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 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.

@ Copyright 1996, Brian Bull

Click here for Chapter 7 of Death Zone Purple