“(Commission Preview) Further Testing”

(Commission Preview) Further Testing
by Miss Mouse
for KojiroSasakii

Warning: this story describes a woman carrying a tentacle monster in her stomach and birthing it through her mouth in a semi-traumatic fashion. If that doesn’t sound good to you then you probably shouldn’t read it.
This is a sequel to my story “All in the Name of Science.
Read that first.

“Further Testing” was the key phrase in Kallie’s mind as she stood in the snow by the helipad, her hands in the pockets of her coat and a scarf wrapped around her face. It had been two weeks since her ordeal and her report had made a significant impression on her employers, and now Dyson-Weilig was sending her an assistant with whom she was to perform “Further Testing.”

She’d never met Dr Brooke Fischer, but had read some of her work on the feeding methods and digestive processes of the C144 species. There wasn’t a lot of reading material at the research site and the internet had the habit of going down during blizzards.

The sound of the helicopter beat its way through the cold morning, growing closer, bringing with it a whirlwind of snowflakes as it lowered onto the helipad, the Dyson-Weilig corporate icon clearly visible on its tail. The rotors didn’t even fully stop, the pilot apparently having orders to return before the weather had a chance to get worse. The side-door opened and out stepped Dr Fischer, even more bundled up than Kallie.

She was tall, though Kallie couldn’t tell much else about her through her clothes, but she carried all of her luggage in a single, rolling suitcase. Neither tried to say anything over the sound of the helicopter, and both had their mouths covered in any case. They braced themselves as the helicopter took off, and once it was gone, Kallie pulled down her scarf.

“Welcome to the research site,” she said, extending one gloved hand to her new subordinate. “I’m Dr Kallie Chao, Chief Research Scientist.”

“Dr Brooke Fischer,” replied the woman, uncovering her face but not returning the handshake. She gave Kallie a brief examination with her cold, blue eyes before turning to look over the grounds of the site. “PhD in Gastroenterology from Stanford University School of Medicine.”

“…Yes, that was on the personnel report that DW sent me.”

“Oh, so you read that. Hm,” she observed with an air of surprise.

“Yes, and I must say your theories on the C144 metabolism are…interesting. Do you intend to test any of them during your stay?”

“Do you really want to discuss this out here?” she said cooly. “If we’re going to be chit-chatting I would prefer to get out of this horrible cold.”

Kallie sighed. She hadn’t expected to be best friends with her new co-worker, but some part of her had hoped for some amount of companionship after weeks alone in the frozen north. Whatever. She was fine with keeping things professional.

“C’mon, I’ll give you the tour.”

They went down from the helipad to the snowfields around the base. Great bare spaces dotted the area where natural hot springs made columns of steam in the cold air. They had a slightly sulfurous odor but it wasn’t too bad once you got used to it. Fischer wrinkled her nose in disgust at it.

“These are the pools where the C144s make their nests,” said Kallie, pointing out the balls of black tentacles moving around beneath the water. A few were out of the springs, but they rarely went far, mostly just to the edge of the snow where they would touch delicately run their tentacles over and through it in a behavior that the scientists had yet to decipher.

“Is this all of them?”

“There are sixty or so in this area, all of which we have tagged and keep track of. There’s another colony about six kilometers north-east and sometimes they exchange portions of their populations, but it’s rare.”

“Yes, I’ve read about these ‘migrations.’ Is that the base?” Fischer pointed to the rectangular opening in the snow-covered hill that overlooked the hot springs.

“Yeah, here, I’ll show you to the apartments.”

The main hall of the base were open to the outside most of the time and not directly heated, but the dormitories were cozy enough. There were plenty of available rooms, and Kallie took her to one that was not too close to her own.

“I’m in room 103 if you need to find me in the off hours.”

“Understood.” Fischer set her luggage on the bed and began to take off her extraneous clothing, first removing her knit hat and one of her two scarves.

Kallie could see her better now, and found herself a bit annoyed at how pretty the woman was. She had long blonde hair which flashed in the fluorescent light as she shook it out, falling down her back, bright against the dark grey of her jacket. Her gloves came off to reveal delicate fingers, nails trimmed and painted fastidiously, a feature which Kallie found rare in scientists. Seeing such a pretty, put-together woman made her feel like a bit of slob, short and plain.

“Don’t take off all your insulation,” said Kallie as she watched Brooke remove her fluffy, outer coat. Underneath was an athletic body dressed in warm, wool sweater. “You can’t get from the dormitories to the lab areas without going back through the main hall.”

Brooke sighed and put her coat back on, but didn’t zip it up.

“Your ID number should already be in the system,” said Kallie, leading her back out into the cold corridor. “But the door can be picky sometimes. If it doesn’t let you in, use the keypad. The number is 88162.” She tapped her ID card to the sensor and the door unlocked with an audible click. “Same goes for the storage room at the end of the hall.”

Dr Fischer’s mood seemed to lift as they entered the main room of the lab, which Kallie kept rather clean and organized. Everything was in its place, labelled, all the logs and charts were filled out, and even the counters were dusted. Slobbish or not, she was professional.

“All the labs are on this side, including the larger equipment like centrifuges and the autoclave. If you can’t find something, there’s a chance it could be in Room 11, which is sort of serving as storage at the moment.”

“And the isolation cells?”

“Room 6, right over there.” Kallie pointed to one of the hallways that branched from the main room.

“I’d like to see those, if you don’t mind.”

A portion of Room 6 was divided into four large, plexiglass cells which could be set up as habitats for C114s, complete with heated pools filled with the mineral-rich water from the hot springs. The plexiglass of the one occupied cell was mostly obscured by condensation as the cool air that was pumped into it met with the hot steam from the pool.

“Here’s the cells. When you set one up on the computer, it’ll ask for the code to open the door. Then you just type that into the keypad,” she said, typing a code in to the keypad on the occupied cell.

Dr Fischer visibly recoiled as the door unlatched and Kallie opened it, condensation running down the plexiglass as it moved. A Squiddo tumbled out of the cell, immediately moving towards the women, rolling and dragging itself with its tentacles.

It brushed one tendril against Brooke’s leg, but focused its attention on Kallie, whom it quickly began to wrap itself around and climb up to her arms, at which point it began to gently touch her face.

“Ah!” Fischer stumbled back against the wall, in shock at the creature’s boldness. She could understand studying these things, but this one acted almost like a puppy and Dr Chao seemed content with indulging this behavior. “Is-is th-that one,” she stammered pointing at it as it wrapped its tentacles around the scientist’s head.

“Yeah, this is my little guy. He’s the one that came out of the first test. He’s really tame and affectionate for some reason.”

“‘He?’” C114s were entirely genderless.

“Yeah,” Kallie shrugged, pulling the squiddo away as it tried to climb onto her face. “DW has me keep him in containment, but I let him roam around the lab when I’m working to keep me company, but I guess you’re here now.”

“I am,” said Brooke, collecting herself. “And I must ask that you do not let it run around freely while I’m trying to get work done.”

Kallie rolled her eyes.

“Well, one of the things DW wants us to look into is the imprinting that this one, A77, presents. In addition to studying the ‘gestation,’ they want to know if ‘carried’ C144 always exhibit these behaviors. I initially kept him in with the general population, but once I reported 77’s oddities, they asked me to keep him separate.”

“Wait, ‘carried?’”

“Yeah,” said Kallie, cradling the little monster in her arms. “Didn’t you read my report?”

In truth, Dr Brooke Fischer had not read Dr Kallie Chao’s report. Her assignment had made oblique references to “Human Testing” but gave no details as to what that might entail. Her relocation here had been a bit of a rushed-job and without more time to prepare it seemed she had arrived a little uninformed.

“Of course,” she lied.

“Well, they want you to do it, this time,” Kallie also lied. Technically, Dyson-Weilig had given her control over the details of the experiment, so long as there one of them produced another subject for research. That said, she was in no hurry to go through that ordeal again.

“Okay,” Brooke said, stalling. “Okay, yeah, alright. When do we start?”

Brooke sat at the table in the main lab room, dressed in a hospital gown. Her eyes stared hard at the two little eggs on the tray in front of her, wondering how she had gotten to this point. This morning she had stepped off of a helicopter, ready to run experiments and record data, and now she found herself to be the subject.

Her afternoon of reading and re-reading Dr Chao’s report had not increased her confidence at all. There was an unsettling vagueness to it, details missing that served to feed her fearful imagination. The “birth” was almost entirely skipped over, and Chao’s silence on the subject did more to frighten Brooke than anything else.

“Drink this with them,” Kallie said, placing a glass of milk on the table. “I have a theory that the proteins in milk cause the eggs to develop prematurely. Plus, they don’t taste good.”

Brooke looked at the woman and wondered how she could have carried and birthed a C114, small as she was. But, if she could do it, wasn’t that a good sign? Brooke was a good 10 inches taller than her, so maybe it wouldn’t be so bad?

She didn’t say any of this, just thought about how much Dyson-Weilig was paying her and the idea of early retirement as she popped the eggs in her mouth and gulped them down, draining the entire glass of milk before setting it down.

Brooke set the empty glass down and groaned, the idea that the process was started weighing on her heavily. Her one consolation was that it would be over in about twenty four hours and then she’d never have to go through it again.

“What now?” she asked once she had come to terms with her situation.

“I went to sleep. It takes a few hours for the eggs to develop, anyway, so there’s nothing to do at the moment. I’m going to brew some coffee and stay up to monitor your vitals.”

“I don’t know if I can really sleep right now.” Brooke stood up and sighed. Her stomach churned uncomfortably, the sudden influx of milk not sitting well. “It’s only 21:30, anyway.”

“Well, let’s at least get you on the monitors.”

They went into one of the rooms, which Brooke had set up for the experiment. It would likely be as comfortable as the dormitory, if not as private, and despite the bed, table, and chairs that had been moved into it, the sonogram machine, EKG, and other medical equipment gave it a clinical feeling.

Brooke sat on the edge of the bed while Kallie clipped the EKG sensor to her finger and took her blood pressure. Her thoughts were on the next couple of hours and the weight she felt (imagined?) in her stomach. She could do this because she had to do this. Even more than the money, she wanted the respect and attention this study could bring. A breakthrough on C114 reproduction could put her on the map, even if it wasn’t really her field of expertise.

“How are you feeling?”

“Kind of sick.”

“That’s normal, in my experience.” Kallie put up the sphygmomanometer and took another drink of her coffee.

“Do I just sit here and wait?”

Kallie shrugged. “It doesn’t really matter what you do at this point in the experiment.”

Over the next two hours, Brooke did her best to stay occupied. She tried to read, tried to play games on her phone, tried to will herself to be sleepy, but she couldn’t focus. On top of the anxiety of her—she dreaded to think of it this way—pregnancy, Chao’s constant observation of her made focusing on anything other than the experiment basically impossible.

She was just about to lay down and try to sleep when she felt the movement.

“Ah—” she gasped her hand moving to touch her touch her belly through the hospital gown.

“What’s wrong? Do you feel something?”

“Yeah, I—ah, something’s moving!”

“Lift up your gown and lay back,” said Kallie, moving into position beside the bed.

Brooke did as she was told, too much in shock to be shy about showing her underwear. She was an athletic woman, her stomach toned and flat, skin a little tanned from days of swimming outdoors. There was no bulge, nothing visible at first, but as they both watch, there was a flutter of movement, a quick and vanishing bump that arose between her navel and the bottom of her rib cage.

“They’re hatching,” said Kallie, putting on a stethoscope. “I wasn’t awake for this part; what’s it feel like?”

“I don’t know, like something’s moving inside of me. Agh, it’s weird.”

“Is there any pressure?” She put the diaphragm of the stethoscope against Brooke’s stomach.

“No, just movement.” The stethoscope was cold, causing her stomach muscles to flinch a little, which seemed to agitate the hatching creatures.

This continued, growing stronger over the course of several minutes, the two of them watching in silence as something moved inside her. It was a long and terrifying process, but a fascinating one. After a while, the movements slowed and stopped, and to the outside observer, Brooke looked completely normal.

“What’s the next step?” Brooke sat up, lowering her gown again. Part of her wanted to go throw up and get the things out of her.

“Well, we’re going to take it slow. We need to get as much data as possible from this.”

“Slow?” she said, shocked. “How slow?”

“I’d like to shoot for at least 48 hours. Longer if possible.” Kallie made a note on a clipboard she kept on the counter. “I want to see the effects of carrying them has on your body.”

I don’t!” cried Brooke, jumping to her feet. “I want to get this over with!”

“And DW wants data,” was Kallie’s retort. She put her hands on her hips, doing her best to not be intimidated by the woman towering over her.

“48 hours is way too long!”

“I said we’d take it slow. By measuring your food intake, we can control how quickly they grow. We’ll pace it out.”

“And what am I supposed to do during all of this?”

“Nothing strenuous, obviously.”

Brooke determined to get through this as quickly as possible, regardless. It was late, but she wasn’t tired, so she insisted they move immediately into the first first stage of growth; the sooner she started eating, the sooner this would end.

She sat at the table in her medical room, not hungry, but nervously waiting for Kallie to come back with her food. Every now and then her stomach would move a little—not much, but enough to draw her attention—and she found herself touching it gently.

Dr Chao entered with a bowl of oatmeal in her hands, a clipboard under her arm.

“Here you go,” she said, placing it on the table. “200 calories of oatmeal.”

“Oatmeal?” complained Brooke.

“It’s what I ate before. We’ll give you 200 calories every hour and measure your growth.”

“Can’t we go a little faster than that? And instant oatmeal is kind of gross.”

“Well, we’ll start here and see where we are in an hour.”

Brooke stared down into the bowl of sugary mush and took the spoon, slowly scooping a bite into her mouth. It tasted alright, but the texture left something to be desired. As she ate, she shut her eyes, her mind imagining better things than the unenviable situation she found herself in.

“What are you doing?” asked Kallie.

“Imagining a nice steak au poivre, with cognac sauce and asparagus, served with a ‘68 Cabernet Sauvignon.”

“We actually have some wine in the food storage,” Kallie laughed “Some steak, too, but mostly just frozen meatloaf.”

“Wine? That would make this whole thing way easier.”

“Nope, alcohol might interfere with your ability to describe what’s going on. Speaking of, how’s your stomach?”

“Squirmy. I… ugh, I can feel them eating inside of me.” Brooke leaned back and looked down at her belly, still flat and hidden beneath the medical gown.

“Any discomfort?”

“Yes, I would say it’s very uncomfortable.” She stood up and, stroking her hands down her front, flattened her gown against her body to reveal a slight roundness to her stomach which quivered and shook a little. “Was it this active when you went through this?”

Kallie walked over and kneeled down to be on eye-level with fluttering bulge, making a note on her clipboard.

“No, not this early, but I also only had one.”

“What if they,” she gulped, trying to maintain her professional composure. “Get territorial?”

“Hmm, well, that’s a possibility, but they’re rather soft and don’t have any sharp parts, so I wouldn’t worry too much.”

“Yeah, I think it’s a little too easy for you not to worry about any of this.”

“Well,” said Kallie, straightening up and doing her best to look authoritative. “As the lead researcher on this experiment it is my job to remain impartial.”

Brooke grunted, picking up the bowl of oatmeal—still standing—and quickly finishing it. A sudden, unexpected wave of movement erupted inside of her, causing her to almost drop the bowl as she staggered backwards, holding her chair for support.

“What’s wrong? Are you hurting?”

“No—ah!” Brooke grabbed at her stomach, feeling the things moving inside of her. They were still small, but so strong! “Just, wasn’t expecting so much movement this early.”

“They’re squirmy little things, and giving them a lot of food at once can really rile them up.”

“Ugh, I think I need to lie down.”

“Measurements first, Dr Fischer,” said Kallie, taking a measuring tape out of the pocket of her lab coat. She could feel the firmness of the woman’s slightly-distended belly as she wrapped the tape around her, noting the slight increase to her waist’s circumference.

“Everything normal?”

“As far as I can tell.”

“Good, I’m going to get in bed. Let me know when I can eat again. And can it please not be oatmeal?”

“Soup?” asked Brooke, disappointed at her second round of food.

“Clam chowder,” replied Kallie, taking a sip of her coffee.

“I was hoping for something more filling.”

“Hungry, are we?”

“No.” Brooke stirred her chowder sulkily. “I feel really, really full but my stomach’s growling.”

“Well, you’re not actually getting much of the food, it’s all going to the babies.”

“Ugh, do not call them ‘babies,’” groaned Brooke. “I am not pregnant; these… things are just parasites.”

“I suppose that’s one viewpoint.”

“You don’t feel the same way?” Brooke began to eat and found the soup surprisingly tasty, but would rather have had something more solid.

“I…don’t know what I feel. When I was going through this, I was alone and really freaked out. I just wanted it over with, kind of like you. Looking back, though…” she shook her head to clear her thoughts. “It’s complicated. I enjoy 77’s companionship, I’ll say.”

Brooke scoffed in disgust and kept on eating, her mind focusing on the movements within her. They were getting bigger—little by little with each bite, the pressure grew, the stretches, the pushes became stronger, faster. The woman could feel herself growing, and it terrified her. She very quickly reached the point that eating more was uncomfortable, the thick soup filling up her stomach heavily. Worse, as the C114s consumed it, they grew to take up more space.

As each hour passed, her phantom hunger lingered, more and more at odds with the fullness, the weight building within her, pressing against her organs and stretching her skin. By the end of hour five, she looked undeniably pregnant, her stomach visible even through the looseness of the hospital gown.

Brooke no longer spent her down-time trying to distract herself by reading or doing puzzles on her phone, she only sat on her bed staring off into space or laid down with her eyes closed, now and then groaning a little as something stirred inside her.

“It’s late,” said Kallie, standing up from her chair. Looking at her like this… she felt bad for the poor woman. Whether they got along or not, she wasn’t handling this well. “Get some sleep, we’ll continue in the morning.”

Dr Fischer said nothing, only giving a little “mm” to indicated that she heard her at all as the lights flipped off and she was left in darkness.

Kallie Chao entered the room with a big smile and a bigger plate of food, hoping to lift her test-subject’s mood, but was surprised to find her up and active. Brooke was standing in the middle of the room, dressed in yoga pants and a sports bra, holding a standing yoga pose that Kallie didn’t know the name of. Her round belly stood out from her athletic form incongruously, looking as though she were seven months pregnant and the rest of her body hadn’t noticed yet.

It looked heavy, but she handled it with grace, slowly transitioning from standing with her legs apart, her body turned and arms extended, to balancing on one leg, her waist bent almost entirely horizontal, one arm stretched before her and the other holding on leg bent up over her back. She seemed to be straining a little, her balance and flexibility affected by her new weight.

“You’re looking energetic,” said Kallie, setting the plate of breakfast on the table.

“Yoga,” she said, exhaling. There was a brief pause before a steady inhalation, at the end of which she continued. “Helps me relax.”

“Well, how about a big ol’ breakfast?”

“Can I eat all of that, or are you going to stop me after 200 calories?” Brooke dropped the pose and moved over to examine the delicious-smelling pile of food.

“I think I’ve got enough data on how calories affect growth, and how different types of nutrients affect behavior, so now you can eat more. Not too much, though, since we don’t want this over with too quickly.”

Breakfast was everything a country girl could ask for: eggs, sausages, bacon, biscuits, gravy, and hash browns. It wasn’t a fare that Brooke was used to eating, but she couldn’t deny that it looked delicious, and her stomach growled noisily as she stared at it. This seemed to stimulate her passengers, as they began to squirm and turn over rapidly inside of her.

They both stopped to look at this, the way her bare and swollen stomach shook a little, its surface changing shape as bulges formed and moved across it. Brooke leaned on the chair for support before dropping into it with an exhausted sigh.

“How’re you feeling?”

“Like I have two monsters writhing around in my stomach,” she grimaced.

“‘Monster’ is kind of rude.”

“Well, so is living inside of me and eating all of my food.” Brooke picked up her fork and started eating.

“You’ll feel better once you eat breakfast.”

“Why don’t I believe you?” said Brooke, not talking with her mouth full. Already she could feel the C114s eating inside of her; there was a noticeable change in their behavior whenever this happened, one that only grew more apparent as their size and strength increased. Most of the time, they simply probed and prodded at their boundaries, searching for space or food, but when they finally did find something to eat they began to rub.

It was a bizarre thing to experience, and one she still hadn’t gotten used to as it only grew more noticeable as the experiment progressed. Whenever she ate, they would begin to swirl their tentacles, rubbing against the confines of her stomach to gather bits of food and sweep them inwards to their cores. The feeling was neither uncomfortable or alarming, only strange. Alien even.

“What’s wrong?”

“Hm?” Brooke looked up, startled from her distraction.

“You stopped eating have just been… staring down.”

“Oh, I just…” she leaned back a bit and pressed her hand to her stomach. It squirmed beneath her touch. Alive.

“Getting full?”

“Yeah, but mostly I feel weird.”

“Here,” Kallie went over, putting on her stethoscope and kneeling down next to Brooke. She could see the Squiddos moving around inside the woman, and with the stethoscope she could hear the rubbing of their tentacles against their ever-tightening confines. “Keep eating.”

Brooke rolled her eyes, but she was hungry. Forcing down the sense of awkwardness, she continued, trying to focus on her meal and not her stomach. Bit by bit she continued, no longer eating for hunger but to simply be done with all of this. The more she ate, the closer the end came.

Eating quickly became a chore, one she struggled to do only out of the hope that the more she ate, the faster the monsters would decide to leave. Mentally, she thought she could do it. It was just a matter of blocking out the increasingly uncomfortable sense of fullness and shoveling more food into her mouth. She continued, even as her eyes started to water.

By the end of it, she wasn’t sure she could physically eat any more. All she felt like doing was leaning back and groaning, her stomach now stretched tremendously. She couldn’t believe how big she’d gotten! Gosh, she must have doubled in size since she started, her belly now looking like that of a woman ready to birth twins.

“H-how much food was that?” she stammered, almost afraid to touch its pale expanse.

“1500 calories, mixed proteins and simple carbohydrates.” Kallie stood up and removed her stethoscope, going over to make notes on her clipboard. “How’re you feeling?”

“Ugh, like I’m gonna pop.”

“Any pain?”

“My skin kind of hurts.”

“I’ll get you some cream for that. In the meantime, why don’t you take it easy? Maybe take a shower.”

As it turned out, “taking it easy” was not one of Dr Brooke Fischer’s many skills. Once Chao left, Brooke got to her feet and took a few uneasy steps, having trouble with her new center of balance. The weight of her belly pulled her forward and down, strained skin itching uncomfortably. There was a pressure on her narrow hips as the mass sat low in her abdomen like some terribly sudden pregnancy.

She swayed a bit as she walked over to her bed, trying to decide what to do next. She was tired, but knew she wouldn’t be able to sleep with the creatures moving around so much. No longer being fed, they had resorted poking and prodding, sometimes pressing themselves against her ribs or spine painfully.

Surely she couldn’t really get much bigger. After lunch (or dinner? It was 12:24 according to the clock), they’d probably be ready to come out, and then she’d be done. In the meantime, she’d go shower and try to find some clothes that fit her, find some way to pass the hours before Kallie let her eat again.

The attached bathroom was not as nice as the ones in the dormitories, but she didn’t feel like going out in the cold and wobbling her way over to her room just to shower. Instead, she went to wash up and get ready in the way that required the least effort.

As she entered, Brooke turned to the sink by the door and for the first time saw what had become of her body. The woman in the mirror was definitely her, her beautiful golden hair, lovely blue eyes… her arms and legs were still as toned as ever, her chest smallish, but not bad, and all this made the one change she had undergone all the more shocking.

Her stomach ballooned from her athletic body, pink and shiny, drooping a little under its own weight, her navel popped out by the things inside her. The thing was—aside from the size of her stomach—she didn’t look pregnant, not quite. Even discounting her lithe and unaffected body, her belly wasn’t the smooth oval of a mother-to-be, but a lumpy and uneven thing, shifting and changing shape as the monsters repositioned. There was no cushioning amniotic fluid, nothing to round out the protrusion, nothing to shield her from every push and wiggle.

The hot water of the shower felt good against her sensitive skin, and the heat of it had a soothing effect on the C114s, causing them to slow their activities as they entered a more lethargic state. It was a homeostatic response to regulate their body temperatures, usually enacted when they moved to the warmer springs to sleep.

All this science floated through her mind as she washed off, and she hated that even in relaxation these… things dominated her thoughts.

By the time dinner came around, Brooke was sore and starving. Her further attempts at yoga had been disastrous, and she’d been unable to entertain herself with reading or distract herself with scientific problems, so she laid down and tried to sleep. But as her body cooled, the C114s began to stir and soon they were active enough to be distracting and sleep was hard to come by. None of her clothes fit her, so she put her sports bra and yoga pants back on in bitter resignation.

Chao’s arrival was a godsend. Brooke was famished (if still full), and as soon as dinner arrived she dragged herself out of bed and over to the table. She was exhausted, but the sooner ate, the sooner this would all be over with.

“Hungry, are we?” Kallie sat a covered plate before the poor woman.

“Starving.”

“Unfortunately, I’m having to cut back your calorie intake.” She removed the cover to reveal a modest portion of fish and white rice.”

“What? WHY?”

“We overdid it earlier today. Based on your growth, I’d say another meal like that would be enough to finish this whole thing and we still need to see how your body adapts, we need more data.”

“Data? What about me? I don’t know how much longer I can do this!”

“Dr Fischer, data the whole reason we’re doing this experiment. I understand it’s difficult—”

“No you don’t!” Brooke snapped. “You had—what—one of these things in you? And you got to control the situation! I have to sit around in pain and discomfort and wait for you to come by and let me eat so you can see what they’re doing to my body!”

“Dr Fischer!” Chao cried in indignation. “You agreed to the parameters of this experiment. If you violate that agreement, your contract with Dyson-Weilig could be jeopardized.” She took a moment to calm herself and gather her thoughts. “Do you want to end the experiment?”

“No…” Brooke sighed, and began eating.

Dinner was quiet and tense, neither of them talking as she ate and was measured. The growth was minimal, and after the precious data was gathered, she went to lay down, not really feeling like doing anything but eating.

“We started a little late today, so I’ll be back in about six hours for another round before bed. Will you be alright.”

She didn’t respond, just laid there until she left and the lights dimmed.

Brooke Fischer was too hungry and angry to sleep. All she could think about was how unfair it was—how wrong it was—that she had to suffer like this just because some no-name researcher wanted to get her name on something big.

She sat up on her bed, anger seething inside of her, made all the worse by the discomfort she felt. The things inside of her were pressing out curiously. She thought maybe she could tell where they were, one situated to the front and the other towards the back, resulting in a belly that jutted forward more than she thought looked completely natural.

Not that anything about this was natural.

But she was fed up with all of this. She wanted food and was going to get food. None of her warmer clothes fit her, but she took one of her coats and slipped it on, failing to wrap it around the protrusion of her stomach, but it was better than nothing.

Putting her ear against the door, she listened for any sounds of Chao before venturing out into the main room. As stealthily as she could, she opened the door to the hall, shivering as the cold air rushed in.

The hall was frigid, the sun having already set this far north, but a single row of lights stretched down its length, casting it in a chill, grey aspect. She turned away from the opening, going past the entrance to the dormitories and continuing to the deepest part of the site: the storage room.

At the end of the hall was a wide, industrial-looking, shuttered door with a smaller entrance to the side for people not transporting pallets of crates. Brooke’s hands and feet were horribly cold and very quickly becoming numb, but she punched in her number and was relieved to hear a little click.

The main storage room was heated, but not as cozy as her room had been. Crates and boxes littered the place, many opened already where someone had taken something out of them. Looking around, she found dishware, blankets, cutlery, and—most excitingly—hot plates. She gathered together some supplies and put them in one corner before making her way through the door marked “Cold Storage,” where most of the food was kept.

It was cold, but not as cold as the open hallway, and she quickly got to opening boxes to find anything that sounded good. She was starving and everything sounded good, so she got an armful and found her belly useful holding stuff up.

Back in the main room, she plugged in some hot plates and put a pot of water (filled from a pack of bottles she found) on to boil. Dinner would be pasta and sauteed chicken, served with mushrooms and a cream sauce. It was all frozen (even the pasta for some reason), so her hopes weren’t too high, but she was looking forward to eating as much as she wanted without Chao looking over her shoulder.

She’d also grabbed a steak, ice cream, two potatoes, chips, and (most excitingly) wine! It lacked a vintage and came in a box, but over the years she had learned that bad wine was better than no wine, and so she opened it and filled her cup.

The smell of food cooking made her all the more hungry, so she munched idly on the chips as she waited and drank, listening to music on her phone as she did. Maybe it was the alcohol, but she hadn’t felt this good since the experiment started.

Before long she was eating a surprisingly-tasty plate of pasta and laughing at how she’d gotten away from Chao. She was a grown woman and a scientist and she had a right to decide how this experiment was run. She got the steak and potatoes cooking before she dug in, and the C114s stirred excitedly, already worked up by the appetizer of chips and now ready for the main course.

They grew quickly as she ate, and now and then she would get up and go grab something else she’d seen before and felt like having a taste of. Her steps were unsteady, the alcohol having a greater effect on her than she had expected and that combined with the increased weight of the C11fs had her stumbling. Were the creatures not drinking the wine? They seemed fine to devour whatever else she ate, but maybe they weren’t fond of alcohol.

Eventually she tried to stand and found that she couldn’t, her stomach huge and heavy before her. Maybe if she were sober, but the change in balance was too much for her drunken mind to compensate for. Instead, she curled up in her blankets and went to sleep.

Kallie Chao was furious.

This was beyond unprofessional. When she met Brooke Fischer she knew they wouldn’t be friends but had at least thought she’d be a reliable test subject. Now she found her drunk and asleep after stuffing herself on whatever food she could find.

“Hey!” She gave the woman a prod with her foot, but she didn’t stir. “Come on, get up—oh my gosh!” Kallie pulled back the blanket and for the first time saw just how big Fischer had become.

Her stomach was enormous, uneven, and hugely distended, reaching her knees as she slept curled on her side. It surface was drum-tight, wrapping around every bulge and tentacle like shrinkwrap. These ridges and shapes moved, shifting as the Squiddos repositioned to find comfort in their cramped home.

It was ruined.

The whole experiment was a waste. After everything she had done to keep tight control on the parameters, measuring each step and tracking every calorie… she had what, 20 hours of useful data? Now the rest of the trial was contaminated by uncounted intake and utterly worthless.

“Hey!” she knelt and shook Fischer, this time causing her to groan and stir.

“Wha?”

“Listen here, Brooke,” said Kallie, taking her by the shoulders and dragging her into a sitting position. The woman’s legs spread apart to accommodate the huge mass of her belly as it rested on the floor between them. “You want food that much, huh? More than your job? Your career? Here, have some!”

“Huh?” Brooke was still drunk, unable to resist as Kallie shoved a handful of now-cold french fries into her mouth. She chewed and swallowed, her head swaying a little, still not quite sure what was going on.

“Why don’t you just eat some more? Come on, you made all of this, don’t you want to eat it? Don’t you just want this over, whatever the consequences?”

She stuffed another handful in and Brooke started to groan, her hands rubbing her sore stomach as the creatures began to stretch and stir. Hard pushes made painful-looking bumps as the Squiddos started to shift, their tendrils tangling around each other in an apparent act of aggression.

Brooke’s stomach lurched, changed shape as its occupants completely swapped positions. The poor woman clutched at her belly helplessly, her breath coming in uncomfortable gasps as the things which now dominated her body acted out their own wills, heedless of what happened to their so-called mother.

“I think—” Brooke hiccuped, finally coming to. “I think something’s wro—” her words cut off as a single black tentacle erupted from her mouth.

The full version of this story is available on my Patreon.

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