"Wait, Danny!" she called, panicked.

"What's wrong?" he asked, her panic feeding into his own.

"We need to put on our haz-mats, remember?" How could she have forgotten? It was basic chapel safety, the kind Damma and Siri had drilled her on time and time again. Granted, she had figured they wouldn't really need it, given her resolution to stay out of the chapel as much as physically possible, but still.

"For one photogram? C'mon, you know how long they take to put on!" Honestly. She loved him, but Danny could be a tad short-sighted sometimes.

"Our parents have safety protocols for a reason." she stressed. "Sure, we're breaking them by even going in the portal in the first place, but we should at least be as safe as possible if you're gonna be stupid about going right into the jaws of that thing."

They had a stare-down, which Danny broke off after a moment with an over-dramatic sigh.
"Fine, you win."

"Nope, I don't win, because if I win, we wouldn't be going in there at all. Common sense wins, as it always should."

And with that, she turned on her heel and, along with Danny, went over to the closets where the protective gear was kept. She nosed the button for the compartment that contained the haz-mat their parents had custom-fitted for her after she'd settled as an opossum, and grabbed it with her teeth, dragging it over a bit away.

She turned it over to get at the hidden zipper, only to be greeted with a decal of her damma's face plastered smack across the back. She. She honestly didn't know why she was surprised. Really, it was exactly the kind of thing her dad and damma would do. They just plastered their faces everywhere they could get away with it, including, apparently, on her haz-mat. Well, she wouldn't be wearing it for that long, anyways. She'd make do.

She unzipped the closings on the back, and then the second and third set of closings underneath (had to make sure the haz-mat was leak-proof, after all) and tried to get into it. Key word being tried. A prehensile tail wasn't really much help when the material was too smooth for you to get a good grip on and while she did have opposable digits, they were on her hind feet and so, getting leverage was tricky. At least Danny was having just as much trouble getting into his own. She snorted with amusement at the sight of him trying to push his head through one of the arm holes.

"Hey, Danny, when you're done with that, a little bit of help over here?"

Sure, Dhakiya and Bekamim were great, but Andromeda couldn't deny the benefits of opposable thumbs (especially not as a fellow member of the opposable digit club).

After a bit more kerfuffle and some (a lot of) help from Sam, Danny finally had his haz-mat on, and was free to help her with hers.

He knelt down, taking off the gloves so his fingers would be more nimble, and Andromeda was treated with the unnecessarily-large decal of their dad's face right in her muzzle, its blank eyes gazing straight into her own. Her lips curled back into a grimace as she stared it down. Honestly, why their dad and damma insisted on slapping their faces everywhere they possibly could (and a good number of places they probably shouldn't) was beyond her.

Thankfully, he got her haz-mat on quicker than his own, standing up to put his gloves back on.

Finally in full protective gear, Andromeda tested out her movement in it. The resistance was… strange. That was probably the nicest thing she could say about it. And it felt weird to have her fur compressed like it was, a bit like an all-over itch that she couldn't scratch, but it wasn't anything she couldn't handle. Besides, she'd have to learn to deal with having her body encased in clothing like this sooner or later. She'd have to wear a spacesuit on the regular if she wanted to join ANAE and be a cosmonaut, after all. This was just training to be a cosmonaut. That was all it was. She could totally deal with this, at least for the length of a 'gram.

Just then, Bekamim flew over to her, Sam following behind.

"Okay, nope, you are not going in like that." he declared. The crow gently ripped the decal of their damma off of her haz-mat with his beak while his human did the same with the decal of their dad on Danny's.

She vaguely felt like she ought to protest over the defacement, but in all honesty, when you really looked at it, wasn't Damma's emblazoned image the real defacement?

Bekamim hesitated for a moment after the decal was removed. "Hey, uh, are you sure about this?" he asked awkwardly. "I can try and convince Sam-"

"Really, Bek, it's fine." She sighed. "Yeah, I'm not exactly jazzed about the whole thing, but it's just one photogram and then we'll be out. It's not even working, anyways. Realistically, what's the worst that could happen?"

And then there was no more reason to delay and it was time to enter the portal.

Danny led the way towards the machine and she followed a few feet behind, albeit reluctantly. Andromeda finally reached the portal, Danny already inside, and braced herself to step in-

Only to hit an invisible wall. What in the devil? Had their parents managed to create force field technology without telling them? No, that couldn't be right. Danny was in there, after all. She just couldn't follow.

She couldn't follow.

A memory ripped through her mind then, stories her sire had told her, of cursed places (or, in his words, theologically fascinating places), dead zones, that humans could cross, but where dæmons couldn't follow, of how, in some places and times, criminals had been exiled to these places, cursed to live and die mere feet from the other half of their soul, but never able to reach one another.

A pit of soul-deep horror vibrated through her entire being, and she knew then that something was wrong. Something was terribly, terribly wrong. They needed to get out of here, they needed the chapel door locked behind them and boarded up and for this cursed place to be forgotten to the ravages of time. They needed to leave.

Danny hit the edge of their bond just then, and the soul-wrenching pain ripped through both of them. A hiss escaped her as Danny let out a low grunt, clutching his chest. He turned back, concerned.

"Andromeda? What's wrong? Look, it's nothing to be scared of, I-"

"That's not important right now! We need to get out of here! I can't cross the barrier and this place is wrong! We need to leave!" She pushed her urgency through their bond like she'd never pushed before, needing Danny to understand exactly how narrow the precipice they were balancing on was.

Danny's eyes widened, and he gave a shaky nod, heading back towards the entrance as fast as he could. Her eyes were locked on his, neither of them able to take their gaze off the other half of their soul.

Andromeda noticed the cord a second too late.

The cry for him to wait was barely out of her mouth when the top of her human's boot caught on the giant cable and he tripped, the unwieldy suit preventing him from righting himself.

From there, the world felt as if it was moving in slow-motion. She was scrabbling at the invisible barrier, unable to do anything but watch as Danny reached out to catch himself on the wall, his hand landing right on a button panel that had no right to look as ominous as it did.

A too-loud click rang out in the bone-pale silence. All was still for a moment.

And then.


Racing down their bond was agony incarnate. She and her human screamed in tandem, minds whited out by pain. Even past the unbearable agony, Andromeda could feel the jagged tendrils of anbaricity striking through her, slicing her open, unmaking her.

She knew then that she was dying. No. That they were dying. A small part of her mind protested the thought, insisted that they couldn't be dying, that they had so much ahead of them, so many dreams left unfulfilled. And she didn't want them to die, desperately didn't. But she supposed that the time for denial was sometime other than when one had industrial-grade levels of anbaric current tearing through one's body.

Andromeda could feel the seams of her soul coming unstitched, hopes and dreams and thoughts and ideas and everything she was coming undone into the wind.

She only had a moment to wish that she could have at least been there with Danny in their final moments, that she had put her foot down on the photogram, that she could have protected him, could have saved him.
And then her last vestiges of consciousness faded along with her last vestiges of Dust, and Andromeda was no more.