14 – Operation Diesel Fist…Again

Somewhere in the Forest,
United States

Kibby held the tablet in front of the group at the campsite. They all paused momentarily, thinking they heard the distant scream of a broken man a thousand miles away, but ultimately agreed that it was probably just a group of blue-winged warblers, which were common in that region of Montana and known to sound like a man slowly lowering himself into a death trap after losing the only thing he ever loved. He played the recordings for the team who listened carefully, save Dasher who was furiously burning the remains of all of the pornographic magazines lying around. Dasher had made a fire using a healthy amount of kindling and a match from his Vatican souvenir.

“And you didn’t want me to buy that relic…” Dasher said to Stacy. “If I hadn’t bought it, we’d all be dead right now and you would be feeling pretty dumb.”

Serone and Kibby exchanged a brief glance suggested that each of them had experienced their own version of Dasher hell.

The recordings unveiled the entire depth of the sinister agreement between an alcoholic Russian spy and the President of the United States. It revealed the massive network of cloning facilities that doubled as Spencer’s Gifts, but for some reason, every patron was too stupid or careless to notice, distracted by electric orbs, naked lady shrimp de-veiners, and alien-themed blacklight weed posters. The fact that celebrities were being cloned and, at a certain point, would be turned into Russian soldiers in charge of instilling order under the newly-formed communist regime, and no one seemed to notice or care, was a true testament to how completely aloof the country was.

All it took was the flip of a switch by Popov and his entire army would be turned into killing machines. It was a deal co-signed by the devil himself. If the recordings were accurate, in two days, the citizens of the United States would be the third unwilling member in this unholy devil’s threesome. 

“You hear that, Dasher?” asked Serone. Dasher threw the real doll into the fire and it erupted in flames. 

“I heard it, and in some ways, I already knew. Remember my oddly specific prediction when we found the microchip in the melted corpse of Joel Oscreen?” asked Dasher.

“The only thing I hate more than celebrities is celebrity clones. Life should only be conceived by a man and a woman, with the man having the more important role in the conception process and the woman more or less just being a duffle bag for the man’s seed. Once you start bringing in science and Petri dishes, you mess with everything God wanted for us. Clones are worse than abortions.”

Kibby and Serone stole a knowing glance at each other, recognizing they had in fact experienced their own version of Dasher family hell. Serone thought back and remembered the prophecy he had told. He thought back to what Stacy previously said: Duke always knows – except in cases of having informed or rational opinions about most of the things happening in the world, but in this very particular, singular circumstance, Duke did know. Kibby looked helpless as ever.

“Duke…what do we do?” asked Kibby. 

Dasher walked over to Kibby and ripped the tablet from his smooth wet hands, which had never seen a day of hard work. His buttermilk palms were barely capable of holding anything; they were built for absolutely nothing but resting on a keyboard. Dasher looked at the tablet for a moment while everyone else brimmed with anticipation as to what Dasher would do. He held something that could change the entire landscape of the country, and by extension the world, in his hands. Something that had the potential to alter the lives of virtually every person living in the United States. Something that, if not handled appropriately, would plummet the country into poverty and enslavement by way of cloned celebrities and sketchy Russians.

Kibby looked down and realized he had bitten clean through his nails. His fingers were bleeding profusely, but his focus remained on the unchanging face of Duke Dasher. Serone looked at Stacy, who looked at Kibby, who looked back at Stacy, their faces drenched in sweat, their breath stale and gamey.

Dasher looked up to the sky, muttered something incomprehensible, and threw the tablet into the fire.

“Duke, no!” yelled Serone.

Kibby collapsed onto the ground and folded on top of himself, shaking uncontrollably. Stacy continued to giggle. Dasher stared into the fire; the flames reflected in his pupils. After several seconds, Kibby came to and scrambled towards the fire. Serone immediately grabbed him, even though he knew it was too late.

“That was everything, Duke! Everything we had to prove out this terrible conspiracy was on that tablet!” Kibby said in a voice so shrill it was barely audible to the rest of the group.

“If we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna do it my way,” Dasher calmly replied, cracking his knuckles. Serone shuddered. Up to that point, Duke Dasher’s way had been a perpetually escalating series of the worst things he had ever and probably would ever see in his life.

“Have you guys ever heard about the mission that got me honorably discharged from my special forces unit?” asked Dasher, waiting for an immediate affirmative from the rest of the group. The mission was legendary and essentially folklore at this point. It even lived in some history books, favoring that event over things like World Wars and the entire Civil Rights Movement.

“You mean Operation Diesel Fist?” asked Kibby, followed by an audible gulp.

“You bet your ass, kid,” said Dasher, who paired his enthusiastic words with a massive fist pump. “For those of you who don’t remember, I sawed the face off of a rebel leader…and then, wearing his face, I convinced all of the insurgent rebels to take their own lives. You see, getting the face off was relatively easy but re-apply…”

“We are all very aware of Operation Diesel Fist, I don’t think it requires any additional discussion,” interrupted Serone, mercifully saving everyone from another gruesome reenactment. “How is that situation at all relevant to you burning all the evidence of collusion between the President and Popov we had?” Before he finished the question, he already knew the answer.

“That’s right Serone. I’ll be paying Popov a little visit. His face is mine,” replied Dasher. “Once I have that, I catch the President red-handed, mano-a-mano. None of this second-hand recording crap. I want the President to lie to my face…which will be in turn behind Popov’s face…” Dasher said trailing off absently.

No one offered any better ideas, so it was settled. Dasher pulled out his Motorola Razr and pressed a number for speed dial. Serone wondered why Dasher hadn’t used the phone hours ago when they were being hunted, but decided he better not mention it. Ultimately, it did not matter. There was still the question of getting there in time for the meeting or before Popov got drunk enough to activate the kill switch, which would turn the clones into an unstoppable, murderous rebel force.

“Watley? Send her down,” Dasher said grittily into the phone. It was the voice of someone who had smoked a million cigarettes over the course of their lifetime, even though he had never smoked even one. Out of nowhere, a hulking drone descended from the clouded skies and landed by the weary group of four.

“You had a drone watching us this whole time?” asked Serone, at this point, absolutely beside himself.

“Never leave home without it,” Dasher grinned without providing any more explanation on the specifics of having 24/7 drone surveillance. “Watley is a good man,” was all he offered. Behind his words, he knew Watley’s life was in shambles ever since he took up the service of 24/7 Duke Dasher drone monitoring.

His wife and kids had left him and he was in terrible physical health. His feet were consumed in gout and his diet consisted almost exclusively of Monster Energy, gas station sex pills and shellfish. Monitoring Dasher’s every action had definitely taken its toll. However, Watley considered it an honor to provide Dasher with the rarely-needed service. It was moments like these Watley cherished in life – not anniversaries or graduations, but protecting another man during even the most mundane of Saturdays. Dasher had also promised him immediate entry into heaven, which was certainly a perk Watley could not pass up.

Dasher approached the drone and petted it like a wild stallion. Running his hands slowly across its steel mane. 

“Easy girl, easy,” he said aloud to it, though the drone was quite still and needed no calming. Dasher beckoned the rest of the group over to him; they walked over with some hesitancy. “We need to get to Washington, D.C. to meet Popov, and ole Sally is going to get us there,” explained Dasher, again stroking the smooth paneling of the drone. 

“Dasher, I think the rest of us can stay behind, maybe catch a little shut-eye. It’s been a long few days,” offered Serone. He looked around at the others for approval and got it immediately. 

“Nonsense Serone. I wouldn’t do this thing without my dream team,” said Dasher, pulling several cords with attached carabiners from the ski-like landing gear that had allowed the drone to land safely in the woods. 

“Dasher, I hope you’re not suggesting we ride this thing…” Kibby said apprehensively. 

“Like Jesus and the donkey, Kibby…without the palm leaves,” said Dasher, another eye-stinging joke landing tiredly on the rest of the groups’ ears. Serone began slowly walking backward, hoping to hit the cover of the forest before Dasher noticed anything amiss.

Unfortunately for him, Dasher was trained to see virtually every detail of every scenario. 

“Afraid of heights Serone? Not to worry, this thing will hit the speed of sound and you’ll likely blackout almost instantly. Your lifeless body will be nothing more than a fleshy wind chime at that point,” said Dasher as he acted out what Serone would look like once he was forced into unconsciousness by the speed of the drone.

The visual did very little to calm Serone’s nerves. That settled it, the team was going. Dasher paused and counted the team over once more. Though numbers were not always his strong suit, as math oftentimes lead to larger sins, he noticed that something was off. 

“Stacy? We’re one short…” said Dasher. 

“Terry will be fine in the car Duke! You worry too much!” replied Stacy. 

“Yeah, but you think I want to deprive my boy of his first drone ride, learning how to cut the face off of some Russian piece of shit, saving the country and getting the girl?” said Dasher, proudly massaging Stacy’s shoulders. The two agreed that Terry needed to witness this and, as if a message had been sent from God, when they looked up, they saw Terry wandering aimlessly in the field. 

“Terry! I told you not to leave the car. What the hell are you doing out here!” screamed Stacy. 

“Hey, don’t fault the kid. He’s got his old man’s sense of adventure and some good ole fashioned blood lust, right boy?” asked Dasher hopefully. Terry stood completely still, uncertain how to answer either question. 

“See there! He nodded, Stacy! I always told you he’d grow up to be just like me,” Dasher said to the unmoving child. “Well, we should get a move on in that case.” 

Duke began buckling the team into the drone, which would fly them directly to Washington D.C. The drone looked rather poorly made and still had a tag on it from RadioShack; Dasher noted he would likely return it after the mission was up. He advised the team to be very careful because any dents or scratches and the warranty was voided. Three of them were uncomfortably strapped in and ready to go. Terry was next and Duke would simply hold onto one of the skis. No need for a safety chord, his grip strength could use some challenging, he told them. As Dasher turned around to grab Terry, he noticed something sprinting at them in the distance. 

Absurdist exploration into our agreeable descent to madness.

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