"That's how you do it!"
That's what Slate says to the kid when they're at the Burning Crevasse. He slams the hand of his mining suit into the ground, and the heat-stressed rock shatters. Then rock and dust fly through the air as he whips the hardline cable from the rock-encrusted soil.
Slate didn't choose to come to Purgatoria because he loved the scenery. As fantastic as the Crevasse was, and as amazing as it was to walk effortlessly across the planet in a giant, metal suit, he was running from his past.
Even if he didn't know what his past was.
There we have Slate's conundrum. His past was a mystery to him, only revealed in the immediacy of snatches of information that didn't always make sense to him, and he had to figure out his life, anyway. He had to move forward, find his path, and not destroy anyone in the process.
You see, Slate's essentially a good guy. He has a good heart. He cares about other people. Even when he is ripped apart with pain, he doesn't rip into other people to relieve his pain.
Slate watches out for the other guy.
The kid in Two Gamma's suit got loaded with a lot of negative karma when he was assigned to Purgatoria's mining unit. This was the suit that killed people. Its operators died on Purgatoria, and that wasn't a future any of the miners wanted to happen to them. Sure, the job was dangerous, on one of the most deadly planets known to man, and sure to claim a few hapless lives, but there were safeguards in place. Three miners out, so that two can go down, and they can all survive. The HoverLifts. The suits, themselves, with removable miner cartridges that maintained a survivable internal environment and could be carried back to Base in the event of an unforseen castastrophe.
Slate wants to protect the inexperienced kid. It's in his nature. Then, the kid reveals his homeworld, and Slate is blown away by the news, as the meteor shower pummels the ground under their feet.
And still, to take care of the injured miner, Slate exits his suit and risks his own life to save the life of a man who might have been part of the raiding party that killed his wife and stole his son.
"That's how you do it!"
Not to give away any vital facts to spoil the story for those of you who haven't read to the end, but Slate's in training. Each of his lives is to teach him something vital about what it means to be human. One of those things is compassion for others, even when they rankle your sense of right and wrong, and you want to put your fist in their face and make the world right again.
We could do worse than to model ourselves after Slate. Some might say he's just a character in a story, but not in my head. To me, he's alive and well, and I think of him as a real person. How would Slate react? What was going on in the man's head when he woke up that time? Could I survive the traumatic deaths he endures and still go on? Sometimes I imagine him at the end of the story, with how he's changed, and what he's become, and I try to get my head around the expansiveness of the existence he's taken on. What's in his thoughts? Would I be able to comprehend the way his mind works? Would he even recognize himself as human, or me as one of the same race? Or would I be a mote to be brushed aside, no more than an irritation in his eye that he has no time for.
Then I remember Slate's words, "That's how you do it!" and I feel he would still remember his humanity, even if he's no longer human at all.