McGuffin Malls looked for all the world like the prototypical, capitalist, soulless strip mall. Dozens of stores filled the inside of the climate controlled, shoppers’ paradise. And on a typical weekend like this that meant hundreds of people walked along the impeccable tile floors ready to spend their hard-earned money on clothing, electronics, furniture, food, et cetera, et cetera.
Except it wasn’t actually a typical weekend at the typical mall. Outside, in the parking lot, shenanigans were afoot. And raccoons. Shenanigans and raccoons often went hand-in-hand after all. A situation where shenanigans were happening without raccoons would’ve been an anomaly, in fact.
A purple van with a bright green logo emblazoned on the side idled at the back of the parking lot. The “Applied Synergetics” van clearly wasn’t meant to be there. It stuck out amongst the Subarus and Fords like a sore thumb, or a thing that didn’t belong at all, or a strained metaphor. Anyone familiar with the Applied Synergetics name would likely have run for the hills upon merely seeing the van. But no one noticed it, or if they did no one did anything. There was shopping to be done instead, and that was more important.
Inside the van Ness strapped on his seatbelt and gave a thumbs up. “Alright, ready to start the test.”
“You didn’t need to buckle in, you aren’t going anywhere,” a clinical voice said from the driver’s seat. The rat rotated her seat in place to look at her two raccoon passengers. She pointed at the other raccoon and continued, “He’s the one actually doing the body swapping. You’re just pressing the buttons. Remember?”
“I know, but it feels much more serious when snapped in,” Ness shrugged.
The other raccoon, strapped into a chair with a glowing green colander on his head, gave a thumbs up of his own. “Makes you look like a proper Scientist behind the console of an ominous, body-swap machine like that, chap.”
“Thank you Geo. See Lara? Us raccoons always have the right sense of style. I’m staying strapped in,” Ness said.
“Fine,” Lara sighed. “Just start the experiment. I’m paying you two by the hour, time is money.”
The raccoons nodded in unison and Ness flipped a power button. The console lit up in front of him, illuminating the dozens of available buttons. It was a raccoon’s dream; all the shiny things available just for him to press and fiddle with. Lara’s instructions had been fairly specific: swap Geo into the mall, perform some stress-testing, bring Geo back to his body, and get the heck out. The machine could swap minds with anyone in a 40 meter radius, even if only one swapper had the Mind Switching Helmet(tm) on. This could be a huge breakthrough in body swap technology. But only if the testing went well.
Geo, for his part, didn’t seem perturbed by the ominousness of the tech. He adjusted the wires atop his colander hat before giving Ness a big smile. No turning back now. Ness wiggled his fingers over the multitude of buttons before deciding on one and mashing it with a closed fist. The colander turned a brighter shade of green, and sparks of electricity shot throughout the minivan. The remaining occupants coughed and waved away smoke.
“Ness, check on the test subject. I’ll clear out the car,” Lara commanded as she opened a window to get some fresh air.
Ness approached Geo cautiously, unsure if the tech actually worked. Geo’s head went limp, hanging forward. His hat was askew beneath the colander and his fur was slightly singed from the electric shock. In spite of all that the raccoon shook his head and looked up. When his eyes finally focused on Ness, the raccoon jolted backward in surprise.
“Who are you? What is this thing? And where did the New Navy go?” Geo asked in quick succession.
Geo blinked. Huh, that was a wild trip. One second he was sitting down in a van then the next he was standing in a department store, looking over reasonably priced sweaters. They looked vaguely similar to the one currently on his body. A purple, argyle sweater covered his torso. Black and white hands with thick digits peeked out of the end of the sleeves. Badger mitts, eh? Well that was a welcome change. Geo admired badgers, with their stout waddling and general gruff demeanor. The one part he wasn’t expecting was the change in gender.
“Interesting,” she said, in a voice that Geo didn’t recognize. That is, it belonged to whomever’s body he was now occupying. She placed both hands on her hips, swaying them back and forth to explore the general feel of this new body. Her hands landed on a pocket with a wallet inside. The license said ‘Priscilla.’ That was her name in this body. Equally interesting.
Well, as long as she was here, best to check out the clothes and pick something good to wear. Purple wasn’t really her color. She looked through the clothes and picked the best out according to her raccoonish sense of style. She was just about to check out, when a familiar style of red cap caught the badger’s eye. With a grin Geo picked it up and paid. She had no idea just how much money Priscilla had, but at least now she would come back to a pleasant surprise in her wardrobe.
Just as Geo put the hat on her body, a tingling sensation ran up her spine. Geo stopped walking, waiting to see what might happen. She wasn’t sure what the feeling of swapping to another body without the Science Colander would be. Maybe that tingling sensation was the warning signal?
Sure enough, Geo found herself looking through another set of eyes a second later. Now where was she? Looking around, Geo recognized that this was still the mall. She could tell this was still a woman’s body based on the clothes. But she needed to keep walking to avoid tripping. She’d swapped into this body mid-stride, and apparently her hand was held by someone else. Okay, stay calm Geo, look casual. Just keep walking.
She turned to look at whose hand she held. It looked like a deer. Maybe her husband? Geo noticed the ring on her finger and nodded mentally. Definitely husband then. She raised her empty hand toward her head to check for what she suspected would be there and… oh, right. Girl deer don’t have antlers. Of course.
“You swapped him again and now you can’t find him? Alright you dimwit, where was Geo last?” Lara said exasperated.
Ness bit his lip, looking at the crude blueprint of the mall on a retrofitted LCD TV with many blinking red dots. “I don’t really know. All the dots look the same. Couldn’t you have put a label on them?”
Lara scoffed. “Science doesn’t work like that, obviously. Would take years of extra work to add labels. Honestly… I’m a body swap specialist, not some sort of miracle label scientist.”
The raccoon shrugged and continued to poke the screen. The red dots turned green with each poke. After each set of two dots changed color, a green line connected them and the dots returned to red. Ness had an inkling of what was happening with each set of dots but couldn’t be 100% until he tried one more thing. He zoomed the screen out and refocused it on the parking lot. There were fewer red dots out here… but one van had 3 dots close to each other.
“Hang on, I found Geo,” Ness lied, picking two of the indicators. The air buzzed in that moment, and all of Ness’s fur stood on end. It felt as if all the molecules around him were being torn apart and put together again somewhere else entirely. But not in an unpleasant way; less Mike Teevee and more static shock from freshly dried laundry.
He shook his head and looked down at the lab coat he wore. Yup, he’d guessed correctly. Each of those dots was a person, and picking two in a row swapped them. What an easily abuseable trick to running sensitive equipment.
“Wh- No, not us! You need to find Geo!” Lara exclaimed, flailing her raccoon arms and accidentally knocking her glasses loose from the new body. “Oh shoot, help me find those… honestly you should get better frames, these come loose so easily.”
“I’ll just put us back to normal, that will solve it. I’m used to the glasses,” Ness snickered in a voice he wasn’t accustomed to. He leaned over the console and pressed the same two dots again. However, he wasn’t paying close enough attention to Lara’s movement. So when the scientist tried to stand back up and knocked Ness down, there was no stopping his finger from dragging across the screen to touch multiple dots at once.
The computer attached to the complicated body swap machinery made a ka-chunk noise and the fans inside whirred to life. It needed to decide what to swap between the 5 illuminated dots. The computer was filled with top-of-the-line technology, and programmed by near genius level scientists. But multiple dots picked at the same time? Now that was simply too much for it to handle. After a few seconds of thought multiple lines appeared between the chosen subjects, and another ZAP passed through Ness in Lara’s body.
“Ahh,” Ness sighed, rolling his shoulders and licking his lips. He placed the glasses back on his own, raccoonish muzzle. “Nice to be in a familiar snout again. You back to normal Lara?”
“Uhh,” Lara said, rubbing her snout. That didn’t sound very confident. “Not quite. Ness, how did I get in this body?”
Ness’s ears twitched. The intonation sounded familiar, but the voice saying it didn’t. “It’s a body swap thing. As usual. Is that you Vin?”
Lara picked up her tail, examining it carefully. She needed to get used to having no fur there. And the boobs, and lab goggles, and rat feet, and… most everything if she was honest. “Yeah, it’s me. I was just keeping an eye out, making sure you didn’t get into trouble. Was hiding in the back.”
Ness nodded and pushed a box labeled Science Stuff out of the way. Sitting cross legged behind it was Vin’s body, that much was clear. But the eyes that peered up at Ness looked dazed, confused, worried. “What on earth was that?” Vin asked.
Oh. Lara was out in the mall now. That could be a problem; he couldn’t expect to be paid if she was missing after all. With a sigh the raccoon walked back to his controlling console. He’d have to go into the mall himself to sort this out.
“I better bring her back. She’s how we get paid after all. And definitely not as an excuse to try this out more myself.” The smile on his face betrayed just how much he obviously hated the idea of swapping more. But if he wasn’t in the van, who could he trust to keep the swapping up? Hmm. Ness scanned the available buttons on the console until one of the words caught his eye: autopilot.
That sounded promising.
“Oh I don’t know… what do you feel like doing for dinner?” Geo asked as carefully as she could through the deer’s mouth.
Her husband stepped onto the escalator and shrugged. “Let’s do your favorite.”
Geo blinked. “Right. My favorite. Of course,” she said as she stepped on as well. An awkward silence filled the air. “…that’s salad, right?” Geo took a guess.
The deer quirked an eyebrow and let go of Geo’s hand. “What? No, takeout Chinese. Are you feeling okay honey? You’ve been acting strange ever since we passed Spencer’s Curses.”
“Everything is fine! Totally normal-”
“-honey,” the bear said, finishing Geo’s sentence. Geo shook his head, trying to adjust to the sudden change. He reached down to grope himself, and understood right away that yup, he was a guy again. He looked at the black pants, the white button up shirt, the small badge at his right breast pocket, and made an assumption: he’d turned into a guard this time. Geo ignored the sound of two deer fighting somewhere further off in the mall. That situation would probably resolve itself later.
The grizzly bear adjusted the mall security cap on his head and looked around. He saw a familiar fox wearing a letter jacket, holding a fishing pole over the water fountain. Putting on his best “serious” face Geo approached Rex and, as stern as he could manage, said, “Ahem.”
Rex turned slowly, keeping the fishing rod in the water and waved. “Hello there chap! Do you wanna join? There’s lots of room to go fishing.”
“Oh that sounds nice- wait. Ahem. No, I can’t. And you shouldn’t be doing that either, Rex. I mean, uhh, fox that I’ve never seen before.”
“…alright, sir.” Rex said, grinning slyly at the Totally Not Geo bear. “Say, you sound familiar. Do I know you from somewhere? Someone I’ve gone out with before maybe?”
The grizzly looked away and tried to hide the flush to his face. “Nope, just a regular ordinary bear! You don’t know me chap!” He couldn’t let Rex realized it was him. That fox would only tease him for enjoying such bodyswap antics. And probably directly contribute to the chaos in unpredictable ways.
Rex and Geo stared at each other… but it wasn’t in the same bodies they were speaking through a second ago. The smirk that previously graced the fox’s face now shined on the security guard. He realized with a sinking feeling that he’d swapped bodies with Rex. This wouldn’t end well.
“Oh Geo. Having some more bodyswap adventures? Glad to see I can take part in the fun,” Rex said, approaching his old body with a grin. Geo knew what would come next at this rate… and the blush on his newly foxy face showed he really wouldn’t mind much at all. The two leaned forward to start making out and-
Rex was back in his fox body, still kissing the bear. That was a new sensation. Making out with himself, only to switch bodies back at the end? Interesting feeling, but pretty nice. The fox pushed forward to continue snogging. Ness was quite confused where he’d been put inside the mall, and more confused why this fox was kissing him. Well, it’d be rude to stop kissing partway through. So the bear picked up the fox and continued their makeout as the mall descended into chaos.
Now Geo wasn’t sure where he’d been moved to either. The speed of the switches was speeding up for some reason. That didn’t leave him much time to get his bearings, no pun intended from his previous body. This time somehow he’d been moved into a photo booth, that much was clear. And the kissing expression he’d made at the water fountain was brought along for the ride. The spots on his muzzle and its shape hinted he was probably a Dalmatian at the moment. And the fellow sitting to his left looked like… another Dalmatian, maybe a twin.
The Dalmatian wasn’t making a kissing face though; he looked goofy, with a stuck out tongue. Whoops. Better adjust the face before the picture is taken- snap. Too late. Outside the booth a picture of one spotted dog trying to make out with the other would appear. That wasn’t the only picture, Geo had just a fraction of a second to try salvaging the situation. Geo’s cheeks burned red as he tried to put bunny ears up behind the other canine.
Now where was he? Another photo booth. And with another canine to boot, lucky him! Oh that other dog fellow seems pretty close-
He was making out in the photo booth right next door, as a canine, and giving bunnyears carried over from his previous body. The picture was taken and the other dog prepared to slap Geo when he realized what expression was on the picture.
Oh thank goodness he got swapped into a new body just in time. No slap for him this time. The raccoon looked down at his body to get acquainted without fear of imminent danger. There was a white tanktop on a muscular, grey body. He reached up to the head to find a hat… but not his usual hat. This one looked dark grey.
“…help, down here…“ His pants pocket squirmed as a tiny voice tried to get his attention. Geo looked into the pocket to reveal a tiny, yellow otter waving his hands over his head. When he looked down the otter stopped, huffing with annoyance at having to work that hard to get attention.
“Alkali, listen! It’s Lara! Have you seen Geo or Ness around lately? They’re all body swapping around in the mall and we need to get back to our normal bodies,” Lara said, even though she looked suspiciously like Bomba. So, he was in Alkali’s body? That explained why he was in a workout supplement store. And why his shopping cart was filled with protein and 6 packs of beer.
Geo waved down at the little otter-shaped creature in his pants pocket. “Hi Lara. Sorry, not Alkali. It’s Geo. What do we need to do to get back to normal?” he asked.
“Geo? That’s just as good as Alkali. Here’s what we have to do-”
The perspective shifted wildly this time. He wasn’t looking down into a pocket… now he was looking up and out from the inside of the pocket. He’d gone from nearly 10 feet tall down to half a foot tops. The roo towered way above and Geo had no idea who was in the body.
Not until Alkali’s face turned into a familiar smirk. “Oh, hey there little otter. Think it’s time for some foxy fun,” Rex said as he pulled open the waistband of his pants.
“NOPE, we’re done. You idiots have tested this enough, we’re not waiting to get Geo back too,” Lara said, exasperation clear in her body language as she stomped to the front of the van. She wasn’t in her body at the moment, but she wasn’t going to let that stop her. Vin’s body didn’t stomp very well; it was built more for weasel swooping and hopping.
Ness followed behind in her body. The raccoon was familiar enough with Lara’s body that it didn’t slow him down anymore, carefully keeping the lab coat close so it wouldn’t snag anything or cause him to trip. “Don’t, not yet! We still haven’t found Geo!”
“I don’t care, he can take care of himself. He’s a bodyswap expert. And we just spent the last 30 minutes playing musical chairs with everyone in the mall. Let’s see, Vin, Ness, me… three out of four people isn’t bad, let’s go. Vin, turn the machine off.”
Geo’s body, presumably with Vin inside, walked to the power outlet of the body swapping machine and pulled the cord. There would be no more swapping today. The van peeled out of the parking lot and headed straight for the Applied Synergetics lab. Lara figured they could undo all the body swaps once they were back home and safe. Geo would definitely be fine. Nothing to worry about.
They left chaotic scene behind inside the mall. People rushed through the store trying to find their original bodies, struggling to deal with the embarrassment of the awkward situations. “What do you mean we’re married? I don’t know you!” “I’m not fat, it’s just this body. I didn’t ask to go from a corgi body to a hippo!” “Have you seen my husband? He’s usually a little yellow otter, no larger than your palm but- Yes, I know everyone is in new bodies, just help me find him!”
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to everyone else chaotically running around the store, one raccoon was unable to move himself at all. At least, not without help. He squirmed slightly on the Labrador’s hips. Geo wasn’t sure how he’d ended up as underwear; that wasn’t even supposed to be possible with the bodyswaps. And yet here he was, embarrassed as hell and stuck down here. The familiar ‘zap’ of an impending body change would surely come any second now and save him from being against this canine’s package.
…yup… any second now…
Two raccoons sign up for some good ol' fashioned mad science. The body swapping, chaos causing, poorly executed kind of mad science.
This Story Includes:
This story is from last year. I've been sitting on it for a long time; finally getting to read it again like it's something fresh was a nice change of pace. <3