Enki’s newfound speed was completely belied by his bulk. In a single motion he dodged under Crystal’s sword, grabbed Athena’s wrist with one hand – Ryan thought he could hear an audible crack when he did – and brought his other fist up into Ryan’s gut. As he doubled over and went airborne, stars flashing in front of his eyes, Enki’s leg swept out to catch Crystal in the hip, sending her flying to the side. Swinging around he tossed Athena away with an easy grace.
Enki stood there for a moment, guffawing in what now seemed to be genuine amusement. “Too right, too fucking right. Three on one, and I’m going to whip all your asses.”
Ryan rose to his feet unsteadily. Crystal’s own rise to her feet favored her right side, the left hip obviously injured, and Athena held her wrist against her stomach. I did hear a crack, he snapped it. Five seconds into the fight, and already Athena has a broken wrist. Panic rose in his throat again, a serpent trying to crawl its way out of his belly. He clamped his teeth to keep from screaming. She doesn’t need that wrist for the plan, Ryan. Calm the hell down, the plan requires Enki to be stronger than you all.
At least Enki was waiting for them to come to him, at least he wasn’t pressing the attack. They had to attack him again, keep him off balance – if they jumped to the endgame too soon, he’d be suspicious.
Instead of charging as a group again, they began to spread out, taking spots around Enki. The helicopters overhead would see them standing at two o’clock, six o’clock, and ten o’clock, roughly. Enki stood at the center of the clock, cracking his neck, waiting for them to move.
One at a time this time. Athena went first from the six o’clock, running low and to the ground, keeping the injured hand pressed against her chest. She leapt up in a kick, one that Enki blocked with a thick arm.
Before Enki could counterattack, Athena pushed off that solid limb and sent herself flying back in an arc – right in time for Crystal to come in from the ten, her sword strike low and aimed at Enki’s kidney. He brought a hand around and punched the blade on the flat, cracking the metal. Like Athena, Crystal sprung away before Enki could counterattack.
While they had attacked, Ryan had reached into his nanoverse to pull out a weapon. To his relief, he found himself holding a sword – not a fancy one like the one that, oh goddamnit I could have grabbed that from Athena’s staging area, but a simple steel blade. A second after Crystal had moved, he had done the same, and leapt into to the air for a high strike.
Enki moved again with that inhuman speed, rolling away from Ryan’s blow. He sprung back, and it was Athena’s turn again.
Like they had discussed, the three off them rotated dancing in and out. None of their blows seemed to have much impact on Enki, but at least he wasn’t landing any more of his own strikes. The veins on Enki’s neck and face were beginning to bulge, his irritation growing at the stinging wasps biting at him.
“Enough!” Enki shouted, and a torrent of wind sent the three of them flying back. They slowly began picking themselves up off of the ground, and once again Ryan felt the fear, the terror, rising. He can do wind, none of us did that trick, the plan- Ryan bit the panic back down. Of course he can manipulate wind. That was the first thing you ever saw him do, force the tornado down against Crystal. The plan’s still solid.
Enki had started ranting at them, and in the momentary panic Ryan had missed part of the rant. “-ing pathetic! Just realize you lost, lay down, and fucking die already.”
I think he said that some other time. He’s running out of things to scream at us. Ryan gave Athena a nod.
Athena shouted, drawing Enki’s attention, “we will never surrender to you, Enki. Not so long as we draw breath.” Now that she had Enki’s attention with a rather cliche taunt, she twisted, forming a pair of gauntlets around her hands.
What Ryan had told Daasti, that gods didn’t create their own weapons, was technically true – technically. It’s not that they couldn’t, it was that doing so involved changing elements in the air into other elements – in this case an alloy of titanium and uranium-238 for most of the gauntlets, besides the palms. Athena nearly staggered from the effort of creating them, but stayed on her feet. At least we gave her the gauntlets, Ryan reflected, hopefully it’ll help brace that wrist.
Enki watched her form the gauntlets and answered her taunt with a sneer before charging. On the defensive, she was able to duck under his grabbing hands and land a boxer’s quick one-two punch against Enki’s ribcage – wincing at the pain as she landed the blow with her injured wrist. Fortunately, the gauntlets worked – the added mass meant even with his enhanced strength, Enki felt the blows, and grunted as they landed. He jumped back, looking comically surprised to have felt that.
Enki grinned widely, and with barely any effort, formed a pair of his own gauntlets – identical to the ones Athena now wore. Ryan checked, peering with his divine sight, and felt a surge of relief – they were exact replicas, although he’d merged the gauntlet on his metal arm into the artificial appendage.
“You know why we won’t surrender, Enki?” Ryan shouted, wanting Enki focused on him now. It worked, and Enki turned his head towards Ryan, his beady eyes glaring.
“Is it just because you’re too fucking stupid to know better?” But Enki wasn’t waiting for an answer, he was charging in, and Ryan barely got the barrier up in time to prevent the blow from pulverizing his skull.
The barrier was a work of art, in Ryan’s increasingly-not-so-humble opinion. It compressed a field of air around Ryan, forming a foot-wide field around him where the pressure became astronomically high – six times more intense than the pressure at the core of the Earth. Enki’s blow slammed into it, and a shockwave erupted from the spot where the two met.
Enki slammed his fists against the barrier a few more times, his anger visibly growing. However, even with the added mass of the gauntlets, he didn’t come close to breaking through it. Not that Ryan could maintain something of this magnitude for long. Like flight, keeping this air pressure barrier in place was a constant drain, and as soon as Ryan dropped it Enki would turn him into paste.
Fortunately, Ryan wasn’t alone. Athena and Crystal both moved in, and managed to land a couple solid hits before Enki slammed his hands together, creating a pressure barrier of his own – an exact replica of Ryan’s, and one he could maintain much longer than Ryan could.
“Nope!” chimed in Crystal, getting Enki’s attention by continuing the earlier conversation. “It’s because you’re just too sodding ugly to be seen surrendering to you, yeah? Just humiliating.” While she spoke, Crystal created her own weapon, a sword with a unique, waving design. The blade itself was sharpened ceramic.
Enki saw her create the sword, but proved he hadn’t gotten so stupid he couldn’t see the basic pattern forming. Instead of charging Crystal, he whirled around to angle his charge towards Athena – who was now helpless against him. She dodged the first two punches, but the third was a blow that had Enki leaping into the air slightly and bringing his fist down. Although Athena blocked the blow, Enki’s strength was enough where her left leg snapped.
Seeing his opportunity, Enki raised his fists again, but Crystal had caught up with him and slashed with the ceramic sword. When Ryan had made the barrier, he’d added an exception – ceramics would treat it like it was normal air, which meant Crystal’s strike drew a line of bright-red blood across Enki’s back. He howled in pain and struck out with a backhand blow, striking Crystal across the face and sending her flying.
Enki had an opening now, a chance to kill Athena. Ryan struck out, hard and fast with a twist to send a bolt of lightning Enki’s way. The energy dissipated trying to pass through the ultra-dense atmosphere of the pressure barrier, but it got Enki’s attention. With Crystal unconscious he could slowly walk over towards Ryan, who had dropped to one knee from exhaustion.
“You know, Ryan,” Enki said conversationally, “I’m so fucking sick of you. I should have shot you in the goddamn head that first fucking day. But now I’m going to fix that shit. Ishtar’s unconscious, Athena can’t fucking walk. You’re about to die, you annoying little shit. Any last words?”
Ryan tried to come up with some witty comeback, some action-movie one-liner that would prove his badassery – but at this point, it took every bit of energy Ryan could muster to maintain the barrier. All he could do is glare up at Enki, who was raising his hands.
“Too bad. Oh well.” And with a twist, he formed the same ceramic blade that Crystal had formed, the gauntlets Athena had worn wrapping around it – and as soon as those fists closed, Enki saw the look in Ryan’s eyes, saw that he was smiling, and knew he had made a mistake.
Then Enki was engulfed in nuclear fire.
Californium-252, according to the internet when Ryan had looked it up earlier, was an interesting substance. With a half-life of 2.6 years it was incredibly radioactive, and had the lowest critical mass of any isotope of any element at only 2.73 kilograms. The handle of Crystal’s sword had contained most of the needed mass, and the palms of Athena’s gauntlets contained the remainder.
“Okay,” Crystal had said, frowning. “So we get him to make the sword and gauntlets, yeah? And then…what, we all die?”
Athena had nodded. “Your plan seems to be missing a critical component, Ryan.”
Ryan had needed a bit more searching to find the answer to that question. The internet less forthcoming with what would be needed to contain a nuclear blast, since most research into surviving an explosion of that strength was about keeping the blast wave and heat and radiation out, not keeping the entire blast locked in.
“Well, this site says that you’d need pressure orders of magnitude greater than the Earth’s core to hold it in place,” he’d finally said, after an hour of searching.
“And you can trust everything you read on the internet, love?” Crystal’s tone had been upbeat and teasing, but her brow had been furrowed. “I’m not exactly keen on getting nuked.”
“Nor am I. Enki would likely reform before we did, given his new strength,” Athena had added.
Ryan had shrugged. “It’s the best I can do. Do you really like our chances at another against Enki?”
So they’d gambled on his plan, and as a result, Enki was trapped in a bubble of plasma and heat and radioactivity. When it hit the edges of the barrier, it was reflected back in, then attempted to expand back out – pulsing rapidly in and out. It needed an outlet, and Ryan was happy to give it one.
Now that Enki wasn’t trying to maintain it – Ryan suspected and hoped Enki wouldn’t be doing much of anything ever again – it was easy to change the equation to open a tiny hole in the top of the barrier. As soon as it did, the ball of nuclear energy slammed into the ground with enough force to punch through it – bringing into play the last part of the plan, the reason Crystal and Athena had come out to prepare the battlefield.
Underneath the top layer of rock was an empty chasm, five hundred feet of open air. The gap gave the barrier space to accelerate, and in a fraction of a second it was moving nearly 70 kilometers per second – more than fast enough to bury itself deep into the ground so that, when the barrier finally failed, the explosion only caused the island to shudder as opposed to being annihilated.
Ryan collapsed, once more the tendrils of darkness grabbing at the edges of his vision. He tried to fight it off, but it was so hard – he was so tired.
Athena’s leg was broken. Crystal was unconscious. And now, next to the hole that marked Enki’s radioactive tomb, Ryan finally passed out.