Content warning: violence, strong language

The infection changed.

That was all anybody knew, at first.

By some estimates, probably very modest ones, half a million people had succumbed by that time. Five hundred thousand humans across every populated continent simply walked away from their lives, never to be seen again by friends or family--or so it seemed. They began a new sort of life, going home with strangers and fucking their brains out night after night, spreading the disease.

When the threat was finally acknowledged by more than a loosely-associated group of very frightened people, more than ten million were infected.

By the time the Powers That Be decided to inform the public about the threat in their midst, there were fifty million of them, and more every day, almost every hour. And then something unexpected happened: the infection changed.

In doing so, it changed the infected and the monsters were suddenly unmasked.

And so began the war.

Her name is Lex.

She was born in a subway tunnel during the Battle of Manhattan—a battle humanity lost. Evacuated to the relative safety of Long Island and then always a little further west, Lex has been fighting monsters practically since she was old enough to walk. She lost her best friend when she was fourteen, her one remaining family member during a scouting mission when she was seventeen, and every home she has ever known for her twenty-four years on planet Earth.

She hates toadies, what Command refers to as mycotypes, with a passion.

Lex especially hates toadies when they are close enough to smell, and she most especially when one is eating her arm.

But more than anything else, she hates it when her partner saves her life.

His name is Robigus.

He knew about the war before it started and has been fighting against the extinction of humanity for half a century. He is just a bit over three thousand years old. He is probably the single most deadly living thing currently on Earth and he is, of course, not human.

He hates that humanity has lost its faith.

He especially hates that he has not been properly worshiped in millennia, and he most especially hates the complete lack of festivals and sacrifices held in his honor.

But more than anything else, he hates the usurpers that would take this world as their own and destroy the life that he and his kin have been shepherding for hundreds of millions of years.

Once the bone knife of the erstwhile avatar sizzled its way through the meaty tendrils of the toady's mouth parts, the invading hyphae immediately ceased their relentless invasion between the cells of Lex's forearm. Hitting the ground rolling, Lex brings her rifle to bear with her good arm and opens the beast above her to the air, all the while resolutely ignoring the tentacles still writhing on her skin. The awful, wet stench of its sloppy innards spilling across her would have sent a lesser mortal into helpless fits of retching and heaving.

It helped that the need to move out of the way before eight hundred pounds of dying mycotype came crushing down with a mad god-man squatting on what passes for a toady's head--laughing his sick, fucking ass off while the wicked poison of his blade melted the beast's brain box from the inside out--was so vitally important.

"What the universal fuck, man?"

"Am I late?"

She just glared at him. "If I could kill you, I would." He could tell that she really meant it this time and that meant a lot to him.

"You say the nicest things..."

"You know what?"

He smiled and waited, the white of his skin and long hair gleaming in the midday sun. She ground her teeth together, jaw muscles flexing beneath the deep tan of her skin. She wanted to tell him to go to Hell, to drop dead, to just leave her alone. She wanted to tell him that she, and humanity, didn't need his help (which would be a lie) and that he should go join up with his own kind over in Toadville (which she knew wasn't true and could actually be scientifically proven to be false). She wanted to tell him to next time just let her die.

What she said was, "I'm going back to base."

Robigus didn't answer, he just watched her walk away and listened to the sounds of the fighting that was still going on a bit farther north.

Then, when he lost sight of her among the fortifications, he sat down to eat his kill.