By this point, it was becoming a ritual: get up, go to the bathroom, shower, swap out the showerhead with the hose she’d built, set it to medium, stick it in, fill up, enjoy the bloat on its own terms for a few minutes, then swap out the nozzle with a more traditional butt plug, go about her morning routine, and then go back to the shower and drain before going out the door to work. It was a good ritual for her to have—at least, an enjoyable one, and the few minutes she had allotted to herself and her distended gut made for a decent meditative experience, letting the strange, comforting pressure build and build and then just be, for a few minutes, something to hold onto and let go of the rest of the world and reset.
And then going about the apartment with a pseudo-maternal weight, having to be a little slower, having to be a bit more deliberate, not to mention the repetitive stroking of the insides of her thighs against her own belly, and by the time she drained and headed out the door, any and all remaining stress from the night before was washed away. (At least for the moment.)
But one morning, while brushing her teeth, she realized something: she had no work today.
She finished brushing her teeth, did a couple quick sweeps of her mane and tail, trotted over to the living room, flopped awkwardly onto the couch, and put on some half-century-old anime.
Then fell asleep again.
Then woke up again, to buzzing.
“Yes?” a slightly robotic voice replied from the apartment’s speakers.
“You have an appointment for 11:15 at the Axata Conference Hall.”
“Crabapples.” (She couldn’t cuss.) “…‘Kay, call a shuttle.”
“Shuttle will arrive in two minutes and thirty seconds. Your destination is six minutes away.”
“Perfect.” By this point she had flopped back off her couch and was now in her bedroom, putting on her prosthetic horn and her saddlebags. “Nadia’s” voice followed her, of course, as it did everywhere but the bathroom, but by this point she was done speaking to “her” and instead muttered to herself.
“Packed bags last night, have ‘em, have horn, of course… should be good to go.” She rushed out her bedroom door and then the apartment, so used to the wonky gait her bloat brought her that she adjusted automatically and, therefore, failed to notice.
She stepped out of the one-passenger shuttle at 11:09, the door sliding shut behind her as it lowered back under the street. The Hall was not that large—in fact, there were at least a half dozen bigger ones somewhere across the city—but they didn’t need all that much space: this was a relatively small tech and engineering convention, not some comic con or anime festival. Granted, she did have a tendency to run into the same sorts of characters at both, when she bothered to attend the latter: she generally didn’t, since they were both expensive and large crowds of crazies, neither of which she was particularly fond of.
That said, when she walked in, she had no idea where she was going. She was vaguely aware that there were booths in some building, or section thereof, somewhere, and that she had to get to one, because that’s where she was expected in… three minutes. “Bucking hay.” (She still couldn’t cuss.) So she looked around, and there appeared to be… brochures! Yes!
She picked one up, looked at it for a minute, then crumpled it up and threw it away. There was a map, and a decent one, but whoever had decided to make the map had just put numbers on it, and then listed the organizations attending by number instead of alphabetically, so she’d have to scan the entire thing before finding where she was supposed to go.
She went up to the reception desk—she was going there anyhow—and took her ticket from her bag. “Morning.”
“Good morning! Congratulations, by the way.” ka-chunk: an RFID chip set into the front of the ticket; a hole punched into the back. The receptionist’s voice again, still unsettlingly cheery, though it didn’t seem faked, which made it either more or less creepy, Tera wasn’t sure. “Here you go! Do you have any questions?”
“Yes, in fact: where is Redline Mechanical’s booth?”
“One second, please.” The receptionist looked over a list, briefly. “It’s booth number seven zero seven.”
“Thank you very much.” She trotted off again. Congratulations?
She trotted into the conference room, checked the time—11:16, well, buck, I’m late (she still couldn’t cuss)—found a map on a wall, and studied it with, for want of a better term, panicked intent.
Quickly scanning across rows on the map, she found what she was looking for, but there was no “YOU ARE HERE” symbol anywhere on the map, so she had to look around a bit to get her bearings.
Her eyes briefly, accidentally, met those of another pony, a unicorn stallion, behind her, with a strange expression showing signs of, all at once, confusion, scandal, and mild arousal, though he had managed to control himself enough not to have a fifth leg (though she couldn’t see his underbelly, so who knew). He looked away as fast as he could after she saw him, blushing, then trotted off to do whatever it was he had been doing.
She figured out where she was, figured out where Redline’s booth was relative to her, then trotted off again to the booth, arriving at… 11:19. Four minutes late. A couple of her coworkers were already there.
“Oh, there you are… are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine, left late is all, who designed the maps?”
“I, uh…” He motioned toward his own abdomen. “… are you sure you’re…”
“Yes, I’m fine, what do you need?”
“…Okay, seriously, when was the last time you looked in a mirror.”
“Why, what are you—” she said, looking around herself, checking her forelegs, her hooves, her belly—
“I need five minutes, directions to the bathroom, and a promise never to bring this up again.”