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Death-Zone Purple

Topic: barney

DEATH-ZONE PURPLE

(NOTE: This story is not in continuation with any of the "Day of the Barney" novels or "Son of Barney" written previously by me. Consider this one of those "alternate world/different plane of existence" type things.....)

Chapter One: Shadow Play

The night hung warm and low, as the last vespers of sunlight sank below the horizon. An occasional howl of a coyote could be heard among the desert brush and cacti, and a thin, wispy breeze whistled through the cracks and crevices of craggy rocks strewn carelessly about the desert landscape.

Amidst this desolate scene stood a short, squat, concrete building built of concrete and triple-ply wood, painted in varying shades of purple and green. Through the dirty and cracked windows, a faint yellow glow cast a dim haze upon the ground. Various shapes of cloaked figures and creatures could be seen, and spritely, sacharrine music was heard from a distance.

Out of the shadows, a large van drove through the landscape, leaving a thick trail of dust and debris in its wake. It was a bright yellow vehicle with a large red rose painted on its side. A sign attached to the driver's door proclaimed, "EVERETT BROS. FLOWERS AND GIFTS". It pulled just outside the grungy building and stopped.

Moments later a man stepped out carrying a box decorated with ribbon. An envelope was attached. He warily approached the building and knocked on the door.

The building's inhabitants grew deathly still. The cheery music and giggling ceased. The man knocked again. Seconds later a voice replied, "Who is it?"

"Flower delivery for Barney the Dinosaur", replied the man. There was a faint murmuring behind the door, then it swung open on tattered hinges. A portly young man with thick glasses and curly hair stood in the doorway. He was clad in a purple robe.

"How did you get all the way out here?" he asked.

"There was an anonymous call, no one left a name," replied the delivery attendant. "The card says, 'from a Special Friend', nothing more. Does Barney want his flowers or not?"

The young, stocky man scratched his head and looked blankly into the room. The cloaked minions in the area said nothing, only gurgled and uneasily shifted about. "Hey Barney," said the youth, "do you want these flowers?" There was a brief moment of uneasy stillness, broken by a sound from behind a shredded curtain.

"Flowers? For me, old Barney? Well that's super-deeee-dupperr!" replied a dopey, moronic voice. "Send them over here right now!"

"Come on in," said the stocky minion. "He's right behind that curtain."

The attendant began sweating and breathing deeply. "Can't he come out and take them? We'll need a signature.... get him out here... please."

"I knew it!" yelled the fat youth. "You're with _them!!" He then dove his hands under his cloak and produced a Bowie knife. The attendant backed away, frantically fumbling to undo the ribbon binding the box. The next instant he revealed a double-barreled shotgun, and thrust it at the charging minion.

The explosion was a blast of flame and smoke, reasonating through the entire room. The cloaked creatures flung themselves upon the floor as the obese human was struck directly in the chest. The minion hit the opposite wall and dropped to the ground.

Outside, the van doors flung open. Ten men and women, dressed in combat fatigues and sporting various weapons, ran out and began spraying the compound with bullets. Glass and concrete clouded the air.

The attendant was dazed and disoriented. He stared at the dead, lifeless body before him. Out of the corner of his eye he caught a glimpse of something large, blubbery, and purple. Unfortunately, he reacted too late. A cleaver whizzed through the air and struck him dead in the chest. He gasped, and weakly clutched at the handle, trying to pull it out.

"You really shouldn't do such unkind things," mused the Beast of Purple. "You hurt my friend and played a mean joke on old Barney, so that's why I killed you!" The dinosaur giggled and disappeared behind the curtain.

The attendant slumped to the floor, his dying gaze fixed upon the floor.

The soldiers outside continued to rattle the building with bullets. Inside, the cloaked minions squealed in fright and retreated to the far end of the structure. These creatures were the infamous Loved Ones, children of Barney spawned by unwitting human mothers. Pink, pale, and fat, they were horrendously faithful to their master and carried out many of his grand schemes and machinations against the children of the world.

Upon reaching the far half of the building, many scurried down secret passageways and trap doors, while a few held back and armed themselves with rusting firearms and artillery. Finding immediate shelter, they returned the fire with fanatic devotion. But they were outgunned and outnumbered. Within minutes every single Loved One defender lay sprawled on the floor in grotesque positions.

The soldiers hurriedly occupied the building. One of them, a brazen man in his forties, ran about tearing down curtains, tapestries, and rugs, in order to find the secret passageways. When he found one, he signaled to his tracker, who immediately dropped a grenade down the shaft or tunnel. The explosions rocked the house, and was followed with a smell of burnt flesh.

An hour later, the area was deemed completely secure. But for the soldiers, it had been a frustrating night. Three of them had died in the firefight with the Loved Ones, and Barney the Dinosaur had completely disappeared.

By daybreak, many of the Loved One corpses had been stacked side by side and recorded. The lone human minion was placed next to the row, with no viable identification. The older man sat in the van, sipping his canteen. A scout approached him.

"General Brackenridge," she began, "what are your new orders?"

He replaced the lid on the canteen and rubbed the stubble on his chin. "Haddenford, tell the squad to make an all-out reconaissance mission within a five-mile radius from this compound. With some luck, he may not have gotten far. Get Johannsen to radio in for back-up. And perhaps Swenney and Aiko can follow-up on some of those tunnels down below."

"Affirmative, General," she replied, and returned to the squad with the new orders. The sun began to rise and the desert air began to turn hot and unforgiving.

The chase for Barney had begun.

Chapter Two: Tremors

Helicopters criss-crossed the blazing desert sky, their rotors pounding like heartbeats. Down below lay the smoldering carnage from the previous day's firefight. Wisps of smoke rose from the bullet- riddled concrete building, as soldiers clad in khaki inspected the debris for any clues or signs of the Purple Beast's whereabouts.

A news reporter and his crew had recently arrived, parking their van next to the decoy vehicle the soldiers had arrived in. Upon confirming his frequency and hook-up, the reporter began his report:

"This is Julian Griggs reporting from the Barneyian Compound and Retreat in southern New Mexico, where last night federal troops made a surprise attack, killing one human and what appear to be a dozen half-human monsters. It is rumored that the government--"

The camera monitors went dead as General Brackenridge disconnected the remote. Before the news team could protest, the General hushed them all with upheld hands. "This is a secured area and all information concerning last night's events are to be held confidential, under penalty of imprisonment and a $500,000 fine. Clear out."

"This is news of great importance, General," replied Griggs. "The American people have a right to know what's happened here."

"I most certainly agree, young man," said Brackenridge, wiping his ruddy brow. "But now is not the time. If we succeed in capturing Barney then it will be made public. Until then, we keep a cap on it and save ourselves a lot of public outcry."

"My manager's not gonna be pleased about this. We were supposed to have a story out here."

"Not my problem, friend," said Brackenridge, shaking his head. "Unless of course, you want to accompany us. If you do, just stay out of the way, follow my orders, and no reporting until it's all done and over with. Do you understand?"

Griggs fumbled with his words, and nodded dumbfoundedly at the General. "Uh, let me just call my boss and clear it with her....thank you. Thank you very much." The crew then retreated to the news van.

"Blasted media," grumbled Brackenridge. He lifted a radio receiver and punched down the button. "Swenney and Aiko, come in. Report."

The receiver hissed and spat. "Aiko here, General. Swenney and I have charted almost a half mile of tunnels and pockets under the compound. We've discovered six more Loved Ones sir, all dead. Something else too, sir. Over."

"What is it? Over."

"A hatchery, there are five human females down here sir, four are dead, one still alive. Apparently the four....didn't survive the birthing process, sir. Swenney's going to escort the survivor back up. Over."

"Aiko, radio in if you see anything unusual. I'm going to call in some specialists from the field hospital, see what we can do for her. Good work, and be careful. Over and out".

She was a young woman, with dirty matted hair and dressed in a tattered nightgown. When Swenney brought her outside, she reeled and shrieked in the scorching brilliance of the sunlight, and collapsed to the ground. The soldiers immediately carried her to the decoy vehicle, and gave her water and shade. It was apparent she had not seen daylight for quite some time. Her eyes burned and her skin was a marble white.

She was also in an advanced stage of pregnancy.

The female scout stood near, holding the woman's hand and soothing her with friendly words and small talk. Within time, the field doctor would be flown in and take the infernal creature in her womb out. The very thought made the scout squirm with disgust. She'd rather die than be made the mother of a Loved One. A child of the Purple Demon.

Private Henry Aiko did not like sitting in the dimness with the corpses of the squalid, blubbery beasts. Hopefully the tunnels would not go on much further. The subterranean maze-work smelled of death everywhere. The private clasped his rifle and continued to search the passageways.

Suddenly, Aiko heard a noise. An odd, shifting noise. He dimmed his lantern and set it upon the ground. He steadied his rifle sights on the darkness ahead of him and sucked in his breath. There was definitely someone, or something, up ahead, trying to come down his way. Suddenly there was a crumbling noise and shards of purple light ripped through the darkness. Aiko backed off a few feet, and immediately felt sharp pains tear through his legs. Gunfire. The young private had been caught in an ambush.

Without aiming, Aiko pressed down the trigger and unleashed his rifle's firepower into the purple glare. The noise was deafening, and he could hear bullets whizzing past his ears like hornets. A slow, steady warmth spread down his legs and across his waist, and he realized he was bleeding profusely. Off in the light he could hear demonic giggling, paired with a low, moronic voice.

"Kill him! Kill him for Barney! We'll teach bad boys to play with guns! Kill him, my children!"

In desperation, Aiko clutched for a grenade. Loosening the pin, he rolled it down the passageway. A second later he heard panicky squeals and shrieks. The grenade went off, discharging smoke and sparks. Immediately, the whole tunnel section collapsed. The wounded private painfully pulled himself away from the debris, he was almost buried alive. His lantern was lost, leaving the wounded man in complete darkness.

Aiko fumbled for the radio. Minutes later he pried it loose from under the rock. He spoke into the receiver, feeling his life seeping into the grainy earth. "Aiko here....agressive encounter with unknown numbers of Loved Ones...and Barney....tunnel system extended....send help....wounded.....wounded...."

Above ground, General Brackenridge barked out orders with grim ferocity. "All available personnel, move! Get a medic down to Aiko pronto! Back-up support, get the hell down there! Trackers and all choppers, scan immediate area for caves, tunnel openings, and any viable exits from the underground! Move! MOVE!"

The reporter hurried over to the compound accompanied with a camera man. The General shoved them both back with his thick, steely arms. "Mr. Griggs, you and your friend stay here. I didn't say anything about reporters. One of my soldiers has been hurt, and that's my priority over your precious little story."

Griggs and his crewman reproachfully backed away towards the van. "He's gonna regret this," grumbled the reporter.

As evening fell on the farm, young Trina Robison rode her pony about the corral. She wasn't sure, but earlier last night she thought she had heard firecrackers way off north. It struck her as odd, as the nearest neighbors were at least fifteen miles away near Pinon. She told her father, but he said it was probably just some high school kids making trouble.

She brought her pony back into its stable, and approached the house. When she came inside, she looked at the empty table. Her father had not made dinner again. She wandered into the living room, and saw him embraced by a huge, ripped leather easy chair, staring into the screen. He pretended not to notice her and laughed at the sitcom. The floor was littered with empty beer cans.

"Dad, are you gonna make us dinner soon?" Trina's voice was shaky. One time she had caught her father "at a bad moment" and he had struck her. Hard.

This time he was kinder. "I think there's a TV dinner in the freezer, be my guest", he muttered. "Now be a sport and leave me alone".

She left her father and put the frozen dinner in the oven. While it cooked, she went into her brother's room. Kent Jr. was lying in bed, staring blankly at the wall. Trina could tell her brother was upset.

"Did he yell at you again?" she asked.

"He's never been the same since mom left," replied Kent Jr. "This time it was because I was late getting home. I wish he would go away."

"Mrs. Guttenburg asked if you and I were going to be in the winter play today," said Trina. "Do you think Dad will let us?"

"I'll ask him tonight".

"Are you hungry?"

"No, you go ahead, Sis. Think I'll sleep early tonight".

When the frozen dinner was done, Trina opened the oven door and rested the tray upon the table. Her father came in immediately.

"Well isn't that nice of you," he said, smiling wide. His dull yellow teeth were jagged. "Not every good loving daughter makes her dad dinner".

Trina only stared down at the floor.

"Well, Trina, you were going to share at least, weren't you?" The kindness left his voice. Off in the distance a clock ticked on.

"Yes....."

"Good, I didn't think you loved me for a minute. Get the salt."

"It's not your dinner, dad. That was Trina's." Both Trina and Kent Sr. Turned around. The young boy stood defiantly in the archway.

"Who asked you, you stupid little bastard," said the father. "I'm hungry, she isn't. You're not hungry, are you, Trina?"

"No....I'm not...."

"She is too and you know it!" The boy began to quiver and sweat. "Give it back to her!"

"I think you and I need to talk, little man," said Kent Sr., rising tall and menacingly towards his son. "Maybe some of your fag friends at school can talk back to their dads, but you're gonna act like a boy oughtta act towards his old man." He undid his belt, brandishing the heavy metal buckle with the engraved eagle on the front. "Trina, put the food back in the oven so it doesn't get cold. And leave the room".

The young girl placed the steaming container back into the oven, and dashed out of the house, crying. Moments later the sound of snapping leather could be heard from the kitchen. Trina ran as fast as she could, away from the house as far as she could go. She wanted it all to end, everything. The girl ran until the house was no longer in view. She looked about to take in the surroundings.

Trina was in front of an old drainage ditch. A thin trickle of dirty water bubbled by her feet. Her jeans were dusty and she noticed her pink blouse was torn. She caught her breath and began to cry again. The tears flowed on like melting ice.

It was shortly after that the young girl was startled by movement from behind the drainage grating. She picked herself up off the ground, but curiousity kept her from running back home. In the darkness, she saw two glistening eyes, dead and lifeless. The two stared at each other, finally the shadowy form spoke in a giddy and cheerful voice.

"Why, hello there little girl! My name's Barney! What's yours?"

Off in the horizon, the last search-helicopter turned back to headquarters.

Chapter Three: Counterplots

Private Henry Aiko, severely injured in his firefight with Barney and the Loved Ones, was flying high above the New Mexico landscape. On the stretcher beside him lay the delirious woman who was found in the Barneyian compound catacombs, impregnated with the horrid spawn of the Purple Demon. At the head of these two hapless souls sat General Brackenridge, commander of the strike-force that had attacked the secret retreat of Barney and his minions just the previous evening. He had left his lieutenant in command back at camp while he stayed at the treatment center, to see what he could learn from his wounded soldier.

The camoflagued helicopter sped past canyons and huge outcroppings of rock. The pilot radioed in their position and within minutes a shallow mesa was raised off its foundation, revealing a secret landing pad amidst a scattering of rolling dunes and brush. The helicopter landed, and the massive rock structure was rolled back into place by invisible lifts and cranes.

"Stay with us, Aiko," said Brackenrdige, resting his hand on the young private's shoulder, "help is on the way".

A team of medics rushed to meet the helicopter, and its occupants were immediately taken to the emergency room of the underground field hospital. After the young woman and Aiko were taken into the surgical area, Brackenridge was met by an older man, with a puggish face and combed-back hair. He was also a general.

"General Brackenridge, I'm General Shearson of the 17th, " he said, shaking Brackenridge's hand. "I'm in charge of the deployment forces here and am willing to provide you with any more back-up that you need".

"Good to meet you, General Shearson," smiled Brackenridge. "Trust me, I'll be calling on you again soon. I'm more concerned right now with my fallen trooper here, sorry if I seem preoccupied."

"No offense taken," replied Shearson. "Our scouting teams have plotted out some possible areas where Barney the Dinosaur may have escaped. Satellite photos show activity in several sections of the adjoining desert, we've sent detachments out there but I've yet to hear anything".

"Keep me posted, General, any news right now would be fine." Brackenridge began to relax more and started to notice the activity about him. "Perhaps you would be so kind as to show me around, Shearson? I've heard a lot about the secret underground Barneyian Demolition Headquarters, but I'm not up on what you have here".

"Of course, Brackenridge, come this way," smiled Shearson. "We're pretty damn proud of our work out here".

Shearson escorted Brackenridge to the reconaissance room. In the dark circular chamber, Brackenridge could see large outlined maps and graphs, while radar and sonar beacons reasonated in the background. Mappers and technicians scurried about, recording the movements of blips and lights on the illuminated screens.

"All of our satellite tie-ins and scout detachments report here," said Shearson, gesturing towards the control panels. "Through this system we've charted the movements of dozens of Barneyian cults across the nation. If you look at some of our sky-graphs carefully, you can see the hazy forms of Barney himself". The older general picked up a photograph and showed it to Brackenridge. "This shot was taken four days ago, see the third blob from the left? That's Barney. The one to the left is Baby Bop, while in the lower left corner there's another monstrous form. Our experts are trying to decide if that's BJ or just an unusually large Loved One. Pretty good shot considering it was taken by a satellite floating in the stratosphere, huh?"

"What are the long, flat objects off to the right?" asked Brackenridge.

"Trucks. About seven of them. The odd thing is, they appear to be carrying dirt or sand, nothing else. No weapons, rations, or fuel. Just soil of some kind."

"It was this photo that made the Pentagon crew send me out there, wasn't it?"

"And you're still wondering why now and here, aren't you?" Shearson asked, sucking in his lip.

"If you would be so kind, sir."

Shearson crossed his arms and leaned back against a console. "General Brackenridge, Barney and his Special Friends have been up to a lot of unusual things lately. There's the deal with the trucks carrying soil, but it gets weirder. Our spies beamed back a message, saying that Barney took a leave of absence early in the television season, and came out here. That's why there's been nothing but reruns lately. Apparently, Barney has taken a lot of his own money and purchased some plans from the Russians".

"Plans for weapons?" asked Brackenridge.

Shearson shook his head. "No, plans for a satellite that proved to be a total piece of junk. We can't figure it out."

"Explain".

"During the Space Race of the fifties, the Soviets drew up dozens of plans for an orbiting satellite. In 1957 they succeeded, with Sputnik. But there were many failed attempts, and Barney the Dinosaur just purchased one of them for $15 million dollars. Supposedly this prototype went into orbit and stayed there for only five hours before collapsing on itself and exploding back towards earth."

The two men sat in silence. Finally, Brackenridge spoke up. "So Barney's got tons of soil, plans for a satellite that can't keep a stable orbit, and is hiding out in southern New Mexico. Any other strange information?"

"Yes," sighed Shearson, shifting his stance. "When we sent investigators to Barney's last known retreat in Dallas, we found nothing there but a copy of Howard Hughe's epic film, 'The Conqueror'. Barney had been watching it. It's a movie starring John Wayne as Genghis Khan, if you can believe that. Barney evidently had been watching it for some time. None of us can figure it out. We were hoping with this latest raid, you and your team might run across a clue or two".

"Strange," muttered Brackenridge. "Hopefully we'll learn more in the next few days".

"Let me take you down to our sanitarium and treatment center," said Shearson, rising from the console. "We've got some Barney- cultists, or Sponge-Minions, held down there. This should prove interesting for you". The two men entered an elevator and descended into another level.

Kent Robison Sr. couldn't figure it out. His two children, Trina and Kent Jr. had been acting odd lately. He supposed young children should be happy sometimes, but all the time? In fact, their happiness included singing, dancing, and eating "healthy snacks".

But it wasn't just that the children seemed happier than usual, it was the nature of their happiness. Somehow, it didn't seem normal, or even appropriate. Trina and Kent Jr. made great pains to share their food and toys with him, and they seemed perfectly happy to let their dad do whatever he wanted. At night, he could hear them sing one song, over and over again. Something that went on like, "I love you, you love me, we're a happy family" or something like that. Kent Sr. didn't like it one bit. Maybe a taste of his belt would take care of their stupid attitude. It never failed before.

The wiry, tall man stepped out of the ramshackle house and called his children. "Kent! Trina! Get in here right now! You and I are gonna talk!" He slid off his belt and cradled it tightly in his reddened fists. He went back into the kitchen and awaited the youngsters.

Moments later, Kent and Trina both came in, smiling broadly and giggling.

"Hi dad!" beamed Kent Jr. "I love you!"

"I love you too, dad," chimed Trina, "won't you say you love us too?"

"I don't know what the hell has gotten into you kids," grumbled Kent Sr, "but I'm gonna take care of your little prissy attitudes right now!" He uncoiled the belt and raised it high above his head. The children's frightened squeals invigorated him. He clenched the belt and prepared to swing it across their upheld arms, but then-

"My, my, don't you know you can harm someone swinging your belt around like that? Maybe we should all find a much safer game to play!"

Kent Sr. abruptly turned and saw an incredible sight. It was huge, purple, grotesque....and it was smiling at him. His mouth dropped wide open.

Trina and Kent Jr. went ecstatic, and gleefully ran towards the blubbery beast. He embraced them both with stocky arms and giggled.

"What the hell are you?" asked Kent Sr., backing away.

"It's Barney, our new friend!" answered Trina, fondly squeezing the purple dinosaur's plush waist. "He's lots of fun to be with!"

"I love Barney," added Kent Jr, fondly rubbing the beast's stomach.

"Well, I say this Barney is just some giggling freak!" yelled Kent Sr., bringing the belt back above his head, "and he's gonna be a dead one in just a few minutes!"

The children screamed in fright as their father lunged towards Barney, brandishing the thick iron buckle. In a frenzied blur, the grinning dinosaur struck the man hard, and sent him reeling back against the stove. Rusty pots and dirty dishes clanged loudly, as the force of the impact knocked the air out of Kent Sr. The man fell to the ground, cursing and wheezing.

Barney knelt down to Trina and Kent Jr. "You two better go watch my program, it's own right now. I think your father and I are going to have a stuuuppeenndousss conversation!"

Trina and Kent Jr. smiled widely and ran into the living room, giggling happily. Barney turned to their father, breathing hoarsely and covered with dust. "Hit me with your best shot, you worthless chunk of cheap white trash!" the Purple Demon said merrily.

"Go to hell," muttered Kent Sr., wiping the blood off of his cracked lip. The next instant the man made a full running charge towards the Beast of Purple and was immediately flung backwards as if he'd been hit by a freight truck. There was a sound of snapping bone and breaking tile as he landed.

"And that's a point for meeee!" beamed Barney, wobbling about in glee.

Kent Sr. lay on his back, gasping for air. Pain racked his entire body and stars danced wildly before his eyes. He then became aware of a hot, trickling sensation seeping across his back, paired with a tingling sensation at his right shoulder. He clutched at it and made a gruesome discovery.

His right arm was gone.

"Excuse me, but are you looking for this?" chuckled Barney, dangling the injured man's arm playfully about. "Maybe I should give you _a hand!"

"Oh God, oh God, what...are you?" cried Kent Sr. He could not take his eyes off of his dismembered arm, and a cold panic began to overtake him. He began to whimper in fear and shock.

"Come now, " chirped Barney, dropping the arm upon the blood- spattered floor, "I hate to see my Special Friends upset! Do you want me to take the pain away?"

"Yes, oh yes, make it go away! Please!"

The plump purple reptile sauntered over to the injured man. "I know, we'll play doctor! I'm gonna open my mouth, and you say, 'aaaahhh!'" Barney lifted the frantic man and shoved him into his immense jaws.

Kent Sr. shrieked like a panicked beast and thrashed about as Barney's perfect teeth clamped down over his torso, snapping it like a frozen twig. Blood sprayed out of the Purple Demon's mouth, and entrails seeped down his chin. The hapless man kicked about with his remaining strength, but to no avail. Within minutes the human was chewed and guzzled to pieces. Barney smiled a broad grin, his teeth stained red and black. As the murderous reptile slumped into a kitchen chair, he could hear Trina and Kent Jr. laughing and giggling from the next room. The children were hopelessly hypnotized by the lovable antics of Barney and Friends, blaring loudly upon the television.

Barney belched, and began to clean up the excess blood and flesh strewn about the kitchen.

Chapter Four: Machinations

General Brackenridge was fascinated with his tour of the underground Barneyian Demolition Headquarters, buried beneath the scorching desert rock of New Mexico. His guide, General Shearson, now directed the junior officer's attention to the sanitarium, where numerous Barney-devotees and fanatics were held and treated.

The main corridor was a long, tapering hallway filled with shadows and mindless singing. Brackenridge peered into some of the padded cells and observed the behavior of dozens of Barney-cultists, sometimes referred to as Sponge-Minions. Shearson took the visitor by the arm and had him peer into a cell near the end of the hallway. Brackenridge was stunned by what he saw.

There were five people inside, three men, two women. The danced about in a circle, singing a song about visiting the zoo. A plush purple Barney doll sat in the circle, motionless. But it wasn't the minion's behavior that startled Brackenridge, but their appearance.

All five people were naked, and had shaved all of their hair off. Some of them were a solid purple coloration, others more splotchy, like birthmarks. They also wore fake plush tails, held on by a thin belt made of a glossy purple fabric. Their faces were unnaturally contorted into huge, idiotic grins, and their eyes seemed larger and more dead than normal. Everyone in the room was also obese.

"Disturbing, isn't it?" said Shearson, peering over Brackenridge's shoulder. "Those are the more fanatical cultists we've seen. More and more, Barney-worshippers are undergoing plastic surgery to take on the facial characteristics of their idol, and many are also receiving injections of dye under the skin to become purple. Pairing this with an excess of eating, they are, in a sense, trying to become Barney".

Brackenridge continued to watch the fat, naked, purple dancers in morbid astonishment. "Is there any hope for them?"

"We've got some of our best psychologists working on this ward," answered Shearson, "but we've no idea how successful we'll be with everyone. But in some areas we have made progress. Come with me".

The two men turned a corner and entered what appeared to be a nursery. Children of all ages and races danced about and played. The laughter was warm, natural, and sincere. Brackenridge immediately noticed there were no Barney dolls or other paraphernalia in the room.

"These children were once mindless Barnoid-zombies," said Shearson, his hands placed against his hips, "their parents did everything they could, but Barney had his fat fingers wrapped around these kids brains like tentacles."

"How did you save them?"

"We weaned them naturally off the Barney shows, then the toys, then the books and music. Took almost a full year for some of them. Then we had one of our boys walk around in a Barney suit, only he acted cold and distant. By the end of the first week, those kids were yelling things at him and throwing toys around. We celebrated this demonstration by letting the kids use the suit like a pinata, then we let them torch it. You never saw happier children!" Shearson chuckled warmly.

"That's all it took?" asked Brackenridge.

"Oh no," said Shearson, "we took it further than that. For the rest of the therapy we gave these kids courses in independence, self- esteem, and healthy love-objectification. Followed up by making them watch Looney Tunes, Animaniacs, Sesame Street, and the occasional episode of Ren and Stimpy. Now we've got a whole room of cheerful, perfectly happy kids who hate Barney and recognize him for the menace that he is."

"Impressive job, General Shearson," said Brackenridge. "I look forward to hearing more about your work here".

In the operating room, Aiko was listed in stable condition. He would be fully recovered within a matter of weeks. For the woman, her condition was deemed satisfactory. The Loved One embyro had been successfully removed and sent to the labs for study. As she lay in her bed, she began to mutter to herself. Brackenridge gently laid his hand upon her head.

"You're safe now," he said.

The woman did not react to his words, but mumbled loudly to herself. "....fat, evil....they're all in the dark! Children....where were they then? ....Have to escape.....those eyes, so dead....."

"She's still under the effects of the anaesthesia", said a nurse. "She'll come around in a short while".

"Any positive identification on her yet?" asked Brackenridge.

"We're doing a compu-scan on her description right now," said Shearson, sitting alongside the bed. "According to police records, there's sixteen different people she can be, all listed as missing persons from the Arizona-New Mexico region. Hopefully we'll get a more positive match".

The woman rocked her head back and forth, sweating and breathing hoarsely. "..where are the children?.....lost on the way.......Trina ......Kent.....must not find them......."

"Get the records staff on the double," said Brackenridge, "tell them to cross-reference any of those missing people with the names 'Trina' and 'Kent'. I think we have a lead here".

Back at the Barneyian compound, news-reporter Julian Griggs was upset. Any attempts he made to record the carnage of the night-attack was thwarted by the remaining detachment of troops. He called in his news team and they five of them sat inside the van.

"Steve, get a few quick shots of the compound, the bodies, and just a few of the soldiers. We're taking off tonight."

"But Julian," said the cameraman, "General Brackenridge said this was a confidential incident, and that we weren't to report anything until Barney was captured".

"You're right, Steve, it _was confidential, until now. Those soldiers have been jerking us around at our expense and it's time we blew the lid off of this thing. We've got enough facts, all we need are some good shots of those corpses and that blown-out retreat and we're set!"

An hour later, the soldiers observed the Channel 7 NEWS ALIVE van driving off back towards the main highway. The lieutenant in command called in to inform General Brackenridge, but the signal remained silent.

Barney the Dinosaur tore the grating off the drainage ditch with relative ease. Trina and Kent Jr. watched excitedly.

"What's in there, Barney?" asked Trina, shivering in the cool evening air.

"Aside from you two, I have more friends who live in this tunnel," chuckled the Beast of Purple. "But they're a bit more shy than we are, so they're going to hide a little longer until I know its safer".

"What do you mean 'safer'?" asked Kent Jr.

"I'll explain later, Kent," replied Barney, lifting a thick, blood-stained blanket over his shoulder. "Now don't forget to say good-bye to your father!"

"Bye Dad, we love you!" yelled the children.

"It's just to bad he was just a hot-head," said Barney, emptying the blanket's contents into the tunnel, "but now he won't be mean to you anymore."

"Barney, can we see your friends sometime? They're called Loved Ones, right?"

"You are corrrrecct!" chirped the dinosaur. "I'll let you see them soon, I promise. But now, they have to take care of your father. Let's go back in and play some real fun games. Maybe then, I can call up Baby Bop and BJ, and invite them over! Wouldn't that be fun?"

"Oh yes, Barney, let's have a fun party every night!" shrieked Trina gleefully. She and Kent Jr. both hugged the fat blubbery reptile and the three of them made their way back to the farmhouse. Hand in hand, they sang a song:

I love you, you love me, we're a happy family..... With a great big hug and kiss from me to you, Won't you say you love me too?

Had the children stayed near the drainage ditch a few minutes longer, they would've seen thick, stumpy claws reach out from the shadows and drag the carcass of their father into the darkness. Seconds later, they would've heard the sounds of crunching bones and smacking lips, as the last vestiges of Kent Robison Sr. were eaten away from the skeleton.

Chapter Five: Shadowplane

"General Brackenridge, this is Mayfly from Outpost Delta. Come in, over".

The radio hissed static and spat. The receiver remained silent.

"General Brackenridge, this is Mayfly from Outpost Delta. How do you copy? Over".

Again there was silence.

Private Haddenford cursed the static and slammed the phone against the radio-board. "We've tried reaching him for four hours and there's still no damn answer. What the hell's going on?"

Lieutenant Garret fiddled with the controls in exasperation. "The radio appears fine. Something's blocking the signal." He sat back in the decoy vehicle and tried to find answers. Since the initial raid, over three miles worth of tunnels and passageways had been discovered. Various firefights with Sponge-Minions and Loved Ones had erupted in some, but no Barney-disciples had been captured alive yet. Most chose to fight or die for their All-Loving Master, and it frustrated the young Lieutenant. He rose to his feet and addressed his unit.

"I want everyone to screen out within a mile and a half radius from this compound. Take your radios with you, check for any fluctuations or static discharges in your area. When you do, return here immediately. If you radio in, you risk giving your position away to who knows what. Proceed!"

Immediately, the two dozen soldiers set off in opposite directions, radios spattering noise and weapons armed and ready. The unit walked off into the dwindling night of the desert sky.

General Brackenridge was upset. No communications were coming out of the compound. While there had been a call for radio silence, he knew under certain conditions they could still call out, changing frequencies between messages. But since he left, there had been no messages of any kind. He listened to the silence with a grim face.

The clock ticked 7:00 pm. The General had consumed six cups of black coffee. He could have returned to his camp at anytime, but he wanted to see if the young woman they recovered from the catacombs, impregnated with a hideous Loved One infant, could reveal any worthwhile information. But she had only babbled aimlessly since her operation, the only tangible words being two names: Trina and Kent. There was a cross-reference check being made for her among sixteen listed missing persons in the region. Hopefully one would turn up.

Brackenridge had other puzzles as well. Barney had left his highly successful TV show mid-season to retreat here to New Mexico. He spent $15 million to purchase outdated Soviet plans for a failed satellite, and was transporting several tons of soil somewhere south. Before he left his Dallas lair, he had been watching Howard Hughes' epic film, "The Conqueror" over and over again. What did it all mean? The bristle-haired man scrunched his brow and leaned back in exhaustion.

An electric door hummed as a doctor's assistant came in. "General Shearson, we did the cross-reference check for a missing person with the names of Trina and Kent. The list turned up...nothing".

Trina and Kent Jr. stared in awe. The living room was filled with all kinds of people and creatures. Many were squat, gurgling creatures who scampered about clad in loose-fitting robes. Others appeared human, only they were large, obese people with no hair and purplish skin. Their faces were pulled back into a wide, toothy grin and some sported fake tails hung from belts. Then there was the creature known as Baby Bop, who spastically giggled and flitted about the house, clutching her "blankie" and waving at the two children. She had been accompanied by a tall, yellow creature named BJ, who was supposedly her brother. He had tried to initiate a game of soccer with the children, but both Trina and Kent Jr. were too awestruck to really follow up on his offer.

Amidst this bizarre gathering stood the tall, omnipotent form of the Purple One. Barney seemed especially pleased tonight, and sauntered in and out of the crowd, giving hugs and the occasional kiss to his minions. Trina and Kent Jr. could not help but feel they were witnessing something magical, even historical.

"Barney," said Trina, clutching his arm as he passed, "are all of these people and animals your friends?"

"Why of course they are, Trina," chirped Barney, "and don't forget, they're your special friends too! What do you say we all play a suuupper-deee-dduper game of `the number limbo'?"

The rest of the visitors heard this suggestion and went into an immediate orgy of excitement and glee. BJ produced a limbo-rack and pole, and instantly everyone broke into song:

We love to do the number limbo, we love to do the number limbo, When the pole's a number, we all go under, this time to number....3!

The house was filled with happy laughter, singing, and merriment. The minions in the house, including BJ and Baby Bop, probably numbered close to fifty. Following the "number limbo," more games were suggested and played. However, as the clock neared 9:00 pm, Barney quieted the crowd down with a wave of his stocky paws and spoke to Trina and Kent Jr.

"Well kids, we've all had such a stuuuppenndousss time with you, but it's getting late. I fear that it's your bedtime!"

"Oh Barney," whined Kent Jr., do we have to?"

"I'm afraid so," replied the fat, wobbling reptile. "But me and Baby Bop will tuck you both in and sing you bedtime lullabies, how's that?"

"OOOoooooooo, I just LOVE singing BEDtime lullabies!" screeched Baby Bop, who then began cooing and giggling. "Let's take you kids upstairs, I'll even share my BLANKIE with you!"

The children giggled, and ran upstairs, followed closely by the two dinosaurs. What the children failed to notice were the gunshot wounds and scars some of the Loved Ones and Sponge-Minions were sporting, testimony to a tremendous gunfight rendered some days before.

"My name...is Cheryl Robison....I have a husband named Kent.....and two children....Trina and Kent Jr."

General Brackenridge rested his hands upon the dazed woman's shoulders as she lay prone in the hosptial bed. "Cheryl, I need answers. Where is your family? How close are they to the Guadalupe Mountains? Everyone, especially your children, may be in great danger!"

The nurse tried to restrain the general. "Sir, she really needs time to recuperate."

"Damn it, we don't have all that much time!" barked Brackenrdige, his whole body locked in tension, "something can be going on right this minute. Tell the landing bay crew to get my chopper ready, I'm flying out tonight!"

General Shearson walked into the room. "Your troops may be but a few of your worries, Brackenridge. " The older officer pulled a videotape out of his pocket. "Our station crew taped this program earlier today." He slid the tape into a VCR attached to the overhead terminal and pushed the play button. The screen turned a solid blue, then..

"This is Julian Griggs of NEWS ALIVE. Last Tuesday night a tremendous fight between U.S. soldiers and Barney the Dinosaur occurred here at this compound in New Mexico, just a few miles shy of Carlsbad. It appears that in addition to one human, twelve grotesque creatures were killed, at the loss of three soldiers."

"I'll kill that slimy bastard!" screamed Brackenridge, "I'll kill him!"

"Since that was broadcast earlier today, protest groups of angry parents and children have risen all over the country," muttered Shearson. "The Pentagon is denying all knowledge of your actions and whereabouts. The public outrage is...indescribable".

"We were so close, so close to sealing the lid on that purple fascist! Doesn't anyone out there understand what this monster is up to?" Brackenridge pulled on his field jacket and stalked out of the room. "Shearson, send any back-up units out if Cheryl Robison reveals her family's location. My radio will be locked onto frequency channel 2 at all times. I'm going back out to my troops".

Shearson followed after the enraged general. "Brackenridge, be careful. You don't know what's out there!"

Minutes later the Cobra chopper lifted out of the secret hangar and screamed into the engulfing darkness, sinking out of sight.

Trina lay happily in her bed, clutching the brand-new Barney doll she was given that night. She was so happy to have met Barney, Baby Bop, BJ, and all of their friends. Since their father had been taken away, she and her brother felt safe and loved for the first time in months. No more screaming, no more drunken fits of rage. All was bliss.

She looked at the clock. It was five past midnight. Surely, everyone else must have gone to sleep. She rose out of bed to get herself a drink of water. She passed by her brother's room, she could hear him snoring contentedly. As she neared the stairwell, she thought she heard noises coming from the front lawn. She stealthily walked over to a nearby window and peered into the darkness.

Shapes, several dozen of them, wandered clumsily through the yard, single file. Trina had trouble making out details, but she knew the larger forms were Barney, Baby Bop, and BJ. The rest had to be either Sponge-Minions or Loved Ones. Why were they up so late, and where were they going? She looked on in puzzlement, and then realized the horde was returning to the drainage ditch where she had discovered Barney earlier before.

Suddenly, Trina heard a gurgling noise coming from the end of the stairwell. A Loved One must have been left behind to watch over the children. In the dark, she saw it's cloaked, hobbling shape wobble over to her.

"I-I was thirsty, so I-"

The creature hissed and shook its taloned hands in a bestial fit of rage. Terrified, Trina ran back to her bed and pulled the sheets over her head. The door slammed loudly behind her.

Julian Griggs flew with his crew in the NEWS ALIVE 7 helicopter, they wanted to get back to the compound before any other rival news teams got there in the morning. The outrage his initial report provoked sent his adrenaline rushing, he was on the verge of one of the hottest stories of the year. Now that it was out, there could be no more military intervention without the viewing public reacting strongly. He sipped his coffee and laughed out loud, much to the annoyance of his crew.

"Mr. Griggs, we should be reaching the compound within 45 minutes," reported the pilot.

"Take them down! They're all around us!"

"Meyers and Brickman are down, send back-up, send back-up!"

"I don't know where they came from sir, but they're heavily armed and have us pinned down! Call in for help!"

Lieutenant Garret listened in on his radio. The frantic calls were coming in from everywhere. The Lieutenant and his squad were having problems too. The compound was being fired on from all directions, and two soldiers were severely wounded.

"Keep low, conserve your ammo," he ordered, just as another hailstorm of fire hit the building. Garret retained the receiver and sent out a broadcast: "All units retreat back to the compound area, exercise extreme caution. Enemy is all around. I repeat, all units retreat back to the compound area!"

"Sir, I think they're trying to recapture the compound," yelled a private from her corner.

"Or else they're trying to capture us," added Garret, sliding a fresh magazine into his automatic. "Let's show them a thing or two".

On the lieutenant's signal, the squad spontaneously fired bullets and grenades against a high standing dune off to the north. The ensuing explosions had a satisfying effect, as high-pitched squeals of wounded Loved Ones filled the air. The smoke and flame obscured the compound for a few moments, and all fell silent.

Off in the distance, the sound of whipping blades and rotors could be heard. It was a helicopter, headed directly for the compound.

"Good God, that's Brackenridge," said Garret, trying to wave away the smoke, "we gotta cover his landing".

The helicopter loomed low in the black sky, and it slowly began centering itself upon a flat area just beyond the compound. Suddenly there was a barrage of stinging lights and cracks, and sparks flew off the edges of the doomed aircraft. As the horrific melee continued, the chopper spun wildly, as the cockpit burst into flames. The next instant the tail section hit the ground and the entire craft was shaken to pieces. Debris and fire flew in all directions, as the night sky was instantly lit by the dazzling fireball which plummetted and rolled like a firecracker.

"Return fire!" yelled Garret. Out from behind the dune, a shrieking, gurgling Loved One ran into the fray, trailing wires and cords. Garret immediately realized what was happening. It was making a suicide run. He instantly trained his sights upon the charged, bloated monster and fired away. The Loved One exploded just several yards shy of the compound. Gore and metal were flung against the walls. "Booby-trapped," he muttered.

The lieutenant counted his troops. There were five of them, protecting the building. No one could get out to the flaming wreck of the chopper. Then, off in the distance, he heard the sound of approaching gunfire. He smiled. It was his units, making a hasty retreat back to the compound. The Sponge-Minions would have to retreat or risk being trapped. The enemy shelling and firing ceased instantly. The minions of Barney had been beaten back.

Within the hour, all units had returned. The strike force, consisting originally of twenty-four soldiers, had now been stripped down to fifteen. Most had been lost in the opening attacks, while a few had been killed guarding the compound. There was a spirit of anger, yet determination among the force. The worst loss of all had been the death of General Brackenridge. Garret stared at the smoldering hulk of metal. He sent a few of his troops over to recover the remains. From here on, it would be harder than ever imagined. He sat back on a crate of spent munitions and tried to regain his focus. This was interupted when the sound of an encroaching aircraft was heard in the distance. Another helicopter.

As it loomed into view, Garret saw it was a military craft, but he was confused. It had the identical markings of Brackenridge's ship. He was even more perplexed when General Brackenridge stepped out of the helicopter and walked over towards the confused lieutenant.

"Quite a fight you must've had here," said Brackenridge, eyeing the debris. "God man, they even got one of our gunships".

"I thought that was you, sir," said Garret, looking as perplexed as the rest of the strike force.

"No sir, I'm pretty much here far as I can tell," replied the general, who then began poking through the smoky remains. He found one of the helicopter's panels and read it aloud.

"NEWS ALIVE 7, it says", he remarked. "Looks like our reporter friend chose a bad time to come back" The general didn't appear overtly sympathetic. "Lieutenant, whatever was blocking our signal has stopped. Radio into the Barney Demolition Headquarters and inform them to blockade all roads within a hundred miles of our location. In addition, tell them to send in any available info they have on Russian satellites, and the movie, `The Conqueror'."

"Sir?"

"Just do it, lieutenant, they'll understand. And I'll go tell our troops to settle in for the rest of the night, I think we all can stand a little sleep right about now".

Morning came upon the Robison farm. Trina awoke and went to her brother's room. The Loved One was no longer in the hallway. She told Kent Jr. what she had seen during the night, and he was also puzzled by the incident. After brushing their teeth and getting dressed, the two went downstairs.

The entire house looked like a hospital.

Sprawled on the floor, the tables, the sofa, and the easy chairs, lay Loved Ones and Barney-Minions. Many were wrapped up in crude bandages made of towels and linen. BJ lay against the corner, his soiled bandages peeling off of his shoulder. Baby Bop stared out of the patio window, quietly muttering angry little curses, while wrapping her chubby green arm in a pillow case. Her "blankie" was speckled with frothy green blood.

The only one who appeared unhurt and in good spirits was Barney the Dinosaur. Upon seeing the children, he burst out giggling and wandered over to them. After giving a tender hug to Trina and Kent Jr., he took them to the kitchen for a "healthy snack".

"Barney, what's going on?" asked Trina.

"Oh, hoo-hoo, we were all out playing, but we forgot our safety tips! Don't worry, I'm sure we're all going to be supperr-deee-duuper in just a matter of days!"

"Is that why you were up so late?" asked Kent Jr.

The dinosaur paused, turning a vibrant shade of crimson momentarily. Finally he answered, "Why that's corrrrect! I hope we didn't wake you up! Now, please excuse me for a second". Barney gestured towards the Loved One who had previously been guarding the two children during the night. The Loved One's eyes bulged, as if in fright, but it rose to its stocky feet and went outside towards the stables.

"Your scrumptious toast will be done in just seconds," chuckled the fat Beast of Purple, "I'll be back right away!"

Trina and Kent Jr. smiled, and began getting the table set for breakfast.

Out in the stables, the two ponies and old tan mare were frightened at the unusual spectacle before their eyes.

Barney flung the Loved One hard against the back wall, splintering wood and shaking dust from the rafters. "You were supposed to keep those worthless rugrats in bed!" hissed the dinosaur, who proceeded to shake the chubby little creature wildly. "You failed us! One more time like that, and I'll rip your guts out and shove them down your throat, worthless pile of filth!"

Barney flung the hapless beast upon the ground, who whimpered and cried in pain. Satisfied, the Purple Demon put on a happy smile and sauntered jollily back towards the kitchen. "Hi kids, have I told you lately how much I love you?"

Chapter Six: Crosshairs

"General Brackenridge, we have an affirmative location of Cheryl Robison's family. Over".

"Please report, Omega base. What is Robison's address? Over."

"34 East County Road AA, just twenty miles out from Pinon."

"Roger. Over and out!"

Brackenridge hung up the radio receiver and called out to his troops. "We have affirmative location on a Cheryl Robison, the same woman you all saw pulled out from the compound. She has a husband and two children within our vicinity who may be endangered by the Barneyians. Prepare to move out immediately!"

The soldiers strapped and prepared their packs, and moved about hurriedly in the harsh glare of the desert heat. Brackenridge watched their precision with a content smile. Once all the men were assembled in the trucks, he called over to Lieutenant Garret.

"Lieutenant, are all men accounted for?"

"Yes sir!"

"Then what are we waiting for," Brackenridge said with a wearied expression. Gesturing towards the concrete Barneyian compound, its purple and green paint peeling in the heat, he added, "blow the place sky high".

Garret pressed the charges together on the fuse-box, immediately detonating the explosives condensed deep inside the building. The roof of the compound sailed high into the air trailing debris, while the walls fell under like paper. A deep rumble of thunder echoed through the earth, as the crumbling compound sank under the surface, flame and smoke spewing like a volcano. The Barneyian compound, and any of its secrets Brackenridge overlooked, were now desolate ruins dotting the landscape.

Brackenridge watched the destruction solemnly. For three days he and his men sweated it out here, now the dreaded Beast of Purple was on the rampage again. The thought smouldered in his head, he knew Barney's luck would give out one day. Nodding to the driver, the swarthy general waved his hand. "Company....move!"

The crates were transported one by one, numbering five altogether. The warehouse foreman recorded each one, though he had no clear idea what they contained. The crates were oddly painted too, he thought. Purple and green. An ugly combination at best.

"Fred, who are these for again?" asked a worker, dusting off his cap.

Fred Mopett ran through the sheets again. He read the name aloud. "Some guy named `Mr. Yenrab'. Odd name. He's supposed to pick these up sometime today."

"These crates are huge," said the worker, " each one must literally weigh a ton, wonder what it's for".

"It's our job to work, not to ask," snipped the plump foreman. "Let's deal with it when Mr. Yenrab shows".

"I love you too....I'd be happy to let you play here", said the security guard. With an empty gaze and a wide smile, he reached under the console and flicked off the alarm systems to the first sector. The heavy iron gates groaned and pulled open. Beyond the perimeter stood a series of rockets and capsules, all part of the NASA museum display.

"Thank you," said the human, dressed in a thick purple robe. He removed a Barney doll from his satchel and placed it on the security guard's lap.

"Here's a nice toy to play with while me and my friends go over to your fun control unit".

The Barney-disciple climbed back into the van, and it roared by the dazed guard. The guard only giggled, and continued stroking the Barney doll's plush purple head.

Thirty seconds later it exploded.

While the trucks burrowed through the rugged New Mexico terrain, General Brackenridge received a call from Omega Base. It was from General Shearson's acting lieutenant, a mannerly-voiced woman named McKella.

"General Brackenridge," she began, " I have some information you might find interesting".

"Go on, McKella," he answered.

"You requested information on the movie, `The Conqueror', the one Barney was watching a lot of in Dallas, right? Well, the film was made in 1956, starred John Wayne as Genghis Khan, and was a critical and financial disaster. Howard Hughes produced the whole movie, fell in love with it, and eventually bought out all existing copies for $12 million dollars. Only until 1974 did Paramount secure rights to release it".

Brackenridge shrugged. "That's it?"

McKella continued. "Our staff, including General Shearson, watched the movie over and over, to see if there was anything Barneyian in the movie. It's basically a western set in the Orient, a badly made one at that, but nothing indicative of Barney and Friends in it".

The general furrowed his brow and thought for a few moments. "Lieutenant McKella, find out what you can about the story behind the making of `The Conqueror', see if that reveals anything. Can you tell me anything else from Omega Base?"

"One other detail, General," she replied, "it concerns our recon crews. We've observed trucks moving out from south central New Mexico lately, by night. This past week we saw six more drive out towards Carlsbad. One broke down and was left behind. We sent some men out to check out the truck's contents".

"Was it filled with soil like the other trucks have been?" asked Brackenridge.

"Yes," said McKella, her voice lowering, "but all of it....is radioactive".

The warehouse was dead silent. A heavy wind blew crinkled newspapers and dust about the building, whose cargo doors hung wide and open. Shattered crates and splintered boxes were strewn about the floor, while the foreman and his working crew of ten lay motionless on their backs.

Mr. Yenrab had been by earlier. Mr. Yenrab, who had a series of thick, heavy crates painted purple and green, came by to receive his unusual cargo and discovered it had been opened. By several curious workers. They had only wanted to see what was so heavy inside such strangely painted containers, and it infuriated Mr. Yenrab. They were not to see what his crates carried. Now it would no longer be a complete surprise.

So Mr. Yenrab made the warehouse employees play with him. And his friends. At first, the men didn't want to play, but Mr. Yenrab was very insistent. Mr. Yenrab's friends were also very insistent, they looked like squat little midgets with thick talons and gurgled like demented babies. Some men tried to escape, but they couldn't. Mr. Yenrab grabbed them and made them dance and sing little songs, but he was too strong for them and hurt them when they played. Bones were broken, feet and arms were crushed. Such a dangerous, painful dance to do with new friends.

And now they were all dead. Mr. Yenrab and his friends took their crates, along with the loading trucks, and drove away.

One worker, his breath starting to fail, watched the trucks disappear. He could only wonder, what Mr. Yenrab wanted with an obsolete satellite made of low-grade metal. Seconds later, he died no wiser.

"There's the house, stop just a few hundred feet away!" ordered Brackenridge. The trucks, filled with twenty-five men, came to a screeching halt. The general unfastened his binoculars and looked at the dilipidated, two-story house and stable. A mailbox near the yard read ROBISON.

"No movement or activity of any kind," muttered the general. "Get the troops out to do a quick, silent surveillance of the area, and to fire at any Barneyian disciples or creatures".

Seconds later the Robison household was crawling with trained soldiers, quickly combing every corner and stair. An unholy silence filled the house, and even the weathered general himself felt cold and on edge.

"That fat purple bastard's been here," he said, searching over the area. "It's getting to be you can feel him".

"Sir," said Garett, fumbling with the radio, "it's Omega Base. They want a report from you."

"Tell them we're still searching the area," grumbled Brackenridge, annoyed with the impatience of his superiors. "You can tell Cheryl Robison there's no sign of her husband or kids, but it doesn't look like any struggles took place either. They may still be alive."

Suddenly, a private waved frantically from the drainage ditch. Brackenridge walked over. "What is it, private?"

"They were here, sir, probably the whole sect," said the bristle- haired youth, pointing at the mud. "There's thick, heavy footsteps with scales, and some smaller ones right beside them. That's in addition to all the spongy flat prints and the boot prints of the cultists. They were here all right, and they probably got the family".

An hour later, they entire squad confirmed Brackenridge's fears. There was no sign of Cheryl Robison's family, save for some blood stains on the kitchen floor near the stove. Barney, Baby Bop, BJ, and a whole legion of Loved Ones and Sponge-Minions had been there too. But now all that was left to answer Brackenridge's questions were pieces of overturned furniture and a torn photograph of the family on the floor.

Chapter Seven: Rapture

Trina and Kent Jr. awoke to the sound of squealing gears, the truck was braking to a complete halt. Kent Jr. checked his watch. Since leaving their house, he and his sister had slept for nine hours. What was going on?

The heavy iron doors opened at the rear cab, and the children squinted in the sunlight. They were greeted warmly by a familiar figure.

"Good morning, Trina and Kent! My goodness, you two really had a nice long nap!" bubbled the fat purple dinosaur. "We've arrived at my secret fun hideaway here at Carlsbad!"

"What are we doing here?" asked Trina.

"Trina curious! Wants to know what we're doing here! Curious!" gurgled Baby Bop, who appeared alongside Barney. "Think we should tell them, right Barney? Friends can always share secrets!"

"Oh Baby Bop, of course we'll tell Trina and Kent what we're doing. But first, I think we should all enjoy a delicious and healthy snack!" With that, everyone left the truck and made their way past a series of brush and rocks. Near a craggy outcropping, Barney bent over and shifted a purplish stone. Suddenly, a wide section of earth gave way with an ominous hum. Trina and Kent Jr. noticed there was an elevated lift built into the earth. Looking around, they also noticed they were probably a great distance away from any roads or highways. They were immediately scolded by two harried-looking Loved Ones, who seemed uncomfortable with being outside. The elevator, burdened with Barney, Baby Bop, the children, and a squad of Loved Ones and Barneyian Minions, quickly descended into the shaft.

When they all got inside, Trina and Kent Jr. gasped in surprise. They were inside an immense cavern, filled with monitors and screens. Railings and balconies stretched along dark, rocky walls and from the shadows they could hear the gurglings and croaks of Loved Ones.

"Welcome to my underground fortress kids!" chuckled Barney. "You and I are going to stay here and play fun games for a long time."

The idea made the children smile. "We love you Barney," they said in mindless unison.

"Well that's super-deee-duupper! And you know what, you two? You and I are going to meet a very special friend of mine. He came all the way from Canada to be here tonight, for a very special operation."

"Is that him?" Trina asked, pointing to a human dressed in a purple and green robe, standing at the end of the landing platform.

"You are absolutely corrrectt! Trina and Kent, meet Jerome!"

The children smiled and greeted the human. He was a man in his early twenties, well-kept and appearing very excited. When Barney approached him, the two embraced in a very warm and powerful hug.

"I love you Barney!" yelled Jerome ecstatically.

"And I _love you," replied the Purple Beast. "Are you ready for your operation?"

"Oh yes, Barney, yes! I'm all a jitter, waiting for you to make me a true disciple!"

"Then let's get a move-on!" squealed the pudgy purple reptile. With a wave of his hand, the entire ensemble embarked down a hall marked, "SURGICAL SECTOR". As they proceeded down the hall, the group broke into song:

I love you, you love me, time for Jerome's surgery With a little purple luck, we'll do it right And Jerome will be a wondrous sight!

Lieutenant McKalla had never expected to be relaying the news about a mediocre movie to her superiors. Yet, here she was, FAXing all available information to General Brackenridge about the 1956 movie, "The Conqueror". She and the available staff had watched the film several dozen times, hoping to know what Barney the Dinosaur's fascination with the movie was. It was simply a sloppy retelling of Genghis Khan, coupled with a love story and banal battle scenes. Nothing seemed clear to her now as she relayed critiques, plot summaries, cast and crew lists, _everything relating to the movie. Hopefully the general could come across something.

At the mobile reconaissance station, General Brackenridge reviewed all the information he had: the script from "The Conqueror"; the photos of the soil-laden trucks crossing over southern New Mexico; the blueprints of SYZ-18, the failed Soviet satellite that Barney invested $15 million in; a geographical map of the southwest region; and many more seemingly unrelated clues that were making him exasperated.

Brackenridge listened to the radio. A news report was coming in about a bizarre murder at a warehouse near Alamogordo. The foreman and all ten of his workers were found dead, many with crushed limbs. A regular superintendent could only relate the disappearance of several heavy crates painted purple and green, that a `Mr. Yenrab' had ordered stored sometime ago.

A strong gust of wind blew in, and Brackenridge was irritated at the dusty air filling the station. He was immediately reminded of the one truck that the Barneyian convoy had left behind, filled with soil, nothing else. When the Omega base crews had done an analysis, they discovered it was all highly radioactive.

And then suddenly, it dawned upon him.

Rising to his feet, Brackenridge hurriedly called into Omega Base. Lieutenant McKella answered.

"McKella, were there any other satellite photos taken of the southern New Mexico area within the past year, aside from the truck convoy?"

"I can check sir, though for the first half of the season, most of the relay signals were taken at night. Any shots we'd get would be too dark for any real detail," McKella replied.

"Lieutenant, find any photos or recorded images that reveal unusual movement in that region, if the satellite passed over in the evening, get Surveillance to enhance the images! No questions, just do it!"

"Yes sir," she replied. "Will you want any of these photos FAXed to your station?"

"Affirmative, McKella, and cut no slack in doing so. I think I may have that fat purple scumfreak figured out!"

Two hours later the FAX machine began to hum and chirp. A series of photographs crept out of the bay-feed, and were immediately snatched-up and scrutinized by the anxious general. The enhancement showed everything Brackenridge wanted to know. He stepped out of the station vehicle and relayed an order to Garret.

"Garret," he said, sweating profusely, "call in our troops and have them prepped for one hell of a battle. We're shipping out from here as soon as Surveillance relays to us the last-known possible coordinates of Barney the Dinosaur and his cult. Come with me into the strategy room, we've got to get the purple s.o.b nailed and fast!"

Trina and Kent Jr. stared in fascination. Strapped to the surgical table, Jerome appeared happy and carefree. Beside him stood Barney and a Loved One assistant, who was cradling a handful of odd metallic instruments. Barney peeled back his green surgical mask and gently cooed into Jerome's ear.

"Are we comfy?"

Jerome giggled with uncontrollable glee. "Yes, I can't believe it's going to happen! Barney, thank you, thank you!"

"When I'm through with you, Jerome, you are going to look stuuuppeendouss!"

With a snap of his chubby fingers, Barney signalled the Loved One to inject an orange liquid into Jerome's cheek. Jerome flinched a little, then suddenly, his entire face collapsed into a drooping pile of flesh.

"Don't worry kids, this is a relaxant, to help Jerome's muscles rest." Jerome began snoring. The two children giggled in amusement.

Trina looked about. No one else was giggling. The room, dark and metallic, was filled with odd devices and containers. There were also a fair number of Loved Ones and Barneyian-cultists surrounding the operating area. Trina wiped the grin off her face and did her best to keep composure.

"Face-locks, please", said Barney. The blubbery Loved One pulled an intricate set of wire braces and hooks from the tiny metal platter. Barney inserted the four shiny hooks around the corners of Jerome's mouth. "Aaaannddd uuuppp!" sang Barney, stretching the odd-device back around the unconscious human's head. When the face-locks were stretched as far back as they could go, Barney fastened them in back with a series of clasps, then let Jerome's head rest back upon the table.

Kent Jr. couldn't believe his eyes. "Whooooaaa, that's something else!"

Trina was also amazed. Jerome's mouth had been stretched apart to reveal his shiny, perfect teeth, the surrounding skin pulled into a broad smile. Barney chuckled at the children's reaction, then reached for a vial containing a milky substance. He set about injecting it with a needle into Jerome's neck, sinal cavities, and chin. The sight made Trina and Kent Jr. cringe.

"What will that do, Barney?" asked Trina, her face scrunched in repulsion.

"Why this chemical will make Jerome's face tighten forever into this beautiful smile that you see here!" beamed Barney, handing the needle over to the Loved One. Within seconds, everyone could see Jerome's skin harden and tighten. Jerome's face would be smiling forever. Barney quickly undid the face-locks. The grin was frozen perfectly into Jerome's tender features.

"And now the pretty part! Please, please please, let me see!" shrieked Baby Bop, breaking through the crowd.

Barney chuckled. "Please excuse Baby Bop kids, she always likes this part." With that, the bloated Purple Demon removed the lid off of a wide plastic container. He hung it from an overhead brace and inserted a series of tubes and stems into the bottom of it. At the end of the tubes were shiny metal mouths which Barney proceeded to plunge into Jerome's tender pale skin.

"Changes! Jerome changes, like a _chameleon!!" gurgled Baby Bop ecstatically, dancing in circles and rocking her head back and forth. Trina and Kent Jr. watched on as purple fluid began seeping through the tubes and stems, emptying into Jerome's unconscious body. It was not long before patches of purple began appearing under the human's flesh.

The children were speechless. Here was a human being, being changed into a Barneyesque creature! As they looked on, Barney grabbed an electric razor and started shaving the hair off of Jerome's body. Thick tufts of hair drifted to the concrete floor, as Jerome's flesh began turning a more solid shade of violet.

When Barney had finished shaving Jerome's hair off, and the man was a vibrant hue of purple, the chubby dinosaur took out the tubes and applied bandages and compresses to the gaping holes. "And now, the final touch!"

In a process similar to the injection of the dye, Barney now administered a thick, lardy substance into Jerome's lanky frame. Trina had seen something like this on a television show once, called liposuction. But Barney was doing it in reverse. The plump reptile was actually _injecting massive volumes of fat into his friend's body.

The process continued for almost two hours, but the children never lost interest. At the conclusion, Jerome was revived and allowed to see himself in the mirror.

The young man screamed. Trina and Kent Jr. leapt back. Was Jerome terrified? The next instant the scream turned into a childish squeal and tears welled up in the man's eyes. Jerome turned from the mirror and faced Barney, who was now removing the surgical mask and gown.

"How can I ever *thank* you?" gushed the man.

"No thanks are necessary, just let me know how much you care and love your friend Barney!"

Jerome wobbled over, purple, grinning, hairless, nude and obese. He wrapped Barney in a great big hug and the lizard replied in turn by kissing the human lovingly on the head. It was a tender moment experienced by all in the room. As the children looked on, Barney gave a wink to the two and whispered, "you're next".

Chapter Eight: Cataclysm (Conclusion)

The Loved Ones were shrieking.

Trina and Kent Jr. awoke from their slumber, frightened. The children hurriedly donned their purple pajamas and left their cell. Out in the halls and upon the spindly rails, the Barneyian-spawn were doubled over crying in intense agony. Kent Jr. rushed to help one which had fallen down a flight of metal stairs. Its huge dead eyes rolled about crazily, and thick bubbly ichor oozed out of its nostrils and ears.

Up above the cavern's surface, a low-flying airplane bombarded the landscape with sonar rays emitted from a disk-shaped orb attached to its fuselage. The pilot noticed the unusual readings and radioed into Omega Base.

"Omega Base, this is Strawberry 9, reading strange findings at coordinates J-33, I-17, and H-5. Large cavernous area fifteen miles east of Carlsbad, metallic and electronic reasonances evident. Will circle again, currently at 400 feet--"

The pilot was cut off by a vibrant flash of purple, instantly followed by a disruptive blast that shattered the aircraft into shrapnel. The explosion sent debris floating upon the sandy plains of the New Mexico desert.

"Hip-hip-hoooorrrraaayyyy!" squealed Barney, doing a jolly little dance and wobbling his gargantuan hindquarters. "That pesky little aircraft won't be hurting my Loved Ones anymore!"

"Barney," asked Trina, looking at the radar screen puzzledly, "what made that plane go away?"

"A super-deee-duuper missile! You see kids, that plane had a special device that would be used to find us and take you away from me. Its special device hurt my Loved Ones very badly, but now it won't bother us anymore. Isn't that wonderful?"

"Mean pesky plane! Dead now! Dead, dead, dead!" gurgled Baby Bop, strangling her blanket. "Hurt Loved Ones! Make them bleed! Make them cry! But no more! Pesky mean plane gone forever and ever!" The squeaky-voiced dinosaur cooed and snickered, while her brother BJ stolidly manned the missile console.

"I am sure this was all very exciting for you, Trina and Kent," chuckled the obese purple lizard, "but it's still past your bedtime. Now go back to bed and tomorrow we'll have a stupendous day of playing games and eating healthy snacks!"

The children groggily yawned and went back to their cell.

"And don't forget," remembered Barney, "...I love you." When the cell door slid shut, the Beast of Purple turned to Baby Bop and BJ. "How many Loved Ones did we lose?"

"All of them are suffering severe headaches and nausea," reported the lanky yellow reptile called BJ, "but only one appears to be in serious shape. Destroying the plane ended the sonar bombardment."

"Army bullies will be here soon, they will!" shrieked Baby Bop, her winsome eyes bulging in rage, "must prepare! Guns, guns, guns! Children...hostages!"

"You are so right, Baby Bop," smiled Barney, patting the green infant dinosaur on the head, "it will only be a matter of time before our `friends' from the army will be here. This means only one thing."

BJ and Baby Bop looked at each other in astonishment. "Barney," began BJ, "surely you can't mean--"

"Don't question my commands you jaundiced freak-bastard lizard!" bellowed Barney, striking BJ against the face, "we're putting `Operation DeathLove' into effect NOW!!! Prepare the satellite! Unload the trucks! And by all means, keep a close eye on those pasty- faced brats! They're our hostages until we set this nation ablaze!" Barney's face was contorted into a dark-red mass of seething hysteria, eyes burning with the killing lust, teeth clenched, talons pressed into bleeding fists.

Operation DeathLove was called into action.

Four cargo-gunships lifted off the White Sands airfield at Alamogordo. Inside each, waited thirty highly trained soldiers strapped to the hilt, ready for action. In the lead craft, Brackenridge checked his watch. It was 4 o'clock in the morning, just thirty-five minutes after the reconaissance plane had been shot down. His surveying team pinpointed the area, leading them to a remote site within twenty miles of Carlsbad.

Brackenridge, a veteran of two major armed conflicts, scrutinized his troops. They all were equipped with the latest gear and armor, each carried enough firepower to destroy a medium-sized town. The squad-leaders were all crack shots and proved themselves well under fire. Yet, the aging general wasn't sure if it'd be enough. Barney and his disciples would surely be expecting them now. It promised to be one grueling firefight.

"People, we'll be hitting the target in about twenty minutes. How about we all sing a song to get us psyched for battle?"

The troops laughed nervously, and stared at the white-haired, ruddy-faced officer confusedly. Brackenridge realized he'd have to start them off.

"I hate you, you hate me....."

Immediately, several troops chimed in. "We're going to blast fat-ass Barney..."

The craft was now filled with spirited singing and laughing. "With a boot to the head and a fist right to the gut, we'll bathe tonight in Barney's blood!"

The soldiers clapped and cheered, then the joyful din eased back into uncomfortable silence. The plane's engines droned on loudly, and everyone could feel the craft begin to descend for its initial landing.

"Check your weapons, boys and girls," commanded Brackenridge, "we're not shooting clay pigeons tonight. Conserve your ammo, shoot without mercy. With a little luck, we'll all be home the same day".

It was probably a high-speed, low-impact missile that hit the left-flank gunship, but that was enough. The aircraft plummetted to the ground, spiralling wildy and hitting the earth with tremendous force. The fireball roared skyward, like a pillar of flame.

"Aversive maneuvers!" cried Brackenridge, "they're on to us!"

The pilot of Brackenridge's gunship turned the craft abruptly, causing some of the soldiers to lose their footing and fall. A sparkling missile whizzed by the wing, missing it by only a couple of feet. The aircraft off to the right flank was struck just under the cargo-hold, causing it to break in half. Before Brackenridge's astonished eyes, soldiers and equipment were sucked out of the plane, thrashing wildly in the sky.

"Land this thing! We're sitting ducks up here!"

The pilot swerved the craft towards the desert, and in the ensuing landing, both wings were sheared off and a cloud of dust billowed through the holding bay. But for now, the soldiers and Brackenridge were safe.

The troops kicked out the door, and hurriedly assembled into squads. Brackenridge looked about him. Two planes were already destroyed, sixty men and women lost. Several hundred yards away, he saw the other gunship land, bouncing wildly against the rolling landscape of rock and sand. They would be by in their own time. For now, the general was too upset to settle for organization.

"Get your bearings and advance towards your designated areas!" barked Brackenridge, tending to his cuts and bruises, "demolition crews assemble with Lieutenant Garret on the double!"

Trina and Kent Jr. watched as the hordes of Loved Ones and Barneyian-disciples ran frantically about the cavern. Many were carrying rifles, machine-guns, and grenades. All were smiling, with some shared perverse glee. What was going on? And why had Baby Bop locked the door?

"Kent, listen!" whispered Trina, looking upwards. The children held their breath and stood in confused silence.

There were curious sounds coming from outside, far up on the surface. Some sounded like explosions. Others were long, steady, scraping noises. They were heard from all areas of the cavern.

At one section of the cavern, Jerome, fully recovered from his "transformation", was leading a pack of blubbery, hunchbacked Loved Ones to an upper railing. His friend, an educated man known only as "JayBird", prepped the Loved Ones' firearms. From behind a crumbling wall of granite, the sound of human voices and drilling could be distinctly heard.

"Now remember everyone, when they break through, I want everyone to yell `surprise!', okay?" said Jerome, his bald purple head shining in the light.

The Loved Ones and JayBird nodded enthusiastically, and aimed their weapons at the wall. Within moments, a large metal drill ripped through the cavern. Piles of stone gave way, and all of the assembled Sponge-Minions and Loved Ones pressed down on their triggers. The whole section erupted into a hailstorm of fire and cracking thunder.

"Surprise!"

A hapless demolitions man was peppered with bullet holes, as were several soldiers behind him. But within minutes, the surviving army soldiers retaliated with a firestorm of their own, and Loved Ones were chopped apart like pudding.

"Retreat, Jerome!" cried JayBird, scampering down the stairs.

"This one's for Barney!" yelled Jerome, slamming a live grenade into his mouth and leaping into the opening. A split second later the whole cavern and adjoining railings were blown into cinders and twisted metal. JayBird was flung off the collapsing railing and fell several stories. He fell upon a Loved One, who was too soft and blubbery to really provide any adequate padding. JayBird was snapped in two while the Loved One splattered like a water-balloon. "If...I had only..watched more `Sesame Street'...." were Jaybird's dying words.

Barney had watched this and shook his fist in rage. "You kill my precious Loved Ones and my two special friends, Jerome and Jaybird? By all that is purple, I'll dry your flesh in the sun, pathetic fools!"

The gelatinous purple dinosaur produced a heavy railgun, and fired mercilessly at the surviving band of humans. The soldiers were gunned to pieces by the violent barrage. Baby Bop stood beside Barney and squealed in orgasmic glee. The two dinosaurs watched and chuckled as the last soldier screamed in agony as bullets ripped into his body.

"Well _that was supperr-deee--"

Barney was interupted as Baby Bop's head disappeared in a burst of smoke and flesh. The headless green body waved its arms spasmodically, then crumbled to the floor, quivering.

"Sorry about that Barney, I forgot it was rude to interupt," said General Brackenridge, cradling the bazooka. "Still, I always found her voice more annoying than yours".

Barney stared down at the headless form of Baby Bop, then looked back at Brackenridge in amazement.

"What's the matter, Barney, cat got your fat swollen tongue? You've got three seconds to surrender."

"Ooh, I very much doubt that!" giggled Barney, regaining his composure. "I've been watching the news lately, you must be General Brackenridge. The general public's quite sore at you for chasing me down!"

"Public opinion never bothered me," retorted Brackenridge, sliding another shell into the tail-section of the bazooka. "And you're right, I'm General Brackenridge. I've lost countless soldiers to you and your crummy cult, but it's all coming down right now!"

"Why General, don't you see I only want to be your friend? I love you, and everyone else! Won't you say you love me too?"

"Can that tripe," replied Brackenridge, "I finally figured out what you were up to. Me and my troops are down here to put an end to it."

"OOoooohhh!" reeled the blubbery dinosaur, wobbling his sagging hips, "I underestimated you, General. Pray tell, what is it that I'm up to, and how did you figure it out?"

The general could hear the sounds of firefights erupting all over the caverns. He looked over the immediate sector, and saw that it was only Barney and him left alive.

"At first, I was as confused as everyone. The convoy of trucks carrying radioactive soil, the shoddy satellite plan you bought from the Soviets, and that big-budget epic, `The Conqueror', didn't really tie in at first. But then, I saw the earlier satellite feeds from last year, pictures of your nightly convoys from the White Sands region."

"Oh my, General Brackenridge, I think you're on to me!"

"Those trucks were coming out of Trinity. Off-limits to the public, it's the site where the original A-bomb was tested and detonated. The whole area is contaminated with radioactivity, soaked into the deepest recesses of the earth. Much of the life there is either gone or weakened by radiation.

"When I resumed reading up on `The Conqueror', I came across an interesting article about how many of the cast and crew had since died from cancer. Researchers discovered that the film had been shot in Utah and Nevada, adjacent to many other A-bomb and H-bomb testings. In fact, Howard Hughes transported truckloads of the area soil into Hollywood for all of his studio scenes. What killed John Wayne and many other people associated with the movie was the irradiated dirt they shot in and around. Many deemed `The Conqueror' set the most radioactive movie-set in known history."

Barney raised his arms to his face and appeared to blush. "You've got it! What a stuuupppeenndddoussss job-"

"Shut up, you fat, blubbery freak!" snapped Brackenridge. "You didn't care for the movie's storyline at all, you were entranced by the story behind the scenes. Needless to say, your experiments must've created an even more potent form of irradiated soil, which you intend on shooting up into space with a faulty satellite. Once that soil hits the atmosphere, thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people, can be sickened with radiation immediately."

Barney jumped up and down, clapping his hands. "Teerrriifficc, General, I didn't think anyone could figure it out! You are entirely corrrectt, you are! I call it `Operation Deathlove', and it's underway even as we speak!"

Brackenridge aimed the bazooka squarely upon Barney. "And if you know what's good for you, you psychotic lizard, you'll call off your Loved Ones and get them dismantling the satellite."

A shot rang out. Brackenridge felt a surge of scorching heat through his shoulder. The force of the bullet sent the General falling back against the concrete bannister and he dropped the bazooka.

"I think you shouldn't threaten my friend, Barney!" stammered BJ, who came out from the shadows. Brackenridge looked down and saw the yellow, freckly dinosaur wielded a 9mm semi-automatic. His other arm was wapped tightly around two children dressed in purple pajamas.

"BJ," cried Trina, "what are you doing? Don't point that gun at us!"

"Shuttup, brat," sneered BJ, cocking the pistol. "With you here, that aging prune general will leave us alone."

"Good work, BJ," cooed Barney, patting the yellow dinosaur on the back. "I only regret you were not here in time to rescue your beloved sister, Baby Bop!"

The blubbery Beast of Purple gestured towards the stiffening, headless body of Baby Bop. BJ's eyes bulged and his mouth dropped open. Immediately, an agonizing surge of rage flashed through his features. Dropping Trina and Kent Jr., BJ ran screaming up the stairwell at the wounded general, firing madly.

"I'll kill you! I'll kill you! You're dead, do you hear me!?!" screamed the wild-eyed, banana-yellow reptile. "Your head's gonna be run through a stake and perched outside for all the others to see! I'm gonna kill you for what you did to my sister!!"

For Brackenridge, BJ's tantrum couldn't have been an easier break. With the two children safely away, and BJ out of control, he could fire upon the sinister sibling with little hesitation. He dodged the bullets and quickily braced the bazooka against the railing and waited.

"BJ, no! Watch out!" cried Barney.

General Brackenridge pulled the trigger. There was a flash of smoke and fire, upon which BJ was blown in half by the force of the shell. Yellow chunks of flesh and bone sprayed against the walls and railings of the cavern. The force of the blast knocked Barney and the children off of his feet. After a few seconds, Brackenridge gained his bearings and made a terrible realization.

He was out of ammunition.

Brackenridge dazedly made his way down the railings, past the smoldering torso of BJ, onto the main floor of the cavern. The two children were frantically trying to revive Barney, who sat on his back, grinning stupidly and coughing. Alongside the blubbery beast, was the railgun.

Brackenridge lunged for it, but it was instantly seized by a powerful, plush-purple hand. The general wasn't going out without a fight. He grasped onto the barrel and pulled hard against the dazed purple dinosaur.

"Why General, don't you know it's not nice to take other people's toys away from them without asking?" chuckled Barney.

"Barney, may I please have your gun so I can blast your god-damn head off?" Brackenridge said sarcastically.

"NO!" cried Barney. His jaws snapped menacingly at the general's face. Brackenridge hung onto the railgun with all of his might, ignoring the pain in his shoulder. Barney tried to roll on top of the human, the general kept the two balanced with his legs. All the while, Brackenridge wondered when the rest of the invasion squad would arrive.

"Stop hurting Barney!" shrieked Trina, hitting the general with her fists, "he's our friend and he loves us!" Kent Jr. began kicking him in the back. "Leave Barney alone!"

Brackenridge realized it was all up to him. He couldn't last any longer. If he weakened, Barney could snap his head off like candy. Loosening his grip, he slid his free hand over to the holster and plunged his fingers into the trigger-catch. He moved his feet away and fired.

Barney's screams filled the caverns with an unholy echo. Howling madly, the Purple Demon released the general and raised his bleeding stump into the air. The burst had fired directly into Barney's legs, rendering one into brittle, chipped flesh, and the other a messy stump. In fact, Barney's left leg had been blown off at the knee.

Trina and Kent Jr., horrified at the spectacle, ran down the corridor screaming. Brackenridge, soaked in pasty pink blood, moved away from the delirious, screaming bag of purple flesh. He grasped the railgun away from Barney, and aimed it directly at the Beast of Purple's head.

Suddenly, Barney began giggling. Smiling at the grizzled general, he said, "My, my, general...looks like you got one in on old Barney! You can kill me right now and save your nation, there's still time you know!"

Brackenridge slowly pulled the trigger, the gunsights set squarely between Barney's eyes. One fraction more pressure on the release would make the crazed dinosaur's head mincemeat. Yet, Brackenridge hesitated.

"What the hell are you waiting for?" yelled Barney, wiggling about. "You could do it to Baby Bop and BJ, why not me? I'm the foulest of them all! Think of the soldiers who died fighting my cult! All the civilians I corrupted. My plans! Don't you want to blow my head off? Do it!"

Brackenridge lowered the railgun. He knew what would happen if he fired. Barney would attain a martyrdom unmatched, hailed in effigy by countless children and disciples world-wide. His movement would grow stronger, riots would ensue, the government would be targetted for revolt, if Barney the Lovable Purple Dinosaur were gunned down by an irate, aging general. Besides, if the rumors were true that Barney was immortal, the fat bloated demon could stage his own return, like a second coming. The Beast of Violet Evil would be hailed as the new Messiah.

Even then, Brackenridge saw Barney's wounds closing and healing up. The creature was gradually regenerating.

"Killing you would be the best thing for you, Barney," muttered Brackenridge. "I kill you here and the next day your face will be on every kid's bedroom door and lunchbox. And being that you're probably immortal, you'd make a return appearance that would shake the foundations of our civilization as you know it. Not here, not ever."

"You are sooo right," sneered Barney. "The only way for me to die is if I kill myself, but I've nothing to lose. You and your witless soldiers do. Whether you kill me or not, I've still a world out there to conquer, my fans and disciples will promise that!"

A squad of soldiers burst through the chamber. Brackenridge held them at bay with his hand. "It's alright, soldiers," he said. "We're taking this bloated sack of purple crud away, as is." General Brackenridge turned to Barney and smiled. For the first time, the purple dinosaur looked uneasy.

"I'm not gonna blow you away, Barney, " said Brackenridge, rising to his feet. "What I'm going to do to you is a lot worse. A lot worse." He gestured to two soldiers. "Take him away".

The soldiers went over and picked Barney up and dragged him off. The men were not strong enough to lift Barney entirely off the ground, and occasionally Barney's stumps dragged on the floor. The ensuing screams were intensely gratifying.

"General Brackenridge, Omega Base has called in," said a corporal, brandishing a radio. "The infantry unit outside of Houston managed to intercept the launching of a pirated Apollo rocket taken from the NASA Aerospace Museum. Apparently it was carrying an outdated Soviet satellite laden with several tons of irradiated soil. All Sponge- Minions, Loved Ones, and Barneyian disciples were either killed or captured."

"How ready were they to launch the satellite when the infantry intervened?"

The corporal wiped his brow and let his stare drop to the ground. "Twelve seconds, sir. Twelve seconds to launch and detonation."

The underground Barneyian headquarters had been breached and secured. Minions of the Purple Demon were sent away for study and treatment. At the end of the day, there had been an alarming number of casualties, yet it was agreed upon this was the final battle. At sunset, demolition crews dynamited the complex, sending it deeper into the ground, buried by tons of sand and rock.

Trina and Kent Jr. were reunited with their mother, Cheryl Robison, at Omega Base. Immediately, the two children were enrolled in the deprogramming sessions and began incredible recoveries within the first few weeks. Having renounced Barney, the children directed their attention to Sesame Street, Beakman's World, Animaniacs, and the occasional episode of Ren and Stimpy. The therapist's diagnosis predicted full and complete recovery within a year's time.

The U.S. Government recognized the efforts of General Brackenridge and his units, awarding the General with the Congressional Medal of Honor. Exactly one year after the final battle, a monument was dedicated at the Carlsbad site, commemorating all the soldiers and civilians who gave their lives in the crisis. It depicted a brazen group of five soldiers, three men and two women, brandishing the heads of Barney, Baby Bop, and BJ atop their bayonents.

Barney the Dinosaur was publicly denounced nationwide for his sinister ambitions. "Operation DeathLove" was outlined and analyzed in full, and "Barney and Friends" were pulled off all PBS affiliates. For sentencing, General Brackenridge himself urged Congress and the Supreme Court to have Barney declared Criminally Insane, and committed to Brookdale National Asylum.

Upon arrival, Barney was outfitted in a plush, purple straitjacket and bound inside an engraved pentagram. Reporters from LIFE and Time magazine covered the event, and within the week, all Barney-related products were pulled from the shelves and destroyed. Sales plummetted disastrously, while people of all ages and backgrounds denounced Barney as "an evil purple psycho from Hell".

The fall from grace wrecked Barney's mental health, and the Beast of Purple was reduced to gibbering aimlessly at the sky. By the second month, he had chewed his tail down to a short, bony stump and constantly flung his body against the walls. Finally, the day after the Carlsbad Dedication, he tore his own head off in a show of mindless hysteria and strength, ending what chances there would be of a second coming.

When Brackenridge heard the news, he smiled, and went out for a quiet game of golf.

THE END


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