BBW Planet XL - by Marlow

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Marlow

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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.
 

donny78

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"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!
 

Clovis

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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.
 

Marlow

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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.”
 

Marlow

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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.
 

Marlow

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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.
 

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.”
 

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!
 

Marlow

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Chapter 21

The next day they rerouted power from the construction site. The footprint of the ‘Palace of Plenty’ went dark, now little more than the skeleton of an abandoned ambition. Estelle stood patiently while the others mourned it.

They chose not to demolish the unfinished remains. It seemed fitting to have at least one monument to their existence on the planet and Estelle could sense that in the back corners of the crew’s heads they still entertained some faint, ridiculous hope they would one day return to it.

With the project closed, they moved the extra zapper from the island to the clearing outside their cheesecake habitat. Estelle liked the idea of a secondary layer of security should the perimeter fail again. To that end, she had Starling repurpose the cage that had once been dropped on her. It would enclose the command console, preventing any future accidents.

The engineering mechs were trudged back from the beach, as well. Though they weren’t built for combat, the crew briefly considered using them as emergency suits of armor. This was quickly abandoned when it became apparent that the armor couldn’t close over the drivers’ engorged bellies, but having the loaders stand stalwartly outside the habitat felt strangely comforting.

It was hard work—harder and more involved, at least, than any they’d done for some time—and took the better part of a week.

Estelle toyed with the idea of instituting some kind of diet plan, worried that Hoshi and Ayla wouldn’t fit through their escape vehicle’s airlock come spring. But she found herself so exhausted and famished after each day of labor that the idea vanished from her mind. She ate heartily with the others, filling her gut, feeling that at least this time she was justified in doing so.

“So, tomorrow,” she said between courses, stifling a belch, “I think we can take a day off. I’d say you’ve more than earned it.”

The girls nodded, chewing methodically.

“After that, we’ll need to get started on our travel plans. Spring’s still a couple months out, I understand, but the sooner we’re ready the readier we’ll be.”

Hoshi leaned back and rested her hands on her belly. “Actually, captain, I have some ideas on that.”

“Hit me.”

“You said you were thinking we should go back on foot, so as to keep the noise down and avoid attracting the squirmers’ attention.” She paused to finish chewing. “Captain, there’s no way. I’m 415 pounds. I get out of breath crossing the room…this fat ass isn’t waddling a hundred and twenty miles.”

“Mine neither,” Ayla agreed. “I’m not that far from four hundred myself. That’s a lot of cargo to carry.”

Estelle swallowed. “Well, ladies, that’s why we…” She glanced around, dreading what she had to say. “…we may have to…work on…well, we might have to think a little about lo—”

“Yeah, that’s not happening,” Hoshi interjected. “I had a better idea. Starling?”

The android emerged from the kitchen, tray in hand. A cake sat atop it, a wobbling mold in the shape of the expedition’s rover, with some added features. He set in in front of Estelle, who felt her mouth begin to water despite the throbbing fullness of her already distended stomach.

“We’ve got plenty of scrap material now,” the engineer explained, waving her bionic arm. “We can put it to better use: I can modify the rover a little, make it into a sort of mobile defense platform. Won’t be quite as roomy as before, but shouldn’t have trouble hauling four girls and…” She slapped Ayla’s gut. “…cargo.”

Estelle studied the cake. She tried to consider its defensive capabilities, but couldn’t stop wondering about its flavor. “Did you make this?” she asked Starling.

He nodded modestly, wiping his hands on his apron.

“I did the fondant,” Hester chimed.

“I might even be able to install a portable zapper,” Hoshi continued. She reached over and topped the cake off with a blueberry. “And then, when the time comes, we just roll home in style: safe, sound, and…sitting down.”

“Just how we like it,” Ayla laughed.

Hoshi nodded. “It’ll take some time, but we’ve got all winter. What do you say?”

Estelle’s stomach gurgled. “…alright. Nice work. I say…we dig in.”

She grabbed a knife to begin distributing pieces, but Starling stopped her. He visited the kitchen again and returned with more trays: there was a whole cake ready for each of them.

The next day, their day off, started much later. Late in the afternoon, Ayla wobbled over to Estelle and plopped down beside her.

“Speaking of digging,” she mused out of nowhere, “I’ve been doing some geology.”

“For once!” called Hoshi.

They were lounging around a chocolate fondue hot spring, sipping wine and watching the sun descend. Estelle had been half-dozing, nursing a belly that still felt full from a pair of lunches.

“What’s that, Ayla?” she asked, refilling her glass.

“I’ve been playing with the terrain. Trying to figure out its changes.” She stretched up and caught the chocolate-covered marshmallow Hester tossed into her mouth. “Mm. Anyway, as we’ve known, there isn’t much of a closed ecosystem here, at least as we would usually understand it. Things don’t really…interact.”

“I’m interacting with this fondue right now,” Hoshi chided.

“Ignore her. Look. The plants here don’t actually grow. The rocks aren’t formed from any recognizable geological processes. Stuff just…appears. So I’ve tried to isolate samples of some of this stuff.” She rolled over onto her side, paunch flopping out of her top. “I had a sample of Selena’s vegemite in my lab. And just like how the bog changed after she…after she passed, my sample changed, too.”

Estelle sipped at her wine. “What are you saying, Ayla?”

“The sample was in isolation. Just vegemite in a test tube. Now it’s grape jelly in a test-tube.”

“Mm, jelly,” said Hester.

“It changed on its own,” Estelle realized.

“Exactly. The molecules somehow rearranged themselves. It’s like…smart-matter, or something.”

“That is interesting.”

“Very. And I had an idea.”

Estelle gulped. Hoshi’s last big idea had led to her eating an entire cake. “Hit me.”

Ayla spread her hands. “We’re leaving in a cargo shuttle that can carry over 20,000 tonnes. I say we fill it to the brim with…well, stuff from the planet.”

“Snacks for the road?”

“More than that. If my theory is correct, if we fill that space with planetary matter, it could turn into a microcosm of the planet itself: a warehouse ready to satisfy the cravings of whoever walks into it. Think of the implications for our research!”

“Think of the implications for our waistlines!” Hoshi added.

“Think of the implications for colonial prosperity,” Estelle concluded, nodding.

“Exactly. It would be something to bring home, captain. Not just as proof that we were here, but proof of what we found and an opportunity to learn from it. It could be the key to unlocking synthesis…it could solve scarcity forever.”

The captain drained her wine and dipped her toes into the molten chocolate. “And you ladies could be heroes after all.”
 

Marlow

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Chapter 22

Estelle sat staring at the empty plates before her. She tried to estimate the sheer quantity of hash browns she’d just eaten, so that she could feel appropriately ashamed, but all her foggy mind could guess was ‘all of them.’ A wet belch gurgled up from deep within her gut, which sat sheepishly atop her lap.

Hester pulled the dishes away, her breast brushing against Estelle’s head as she leaned past. “All done, eh?” the redhead lilted.

“I was done two or three plates ago. Not sure why I kept going.”

“We’re rubbing off on you,” Hester mused, rubbing her shoulders. “Welcome to the crew. Which reminds me…Hoshi says we’re all set for the initiation this morning.”

Estelle hiccupped. “Initiation? We…we’re doing that today? Stars, why did you let me eat so much breakfast?”

Hester gave her a hurt look. “Och, captain, I’d never stop a soul from eating and drinking her fill.” She snagged Estelle’s mostly untouched third mimosa and sucked it down in one go. “Any road, we do the thing clear on the other end of the valley. The walk should set your tummy right, eh?”

It didn’t.

As long as it took the corpulent crew to cross, Estelle still found herself massaging a pang in her abdomen and battling an incessant case of hiccups when the caravan halted beneath a narrow, jagged outcrop of the valley wall.

Ayla clapped her on the back. “Behold the Tower of Trials, captain.”

“Oh, nebulas. Hiccup!”

“We’ll go check on the setup. Meet us at that little waterfall when you’re ready.”

Estelle gaped up at the tower. It was a bizarre, twisting rock formation that reached upward along the wall. Platforms protruded out at oblique angles, sprawling with vegetation. Water trickled down one side in a nearly vertical stream, falling the last dozen feet into a small, bubbling pool.

Starling appeared behind her. “Captain, are you certain this is wise? The nature of this challenge seems contrary to your declared dietary principles.”

“I have to do it,” she gulped. “I need to gain their respect…build solid—hic!—arity. And, if nothing else, the girls need a morale boost if we’re going to make it through winter.”

“And you believe self-abasement is the most prudent course of action.”

“I’m gaining their trust the same way they earned each other’s.”

“Oh, it’s ‘trust’ you’re gaining, then. I see.”

She glared at him. “Why did the admiralty program you with so much snark? Look, I’m planning to go back to my declared dietary principles tomorrow. Just need to get this over with, first.” Swallowing one last hiccup, she trudged over to the others.

“Hope you’re hungry, captain,” Ayla giggled.

“Well then why was breakfast so…” She grimaced. “Erm…yes, very. Bring it on, ladies.”

Hoshi clapped her hands. Her massive rear quaked with glee. “So, we’ve all done this challenge at some point. Selena came up with it; said it would cement our unbreakable partnership as a crew.”

“I understand,” Estelle replied, with as much ceremony as she could muster. “I…accept the challenge?”

“Excellent. Doctor, please adorn the captain with the traditional sash.”

Hester bounced over and loosely wrapped a bright yellow ribbon around Estelle’s waist, fastening it in a knot right over her navel.

“You might want to tighten that,” Estelle remarked. “Feels like it’s about to fall off.”

“It’ll be tight soon enough.”

Hoshi cleared her throat. “Captain, to complete this trial, you must ascend to the zenith of this tower,” she announced, waving a pudgy hand. “Along your climb you shall encounter four molds of gelatin, each a different color and each more delicious than the last.”

“Mmm,” said Hester.

“You are to consume all four in their entirety.”

“Jealous,” said Ayla.

“Once you have reached the top and finished the final mold, you may return to us a full member of this crew.”

Estelle gulped. “Right. ‘Full’ being the operative word.” She looked around. “I’m surprised, ladies. This looks like a lot of physical activity.”

“Watching you wriggle your way up is half the fun, at least for us spectators. See, if you’re gonna get fat, you gotta learn how to use your fat.”

“But I’m not really planning to get…” She closed her eyes and turned to face the tower. “Whatever. Just show me where I start.”

Ayla pointed. “The first mold is on that platform near the waterfall. There’s a crack in the rock that will let you climb up.”

Estelle stepped forward, craning her neck up at the tower. Behind her, the other women sat down on a large danish; Hester handed out glasses and pulled the pitcher of mimosas from the rover.

The fissure in the rocks opened up wide enough to step into, though Estelle felt her lovehandles brush against either side. The moss-covered floor rose beneath her and formed a primitive set of stairs. She followed them up in a tight spiral, pushing vines from her face. The stairs brought her two dozen feet up and when she finally reached the first platform she found herself breathing heavily.

The platform stretched out next to the waterfall and overlooked the clearing she’d left below. She peered over the edge; the other girls waved up at her. Stepping back, she found a massive jello mold waiting patiently in the center of the platform.

It was orange gelatin, in the shape of a giant gumdrop. The cascade of the waterfall could be seen through its translucent form.

Estelle shook her head. “You’ve got to be kidding me, guys. This thing’s as big as I am.”

“I think you drastically underestimate how big you are,” came the reply.

She knelt down and poked it. It wobbled. “That’s like…two liters, at least.” She cupped up a handful, smelled it, and slid it into her mouth.

It was fruity; a very sweet citrus.

“Alright,” she sighed. “Gotta do it, Estelle. You need them to trust you or you’re never gonna get off this damn planet.”

She scooped up another handful and slurped it down. It was definitely tasty and smooth enough she could almost drink it; it jiggled all the way down to her stomach, which jiggled in reply.

Before she knew it, she was finished. Only a few pebbles of orange lay scattered on the platform and she was wiping her mouth. She closed her eyes and rocked with a long belch.

“Sounds like she finished the first one,” came a voice from below. Next one’s on the other side of the waterfall, captain, and up that rise.”

Estelle glanced over wearily. On the other side of the waterfall she could see another ledge, which wound up the side of the tower and out of sight.

Jumping the gap was out of the question, but a pile of treebranches reached from her platform across to the ledge. Estelle walked up and tentatively stepped a foot onto the makeshift bridge.

The branch she touched bowed sharply and she heard a series of snaps. She fell back in a panic, panting in the waterfall’s mist.

“Uh, no. That wouldn’t have supported you at your original weight,” she muttered, grabbing her gut, “much less with this on you.”

She glanced around. There were a few more branches lying around. She bundled them together, looked back at the gap, and grimaced. Then she ripped several of vines from the stairway and wound them around the bundle until she’d made a fairly rigid beam.

She leaned her construction across the gap, securing it with some rocks. Added to the existing branches, the new bridge was just supportive enough for her to lurch across and grab some foliage hanging over the other side. She tripped and plopped onto the new ledge as her bridge collapsed and splashed into the pool below.

“Nice work!” called Hoshi. “See, it took many branches being bound together to bridge the gap. Only by banding together can we support each other’s—”

Estelle stifled a burp. “Yep. Metaphors. Got it, thank you. Next one’s up this way?”

She followed the ledge around the side of the tower, out of sight of the others. It opened up into a small grotto. Sunlight filtered down through the cracks upon a block of red jello, just as large as the first.

“Hello, there,” she mused.

This one carried a warm spiciness, with a pleasant cinnamon kick. She had to eat it more slowly, letting her tongue cool and occasionally padding back for a drink from the falls. But soon it was gone and she could hear her stomach whine over the roar of the water.

She sat for a moment to let it settle. Her belly was so full of gelatin it may as well have been made of it, wobbling with much of the same consistency. She groaned, leaned her head back, and found herself staring up at the next platform.

It was another story above her, but there seemed to be no path leading up. Instead, further into the grotto, she spied the opening of a jagged tunnel that looked to head upward into the tower.

“Of course,” she sighed, getting to her feet. “Stars, it’s hard to imagine any of those girls fitting through this.” She hefted herself into the tunnel. “Or doing this much work, for that matter…uh oh.”

The tunnel had turned into a vertical climb. Two short ledges waited overheard, one a few feet above and rotated around from the other. Both narrowed the passage such that she couldn’t see her thickened waistline getting through both.

“It’s like a giant keyhole,” Estelle realized. “Alright…why couldn’t the initiation challenge just be a giant cake or something? Or maybe make out with your bunkmate and do a keg-stand, like back at the academy…”

She hoisted herself up, pushing herself along the tunnel walls with her back to the first ledge. When she’d advanced enough that the ledge pressed against the small of her back, her belly was too squished against the other side to go any further. She tried to reach her hands up to the next ledge, but without their support she found herself sliding back down.

“That academy dare’s looking more and more preferable,” she growled. “Hm. Can’t say I ever thought I’d say that. Ummpf. Ensign Caelius wasn’t too bad a kisser, either…”

Twisting around, she set her belly on the first ledge like a shelf. It gave her just enough support that she was able to shoot her hands up without falling and seize the next ledge. Over the next few minutes, by bracing her belly against the rocks, she managed to heave herself up and onto the next platform.

This proved to be a wider cavern, more sheltered and intimate than the grotto below. The cavern opened to the outside on one end, where a ladder led up and out of sight; on the other end waited a soft, inviting bed of leaves and a large green jello mold.

It was sour, but deliciously so. It pursed her lips and reached cold tendrils into her brain. She lay back on the leaf-bed and ate it slowly, appreciating every jiggling slurp. Before long she caught herself lazily rubbing her gut with her free hand.

Angry at herself for enjoying it, she slapped the last of the green jello into her mouth and hauled herself to her feet. She immediately stumbled and had to catch herself against the cavern wall—her head swam, her vision swirled, and her heavy belly threatened to pull her back to the floor.

“…the hell? That wasn’t just a giant jello mold,” she realized, finally recognizing the flavor, “that was a giant jello shot.” She pushed away from the wall, trying to find her footing. “Spiked. Maybe it’s like the academy…after all.”

She staggered to the ladder at the cavern’s mouth. “Come on, Estelle. One more. Just finish it out.” She glanced up the ladder to what looked to be the top of the tower. “So close…”

She mounted the ladder and eased herself onto the first rung. Nothing broke.

Staring forward and steadying her head, she proceeded up as carefully as possible. Her foot slipped a few times and once, halfway up, she nearly fell off to one side for no reason whatsoever, but caught herself and finished the climb.

The ladder brought her to a breezy plateau at the top of the tower. A clearing spread before her, surrounded by a ring of vine-wreathed trees.

Estelle stepped off the ladder and looked over the clearing. A huge purple jello mold, larger than the others she’d already finished, waited for her at the center.

Her swimming head betrayed her as she stood staring. She wavered on her feet, tried to catch herself, and fell backward through the trees. It was the edge of the plateau, but she was saved by an outcropping just a few feet down. She flopped face down onto the rock and sighed.

Her eyes widened. A sparkling blue jello mold sat in front of her face. “Oh,” she coughed. “Just think…if I’d kept my balance, I would have totally missed you.”

She dipped a finger in and tasted it. It was perfectly tangy.

“Wait…so don’t you make five? I thought Hoshi said four…” She screwed up her face, trying to remember. “That green stuff must have been stronger than I thought. Eh, better safe than sorry.”

As she worked her way through the blue jello, she realized that the pain at her waistline wasn’t just her overfull stomach, but the tightness of the yellow ribbon wrapped around it. She frowned down at it and resolved to force the wobbling mass down her gullet faster.

With the last swallow, the ribbon burst apart. Her gut swelled forward unchecked and the two halves of the ribbon flapped helplessly to the floor.

“Not sure if I should be proud of that,” she said with a burp, “but I do feel accomplished. Now, speaking of accomplishments…”

She seized a handful of vines and hoisted herself back onto the plateau. Her feet padded a little more steadily and her head had started to clear. The purple jello waited patiently, but Estelle froze.

Behind the mold, through a part in the ring of trees, she could see the rim of the valley. A crack in the rock wall formed one of the entrances into the valley, adorned with a pair of glowing zappers. A squirmer was pacing languidly beyond them, its membrane wobbling like the jello in Estelle’s belly.

The squirmer seemed to see her, too. It undulated closer to the valley entrance, but stopped as the zappers began to glow brighter.

“You just stay out there, now,” Estelle breathed, stepping forward. The squirmer backed away from the zappers, but continued to watch her.

She knelt down, keeping her eyes on it, and reached a hand toward the jello. The squirmer wriggled and shuddered and she heard, carried over on the breeze, its distant shriek.

“That’s right,” she hissed. “I’m gonna eat this whole thing right in front of you and there isn’t a damn thing you can do to stop me.” She scooped up a serving of jello with both hands, brought it to her face, and sucked it down.

She did so again and again, slowing as the throbbing pain in her stomach grew. Estelle had been full, if not outright stuffed, so many times since landing on the planet she’d lost count, but couldn’t remember a stewing, churning, swelling sensation like this. It was at once insufferably agonizing and irresistibly amazing.

The last lap of gelatin slid down her throat and she stood, stomach stretching grandly out. She asked the survival suit for a refit and pulled the top back down over her stretchmarked skin.

The squirmer fumed at her. Estelle raised a middle finger at it in salute, slapped her tautly-bloated belly, and loosed a belch that echoed throughout the valley. A chorus of cheers drifted up from below.

She tottered back to the cliffside, toward the sound of trickling water. She found the stream, gushing up from a nearby spring and beginning its course down the slope of the tower.

She spread her arms and dove forward, sliding down the stream’s course on her belly. It wound around the outside of the tower, twisting and curving a few times before dropping sharply. Estelle rolled over the edge of the waterfall and plunged into the pool below with a jaw-dropping splash.

Hoshi and Ayla pulled her ashore and set her against the side of the rover. She laid her hands across her gut and winced, eyes firmly shut.

Hester knelt down beside her. “Welcome back.”

“You all did that?” Estelle mumbled. “All of them?”

“Mm hmm. The green one was my favorite.”

“Shocking. Also, ow.”

The redhead petted Estelle’s hair. “You okay?”

Estelle managed to nod. “So I’m official now?”

Hoshi giggled. “Full member of the crew. With full privileges, full—”

“Oh, stop saying ‘full.’ Please…” Her head lolled back and she lurched with another long belch. “Tell the bio-pak to engage pregnancy protocols…’cause I’ve got a food baby.”
 

Marlow

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Chapter 23

A deep belch echoed off the walls of the valley, followed by a duet of giggling.

It was well after midnight on one of the planet’s rare cloudless nights. The unfiltered starlight, joined by a couple of moons, lit the valley in a pale blue light. The breeze had faded to a lazy calm; the woods would have been perfectly silent if not for the uneven footfalls and uninhibited voices of two giddy, staggering women.

Estelle and Hester wove their way up the valley, giving the camp and their slumbering crewmates a respectful berth. The pair were heavily glutted and heavily inebriated, making the journey a slow and meandering affair.

They’d sneaked out after dessert, while Hoshi and Ayla had drifted into food comas and Starling had tackled the mountain of dishes. Estelle had wanted a relaxing bath in the northern pool, but Hester had talked her into a quick pit-stop at her favorite beer fountain.

The pit-stop had of course proven anything but quick and Estelle now worried they wouldn’t make it to the pool before collapsing.

“Holy nebulas,” she slurred, tripping over a creampuff. “Hester, you said we’d juss…have a couple.”

Hester helped her up and wrapped an arm around her pudgy waist. “We had a couple. Hiccup! And then a couple more. And then a couple couples more…” Her freckled beer belly sloshed audibly as they stumbled on. The redhead had sucked down an impressive amount, even by her thirsty standards. “Look, we did a lot of—hic!—hard work this week. Plenty of stress. Thought getting a little tipsy would—hulp!—would help you unwind.”

“I was tipsy enough after dinner. Now I’m…I don’ even know. What comes after drunk?”

“Me!” Hester cheered.

Estelle sighed. “I just wanted to relax in the pool and gut my stuff…hm…stuff my gut full of car…caramel.”

“Captain! First off, you know ‘enough’ is a bad word on this planet. Hic-urrp…though I am thrilled to hear you’re taking the init—hic!—initiative on stuffing your gut.” She leered over and patted Estelle’s belly, which had bounced free from her top.

“I can indulge a little…now an’ then. Maybe you’re wearing off on me…” She blew a raspberry. “Or maybe I’m just drunk enough to be inna mood for dumb decisions.”

Hester stroked her hair. “Those are my fav—hip!—favorite kind of decisions. And lookie, here we are!”

They’d staggered into the clearing around the pool. A mixed aroma of herbs and fragrances drifted down from the trees overhead.

“Thank the stars,” Estelle panted, steadying herself on a large chocolate-covered boulder. “I’m getting too heavy for those long walks.”

Hester wiggled up beside her. “Is that right? Let’s—hulp!—let’s check.” She grinned her impish grin and tapped Estelle’s bio-pak.

“199 pounds,” it reported.

Estelle belched. “Holy…nebulas. Almost…sixty pounds in six weeks.”

“You’re so close!” Hester gasped, hugging Estelle’s midsection. “I bet we can get you a couple more pounds tonight…right here. Hiccup!”

Estelle gently extracted herself from the redhead’s arms. “I don’t really need to…oh, but caramel.” She shook her head and began tugging at her suit. “Nn. Wanna…wanna go for a dip first.”

She peeled off her suit top, letting her gut plop out. Glowing in the pale starlight, it seemed as though a third, much softer moon had appeared in the night. Estelle shoved her waistband down, tripped, and collapsed onto her plush backside.

“Ugh, help me with these?” she moaned, flopping onto her side.

Hester knelt down unsteadily, placing a pudgy hand on Estelle’s belly for support. “It would be my—hic!—my pleasure, captain.”

It required a long, grunting scuffle, but at length Estelle’s long, soft legs stretched naked under the stars. She sat up with her back against a boulder, catching her breath and waiting for her head to stop swirling. Her glazed eyes watched with fascination as Hester staggered to her feet and struggled to remove her own garments.

Freed from her constricting top, Hester’s breasts flopped nearly to her navel, broad and low but immensely round. Her beer belly—and it was certainly that tonight—pushed them forward such that they became the inescapable forefront of her person. They jiggled and banged against one another as she bent to pull off the bottom of her suit.

Once she had tossed her clothing aside, the weight of her huge bosom seemed to pull her forward further and further until she fell, giggling mischievously, onto Estelle’s lap.

Estelle winced and groaned. “Wasn’t ready for that, Hess.”

Hester gave her lap an apologetic pat. “Hey, ‘ssnot like you don’t have some—hulp!—plenty of padding.” She got to her knees and eyed Estelle.

“Yeah…” Estelle looked down with a frown. She ran a hand over her bulging stomach, lifted it up, and watched it bounce back down. “I’m getting fat. I tried so hard not to, but this belly keeps exp…ex…keeps getting bigger. Urrp.”

“Quit acting like it’s a bad thing. Hip! And quit acting like you don’t like it. Like you don’t like what this great place’s giving you.” The redhead smirked and grabbed her hand. “Dance with me.”

Estelle shook her head. “Dance? Way too drunk, Hess. Would just stumble around an’ fall over again…”

“Then stumble around and—hic!—and fall over with me.” She tugged again and provided enough counterweight to get Estelle back to her feet.

Estelle had expected the frenetic, drunken frolicking Hester usually called dancing, but instead Hester pulled her close and tucked her head into Estelle’s neck. Estelle flushed as the enormity of Hester’s breasts squished against her bloated abdomen. She felt herself begin to warm as they swayed together.

The weaving dance carried them to the edge of the pool. Estelle closed her eyes and allowed the dance to take her knee-deep into the cool, sparkling water. Her hazy thoughts drifted manifestly toward pleasure.

Her besotted sense of balance betrayed her, though, and they soon fell again. Estelle found herself on her backside, Hester straddling her, bosom filling her vision.

“I think you’re—hic!—think you’re right,” Hester lilted. “This planet hears our cravings. It knows what we want…what we—hulp!—long for…whatever’s most delicious to us.” She reached down and placed Estelle’s hand onto her massive breast.

Breath coming shakily, Estelle squeezed. She circled her thumb over Hester’s nipple and watched the redhead shudder. She brought up her other hand and pressed both breasts together, up and around, in a deep, massaging caress.

Hester bit her lip. She opened her mouth to reply, but only moaned and hiccupped.

Estelle arched her back, pressing her gut against Hester’s. “Then…maybe you’re right. I should stop fighting my cravings…” She leaned forward and kissed Hester’s chest. “This place is a gift.”

Hester kissed the top of her head, lifted Estelle’s chin, and locked her lips with hers. They pulled each other closer in the water.

“Last time we came here,” Hester murmured between kisses, “you asked me about back—hic!—back home. But I didn’t think to ask about you.”

“Ask me about…urrp…ask what ‘bout me?”

“Did you leave anything behind?” Her green eyes glimmered. “Anyone?”

Estelle ran a hand over her cheek. “I had…nothing. I was…I was in prison when they sent me here.”

Hester smiled at her, twirling a finger through her hair. Her bosom bounced with another hiccup. “Well…now you’re free.”


 

Marlow

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Chapter 24

Back on the New Kansas colony, seasons had been artificially modulated by the Sunflower Dome’s climate systems. It gave a basic sense of liveliness to the swath of land humanity had carved out of the otherwise barren, atmosphereless exoplanet.

The dome’s temperature and moisture regulators allowed the warm summer months to give way to a few months of cold, snowy winter. Cycles were seen as imperative to the human psyche and the winters gave the colonists a time to cozy up by the domicile heating unit with their families and mugs of hot chocolate-substitute.

Something about the winters had always felt false, though. The temperature never got too dangerously low and the snow seemed too market-tested and pristine. When the scarcity hit and the hot chocolate disappeared, the winters lost even their artificial charm and ceased to be anything but bleak. The planet’s pale, scraggly little moon (the affectionately named ‘Chalk Rock’) would stare down on cold nights like a vulture.

Estelle’s winter on LV-237 featured very little of the things she’d been taught to associate with the season, but nonetheless proved far cozier and more genuine than any the colony had designed.

It never got to be particularly cold, at least down in their sheltered, fertile valley. Beyond the rim they could see the effects of the season—the frozen pass, grey skies, and leafless trees—but in the valley everything remained vibrant. Sometimes a chill might settle in at night, but never enough to leave frost. It was as though the ground itself carried a warmth that fought off whatever the air might bring. This was certainly welcomed by the expedition; particularly those members who had outgrown or cast off their survival suits.

Neither was there ever any snow to be seen, at least outside of an accidental powdered-sugar incident one morning (Ayla was banned from preparing breakfast for weeks after). But each morning gave the explorers something new about the planet to appreciate and each evening saw them finding new ways to entertain themselves.

And while there was no fireplace, there was never any shortage of cozying and always an overabundance of chocolate in all its forms.

It was undeniably an alien winter, but one Estelle found herself enjoying more than any prior. As someone who for so long had stopped feeling joy, whether because of circumstances or cynicism, she had trouble accepting it at first. But over time it refreshed her, revitalized her, and soon she regained her ability to appreciate, enjoy, and be thankful for things.

Each morning she could appreciate the bounty of breakfast. She enjoyed pancakes, waffles, eggs of all varieties, hash browns, doughnuts, bagels, croissants, danishes, strudel, and too many pastries to count. She enjoyed breakfasts so lavish they sent her straight back to sleep, face drizzled with jelly and butter and hazelnut spread.

She was thankful, after so many of those breakfasts, for her survival suit’s willingness to accommodate her increasingly less reluctant indulgence. “Suit,” she could sigh without shame, “refit.”

As she finished her work each day, settling in with the others, she could appreciate all the valley’s various gifts, seemingly new and different every time she looked to appease her appetite. She enjoyed platters of pasta, stacks of sandwiches, piles of pizza, streams of stew, mountains of macaroni…all swimming in a sea of sauces or drowning in cheeses, all overflowing with flavor. The valley’s offerings changed frequently: one afternoon they chanced upon a marsh full of mashed potatoes and returned the day after to a fen of fettucine al fredo. Estelle enjoyed each and every dinner she was served and enjoyed, too, the flattery of being served. She enjoyed leaning back in her chair, hands resting atop her distended abdomen, waiting for Starling to bring out the next unnecessary and excessive course.

She was thankful that, no matter how much she’d already had and no matter how much she half-heartedly protested, Starling would always have that next course ready.

“Urrp. Suit: refit.”

In the evenings and further on into the nights, she could appreciate the desserts. The whole world was sweetness: cracked-open rocks yielded caramel, ice cream awaited them in deep caverns, there were pools of pudding deep enough to swim in, a river of honey flowed through the center of their valley, the very walls of their shelter were cheese, and the very ground they trod was chocolate cake. Beer and wine issued forth from fountains, ready for any revel. Estelle forgot the concept of ‘too much’ and enjoyed the impossible experience of eyeing more than could ever be eaten and saying, ‘not enough.’

She was thankful she could do so hand in pudgy hand with a crew of equal appetites.

“Suit: re…mm…refit.”

Above all else, she could appreciate Hester, Ayla, and Hoshi. The wider each of them grew, the closer they grew to one another. The girls enjoyed every little hint of their captain’s growth: the softening of her chin, the deepening of her navel, the frequency of her snack breaks, the tired grunts as she paused for breath along her walks, and the waddle that worked its way into her now unhurried stride. For her part, she enjoyed the nights spent with them, laughing and indulging and enjoying the sunset over the valley, a tall drink in one hand and a third or fourth dessert in the other.

She could appreciate, too, the mornings after, waking slowly and hazily with her head in Hester’s bosom; or, after a while, with her head on Ayla’s broad shoulder or Hoshi’s voluminous lap. One morning Starling returned home to find all four of them slumbering in a pile of plump, naked flesh, covered in butter and syrup.

Estelle was thankful that no matter how decadent each morning, day, and night proved, there was always a bigger breakfast, bigger dinner, and bigger party waiting the next time her appetites flared. Each morning she woke hungrier than ever and each evening she slept fuller than ever, stomach throbbing and head swimming. Each day offered more and each day she not only accepted more, but yearned for more.

“Suit…hic! Oof, oh, stars and nebulas. Hm? Yeah, I’ll have another—hurk—another plate. Suit…hic-urrp. R-re…fit…refit. Mm.”

There was a pause. Nothing happened. “Unable to comply,” the little voice confessed. “Insufficient material.”
 

strataadvance

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Great Chapter. And Cliffhanger. She must be catching up. Can't wait to hear what her weight is after gaining every day.
 

Marlow

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Chapter 25


“Estelle,” Hester whispered. “Estelle, wake up. Come on.”


Estelle moaned indistinctly, keeping her eyes squeezed shut. “Not yet, Hester. So early. So stuffed. So hungover.”

“Estelle, the sun’s out. Spring’s here. Starling says the mountain pass is open.”

“Sun?” The captain’s eyes worked their way open, confused and bleary. She had passed out slumped against the cavern wall and apparently hadn’t moved since.

Her vision was filled with Hester. The little redhead had grown considerably less little in the weeks since they’d bunkered down for the winter. As Starling had assumed so many of the serving and housekeeping duties, Hester had found her days more full of free time and her gut subsequently more full of sweets. She was nearing three hundred pounds and proudly flaunted every ounce.

The top half of Hester’s survival suit had been discarded in favor of a makeshift camisole. It was unable to do much to contain her expansive, swaying bosom and served only to provide a modicum of decency. Unsupported, her swollen breasts hung to her navel, which punctuated a belly already hanging rather low itself.

Her round, freckled face grinned uncomfortably close to Estelle’s and her equally freckled beer gut pressed against Estelle’s blanketed lap.

“The pass is open,” she repeated. “We can go home, captain.”

Estelle blinked. “What? Holy nebulas. Home…”

“Yeah. The others are outside getting things packed. Come on, get up.” She grabbed Estelle for a hug, engulfing her in a face full of breast, then bounced up and resumed bustling about the cavern.

Estelle sat staring for a minute, settling her head. It still swam a little from the night before and her stomach gurgled fitfully. At length she blew out a long breath and threw off her blanket.

Her naked belly sat atop her lap in a smooth, gently rounded mound. It had continued to take the lion’s share of her new weight, swelling out unchecked from her midsection and seemingly unwilling to share with the rest of her body. Its sides were striated with stretchmarks and embedded with creases from where she’d laid on the blanket. As she struggled to her feet her flabby stomach didn’t merely jiggle or wobble, but sloshed.

She stood swaying for a moment, absently rubbing it, and tapped her bio-pak for the first time in what had to be weeks. She’d been so wrapped up in her new lifestyle she’d all but forgotten about it. “Status update,” she grunted.

“Subject in good health,” it chirped, polite as ever. “Two hundred eighty pounds—”

“Holy nebulas,” she hissed, muting it. “Double what I was when I got here. Might…might be time to slow down.”

As she waddled across the cavern, though, she picked something off a breakfast tray and chomped it down.

At length it occurred to her that she was still naked. She popped open a footlocker and dug through the layers of canvas until she found her survival suit. She’d packed it away twenty or so pounds ago when it had stopped refitting, having found more comfort in the silky makeshift garments the other women had made.

“Should probably put you back on for the trip,” she mused, holding the suit up. “Safety first, and all.”

She’d only continued to grow since reaching the poor fabric’s limits. The top rode up, showing off the entirety of her pot belly, and she couldn’t quite get the waistline up over her butt, leaving the upper swell of each cheek exposed.

Hester smirked. “I don’t know how to tell you this, but you’re way too big for that outfit.”

“Thank you, doctor, I am aware. Can we hold off on the snide remarks until I’m a little more awake?”

“Yes, ma’am, captain tightpants.” She tossed Estelle an éclair. “Get something in your stomach; you’ll feel better.”

Estelle sighed, but pushed the pastry into her mouth and headed for the exit.

She plodded slowly up the tunnel, dragging her hand along the wall for support. Hester waddled a few paces ahead—they had widened the tunnel a few times, but it was still uncomfortable to pass side by side. It also provided a nice view of the redhead’s flat, slab-like buttocks as they wobbled to and fro, a view that kept Estelle’s attention long enough to follow her outside.

They emerged eventually into the clearing and stood blinking for a moment. The world was flooded with unusually bright, warming sunlight. The clouds had finally parted.

“I was starting to think the sun would never come out again,” Estelle said softly.

“And we were starting to think you might never come out again,” laughed Ayla, shuffling over. “Spring finally gets here and you want to sleep through it.”

Estelle cast a sidelong glance at Hester. “I had a late night.”

“Good thing you’re all rested up, then, because there’s a lot of loading up to do. And I’m a little too fat and a lot too lazy to do all that work myself.”

‘Little’ was not a word that had been applied to Ayla in some time. The geologist had grown her fair share over the winter as well, snacking and lounging her way upwards of 415 pounds. Her body had made a noble attempt to maintain her hourglass proportions despite all the excess mass, resulting in broad, gelatinous thighs, supple hips, a deliciously hefty bosom, and arms as thick as Hester’s thighs. And though Ayla’s waist had managed to avoid spreading as much as the rest of her, a thrice folded belly still sagged down from her abdomen. She’d discarded what remained of her survival suit in favor of a billowy silken dress.

Somehow, she’d remained the most active of any of them. Perhaps there was still some muscle hidden under all her flab, or perhaps she was just better at using her weight, but much of the heavy lifting, when Starling was not on hand to do it, fell to her.

There wasn’t much heavy lifting left to do, though, thanks to Hoshi. In the process of refitting the rover, the engineer had put together not only a few small cranes and lifts, but had also retrofitted a few of the construction mechs to help around the compound. She could work on upgrading the rover without having to rise from her now resplendently fat backside.

Hoshi had recently blown past 470 pounds. When she’d reached and surpassed Selena’s milestone, they’d thrown a memorial party that had lasted three straight days. Estelle didn’t remember much of it, but had herself gained almost ten more pounds by the time they’d sobered up. Honored, Hoshi’s appetite had only increased since.

Her butt, each quaggy cheek larger than Estelle’s own belly, spread out from beneath her and spilled over the edges of her workbench. She kept it somewhat covered with an increasingly insufficient sarong. The top of her survival suit had survived, if barely, serving now as little more than a halter top. Her broad stomach weighed her down and forced her to lounge back as she sat.

Estelle stretched and scratched her belly, looking around at her obese crew. “Are you sure the shuttle’s thrusters can get our fat asses to escape velocity?”

Hoshi snickered. “We don’t weigh 20,000 tonnes, captain.”

“Not quite yet, anyway,” Hester chided in her ear.

“Though if we’re really gonna bring a full cargo hold of this planet’s goods with us, I’m sure I’ll be stuffing quite a bit of those goods into my own cargo hold on the way.”

“I don’t doubt that,” Estelle muttered.

“Captain,” Starling greeted her. “I have just returned from a survey of the peaks. I can confirm that the mountain pass is indeed open. Our route back to the cargo module should be fully accessible.”

She allowed herself to smile. “Thank the stars. Alright, everyone, we have plenty of work to do before we can leave. Let’s get the rover loaded and fitted out, pack up the research equipment, and engage the shut-down protocols…”

Her stomach rumbled. She rubbed it and glanced around with a sigh.

“…right after breakfast, I mean.”
 

ramka92110

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:bow: :bounce: Thanks for the update :D Fantastic job again
Can't wait to read more of this masterpiece ;)
 

Marlow

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Chapter 26

When she had first landed and hiked across LV-237’s alien terrain, everything had seemed so vast, monolithic, and impenetrable. As she now retraced much of that journey, she found that time and familiarity had compressed the landscape a great deal. The planet seemed much smaller; its features more welcoming and accessible.

“Eh, it probably just looks smaller,” Hester teased, “because you’re so much bigger now.”

Estelle rubbed her eyes. “Quit interrupting my poignant reflections.”

“Quit wasting time on poignant reflections instead of pigging out on confections.”

The doctor was lounging back in her seat, the valley of her cleavage piled high with small candies. She popped one in her mouth, then flicked another across to Estelle.

They rode in the top cabin of a double-decked trailer, a behemoth of scrap-metal towed by the expedition’s rover. Together the vehicles trundled heavily across a plain of pancakes. Hoshi had worked wonders to make the trailer comfortable and relatively secure, but it proved a massive, unwieldy burden that slowed the overtaxed rover to a crawl.

The interior was cozy, though, and offered enough space for its parcel of pudgy passengers. A mobile generator and a pair of squirmer-zappers had been jury-rigged to the roof, so far unneeded.

The women took turns driving, keeping in contact with the trailer through a crackling intercom. Starling had offered to drive the entire journey, but Estelle had instead decided to send him ahead on foot. Given the lumbering pace of the caravan, the nimble android would have time to reach the cargo shuttle and have it flight-ready by the time they hove into view. He’d taken some convincing, but eventually dashed off with a bag of tools. They hadn’t seen him in a few days.

It was slow going indeed, but steady. The shift system allowed them to drive through the nights and once Estelle convinced the others to take their meals in the trailer, they began to make good time. Three could happily spend the shift gorging on dumplings in the trailer while the fourth, in the driver’s seat, ignored the rumblings of her stomach and scanned the horizon for any unwelcome surprises.

Occasionally one or two undulating silhouettes would appear on a distant hill, or on the far side of a river. The squirmers wouldn’t follow, but certainly seemed to be keeping an eye on the motorcade.

Hester postulated that the creatures had learned to be wary of the blue lights and were hesitant to approach a pair of moving zappers. Hoshi wondered if they were unable to detect the passengers’ organic mass—however massive they may have grown—within the enclosed metal carriage. Ayla cautioned that perhaps the squirmers were merely biding their time. Estelle could only thank the stars that nothing had happened yet.

As the days wore on, however, they began to see more and more of the creatures. The squirmers always kept their distance, but appeared more frequently, and soon in greater numbers.

During Estelle’s shift at the wheel on the sixth day, it became clear that the squirmers were massing. She saw two peeking out from behind a breadstick, another looming atop a mound of cheese, and three or four more huddled together in the hollow of a collapsed soufflé.

She tried to distract herself from them by gazing wistfully at a giant ice cream cone, but soon noticed that the glob of vanilla was in fact translucent, membranous, and squirming.

Drumming her fingers on the steering wheel, she radioed up to those in the trailer. They offered little comfort: they’d recently stopped to pick up an early dinner and had eaten themselves into a stupor.

Her shift concluded without incident, though. Once the sun disappeared she eagerly traded spots with Hoshi in the trailer and proceeded to devour lasagna until she couldn’t see straight.

Breakfast was interrupted the next morning, during Hester’s shift, by the doctor’s voice pleading for a response over the radio.

Estelle rolled over, belly flowing out onto the cushions, and grabbed the receiver. “Hester? Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” came the timid reply. “I mean, for now.”

Hoshi pushed herself up. “Why have we stopped?”

“Hester, what’s going on?”

“You might want to look outside, captain, eh?”

“It’s probably a mountain of rumcake or something,” Hoshi grumbled, wiggling over to the front viewscreen. “I’m in no position to call anyone a pig, but that girl has seriously…holy nebulas.”

“What is it?” asked Ayla.

“That’s…a lot.”

“A lot of what? Hoshi, we can’t see anything around your rump. Get—oh.”

The rover had stopped along a narrow, winding mountainside pass, sheer drop-off to one side and craggy vertical wall on the other. A little ways ahead, the pass was blocked by a seething horde of squirmers.

Estelle could make out at least a dozen of them, with shadows beyond suggesting that more were on their way. They slid around and over each other, jostling to get to the front of the pack.

Estelle jabbed at the radio. “Hester, I’m gonna suggest we back up.”

“No good, captain,” said Ayla, opening the rear viewscreen. There were more squirmers gathering in the pass behind them.

“It’s a trap!” shouted Hoshi.

“What should I do?” whimpered Hester.

“We brought the zappers for a reason,” Ayla growled. “Light ‘em up.”

Hoshi shook her head. “We’d end up lighting ourselves up. We brought those zappers to repel one or two squirmers. There are dozens out there…we’d overload the generator in seconds.”

“So just plow right through them. We’re in a tank.”

“We’re in a trailer made of scrap metal that’s slowed our ‘tank’ to walking speed. They’re more likely to shove us off the cliff than we are to shove our way past them.”

“What’s your plan, then, Hoshi?”

Hoshi sputtered.

“Fuck,” Ayla cried. “We had months to get ready for this and we wasted all that time stuffing our fat faces.”

Estelle seized the geologist’s shoulders. “And we shouldn’t regret a single bite. We are ready for this. Everyone did an amazing job putting this thing together. We’re not going down that easy.” She grimaced out the side window. “Although we may have to, you know, go a little ways down.”

“What?”

“Hester, look out to your left. Down the cliffside. You see that outcrop about, what, a hundred yeards down?”

“Uh…yeah. Up ahead a little?”

“Exactly. I saw it from the side when we were coming around the last curve.” She turned to Hoshi and Ayla. “There’s a hole in the cliff. I think it might be the mouth of a cave.”

“Might?”

“Well, at least I hope it’s the mouth of a cave. Either way, it’s a hole that’s big enough for the trailer. I think.”

Hoshi cocked an eyebrow. “You could tell that from back there, on the turn?”

She shrugged. “I’m a smuggler. Getting things through tight spots is my job.”

“Well, lucky you,” Ayla chided, patting Estelle’s gut, “because your appetite has made a lot of the galaxy’s spots much tighter for you.”

“How are you planning to get us down there, captain?” asked Hester.

“Uh…we turn left, basically.”

“Och, you know, when we put you in charge, it was under the assumption you wouldn’t ask us to drive off a cliff.”

“Do you want to vote on it? I think I know how the squirmers would vote.”

“She’s right.” Ayla agreed. “Squirmers don’t seem to like climbing.”

Hoshi frowned, but nodded. “Or falling. I think we have to try it.”

“Fine,” Hester acquiesced. “But you’re driving, captain.”

Estelle threw up her hands. “Oh, come on—”

“You’re the smuggler. Get down here and…smuggle.”

“Nebulas…fine. Open the hatch. I’m coming down.”

“Hurry. And maybe bring a few scones.”

“Hester.”

“I’m not dying on an empty stomach!”

Estelle squeezed herself through the trailer’s forward hatch. She was the only one who could fit through; the others could only get out through the main door at the back. Even so, she still nearly pulled her trousers off as she wriggled through and had to pull them back up over her butt after she plopped unceremoniously into the rover.

Hester shoved her into the driver’s seat and kissed her on the cheek. “Good luck, captain.”

“Thanks, Hester.”

“Did…did you bring the scones?”

Estelle revved the engine and accelerated. Next to her, the doctor fumbled with her seatbelt.

The squirmers hesitated, seeing the rover lurch forward, but after a moment resumed their advance and began to hurry.

Estelle clipped on her own seatbelt. She gave Hester an uncertain glance, squeezed the doctor’s freckled gut for good measure, and then wrenched the steering wheel over.

The rover veered to the left and vaulted off the edge of the pass. The trailer swung round behind it, skidding sideways, and slapped a pair of squirmers into the air as it, too, careened over the edge of the cliff.

The squirmers sailed off over the abyss. The much heavier trailer dropped straight down, wheels making improbable contact with the cliff face. It pulled the rover with it and soon they were both sliding desperately down the crags. For a fleeting moment, Estelle caught herself wondering what flavor the rocks were.

She slammed on the breaks the rover and trailer lurched, then barrel-rolled. They spun completely around twice, then crashed to a sudden, violent halt.

The caravan had landed, miraculously, on the outcrop. Its momentum carried it to the ledge and they found themselves teetering on the driver’s side wheels, moments away from tipping and falling the rest of the way to the gorge.

“Everyone to the right!” Estelle shrieked. “Lean right!”

Nearly 1500 pounds of fat human flesh shifted to the right. Estelle threw herself onto Hester while Hoshi and Ayla dove to the right side of the trailer. The passenger side hesitated, then fell. The vehicles settled flat with a crash.

Hydraulics hissed, metal creaked, and alarms rang, but the rover and trailer had stopped, upright. The rooftop zappers flickered and sparked, but still glowed. The two airborne squirmers plummeted past, screeching helplessly.

“Everybody okay?” panted Estelle.

“Think I’m alright,” Ayla mumbled over the radio. “Hoshi’s butt is fine, too.”

“Might be a little bruised,” said the engineer.

“With all that padding?”

“Hester?” asked Estelle. “Hes…oh.”

She looked down. Her belly was squashed against Hester’s face. She rolled off and the doctor gasped for air, trying to pull herself up.

“Sorry about that,” Estelle offered.

Hester coughed. “It’s okay. Kinda used to it. My boobs try to choke me every time I lie down.”

“I propose we never do that again,” said Ayla.

“I concur,” came Hoshi’s voice. “Captain, I hope the next step of your plan involves less tumbling.”

Estelle turned. Before them loomed the mouth of the cave. It wasn’t nearly as inviting as the subterranean cheesecake abode they’d left behind, but the depth of shadow within suggested that it had to lead somewhere.

“Whatever the next step is,” Hester grumbled, adjusting her immodest attempt at a shirt, “it’d better involve someone bringing me those scones.”
 
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