Key the Metal Idol
Episode 3

Version 3: Cursor II

Teaser

Through a quick series of flashback scenes, we see how Miho got her start: At an open-air concert, a young Miho is standing amid the crowd of spectators admiring the singer. As she is walking down a street a short time later, someone taps her on the shoulder. She turns around to be greeted by Tamari, video producer and talent scout. Tamari introduces her to Ajo, who seems to be interested. We see Miho standing in front of a mirror, holding up her brand-new idol costume to see how she looks. Later, Miho is in a recording studio in tears as the director apparently delivers instructions for redoing the take. The scene changes to the young Miho in costume standing backstage and nervously clutching her right wrist as if in pain. A moment later, she runs onstage to the noise of the crowd.

Opening Titles

Part A

At Ajo's corporate skyscraper, Ajo is in his office brooding in thought while looking out over the city. The familiar sound of gears and wheels turning is heard, but this time the source is the doll sitting on Ajo's desk. It is one of the priceless 18th century Dutch "writing dolls" which could be programmed via arrangement of cams within the doll's body to write several lines with a pen in it's hand. The clothing of the doll has been torn open at the back, and the cam and clockwork mechanisms are visible.

In the van parked in the building's garages, D's engineer-assistant wants to know what D is doing; the PPOR control chair is partly disassembled and D has the visor unit slung over one shoulder. D tells the engineer to get out; he is going out alone and doesn't have much time. The engineer asks whatever is he going to tell Ajo and D, losing patience, knocks the man out of the way. The drivers up front see this ask D what's going on; D glares at them and orders them out of the van. As D drives off, one driver says it is just as well, he was thinking of quitting anyway. The engineer, in a stricken tone, explains that if any of them quit now they were dead men.

As D is driving, his thoughts wander back to the discussion he had with Ajo before commandeering the van. Ajo wants to know if Sergei can tell him why Ajo's "beloved son" (the PPOR) broke down, and why Sergei didn't come back at once but instead went out to Dr. Mima's house. Ajo then asks where Mima's granddaughter has run off to. Sergei replies that she is here in Tokyo. Ajo also wants to know if what Tomoyo told his advisor before leaving school was reliable information. Sergei explains that either Key or Tomoyo must have been in the field of operation while he was controlling the PPOR. Ajo takes this to mean that Sergei thought the girl was the cause of the anomalies in the PPOR's operation. Ajo notes this is the first time they've encountered such a problem with the PPORs, and if it was true that they should be grateful for the chance to compensate for the problem. Ajo thinks such an external influence is impossible, however, citing that the research on the PPOR's control system was concluded over a decade ago and that any operational irregularities must be due to the operator--in this case Sergei himself. Ajo asks what proof says Sergei wasn't the cause of the PPOR's breakdown; the printout showed the excessively high readings which Ajo describes as the stats of a murderer. Sergei does note that two people are dead, but Ajo wants to why. Ajo considers that since the Mima girl got away, perhaps they missed monitoring some revealing data. Sergei says that according to what they know of Dr. Mima's work, the old man shouldn't have been able to construct a Gel storage battery. Perhaps the girl, Sergei notes, is the key to completing the Mima-type PPOR, or that it may be completed already.

"Don't tell me you believe that fantasy about how the girl herself is a robot," Ajo sneers. "Look Sergei, there's no need for a robot to operate under its own free will. They are slaves, constructed to be mankind's servants, body and soul." As Ajo says this, he is caressing the shoulders of the writing doll, but suddenly tears open the clothing at its back. "The Mima-type and our own PPORs point toward different goals. Mima was wrong," accuses Ajo. "He was trying to make an actual human being. He was destroyed for it as his punishment for rebelling against God."

The scene flashes back suddenly to when Ajo's team invaded Mima's house. Ajo is sitting, hunched back against a wall, with an uncharacteristic expression of fear on his face. Dr. Mima falls forward in front of him, still alive but with blood pooling under his head. Ajo staggers upright but is still shaking as he looks down at Mima. Ajo turns to see that Sergei has returned from his ransacking of the basement lab. Ajo holds a hypodermic syringe in his shaking hands, trying to prepare it for use. As the scene returns to the present discussion, Ajo hands are visibly shaking with the memory of these events. Sergei notes that many of the basic mechanisms in their PPORs are based on the Mima-type, to which Ajo snarls that all he wanted from Mima was the miniaturization of the power box.

Ajo notes that that goal is on the verge of completion, painting a verbal scenario of a single military officer carrying a mission forward, controlling a hundred PPORs like his own limbs, all with the help of a power box the size of a hearing aid. As Ajo continues, we see a concept video of Ajo Heavy Industries. Ajo reveals that they've already received unofficial enquiries from two countries, and those even before the PPOR project was out of the testing phase. Ajo notes that their work is gaining worldwide attention...*quietly*. Ajo emphasizes that word. He tells Sergei that he's had enough of Sergei's personal agendas, and that Sergei shouldn't think about his work so much as be inconspicuous while doing it. Sergei replies by saying that he's returning Ajo's personnel that assisted in the van; from now on he'll work alone. "The truth will come out," Sergei observes as he leaves Ajo's office, "perhaps as soon as tomorrow." As the office door closes, Ajo turns to look out his window-wall at the city. "That's right, Sergei," Ajo muses. "Your job is to introduce my sons into the throngs of this city. Without anyone knowing...not even a soul..."

Even as Ajo says this the view changes to the van Sergei is driving along the nighttime streets. Sergei is wearing the PPOR control helmet, visible strain showing as he imposes his will on the PPOR in the back. The van's rear doors open, and the PPOR leaps out into the night.

As the camera pans down the corridor leading to Ajo's lab, an unsettling sound can be heard: Ajo is panting in what can only be described as fervent lust. Ajo is in a room off to the side of the main lab's doors where PPOR limbs and bodies hang from racks on the ceiling. He is wearing the faceplate of a PPOR like a mask and is caressing one of the arms as if it were the arm of a lover. Between his gasps he speaks: "Sergei...robots don't need free will...no, not my robots...not my slaves...! ...Sergei...!!" (Ed. note: Ajo is one twisted puppy.)

Returning to the streets of Tokyo, a young couple are out driving. The girl wants to go somewhere; the man complaining that she's had him drive all over the place. She gets huffed at his attitude but as he asks where she wants to go next she gasps and points out the window. Just outside the car, the PPOR is running on foot and keeping pace. The PPOR looks at them, and the terrified man serves away and smashes into the roadside wall. A moment later, Sergei drives past but doesn't even slow down. There is blood all over the wrecked car's windshield.

Meanwhile at Sakura's apartment, Key is crawling toward the TV, her eyes intent on the screen showing Miho's taped performance. As she stares, her pupils constrict just like that time with the two street punks the evening before. The TV picture starts skewing and sounds of electrical arcing come from the set. A moment later the TV set explodes, startling Sakura awake. Sakura douses the TV with water while Key looks on, nonplussed. Sakura is still shaking from the ordeal.

In the morning, Sakura sets the TV out with the trash. She tells Key that the TV is ruined and even if it turns out to be Key's fault, Sakura won't be mad. Sakura does add that if Key feels bad about it, however, Key might perhaps find her a decent replacement. "Reimburse you for it, you mean," Key says. "There's no rush," Sakura replies, "just sometime while you're staying here." Key says she understands; Sakura "dismisses" her and walks away, but we can see that her hands are clenched. "You *are* mad, aren't you?" says Key.

At an audio/video store, Key is watching a newscast about a late-night traffic fatality; it is the car that served away from the PPOR. Both people in the car died; the girl en route to the hospital. Key looks down and notes the price of the TV--30,000 yen (about $275)--the cheapest model there but obviously way out of Key's budget. The newcaster notes the police ascribed the accident to inattentive driving. A salesman asks if Key is interested in buying a TV. Key says no and leaves, pausing outside the store for a moment.

As Key walks down the street, she notices a flower shop with roses on display in the window. The scene changes to that of a newspaper with a front-page story about a kilometer-long series of footprints embedded in concrete; the stride was measured to be three meters! The camera pulls back, showing that the newspaper is being read by a man sitting on a park bench. On an adjacent bench Key has stretched herself out, apparently recharging. She is holding a bouquet of five roses. The camera pans from the roses to her face; the sound of gears and wheels are heard. We see a brief glimpse of her inner body as she dreams of her grandfather as if he were alive and telling her she can become human with the help of 30,000 friends. There is a momentary image of Dr. Mima standing in the forest smiling and shaking his head, then another brief image of the girl with long, brown hair sitting by a road in the rain as a hand reaches out to touch the girl's shoulder. There is an image of Miho reaching out with both hands...

Key sits up suddenly. It is toward evening, and as she looks around the now-empty park she notices the tall roof of a concert hall. People are gathering for the Miho concert. Inside it is already quite full as fans of the idol singer call Miho's name. Up near the roof is hung what looks to be a giant radial spider-web. The camera pans over to the control booth set high up in one wall. In the booth, a manager informs the others it is one minute to showtime. Ajo is there and speaks into a headset microphone, asking Miho if she is ready. Inside a pod next to Ajo, Miho says she doesn't think she can go through with it today; her voice seems weak and her arm is shaking. Ajo tells her the show will go on no matter how she feels. It is only two hours, and after it is over you can rest all you want. "You monster," she replies. Ajo grins slightly. "That's a sin, Miho. Are you saying that you'd rather be dead?" The concert begins.

Outside, scalpers are having a field day. As Key walks toward the pavilion, Tataki runs by her. He stops a moment later, recognizing her. Tataki says they must hurry and takes her arm, but Key hesitates. She wants to know what is going on. "You mean you're not here to see Miho's concert?" he asks. "If not, who is the bouquet for?" "I want to see it," replies Key.

Eyecatch

Part B

In the concert pavilion, "Miho" is being lowered from the center of the web to the stage amid the cheers of her fans. Outside, Key is looking at a ticket wondering if it is really OK. Tatki says no problem, holding up at least a dozen spare tickets. As they go inside, we can see Tomoyo is lurking nearby behind a bush. His notebook computer beeps, and as he examines the screen he seems agitated, saying "Damn! It's already started!"

Tataki and Key are standing just inside a mezzanine doorway. Miho is singing, and Tataki is impressed that Miho is even trying this sort of venue. Key is already entranced, her pupils dilating slightly, watching Miho sing.

In the lobby, a desk attendant proves no match for Tamari's glib tongue as he and his cameraman come in, looking for the green room.

Tataki and Key have found their seats; Key continues to watch Miho. In the control booth, the real Miho in the pod is shaking all over but seems to be singing OK, much to Ajo's satisfaction. As the song ends a hand reaches up to tap D, who is standing in the gallery, on the shoulder. Tamari says hi and asks to see the boss, complaining about the overbearing security at the same time. D tells him to go away. More of the same, Tamari sighs. He tries to convince Sergei that he's found another girl that could be the next Miho, but D just glares at him. Tamari slips a set of photos into D's pocket and after asking D to give them to Ajo later, hastily departs.

Miho has started into the next song. When Tataki glances over at Key, he notices she somehow seems different: here face is that of human wonder, and her hair seems to have changed color, waving faintly on a hidden breeze. Miho reaches up, onstage in a singing gesture. As Key falls further into her rapture, we hear her gears. In a flash of images, we see what Key is thinking: her body, her grandfather, Sakura, the girl in the rain, Miho's face on the TV screen that suddenly goes blank. Key sees a ghostly image of Miho before her, reaching out... Key smiles and holds up a rose...

In the actual pavilion, she flings the rose so hard it sails all the way to the stage, the stem embedding itself in Miho's chest. The Miho PPOR's power box convulses, coinciding with a very brief flash from what looks like Key's eye. In the pod, the human Miho screams in agony from the backlash of the power box. On stage, the now-lifeless PPOR, its features frozen in Miho's agony, tumbles over. Outside, Tomoyo watches all of his telemetry readings go crazy.

In the control booth it is pandemonium; Ajo orders the PPOR retrieved while an engineer opens the pod door. In the pavilion, the audience watches the body of Miho being pulled up. Tataki looks at Key, starting to mention something about her, but Key, back to her old self, asks what happened to Miho. In the gallery, D looks wildly about, wondering if Key is somehow nearby. During the confusion, Tamari and his cameraman find their way to the control booth and catch a glimpse of Miho as the crew pull her unconscious body from the control harness.

The house lights come on as the audience is informed the concert is over. As Tataki and Key get up to leave, Key asks about Miho. Tataki says that he is worried, but doesn't think there is anything they can do for her. In the gallery, D gets a call from Ajo. Ajo tells him that Tamari saw the real Miho and for D to take care of Tamari with a PPOR. D says he will. As if reminded of something, D looks through the pictures Tamari slipped in his pocket. They show Sakura going about one of her typical days. D recalls the photo on the desk in Key's room at Dr. Mima's...

Outside, the terrified Tamari and his cameraman are on the run. Not far behind them are two PPORs, controlled by D from the harness in the van. Tamari and the cameraman reach the door of a building, but as Tamari runs inside he locks his camerman out, telling him to "hold them off." The cameraman says "are you nuts!?" and pounds on the door. The PPORs approach...

In a restaurant, Key is telling Tataki it has been one surprise after another, and that it is all because of her grandfather's last words. She also confides to Tataki that she has wanted to be human ever since she was little; that is not easy being a robot.

The door that Tamari locked is being knocked in. As it falls open, the dead cameraman falls with it. The PPORs step inside. Tamari, cowering on the stairs above, starts running further up.

Tataki asks what Sakura thinks about all this. Key tells him that Sakura said she would help Key figure something out, "because she is my friend, she says," says Key. Tataki says that he would like to help too, offering his hand. Key, after a moment, clasps Tataki's hand, causing him to note that her skin is soft. Key comments that she is well-made. Tataki asks if Key as yet knows what she is going to do to become human. Key says no, not yet. Tataki remarks that it was too bad Key didn't get the chance to give her bouquet (which is now four roses) to Miho. Key replies that they weren't for Miho.

At the moment, someone on the restaurant's terrace shouts "look out!" Tataki and Key go out to see what is happening. Tataki looks down at the street, wondering why everyone below is looking up. Tataki and Key turn and look up at the roof of the building; someone is standing against the railing up there. It is Tataki, in evident fear of not only his precarious perch, but of something in front of him.

On the rooftop, Tamari is clutching the railing; a PPOR is standing a short distance behind him. Tamari fearfully asks what the stranger wants. The PPOR, echoing D's voice, replies: "Mi...Mima Tokiko..." and advances toward Tamari.

Tataki and Key watch from the terrace. Looking up at Tamari, Key becomes absorbed in the situation...

End Titles and Next Episode Preview

End of Version 3


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