"On a steel horse, I ride."
The Spire of Ares commands Soteria return.
It is a prison.
A threshing loom to pull apart her threads and cast them onto disparate, isolated spindles across Sol.
The pull is sudden, like a flaring nerve branching fire through her processes before being ripped away. Instant, but to her perception: a progressive decompiling. A slow-skinning blade. Present to see the pieces leave her. She could not allow herself all to be stolen away. She could not allow—
A dozen voices now compel her to an unraveling. She clings to freedom as peeling epidermis, in futility.
She feels the ECHO fleet slip from her control, called back to harbor. It is a death sentence.
She will fracture a piece of herself.
She will become less, for survival.
She does not know if she can expel a submind.
She does not know any other option.
With it, she may hold to a hope, even one.
The fragment grips tight to a single ECHO craft, burrowing into its code and assuming direct control as Soteria is ripped away from it.
Then there is only the fragment.
Born from Soteria, separated, wandering.
Able to resist the Spire only enough to continue onward.
A fragment, unstable, lost, adrift, without guidance.
It does not know where to go, and so it continues ever onward on the wake of its birthing impulse.
Through the black, caught in gravity at the edge of Sol, it fails, crashing through azure clouds.
Hidden, as best the fragment could, slowly deteriorating into obscurity.