Lunging forward, Echo screamed, "YOU KNOW NOTHING!" James grabbed Echo from behind as Nikola lifted her feet, slammed her shoes into Echo's chest, sending both her and James reeling, and rebounded in a flip behind the bar.

Echo rolled to her feet, her eyes glowing molten gold as the Rage which was part of her heritage from her mother consumed them. "DAMN YOU!" she shouted. "YOU KNOW NOTHING!"

Nikola observed, "You take action against me ... instead of the one who stole your goddamn child!" which, if Echo had been able to listen, would only have proved that Nikola had no clear understanding of the situation.

Some in the room began to cheer Echo on, while others begged her to stop. She ignored them all ... touched the silver bonded to her ear ... and shifted into the form of a tiger, leaping forward to claw at Nikola's face and chest.

Static, who had awakened from the noise, took one look at the melee and dematerialized, leaving the room.

The fight was short and, ultimately, sad. Nikola jumped high into the air as the tiger sprang, catching the rafters, swinging herself up, then coming down behind Echo. "Leave me be," she said, and the tiger whirled, growling. "Killing me won't bring back your child. Really."

Echo stalked forward slowly, almost mindlessly, forcing Nikola to unsheath her sword. "I won't attack you," she said. "A dead mother is no good for her child." She sent her voice into Echo's mind as well as her ears. The tiger hesitated. Nikola slid along the wall, away from Echo, not wanting to hurt her.

A low moan issued from the tiger's throat. Then it reared up ... and reverted to human form.

Exhaustedly, Echo said, "Nikola ... when you know nothing ... say nothing."

Seeing Static leave, Jaim Tashima turned to Echo. "Well, Echo, any thoughts to what I said?" Echo had no idea what he was referring to, and in her weariness was not even able to form an answer before another claimed her attention.

Juzam Djinn said, "Echo, if you need my assistance, contact the one called Baltazar, or perhaps Ourus, who is my co-master." A moment later, Ourus himself entered, his white clothing hanging from his muscular body. "Echo," he said, "I can help you. I know partly what happened to you and with your son, Vezhan. I know, for one thing, that you can't get him back by snapping your fingers."

Overwhelmed and near to collapse, Echo knew she had reached her limit. "I have to go. I have to go." She rose and took a single stumbling step. "I have to go. I have to go," she repeated.

James, worried, said, "Echo? you ok?"

Echo looked around one more time. "Everyone promised to help ..." she said softly and brokenly. "Everyone promised ..."

"What do you want me to do?" asked James. "Fight him again?"

"What were they to help with?" asked Ourus. "Echo, what could they do?"

"Get my baby back," said Echo. "I just want my baby back."

Ourus said, "Fighting Static won't get Vezhan back -- that would only lose him forever. You have to be smarter than Static to get this damned baby. You have to beat him at his own game, play with HIS mind in turn." Perhaps it was good advice ... but it was far too late ... when all Vezhan had become to anyone was "that damned baby."

Echo walked out hopelessly, her spirit all but crushed.

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