Key the Metal Idol
Episode 5

Version 5: Scroll I

Teaser

At Ajo's headquarter's, Ajo is in a Cold Room apparently used in a part of the production process of creating PPORs. As soon as the humanoid body clears the liquid nitrogen, it frosts over. Even so, we can see that it is the (or a) naked Miho PPOR. Ajo, in unsettling eagerness, pulls his gloves off and starts fondling the PPOR, heedless of the moisture on his fingertips freezing them to the PPOR's very, very cold body. "Come forth, my son..!" he pants. As he tears his fingers away, spattering droplets of blood across "Miho's" face, the robot's eyes open...

Opening Titles

Part A

It is mid-day at Sakura's Apartment, and as Sakura is readying herself to go to her early job, she is listening to the radio. The 12:00 news is broadcasting a story about Tamari, who apparently tried to jump from the roof of a building last night. The report only mentions it as a suicide attempt, and doesn't mention the PPORs. Sakura recognizes Tamari's name, and notes to Key that it's the same guy from before. Key, who is sitting in here usual place on the floor, nods absently. Key seems to be thinking to herself about something. Sakura continues on, mumbling that now Tamari is dragging other people into his messes. She suddenly exclaims that she is late and hurriedly puts on her shoes and backpack, ready to head out.

Pausing a moment at the door, she calls Key's name. Key doesn't respond until Sakura calls her name several times. When Key finally does look up at Sakura, Sakura asks her to stay home today and mind the apartment. "I'll cook us some dinner tonight. There's something I want to talk to you about. It'd be nice if I could come home to somebody every once in a while," says Sakura. Key gives her assent, and as Sakura departs she suggests that Key wash her dress; Key could wear some of Sakura's clothes in the meantime.

At Ajo's headquarters, Ajo walks into his company's infirmary. Assi and a doctor are there. As Ajo enters a room set up for intensive care, we see that someone is laying in the bed.

At Sakura's apartment, Key is talking to herself, trying to remember what happened last night. "I hope Mr. Tamari didn't fall," she says. "No, he didn't...I was there." She sees some of the events in her mind: Tamari flung from the roof, herself on the terrace, the both of them on the awning. "I can't remember anything. Grandpa, something is wrong with my head..."

In the infirmary, Ajo is staring down through the oxygen tent over the bed. The camera, showing the patient's view, tries to focus on Ajo. "It's me," says Ajo. "Don't you recognize me, Miho? We finally pulled out that rose." Miho clutches her chest where the rose struck the PPOR, shaking with the memory. "You can take a break," continues Ajo. "Rest as long as you like." Miho is trying to speak, but Ajo isn't finished. "If you're having second thoughts about going on stage again, I'll be very upset if you don't. The recording of your new single is coming up soon, and we'd better start planning your final tour of the year." By now Miho is agitated and struggles to speak, but the words can't form. Ajo smiles like a basilisk. "Oh, you want to sing right away? Excellent." Ajo, chuckling to himself, turns to leave. As he turns away, Miho reaches out to grab the tail of his coat. Ajo, in sudden agitation, pushes her hand away and gasps, "don't touch me!"

As he walks down the corridor, Ajo composes himself and asks the doctor how much longer she'll last. "How long will she *last*?" says the doctor. "She's not going to die. If we take her off the project, check her into a clinic and let her rest, she'll fully recover." Ajo retorts that he wants to know is how much longer is Miho going to throw off his schedule. The doctor asks Ajo to be more compassionate, to which Ajo replies, "how pathetic. Who told me he wanted to be involved because Miho was such an interesting sample?" "I know," says the doctor. "But we're not God here, sir...there are some things that we just shouldn't do." "Try being the Devil then," sneers Ajo. "When I'm with Miho, I'm quite the ogre."

A doorbell rings; Key opens the apartment door a few inches. "Are you with some religion?" she asks. We see she is talking to the little priest. "Er..religion? Yes, that's right," he replies, "I'm with a religion." "I can't let you in then," says Key. "Sakura told me not to let anybody in," she adds, closing the door. Through the door the priest says not to scoff at religion, the Man relies on his religion to survive. Key opens the door again, slightly. "There's a lot of darkness in the world today!" the priest says. "Watch out! See what'll happen if you get caught up in some flakey religion!" As Key starts to close the door again the priest tries another tactic. "Wait! I saw what happened to you when that man who was trying to kill himself grabbed onto you!" This gets Key's attention. She asks if he was there, and did he somehow use his religion to save Tamari? He says no, he prayed to his patron, begging him to keep Key from falling. Key opens the door a bit further.

"I may be highly trained," says the priest, "but if *you* were to ask them to come, I think you could easily bring together twenty or thirty thousand believers." Key opens the door all the way...

At Tataki's place, Tataki is awakened from a nap by his friend Tsukiyama, who comes by. Tsukiyama complains that none of the newspapers or the TV mentions anything about the Miho concert last night. Further, he hasn't been able to reach any of the production staff for comment. Tataki notes that it's nothing out of the ordinary, that for the past few years it's been pretty much the same--nobody knows anything about Miho beyond her CDs or concerts. Tsukiyama resolves "not to let them get away with it." Tataki mentions that he is still puzzled over the stange music from last night. Tsukiyama smiles, holding up a DAT.

The scene changes to show a rather dilapidated and run-down temple. A banner proclaims it's orthodoxy: "Golden Serpent Prayer Salvation Society." A man's full-hearted laughter is heard coming from within, and we see that the priest and Key are seated in front of a shrine. On the shrine is a statue of a golden man, a great golden snake wound about his body.

The priest, finally over his mirth, replies to Key. "Very well. If you are a robot, I am the messenger of the Serpent God, the manifestation of the Golden Serpent. I will tell you everything. Eat up, now. That's a good girl."

At Tataki's he and Tsukiyama are listening to the tape. Tataki is crestfallen that Tsukiyama only got a few seconds of it. Tsukiyama says that he only had his DATman handy, and that wiring it to the PC wouldn't have worked; even with the power turned off, it was like something was making only the PC speakers vibrate. His stereo and TV were silent. "At least it can be recorded," says Tataki. Tsukiyama, who has been reading, notes that Ajo heavy Industries apparently is cancelling it's bipedal robot program. Tataki notes that they're the parent company of Minos Productions, the firm that represents Miho.

In the temple, the priest begins telling his story to Key. "Man is such a foolish, shortsighted creature...I was in the mountains, expecting to die. I wandered aimlessly, parched with thirst, searching for the path that would lead me home. On the fourth morning, I was too weak to get up when I saw before me--"

Tataki is outside, walking. Deep in thought, he doesn't notice when he steps off the sidewalk onto the street, just in front of a truck. A whistle blows, and the truck barely manages to screech to a halt. The driver admonishes him, but Sakura's voice calls his name and he turns to see that she, dressed in a traffic officer's uniform, had blown the whistle.

Eyecatch

Part B

The priest continues his story. "It must have discerned the dishonest heart within me, for the serpent raised its head, coiled, and sprang, biting my bare calf." Key seems to be listening intently...

Tataki is walking with Sakura. "Why is Key convinced she's a robot?" he asks. "I think its because her grandfather did all kinds of robotics research," replies Sakura. Tataki chuckles, irritating Sakura. "An environment like that would definitely make it easier for that to happen," Tataki observes. He adds that there must be a more direct explanation, that maybe something involving robots scared her so long ago she can't remember it. They pause on a canal bridge to watch the sunset. Sakura replies that she doesn't really know; Key was already a robot when they first met in junior high school at the entrance ceremony. "I thought it was pretty strange at first," she begins, "it kept her from making any friends. Nobody even picked on her. They just stayed away from her." Tataki wonders if Sakura introduced herself to Key because she felt sorry for her. "It wasn't anything so noble," Sakura responds. She starts walking away. "I was alone, too, and I disliked all my classmates." Tataki tells her, "You're softhearted, 'Chuukawa,' appearance to the contrary." Sakura calls him a meanie, smiling at the same time. "She needed somebody with her," Sakura continues. "It's like she'd wander off if you didn't keep your eye on her...are you listening to me?"

In the temple, the priest is still telling his story. "When I came to, I expected to be dead from the poison burning through my body, but I saw an endless desert and what seemed to be a man, sitting, waiting for me. The man was completely naked, but he shone bright with gold, and around him was a great, golden serpent, wound around his powerful hips, around his chest and up onto his shoulders. Majestically, he said, 'I am the creator of this universe, and you and your fellow beings are gods!'"

Tataki and Sakura are in the park. "Key never ate, and she passed out from anemia all the time," Sakura says. "Whenever she did, Wakagi would show up out of nowhere and take her away, cradled in his arms." Tataki says that's a bit spooky, to which Sakura says everyone thought so, too. "It was like he was always hiding in the shadows, watching over Key. Wakagi's a nice guy, though. He's really sweet. I've talked to him at Key's house before. He said that he's really Dr. Mima's research assistant." Tataki wonders if Tomoyo has to keep an eye on Key all the time. Sakura remarks that what what Key said, Tomoyo monitors her brainwaves from her house. "You can't be serious!" chuckles Tataki. Sakura, a littled huffed, says, "Why not? After all, Key's a--" "Robot?" finishes Tataki, laughing.

"But Wakagi showed up after Key was in danger yesterday, right? Just afterwards?" asks Sakura. Tataki recalls the events in his mind, but replies, "No, that's not what's bothering me." Sakura asks Tataki to tell her what actually happened yesterday; she asked Key, but Key said she couldn't remember. "I can't tell you about it now," Tataki says. "I don't understand any of it. I don't get *any* of it. All I know is that she's at the center of it...and that something *big* is about to happen. And I'm standing at ground zero." Sakura is silent. Tataki suddenly is concerned for Sakura; that she is in the middle of whatever is happening too. "..it all happened because I invited her to the concert..." says Tataki, uncomfortably. "Heh...I guess I'm not making any sense."

Sakura tells him not to worry about it. "If you're trying to get 30,000 people together all at once, just about the only way to do it is to become a top pop singer. I only said it as a joke, but Key's really planning on becoming the next Miho! I don't really plan on stopping her. A robot...Tataki, I want you to snap Key out of it once and for all." "What's gotten into you?" asks Tataki.

"If Key can fulfill her dream, even after she becomes human again, will we be able to go on living like we are now?" Sakura asks. Tataki supposes that key would be able to lead a normal life; he'd be happy about it, and knows that Key would, too. "We'd all be happy," he remarks.

"Happy? Am I happy?" asks Sakura, mostly to herself. "Aren't you?" asks Tataki. "I've never thought about it before," Sakura notes. "You know, I think I may have been happy..." "Been?" asks Tataki. "...until she came," responds Sakura, softly. Tataki, suddenly irritated, asks Sakura how she could be so selfish. Sakura replies, "No, no..I was just joking! Key and I are getting along just fine!" Overhead, clouds are gathering.

At the temple, the rain is coming down, dripping through the leaky roof. The priest asks, "Well? Will you and the other lost souls of the world come to me to reach out to Konja? Your wishes will come true!" Key shakes her head no. "I see," the priest sighs, then adds, "Who are you, girl? You're different. When your life was in danger, it wasn't just a guy or two that wanted to help you..."

Sakura arrives home and discovers the Key isn't there. Outside, piled among the trash in the refuse area across the street, a PPOR stirs and looks down the street. The silhouetted form of Key is approaching; the view is shown on a monitor.

In Ajo's lab, a new PPOR is being thawed out for use. Ajo, standing beside the operating table, anxiously watches as his PPOR is activated. D's voice is heard over the radio; Mima's grandaughter is returning to Sakura's. D then asks when the unit will be ready. As the chief engineer checks his watch, Ajo says, "my son is impatient. He's been yawning since we brought him out. Can't you hurry and let him go out and play?"

"Some religious nut was here?" asks Sakura. She and Key are still dripping from the rain. Key nods. "It was really interesting," Key says. More interesting than I thought it would be." Sakura wonders if Key let him in, but Key says no. Sakura sighs and tells Key it's own her own head if she keeps getting hounded by the priest. "It's OK. Mr. Janome seemed like a nice person," returns Key. "He says that he prayed I wouldn't fall yesterday. That's what saved me." Sakura is exasperated. "He's lying! Tataki's the one that saved you! You both could've fallen, but you can't remember a thing!" Sakura towels off Key's hair, asking Key is she really thinks she can get 30,000 people and be human. Key says it is why she came to Tokyo.

"Think it through, then!" says Sakura. "All you do is wander around every day! If you want to be like Miho, you'll have to work for it... auditions, karaoke, stuff like that! It's more than just watching videos and going to concerts!" Key seems despondent. Sakura continues, "And you're making trouble for Tataki by dragging him around!" Key seems surprised at this remark. "Really? But he listened to me," Key says. Sakura tells her that you can't tell what people really think, and that it would be better off if Key didn't tell people she was a robot. "There's no telling if they'd take you seriously. Nobody believed you back in junior high, did they?" Key says that then she'd be alone. Sakura says Key has Wakagi, and didn't she come to Tokyo with him?

Key says she didn't know; was Tomoyo here? Sakura suggests to Key that she stay with Wakagi, since he came all the to Tokyo to look after her. "I really am causing you trouble, aren't I" asks Key. Sakura says no, and when Key remarks that Sakura said there was something she wanted to talk about, Sakura replies that she has said what she had to say. Key, after a moment, says she understands.

D is in the van, activating the control harness. On the table in Ajo's lab, the PPOR sits up, then looks at Ajo. "Ajo. Why are you looking at me like that?" says the PPOR. Ajo, enraged, snarls "How dare you speak to your father that way!" Losing control, Ajo tries to tear the PPOR's head loose. "Boss! Relax! It's only D!" says the chief engineer. The PPOR grasps Ajo's wrists painfully and pulls his hands away from it's neck. "Relax," says the PPOR, "I'll bring her back." The PPOR stands, crushing one unfortunate assistant's foot.

Key prepares to leave Sakura's place. She says thanks for letting her stay and leaves, walking out into the rain. She pauses a moment, then turns and walks down the street. The PPOR watches her go. Inside, Sakura tries to tell herself that it's Key's fault.

The new PPOR has left the lab and is stepping up into the van. As D sets it on its chair and steps out of the control harness, he says to it rather sardonically, "Now, now...you mustn't raise a hand against your father."

Inside her apartment, Sakura is sitting in the dark, trying to think. In Ajo's lab, Ajo is examining the bruises left by the PPOR's fingers. D is driving the van, following a blip on the map-screen. Key arrives at Janome's temple. "You came!" says the priest...

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