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.
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 chaingun, 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 corrrrrect, 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 wrapped 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 chaingun.
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 chaingun 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 chaingun 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 chaingun. 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.