Bye, Bye Birdie (Part 1)

Bye, Bye Birdie (Part 1)

By Honest Age

The Sarmedi District.

A Mainport favorite for tourists and locals alike, at first glance Sarmedi appears to be some sort of global historic district, featuring a blend of Greek columns, Roman arcs, Islamic palaces, and Ottoman castles. Dozens of museums are located within Sarmedi, displaying everything from classic paintings to the skeletal remains of prehistoric beasts to curious visitors. But what makes Sarmedi so remarkable is how much it changes after the sun sets. By day, waves of tourist and some of Mainports more “refined” locals spend hours marveling at the glorious architecture and the fascinating artifacts, fossils, and pieces of art within its many museums. But by night, Sarmedi belongs to the youth.

For within the very palaces, the castles, the temples that awe visitors and the learned gentlefolk are casinos, bars, nightclubs, Japanese-Moroccan hot dog joints and all other forms of urban, youthful abandon.

One such form was Birdie’s—a popular nightclub for the college crowd, Birdie’s featured the greatest selection of techno, dubstep, and electronica that any twenty-two year-old, molly-rolling , dance freak could ask for.

It was a busy night at Birdie’s. No one could take more than two steps without bumping into another clubgoer. Each powerful thump of the bass sent a jolt of vibrations into every dancer’s chest and shook the very foundations of the building. Lithe, scantily-clad women bumped and grinded against their drunk and horny male counterparts on the massive dance floor. A giant LED screen spanning form the floor the ceiling served as the backdrop to the dance floor, displaying a dazzling array of colors, music videos, and psychedelic patterns. The club’s walls were decorated with graffiti, holo-projections, and sculptures of the establishment’s mascot, Birdie—a naked, busty, and beautiful young woman with a pair of colorful feathered wings on her back and a spiked, ornate headdress.

One such sculpture rested above the bar. This one was different from the others, however. Unlike the colorful, over-sexualized, cartoonish depictions of her throughout the bar, this one seemed more dignified.

And less human.

It possessed the talons of a bird for feet—a trait not shared with her promiscuous counterparts throughout the bar. It was made from cracked, unpainted stone and seemed in desperate need of a touch up.

But no one in the club seemed to notice.

The party raged on. The dancers went wild as the bass dropped and was accompanied by the rapid stings of synthesizers. Up on their elevated platform, the masked DJs swayed from left to right, swinging and bobbing their heads to the music. Everyone was far too busy enjoying themselves to notice the array of smoke bombs that had detonated throughout the dance floor.

The loud music did an excellent job of masking the small explosions. Surprisingly, the thick cloud of smoke that spewed from the bombs went unnoticed as well. Or rather, they were dismissed. Dismissed as some sort of pyrotechnic effect. Perhaps a fog machine or something of the sort. But soon they began to feel it.

Their lungs filled with the noxious gas and the dancers began coughing uncontrollably. The dancing came to a sudden halt as the clubgoers found their eyes and throats burning as if they were being clawed at by thousands of tiny, red-hot metal rakes. The panicked DJs abruptly cut off the music. While they were somewhat protected from the smoke by their masks, they quickly took notice of the club’s suffering patrons.

They coughed and gagged. “Where is this coming from?” they thought. They looked around, peering as best they could through watery, blood-red eyes, looking for some sort of answer to their woes. Then they saw him.

The Horned Man.

His tattered brown jacket was adorned with leather tassels, furs, feathers and other trinkets. Bones, teeth, and claws dangled from his necklaces and his face was obscured by dirty linen wraps. Emerging from the top of his head were two large, curved horns, perhaps belonging to some sort of bull or ram. He stood before the bar, totally unaffected by the gas, staring silently into the dance floor.

Suddenly, dozens of armed men and women came storming through the club’s entrance. A few bursts from their automatic weapons made quick work of the security guards that tried in vain to hold them at bay. They gathered in front of the bar, forming a circle around the Horned One. Although they lacked their leader’s signature headdress, they too wore similar tattered clothing and linen “masks”, sometimes coupled with headscarves.

The clubgoers were sent into a screaming frenzy. Although they could barely see through the thick gas clouds and their own burning, half-shut eyes, they tried to make their way out of the club, clawing and shoving each other, desperately trying to clear a path to freedom. A burst of gunfire from a pair of thugs quickly silenced and settled the crowd.

“Secure all exits until the item is secured. If anyone so much as glances at an exit, end them,” commanded a gravelly voice that escaped the linen wraps of the Horned One’s face. A group of thugs split off in different directions as they went to search for the emergency exits while the rest stayed behind to form a perimeter around their leader. The Horned One slowly turned around and strutted towards the bar.

The bartender’s eyes widened with panic before he dove under the bar. The Horned One continued advancing towards it until he finally reached the counter. He clambered onto it and stood, reaching for the stone statuette of Birdie that rested on the mantel above the bar. He unfastened it from the wall, careful not use too much force or else risk breaking the stone relief.

“INTRUDERS!!!” a powerful voice bellowed, echoing throughout club. With the sculpture tucked safely under his arm, the Horned One slowly turned towards the source of the disruption.

In the center of the dance floor, clearly visible through the smoke stood a single man, separated from the rest of the crowd. They had formed a wide circle around him and cleared something of a pathway between him and the bar. He was tall and muscular, his skin fair. His golden hair was cut extremely short, save for the braided ponytail that hung from the back of his head and the braided beard that hung from his chin. He seemed unaffected by the gas, as he eyes were crystal clear and his breathing seemed normal. He was shirtless, showing off his Olympian physique and wore a pair of two-tone cargo pants, with one half being a greenish-grey while the other a rust red. Around his neck were a series of pendants, most notably the silvery pendant of Mjolnir, hammer of Thor and on his face was a furious scowl.

It was none other than the Techno Viking.

“Why hath thou interrupted my merry-making?! Were thou unaware that we were indulging in one of the sickest bass drops to ever grace the ears of Midgard?! Thou hast two options: offer thine apologies and take thy leave or suffer a pummeling from these Nordic fists!”

The Horned One hopped off of the bar counter and leered at the Viking. He slowly raised one arm to the air, his palm open. His fingers quickly curled into a tightly clenched fist. Obeying their leader’s signal, dozens of the Horned One’s henchmen emerged from the shadows, abandoning their posts at the emergency exits and aimed their weapons at the lone Nordic man. The crowd of patrons screamed and hit the floor as the club erupted into a storm of gunfire. Bullets rained down upon the Viking, who remarkably stood his ground, absorbing the onslaught of hot lead. His icy, unflinching glare did not leave the Horned One.

Before long, the firing came to an end as the henchmen emptied their magazines. Though difficult to see through the thick clouds of gas and new clouds of gun smoke, the henchmen could see the Techno Viking at the center of the dance floor, unmoved and unscathed. He stood up to his ankles in a pool of flattened bullets. The thugs looked on in astonishment. They turned to their leader, awaiting new orders.

The Horned One, with his fist still in the air, opened his palm and swung his arm forward in a chopping motion. The thugs immediately drew daggers, scimitars, and clubs concealed in their coats. The Viking, his glare still fixed on the Horned One, thrust his arm up in the air, pointing at the DJ platform.

“Minstrels!”

The frightful DJs cautiously poked their heads out from behind their mix board.

“Play me a sweet beat.”

The DJs exchanged glances before powering up their mix board and loading up a new song. As the bass began building, the Horned One’s thugs descended upon the Viking. This finally caught the attention of the Nordic warrior. Bobbing his head to the beat, the Viking rhythmically dodged the onslaught of slashing blades and swinging clubs. He blocked an incoming scimitar with his bulky forearm. The blade neither drew blood nor broke the skin. The Viking thrust his other arm forward and sent the thug flying across the room.

As the music escalated, the warrior began pumping his arms with the beat, deflecting and countering the endless attacks from the assassins in a sort of martial dance. His pumping fists and a backwards thrust of his elbow demolished three approaching thugs. He swatted away a spiked club coming towards his face and responded with a punch that sent another thug into the giant LED screen. Another assassin, creeping from behind, took advantage of this and attempted to drive a dagger into the Viking’s back. The Viking spun around and caught the thug’s arm in mid-air, gripping so tightly that the attacker hollered in pain. The Viking then swung his assailant around his head like a living mace, using him to bludgeon the hoard of incoming attackers. Techno Viking finally released his “mace”, sending him spiraling into the air. Another assassin charged at him, brandishing twin scimitars. A well-timed headbutt stopped him dead in his tracks.

The mass of thugs now lied at his feet, either unconscious or groaning in pain. The Viking continued bobbing his head to the escalating music, his glare once again locked on the Horned One. The Viking extended his arm towards the lead assassin and gestured for the mysterious man to approach with his hand. The thugs that had formed a perimeter around their leader immediately responded to the gesture and drew their weapons, preparing to lunge towards the Nord. But a dismissive wave from the Horned One brought them to an abrupt halt.

He handed off the stone idol to one of his followers before slowly approaching the Viking. The music built with each step—the beat quickened, the synth stings and electronic feedback grew louder and more frantic until the Horned One was face to face with the Nordic warrior. The music came to a pause.

“You are a formidable warrior. But this ends now,” the Horned One growled.

“Indeed it does.”

The music BLARED, the electronic screeches now at an all time high. The Techno Vikings struck first and was surprised to see how quickly his opponent ducked out of the way. He was even more surprised by the rapid, almost machine gun-like flurry of punches the Horned One delivered to his torso. And he was astonished by the fact that it hurt. A lot.

Before the Viking could counter, the Horned One delivered a spinning back-kick that struck his jaw and knocked the Nord off-balance. The Horned One dropped to the floor and with a sweep of his leg, knocked the Viking’s feet from under him, sending the burly warrior to the ground with a hard thud.

The crowd, recovering from the dissipating noxious gas, was shocked to see their savior brought down with such ease after such a dazzling display of power. The Techno Viking quickly lifted himself to his feet and his face twisted into a gruesome scowl.

“You’re slow. Heavy-handed. You possess great strength but that alone will not bring you victory,” the Horned One said, already on his feet. The Viking’s grim expression faded into a smile. The Nord chuckled and then burst into raucous laughter.

“Finally! The gods test me with a worthy opponent. I shall not disappoint thee, Odin!”

Techno Viking focused on the blaring music, bobbing and swaying to the rhythm. The Horned One had caught him off-guard. Disrupted his groove. It would not happen again.

In the form of another rhythmic dance, the Viking stomped towards the mysterious challenger, who responded by lunging towards the Nord and attacked with another machine gun flurry of punches and kicks. The Viking swung and spun his arms about to the music, blocking the rapid series of attacks. A few managed to connect, however the Viking ignored the pain and remained focused, advancing on the horned warrior. The Techno Viking then answered with a flurry of his own punches—slower but far more powerful. While the agile Horned One avoided most of them, all it took was one single connection to send him flying into a dark corner of the club. The Viking waited for his opponent to emerge, still moving to the blaring music.

The Horned One limped out of the shadows and growled with anger. He sprinted towards the Viking before leaping into the air to perform a flying jump kick. When the Horned One’s foot was mere inches from his face, the Nord quickly grabbed hold of the enemy‘s ankle and hurled him to the ground. The Viking then followed through with a powerful stomp but the horned warrior quickly rolled out of the way as the Viking’s black boot crashed into the ground and straight through the floor.

The Horned One sprung to his feet and reached into his jacket. He drew four small black spheres, held in between each of his fingers. As the Viking yanked his foot out the crater he created, the Horned One hurled the balls around the dance floor. The balls exploded upon hitting the ground, creating more thick clouds of white smoke. The Viking could barely see. He stood on his guard, ready for anything.
Suddenly, something leapt at his right side. He spun and knocked away the rapid strikes intended for his upper body. The Horned One quickly slunk back into the smoke. The Viking slowly rotated his body, waiting patiently for the next strike.

A sharp pain struck his left calf. He quickly turned to the left, expecting to see the Horned One but was greeted only by a wall of smoke. He looked down at his calf—there was something lodged in it—some sort of needle or dart. He was amazed it managed to break the skin—most ordinary weapons are unable to pierce his mighty hide.

The Techno Viking was nearly knocked to the ground by a powerful blow to the back of his head. He tried his best to regain composure quickly and spun around to deliver a retort in the form of a haymaker but struck nothing but smoke and air.

The Viking struggled to find his balance. The pain in his left leg had subsided but for some reason it was growing numb. Weak. He wondered how long he could stay on his feet. Luckily, the smoke was beginning to clear and soon his enemy would have nowhere to hide. But for the time being, there was still enough to provide his mysterious opponent camouflage.

The Nord felt a familiar flurry of punches strike his gut. The Horned One was right under his nose of all places, crouched down and attacking with all his might. The Viking attempted to end the assault with a knee to the face but the Horned One dodged to the right at the last minute before hurling what felt like another dart into the Viking’s right leg. The mysterious warrior then rolled into what remained of the smoke.

The room was almost entirely visible now. The patrons had taken to huddling against the walls and corners of the club, whimpering in fear. A few pillars of smoke remained. The Viking just had to determine which one the horned warrior was hiding in. Both legs were numb. We wobbled from left to right as he tried to find his balance, desperately trying to hide his glaring weakness. He waited. And waited. And with each passing second, the pillars of some grew less and less dense until finally, he could make out the Horned One’s silhouette in the one farthest from the Nord.

The Viking had no choice but to await an attack. His legs were ready to give in. We could not walk and could barely stand. Much to his displeasure, the Horned One merely stood, staring silently until the smoke was entirely gone. Was he waiting for the Viking’s legs to finally buckle under his weight to deliver his final blow?

“Our mission has been accomplished. You have been defeated, mighty warrior.”

“What mission?! I hath not surrendered, Horned One! I still stand!”

“Barely. Look around you. My men are gone. We got what we came for. There is no need to continue. But do not despair. You were indeed a worthy opponent. I look forward to crossing paths with you again.”

The Viking glanced around the club and sure enough, the thugs were gone. The ones once sprawled out across the dance floor had vanished, as did the group standing guard at the bar. The battle with the Horned One was nothing more than a distraction to allow his minions to escape. The Viking looked back to the Horned One to find that he too had disappeared.

Finally, his legs gave in. The Nord crumpled to the ground. He let out an angry snarl as he pounded a fist into the floor, leaving a small crater in its wake. For the first time in ages, he had been bested in combat. And defeat was not a feeling he missed in the slightest.

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