When Static entered, Echo said limply, "Stat ... sack ... bottles ... over there," pointing.

Static stared at the bottles, then made a gesture to them -- and the baby bottles shattered into many tiny shards, bursting the paper bag and leaking bloodied milk all over the floor. Jaim Tashima, sitting nearby, wondered what in the hell had been happening while he was away. Static said, "Oops -- wrong spell," then grinned cruelly.

Echo said almost dully, as if repeating something she had said too often, "Arthur ... give me back my son. Please." Static wandered to his couch as if not hearing her last words. Echo went on, "Arthur ... please give me back my child." She was crying, but soundlessly, hopelessly.

Static replied, "You know what I want, Echo."

"Ask for something else," Echo pleaded. "Or just stop. Stop being such a monster. Give me my baby."

Static only responded, "You know what I want and I shall not waver."

"Arthur ... give me my baby. Give me my baby," she repeated.

He answered, "Echo ... give me my payment."

"Give me my baby," she begged. "I'll give you MY skin. Now. Give me my baby."

"No," said Static, "if I wanted your skin I'd have demanded it."

Jaim broke in: "Echo, what could he possibly want that you value so much you won't give it up for your baby?"

"Jaim," she replied, "he wants so much of Blood Demon's skin it would kill or cripple Blood."

"And Blood values his own life over his kid's?" Jaim asked.

Echo looked at Jaim coldly, as if the tears were freezing in her eyes. "I value Blood's life equal to my son's life," she said, then resumed her endless litany: "Arthur... give me back my baby. I want my son."

Jaim thought for a second, while a stranger by the name of Loga Strogan drew his crossbow, aimed it at Static and said, "How about giving back the baby?" James K'tarn walked past Loga, quietly snatching the crossbow from him and cracking it in half over his knee. James then tossed the mangled crossbow to the side saying to Loga, "Violence won't solve anything," knowing that if Static were killed Vezhan would be lost forever in the unknown dimension where he was held.

Meanwhile, Static announced, "Echo ... stop saying that ... I don't want to have to remove your tongue."

Loga stubbornly repeated to Static, "Give it back," while Echo said yet again, "Give me back my baby ..." dully, defeatedly, for there was nothing else left to say in the world.

Jaim decided to do his nice thing for the year. "Stat ... a proposition. You seem like somebody who values power, right?"

Static turned his gaze to Jaim. "I already have that."

"Give me back my child," Echo repeated, heedless of Arthur's threat.

Jaim said, "You wouldn't want access to another source? An ... unlimited source ... power greater than that of the so-called 'gods' around here?"

Static drew one of his 9mms and started to screw a glowing silencer onto it. Jaim went on, "I will give you access to this source in exchange for Echo's kid."

Static merely said, "Jaim ... I do not need any more power than I already have."

Jaim shrugged. "Suit yourself then."

Static replied tellingly, as if summing up all his motivation in a few words, "I will, Jaim."

Echo heard Static's careless dismissal of Jaim's offer, and every line of her body showed defeat ... the tears that fell from her dulled eyes, the droop of her shoulders, the blank and hopeless expression on her face. "I want my son. Give me back my son. Give me my baby."

Static said, "Stop saying that, Echo."

She answered, "I will, when you give Vezhan back to me."

"No, said Static, "you will ... or I may cut out your tongue with a jagged razor."

A nearby comedian calling himself The Dustman commented, "Ouch ... that would hurt." Another stranger, a woman named Nikola, took a small sip from her drink, then placed the glass on the bartop, watching Arthur and Echo as she had been doing for some time.

Echo shrugged a little. "I just want my baby back."

Static sneered, "I just wish you'd give me what I want and shut up."

The Dustman asked, "Ooooh ... what does Static want?" and giggled.

Echo, her breasts still swollen and aching day after day with milk the baby should be drinking ... putting that milk in bottles never seemed to quell the ache ... replied, "I can't. I shouldn't have to. You stole my baby. Give him back."

Static said implacably, "You know what I want, Echo. Give me it and your child is yours again."

"Ask for something else," Echo pleaded.

Arthur smiled pleasantly to her. "No."

Lightning Image: Caverns of Blood
Skin Image Adapted from: Albino Frog Software, Inc.
Face Image: Jeffrey Zeldman Presents
Buttons: Eye on the World