time is money

Trench - circle of shit / ruffalo

This story is dedicated to everyone who came back to a place that didn't make sense anymore, people that didn't understand, and dreams that wouldn't stop.

You are in my thoughts every day.


Welcome to the next chapter in the story of the Anek and their human partners. There's a large gap in time between the ending of MC: Insurrection and the beginning of this story.

This installment moves a little slower than the last stories; more plot and less sex, etc. But don't worry, there's still naughty parts.

You'll be able to get by if you haven't read the earlier series, but things will make more sense if you do. Those stories in order are:

Mapping Command: First Contact
Mapping Command: Diplomacy
Mapping Command: Rebellion
Mapping Command: Insurrection

Yes, I should have put numbers on them. Sorry about that. If you want to go read those first, we'll wait right here.

All caught up? Then here we go:



Captain Tiafione Holt ran her hand through her short dark hair, wincing at the sticky, greasy feeling of it. She barely had the time to stuff a ration bar in her mouth and swallow water, being clean was a fond memory and the idea of a long nap had become an almost pornographic fantasy.

"Tia, the ship is calling you," Chief Sergeant Ernest MacGregor said, sticking his head into the hole they were calling a bunker. "Shit, sorry. I meant Captain."

She grunted a laugh. "Can't give you any shit about that, Ernie. Keep forgetting myself." She grabbed her rifle and helmet and ducked under the low door. Ernie led the way down the narrow trench lined with empty ammunition crates.

"They say what they wanted?"

"Something about the morale social. They wanted to change it to a volleyball game."

"After I went out and got a formal gown too."

"The bastards," Ernie said. They were at the end of the trench and he took a deep breath before sprinting across the open space between two dunes. There was a hiss of flechettes a second later and a small patch of sand jumped a few centimeters into the air.

Tia started running before she could think about it. She dove into the next section of trench as the hiss was repeated.

"Hope they never figure out how bad those cable guns are," Ernie said as Tia dusted herself off.

"At that range anyway."

He led the way down the second trench to where their last satellite uplink was pointed at the sky. The battered dish looked like it had a few new patches. Gailen Brower, their last comms tech handed her a headset and a bottle of water. Tia patted her shoulder in thanks as she pulled the headset over her ears.

"This is Clover Six, actual."

There was a long pause with only the background hiss and crackle. The Commonwealth issued all sorts of fancy toys for communicating but old fashioned radio still was the most reliable.

Finally, there was a click. "Clover Six, good afternoon. This is the Systems Coordinator aboard the Fifth Lantern of the Deep."

Hell of a thing to call the captain. Hell of a thing to call a ship too, Tia thought.

"Yes sir, what can I do for you?" she said.

"Captain, this communication is to inform you that we have finished deploying the orbital denial weapons. My sensors indicate that the Dominion raiders have two additional ships entering orbit. Drive profiles indicate a small packet courier and a reinforced patrol ship. Their weapon strength added to that of the dropship already overhead presents an obstacle to any further support. I will not risk my command for what would likely be a futile display of resistance. Therefore, I recommend conservation of forces as the best current strategy. We are withdrawing to a position behind the nearest moon and will continue to observe developments until reinforcements arrive. Per our data, the Omar Bradley and her support ships will be entering planetary orbit in fourteen hours and thirty-eight minutes."

Ironic, the reinforcements needing reinforcement.

Tia closed her eyes, swaying slightly. They'd been planetside for forty-six hours now. It felt like weeks. The Xero'pah captain was going on about his orbit projections still. On the inside of her eyelids, Tia could still see the battalion's shuttles disintegrating in the air all around her. Bolts of fire reached down, almost casually, as the raiders incinerated them from orbit. Their dropship had made an impressive trail of fire when they'd knocked that out of the sky next. That left the survivors with their lone escort; an all but useless hunk of...


Tia blinked. Had she really been standing her dreaming? "Yes, System Coordinator. I think we had some atmospheric interference."

"I inquired if you had any comments on my orbit models."

For a second she thought about arguing with him, just for the hell of it. But then she'd be stuck here listening to him.

"No comment on this end. I need to get my people briefed, System Coordinator."

"Good hunting, Captain. We'll begin preparing to break orbit here."

Good hunting? What do you think we're doing down here?

"Clover Six is clear," she said and handed the headphones back to Gailen.

"Everything okay, Captain?" Ernie asked.

"I'm going to need you to procure a volleyball and net, sergeant."

He stiffened to attention and tossed off a salute worth of a formal parade. "Yes ma'am! "

They both laughed and the comms tech looked at them like they'd gone insane.

" Ground action, front! " one of the observation posts screamed.

"We'll come back to that," Tia said, unclipping her rifle and pulling back the bolt to put the first round into the rifle's chamber.

Flechettes whirred overhead as she followed him further down the trench. They started running when they heard the first anti-armor rocket whoosh downrange.

"Where'd that come from?" she asked Ernie.

"Eastern battery," he panted as they ran.

There were a few troopers standing around in the trench when they ran up.

"Check your gear," Ernie said. Tia jumped out of the trench, just a waist high passage they'd made by piling sand against debris. She dropped to her stomach and crawled quickly up the dune. Ernie caught up with her when she paused just below the crest.

"Remember to stay low," he said.

Tia gave him a look. "I'm not a real officer, Ernie."

He grunted a laugh and crept to the top of the dune and peered into the usual cloud of sand and dust.

"Be nice if we had some peeper-drones," Ernie grumbled.

"Sure would. Be even nicer if there was a command team, anti-tank gunners, or even orbital support that was worth a shit." Tia pulled out her binos and waited for them to power up. "I'd even settle for an hour of sleep."

The light finally came on and she looked through them. The image was grainy, enhanced to cut through the smoke screen and blowing clouds of sand. Tia's breath caught in her throat.

"What's up?" Ernie asked. "Bad?"

They'd been Rangers too long for her to bullshit him. "We're fucked," she said, handing him the binos.

He scanned the long, wide open expanse of beach. "Fucked might be an overly optimistic assessment, ma'am."

"If you call me ma'am again, I'm punching you in the balls, Ernie."

He snorted and handed her binos back as they low crawled back down the dune.

"That looked like at least a brigade of tanks," he said quietly. "We've got maybe ten minutes, max, before they're on top of us. And even if we destroyed one with every single rocket we wouldn't have enough, Tia."

She looked at him. "I have an idea, we gotta get that elf back on the phone."

"What're you thinking?"

"You're not going to like it."

The Systems Coordinator didn't like it either. "I cannot fulfill your request, Captain. Those weapons do not possess the accuracy required to avoid your positions. You would incur heavy casualties."

"I know that, Coordinator. But if we don't do this now, we're going to be wiped out anyway and you and Bradley are both going to be dealing with Dominion raiders sitting on propellant processor plant. Then you'll be looking at firing on a highly explosive target in the middle of a civilian settlement."

"Captain, I..."

"Goddammit! Shut up and listen to me. The Ranger's exist to stand between civilians and harm. Your job at the moment is to support me in achieving that. Fire the fucking orbital pickets at the incoming armor, every second we delay makes it more likely that they'll be hitting civilians."

There was a long silence and Tia thought he'd disconnected.

Then there was a click. "The order is given, Captain Holt."

Tia tore off the headset and ran out of the comms bunker. "Black sky!" she yelled.

"Incoming! Danger close!" Ernie immediately bellowed. "Black sky, get to cover!"

The warning was repeated down the line and then it was quiet except for the constant hiss of sand and wind.

Tia looked up. There was a line of fiery trails already blossoming across the sky. The Xero'pah had some fancy name for them, like everything else. Sky Lances or something. Terrans just called them nails. They weren't glamorous or even complicated weapons, basically a large spike with a guidance package on the back end. They were usually deployed in racks that kicked them into the orbit of a ship. They used micro thrusters to make the necessary correction to hit the target. There was no warhead, kinetic energy was enough to provide the fireworks.

Tia saw the troops she'd just condemned running for any kind of shelter they could find. Ernie was on his feet, his infamous flask in his hands. He saluted her with it and Tia had to laugh as she ran to the crest of the dune and looked over the top. A silent fountain of dust and smoke appeared in the rear of the armored columns, then another. She heard the first impact as the fountains turned into a black wavefront rushing at her positions. She slid back down the dune, putting her arms over her head.

The sand beneath her was shuddering and then bounced her a meter into the air. The breath was knocked out of her when she landed. The next impact was less than a hundred meters away and the pressure wave knocked her unconscious as she was buried in a wave of the greenish sand.


She woke up choking and wiped at her face, pushing sand away.

How the hell am I still alive?

Tia cleared space in front of her face and tried to open her eyes. There was a dimness off to one side and she clawed her way toward it until she reached the surface, choking and sneezing. She'd lost her goggles somewhere and blinked, trying to get the crud out of her eyes. It was very quiet.

Shit, did I miss the whole battle?

She got her eyes wiped clear enough to see and stood up, wincing. Her whole body ached but it didn't feel like anything in particular was broken. She was standing in a hole the size of a grave. The loose sand hand been pulverized into the consistency of silt and there was a haze of the stuff all around here. She heard coughing off to her left.

Tia tried to yell but started choking again when she took a deep breath. Pulling her shirt over her nose and mouth, she struggled toward the sound. Someone was struggling to dig themselves out and she grabbed a hand and pulled. She didn't recognize the face, the thick coat of greenish dust made them look like a week dead corpse.

"What the hell was that?" he gasped. "Did the officers fuck up?"

She would have laughed but it hurt too much. "Sure did. You okay?"

"Feels like I got stomped. Yeah, I think I'm okay."

"See if you can find field gear, I gotta look around."

Whoever it was nodded but she figured he was too dazed to do much. Tia staggered in a circle until she felt a slope and she climbed up. Higher up, the onshore breeze was pushing the dust away and she looked around, completely forgetting that she should have been keeping low.

They'd been dug into a line of large dunes, some of them had been fifty meters high. All of it was gone now. Off to her left something sounded like breaking glass and a breeze pushed the haze away enough that she could see it was the impact crater. The sand had fused to a sheet of glass that shattered itself as it cooled. The whole area had been pounded flat, there was another impact crater beyond this one and smoke was rising beyond that. It was still eerily silent. There were a few voices to one side but that was it. She should have been hearing engines of the approaching armor by now. It must have worked. Or when the locusts had seen what she'd done to her own troops, they turned around and went home. She spat grit out of her mouth and grunted a laugh at the ancient joke.

An alarm bell was clanging somewhere in the dust behind her. Tia had heard it before; it was in the village that surrounded the processing facility. So, that had survived at least. Nice, since it was the whole reason they were on this piece of crap planet. The wind from the ocean was starting to blow the dust away from the beach and she realized she was standing in the open and looked around for cover but there was nothing left. She squatted down, not wanting to lay in the greenish silt again and the dust finally blew off the beach.

"Fuck me running," she said quietly.

Nothing was moving out there anymore. It looked like someone had taken a giant construction compactor and run it over the area. There were a few humped and shattered shapes that were probably crawlers, or what was left of them. Someone was going to have fun going through all of that looking for survivors, but it wasn't going to be her. There were sounds from behind her and she looked back to see one of her Rangers wading through the dust.

"Is that you, Captain?" he called.

Tia stood up. "Yeah. How many troops did you find?"

"Seven. Everything else...there wasn't much left, ma'am. Scraps mostly."

Tia really didn't want to know what kind of scraps he was talking about and sighed. Seven people. They'd dropped with 232 two days ago and she'd had 56 of them left an hour ago. Now she was down to less than a section. "Just call me Chief. Who are you?"

"Franks, ma'am...Chief. Willy Franks, I'm a demo spec-three."

"Go round 'em up, Franks. We'll pull back out of the impact area and set up a new OP."

He looked around and blasted landscape around them. "Chief, those crawlers can't do anything like this. Who hit us?"

"Didn't you hear the Black sky warning, Franks? I did this."

One of the basic specialists had punctured eardrums, everyone else looked more or less okay. Tia figured out they had all been on the extreme left of the line. As far as she could tell, the line had been between two impacts and mostly obliterated. They gathered up what gear they could find and started out toward the settlement that surrounded the fire-weed facility. She was lucky there hadn't been any impacts on the facility. Hell, they all were. Or the plantation. She shuddered to imagine the explosion it would have created. The oil pressed from the grass was the main component of ammunition propellant and made a pretty decent explosive as well.

"Chief, are you okay? Your face..."

She patted her skin. "What?"

Franks handed her a damp rag. "Wipe your face carefully, let me look. Yeah, it looks like half of your face is one big bruise."

She pulled the collar away from her chest. "Not just my face. Must have been the shockwave."

She got everyone cleaning gear and running tests to see what worked while she recorded all the details she could remember. Without a doubt, she'd be getting court martialed for murdering forty-eight of her own people. She didn't intend to disagree and figured she'd make it easy on them.

There was a loud thud from the settlement and she stood up to try and see what was going on. Someone was running toward them waving their arms and she picked up one of the rifles they'd been able to salvage. They were probably going to get bitched out for breaking everyone's windows.

Add it to my tab, she thought.

Franks met the civilian and when she got there he'd gotten the kid calmed down enough to talk.

"Bugs, lots of them," the kid gasped. "In those crawler things."

"Get everyone ready," Tia said. "Okay, deep breath and tell me what you saw..."

Five minutes later she was looking at her troops. "It sounds like a company reinforced with a couple of crawlers. Specialist Franks will be taking the launcher and the rockets to the saddle between the two high dunes there. Pick out an assistant, Will. I'll be taking everyone else into the town. First mission; do what we can to get the civilians out. Point them toward the ocean, tell them to hide in the dunes there. The next wave of reinforcements is due to arrive in less than twelve hours; they'll be fine out there until then. Second, we'll set up ambushes to keep the bugs from following them."

"What about the processors?" someone asked.

"We don't have enough to secure even one of them. Get the civilians out, especially the techs from the facility. The next landing can take the facility back if they need to. Franks, your fire team will do what you can with what you've got, then follow the evacuees. Do what you can to help them. Clear?"

None of them moved, they just looked at her. Tia sighed after a few seconds of silence. "Yeah, I know what you're thinking; why in the hell would you follow the psycho bitch who called fire on her own position. You'll find it's the same reason I killed most of our people; this is what we do. Those civvies are under our protection and I will do anything, obviously, to keep the Dominion raiders away from them. Including sacrificing myself. I'm going toward the trouble. You each decide what your oath of service means to you and follow your conscience. No one is going to blame you if you stay."

She took a couple of boxes of ammo from the pile. "Gun up if you're coming."


"Anything exciting?" the Officer of the Deck asked, handing a cup of coffee to the duty sensor operator.

Kelly Andersson smiled and took a sip.


He always brought her coffee from the Chief's Mess. They had the best on the station.

"Is there ever anything exciting?" she asked. "Thanks, Chief Moore. I was getting sleepy."

"Sure," he said, leaning on the edge of the hatch. He had a ton of other things to check but he thought Kelly was adorable. He was just trying to figure out the best way to ask her out. "Got any plans when we rotate ground-side?"

Kelly smiled at him again. She'd been wondering for a month when this cutie was going to make his move. Then, last night she'd heard a joke about how shy he was. That was okay with her. She didn't mind making the first move. In fact, it set a good tone for the relationship.

"I have to reservations for an all nude resort near at Equatorial. Want to come along, Johnny? I was thinking..."

There was a chime and she glanced at the screen and put the coffee cup down. "Chief, I have an unknown contact."

He leaned over to look and the hair on his arms stood up. "Confirm a bogey, strap in."

She pulled the belts over her head and buckled in and he keyed his headset. "General Quarters, General Quarters, General Quarters. Unknown contact inbound. All hands, action stations, General Quarters."

The lights dimmed and turned red as the AI running the station responded. A siren whooped three times and then they could hear the pounding of feet as the off-duty crew in the compartment inward jumped out of their bunks and ran for battle stations.

A gunner's mate swung through the hatch and dropped into the vacant seat beside Kelly. Chief Moore grabbed a belt from the bulkhead and strapped in.

"Point defense turrets spinning up, green lights across the board," the gunner's mate reported after a check of his console. "Where did they come from?"

I pulled into my condo complex and then left my convertible in front of my unit for Tanya to recognize. I hauled in all of my own gear that I’d had at my brothers and then all the parcels and boxes of clothes and shoes that I’d bought for Emma the day before. I hung all of her stuff up on one side of the walk-in closet in my room and stacked the shoe boxes beneath. I was already wondering when the next time we’d be able to arrange for her to come over so she could wear more of that stuff for me.

 · Tom Ford trench coat, ; Kiki de Montparnasse slip dress, . In mock appraisal, Khloé cocks her head to one side. Soft strands of her ...


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Trench - Circle Of Shit / RuffaloTrench - Circle Of Shit / RuffaloTrench - Circle Of Shit / RuffaloTrench - Circle Of Shit / Ruffalo