Keys To The City



Scene Title Keys to the City
Synopsis Following her abduction, nothing is as it seems for Kay.
Date November 8, 2020

Here lies Kain Zarek.

A bloody corpse face down in a ditch on the side of the road in New York. Dixon had warned him that things would end up this way. It’s how Spencer Damaris died, his bones scattered under the permafrost out past Yonkers for years. No one bothered to bury Kain, a man the world already considered dead and buried a decade ago.

Now, his rain-soaked carcass is just beginning to be covered in a thin layer of freshly fallen snow. Given the snowfall in upstate New York, no one will find his body until the spring thaw. By then the people who have concern for him may well have given up. Kain was, after all, prone to disappearances and dropping off the grid.

A pair of headlights track across the road above the culvert he lays in, tires crunch ice and the car comes to a slow stop. A door opens, soft chiming from the inside indicating that it’s open while running. Footsteps come around the front of the car and a long shadow is cast by the headlights as a man comes around to the roadside, looking down into the ditch.


Six Hours Later

Unknown Location
10:27 pm

Kaydence Damaris wakes up with a startle, her breath hitching in her chest and fingers curling against her palms. She feels the tug of mechanical restraints almost immediately, the cold press of metal on her forearms connected to the arms of what looks like a hospital bed. There’s a keypad on the restraints as opposed to a lock. Medical equipment is everywhere; EKGs, EEGs, she can feel the texture of a gauze bandage on the side of her head, taped in place.

Her headache has worsened.

As Kay’s vision adjusts to the disorientation and dim lighting, it’s clear she’s in some sort of medical facility. Low-watt LED lights set under cabinets across the room offer a dim and restful illumination level, though the power must be intermittent for how they flicker on occasion. She’s alive, but she’s also in a state so much worse than death now.

She’s a prisoner.

That, at least, was the expected outcome of this mess. When they didn’t just shoot her in the head, she knew it had to lead to this. Just not to this. Tied to a chair, sure. Even dangling by her wrists from a meat hook in a freezer. But not this.

A thin whine involuntarily escapes the back of Kay’s throat, strained through the clench of her teeth. It isn’t fair, but pain. Her head keeps throbbing and it’s only getting worse. Have they done something to her?

Think, Detective. Think. She faced down capture by the Vanguard, for heaven’s sake. Praxia can go fuck themselves. They won’t keep her here. Frantically, she searches for signs of anything she might be able to get her hands on. If, of course, she manages to get out of these restraints. It’s too much to ask that there be a damn scalpel on a tray nearby, able to be coaxed over with the stretch of her fingers.

Fuck,” Damaris breathes out.

The restraints unlock, followed by a soft beep.

“What the fuck?” Kay whispers, but doesn’t waste time lifting her arms away from the table, lest they re-engage. Sitting up, she makes sure to take stock of her surroundings before she starts tearing at the equipment monitoring her. She’s sure that will set off some alarms, because that’s how these things work.

So she’ll need to improvise a weapon, and fast. Swinging her legs over the side of the bed, she makes sure she has the strength to stand first, unsure if they let the bludgeoning to make her Sleeping Beauty, or if there might be some sort of sedative in her system.

The only thing she hasn’t torn away is the bandage on the side of her head. Her fingers reach up gingerly to touch it.

There’s a drowsy swimming sensation in the back of Kay’s head. Without a doubt sedatives. She feels her knees buckle for a moment as she tests them out, but otherwise after a moment of orientation she’s able to get herself square again. Searching around the room much of what Kay identifies as a bludgeon looks bolted down, save for unwieldy things like chairs. After a cursory glance through a drawer, she finds a pair of bandage scissors.

That’ll have to do.

The only door out of her room is a matte metal thing nearly flush with the wall. She’s seen architecture like this in the Yamagato building’s lower levels, research areas. It’s right about then Kay notices the black dome above the door; camera.

“Nngh.” Kay clutches the side of the bed when her legs try to give out, but she powers through it. Wills herself to remain standing. To remain alert. She needs to. Needs to. With the bandage scissors in the tight clutch of her hand she lets out a frustrated sound at the sight of the door. For a moment, she almost wonders—

No. No.

Shaking her head, then tipping it back so she can stare at the ceiling like some answer might be written in the tiles, she spots the camera. As she glares at it, her fear slowly turns over to anger. To resolve. “I’m going to kill every last fucking one of you,” she vows.

As soon as she can figure out how to open that damn door. The element of surprise against someone who comes to check in on her is lost with that camera, so she’ll just have to hope she’s scrappier than whoever comes for her.

As Kay paws at the wall near the door, there’s a soft click followed by a chime and the door slides open into the wall revealing a white-walled hallway with recessed ceiling lamps. The tile floor is snow-white and the only ambient noise is a hum of HVAC systems and overhead filtration vents. The hall goes for a ways in either direction from where she is, doors up and down the corridor. Camera domes too, this place is thoroughly surveilled.

If Kay didn’t know better, she’d say she had a guardian angel here. She glances at the next camera as she moves into the hall. Is there someone watching her and helping her along the way? Confusion settles in, but it doesn’t dampen her single-minded need to escape this place and whatever Praxis has planned for her.

Her head swivels one way, then the other, trying to decide which is the way out. Though she stares hard to her right for a long moment, she ultimately turns left and starts down the hall at a clip, hoping to get some progress before she’s undoubtedly intercepted.

Six Hours Earlier

Ford Veterinary Hospital
Niagara Falls, New York

4:43 pm

The sound of glass breaking alerts none.

Striding into the rear entrance of a veterinary clinic and out of the snow, Eizen Erizawa carries Kain Zarek over one shoulder as he steps inside and shuts the now broken door behind himself. Grumbling all the while, Eizen makes his way down the hall and pushes open a couple of doors before he finds the one he’s looking for, one that’s locked.


Setting Kain’s body down, Eizen grabs a fire extinguisher off of the wall and bashes the doorknob off, then sets the extinguisher down and steps inside. Eizen is gone for a couple of minutes in which Kain lays motionless on the floor of the clinic, eyes shut and head hung low, a dark spot in the middle of his chest where he was shot.

When Eizen returns, it is with an armful of makeshift first-aid supplies and a bottle of pills. He takes a knee beside Kain, then slides off his jacket and lays it on the ground nearby. “あなたはこれを気に入らないだろう,”1 Eizen mumbles, then reaches for a syringe among the stolen medical supplies.

Then, he unceremoniously jabs the syringe into the side of Kain’s neck.

Six Hours Later

Unknown Location

Making her way down the hall, Kay comes to a T-junction. There’s a glass-walled section down one end where she can see people in lab attire quietly sitting at computers. In another direction just a bare hall ending at a sturdy d—

That door swiftly opens, and on the other side is a seven foot tall humanoid machine with a rectangular box for a head arrayed with several camera-like lenses. There is an assault rifle clipped in some fashion to its back, barrel pointing down at the floor and stock over the shoulder. The machine begins marching down the hall at a judicious pace.

Not past the people who will see her, obviously. So off toward the door—

Shit.” Kay turns sharply and starts as calmly as she can down the hall. Surely the people at their desks are used to seeing others walk past now and again.

This is Undercover 101. Act with the confidence of someone who’s supposed to be exactly where they are, and most often, people won’t question it. Not unless they’re ranking, and Kay doesn’t get that impression. That the Qing doesn’t have its weapon drawn suggests that it’s not looking for her. If she just keeps moving, she might be able to dodge it. Maybe it will just turn the fuck around. But that has to be too much to hope for.

But that’s precisely what it does. The Qing drone halts in the doorway and looks like it forgot something, pivots at the waist, and then turns around and goes back through the door as Kay makes her way down the hall. Maybe it didn’t see her, maybe it wasn’t looking for her, maybe she really does have a guardian angel.

When Kay walks past the glass-walled research area, one of the people at the desk glances up at the moment and looks back down, then glances back up again and looks at Kay with visible concern. She quickly reaches for a phone on the desk and dials an extension. She’s shouting something, but Kay can’t hear it through the glass. Her co-workers all stand up alarmed and move away from the window.

Okay. So that didn’t work. But—

Kay halts in mid-step when she recognizes the footsteps of the Qing moving away from her again. She looks over her shoulder to confirm it, her jaw having gone slack from her surprise. What the hell is going on with her luck here?

Looking up at the nearest camera, Kay lifts one brow. Jiba, is that you? No longer bothering with slow or deliberate, she continues on her way, hazarding a glance at the scene through the glass with confusion. What are they shouting about? What are they shrinking back from? She’s just one woman?

Why is everyone treating her like a bigger threat than she is?

The door at the end of the hall closer to Kay opens and two black-clad security officers emerge from within. One barks out something in German into his headset while another raises a boxy-looking weapon at Kay and—

—her world erupts into a cacophony of clicking shrieks and whining screams. It’s a Banshee.

Kay’s legs give out when the sonic beam hits her, the pain is unbelievable. She’d never been on the receiving end of one of these less-than-lethal weapons and as her hands come up to her ears it does nothing to end the agony, as her open and screaming mouth has become a receptor for the banshee’s wail.

Kay writhes on the floor as the guard approaches, keeping the banshee trained on her. The lights overhead flicker, sputter, go out and come back on.

At some point after that, Kay blacks out.

Two Hours Earlier

Ford Veterinary Hospital
Niagara Falls, New York

8:18 pm

Bleary eyes open to stare up at the ceiling.

There’s no lights on save for a little dim illumination coming from an open laptop on a nearby table. Kain Zarek tries to sit up, but his chest aches too much and he falls back down onto the flat metal surface he’d been laid upon. Bleary vision focuses on posters of dogs and cats, photographs of pets tucked into the margins of a corkboard with a calendar. Vacation is written across the current week.


Kain swallows dryly, head clunking back against the table. “If this is one of them Christmas Spirit things, y’all’re late.”

The grim countenance of Eizen Erizawa stepping into the light of the laptop is no Ghost of Christmas Future, but he has all the same charms. Kain stares up unblinkingly at Eizen, then paws at his chest.

“You have a punctured lung, if you’re wondering why you’re short of breath. I have taped up a temporary release so you can breathe. But we need to get you to a hospital.” Erizawa glances out the door to the hall, then back to Kain. “Where is Kaydence Damaris?”

Kain exhales a sharp breath which turns into a bloody cough, then groans and clutches at his chest. “You her boyfriend?” Kain asks with his usual sense of self-preservation. Eizen’s eyes narrow and the Yamagato security chief steps closer, saying nothing.

“She got got,” Kain says with a hint of exasperation. “Big tangle’f shit. A low-time piece of shit hired me out t’get a bead on her. Figured it was an extortion th—”

I did not ask for your life story Mr. Leblanc,” Eizen barks at Kain. Blue eyes search Eizen’s face. Leblanc. Eizen only knows him from his ID. Kain backs down a little and plays it cool.

“Some corp-types picked her up in a prop-copter. Had some Chinese writing on the side, I didn’t recognize it.” Kain says with a motion of his head toward Eizen. “I tried to stop—”

Enough.” Eizen says flatly, then looks to the laptop, then back to Kain. “Now that you are conscious, we can leave. There is no signal here, I cannot get an outside line. You are going to tell me everything once we are in my car.”

Head back against the table, Kain exhales a deep sigh of feigned relief.


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