Crispin pilled a PDA out of his jacket pocket and reviewed the existing duty assignments. There were three teams of eight, each operating on a rotational basis. While it minimized fatigue, it did not minimize casualties.

Some seats were taken in the Briefing Room, but they were still arriving. Crispin sat in the front row with the other officers. At exactly 0700, General Rictor walked in. He was the last.

"Good morning," he began, moving into position behind the podium. "As usual, we'll start with the personnel reports." Rictor read off the soldiers by rank. Instead of announcing who was on duty and who was off, he mentioned the number of completed missions per soldier. The officers had roughly 9 each. Then Rictor introduced the new rookies. "I'm going to turn over the briefing to Major Todd Crispin. He's an XCOM veteran from the days we were ATCOM, and is now in charge of the Duty Roster."

Crispin thanked General Rictor and took the podium. He brought his baseball with him. "I've spent some time away, so most of you don't know me. XCOM is a bigger unit than it was at its inception, but it's still not equipped to handle the alien threat. To succeed, the first thing we have to do is re-structure.

"Captain Sewter's team will be Assault. Captains Johnson and Beckett will rotate on UFO Retrieval. My own team will run Anti-Terror. Team members are yet to be decided.

"Several new technologies have been made available to us.

"Non-lethal rounds will be distributed to all units, in the form of 25mm rounds. R&D wants prisoners.

"Volatile rounds were designed specifically to do more damage against the enemies we'll be facing; expect your rifles to be more effective.

"Personal Armor will now be issued to all soldiers. It'll feel like an artificial leather body suit, but it may save your life. Deal with the discomfort, or die."

He had all of their attention. They were too well-disciplined to give anything less. Karyn Johnson's expression showed a little more than attention.

"Tomorrow, you'll be tested for aptitude and assigned to the appropriate team – or the Reserve. Today, you have different orders. The Menace we face controls their forces through computer chips and, possibly, psionics. Our biggest advantage isn't strength or technology. I want everyone to leave the base for the day and pick up a hobby. Our right to be individuals is what we're fighting to protect, and that's what will win us the War." Crispin tossed his baseball into the air. "Any hobby will do. Dismissed."