Excerpt – Mirror Images
Suicide Mission

        The soot-filled air swirled around the train tracks as the locomotive pressed on towards its final destination. The tracks would end at Los Diablos, the mirror image of New Jersey, a place where there were no roads and off roading meant walking since most people didn’t own vehicles. Where the tracks ended, a large barricade was set up, complete with orange hazard signs, scrap metal and sandbags. The train could easily barrel through the poorly thrown together dead end, but then it would plummet over the edge of the rocky cliff that lay just beyond. Certain death awaited any conductor foolish enough to try to travel past Los Diablos. The Conductor of the train carrying Gabe and his fellow passengers was no fool. The train slowed down and screeched to a final halt just a few feet from the barricade. 
        The terrain around the tracks was copper in color, what Mars always looks like in science fiction movies. The dirt was grainy, like the consistency of the dirt you would find in an anthill. Funnel shaped, jagged rocks grew up out of the ground. Hot steam spouted up from the vents at the top of the small, three feet high volcanoes, placed sporadically across the ground. Dark mountains set up the backdrop, far off in the distance. There were no trees, no vegetation, and there was no evidence that there had ever been any in the area. 
        Gabe and the others exited the train looking exhausted, but optimistic. Misery set in as soon as they took one look at the dreadful looking scenery around them. The Conductor stepped out of the front car carrying a shotgun. Gabe wiped the sweat from his forehead.
“It’s so humid,” Lisa complained.
“Worse than LA,” Sergio added. “Dios Mio.”
“Mind if me be comin’ with Yees?” The Conductor asked.
Gabe stared at the man’s shotgun. He knew that they would need all of the support they could get, but he also knew that The Conductor was an image and may possibly be interested in the so called bounty that was on his head. Gabe glanced over at Lisa to see what she thought about it. She didn’t say a word so he turned his attention to Dozier, the one person he knew would speak his mind, whether he liked it or not. 
“He’s an image,” Dozier said as he shrugged his shoulders. 
Language rolled her eyes and looked somewhat hurt by Dozier’s remark.
“It’s dangerous where we’re going,” Gabe informed him.
“Isa dangerous where ye are. Me can’t stay here by me lonesome and me ain’t goin’ back withan da track alls broken an ‘em maniacs a waitin’ for yees.” The Conductor replied. 
Gabe was amazed that he’d seemed to pick up on the Conductor’s speech pattern. He wasn’t nearly as confused as he’d been in the beginning. T-Nate leaned over and whispered in Gabe’s ear.
“Don’t know what the fuck he just said, but if you’re thinkin’ of bringin’ him along, remember that there’s a bounty on your head, and he could be one rich son of a bitch if he collected it.”
Either The Conductor had incredible hearing, or he was a mind reader, because he held his shotgun up high and stamped his foot in anger.
“Yees afraida I’s might be wantin’ a killin’ a one a yees? ‘Em maniacs back ana tracks a been searchin’ fur sumpin’ ana I’s bettin’ I’s know whatsa is.”
He held his shotgun out with one hand and pointed it at Gabe.
“Isa that fella ‘er. Bounty, big royce a collection on ‘er head, hah?” 
He shook his head and stamped his foot once more.
“I’s donna need ‘en royce. I’sa charge for da train, buts royce no good fur the likes a me. No good atall. I’s help yees ‘cause I’s ain’t got anuthin’ else ta do.”
T-Nate looked over at Gabe, completely confused.
“He’s not interested in the money,” Gabe informed him. “He said that he’ll help us because he has nothing else to do.”
The Conductor laughed aloud.
“An fur aventure!” he cheered.
“We’re going to the Slums,” Gabe said.
“Me figured it cause ‘er ain’t nothin’ here, but death,” The Conductor replied.
Dozier pointed at The Conductor’s shotgun.
“You know how to use that thing?” He asked.
“Well I ain’t buy at ‘er train. I took it! If ye know what me mean.”
Dozier laughed and walked away.
“Fuckin’ images,” he said under his breath.
Language tapped Gabe on his shoulder and then pointed in one direction.
“That way?” Gabe asked.
Language smiled and nodded her head.
        The group walked through the smoldering heat, miserable and dripping with sweat. They’d had no time to truly plan for this trip so they didn’t have a cart full of water and food being pulled by a donkey. They had only their weapons and willpower to keep them moving forward. Dozier, with his axe strapped to his back, used a stick to help himself walk. Language led the way with Gabe and Lisa right behind her. As they passed one of the small volcano shaped vents, it suddenly shot hot steam up into the air, causing Lisa to jump. Bringing up the rear of the group was The Conductor, who appeared to be more paranoid than the rest of them. He turned in all directions with his shotgun held out in front of him, nervously scanning the terrain as if expecting to be ambushed at any moment.
        A strange, small, black, scorpion like creature crawled up out of the dirt next to T-Nate’s foot. It had small pincher claws and was about six inches long. T-Nate glanced down at his foot, took one look at the little beast, and stomped on it. The creature let out a loud squeal as it died.
“Did you see that shit?” T-Nate asked the others. “It was this damned big.” 
He held out his hands about a foot apart from each other. The Conductor sucked in a worried breath and shook his head.
“Ye shouldn’ta did that,” he warned T-Nate.
“Shouldn’t have done what?” Lisa asked.
“Stepped on a Shivet,” The Conductor said.
“Who gives a shit?” T-Nate asked with a cocky laugh.
“Em other shivets,” The Conductor replied.
A loud squeal emitted from the ground, similar to the one that the dying shivet let out. Then a second, third, and fourth squeal, all came from different locations. Soon after, the entire ground seemed to be squealing. Language tried to shout at the rest of them, but no one could hear her over the loud squealing.
“What?” Lisa asked.
The Conductor suddenly ran past the rest of them.
“Run!” The Conductor yelled.
All around them the ground started to move and ripple at hundreds of random spots. T-Nate looked confused as he realized that everyone around him was staring at him like it was his fault. He held his fingers out about six inches apart.
“What? It was this big?” he said with disbelief.
At the rippling spots on the ground, the black heads of the shivets started to poke out and T-Nate finally started to catch on to the danger of the situation.
“That little motherfucker called for backup?” He said aloud to Sergio who was the only person not running. 
Sergio’s eyes grew wide. He was frozen in place. Finally, he snapped out of it and started to move backwards. He turned to see that the shivets were everywhere, crawling out of the ground.
“Come on, man!” Sergio yelled at T-Nate as he took off running. T-Nate followed after his friend. Language and Dozier were just slightly ahead of them, limping along. The shivets began to surround them.
“Don’t step on them!” Lisa yelled as she tried her hardest to dodge the ones that came close to her feet.
One of the shivets suddenly leapt into the air, right in front of T-Nate’s face. He ducked to the right just as it sprayed a green liquid from its mouth. The liquid sailed through the air and landed on T-Nate’s left forearm, marking him for the other shivets. The airborne shivet fell to the ground and T-Nate wildly stepped on it, cursing aloud at the spitting insect. 
        Before T-Nate had the chance to defend himself, seven more shivets leapt from the ground and landed on his left arm. They viciously sunk their small fangs into his arm. T-Nate screamed and swatted at them with his right hand, but they wouldn’t let go. They were securely fastened to his flesh. Blood seeped from their mouths and trickled down his arm. He continued to swat at them in a deranged frenzy. 
“Somebody do something!” He yelled.
Finally, all seven of the shivets suddenly let go of his arm at the same time and free fell to the ground. He stomped on all of them as he howled out in pain. Dozier and Language were the first to reach him. Language grabbed his right arm and tried to pull him forward, but he was in too much pain. She yelped and let go of his arm as the bite marks all over it began to leak green ooze that sizzled and smoked. The skin and meat from his arm began to dissolve. The acidic saliva of the shivets started spreading up his bicep and towards his shoulder.
“My arm!” T-Nate yelled through clenched teeth. 
He began to foam at the mouth and his eyes became bloodshot. His screams caused Sergio to turn and head back in his direction.
“Argh!” T-Nate screamed. “My arm! Take it off!”
Language pointed her gun at the ground and pulled the trigger, spraying bullets all around them, but careful not to hit any of the shivets. It was enough to scare most of them and they dug their way back into the ground. Dozier glanced down at T-Nate’s arm and realized that the acid was climbing its way up to his neck and if he didn’t do something soon, T-Nate would be dead. He heaved the axe from his back and raised it up high over his head. 
“Close your eyes!” Dozier yelled.
Language shook her head frantically and pulled on Dozier’s arm, trying to convince him not to do it. He shook away from her grasp and shot her an angry glance.
“He’ll die if I don’t!”
She backed away from him.
T-Nate closed his eyes and dropped to his knees. His lips trembled. They were turning blue from the loss of blood as the remainder of his arm was being eaten alive. Dozier raised the axe and touched it once softly to T-Nate’s upper arm, making sure that he was lined up correctly. With a horrific growl, he yanked the axe high into the air and slammed it down hard against the upper part of his bicep, cutting his arm off just above the infection. T-Nate’s eyes shot open. He screamed in pain and fell to the ground.
        Sergio reached his friend and rolled him over to see that he was shaking and his arm was losing a lot of blood.
“He’s going into shock! Tie off the arm!” Sergio ordered. 
Gabe and Lisa caught up with Sergio. Lisa backed away, shocked by the horrible picture in front of her. What was left of T-Nate’s arm lay in a sizzling puddle on the ground. Gabe helped Sergio try to drag T-Nate back up to his knees. As they lifted his body up off the ground, they saw a shivet hanging from T-Nate’s thigh. Its teeth were buried in the skin and a second shivet was hanging from his calf. His entire leg was being eaten; the flesh began to dissolve at once. 
        Sergio’s bottom lip began to tremble as he pulled out his gun and placed it against the back of T-Nate’s head. He closed his eyes.
“Vaya con Dios, amigo,” he whispered.
He pulled the trigger and a spray of blood hit him in the face. Sergio stood with his gun held out for a few seconds, watching as T-Nate fell to the ground, dead. The shivets’ job was done. They climbed back into the ground and left the others alone. Lisa buried her face in Gabe’s shoulder.
“They only wanted him,” she said.
“This is a fucking suicide mission!” Dozier yelled in an outrage.
He paced back and forth with his axe dragging across the ground. Language followed after him, trying to calm him down. She reached out to take his arm, but he pulled away from her angrily and walked away. Sergio wiped the blood from his face and stared down at his dead friend without blinking. He was in a trance like state.
“There’s no difference between us and our images,” he said. 
Gabe put his hand on Sergio’s shoulder.
“There’s a big difference. You just helped your friend. The images are cold blooded killers.”
Sergio shook his head in disagreement and walked away.

About the Author
 C. Michael Powers (Christopher Powers) started writing at the age of
 16 when his dad and younger brother were out fishing, and he was left
 alone, with only his thoughts, his sleeping grandfather, and an old
 typewriter. Since then he hasn't been able to stop. Now, living in his
 wife's beautiful country of Panama, with she and their four kids, he's
 finally finding time to write. Living in Panama has given him the
 opportunity to write freelance about retirement locations all over the
 isthmus, and has even given him some time to work on his true

 Mirror Images Book 1: The Darkness of Man is the first book in a four
 part series. Originally written in screenplay format, Christopher felt
 constrained trying to bottle up the entire story in 110-page scripts.
 Now he's letting the virtual pen fly and loving every minute of it.
  Available at:

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