She smelled of fire.

Strategos Six remembered fire, remembered the smell of charred flesh and the sensation of flame licking up their legs, arms, clawing away at their skin and muscle to blacken bone underneath.

When they clung to her hand, trying to pull away, it smelled of something else entirely, something just as familiar.

Strategos Six remembered this smell; polycarbonate melted and cooled as it was shaped around them, filling in the gaps the fire left behind and coating the blackened surface of their skin in a layer of smooth, semitransparent white. No one would ever know whether there was still flesh underneath.

She had eyes like hot molten metal, as hot as blue lenses felt when they were pushed into place over dried and scarred corneas, flushing out dried fluid and replacing ripped tissue to bring the world back into focus. Her teeth were white as the ceramic used to replace bones broken and charred beyond repair.

Strategos Six remembered all these things, recognized the smells and textures and colors, in the seconds she clung to their face—she cracked the communicator run down their throat and into the space where their larynx had long ago been destroyed.

When she swung and slammed them down, it felt like that first moment waking up to a world made new, a universe changed beyond recognition. Nothing would ever be the same.

She spoke and they stared up at her, unable to speak in defense or rebuttal, unable to move.

Strategos Six stared up at her, and felt—once again—like a being reborn.

Strategos Six looked up at her and, years after they first gave up flesh and blood and pain for patchwork perfection in plastic and titanium, found purpose.

She smelled of fire.

Strategos Six would always remember fire.