It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times. John, Graham, Pip and Alice are all dead, as are some of our most senior readers, leaving Team XCOM in the perpetually-wounded hands of just Adam and Alec. Could there possibly be a way back?
Damn right there was.
A quick trip to the black market, unloading a whole pile of festering corpses onto the twisted nutter who works there, brought in enough pennies to buy some new recruits. Please welcome Ian Spottswoode, Ian Topperfalkon, Ian Aerothorn and Ian Llewyn to the team.
No pressure chaps, but if you die this whole thing is basically over, OK?
We also have surviving veterans Ian Risingson and Ian Byterustler, so while the A-Team is now a dim and distant memory, perhaps our new B-Team might yet become the heroes that Earth needs.
With Plasma grenades now added to the mix of Predator armour and Gauss weaponry, we're looking a little beefier than previously. I decide to chance my arm on finally tackling an Avatar Project mission which has been hanging over us since pretty much when we first began, much to the consternation of Central and co.
Operation Fire Shriek involves heading to a large alien facility in order to work out what sort of devilry our beneficent overlords have been up to. Spoiler: it is indeed devilry. And basically in plain sight too. Stupid citizens of Earth.
Our only remaining sniper, my oddly Lennon-esque namesake, is still in hospital - and frankly, the fact that he's spent almost the entire campaign in hospital is pretty much the only reason he's still alive - so we go in as three senior officers and three rookies (leaving Ian Topperfalkon at home for now), yet to be given a class. I'm twitchy about it: the new guys can't do much more than shoot, but I equip them with a spread of Mimic beacons and Flashbangs in an attempt to even the odds.
Turns out A Huge And Magical Global Event* has made Mimic Beacons a whole lot less useful than they once were. I watch aghast as each one's holographic decoy soldier is obliterated immediately, leaving the aliens still with a window of opportunity to target my squad. I won't be able to rely on my old get out of jail free card anymore, it seems.
That aside, we're very, very lucky - we don't encounter anything more fearsome than a few standard-issue Mutons, whose armour Grenadier Ian Byterustler's Shredder ability mucks right up. Every Rookie scores a few kills and thus a promotion, so if we can just make it to the exit alive we've got a proper squad again.
Then Adam takes a punch to the chin from a Muton, and a dropship full of reinforcements arrives just as we thought we were going to get out of here. Almost everyone's weapon is dry, and our egress (guarded by several newly-arrived Advent) is on top of cliff, scaling which will soak up all our time.
We pull it off, mostly thanks to Rangers' swords and a whole lot of grenade spam, but it's messy. I was too keen to get out of there; if this had been the wipe it so nearly was, there wouldn't have been any coming back from it.
As it is, we were lucky. Adam, not so much - we won't see him for a couple of weeks - but the rest of the squad are mercifully unscathed. We end up with another Ranger, a Specialist and Sharpshooter, which is an almost exact staffing replacement for those we so recently lost. Strong again. Well, ever so slightly strong. Squaddies aren't exactly an ironclad fighting force, but at least the newbies' first outing wasn't the meatgrinder I'd predicted.
Bad news awaits when we get home: a Dark Event I failed to stop in time has cut this month's funding in half. We can't afford any new upgrades for a while, and nor can we expand the resistance network. We're falling behind badly. Our two most senior officers are both hospitalised, leaving the fate of the world in the hand of greenhorns. And much worse is coming.
*The game still runs like bottom on my PC, however.