Expanding Horizons, Part III: Discovered

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Muscle and bone, heart and lungs, what a cumbersome way to construct a life form. Namunk chided himself for such thoughts almost as quickly as they occurred to him. His training had taught him better than that. If his people had learned nothing else from a hundred generations of exploration, it was that the universe had a certain order to it, and even the most bizarre life had an elegance that often wasn't apparent at first. Even the children of Araphon had their roots in embarrassingly humble ancestors. And if Namunk and his kind could rise up from such lowly beginnings, who knew what these humans could become, given time? All of this seemingly pointless complexity had to serve some purpose. And stranded or not, Namunk was an Explorer, and it was his duty and privilege to discover. Fortunately, his probes were functioning without mishap. Although they hadn't scattered very far yet, he was sure they would eventually provide data as valuable as what he was gathering here.


Julia awoke to the sound of her alarm. Without thinking, she rolled over to reach for the snooze button, only to realize rather abruptly that she wasn't capable of either rolling or reaching. As she drew herself from the fog of sleep, last night's events came flooding back and Julia realized she now had to deal with the fact that she was unbelievably inflated, and firmly wedged between her bed and the ceiling.

"Uh oh,"she gasped, impulsively struggling to move, but only managing to wiggle her hands and feet uselessly in the air. The rest of her was completely immobile. The grating beep of her alarm pulsed away in the background. "Okay," she said, "how are we going to get us out of this, Julia?" She tried exhaling forcefully, puffing away to no avail. "Damn!" Last night she'd been so caught up in hew newfound abilities, she hadn't really considered the consequences that would follow when she had to get up to go to school the next morning. "C'mon, Julia, we can do this." She closed her eyes and centered her thoughts on getting smaller, on deflating, on somehow releasing all this air that filled her...

She was rewarded with the loud hiss of gas rapidly flowing out of her navel. A victorious grin spread across her face as she felt herself shrink. But it vanished several minutes later as she heard a knock at her door.

"Julia, wake up! You'll be late for school!"

"I'm up, Dad!" He'd probably just gotten in late last night. His business frequently took him away for days at a time, which left Julia alone in the house most weekends. And most weekdays as well. She never held it against him. Without Mom around, they had to get money somehow.

Frantic, she tried to scoot herself off of the bed. She was rapidly deflating, but still couldn't move well enough to reach her clock. Finally, the swelling in her arms subsided enough for her to turn off the alarm. Still severely bloated, she rushed to get dressed.

"Bye Dad!" She kissed him on the cheek quickly as she rushed out the door. Luckily, her father rarely used the car, so she could drive to school.

Compared to her unreal experiences during the past weekend, school seemed strangely mundane to Julia. Everything else about her world had remained quite the same, oblivious to whatever unnatural change that had happened to her.

"Enjoy the hike?"

Julia looked up to see Tanya, one of Roxy's friends. She'd also been on that fateful trip. It just wouldn't be in her nature to pass up the chance to take a cheap shot.

"Actually, I did," Julia responded. "It was quite -- uplifting." She smiled to herself as she headed off to her chemistry class, leaving behind a rather perplexed Tanya.

And so Julia's mundane life continued unperturbed: classes, homework, regular barbs and snubs from Roxanne and her gang. They seemed especially proud of their latest prank, and made sure the story spread through the entire school in short order. Oh well, Julia thought, one more event to add to my list of humiliations.

Over the next few weeks, she took as much time as possible to experiment in seclusion. She quickly gained increased control over her powers. It wasn't long before she learned she could inflate just about any part of her body, and became adept at getting blowing up bigger and faster. She didn't even have to inhale; on a good day, when she really concentrated, she found she could fill up with gas by just thinking about it. Every so often Julia found herself losing control and winding up at a larger size than she intended. Even more disconcerting were the occasions when she had difficulty deflating. But as she practiced, such incidents became less frequent, and the explosion incident that occurred the first night never repeated itself.

Then, one Friday, the envelope arrived. The day began innocently enough. History was as boring as usual, English even more so. Julia stopped by her locker on the way to lunch. She'd passed Roxy and her boyfriend Brent in the halls and endured the customary condescending glare. As she dialed the combination into her lock, she wondered if Roxy could have held Brent's interest for more than five minutes if she didn't have the body of a swimsuit model. She idly pondered what would happen if she approached Brent with a freshly inflated figure. Schemes of revenge whirled in her mind as she thought through what she'd try to do with her newfound abilities next when she got some free time alone to experiment again.

"Hello? What's this?" Julia muttered as she picked up the plain, unmarked envelope. She opened it and gasped in shock. Inside was a picture of her, apparently taken through her bedroom window while she was asleep. And she was blown up like a blimp. There was a note:

"Meet me at Harry's, 5 o'clock."

"Damn!" she swore as she slammed her locker shut. How could I have been so careless? She'd never though it mattered that she sometimes left her drapes open. Her bedroom had a view of nothing, just hills, trees, and a field where there would be more houses built someday. And now it looked like someone was going to blackmail her.

She didn't pay attention at all during class that day.

Harry's was a burger place in town. Not too long a trip from school, but far enough that it wasn't one of the more popular hangouts after class. Besides, it was Friday and most people had better things to do. Julia sat down at a booth and ordered a soda. All day she tried to figure out who could have been spying on her. If it had been any of her usual enemies, they wouldn't have been so subtle. And they certainly wouldn't want to meet her in a public place to chat.

She barely noticed when Robert walked in. Everyone at Spoone High new who he was, but very few actually knew him. Like Julia, he was pretty far down on the social food chain, but he had an aloof, superior attitude. He was brilliant, and made sure the world knew it. Robert came from a family of researchers, doctors, and college professors, and he firmly believed his intellect placed him above those who cast him out as a geek. He wouldn't have sat down with the "in" crowd even if invited. Of course, he never would be invited, but that was hardly the point. Image was everything.

He walked towards Julia's booth. He looked the role, tall, lanky, slightly unkempt. At least he hadn't gone for the horn-rimmed glasses and pocket protector.


She looked up from her drink. "Robby? I, uh, I'm waiting for someone." She figured it probably sounded like a lie, but under the circumstances she didn't care.

"Yeah, I know. I sent you the envelope." Hesitating a bit, he sat down.

"What do you want, you slimy little bastard," she hissed through clenched teeth.

"You're upset. That's okay, I was peeking in on you, you're entitled. Just hear me out."

"What? You've already worked out blackmail terms?"

"No, that's not it at all! Just listen to me for a minute." He reached into his backpack and pulled out an envelope.

Julia rolled her eyes. "What now, more pictures?"

"In a manner of speaking. Okay Julia, here's what I know, the whole story. I was on the hill with my telescope, tracking a comet --"

"Sure you were. What comet was that?"

"I just found it a few weeks before. I'll name it as soon as the observatory confirms it's a new one. But that's beside the point. I admit I was spying on you. Truth be told, there are quite a few interesting bedrooms that can be seen from that hilltop if you have a good enough scope, and I admit I've looked into all of them at one time or another. Call me a pervert if you like --"

"You're a pervert," Julia snapped.

"But here's the deal. On one of those nights, I saw you -- grow, I guess would be an acceptable term. I took pictures, trying to figure out how it was possible. At first I thought it might have been some weird inflatable suit, but looking closely at the photos I saw that wasn't the case. I was very curious about this talent of yours, since it violates the laws of physics as I know them. But if I wanted to find out more, I had to approach you somehow. Which brings us here."

"And I guess this is the part where I pay you money to keep these pictures under wraps."

He sighed. "I guess it's not surprising for you to think that." Robert slid the envelope across the table to her. "In there you'll find all the remaining photos of you, and the negatives. Destroy them if you want, it's all the evidence I have that you're anything but a normal teenage girl. Of course, I could always spread vicious rumors about Julia the Human Blimp, but I doubt anyone would believe me."

Julia slowly reached for the envelope. "So what's this all about?"

"I never wanted to blackmail you, I was just curious. Wanted to find out more about what you can do, study you."

"You want...to study me?"

"Yes, that's all. This is something nobody's ever seen before. Imagine the possibilities! If you don't want to be a lab rat, just say so. You don't have to ever talk to me again. On the other hand, I'll just bet you're as curious about this as I am, and we can go back to my lab and see what the instruments say about you."

Julia took a slow sip from her soda. "Just one question."


"It's close to dinner time. You buying?"

Robert broke into a smile. "Sure."

Over burgers and fries he told him about that had happened on the hiking trip: being abandoned, making a wish on a falling star, suddenly inflating. She left out the part where she exploded and was deliberately vague about how she got home. Robbie was so fascinated with her story, he didn't seem to notice.

"So you just...," he waved his fingers in an attempt to grasp a phrase, "blew up?"

"Mm-hmm," she nodded, eating another french fry.

"Amazing! And you can control this?"

She shrugged. "Kind of. That night you took the picture, I didn't really mean to get that big. It just sort of... happened. I tried to get bigger, then I just kept getting bigger. Managed to shrink back down the next morning, though."

Robert was nearly dumbstruck by the idea. Julia saw the wonder in his eyes and could almost hear the gears whirling in his mind as he tried to grasp the possibilities of how such a thing was possible. He though in silence for a while, and Julia entertained the idea that perhaps he was more overwhelmed by her condition than she was.

"I need to get you into my lab. I have instruments there, I could take some measurements. I doubt I have the equipment necessary to find the cause, I mean, I don't know what in the world could possibly explain this. But I think if I could actually observe this maybe..." He got lost again in the convoluted clouds of thought. "Are you doing anything tonight?"

From anyone else, Julia might have taken that as an invitation for a date. But it was obvious that romance was the last thing on Robert's mind. Looking at him, one might think it was never anything but the last thing on his mind. "Well, I've got a hot date tonight. Y'know, someone like me isn't going to be alone on a Friday night."

"Oh. Oh, I'm sorry--"

"I'm joking, Robby!" she giggled. "Besides, I wanna know what the heck's going on with me too."

"Wonderful!" He called for the check.

"Oh my God, it's like something out of a movie," Julia marveled. From the outside, Robert's lab looked like it has once been home to tractor. But he'd obviously put a lot of working into fixing it to his liking. Workbenches stretched along much of its length, crowded with computers and instruments. Of on a table in one corner there appeared to be several telescopes which weren't quite complete, and one section even appeared to double as a darkroom.

"Yeah, there were a lot of farms out here before they developed the area. You'll still find a bunch of old barns around. Dad wanted to convert this to a workshop, but I convinced him to let me have it. I pretty much do all my work out here. "Gimme a minute to get set up, I think I have a pretty good idea of what I'll need." Robbie cleared a large section of the floor space, rolling what looked like a twenty-first century go-cart off into a corner. He gathered several metal boxes from around the room, all bristling with antennae and wires, screens and lights. Julia hadn't the faintest idea what they might be for, but Robert moved them around and plugged them into one of the larger computers as easily as most people could slap together a sandwich. He started flipping switches, and one by one the machines came to life. "Ok, I think I'm ready." He picked up what looked like a wand-shaped microphone. "Is there anything I should be warned about before we try this?"

Julia stepped out into the center of the clearing. "I don't think so. But I've only done this a couple of times. I mean, the worst thing that could happen -- I could lose control and get bigger than think I will."

He rubbed his chin. "Let's keep you relatively small then." A thought hit him. "Um, are your, I mean - - are those clothes going to be a problem?"

"Don't worry, they'll stretch with me," she reassured him with a smile.

"Alright then. I'm ready when you are."

"Ok." She closed her eyes and shook her hands out a bit. Robert watched closely as she relaxed, taking long slow breaths. His instruments didn't show anything unusual until the fourth or fifth breath. Julia started taking in air.

Her belly slowly swelled outward. She didn't even hear the beeping of Robert's scopes as they recorded what was happening. She was far too caught up in the feeling of pressure as her whole body gradually filled, pulling her clothes tightly around her. Buttons and seams strained at first, then relaxed as the cloth started to stretch. Her belly swelled out steadily, her entire form taking on a rounded, bulbous shape. She stopped after a minute or so, sighing softly.

Robert looked to Julia, then to his screens. Then back to Julia, and back to the computer screen. "I'm not sure what to make of this."

"Pretty cool, huh?" Julia giggled, closing her eyes as she gently rubbed her vast girth. She looked as though someone had attached a head, arm and legs to a giant beachball.

"You're radiating," he muttered. "Very high energy, very high frequency. It's not a regular signal, but -- " Robert wasn't sure he wanted to say what he was thinking. Not until he could investigate more. He tapped a few keys, and a printer started spitting out a steady stream of papers. "I'll need to look over this data."

"Do you think you can figure out what's going on?"

"I don't know, but I'll give it my best." He walked over to her. "How...how do you feel?" He timidly held his hand out towards her swollen torso.

"Just fine," she murmured. "It's pretty nice, actually. I just feel really full, snug. It's kinda fun being big." She opened her eyes. "Go ahead and touch, Robbie, it's okay." Robert carefully brought his hand to her belly, touching the skin exposed by one of the gaps between the buttons on her blouse. He was clueless as to how the garment had stretched as much as it had. It looked like it was tissue thin, but still had its normal texture. But judging by how strained the buttons looked, it appeared as though Julia's clothes trying their best to return to their original size. Her belly was warm to the touch, and still fairly soft. It yielded without too much effort when he pressed against it. If Julia was a balloon, she was far from full right now.

"Amazing," he gasped. "How do you deflate?"

"It's easy. At least, it usually is. If I just relax and focus on getting smaller - -" As she spoke the words, a hissing came from her body as the air started to escape through her navel. Julia smiled. It was even easier this time. It shouldn't be too long before I have this completely under control. "So what's your take on this?" she asked as her inflated body slowly started to take on a more familiar shape.

"Um, like I said, I'll have to look over what my instruments say, but -- " Something on the monitor caught his eye. "That ring you're wearing, is there anything special about it?"

"Oh this? Just sentimental. It was my mother's. I wear it all the time. It's made out of silver, if that helps."

"Maybe." He typed away at a different console for a minute. "What about your hairclip?"

Julia giggled. "I borrowed it from my friend Charlotte months ago and just never returned it. I don't think she misses it that much, but I should probably give it back. I really doubt it's the reason I'm inflatable now." But Charlotte always has been pretty pneumatic, Julia thought to herself, giggling again.

"You're probably right," Robert responded, obviously engrossed in his numbers. "He shook his head. "I -- I think it's just the metal that's giving some strange readings. I'm sure it'll all fall out in the analysis. But for now all I can say is that it looks like you were exposed to some very strange energy source. At first look, it doesn't seem like it's altered you in any way --"

Julia laughed. She was almost back to normal now. "Maybe you should look again."

"But the energy's still there." Robbie shook his head again. Better do neck exercises, he mused, or I'm gonna hurt myself shaking my head over this one. "I'll give you call when I get something. Heck, I'll see you school."

"Do you think there's anything to all this blowing up besides entertainment value?"

"I'm sure it has some application, if we can just figure out what's causing it. And you'll never have to worry about drowning. Assuming, of course, you can get in one good breath before you go under," he smirked.

"I wouldn't even worry about that, Robbie."

"Oh?" He raised an eyebrow.

Feeling suddenly mischievous, Julia winked at him. "I'll show you one more trick before I go." She closed her eyes and focused, as Robert looked on with a perplexed expression.

Then her breasts began to swell.

Robbie gawked as Julia's bust filled out, overflowing her bra and pressing up against her blouse. Though she wasn't inhaling, her breasts expanded until it appeared she had two small blimps stuffed into her blouse, bigger than any model he'd ever seen.

"Bye Robbie, let me know when you've got something!" Julia blew him a kiss and walked out of the barn, jiggling gently all the way. Robert was left speechless.

The mental picture of Julia and her absurdly buxom figure made it hard for Robert to concentrate for the next hour or so. Fortunately, he'd already formulated a theory about Julia's abilities before she'd pulled the blow-up boob trick.

"I probably know more about you than you do right now," Robbie chuckled to himself as he pored over reams of numbers. His parents had thought he was foolish to spend so much of his patent royalties on such strange laboratory equipment, but he knew it would come in handy some day. On one of his computer screens, a wire frame computer rendering of Julia's body expanded and receded in a continuous loop. On the next monitor was the three dimensional graph of electromagnetic flux that had surrounded her during the process. It had taken him about a minute to figure out what was happening. Another hour of study had revealed the why. The how would most likely win him a Nobel prize if he could figure it out. Unfortunately there were probably only a dozen people in the world who understood quantum theory that well, and Robert was just humble enough to admit he wasn't one of them. How Julia had come about the change and how she was capable of controlling it were mysteries that would just have to wait. But luckily for Robert, that didn't prevent him from taking advantage of what he knew so far. Now all he needed was a little confirmation.

The next day, Robert was back on the hill overlooking Julia's house. Binoculars were sufficient this time, and they allowed him to stay concealed in the trees. It looked like Julia was going swimming, and she left early in the afternoon. Excellent.

Picking the lock was simple. It probably would have been even simpler if he'd just asked Julia if he could examine her things, but he wasn't quite ready to tip his hand. Not after her little demonstration had given him some rather devilish ideas. He quickly found her room upstairs.

When he had examined Julia, he'd detected three distinct but very similar energy fields coming from her. The main one was coming from Julia herself, of course, but her ring and hairclip had also been radiating. If they were just secondary fields induced by the metal, then her earrings should have shown up as well, but they didn't. So Robert programmed one of his meters to detect that energy signature.

"And here we are," muttered as he entered her room. Nothing extraordinary here. It was decorated in the pastels that girls seemed to like far more than boys, and smelled faintly of perfume and florals. He'd seen it all before from a distance. He scanned the contents of her dresser first.

The hairclip was sitting atop the dresser and, as expected, it set off the scanner. So did a tiny pair of stud earrings in her jewelry box. One of her bras and a pair of panties were radiating as well. A pair of socks, a t-shirt, and a pair of jeans finished up the contents of the dresser. Nothing to contradict his theory so far, but he wasn't certain yet.

It was the closet that convinced him. The red plaid flannel tested positive and the hiking boots clinched it. Whatever it was that had affected Julia, it was now in her and everything that she had been wearing on that hiking trip, Robert was certain of it now.

Wishing he knew more about women and their clothing habits, Robert tried to pick out those items that Julia wasn't likely to miss. The socks were a no-brainer, and Julia had so many pairs of earrings that she wasn't likely to miss one pair of studs. He grabbed the underwear, blushing slightly, but he didn't think she'd notice. He took the t-shirt, but figured the jeans, flannel, and certainly the boots would be noticed if they vanished. He made sure to lock the door behind him when he left.

Robert spent the entire weekend studying the clothing, do a far more thorough examination that he'd been able to do with Julia. None of it made any sense. He recalibrated is instruments half a dozen times, but kept coming back with the same results. Only his most exotic scopes could pick up anything useful, and by the end he was convinced that to get anything more meaningful he'd have to go to a major research facility.

The energy field contained in the clothes was extremely powerful, tightly contained, and appeared to be self perpetuating. This was, of course, impossible. "There's a power source there somewhere," he muttered to his keyboard. "I know you're there, you're just hiding." No matter what he tried, Robert couldn't tap any of the power to harness it. It was like it was there, but he just couldn't touch it. That is, until he touched it.

Late Sunday night, worn and weary from a sleepless weekend of work, he literally stumbled upon a breakthrough. He'd left one of the scopes running (dreadful waste of power, but he was tired after all), when he went to move a sock off of the scanning plate. When he went back to look at the results, he saw that when he'd touched the sock, the energy field surrounded his hand and flowed up his arm.

He quickly took off his shoes and replaced his own socks with Julia's. He scanned himself and, sure enough, the energy field had surrounded him. A smile broke across his face. Perhaps it was the exhaustion, perhaps it was the late hour, or perhaps it was the fond memory of a story about Benjamin Franklin tying a key to a kite and flying it in a thunderstorm to prove a theory. Whatever it was, at that moment Robert decided it was time to dance with the lightning.

He stood up straight, cleared his mind as best he could, and took in a long, slow deep, breath.

Robert inflated.

Fortunately, the barn had sturdy walls and was a good distance from the house, or else his parents might have heard his victorious howls of laughter. Had they investigated, they would have found Robert on the floor of his workshop, rolling around gleefully on his hugely swollen belly, lost in his own mirth.

"You're right, Julia," he called, patting his stomach and marveling at his girth, "it is fun to be big!"

It took him over an hour to figure out how to deflate. After that, he set about planning what he could do with Julia's magic garments. He'd already concluded that, unless he could reproduce this energy field, he couldn't really make any money off of it aside from what he could get from selling the individual clothes.

"Hell, I don't need money. I've got money." Robert had twenty-three patents total. Admittedly, only a dozen were for anything useful, but he'd sold off the rights to two for a bundle of cash, and three more would provide him with a constant income for well over a decade. But he remembered vividly how Julia had used her talents to inflate her breasts, and figure that there were a few very attractive women who might be interested in being able to do the same. The question was, what would they give to be better endowed?

"Now if only Roxanne Gardner wanted bigger tits," he mused. Robert, and most other men on the planet, could only dream about bedding a woman like Roxy. But she, and most of her friends, already had plenty of what Robbie had to offer, and took great pride in it. Or them, as the case may be. "Too bad," he sighed. For years, he'd fantasized about several of those girls, and frequently imagined what it would be like to be in the middle of a Roxanne-Tanya sandwich. But, barring a miracle of some sort, Robert would have to settle for trying to seduce some of the more modestly endowed girls.

Come Monday, Robert would find a renewed faith in miracles.

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