"Good morning, Doctor Yafuso! How are you today?"

"Morning, Joanie," Doctor Kenichi Yafuso said as he hung up his coat. He was a more or less average-looking Asian-American man, a little thin, wearing glasses, with a face that was pleasant if not handsome. "Not too bad. Got followed home by an anti-abortion protestor yesterday. What surprises have you got for me today?" Working at a clinic in South Central Los Angeles, one never really knew what to expect.

"Um, Mr. Johnson is in examining room four. He's due to get his cast off today," Joanie said. She was the clinic's receptionist, young, blond haired, and always cheerful. Yafuso wasn't sure what she did for a living; her work at the clinic was on an unpaid volunteer basis.

Yafuso headed down the corridor to examining room four. "Oh, one other thing..." Joanie called after him, as he entered the room. There, in addition to his patient, was a woman. She was also Asian, and slender, even moreso that the doctor. She was pretty, in a way more like a child than a woman.

"Sumiko." Yafuso was poker-faced.

"... your fiancee is here," Joanie finished.

"Ken, we need to talk," his fiancee said. Yafuso knew this would be nothing he wanted to hear.

"Can't it wait? I'm on duty." The doctor turned to his patient, a black man of middle age. The man's left leg was in a cast, and much of the rest of his body was badly bruised. "Hi, Willis."

"Hi, Doc. How's the leg look?"

"I'm only qualified to rate womens' legs." Yafuso gave a wry grin. Johnson gave a long, slow laugh. "Maybe you should ask Sumiko." Sumiko was not amused.

"Call me Susan," the woman said.

"I need to take you over for X-Rays. If everything's OK, you can get your cast off today."

"He was beaten?" Susan asked. "Have you notified the Police?"

"You don't get down to South Central that much, do you. Who do you think it was that beat him?"

"No I don't," Susan answered, ignoring Yafuso's last question. "And I'm quite happy about it!" She tried not to look at Johnson. "Anyway, I spoke with Dr. Saxon. Here's his card. He's head of general surgery over at Lakeview Hospital. He's sure he can get you a position there! Isn't that wonderful?"

"What about my patients here?" the doctor asked.

"Somebody will take care of them." Susan paused awkwardly, thinking of what to say next. "Ken, you're a good doctor! You don't belong here! You don't deserve to have to put up with this kind of life! And what about me? Do you think I want to get married to you, knowing that any night you might not come home? That they might call me and tell me that my husband was killed in a drive-by shooting?"

"Call me Kenichi," Yafuso said. His fiancee departed, looking somewhat irritated.

Yafuso turned back to Johnson, a little embarrassed. "I'm going to have the nurse take you over for some X-Rays."

"Aren't you taking me there yourself, Doc?" asked Johnson.

"No." The doctor gave Johnson a reassuring touch on the shoulder. "I'm staying here."

These days, Kenichi had been getting nothing but trouble from Sumiko... er, Susan. Sweet Sue, his angel, as he used to call her. He knew that she was, deep down, a kind person; but she wanted to live a life where everything went smoothly, nothing ever went wrong, a life free from trouble. An angel had to have her heaven. Kenichi wasn't ready for heaven, though. He knew that trouble happened, and you just had to deal with it at the time. Besides, the people here were his friends, and he couldn't just leave them behind.

Maybe he didn't deserve this kind of life; did anyone? And he could make it better for some of them.

Of course, there was one person who really didn't seem to belong here, Kenichi thought as he walked through the patient ward to one particular location.

"How are you today?" the doctor asked, in Japanese.

"I'm fine, Doc," the girl said. "Can I go now? Thanks for all the food. It wasn't the best, but I was sure hungry!"

"You were suffering from severe malnutrition when you were found. We had to feed you intravenously for a little while. Do you remember what you were doing before you were here?"

"A little. Kinda like a dream. I remember running around outside... there was a fight... before that, I was in a dark place..."

"And before that?"


"You don't remember anything at all?"

"Nope. I don't know where I'm from, or what I did, or even what my name is."

"When you were asleep, you said the name 'Akane' a couple of times. Do you think that could be your name?"

"Don't know. Could be. It gives me... kind of a sad feeling... to think about it."

"You may have suffered some sort of traumatic experience that made you block out your memories. Though we did find traces of some unusual drug in your bloodstream, one that we couldn't identify. That could have something to do with it. Have you been using drugs?"

"Not that I can remember."

"Oh, that's right. I forgot about that." The humor was unintentional, but the two laughed anyway. "I've got to go talk to our administrator. Don't go anywhere."


"I'm telling you, that girl's got to go!"

Ms. Grant was the clinic administrator. She was an African-American woman (she didn't like being called "black"), somewhat overweight, probably in her thirties. Her office was covered in paperwork, most of it dealing with ways to obtain funding to run the clinic. "According to your report, she's in excellent physical condition."

"Yes, physically she's in better shape than anyone else I've ever examined," the doctor said.

"Why are you keeping her here?"

"She's an amnesiac. She's lost her memory and I don't know why. Also, there are traces of some strange drug in her system that I haven't been able to identify. With some more lab tests..."

"Is she addicted to drugs now?" Grant asked pointedly.

"... No," the doctor admitted. "But she's got nowhere else to go."

"Why not turn her over to the police, or INS?"

"She may not be an alien, we don't know for sure. She might just be from Little Tokyo. She might have lost her ability to speak English due to the mental trauma she suffered. She might..." The doctor was desperately grasping for straws, and they both knew it.

"Look, Doctor, we've got people coming here who are sick. People with gunshot wounds, people who are addicted to drugs and need treatment. They might not be as cute as that girl out there, but they need our space more than she does right now. So either you get her out, or I will."

The doctor could do nothing but walk out. Ms. Grant was painfully blunt, but she did have a point. She was good at making tough decisions; that was one of the things that kept the clinic open. She was right. If Akane (or whatever her name was) hadn't been young and pretty, would he have been so concerned about her?

On the other hand, she obviously had nowhere to go. Could he just throw her out on the street? Or give her to the Police, who might just decide to lock her up somewhere out of the way?

He could ask her to stay at his place. What would she think if he offered that? How would Sumiko react? Would she think that he was trying to take advantage of this amnesiac girl?

He came to the bed the girl had been in and found it empty. She wasn't there anymore.


"Mister Hill, they're here."

"Thank you, Dana." Dana, Hill's maid who doubled as his butler, faded quietly into the kitchen. Hill walked to the living room. He wore a finely-tailored suit. His hair and moustache were immaculately groomed, though they were showing a touch of gray.

In the living room stood two men. "Gentlemen," Hill said. "Thank you for coming." As if they had had a choice; it was well-known that it was unhealthy for a member of Hill's organization to refuse one of his invitations.

"Hey, you's d' man," one of them said. His name was Burt. He had a shaved head, because he thought it made him look tough. It actually made him look like Bull from Night Court, though not nearly as tall nor muscular.

"I *am a* man. When you speak with me, you will speak English. Do you understand, Burt?" Burt thought it over, then nodded in assent.

The other man moved to take a seat. Hill shot him a glance which stopped him. He went by the name Travis; Hill wasn't sure whether this was his first or last name, and didn't much care. Travis was tall and thin, with unkempt blond hair and traces of a beard. He had a look in his eyes that could be described as psychotic. His clothes smelled after whatever it was that he smoked. The first (and last) time Hill had let him sit, the chair had had to be specially cleaned to get rid of the stench.

"Gentlemen, it has come to my attention that the two of you were physically overpowered several days ago. Furthermore, that according to you, the one who overpowered you was a young woman, who was alone and unarmed." Hill smiled grimly. "I ask myself, how could such a thing

"She knew, uhh...," Burt gestured in a way vaguely resembling a martial arts attack, "... like that Karate Kid movie."

"This is bad, gentlemen. Having my employees assaulted at random by some unknown person is bad for business. I want you two to find out everything there is to know about this girl. I want to know who she is, where she is, where she came from, what she eats for dinner. Do you understand me?"

"Tacos," Burt volunteered.

"Pardon me?"

"Uh, he means we'll get right on it, Mister Hill. Leave it to us," Travis said, as they departed.

Hill went to the phone and dialed. He didn't like dealing with people like those two, but a businessman had to do what he had to do. He was not going to leave it to them; not when there were more competent people he could call in. Before long he was going to know more about that girl than she knew about herself.


"I don't know."

It had seemed like a good idea at first.

The girl had snuck out of the clinic, leaving without saying goodbye. It was better that way; the doctor at the clinic might have tried to stop her, or at least would have wanted to know where she was going. She really hadn't known the answer to that question herself.

The doctor had mentioned a place called Little Tokyo. She figured that she ought to be able to find people there who could speak Japanese. Practicing the English phrase "Where is Little Tokyo?" until she was able to be understood saying it, eventually she was able to get people to point her to the right place.

There was a sign in the window of a restaurant. In English and Japanese it said "Help Wanted". She went in to ask for the job. It seemed like a good idea; there was a feeling somehow of deja vu, that she'd done this before. A kindly-looking middle-aged woman in a pants suit, named Mrs. Ishigaki (was she expecting someone else?) greeted her.

Yes, Mrs. Ishigaki said, the girl could have the job clearing tables, all that was needed was a little information for the records.

"Your name is?"

"Akane." Might as well use that name.

"And your family name?"

"I don't know."

"Let's see, gender: female..." That was one that the girl could have answered. How could anyone not know their own gender? "Age?" The girl just looked blankly.

This went on for quite a while, the restaurateur asking questions and the job applicant not being able to answer any of them.

"Look, Akane," Mrs. Ishigaki said, "I can't hire you officially if you don't have proof that you're eligible to work in this country. I will let you work here for a few days until we find someone else. I'll pay you in cash, and you'll need to pay me back the cost of whatever food you eat. Okay?"

"Okay." Considering the circumstances, it was the best deal she would get. "Just show me what to do."

"First we've got to get you cleaned up," the older woman said. "There's a bathroom in the back with a shower. Go and wash yourself off. Then take one of the spare uniforms back there and get out of those dirty clothes."

"Thank you." Maybe, at least for a little while, things were going to go better for her now.


(no no no no no no no no no no no no no no)

This could not be happening. It couldn't be real.

The girl had gotten in the shower. Turning the two knobs had yielded a stream of water. And then...

She wasn't a girl anymore.

Her breasts had melded into a solid, muscular chest. The rest of her body had expanded noticeably. And down there...

(turn it off turn it off hurry turn it off)

She made a frantic grab for one of the knobs and twisted it. The water changed from hot to icy cold, making her jump back in surprise. A girl once more. She didn't know how it had happened, how it could have possibly been real.

She only knew that from then on she would be staying away from hot water.


Dinnertime went without incident. The girl called Akane managed to put what had happened in the shower out of her mind and concentrate on the job at hand. She experimented, testing how many dishes she could carry at once and how quickly she could load them all into the dishwasher, until she saw how much attention this was attracting. Money was given as promised, and she left the restaurant.

Then, having nowhere to go, she just walked...


Not far away, a group of young men had gathered. They wore clothes that anyone familiar with the area would recognize as the colors of the gang known as the Dukes. The Dukes had their own 'hood; it wasn't much, just a couple of blocks, but it was theirs.

The Rascals were another gang. Earlier that day, one of the Rascals had "tagged" a building in the Dukes' 'hood; the Dukes found "Rascals" spray-painted all over the building. To them, that meant that the Rascals would be trying to move in.

Juan Carlos Ramirez was one of the Dukes. His placa, his street name, was Sparky. Sparky didn't really want to fight the Rascals. Some of them used to be his friends. But homeboys had to do what they had to do. The Dukes wouldn't be giving up any of their 'hood, not without a fight.

Sparky was crouched behind a dumpster. If the Rascals did show up, he'd be able to take some of them by surprise. Not much of an advantage, but it would have to do.

"I hear Rascals be packin' some new really big guns," Zero said. Zero was crouched down next to Sparky. He was young and had just joined the gang a little while back.

"It ain't what you got, it's what you do with it, homes," Sparky said.

"If I go down, I'm taking ten a' those motherfuckers t' hell wit' me." Zero was trying not to show how scared he was.

"Damn Skippy." Sparky lowered his voice to a whisper. "Hey, someone's coming!"

Zero raised his gun.

"Don't!" Sparky said. "It just one bitch what ain't got no colors!" But it was too late. Zero had fired.

Then all hell broke loose.


It was an ambush. The girl didn't know who these people were, or why they were attacking her. But if she had been able to remember the names of any deities that she worshipped, part of her would have thanked them just then.

She had been walking down the street when her instinct had told her to move. A gunshot came whizzing past her. The shooter was crouched behind a dumpster. The girl flipped herself up in the air, then came down, her feet impacting onto the heads of the shooter and his nearby friend.

A multitude of other gang members came from the darkened street. Shots were fired, but the girl easily dodged them. Had it always been like this? Would she always encounter this sort of violence wherever she went from now on? Perhaps it was a curse, or just her destiny.

The girl dove into the midst of her attackers, knocking them out one by one, moving so fast that they could not counterattack. Her mind was focussed on the battle. Better that than to think about her lost memories, about turning into a boy in the shower, about how she would survive from now on. Fighting was something she was good at, something she knew what to do about.

Mere minutes later, the battle was over. Gang members littered the street, having been beaten senseless. What to do now, the girl wondered.

Voices were heard from the street, in the direction that the girl had come from. She saw another group of gang members, this one with different colors from the ones she had just beaten up.

The new arrivals saw the situation. "What the fuck?!?" one of them said, as he raised a gun.

The girl knew what to do now.


"... Zero...?" a half-conscious Sparky said.

"... Yeah...?" a half-unconscious Zero answered.

"... Bitch didn't have no gun. Kicked everybody's butt. Us and them."

"... yeah..."

"... like I tol' ya, It ain't what you got, it's what you do with it."


Midnight came amidst relative peace and solitude. The girl had walked a long way after the fight with the gangs, and was now alone. She carried with her the spoils of battle: A bottle which she had taken from one of the gang members. She could use it to get drunk. That was supposed to make you feel good. Had she ever been drunk before? Not that she could remember.

The liquor in the bottle had an unpleasant taste; bitter, almost medicinal. Momentarily, there was a feeling in the girl's head, a backlash that stung harder than anything that the gang members could've done to her.

This was as good a place as any to try for a little sleep. She settled down on the deserted sidewalk.

And she thought about where she was;

And nobody here knew who she was (not even she herself);

She could die here and no one might know;

And she thought about what she might have left behind;

They must have made her leave because they didn't want her anymore;

But couldn't they have let her keep her memories?

The girl took another drink.