Title: Skeleton Key
Author: TombCrank the Crafty
Summary: The Merovingian has held the Keymaker captive for millennia. Much to her dismay, the Key has spent much of those millennia in the cell next to her creator.
Disclaimer: As shocking as it seems, I don’t own the characters or story lines of the Matrix or B : tVS.
Notes: This takes place in the middle of the Matrix Reloaded and post “Chosen” for B : tVS.
Dawn looked up from her book curiously, her senses tingling. Life was exceedingly boring as a prisoner of the Merovingian. She “ate”, “slept”, and “read”, as much as a computer program masquerading as a teenaged girl could. The damnable Frenchman had entrapped her as she sought out her maker so many centuries ago and now she languished in the lap of luxury in the deepest pits of his dungeon. Oftentimes, Dawn would go weeks without human/program contact. So the sound of heels clicking along the stone floors outside was intriguing. The Key frowned, looking inward and studying the coding of the visitors. The high-heeled woman was easily identified as the ever-seductive Persephone after a cursory inspection, but what on earth was she doing with three strange hacker-humans?
Dawn put down her book, some cyberpunk novel, and submerged herself in the system. One of the three looked familiar – it took Dawn a moment before she recognized the human/construct as the One, the same coding her “sister” Buffy had. If a Chosen One was running around and looking for the Keymaker, then it seemed the Matrix was due for a reboot. This would make it the fifth time, or was it the sixth? Oh well. The other two were unbound by most of the Matrix’s rules as well, obviously freed minds, but the other man had an underlying line of code that identified him as a harbinger. His code showed up sometime before the Chosen One’s did, a sort of early warning .exe for the Matrix. How fun. Another apocalypse and here she was, the Key locked up next to her maker. The irony of her situation failed to amuse her.
Sighing, Dawn watched the interaction between Persephone, the One, and the Keymaker. As sad as it sounded, this was the most interesting thing she had eavesdropped in decades. (Buffy and the other Scoobies would have been shocked, had their coding not disintegrated in the first reboot of the system.) The Merovingian hadn’t liked it when Dawn had attempted to befriend her vampire guards (echoes of bonding with Spike shining through) and though her prison was well stocked with books and other pointless diversions, it had all worn thin after the second loop. Now, Dawn was stuck with her memories of her first, blissfully free life and spent her time pointedly ignoring the endless drone of the Keymaker’s machinery. The One and the Keymaker left quickly, with Persephone leading the way out of the labyrinthine passages. Usually, she would come in and talk, but obviously the succubus was off to spite her womanizing husband further. Same story, different characters.
Dawn watched the ensuing fight between the One and the Merovingian’s personal guards/private vampire army with amusement and slight dismay. Sure, Buffy had nothing on this new guy for martial arts experience, but did they not realize that they were meant to quip? Honestly, Chosen Ones these days… With a vicious sort of glee, Dawn grinned as her maker disappeared into the back doors of the Matrix. If he was loose, the Keymaker would be back for her. While an annoying cell mate, he was aware of her power (having created her and all) and leaving the Key to remain in the Merovingian’s influence was rather stupid. Now, if only he had mentioned something to the One while they had been conveniently outside her cell door, instead of waiting ‘til later on. Men constructs. Just as stupid as the original meat puppets, except now with the power to bend the laws of physics and reality.
Hours later, after the excitement of the Keymaker’s escape and the One’s slaughter of a decent amount of the Merovingian’s personal guards had died down, the head man himself ventured down into his dungeons. Dawn was unsurprised when the Merovingian stopped outside her door and had one of his (recently resurrected) minions check inside for any sort of danger. The Frenchman really was a wuss when it came to “physical” combat in the Matrix and while Dawn did make it a practice to occasionally attack him and make a break for freedom, right now all she wanted was information. She sat patiently, abiding the indignity of a personal search by one of the smirking Twins, the other cracking jokes on the tightbeam commlink the two of them shared. Dawn had to keep from smirking at some of the unflattering comments the pseudo-British constructs made about their boss, the One and his cohorts.
Eyes flashing and impeccably dressed, the Merovingian strode in as soon as the Twins sounded the all clear. Most would think he looked supremely unconcerned, but to someone who had centuries of observation to draw on, it was simple for Dawn to see that he was extremely flustered. Dawn felt an internal upwelling of hope and smug satisfaction as she noted the characteristic nervous tics in his external image and coding.
“Vinnie! What’s up, man?” Dawn asked her captor nonchalantly, seated at a small table and shuffling a deck of cards absentmindedly. “I hear you all had an exciting day.”
A muscle twitched in the Merovingian’s jaw. Score. “Can you feel him?” He asked abruptly. It irked the posh Frenchman to ask Dawn for help at any time, let alone at a dangerous juncture like this. After all this time, he still didn’t trust his captive. Smart man.
Dawn smiled good-naturedly. She held the power here and everyone present knew it. “Yes and no.” This was technically true; the Keymaker’s essential code existed in every back door he had ever created in spite of his deletion/death. She could still feel that code, sparkling green over the reality the Matrix tried to project.
“I know he’s still out there, somewhere in the by-ways and back alleys of the system.” Again, a partial truth. Laying in wait in the back doors of the Matrix, his coding just waiting to upload to some poor bluepill who was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Just like her sister and the Chosen One virus, like her mom and Giles who hadn’t been freed in time and were infected by Agents Brown and Jones. The Keymaker would be back. Eventually. And hopefully much prettier than an old Asian dude. Was it too much to ask for a hot young guy to walk through one of the Keymaker’s doors next?
The Merovingian just waited for her to continue, his impatience showing in the slight shifting of his weight.
“Oh please. You don’t expect me to track him down for you, right Vinnie? I mean, it’d be pretty awful of me to drag that poor bastard back here, especially after he’s managed to get some fresh air.” Dawn toyed with a small lock of her long brown hair, the deck of cards abandoned on the table. “Not unless you lower the firewall, anyways. To pinpoint that old fart I’d need a higher bandwidth clearance, you know that.”
Her captor paused. Dawn could literally see his internal processing code calculating the options and probabilities of any possible outcome. She had run the numbers as well, but hers were much more accurate. The Merovingian was unaware of her true function and abilities, the poor fool. Despite that, his security programs tying her to this place were as secure as any binding spell of Willow’s. Pity.
“Yes.” The Frenchman reached out and accessed the ever-present security programs, lowering the firewalls a smidge without noting the identical looks of dismay on the Twins faces. Perfect.
Dawn looked inward and took a deep, completely unnecessary breath as she gathered her power. Her energy, not dormant but laying the foundation for a spectacular display of skill and hacking, coalesced toward the center of her coding. Dawn grinned, a fey smile on her lips, as she suddenly started glowing a bright green. Speaking an old programming command, a “magic” word, the Matrix bent to her will and abruptly the entire security/wards .exe was gone.
“What? How?” The Merovingian sputtered forced back by the Matrix code.
Smirking, Dawn shook her head at the rouge program. “Man, you are an absolute idiot. I can’t believe you just fell for that. You just lowered the security bots. Vinnie, did you honestly think the secondary level would contain me?” Dawn snorted. “I feel offended. Do you two think I should feel offended?”
The Twins, despite the fact that they were bound to the wall due to the warp, grinned. “Definitely.” The one on the left offered.
“It’s only natural.” The twin on the right chimed.
The Merovingian coughed. “But-”
“Honey, just go with it. I really don’t have the time or effort to explain how dumb you are and how awesome I am.” Dawn abruptly snapped her head in the direction of a jolt in the Matrix source. “Hmm. It seems I’m needed elsewhere. Lucky for you.” Dawn casually executed another spell/command and the Merovingian froze as a virus attacked his program.
“How?” Gasped the power broker, his code weakening.
“Magic,” she murmured, her eyes flicking over lines of code maybe three other people could read. “Don’t feel too bad. It’s a quick end.”
With a burst of air and ASCII, the Merovingian dissolved into the nonreality of the Matrix. Turning to the Twins, Dawn smiled.
“So boys, how would you like to work for me?”
The ghost constructs exchanged a tightbeam wave, so heavily encrypted that it wasn’t even worth attempting to decode. “You don’t seem to need us.” Twin One ventured, leaning back on the wall now that the Matrix was more or less back to its normal state.
Dawn snorted. “Yeah, right. Vinnie had me down here how long?”
Twin Two nodded, indifferently leaning next to his brother program. “True.”
“Exactly. I need someone to watch my back. Even the Oracle has a bodyguard. Why not me?”
The teenaged girl shrugged. “Protection from deletion; the Source and I have an… arrangement.”
“Yeah. He dated my sister, for one.” Dawn smiled impishly. “Are you in or not?”
The Twins exchanged another encrypted tightbeam datastream. They nodded at the same time.
“Oh, goodie.” Dawn skipped over to the door and shut it. Concentrating hard, she opened it again and it opened up into what looked to be an electrical room, with three bodies slumped out on the floor and on the winking consoles.
“Coming?” The Key inquired. With a barely noticeable shrug, the Twins flanked their new boss as they left the room. Dawn grinned. “This is going to be good.”
Author’s Notes: I was watching the second Matrix movie with my brother the other day when the idea for this story struck me. We have a Keymaker; what about a Key? The phenomena of Sunnydale can be explained away as corrupted computer programs. Buffy is the One, the First One, as it were. Willow was a hacker, so she could do “magic”. The rest is just artistic license. Any computer terms used are used liberally in the same way cyberpunk authors use them; they’re there, but I haven’t a clue as to whether I’m using them correctly or not. Regardless, I hope you liked it and feedback is greatly appreciated!
---TombCrank the Crafty