Night of the Tortoise (by Suzanne, Kyle, and Ryan)

Summary: A crossover story which words can’t describe — you have to read it for yourself!
Category:  The Big Valley, Crossover
Genre:  Western
Rated:  PG
Word Count:  7600


Chapter One

“Boy, howdy, it sure got foggy all of a sudden.” Heath Barkley reined in his horse. “And it’s real thick fog, too. Can’t even see the moon or the stars.”

“That it is, little brother,” agreed his oldest brother, Jarrod. “I find this very strange, as the weather was quite fine until now. I’ve never seen a day quite like it, clear one moment and foggy the next.”

“And I don’t like it,” the middle brother, Nick, responded. “We’re out here in the middle of the desert with no water for miles, so where did this fog come from?”

“Oh, you boys!” exclaimed their sister, Audra. “What difference does it make? We’ve been riding for hours and I’m tired. Can’t we stop and camp some place right now? I wish I’d never come on this trip.”

“Now, Audra,” said Heath, “You were the one who wanted to go shoppin’ while we were takin’ care of the mine business. You insisted you had to buy some more of those Mexican pinatas for all the parties you are gonna give this year.”

“And since we don’t know exactly where we are, it wouldn’t be a good idea to just stop,” added Jarrod. “I suggest that we ride on until we come to a landmark of some kind and figure where we are.”

“Or until we drop from our saddles,” grumbled Audra.

“I’ll lead,” said Nick. “I know this area better than the rest of you.” He seemed to forget that Heath had lived in Mexico for several years before he had come to live with them.

The others agreed, and they started riding again. After a while, Nick shouted, “Hey! What’s this water doing here?”

Heath rode up to join Nick. “Looks like the Salton Sea to me, Nick.”

“The what?”

“The Salton Sea. That means that we’re off course. We are too far to the east. If we keep goin’ in this direction, we’ll end up in the Glamis Dunes. And there’s nothin’ out that way but miles and miles of sand. But, we should be able to follow the shore of the Sea and get back on course.”

Nick leaned on his saddle horn. “OK. Since you know so much about it, which way do we go around the Sea? Do we go right or do we go left?”

“That kinda depends on where we are.” Heath stopped to think.

“Does it really?” Nick said sarcastically.

“We want to go north and west. If we are on the south or the west of the Sea, then we should go left, but if we are on the east, we should go right. Since you know this area better than anyone, why don’t you decide?” Heath said just as sarcastically.

“Now, let’s not start fighting,” Jarrod said before Nick could answer. “It’s bad enough to be lost out in the desert without us fighting among ourselves. We should be working together on a solution to our problem.”

“Sorry, Nick,” said Heath.

“Me, too,” said Nick. “Jarrod’s right. The main thing is to find a way out of here.”

Heath held up his hands. “My thumbs just started itchin’. Somethin’ nasty’s on it’s way.”

Just then they heard Audra scream.

They all started shouting at once.

“What was that?”

“It sounded like Audra!”

“Where did it come from?”

“This way.”

“No, this way.”

“No, it came from over here.”

The three brothers began riding in three different directions, shouting for their sister and getting farther and farther away from each other, and more and more lost in the dark and the fog.

Heath pulled his horse to a stop. He didn’t have any idea where he was and he couldn’t see anything in the dark. Not only was this not helping to find Audra, but now the three men were separated and might not be able to find each other again. They should have come up with a plan before they had ridden off to look for Audra. He would need to devise a plan of his own. The first thing to do was to find his brothers. Then they would work out a plan to find their sister.

He thought about building a big bonfire so his brothers could see where he was, but he had no wood. He decided to fire his gun into the air, and wait for them to come to him. He raised his pistol and shot it three times.

He listened carefully for any sound from the others, but there was no response. After several minutes, he fired his pistol three times again. This time, he heard a strange whirring sound in the air above him. He looked up and saw several strange shapes falling out of the air toward him, and he heard strange voices shouting in a language he did not understand.

*****

Chapter Two

“Cowabunga!” Four voices shouted at once.

He watched as the four strangers landed on the ground in front of him. They were almost as tall as he was. Each one wore a colored mask over his eyes, elbow, wrist, and knee bands of the same color, and a black belt around his waist. One was dressed in red, one in purple, one in orange, and one in blue. The one in red carried two triple-bladed knives in his belt and the one in orange had two sets of two sticks joined with a length of chain, in his belt. Heath could see the hilts of two swords sticking up from behind the blue one’s back, and a fighting staff sticking up behind the purple one. Each one had some kind of shield covering his body in the front and
the back. The strangest thing about them was that their skin was dark green.

“Yo, dude!” shouted the one in orange. “Somebody signal for help?”

“Hey, check out the horse, you guys,” said the one in purple. “That’s one retro form of transportation.”

Heath just stared at the strangers. Although he could understand most of the words, what they were saying made no sense to him.

The one wearing blue stepped forward. “We heard your shots and recognized the traditional distress signal, so we came to see if we could help you. My name is Leonardo. These are my partners, Donatello,” the purple one bowed, “Raphael,” the red one waved,  “and Michelangelo.”

“Yo, dude,” said the orange one again. “What’s shakin’?”

Heath didn’t know how to answer this question, since nothing was shaking as far as he could tell, so he decided to just ignore it.

“Pleased to meet you. I’m Heath Barkley. I was travelin’ with my two brothers, Jarrod and Nick, and my sister, Audra, from Mexico to our home in Stockton. We got lost in the fog, and were tryin’ to find our way when we heard Audra scream. We got separated in the dark. I don’t know if you can help, but I’d sure be mighty grateful if you could.”

Leonardo looked concerned. “Heard your sister scream, huh? I guess we should tell you that we’ve been hangin’ in this area for a while. We heard that strange things were happenin’. For one thing, people have been disappearin’ for a few months now. I hate to tell you, but none of them has been seen again.”

Heath looked at Leonardo. “That might be true, but I won’t stop lookin’ until I find my sister. And my brothers.”

“Right on!” said Leonardo. “We like a man who doesn’t give up. We’ll help you find your family. But first, we need a plan.”

They decided that the most important thing was to look for Audra first, since she might have been attacked by a wild animal or something. Jarrod and Nick were probably just lost in the dark and the fog, and not in any danger. Leonardo suggested that they start by following Heath’s
tracks back to where Audra had disappeared. Then they would search for any tracks or clues as to what had happened to her.

“Isn’t it too dark to track anything tonight?” asked Heath. He didn’t want to risk missing some clue in the dark.

“No problemo, dude,” answered Michelangelo. “We can see in the dark!”

“In that case, let’s go,” said Heath. “The sooner we get started, the sooner we’ll find my sister. And my brothers.”

“All right! Go, green machine!!” shouted the other four together.

Heath got up on his horse, and his four new friends led the way. He wondered what the “green machine” was and where it was supposed to go, but decided that it didn’t really matter, if they were willing to help him.

As they were following his tracks, a huge strange shape appeared in front of them in the fog. It was making a loud whooshing noise, as well as some creaking and jangling noises. Heath pulled his gun and the others got their weapons ready. As it got nearer, it seemed to get smaller, and the noises got quieter. Suddenly, Heath laughed.

“That’s just Audra’s horse.”

He rode up to it and caught hold of the bridle. The horse was breathing heavily, making the whooshing noise, and seemed to be all worn out from running, but it was still wearing its saddle with the bedroll and saddle bags attached to it. The saddle and saddle bags were making the creaking noises, and the rings on the bridle were jangling. Heath got off of his horse and
checked it over, and after finding that it wasn’t hurt, he asked if any of the others wanted to ride it.

“Hey, thanks for the offer, buddy,” said Donatello, “but we prefer turtle power to horse power.”

“Whatever you say,” Heath responded. He wanted to ask what “turtle power” was, but didn’t want to seem rude or nosy. He got back on his horse and led Audra’s behind him. The trail they were following was very twisted and tangled. In some places, it went in circles; in other places, it backtracked on itself.

By the time they arrived at the spot near the Salton Sea where Audra had disappeared, the sun was rising over the horizon. They knew it was the right spot because there were tracks of three horses leading away in three different directions. In the growing light, Heath was surprised to see that his new friends looked even more like giant turtles than they had in the darkness. He couldn’t help himself from staring at them.

“You lookin’ at somethin’?” asked Raphael.

“I’m sorry,” said Heath. “I didn’t mean to be rude, but your armor, or whatever it is, makes you look just like really big turtles.”

They all laughed.

“That’s because we ARE really big turtles,” Raphael answered. “We’re the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. “

Suddenly, they all started singing:

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Heroes in a half-shell –

Turtle Power!”

When they had finished, Leonardo said, “Now, let’s start lookin’ for those clues about what happened to your sister.”

They backtracked a few more feet until they came to a place where the sand was all kicked around. Horse tracks led off in one direction; some other tracks led off in another direction.

“Boy, howdy, I’ve never seen tracks like these,” said Heath. “Any idea what they could be?”

*****

Chapter Three

“Oh, yeah,” said Leonardo. “They’re tortoise tracks. Desert tortoise tracks. Really big desert tortoise tracks. I’d say your sister was kidnapped by some mutant desert tortoises.”

The others nodded.

“How can you tell?” asked Heath.

“Well, for starters, the tracks look kind of like elephant tracks, with really short toes. And there’s no webbing between the toes. Also, see here? These are claw marks,” explained Leonardo.

“So, what do we do now?” Heath asked. “These tracks lead right into the Glamis Dunes.” He thought for a minute. “That would make sense if desert tortoises kidnapped her. They could live in burrows in the dunes durin’ the day, then come out only at night. So, if we follow these tracks now, we could attack the tortoises durin’ the day, when they are weakest.”

“Sounds like a plan to me, dude!” answered Michelangelo.

Heath decided to leave the horses there near the Sea, so that they would have plenty of water. He took the canteen and rope off of his saddle, “just in case.”

Then they all set off, following the tracks. Soon they came to a high barbed wire fence. There were big signs saying “Danger,” “Keep Away,” “No Trespassing,” and “This Means You.” The tracks led to a locked gate that was topped with barbed wire. The Turtles backed up, then ran toward the gate as fast as they could go. One by one they jumped over the gate, leaving Heath on the other side. He sighed, then pulled his pistol out of its holster, and shot the lock off of the gate. He opened the gate and walked through. Then they all took off, following the tracks again.

Suddenly, the tracks disappeared at the base of a large sand dune.

“Looks like they went underground just about here,” said Leonardo. The others agreed. “Let’s start diggin’.”

They all kneeled down and started digging away at the sand. Before they had dug very far, they heard the sound of voices coming toward them. They looked around and realized that there was no place to hide in the desert. Even if there had been a hiding place, their tracks and the marks
of their digging were clear in the sand. They all jumped up, pulled their weapons, and stood with their backs to the dune. Soon, four giant desert tortoises came into view. They were larger than the Turtles, and looked much meaner. They all wore black masks, and black wrist, elbow, and knee bands, and wore black belts. One carried a mace, one a great sword, one a spear, and one a double-headed battleaxe.

“Boy, howdy,” said Heath. “I thought mutant turtles were strange lookin’, but these guys are just plain ugly.”

The one with the mace twirled it around and said, “What have we here, boys? Four toitles and one human. Looks like der tryin’ ta break inta our secret foitress. Now, we can’t have dat, can we? Let’s get ’em, guys!”

The four tortoises charged toward the Turtles and Heath.

“Cowabunga!” shouted Michelangelo. “Let’s kick some shell!”

Leonardo and the tortoise with the sword were fighting, the swords clanging on each other. Michelangelo had charged the tortoise holding the mace, using his numchucks to parry and deflect the swinging metal ball. The tortoise with the spear had run toward Donatello, who thrust his pole out and hit the spear in the middle, turning it away from him. Unfortunately,
Raphael was having trouble protecting himself from the battleaxe using only his two triple-bladed knives.

“Hi-yah!” shouted Heath. He had put his gun back in its holster and was standing with his knees and arms bent, holding his hands out horizontally in front of him. He spun and kicked at the head of the tortoise attacking Raphael. The tortoise went down, and Raphael gave Heath a double
thumbs-up.

“Right on, dude! That was a totally awesome kick!”

Heath quickly cut some rope with his pocket knife, and Raphael helped him to tie the hands and feet of the tortoise. Then they looked to see who else needed help. Raphael ran to help Donatello, while Heath went to help Michelangelo.

“Hi-yah!” he shouted again. This time he jumped, and kicked the tortoise in the back. The tortoise shook his head, but did not go down. However, this gave Michelangelo the chance to charge in, attacking with his numchucks. The tortoise backed off. Seeing Heath preparing to attack again from the side, it turned and ran into the desert.

Heath and Michelangelo then ran to help Leonardo. As soon as the tortoise saw them coming, it also ran away. When the last tortoise realized that it was the only one left fighting, it followed the other two into the desert.

“Yo, dude!” Michelangelo said to Heath. “How did you learn kung fu fighting?”

Heath looked embarrassed. “Well, when I was a Texas Ranger, one of the other Rangers, named Walker, taught me a few moves. I’m not really very good, but it comes in handy sometimes.” He changed the subject, “Let’s go see what we can find out from this tortoise over here.”

They walked over to where the tortoise was tied up. He just glared at them from the ground. Heath nudged him with the toe of his boot.

“So, talk,” he ordered.

“I got nuttin’ ta say,” the tortoise replied, “Especially not ta one uv duh human destroyers, or ta four traitors.” He spit in the direction of the Ninja Turtles.

“What’s up, dude?” said Michelangelo. “What’s all this traitor business?”

“Youse guys have joined up wit’ duh human destroyers,” said the tortoise angrily. “Youse are traitors to your own kind. When we have taken over de eart’, youse will be punished, severely.”

“What do you mean, human destroyers?” asked Leonardo.

“De humans are duh destroyers,” said the tortoise. “Dey cut down and destroy duh forests, dey pollute de air and duh water wit’ der wastes, dey tear up and spoil de fragile and be-oo-tiful desert for der own pleasures. Dey live in an-tag-o-nism wit’ de earth and its udder inhabitants.
But, now dat De Master has come, duh destroyers shall be destroyed! We shall take over duh world and restore all as it should be.”

He stopped talking, realizing that he had said too much.

“Uh-huh,” said Heath. “Some humans do those things. But some of us are also tryin’ to stop them and to protect the earth. And that doesn’t give you the right to kidnap my sister. Where is she?” He pulled his gun and pointed it at the tortoise’s head. “Tell me, or else.”

The tortoise just closed his eyes tightly. “I am prepared ta die for de cause!”

*****

Chapter Four

“Get a grip!” said Michelangelo. “That’s no way to get him to tell us anything.” He pulled Heath away. The four Turtles put their heads together and discussed the problem. Then they motioned for Heath to join them.

“Now, this dude says he’s prepared to die, but if he’s anything like his partners, he’s a real coward underneath.” said Leonardo, “He also likes to brag about his Master and his plan. One of us should pretend to be interested in joinin’ his cause, and then get him to take him to his Master.”

“I’ll do it,” said Michelangelo.

“Excellent!” said Leonardo. “Ok, listen carefully. This is the plan. First, let’s pretend to be arguin’ about what to do. Then, we’ll pretend to give up and head off into the desert, all except Heath. He’ll stay here and keep tryin’ to get the tortoise to talk.”

He looked at Heath. “Make sure you scare him real good. Keep tellin’ him that you’ll blow him away if he doesn’t tell you where your sister is.”

He turned back to the Turtles. “As soon as we’re out of sight behind a dune, Michelangelo will sneak back. First, pretend to fight with Heath and capture him. Be sure to tie the ropes with granny knots. Then tell the tortoise that you want to join him. He’ll be so grateful to you for
rescuin’ him from this mean old cowboy here that he’ll believe you.” Heath looked kind of embarrassed at being called mean.

Leonardo continued, “When he agrees to take you to The Master, you set him free. In the meantime, we’ll make a big circle, and come up behind the big dune here. We’ll follow you when he takes you and Heath to The Master.”

“Right on!” said Michelangelo.

They put the plan into action. Heath pretended to be really angry with the Turtles when they left. He went over to the tortoise and pointed his gun at his head again. He kept threatening him until Michelangelo came up behind him. They fought for a few minutes, exchanging kicks and punches, but Heath was soon captured.

The tortoise thanked Michelangelo over and over for rescuing him. Michelangelo had a very easy time convincing him that he wanted to join The Master. In just a few minutes, the three of them were standing in front of the big sand dune. Heath and Michelangelo noticed the tip of
Donatello’s pole showing over the top of the dune.

The tortoise pulled a strange, flat box out of his belt and pushed a button. A section of the dune swung out toward them, revealing a long, dark tunnel. Michelangelo roughly pushed Heath toward the tunnel. The tortoise followed them. As soon as they had disappeared, the other three
Turtles climbed over the dune to follow them. Before they could reach it, the door had closed.

“Oh, man! That’s totally bogus,” complained Raphael. “Now, how do we get in?”

“Quiet! Here comes somebody,” said Leonardo. The Turtles quickly climbed back over the top of the dune. They saw the other three tortoises returning. They were being chased by a small woman with grey hair riding a large black horse and cracking a large black whip.

“All right, you guys,” said Leonardo. “This time, make sure you get one of those remote controls.”

“Cowabunga,” they all shouted as they ran down the dune toward the three tortoises. The fight was a short one. The tortoises started to run as soon as they saw the Turtles, but they were caught between the Turtles and the woman. She pulled down one of the tortoises by snapping her whip and wrapping it around his ankles. The Turtles caught up with them and used their fighting skills to quickly disarm and capture the others. They tied them up with some of the rope that Heath had left.

The woman jumped down off of her horse. “I’m Victoria Barkley. Who are you?”

Leonardo answered, “We’re the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Are you any relation to Heath Barkley?”

“Sort of” she said. “He and my sons and my daughter were supposed to be home last night, but they didn’t show up, so I came looking for them. I saw these ugly suckers running around in the desert. I didn’t like the looks of them, so I started chasing them with my whip. What are they, anyway?”

“They appear to be mutant desert tortoises,” answered Leonardo. “They kidnapped your daughter. Heath has gone to rescue her, and we’re on our way to help.”

“Well, then, what are we waiting for?” She coiled the whip around her arm.

“We need to get some information from these dudes here first,” Leonardo explained. “And we have to find a way into their secret fortress.”

Donatello grabbed a remote control from one of the tortoises and started studying it.

“You first. What’s your name?” Leonardo pointed to the tortoise who had carried the mace.

“Dali,” he muttered.

“And yours?” he asked the one who carried the sword.

“Picasso, if it’s any of your business,” he said angrily.

“And yours?” he asked the one who used a spear.

“Miro,” he growled.

“And your friend? The dude with the big axe? What’s his name, in case we ever meet him again?”

Picasso answered, “His name is Gaudi. And yous’ed better hope dat you don’t meet him again!”

“Why?” asked Raphael. “Will he do somethin’ terrible to us? Oh, I’m so scared.” He pretended to shake and shiver.

“What did you do with my daughter?” asked Victoria. “She’d better not be hurt.”

Picasso answered again. “We did duh same wit’ her dat we do wit’ every udder human we catch invadin’ our territory. We took her to our dungeons ta be our slave.”

“Don’t you mean The Master’s slave?” asked Raphael.

“How do you know about De Master?” asked Dali.

“Oh, we know all kinds of things,” said Raphael. “Such as how to get into that secret fortress of yours. Right, Donatello?”

Donatello answered, “Right, Raphael. No problemo.”

They gagged the tortoises, then lined them up in front of the big dune.

“You guys go first,” said Leonardo to the tortoises. “And remember, we’re right behind you.”

Donatello pointed the remote at the door, and said, “Open sesame,” as he pushed the button. Once again, the door swung open. The Turtles and Victoria pushed the tortoises into the tunnel. Donatello turned and pushed the button again. The door closed.

“Lead on, guys” said Raphael as he nudged Dali.

The tortoises grumbled, but started down the tunnel. The tunnel grew lighter as they traveled down. As they came near a large open doorway, they heard a sound from a side tunnel off to the right.

“Yo, dudes,” whispered Michelangelo. “Over here.”

They saw Michelangelo, Heath, and Gaudi hiding in the tunnel. Heath had his hand over Gaudi’s mouth, whose hands were once again tied.

“Heath! I’m so glad you’re all right.” Victoria gave him a big hug and kiss. “Where’s Audra?”

“Hello, Mother,” Heath whispered back. “We haven’t found Audra yet, but we will. I’m sure glad to see you. I figured you’d come lookin’ for us when we didn’t show up on time.”

“That’s the main control center,” explained Michelangelo in a low voice. “I can’t see any way in there without bein’ seen. We’ll need a new plan. . . .”

Before he could finish, Picasso, who had managed to work his gag out of his mouth, yelled, “Help! Intruders!”

The sound of running feet came from the control center, and the Turtles, Heath, and Victoria were suddenly faced with dozens of armed men.

*****

Chapter Five

The tortoises and the armed men led them into the control center as their captives. It was a large, bright room full of people carrying coal and dumping it into the firebox of a huge boiler that stood to one side of the room. Several large pipes with enormous knobs on them led away from the boiler into the ceiling of the room. A huge metal pipe was coming out of the ceiling. It ended in what looked like a gigantic water faucet over a big drain in the floor.

A masked man dressed all in black and wearing a cape was sitting in a swivel chair on a high, circular platform in the center of the room, about ten feet above the ground. Control panels formed a circle around the outer rim of the platform. A ladder led down from the center of the platform to the ground.

Miro spoke first. “Dese heah humans and dese heah traitors was found trespassin’ in duh dunes, Master.”

The man waved his hand, and the armed people moved away to the sides of the room. None of the people in the room had said a word or even looked at the prisoners. They seemed to be unaware of anything except the work that they were doing. Most of them looked like they were either Mexicans or Indians.

“Now we know where all those people were disappearin’ to. Must be drugged,” Leonardo muttered to the others.

Picasso hit Leonardo in the face. “Silence! No talkin’ in duh presence uv De Master wit’out his poimission. And dey ain’t drugged. Dey’s under De Master’s mind control.”

Heath stared at The Master. “Where’s my sister?” he demanded in a loud voice. Gaudi backhanded Heath in the mouth.

“Silence, human!” he said.

The Master waved his hand again. His voice echoed in the large room. “Let them speak. They have only a short time left to live. I will gladly satisfy their curiosity before we execute them.” He looked at Heath. “Your sister is presently in my dungeons. She is being prepared to take her place as princess of my realm as soon as I take over the world. “

“And just how are you gonna do that?” asked Heath.

The Master waved his arm to indicate the entire room. “What you see here is only the first in a series of machines I shall build all over the world. Above us is the Salton Sea. When I turn this tap here,” he indicated the gigantic faucet, “all of the water in the Sea will flow down into this
drain and into huge storage tanks I have built under this room. I shall repeat this process with every fresh water lake in the entire United States. And after the United States, the world!”

“But, that will turn the earth into a desert!” protested Heath.

“Just de way we like it,” gloated Miro.

“Yes, these four are only the beginning of my army of mutant desert tortoises,” said The Master. “And, in addition to tortoises, I shall create mutant Gila monsters, mutant sidewinders, and mutant jack rabbits to do my bidding. They will rise up from the sand and rule the earth. The day of the human destroyer shall end! Humans will be our slaves. We shall control the earth’s water supply, and in that way we shall control the earth.”

“But, what about all of the plants and animals who also need water to survive?” asked Heath.

“A sad, but necessary, sacrifice,” said The Master. “However, they will go to their deaths gladly, knowing that their sacrifice will not be in vain. It will bring an end to the destructive reign of humans on earth.”

“You’re insane,” Heath shouted. Gaudi backhanded him again.

“Lighten up, dudes,” said Michelangelo. “All this shoutin’ and hittin’ is messin’ with my karma.” He looked at The Master. “So, what’s with the fog? Did you make it with that boiler over there?”

“Ah, yes,” said The Master. “An unfortunate coincidence. He and his sister just happened to be traveling near the dunes at the same time that we released excess steam to the grounds above. My guards there,” he indicated the tortoises, “were on their way back from a reconnaissance
mission, and took the opportunity to capture another worker for my force. However, when I saw her, I decided that she would be the perfect princess. She will look quite beautiful sitting on the throne next to mine.”

They all noticed that The Master did not mention Heath’s brothers, which probably meant that they were still wandering around in the desert above them. Victoria had not said a word, but kept looking at The Master very curiously.

“Now, take them to the dungeons to wait until the time for the execution,” The Master ordered.

The tortoises shoved them out another doorway and down a tunnel. Soon, they came to some solid steel doors set into the stone walls of the dungeon. They could hear people pounding on the doors, shouting to be let out. Picasso took some keys off of a ring set into the wall, opened the door of an empty cell, and shoved them all inside.

“Sweet dreams,” he said nastily. “They’ll be your last!”

The door clanged as he closed and locked it.

*****

Chapter Six

“Looks like we’re toast this time,” said Raphael. “Even Mutant Ninja Turtles can’t break down six inches of solid steel.”

Heath was examining the door and the door frame. “Nope,” he said, “No way to break it down. I know of somethin’ that might work, but I need absolute silence.” He knelt down in front of the door, closed his eyes, and placed his hands on his knees.

The Turtles were absolutely silent, wondering what Heath was doing. He seemed to be concentrating very hard. After a few minutes, they heard a sharp clicking sound. Heath opened his eyes, reached up, and pulled the door inward.

“Boy, howdy, dude!” exclaimed Michelangelo. “Where’d you learn that?”

Heath looked embarrassed. “Well, when I was fightin’ in the Droid Wars, one of the Jedi knights, named Qui Gon Jinn, taught me how to use the Force. I’m not very good, but it comes in handy sometimes.”

Victoria hugged and kissed him. “I knew you’d find a way out of here, Heath. I can always count on you. Now, let’s find your sister, and set the other prisoners free. Then we have to stop The Master from taking over the world.”

They ran out into the tunnel. Heath grabbed the keys off of the wall and started opening cell doors. In the first cell that he opened, a big man with thin blond hair and bad teeth stood up.

“Hey, little feller,” he said. “Me and my brother here sure do thank you for settin’ us free.”

His brother, a smaller man with thick, wavy dark hair and a movie star’s smile, added, “Yeah. Our Pa will be really grateful.”

Victoria snorted and muttered under her breath, “I can’t imagine why.”

“Glad to help. Right now, we’re on our way to stop The Master. Care to join up?” asked Heath.

“Sure do, little feller,” said the big guy. “Just lead the way.”

They followed Heath as he continued to open cell doors and free prisoners. Audra was in the fourth cell that he opened. She rushed to the doorway as soon as Heath pushed the door open. She was wearing a long dress and a tall, pointed hat with a scarf floating from the top of it on her head. She flung her arms around Heath, and sobbed,

“I was so frightened! But I knew you would save me. Where are my pinatas?”

“I’m glad to see you, too, Sis,” answered Heath. “Your pinatas are on your horse. I left it by the Salton Sea. We’ll get them as soon as we escape from here, but first, we have to escape.”

“I just hope the horse doesn’t run away. I need those pinatas.” She looked around. “Who’s that cute guy with the dark, wavy hair?” She smiled at him.

He smiled back. “My name’s Little Joe, ma’am. This is my brother, Hoss. And it’s sure a pleasure to meet you.” He took Audra’s hand in his and raised it to his lips.

Hoss looked at him and shook his head. Heath sighed.

“I’m Audra Barkley,” she said with a smile. “And this is my brother, Heath. Of the Stockton Barkleys.”

“Audra!” said Victoria. “We don’t have time for another of your silly love affairs right now. We have to stop The Master from taking over the world. You stay out of the way.”

“Yes, Mother,” Audra said humbly.

“That’s right,” said Hoss. He looked at his brother and shook his head. “No time for anythin’ else right now, Little Joe. Besides, Pa won’t like it.” Little Joe and Audra just smiled goofily at each other.

Heath opened the last cell door. No one came out, so he looked inside to see if the person was hurt. A man was lying on the bed, moaning. Heath hurried in to see what was wrong. Suddenly, another man dropped on him from the ceiling. They wrestled on the floor, until the man on the bed pulled the other man off of Heath.

“Jim! Jim!” the man shouted. “He’s not one of them.” He turned to Heath. “Artemis Gordon at your service. Please accept my apologies for my partner’s rather boorish behavior. He often acts without thinking.”

Artemis was a man of average height with brown, wavy hair and a nice smile. The man called Jim was a short, compact man with dark hair wearing tight blue pants and a short, tight blue jacket and vest.

“Do you always attack people who are tryin’ to rescue you?” asked Heath.

“Sorry, pal,” Jim said. “I thought you were those desert tortoises or one of their slaves. I didn’t hurt you, did I?”

“Don’t worry about it,” said Heath. “Aren’t you West, James West?”

Jim nodded. He didn’t act in the least bit surprised that Heath had recognized him.

“We can sure use your help in escapin’ from this place, and stoppin’ The Master,” said Heath.

Heath led the way back down the tunnel toward the central control room. As they traveled, he, Victoria, Leonardo, and Jim devised a plan. They stopped just before they reached the entrance and explained the plan to the others.

*****

Chapter Seven

First, Jim snuck out quietly and grabbed one of the workers who was carrying a big basket of coal on his shoulder. The man offered no resistance. They put him next to the wall, and he just stood there, staring directly in front of him. Jim put the basket on his shoulder and went back in the room. He carefully made his way over to the boiler.

As soon as he got near the boiler, the Ninja Turtles ran out into the room, shouting “Cowabunga.” Victoria, Hoss, and Artemis ran out with them. They were all immediately attacked by the mutant desert tortoises and some of the armed men from around the walls. Artemis and Hoss fought with all their might. Victoria snapped and cracked her whip. The
Turtles spun and kicked, and used all of their Ninja weapons and skill to provide a distraction for Heath, who was running as fast as he could toward the platform in the middle.

Heath climbed quickly up the ladder, and grabbed The Master around the neck. He twisted one arm behind his back. “First, open the door to the outside.” The Master just laughed.

“Do it, or I’ll break your arm.” He bent The Master’s arm a little more to show that he meant it. The Master leaned over and pushed a button.

“Now,” said Heath, “Release all of the slaves from the mind control. Or I’ll strangle you.” He tightened his grip on The Master’s neck to show he was serious.

The Master gritted his teeth, then pushed a few buttons. Suddenly, all of the people stopped what they were doing. They looked around, confused. Most of them started talking to each other in Spanish.

“Donde estamos? Como es que estamos aqui? No me acuerdo de nada.”

(That means, “Where are we? How did we get here? I don’t remember anything.)

Heath shouted at them in Spanish, “Salgense! Estan libres ahora. Pueden irse a sus casas. Hay de salir inmediatamente. Esta peligroso aqui.”

(Which means, “Get out of here! You are free now. You can go home. You must leave immediately. It is dangerous here.”)

The people all ran up the tunnel as fast as they could go. Only the mutant desert tortoises remained. Heath released his hold on The Master.

“So much for your plan to take over the world,” said Heath. “Now, we’re takin’ you where you belong, to prison.”

The Master laughed again. “Are you sure you want to do that?”

“Yes! You are an evil madman. You will destroy the world if we do not put a stop to you.”

“Don’t you even want to know who it is you would be taking to prison? You might change your mind once you know who I am.”

Heath looked at him suspiciously. “What do you mean? Why should I care who you are?”

The Master reached up and pulled off his mask. “Because, Heath, I am your father.”

“No, you’re not. My father is dead,” Heath said firmly.

The Master laughed. “That’s just the story Victoria tells everyone so that they won’t know that I ran off and left her.” He grinned evilly at Heath. “If I’m not your father, how did I know that Audra is your sister? And how did I know your name? Besides all that, I know your brothers’ names – Jarrod, Nick,” he paused dramatically. “And, Eugene!”

Heath jumped back in shock. “Nooooo!” he shouted. Only Thomas Barkley could have known about Eugene.

Victoria looked up when she heard Heath shout. “So it is you, Thomas. I thought so. Still trying to take over the world, I see. Whatever happened to that little Mexican trollope you left me for? What was her name? Lupe, wasn’t it?”

“Nooooo!!” shouted Heath again. He hid his face in his hands. Victoria turned back to whipping the mutant desert tortoises, who gave up and ran up the tunnel to escape.

Thomas Barkley pushed a button on the control panel and a section of the ceiling slid back. Then he pulled a large gun out of his belt, and shot toward the hole in the ceiling. A grappling hook with a long rope tied to it shot out and caught on the edge of the hole. He threw some pellets at the floor that exploded when they hit, filling the room with smoke. He pushed a button
on the side of the gun and the rope began to reel in, pulling him up toward the ceiling. He could be heard laughing as he ascended toward the roof.

“Good-bye, Heath,” he shouted. “I hope we meet again under better circumstances.”

Heath shook his fist at the departing man. “I’ll find you some day. You’ll pay for what you’ve done!!”

He leaped over the control panel and landed on the floor. Jim came running up.

“I’ve closed the steam release valve to the boiler. We’d better get out of here before it blows.”

The Turtles, Heath, Victoria, Jim, Artemis, and Hoss all ran toward the tunnel. Heath stopped suddenly.

“Wait a minute! Where’s my sister? Where’s Audra?” He asked.

“Oh, she and Little Joe left a while ago, when the fighting started,” answered Hoss. “He said he was taking her to safety. They said they would wait for us outside.”

Victoria just sighed and shook her head. “And you fell for it?”

Hoss looked confused, then looked embarrassed. “Yeah, you’re right. I should have known better. They’re probably halfway to Las Vegas right now.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Heath said. “They’ll be back. It won’t last. It never does.”

“You got that right,” agreed Hoss.

They followed the others out of the tunnel. Hoss pushed the door closed just as a loud rumbling filled the air. The earth shook. The desert bulged upward, then exploded. Pieces of metal and stone were thrown high into the air and scattered all over the Dunes. The big dune turned into a deep depression in the ground with steeply sloping sides, perfect for competition racing on ATV’s and dirt bikes. Pieces of metal and stone were thrown high into the air and scattered all over the Dunes.

*****

Chapter Eight

“Well, Heath, I sure do want to thank you again for rescuin’ me and my little brother.” Hoss shook Heath’s hand. “I guess I’ll head on up to the Ponderosa. If Little Joe shows up there in Stockton, would you send him on home?”

“Sure thing,” Heath said. “And thanks for all your help.”

A horse walked up just then. Hoss mounted it and rode away.

“I’m glad you got to work with me,” said Jim. “Too bad you let the villain get away. It means I’ll have to go to the trouble of capturing him again later, but I guess we can’t all be Super Secret Government Agents.”

Artemis shook Heath’s hand. “Don’t pay any attention to him. You did a great job. And thank you for rescuing us.” He turned to his partner. “Come on, Jim, let’s go.”

A steam locomotive pulling a private railway car pulled up. They got in the car and the train took off.

“Now that I know that you are safe, I’ve got to get back to the ranch,” said Victoria. “If you run across your brothers, bring them on home with you. I’ll tell Silas to keep a look out for Audra. I expect she’ll be home sooner than usual this time.” She paused. “Although, maybe not. She and that Little Joe seem almost made for each other.” She kissed Heath one more time, mounted her horse, and rode away, leaving just Heath and the Ninja Turtles.

“Thanks for all your help,” Heath said to them. “I couldn’t have done it without you.”

“No problemo, dude,” answered Raphael.

“Our pleasure,” said Leonardo.

“Any time,” said Donatello.

“Want to stay for dinner?” asked Michelangelo. “I called in the order half an hour ago. He should be arrivin’ soon.”

Just then, a Dominos Pizza Delivery car drove up, spraying them all with sand. A skinny teen-age boy got out.

“Uh, somebody order pizza?” he asked. “That’ll be forty dollars.” He was holding five pizza boxes.

Everyone handed him a ten-dollar bill and told him to keep the change. He drove off, and they each took a box and sat down to eat pizza in the dunes.

When they had finished, the Turtles and Heath carefully bagged all of the trash and carried it to a dumpster. Then they walked back to where Heath had left the horses. Audra’s horse was missing, and two sets of tracks led off in the direction of Las Vegas.

“Guess we’ll be goin’ now,” said Leonardo.

“Thanks again, guys,” said Heath. He heard the whirring sound again. Looking up, he saw a big blimp hovering in the air. It lowered a rope and the Turtles climbed up it. They each waved to him as they entered the ship. He waved back. When the blimp had flown off, he got on his horse and headed south around the Salton Sea.

Suddenly, he heard men’s voices coming over a rise.

“I’m telling you, it’s this way!” One man shouted.

“And I’m telling you, you’ve been leading us in circles for hours,” the other man answered in a quieter, but annoyed tone.

Heath rode over the rise. There at the bottom he saw Jarrod and Nick arguing. He rode up to them.

“What’s up, dudes?” He asked.

“Where have you been?” demanded Nick. “And where is Audra?”

Heath smiled. “Boy, howdy, do I have a story for you.”

***The End***

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