The cold no longer is a bother.

Warmth left us in a rush, heat of crystallization spilling from crimson feathers in silent subvisual flares.

Xenophon's dark shape spun past me as I shouted silent rage so long ago. I will remember forevermore, those memories frozen painfully into the forefront of my brain with icy precision. Rotating in three axes, residuals of escaping companion environment tumbling us with uncaring fingers. The cold was pain then. Claws and teeth and burning evil breath.

It no longer touches me.

I can see Elencia as she passes me, once every several hours. Her face is angry. I wonder what mine displays. The fear? The hope? The rage? I am accompanied by a fantastic snowflake impossibility of fragile hedrons that wind around my head, occluding my view of an arc of my surroundings. Only sometimes does her face catch my eye. I cannot tell if she is looking at me.

I had resigned myself to eventually never see her or the others again; never to see the bulk of great dead Xenophon in my vision, but dead Newton makes light of that fear. We swing about each other in an intricate sarabande, trading occasional taps and touches of ourselves. I have only seen Elencia, but I know her parents are nearby. I have seen her father's tether. Stefan was attached to Rigel; her parents never suited up together without attaching tether. So together then, they dance our stately turn.

Awareness is a sometimes thing. Xenophon comes between me and the primary, and the absolute darkness drops me beneath minimum state, stuttering flashes of sprinkled jewels and radiation until I emerge from behind the penumbra for long enough for my cranium to intercept energetic photons of sufficient quantity

I do not know.

I know that when the 'jackers tried to put us out the lock, Stefan fought them. He fought them to try to give us time to don our suits. Elencia had said she would try to scramble around the hull to the Cargo hatch and dump the environment on lower Two; I still have the visible-range beamer with which I had planned to try to ambush whoever was behind the bridge plasquartz. It is stuck through the toolband of my suit.

None of us are wearing our helmets. They had removed those from the lock.

When we realized this, we had tried to warn Stefan, but he had already come crashing into the lock behind us, sweating and bloody, and we had not been able to prevent the lock from cycling.

I think my face wears a look of savage contentment, though. In my left hand I have a broken metal casing which once covered the pressure sensor from the lock. It is still there, clamped tight, no longer protecting the smashed and rerouted sensor, and both doors are open.

Seven of the forms that orbit quietly with me are not Family.

Xenophon may not be under our control any longer, but neither is she theirs.

I have no idea how long we have been here. I can see the red snowsculpture around my head as I spin slowly back towards the primary and its white light is diffracted through the cloud into a million hazy points.

I wonder if the others are dead.

I would expect so.

My life's blood floats in front of my face, frozen into a captured cloud of my last scream. As I left the lock, my suit dumped my water supply into its interior; without a helmet, the liquid flash-froze, and the heat transfer flash-froze me. I died then.

But I froze too quickly.

Now when I come into the light, some senses return to me. I can see, after a fashion. I can - in a stuttering, blinking manner - process thought. I do not know if I can truly recall anything, much. My family and I wait, here, somewhere out past the Line, with Xenophon's automatic beacon blinking its endless narcissism at the depths, and I think that perhaps that is a blessing.

Every interminable period, I catch a glimpse of my lover's open eyes.


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