Chapter 80:

Chapter 80 - Bringing Down the House


“Nice of you to join us, city-slicker!”

Morgan frowned up at his triumphant captor, his mind racing to conceive of some way to turn the tables. His first thought was to start shooting, to pop the bubble before he’d risen too high. But, as always, those damn morals of his stood in the way. A maneuver like that might get him off scot-free, but where would that leave Beretta?

Under Bubba Lee’s bony ass, that’s where.

“I’m no city-slicker,” Morgan protested. If he was going to find another way to work this, he’d have to buy himself some time, and trading barbs with Bubba Lee seemed as good a method as any. “Sure, I lived in Trigger City for a spell. But I bet I’ve spent at least as much time out on the range as you have.”

“Well, you sure ain’t picked up the kinda instincts I’d expect from one o’ mine,” the ugly man scoffed. He leaned forward from his place atop the safe, practically daring him to take a potshot. “Gettin’ you all bubbled up was easy as pie. And now you’re cooked–there’s nowhere to run, and no way to get me back without droppin’ your poor lil’ gal pal all the way down to ground zero.”

He was right. Bubba Lee sat astride Berry’s hiding place, and he seemed to know it, too. Morgan winced and gritted his teeth. Had one of those good-for-nothing lawyers spilled the beans to save their own skin?

“Take a shot at me, I dare ya,” Bubba Lee continued with a taunting slap of the chest. “Not only will you end up sinkin’ yourself, you’ll have a fair chance of poppin’ the safe’s bubble too!”

The man sat half-inside the bubble in question, with his head and much of his torso exposed to the open air. Morgan trusted himself to make the shot without grazing Berry’s bubble, but he couldn’t avoid popping his own… And given the fact they’d been rising steadily for the better part of a minute, he figured that a rash move like that might just end up crippling him.

“Damn it…”

Morgan’s fists clenched at his sides. How had he allowed himself to get drawn into an impossible situation like this? Some combat expert I turned out to be, he lamented.

I’ve got no business training anyone.

“Haw haw hawww!” Bubba Lee wheezed, rooting around inside his pocket for some unknown item. Only when he withdrew his hand did Morgan manage to catch a glimpse of what it was:

A handful of pebbles. Even from his vantage point several feet away, he could tell that they were sharp-edged–handpicked by Bubba Lee, no doubt, for the express purpose of popping bubbles of his choice.

“I reckon we’re high up enough that I can cut ya loose, now,” the man drawled, taking a particularly pointy rock between his fingers. “I can direct my bubbles to lift or lower, y’see, but it works on all of ‘em at once… So if I want to get back down without you tryin’ to mess with me, I’ll have to drop ya the ol’ fashioned way. No hard feelin’s, yeah?”

“That’s a shame. I feel like I was just startin’ to warm up to you,” Morgan growled, lowering himself into a defensive stance. “Must be your bubbly personality.”

“A pun?” the man scoffed. “Oh, you best believe I’ll be droppin’ you now!”

Bubba Lee started slinging stones, aiming right for the glassy walls of Morgan’s bubble. He missed a few times, popping a few of the various furniture-bearing bubbles between them by accident, but a direct hit was inevitable; Morgan’s easily permeable prison made him a sitting duck. Soon enough a pebble struck true, and Bubba Lee cackled with delight.

…Until he saw what came next. Morgan had tensed up in anticipation of the exact moment his bubble was breached, and had seen fit to perform a desperate leap in the split-second before he lost his footing. Bubba Lee looked on, wide-eyed, as he sailed through the air and caught the leg of a nearby bubble-borne chair.

“HEY!! No fair!” he hollered, jumping to his feet. He stomped on the safe in a fury and took another pebble in hand, determined to deprive Morgan of his new refuge. Morgan watched helplessly as the man took careful aim. It was all he could do just to keep hanging on, and the possibility of pulling Ricochet without weakening his grip seemed remote.

But right then, just when all seemed lost, Berry delivered him a miracle:

The safe began to roll in place beneath Bubba Lee’s feet.

“Wha–WhaaAAat the hell?” he gasped. The rotation of his chosen perch forced him into a clumsy run. Rather than focusing on his enemy, he gave the simple act of avoiding a slip his full, undivided attention, leaving Morgan free to scramble up onto the chair he’d been hanging from.

From there, Morgan jumped from object to object, making every effort to rise to the height of the safe. Now that he was free of the bubble, he had full mobility, and Bubba Lee had lost his biggest advantage. With this in mind, Morgan continued to climb, hopping from chairs to bookcases, swinging from lamps, and bouncing off of couch cushions in pursuit of his ultimate goal: coming up level with the Scourge of Biffle County.

Thanks to Berry’s timely intervention, he managed the feat in no time. Upon jumping to a nearby grandfather clock, Morgan found that his adversary was nearly within arm’s reach! He whipped out Ricochet with a grin, pointing its barrel straight toward the stumbling man before him.

“It’s over, Bubba Lee!” he barked, frightening him so badly that the pile of pebbles sprang from his hands and hurtled harmlessly down toward the settlement below. “Unless you’d like another bullet hole to go with the one I put in your leg, you’d better set us all down nice and easy-like!”

Bubba Lee scowled up at him, his forehead glistening with sweat. “Damn it! How’d you get up here!?” he snarled. Then he looked about himself with a glimmer of animal cunning in his eyes and a growing smirk on his lips. “Doesn’t matter anyhow. I’ll set us down, alright, just like you said… But I’m goin’ FIRST!

With that, Bubba Lee dove from the still-spinning safe and dropped a good hundred feet before deploying a bubble around himself. Morgan saw him stand up calmly within the improvised escape pod and flip a switch on the side of his gun, which immediately caused every bubble in sight–including his own–to start drifting down toward the ground… And to make matters worse, the wind chose that minute to pick up, blowing him, Berry, and all the junk surrounding them clear of the law firm.

“Shit!” Morgan exclaimed as the galaxy of random items around him began to sink toward the street. At this rate, Bubba Lee would reach the ground first! And, assuming the bubbles popped on contact with it, that would give him a solid chance of escaping before anyone could get ahold of him!

Morgan couldn’t allow that to happen.

He jumped to the safe and clawed his way to the top of it, pausing to knock softly at its iron walls in an effort to reassure the girl inside that all was well. Thankfully, she took the hint, and the safe went still, allowing him to take his place on top without further issue.

Having been furnished with a solid place to shoot from, Morgan cocked his weapon in Bubba Lee’s direction and prepared to open fire. He was hungry for it; just itching to pull the trigger. But instead, he had to watch as a sea of bubbles big and small sunk lower and lower in the air. To do otherwise would jeopardize everyone’s safety. Like it or not, he had to let Bubba Lee lower everyone back to the earth.

Even if it meant letting him get away.

He took solace in the fact that every building in Toothless was descending into its proper place before his eyes. Bars, homesteads, the general store… All were levitating right back to where they belonged. Eventually, only the sheriff’s office and Parge and O’Fleef’s firm remained airborne.

They were still descending when Bubba Lee reached the ground. The miserable little weasel turned to smile up at him before pointedly flicking the switch, reversing the trajectory of every bubble still in the air! Then, before he knew it, Morgan, Beretta, and the two bubbled buildings began rising again. He spotted Caden and Conrad leaping to nearby rooftops before their structures retreated too high for comfort, but what was he supposed to do? The safe was right above the middle of the street; with nothing solid to jump to, he was looking at a hundred-foot drop!

Without thinking, Morgan sprang into action. He ran the floating furniture obstacle course in reverse this time, leaping from bubble to bubble in a bid to get himself closer to the ground. By the time he reached the lowest point of the floating clutter, though, he was still a good thirty feet off the ground.

Morgan heaved a deep sigh.

Fuck it.

He jumped, flying through the air like an avenging angel. He closed one eye and steadied his aim, hesitating until he was as close to his target as he could be. The shot, after all, would take every ounce of accuracy he could muster. With a sharp intake of breath, he took it…

…And missed. The incapacitating strike he’d been praying for went wide. Instead he scored a hit on his target’s wrist, knocking the gun from Bubba Lee’s hand.

What happened next seemed to play out in slow motion. While plummeting toward the ground, he saw Bubba Lee leave his fallen weapon behind and flee toward the nearest gap in the main strip–the empty space where the sheriff’s office had once been. The man started crawling over piles of dirt and detritus at a rapid pace, and Morgan’s heart sank.

He was going to get away. There was nothing standing between him and freedom, now. And without Bubba Lee there to operate his weapon, there was no way they’d get Berry down safely…

In the instant before he hit the ground, though, Morgan witnessed one final, unexpected development:

Caden cocked his shotgun at the bubble bearing the sheriff’s office and fired, bringing the whole damn building down on Bubba Lee’s head.

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