Title: Shiver

Author: nostalgia

Rated: G

Summary: Space is cold. Really, really cold.

Disclaim: 'Enterprise' is in no way mine.

Etc: Ver' short. Started years ago as a Voyager bunny, got reheated (pun semi-intended) when ENT open the launch-bay doors on Scott Bakula. Went all second-person on me when I wasn't looking.

Etc2: Cometary time-table and beta provided by the gothish kbk.

Feedback:... helps me beat the cheese addiction.

- - - - - -

You leave a trail of heat behind you. A fragile wake in the infra-red, marking the light-years. It fades so quickly, as stray hydrogen molecules clamour for the heat, dragging the pocket of disturbed vacuum back down to the single-figure Kelvins. The ship moves on; the heat is gone so quickly.

Through the right lens your new home glows. It must look beautiful, you think, and you gaze out at the stars through a sheet of transparent reinforced plastic.

You stand in a room warmed to a comfortable Earth room-temperature of twenty degrees centigrade. It takes a complicated maze of technology to do this, to ensure that the waste heat from the engines and the electrics is moved around the ship in the correct directions, that there is no margin for error. In space the air-conditioning is yet another trick to keep you alive. There is a dog at your feet, and it radiates heat. It twitches as it sleeps, because somewhere it is racing across the savannah, hunting. It is bigger in the dream, and it swirls the dust into clouds as it runs. You wonder if the dog knows how far out of Africa it really is.

The temperature of the air within these walls - partitions, bulkheads, hull - is exact; measured and regulated by thermostats embedded in walls and ceilings. You probably wouldn't know this, if you hadn't seen the blueprints yourself. It really is very impressive.

You won't get too hot and you won't get too cold. You'll see air vent once, from an airlock, and you'll watch as a little bit of the atmosphere - your own carbon-dioxide, in fact - freezes in an instant. You will shiver.

You think about the tail of a comet, starlight boiling ice into space. You consider the fate of the comet itself, each journey round its parent star taking a little from its mass. Eventually the comet has lost too much, and it breaks apart. Or maybe it hits a planet and leaves its precious cargo of water for someone to evolve in. You think about Mars. You think about Earth, which is further away and warmer. You remember Halley's comet, scraping past your homeworld fourteen years ago. You realise that you won't see in 2213. But someone will, and that's what matters. Someone will.

The Universe is freezing as it expands, as the heat is spread thinner and the molecules drift apart. Once, you know, it boiled, and space glowed like the photosphere of a star. Once atomic fusion took place as a matter of course, and the boundary between matter and energy was blurred. Great things took place, and this was where, really, everyone was born.

But it cooled, cooled so quickly. In the minutes after the Big Bang the temperature plummeted, and now it moves inexorably towards Absolute Zero, where no heat will exist. You wonder if it means something, that as the Universe cools we all move further apart. You wonder if heat can survive out here.

You get scared.

But you keep going, because you're optimistic, and you touch the metal wall and let it steal a little of your heat. You are willing to share.