asleep. We hear Sakura calling her name, but the voice is strangely distant. The scene changes to show someone with long brown hair crouching on a sidewalk in the rain. As a hand reaches out toward the figure we suddenly see Sakura agitatedly calling Key's name. Key awakens in her peculiar, sudden fashion and Sakura anxiously asks Key if she is OK. Key remarks that her hands are quite swollen. In exasperation and relief Sakura snaps at Key, asking how long she had been passed out. Key doesn't know, and wonders why she fell asleep. Sakura picks up the note she left, reads where she told Key to take a shower and chokes up. Sakura apologizes and tells Key that if she really doesn't want to do something, she doesn't have to.

At Ajo's company building, Ajo stands in the doorway of his truly gothic PPOR research lab. The room is enormous, with a vaulted ceiling and statues of robots perched like gargoyles on lofty sconces. After adjusting his gloves Ajo proceeds into the room. As he passes by an operating table on which a figure lays prostrate, the figure suddenly sits upright. It is D. Ajo is startled to the point of leaping backward, knocking over some equipment. As D stands, we can see that he somehow seems to be pleased with frightening his boss. Ajo demands to know what happened to the PPOR that was supposed to be on the table. D replies that the tests didn't reveal any irregularities, so he put it on standby in the van.

Late that night, Sakura is asleep while Key watches the image video that Tataki brought to the video store. While she watches, the sound of her gears and wheels are heard, and to Key it almost looks as if the image of Miho is reaching out of the screen toward her. Key's hair begins to wave as if from a hidden breeze...

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End of Version 2


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Christopher S. Rider --- syzygy@oldcrows.net