Recall - First Contact


Rear Admiral
It's been a long time coming but I hope I can develop the ideas contained below in some interesting ways.

2681.039.0526 - First Contact

James yawned profusely. He hadn't slept all too well. The excitement had kept him tossing and turning in his bunk for hours. When he finally drifted off, a mere four hours remained till his alarm clock would awake him. Why on Earth did the science department want him up so early?

With a quiet ping, the elevator stopped and the doors silently slid aside. He stepped forward into the now familiar hall that led to cargo bay five.

"Morning Sirs," he saluted on approach to the two guards at the door. He wasn't sure if either of the marines officially outranked him, but he thought he'd be polite just the same.

"Morning Sir," a ginger-haired man saluted, stepping up to scan the security tag James wore on his uniform's shirt pocket. "Thank you Sir. Please proceed," the Marine stepped aside as the large door behind him began to open.

They saluted each other briskly and James walked on in. Entering, he noticed only a few guards standing dutifully at their posts, and not a scientist in sight. Rather odd, considering the bustle he had witnessed earlier. He paused as the hangar door resealed - though he had seen the sleek craft unmasked from its rocky cover the sight was certainly one to behold. The dull hum of instruments now dominated the ambience around the hovering ship. James smiled - it was worth getting up early after all.

"Ah," a voice echoed around the deserted hangar, effectively dissipating the droning of machinery. "Lieutenant O'Connor I presume?" A skinny man appeared from around some monitoring equipment.

"That's right. 1st Lieutenant James G. O'Connor," he approached the man in the lab-coat to greet him properly.

"Norton Hardsworth, Ph.D." the stranger stepped forward and shook James' hand.

From up close, Lieutenant O'Connor realised the young man was just a kid - and seemed quite agitated. James attempted some light conversation as he released his grip, "In what field was your doctorate?"

"Neural systems," Norton fidgeted with his thin-framed glasses, "Bio-electrical synthesis to be precise."

James raised an eyebrow mockingly, "Makes me feel so intellectually inadequate."

Doctor Hardsworth smiled nervously. "Well I don't know my flight-stick from my tail pipe," he shrugged obtusely.

James chuckled. "So why was I ordered down here so early?" he asked, not at all trying to sound irate, "And where is everybody?"

"The devices we utilise are sensitive to solar radiation. Though the station effectively shields most of it, we prefer to conduct the first phases of your interaction in the shadow of the planet we're orbiting - which we will be entering," Norton looked at his wristwatch,

"In three minutes."

"What about all the other scientists?"

"Well since this will be your first contact with the Steltek craft, we thought a one-on-one approach may be less stressful and better allow you to concentrate."

"I don't quite follow. I'm just here to fly the thing, right?"

"Quite," Norton adjusted his glasses once again, "But I assure you that's not why you were chosen for this assignment."

"So just why was I chosen for this assignment?"

"Your stats make you the most compatible pilot available for the job."

"What stats? I have quick reflexes and I can shoot pretty straight, but I'm average in all fields covered at the academy."

"There's one they apparently missed."



"Extra Sensory Perception?" James asked incredulously. "I don't have any sixth sense!" He laughed it off. "And what's that got to do with flying...or me for that matter?"

"According to your medical examination records, you have a high ESP potential. Our studies are limited in the field but it appears that some people are susceptible to particular externally induced synapse firing patterns."

"Speak English."

"You're the right man for the job."

James threw his arms in the air, "Whatever."

"I think we can begin," the young man in the white coat led him closer to the huge black pod resting mid air in the hangar. He pointed a small device at the side of the ship, which instantly dissolved away, revealing a greenish interior.

Lieutenant O'Connor looked at the hole that had appeared, then at the scientist. He pointed at the Steltek ship unable to speak.

The Doctor shrugged smilingly, "What can I say. We've been busy." He lifted the gadget in his hand, "It emits a signal on a particular frequency brain wave which cause the ship to open or seal the cockpit. Here," he handed James a headband, "Put this on."

"What is it?"

The Doctor looked at him questioningly as he donned a headband himself.

"Okay, okay," he put it on, instantly feeling a tingling sensation in his head.

"Now think about the door closing."

James though of a hatch swinging shut - without result.

"No not like that."

James tried sliding doors to no avail.

"More like a camera shutter closing."

The opening suddenly shimmered and sealed.

"Well done. Now reopen it."

Soon enough it did.

"This band amplifies my thoughts right?"

Norton nodded, "By the time we're finished with you, you're not going to need that."

The Doctor gestured with a hand that he should enter the ship.

James finally stuck his head through the opening and peered in. "You want me to get in there? There's no seat. No dash. No flight-stick. Nothing. How am I supposed to fly without any instruments?"

The Doctor had to stop himself from bursting out in laughter. "Just get in. I'll talk you through. Trust me," he added.

"I was afraid you were going to say that," he lifted himself up and slid into the egg-like chamber, "Now what."

"You'll need to close the door."

"What if this thing decides to take off?"

"We've got that covered. All the ships synaptic responses are channelled into an absorption unit of our own design."

"I had to ask."

"The name of the ship is Sthrissk," the Doctor continued.

"It probably means Ferret in Steltek," James joked.

"No. You misunderstand," Norton explained, "Sthrissk is what you should call the ship when you wish to attract its attention - the way I would call you James, and you would call me Norton."

"Hello Sthrissk," James said jokingly.

"Greetings pilot," a voice replied in his head.

The Lieutenant's jaw dropped in a broad grin, "It spoke!"

"Naturally," Norton replied casually. "What you're actually hearing is the ship's personality."


"Well, more precisely it's the synthesised voice generated by the ship's semi-organic onboard computer. It's responsible for controlling the ship via the neurone interface."

James stared at him blankly.

"It translates your thoughts into control instructions for the craft."

"I think where I want to go?"

"It's not quite that simple," Norton scratched his chin thoughtfully. "You have to think of each control setting as an individual option, and the list of available options is rather extensive."

"An option? You mean like a toggle switch?"

"Yes, exactly. Instead of thinking to set engines at 20%, you think of them off at 0%, and then on at 20%."

"Hmm. Seems like an awfully complicated way of doing things."

"It's the price you pay for immediate response - you only have to think what you want done. Once you get used to the system, it should become quicker than standard control - especially since the Steltek ship is far more manoeuvrable."

"Maybe that's why the system was developed?" James offered.

"Perhaps, although the density of the neuro-receiver net suggests more of an emphasis on the ability to alter multiple control settings simultaneously - something us humans could only do with great difficulty."

"Well let's just take it one step at a time shall we."

"Yes, the job at hand may seem a tad overwhelming," Norton smiled, reading his mind. "To maximise efficiency you'll need to remember all the ship's current settings as the voice synthesis is just too slow and we haven't yet figured out how to feedback the current settings from the onboard computer into the human brain."

"Thank God."

"As for ESP," the Doctor continued. "That may help you communicate with Sthrissk. Human brain wave emission is our weakness here - even with these amplifiers on," Norton tapped his headband.

"So you have ESP potential too?"

"Yes. In my line of work it helps a great deal - but I'm certainly no pilot."

"And I'm no scientist, that's why I'm the one sitting in here. Okay, so what do I do?"

"Let's start with the basics. The ship's control interface is disconnected so you can think whatever you please without the risk of the craft actually taking off."

"Great, that makes me feel so much better," James mocked.

"Now think of the cockpit being transparent, so you can see right through."

"With the toggle on, off thing?"

"Yes, always."

James took a deep breath and imagined the hull fading away to reveal the laboratory beyond. Nothing.

"Keep the command simple, and be sure to direct it at the ship by its name," Norton suggested.

James thought of looking past the cockpit wall and in the blink of an eye he could see the lab all around him. Looking down he could see the floor.

"Wow!" the Lieutenant exclaimed. He could see the Doctor grinning at him from beyond the craft. "This must be really something in space." James was truly amazed at the clarity of the picture - unmatched by all military grade holographic projectors he had ever seen.

"Indeed. We'll get to that soon enough."

"How did they do it?" James asked rhetorically.

"It has to do with photon absorption on the hull's exterior and their re-emission in the cockpit. The particulars still elude us," Norton confessed, "But basically the entire hull acts like an all-way camera."

"Imagine watching movies like this," James was examining details of the lab that hadn't caught his eye earlier.

"Yes, quite," Norton adjusted his glasses, "Now target my head."

"Your head?" James asked incredulously. "But you don't emit a radar signal or radio signature?"

"The integration of organic components has allowed the Steltek targeting system to be based on complex image pattern recognition."

James looked directly at Norton, concentrating on the image of his head as a potential target. He didn't notice at first, but soon enough a red circle appeared around the Doctor's head.

"Got it?"


"Now watch the velocity vector indicator," Norton spoke as he began to walk around the craft.

James watched intently as a triangle appeared within the circle, showing the direction that Norton was travelling. He followed the cursor all the way left until he couldn't turn his head any further. As soon as the Doctor left his field of view he felt a strange sensation in his head. He could feel the indicator behind him. James propped himself up and turned to face Norton - the sensation ended. The impression returned as soon as he faced forward again.



"This target indicator," he was unsure of how to describe the feeling, "I can sense it when it is out of view."

"Really?" the Doctor's tone was of genuine surprise.

"You didn't know?"

"No. I only conducted some tests as to the craft's abilities, not it's user friendliness."

"Now there's a thought. A friend you can fly into battle."

Norton raised an eyebrow.

"So what's next?"

"What? Oh, yes," the Doctor scanned through his datapad, "Let's try a free-flight simulation to get you acquainted with the controls." He changed some settings on a panel beside him and the room faded away to reveal the cosmos.

"Wow!" James marvelled at the sight - the stars surrounded him completely.

"Just wait till you take her out for a spin."

"I can't wait! So what should I do?" he asked eagerly.

"Let's try a roll. This may be a little odd, but focus on a particular star, then think about the trajectory it would take if the ship were to roll along its nose. Then focus on where you want the star to end up in relation to the ship."

James thought carefully for several minutes before the ship jerked up and to the right. "Whoa! What am I doing wrong?"

"Okay, try thinking of the axis about which you want to turn and then how the star would spin around it."

"Right," James concentrated again. The reaction came sooner this time, the craft suddenly rolling to the left.

"Now back the other way."

Rolling 90 degrees back to the right threw James against the interior wall. "Ow! Can I make it roll slower?"

"The ship's control system complies as fast as it can respond - which as you can see it pretty fast. To slow it down, you'd have to think in terms of steps of rolling."

He tried that, the ship making quick shifts a few degrees at a time.

"Just a minute," James thought of the roll control linked to the star position. He then moved the image of the star's destination in his mind. Sure enough the ship smoothly cradled from side to side."

"How did you do that?"

"I thought of the star position and the ship's tilt around the axis as one and the same."

"If I didn't know better I'd say Sthrisk is learning from you."

James opened his eyes, "Learning?"

"Yes, through simple associations. You might even be able to tie the thought of a pitch or a yaw to an image of a flight-stick, and hence use controls you are more familiar with."

"I don't think so," James was sceptical, "And I don't think she would appreciate it. Seems to respond only to familiar concepts." He stopped, realising what he just said.

"I'm afraid we will have to continue this later as our time is up. We are almost out of the planet's shadow."

"But I'm just getting to know her."

"Please exit the vehicle," Doctor Norton insisted. "I have gathered plenty of data to sift through, and I believe Prof. Hughes has prepared some simulations for you."

"Oh all right," James turned the ship level and willed the side of the cockpit away to let himself out. "But she doesn't like it - being called a vehicle."

"I'll keep that in mind," Norton smiled, making a note on his datapad.
Ah, neat
. You're right - it's entirely unlike anything we've ever seen before in WC. But I think I like it. Certainly, it's better than having yet another race with technology miraculously identical to Terran stuff (speaking of which, I always wondered how Grayson Burrows managed to fit that Steltek gun to his ship, just like that - care to explain it?

I must wonder though, why did the ship respond to their commands at all? Is it on a mission to study alien species, or was it just feeling lonely?


1. *He paused as the hangar door resealed - though he had seen the sleek craft unmasked from its rocky cover the sight was certainly one to behold.* - Hmm. A sentence like that almost implies that the next sentence will give us more details of its appearance. Ah, well.
2. *From up close, Lieutenant O'Connor realised the young man was just a kid - and seemed quite agitated.* - Well, nuts. There's always a child genius
3. *Norton looked at his wristwatch,

"In three minutes."* - Ending a paragraph in the middle of a sentence? That's just weird

Oh, dang. Lecture time... four hours straight, at that. Well, normally I'd just leave the computer like this and finish the post later, but leaving it on for four hours is just begging it to freeze. So, I'll post this now and post more later...
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Very interesting what you have here so far. No major notes other than you have something fairly original and I can't wait to see what you plan to do with it. YOu have some minor grammatical and spelling errors here, just try to be more careful when you edit it. Don't worry, I make plenty of them myself but some people can find them distracting. Keep up the good work. I can't wait to see more.

There is no God but myself. No destiny but what I deem for me. I walk my path and no others, for I am free.
Vondoom: Matrix has already written a great deal, you just weren't around to see it
. This, as I recall, is the 11th installment of the story. If you go here, you will find the links to all the previous installments in one of my posts. You'll also find a link to Matrix's own web page with the story, though that page probably isn't up to date.

Matrix: Ok, back to commenting...

4. *The Doctor shrugged smilingly,* - What an odd expression. I've heard of people smiling with a shrug, shrugging with a smile, but shrugging smiliningly?

5. *All the ships synaptic responses are channelled into an absorption unit of our own design."* - "All the ship's". Better still, "All of the ship's".
6. *"The name of the ship is Sthrissk,"* - That ship really must have been lonely, to reveal so much to strangers
7. *something us humans could only do with great difficulty.* - Use the force, James...

8. *Well let's just take it one step at a time shall we."* - Shouldn't that end with a question mark? And there should probably be a comma after time.
9. *remember all the ship's current settings* - Hmm, again. "All of the ship's"
10. *"Imagine watching movies like this,"* - No, imagine playing games like this.

11. *He didn't notice at first, but soon enough a red circle appeared around the Doctor's head.* - And then the ship spat forth a pair of missiles?
Hmm, seriously though. Wouldn't a thought recognition system be dangerous with over-eager pilots? They may fire their guns before really thinking about the consequences.
12. *not it's user friendliness."* - "Not its user friendliness".
13. *And I don't think she would appreciate it.* - Heh. Typical flyboy, already getting emotionally attached to his ship

Well, that be all for now. But you'd better hurry up and write more... if only because it might force me to write more

[This message has been edited by Quarto (edited September 21, 2000).]
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Quarto: Yer right laddie. T'aint up to date yet, but it's only missing this chapter which I'll probably add tommorrow.

Vondoom: You can see what I've written so far of Privateer: Recall here And I'd appreciate you pointing out those grammar and spelling errors as I do try to squash them all but I'm sure a few slip by.
Well I'm glad the originality aspect was well received thus far. I just want to push the boundary of intuitive piloting a bit. I'm pretty sure most pilots feel at one with their machines. Imagine what a blend of mechanics and organics could do to the way humans pilot their vehicles?

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>I always wondered how Grayson Burrows managed to fit that Steltek gun to his ship, just like that - care to explain it?<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
Though I have pondered the matter on occassion it is beyond me how a Steltek gun would have just the right sort of mount. Unlike many of WCs little quirks I'd rather ignore it than explain it.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>I must wonder though, why did the ship respond to their commands at all? Is it on a mission to study alien species, or was it just feeling lonely?<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
Oh I don't think it has feelings - otherwise it would have gone mad being stuck in an asteroid for so long. It will get acquainted with humans through their interaction but that is not its purpose. The ship simply has the ability to react to any organic neuron networks of higher organisms.

1. It's sleek, black and shiny. What more do you need to behold?

2. If you consider 23 a child. Looks can be deceiving.
3. Now see that's why I use commas in speech as opposed to full-stops. Norton said "...which we will be entering in three minutes," pausing mid-sentence as he looked at his watch.
4. But I like odd...and he certainly didn't smile shruggingly.

5. Aye.
6. I doesn't know the concept. It merely reponds to external stimulii.
7. Aw be quiet.
8. Agreed, but why are you telling me to use a comma when it's supposed to be the other way around?

9. It is the way one speaks but I guess a smartie would pay more attention to grammar than most. Yes.
10. *facepalm* You really need to get out more often.

11. Who said that sentient squid get over-eager? And remember you have to switch the thing on - just like a trigger. No safety mechanism will cure an itchy trigger finger...or neuron. It's the responsibility of the pilots. Besides most of the controls were switched off at the time. And one other thing. Who said...on second thoughts no. That would spoil the plot too much so you'll just have to wait for it.
12. *nod*
13. You would too if the craft you were test piloting messed with your mind.

I've written quite a bit more but it is all in pieces from here to the end so I need to sit down and start gluing the bits together coherently. That, as always, will take time.
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Hmm, if you're trying to expand on that "feel at one" thing, you're heading in the wrong direction
. This seems to be heading more in the "two heads are better than one" direction.
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>Oh I don't think it has feelings - otherwise it would have gone mad being stuck in an asteroid for so long. It will get acquainted with humans through their interaction but that is not its purpose. The ship simply has the ability to react to any organic neuron networks of higher organisms.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
Ah, but if it doesn't have feelings then why doesn't it like being called a vehicle?

1. Well, sleek, black and shiny can always be expanded upon
2. Oh, that's a relief
. It'd still mean he started uni pretty early (around 15?), but there's always a few who are good enough to do that.
3. Yeah, but why the paragraph stop? I'd suggest... an ellipsis
4. Hmm, well I guess I'll shrug this one off... smilingly.
8. It's ok, I'm also telling you to use more ellipsis
10. Out? You mean, like, outside this room? Aaargh! No!
11. Sentient squid? Aha! You just revealed a plot detail.

Well, at least you got me thinking about my story again
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Well, well.
Good to see that you're still in the active Matrix.

I'll keep waiting for the rest.

The WC Source Code Release Project needs you!
"This matter winds itself ever in new riddles.", Faramir - The Lord of The Rings
"Yesterday we obeyed kings and bent our neck before emperors. But today we kneel only to truth..." - Kahlil Gibran

Member of the LMG(Centaurian)
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klaus: Only when I have to.

Quarto: Ever hear the expression, "Too many cooks spoil the broth?" The ship is there to help the pilot, not fly for him...though survival could be a directive.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>Ah, but if it doesn't have feelings then why doesn't it like being called a vehicle?<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
A glitch. Well actually an interpretation. Remember humans can't receive Sthrisk's of yet.

1. There is beauty in simplicity.
3. The paragraph stopped because the speech ended. I'm not going to abuse the poor ellipses since they get enough of that in your writing.

11. Gee, I thought everybody knew Steltek were squid?

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>Well, at least you got me thinking about my story again.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
Primary mission objectives complete.
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Oh, I didn't mean you should head in that direction - I meant you seem to be heading in that direction already

11. Well, nobody told me
. We only saw them in the game once, and I can't even remember when I last played Privateer.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Arial">quote:</font><HR>Primary mission objectives complete.
Of course, thinking isn't writing
. But it's close, I guess. And getting closer...
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Then it's time to turn about.

*shrug* Well they looked squidlike to me. Anybody else care to comment on the origin of Steltek...or am I left to my own devices on this one?
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