It might have looked like smoke to those who hadn’t been there…but it was steam. Steam rising from the still-wet wounds of the fallen, scattered across the fields. It mingled with the collecting dew and filled the air with a rank, pungent aroma. The smell of a new era.
The Warrior stirred, managed to get to his knees, and then, pushing with an iron hand on the dank ground, to his feet. His eyes scanned the scores of dead, searching for his weapon. A smile crept across his face.
Strong, victorious, he strode to the edge of the wood. All along the treeline, first one here, then one there, a new member of the new race emerged. They nodded to each other, knowing this was the dawn they’d waited for. The marriage of man and machine had birthed them into a future where they held within them all the capacities of both.
Against the rising sun, a silhouette loomed, and he knelt at her feet. He turned his face up, and swallowed his knee-jerk revulsion to her monstrous flesh…
Aluminum coils, laced through her skin, held her form together here and there, the sacrifice she had coldly made to achieve majesty. All color had left her except for the dried clots of blood, which clung insistently to the holes left by the stoic stitching, begging her to remember a humanity she had marshaled, a mortality… she’d eschewed. The ink pools of her eyes surveyed her subjects, as one by one they bowed before her. Her glittering irises assessed them, counted them- dismissed them. What she’d done had been for the cause- not them. If they proved loyal, they might live to see the third moon. If not- only the Warrior would be spared.
Wiping the last of the battle sweat from her lips, she took his weapon and knighted him- the first, the last, the best… into the reign of the White Empress.