"Chiyo!" There was someone calling for her. Well, they would have been calling for her if Sato Chiho had actually been named "Chiyo". Of course, that didn't mean her name couldn't be Chiyo, since she wasn't quite sure what her name was.
In fact, the name was vaguely familiar, and it was her name, except nothing had come up on the DNA match for her. She should have matched somewhere, somehow, but she was one of those cases where the person's original DNA sample was incorrect and so no amount of searching would find her.
Or at least that's what Mr. Matsuda, the neighborhood police officer, thought. That the only reason that Chiho hadn't been reunited with her family was because she didn't match. A missing person with an incorrect profile could be faced with a nightmare.
In any case, she turned to look at the person calling. It was a young woman, rather boyish-looking, Chiho noted absently as the woman caught up with her. She was a bit younger than Chiho herself. The woman was searching her face as if to find some kind of recognition.
"I... you might have mistaken me for someone else?" she asked tentatively. Her neighbors had wondered if she'd had younger siblings from the way she'd talked, but she felt hesitant about this person, as if they weren't someone she really wanted to deal with.
The other woman smiled back. "I don't think so. I... you've lost your memory, haven't you? That's why you haven't been home."
"Maybe." Chiho wanted to turn away, but something prevented her.
"Do you want to come home?" the young woman asked. But before Chiho could answer, Mrs. Sato, the woman who had taken her in, chose that moment to walk out of the shop, took one look at the girl and frowned.
"Who are you?" Ms. Sato asked. She may not have been Chiho's mom, but she was very protective of Chiho, for which Chiho was grateful.
"Tenkuuji Gako," the woman said, bowing. "I've been looking for Chiyo for a while now. I was hoping that this was a good lead."
Gako. The name didn't ring any bells. Neither did the surname.
"I'm Chiyo's wife," Ms. Tenkuuji said. Chiho put the name together. So, if this woman was on the level, her name was Tenkuuji Chiyo?
It didn't sound right in Chiho's mind, not exactly. But some of it did.
"I want to talk to you, that's all I ask," Ms. Tenkuuji told her. "In private. I can prove to you that we're married, without paperwork."
"I'd rather have the paperwork," Chiho said. It was legal to marry another woman, after all, and there should be paperwork.
"I'd rather explain it to you in private. Look, if I give... um... someone who knows you my information, will you come with me?"
Ms. Tenkuuji sounded so awkward that Chiho wanted to trust her. But she turned to Mrs. Sato. "You can give her your information."
For a moment, it didn't look like Mrs. Sato was going to accept, but Chiho knew there were certain ways of verifying information. Or digging real information out of false. And Mrs. Sato would know people who could do just that.
After a moment, Mrs. Sato was gone, though Chiho was sure that she was keeping an eye on the stranger. "So, we're married?" she asked.
Ms. Tenkuuji reached out and put a hand on Chiho's shoulder. It should have been an unwelcome gesture from a stranger, but it somehow did not feel that way. "Well, we would be if your father had agreed. Not because I'm a girl - I doubt he'd think the Empress is a good enough spouse for his daughter."
She had a very picky father? Or at least when it came to marriage?
"I don't want to take you away from this life - you seem so happy here." There was a smile on Ms. Tenkuuji's face now. "Happier than you'd be at home with your family."
"Tell me about my family. About my mother and father." She'd take any clue to her past, even if Ms. Tenkuuji - maybe she should call the woman Gako, if the information turned out to be true.
"I... are you sure you want to know?" Ms. Tenkuuji was hesitant. "Your mother designs clothes, and your father runs a business. We grew up together - my mother, your mother, and your uncle were close friends."
What was in her past that Ms. Tenkuuji didn't want to talk about?
"What's my family name? You said my given name was Chiyo."
Ms. Tenkuuji sighed. "I could tell you, but do you really want to know? Besides, I could be lying." There was a small smile playing on her lips. Despite it, Chiho doubted that Ms. Tenkuuji was lying - she probably did have an overprotective father who was a businessman and a mother who designed clothes. The name Tenkuuji had to be a clue.
"And maybe you aren't." Chiho - she supposed she should start thinking of herself as Chiyo now - looked over at her. "Why don't you want me to know who I am?"
"You made a wish to escape home, that's why." It sounded absurd, but something about the other woman's expression said that she at least believed what she was saying. "I supported you. I knew it would take you away. But I wanted you to be happy more than anything."
"And now what?" Chiho asked. "You tell me this... and what?"
Gako leaned in and kissed her. Chiho wanted to hold her, but it didn't seem proper, even if it was something her body was used to doing. "You go on as Chiho. That's who you are now. I only came because I wanted to make sure you were okay."
There was movement above them, an eye-like thing floating in the air. Chiho had never seen such a drone before, and was about to ask Gako - she supposed she really couldn't think of her as Ms. Tenkuuji now - about it when she saw Gako glaring.
"Go away," Gako growled, in a language that Chiho was sure she shouldn't be able to understand. "Nobody asked for you to be here."
The eye-like thing formed into a young man with a scruffy goatee in what seemed almost like a military jacket. Chiho had never seen such holographic technology, and realized that there had to be some truth to the story about the wish. It only made sense.
"Who's this?" Chiho asked as they just glared at each other.
"This is my - and your - incredibly annoying cousin Jeannot. That nobody enjoys talking to. Why are you not at home watching over my brother, considering what you did to him?"
Jeannot bowed at Chiho, a deep bow that meant that he thought that she was high-ranking. "I am under orders to find you." Jeannot's words seemed formal, polite and respectful, and he was totally ignoring Gako. "If you will come with me?"
Chiho wondered if that had been less of a request and more of an order, and would have been an order in different circumstances.
"I'm not sure that's a wise idea. I don't know you, or her." Why she didn't find little eye-like things turning into people unusual? It had to be part of her forgotten life.
Did she want to go back to that life? She only had Gako's word that she had somehow tried to escape it... with a wish.
Mrs. Sato came hurrying up before Jeannot could answer. "Chiho! Did that... she's a fraud." She looked around wildly, but didn't seem to see either Gako or Jeannot.
"She was here a little while ago, but she went away." About a meter away, but away. Why couldn't Mrs. Sato see Gako? But then again, nothing should surprise her anymore.
"Thank goodness! Mr. Matsuda investigated, and while there is a family by that name there, they don't have a daughter, just a son."
"I think she was telling a bit of truth, even if she wasn't my wife." Which Gako wasn't. Gako had mentioned a brother to Jeannot; was that the son in question? And what had Jeannot done to him?
"Good. Be careful." Mrs. Sato swept off, leaving Chiho with her two cousins-of-sorts. That nobody else could see for the moment.
"Brother?" she asked the two of them.
"My half-brother Haru," Gako explained. "We share a parent."
There was a shrug in there, and Chiho was reminded that Gako might be trying to protect her from a life she found miserable.
"In any case," Jeannot said, drawing their attention back towards them, "We all need to go back."
"Chiyo is happy where she is." Gako stepped between Jeannot and herself. "What are you doing here anyway? I'm sure if anybody would be nosy and follow, it would have been Alexis or Candide."
"Who?" Chiho asked.
"Your siblings," Jeannot said. "Who are awaiting your safe return."
"Older brother and younger sister," Gako added, and then sighed. "It's obvious, though. You have people to protect you and a community to belong to. I think you should put us behind you and go on."
Chiho knew that she was missing probably large parts of the story. Especially given that at least Jeannot could change forms and both of them could apparently turn invisible.
But she doubted that Gako would be willing to tell her what she needed to know. "I don't think you should leave me with half a story. What did I wish for? What are you, and what am I?"
She shot a look at Jeannot, including him in the request.
Jeannot bowed. "We are Gamma."
"Half. All of us have a Gamma parent and a human one - except Haru, of course, he's full human." Gako might not have wanted to explain, but Chiho had guessed correctly that she didn't want Jeannot giving Chiho the entire story.
"Ganma are superior to humans," Jeannot said, as if Gato hadn't said a thing. "We do not have these ridiculous genders that humans do and every child born to a human and a Ganma has proven to be Ganma."
"And yet Ganma reproduce some ways like humans, even if we don't have the organs. And the culture is authoritarian - there's no room for artists and composers." Gako shook her head.
Jeannot glared at her.
"You don't really have genders." Was she even female?
"We choose to be male or female, or even none of the above." The way that she looked at Jeannot told Chiho that male looks aside, Jeannot was not a 'he'.
A world with no genders. It was hard to believe.
"We're the descendants of an alien invasion." Gako looked down. It was obviously not something she liked talking about.
An alien invasion? Chiho had to wonder how long ago, and realized that the descendants had to be close-knit. Obviously were, to the point where they called themselves related even though they probably weren't. It might have been her home once, but could she go back, really?
"We carry on their ideals." Jeannot put hand over heart. "But we are under no orders to invade." The fact that Jeannot was willing to participate put a chill down Chiho's spine.
"You're right. I wouldn't belong there. This is my home now." This was enough to tell her that she had somehow escaped, losing her memories in the process.
Even if she wasn't female as such.
Jeannot made a noise, reaching inside clothing for something that Chiho's mind somehow recognized as a blaster.
"My apologies for being so rude as to have to do this." Jeannot's words were extremely formal and polite, and his tone was regretful.
Chiho took it as her cue to run, trusting that she could at least get a head start and thar he couldn't shoot her as an eye-thing.
She'd ducked under a cloth tarp when the eye-thing came in after her. "It's me!" the eye-thing proclaimed, and Chiho recognized Gako's voice. "Are you all right?"
"Why does h- Jeannot think that Jeannot has to blast me?" Chiho asked softly. She was scared, yes, but she didn't have information. She needed information. She doubted that Jeannot was trying to kill her, but still.
"To return you to being an eyecon, like this." Gako spoke just as softly. "It'd be easier to return you home in that form."
Eyecon. That was the name of the form? Was that her native form?
"I'm sorry," Gako continued. "Haru and I thought we had everyone who might follow me distracted! Haru even did something that he shouldn't have to keep Jeannot occupied. Apparently Jeannot got suspicious."
Chiho looked down. "Would you help an invasion, if there were orders?"
Gako gave a startled laugh. "No! There won't be one, and even if there was, I wouldn't help. Well, okay, our leader-in-exile wants our whole group to have more kids - more Ganma. And to convince humans that Ganma are superior so that eventually Earth will be populated by Ganma instead of humans. We can breed with humans regardless of the humans' gender. My gonta and yours proved that."
Chiho knew somehow that the word meant "mother", and yet not, even if the Ganma didn't have genders.
So, not really part of an alien invasion, at least not in the violent way. Chiho had to admit to curiosity - how did this whole human-Ganma thing work? And how had she fit in? She was apparently Ganma herself, even though she had assumed - like everyone else - that she was human.
"Why did I make the wish?" she asked.
"You and I, we wanted to be monogamous, but your ratin said no." Ratin was kind of like "father", Chiho thought. Gako continued. "He was sort of forced into monogamy himself, and he swore that none of us second generation kids would be - even if we wanted to. And since he's kind of the leader... well, you can see where that was going. You wanted to move away and live with us. We even slept together to try to provoke him into doing that, among other things. When nothing worked, well... you made the wish."
She made a desperate wish to get out of that situation, and it had resulted in her ending up amnesiac in a small town. It probably wasn't what she'd had in mind. Maybe to make her father more reasonable. Maybe to alter things a little bit so that she could live with Gako and her family.
This wasn't where she was supposed to be, no matter how much Gako wanted her to stay and be happy. "Who was I before I made the wish? My name, mostly, but who was I to the family?"
"Chiyo. Fukami Chiyo." Gako gave her a small smile. "Kind of the leader of our small group. But it was too much... that's why I think you'd be happier here, without that hanging over your head."
"Wouldn't Jeannot and... well, whoever else might be interested in me going home just continue coming here? If Jeannot doesn't just reduce me to Eyecon first, that is." Jeannot was more that willing to take her home by force, even if Jeannot would probably be apologizing all the way there.
"I'm sorry about that. I really hadn't thought of what might happen if someone did follow. I thought it would be so easy." While Gako couldn't exactly hang her head low at the moment, she gave a good impression of doing just that.
Chiho nodded. She had two options: figuring out how to start over someplace else, or going home. Maybe not immediately, if she managed to evade Jeannot, but it was likely that someone would come for her, someone not as easy to evade as Jennot was. Besides, it sounded like she was needed there, not where she was.
Maybe she was too responsible for her own good, but despite Gako's good intentions, home was where she belonged. Well, maybe not her home. Gako's. "Do you have a way to get in touch with the family?"
"Eh?" Gako asked. "You're not seriously-"
"I'm going home, even if I have to enlist Jeannot to help me." Her words were firm. "Do you have a way to get in touch?"
"No. And neither will Jeannot. We don't legally exist."
That was a problem. She might have to get blasted. She really didn't want to be blasted.
She pushed aside the tarp and stood up. Gako floated next to her.
Now, how did she find Jeannot? She'd just have to walk around, she guessed.
Which was exactly what she ended up doing, wandering around town until she saw movement out the corner of her eye. It was Jeannot, blaster in hand. "Stand down, Jeannot," she said, not caring if she sounded crazy to people who couldn't see Jeannot. She hoped that it would work, that Jeannot would stop trying to shoot her and listen.
It worked. Jeannot lowered the blaster cautiously, bowing.
"Follow me." She wasn't going to have more of this conversation in public.
Jeannot did, following her until they found an isolated spot in the park. "You don't perhaps have a way to contact the family? I thought about it, and it is time to go home."
"No. I wish I did." Jeannot sounded regretful. "But you could come with me."
"I can't just disappear. I need someone who legally exists to come here, 'recognize' me, and give these people a reason to send me home."
Jeannot bowed. "As you wish. I do have my gonta's contact information, if that will help?"
She wasn't sure she wanted to talk to Jeannot's parent. "I have a phone." She got it out. "Call your parent."
Jeannot cautiously took it, dialing a number and then talking rapidly in the language that she shouldn't understand. It was a rather curt conversation, with the person on the other side obviously wanting results and Jeannot explaining what she needed.
Jeannot finished the conversation and handed the phone to her. "My gonta will be here as soon as possible to help escort you home."
"Thank you," Chiho said. There were still mysteries about her past that she didn't understand, but that could wait. She had family now, family she would come home to, and hopefully she could make things right.