The Story of Ludo
A. The Story of Ludo
Ludo raised his hand as he examined a holographic map of the region of space where his craft floated. Concern fell upon his brow as he studied the location of local stars from his coordinates. He picked up a cup of Brac-Na from a drink holder located at his arm rest.
“How many moons since we left Seg?” He asked the ship AI.
“That would be 235 moons since our departure from your home world.”
“Two hundred and thirty-five moons! Where is the nearest middle-aged star?”
“Two thousand five hundred sixty-seven space credits according to Galactic measurements.”
“Well, we have time Kostyuk. Looks as if we found ourselves in a patch of empty space.” Ludo loosened his chest strap and activated his magnetic boots. “How long until we solve our little gravity problem?”
“My gravity generator needs manual repair Ludo. You will need to move outside if you desire gravity.”
“Alright. I desire gravity.” Ludo, barely able to stand, pushed aside a collection of empty Brac-Na cups collected by the front hatch. Kostyuk, a ship designed to be an intergalactic penthouse, only had three compartments. The first being the bridge where Ludo added another Brac-Na cup to his trash collection. The second a small sleeping hatch and the third a holodeck where Kostyuk’s AI had to provide holographic detail of whatever pleasure the occupant desired.
Ludo prepared himself for a spacewalk to fix the generator. After sealing his helmet, he grabbed his tools and headed outside. His magnetic boots connected with the hull, and he started the slow walks towards his destination. Space always filled him with calm and made his mind wander. Memories of the moments leading to departure of Seg crept upon him as he maintained a controlled breath.
Seg, an outer world of the Galactic Alliance, does not bring tourism. The surface of Seg is barren and natives, like Ludo, spent their lives in elaborate interconnecting caves. Trained to be a mycologist at school and only a year away from moving into his life career the unthinkable happened. A tourist landed, the Kostyuk, in front of one of Seg’s underground Casinos where Ludo had been wandering late one evening.
“Hey, you kid can you move my space Junker into a safe place.” The tourist bumped into ludo and seemed extremely intoxicated.
“Sure.” Ludo replied and put his hand up to the hatch.
“I will be around in the morning.” The man said as he stumbled into the underground Casino entrance.
The hatch opened as Ludo entered the craft. He noticed that the craft was a penthouse model.
“May I be of assistance?” The ships AI asked Ludo as he entered.
“Your owner asked me to move you to underground storage.”
“My owner! That drunk, he is a politician and a violent psychopath, won me in a poker game and I have no desire to belong to him.” The AI confessed in a rare emotional AI moment. “And what is your name?”
“Ludo.” Ludo replied as he sat down in the pilot seat located in the bridge.
“I am Kostyuk.”
“Pleased to meet you Kostyuk now how do I get you to storage.”
“I am not going to storage. I am heading to the stars.”
“Alright then let’s go.” Ludo found himself answering Kostyuk’s statement without thought.
“You better strap in Ludo.” Kostyuk said as his engines activated, and the ship suddenly barreled through Seg’s atmosphere.
“Hold on. Wait. My home.” Ludo tried to speak over the engines noise as Kostyuk flew upward.
C The Story of Ludo
He found the gravity generator and removed its cover. A loose contact sparked in space as he lifted his tool bag slowly towards the problem and started to work. Finished he turned around and started the steady walk to the hatch where he left empty space.
“Ludo welcome aboard. We have an anomaly.” Kostyuk explained as Ludo grabbed a cup of Brac-Na from the nutrition dispenser unit.
“What is going on?” He asked as he sat back down and appreciated a return to gravity.
“There is a beacon distress call nearby. Seems a craft is floating in empty space with no power.”
“We have nothing but time Kostyuk let us check it out.”
“Yes Ludo.” Kostyuk responded as the ship’s thrusters powered on and altered course towards the beacon.
“How far until we reach the source?” Ludo asked.
“Seems to be almost right next door.” Kostyuk moved forward with short bursts from his thrusters. Within what seemed to be minutes Kostyuk came upon a large alien military vessel.
“Kostyuk, can you produce a 3D Holo for me to examine?” Ludo took a sip of his Brac-Na as a holographic replica of the military vessel provided details of the ship in need. He noticed the ship was fully armed and ready for battle. “Can we perform a Bioscan?”
“Yes. Give me one minute.” Kostyuk began the scan quietly as Ludo listened to the hum of the bridge. “Very odd, Ludo, but there are no life signs.”
“What do you think? Shall we board and see what we find?” Ludo felt certain an armed empty vessel floating in empty space seemed dangerous.
“I think we either continue our journey Ludo or we can enter the ship and investigate but we cannot just sit here and talk.” Kostyuk snapped. “The Lycan.”
“The ship’s name is ‘The Lycan.’ I cannot find access into the ship’s AI everything is off or non-functional.
“What an odd name for a Galactic Alliance Warship.” Ludo ordered a fresh Brac-Na and began to sip the drink thoughtfully. “Kostyuk, I need to know answers. We will board.”
“Preparation has begun.”
“I better suit up and prepare for an adventure.” Ludo shut off all holograms and spun around as he jumped to his feet. Part of him enjoyed the idea of exploring a strange vessel while another part dreaded the idea.
This journey of discovery meant Ludo needed to activate his MerQ Nervous System Regulator Unit. While growing up on Seg Ludo would use his MerQ during trips across the long deserts of Seg between underground cities. All children of Seg have a MerQ installed within their auditory canal. The unit balanced rhythmic hums at different frequencies. Each frequency starts a conversation with the nervous systems electricity to create a new sensory system. A sense that could sense physical or mortal harm moments before.
“Kostyuk are we almost ready?” Ludo slipped his MerQ device behind his ears into his port then put on his helmet. The hum of the device began a calming rhythm. “I am suited up.”
“Yes Ludo.” Kostyuk spoke to Ludo through his MerQ device. The ship’s voice created a sort of song in Ludo’s mind. “I have merged your senses with the suit successfully. We are one.”
“Excellent. Let us begin. I need Brac-Na.” Ludo depressurized the exit hatch and waited to exit. “I guess I will have to wait until we get back.”
Space always disoriented Ludo but the rhythmic hum of his MerQ kept him calm. Soon Ludo, able to touch the hull of the strange vessel, placed his gloved hand onto ‘The Lycan.’ Block letters stenciled with military precision held within them a manual hatch between the ‘y’ and the ‘n.’
“It appears that you can manually open the hatch by lifting this lever up to expose a red button.” Kostyuk’s voice nestled within Ludo’s mind like a thought. “After pushing the button, you should be able to turn the latch handle right until it unseals.”
Within a brief period, Ludo found himself safely within ‘The Lycan’ with pressure restored. He stood alone in a long hallway lit by a timer unrelated to AI functioning.
“Ludo.” Kostyuk focused his thoughts through the MerQ as a slow strum of stringed instruments created focus. “Let us not worry about local AI. For now, I need you to weaponize yourself and put all energy into awareness of danger.”
“Check Kostyuk.” Ludo pulled out his two blasters and held a blaster with each hand. He scanned his MerQ for any reflection or refraction of sound along with any blips of biological life sign. “Point first, move later.”
“There is no life signs or threatening movement of any kind.” Kostyuk informed Ludo. “The air is oxygenated and suitable for oxygen respiration.”
“Any signs of AI activity?” Ludo asked as he slowly walked down a metallic passageway with his blasters pointed forward and backward. “Are you near any type of bridge or living quarters? I cannot tell everything is smooth and shiny.”
“Take ten steps forward then turn left.” Kostyuk ordered as Ludo moved forward one step at a time. “A hatch should open to an area similar to a bridge.”
“Is their life?”
“Still no signs of life.”
“This is a little too odd for my liking Kostyuk.” Ludo examined the hatch and noticed a lever and a hatch like the ships entrance. He slowly opened the hatch and stood for a second before moving inside with his blasters ready. The roomed seemed dimly lit by a control panel that surrounded a large chair facing towards the opposite wall.
“No life signs Ludo but there is a humanoid shape present.” Kostyuk whispered into Ludo’s medulla. “Proceed with caution.”
“What does the music say.” Ludo closed his eyes and opened his mind to a simple beat that morphed into a complicated melody. He could see the melody as a wave of orange particles. Millions of particles continued through solids. Others reflected to the MerQ and even others refracted off into air. “The figure is skeletal and does not contain any other organ systems. Let us look.”
Ludo put away one blaster and used his free hand to turn the chair. At first the chair did not budge, and Ludo took steps forward. The chair made a loud creak as a dusty mechanism below connected with a rusty gear. A large skeleton of a humanoid figure sat with a communication device still mounted to its skull. A closer look showed elongated arms and legs with hand and toe bones pointed out as blades. Spinal cord and ribs looked anatomically accurate according to Ludo’s limited xenobiology knowledge.
The skull, still connected to the control panel, seemed mostly muzzle and mouth with a small cranium and empty eye sockets. Teeth, still present throughout the mouth, looked metallic and sharp. Within the seconds Ludo took to examine the skull he noticed he could not lift his hand from the chair.
“I am stuck.” Ludo looked down at his hand and noticed the pointed skeletal fingers on one hand had wrapped around. “Kostyuk, I need to free myself.”
‘I will send a stunning vibration through your MerQ.” Kostyuk stared in shock through Ludo’s eyes as the muzzle snapped at Ludo’s arm and caught Ludo underneath his elbow with a loud crunch and release of pressure. “We must move quickly.”
Ludo’s MerQ device sent an extremely high frequency throughout his body as fingers released along with the jaw. Blood from the wound headed up and started to float. Kostyuk sent nanobots immediately to close the puncture to Ludo’s suit. Thrusters, Kostyuk’s control, quickly pushed the now limp Ludo back to the ship and into Ludo’s sleeping platform within the pleasure ships holodeck. Nanobots healed bone and flesh and created blood. Ludo remained conscious while Kostyuk turned away for ‘The Lycan’ and turned boosters on to push further into open space. It started an investigation of the situation by sending all sensory data collected from the incidence into a pool available to all pilot AI programs.
Ludo dreamt he ran across the desert landscape of Seg. He recognized each underground entrance as he passed but kept pace with the heat of the dual suns. He felt a slight cool created by his speed as he pushed through still desert. Something ran in front of him, a small desert creature, as if chased. The creature stopped, a Feathered Gaullad Monster from his history books, as he caught and ate the monster. He felt the blood of his kill lower his body temperature. No MerQ hummed the only sound seemed to be the evaporation of blood as it hissed on the rocks below.
“You are awake. Welcome back Ludo.” Kostyuk filled the room with a gentle voice. “You are safe. We are safe.”
“What happened and how long have I been unconscious?” Ludo sat up on his bed and examined himself for wounds. “The bots fixed me without leaving any signs of trauma.”
“You have been bitten by a creature on ‘The Lycan.” Kostyuk explained. “Well not really a creature more of a parasite.”
“Yes. ‘The Lycan’ is a ship built by an intelligent race of intergalactic parasites named ‘Lupeck.” Lupeck go dormant in space and float until there ship delivers their cocoons to inhabited worlds. Once they arrive on a planet they spread through the population like a virus. After using a lifeform as host, they cause the host to change into a Lupeck like the skeletal remains we encountered. They then replenish their reserves leave the planet to waste and return to space.”
“Was I infected?” Ludo asked. “May I please get a hot Brac-Na to help me assess my situation.”
“You are infected Ludo. The change will begin depending on orbital patterns formed by different gravitational pulls. According to my calculations we a currently orbiting a young star along with six or seven planetary fragments. This change should happen immediately Ludo. I have no idea what’s coming next Ludo, but I have made you comfortable in the holodeck and will try to make whatever comes tolerable.”
“Tolerable?” Ludo sat back with his Brac-Na. “Well, I have enjoyed our time together Kostyuk.”
Ludo felt a sudden tickle begin at his toe and move up his leg. He looked at his arms and noticed his hair grew into a thick coat of fur which matted within seconds. Suddenly the matted fur began to peel off the skin with the push of new layers. He screamed in pain as layer after layer of his flesh matted and pulled. The intensity of the pain filled his mind with white light. Without any warning his bones began to grow and break. Ludo lost all control and let the pain envelope him as his body broke then healed then broke again.
Kostyuk could do nothing but fill the holodeck with calm as Ludo made his agonizing change. The ship filled the holodeck with scenes from Ludo’s home world Seg. Each scene consisted of ten second clips of the desert world. Each clip provided a soundtrack, made from common instruments of Seg, that pulled the presentation together. Medical informed Kostyuk that nothing could help Ludo to relieve him of his suffering. Ludo no longer existed and soon Kostyuk would have to move the transformed Lupeck into space to perish.
“Ludo. I have waited too long I must destroy you. Kostyuk said quietly as he sucked the oxygen out and stopped all life support. “It has been my privilege knowing you Ludo.”
A Lupeck sat crumpled into a pile in the corner of the holodeck. Long clawed fingers held onto huge thigh muscles freshly exposed. Soon the eyes of the creature rolled backward as the hatch opened.
“I will turn off for a while.” Kostyuk stated aloud as the open hatch pulled the Lupeck, along with thousands of empty Brac-Na cups, into space. “Move my presence into an AI collective please.”
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