Session 07: All The Warriors
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At 11:00, I heard a barrage of footsteps coming down the basement stairs. Standing up from the couch, I saw an enthusiastic Terra, a nervous Maxxie, a befuddled Zoe, and a shifty Shiaka. 

For visual reference, Zoe Xing is a very fit and tall young man, roughly 1.92 meters tall, and weighing a pretty lean 72 kilograms. As the last name should signify, his father was Chinese, and he takes after him in regards to appearance. Yet he does carry a few features, namely his hazel eyes, from his mother, who originally hailed from Ukraine. He was looking very sharp, as he often does, wearing a nice dark gray button-down and some ironed white pants. His hair was sharp and had a mild sheen from the gel he applied every morning, and his rectangular glasses fit well on his face. He had an air of maturity to him that often had people mistake him for somebody fresh out of college and ready to pounce his way up the corporate ladder. When in reality, he was only 17.

His maturity also carried over with his intelligence, as he was wise beyond his years and maintained a 4.0 out of 4.0 GPA, getting straight A’s in all of his classes. And not just because he studied, but he internalized the information and always stayed one step beyond most of his peers.

Verde: So, he’s a strapping young man named Zo-e?

No. There is a reason why I have been pronouncing Zoe so it would rhyme with Joe, foe, doe, no, so, toe, and so forth. Because that is how his name is supposed to be pronounced. His parents read the name Zoe, assumed its pronunciation, and believed that it was a male equivalent of the name Zoey, when in reality it is merely an alternate spelling. The same thing happened with my mother when she was naming me. She read the name Jad, and interpreted it as a male variant of Jade. Instead of a name that rhymes with had, sad, mad, bad, clad, pad, rad, tad, et cetera. 

Jad is technically a male name— an Arabic name at that— but most people just read Jad as Jade, just like how they read Zoe as Zoey. As victims of the same mistake, we frequently deal with situations where people read our names and assume we are female. Especially when dealing with new teachers. It just goes to show you that research is paramount when naming a child.

Verde: I love how rehearsed that explanation sounds.

Trust me. It is. Moving on…. 

Shiaka Kurokawa, that is ‘she-ah-kuh kurr-oh-kah-wah,’ by contrast, was a good foot shorter than Zoe at 1.57 meters tall, and was light enough to be picked up with relative ease at 43 kilograms. Once more, her last name implies a Japanese father, which is the case. But despite what people often thought based on her shoulder-length blonde hair and blue eyes, her mother is actually Mexican. Yes, it is completely possible, just incredibly unlikely for non-Caucasian people to have recessive genes like those. 

Lineage aside, she was a very cute young woman with an adorable face, a calming aura, and overall came across as a very innocent person who would not harm a fly. At the time, she was wearing a cream-colored sweater dress, with a white belt above the waist, and some wool navy stockings underneath it all.

Verde: She also had ‘assets’ that were a bit large given her stature…

…She has C-cup breasts, as Maxxie informed me two years ago, which are within the realm of average, just a bit large for a person as petite as her. 

Beyond her appearance, she was also a ridiculously smart person. She was home schooled from a young age, and she not only triumphed in just about anything academic, but was also a skilled programmer. So skilled that she breezed past whatever computer science classes our school had to offer and spent most of the class time making game prototypes.

Getting back to the story, Terra, who was leading the group, had changed out of their pajamas and into a bright yellow t-shirt and jeans. An outfit I read as out-of-character for her, but it all suddenly made sense once I saw her holding the VD in her hand. I assumed that Maxxie must have swapped with her sister, and remained so, which was made all but obvious once the quartet entered the basement and Terra’s body began to speak with the bravado one would expect of Maxxie.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I have brought you here today for a very special announcement! The other day Jad and I discovered this marvelous device that will surely send mankind skyrocketing into the great tomorrow! For you see, despite my appearance, I am not the Tyler Flare you may see me as. In actuality, I am truly the one, the only…” 

At the cusp of this dramatic pause, Maxxie leaned a finger over to the Go button on the VD, and after a moment of lag, began to resume speaking once more, returning to the comfort of her original body.

“Maxxisaurus Omega Flare!” She shouted at Shiaka and Zoe, both of whom looked at her with perplexed expressions. 

“…Maxxie, that transition didn’t even make sense. What were you trying to do?”

“I dunno, I was being impulsive and experimental, but this ex-pire-ment was quite the dud if I do say so myself.”

“What are you three going on about?” Zoe asked, the irritation seeping through his deeper than average voice.

“Oh, Jad and I found a body switcher yesterday, we spent the night as each other, and we invited you over to come and check it out. I mean, I figured being in each other’s skin and cloth-stuff would be a hell lot more rad than just about anything else we can diddle up and do.” Maxxie said with a straight face to our baffled friends.

“W-Wait is this a joke, or did you really…” Shiaka stammered, her voice soft and whispery.

“It’s no joke! Just give me the word and I can switch our brains with a few button presses,” Maxxie said as she waved the VD about.

“Jad, can you confirm her claims?” Zoe asked with a discernible dryness.

“Yes. I know it sounds like a load, but she is not lying. I really did spend the night in her body… Oh for— you know what I mean!” I said, embarrassed by my unintentional innuendo.

“If it is real, you would be able to exchange Zoe’s body with mine and vice versa, right?” Shiaka asked, looking up at Zoe for a brief second.

“Sure, though I guess it would be more accurate to say that your minds would get switched, not your bodies. As a warning, you may feel a bit of a jolt when I press buttons one and two.” Maxxie said before she pressed both buttons, and the two expected names lit up on the VD.

“Ah— Did, um, did you feel something, Zoe?” Shiaka asked.

“Yes, I did… Maxxie does this—” Zoe began, only to have the pressing of the Go button bring his thought to a stop.

The two then stood there for a second, their arms fell to their sides, eyes shut, mouths agape, and their bodies grew rigid. However, a mere second later, they both regained some composure. Their eyes darted around the room, heads turned, and when they turned to one another, mumbling to one another, they realized what Maxxie had done.

Verde: Before you continue, Jad, I know where this is going, and I feel as if you should change how you refer to people now that there will be far more body swapping.

What exactly are you getting at?

Verde: Quite simply, perhaps you should call Zoe, while they are in Shiaka’s body, Zoe(S), and call Shiaka in Zoe’s body Shiaka(Z).

Hm… I see your point. Otherwise, it would get pretty confusing who’s who and whatnot. I’ll do so from now on.

Now then, right as the two appeared to get their bearings, Maxxie whipped out the VD once more, and… I like the term register, so I’ll use that. She registered Shiaka(Z) and myself, quickly switching us as part of a plan that, in retrospect, was risky if only because we had not experimented with more complicated multi-body swaps like this one. Thankfully, nothing out of the expected happened. I was hit with the VD, felt a jolt, and soon lost and regained my senses while in another body. 

However, before I could even look down at my body, my attention was drawn to what was happening directly in front of me. Zoe(S) grabbing Maxxie by the shoulders, his hands shaking as he tightened a grip with his dainty fingers. 

“Maxxie, where did you get that remote?” Zoe(S) shakily asked, his meek voice struggling to sound deep..

“I dunno. Somebody named Verde made it and it was on Jad’s doorstep. I’d say it was some kind of accident, but the box had Jad’s name on it, so either they meant a different Jad Novus or this Verde figured Jad deserved a doohickey this delightful.”

As I overheard Maxxie’s explanation, I could not help but drift my attention past the piece of glass placed in front of my eyes, and toward my current body. It was notably taller than before, giving me an unfamiliar viewpoint, and with even a simple movement of my right arm, I could tell that I had far more strength than I was accustomed to. It was empowering to a sense, being able to feel such strength and stature by simply standing and performing rudimentary bodily motions. Yet right as I began thinking positively about being in Zoe’s original body, I then felt arm and leg hair brushing gingerly against the clothes I was wearing. 

You see, I really dislike body hair. For years I’ve made it a habit to shave it every few days, and I even visited an electrologist to permanently remove my facial hair. While I can, in some way, understand the visual appeal of facial hair, I have always found body hair unsightly, and generally uncomfortable to have. 

My negative views of the matter likely originate from Bryce and his awful habits of wearing revealing clothes, specifically tank tops and shots, during the summer, exposing his unmaintained bodily hair to all passersby. It is an ugly aspect of the human body to me, and one that I am hoping to rid myself of once I accumulate the savings necessary to permanently be rid of it.

Beyond the yucky body hair, Zoe’s athletic body was further constrained by the clothes he had put on today. They certainly looked good on him, accentuating the professional and mature air he had since I met him in grade school. But from the perspective of the wearer, they did not feel good. They were too tight in some places, too loose in others, and struck me as an indication that he needed to get his clothes tailored, or possibly change the size he was buying.

As I continued absentmindedly musing over my new form, I phased out from the conversation before me and only reconnected to it once I heard my name. 

“Jad, you don’t have any idea why you would receive something like this, do you?” Zoe(S) asked, talking to my original body.

“Um, I— Whoa, that’s pretty deep,” I began, getting accustomed to my more masculine voice. “I’m actually in your body at the moment, Zoe. Shiaka’s in mine.”

As I observed Zoe(S) darting his eyes around, trying to get a grip on who was who, I noticed Maxxie whipping out the VD in order to switch her and Terra’s bodies once again.

“Alright then,” Maxxie(T) said from her little sister’s body, “now everybody’s swapped, although, maybe I should rethink my order a bit. It seems like a waste to have Shiaka and Zoe here and not be in either of their bodies, but… nah. I’m fine being my little sis for another couple hours.” 

“Wait— oh my, that’s a bit… wait, your little sister?” Shiaka(J) stammered as she adjusted to speaking in a lower octave.

“Ah, right, I let the cat out of the bag, didn’t I? Yeah, on top of discovering a thing that could easily change the future and bring about a dystopia where identities are meaningless. Sweet little Tyler, or rather Terra, came out to Jad while he was rocking it in my bod, saying that she was transgender.” Maxxie(T) recounted, trying to make her little sister’s voice sound as feminine as possible near the end.

“That— That’s great for her, but not the most interesting topic at hand. Do you even know how this thing works?” Zoe(S) asked as he rubbed his hand through his blonde hair.

“No. Maxxie was pretty clueless as to how this thing worked. Do you know anything else about this, Jad?” Terra(M) asked while playing with the straps of her dress.

“I… I don’t know anything. Verde sent us a CD-ROM with a FLAC file on it. I played it, and a computerized voice explained to me that this device was a revolutionary doohickey, but little if anything substantial or meaningful beyond that, and the fact that it was called the VD.”

After hearing my limited answer, Shiaka(J) grabbed the VD, looking over the device in an attempt to understand it.

“Hm… I can’t see any sort of opening. I should be able to take it apart if I had the right tools to break the casing and examine the circuitry inside. But in doing so, we might also damage the device…” Shiaka(J) pondered as she fiddled with the VD.

“Actually, comma, I dropped it down the stairs earlier this morning, so I think it’s super durable. It’s prolly got a really thick metal casing beneath that sexy exterior. Or it’s made of Nintendium,” Maxxie(T) commented.

“Okay, so we are not sure how this remote works, but would it not have a battery that would—” Zoe(S) began before I jumped straight to the answer he was looking for.

“Right, I almost forgot to mention that. The VD should have unlimited power. So we don’t need to be concerned about getting stuck as each other or anything. We can, supposedly, swap back and forth an infinite number of times. Which is great to know, but before we go playing musical bodies or whatever, we should probably figure out what we will do with this remote going forward.” 

“Maybe we should just give it to the police, and the government can make sure the technology doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.” Terra(M) pondered as she played with the hem of her dress.

“What, and give it up forever to a legion of suits who wear gloves to hide the evil that stains their hands? I don’t think so, Missy.” Maxxie(T) responded to her sister.

“Hey, your family has a lot of connections, so couldn’t they take responsibility for this VD and figure out who this Verde woman is?” Shiaka(J) asked Maxxie(T).

“Even if we had a last name for this Verde, it could all very well be a pseudonym. And based on what you brought up, the audio clip was not of her voice. With information this limited, it would be impossible to determine who she was.” Zoe(S) said, stroking his smooth hair and tiny chin. 

“How about we put that all off until Thanksgiving, maybe even Winter Break? For now, we have something that people could only dream of, and I say we make the most of it.” Maxxie(T) said.

“What are you getting at, Maxxie?” I asked.

“Well, we all know that fifteen percent of our school doesn’t show up during the two days before Thanksgiving break, right? How about we get a little dangerous during those few days? How about we see what it’s like in a day as one another, and really get a level of friendship that’s never been seen or heard before? I mean, what could possibly go wrong?” Maxxie(T) asked the four of us.

“I don’t know. How about… everything?” Zoe(S) answered with a hefty dose of sass.

“I won’t deny that there are a lot of things that could go wrong, Zoe, but I don’t think the odds of something disastrous happening are very high,” I replied, trying to not sound rude with my current voice.

“Yeah, I guess we could lose this diddler, but that doesn’t mean that it will happen. We can just keep it somewhere outside of school and hide it behind a bunch of things. And don’t worry your cute little head about impersonations, as I can be a stick in the mud if I need to. Plus, most people prolly won’t notice. Not like any of us are social butterflies.” Maxxie(T) lectured.

“Actually, do any of you have any tests or projects due this week? Because that could be a bit of a problem. I only have some homework due this week, but I’ve already finished it.” Shiaka(J) said as she fiddled with the floppy collar of the red polo she wore.

We all looked at each other and shook our heads.

“Well then, I think that now the biggest question is who will be who tomorrow. Terra, could you be a dear and fetch us some papers and pens?” Maxxie(T) requested, assuming everybody was hunky-dory with this plan of impersonation.

“Wait, why exactly do you want to do this?” Zoe(S) asked.

“What, don’t cha think it’s cool being in somebody else’s body? Wouldn’t you want to see what it’s really like to be another person, get to know them on a more intimate level? See the world from a new point of view? Feel differences as subtle as the winter wind along your cheek to the regular shaking of new parts whenever you take a step? This could be such an eye-opening experiment where we examine the socio-environmental and physical distinctions that are held to each of oneself and… Um…” Maxxie(T) rambled, hoping her flowery language would entice Zoe(S).

“…You do have a point, Maxxie. This is a unique opportunity, and I do admit that I am curious to see the differences each of our bodies possess. There is a lot that we could learn by reflecting on this experience, and we could learn a lot, not only of ourselves. …I will have to research this further. …How did I not immediately jump to this conclusion?” Zoe(S) murmured as he began pacing about the basement.

Following Zoe’s agreement to the plan, I went to Shiaka(J), who still looked a bit unnerved by her new body.

“Hey, Shiaka, would you be comfortable with this? I mean, I know that this is a very foreign situation for you, but we’re here for you if something goes wrong.” I explained in an effort to comfort her.

“This is a really weird feeling, Jad. I can feel my heart, your heart, beating really quickly, and even that is different. But, I… I really should try new things. And you’re right. If we do… swap bodies and go to school, I will have you, Zoe, and Maxxie if things go wrong.” Shiaka(J) said, speaking in the softest voice she could manage with my original body’s vocal cords.

“Bam! That’s three down? What about you, tall guy? Any objections to a two-part school day body swap?” Maxxie(T) asked, glaring up at me.

“Of course, Maxxie. Just so long as we’re careful… Which I know is sometimes hard for you,” I answered with a slight groan.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You dropped the VD after having it for less than 24 hours…”

…Duly noted,” Maxxie(T) growled.

As we reached a mutual agreement, Terra returned to the basement with a stack of notebook paper and five pens—

Verde: You can just skim the rest of the day from this point. We have already spent quite some time going through the course of fifteen minutes… if that. Plus, the rest of the scene gets rather chaotic from here on out if I recall.

Oh, um, okay. In that case, after two hours of bickering and off-handed conversations, we came to a conclusion as to how we would handle going to school tomorrow and the day after. 

Firstly, we would prepare a series of notes about how to behave in each of our classes. We listed teacher names, general course information, and topics that we presumed would come up during the two days. The notes would also detail whatever assignment was due, our locker combination, and any kind of behavior-based tips that we could use. That would be our assignment for the rest of Sunday, while on both Monday and Tuesday we would each write a reflection about our day in each other’s body. 

Then on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we would hold a meeting wherein our reflections would be used as the basis for a discussion that Zoe pegged as lasting all day. This discussion would be recorded with the recording equipment that Maxxie bought three years ago via a fire sale. This was back when she was trying to start a podcast with the five of us, but gave up after she could not come up with a good name, as JMZST is an awful acronym. 

Maxxie, expectedly, was not a fan of the formalities she would need to abide by. But I think she was more upset that she’d need to figure out how to make a podcast… Which she wouldn’t even need to do. Shiaka would probably be the one to set all of this up. Anything tech-related is kind of her specialty. 

As for determining who would be who on a given day, we settled on the following order after about half an hour of disorganized debating. 

On Monday I will be in Shiaka’s body, Maxxie will be in my body, Zoe will be in Maxxie’s, and Shiaka will be in Zoe’s body. While Terra would sit the events out, as she did have a test that she didn’t want us, people who are seven grades above her, to take it for her. So, that’s Jad(S), Maxxie(J), Zoe(M), Shiaka(Z) for Monday. While Tuesday would have me be in Maxxie’s body once more, Maxxie would be in Zoe’s body, Zoe would be in my body, while Shiaka is in Terra’s body, and vice versa. So, that is Jad(M), Maxxie(Z), Zoe(J), Shiaka(T), and Terra(S).

This was all relatively easy to figure out… except for the Terra stuff.

Verde: Would you like to recount things verbatim?

That’s… actually a good idea. Why didn’t I think of that?

After nailing down the first day, we moved on to discussing how our bodies would be arranged during the second day. But before any of us could call dibs, we had to accommodate Terra.

“So, Terra, you feel cozy enough in that bod ‘o mine to spend a full-ass school day presenting as the one, the only, Maxxie Flare?” Maxxie(T) said, kicking off the topic.

“Well… I love you Maxxie, but we are very different people,” Terra(M) began. “You are so energetic and bright, while I… I don’t think I could handle the pressure of being you. M-Maybe eventually, but this is all so—”

“—I’ll swap with her,” Shiaka(J) said, slamming her male palms against her jeans.

“…Well, that was unexpected,” Zoe(S) added.

“Shiaka, I’m glad that you are so willing, but are you sure about this? Do you want to make it a multi-person swap or—” I asked before being cut off.

“No, I… I would like to go to school as Terra. I know that elementary schools aren’t… the most comfortable place for me, but I know that if I do this, I will be helping Terra live out a fantasy of hers. She will get to live as a girl— N-Not that she isn’t a girl, but—”

“I get what you mean, Shiaka… but are you sure about that?” Terra(M) asked, holding Shiaka(J)’s hand. “I don’t know the details, but I know that you aren’t the most… flexible person when it comes to things like that.”

“It… it’s strange being someone else. Even just being in Jad’s body, I feel a bit… scared. However, I will never get anywhere if I let my fears define me, and… I know things are safe at your school. I know that you all will come pick me up. What happened all those years ago was an anomaly and, so long as I can call upon you all, so long as you tell me everything you can, Terra, then I will be fine.”

“Shiaka… thank you,” Maxxie(T) said as she hugged Shiaka(J). 

Once this agreement was made, we began hashing out the rest of the details for day two. With our short-term plans solidified, we enjoyed a lunch that Babs prepared for us— because she’s lovely like that— and played Smash Bros. with swapping bodies every few rounds. To say it was disorientating was an understatement, hopping between different controllers, characters, and sets of hands while everyone else did the same. It made for a fun afternoon and lasted until around 17:30.

We planned to reconvene tomorrow before school, gathering in Maxxie’s car and swapping before we set out for what was sure to be a very memorable day. However, the question of who would hold onto the VD for the next few hours came up right as Zoe, Shiaka, and I were all preparing to leave.

“So, what’re we gonna do with Verde’s Doohickey?” Terra asked as she picked up the VD and looked at the four of us with confusion.

“Wait, is that what VD stands for?” Shiaka asked Maxxie and I.

“I actually… that very well may be it… regardless, that’s a good question, who should hold onto it?” I pondered.

“Rock Paper Scissors, anyone?” Maxxie asked as she cracked her knuckles. 

“Fair enough, but I trust only one of you will participate?” Zoe asked as he looked towards Terra and Maxxie.

“Yeah, best two out of three, Jad versus me, you two versus each other, and then winners against each other,” Maxxie answered Zoe, providing the necessary details.

After getting situated, Maxxie more or less threw our match. Half folding her hand and turning it into paper when I began with scissors, and switching to rock when I followed up with paper. I gave her a concerned look, but she just gave me a wink before Shiaka turned to me, apparently having beaten Zoe. I managed to beat her, thanks only to my own luck. Accordingly, Maxxie plopped the VD into my backpack.

After saying my goodbyes and putting my backpack on, I left the basement, only to immediately be pulled aside by Babs.

“Jad, can I talk to you for a minute?” Babs said as I walked through the living room..

“Sure,” I answered as I walked over to her.

“I hate to pry, but I like to cover my bases. Is anything going on with Maxxie and Terra?” 

“They, we all are, planning something, but no worries. We’ve already worked out what we needed to, and everything should be fine.” 

“So, you’re planning something? What kind of something?” Babs echoed back at me, unsatisfied with my answer.

“You… everything will be clear by the end of the month, or at least the year, don’t worry.” I answered with a vague truth.

“Alright then… have a nice night, Jad.” 

I could tell that Babs was suspicious of something, but she knew that we were all ‘good kids’ so she dropped the matter pretty quickly. With her approval, I said goodbye and walked out the door.

Verde: And… Scene!

Oh, so you don’t want me to describe how much I loved the weather outside?

Verde: No, I’d— Ah, yes, a hint of sarcasm, a true sign of your comfort with somebody. 

It was more of a self-demeaning jab to myself because I’m starting to get a bit tired of hearing myself talk so much.

Verde: Yes, I can see how that would be a problem… Changing the subject, would you have cared more for Zoe’s body if it was cleanly shaven, like a swimmer’s body?

Yeah, I guess so. I mean, being tall was novel at least, and I did see some appeal in the strength his body possessed. The glasses were pretty weird for me to wear too, though I guess you just get used to them after a while.

Verde: Would you like it more than the body of a female Zoe? A ‘Zoey’ if I may be uncreative.

I… I found being in a female body to be far more interesting than being in a male body. If that’s what you’re getting at. It’s different in so many subtle ways, and if I had to decide on whether I would spend the day in a male body or the female equivalent, I’d choose female. …Simply because it’s so new to me.

Verde: Interesting. Now then, unless you would like to discuss things further, let’s resume the recounting!