Approx. 3200 words
All Rights Reserved
Copyright 2015 SJ
written by SJ
Both airsleds had motion detectors, and could easily out run a Lictor, their defense against a surprise attack. Once Lana and her two escorts were out in the field, they no longer could see the second airsled with the Ratling snipers, and weren’t supposed to. It wasn’t their job to kill the Lictor, just find it.
However, Lana quickly realized her team was not a very harmonious group. It soon became obvious that Lank, her CSS escort, was on this mission hoping to be able to kill a Lictor in personal combat. And Cocker, their tracker, was a quiet man who seemed to be in a world of his own. That, unfortunately, left her with the job of...being the bait.
After her initial conversation with Lank, she knew it would be useless to argue logic with him, to explain the stupidity of fighting a Lictor in melee; he had basically one attack, the Eviscerator, and even though it was a very powerful attack, the Lictor had a minimum of three, two large scything talons, plus rending claws, all of which were much faster than Lank’s one attack. Cocker’s only weapons were a survival knife and a laspistol; but, at least, he knew better than to try and use them against a Lictor. Lana had her two 9.1s and her VSS sniper rifle. She also decided to equip her two short swords, something she figured would give her a little more bravado with the two men, even though she had no intention of using them. In addition, Lana and Lank had personal force shields, hers was Tau, his was Terran, the only real difference being that the Terran one was a little bulkier, but more durable.
All three of them had O2 breathers with ample oxygen; however, the two Thanatos-4 natives didn’t need to use them as much as Lana; she checked hers often and kept it working all the time. The last thing she wanted was to pass out at just the wrong time.
For the first day, Lank, who always insisted on driving, flew the airsled in an ever widening circle around the Mobile Mine. Cocker got out fairly often to analyze the terrain, each time finding the remains of the Thanatos-4 wildlife that Lictor Larry had snacked on while it was alive, Lana impressed he knew that.
Most of Thanatos-4's native wildlife lived underground, mole-like, burrowing, creatures that disappeared whenever the airsled came near, even though there was almost nothing in the way of predators anymore. One of the few actual carnivores was a segmented, worm-like, creature that was more of a scavenger, feeding on any of the underground creatures that had died of natural causes, and the occasional brood of young ones.
After another day and a half, when Cocker found worm remains in the feces of a Lictor, he told the others they were finally on the trail of a live one, Lictor number two. Apparently it had a taste for the scavenger worms and knew how to locate and dig them up. The next day, they headed toward an abandoned, small, town.
Decades earlier, Thanatos-4 colonists had tried to live out away from the coast, where it always ended up the same: an abandoned town. Cocker had ascertained that the Lictor was in town someplace, and had been there for sometime...as if it had taken up residence. However, going inside the town would be very dangerous; the buildings would give the Lictor excellent cover for an ambush. And without an overlooking hill for the Ratling squad to get a clear shot, Lana and her escorts would not have the support of the snipers. They would have to lure the Lictor out of the town.
There was an old water tower just on the edge of town. Lank stayed with the airsled while Lana and Cocker climbed the tower, where they eventually found the Lictor, or, at least, it’s heat signature. It seemed to have found a place to stay inside a building with a high ceiling; as they watched, it remained inside for a long time, almost an hour, something they both thought was strange, since Lictors preferred the outdoors. Why was it staying inside a building? And even more peculiar, how was it getting in and out?
As they watched, they were contacted by Sergeant Zargos, informing them of the obvious. “Hey...you know you’re going to have to lure that Lictor out of the town, right?”
“Yeah, we kind of figured that.” Lana responded.
“Well, try to get it out on the east side,” the Sergeant strongly recommended. “We’re already set up over here--”
“No, no.” Cocker rebuked. “That would be TOO dangerous--”
“I’ll go.” Lank volunteered. “East side, near the road, right?”
“Yes.” Zargos agreed.
“NO!” Cocker was still against it. “Listen...it’s going to have to go outside the town to find food eventually. We can wait until then.”
“And how long do you think that will be?” The Sergeant didn’t like Cocker’s plan.
“It depends on how much food it has stored up.”
“It could be holed up in there for days!” Zargos still didn’t like it. “And we wouldn’t know which side of town it would leave from.”
“NO!.” Cocker remained stubborn. “Once it spots someone, it’s going to go into defense mode. It’ll keep moving and be much harder to kill. It might even run away.”
“So, we’ll chase it.”
Lana was getting tired of the argument. She was hoping there was a small opening in the building so she could get a shot. But, then she noticed: “Hey, you guys, the Lictor is not in the building anymore.”
Cocker took notice and began examining the building with his scanner/binoculars. “Yeah, she’s right, but...”
Zargos began making an assumption. “Look, none of my snipers are going to get any closer to that town. We need a clear open field of fire--”
“You know, that Lictor is way to big to use any of the doors.” Lana commented, keeping her eye on the building. “And there’s no busted openings anywhere that I can see--”
“DAMN!” Cocker knew what was up and didn’t like it. “That thing has a tunnel; it’s using it to get in and out of the building.” He paused, looking, then continued. “It probably uses it to get in and out of the town. We need to go out and find it.”
Zargos quickly sent everyone a marker for their digital maps, then began giving orders. “Here...this is where my team is located. I’m going to take my airsled out and look for it. I suggest one of you do the same. The other two of you should go into town and wait for it at that building. If it comes back, lead it to the location I just sent you. I guarantee my team WON’T miss.”
From the frying pan into the fire, was what Lana thought of Zargos’ plan...especially, since the only logical two people to go into town, were Lank and she. She quickly followed Cocker down from the water tower, then stood in front of the big man while Cocker got in the airsled and took off.
Lank looked at her and grinned. “If we have to fight it, I’ll take it from the front, you hit it from behind.”
Lana made a large, silent, sigh. “I hope you’re going to shoot it with that plasma pistol of yours first?”
He smiled. “Yes...of course. In fact, I would prefer to stay inside a building and kill it with the plasma pistol. But, if we can’t...then--”
“I understand.” She felt better hearing him say that. “Do you have a preferred way to lure the creature to the east side of town?”
“No, I don’t. I was hoping you did.”
Lana almost smiled. While she was on the water tower she had memorized most of the town’s major streets, mentioning it to him, then saying, “if you’re ready, follow me.”
Lana had left her VSS sniper rifle in the airsled, preferring her pistols inside the city. On the way to the building, where they had spotted the Lictor, Lana and Lank overheard Cocker and Zargos’ almost continuous conversation of whether the other one had seen it or not, each time, each of them answering negative; it had stopped by the time they reached their destination.
The building turned out to be some kind of meeting hall. Lana looked through a window and saw that all the furniture had been smashed into pieces, which had been used to make a kind of lair. The double-doors in front were still fully intact, but locked. However, as soon as they thought about making entry, the smell of feces overpowered them; they both went back to one of the windows.
It was Lank who made the call. “Cocker, Zargos...we’re at the building, but the Lictor is not here. Do you want us to try and make entry?”
The call was no sooner made, when Lana spotted the Lictor coming in from behind the stage, slowly moving forward to where a podium would be, like it was getting ready to make a speech, its large scything talons tucked up on top its back, its feeder tendrils reaching forward as if detecting something.
Then it spotted her!
The Lictor moved with blinding speed through the building, lowering its head and smashing into the wall with the thick carapace on its back. Lana only had time to yell, “run,” before the wall exploded behind them as they ran.
Lana was knocked further away than Lank, who managed to roll, then come up with his Eviscerator. He struck the creature once while its head was still down and its talons back, taking a sizable chuck out of its carapace. When it stood up and brought its talons forward, it knocked Lank back and away, next to where Lana had recovered. She quickly led him into a narrow alleyway.
There was only one response from Cocker and Zargos. “We’re coming!”
The Lictor obviously couldn’t pursue them into the narrow space between the two, two-story buildings. But, it quickly scaled the building on its left and was above them before they found the exit on the other side.
When Lana drew her pistols, Lank held his sword in one hand and drew his plasma pistol. At the same time, the Lictor fired on them, its only ranged weapon, Flesh Hooks. Most of them missed, but Lank was stuck by two of them, Lana, in the arm, with one, a painful sting causing her to drop one of her pistols.
Sinewy ligaments connected to the barbed Flesh Hooks allowed the Lictor to use them like grappling hooks as it jumped down from the building and tried to pull them out into the open. But, Lana was quick enough to draw one of her swords and cut all the ligaments before that happened. Once they were ready to fire their weapons again, the Lictor had jumped back up on top of one of the buildings, out of sight.
Lank was mad! Holding his plasma pistol ready, he began backing out of the alley, out into the open, cussing loudly, taunting the creature to attack him. Lana couldn’t support him with her pistols any longer; she had to put them away and draw both of her swords, even though she didn’t like it.
The man fired a couple times upward as he backed out into an empty parking lot, heading toward the street that traveled east, toward the snipers. She thought for sure the Lictor would attack right away; but, it didn’t. Once Lank was almost to the street, where there were more buildings nearby, he stopped and waved her forward, covering her with his plasma pistol as she ran to catch up, getting behind him, putting away her swords, then drawing her pistols, two pairs of weapons she could switch quickly.
Under the overhang of an old, abandoned, storefront they looked for the Lictor. But, it had disappeared. Of course, Lana thought. The Tyranid creature was a stealth hunter. It would hide and attempt to ambush them.
“We’re getting ready to come in?” That was Zargos. “Where’s that Lictor?’
“We lost it.” Lana answered, searching.
The Sergeant swore. “We won’t be able to move in until you find it. I’m going to fly high over here and try to lure it to my snipers.”
“I’m going to go and try to find that tunnel.” Cocker stated clearly.
“We’ll find it!” Lank was still mad.
Lana sighed silently to herself again; it was obvious the big man wanted to face the Lictor in personal combat even more so than before.
They waited almost a minute; when Lank started to move forward, ready to scan the area with his bionic eye implant, Lana stopped him as she watched a small stream of dust fall down off the edge of the overhand. She pointed upward--the Lictor was right above them!
However, right after the big man had nodded his understanding, he fired twice up through the overhand, then backed out into the open, ready to use his Eviscerator, one-handed if necessary.
Almost at the same time, two large talons smashed the overhand to pieces, Lana jumping out and away, rolling and coming up on her feet. As the Lictor jumped on the man, he rolled to the side, dodging, discarding his pistol for a two-handed grip on the sword.
The Space Marine quickly switched to her swords as Lank swung at the creature, putting it on the defensive, but only for a moment. When the Lictor attacked, Lank was knocked down, stunned; at the same time, Lana came in from behind, and with two blows, hamstrung both of its legs.
Lana struck the creature twice more, getting it to turn on her, knowing if she dodged away and took cover, Lank would be a sitting duck.
However, now she stood, facing the creature alone. She couldn’t go toe to toe with this thing, but had to buy some time. Thinking fast, she began running.
It looked almost comical, the woman running around the Lictor yelling for the man to get up as it tried to line up its talons for an attack, doing so more slowly because of its crippled legs. After orbiting the creature four times, Lank was finally up.
When she rolled away from the creature, it turned on him, but he struck first, the Eviscerator tearing apart a large section of it carapace, wounding it severely. Lana then turned, and after jumping up on a street bench, came down behind it, using one sword to cut it on the back of its neck, just below the skull, a vulnerable point she knew about. Then she used her momentum to get away before it turned on her.
Lana knew the blow she had made was a deadly one. But, like a chicken with its head cut off, the creature would trash around a bit before it finally stopped moving. But, Lank continued to fight, one of the Lictor’s last dying blows striking him solidly in the upper part of his left arm before it collapsed, still twitching.
The big man dropped to his knees as he tried to grab his injured arm. But, there was nothing there to grab; the Lictor’s scything talon had torn his arm off. Lana saw it and began ordering, “Zargos, get over here with some medical foam, RIGHT NOW!”
“What about that Lictor?”
“It’s dead!” Lana breathed heavily. “We’re going to need--”
Amazingly, Lank was up and walking forward, staggering only a little, grinning, actually happy. “I have some foam in my medical kit; it’s on my belt.”
Lana found the can and got it ready. When he took his hand away, his arm was a bloody mess; it took some time, but she eventually covered the severed opening with foam, getting herself covered with blood in the process, using up almost the whole can.
She expected him to be weak, in a state of shock. But, he seemed to still be in good spirits, talking up a storm, commenting on the success of the battle. “We GOT IT...HOLY CRAP--WE GOT IT! Damn--we made a GREAT team. I almost flipped out when I saw you running circles around that Lictor...GREAT foot work.”
Lana found his severed arm, picked it up, then looked at him. “I think you’re going to need this.”
But, he was not dismayed, in fact, much to Lana’s surprise, the opposite. “I’ve always wanted to get a bionic arm.” He grinned. “Now’s my chance.”
When Zargos arrived, she stared aghast at the dead Lictor, and the bloody mess of both Lank and Lana. She looked at the Space Marine. “God, are you alright. Where are you hurt?”
“That’s my blood.” When Lank showed Zargos his wound, she was aghast all over again. However, he continued bragging, recounting the battle as the Ratling Sergeant called for her team to come join her in town.
“Did I just hear that you guys killed that Lictor?” That was Cocker, asking.
After he was told affirmative, he mentioned that he hadn’t found the Lictor’s tunnel yet, and was going to continue looking.
Sergeant First Class Zargos was a trained medic. When she asked again if anyone was hurt, Lank and Lana showed her their Flesh Hook wounds. By the time her team arrived, she had removed the hooks and had treated the injuries.
Cocker then called again. “Hey, can you guys see if you can make entry to that building from the front...you, know, where the Lictor was?”
Zargos was just about to ask why, when he explained, “it’s not natural for a Lictor to have a lair like that. I wanted to go inside and look around.” He changed the subject. “And we should burn that Lictor as soon as possible in case it has any spores.”
There were some incendiaries in the airsled and soon the Lictor was on its way to becoming ash, then the threesome made their way to the Lictor’s lair.
By the time Zargos’ team had arrived, Lank was resting inside the airsled; once his adrenaline had worn off, he felt tired, Zargos treating him with some medication.
It was obvious the building had fully collapsed in front...no way to get inside, Lana informing the naturalist of that fact.
However, Cocker still wanted to find the Lictor’s tunnel. But, soon they got a call from Captain Falconer. “Do you guys have an update over there? Have you found that Lictor?”
“It’s dead.” Zargos answered. “We have one casualty, Lank Armstrong, who lost an arm.”
“I’d like to stay here a little longer and check out the Lictor’s lair.” Cocker began asking.
“No, I want you guys to return to the Mobile Mine.” Falconer was firm. “We just spotted a Lictor over here next to Moreau Base. My spaceship will be there waiting. We need you to hunt that thing down. As for Armstrong, once he gets here, our medics will fix him up and transport him to Zion.” He chuckled. “He lost an arm, huh? I bet he’s going to want it replaced with a bionic one.”