Chapter 1: Operation Dead Man Shopping
"42-inch chest" Sergeant Cassandra York announced, removing the measuring tape from around the recruits' chest. York had joined the XCOM project from serving with the British Army in Afghanistan during the height of the campaign. A direct and uncompromising soldier to her enemies, her squad mates found her unwavering resolve even amidst a crisis served her well as the teams' medic in the field. This clash of battlefield tenacity and unabashed care she displayed to those under her command earned her a position as a sort of surrogate mother figure among the younger members of the team.
"42 in the chest" Corporal Wesley Lambert repeated as he typed the measurement into the tablet held lazily in the crook of his arm. Having earned his stripes in the Kenyan Army by the age of twenty-one Wesley was among the younger of the recruits brought into the combat arm of the XCOM project. The son of a Canadian journalist and a British schoolteacher his fair skin combined with his deep accent embodied a melting pot of cultures akin to his homeland.
York shifted the measuring tape to measure the recruit's height. "76 inches"
"You're kidding me?" Lambert could not help but protest.
York rechecked the measurement. "No, 76 on the dot"
"You realise that means it's going to have to be a custom order" Lambert replied as he continued entering figures into the tablet.
"Not necessarily" replied York, recoiling the measuring tape and walking over to inspect the readout on the tablet
"What do you mean 'Not necessarily'?" Lambert queried, adding the final entries with a flourish of his free hand.
"Can't we just, you know" York insinuated with a shift of her head. "I mean he's hardly going to feel it or anything"
"Well, that's not really the point is it" Lambert insisted. "It's a form of respect for those who served"
"Who says he'll be around long enough to do anything" York persisted. "Remember Jenkins?"
"You mean the one with the…?" Lambert asked.
"No, the other one" York replied. "The threshing machine"
"Oh yeah" replied Lambert, the memoires returning to the forefront of his mind. "But, really, what are the odds on that happening again?"
"Fine" York threw up her open palms in admittance of defeat. "I'll ask him"
Finally acknowledging their recruit, who until now had been patiently waiting as the discussion had gone on without him York retuned to face the young man.
"Tell me, what was your name again son?" York asked the recruit.
"Squaddie Adam Wyatt, ma'am" Wyatt was very much the spitting image of the all-American soldier. Early twenties, close cropped brown hair, light skin, toned physique beneath his standard issue olive drab fatigues.
"All set to fight some aliens?" York asked.
"It's what I trained for ma'am" Wyatt replied with the same enthusiasm York saw in every recruit she met; they soon grew out of it. "Just hand me a rifle and point me where you need me"
"Where are you from, Wyatt?" York asked.
"Traverse City, Michigan" Wyatt replied. "Just north of Chicago"
"Got any family back home?" York continued with her questioning.
"Parents and a little sister" Wyatt continued.
"And do you love the Earth?" York shifted the subject.
"Undoubtedly, it's our planet" Wyatt said.
"And you want us to have the best chance of protecting it?" York asked.
This question threw him for a moment. "Of course"
"And you understand that to do that, we all have to be prepared to make sacrifices?" York asked. This time Wyatt simply nodded in reply. "So, you get how a small amount of discomfort with it being a bit tight would do a great deal towards helping the XCOM project succeed?"
"Tight, ma'am?" Wyatt asked, confused.
"Only a few inches" York assured him. "You'll hardly notice"
"I guess so" Wyatt replied, the resolve in his voice faltering this time.
"Glad to hear it" York gave him a reassuring clap on the back. "You're goanna make your sister proud. And don't worry, we'll make all the adjustments. A little off the top and bottom and you'll fit right in" York took the tablet held out by Lambert. "Just sign here and we're all done.
Accepting the offered tablet Wyatt's eyes scanned up and down the page until they came to rest on- "Wait, does that say coffin?"
GENERAL ANNOUNCEMENT – ALL XCOM PERSONNEL
Effective immediately, Sergeant York and Corporal Lambert are relinquished of any duties related to supply and outfitting of new recruits and will be reassigned to less 'people-orientated' positions.
XCOM Rule 134: Rookies are measured for armour during induction, not coffins. Stop telling them otherwise.
134a: 'We don't measure you for coffins because there usually isn't enough left to bury' is not a viable alternative either.