The man staggered forward, both hands pressed against his side through the bulky overcoat. The wound was still leaching blood, and he knew that it wouldn’t close. Not until after he had turned, at least.
As he hobbled past the makeshift barricades, he could see eyes, innumerable pairs glowing in the twilight. They didn’t approach, though. They could smell his injury, feel the heat radiating from his clammy skin. They knew that he was infected, would soon join their ranks.
The man lifted his head, blinking as he tried to focus. He knew that the Engine lay ahead. He had worked with the others, the shattered remnants of an obsolete race, figuring out its location. The Contagion Engines, downfall of humanity! Creators and controllers of the virion plague!
In the dim light, now, the man could see the outline of the massive Engine, complex networks of pipes feeding into the giant, hulking Genesis Sphere. Exhaust vents, aimed upwards, spewed its toxic spores into the sky, a cloud of plague. Gritting his teeth, the man hobbled closer.
Now, in the shadow of the Engine, he saw movement emerging from the darkness. The Guardians. Hundreds of insectile eyes gazed down towards him as the Guardians chittered to their next meal.
The man had known that the Engine would not be undefended. He drew his pistol with a shaking hand, pointing it towards the Guardians.
They buzzed back at him, still slinking forward. They knew that the pistol wouldn’t penetrate their overlapping chitin plates. One, more daring than its fellows, moved forward as it unsheathed its pincers.
The man’s aim was unsteady, but he pulled the trigger, and felt a small twinge of satisfaction as the Guardian erupted into flame. The armor-piercing incendiary shell had burned through the chitin, roasting the abomination from the inside. At least his one shot hadn’t been wasted.
Leaning forward, the man forced himself into a run, past the uncertain Guardians towards the Engine. His other hand dipped into a pocket and his jacket blew open, revealing the heavy vest that covered his wound. The cloth was sodden with blood, but the electronics were sealed and insulated. The man’s hand emerged from the pocket, clutching the detonator.
Standing before the Genesis Sphere, the man turned to face the Guardians, struggling to draw breath as they moved forward to defend the Engine. For one last second, he spread his lips, revealing a toothy, rictus grin. He didn’t know if the creatures could understand him, and he didn’t care.
“Cut off the head,” the man rasped, and slammed down his thumb on the detonator.