It's Purgatoria, the hellish world where humanity can only exist in specialized suits made of iron.

Ironmen, after a fashion. Yet not, either. The Marvel hero is almost super human, his suit, anyway. Not Lima Niner. He's just a guy out to earn a buck, and wearing a massive metal suit is the way to do it. Showing up for work, taking a shower afterwards, hanging out with the guys and the gals afterwards.

Yeah, Three Lima Niner is a regular Joe the size of a skyscraper.

3LN. Identified, stamped, and parceled out, arms and legs, pumps and servomotors. All the parts necessary to encase a living organism and make him functional on a world where humanity can't exist.

What happens when the casing for fragile flesh fails?

All hell breaks loose, that's what. 

“Echo Five, do you read me?”

“Ahh. Um, yeah.”

“What condition are you in?” His suit, but Echo Five would understand that. It was the suits that kept them alive. Their bodies? They stayed in the bio unit, or they didn’t survive.

“I’m blind. No vision at all. How’s it look from out there?”

“Tropical beach, warm sun, and beautiful women everywhere. Glad you could join us.” He laughed.

“I didn’t mean that earlier.” The voice sounded drained.

“Didn’t mean what?” Echo Five was despondent, more likely, but Slate understood. For a miner, no vision was tantamount to being a blind person walking across a floor of broken glass. There was no way you were going to miss every piece.

“That you have no friends.”

“It’s just something we say. No offense taken.”

“You and the new guy hit it off.”

“His enthusiasm undermined my independence.” He laughed again.

“What independence? Out here, nobody’s independent.”

“From the friend at his side.” Slate smiled at that.

“Yeah. Describe the damage.” To the suit, but that came through very clearly.

“You took a direct hit.” He didn’t tell him the arm was gone, spread across the burning soil in a hundred pieces. None were big enough to read the call sign Two Echo Five etched into the metal.

“What do you mean? I took a hundred hits. How could one be any different?” He was silent for a time, and he said, “I saw that first one that hit near you. Your damage?”

“Minimal. Your vitals, can you check them?”

“Let me try.” He was silent for a time before coming back online. “One arm, red. Vision shot, but you knew that. Com keeps wavering. It’s only had real signal since you showed up.” He stopped again, as if thinking, then asked point blank. “Direct hit. What does that mean?”

“You took a full-on impact on that arm. It’s scattered over five hundred kays. They’ll never find enough of it to dock your pay.”

“My one bright spot.”

“You need a bright spot. Another thing, we had a quake. Right here.” He took a deep breath, hating this part.

“Come now, Lima Niner. I know my surveys. I’ve got a doctorate in planetary geology. The bedrock under us right now is geologically stable. It hasn’t moved in ten thousand years.”

“That last meteor hit in the Crevasse.” Slate let that sit for a time.

“Cracking the basalt.”

“Yeah. You’re getting the picture.”


“You may be stranded for a while.” It wasn’t just the arm. Here, touching him, he could get a better angle. That blast that had taken his arm had decimated the side of the torso. Below? Fluid leaked out of one knee joint. If he didn’t have a red light now, he would. That suit wasn’t walking anywhere.

Yeah, Purgatoria's not a place for a relaxing vacation, not by any shot. It's a place to avoid, as Lima Niner was finding out. Me? I'll take the Southwest Desert...or the Sahara...the Moab...Tibet...Antarctica. Yeah, anywhere but Purgatoria.