Nikola wondered what good parents are for a child if they don't have the child in their custody. Static rolled over on his couch and made an effort to sleep through Echo's "whining," as he thought of it.

Echo whispered, "All the friends I have ... all the good wishes ... all the people who promised to help ... and still Arthur keeps my child ... and still he lives, unhurt ... no one cares any more."

Another stranger spoke. "You don't seem to understand, Echo," said Juzam Djinn. "He wants to bargain with you. And he only wants one thing. If you want that, without the middle part, then you have to take it. You can't just kill him. The child is nowhere to be found. How do you know that it's not dead? Other than the videos?"

Echo looked at Juzam. "Who are you?" she asked dully.

Juzam sighed a bit and leaned against the wall, which, in turn, creaked loudly. "I'm Juzam Djinn. The King of the Genii."

Echo got up like a sleepwalker and moved to sit on the floor next to Arthur's couch, by his head. By her position, she might have been praying. "Give me my baby, Arthur," she almost crooned, but her voice was nearly lifeless. "Give me my baby."

Juzam Djinn shook his head, thinking he could not see how Echo could want the boy that much, yet make so little an effort to recover it. What he thought she could do, he did not say ... but Echo, picking up the trend of his thoughts because of the necklace of scarlet and jet around her neck, felt he, too, wanted her to go ahead and give Arthur the skin of her beloved. As if in answer, she felt Nikola wonder why Echo would choose a lover over her own son. Did Nikola not know that her lover was the father of the stolen child?

Echo looked around with her dulled eyes at all the people who think she should have to give ANYTHING for the return of a baby who was stolen from her arms ... let alone give a life ...

As Juzam reflected that someone should die for the baby, but not the father of the baby, Nikola chimed in. "You say you care about your child," she said, her voice clean and slightly loud, her tone annoyed. "But your efforts are hardly worth anything ... A few mumbled pleas ... You say you wish for someone to help you," she continued, her eyes narrowing, "Yet you do nothing yourself."

The despairing thought ran through Echo's head: What does she think I can do?? ... and then, suddenly, all the rage she dared not turn against Static exploded against this callous stranger. Her eyes suddenly flashed crimson and gold ... she took a huge breath, nostrils flaring, and came to life, leaping to her feet and surging toward Nikola with the point of the scalpel aimed toward her throat.

Background: Graphics and Beyond
Buttons: the depARTment store