Alternate Dimension (Part 77)
Girl with long hair: "Where... am I? That flashing green light has knocked me out... Wait, why am I speaking perfect Japanese as if it's my native language, English ability reduced, and forgot the other languages I know? And, did someone adjusted the pitch of my hearing, or have I become a...? Saeko, is that you? I haven't seen you in months. And... who are these two other girls wearing the same outfit as me?"
Takagi's friend has woken up from sleep, but is shock at what he has been turned into. The impact of this shock seems small though. Well, if he wanted to have his identity changed completely, he wouldn't want to look like his former self and is willing to accept anything that he would be turned into. I'm also surprised that his language abilities was affected by the change too. Whether this is something that the professor or that mysterious doll has done is unknown to me as I don't have the details.
The four of us are on the way to Hatsuya's headquarters by train to have their bodies examined, and me as witness should the company not recognize them. Their staff passes were part of the white coat they were wearing, but it disappeared, as part of what they were wearing, when it morphed into the school uniforms they are wearing now.
Me: "It's a long story. They are the staff of the lab you were at, but they had been changed beyond recognition. You too as you were there when it happened."
Girl with glasses: "I swear it was that same doll we heard of from 5 years ago that did it to us. I wasn't serious when I thinking that everyone at the lab would... Hey! We're changing again! What's on earth are we turning into?!"
Before I could even reach headquarters, the three local schoolgirls had turned into a male African man in summer casual clothing, a Caucasian man in a business suit, and... a woman with mismatching clothes and wearing slippers. The rate of transformation is slower than the Mizuho uniform that, unless paid close attention to, their transformation wouldn't be noticed even as it happened out in public places.
What on earth is going on here?! There was no warning about it, and all three of them transformed at the same time, having the appearance that's nowhere close to their former selves or what they were earlier. It's like I'm suddenly with a different group of people that don't know each other.
African man: "I've never become a man before, but this is..."
At least I know the one who said that was the lab assistant.
Me: "...and that's what happened to them. They were transformed against their will."
I didn't know who to talk to about this besides the director of Hatsuya, who is also Kotomi's uncle. This was a few days after I had brought those guys in.
Kenji: "Well, their records as their original selves are still in the company's database, but there's nothing on their body that matches the genetics of their former selves, or anyone in existence around the world, like they are a completely new person each time. Based on our findings, their bodies transform about every 2 to 12 hours, into any race, gender, occupation, or age, but doesn't transform into the same combination more than once. It changes the body more extremely than the technology we have that I'm afraid there's nothing we could come up with to stop it permanently, let alone turn back to their former selves. I don't think their parents and spouses would like it."
Me: "What about the Mizuho uniform, or the machine at the lab?"
Kenji: "For the uniform, it's only a temporary solution since it just freezes the time on their body, and the next transformation would be resumed when it's taken off and be in sync with the others, but, as you know, it could only turn them into a young woman of what they were at the time they wore it, not of their original self: there's no biological record of who they were before the transformations, or what they had previously transformed into. As for using that machine, it would be pointless because they would be transformed again anyway. However, I noticed that the South-East Asian man that you rescued from the past in the summer has a very high chance of being a woman, and more likely to only have minor changes at the next transformation. The other two don't seem to have a pattern of what they turn into."
Me: "What about their clothes? Did you also try to easily identify them after each transformation without asking them questions or looking at recorded footage?"
Kenji: "Anything they were wearing or had on them at the time of transformation would be changed, and it's guaranteed that they would find themselves wearing something that you could wear in public without being stared at, and, unlike the Mizuho uniform, they could do whatever they like without restriction. Any form of identification we put on them disappears or changes at the next transformation as it's considered a part of what they wear. The only way to tell is to ask a question or make them do tasks that is unique to each one of them. Interestingly, the clothes removed after the previous transformation, but before the next, remains the same. On closer look, these clothes are just ordinary pieces of cloth, and nothing happens when other people wear it. As for their personal belongings, only their keys remains unchanged. The amount of money they have on them either remains the same, or increase, never decrease. Anything that requires identification can be of a problem as, not only are they different, it keeps changes too frequently. I'm not sure if health problems they may get disappears with the next transformation, but they are certainly not as invincible as you."
This sounds quite troublesome, and there's strangely no actual person or machine to blame at. Unless the same thing happened to a significant amount of people, people aren't going to believe it unless they saw it happening. How would anyone be able to identify them if their bodies keep changing beyond recognition by as much as 12 times a day against their will?
Chef: "Can I still work with this company since I'm seen as a completely different person with each change? I don't think any other company would even recognize me no matter how well I do."
Kenji: "I never intended to kick you out in the first place. Hisakawa here is an example of a staff like you who had something happened to themselves by external events beyond control while working, so don't worry about it. No other company would be able to recognise their staff from a different time, dimension, and so on. For now, we can't seem to find anything toxic in the lab, so it's safe to work there. As I'm a scientist, I don't have an opinion about that doll you claim to have done this to you. If you must, look for a woman named Haruna Kobayashi. She should be in year 3 of college at Mihara Academy now. Technically, she's not our staff, but a staff from an overseas branch that had the doll had his mind merged with her by that doll, while his body was killed shortly after his mind was transferred out. Or rather, his mind was transferred out just before it happened."
Haruna Kobayashi? I haven't heard that name in years. I had met her before in the other dimension, and I knew that another soul is controlling it. Well, I was controlling someone that isn't me too, but it is of a version of me there that indirectly makes it my own body. Haruna's case is of someone else in the same dimension, caused by something else.
Chef: "I don't know how others would treat me..."
About a month has passed, and further studies has shown that it's possible for at least one of them to not be changed at the same time as the others, and also not be transformed for, at most, 5 days (100 hours to be exact) since the last transformation. However, when they would be transformed next can't be predicted, and neither is there a pattern. Their transformation is in such a way that even the person sitting right next to them on public transport would not notice it, but people they were talking to would. Either way, the transformation has to happen at the top of the hour.
They observed that the amount of money on them they had is related to what they turn into: not much for student, but a lot for professional workers: they would have the same amount of money as previous if the difference is negative. As they also noticed that the amount of money they gained is related to how much they already have on them based on what they turn into, they could maximise it by simply putting all the money they have on them on a nearby table just before the next transformation, repeating again before the next one.
Unlike me, or the people of Mizuho, they never acquired new skills, way of thinking, face physical restrictions, or even know how to dress themselves (besides what they have the habit of) even though they look as if they had paid close attention to it. Of course, their behaviour might spoil the otherwise professional-looking appearance. Also, people that know them, and official records of their former selves, would not recognize their transformed selves as the same person.
It's also clearer that Takagi's friend never transforms to anything other than what you would usually describe a person from Mizuho to look like: young and elegant, corporate-like attire, and other things. It's as if he has already decided on permanently staying here as a local woman. Of course, the outfit is noticeably different from the official Mizuho ones, which itself has a large variety. His language ability has also changed from a language common in a part of South East Asia around the equator, which he's now unable to communicate in, and his non-native basic Japanese suddenly turned into an advanced native. His English ability seems to have remained the same. Since I could understand and speak a lot of languages, I didn't notice the changes until people were speaking to him differently. Then again, I don't know if his language abilities were already modified by the professor during the time he was there before the incident happened.
I think that happened because of a secret wish he had that the other two didn't have, as the professor said earlier, been influenced by anime. What he usually turns into tells me that he really wanted to be a young local girl, but undecided on what exactly. Or maybe the doll misinterpreted of a woman he wants (to have as a close partner) as a woman he wants to be (turned into). All victims by that doll, which spans many centuries, don't turn back to what they were before. I'm not sure if I'm a victim myself too.
As promised, Takagi's friend would want to work with Takagi herself at Powell, but it's impossible to do the official documents since it keeps changing too frequently, and identification on him would disappear at the same time. Even fingerprint or eye scans wouldn't work as those keep changing too. I wish I could make it easier, but the best solution in this situation, without a camera following around, is to have him to remember his staff number and answer random questions only he would be able to answer. He's likely to be stopped in staff-only areas since he doesn't have a staff pass. I added a note on his staff record to warn other staff that he can't wear a staff pass because his frequently changing body would have it to disappear when he changes. His record doesn't have a name or picture on it.
Office Lady: "Thanks for giving me the chance to work with Megumi-chan again, but I don't think she would recognize me. Your company has more serious people than at Hatsuya that seem to enforce policies too. Are you sure I can work here? I wasn't even interviewed."
Megumi is the rarely-mentioned first name of Takagi. Even Takagi herself doesn't like to hear her own given name.
Me: "I'll be okay. Besides, I founded this company and the staff can't really argue with my decisions. I'll explain your situation to Takagi with you. Any questions? I'm kind of worried of you since you left your family behind without a word."
Office Lady: "It's okay, I can take care of myself."
Me: "Really? You can treat me as an equal as you like."