Some time later.
Things haven't gone badly, per se. We lost Keza MacDonald in the alien base, but other than that there have been no fatalities since last we spoke. Indeed, our ranks have been bolstered by sniper Sergeant Craig 'Alpha' Pearson, assault Corporal Porp Entine, support Captain Robert 'Pox' Yang and sniper Squaddie Jeremy Laird. But there have been wounds. Many, many wounds. As Muton and Floater Elites entered the fray, and the first terrifying encounters with psychic species presented a whole new thread, most of our once-strong team is laid up in hospital. Even our SHIV tank is damaged. Three other soldiers are out of action because they're being evaluated for psychic aptitude.
And so it is that we meet our darkest hour in what should have been our brightest hour.
This is the team:
As you can see, only three soldiers are fit for duty - the reliable Colonel Alec 'Zulu' Meer, accompanied by Captain Yang and Squaddie Laird. The council has summoned us to Japan for an asset recovery mission. Will Meer's veteran leadership get us through this, even the odds are stacked heavily against us? Let's find out. First off the Skyranger's a wet blanket!
We need to play this one differently. With only three pairs of boots on the ground, even one fatality likely spells doom for everyone. I can't lose Colonel Meer, I just can't. I feel a strange, unnatural, mysterious affinity with him. Why, if he were to perish I don't believe the XCOM project could continue.
Three! So, we take it turn by turn - in constant Overwatch, the snipers not moving from the initial cover I sent them into, as they're not able to move and fire their rifles on the same turn. We wait for the enemy to come to us.
We wait for the enemy to come to us.
We wait for the enemy to come to us.
I said "WE WAIT FOR THE ENEMY TO COME TO US."
Oh, for the love of God. They're just not taking the hint. Shuffle forwards, Captain Yang. What can you see?
Sectoids! Sweet, merciful heavens above it's only Sectoids! All my Christmassses, birthdays, Easters and unexpected Bank Holidays have come at once. They're all mind-buffing each other like hell, naturally, but I can't see a commander so hopefully that means my guys won't get puppeted up the wazoo.
Yang's got enough air left in his lungs to take out one with plasma rifle, while Meer, lurking behind a cargo container close to the Skyranger, picks off another when it moves across his eyeline while he's on Overwatch. As a mere Squaddie, Laird is half blind and unable to shoot straight, so he's no good this turn.
...Which is probably why he immediately takes a hit. A non-fatal hit, as it's only poxy Sectoids, but it's enough to rattle me.
It's enough to rattle Laird too, apparently, as he proceeds to miss an easy shot. So he's just stood there, useless, flanked by a Sectoid and without a doubt dead meat next turn if I can't scrub the little grey bugger out now. Yang's too far out of range to help, which leaves us only Meer.
Meer can't move and fire his trusty sniper rifle, so he has to do a traumatic switch to his plasma pistol, creep around a lorry to the Sectoid watching Laird and gamble on a low-odds shot.
But doesn't kill. Oh no.
Then something vaguely absurd happens. The clean kill Meer had got from Overwatch last turn? That activated In The Zone, and ability which enables a second shot following a successful, unflanked takedown. And that happened while he was in Overwatch. And that meant the free shot carried over into this turn instead. And that meant:
Boom. One more plasma pistol shot. One less Sectoid. One live Laird.
That's all the visible enemies taken care of. So we're back to waiting, watching, waiting, watching, waiting, (over)watching).
Once again, they're not coming to us. This is 1993 all over again.
Slowly, Meer moves forward to try and get a view of more of this truck stop we're fighting in. As he darts from lorry to lorry, a hiding sectoid lets loose a reaction shot.
Not like this! Not like this.
Sectoids, let us not forget, are rubbish. Meer is unharmed, and whips out his pistol once again. He's getting good with that now.
With Meer once again camping like a mofo, Yang becomes point man. He flushes out three more Sectoids in due course, taking out two himself as they refuse to wander into the snipers' lines of sight.
The third sectoid is damnably hard to hit. Laird moves forwards and takes a speculative pistol shot, but it's only a flesh wound. (Do those things even have flesh?)
Meanwhile Meer is reluctantly dragged out of his camping spot to try and get a better angle on this latest action.
The Sectoid elects to overwatch rather than shoot or move, which makes things trickier. Someone's going to have to risk their neck to get close enough to take it out.
Then a car explodes for no obvious, which saves the life out of me.
Thanks, car. Thar.
Laird misses again. Meer still can't see. But Yang, heroic Yang, manages to finish the Sectoid on a 40% chance. That's it! We're out of here!
Except we're not. There's still something out there. Get over here, something, I want to kill you. Kill you bad.
A couple more fruitless turns spent overwatching means that once again, our careful plan of extreme caution comes to naught. As the most expendable soldier - sorry Jezza - we send Laird forward for a recce, and he soon turns up three Sectoids hiding inside a supermarket. I bet they're looking for asparagus soup. I've just got a feeling.
Meer's Squad Sight finally gets ins turn in the sun and takes out one, while Yang's winning streak comes to an end and he misses an easy shot. Then I accidentally press reload instead of switch weapon for Laird, scream at the skies and wait for the Sectoids to do their worst.
Sectoids are cowards. Sectoids just hide.
Moving yang forward to work out where the little shits have gotten to, the two aliens both fire out Overwatch. Nooo! They both miss, however, because Sectoids are idiots. Ufortunately, they do both hit the wall Yang was going to hide against, so he's left stood out in the open like a plonker.
So, Yang can now either move to safety or shoot, at 42% odds. Decisions, decisions!
Actually it's academic, as he's providing the line of sight both Meer and Laird need to cleanup with their sniper rifles. Of course Meer gets his shot, while Laird finally makes good with 45% odds. And we go home.
So, from a terrible starting hand on this mission, we finished in a blaze of fatality-free glory. Its never going to get better than this.
So that'll do, pig. That'll do.