"The Keys" were machines built by the Russians to open Gates to the Upside Down. When activated using two special keys, the machine fired a high-powered energy ray which could open "a doorway between worlds". A Key is a volatile and often dangerous machine, discharging massive amounts of waste energy per activation; this could be fatal under certain conditions, vaporizing nearby objects and people. It requires a massive power source to function, such as an entire town's power grid.
The Keys could also be incredibly dangerous due to the open spinning mechanics on the right and left side of it. They move incredibly fast and any person near them would be killed instantly.
At least two Keys were confirmed to exist: one in Russia's Kamchatka Facility, and another secretly built under the Starcourt Mall in Hawkins, Indiana. According to Dr. Alexei, many more Keys existed around Russia, but none as successful as the machine under Starcourt.
Russian experiments into inter-dimensional travel presumably began after the Soviets learned of the events in Hawkins in the early 1980s. The first machines were invented sometime in late 1983 or early 1984.
Many Keys were built all around Russia, including one at the Kamchatka Facility; however, all of them ultimately "turned out wrong". A huge amount of excess energy was released in an failed activation attempt on June 28, 1984, fatally killing all of the scientists in the ray's immediate vicinity. As punishment for their failure, Major General Stepanov executed one of the scientists and gave the rest a deadline of one year to make the machine work properly.
According to Dr. Alexei, he and the other Soviet scientists realized the Key was only one half of the equation, the location of the Key itself being the other important component. Keys were unable to work properly in Russia, with Gates only briefly opening before sealing up. However, they theorized that a Key could function as intended in Hawkins. An American Gate had existed in Hawkins and, even though this Gate was now closed, the fabric of space-time there was still healing, and therefore vulnerable to the Key Ray.
The Soviet Union purchased built Starcourt Mall as a front, to conceal a secret base underneath the mall, where work on the Key was conducted. They also purchased properties all around East Hawkins that were near transformers, using them to siphon off energy from the town’s power grid. .
On June 28, 1985, the Key under Hawkins was successfully activated, under the supervision of Dr Alexei and various other Russian scientists and officials. The activation momentarily overloaded Hawkins' power grid, triggering a power outage affecting the entirety of Hawkins. The new Gate's creation also reestablished the Mind Flayer's psychic link, allowing him to revive a piece of himself, or proxy, that had lay dormant at Brimborn Steel Works since 1984. Via the proxy, the Mind Flayer could once again affect events in Hawkins.
The Hawkins Key was eventually discovered by Steve, Dustin, Erica and Robin, who grew suspicious about the true purpose of Starcourt Mall after decoding a mysterious Russian language transmission. The group broke into the Russian base, and while exploring, they learned of the Key's existence and the new Gate.
During the same time period, a suspicious Chief Hopper, accompanied by Joyce Byers, began investigating the Russian conspiracy. Hopper discovered one of the Russian-owned properties, from where he took Dr Alexei hostage. The captive Alexei gave into Hopper's demands, divulging the true purpose of Starcourt Mall to Hopper, Joyce and Murray Bauman; Alexei detailed the histories of the various failed Keys that existed in Russia. After escaping captivity and returning to the surface, Steve and the others testified to Hopper, Joyce and Murray about what they had learned.
The adults devised a plan to break into the Russian base and deactivate the machine. Hopper and Joyce infiltrated the base and managed to access the Key control room; however, Hopper became engaged in conflict with Russian hitman Grigori and was unable to assist Joyce in deactivating the machine. After a lengthy fistfight nearby the active machine, Hopper eventually killed Grigori by shoving him into the metal spinning mechanics of the machine. Grigori's corpse became lodged in the gears, causing an explosion which kept Hopper from leaving the room.
Joyce figured out how to singlehandedly deactivate the machine, accepting that doing so could risk disintegrating Hopper's body. The deactivation cut off the psychic link to the Upside Down, rendering the Mind Flayer's proxy form lifeless and inanimate. Though Joyce and Murray escaped the base relatively unharmed, Hopper disappeared following the fistfight with Grigori, and was presumed deceased. The US military later seized control of the base, with former Hawkins Lab director Sam Owens inspecting the defunct machine, and the remnant of the second Gate.
|Locations||The Upside Down • Creel House • Curse gates • Gates • Hawkins • Hawkins National Laboratory • Lover's Lake • Public Library • Hawkins Middle School • Hawkins Tunnel System • Mothergate • Trailer Park|
|Entities||D'Artagnan • Demobat (species) • The Demogorgon • Demogorgon (species) • The Flayed • Hospital Monster • The Mind Flayer • Russian Demogorgon • The Spider Monster • Hawkins Tunnel System • Vecna • Vines|
|The Flayed||Billy Hargrove • Heather Holloway • Bruce Lowe • Tom Holloway • Janet Holloway • Doris Driscoll|
|Visitors||Robin Buckley • Joyce Byers • Will Byers • Eleven • Steve Harrington • Dustin Henderson • Barbara Holland • Jim Hopper • Max Mayfield • Eddie Munson • Bob Newby • Shepard • Lucas Sinclair • Mike Wheeler • Nancy Wheeler|
|Miscellaneous||Upside Down Egg • Dungeons & Dragons • The Void • The Keys • Vecna's curse • Vecna's Mind Lair|
|Articles may contain spoilers.|