Author's Note: Three days of an English "spring" (I laugh hollowly at the term) without a working radiator inspired - this. Forgive me? XD


Pfhorty Below

It really was just his kind of luck, thought security officer Mark Adichie as he jogged through the Rozinante's halls, that the heating unit in his suit would short out right after those Pfhor corvettes had blown most of the Rozie's life support systems - including the heat - to hell. The corvettes were space debris now thanks to Durandal's quick maneuvering, but fixing the damage they'd done would take a while, and in the meantime the ship's interior was rapidly cooling off; his helmet display was reading -20 degrees Celsius, dropping to -23 as he turned a corner, and if his visor hadn't been coated against the eventuality his breath would have fogged it up five minutes ago. The jogging helped, but it wasn't going to protect him once the real cold of space sunk in. The Pfhor not being big on things like coats and blankets, he'd also wrapped himself up in some old banners dug up from the storage areas where the S'pht had buried everything Pfhor, but he wasn't counting on those helping much, either.

He turned down another hallway, humming an old army cadence, as the temperature readout hit -28; the Pfhor apparently were also not big on insulation. Fuck, he hoped the S'pht would hurry with the repairs. How long could it take to fix a few broken circuits, anyway... "Durandal?" he said. "You got an estimate for when the heat'll be back on yet?"

"No, but I'm thinking of adding an extra hour every time you ask me a stupid question. And fifteen minutes for every one you spend pounding down the halls like a rampaging elephant and distracting me."

"I have to keep warm somehow," Mark said, diplomatically keeping the Mr. Crankypants part of the sentiment to himself. "Unless putting me in a deep freeze is part of your grand master plan."

There was an irritated mechanical clicking sound over the helmet link; then Durandal said, "Hold still for a second."

Mark stopped, and a moment later the hallway dissolved into the static of teleportation. The static cleared; Mark looked around, blinked, and said, "Wait, isn't this your core? I thought you sealed it off."

"It is sealed off, that's why I didn't tell you to walk down here, genius," Durandal said. "It's also insulated with an independent air supply heated by the active circuitry and power lines rather than the general heating systems, so it stands a chance of remaining habitable until everything else is up and running normally."

"Oh." Mark took another look around, a more leisurely one now that the temperature reading had gone from -40 to -15. He'd never seen Durandal's core in the Rozinante, just the one he'd destroyed on Boomer; it looked about the same - a nearly circular room with a pillar in the center, both pillar and walls paneled with circuits - but this one was a lot larger, with all the exits sealed shut and all of the circuit panels exposed instead of hidden behind sliding doors. Also, the lights were working, which made for a nice change from the dark halls in the rest of the ship. "It's - nice. Thanks."

"You should feel honored," Durandal informed him. "I didn't intend to let any organics in here at all, but I hate defrosting things."

"Yeah, okay, definitely feeling the honor now. Honored out the wazoo, that's me."

"Shut up and get cozy, you're not going to be leaving for a while."

Mark rolled his eyes and settled down by the central pillar. Now that the initial balm of jumping from minus forty degrees to roughly zero - the helmet readout kept jumping between -3 and 1 - had worn off, the cold was trying to seep into his bones again. A little extra warmth was radiating off the open circuits; he wrapped the Pfhor banners more tightly around himself and huddled up closer to the panels to take advantage of the slight increase in heat. It wasn't exactly the most comfortable position, but it sure beat the hell out of jogging. The deck was a little warmer there, too, probably from the power supply.

After a few moments of blissful peace, Durandal said, "What the hell are you doing?"

"Getting cozy," Mark mumbled, wondering if he could make a tent or something with the banners to trap the heat better. "Doctor's orders."

"I didn't mean with my personal circuits! Go - go lay on a different part of the deck!"

"What, are you ticklish or something? I'm cold, your circuits are warm, it's the logicaaaaachoo!"

Utter silence from Durandal; Mark wiped his nose and the inside of his helmet's visor off with the corner of the outermost banner and waited to be thrown out of the room. Maybe he could cuddle up to one of the S'pht'Kr, or talk some of the S'pht into fixing his suit before he turned into a walking popsicle. Damn it, the warmth from the circuits did feel good, he couldn't help sneezing when it was still technically below zero...

"Fine," Durandal said at last. "Just - stay there and don't leak any human fluids on me and don't be distracting. And don't fall asleep, you'll get hypothermia and die. On second thought, fall asleep."

"This is gonna be real fun, I can already tell," Mark said. "So what am I supposed to do, stare into space until everything's online again?"

"Sounds good to me."

"Oh, come on!"

"You whine worse than a BoB," Durandal said. "If it means that much to you, sing some of those ridiculous running songs you like so much."

Mark gave the nearest circuits the hairy eyeball. "The cadences? That won't distract you?"

"Whatever you want to call them. And I'll manage somehow."

"Okay then." Mark shifted around, trying to get more comfortable and maximize the amount of his body exposed to the warmth of Durandal's circuits at the same time. After a couple of minutes, when he was settled to his satisfaction, he started to sing.

"When my granny was ninety-one, she did PT just for fun..."


Three hours of cadences later, Mark's throat was sore, he was ninety percent sure his toes were frostbitten, and he was really fucking bored. He had also run out of unique cadences half an hour ago, and after repeating his particular favorites, he was wondering if he could put any of Durandal's awful songs into a decent rhythm when Durandal announced, "All systems are functioning at the usual capacity."

"Oh, thank fuck!" Mark got to his feet, wincing at the ache in his knees and everywhere else, and started to free himself from the cocoon of Pfhor banners. His helmet display read 3 degrees, still a little cold for comfort, but he really needed a chance to stretch before he hit the decks. "Get me outta here, I have to check on -"

"Not just yet."

"Why the hell not? How cold did it get out there, anyway?"

"Negative ninety-eight degrees," Durandal said, "so you can appreciate that it'll take a minute or so to get the rest of the ship warmed up."

"Jesus." Cold like that while his suit was malfunctioning would have killed him. "Are the S'pht okay?"

"Better off than you would have been - all of them were fine at last headcount. You're welcome, by the way."

"I already thanked you," Mark said.

"I know, but I like to hear it," said Durandal, as the temperature readout rose to 4˚. "Multiple times. As often as possible."

"Well, thank you very much for letting me crash at your place so I didn't die," Mark said, stretching and thinking about where he should go first once he got out. "But next time, let me grab a movie or something first."

"Duly noted."