Ryan rolled back from the charge of the Helheists, their riders – Ryan started mentally referring to them as Helborne, for want of a name – opening fire as they did. Bullets traced the ground he had been standing on and followed him as he leapt back, reaching out to twist reality and draw enough water from the air to form a thick wall of air between himself in the bullets. The bullets still passed through, but robbed of their momentum. When they hit, it felt like light taps instead of lethal blows.
Every time the Helborne fired, Ryan could see tiny twists happening around the bullets. Enough where they would be as dangerous as the ichor rounds had been, which was just par for the course, in Ryan’s estimation. To make matters worse, when the Helheists hit the water wall, they slowed down – right up until their riders came into contact with it, at which point reality began to reassert itself, like their touch had woken up the physical laws of the universe to what they were supposed to do. The water poured to the ground in a giant puddle.
It gave Ryan an idea, although he’d have to survive this charge to pull it off.
The Helborne that had pulled off his face – no, name the enemy, Ryan. Stop treating them like monsters, give him a name. If he’s named, he can be beat. Let’s call him…Steve. Steve was leading the charge, and his lack of functioning eyes or facial features did nothing to disturb his aim, and Ryan had to move to avoid being shot.
This time, instead of running away, he charged towards the attackers. The sudden motion startled them. The Helheists shot bursts of flame at him, and Ryan felt it burn his arms and legs. He clenched his teeth at the pain as the flames licked his arms and legs. Nothing caught on fire, but he could feel blisters risking from his skin as they were kissed by demon-horse fire.
The flame still hurt less than the bullets would have, and as Ryan hoped, the sudden brightness also spoiled the Helborne’s aim. Bullets whizzed past his head like a swarm of angry bees, but none of them bit into his skin.
In the best of circumstances, horses were not known for the ability to turn on a dime. It took them time it took them to wheel back for another charge, and Ryan thought he had more time to prepare for their next charge.
Unfortunately, it seemed Steve wasn’t bound to the same physical rules as his companions that still had their faces. His torso abruptly twisted a hundred and eighty degrees to face Ryan, who could hear Steve’s spine crunch like glass from the motion. It didn’t seem to bother the Helborne, however, who raised his assault rifle and opened fire.
Ryan was caught completely off guard, no defense ready for the gunshots. Turning himself around completely spoiled his aim some, and he didn’t land a head shot. He did hit Ryan in the chest, blows that were stopped by Athena’s modifications to the cloth. Those modifications, however, just prevented the bullets from punching holes in his chest. It didn’t stop him from feeling the impact, and with the enhancements the Helborne were doing to the bullets they hit hard enough where Ryan felt a couple ribs crack.
He dropped to one knee from the sudden pain, and the Helheists were fully wheeled around, facing Ryan as the Helborne started to ready to shoot. Ryan pushed past the pain as best he could, knowing this hail of bullets would find parts of him that weren’t protected if he didn’t get a defense up.
The bullets hit the defense an instant before hitting Ryan. It was another wall, same as before, but instead of pulling the water out of the air he pulled the air together, holding it in place by pressurizing the air. As before, it slowed the bullets enough to reduce their threat, and as before, the Helheists struggled to break through until their riders touched it, which broke the equations holding the air apart.
Unlike before, the air did not fall to the ground in a puddle. No longer bound by Ryan’s twist of reality, it expanded back as rapidly as it could, an explosive burst of wind that had the momentary intensity of a tornado.
The Helborne were tough and resistant to direct twists. They were not, however, immune to the normal laws of physics. On top of that, no matter how dangerous they were, that danger was still packed onto a human frame, and among the many things humans were noted for, one of them was not the ability to take three-hundred mile-per-hour wind to the face.
Helborne and Helheist alike were scattered, tumbling end over end in all directions. Ryan heard, much to his satisfaction, bones snap from impacts with the ground. He didn’t risk waiting to see if that was the end of any of them.
Steve was standing up, and Ryan only moments to act.
In the time that it took Steve to get to his feet, Ryan had woven the equations of reality again, returning to his old favorite trick of altering gravity, increasing the gravitational coefficient by as much as he could manage. If the attempt had been made directly on Steve and hadn’t been undone by Moloch’s modifications, it would have snapped in spine in an instant. But that wouldn’t have done anything, Ryan had learned that by now. Instead, he didn’t try to alter it directly on Steve. There was no reason to waste the effort.
Instead, Ryan altered it on a chunk of rock on the ceiling above Steve.
A large chunk of rock was ripped from the cavern above them and sent screaming downwards, fast enough that it built up ram pressure within a second of starting its fall as it compressed the air in front of it. If it had been the asteroid it suddenly resembled, it would have broken up high into the atmosphere, but they were on Tartarus, and it didn’t have fall enough to fall.
It impacted Steve’s head with unerring accuracy, and effectively turned his skull into a reenactment of the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs in miniature. The explosion, even from this distance, was enough to send Ryan flying back. Hitting the ground did wonders for the pain in his chest.
Whatever ability allowed Steve to recover from a direct lightning strike didn’t work for a small meteor impact, nor did it protect the Helborne and Helheists nearest to him. Ryan was panting from the effort of that twist, each breath sending a fresh pang of pain, but he did find the strength to do a fist pump as they were annihilated.
His celebration was cut short as three Helborne emerged from the cloud Ryan had created, each one tearing off their face as they did.
“Oh, come on,” Ryan groaned as he readied himself to fight them, hoping with all his might the others were faring better.