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Old 12-11-2016, 08:21 AM   #26
Marlow
 
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Chapter 8

The pair hiked their way out of the rocky heights and slowly worked down toward a sprawling, grassy plain. At first they could only cover a little distance each day, but as Estelle’s ankle regained some strength they began to push further.

She tried to resist tasting every little thing they came across, conscious of the weight she’d gained and eager to lose it. The resistance lasted her about halfway through the second day, when she came across a tree covered in too many varieties of equally appetizing fruit. They all deserved to be tried; she had been told to ‘appraise the situation,’ after all. Her evening meals grew larger, too, though she told herself it was to keep up her strength.

The plain stretched on for two full days of hiking. After the rocky heights, the sudden flatness was almost overwhelming.

The new terrain wasn’t without its curiosities, fortunately. The ubiquitous grass proved edible as well, with a flavor that reminded Estelle of asparagus. It was interspersed with leafy shrubs she determined to be some kind of lettuce and more occasional, lonely fruit trees. The ground underfoot had softened and Estelle realized it was the dry cake again. In the few areas clear of grass the soil was littered with small, brightly colored sticks.

“Sprinkles,” she realized, laughing. “This planet is too weird.”

It grew weirder the next day, when the plain was suddenly interrupted by a series of huge, crusty mounds.

“Some kind of glacial formation?” Starling wondered as they approached.

“Bread,” Estelle announced, chewing. “Giant loaves of bread.”

They spent the rest of the day hiking between, over, and around the loaves. The terrain had become a badland of carbohydrates, rolling with cereal of all kinds: ryes, wheats, sourdoughs. Estelle peeled back the crust of a pretzel bun when they made camp that night and buried herself in the dough; it was the most comfortable bed she’d ever experienced.

The leavened hills rose higher to the north into huge mountains. The hikers continued east, where the bread leveled out into a brief flatland of pitas before running into a wide, white river.

Starling surmised it to be a continuation of the milk-stream where they’d first made camp. They followed the river half a day downstream before finding a shallow crossing. The opposite side proved to be very different: the ground, no longer the cake-soil, was lighter in color, more cohesive, and pliable to the touch.

“Holy nebulas,” Estelle gasped, “cheese.” She shivered a little in the cool breeze blowing down from the mountains.

They gaped at the landscape ahead. Mounds and wheels of cheese rolled into the distance, criss-crossed by streams of milk. Continuing through the dairy-realm, the hikers encountered giant pads of butter and a small pool of heavy cream, near which Estelle sheepishly suggested they make camp.

The next morning, while Starling was out of earshot, she quietly asked her survival suit for another refit. It was only a temporary bloating, she assured herself. Nothing permanent.

The land opened up into rocky terrain—more hard candy, in fact—and they wandered through pillars and cairns the rest of the day. It would have looked more like a desolate wasteland if it weren’t for the bright colors and tangy flavors of each jagged formation.

The hard surface took a toll on Estelle’s ankle, however. Her pace slowed until Starling could no longer politely ignore it and she begrudgingly allowed him to set up camp for the night. She had a look around while he worked and found herself thankful they’d stopped.

Not far from camp, the path lead to the edge of a terrifying cliff. A deep gorge cut through the land like a jagged fissure, sheer walls on each side. The crack seemed to start up to the north, under the icy mountain range, and opened up to the south into what must have been an ocean. A narrow channel of water ran along the bottom of the gorge.

Estelle squinted up and down the canyon. There didn’t seem to be any ways down either wall or around it, but closer to the seacoast she could make out a web of thin, angular land bridges.

“Rock candy?” she wondered. The thought of having to climb along the brittle network taunted her imagination; she shook her head and limped back toward Starling.

The android held up a finger as she returned to the clearing. He was frozen, hand poised over the unopened auto-tent. Estelle stopped midstep, wincing as weight settled onto her bad ankle.

“I believe we may have halted prematurely,” Starling murmured. “This may not be the safest site to make camp.”

Estelle glanced around. A distant howl echoed off the mountainside like a peal of thunder, chilling her.

“It’s back?” she hissed.

“Possibly. Or this is a second such creature. It seems reasonable to estim—”

“What do we do?”

“Our best option is probably to flee, captain.”

“I’m not sure we can outrun that thing without the rover.” She lowered herself onto a boulder. “I can barely walk.”

He picked up the rifle. “Perhaps I can occupy it long enough to provide you with a head start.”

“Don’t martyr yourself for me, Starling. I’m not worth it—they only sent me because I’m expendable, anyway.”

The howl pierced the twilight again, closer.

She rubbed her forehead. “How much of a climber do you think it is?”

“Sorry?”

“This…goo-monster. Do you think he’s nimble?”

Starling frowned. “Judging from its patterns of motion in our previous encounter, it does not appear adapted for precise agility or fine motor skills.”

“Okay, then,” she sighed, nodding. “There’s a landbridge a little ways down that crosses this gorge…some kind of brittle candy. You and I might be able to climb across.”

“Can your ankle take it?”

“It’ll have to. Here, give me the gun. You take the gear.”

The last of the sun was sinking over the water when they reached the bridge. It set the rock candy sparkling with tiny rainbows under the darkening sky. The unseen monster roared again, accompanied by the sound of a falling tree.

Estelle took a deep breath and stepped out onto a strand of the bridge. The glimmering, jagged candy arched up away from the cliffside at a sharp angle, only wide enough for one of her feet at a time but close enough to other strands in the web that Estelle could reach out and steady herself.

It creaked with each tentative step and she could hear cracking from somewhere deeper in the web. She groaned and wished she hadn’t given in to so many of the delicious temptations along the hike.

Reaching the top of the arch, she paused to find her balance, arms spread. The food-baby that had become a permanent fixture of her midsection swelled silhouetted against the sunset. It gurgled and she gave it an apologetic pat.

Starling clambered up beside her. “Are you alright, captain?”

“Yeah,” she panted. “Just needed a minute.”

The bridge shook and the sound of rending spread around them. Turning back, they could see the shadow of a large blob heaving itself awkwardly along the web.

Estelle cursed. “Minute’s over. Go, Starling. Don’t wait for me.”

The android took off, moving easily. Estelle hurled herself down from the peak, scraping along the thickest strands of candy she could find as the monster roared behind her. Her ankle burned and throbbed and she found herself dragging the foot more than stepping with it.

But soon she was only a few yards from the other side and could see Starling below, collecting himself on the edge of the cliff. She reached her good leg for the final strand of candy, but it shattered on contact. She fell through the web, surrounded by twinkling powder.

Starling shot out an arm and seized her by the collar. She slammed into the cliffside and hung there a moment, stunned. The collar pulled her shirt up, exposing her softened stomach but saving her.

The android hauled her up and they rolled away from the edge. Coughing and sputtering, she pushed herself up in time to see the grey, oozing blob monster flop its way over the apex of the bridge and begin roiling down toward their side.

Estelle got up onto a knee and unslung the rifle. She loaded in a plasma cartridge and took careful aim, naked gut heaving as she got control of her breathing.

She fired a barrage into the bridge, shattering the larger strands of the web and sending powderized crystals spinning into the darkness. A rending crack traveled throughout the brittle candy and the monster fell straight through before it could reach land, roaring one last time as it plummeted into the gorge.

The rest of the bridge crackled, groaned, buckled, and finally fell apart as well. Within thirty seconds, the whole formation had fallen and nothing of the web remained.

“We appear to have found the species’ weakness,” Starling remarked, peering over the ledge. “Thousand-foot drops. We are two-for-two when dropping them off cliffs.”

Estelle sat back down and pushed the rifle away. “Okay,” she exhaled, “now I need a snack.”
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Old 12-11-2016, 10:43 PM   #27
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cute story. It reminds me of the old-timey song "Big Rock Candy Mountain."
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Old 12-13-2016, 02:15 AM   #28
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This is amazing. I love the setting, vivid descriptions, and slow build up.
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Old 12-14-2016, 06:59 PM   #29
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Chapter 9

The next day, in a particularly soft depression, they discovered a pair of narrow ruts. The ruts ran parallel across the depression, turned, and faded as they reached more solid terrain.

Estelle raised an eyebrow. “Is it me, or do these look like tire tracks?”

“I believe you’re right, captain,” Starling replied, crouching down to inspect them. “And these ridges here may show us the tread.”

“What do you think? Is it our crew? It’d be nice to have some positive news on them.”

“I prefer not to render judgments on so little data, captain, but these treads do appear consistent with those of the expedition’s rover.”

She folded her arms. “How much further?”

“It’s hard to say, not knowing the terrain ahead. But at the pace we’ve held thus far, I would estimate at least two or three more days after today.”

Estelle bent down and massaged her ankle. She ignored how the new softness on her tummy began to crease.

At the end of the following day their path led them through a rocky pass to another dropoff, apparently the wall of a huge valley. They spent the night on its rim and in the morning began their descent.

The cheese had ended abruptly, giving way to a crumbly soil—some sort of stale biscuit—and a forest of slender, scraggly trees. Their dark trunks tasted of licorice and the leaves, spread into a thick, multicolored canopy overhead, offered a kind of taffy.

More sweets greeted the hikers as they made their way down: mounds that proved to be pastries, wildflowers with gummy petals, frosting and icing that grew on the rocks like moss.

As they neared the valley floor they came to another stream, this one golden in color and moving so slowly it could barely be said to have any current.

Estelle sucked a gooey sample from her finger. “Yep. That’s honey.”

Starling frowned at it. “And not a bee in sight.”

The stream was too deep to ford with their gear, so they made camp and watched the sunset through the trees. They had seen a few glimpses of blue sky earlier in the day, but the cloud cover had since thickened. It occurred to Estelle, staring into the darkness above, that she’d been on the planet for three weeks and had rarely seen any stars.

“For all the ease and familiar tastes this place offers,” she mused, “it is a very alien planet.”

The android, pacing the perimeter with his rifle, gave her a blank look. “It is by definition alien, for we are not native to it.”

“Yeah, but…” She shifted on her bedroll. “This is why I don’t understand how they could send such an unqualified crew. How could they be ready for this?”

“You seem abnormally fixated on their qualifications.”

“So it doesn’t seem weird to you?”

“I have acknowledged the group’s atypical composition. Why do you belabor the point? It was not my place to evaluate the selection process nor its results.”

“The admiral told me they assembled the colonies’ best and brightest for this mission. I’m having trouble understanding how this group fits that description.”

“Perhaps they possessed skills and qualities beyond what is detailed in their profiles.”

“Okay, but like what?” She held the datapad up to his face. “Why wouldn’t the admiralty want relevant information like that to be front and center?”

“I would not presume to speculate on the admirals’ minds.”

She threw up her hands. “I’ll speculate. I think their minds are messed up. As far as they were concerned, this mission was to determine the fate of the colonies. Humanity’s future was at stake, Starling, as far as anyone knew. And in the face of destiny, with all that on the line, they sent one barely qualified man and four very unqualified, very beautiful young women.”

The android stopped his march and glanced sidelong at her.

“I think that’s kind of weird, Starling.”

He resumed pacing. “They also sent me.”

“And programmed you to nod off as soon as the crew landed. Come on. No plan is this terrible by accident.”

They followed the river of honey for much of the next morning. They decided to follow it downstream to avoid the steep terrain further up, but found that it only widened and deepened until finally opening up into a broad, glistening lake.

Estelle threw up her hands, livid at the idea of having to backtrack. Her ankle throbbed, still feeling the effects of yesterday’s downhill march.

Starling set down his gear. “On the positive side, captain, if my estimates are correct, we are not far from our destination. The landing site should be on the other side of this lake.” He squinted into the distance, at a dome-shaped hill. “We have only to find a way across.”

“Do you think we could go around?”

“It would mean another day of walking.”

“Nebulas.” She sighed and kicked at the crumbly ground. Her foot struck something and she bent down to check it. “Hey…more tire tracks.”

Starling hurried over. “Yes, and seemingly fresher. Curious…they lead straight down toward the shore, right at the mouth of the river…”

“…and disappear,” Estelle concluded. She followed the tracks down and wandered the shoreline; there was a wide area that had been flattened down where the tracks ended.

“Captain,” called the android behind her. He held up a rope, one end tied to a nearby tree and the other disappearing under the surface of the river.

Estelle folded her arms. “Hm. Uh, give it a pull.”

He hauled on it and it sprung up out of the river. It stretched all the way to the other shore, where something in the bushes shifted. He pulled again, more forcefully, and a large raft slid out of the bushes and onto the honey.

The raft was made from cannibalized metal panels and thermal tiles. It was remarkably wide, with high walls, presumably intended to ferry the rover.

“Impressive,” said Estelle, picking up her gear. “Well, this has to be a good sign.”

They took the raft back across and found more tire tracks on the far side. The ruts lead up toward the hill they’d seen and looked well-worn. They soon encountered more tracks, crossing in several directions, and it became clear to Estelle and Starling that they had found their convergence point.

They emerged into a clearing. At the center, in a neat ring, stood five metal cylinders, each with a colored hatch and a small window. A pile of mangled machinery lay within the ring.

Beyond the ring were stacks of supply crates and what looked to be a storage container. Behind that, at the base of the huge hill, they found the expedition’s rover.

“Hello, there,” Estelle cooed. She looked up at the hill. It was smooth and uncovered, not made of the dirt at their feet but something smoother…jigglier.

She dug out a handful and tasted it. Starling shook his head.

“Cheesecake?” she wondered, chewing. “Ah, what’s this here?”

Starling followed her gaze to a hole in the side of the hill, four or five feet across and just tall enough to stand in. “A cave?”

Estelle nodded, sighing. “Well, I suppose we’d better go in.”

It was the entrance to a long tunnel, leading deep into the hill. Its walls were fairly smooth and the floor solid, packed down by repeated foot traffic. An array of dim lights was strung along the ceiling.

“Think anybody’s home?” Estelle whispered. “They left the lights on for us.”

“Or it was too late to turn them off.”

“Thanks for that encouraging thought. Okay, here we go.”

They emerged into a large, high-ceilinged cavern. The lights here were off, but the glow from the tunnel spilled in enough to show dim shapes. There was some rudimentary furniture, including desks and chairs and countertops, and a few deactivated viewscreens mounted to the walls. A row of footlockers divided the room in half and on the far side of it Estelle could make out four bulky mounds covered in sheets.

“There’s no one here,” Starling observed. “Perhaps they have gone out for the day. Or—”

“No,” Estelle murmured. “They’re right here.” She tiptoed around the footlockers toward the sheet-covered mounds. They were not mounds, she’d realized, but bodies: four obese, rotund bodies, slumbering peacefully on the floor.
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Old 12-18-2016, 11:32 PM   #30
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Chapter 10

Starling located a control panel and brought the cavern’s lights up to a gentle glow. Estelle paced around the unconscious explorers, hands on her hips.

One slept slouched against the wall; the flabby blonde was barely recognizable as Selena, the crew’s cartographer and purported commander. Nearby lay the geologist and the engineer, Hoshi’s head resting happily on the enormous pillow that Ayla’s abdomen had become. Behind them Estelle found the biologist. Hester slept face down, her bright red hair splayed out in a tangled mess.

“It’s them, alright,” Estelle whispered. “Commander Jolan…Ms. Roderick…Ms. Alani…Dr. Irving…” She glanced around again with a frown. “No Hyllus, though.”

“Perhaps the professor is on watch,” Starling offered.

“Then he’s a shitty watchman.” She folded her arms. “Look at them, Starling. They’re…huge. I mean, I get putting on some weight…two years trapped on a planet full of food, but seriously…don’t they have any self-control?”

The android cocked an eyebrow. Estelle grimaced and shifted her suit’s waistline to better cover her own little gut.

Curious, she bent down next to Selena. “Well, she still has her bio-pak on. Let’s see here…”

“Subject is in good health,” the monitor reported. “441 pounds—”

Estelle rushed to mute it, eyes wide. She sat there frozen for a moment, but the big woman slumbered on.

Estelle slid away, mouthing an amazed “four forty-one!?” at Starling.

She left Selena to her snoring and checked the others. Ayla’s monitor announced her at 346 and Hoshi’s put her at 395. Hester, however, though quite plump, looked about half as large as the others.

“Subject in good health. 228 pounds, body mass: fort—”

The red hair shifted. “Huh? Wh…whatsat?”

Estelle sprang to her feet. Hester rolled over, saw her, and scrambled back against the wall in terror.

“Holy nebulas,” the doctor hissed, her chest heaving. It was an impressive chest—she may not have gained as much weight as her peers, but much of what she had gained had found its way to her bosom. “Selena! Co-co-commander…Selena, hey!”

“It’s okay, I…we…” Estelle stammered, palms spread. “Uh, Starling, maybe put down the rifle.”

“Ah. Of course. My apologies, captain.”

The commander groaned from her corner, pushing hair from her face. “Hester, not yet…so early. So hungover.”

Estelle looked at Starling, who shrugged.

“Selena, seriously,” Hester pleaded. “You might want…there’s someone here, eh?”

The blonde opened an eye. It caught sight of the intruders and both shot wide open.

Estelle smiled. “Hi.”

“Holy nebulas.”

“Yep.”

“What’s going on?” grumbled the engineer, lifting her head off Ayla’s stomach. Ayla peered over in groggy confusion.

Selena tugged up on her bedsheet. “Starling? And you…who are you? What is this?”

“I’m Captain Gorlois, from New Kansas,” Estelle replied calmly, spreading her palms. “You can call me Estelle. I’m sorry for waking you up, but, ah, the admiralty sent me here to find you folks and take you home.”

They gaped at her. Hoshi and Ayla heaved themselves up onto their elbows.

Estelle nodded to herself. “I’d say we have a lot to…talk about.”

“I reckon, yeah,” Selena agreed. Clutching the bedsheet tight, she reached her free hand toward a nearby console. “Could you back up a step?”

“Right, sure. Sorry. Didn’t mean to barge in on your, uh, sleeping area.” Estelle backtracked to the other side of the row of footlockers.

Selena pressed a key on the console. “Perfect.”

Something clunked overhead. Estelle looked up in time to see a wire-frame cage fall down on her from the ceiling. Its edges embedded themselves about a foot into the cheesecake floor, anchoring it and trapping Estelle firmly inside.

She pulled at the wires. They were thin, but strong enough. “Okay, really?” She shook her head and turned to the android, who stood just outside. “Wanna pull this open?”

“Belay that, Starling,” Selena commanded, standing. “I’m still in command of this expedition.”

Starling shrank back from the cage, giving Estelle a remorseful glance. “I apologize, captain. I am programmed to prioritize—”

“I get it, Starling,” she grumbled.

“I’m not sure what surprises me more,” Hoshi remarked, “that fact that the cage actually worked or the fact that we actually got to use it.”

Selena cleared her throat. “Get dressed, ladies. Hester, you might as well get breakfast started, since we’re up. And then our guest is going to explain herself.”

Estelle leaned against the wires, her muffin-top squeezing into the open spaces. “Y’all have been stuck here alone for two years and when somebody finally visits you drop a cage on her? Somebody trying to rescue you, no less…”

“We aren’t big on trust, ‘captain.’ Not anymore. And we aren’t big on the idea of going home, either.” She gestured for her crew to get moving.

Estelle sighed. “You’re plenty big otherwise,” she grumbled under her breath.

She spent the next several minutes glaring at the four explorers as they got cleaned up and dressed. It was a bizarre sight, full of groaning and yawning and more wobbling flesh than she’d ever expected to see in one lifetime.

She watched Hester pull on her green survival suit. The biologist’s swollen chest seemed to take up the whole of the suit’s top, leaving her midriff uncovered. Her pale, freckled beer gut jutted out over her waistline, rounded and bouncing. Though constrained by the suit, her breasts swung and heaved as she walked.

Hoshi, the engineer, only wore the top half of her suit. She was a bottom-heavy woman and her torso had not expanded so much as it had merely softened. From the waist down, however, her girth filled out an orange skirt—Estelle recognized the material as the parachute from a landing pod. It was a simple wrap that hung open on one side, showing off the cellulite-covered thickness of Hoshi’s thighs. Her hips constantly brushed against anything or anyone she passed.

Ayla, on the other hand, wore only the bottom half of her suit. Even then she had reduced those pants to low-riding capris, likely because so much fabric had to be devoted to containing her enormous rear. As far backward as her butt jutted, her stomach poked just as far forward, barely covered by a shiny foil crop-top. Unlike the others, she appeared to have retained some modicum of muscle mass. It was evident in her shoulders and thighs, but remained generally hidden elsewhere by flab.

Selena, though, had abandoned her survival suit entirely. All her weight seemed devoted to width: wide thighs, wide hips, wide flanks, wide breasts, and at least as much fat devoted to her lovehandles as to her paunch. She draped a short tunic over herself, which did so little to cover or restrain her girth that it seemed hardly more than a proprietary formality. She belted the tunic at her waist with a length of cable and her rolls flopped happily out from the sides.

To Estelle, the commander seemed shamelessly massive. Selena’s whole body heaved with her every movement. It made Estelle conscious of her own weight and she felt her comparatively little stomach tighten.

They all giggled to one another. They were all but oozing out of their outgrown garments and not one of them seemed the least embarrassed or apologetic.

They cleared the middle of the room of its furniture and laid out a broad tarp. Hester opened a large supply crate in the back and began rummaging inside. Selena nodded to Ayla, who picked up the abandoned rifle.

“You even know how to use that?” asked Estelle.

“Maybe I’m just a geologist to you,” Ayla retorted, aiming at her, “but there’s plenty you don’t know about me.”

“I know enough, Ms. Roderick. I know you’re not really a geologist. That’s right, I know you’re fake; I know you’re all fakes.” She glared around at them.

Selena waddled up to the cage. “And you’re fake, too, aren’t you, mate?” She looked Estelle up and down. “You said the admiralty sent you…but there’s no way you’re a naval officer.”

“I’m not with the fleet. But I am a captain, I do have a ship, and I am here to rescue you, you idiots.”

“But we’re not here to be rescued, ‘captain.’ And why would the admiralty send a lone civilian pilot all the way here for us? Better yet: why would she go?”

Estelle stared her down.

“She’s a criminal, commander,” Starling replied, “convicted and hoping to have her sentence commuted.”

Selena raised an eyebrow. “A criminal. What was her crime, Starling?”

“Unlawful trafficking.”

“Interesting. And now she wants to traffic us, ay? Well, we’re tired of being cargo.” She gave the cage a shake. The motion ended up shaking her body far more. “Looks like your sentence has been commuted after all, captain…to here.”
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Old 12-19-2016, 08:59 AM   #31
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Great new chapter. I like that you are emphasizing different body shapes. Your bits of humor also work well.
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Old 12-20-2016, 09:57 AM   #32
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This is truly amazing
I'm already a huge fan of this story and can't WEIGHT(lol) to see more The description of the planet made me think of Charlie and the chocolate factory
As a french, not problem at all for reading this amazing work of you again
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Old 12-21-2016, 09:14 PM   #33
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Glad you're enjoying! Thanks for the feedback.




Chapter 11

Estelle slumped against the wall of her cage, watching the four explorers waddle about the cavern. They had brought out a broad table and were clearing it for their breakfast.

Starling stood patiently next to the cage. “I am certain they will release you shortly, captain. I am unable to speak falsehoods and can corroborate your account and purpose here.”

“They’re so fat,” Estelle whispered, glaring. “They don’t look ashamed of it at all, either. Like they haven’t even noticed.”

The android gave her an uncertain glance. “Perhaps they have simply grown too accustomed to it. Given how long they have seen no one but one another, it is easy to see how the novelty might diminish.”

“They almost seem to like it.” She scrunched her face in disgust. “There’s something wrong with them. You noticed nobody’s mentioned Hyllus? Nebulas…I wonder if they ate him.”

“Such a barbaric act would be decidedly out of character.”

“I was joking. But seriously—is it in their character to triple their weight in two years?”

“I think the bigger concern is how physiologically unprecedented…” He looked at Estelle, who had sat down in a huff. “Captain, you seem quite distressed by their obesity.”

She spread her hands. “Well, it’s distressing.”

“Their mission’s sole purpose was the search for food. We shouldn’t be upset with them for succeeding.”

Estelle frowned at the enormous women. “Oh, they’ve succeeded plenty. But they’ve kept the success all to themselves, Starling. As far as they know, all their home colonies are still starving to death while they sit here stuffing their faces.” She folded her arms. “They’ve spent two years on a planet full of food—made of food, maybe—and haven’t fired up their beacon to call home with the good news. Something’s wrong here, man.”

“I’m sure there’s more to their story, as there is to yours.”

Hester re-entered the cavern from a side tunnel, pushing a wheeled cart. She brought it alongside the table and served out a series of platters piled high with some of the planet’s curious delicacies: the succulent orchard fruit, hunks of the dairyland’s cheese, and slices of the bread hills. Each place setting received a tall glass of the creamy river milk and a small plate with a wobbling, richly-colored cube—a piece of the cavern wall, probably.

The other women rolled four makeshift benches over to the table, complimenting Hester on her work. At the sight of the food and the prospect of breakfast, it seemed their prisoner had been forgotten.

Estelle gaped at the spread. Each meal looked like enough food for at least a day. She noticed, though, an irritating pang of hunger in her own gut.

“Look, ladies,” she ventured once they’d sat, “everything I’ve said is true. Just ask Starling: I’m here to help. You don’t want to be rescued, fine, but don’t…I mean, I’m not here to hurt anyone, if that’s what you think.”

Selena glowered at her. “Sure, you’re here to avoid prison.”

“I could’ve stayed in prison. Would’ve meant a lot less time stuck in stupid cryo-sleep and a lot less running from blob-monsters.” She pressed her palms to the cage bars. “I came because I thought I could help. I want to get the four of you home.”

“Five,” Starling corrected. “We mustn’t forget Professor Hyllus.”

“He’s already forgotten, Starling. Hyllus is gone.” She glanced around at the explorers—a couple had frozen mid-forkful. “Yeah. Four bedrolls in the sleeping area. Four chairs for the table. Nobody’s mentioned him. Plus, everyone went white when you said his name. He’s long gone, isn’t he, ladies?”

Selena set down her milk. “He’s dead,” she said flatly.

“A squirmer killed him,” Hester murmured.

“Squirmer,” echoed Estelle, raising an eyebrow. “Big grey oozy things, partial to smacking people around?”

“Vicious fiends,” Ayla growled.

Estelle looked at Starling. “Yeah, I think we met one or two on the way here.”

“They came off as decidedly unfriendly,” the android added.

Selena shifted in her seat. “Where? Not here in the valley?”

Estelle scratched her head. “Uh, no, kinda between the big orchard forest and the plains. There was a waterfall of, um, milk.” She shrugged. “We…pushed the first one off a cliff. And dropped the other one into a gorge.”

“You’re lucky to be alive.”

“So are you, if you’ve have been dodging those things for two years.”

The cartographer nodded. “We found a way to keep them out of the valley. It’s safe down here.”

“Well, good. That really, ah…” She put her hands on her hips and looked away. “So you’ve got a little slice of heaven carved out for yourselves, huh?”

Selena studied her. “We’re happy here. I’m sorry for the harsh welcome, captain. It’s just that we’ve…had to move on from home.”

“Sounds like it. Well, full disclosure, most of home has moved on from you. Scarcity’s over; the political landscape is all different. They care about you so much that they sent a convict all by herself to come get you…now they’re rid of both of us and never had to risk admiralty resources.”

They looked at each other for half a minute. Selena finished her milk, grimaced, and finally leaned across the table. “Ayla, go on and let her out. Hester, can you fix her up some breakfast? We’ll give our first ever guest a proper welcome this time.”

Estelle was released from the cage and ushered to the table. Ayla pushed a footlocker over for her to sit on. Estelle noticed that the other benches were equally crude, mostly crates and spare equipment jury-rigged into makeshift chairs.

“Sorry about the furniture,” said Hoshi, moving dishes around. “We landed with a full set of chairs and things, but they, uh, weren’t quite strong enough.”

“Right.” Estelle gaped as Hester set the various dishes in front of her; the same excessive amount of food she’d served the others. “That’s…that’s more than enough, thanks.”

“You said the scarcity’s over?” asked the redhead, sitting down next to her. “No more hunger back home?”

Estelle gave the food a tentative taste. She chewed for a few moments, then plunged in for a bigger helping. “It’s not perfect,” she said between bites, “but yeah, the crisis is done. Colonies are gonna survive.”

Hoshi returned to her bench. “What happened? How did they find food without our expedition coming through?”

“Well…look, I’m gonna be honest, and I’m sorry. Your mission was over almost before it started.” She tried the milk—heavy and creamy indeed. “Right after you left, the fleet made contact with a federation of colonies a couple systems over. They’re better established and have an amazing supply network. Our folks signed a quick accord, made an alliance, and now there are plenty of rations for everybody.”

They stared at her.

Estelle stifled a sudden belch. “Well, maybe ‘plenty’ isn’t the right word. There’re still rations. And they still kinda suck. But there are enough, now. The starvation stopped.”

Hester pouted. “So they probably don’t miss us at all. Our whole project was a waste.”

“The expedition was obsolete before you even got here. It was a P.R. stunt if it was anything, just buying time until our new neighbors bailed us out. I’m sorry.”

“Not surprised,” Selena growled. “Agh. You know, until we got here, I actually believed we had some purpose. Whether we were heroes or martyrs or whatever, I thought we were doing something great.”

“We all did,” said Ayla.

Estelle wiped her juice-covered lips. “Until you got here? What happened?”

Selena looked at her. “Everything fell apart. We’d barely been here a month before we knew it was all over…totally knackered.” She folded her hands atop her huge stomach. “More milk?”
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Old 12-28-2016, 08:37 PM   #34
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Chapter 12

Estelle’s eyes fluttered open. She lifted her head with a sharp breath and wiped her mouth.

Blinking groggily in the soft cavern light, it occurred to her that she’d somehow managed to doze off. There was a strange, throbbing pressure behind her eyes, her throat tingled with mild heartburn, and her stomach, she realized in horror, was stretched taut. It was so thoroughly bloated that her muffin-top seemed to have lost its softness.

The other women were gone, along with Starling. The table had been cleared and the wheeled cart was stacked with a shocking number of used dishes—Estelle noted that they had very few scraps left on them.

“Oof,” she said, pressing a hand to her abdomen. “Quite a breakfast…”

Hester leaned in from behind her, her red curls filling Estelle’s vision. “Aha, hi there,” she giggled. “She’s alive at last, eh?”

Estelle rubbed her temples. “Yeah, guess I nodded off. Ugh. Sorry.”

“Not a problem.” Hester laughed and patted her pot-belly. “Trust me, we’re familiar with food comas. You’ll get used to it.”

“Hopefully not,” Estelle grunted, eying Hester’s exposed midsection. “Well, thanks for not just throwing me back in the cage or something.”

“Nah. And we’re all pretty sorry about that, eh? It’s been a weird time here with everything that’s happened and Selena’s all about caution. But don’t you worry, captain, I’m all about hospitality.” The doctor puffed out her impressive chest. “So, the android said you might like a tour. Want to have a look around?”

Estelle stared stupidly. The pressure in her stomach was distracting. “Uh, yeah, alright. Lead on.”

With a delighted smile, Hester reached out a hand to help her up. Estelle steadied herself on her feet and looked around the cavern.

“Just us, huh?”

“For the moment,” the redhead replied, heading across the chamber. “After breakfast the others have a handful of chores to get through. Keeps things running.”

“You don’t have chores?”

“Breakfast is my chore. See, I generally do the cooking and serving. Everyone decided that I put the best meals together.” She lowered her voice and leaned in toward Estelle. “Plus, I’m usually more interested in feeding others than feeding myself.”

Estelle cocked an eyebrow. Hester’s naked, bouncing gut seemed to belie her statement, but there was no denying the substantial gap between her weight and the others’.

“Anyway, as you’ve seen, this is our humble home. Safe shelter for sleeping, eating, lounging around, more eating, whatever.”

“Has this been home the whole time? Pretty convenient to find a cave right next to your landing site.”

Hester headed into the entrance tunnel. “We didn’t move in right away, not really,” she recalled. She pinched off a piece of the cheesecake wall and popped it in her mouth. “The cave wasn’t naturally this big or elaborate. We’ve…expanded it over time.”

“Uh huh.”

“Anyway, Hoshi’s been great. She was able to rig up lights, water, everything. Luckily there was plenty of equipment for her to repurpose.”

“Very impressive. Can’t say I ever imagined living inside a cheesecake. Is…is everything on this planet really edible?”

They emerged outside into the daylight of the clearing. The noon sun, filtered through a thin layer of cloud, gleamed off the ring of landing pods. A gentle breeze freshened the air. Hester breathed deep—pushing out her chest and belly—and turned to Estelle with a smile.

“Yep. At least, we haven’t found anything yet that isn’t. I’ve tested samples everywhere we’ve explored (and tasted, for that matter)…all the solid and liquid matter on this planet is safe for human consumption.” She walked out into the clearing. “More than just safe to eat, too. It’s all flavorful and nourishing and organic…”

Estelle followed her out. “And familiar. Recognizable as common human cuisine.”

“But how?” asked a voice. Starling appeared out of the woods, carrying a crate.

Hester shrugged.

“How is it even possible?” he wondered, setting down his burden and joining them.

“No idea. Kinda stopped asking after a while. But here, come this way. There’s more to see.” She shuffled off around the mound of cheesecake.

“Doesn’t make sense,” Estelle murmured, following.

“I agree,” pouted the android. “An entire planet with no evidence of animal inhabitation is somehow composed entirely of constantly-renewed, complex substances identical to an animalian diet. Not to mention many substances which are either only produced by animals, or at the very least do not exist unless combined by animals for the express purpose of consumption.”

“Have you tested the milk, Hester? Is it cow’s?”

“Resembles it, yeah. But we’ve also found some pools of goat milk, coconut milk, almond milk…but to Starling’s point, you’re right. Haven’t seen a single cow.” She gestured to the lake of honey and added, “…or bee.”

“So where does it come from, Doctor?” Starling pressed. “Does it rain milk and honey?”

“Er, no. It actually never rains here. In our two years there’s been no precipitation at all—the clouds up there are permanent.” They reached the far side of the mound and entered another, smaller clearing. A large storage pod sat in the center. “From what we can tell, everything comes from the ground, or under it. For example, we’ve traced the milk to a spring up in the mountains.”

“A spring.”

“Yep. Just gushes up. The honey river comes out of a cave in the hard candy heights…haven’t gotten too deep in there yet. Too sticky.”

They made their way to the pod. Hester pulled a lever and the walls lowered, revealing a circular seating basket rigged to a tall, white observation balloon.

Hester opened the railed side door and bowed. “All aboard, friends. Let’s take a look around.”

The balloon rose slowly above the clearing and up from behind the cheesecake mound. It was tethered to its landing pad by a spool of cable; the tether kept them within the valley as the breeze pushed them gently toward the eastern wall.

“So, here’s the valley,” Hester explained, smiling down at it. “Great shelter. There’s a sheer stony ridge along the rim that’s only broken in a handful of places. You came through one of the widest passageways…I figure it was that one to the west.”

Estelle squinted. “Yeah, that looks right. It was some kind of…licorice forest.”

“Oh, yeah. Selena loves going up there. Anyway, you saw everything to the west, then. You can see the mountains north of there, which you probably avoided. They’re mostly hard candy, like I said, and frozen this time of year, but there’s some grottos with gelatin and pudding and…mm.”

She turned and locked the unspooling cable. They’d reached a dizzying height above the valley floor and could see a few miles beyond the ridge Hester had pointed out.

“To the south we have the honey lake, which you saw. Flows further down the valley toward the ocean. But on the other side you’ll see some more interesting terrain.”

“Looks like a bunch of bowls.”

“Pretty much. They’re all independently spring-fed.”

“Spring-fed with what?”

“Uh, beverages. Each one is full of something different.” She looked at the sky and counted on her fingers. “Water, different kinds of juices, lemonades, a bunch of different sodas…”

“Sodas?” Starling echoed. “Now we are talking about a substance whose creation requires not only human involvement, but technological involvement.”

Hester nodded. “There’s beer, too…and wine, and little streams of harder stuff…”

“Unbelievable,” Estelle whispered.

“Right? And you haven’t even looked east yet. Here, I’ll show you unbelievable.” She spooled out more cable, allowing them to drift almost out over the eastern ridge. The low ceiling of cloud whirled overhead.

Beyond the ridge, the land sloped into a low, flattened plain. Estelle squinted at it, blinking in confusion. Lying all over the plain, often piled up into hills or half-buried alone in the whitish earth, were many of the same foods she’d seen elsewhere on the planet—fruits, candies, and various delicacies—but they seemed much closer than they should have from such a height.

Hester watched with a smug grin as Estelle’s eyes widened.

“Holy nebulas,” the smuggler breathed. “They must be enormous.”

Hester nodded. “That chocolate bar there is as long as our rover. And that apple, just beyond that, yeah, is the size of a small house. Talk about portion sizes, eh?”

Estelle’s stomach, to her horror, rumbled softly.

“That plain stretches on for a couple hundred miles. And it’s packed with that big stuff from end to end.”

“All individual items?” Starling asked. “Very interesting. Elsewhere much of the food seems to be born in large masses—landforms or bodies of water—but up there everything is a self-contained and discrete object. Why?”

“It’s a weird planet. We sailed to an island last year that had all this sort of stuff, but super small…dollhouse-sized food.” The redhead shrugged. “I wish I could explain it. Everywhere we go, it’s different, except for one thing: it’s all delicious and there’s no end to it.”

Estelle propped her elbows on the railing. “Mission accomplished,” she muttered.

Hester heaved up on a lever and the balloon began winching its way down the cable. The field of giant food disappeared behind the ridge as they descended back into the valley.

“Mission accomplished,” the redhead agreed. “So you can see why we’re not super interested in being rescued.”
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Old 01-01-2017, 05:13 PM   #35
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Chapter 13

The balloon touched down. Estelle and Starling stepped out while Hester packed it away in its housing.

“I believe I understand their sentiment,” said the android, once they were out of earshot. “The way Doctor Irving has presented it, they do seem to have carved out a small-scale utopia for themselves.”

Estelle glared at the ground. “How is this a utopia? They’re marooned on a weird alien planet, living in a cave, running from ooze-monsters, with nothing to do but eat themselves to death.”

“Perhaps, but consider the liberation, captain. They are removed from the stresses and expectations of their old lives.”

Estelle shook her head. “Abandoning responsibility isn’t the same as being freed from it.”

She frowned through the rest of the tour, unwilling to be impressed. Hester showed them the whole compound with the cheeriness of a proud homeowner and lovingly introduced every makeshift amenity. The expedition had dug—or perhaps, Estelle grumbled, simply eaten—a series of tunnels underneath the cheesecake dome, with quarters for washing and storage and other services.

Although Estelle had found the women all slumbering in the common room, they apparently each had their own private chambers. Hester’s featured a small medical lab, Selena’s several tables laid out with charts, Ayla’s chemical and geological testing stations, and Hoshi’s a pile of scrap metal, wiring, and power tools.

“We can carve you out a room, too,” Hester offered, leading them back to the common room. “Would only take a few extra helpings of desserts, eh?” She tapped Estelle’s stomach.

Estelle cringed. “That’s okay. I’m not planning on…staying.”

“Maybe we’ll carve it out anyway. Hard to say no to extra dessert.” She jiggled mischievously. “Anyway, here’s the master control station.”

They followed her to an array of computer monitors on the far end. The spread took up half the wall, with a dozen viewscreens showing the various entrances to the compound and views of the valley wall.

Starling squinted at one of the monitors. It showed a stretch of the ridge above the honey-creek, the same pass that had led them into the valley.

“Hey,” Estelle remarked, recognizing it, “that’s where we came through.”

He nodded. “What are the blue lights on either side of the pass? I don’t recall seeing those.”

Hester smirked. “Those are our bug-zappers. Keeps the squirmers from getting through…we have them at every entrance to the valley.”

“They can’t just go over the ridge or something?”

“If they can, they haven’t figured it out yet. I don’t think they’re great at climbing. Don’t seem to like swimming, either, so they basically can’t get in here as long as the zappers are on.”

Estelle folded her arms. “Handy.”

“Yep. Keeps our little slice of paradise, well, a paradise. Wouldn’t be quite so much fun if it were crawling with monsters, eh?”

“Probably not. So these ‘squrimers’…what’s the deal? Figure they’re your area, miss biologist.”

“I suppose. Not much data to go on, but we’ve studied what we can.” She thought for a moment, pudgy cheeks dimpling. “Haven’t been any dead ones to autopsy. What we do know we learned from chunks we’ve blasted off, and those disintegrate within a couple hours. But, from what I can tell, they’re prokaryotic…basically giant microbes.”

“Like amoebas?”

“Sort of. Except overdeveloped and, uh, overgrown.” She absently scratched her own overdeveloped and overgrown stomach. “Haven’t figured out how, yet.”

“And they don’t seem to like visitors.”

“Nope. I figure this planet has a very short, simple food chain, and they prefer to be on top.”

Starling pondered the viewscreens. “So with a monitor on this pass, you would have seen us arrive yesterday, no?”

“Well, no,” the redhead admitted with a chuckle. “The cameras did, but we weren’t watching them. Got kind of distracted by the beer last night.”

Estelle shook her head. “For some reason, despite everything I’ve seen, I thought you were kidding about the beer springs.”

“I don’t kid about beer, captain. A good portion of this gut is beer, eh?” She slapped it for emphasis. Estelle looked away with a sharp breath.

“Someone’s coming,” said Starling, pointing.

It was the same monitor, aimed at their entryway through the ridge. Through it they could see the expedition’s rover, a trio of rotund bodies bouncing in their seats as the wheels tore over uneven terrain. The rover shot out of the pass, skidded sideways to a stop, and the occupants twisted round to look back.

“Looks like they’re back early,” Hester lilted. “Must have run into some company.”

A wriggling grey mass appeared in the pass, roiling between the rocks with reckless, oozing abandon. It reared up and shuddered, no doubt unleashing its screech. It then flopped down and began undulating madly forward.

The two blue points of light flared to life at the end of the pass. They flashed alternately, filling the rock cut with pale light. Smoke floated up and half-formed pseudopods thrashed from within. After half a minute, the monster could be seen squirming desperately back up the pass. Those in the rover exchanged a round of high fives.

“See?” beamed Hester. “As long is this little blue switch is set to ‘on,’ we’re as safe as can be here in the valley.”

Estelle folded her arms.

“Come on. We can meet them at the landing and help unload.”

They followed her back out of the habitat and sat on a long bench-shaped pastry until they heard the sound of treads on toffee. The rover trundled into the clearing and pulled up next to Hester, who welcomed her party back with hearty laughter.

The back of the rover was piled high with foods foraged from beyond the valley wall. They were irregularly packed and held in place by cargo netting. A couple small barrels sloshed with a red liquid and a brown powder was spilling from an overturned crate. Propped up against the crate was Estelle’s rifle.

Ayla kicked open her door and lurched out of the rover. Her side of the vehicle rose a few inches as her weight shifted off of it.

“Had an exciting trip back, eh?” giggled Hester.

“Bastard was holed up right by the brown sugar dune,” Ayla sighed, reaching to unfasten the cargo net.

Estelle hurried over. “Here, let me help with that.”

“Oh, thanks. But yeah, he followed us all the way back to the wall.”

“Not through it, though!”

Hoshi’s pear-shaped mass slid out of the rover, shifting it further up. “I think I need to check the command station on the zappers,” she grunted, hiking up her skirt. “Took a full thirty seconds to back him off.”

“It was an impressive display nonetheless,” Starling offered helpfully.

Selena craned her head around and slung a flabby arm over her seat. Her girth swelled up in front of her, pinched awkwardly by the seatbelts. “Why don’t you run in and check that, Hoshi? Don’t want to take any risks there.”

“You bet,” the engineer replied with a mock salute. “Can’t promise you I’ll run, though. Not sure these legs could manage more than a brisk waddle.” Everyone laughed as she wriggled her thigh.

“You could try rolling,” Ayla sneered, clapping her on the back.

“Maybe. Though I figure Selena’s a lot closer to being spherical than I am.”

They all laughed again. The enormous Selena leaned back and rubbed her stomach. “Plenty of time for you to catch up. Although I don’t plan on slowing down any time soon.”

“So what all did we get?” asked Hester, poring through the cargo.

Selena raised her eyebrows. “I think we found all the baking ingredients you had on the list—the cinnamon’s in there, yeah—and Ayla spotted a new wine creek. Real oaky feel to it, goes down easy.”

“Too easy,” Ayla added. “Couldn’t let Hoshi drive afterward.”

“Also picked up some more fruit, some potatoes, of course, and…” She took a long breath and turned to Estelle. “…and some news you’re not gonna like, captain.”

Estelle looked up from the crates.

“What is it?”

Selena moved to sit up, but only managed to shift her weight and rock the rover about. “Winter’s set in around the mountains. There’s a big sheet of ice blocking the northern pass.”

Estelle glanced at Starling, but he shook his head. “Meaning?”

“That pass is the only way to the peninsula where you landed. You won’t be able to get back to the shuttle while that ice is there.”

“I didn’t come in through the pass. We crossed some kind of rock candy bridge by the coast.”

Selena nodded. “…which you subsequently destroyed.”

“Ah,” Estelle coughed. “Right. So what’s the alternate route?”

“There isn’t one, captain.”

She stared. “You’re telling me I’m stuck here.”

“Until the ice melts. From what we’ve observed of the seasons here, you’re looking at the second or third week of spring at the earliest.” She took a long breath. “That’s about two and a half, maybe three months at this point.”

Estelle sputtered. “I don’t want to be here another day. My job is to get you off this rock as soon as possible.”

Hester tugged at her arm. “Captain, ‘as soon as possible’ might just not be as soon as you expected.”

“There’s gotta be more than just the land route. Can’t we, I don’t know, sail around that cape? You said the squirmers don’t seem to like swimming.”

“It would take weeks to construct vessel than can handle open ocean,” Hoshi explained. “With the wind and current against you, it would take weeks to actually get there, too. And since New Kansas manufactures its fresh water, I’m guessing you don’t know a damned thing about sailing.”

“And, as I’ve said,” Selena continued, “we’re not leaving with you. We didn’t choose to be marooned here, but we have chosen to stay marooned. And, at least for the next couple of months, it looks like you’re marooned with us.”

“Unacceptable. We’re going home.”

“Estelle, please,” whispered Hesper, “even if we wanted to go back with you, leaving isn’t an option right now.”

“I’ll find another way around. I don’t care how dangerous it is.”

Selena shook her head. “Steady on—there’s no sense in that. Just hear me out, captain. You’re welcome to crash here with us till spring, no worries. See the planet, take it easy, spend a couple months with these friendly gals. Once the pass thaws, we can deal with the question of leaving…maybe you go off without us, maybe you decide you like it here.”

Hester shrugged. “Either way, there’s not much you can do until then, aye? Why not make the best of it? Of all the places to get stranded, this one’s not so bad. And you’re stranded with just the loveliest of ladies.”

“Captain,” the android chimed in, “taking their offer of hospitality would be the most logical choice. Our odds are survival increase exponentially in the company of others, especially others with an established and demonstrably defensible domicile.”

Estelle eyed him, but nodded. She looked back to Selena. “And as for the real question…we’re just gonna put that off for now?”

The cartographer heaved herself out of the rover and leaned her bulk against it. “I put lots of things off, mate. You don’t get this big without a little laziness.”

Estelle grimaced. The others stared at her. “Fine,” she grunted at last, “but as soon as that pass is open, the shuttle is leaving.”
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Old 01-06-2017, 04:49 PM   #36
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A planet made of food and 4 BBWs and one more on the way sounds like my kinda paradise how do I get there.
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Old 01-08-2017, 06:22 PM   #37
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Came here to re-read one of your old stories and found this! What luck!

You really have a way with words. Can't wait to see where this one goes.
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Old 01-08-2017, 08:44 PM   #38
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arch View Post
A planet made of food and 4 BBWs and one more on the way sounds like my kinda paradise how do I get there.
Two consecutive sleepless nights and the director's cut of Alien.


Quote:
Originally Posted by slapbassman33 View Post
Came here to re-read one of your old stories and found this! What luck!

You really have a way with words. Can't wait to see where this one goes.
Yep, I snuck in a second story this year, just to catch everyone off guard.



Chapter 14

Starling watched patiently from the ground as the observation balloon winched its way down the cable. It rocked gently to and fro as it descended, its lone occupant pacing fervently.

As soon as the basket touched the ground, Estelle burst out in a huff. She stomped in a flustered circle around the balloon while Starling secured it in its housing. Once finished, he held out a hand and gently stopped her in her tracks.

“Sorry,” she grumbled. “Still…coming to terms with all this.”

The android collected a pile of maps from the balloon. “I take it you didn’t find anything encouraging up there.”

“They were right. Every pass through the mountain range is impassible. And try as I might I can’t pick out any other viable route to the west.” She unslung a pair of high-powered binoculars from around her neck. “By all the stars…another damn prison.”

“I assume the décor of this cell is preferable to the last, at least.”

“The valley walls are pretty, yes, but they’re still walls.” She sulked off toward the compound.

Starling trotted alongside. “Speaking of which: as you suggested, I’ve been studying the defense system along the valley’s rim.”

“And?”

“It is intact and, as our friends demonstrated, operational.” He leaned in and lowered his voice. “But there is, I’ve noticed, a large portion of power being diverted away from the perimeter system.”

“To where?”

“I couldn’t tell. Hoshi’s labelling nomenclature eludes me. It appears to be a system outside of the main camp, perhaps at a far end of the valley. And whatever it is, it is a substantial draw. Portions of several other systems have also been diverted to support it.”

Estelle furrowed her brow. “Is there still enough power for the zappers?”

“Narrowly—for the time being. We saw how the system seemed slow and drained during their demonstration a few days ago. I suspect the generator is overtaxed, leaving very little room for adjustment or error. If any circuit should be tripped, or any button mispressed on the command console, the whole system would be disrupted and the valley left defenseless.”

“Nebulas,” Estelle breathed, stopping. “But we’re safe for now, barring any disruption?”

“It’s hard to speculate. We’ve only been in the camp a few days.”

She folded her arms. “What would actually need that much power?”

“I’m not certain. The terraforming mechs, perhaps, but there is clearly no use for them here. And even they wouldn’t need to take so much power from the other systems, as their use was calculated into the generator’s original output.”

“I’ll see if I can’t get the ladies to open up.” She turned toward the habitat’s entrance. “I think I’ve been a little too sulky the last couple of days to make any friends. And we didn’t get off on the right foot here in the first place.”

“Perhaps a show of solidarity? To demonstrate that you are open-minded to their interests?”

“Pff. Maybe. But they only seem interested in one thing and I’m still full from last night’s dinner.”

“Sounds like we need to work on your capacity, mate,” Selena lilted, appearing in the mouth of the tunnel. “You had one plate and barely cleaned that. But I reckon since you skipped breakfast this morning you’ll be ready for a full-sized lunch.”

“That wasn’t a plate, it was a platter. And I can’t imagine how you’re thinking about lunch after the breakfast you just had.”

“Yeah, that was a fun one, aye? You should see what we’re doing for lunch.”

Estelle spread her hands. “I just…aren’t you full, though?”

Selena puffed out her stomach, hands on her hips. “Of course I’m full. I just want more. Starling, will you help Hoshi with the groceries? Oy, it’s gonna be sweet-as to have the android here…”

“But…” Estelle frowned. “If you’re not actually hungry…if you don’t actually, uh, need--”

“It’s not about need,” Selena laughed, waddling out of the tunnel. “Estelle, I volunteered for this mission because I knew firsthand how deep the scarcity crisis ran. I grew up in the middle of it. I grew up hungry, spent my whole life hungry.”

“We all did.”

“So you understand. When you’re hungry that long…when fullness is so fleeting and so rare…Estelle, if I have the opportunity to be as full as I want, as much as I want, for as long as I want, you can be damned sure I’m gonna be full for the rest of my life.” She threw up her hands, letting her wobbling lovehandles flop out of the sides of her tunic. “I’m going to eat. And I’m going to keep eating. And if it turns out that this whole crazy planet is edible, then I’m gonna eat this whole crazy planet or die trying.”

She draped a massive around Estelle’s shoulders. Estelle nearly collapsed under the weight.

“Of course, I’m not opposed to sharing. You’re welcome to join us.” She took a deep breath. Walking halfway across the clearing had winded her. “And Captain…I understand that you don’t want to be here. This isn’t your thing. And you traveled all this way just to end up stuck somewhere again. But look, we can’t get you out of here any faster and we’re trying to make things as comfortable as possible while you’re here…but you’ve barely talked to us since the first day.”

Estelle threw a pleading glance at Starling. He simply mouthed ‘show of solidarity.’

She swallowed. “I…I can come in and have lunch, I guess.”

“That’s the spirit!” Selena released her, clapping.

“But I don’t need to full spread, if that’s alright. I don’t want to seem ungrateful or anything, I just…is it cool if I join you gals without, uh, without…”

“Yeah, mate, absolutely. Hester doesn’t eat as much as the rest of us, either, but we love her because she supports us. That’s all we’d ask of anybody in the crew, aye?”

“That’s fair, yeah,” Estelle acquiesced with a nervous chuckle. “Except for the whole cage thing, you all have been nothing but welcoming and I’ve been a little brat.” She wrung her hands. “So can I just get, like, a salad?”

“You bet, captain. We can do pasta salad, potato salad, egg salad…” She guided Estelle toward the tunnel entrance.

“I was thinking maybe something with, uh, lettuce. And just a reasonable portion, if possible. I don’t need the whole mixing bowl.”

Selena shuddered. “Oo, we don’t use the word ‘portion’ here. It sounds too much like ‘ration,’ you know?”

Starling watched them descend into the cave. He turned to look back over at the generators, humming unevenly on the far end of the clearing.
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Old 01-09-2017, 09:58 PM   #39
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Great stuff, keep it up! I love how its so unpredictable for the plot in your stories even though we know it is a weight gain story.
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Old 01-15-2017, 04:41 PM   #40
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Chapter 15

The rest of Estelle’s first week in camp passed without incident. By the end of her second week the daily routine had finally begun to feel familiar and reliable, if still somewhat surreal.

Estelle herself participated little in the expedition’s routine. The crew gave her a handful of chores around the campsite—generally those tasks that required more labor-intensive movement—but nothing vital to their survival. It was mostly busy-work, intended to keep her occupied and in the area.

For all their wary suspicion, the explorers were unfailingly friendly. When she joined them for meals, they eagerly attempted to include her in the conversation, pressing her for stories from home (typically to laugh at the wrongheadedness of the colonies) and anecdotes from the exciting life of a smuggler (a saga of failure, for the most part).

A wall remained, though, of some faint mutual distrust. Estelle’s presence at mealtime had helped, but her disappointing portion sizes and ability to occasionally eat nothing at all still marked her as alien. Every afternoon, once their morning chores and lengthy lunch were completed, the crew would pile themselves into the rover and drive off. They would never tell Estelle where they were headed or what they did out there and on returning all they could talk about was the evening’s much anticipated dinner.

It was a pleasant, easy routine nonetheless. There were worse ways to waste a winter and there was no denying the planet was a better prison the Incarce-Corp Maximum Security Political Prisoner Containment Vault. Estelle allowed herself to smile every so often and eventually stopped asking questions.

The silence couldn’t last, however. One morning during the third week, having been tasked with hauling unneeded equipment into a basement storage room, her modest muffin-top brushed against a sheet-covered object in the corner. The sheet fell away, revealing a three-foot stone slab.

She stared at the stela. It was irregularly shaped, as though broken off from a larger slate, and covered with carvings.

She tapped her bio-pak. “You don’t have a flashlight, do you?”

“Light,” the voice acknowledged. The monitor on her wrist flared, illuminating the engravings with a dim blue glow.

The carvings portrayed a tower, some kind of ancient, fortified citadel. Hordes of little figures surrounded and attended it and Estelle realized, eyes wide, that each figure sported four arms and a strangely shaped head.

“Aliens,” she gasped.

There were seven figures at the top of the tower, presumably some kind of royalty, adorned with crowns. Dozens more scurried around the base, portrayed in the engraving as a procession of professions leading toward the structure.

Mining figures were taking some kind of star-shaped object from the ground. The objects were carried over the heads of transport-figures, who handed them to a pair of cleaning figures, who presented them to a clerk at a table.

At the base of the citadel, the star-shaped objects were shown in the hands of what could only have been cooks. A set of stairs zig-zagged up the tower, lined with servant figures carrying star-shaped objects up or empty plates down.

“What is this?” Estelle demanded, setting it against a footlocker in the main chamber. She tried not to pant too heavily after heaving the slab all the way upstairs.

The crew stared at her. Frozen mid-waddle, their eyes turned slowly to their commander.

Selena straightened. “We’re just about to head out for the afternoon, captain.” She jerked her thumb at the exit tunnel. “Why don’t you come with us?”

The rover trundled up the east wall of the valley. Estelle sat as stiffly as she could manage, squeezed into the back seat between Ayla and Hester.

“Where are we going?” she asked between bumps.

Ayla grinned. “A treat.”

“We’re ahead of schedule on our big project,” Hester added, “so we’re taking this afternoon off for recreation.”

“Big project?” Estelle echoed.

“You didn’t think all we did was eat and party, did you?” Hoshi shouted from the driver’s seat.

“I was getting the impression that was why you’re here.”

Selena turned around. “We’re here because the admiralty sent us. And they sent us because of that slab you found.”

“What?”

“Some archaeologists dug it up on an abandoned space station in deep space. It’s about seven thousand years old.”

“So it is alien.”

“Very. And as you saw, it shows some sort of flourishing alien civilization. Royalty, servants, all that.” She paused while the rover mounted a pile of pasta. “Did you have a look at the back side?”

Estelle frowned. “No, I guess not.”

“There’s a star map on the back. It took the astronomers and xeno-linguists a while to decipher it, but in the end it led right here. LV-237.”

“Holy nebulas.”

“Too right. That’s when they started studying the place. Took their long distance readings and so forth. Couldn’t see much, but what they did see was promising.”

Ayla shook her head. “And that’s when they got the attention of Professor Flavius Hyllus.”

Estelle cocked an eyebrow, but they were interrupted by the sudden lurching of the rover.

It crested the rise and shot out of the valley’s rim between a pair of zappers, pulsating with a dull blue light. Hoshi steered them through a short ravine and then out onto a smooth plain. It was littered with massive baked goods: tarts the size of hover-cars, muffins they could have taken shelter beneath, and brownies broad enough to host a cyber-tennis court.

“Have you been up to the pastry prairie yet?” Hester giggled.

Estelle stared. “Can’t say I have.”

“Ayla,” Selena called, “I believe it’s your turn to pick today’s recreation.”

Ayla leaned forward, her plush hips crushing Estelle. “I’ve been thinking about that doughnut I saw last week.”

“I know exactly the one,” Hoshi agreed, wrenching the steering wheel round. “Custard.”

Ten minutes later, they emerged from a field of crullers and pulled up next to a massive doughnut. It was the size of an above-ground swimming pool. Glaze gleamed in the afternoon light and the chocolate frosting on top glistened with the promise of just the right amount of moistness.

The rover circled the doughnut, then found a hill behind it and rolled its way up until the occupants could look down on the doughnut. There was no hole to be seen and Estelle suddenly realized what had been meant by the whispered “custard.”

“That should do nicely,” said Ayla. She unbuckled her harness, crawled her way across Estelle and Hester—smothering them in the process—and launched herself off the side of the rover.

Ayla plummeted through the air and cannonballed into the top of the doughnut, puncturing the cap of chocolate frosting.

Estelle gaped. The others cheered.

“Me next!” cried Hoshi. She rolled out of the driver’s seat and flopped into the doughnut. The chocolate mostly shattered and Estelle could see the succulent vanilla custard rippling within.

Hester followed with a squeal, dropping into the far end of the doughnut.

Selena unbuckled her harness. “You are invited to join us in our…recreation, captain.”

“I’m still full from lunch. I’m happy to just hang around, if that’s alright.”

“No worries. More for us,” the commander mused with a shrug. She wriggled her way across the front seat, rocking the whole rover in the process, and hurled herself over the side.

The shift in mass bounced the vehicle so violently that Estelle couldn’t help but panic. She threw off her buckle and tumbled out. There was a terrifying moment of freefall, then she splashed bodily into the custard.

“Changed your mind?” Hester teased, watching her come up for air.

“Holy nebulas,” Estelle panted, spitting custard and wiping her eyes. “This is huge. So deep…I can barely touch the bottom.” She glanced around at the high, doughy walls. “How do we get back out?”

Hoshi grinned. “I think you know.”

“Oh, no.”

“Oh, yes,” said Ayla. She tore a piece off of dough from the wall and stuffed it in her mouth.

Estelle sulked and caught her breath while the others went at it. She was, as she’d claimed, still very full from lunch—she’d been lenient with herself that day—but the custard that found its way onto her tongue was making a very convincing case.

“You said Hyllus worked on the project?” She asked the room, hoping to distract herself.

“He became its most fervent proponent,” Hoshi replied. “When the university decided the planet was too distant to be worth the money to research, he took it to his uncle in the admiralty.”

“This guy adored Hyllus. Would give him anything he wanted,” Ayla added.

“So he did,” Selena continued. “In the name of saving the colonies, this admiral commissioned our expedition, got it funded, and let Hyllus select his own crewmates.”

Estelle choked on a mouthful of dough. The conversation hadn’t distracted her from her hunger, but it had distracted her from her restraint. “What?”

“It’s all true. We didn’t know at the time, but that sick bastard personally selected each one of us. A bunch of desperate and admittedly pretty naïve girls.” Selena paused to slurp down an impressive quantity of custard. “Excuse me. Ah. He even suggested they make me commander…I guess just to look humble or something.”

“Still fancied himself a hero,” Hester chimed in from the other side of the pool, her belly rising from the custard like an island.

“I reckon, aye. He played the part fine until we got here. Soon as we landed, he blew up the emergency beacon with a mining charge. Before we knew what was going on, he sabotaged the rest of the communication equipment.”

Ayla’s face appeared from within the wall of dough. “See, he’d looked at the carvings on that slab and decided he wanted to be the one on top of the tower…wearing a crown and being served by a harem of beautiful slave girls.”

“He reworked the admiralty’s mission to save the colonies,” Hoshi concluded, bobbing past, “into a chance to start his own personal kingdom on a planet rich with resources and too far from any oversight that might stop him. He figured he could set himself up as the great patriarch of a new world, the god-king of the next great interstellar empire.”

Estelle caught herself grabbing another handful of dough and pressed it back into the wall. “How’d that go for him?”

Selena chuckled. “Well, his harem wasn’t quite as cooperative as he’d assumed. We ladies ended up being a little more interested in having our bellies filled with food than having our heads filled with his megalomaniac ideas. He thought he’d get to just relax on his throne, watch his sexy slaves build him a tower, and say to himself, ‘life is good.’ But there we were instead, lazy and spiteful, off getting stuffed and drunk all the time, rubbing our guts and saying to ourselves, ‘life is good.’ I reckon he didn’t care for that.”

“So what happened?”

“He got worse, of course. Angry. Loud. Violent. I mean, obviously we outnumbered him, but…you know how intimidation works.” She stared into the distance. “And then…it was maybe two months after we’d landed…the squirmers rocked up.”

“Nebulas.”

Ayla nodded. “They weren’t any friendlier then than they are now, either. We got the zappers up and running around the camp, just enough to keep the habitat safe. You could look outside and they’d still be there, rolling around and growling at you, daring you to come out.”

“Hyllus lost it,” said Selena. “Decided he’d kill us before he let any aliens touch his precious slave-girls. But for once, we fought back. Ayla held him off long enough for Hester to shoot him up with tranquilizer and Hoshi jury-rigged some restraints.” She stared into the distance. “When he came to, I told him to leave.”

Estelle swallowed.

“He was quiet then. Full of just…silent, seething hate. But he said he’d leave…go start the new world by himself, without—without…what was it, Hoshi?”

Hoshi cleared her throat. “I think it was ‘without you selfish, greedy, and ungrateful sows ruining everything,’ or something to that effect.”

“Right. So, then, we gave him a survival kit and watched him go. He made a run for it from the zappers…the squirmers followed him. That’s the last we saw.” She looked at Estelle. “But after that the squirmers left us alone long enough for us to expand the defense perimeter around the whole valley.”

They ate quietly for a while, reflecting. Estelle waded around aimlessly, trying not to eat as much of the doughnut as she inevitably ended up eating.

Eventually Ayla broke through the doughnut’s outer surface. She broke mouth-first through the glazed wall, letting a flood of custard and fat woman spill out onto the plain. The crew picked themselves up, slipping and sputtering, and helped each other to the rover.

Estelle drove on the way home while the others groaned away their sugar crashes in the back. The rover’s seats were a gooey, saccharine mess and Estelle wasn’t sure how she would ever get her matted hair clean. She bit her lip, but it still tasted like doughnut.

“Selena,” she muttered.

“Hrrn?”

“I’m sorry.”

“Not your fault, captain,” Selena grumbled with a belch. “Obviously.”

“Still. I…you gals are well within your rights to want to stay. I can’t fault you for that. I just…hope I can make things right, somehow.” She eased the rover back over the pile of pasta. “When I get back to the colonies, I’ll tell the admirals everything.”

“Like they’ll give a damn.”

“They do give a damn…as much as they’re legally allowed to. They sent me here to bring you home, didn’t they?”

“They sent an expendable, convicted felon on a disavowed mission. Our expedition is a political liability, captain; you said so yourself. You’re not here to rescue us, you’re here to confirm that we’re dead.”

Estelle grimaced. “Well, you’re not. And you can still come home if you want.”

“For my part,” Selena continued, “I say we stay here and continue to be a liability. Stick it in the admiralty’s craw. Plus, if my appetite has its way, eventually I’ll be so heavy that all the thrusters in the fleet wouldn’t get my fat ass to escape velocity.”
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Old 01-16-2017, 02:49 PM   #41
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The ancient alien artefacts remind me of Lovecraft.
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Old 01-22-2017, 11:31 AM   #42
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Quote:
Originally Posted by donny78 View Post
The ancient alien artefacts remind me of Lovecraft.
"I have said that our study of the decadent sculptures brought about a change in our immediate objective. This, of course, had to do with the chiseled avenues to the black inner world, of whose existence we had not known before, but which we were now eager to find and traverse."



Chapter 16

They arrived home just after sunset. The other girls waddled into the habitat, chittering about what was for dinner. Estelle sat in the rover and stared; her stomach was so glutted with custard-filled doughnut the thought of dinner made her nauseous.

She reached a furtive hand under the hem of her survival suit and gave her belly a soothing rub. It was just what she needed and she soon leaned back, eyes drifting shut.

Starling found her there, half-asleep, covered in custard and glaze. “Good evening, captain.”

She sprang up, coughing. “Starling.”

“I have been tracing the diverted power,” he announced. “I have much to tell you.”

“I have a story to tell, too,” she agreed, stepping gingerly out of the rover. “Kinda want to get cleaned up first, though.”

“Was there an incident?”

Her head bobbed side to side. “Something like that…I almost drowned in a doughnut. Ugh, and they’re probably using up all the water in the showers…this is gonna take forever to wash off.”

“If I may make a suggestion, in my wanderings today I discovered a small pond. It contains fresh water, and it is quite clear.”

“Just water? It’s not a pool of, like, ice cream, or jelly, or maraschino cherries, or straight-up lard?”

“Dihydrogen monoxide, captain. Free of temptation. It practically calls your name.”

She nodded. “Tell the girls I’m gonna miss dinner.”

It was dark by the time Estelle found the quiet pool of clear, glistening water. It was tucked away in a glen of aromatic trees, bristling with herbs and spices. The cloud cover was sparser than usual and two of the planet’s six little moons could be seen reflected in the undisturbed surface of the pool.

A ripple spread from the corner as Estelle dipped her hand into the water. She cupped a handful into her mouth and drank it down. She took a long, slow breath, blanketing herself in the silence of the glen.

It was a lonely place, beautifully so. After weeks in the constant company and care of the expedition’s crew, any amount of solitude seemed a blessing. It was a warm night, despite the season, and the gentlest of breezes wafted overhead.

Estelle untucked the shirt of her survival suit and peeled it off overhead. Uncovered, she felt the softness around her midsection flop free. She looked down with a wince.

Her belly now jutted forward no matter how hard she sucked in, so she exhaled and let it swell to its natural pooch. Her lovehandles, which she couldn’t suck in, angled out to either side like a pair of bookends. The gut between them blossomed out in a soft circle, its bottom roll hanging below her waistband in a gentle curve.

She had to peer past her breasts to see it; they had grown heavier and fuller as well. She was still getting used to them, having never had much there before, but was starting to appreciate their sensitive presence.

Reaching below them, she picked up her belly and let it drop. She felt it bounce and sighed. She tapped her bio-pak.

“Status upd—ah, who am I kidding…weight check.”

“179 pounds,” it chirped.

“Holy nebulas,” she said. The words carried not so much surprise this time, but exasperated awe.

Biting her lip, she bent down and stepped gingerly out of her bottoms. As soon as the waistband had slid off it, her butt sagged and flattened, weighed down by flab and cellulite. She kicked the trousers away and stood with her hands on her softened hips, frowning at how her thighs squished together.

It felt good to be naked, though, liberated and alone on an alien world. She let down her hair, shook it out, and stepped into the pool.

The edges were shallow and sloped gradually to a dropoff in the middle. Estelle waded in until she couldn’t touch and drifted on. She swam slowly, turning onto her back and paddling lazily; her breasts and belly rising from the water like low islands.

After a few minutes the swimming began to gradually slow, until she was merely floating. She was too out of breath and out of shape to do much more. Reaching a shallower area, she stood and waded until she was hip-deep.

There she bent down and washed herself, stroking each leg in turn and stretching up to run her hands down her chest, sides, and finally her bulging, pliable stomach. She took a deep breath, caressing it again, and began to knead it. It was a new, curious sensation, strangely pleasant.

A twig snapped and she straightened, covering herself. “Hello?” she called.

Hester emerged from the woods. Her wild red hair was wilder than usual, as though she’d just risen from bed, and in place of her green survival suit she wore only a thick body towel.

“Och!” the doctor gasped. “Someone’s here…Estelle, is that you?”

Estelle sank to shoulder-depth. “Yeah, it’s me. Just, uh, found this place and thought I’d have a bath.”

“Sure, sure. You surprised me there—usually this is my secret spot away from everyone.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to invade your private—”

Hester shushed her with a wave. “No, no. Don’t worry about it, captain. I can share. It’s a great little spot, isn’t it?”

“It…it really is. It’s so peaceful.” She leaned back and took a deep breath, realizing too late that this had lifted her chest from the water.

The doctor clearly saw, but hardly seemed to mind. “I’m glad you found at least something on this planet to like. I was afraid you were just going to be miserable all winter.”

Estelle smiled. “I’m not miserable. Sorry if I seem that way. It’s just a lot to take in, you know? And I’m not as good at…taking a lot in as you ladies are.”

“At least you’re learning the banter. Maybe you’ll fit in here after all.”

“Maybe…but then I wouldn’t fit in my clothes anymore.” She brushed her hair back. “But, no. It’s not all bad here. There are some very beautiful places, obviously, and the locals are…very welcoming.”

“We do our best,” Hester lilted. She stepped to the edge of the water and shrugged off her robe.

Estelle’s breath caught in her throat. There had been no doubt that Hester was a busty woman, but seeing her breasts plop free, unrestrained by the survival suit, was a surreal experience. They hung halfway down her abdomen without losing any of their fullness, with areolae that would take a whole palm to cover. Hester’s breasts were so round that her wide, doughy beer belly seemed almost flat in comparison. Almost.

She waded out toward Estelle, waving her hands lazily through the water. “I think everybody’s got a little spot like this. Ayla spends a lot of her free time at these candyfloss caves on the west end…she’s got a bit of a sweet tooth, that one. And the commander, haha…You know what vegemite is?”

“Nope.”

“I didn’t either. It’s this bitter stuff they made back on the colony she’s from. She says it’s an ‘acquired taste.’ Now, I’ve acquired plenty on this planet, captain…” She shook her belly for emphasis. “…but that one’s not for me. Anyway, she found a whole bog of this stuff to the south. Goes out there at least once a week, just to be around it. I think it reminds her of…home.”

Estelle nodded, wading closer. “Home is a lot to leave behind. I was going to ask, but…you guys are so ready to stay here forever. Don’t you have anything or, uh, anyone waiting for you to come back?”

“Not…not really,” Hesper replied softly, looking down. “They picked us because we were alone, for the most part. I was nobody, just bartending my way through medical school. The only people missing me are the regulars at Maggie’s and I’d say they miss these more than they miss me.” She shimmied her chest.

“Has to be somebody. No special someone?”

“Nah. Not anymore, at least for me. Girlfriend left for the belt a while back. The others…” She sank a little deeper, thinking back. “Ayla had been in a triad, but the other two had booted her out, I think. And I know Hoshi had built a romance A.I., but wasn’t allowed to bring it on the expedition…the admiralty cited some ‘daisy bell’ incident. Selena…Selena had lost her little sister in that unrest out on the rim.”

“Sounds like they caught all of you just at the right time. Or the wrong time, maybe.”

“I guess. But…now we have each other. And, like it or not, you have us, too.” She nudged Estelle with her elbow.

Estelle let herself smile. Hester swept in and wrapped her up in a tight hug, their bosoms and bellies squishing awkwardly together. Estelle could feel Hester squeezing her backfat.

“Well, Hester,” she coughed, once the redhead had released her, “I am sorry for invading your personal spot here.”

Hester waved it off and headed toward the shore. “Not a problem—seriously. I’ve been thinking of changing spots, anyway. A beer spring just popped up on the south end…first one within the valley. I’ll probably be spending some time there.” She tapped her nose with a conspiratorial grin.

“Popped up? As in you hadn’t seen it before, or…?”

“No, it’s new. That happens sometimes.” She stepped out of the water and began toweling off.

Estelle followed her to the edge. “This planet gets weirder every day. So you’re telling me it changes, now?”

“Aye. Never boring and never disappointing.” She tied the towel around her waist, letting her chest hang free while she dealt with her voluminous hair. “Thanks for the chat.”

Estelle tried not to stare. “Thanks for being so…welcoming. Makes a strange planet a little less strange.”

“Like I said, we’re thrilled to have you. I know I am.” She poked Estelle’s gut. “Now that you’re around, I don’t have to feel like the skinny one all the time.”

“I’m doing my best to keep it that way,” Estelle laughed, though she wasn’t feeling particularly skinny. Fortunately, the redhead still had fifty pounds on her. “I think that’s partly why I like this spot…not so much temptation.”

Hesper gave her an impish grin, then turned to head out of the glen. “Right.”

Estelle watched her go. Alone again, she picked up her survival suit, yawned, and sat herself next to a large boulder by the side of the pool. She toyed with the idea of getting dressed, but instead found herself lounging back and watching the surface of the water grow still. Her gut heaved with another yawn.

After a few minutes, it occurred to her that the boulder didn’t feel much like rock. She turned and gave it a sidelong look—it was a deep, smooth brown. Laying a hand on it, its surface was hard enough to maintain its shape, but it was clearly only a thin, breakable shell: chocolate.

Perhaps her talk with Hester had put her in an inquisitive mood, or perhaps she had been awake too long to think better of it, but after a moment of waffling she tapped on the boulder and cracked it open.

She used more force than intended. Her hand plunged through the chocolate shell and into a gooey filling. Without looking and without thinking, she pulled her hand out and poked a finger into her mouth. Her eyes lit up as soon as it hit her tongue.

“Caramel,” she realized, mouth full. It was the best she’d tasted since childhood.

Estelle scrambled back from the boulder, but collided promptly with another. She turned around, dread crossing her face as she realized her shoulder had cracked the chocolate shell.

She stood and spun around. Little boulders littered the area around the pool, as though some giant had emptied a box of chocolates over it. She sat back down and took a deep breath. Her stomach rumbled.

She looked up the path—Hester was nowhere in sight. Estelle was alone and unwatched. She took a deep breath, twisted round, and shoved her hand back into the caramel.

Hester emerged into the clearing outside the expedition’s cheesecake habitat. She had picked up a cookie from a bakery shrub on her walk back and now paused to push the last bite into her mouth.

She stood there a moment, enjoying the moonlight. Turning back toward the path, she slung her towel over her naked shoulder and gave her tummy a little pat.

A distant sound drifted out of the woods: a long, satisfied belch. Hester grinned her impish grin and headed inside.
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Old 01-22-2017, 01:31 PM   #43
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[QUOTE=Marlow;2199980]"I have said that our study of the decadent sculptures brought about a change in our immediate objective. This, of course, had to do with the chiseled avenues to the black inner world, of whose existence we had not known before, but which we were now eager to find and traverse."

Yes, At The Mountains of Madness. The star-shaped objects reminded me of the radially symmetric starfish-like structures on the Elder Things.

Keep up the good work!
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Old 01-22-2017, 02:20 PM   #44
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I've never really found attempts at sci-fi or fantsay to work in fetish stories, but yours works very well. Well defined characters, natural dialogue, and a fun writing style make this a genuinely satisfying read. Love the occasional aside that indicates some of the women have quite ambitious body goals for themselves.
Can't wait to see where this goes.
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Old 01-29-2017, 10:24 AM   #45
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Chapter 17

“Good morning, sleepyhead,” Selena sang, watching Estelle emerge from the habitat. The smuggler yawned, ignoring her, and shielded her eyes from the midday sun.

“I thought we were supposed to be the lazy ones,” sneered Hoshi.

Ayla waggled a finger. “Go easy on her, now. She had a late night…and a little waddle in her step when she came in this morning.”

Estelle, still uncomfortably full from her late night snack by the pool, gave them a tired glare. “You’re one to talk about waddling.”

“That’s the attitude!” Selena guffawed, clapping her on the back. “But I’m glad we’re up. Got a big day ahead of us. Come on.” She waved her toward the rover.

“Every day here is big,” Estelle muttered, following.

Hester bounced up next to her. “And don’t sweat the walk of shame, captain. You should have seen me stagger home the night I found that beer spring!”

“Stars, don’t remind me,” Ayla sighed. “It was two days before we found your clothes.”

Estelle lifted herself into the rover. “It’s just hard to say no to caramel. Not planning to make a habit out of it, though.” She dragged the seatbelt over her stomach and winced at the squishing sensation. “So, where are we going? I’m not gonna have to watch you guys eat a giant quiche from the inside out, am I?”

“Ha, no. Though you’re welcome to join in the next time we do.”

Starling twisted around from the driver’s seat. “Good morning, captain. As I understand it, we will be visiting the ocean.”

“A day at the beach, huh?”

The rover lurched into motion. Estelle felt her stomach bounce with each bump. She sat squeezed between Hoshi and Ayla, though, whose bouncing outclassed hers by a few orders of magnitude.

“So, captain,” Selena explained once they were underway, “you’ve been with us almost three weeks now. We reckon it’s time you get the full tour of our new home.”

“Oh, I already got the tour. Hester was very thorough—”

“Not the habitat. The cheesecake, though delicious, is just temporary housing.”

Ayla nudged her. “It’s only a matter of time before we eat the whole thing!”

Hoshi adjusted her shirt. “We mentioned a project yesterday, you remember.” She chuckled and leaned back, letting her paunch stretch out. “And it’s a big one.”

“Bigger than Selena’s gut?” Ayla teased.

“For now,” the commander shot back. Estelle rolled her eyes.

They trundled down the length of the valley, pausing once for a quick snack. Estelle remained in the rover while the others ate—which required a herculean force of will—and edged forward to whisper to Starling.

“Any chance they’re gonna show us whatever you found yesterday?”

“That would be my suspicion. We’re heading in the appropriate direction.”

She nodded. “Well, pretend to be surprised, I guess. I think we’re finally earning a little trust…don’t want to wreck that by revealing that we’ve been, uh, snooping.”

Starling glanced at the explorers, who had gotten to their feet and begun to wobble back toward the rover. “I will conceal as much as my programming will allow.”

Estelle tried to figure out the terrain as they continued on, but couldn’t make sense of how the various features interacted. The river of honey at the entrance, she knew, opened into a small pond, but there the flow ceased. Below it sprung a series of other streams: milk, olive oil, an alluring hazelnut crème, and eventually the vegemite bogs Hester had mentioned. Each seemed to simply flow out of a rock or crevice somewhere and eventually disappear back into the earth, coming from nowhere and returning to nowhere.

They came at last to the shore, where the sea crashed against a beach of candy crystals.

A little ways from shore, enveloped by the arms of a sheltered bay, an island rose from the waves. It was an otherworldly grey color and Estelle could make out what looked like metal beams and angular walls. It was the first thing she’d seen on the planet that didn’t appear to be made of food.

Hoshi cleared her throat. “The Palace of Plenty,” she announced, beaming. “It’s still in its early stages, obviously, but when it’s done it’ll be our permanent home. Lots of amenities and luxuries.”

“And plenty of room to grow,” added Hester.

Estelle gaped at it and the construction equipment parked on the beach. “A palace? The expedition lives up to the carving’s promises after all.” She cast a sidelong glance at starling. “Less slave labor this time, at least.”

“We were brought here to be servants and ended up queens,” said Hoshi.

“This explains the diverted power,” Starling ventured.

“We refitted the terraforming mechs. They aren’t automated, but they do good work in the right hands. Unfortunately there’s still some manual labor, but that’s what miss skin-and-bones here is for.” She reached forward and patted Hester’s pudgy shoulder.

“Keeps me in shape,” the redhead chirped, flexing her bicep. A flap of fat hung down from her arm instead.

Hoshi hopped down from the rover. “And it’s pretty safe down here. There’s a zapper at each end of the bay and even though the squirmers seem, ah, averse to swimming, we’ve got one on the island just in case.”

“Very defensible,” Starling observed. “How does one reach the island?”

“The mechs make an easy ferry. We might build a full bridge once we’re ready to move in.”

Estelle puffed out her cheeks. “I’m impressed you managed to find building materials here.”

“Well, we didn’t. It’s all cannibalized from the landing modules. We came with enough terraforming equipment for a seed colony…we’ve just repurposed it.”

“Seemed like a good idea to make it inedible, knowing ourselves,” Ayla added. “Otherwise Hester might get too drunk one night and try to eat a load-bearing wall.”

“Mm,” said Hester.

Selena turned around in her seat, at least as much as her girth allowed. “Point is, captain: yes, we’ve thought realistically about our future here. And it’s a future we’re building for ourselves, by our own design.”

Estelle looked out at the island and nodded. “It’s definitely a beautiful…vista. It’s the kind of place the colonial governors would carve out for themselves back home.”

“Exactly. It’s our turn to be royalty. And it’s the perfect place. I mean, look along the shore here. We just came out of the vegemite bogs, right? Little touch of home for yours truly. Then, over there you’ve got a whole ravine full of…what d’ya call them, Ayla?”

“Koeksisters,” the geologist replied, licking her lips. Just like ouma used to make.”

Hoshi squinted into the woods. “Back that way is a big field of my favorite pasta.” She jiggled her gut. “A lot of that’s gone in here, let me tell you.”

“And up there is the beer spring I was telling you about,” Hester chimed in, pointing. “Amazing stout. A lot of that’s gonna go in here, let me tell you.”

Selena smiled at her and straightened up. “So, captain, as you can see…ay, that’s new, ain’t it?”

They turned to follow her gaze.

“That marshy area to the east.” She grabbed the android’s shoulder. “Starling, zip us over there, would you?”

The marsh greeted them with a tangy aroma that hit Estelle with a wave of memories. She shrank into her seat. A rich, deeply brown sauce bubbled up, steaming.

The party stepped carefully out of the rover and gathered at the edge of one of the pools. Estelle stepped forward, hoping she was wrong, and dipped a finger in.

She sucked the finger clean and smacked her lips. “Yep. It’s…barbeque sauce.”

Selena bent down to try. “Huh. That’s new.”

“Not just any sauce, either. That there is the signature sweet stellar smokehouse specialty sauce from Red Dwarf Ribs back in New Kansas City.” Estelle dipped her finger in again. “It’s one of a kind. I’d know it anywhere…it’s the one thing I missed more than anything after we switched to ration bars.”

“It’s delicious,” Selena agreed, tasting it. “Never been to NKC, but I’m starting to wish I had!”

“Mm,” Ayla agreed.

“Oh man, now I want ribs,” slavered Hoshi.

Estelle furrowed her brow. “But it’s totally unique. Mess Sergeant Gardner never shared his recipe with anyone…much less an alien planet.” She folded her arms and glanced around. “You said this is new?”

Selena nodded, tasting some more. “This was a vegetable patch last time I came through.”

“So you weren’t kidding, Hester. The terrain does change.”

“Yep,” the doctor affirmed. “Not too often, but every once in a while. After that first big squirmer attack, there was a whole hill of…what did Hyllus call it? Stomp-it?”

“Stamppot,” offered Ayla.

“That. Weird mashy stuff. Anyway, a week or so after the attack, it up and vanished. Haven’t seen it anywhere since.”

“The squirmer attack?” Estelle echoed. “When you…booted Hyllus out?”

Hester paused. “By the stars…you’re right.”

“What?” grunted Selena, licking her fingers.

“I can’t believe I never made the connection. Stamppot was the food Hyllus grew up on in Amster-dome. He was the only one of us who actually liked it. It must have disappeared when he died…”

“…because he was no longer around to want it,” Ayla realized. “The geology here must be…procedurally generated, or something, based on the minds of whoever’s here. It can read what we’re craving…missing…what we’re hungry for…”

Selena whistled, reaching down for more sauce. “…and adapts accordingly.”

“How could it possibly do that?” Hoshi wondered. “I can’t even begin to fathom how tech like that would work, much less on a planet-wide scale…and with so many organic components.”

“Maybe it isn’t technological,” Hester mused. “Maybe it’s something else.”

“What else?”

She held up her hands. “I’m not saying it’s aliens, but…”

“Maybe it’s a trap,” Estelle muttered.

Hester eyed her. “Such a pessimist. A whole planet trying to give you what you want? Doesn’t it sound stupendous?”

“Doesn’t it sound suspicious?”

“It sounds like a paradise,” Selena concluded. “Do you seriously still want to go home to those dismal colonies? There’s nothing there, Estelle. There’s everything here—everything you could want. Look at this. The planet is literally changing itself to fulfill your every desire.” She drank down a handful of sauce.

Estelle watched her slurp it down. Selena’s stomach rumbled and she let out an impressive belch.

“Nice,” said Hoshi. “How much of that stuff have you had already?”

Selena shrugged. “It’s more filling than I expected. Plus, the gut’s still pretty packed from our pit-stop. That was a lot of peanut butter. Hell, look at how bloated I still am.”

“I dunno, commander,” Hester cooed, prodding the blonde’s ponderous paunch. “Gotta say, you’re looking bigger than usual lately.”

“You reckon?” She looked down. The thin tunic, which typically reached nearly down to her knees, only fell to her quaggy thighs. Her saddlebags covered much of the cable around her waist where they were exposed. “The belt has seemed a little tighter the past few days. I suppose it does feel like I’ve been putting on weight.”

Hoshi cocked an eyebrow. “And that’s a new experience for you, is it?”

“Faster than usual. You know what I mean. Well, we have been doing a little less working and a little more eating since our new guest arrived. Let’s see what our vacation days have achieved, shall we?” She raised her chubby wrist and tapped the bio-pak there.

“Four hundred and sixty pounds,” it bleeped.

“460? Holy nebulas!” she whooped. “Ladies, I…am officially quadruple the woman I was when we landed.”

Estelle choked. The others cheered.

Selena bustled about, fat arms waving. “This calls for a celebration.”

“Feast!” cried Ayla.

“Damn right a feast. And a real screamer.”

Hester squirmed with delight. “I’ll start cooking as soon as we’re back.”

“No, no. It’s too late in the day. We can wait till the weekend. We’ll need a few days to prepare, anyway. And let Starling take care of the cooking, doctor; you’ve been falling behind on your belly-building lately. For this party, you are hereby ordered to stuff your gullet fuller than it’s ever been before, you hear me?”

She attempted a salute. “Aye aye, commander!”

Selena turned to Estelle. “And you, captain…I can’t give you orders, but I would ask that you at least pretend to enjoy yourself.”
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Old 01-30-2017, 10:52 PM   #46
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This is such an excellent story! I'm dying for the next installment.
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Old 02-05-2017, 12:02 PM   #47
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Maybe put on some party music for this chapter.


Chapter 18


Estelle tilted her back and stifled a burp. She could feel her stomach distending from what had seemed like an unending dinner and a draft tickled a ring of exposed skin above her waistband. But she wouldn’t let it bother her, opting instead to take another sip of beer and enjoy her pleasant buzz.

She told herself if was only a buzz, but from the way the ceiling swam overhead, part of her admitted she was drunker than she’d intended. She was probably still the soberest in the room, though that wasn’t saying much. She was the skinniest in the room, too, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t sporting a spare tire.

Selena filled the seat next to her, having declared herself already too inebriated to stand. Moreover she was probably too full to stand—the feast she’d packed away could have been measured not servings but meals. Her stomach, stretched taut despite all the layers of softness, bulged up against and over the lip of the table.

Estelle looked across at the other women. Hoshi and Ayla reclined on the floor, leaning against one another’s backs, giggling uncontrollably. Hester sat on the edge of a crate above them, chugging down another mug of beer.

Hester was incredible. Estelle had marveled at how much the other women could eat and had assumed that Hester, being the smallest of them, possessed the most restrained appetite. Hester’s thirst, however, outpaced them all.

The puffy little redhead had probably sucked down more than double what any of the others had drunk and showed no sign of slowing. Her freckled cheeks were rosy, her eyes bleary, and her hair was wilder than usual, but she was clearly the happiest person in the room—the happiest person on the planet, Estelle realized.

Hester’s shirt had disappeared and her swollen breasts swung free. They rippled as she chugged and they banged against one another as she wriggled triumphantly with each emptied mug. Her sloshing beer belly almost seemed flat in comparison.

“That girl can drink,” said Selena.

Estelle nodded slowly, trying to stop the room from spinning so much. “It’s your party, but she’s having a better time, I think.”

“Good on her. She needs a break now and then. We give her a hard time for not eating as much or getting as big as the rest of us, but it’s really because she’s always busy doing the cooking and washing-up. If we had the mod-cons, she’d be the biggest here, I reckon.”

“She has…” Estelle thought for a moment, frowning. “…a very large chest.”

“Large is what we do here.”

Estelle looked down at the spread of empty plates before her and at the bloated dome of her own abdomen. “I’ve noticed. Hopefully I don’t catch, uh, too much of that.”

The exposed ring of flesh on her waist bothered her, especially in how it had begun to curl over her waistband. She tapped the bio-pak on her wrist.

“Subject is in good health,” it chirped. “183 pounds.”

“Holy nebulas,” Estelle hissed, rubbing her temple. “I know I took it a little easier this week, but…oof.”

Selena squeezed her shoulder. “The first couple months are like that. Ha, you shoulda seen it when we were first getting accla…hic-urrp…acclimated. I used to wanna be a runway model, you know. Maps was like…a side thing to pay bills. So picture me after a couple weeks here, all lanky and gangly but with this big old pot belly hanging out of my suit. The changes are all so big when you’re that small…Hoshi’s butt just took over, haha, and Hester’s chest…phew.”

Estelle’s bio-pak bleeped with sudden concern. “Toxin detected. Ethanol group. Impairment likely.”

“What? Oh. Yeah, I’m a little tipsy. Thanks.”

“Commence detoxification?”

She pursed her lips and looked away. “Uh, no. Belay detoxi…detox. Don’t. I’ll just…y’know…”

“Enjoy it?” asked Selena, cocking an eyebrow.

“Yeah, I guess. Commander’s orders, and all that.” She sat up and cleared her throat. “But in…moderation.”

Selena smiled. “I’m glad. I was worried you’d just sulk all night. Bloody oath, that would be a downer. I know being marooned wasn’t how you planned things, but this can’t be so awful, can it?”

“It’s…not. And you gals have been very welcoming.” She folded her arms and realized, to her consternation, that they were able to rest atop her gut. “Very caring and very…patient. You’re good people. Selena, the reason I’ve been so adamant about getting you out of here because, well, I care about you guys too and want to get you home. It’s fun here, I can’t fight you on that, but it…it can’t last forever. Things that are too good to be true, and all that.”

Selena shrugged and sipped at her beer.

“And there are good people back home. At least some. And they deserve some hope. You could bring them that hope.”

Hester had managed to stand—however unsteadily—on the crate and was attempting to dance. Hoshi and Ayla cheered and clapped a rhythm for her.

Selena leaned over, bulk squishing against Estelle’s. “You were arrested for smuggling, yeah?”

“That…was the charge, yes.”

“What were you smuggling?”

Estelle eyed her. She took a deep breath and set down her mug. “People,” she admitted at length. “Refugees. There was that unrest out in the rim…you probably remember it. Folks were getting left behind and I just…” She threw up her hands.

“Trust me, I remember it. Couldn’t stand by, huh?”

“I guess.”

Selena mulled for a moment, then clapped her on the shoulder. “You’re alright, ‘Stelle.”

“Ha, yeah?”

“Mm-hmm. Cheers for being…hmmp…one of the good ones.” She finished her beer and looked over at the others. “Come on, then—they’re hittin’ it without us.”

Estelle watched the big woman climb up from her chair. “I feel like we’ve been hitting them plenty right here…” she protested, pushing her empty mug over for emphasis.

Selena had stopped listening. “Hester!” she shouted across the room. “Dr. Irving, you are being highly insub…in…insubordinate!”

The redhead stopped her dance and stood swaying in confusion. She hiccupped nervously. “Commander, I—“

“Spare me,” the blonde retorted. She nearly toppled over, but steadied her bulk on Estelle’s head. “Doctor, you were given a direct order today to stuff your little gullet fuller than it’s ever been before, were you not?” Her face dimpled into a smirk.

Hester’s puppy-dog eyes widened and gleamed, realizing. She nodded.

Selena moved to fold her arms, but lost her balance in doing do. After Estelle had caught her and righted her, she continued, “There’s still a cart full of rumcake over by the kitchen, Hester. And I remember a night last spring when a certain doctor just couldn’t get enough rumcake…”

If Hester had possessed a tail, it would have been wagging. She licked her lips.

“That belly is not big enough, Hester. Tonight’s your chance. Fill it.”

“Aye, commander—hic!”

Selena clapped her hands together. “Which brings me to tonight’s speech.”

“Speech!” cried Hoshi and Ayla, twisting round. “Speech!”

Selena wobbled her way to the far side of the room, bracing herself on the wall as she went. There, near the command consoles, a footlocker stood as a serviceable podium. She squished up against it, waited for her audience to quiet down, put up a hand, and belched.

They applauded. She giggled to herself.

“But seriously,” she began, “I just want to thank you ladies. You’re true blue. Always there for each other. You know, we came from pretty hard places. And we had ourselves a pretty hard journey. Things were pretty hard all around. But now, here…” She tried to keep a straight face, but it cracked. “Now we’re soft all around, aye?”

The crew cheered. Clapping along politely, Estelle couldn’t help but laugh with them. While Selena pontificated, Hester slipped down from her crate, refilled her mug, and tottered over to sit next to Estelle.

“That’s not cake,” Estelle noted.

Hester grinned. “Maybe later. They’ll prolly pick it apart before I—hip!—before I get there.” She poured some of her beer into Estelle’s mug. “Shee, I’m always too busy…helping. But I’m plenty content just being the—hic!—being the town drunkard, hee. ‘slike my…destiny.”

They clinked mugs.

“You got a dessstiny?” the redhead asked, raising the mug to her pert lips.

Estelle grimaced into her beer.

“They said, when we left,” Selena continued, “that we were the best and the brightest. Now, they thought they were lying, but…clearly, they were accidentally right. I wouldn’t change any of you for anyone back home!”

They cheered again. Estelle found herself cheering louder. Selena threw up her hands in jubilation and teetered back from her podium. She caught herself on the one of the command consoles, lighting up several buttons. She leaned against it a moment to steady herself, and returned to her speech.

“And what…luck, that of all the swashbuckling captains they could have sent to find us, they chose Estelle Gorlois, someone as caring and compassionate as any of us. Captain, I want you to know…when spring comes and that ice opens up…whether you decide to stay in paradise or go back to the real world…” She paused for another belch. “…you’ll always be one of us and you’ll always be in our hearts.”

Another cheer rose up. The crew looked to Estelle for a reply.

She sat up—as best she could—and searched her sluggish brain for an appropriate response. “Well, uh, of course I’m in your hearts…it’s not like there’s any room left in your stomachs!”

This was met with the loudest cheer of the night. Selena fell over again in delight, all but smothering the console. Hoshi and Ayla decided on a celebratory slice of rumcake.

Hester hopped up and wrapped Estelle in a long hug, burying the captain’s face in her breasts. “You’re the—hic!—the best failed rescuer ever!”

“Thanks, Hester,” Estelle gasped. “Glad to be here.”

“Glad to have you here,” the redhead purred. She bent down and kissed Estelle on her cheek, then bounded off to join the others.
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Old 02-12-2017, 06:44 PM   #48
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Chapter 19

Estelle woke suddenly, startled by a sound she could only have heard in some dream.

She rolled over and resolved to return to her slumber, but couldn’t. The fact that she wasn’t on her bed may have played a role and she wondered for a moment how she’d managed to pass out sprawled atop the dessert cart. There was also the sinking feeling that a small beeping sound coming from the command console required some attention.

Sunlight filtered in faintly from the tunnel. Estelle blinked at it, trying to piece the world back together. She found some images in her swirling memory of herself, admitting that the party was actually kind of fun, of Hester, offering her another slice of cake, of Hoshi and Ayla, giggling and kissing, and of beer, so much beer.

Lowering herself gingerly from the cart, she glanced blearily around the room. Hoshi, Ayla, and Selena were all tucked into their beds, which seemed unfair. Hoshi slept face down, her butt rising into the air like a pair of hills. Ayla was curled onto her side; her thighs flattened out into broad plateaus. Selena’s belly faced upward, its rotund bulk uncovered by blankets. Hester had draped herself over the commander, treating her paunch like the world’s softest pillow.

Estelle sighed. Her own stomach surged with fullness and indigestion, her head pounded with a furious hangover, and her pants were missing. “Nebulas,” she moaned. “Starling? Starling, you in here?”

She heard a mechanical whirring behind her as Starling strode over. “I have been recharging in stasis. Do you need me?”

“There’s a noise,” she gurgled. “I think it’s the console. I would go check, but I just blinked and my eyes have decided to stay closed.”

“Of course, captain. And if your discomfort is too extreme, I would advise you to take advantage of the detoxification protocol.”

“What? Oh, the thing. Hey, bio-pak…hair of the dog.”

It chirruped. “Unrecognized query. Please specify.”

“Come on. The detox thing. Let’s go.”

“Commencing filtration. Estimated time—”

“Captain,” called the android.

“Not so loud, Starling. What is it?”

He grimaced. “It is a proximity alert. The defensive systems appear to be offline.”

Estelle flopped to her feet. A rending screech somewhere in the distance echoed its way into the cavern.

“By the stars,” she hissed. “That’s what woke me up.” She yanked her trousers off the floor and began tugging them on. “Selena fell into the console last night. She must have hit something. Can you turn it back on?”

“I have done so. But the defenses only guard the perimeter. If any creatures have entered the valley—and it sounds as if at least one has—we will have to address that.”

“Nebulas. Wake everybody up. Red alert, or whatever. Ugh, damn these pants…suit, refit.”

“Refitting.”

The lights flicked on as they roused the others.

“Huh?” groaned Selena, lifting her head.

“We have company,” Estelle grunted. “Squirmers.”

The others shuddered at the word. They rolled out of their beds in confusion, blinking and clutching their heads. Hester, still rather drunk, flopped off of Selena’s gut and toppled over.

“How’d they get by the zappers?” she slurred.

“The perimeter was deactivated,” Estelle explained, tapping Hester’s bio-pak and starting the detox.

Ayla glared. “Why would anyone do that?”

“Somebody must have tripped it by accident last night.” Estelle looked away from Selena as she explained. “We were all pretty, uh, sloshed. Could have been anyone. Doesn’t matter now.”

Starling stepped into the circle. “I have reactivated the perimeter, but it is likely that a number of creatures has entered the valley.” They froze as the squirmer shrieked again, closer. “Very likely.”

“Bloody oath,” hissed Selena. “Get topside, gals. We’re fish in a barrel down here.”

They grabbed their blankets and hurried up the tunnel. The explorers were in various states of undress, with Hester in only her panties. Estelle and Starling led the way, being much more mobile and agile than the others. Starling loaded the rifle as he ran.

“Commander,” asked the android, “what is your usual protocol in this situation?”

Selena panted. “There isn’t one…they haven’t gotten in since we set up the perimeter.”

The sun had risen just over the rim of the valley, bathing everything in gold light. The party spilled out of the tunnel and skidded to a jiggling halt: at the edge of the clearing loomed a huge squirmer. Seeing them, it reared up and roared.

“Get to the rover!” shouted Selena.

They turned, but a second squirmer was on top of the vehicle, waiting for them.

Starling stepped forward. “I will attempt to lead them away. You must get to safety.”

“We’re not gonna get anywhere on foot,” Estelle countered. “We could barely outrun them before I hurt my leg, and these girls…” She gestured at the obese, wheezing troupe behind her. The squirmers began to undulate toward them.

“You cannot stay here,” the android insisted.

Estelle nodded. “The balloon,” she realized. “Get to the balloon!”

They shuffled around the cheesecake mound, holding on to one another and keeping an eye on the squirmer. It followed them, but cautiously, as though it suspected a trap. Starling waved at it and hollered, but it ignored him.

Estelle shoved Hester up against the balloon’s housing. “Get it open—quick.”

“Aye aye,” the redhead whimpered.

A gunshot rang out. The squirmer halted, surprised by the plasma wound that appeared in its membrane. It rounded on Starling, who quickly set about reloading.

The walls of the storage pod fell open and the balloon surged up. Estelle began shoving everyone into the seating basket.

“There we go. Now we’ll have a nice bird’s eye view while Starling kicks some squirmer butt…ugh, get your squirming butt in there, Hoshi…”

“Sorry! This thing was only built with room for three. And Ayla here’s two people all by herself.”

“You’re one to talk,” the geologist retorted. “Just sit on my lap.”

“But you’re belly’s already sitting there!”

The squirmer turned back. Starling shot it again, but it simply absorbed the smoldering wound into itself and roiled forward. The other creature spilled down off the rover and began making its way around the other side of the mound.

Estelle closed the rail and climbed atop the tangle of fat bodies. She gave the lever a kick and the balloon floated free, the winch spooling out cable.

It did not, however, float up. It listed drunkenly a few feet off the ground and drifted—to their horror—in the direction of the charging monster.

“Go up!” shouted Ayla.

“We’re too heavy,” Hoshi murmured.

Estelle cursed. “Can we get a fire under the balloon? Something?” The squirmer drew closer.

“Not enough,” said Selena, sitting up. “Too much weight.”

“But…wait, Selena, what are you—”

Selena flopped forward and hurled herself over the rail.

“Commander!” cried the others.

She slammed gut-first into the lunging squirmer, halting its advance and throwing it down. The balloon lurched backward and began to rise.

Starling had reached the rover and revved the engine. Selena wrestled with the creature; from above, it looked like a bean bag battling a water bed.

“C’mere, you shonky bastard,” she growled, driving her considerable weight into it.

The squirmer suddenly flowed out from beneath her and straightened up out of her grasp. A pseudopod stretched out from its midsection, seized her by the throat, and heaved her off the ground.

She thrashed against it, but her pudgy arms couldn’t reach its body. The squirmer shrieked, convulsed, and hurled her against a nearby tree.

“No!” cried Hester. The balloon was safely out of reach, but close enough to see the action.

Estelle hesitated, gritting her teeth, then snatched Hester’s blanket. Leaving the naked redhead to her bewilderment, she wrapped the blanket over the balloon’s winch-cable and ziplined back toward the surface.

The tree trunk had cracked. Selena tried to get to her feet, but the squirmer was upon her.

“Nobody threatens my crew—”

It hefted her up and slammed her into the ground, then into the tree again, snapping it entirely.

Estelle hit the ground and tossed the blanket aside. The second squirmer rolled up to face her.

“Fuck off,” she hissed.

The rover plowed into it, lifting it off the ground and crashing it into one of the storage pods. Starling reversed and prepared for another charge.

Estelle sprinted over. “Starling! Give me the wheel!”

“You need to get to safety!” he protested.

“Mine’s secondary,” she spat, shoving him out of the driver’s seat. “I’ll get them to chase me…lead them out of the valley.”

“I should do that.”

“They don’t give a damn about you, Starling! They must not see you as edible.” She shifted into gear and grabbed the rifle from the passenger seat. “Get down to the console—you’ll need to deactivate the zappers long enough for these assholes to leave the valley and then reactivate them once I’m through. Got it?”

“I don’t think this—”

“It’s happening. Go!” She peeled out and screeched the rover toward the first squirmer. It loomed over Selena, who had stopped moving.

Estelle levelled the rifle at it and emptied its clip. The creature twisted round.

“Get away from her, you bitch!” The engine roared and she collided with the squirmer, trapping it on the rover’s hood.

The second squirmer flopped out of the wrecked storage pod and rolled after her. Estelle spun the rover in a tight doughnut and sped out of the clearing. With one monster on her hood and the other close on her tail, she reloaded the rifle and plotted the quickest route out of the valley.

Starling dashed back through the tunnel and into the habitat. He pulled up the video monitors and flipped through feeds until he could see the rover heading toward a narrow, tree-lined gap in the valley rim.

The squirmer on her hood was reaching a pseudopod at Estelle, crushing the windshield and knocking a crate from the backseat. Estelle ducked and the monitor flashed as she fired several more rounds into the monster.

Starling waited as long as he dared, then flipped the blue lever off. The lights around the perimeter went dark and a muted exclamation point flickered in the corner of the screen.

The rover blasted through the gap, the second squirmer in hot pursuit. Estelle braked suddenly, sending the first squirmer flying off the hood. She pulled out of the way just in time for the second to lunge past her.

They straightened up and stared her down. Estelle took a deep breath and shifted into reverse. Starling shoved the blue lever back up and the system hummed to life.

She shot back toward the gap, steering unsteadily, firing a few useless gunshots as she went. The squirmers rushed after her. By the time she reached the gap, they were nearly up with the rover.

But the zappers lit up, stopping the squirmers in their undulating tracks. Their shrieks could be heard across the valley, echoing off the rim. Estelle plunged the rover back down toward the habitat and the squirmers limped away, sizzling and steaming.
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Old 02-20-2017, 11:31 AM   #49
Marlow
 
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Chapter 20

“Alert,” cheeped the bio-pak, “subject has sustained significant internal trauma.”

Selena coughed. “I’m fine, mates. Din’t feel a thing…got too much cushion on my body.”

She was not fine, however, and everyone gathered around her could see it. The bio-pak continued. “Extent of injuries beyond the capabilities of this field-unit. Recommend immediate care at an emergency medical facility.”

“Is she…?” Hester whimpered.

“Engaging hospice protocols.”

Estelle parked the rover and headed over. She hadn’t tugged her top back down and her spare tire jostled free, squished by the rifle’s strap. She glanced at Starling, who furtively shook his head.

“Commander,” she said, kneeling next to Selena.

“Captain,” wheezed the blonde.

Estelle winced. “You…you did it, Selena. We’re safe.”

“Too easy. Told you I could take ‘em…oy, I’m knackered now, though.” She gave Estelle a painful smirk. “Thank you, captain.”

Hester leaned over her. “You’ll be alright, commander. I’m gonna get my kit.”

Selena grabbed her arm. “Don’t waste it, red. I’m stuffed. Listen, ladies…” She made an effort to sit up, but didn’t make it far.

“Just lie down. Rest.”

“Listen to me. When spring gets here…when that pass opens up…” She coughed and glanced at Estelle. “…you should go back to the cargo shuttle with the captain. You deserve to get home…and home deserves to know about this place. We’ve been selfish. I’ve been selfish. Let’s be the heroes we thought we were supposed to be...”

The others knelt down around her. She reached a shaky hand to touch each of them in turn.

“…the heroes I know you can be. Gals…” She touched Estelle’s hand last and closed her eyes, blonde locks falling over her face. “…stay hungry.”

They bowed their heads, holding her. The morning breeze rustled the black licorice branches overhead.

That evening, they made a slow procession toward the south end of the valley, driving Selena’s body in the rover. Colonial tradition dictated that she be buried in her landing pod, but she hadn’t fit in what remained of the tube and they’d instead fashioned a casket from a broken storage container. They draped the flag of Newer South Wales over it and dropped in some of her favorite plates, utensils and personal effects. It took the whole party to carry, though Starling found himself handling much of the weight.

Hoshi fashioned a corrugated headstone from some scrap plating. On it Ayla etched, “Commander Selena Jolan, E.V. Triptolemus—cartographer, pioneer, and beloved leader. Died on a full stomach.”

Hester suggested they bury her in the vegemite bogs, since discovering them had brought Selena such joy. Starling concurred on a pragmatic level, as none of the others had a taste for the bitter spread and would be unlikely to eat from the bog.

They found, however, that the vegemite had vanished. A swamp of gelatin greeted them instead.

“It’s gone,” Hesper choked.

Starling stared out at it. “It appears your hypothesis about the barbeque sauce was correct, doctor,” he observed. “Without the one person present who enjoyed it, the vegemite has been replaced. The planet’s topography indeed seems to reflect the tastes—or perhaps the cravings—of those who walk it.”

“Let’s save the analysis for later, buddy,” said Estelle, moving him away. “Any other ideas? We can’t have her near a food source…”

“Everything here is a food source,” Ayla pointed out.

“We could float her down the river,” offered Hoshi. “I’ll knock up a raft. Give her a…send-off.”

Hester nodded. “That might be nice. We could have candles.”

“What do you say, captain?” asked Ayla.

Estelle stiffened. “Guys, you don’t have to…I’m not in charge here. I don’t want to just barge in and…”

“You’re a captain. We’re science officers…barely. Chain of command puts you in charge. And you’re way more qualified than any of us.” Ayla kicked a chocolate rock out of the way. “Selena trusted you. She told us to go with you. We’ll go with you. Right, girls?”

“Absolutely,” said Hoshi.

“You risked your life for us,” Hester reminded her. “I know I won’t forget that.”

Estelle frowned, but nodded. “Okay. We’ll get through this together. Promise.”

They smiled. “Thank you.”

“We’ll need a plan, though.”

“Are you suggesting we deviate from the set course of action?” Starling asked. “I believe wintering in this valley remains the safest option.”

She folded her arms. “Yeah, no, we’ll stay here till the pass opens. But with the damage to the rover and the limited power…we’re gonna need to be careful.”

“So we prioritize short-term survival over long-term habitation and colonial establishment.”

“Exactly. Means we’ll have to stop the work on the, uh, pleasure palace—”

“The palace of plenty,” Hester corrected her.

“Right…so instead we focus on just surviving one last season and then a long trip back to the cargo shuttle.”

Hoshi nodded. “Shuttering the palace will give the power back to the zappers. I can maybe jury-rig more defense platforms from the construction equipment.”

“Good.” Estelle brushed her hair back and glanced around. “And then a couple of little things…we should hand off as many of the big tasks as we can to Starling. Sorry, man.”

“Not a problem. I concur with the idea.”

“Keeps us free and on call. Also, Starling will be the only one who can leave the valley until we make our trip. It’s just not worth the risk. And he can bring us anything from out there that we can’t get in here.”

There were some frowns, but they understood.

“We should be okay to walk around the valley, but don’t leave the habitat alone. Travel with a buddy and try not to, you know, go missing. Fair?”

They nodded.

“Otherwise, we carry on. Hunker down for the winter and wait for the spring. Should be safe in here if we stay smart.” She put her hands on her softened hips and looked up at the roiling cloudcover. “It’ll take some work, but we can get through this together. We all just have to…pull our weight.”

“That’s not fair,” said Ayla, cracking a smile. “Some of us have more weight to pull than others.”

Hoshi pinched her lovehandle. “Looks like you have some catching up to do, then.”

They broke into exhausted laughter. Hester joined in, her pudgy face softening with relief.

Estelle glanced at Starling, then looked down at Selena’s casket. “Stay hungry.”
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Old 02-21-2017, 04:12 PM   #50
donny78
 
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Selena’s death is very sad.
I wonder whether a highly advanced alien civilization built this planet as their paradise (Cockaigne) and then they were exterminated by the squirmers they had created as their helpers to carry their swollen bodies around et cetera. Perhaps the squirmers evolved in a way they hadn’t planned and they had grown too heavy and immobile to fight or evade them.

By the way: “Refitting.” is my new favorite sentence.

Keep up the good work!
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