Fame Cimex

Birth was a strange and sudden affair for the Lictor. It burst into awareness with a jolt, awoken by an impact that ripped its mycetic spore to bits. Barely a second old it was pummelled by brick dust and stone, hitting its carapace with heavy impacts. Instinctively it thrashed its limbs, driven to seek clean air by imperatives encoded in its genes. Without knowledge, without understanding it clawed its way up, sweeping aside piles of debris with all its strength and speed. There was no suggestion of failure, no urge to give up, instinct compelled it to live and so it clawed its way into the world, until it burst into the open and took its first breath of clean air.

Though only a few minutes old the Lictor immediately shifted its chameleonic skin to suit its surroundings. Inside its head was nothing that could be considered intelligence, yet there was instinct, focussed and honed to create the perfect predator. Inhuman sensory organs scoured the surrounding space, making the Lictor totally aware of its environment in a way no mere human could comprehend. It sat for long minutes, merely feeling the movements of the wind and the vibration of distant traffic in the Hive City, but then it felt an intrusion. Passing along the ground was the faintest rhythmic vibration, a growing hammer beat that announced the footsteps of prey, heading this way.

Instinctively the newborn moved, shimmering in the dark like oil on water as it squeezed itself into a tiny hiding space. The Lictor virtually disappeared as a group of new animals intruded into the smashed building, moving in a loose pack with weapons held slackly in their grips. The Lictor had no words to describe an underhive gang of juvies, but it instinctively recognised a pack when it saw one, drawn to the collapsed building to look for salvage. 

The prey stumbled into the ruin without hesitation, more concerned with rival gangs beating them to the prize, than predators. The beasts seemed half-blind in the dank interior, flashing thick lumen beams about as they entered. The Lictor watched them spread out among the broken remnants of rooms, utterly still and silent as the prey walked about, passing by its hiding place without even the slightest hint that they were aware of its presence.

One of the prey broke off, looking to mark its territory by urinating loudly in a corner. Silently the Lictor emerged, creeping up behind the animal without it being the slightest bit aware. In one bound the Lictor pounced on the beast, claws plunging into its chest before it could scream. The Lictor instinctively dragged the prey away, taking the bleeding body with it as it retreated. Without being able to say why it headed upwards, pulling the corpse along until it was poised over a large cavity in the centre of the building. The Lictor took the corpse and hung it by its heels from a broken beam, leaving it to dangle in the hole. Driven by an undeniable instinct it settled down to wait and sure enough after a few minutes a female stumbled upon the dangling corpse.

The female did not scream or panic at the sight, but reacted by lifting two laspistols and setting off a blaze of fire that riddled the corpse. The noise attracted the other prey, and they came running, guns held tight with fingers on triggers. The crowd gathered to inspect the corpse, and they made mewling sounds as they realised it was one of their own. The air filled with the musk of fear as their sweat glands released pheromones and their hearts thundered in their chests.

The Lictor however was already moving, crawling above their heads, completely unnoticed as they fearfully swept about. The prey looked all around the space, into every nook and cranny, but none of them thought to look upwards. The Lictor waited until they were all facing outwards, and then it let go, dropping silently into their midst with claws outstretched. The first two died before they even knew it was there, falling headless to the ground as it silently landed on its back-jointed legs. The next few seconds were a confusing jumble of light and noise as the prey panicked, firing in every direction save at the creature in their midst. The Lictor in return scythed them apart, taking them down with great slashes and tears of its claws, its every move saw a beast fall and not one of them landed a blow in return. In five seconds the Lictor had slaughtered every single one of its prey, leaving a stinking abattoir in its wake, a grizzly silence fell but the Lictor wasn’t done yet.

One of the prey was still breathing, mumbling to itself as it fumbled at an icon on a chain around its neck. The Lictor closed in and the prey screamed, but it could not stop the predator from opening mouth tendrils wide and engulfing its head. In one swift move, the Lictor snipped off the top of the skull and swallowed the brains within. Memories were sorted and ingested at a rapid pace as the Lictor looked for the information it needed. Thoughts of a plump mate and mewling offspring were discarded, religious doggerel passed by without the slightest hint of understanding, but then it found what it needed. Nest layouts and hierarchies were absorbed, the locations of alpha beasts and pack leaders. Everything the oncoming Tyranids needed to break this place open. New imperatives unfolded in the Lictor’s head, and it shuffled out to begin its labours, leaving a slaughter behind as the first victim of the Tyranids, but far from the last.

About the Author

Matthew is an aspiring author living and working in Oxford. When not writing, his hobbies include reading everything within reach, cycling, shovelling enough food to feed a platoon into his three kids, fielding questions as to what his third favourite dinosaur is and wondering why adults never discuss their favourite dinosaurs.