BBW Planet XL - by Marlow

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Marlow

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Chapter 27

“Okay, so, maybe it doesn’t fit after all,” Estelle admitted.

“We’ve been hearing that a lot from you lately,” chuckled Ayla, yanking up on the brake lever.

The trailer had proven just a few feet too tall for the mouth of the cave. They’d gunned the rover’s engine and tried to brute-force their way through, but the rocky surface refused to yield. The trailer was now firmly wedged in place, unwilling to budge and effectively sealing them inside the tunnel.

“At least the rover made it in,” Hoshi offered, “and having two zappers stuck in the entrance should deter those squirmers from following us in…buy us time to find an exit.”

“Assuming there is one,” Hester chimed.

Ayla peered into the darkness. “Judging from how the planet’s terrain has behaved everywhere else, I think it’s safe to assume this tunnel goes somewhere.”

“And, failing that,” Estelle added, “I’m sure it won’t take you girls very long to eat us a way back to the surface.”

“You say that like you wouldn’t help, but your gut says otherwise.”

“Anyway, I propose we get moving and see where the tunnel goes. Unhitch the rover and get anything you need out of the trailer.”

The tunnel proved remarkably straight. The floor was perfectly flat and the walls smooth. The whole formation seemed unnaturally uniform.

It led them down a gradual decline, deep under the mountain. The rover trundled cautiously on for miles, headlights showing nothing but the same dark, featureless rock. The tunnel stretched on without deviation, without variation, and, most strikingly, without any food. Four eager stomachs began to grumble and whine as hours passed and multiple assumed mealtimes were skipped.

“I think I am legitimately starving,” Hoshi wheezed.

Estelle rolled her eyes. “It’s a little odd hearing that from someone with a BMI over eighty.”

“Don’t give me that. Your stomach just rumbled so hard I could see ripples.”

Ayla groaned. “This tunnel better lead to a bottomless pit of butter.”

“Och, yes,” Hester gasped. “Drive faster, captain. Floor it. Let’s…why are you slowing down?”

“Because I think we’ve found something.”

The tunnel widened, then opened abruptly into a cavern so massive the rover’s headlights couldn’t see the walls. Estelle let the rover roll to a gentle stop and sat a moment, listening.

After half a minute, she unbuckled her seatbelt.

Ayla started. “What are you doing?”

“Taking a look around. Bio-pak: light.”

The display on Estelle’s wrist flared to life with a blue glow. She eased herself out of the vehicle and scanned the shadows.

“She’s right,” Hoshi realized. “A chamber this size is bound to have something to eat.”

Estelle sighed. “That’s not why I—”

“Come on,” Ayla urged, flopping out of the rover. “Everyone spread out and follow your nose.”

“Girls…”

The rover lurched as Hoshi’s weight dropped off of it. An orange light appeared on her wrist as a red beam flashed from Ayla’s.

Hester activated her pak’s green light and reluctantly got to her feet. “I have a bad feeling about this.”

They fanned out, each taking a few tentative steps, then glancing back at the others before proceeding. Their lights swept faintly around, but showed nothing but more blackness.

A muted, bassy growl echoed through the chamber. Everyone froze.

“What was that?” Ayla hissed.

“My stomach,” mumbled Hoshi.

Estelle smiled and shook her head, but cast a nervous look back at the rover to make sure her rifle was still easily accessible. She toyed with the idea of going back for it, but as she turned the blue beam of her flashlight danced over a curious lumpy shape.

“Anybody finding anything?” she called, tiptoeing toward it.

“Nothing here,” reported the engineer.

“Same,” called the geologist.

“Hester?”

“She’s…she’s bent over, captain. I think she’s…oh, nebulas.”

“What?”

“Hester, stop licking the floor.”

“Sorry,” came the doctor’s voice, “just can’t figure it out. There’s no flavor. I don’t think it’s even edible.”

Hoshi scoffed. “Almost forgot that was possible.”

“I don’t think it’s organic at all,” Ayla remarked, tapping the ground. “It’s some kind of…polymer.”

“But that would mean…” Hoshi scrunched up her face. “That would mean this cave is…artificial.”

“And it means we still don’t have anything to eat,” Hester wailed.

Estelle stared at the lump she’d found: a pile of baked sweets. “Simmer down. There’s some dessert over here. Fried dough, looks like. Little twisty things.”

The others rushed over, pushing to dive into the pile first.

“Easy, girls, there’s enough for everybody.”

“Captain, you know that’s not true.”

“Yeah, yeah. And ‘enough’ is a bad wo—”

She froze. The others, reaching her, halted mid-waddle and gaped.

Just beyond the pile of dough-puffs, now visible in the combined light of their beams, stood a man’s figure. After a long, pregnant moment, he stepped forward.

“Holy nebulas,” Estelle panted. “You scared us half to death.”

“My sincerest apologies,” Starling replied. “I had assumed you would still be above ground, in the trailer.”

“Some squirmers talked us into a little detour. What about you? I mean …why are you skulking around down here in the dark?”

The android scooped up an armful of the dough-puffs from the pile and politely began handing them out. “I do not require light for navigation. However, I would appreciate if you would lend your bio-pak lamps to illuminate something I have found.”

Estelle opened her mouth to ask a follow-up question, but found herself putting the pastry in it instead. To be fair, it was delicious.

“If you would all shine your lamps this way,” Starling continued, “I think you will see something of interest.”

They did so. The various arcs of light settled on the face of a wall. It was made of the same black polymer and they could see, as they approached, that it had been intricately carved up and down with an elaborate mural.

“Holy nebulas,” Estelle breathed.

“By the stars,” Ayla agreed.

“Out of this world,” Hoshi gasped.

“Mm…mmf,” chewed Hester.

Hoshi traced the carvings with her finger. “So this chamber really is man-made.”

“Or alien-made, rather,” Ayla observed, pointing up. A series of portraits and pictograms showed a variety of very inhuman life-forms.

“Like the bas-relief back at camp,” Hester remarked, “the one that lead us to this planet in the first place.”

Estelle grimaced. “These aliens are different, though. The ones on that relief had four arms each. These guys have…what, two arms and a tentacle, I guess?”

“And wings.”

“Moreover,” Starling noted, “the style and method of the carving is entirely different. These murals also feature some kind of writing along the base of the image, which was absent in the artifact.”

“Murals, plural?” Ayla asked.

“Yes. This is the first; they continue from here along the length of the wall.”

“You’re right, it does look like writing,” Estelle nodded. “Nothing I’ve seen anywhere, though.”

“It doesn’t appear to be any of the languages represented in the Federation of Species.” He cocked his head at Estelle’s confused expression. “Your ship’s computer was kind enough to update my linguistics data, captain, in addition to everything on the political changes back home.” He gazed back at the mural. “These epigrams don’t resemble anything in the existing corpus…rather they seem older than any in use. Perhaps a precursor or ancient relative to one of those in use today.”

“So we can’t decipher it.”

“Unlikely, but we may be able to hypothesize the intent of the pictograms. I believe we are looking at a narrative, or chronicle. If we look up here to the top left, which is suggested by apparent force dynamics to be the starting point, we see a small assortment of beings. Their ordering may depict that they are exiting some kind of vessel.”

“Colonists landing.”

“Like us,” Hester suggested.

“Very like, yes…if we ignore the number of limbs. Moving along the mural, we notice a pair of trends: an increase in the number of the beings…”

“A successful colony, then,” guessed Ayla.

“…along with a gradual, but significant increase in the size of the individual beings.”

“I think we can identify with that trend,” sighed Estelle.

Hoshi grinned. “So aliens like cheesecake, too. I feel better about the universe.”

Hester nodded. “Judging from the planet’s ability to adapt to all our desires, it stands to reason it could take the form of whatever treats the aliens would have liked, eh?”

“Xeno-cheesecake.” Ayla squinted at the carvings. “Look at this…their wings get smaller and their bodies get bigger. Flying must have gotten pretty hard.”

“Indeed, the wings seem to become mostly vestigial,” Starling confirmed, “while what I presume is the stomach becomes an object of reverence and adoration here in the second mural. By this time, many individuals of the ruling class appear to be entirely immobilized…which becomes a problem, apparently, as things take a turn in the third mural.”

They shuffled along the wall to the next panel.

The android pointed up. “A new pictogram is introduced…and I don’t think it’s too great a leap to identify these oblong characters as our membranous macrophage friends.”

“The squirmers.”

“As soon as their pictograms appear, the colony’s population begins to decrease. They continue growing as individuals…” He traced his way down the mural. “…but their numbers steadily diminish until…”

“Until there are only squirmers left.”

Ayla ran her hands through her hair. “That fits with what little we gleaned from the artifact back in camp. This must have happened countless times: explorers show up, make themselves at home, get too fat to run away, and get killed by squirmers.”

“It’s all bait,” Hester murmured. “It lures you in with what it knows you want most…the whole planet is a giant honeypot. We were just the latest round of suckers.”

Estelle turned away from the mural. “Then we should get away before we get stuck, too.”

“Agreed.”

“Speaking of which, Starling…you wanna tell us why you’re poking around down here in a cave instead of getting the shuttle ready to fly, like we agreed?”

The android held up a hand. “Yes. I can report, happily, that the shuttle is only a day’s walk from the exit of this tunnel system. I can also report that the shuttle’s reserve engines are in good condition and ready for flight.”

“I’m sensing a but,” Ayla muttered, “and not just Hoshi’s.”

Starling hesitated. “I must also report, unhappily, that the shuttle’s flight control core is missing.”

“What?” shrieked Estelle.

“Wait, what’s that?” asked Hester.

“The control core is a little virtual intelligence cylinder,” Hoshi explained. “It’s basically the security key for all automated functions. Contains all the failsafes…supposed to stay with the ship. Without it, we’re locked out of the controls.”

“A serious concern, obviously,” Starling continued. “I was inputting our departure trajectory and found the navigation system unresponsive…subsequent troubleshooting revealed the core’s absence. Fortunately, the equipment it contains gives off a unique energy signature. I tracked this signature to this cave system, but have since lost the signal.”

Estelle rubbed her eyes. “Starling, look, I appreciate you showing us the mural and all, but maybe lead with the mission-critical emergency next time.”

“Of course. My sincerest apologies, captain. But now that your lights are available, perhaps we might have better luck in the search.”

“Yeah. Fine. Spread, out, girls.” She stormed back toward the rover. “You said you lost track of the radiation signature? Why would it just disappear off your readings?”

“If it were buried somewhere in here, possibly, or if…”

“Stars. And why would it be missing in the first place?” She threw out her arms, then paused. Her light settled on the driver’s seat of the rover: her rifle was gone.

“Perhaps someone removed it,” said a deep voice.

Estelle dropped her pastry. Behind her, she heard the others freeze in their tracks.

The sound of the rifle being cocked echoed through the chamber. Deep within the shadows, the light of a yellow bio-pak display flickered to life.
 
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Benny Mon

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This has been absolutely amazing. Compelling story along with the baser pleasures. Can't wait for the next bit!
 

Marlow

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Glad you're enjoying! Thanks for reading and thanks for the feedback.




Chapter 28

Hyllus was a tall, well-bred man with a lanky build and excellent bone structure. The latter was all too apparent, for his gaunt frame betrayed serious malnutrition. He was a grey husk of the beaming gentleman who had landed with the expedition; thinning blonde hair and bulging blue eyes now held the only remaining color on his sallow face. If he weren’t striding toward them, brandishing the rifle, the women of the expedition might have presumed him a corpse.

“So you’re not dead,” Estelle said slowly, motioning for the others to get behind her.

“And you’re not Commander Jolan,” he replied. “What’s happened to our beloved Selena, I wonder? Squirmers?”

They remained silent.

“Ah. It seems she finally became what she loved most: dinner.”

“And it seems you’re every bit the heel she said you were,” Estelle retorted. “Selena gave her life fighting them off and we buried her a hero.” She stepped toward him. “And I was under the impression it was you who’s supposed to be dissolving in some squirmer’s membrane.”

He trained the rifle on her, checking her advance. “Well, when it comes to heroism, miss…”

“Captain,” she corrected, “Estelle Gorlois.”

“Mm. You see, I, too, made a heroic sacrifice. I led a squirmer attack away from our habitat’s valley and made it possible for my fellow pioneers—and their appalling appetites—to survive.” He gestured for her to back up. “But I escaped with my life, surely to their present chagrin. I outran the squirmers and managed to conceal myself while their attentions turned back to much…meatier prey. You see, friends, by not consuming my bodyweight in cheesecake twice a day, I have retained my ability to run, to jump, to hide, to climb…to survive.”

Ayla huffed. “You wouldn’t have had to run at all, if you had the ability to think about anyone but yourself.”

He grinned and glanced at the dough-puff in her hand. “Scathing criticism from people who just pushed their partners aside for the possibility of first pick from a pile of pastries.”

She seethed and stepped out from behind Estelle, but froze as the rifle swung round to face her. Estelle rushed to place herself between them again.

“Take it easy, professor,” she panted. “It’s my mission to get the expedition off this planet and safely home. That mission would include you, too…if you want.”

He scoffed. “If I wanted to go home, captain, I wouldn’t have removed the control core. I would have taken that shuttle and left the day I found it.” He shook his head and wandered into the beam of the rover’s headlamps. “No, I’m not going anywhere, and with the core hidden safely away, I can now ensure that you aren’t going anywhere, either.”

“But the planet’s a trap,” Estelle implored him. “That mural over there proves it. It’s only a matter of time before this place kills all of us.”

“Ah, except I have not yet fallen for the bait. I have the willpower to resist our new home’s temptations, unlike your crew and, evidently…” He cast a smirk at her belly. “…unlike yourself, as well.”

“Please,” Hester spat, “you’re more trapped than any of us. Maybe you don’t crave food like we do, since you grew up rich enough to not feel the scarcity crisis back home. But this planet knows what you do crave: power. You’re so desperate for it you followed that temptation halfway across the galaxy just for a taste.”

“Pigs in a passion play. Yes, blame the scarcity crisis, as always. One day you’ll realize it was gluttony like yours that caused the crisis in the first place.”

Hoshi rubbed her temples. “Nebulas…first off, it’s been shown that the problem was unsustainable satellite-farming policies stemming from corporate greed. Second—”

“Of course. Always blaming everyone but yourselves. No sense of responsibility.”

Estelle held up her hands. “Look, I have a sense of responsibility. I’m responsible for getting this expedition home safe. So let’s just put the gun down and discuss what it’s gonna take for you to let me fulfill my responsibility.”

“Always thinking about yourselves. What about my responsibility?” He spat, rifle quivering. “I am burdened with the future of this whole planet. LV-237. The birthplace of a new power in our galaxy. A window to tomorrow. The future and fortune of humankind.” He raised a menacing finger. “I see you moving to flank me, Starling. Go any further and I open fire.”

The android stood up from behind the rover. “Acknowledged. But please understand, professor: your expectations for survival and prosperity on this planet are extremely unrealistic, given the available data. It would be in your best interest to discard whatever plans require you to remain here. I advise departing with us.”

“Besides,” Hester grumbled, “if you trap us here, it’s not like we’ll cooperate with your stupid fantasies.”

Ayla nodded. “Definitely. Count on us to make your life here hell for as long as we’re alive. You use that rifle and you can build the future of humanity by yourself.”

“And we’ll cackle from the afterlife while you run and hide from a thousand hungry squirmers for the rest of your miserable days.”

He studied each of them in turn. “Mm, I had feared that would be your stance. Your worldview is, as usual, immature and incorrect, but clearly it isn’t about to change…regardless, it helps to know with certainty where you stand, for the sake of negotiations.”

“Negotiation?” Estelle echoed.

“Don’t sound so skeptical. I’m a good man, captain. I’d prefer a civil resolution to having to use this gun. So, let’s approach things with reason.” He paced, but kept the rifle and a watchful eye cast in their direction. “You want everyone to leave. I want everyone to stay.”

They watched him pace. Hoshi began to shuffle forward, but Estelle caught her and motioned for everyone to stay still.

“My withholding the flight control core,” Hyllus continued, “grants me the power to prevent your desired outcome from being realized. Likewise, your collective, spiteful pettiness prevents my desired outcome from being…as desirable.” He slowly lowered the gun and glanced around to make sure they all remained still. “I can offer a compromise.”

Estelle shook her head. “I’m not going to compromise on these women’s safety.”

“Admirable. But would you perhaps compromise…for their safety?”

“What are you suggesting?”

“Here’s my proposal: everyone of the crew who wants to leave will leave. I will reveal where I’ve hidden the core, the shuttle will take off, and they can be safely delivered home. Your mission will be fulfilled, captain, and what passes for your conscience may be set at ease.” He puffed out his chest; the contours of his ribcage could be seen through the yellow fabric of his survival suit. “In exchange, you will stay here with me…”

Hester started. “What? No—”

“…serving my vision without impudence and willingly cooperating in the grand endeavor that is this planet’s conquest…not as a prisoner, but as a partner.”

Estelle looked back at the others. They vehemently shook her heads.

“You’ll give up the core and let them go?” she asked.

He nodded. “You have my word. Starling can lead them from here and pilot the shuttle. They will be free to head home. The rover and this rifle with have to stay here with us, of course…for our continued safety.”

Hoshi swallowed. “We’d have to…walk the whole rest of the way.”

“You could use the exercise. It’ll be a safe journey, regardless. Squirmers do not frequent these tunnels. And even after you leave the mountain, they’ll be too busy failing to catch Estelle and me to bother any of you.” He sat down on the rover’s hood and smiled at Estelle. “Captain, as a gesture of good faith, the first step of our new partnership will be to see that the shuttle lifts off safely.”

“And the next step?” Estelle ventured.

“Conquer the planet. Shape it according to my vision.”

She grimaced, looked over at the darkened mural, then back to him. The others murmured behind her, but she shushed them. After a long moment, she took a step forward. “…our vision. If we’re gonna be partners, I get to at least have some input.”

His sunken face broadened into a smile.
 

Clovis

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The plot thickens even though it seems the girls will not (for now.)
 

Marlow

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Chapter 29

A chorus of huffing and wheezing sounded from the mouth of the tunnel. Heavy, uneven steps echoed from the shadows, soon joined by shuffling and scraping.

Just as the last rays of the sunset faded from the sky, three obese women spilled out of the cave, gasping for air and held upright only by one another’s shoulders. Seeing that they’d finally escaped the tunnels, they released each other, stumbled around for a few moments, and finally collapsed against a nearby wall.

They had emerged on the far side of the mountain into a maze of rock towers and crags. Below, in the distance, they could see a wide plain spreading toward the horizon.

Starling strode out of the cave, carrying their bags. He glanced at the exhausted trio, set down his burdens, and climbed up a rock to check their surroundings.

“How could she?” Hester panted at length.

“What?” asked Ayla, hand to her heaving chest.

“Estelle…she just…she just abandoned us…to stay here with…with him, that stupid bastard…” She choked faintly. “No goodbye kiss, even…”

“She gave herself up so we could go. That’s a bigger gesture than any kiss. And there wasn’t much room for discussion, what with the gun and all.”

“I just…it doesn’t seem right.”

“I know. But you know Estelle...obviously she weighed the decision carefully and...” She glanced around. “Hoshi? No snide comment about 'weighing the decision'?”

Hoshi mumbled faintly.

“Come again?”

“I said…I just walked more in one day than I probably ever did even before I put on 360 pounds. If I waste breath on snide comments I might just die.”

“I hear that.” Ayla craned her neck. “Starling, I don’t suppose you see any food from up there? We’re out of the caves…we should be seeing edible stuff again, I figure.”

The android slid down and dusted himself off. “Yes. We are in a small recess in the mountainside, made from the same artificial material as the cave system, but outside of this recess the planet’s usual landscape resumes.”

“Thank the stars.”

Hester blinked. “Wait…more artificial stuff? Is this whole mountain a structure, or something?”

“It’s possible,” Starling replied. “Or, at least, it is built into the mountain. The tunnel system clearly contained an underground habitat, larger and more complex than your cheesecake domicile, but not wholly dissimilar.”

“And out here? What did you see from up there?”

“The recess appears to be some kind of gathering area. There are several features which I would describe, through a human eye, as a dais, an altar, and a pair of large thrones.”

Hoshi scoffed. “The capitol of a dead empire.”

“The civilization that built this chamber,” Hyllus droned, beckoning Estelle away from the rover, “left a number of ruins along this end of the continent. I have explored many of them while seeking refuge, collecting all manner of artifacts. Thanks to the lack of microbial activity on the planet, much of them are well-preserved. We may well be able to build our new empire upon the bones of what came before.” He cast his wrist-light toward the wall, illuminating a narrow passageway. “The next chamber contains a cache of textiles and furnishings. It has served me as a serviceable hideout for some time now.”

“They should have sent an archaeologist,” said Estelle. She strained to keep a polite expression on her face while keeping her eyes on the gun in his hands.

“No reason we can’t play the part. The fabrics alone could generate a new field of research, I imagine.” He headed toward the doorway. “Make your way inside and you will soon discover just how comfortable alien clothing can be.”

“Is there a reason I’m putting on alien clothing?”

“I thought we might find you some better-fitting attire. I can only imagine how uncomfortable and embarrassed you must be, squeezed into what’s left of that survival suit…” He tilted his head. “…and I’d rather not have that fat stomach in my face for the rest of my life.”

Estelle looked down at her fat stomach. It slouched listlessly over her waistband, painfully empty but still blocking any view of her feet. She looked back at the rifle. “Whatever you say, professor.”

“Oh, stars…we’re partners now, Estelle. You can call me Flavius.” He gestured for her to go inside.

She shuffled through the passageway, twisting a little and blushing as her lovehandles brushed the doorframe. “I’ll…think about it.”

“Of course. I understand,” he mused, following her into the darkened chamber. “Respect must be earned. I must say, though: you’ve earned mine. Staying here for the sake of the others…that’s a very noble and selfless act.”

He fiddled with some mechanism she couldn’t see. A hum echoed through the chamber, followed by a rattling whir, and then a trio of floodlights flared on overhead. They illuminated a dome-shaped chamber piled high with folded brown fabrics. A few stacks had been shoved aside to create a shallow pit, in which Hyllus had evidently been living.

“Those lights look familiar,” Estelle observed warily.

Hyllus grinned. “They came from our expedition equipment. I have visited camp from time to time for supplies, I confess. Often your friends were away for much of the day, allowing me to collect what I needed without notice.”

Estelle nodded. It could have been any of the long, heady days she and the others had spent outside of camp: diving into a doughnut, excavating a colossal croissant, drowning in a giant gelatin mold, bloating their bellies in a babbling brook of beer, staggering along the sticky spirals of a spacious cinnamon roll…her stomach whined.

“I need something in here,” Hoshi whined, massaging her paunch. “Anything.”

Ayla helped the engineer to her feet. “Just a little more walking, then.”

“That’s the opposite of eating, Ayla.”

“I know. But look…we get out of these ruins and we’re back in the usual environment.”

Hoshi took a few waddling steps and halted, groaning.

“Just think about it, Hoshi,” Hester urged. “The usual environment. You remember what that means…food as far as the eye can see. Breakfast, lunch, dinner—”

“A fifty-foot cherry pie,” Starling stated, appearing from around a corner.

Hester grunted, helping Ayla keep Hoshi upright. “I was just gonna say ‘dessert,’ but yeah, that sounds pretty good.”

Taking Hoshi’s arm, the android continued, “I have followed the directions Professor Hyllus gave us for the flight control core’s hiding place. Assuming I have not erred in my navigation, it seems he dropped the core into a fifty-foot cherry pie just at the base of this hill.”

“Holy nebulas.”

“I considered going in to extract the core myself, but my empathy protocols suggested you might appreciate the opportunity to search for it yourselves.”

They quivered.

“Uh, yes,” Hoshi breathed, “we might appreciate that.”

“Anyway, yes, I appreciate your conviction,” Hyllus remarked, passing Estelle a bundle of fabric. “You have a capacity for doing what’s needed…what’s right.”

She cautiously unfolded it. It resembled a heavy robe. “I’m okay in the survival suit, actually.”

“You’ll be much more comfortable if you change.” He bounced the rifle absently. “And, as I mentioned, I’d rather not have—”

“Rather not have my fat stomach in your face for the rest of your life. I heard you. Alright.” She took a deep breath, stepped back a bit, and peeled her suit top off overhead. Her fat stomach stretched up and bounced with the motion.

Hyllus glanced away for a moment, but, fidgeting with the gun, turned back to watch her, clearly making an effort to keep his gaze at eye level.

“Anyway…conviction, sure. I mean, I care about them.” She slowly stepped out of her trousers, quaggy thighs jiggling. “And when I care, I find a way to see things through, whatever it takes.” She stood naked a moment, squeezing her flabby midsection with a grimace. “Hell, I had to let myself go and double my bodyweight just to earn those gals’ trust.”

His eyes widened. “Ah, and here I was worried you were just another thoughtless glutton, like the others.” He nodded nervously at the robe in her hand. “Instead I can see you’re a…pragmatic thinker. You’re willing to negotiate and sacrifice, able to see of and contribute to the bigger picture.”

She wrapped the robe around herself and tried to close it, but her belly jutted out from between the folds. “Yep. Bigger picture, that’s me.”

He pulled a sheet from one of the nearby stacks, revealing a closet-like compartment, and turned on another light. A collection of trinkets was piled within, sparkling and gleaming. Estelle could see what appeared to be jewelry: necklaces, bracelets, rings, and crowns, all strangely sized and oblong, like the aliens in the murals outside.

Hyllus hefted up a circlet of glistening white metal, adorned with blue and yellow stones. “I think we’ll be very good partners, Estelle,” he announced. “I’m glad to have your cooperation.”

“Well, I’m happy to cooperate,” she replied tentatively, “but I do have…one condition.”

He set down the tiara. “Condition?” he echoed, fingers twitching on the rifle.

She spread her palms. Doing so let the robe fall open and she hurried to tug it closed again. “Not to go back on our deal…what’s done is done and I accept that. I’m here to stay.” She sidled closer to him and laid a hand on the jewelry. “But if you want smiling, enthusiastic cooperation—if you don’t want that rifle to always be the key to our partnership—then all you have to do is grant me one condition. One…one little concession.”

He eyed her.

“Trust, like you said. Mutual respect. Give me this one thing, and you’ll earn that.”

“I’m listening.”

She swallowed. “Thank you. That’s all I ask. My one request…Flavius…is that once in a while, if I want to have a full stomach, you let me fill my stomach.”

He glared at her gut. “Didn’t you just tell me you only did that to yourself to gain the crew’s trust?”

She kept her eyes fixed on his. “That…doesn’t mean I didn’t learn to enjoy it a little bit.”

“Mm.”

“Look, I won’t let myself get to the point where I’m useless to you or can’t move or whatever. I just want to, you know, reserve the right to have some fun here every once in a while.” She wrung her hands. “Think of it as…availing myself of our new empire’s riches.”

He glanced back at the pile of jewelry. “The empress wants to enjoy some occasional luxury?”

“As is, uh, my royal prerogative.” She watched him stare at the gems. “Right?”

“I…” He turned back to her. “Yes. That is not only reasonable, but respectable, in a way. I would be a poor emperor to deny the empress her interests.” He offered her the tiara. “As long as you keep yourself able enough to help build this great new empire, then I decree that you are free to indulge in our planet’s bounty whenever you so desire.”

She whirled around and headed for the passageway, ignoring the tiara. “Royal treatment. Good. And I’m gonna need to exercise that right, uh, right now. I haven’t eaten since breakfast and those fried dough puffs out there would make me feel a lot more regal.”
 

Marlow

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Chapter 30

The pie was everything their famished minds had imagined. It rose up from a plateau of crumbles like an above-ground swimming pool, red cherry ooze spilling out from cracks in its side.

The expedition’s survivors looked down on the dome of its flaky crust from an outcropping overhead, their eyes watering with relief and their mouths watering with desire.

“Why would Hyllus hide the core in there?” Ayla wondered. “Did he not think we’d look in something that appetizing?”

“Perhaps it was a different item when he came through here,” guessed Starling.

Hester chuckled. “Yeah, something more sinister…like a salad.”

“Regardless,” grunted Hoshi, “the way I see it, the sooner we find the core, the sooner we get to the shuttle and safety. And there’s only one way to find the core.”

“So we’d better start eating, eh?

The engineer stepped forward and tore off her sarong. “Don’t want that all dirty for the flight home, after all.”

“Good call,” said Ayla, unstrapping her dress. Hester’s camisole followed suit. “Time to do some swimming in some filling. Or at least do some filling.”

They approached the ledge, licking their lips, and with a chorus of giggles pushed each other over. Three naked bodies fell into the crust, shattering it.

Hyllus clicked his tongue, studying Estelle. “Decorum,” he muttered. They were still deep underground, lit by their respective bio-pak displays and the headlights of the rover.

“What?” asked Estelle between bites of pastry. She sat on the floor, back against a pillar, just a few yards from the pile of dough puffs. Crumbs and powdered sugar already littered her chest.

“The breakdown,” he explained. “Your crew seemed to have abandoned all sense of decorum, succumbing to the planet’s temptations.” He shifted the rifle from arm to arm. “I notice, for example, that you do not wear any underwear.”

Estelle instinctively pulled the fold of the robe tighter over her chest. It covered little of her torso, forced to splay open by the width of her midsection. “Well, I outgrew my underwear about a hundred pounds ago,” she explained sheepishly, stifling a belch. The dough puffs had proven more filling than expected and her belly was already noticeably distended.

Hyllus frowned as she swallowed another mouthful of pastry.

“Bra lasted a little longer,” she continued, “since so much of the weight went to my gut…but even that gave up after a while. I mean, I’ve never had much up here, to be honest, so that part was kind of fun. Turns out all I had to do to get a big sexy chest was get an even bigger belly.”

She gave her stomach an extra shake for emphasis, seeing how it caused Hyllus to turn up his regal nose.

“I suppose that’s one way to look at it,” he managed.

“We found it sexy, anyway. Maybe you’re not impressed, but I’m not really sure what would impress you, anyway. Decorum, I guess?”

He nodded slightly. “In a way. Composure…restraint…elegance…”

Hoshi loosed a belch that echoed off the rocks overhead. Ayla gave her an impressed high-five, their cherry-soaked hands splashing pie filling into the air.

Hester lounged on the crumbling edge of the pie as though it were a beach, digging up handfuls of crust and crushing it into her mouth.

Ayla hoisted up a cherry-piece the size of her head. She and Hoshi bit into it together from each side, spilling juice down their faces, necks, and chests, back down into the waist-high filling in which they waded.

The surface of the filling between them broke and Starling suddenly stood up from the mush. The two women fell backward, cackling.

“I am so very sorry,” professed the android. “I had not realized you were above me.”

Hoshi waved him off. “It’s fine. I wanted some more crust anyway.” She turned her face to the wall and bit into it.

He pulled a heavy metallic cylinder out of the filling. “I have located the control core. It appears to still be functional.”

“So does my appetite!” chimed Hester.

“As such,” Starling added, “we can now depart when you are ready. The cargo shuttle is only a manageable walk from this location…entirely downhill.”

“Oh, good. You can just roll me there,” Ayla lilted.

Hoshi sighed. “We don’t have to leave right away, do we? This pie is so perfect right now…”

“I would advise that we act with some amount of urgency, if possible,” Starling offered. “Now that we are outside of the tunnel system, it is likely only a matter of time until your presence is discovered by the—”

A rending shriek pierced the air. The giggling ceased and Hester flopped down into the cherry filling, petrified.

Starling gazed up. “Correction: I would advise that we act with a great deal of urgency.”

“Is there any chance you could hurry this up?” asked Hyllus, pacing between Estelle and the pile of dough-puffs.

Estelle swallowed. “Excuse me?”

“I don’t want to be rude, but I had hoped we might get going soon. There’s a lot of work to be done.”

She folded her arms atop her gut. “Hey, I understand. But these are delicious and you said I could eat my fill.”

“You’ve eaten six of them!”

“Well, yeah. And I’m probably gonna need at leasy six more before I feel full.” She bit her lip to keep from wincing, hoping he couldn’t tell how much discomfort she was already in. The pastries were enormous and felt as though they were expanding within her stomach.

Hyllus returned to pacing, casting her an occasional flustered glance and fidgeting with the rifle.

Estelle looked at the pile of puffs. “Look, if you want this to go faster…mmpf…maybe you could actually help.”

He stopped. “Help?”

“You said it was good for me to feel like royalty.”

“So?”

“So, pamper me. The pile’s all the way over there…and I’m not all that great at stretching, reaching, bending over…those sorts of things. I could eat a lot faster if—”

He held up a hand. “I get it. Here…” Crouching down by the pile, he searched out the biggest puff he could find and picked it up. “Koeksisters…the planet tries to tempt me with these…it knows they are the one treat I miss from home. But I have resisted.”

Estelle pressed a hand to her side. “I haven’t. Hic-urrp…maybe just bring a whole bunch of ‘em over. Save yourself the trip.”

He eyed her, then eventually nodded and turned back to the pile. He tried to grab a second puff, but the first was already almost too large for one hand.

After fumbling a moment, he leaned over and set the rifle against the next pillar. With both hands finally free, he set about collecting dough puffs and soon stood up with a sizable pile in his arms. A frenzied shuffle caught his attention and he turned, but too late.

Estelle tackled him, throwing all her prodigious weight forward with a strained grunt.

Two hundred and eighty pounds of woman knocked Hyllus off his feet and the fell to the floor in a heap. The dough puffs went flying and a stray foot kicked the rifle across the room.

Hyllus flailed, throwing Estelle off. He moved to get up, but she wrapped an arm around his ankle and pulled him back down. He twisted as he hit the floor and she shoved his face against the nearby pillar.

“What are you doing?” he cried, kicking her shoulder. “What about our empire?”

“I’m staging a coup,” she hissed, crawling away, her paunch scraping the floor. The rifle lay only a few steps away, silhouetted in the beams of the rover’s headlights.

Hyllus seized the tail of her robe, hauling her backward. She twisted and squirmed as he pulled himself up behind her, leaving him with an empty bundle of fabric as she wriggled naked out of the way.

She pushed herself up and staggered toward the rifle, heart pounding, belly bouncing with each labored step. Reaching it, she swiped her hands down, but Hyllus whisked the gun away.

“Stretching, reaching, bending over…” he growled. “…those sorts of things.”

Her fist slammed into his face. He recoiled and she grabbed at the rifle.

He recovered in time to keep hold of it and they twisted around, each desperately gripping the barrel and trying to wrench it from the other’s grasp. Neither was particularly strong: Hyllus was withered and weak after months of malnutrition and Estelle was stupendously out of shape after a season of sloth and excess.

They pushed and pulled against each other, spinning and staggering back toward the pile of pastries.

He shoved her back against the pillar and took his right hand off the rifle to punch her in the gut. But she barely winced; his fist sank uselessly into the cushion of her flesh.

Trapping his hand between her rolls, she leaned forward, then to the side, twisting him over. Hyllus wrenched his other hand up and as they fell together to the floor he sent the rifle clattering away.

Estelle wriggled around and landed on top of him, straddling his chest. Locating the gun, she threw a hand forward, but it lay just out of reach. She tried to inch closer, but Hyllus was thrashing wildly below her and she realized that if she shifted her weight off of him he would only escape again.

He kicked and flailed up at her. She slapped his hands away, looked down, and fell forward.

Her belly flowed down onto his face. A terrified gasp was cut short by the smothering mass of her flab. She squeezed him into place with her broad thighs and reached out her pudgy hands to pin down his frail, spindly arms.

She could feel his mouth open and try in vain to inhale, creating suction against her stretchmarked skin. A plaintive whimper escaped, but she only put more weight on him.

“How about that?” she panted, “Looks like you’re gonna have this fat stomach in your face after all…for the rest of your life.”

He heaved and contorted himself, but the struggle eventually subsided. Soon it ceased entirely. Estelle waited until he had twitched his last before rising up.

Wheezing from the effort, eyes bulging, deafened by the pounding of her overwrought heartbeat in her ears, Estelle leaned back and stared at the dark ceiling.

She pressed a hand to her chest and belched, then slid off and collapsed to the floor beside the pile of dough puffs. She took a few long, deep breaths, reached up to grab a pastry, and stuffed it in her mouth.
 

Clovis

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You might want to add an extra space or an ellipses to mark where the story shifts between the two scenes, it gets a little confusing.
 

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Chapter 31

The wall of pie crust split open. Cherry filling oozed out through the opening as a giant pseudopod began to ooze its way inside.

Ayla, Hester, and Hoshi backed away from the breach, shuffling slowly through the waist-deep filling. Starling attempted to sale the far wall.

“Perhaps I can hoist each of you up,” the android suggested, “if I can locate a safe enough foothold in this crust…”

The tear widened, crumbling as the pseudopod thrashed about. Soon they could see the whole squirmer, gathering itself up and preparing to advance.

“At least we got to die on a full stomach,” said Ayla.

“But I’m still hungry,” murmured Hoshi.

An engine revved somewhere outside. The squirmer whirled around and shrieked.

The rover blasted past the opening, smashing the monster on its hood and bulldozing it across the clearing. The brakes squealed as the rover lurched to a stop and the squrimer flew off, tumbled over, and slammed into a rock.

The survivors stumbled out of the pie. While Starling helped them to their feet, the rover reversed and skidded up to them.

“Careful, girls,” Ayla whispered. “We don’t know—”

The passenger door popped open. Inside sat Estelle, unclothed, scuffed up, wild-eyed, and spackled with powdered sugar. Her survival suit and a bundle of strange fabrics sat piled on the seat beside her. She twisted around, bloated belly flowing over her thigh, and reached out a pudgy hand.

“Come with me if you want to live.”

The women eagerly hurled themselves aboard, rocking the vehicle with a violent creak. They were too wide to climb over one another, but desperate enough to squeeze their twelve-hundred combined pounds onto one bench, spilling pie filling and bits of crust all over the interior. Starling leapt in through the opposite door.

“You came back!” sang Hester, seizing Estelle’s hand.

“Well, yeah,” she replied, shifting into gear, “I had to, since you all didn’t.”

“What? You left us to stay with him!” Ayla protested.

Estelle rolled her eyes. “I was stalling. You were supposed to rush him once I got him distracted.”

“Us? Rush?” Hoshi scoffed. “Maybe if you rolled me down a hill…”

Hester managed to flop her way into a sitting position. “Also…why are you naked and covered in powdered sugar?”

Estelle accelerated over a rise. “Why are you naked and covered in cherry filling?”

“The flight control core,” explained Starling, “was concealed within a large pie. Some excavation was required on the part of the crew.”

“Stars. You got it, though, right? Don’t tell me someone ate the damn thing by accident.”

He held up the cylinder. “I have it here, captain. We are fully equipped to leave, assuming Professor Hyllus makes no more trouble for us.”

She shook her head. “Hyllus is done making trouble.”

They went quiet for a moment. “What happened?” asked Ayla.

The rover ramped off a low outcropping. It landed in a field of smooth yellow fondant and raced off toward a forest.

“He got his just desserts.”

The squirmer, collecting itself atop the boulder, rose up and shrieked as the rover disappeared in the trees.

Two other squirmers dropped down from a nearby ledge, screeching in turn. The trio rolled and undulated down the hill to the field and swarmed off into the forest.

More of the creatures joined them as they went, bouncing up from riverbanks and plopping out from behind outcroppings. By midday a massive chevron of oozing membranes was wriggling its way through the wood with terrifying speed.

The trees eventually grew sparser as the forest yielded to a broad, rolling plain. The ground suddenly became brown and tough, occasional fissures opening to reveal the area to be the skin of a vast baked potato.

Tire tracks in a pool of sour cream directed the squirmer horde to where the rover had turned. They swirled, reformed, and took off to the east, toward the base of a fluffy white mountain.

The mashed potato volcano was erupting, spewing gravy across the landscape. The squirmers rolled and dodged each plummeting splotch, never slowing.

They crested the rim of a wide basin and poured down the side in a screaming torrent.

At the center of the basin sat the expedition’s cargo shuttle: a long, blocky module, little more than a freight container with thrusters. As the squirmers approached, lights sparkled to life along the sides of its fat hull and the deep rumble of its engines resonated through the basin.

A glow appeared at the base of the shuttle. It rattled, lurched, and then finally rose a few meters off the ground just as the squirmers reached it. They swarmed to surround the pod, climbing atop one another and reaching for it with pseudopods.

The shuttle listed slowly off to one side. Its stern began to angle up into the air and it spun around in a cumbersome arc. A squirmer managed to leap onto the bow, but slipped across and fell back to the ground.

After half a minute the shuttle finally lifted itself out of the basin. The starboard thrusters sputtered briefly, but righted themselves and flared with a brilliant white fire.

Two massive doors opened at the stern, below the primary engine. They revealed the interior of the freight module, a vast empty warehouse.

Once the cargo doors had been fully opened, the shuttle backed its way toward the mountain of mashed potatoes, hesitated, and then backed itself into the side of the mountain. With an awkward swooping trajectory, it scooped a heap of the terrain into the cargo bay, gouging a deep gash in the mountainside.

The shuttle floated away from the peak with a full payload. The cargo doors closed slowly on the starchy mass within and sealed themselves with a contented sigh. The squirmers stared up from below, warbling in frustration.

They could only watch and shriek as the shuttle leaned back, engaged its main thrusters, and rocketed into the sky.

The squrimers waited for hours, watching the sun pass overhead. Eventually the cloud cover returned, like an ancient gate closing over the sky.

As night fell, the creatures dispersed. They undulated off in various directions, some gathering together in a wriggling mob to head back toward the ruins. Many others, remaining in the basin, flattened themselves against the ground.

Their membranes spread and thinned until they were all but transparent, flowing into the pores and cracks of the planet’s surface. They gradually drained into the ground and were gone.
 

Marlow

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You might want to add an extra space or an ellipses to mark where the story shifts between the two scenes, it gets a little confusing.
Good call. Will do in the future.
 

Marlow

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Just wanted to say I'm really enjoying this.
Thanks for reading!


Chapter 32

Exploratory Vessel Triptolemus waited in geosynchronous orbit above LV-237, staring patiently into the starry void. As its prodigal cargo shuttle exited the atmosphere below and set course for a rendezvous, the mothership’s exterior suddenly woke with a chorus of blinking lights.

The shuttle slowed beneath the ship’s abdominal section and floated up into its housing. A pair of clamping arms reached out to secure the bulbous module like a satisfied diner cradling her stomach.

A ding sounded from the array, announcing that the cargo doors had sealed to the freight bay airlock. A few moments later, a second ding and a low hiss marked the passenger airlock’s successful connection.

“Never thought I’d be so happy to hear an airlock,” said Estelle, unbuckling herself from the co-pilot’s chair and untucking the strap from beneath her gut. She had donned her survival suit once more for the flight; as poorly as it fit, its familiar snugness had grown comforting.

The others had wrapped themselves, somewhat immodestly, in the alien fabrics she’d retrieved. The robes—if they were even intended to be robes, given all the openings—couldn’t begin to close over the women’s engorged assets. On Hoshi the garment served as little more than a shawl, while Ayla had managed to arrange hers into a split skirt and Hester had fashioned hers into the galaxy’s least effective apron.

They stood and paused for a moment, partially to reacquaint themselves with the artificial gravity, but largely out of trepidation.

Estelle gave them a reassuring smile and nodded to Starling. He opened the airlock and flicked on Triptolemus’ interior lighting. The low hum of machinery greeted their ears.

The captain stepped through and beckoned the others to follow. The hatch opened into one of the ship’s connecting corridors, widening into a small passenger lounge.

“Everybody okay?” Estelle asked, watching them stare around.

“Yeah,” said Ayla. “It’s just…it’s been two and half years. It’s weird seeing bulkheads and running lights and consoles…”

Hoshi nodded. “I’ll have to remember that the floor here isn’t edible.” She glanced around. “It’s almost like…waking up from a dream.”

Estelle lowered herself onto the edge of a lounge chair. “Well, I hope heading back to the real world isn’t too horrible.”

“No, it’s…it’s not as bad as I thought it’d be,” Hester stated, as though only just deciding it to be so. “It feels good. It’s kinda like coming home from your favorite restaurant…your belly’s full and happy and you can’t wait to tell everyone about it.”

“Except the restaurant is crawling with, you know, giant ooze-monsters.”

“Okay, sure, there’s that. But at least we’re bringing one hell of a doggy bag home with us, eh?” The doctor looked down the corridor, toward the entrance to the freight bay.

“A full payload of the galaxy’s tastiest treats,” agreed Hoshi.

Estelle held up a hand. “Stay focused. We’ve still got work to do. Everything look in order, Starling?”

The android looked up from a nearby console. “Preliminary diagnostics are satisfactory.”

“Good. Let’s get this girl up and running and pointed at the colonies. Once we’re at interstellar speed and the voyage home is officially underway…” She gave the others a coy wink. “…we can head aft and check on our very precious cargo.”

Hoshi licked her lips. “Lead on, then, captain.”

Pre-flight tasks were distributed according to the width of the ship’s various corridors. Accessing the flight control computer from the lower deck involved crawling through a couple of tubes and security hatches and subsequently fitting into the cramped server room itself, so the task of reinstalling the core was given to Starling. Ayla was sent to the bridge, which involved climbing a ladder and squeezing through a few hatches but was otherwise an easy waddle through the main corridors. Hester wriggled herself through a side passageway into the medical bay to begin preparing the cryo-pods, while Hoshi was permitted to settle her massive bulk on a couple of chairs in the lounge and coordinate the interstellar jump via intercom.

Estelle had to ascend the two separate ladders required to reach the dorsal airlock, where her own ship was docked. She found herself out of breath after the first and had to sit and rest after finally surmounting the second. Slouched against the airlock, she reached up to pull the access lever and fell backward as it opened.

Her ship proved much more cramped than she remembered. As a simple tug-boat, it had never offered much in the way of space or amenities. The cabin contained little more than the flight controls, a cot, and a cryo-pod, but Estelle had never had so much difficulty navigating through such ascetic furnishings. Her hips brushed against counters on either side, her backside knocked over her favorite lamp, and she had to contort herself to see the keypads below her jutting belly.

Still short of breath, she lowered herself onto the cot for a moment. The poor old fastenings snapped within seconds, leaving her in a mess of bent tubing on the floor. Shaking her head, she got to her feet and shoved her way to the flight controls.

The pilot chair greeted her nose with a leathery smell that brought back a hundred memories of her space-travels: blazing through blockades, dodging patrols, sailing through the debris of a ruinous battle out on the rim, making her ship faster with every new modification. The chair’s armrests greeted her hips, though, with a hundred reminders of her planetary travels: grazing through blocks of cheese, hogging profiteroles, lounging atop the debris of a ruinous feast out in the valley, making herself fatter with every new meal.

She opened the viewscreen and gazed out at the planet below. LV-237 shone as vibrant and verdant as ever, its warm aura begging her to come back down for just one more meal. Estelle grimaced as her stomach growled.

“Everybody ready?” buzzed Hoshi’s voice through the intercom.

“In position,” Estelle replied, punching buttons. “I have slaved my boat’s engines to Triptolemus’ navigation. Should be plenty of power and fuel to get home.”

“The control core is in place and functioning normally,” reported Starling.

“Pods are prepped,” Hester chimed. “Although they do look kinda tight.”

Silence followed.

“Ayla?” asked Estelle. “Ayla, you in position?”

Muffled panting sounded from the intercom. “Yeah…yeah, I’m here. Sorry. The access corridors are…it was hard enough to get around on this ship before I was four hundred pounds.”

“Yeah, they clearly designed Triptolemus for starving colonists.”

“Speaking of starving,” lilted Hoshi, “the sooner we get this show on the road, the sooner we can figure out dinner.”

“Navigation has been keyed in and accepted,” offered Starling.

Estelle ran her fingers over her instruments. “Copy. Hoshi—engines set?”

“Green lights on all thrusters. We are go for interstellar drive.”

“Acknowledged. Nice work, everyone. Strap in. Ayla, maximum velocity over minimum safe acceleration on my mark.” She cast a final glance at the planet. “…engage.”

LV-237 disappeared with a lush blur. The stars lengthened from pinpoints to streaks of white, then dissolved into a mesmerizing swirl as the interstellar drive took over.

She breathed a shaky sigh. “And we’re off. Home is just on the other side of a long nap.”

A cheer went up through the ship.

“Yeah, I think a celebration wouldn’t be out of order,” Estelle laughed, nodding. “Starling, head to the bridge and take the con. Everyone else—take some time to to get cleaned up, changed, settle in, whatever…and then let’s meet down in the atrium of the freight bay. Let’s call it an hour.” She moved to rise from her chair, but the armrests halted her. “Erm…maybe two.”

A little over four hours later, the crew finally managed the get themselves down to the atrium. They each began to apologize profusely for making the others wait, until realizing no one had been anywhere near on time.

Everyone had collapsed into their individual living quarters, scarfed down a pile of the ship’s ration bars, and rested awhile, their exhaustion mixing with a post-pie/dough puff sugar crash to render them unconscious at the first sign of inactivity. Woken by a resurgent hunger, they’d cleaned off the remains of their dessert frenzies and availed themselves of a long-forgotten luxury: hot showers.

Having left the admiralty with nothing other than her old flightsuit, Estelle simply remained in the survival suit. She was able to force her flabby arms into the flightsuit’s jacket, though, which buttoned tightly over her bosom but let her gut hang exposed.

The others had rummaged through the ship’s linens and after some careful cutting had crafted a collection of tank tops and skirts. Combined with the robes taken from the ruins, they formed a decently presentable ensemble.

“You look like a bunch of bloated alien space-priestesses,” Estelle remarked.

“You look like a moon disguised as a starfighter pilot,” Ayla retorted.

“Stay on target,” Hoshi cautioned, jerking a thumb at the airlock. “We came down here for a reason.”

Estelle nodded, heading toward the hatch. “Right. We’re here to celebrate.”

“Hear, hear,” giggled Hester.

“The fruits of all our labors are in this cargo pod.” She clapped her hands together. “I figure we’ve earned one last blow-out feast. We’re about to sleep for a year and I, for one, intend to go to bed on a full stomach.”

Ayla massaged her paunch. “Good plan. I’m planning to eat enough that it’ll take a year to digest, anyway.”

“Those cryo-pods are already a tight squeeze,” said Hoshi. “I hope I can still fit with the food baby I’m about to have.”

Hester bit her lip. “I don’t think cryo-pods will even be necessary. This food coma alone is gonna last the whole trip.”

Estelle reached up for the control panel. “Friends, on the other side of this door is a 20,000 tonne payload of our favorite foods. Let’s see if we can make a dent before we go to bed.”

She clicked a few buttons, then cranked down on the lever. The doorjamb hissed. The hatch’s broad slates lowered, then slid apart to each side with a gentle sigh. The overhead lights in the cargo bay flickered to life, one at a time, illuminating the enormous swath of culinary geography within.

A river of gravy flowed through a shallow valley, lined on one side with French fries and on the other with stuffing. The stream meandered into a forest of broccoli trees, dripping with molten cheese. Hills of mashed potatoes rose along the walls, studded with pats of butter.

The crew breathed deeply of the aromas, shuddering a little. Estelle took a step through the doorway, onto the grating that overlooked the foodscape below. She spread her arms in triumph and closed her eyes, letting her naked belly bask in the delicious warmth.

A rending shriek pierced the air. It resounded off the bulkheads of the cargo bay and echoed down the corridors of the ship.
 

Clovis

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Interesting- I was expecting the twist to be that the food taken off the planet would cease to be food, but it seems instead there's something else (an alien stowaway?)
 

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Chapter 33

“Run!” shouted Estelle, stumbling backward from the hold.

An enormous squirmer burst forth from the river of gravy. Gurgling and growling, it began rolling its way up toward the door.

The women fell over each other in a panic. “Run where?” Hoshi gasped.

“Wherever you can fit!” Estelle spat, jabbing at the control panel. “We came through that corridor, right?” She shoved the lever up.

“Barely!”

The door hissed and its two slabs began to ease toward each other. Estelle cranked desperately on the lever, but it wouldn’t close any faster. “Just go!”

Hester and Ayla shoved Hoshi into the corridor and scrambled after her. Estelle dove to the floor, flopping onto her gut, and rolled aside just as the squirmer arrived.

It halted in the doorway, caught between the closing slabs. Unleashing another scream, it stretched out a hideous pseudopod and slapped blindly around the atrium.

Estelle scooted out of its reach and got back to her feet. Gaping at the creature, she reached for an intercom.

“Starling!” she panted. “Starling…emergency…get—”

“What is it, captain?” crackled the android’s voice.

The squirmer shrieked again.

“Was that a squirmer?”

She gritted her teeth. “Nebulas, yes. It must’ve stowed away in the cargo module. Hid in the food, the bastard. I’ve got him caught in the door—”

The squirmer retracted its pseudopod. Flexing, it began to shove the doors apart and undulate its way through. Sparks popped from the doorjamb as its mechanisms failed.

“Update: he’s no longer caught in the door. Starling, we’re coming to you. Get ready to seal off the bridge.” She bustled out of the atrium and up the corridor, her bulk bouncing wildly. Her muscles complained immediately; she hadn’t traveled any faster than a leisurely waddle in months.

The corridor turned sharply and headed uphill, narrowing past the officers’ quarters. Estelle could see the others up ahead, pulling Hoshi sideways through a narrow hatch. The squirmer crashed around the corner, tearing up bulkheads and smashing support beams as it went. Alarms screeched throughout the ship.

Estelle tackled Hoshi and they fell together through the hatchway. Hester slammed it shut as Ayla helped them to their feet.

The squirmer slammed into the hatch, bending the metal out and cracking the glass viewpane. Hester scuttled back.

“That’s not gonna hold,” she whimpered.

Estelle shook her head. “Nope. But this is an admiralty ship—the bridge has to have blast doors. That ladder goes to the command deck…we get up there and into the bridge, we’re safe.”

Hoshi stared. “A ladder? The only thing about me doing climbing lately is my weight.”

“And now you’re gonna have to climb your weight up there.” She prodded her toward the ladder. “I’m not losing you. Any of you.”

They sent Hoshi up first. Ayla, who somehow still had some strength lingering beneath all her fat, helped from below, pushing up on the engineer’s massive rear.

It wasn’t a long way up, but each step took a monumental effort. Estelle looked warily at the bolts holding the ladder up.

As the bottom-heavy woman neared the top, the door there slid open and Starling’s hand reached down. The android seized Hoshi and between his synthetic strength and everyone below pushing, they got her onto the command deck.

Ayla climbed next. She had plenty of trouble herself, as her thighs had grown so wide it was difficult to keep her legs close enough on the narrow ladder. But she soon reached Starling’s hand and made it up.

While Hester ascended, heaving her incredible bosom up one rung at a time, Estelle piled what she could find in front of the hatchway. The squirmer was slamming itself repeatedly against it, bowing it out and straining the hinges. As soon as Hester had disappeared and Estelle mounted the ladder, the hatch’s glass pane shattered and a pseudopod quested through.

Estelle poked her way up to the command deck, pausing with a wince to squeeze her gut through the port. Starling hefted her up and cranked it shut behind her.

The crew got to their feet, gasping for air, and shuffled onto the bridge. Starling filed in behind them.

“Engaging intrusion protocols,” he reported, tapping on his panel. “Sealing the bridge and closing blast doors.”

Estelle collapsed into the captain’s chair and watched the blast doors heave shut. “Good work. Everyone okay?”

“I think so,” said Hoshi. “Can’t say I’ve been squeezed like that in a while.”

“All you had to do was ask,” Ayla leered.

“Good thing I didn’t have to try that on a full stomach. Probably wouldn’t have made it.”

“But now all this escaping’s just made me hungrier.”

Hester nodded. “I need a drink.”

“Maybe if we survive,” Estelle agreed. “We need a plan. Can’t spend the rest of this voyage holed up on the bridge.”

A muffled shriek sounded through the blast door.

“Why not?” Hoshi muttered. “I’d feel a lot safer staying in here.”

“Well, there’s no food up here, for starters.”

“Good point.”

Starling looked up from his panel. “I believe, in the absence of any weapon proven capable of destroying the creature, our best course of action would be to expel it from the ship.”

Estelle nodded. “What’s our door situation? Can we vent the deck? Just suck him out into space?”

“Unlikely. Triptolemus was designed to prevent full decompression. Moreover, the creature is not near enough to an available airlock.”

“So we need to lure him to an airlock.”

“Of which there are only three large enough for a creature of this size. The ventral lock is already engaged with the cargo module and the thoracic module is already engaged with your ship, captain…but the aft dorsal lock is available.”

“So we lead him to that one.”

“That’s the other end of the ship,” said Ayla.

“It’s the only option.”

Starling opened the ship’s schematics on the main viewscreen. “I agree. And we must hurry: the creature’s rampage has damaged several of our automation systems. Leading him through the main computing corridor may not have been the most preferable course.”

“It’s the only corridor some of us fit through,” Hoshi spat. “And this whole situation is well past preferable already.”

Estelle shushed her. “Can you get him to chase you to the airlock, Starling?”

“Not by myself. The creatures have shown little interest in my synthetic body. He will be significantly more likely to chase a living organism.”

“Nebulas.” She took a deep breath. “I’ll go, then. You come with me, though…keep him from catching me before I get to the airlock.”

Hester grabbed her wrist. “You can’t.”

“My mission is to get you home safe. We don’t have a choice. Plus, now that he’s wrecked the main corridor, we’re left with just the alternate access tubes to get around.”

“Oh, stars,” Ayla realized. “I barely fit through those when I was skinny.”

“Yeah. And right now I’m still the…stars, I was gonna say skinniest, but you know what I mean. Look, just stand by the controls. Starling, you got the rifle?”

He cocked it.

“Outstanding.” Estelle tore off her flight jacket. “Stand back, everyone.”

The blast door creaked open. The squirmer, which had been expressing its frustration on the other end of the command deck, straightened up and rounded on the bridge.

“Hungry, jackass?” Estelle called, storming out.

It shrieked. Starling emptied a clip into it, forcing it to hesitate while Estelle dashed past and ducked into the nearby access tube.

The tube wasn’t as tight as she’d feared, at least at first. She had to stay bent over as she went, belly bouncing off her knees. Every few steps a control panel or storage locker jutted out from the wall and she’d have to shimmy her jutting bulk around it.

The squirmer swarmed into the tube behind her, oozing along and lashing out with a pseudopod.

Estelle squeezed herself through a tight hatch and stared down the tube. There was a light ahead where it opened up into a machinery bay. She thrust herself forward, eager for a little more space to move freely.

She stumbled out into the bay and found herself on a swaying catwalk. Getting her footing, she grabbed the railing and began to hurry across.

The squirmer hurled itself out of the tube behind her. It crashed down onto the catwalk, snapping the cables suspending it.

The catwalk buckled and Estelle went sprawling. She launched herself forward, seizing the end of a platform at the far end of the room. She hung there, feet swinging, as the catwalk collapsed to the floor below.

The squirmer screamed up at her as she dangled. Starling appeared in the tube and fired a few more shots, but only enraged it further.

“Starling!” Estelle choked. She tried to heave herself up, but was far too heavy and far too weak.

The android reached around to a control panel. “Hang on, captain!”

“Really?” she huffed.

A joystick appeared. Starling seized it and began to guide a crane across the ceiling. A chain swung down from it, ending in a large, rusted hook.

The squirmer, finding its attempts to scale the wall fruitless, began to stretch up onto a cargo crate.

Starling lowered the hook toward Estelle. It swung up and caught her shirt, right between two rolls of backfat.

“Oh stars,” she muttered. “Starling, can’t you just—hurk!”

The hook hauled her up by the scruff, not only pulling her up over the platform but yanking the shirt up from her belly, then over her bosom. She slipped out of it entirely and fell unceremoniously onto the platform.

Instinctively covering her naked chest with one arm, she grabbed futilely at the shirt. But the squirmer reached the platform and she had to flee topless into the next access tube.

The squirmer followed her through, but had fallen behind enough that she didn’t have to duck the thrashing pseudopod as she went.

The tube came to a dead end in a small, dimly-lit closet, but a hatch on the floor opened up into the ceiling of the sterndeck. Estelle twisted the wheel, hauled open the hatch, and lowered herself down.

Her bottom half slid through without issue, but her belly quickly filled the little port and halted her progress. She pushed and prodded at her flab, trying to twist around. Eventually she was able to suck in, pull up on her gut, and slide through with a pop.

She dropped onto the sterndeck. The airlock waited across the room and she hurried to the panel beside it. Huffing and puffing, she jabbed at buttons until the interior door opened.

The squirmer poured itself through the hatch and plopped onto the deck with a roar.

Estelle stepped in front of the airlock, belly protruding proudly. “That’s it, ugly. Come get it.” She rubbed her gut. “All fattened up for you, just how you like it.”

The squirmer launched itself forward. Estelle dove aside, rolling gracelessly out of its way just in time. It roiled into the airlock, shrieked, and turned around.

Estelle got up on an elbow, feeling her belly slosh onto the floor. She reached up toward the control panel.

The squirmer rushed back toward the door, reaching out a pseudopod to keep it from shutting. Starling appeared, sprinting headlong at the creature, rifle blazing. He tackled the pseudopod; android and monster fell together into the airlock.

“Now, captain!” he cried.

“Not with you in there!”

“I can’t hold him down! Close the door!”

Wincing, Estelle hauled down on the lever. The interior door slammed shut and sealed them in. A series of green lights flared on within the airlock and a button appeared on the wall next to Starling.

He punched the button. The airlock’s exterior door opened, venting the chamber. Starling’s rifle flew out immediately. He reached for an emergency handle, but missed and was pulled out into the void.

The squirmer, rippling as the air rushed out, stretched and spread itself to either side, webbing itself to the walls. Estelle watched in frozen horror as it survived the decompression, recomposed itself, and turned to face her.
 

plushkitty

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Nooo, a cliffhanger! D:

Seriously though, major kudos for writing a long, suspenseful science fiction weight gain story AND sticking with it.
 

Marlow

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Chapter 34

“Did it work?” Hoshi’s voice crackled from the intercom. “Monitor shows the airlock decompressed.”

Estelle gulped. “Negative. It didn’t go in.” Her vision swam with stars and her head pounded with exhaustion. “Into space, I mean. It’s…”

Within the airlock, the squirmer reared up and slammed itself against the door. A tiny crack appeared in the windowpane.

“Thing’s still in the airlock for now, but this door isn’t gonna hold. I have to close the exterior door before he lets all our air out.” She punched the control panel, taking a deep breath. “And we…we lost Starling.”

“No you haven’t, captain,” came the android’s voice. “I was saved by the dorsal antenna array.”

Estelle choked. “Holy nebulas, Starling! Thank the stars. Why didn’t you say anything?”

“It took a moment to upload my voice protocols to the intercom system. There is no air out here, as you may recall.”

“Just get your ass back in here.”

“With pleasure, captain. I shall seek safer ingress, if you don’t mind.”

She nodded. “Okay, team…new plan?”

“Well, apparently decompression’s out,” Hoshi mused. “Next best bet would be separation.”

“I’m listening.”

“We can jettison one of the non-essential modules from the ship. We’ll maintain our course and the jettisoned module will fall back into sub-light speed on a course to nowhere.”

Ayla’s voice chimed in. “If the squirmer’s in the module when it goes, we’re rid of him.”

“I like it,” Estelle murmured, watching the squirmer ram the glass again. “What can we jettison?”

“Erm, not much,” Hoshi admitted. “We can separate the bridge, but we’d lose the guidance systems and…that’s really just for crash landings. We could drop your ship, captain, but…”

“But then we’re without my engines and all the fuel that’s left.”

“Right. And we probably shouldn’t jettison the core, so that just leaves, the, uh…”

Estelle nodded solemnly. “The cargo module.”

“But…all the food!” Hester cried.

“Yeah, my stomach doesn’t like the idea either, but it’s the only realistic option. Survival has to take priority here.” She glared at the cracked glass. “Okay. We’ll do it. I’ll lead him on a merry chase down there; you run the separation protocol.”

“There’s the other hiccup,” said Hoshi.

“What else?”

“His rampage tore up a lot of the automation systems. We’ll have to jettison manually. That takes two people—one at the airlock and one on the outside.”

“I am already outside,” observed Starling.

“Done,” Estelle announced. “Ayla, you get down to the airlock and handle the hatch once blobby and I are through.”

“Aye, captain.”

“Just make sure to let me back out before we jettison.”

“But how will I be able to tell you and the blob-monster apart?”

Estelle grimaced. “I’m the one wearing pants. Anyway, with Starling occupied, I’m gonna need a maneuvering advantage…Hoshi, can you shut down the artificial gravity?”

“Not from here, with this damage. Someone will need to squeeze down to the forward core.”

“Hester, think you can do it?”

“Dammit, captain, I’m a doctor, not a—”

“Get down there. Hoshi’ll never fit.”

“I’ll walk you through it from the intercom,” Hoshi assured her.

“More like waddle me through it…” Hester grumbled.

“Just do it. I need you.” Estelle stepped back from the door. The glass had shattered and a pseudopod was oozing through. “Get to it, everybody…we’ve only got one shot at this.”

“Be careful,” Hester said quietly.

“I’m always careful. Alright, Hoshi, where am I going?”

“Uh, let’s see. You basically need to go straight down.”

Estelle steeled herself, watching the last of the squrimer slide through the port. “I don’t suppose there’s an elevator back here.”

“Stars, you’ve gotten lazy. No elevator, but there’s a maintenance closet in the next room.”

“A closet?” Estelle scoffed. She hurried into the room anyway.

“You’ll find an access panel at the back. Opens up into the anterior bulkheads. It’s like the space between decks…should reach all the way down to the lower deck, right back to the freight bay.”

She ducked into the closet and locked the door. “So, what, I just fall?”

Hoshi paused. “Probably not. It’ll be more like…climbing down. Also, it’s not exactly the widest of spaces.”

Estelle opened the access panel. A dark, wet, and concerningly tight vertical crawlspace greeted her. “Holy nebulas. Okay, I’m not gonna fit in there.”

The squirmer crashed into the closet door, snapping the hinges.

“…okay, I’m gonna fit in there.”

She ducked into the bulkhead. Her gut squished up against the opposite wall before she was even through the door. The wall was covered in a cold, oily lubricant and her naked flesh flashed with goosebumps.

“Oh, stars,” she hissed, forcing the rest of her upper body inside. She felt around and grabbed a support beam, then stepped her feet in. She hung there over what looked like a bottomless drop, trying to get her bearings.

The squirmer smashed the closet door aside and reached out a pseudopod. Feeling its slimy membrane slap her lovehandle, Estelle yelped and let go of the support beam.

She promptly dropped into the claustrophobic abyss, belly and backside sliding along the lubricated walls. The space was narrow enough that she couldn’t fall with any real speed, though. After the initial descent she found herself having to walk herself down with her hands. The squirmer flowed through the access panel above and began pouring down like a gelatinous flood.

Estelle stopped suddenly, finding a support beam sandwiched between her softened legs. She sat on it a moment in panic, unable to flex enough to get one leg or the other over the beam.

The squirmer drew closer. Sucking in as much as her paunch allowed, Estelle leaned to her left and spun her whole body around until she hung upside-down. She dropped a few feet before stopping again.

A rusted bolt had caught the waistband of her trousers, the force of her fall yanking them halfway off her butt. She writhed about, trying to reach the bolt, but the effort only served to open a tear in the fabric. She froze, realizing what had happened, but it was too late.

Her trousers ripped open just as the squirmer approached. Estelle fell out of them, sliding and crawling her way down the wall another story. She squeezed around another support beam, twisted sideways, and plummeted to the bottom deck.

There something jutted out from the wall, pinching her belly and bringing her to a sudden stop. She flailed and shouted, pounding on the wall, but was too fat to slide any further.

She felt around for what had caught her: it was a hinged ring, like one of the hatches she’d used earlier. Her paunch was pressed right up against it, sealed in by suction. Above her, the squirmer shrieked.

The hatch opened. Estelle felt fresh air against her belly, which swelled freely into the now open space. A pair of hands grabbed her flesh and pulled. She contorted herself and pushed.

She popped through the ring just as the squirmer caught up. She spilled out onto the floor, her lubricant-drenched flab slipping across the tile. The lights of the aft deck shone down on the doors to the cargo module, sealed shut.

Ayla slammed the hatch closed on the bulkhead. “Look at that,” she panted. “Our fat captain, naked and all oiled up. Hester must be so jealous.”

Estelle sat up with a groan. “Look at that…our much fatter geologist, being smarmy during a life and death situation. I’d like to see you fit through there.”

“And here’s your even fatter still engineer,” Hoshi’s voice chided from the intercom, “reminding you that that hatch isn’t going to hold.”

“Maybe you should get your massive butt down here and plug it.” Ayla wobbled her own hardly diminutive derriere across the atrium to the control panel. “Alright, captain, I’ve got it ready to detach on this end. Starling, everything set out there?”

Estelle backed away from the hatch, watching the metal begin to bend. “Starling? You still with us?”

“Yes, captain,” the android’s voice replied at length. “I apologize. I am having difficulty with the mechanisms. The jettison protocol was not designed to be initiated above lightspeed. Especially by hand.”

The hatch split open. The squirmer’s membrane began to ooze through.

“So, is this gonna work?” Estelle murmured.

“I believe so. But it will take me a little more time.”

“We don’t have time, Starling,” Ayla retorted.

Estelle grimaced. “We’ll have to make some. Open the cargo door, Ayla.” She got to her feet. “That way if this thing catches me, I’ll…at least get to die surrounded by my favorite treats.”

“I can’t do that, captain. You’ll—”

“Open the food bay door, Ayla.”

The squirmer finished reforming itself. It stretched up, looming over Estelle, and shrieked. Ayla punched the control panel and the cargo doors slid open with a hiss.

Estelle turned and rushed for the doorway. She attempted to sprint, but between her being covered in lubricant and too fat to run, it was more of an uncoordinated, half-sliding scramble.

The door opened up onto a grated platform overlooking the overpacked cargo module, providing a vista of the edible landscape. Estelle promptly slipped and found herself sprawling. She seized a railing and tried to stand.

The squirmer exploded into the bay behind her. It rolled across the platform and tackled Estelle; the railing snapped and they fell together into the spread of food below.

Estelle rolled down off a mound of French fries. She heaved herself onto her knees, glancing around for anything that could serve as a weapon. There was nothing in reach that wasn’t soft. She tried to get to her feet, but the squirmer rose up from the river and wrapped a membrane around her ankle.

She kicked at it. “Get your pseudopod off me, you damned dirty—”

It lifted her off the ground and hurled her clear to the far side of the gravy river. She landed in a pile of mashed potatoes.

“Captain, are you alright?” came Hoshi’s voice.

“I think he’s trying to soften me up,” she grunted, getting up. “Joke’s on him…I’m already pretty soft.”

The squirmer was undulating toward her.

Estelle cracked her knuckles. “Hester, I don’t suppose you’ve made any progress on the gravity?”

“Almost there, captain,” the doctor’s voice replied. “I’m just having a little trouble with the controls.”

“What? What kind of trouble?”

“The console is seated kind of low, eh? It’s hard to see around, you know, my tits.”

“Nebulas,” Estelle hissed. “Well, he hasn’t managed to kill me so far…”

The squirmer stretched upright, tall enough to ford the river and march up the bank on the other side.

Estelle backed her way toward the wall behind her. “Look, hey, maybe we got off on the wrong pseudopod. We don’t have to be enemies, do we? I mean, we have so much in common…you have a pliable, wobbling membrane, I have a pliable, wobbling midriff…” She backed into the cold metal wall. “Just look at me: I’m well on my way to becoming a giant gelatinous mass like yourself.”

It continued to advance. Estelle instinctively reached a hand to steady herself on the wall; she was still partially covered in the oily lubricant from her climb through the hull, though, and found her hand almost to slippery to grab anything.

She stared at her hand and frowned. “No…no, Estelle, that’s a terrible idea.”

“Almost there, captain!” Hester cried over the intercom. “Just hold him off a little longer!”

“Terrible idea it is,” Estelle decided. She looked over at a mound of mashed potatoes about halfway between her and the squirmer. At its peak she spied a pool of melted butter.

She launched herself forward and lunged up the side of the mound. She mounted it like a snowbank, each step sinking deeper into the potatoes. At her sudden motion the squirmer rushed forward as well, collapsing back into a wide ball as it charged.

Estelle sprawled up the last few feet and splashed into the butter. The pool was just deep enough to submerge her and she disappeared as the squirmer fell upon the mound.

It spread out as it struck, completely covering and flattening the hill. A pseudopod reached into the mound, soon followed by another.

But the plump little human was now too squishy and too slippery to get a solid hold of. Without any effective grasping digits, the pseudopods clutched in vain as Estelle squeezed her way through the pile and suddenly fell free from beneath the squirmer’s membrane with an audible pop.

She rolled to the ground and stumbled to her feet, wiping butter from her eyes. “Worst hug ever.”

“Couldn’t have been any worse than that pancake party we had,” Ayla mused, turning from her panel at the airlock. “You ended up covered in butter that time, too.”

Estelle shuffled behind a giant broccoli tree and watched the squirmer collect itself. It was still between her and the airlock. “And some of you were just as grabby,” she recalled. “Tell me you have that door ready to seal.”

Ayla grunted and tossed her wrench aside. “I hope so.”

“I talked her through removing the safety mechanisms,” Hoshi buzzed from the bridge. “It’ll slam shut in an instant now. Once you’re through, we’re clear.”

“You gonna be able to get back up here with the ladder gone?”

Estelle cocked her head. “Maybe. As long as Hester—”

“Got it!” cried the doctor.

The hull shuddered and a deep buzz reverberated through the ship. Estelle suddenly felt very light, a word she had not been able to apply to herself in some time.

The squirmer leapt up from the mashed potatoes, but, to its confusion, didn’t land on the floor. It floated off into the air, shifting and stretching in frantic confusion.

“Get ready to jettison,” Estelle commanded.

“Commencing,” Hoshi replied. “Now, there may be a little shift as I drop us out of—”

The ship lurched violently. Everything in the cargo module was thrown into the air, creating a swirling nebula of food. Estelle found herself floating in the opposite direction of the door.

“Was that the ‘little shift’ you mentioned?”

“Um, yes. It became a little bigger than I expected.”

Estelle watched as the squirmer twisted around in the air. It floated directly between her and the airlock, drifting toward the exit. “I think we all did, Hoshi.”

With a grunt, Estelle pushed off a giant cupcake—making sure to grab a lick of frosting in the process—and kicked her way up a ten-foot breadstick to the cargo hold’s back wall. She braced her back against it, seizing a support beam.

The squirmer flattened its membrane and spread into a broad circle, presumably hoping to catch her like a net.

“On my mark!” Estelle called. She took a deep breath, let go of the beam, and launched herself belly-first toward the airlock.

She sailed over the decadent foodscape like a meteor, splashing through a blob of cranberry sauce and knocking aside bits of stuffing as she flew.

The squirmer roared, its flattened membrane rippling. It was spread so thin Estelle could make out, blurrily, the shape of the airlock behind it.

She rocketed into the center of the creature, bowing it inward. She curled herself into a tight ball of flab, arms wrapped around her belly, eyes squeezed shut.

Her weight punched through the squirmer’s membrane, collapsing it in on itself. She exploded out from its opposite side, through the hatch, and into the cargo atrium, flying past an amazed Ayla and crashing into the far wall.

Ayla slammed her hand down on the control lever. The airlock doors slammed shut. Rotors churned as the seals rotated into place. “That’s some effective mass you’ve got there.”

Estelle wiped interstitial fluid from her eyes. “Just think…if I’d been any lighter, that might not have worked.”

A dent appeared in the door as the squirmer crashed against it. Sparks flew from the panel.

“How is something with no muscles that strong?” Estelle cried.

“I could ask the same thing about you.”

“Nebulas…just jettison the damned thing!” Estelle floated off the wall and flailed about, drifting out of reach of the handholds.

Another dent appeared in the door. Punching a hole through the squirmer only seemed to have enraged the creature further.

“Unsealing cargo module,” Hoshi reported through the intercom. “Link terminated. All yours, Starling!”

“Releasing cables,” announced the android. “Fail-safes disengaged. Ready to terminate.”

Estelle shuddered as a muffled, desperate shriek sounded from behind the door. She turned to glare at it. “Yeah, fuck you, too.” She nodded to Ayla.

Ayla flipped a trio of switches, then slammed her hand onto a large button. An alarm rang out from the door, followed by a deafening hiss, and finally a sudden silence.

They stared at the door. The pounding had stopped.

“We have separation,” Hoshi declared.

“I make visual confirmation,” added Starling. “The cargo module is away and emergency retro-thrusters have activated to decelerate.”

“Hurled into the infinite void!” Hester cheered. “Good luck chasing us now!”

Estelle blew out a long breath. “That’s for Selena, you slimeball.”

Ayla closed the control panel. The motion pushed her away from the wall and she spun slowly across the atrium with a relieved giggle.

“Great work, everyone. That was…that was a tight one.”

“Everything’s tight on you, captain.”

“Thanks, Ayla. Hoshi, reengage interstellar drive and reopen the slipstream. Starling, get your shiny metal ass back in here. And Hester, we can turn the gravity back on.”

Ayla moaned. “Do we have to? It’s kind of fun for all this weight to be all…weightless.” She bounced her thighs together as she drifted past.

Estelle pondered it for a moment, glancing down. Her stomach, rather than sagging over her lap as it usually did when empty, instead ballooned out from her midsection, flowing and rippling as she moved. “Okay, it is kinda neat. But we need to get back to work.” She flapped her flabby arms. “Also, I can’t reach anything and Ayla’s too busy being snarky to help me down.”

“Alright, alright,” Hester sighed. “I’ll turn it back on. But I’ll warn you it might take a bit…it was hard enough to see around these boobs before they could float up into my face all on their own.”

“Take your time.” Estelle slumped with fatigue, absently caressing the sphere of her weightless belly.

She orbited her way across the atrium like a fleshy moon. Her eyelids slid shut, her chest heaved with exhausted breaths, and her stomach whined a gurgling lament for the abandoned feast.
 

Xyantha Reborn

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I always enjoy your works. It reminds me of a good tv show (in a good way..not the bad parts of tv)
 

Marlow

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Nooo, a cliffhanger! D:

Seriously though, major kudos for writing a long, suspenseful science fiction weight gain story AND sticking with it.
Thanks for following along! Wasn't sure if I've been stretching these stories too long or not.

I always enjoy your works. It reminds me of a good tv show (in a good way..not the bad parts of tv)
I'd watch that show!



Epilogue

Hoshi punched up an old-earth hymn on the ship’s intercom. The jangling chords of “Take the long way home” wheedled faintly from the med-bay speakers overhead as Estelle and her crew dressed themselves for cryo-sleep.

The music hadn’t done much to improve their mood, though. Once the excitement and adrenaline of the stowaway-chase had faded, the crew had fallen into an uncharacteristically somber rut; they alternated between staring at the floor and puttering as slowly as possible through their duties.

They’d each shuffled into the med-bay with a shell-shocked, haggard appearance. Everyone seemed afraid to smile again, nor to let their guards down in any way, lest another monster crash through the door.

The captain watched her crew with trepidation, dreading the idea of seeing them off to cryo-sleep with such harrowed looks on their faces. She had made some efforts to restore normalcy: she’d cleaned herself up and tried on one of the ridiculous outfits they’d crafted, but no one had seemed particularly interested or impressed. She’d suggested they sit down and stuff themselves on ship’s rations, but they had eaten dispassionately and each left the table with little more than a perfunctory belch.

Estelle regretted the ration feast. She had tried to lead by example, devouring bars like a woman possessed in an effort to reignite the crew’s vigor. Her distended stomach now complained loudly and had stretched so taut she worried the cryo-tube wouldn’t be able to close over it.

“Ladies…” she ventured at length, turning to face them.

The hatch opened behind her. Everyone whirled around in a quiet panic, but it was Starling. The android stepped into the bay and glanced about as they all deflated.

“Captain, I am pleased to report that there has been no damage to the guidance systems, propulsion systems, or life support systems. We are traveling at maximum interstellar velocity and can optimistically anticipate an uneventful voyage to the colonies.”

Estelle nodded. “Uneventful sounds pretty good to me. And the cargo pod?”

“The jettisoned module fell out of the interstellar stream and is now adrift in unoccupied deep space, just at the edge of the quarantined systems.”

“Probably for the best, then.” She turned to the crew. “Ready the cryo-pods, I suppose. Nap-time in five.”

They bustled off, frowning. Estelle stepped toward her pod, but the android’s hand clasped her arm.

“Captain, there is another matter.”

She froze mid-stride and glanced sidelong at him.

“It is nothing dangerous, I assure you. You may be at ease.”

“Not the best time for scares, Starling.”

“I apologize. I simply intended to present this to you in private.” He checked to ensure that the others were out of earshot, then produced a small scrap of paper from his pocket.

“What’s this?” Estelle asked, accepting it.

“These are the coordinates at which we jettisoned the cargo module, along with the resulting vector data…should its location ever need to be known.”

She stared at the numbers. “So we could theoretically find it again…or, maybe, steer folks away from it.”

“Precisely. I thought it should be left to you to decide the fate of this knowledge…whether you inform the admiralty, keep it to yourself, or simply destroy it.” He watched her fold up the paper and tuck it into her pocket. “I recognize the repercussive and consequential nature of such data. It could as easily be used for benevolent and malevolent purposes.”

“I think you’re right on that.”

“As such, I have omitted it from the ship’s logs and erased it from my own memory banks…a necessary precaution, in the event that I ever fall into the wrong hands.”

“And what if I fall into the wrong hands?” She asked with a smirk.

He eyed her. “I am confident that you will continue to do what is right, no matter your circumstances. After all, you have demonstrated the ability to do so against much adversity throughout the entirety of our brief, but certainly illuminating, acquaintance.”

She smiled up at him. After a moment, she reached out and shook his hand. “Thank you, Starling. I…I want you to know that, uh, you have met and exceeded your mission parameters in the most exemplary and satisfactory of ways.”

“Captain…that is the highest praise an android can receive.”

“And it’s not nearly as high as you deserve.”

He teetered awkwardly, then leaned down and gave her his best approximation of a hug. Estelle embraced him with a long, smothering squeeze, until finally noticing the rest of the crew watching them.

She released the android and turned to the others, adjusting her blouse. “Okay, ladies, since we’re finally underway, let’s get these pods set to go. I don’t know about you all, but I’m…exhausted.”

They stood a moment, wavering. A voice in Estelle’s head wondered if she’d jettisoned all their happiness with the cargo pod.

Hester took a deep, shaky breath. “That’s…that’s what you get for being so out of shape, captain.”

The others shook their heads, but broke into weary smiles. Hester’s bosom bounced with a quiet snigger.

“Are you even allowed to be call yourself captain once we get back?” Hoshi realized. “You might have a little trouble with the admiralty physicals.”

Estelle blew out a relieved sigh and forced a grin. “It’s not like I ever followed their rules before, though. I’ve always been a bit of an outlaw.” She cocked an eyebrow at Hester. “You, however, Dr. Irving…I’m interested to see how people feel about getting dietary advice from Novissima Scotia’s fattest woman.”

“They’ll feel great,” the redhead retorted. “I’ll be the only nutritionist telling them to ‘eat more.’ Figure I’ll be the most popular dietician in the colonies, eh?”

Ayla eyed her. “You’re really just gonna go back to work? After all this, you think you’ll just live a normal life back there?”

“Well, not normal, no. I’m gonna be a damn star. Och, I thought the lads at Maggie’s liked my lasses before…” She shimmied her ponderous chest. “…just wait till they get a look at them now, eh? And with what this beer belly’s gotten itself used to, I’ll be able to drink any and all of those losers under the table!”

“There’s a thought, I guess,” Ayla assented. “This whole time, I wasn’t sure if there’d be anything to go back to…but maybe I could just go home again…maybe talk the guys into taking me back. When we broke up, they told me I had a lot of growing to do…”

Hoshi clapped her on the back. “And now you’re three times the woman you were then. I call that growth. I’ll tell you what I’m doing once we’re back, though: I’m going straight to the workshop and building myself a hover-chair. I will never get tired of this flab, but my legs are sure getting tired of carrying it.”

“What about you, captain?” asked Hester.

Estelle folded her arms atop her burbling belly. “I’m not really sure. I have a feeling it’s going to be a very different place when we get back. It’s been years. With the Federation running things now and the colonies being integrated into something we barely understand…who knows what it’s going to be like by the time we get back there?” She allowed herself a wistful smile. “Regardless…no matter what, I’m sure there will be opportunities to help somewhere…try to make things better for folks in need.”

Ayla chuckled. “I knew it. You were a softy even before your midsection got all soft.”

Estelle opened her cryo-pod and stared inside. “You never know…maybe what we discovered on that crazy planet can do some good in the universe. We could be the next great big thing for humanity…in addition to just being big.”

“But we jettisoned the cargo module,” Hester lamented. “Everything we found…all the evidence is gone. How are we supposed to prove any of what happened?”

“Don’t be silly,” Estelle replied, crossing the room. She laid an adoring hand atop Hester’s gut, her own belly squeezing up against it. “We have all the proof we need…right here.”


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