tagSci-Fi & FantasyEndangered Ch. 08

Endangered Ch. 08



Hey guys, the first (and shorter) split of what was originally chapter 8. More to follow.

Fair warning, this chapter has pseudo-incest themes again.

Thanks to Lunarlilith for editing.



Chris' muscles heaved, beads of sweat dislodging, combining, and running down his bare skin. A salty, miniature flash flood, gaining momentum before wicking into the already moist waist of his tatty old jeans. With bestial strength, he hoisted the sturdy canvas sack of crushed rock off the heavy-duty trolley onto his shoulder with a dry rustle. He turned ponderously and looked toward the pre-fab concrete stairs.

Pausing to steady his breathing and his thoughts, he concentrated on the huge sack on his shoulder and mass of stone within. He reached inward, embracing his element, his magic and dragged his load with him. With a tiny flicker, he vanished from the physical plane and began trudging up the stairs.

Usually murky and barren, the Ether landscape before him was instead a stairwell overgrown with jungle-like verdant growth. Carrying a quarter ton of crushed rock up several flights of stairs was much easier for him in the Ether. Here, the physical effort it would cost him in the Norm was attenuated by his own magic, making the gruelling work much faster and less physically exhausting. The result, however, was that he bled energy into the surrounding ether. Within days, the first opportunistic leafy, alien growths were sprouting out of ghostly rock walls and insubstantial concrete.

Now days he gave them, and the more active Ether inhabitants that followed them to this new oasis of magic, little notice. Every time he made that long, double-backing journey up the multiple-landing stairwell, he cursed himself for agreeing that they dig a full two stories below the surface. Why, oh why, had he ever thought an underground house was a good idea?

Every time he complained, Stephen assured him it had been an excellent decision. The werebison would remind him that the rock was more stable down there. It would provide extra disincentive for anyone to blast or dig their way down. Still, in times like this, toward the end of an exhausting day, Chris questioned the sanity of this entire endeavour on a minute by minute basis.

When he finally reached the top, he merged back. His breath came heavily and more sweat trickled down his back. The free-flowing air of the warehouse floor was blessedly dust-free and cool, soothing his bellowing lungs. He wasted no time dumping the big sack onto the waiting pallet. That made a full load of four.

Straightening his massive body, Chris reached high above his head to stretch the aches from his tired muscles and let his breathing settle.

His bared chest, arms and abdomen were streaked with dirt, dust, and even a couple of trails of dried blood. He found that the scrapes and scratches he suffered lugging the sacks of crushed rock out of the dig were better than paying for the replacement shirts. Three had been ruined in the first week of work and he gave up after that. Even whilst destroying his clothing, he had collected scrapes anyway.

It was almost time to go home, just a few more loads.

With a heavy sigh, he slid into the seat of the waiting electric forklift, hoisted the pallet, and piloted the quiet mechanical workhorse out of the warehouse to the growing mound at the back of the yard. His seemingly endless work had once again swelled the pile of rubble as if by magic. It was a good thing the truck would be coming in for a pickup soon, he'd made substantial progress since it was here last.

If he really put his back into the work, like he had today, he could haul a bit over three truckloads worth of the shit out of the depths by the end of the day.

He'd been helping every day he could for over two months now and the romance of building his own house was well and truly gone.

With practiced, efficient movements, he unsealed, upended, and emptied the sacks one by one. The crushed rock made a dry rattle as it settled, a sound so familiar now that it had intruded into his dreams on more than one occasion.

A few endeavouring rocks bounced away from the pile, colliding with the parked bucket-loader's great tyres. Stephen had hired the big earthmoving machine to load the trucks that came to collect the rock for a local landscaping supplier. Chris had had a chance to drive the thing briefly, but the articulated steering system was a challenge to master and the task of loading a truck was far out of his comfort zone. He only wished the loader could somehow be driven down below, cutting out the need for all his backbreaking work.

As if on autopilot, he found himself back inside the warehouse, descending the wide stairwell with his empty sacks. At the bottom, he collected his trolley. He trundled back through the ominous portal into the solid rock, down the short, wide hallway which would soon be a high security entrance.

Lillian had had her input there, insisting on a multi-door airlock-like system which would soon be getting installed.

He donned his constricting breathing mask, which helped to filter out the rock dust that was always heavy in the air when they were working.

Beyond, the passage widened into a space that would be a modest foyer. In the dim light, the bare rock walls looked unnaturally smooth. No drilling tool or jackhammer score marks, just smooth, geometrically perfect rock.

As the entrance way ended, the huge, barren kitchen space that had literally been carved from the rock was directly to his right. It had naturally been one of the first spaces they'd excavated. He could see into the murky space over the top of a low wall of stone that had been left behind to eventually form one of the large benchtop areas.

At least you can see the rooms taking shape now, he thought. A month ago, it had been difficult to see that they were making any real progress at all.

Stephen insisted that they cut the rooms directly into the rock, leaving behind as many features, walls, and columns as possible in the original stone. It would save them time, work, and money when it came to finishing the house, not having to build as many internal structures. Chris had to agree, with the added benefit of less rock to cart up and out of his future home.

To the left, the open plan living and dining room stretched out in a huge rectangle. The long side formed the outside edge of the structure, only one dark portal leading to a modest study. It was by far the largest space in the building plans, taking two whole weeks to hollow out.

That had been after Chris had bit the bullet and asked Stephen to hire help. The three-strong goblin crew Stephen found had been more than happy to assist with cutting and crushing the rock for a reasonable price. From the sounds reaching him, they were hard at work right now.

Construction lights provided harsh illumination but were only ever placed where they were working or in the walkways. This meant some areas were very well lit while others oozed a complete darkness that would put any moonless night to shame. The first time Chris had experienced the encompassing blackness of being underground, he'd been very unnerved. Now he knew the rooms and passageways so well he liked to think that should the power go out, he wouldn't even bump into anything.

He pulled the trolley down the familiar, dusty trail, across the reddish-brown sandstone floor, past the kitchen and thick support column marking half way in the living room. To his right, he marked off the dark, open doorways to pitch black rooms as he passed them. Laundry, storage room, and finally the large bathroom as the living room ended.

On the wall to his left, they would soon be excavating his own master bedroom but that was to be the last of the rooms they dug out. The junction of living room, bathroom, and his future bedroom was a four by four meter square. However, it's position and alignment with the rest of the rooms made him think of it as a diamond.

It was a strange feature but one of Chris' favourite parts of the design. The bottom corner of the diamond, where he now stood, was open to the living room. The wall to his right was also the bathroom's wall, the wall to his left would be one of the walls of his bedroom. The top of the diamond was also open, leading to two hallways which stretched off at right angles to each other but parallel to the rest of the squared walls in the house.

You would walk through the middle of the diamond to access the hallways. On either side as you walked was a triangle shaped space which Chris planned to use for housing bookshelves or something like that.

Inlaid in the floor, dead centre of the diamond was a burnished ring of stainless steel, roughly one metre in diameter and about an inch thick. Inside the circle, one pointing at each of the compass points, were four polished amethysts. This arrangement, apart from being visually appealing, was the magical heart of the structure. It was protected by a thick cover-sheet of enhanced glass which was magicked to resist scuffing and scratching.

Chris had already filled the modest gemstones to the brim with energy and Stephen had been tying his enchantments into them as their work progressed.

At the moment, these spells were basic; magically strengthening the rock around them (after they excavated) so that it didn't fall on their heads in a freak accident, making the structure resistant to vibration, and repelling water in a large area around the exterior.

It was a new concept to Chris and he was excited by the idea of having a magical component to his home. Stephen even assured him that once they were done, he would attach a spell so that dust would never settle inside, forcing it to be filtered out by the advanced systems which would soon be supplying a clean flow of conditioned air, pumped down from the surface.

All they had for now were a couple of large stationary fans which made sure the air circulated and didn't go stale. Chris hated them because they swirled the dust up annoyingly at times.

The central diamond room also helped separate the house into two parts, allowing a thick section of solid rock to remain between them. This provided a strength buffer and meant they would need less supports overall. There was also to be a secret passage dug upwards from the diamond room to act as a bolt hole or emergency exit. The plan was to have it come out somewhere hidden in the yard up above.

The loud, scraping shriek of crunching rock grew harsher as soon as he passed through the diamond room. Up the hallway to his left, he could see Stephen on a ladder, drill in hand as he bolted some cable supports into the bare rock.

At just over two and a half metres above the floor, lofty ceilings had been another of Chris' banes. The extra height made for so much more rock to move. Stephen insisted it would be vital in making the underground rooms seem more spacious and less oppressive.

That hallway was finished, at least the excavation was. Five bedrooms, two smaller bathrooms, a large study, and a utility closet for the industrial air conditioning and filtration system lay down that way. There was also room in there for three small water tanks which would act as a reserve if they were ever cut off for a few weeks.

In front of him, on the other side of the thick wall of sandstone, was another large, open space. It occupied the corner formed as the two hallways took off at right angles. This was to be some sort of large multipurpose space. He wasn't sure what exactly it would be useful for but with the number of people he was catering for now, as well as an expanding family, he had to plan.

The end of the hallway to his right was his destination and he grudgingly pulled the trolley towards the sound of the hard at work goblins.

He hadn't expected to be the mule of the construction team, carting the waste rock up to the surface all day. It just sort of worked out that way. That wasn't all he did, but it did take the majority of his time. Several times a day, he would help Stephen with some task or other, but then it would be back to carting rock.

Despite his best efforts to discover or invent ways to magic the tons of crushed rock out of existence, he was still carting it by hand. Rock was a stable matter. It had inherent energy contained in its structure and was quite happy to stay as it was, thank you very much. You couldn't just blast it to oblivion or dissolve it to component atoms on this scale without both massive energy input and catastrophic release, Stephen said. Such was unheard of in this day and age. Not that Chris hadn't tried, he was so sick of hauling rocks.

It wasn't that the others were unwilling to help him, it just wasn't efficient. Chris' natural strength and endurance kept him chugging away all day. He was the best physically suited out of the five of them for the task. Besides, he was the unskilled labour. It didn't make sense to have Stephen hauling rock and Chris bungling the installation of the electrical, air, gas, magical, and plumbing systems.

Stephen didn't shy away from carting rock when he wasn't busy with other tasks. Even Lillian and Oslo had been roped into hauling a few loads during their shifts babysitting him in the early days. Those days of constant supervision were over now.

By himself, on a day like today, it was all he could do to keep up with the goblins.

The three brothers, Yurt, Gruff, and Belthelas, made a slick, rock-crunching dream team. They worked together, magically cutting out manageable chunks of stone from the working face before crushing and bagging them for Chris to transport.

Chris had grown fond of the three once he got over their appearance. Safe out of sight underground, they preferred their natural forms. This allowed them to more efficiently use the magic Chris gave them to hack away at the rock, undistracted by holding their human guises.

Their green-grey skin, spikey dark hair, red tinged eyes, small tusks, pointed ears, and overabundance of piercings gave them an intimidating appearance despite their relatively small, wiry bodies. In their human disguise, they took the appearance of a trio of small punks, boisterous and eager to start trouble.

At just over five feet, Chris had mused that they probably wouldn't pose much of a threat on an individual basis. However, his dragon had assured him that goblins tended to overwhelm their opponents with numbers and took pride in fighting as dirty as possible.

They were more than a little rough around the edges, cursing almost religiously in every sentence. Relatively recent immigrants from United Kingdom, their accents hadn't faded much which made their tough guy attitudes more credible or hilarious, depending on how you looked at it.

Thankfully, they were quite friendly under their rougher shells. They held Chris in some sort of joking reverence, manufacturing an ever-changing series of nicknames for him.

Stephen had worked with them once before as part of a team constructing a private mansion. He'd brought them on to speed up the digging when Chris had started to realise how long it was going to take just the two of them to finish the house. They had been an immense help, more than tripling their rate of progress.

It also helped that Chris had them juiced up to the eyeballs. They each wore a small crystal on a chain around their necks which Chris charged as necessary for them to power their cutting spells. Without having to worry about exhausting themselves, they worked like a team of small, sweat-covered demons all day. They were perpetually trying to overwhelm his ability to carry the rock up to the surface and create a backlog. That was part of the reason he was working so hard, just to keep up.

As a bonus for their manic effort, Chris had started filling the crystals at the end of the day for them to take home, inspiring a work ethic the likes of which he'd never seen. Who knows what sort of mischief they got up to each night because the gems were religiously presented for refilling the next morning.

The results were clear to see, the house had taken shape at a much more encouraging rate. Today they had started on the last of the 4 bedrooms down the right hallway, leaving only his own bedroom, the emergency exit, and various small service channels left to excavate.

It was a good thing, too. After the coming weekend, Chris would be formally starting his work with Michelle and the newly formed BIA. He was going to have much less time to help.

Once the digging was done, Stephen and the goblins could easily finish the more conventional side of the construction. It was still going to be a big task, sealing cracks, installing insulation, ducting, wiring, plumbing, plastering the walls, putting down underlay, carpeting, floorboards, tiling, installing fixtures and appliances. The list was almost unending, but Chris felt that the home stretch was in sight.

He was certainly going to have to celebrate somehow after the last oversized sack of rocks was hauled off.

It wasn't in his initial vision to have the place as a nine bedroom underground mini-mansion. As he and Stephen had gone through the process of purchasing the property and drawing up the design, it became clear his needs were expanding rapidly. Therefore, everything was oversized, designed to cater for more than the already ridiculous eight people who would be moving in once it was complete. It was also laid out to allow for excavation of further rooms, if they were required.

As he pulled the trolley the last few feet he sighed loudly within the oppressive warmth of the dust mask. Breathing was never satisfying within its stifling grip. These were his last moments of respite before the back-breaking cycle repeated.

Belthelas looked up from the sack he was filling, dropping his shovel guiltily as he caught sight of the hulking young man. The goblin straightened, shooting him a mock salute.

"You've over-filled it again, haven't you," Chris accused. As if the quarter ton sacks weren't heavy enough without the goblin trying to test his limits.

"Wouldn't dream of it, Boss-Man." He winked, lifting the large ear-muff off one of his pointed, gaudily pierced ears. Raucous death-metal spilled out of the speaker inside, mingling with the already grating noises of tortured rock as Gruff and Yurt cut out another large slab.

Chris groaned, seeing that the goblins already had three sacks ready and tied off, waiting for him. There wouldn't be any break for him. By the time he got those three to the base of the stairwell, they'd be ready with the fourth. If he dawdled, they would get ahead of him and he would never hear the end of it.

Without further ado, Chris pulled the trolley up beside the offending sack, grabbed fistfuls of the loose canvas near the top, and hoisted it up the few inches onto the trolley. He shot Belthelas a dirty look, there was extra weight in that one. The goblin was oblivious, already loading the first shovel-loads of crushed rock into a waiting sack.

He placed another fully loaded sack on the trolley before starting the journey back to the stairwell. They were dumped there while he went back for a further two. Then came the four torturous trips up those stairs, his entire body protesting all the way.

It was as he started up the last flight of stairs on that fourth trip that he caught a brief wisp of her scent in the Ether, so contrasting to the smell of his own sweat and the rock dust permanently lodged in his nose.

He phased back early and cautiously took the last steps up onto the warehouse floor under his own titanic effort. He looked around, half expecting to be pounced on. It didn't take long to spot her sitting sideways in the seat of the forklift. One of her bronzed legs dangled down over the side, the other was pulled up to her chest, foot also on the seat. That might not have been so bad had she not been wearing a white miniskirt.

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