The Cargo

By Bob King

Melissa had worked for the Chen Frontier Corporation for nearly nine years. She joined up after finishing flight school at 18, firstly working in orbit around the earth until she had enough experience to do the long haul journeys to the outer rims of the solar system. Melissa had been doing the ‘long dark’ runs for almost 5 years now and was finding it quite profitable, not because of her company salary but because of what she called the ‘job perks’.

Now to understand what this means you must first be aware that it only takes one person to pilot a haulage tug from earth to Titan, and that in itself is an over exaggeration. Most ships could easily find their way around our solar system, but because of the value of the cargo (and the pressure of the space traders union) a minimum of one trained pilot per craft was required. Here was were Melissa made her real money. Company Ships were fitted with interactive computers that allowed the pilot to converse with the tug about the running of the ship and the state of the cargo etc. Melissa had found a way to bypass certain security measures on her ships computer allowing unregistered access to the cargo area. Rali, her ships computer, would then be unaware of any missing cargo, and providing Melissa did not get too greedy, neither would the company when the stock was checked at the destination.

She had been running this little scam of hers for the last few years and had almost made as many credits from selling on the stolen products as she had earned from her salary. On Titan, or any of Saturn's other moons you could sell a 3 credit candy bar for up to 60 as luxury items were in big demand out there, and by lifting a few boxes of them out of the hold you could make a respectable profit. A profit that Melissa was not prepared to do without.

The C F C freighter Rali, blasted away from the shining glow of earth and out into the darkness of space. Its engines burned fiercely for several hours until earth was no more than a dot on the view screen. Melissa glanced up at the image, though narrowed eyes.

“Rali, did I ask you to change the picture?” she sighed.

“No ma'am. I merely thought that it would be nice for you to...”

“What would be ‘nice’ would be for me to watch the rest of my program without interruptions!”

“Sorry Captain Anders.” the computer continued in its electronic voice. ”I just thought that as you would not see your home planet for another 11 weeks you might...”

“How many times must I tell you Rali?” snapped Melissa, “You’re a computer. You don’t think, you compute. Now shut up and put my program back on!”

The screen flickered back to a catwalk on which several ladies were parading up and down wearing expensive designer fashions. This haulage run would buy Melissa a chic new outfit and she had over two months to decide what it would be. She put her feet up on the console and continued to watch the program whilst the computer remained silent. Rali annoyed Melissa. It was a reliable computer but a little slow, probably due to its age, which meant that occasionally Melissa would have to perform certain tasks manually. A newer machine would have done everything for her, but Rali couldn’t prepare her meals or perform more than a few tasks at once. Although these things made her curse the computer, she had chosen not ask the company to reprogram it, as sorting out these bugs would probably reveal what Melissa was doing. And the company could be very ‘assertive’ with thieves.

As the program ended Melissa ordered Rali to run her a bath and check the ships hull. This would give her enough time to bypass the cargo security whilst the computers slow A I processor completed its tasks. She danced her fingers across the keyboard and hit enter. The cargo was now hers for the taking. She swung her legs down from the console and walked through the narrow sliding doors of the cramped control room to the spacious living quarters.

As the C F C R Rali was an older ship, the living quarters had been designed for a crew of 3. The company had generously refitted this part of the ship prior to the trip, making it look more like the cabin on a luxury yacht. The decor was pale cream which made the open plan quarters seem even larger in the warm glow of the soft lights. Melissa ran her hands over the smooth rounded walls of her new quarters as she headed towards the cargo deck, thinking how strange it was for the company to enhance her standard of living in this way. Most freighters used every available centimetre of space on board for cargo, leaving the sole crew person with living quarters the size of a shoe box. Finally she concluded that it must be some kind of clerical error that lead to the refurbishment of her ship, and she wasn’t about to complain to the company about that.

The pressure doors to the cargo slowly opened and Melissa entered an entirely different environment. Dark grey walls, covered with grease and rivets. It was dark and cold back here so Melissa jogged through the vaults to canister 558D, not wanting to stay here any longer than required. Inside 558D lay Melissa’s chosen bounty, raspberry flavoured candy bars in boxes of 100. She could easily sell these on to her contact on Titan who would give her a very good price for the load. She punched the access code onto the containers security panel and the door hissed open. Reaching in she pulled out 3 boxes of the confectionery before sealing the container and heading back towards the living quarters. Before she reached the living area she noticed the smell of candy coming from the boxes. Thinking nothing more of it she continued up into her spacious cabin where she hid the boxes in one of the lockers.

“Your bath is ready ma’am” Rali announced in its usual monotone.

“About time” Melissa replied curtly as she slammed the locker door and walked towards the bathroom. She had only taken a few steps before she stopped and turned back to the locker. The smell of candy wafted through the air making her mouth water. What was she thinking? She usually hated sugary snacks, that was one reason for her slender body, but the aroma of raspberries was irresistible.

“Well, just one won’t hurt” she said to herself. Opening the locker she carefully removed a bar from the box and hurried into the bathroom, shrugging off her orange overalls as she went.

Like the rest of the living quarters the bathroom was spacious and welcoming. She threw the overalls into the corner and tore off the top of the candy wrapper. She noticed her reflection in one of the huge floor to ceiling mirrors and straightened up, putting her hands on her slim hips. “Yes. I do look good,” she thought, running her hands through her long shiny black hair, ‘and with that new outfit, I’ll look sensational”. She smiled and took a bite out of the candy bar. The flavour flooded into her mouth and surged over her taste buds making her body tingle with pleasure.

“Wow” she marvelled swallowing.

“Ma’am?” enquired Rali.

“Nothing” she sighed, and ordered the computer to clean her overalls. A spindly mechanical arm slowly emerged from a hole in the wall and collected the clothing as Melissa carefully stepped into the large steaming sunken bath. She lay back into the foaming water and took another bite into the bar. This was the life, a 5 week journey in supreme luxury, which she was also getting paid for. She closed her eyes and relaxed in the hot water, her body still tingling from the candy.

“Ma’am. I have a message for you.” Interrupted Rali.

“What?” snapped Melissa “This had better be good.”

She heard a whirring noise and opened her eyes to see a video screen descend from a hole in the high ceiling. Melissa was just marvelling at the extremes that the company had gone to in refitting the ship when the screen flickered on and a recorded message began to play.

She instantly recognised the face on the monitor as Mary Chong, head of the Chen Frontier Corporation security division. The small oriental woman bowed her head and began speaking.

“Hello Captain Anders. No doubt you are listening to this recording in the nice new bath we had installed for you. I hope it meets with your approval. And also you have tried some of the new candy bars from the cargo hold, hence this message.”

Melissa froze. How could they know that... Damn! They knew what she had been doing. The company must have been aware of her little scam. She put her hand to her head and sank down into the bath.

“We know of your petty thefts Miss Anders, but we are willing to over look these... errors on your behalf. In fact we’re willing to let you stay with us for the rest of your contract, which I believe is another 9 months.”

Melissa relaxed slightly. What was the catch? Why were they being so generous?

“What we would really like from you is your assistance in an experiment that we are looking to run. Don’t worry, Rali has been completely reprogrammed to help out with this project of ours and we’re sure that you will help us. Why, by merely eating some of our special candy you have already started the experiment.”

This was starting to sound bad. Melissa gulped and looked at the half eaten bar in her hand.

“You are probably experiencing a tingling sensation all over your body. This is the first stage of your transformation. So don’t panic, we know what we are doing. As a matter of fact there are now billions of nanites rewriting your DNA, changing your body's cell structure to meet our needs. We even converted the living quarters, in order to make the change more comfortable for you.”

Transformation? What did they mean? Melissa began to panic and stood up jerkily in the bath, frantically looking up and down her body. Nanites rewriting her DNA? To what end? What was the purpose of this. Mary Chong was speaking again but Melissa was too worried to listen properly.

“Rali! What’s happening. What are they doing to me?” she shrieked.

“Melissa. Sit down and be quiet!” retorted the computer with a slight hint of impatience in its metallic voice.

Melissa slowly sat down, stunned by the computers unexpected outburst. The video was rewound and began playing again.

“...comfortable for you. Don’t worry, our scientists have actually programmed the nanites to make your transformation enjoyable. By the time you reach Titan you’ll be ready. Rali is now more than capable of looking after you, so just sit back and relax. Thank you for listening and see you in a months time. Goodbye.”

Melissa sat silently in the bath, her shoulders slumped. Her mind was a blur. Rali was talking to her but she was not listening, she just stared at her hands wondering what was going to happen to her body.

Rali refused to answer questions about the experiment, saying that it was top secret and not really her concern. She screamed at the machine, demanding answers for what seemed like hours, before collapsing onto her bed, exhausted and confused. Rali prepared a meal, but Melissa would not eat it and after further outbursts at the computer eventually fell asleep.

Considering the circumstances, Melissa slept well. Arising the next morning her head seemed clearer, and the previous days events seemed almost like a bad dream. She could see no visible changes to her body, as she checked carefully before dressing. She slipped on a T shirt and some cycle shorts before heading into the galley area for breakfast. Rali had already prepared the meal and Melissa guzzled it down, her hunger greater than normal. The computer then produced a glass of nutrients for her to drink. Reluctantly Melissa obliged, sipping down the sweet tasting liquid before she left the table.

She spent the rest of the morning watching videos in the ships spacious new lounge, trying to take her mind of what was going on. The computer remained silent during this time which made Melissa feel nervous, as it normally rattled off continuously about anything, no matter how trivial. Her stomach gurgled, and subconsciously she rubbed it, and then stopped. Her stomach was bulging outward. Not by much admittedly, but enough for her to notice. Gingerly she pulled back her T shirt and gently touched her rounded belly, it felt firm and made her look about 3 months pregnant.

“Rali!” she screamed jumping to her feet.

“Yes Melissa?”

“What’s happening to me?” she half cried sticking out her belly.

“Are you in any pain?” enquired the computer.

“No. But...”

“Then it is time for your lunch.” And with that more mechanical arms descended from the ceiling laying the table for a meal. As soon Melissa smelled the food she raced to the table and began guzzling down the meal. She drained the glass of nutrients given to her by Rali in one go before retiring to the bedroom for a nap. She couldn’t help thinking about how out of character all this eating was, normally she only ate salads but for some reason whatever Rali served her she would eat. Something was not right.

Melissa awoke two hours later to find that her belly had ballooned even more during her nap. Her normally slim waist was now swollen like that of a woman 6 months pregnant. Carefully she hoisted herself out of bed and made her way to the bathroom to check her new shape body in the large mirror. Stripping off she looked with horror at her bulbous belly, tentatively touching it as she did so. It felt healthy and nothing inside seemed to be moving about, leading her to surmise that she was not the unwitting carrier of some new genetically engineered monster. Melissa felt like crying but bit back the tears, not wanting to give the Corporation, who were probably taping all this, the pleasure.

Instead she ordered Rali to run her a bath and then carefully slid into it. She lay in the bath pondering what to do next. Rali broke the silence.

“How are you feeling?” it enquired.

“Get lost!” snapped Melissa

“Dinner will be in two hours.” Announced the computer.

After lunch Melissa again felt lethargic and made her way to her king-size bed stopping off to again check herself in the bathroom mirror. Her belly had ballooned even more causing her to waddle slightly and arch her back like a mother to be. In the mirror she could see how much bigger she was and how her hips and thighs were starting to swell outwards. Melissa merely grunted and headed off to bed for an early night.

She awoke late the next morning to see the huge pink orb of her swollen belly towering above her. Subconsciously she rubbed it and then tried to get out of bed. It took several attempts to heave herself onto the floor until she finally managed to do so and lazily made her way to the bathroom to inspect her ballooning figure. The curve of her enormous stomach ran from just beneath her breasts to her groin and had started to stretch around her sides as well. Her hips and thighs had expanded as well giving her a pair shaped figure. She traced the new curves with her hands, half horrified, half intrigued.

“Rali,” she enquired “what’s my waistline?”

Two mechanical arms whirred down from the ceiling and slowly traversed her rounded torso, flashing bursts of light onto her tight skin.

“One hundred and fifty six centimetres.” Answered the machine as it withdrew the arms.

Melissa rubbed her stomach, running her finger around her distant belly button. At least she looked more curvaceous than before, not that that was any consolation. Snapping out of her trace, she asked Rali to find her some clothes that would fit her almost egg shaped body. The computer produced her largest sized jump suit, the blue one with stretchable panels at the sides. It took almost 5 minutes for Melissa to ease her massive girth into the overalls and even then Rali had to zip it up, as her belly was now so big that she could not reach all the way around to do up the fasteners. Once dressed she slowly made her way to the dinner table.

Melissa noticed that the chair at the table had changed, or been replaced. It was much larger, almost like a couch and had been moved back further from the table. She did not think to question this and merely sat down awaiting breakfast. One of Rali’s mechanical arms presented her with another glass of nutrients which she eagerly drank. The computer informed her that she no longer needed to consume solid food for sustenance and that the glasses of nutrients would be all that her new body needed. Melissa shrugged this off thinking that the computer and the company knew what was best for her, besides this wasn’t too bad, just a little annoying. She started to watch a video that Rali had put on for her, but soon fell asleep.

She awoke to the sounds of tearing. Lazily she glanced around her spherical torso looking for the origin of the sounds, carefully feeling with her hands for the ripped fabric. “You are getting too big for that garment” offered Rali. “Yes. I am.” replied Melissa, as she patted her belly contentedly. “It may be restricting your growth. I will help you out of it.” And with that several mechanical arms descended from the ceiling and rolled Melissa out of the chair and onto the table. Rali slowly manoeuvred her onto her back and carefully started to peel of the tight jump-suit as delicately as you would unwrap a ming vase. Melissa just laid there as there was really little she could do, besides the suit was becoming far too restrictive. When she was undressed, two more arms descended from the ceiling and rolled her off the table onto her feet.

“All done” chirped Rali as one of its robotic arms patted her rounded body, making Melissa giggle.

“Seeing as I’m undressed, I think I’ll have a bath.” Melissa smiled. “Please could you run the water for me Rali?”

Before the computer could answer the proximity alarm went off, signalling that another ship was within 500,000 kilometres of the C F C Rali. Melissa almost yelped with joy. This could be her salvation.

“Rali! Open a communications channel with that ship!”

“I’m sorry Melissa, but the company has ordered me not to communicate with anyone until we reach Titan It’s for your own good.”

“Okay!” snapped Melissa. “I’ll do it myself!” and she began waddling towards the control room where she could radio them manually. Her plump thighs and hips slowed her movement as did the fact that she could not see her feet, but eventually she reached the control room doors. She took a step forward only to feel the cool edges of the entrance push against either side of her big round stomach. Melissa breathed in and gently pushed her belly forward into the doorway, carefully trying to ease herself through the gap. Her tummy squeaked like a balloon as she braced her back and tried harder, but it was no use. She was wider than the door and could not get through. With a sigh she turned and slowly waddled back into the living quarters.

“Don’t worry Melissa. You’ll be happier this way.” said the computer.

Melissa felt disappointed about not being able to communicated with the other ship although she quite liked the idea of staying here and letting Rali look after her.

Rali steered Melissa into the bathroom and then finished preparing her bath. Whilst the computer was busy she checked herself in one of the huge mirrors. The slender ships captain had been replaced by a rounded orb like figure. Her torso was now almost a sphere of pink, tight skin and her breasts were slowly being absorbed into it. Her legs did not seem as long as they once did, connecting to her body by her two generously swollen thighs which made her stand in a wide stance . Even her arms were starting to go the same way, plumping up quite nicely. When the bath was ready Rali carefully guided Melissa into it and had to tell her where to put her feet as she entered the warm water. The mechanical arms carefully lowered her back into the water and then proceeded to pour more over her spherical torso. Melissa could feel that she was actually floating in the bath like a buoy on the sea. She groaned with pleasure as the computer slowly moved about her rounded body pouring warm water across it.

“Oh!” she suddenly exclaimed causing the computer to question if everything was okay.

“Rali. I can actually feel my body getting bigger as you wash me.”

“That’s because the air inside you is expanding with the heat.” “Mmmmm. You mean I’m like a balloon?”

“Yes Melissa. You’re a big human balloon.”

Melissa giggled to herself. She had visions of herself at a fairground stall being introduced as ‘The Amazing Balloon Woman’ where people could come and marvel at how big she was. She liked the idea of being a big blimp.

Once Rali had finished washing her and lifted her out of the bath, the computer told Melissa that it had something for her to wear. Melissa was excited as surely she was so huge now that nothing would fit her. The computer produced a strange red garment made from very stretchy fabric and proceeded to ease Melissa into it. The fabric was a snug fit and covered her whole body like a second skin, and with the hood pulled up the only piece of her body not covered was her face. There was some large white letters stretched across the fabric on her stomach that read: “Property of the Chen Frontier Corporation. Item No 88972X.”

“I really do look like a balloon now.” said Melissa as she checked herself in the mirror “And I’m quite a hungry balloon as well.”

“Well lets get you to the dinner table then.” Responded the computer.

Melissa’s legs squeaked like rubber as she slowly waddled to the ships galley. She could see why the ship had been refitted with more spacious accommodation and also had all the sharp edges removed. The company could not have their human blimp bursting before she reached Titan. At the table, her plump arms could not reach the flask of nutrients so Rali helped pour it down her eager throat, leaving Melissa to rub her sides in anticipation. The computer then told her it was time for her to sleep and helped her back to her bed room. Rali said that she would have to keep the garment on to sleep in and Melissa agreed knowing that the computer and the company knew how to look after a big balloon like her. She soon drifted off to sleep.

When Melissa awoke the next day, she found that she could no longer get out of bed by herself. She could move her hands and feet but not her limbs. Her view was obscured by the huge red ball that was now her body, so all she could do was call for Rali. The computer helped move her out of the bed by decreasing the ships internal gravity and gently using its arms to roll her onto her feet. Melissa thanked the computer and asked if it could help her into the bathroom so that she could she how much she had grown. The computer carefully pushed Melissa towards the door and the low G carried her through like a helium filled blimp. She wiggled her hands and feet excitedly as another set of arms caught her and propelled her towards the bathroom. The door hissed open and Melissa floated through into the awaiting arms of the computer. The mechanical limbs slowly rotated her so that she could look at her reflection on the wide mirror. She was greeted by the image of a big round sphere, with short rounded arms and legs finishing in dainty looking hands and feet. Her head looked tiny sticking out on top of the great orb.

“A big balloon” she said contentedly.

“It’s time for the balloon’s breakfast.” added the computer and carefully pushed her out the bathroom door.

Melissa liked it now the computer called her balloon and wondered why she was so afraid of the changes that had happened to her at the beginning of her transformation. All she was now was a big round blimp, the property of the corporation, and that made her feel very contented. She hoped that they would inflate her further when she reached Titan. The computer gave her some more nutrients for breakfast and then, on her request left her to gently float about the living quarters. This tranquil state was interrupted a few hours later when Melissa burped. She felt as if she had indigestion. Rali quickly scanned her body with a selection of mechanical probes and then left her to drift. A few minutes later the computer announced that there was an incoming message for her and moved her in front of a video screen.

The beaming face of Mary Chong appeared.

“Well, how’s our big balloon feeling?” she asked.

“Mmmm. Great.”

“My, my. You are nice and big aren’t you.”

The female orb burped contentedly.

“There is a problem though” said Mary looking concerned. “In 9 months when your contract finishes we’ll have to deflate you back to your previous size. However, if you are willing to, we can extend the contract indefinitely. Would you like that?”

Melissa tried to answer but could merely burped again quite loudly. She felt very gassy.

“A verbal confirmation is all we require” Mary said with a little more urgency in her voice.

Again Melissa tried to answer but she belched quite loudly. She wondered what was happening to her body now. She must have looked worried, because Mary repeated that a verbal reply was needed urgently.

“Please extend... errp. My contract indefinitely. Errrp.” She finally managed.

Mary Chong smiled with relief, but an instant later her steely business face returned.

“Rali prepare item 88972X and then move it to the hold until you reach Titan” she ordered.

Melissa glanced about nervously as more robotic arms decended towards her. The arms grasped her head firmly and tilted it back, slowly opening her mouth in the process. Another arm moved forward wielding a long metal tube with a valve on the end. Melissa’s eyes opened wide and she squirmed helplessly as the tube slid into her open mouth and down her throat. The ships computer tweaked the valve that protruded from between Melissa’s lips and it began to hiss as gas escaped. She could only wiggle her hands and feet in protest as Rali moved her into the hold.

Mary Chong was at the unloading bay at the Titan docks when the CFC Rali arrived. She was there to over look the delivery of item 88972X, a new design of oxygen producing equipment. The now total sphere was unloaded by a group of scientists, who were very pleased at its condition. 88972X had swollen up to almost 10 feet across and was still producing large quantities of oxygen. It was later hooked up to the main colony’s atmosphere recycling unit and spent 2 years supplying oxygen to Titans settlers. Soon there were several of these new units at work within the colony, until a group of FemHumane freedom fighters hacked into the Chen Frontier Corporation’s secret research files.

But that’s another story.