~Echo~

Echo released a well-deserved sigh. The atmosphere in the shop was encased in boredom. As lack of entertainment weighed down on Echo, she focused on keeping her self from falling asleep. Her eyes subconsciously followed the monotonous ticking of the clock. It was getting late. The pet shop she worked and lived in would be closing in a couple hours, and the sun was fighting a losing battle with the moon. She wondered where her sister was right now. Her sister should have been in a long time ago for her shift, but the fact that she hadn't shown up wasn't surprising to Echo.

A black and white puppy scampered around his cage, tripping over his feet and falling on his stomach. Echo giggled softly to herself and crossed the room to him. The gold of the afternoon sun reflected off the black on his coat. He turned and yapped at her. She picked him up and allowed him to tickle her neck and face with his slimy, pink tongue. The puppy wiggled in her arms attempting to dance away from his capturer.

"Why don't you put that filthy thing down and feed him instead?" Echo's grandfather entered through the storage room door. For a grandfather he was very young. His hair was only slightly gray, and he was still healthy enough to be extremely active. Echo and her older sister lived with him because he was their last family member. Echo loved her grandfather more than she had loved her father or mother. He was strict but easily respected. His smiles and his hugs always felt warm and welcoming. He had amazing stories to tell, that or he was really good at creating them. He gave her one of his loving smiles then. She reluctantly dropped the puppy, letting herself out of his pen. Echo walked toward the storage room door and moved to pass her grandfather.

"Echo," her grandfather's voice stopped her in the hallway. "Where's your sister, anyhow?" he questioned her. Echo ducked her head and faltered in the doorway. She was a terrible liar, but felt that she needed to cover for her sister.

"I don't know." She almost slapped herself for such a lame answer. She hated lying to him, but he couldn't know the truth about her sister. He was very protective of them, and he had a good reason to be considering the area they lived in. Robberies and gang fights were very common. Echo slipped through the door before he could question her further. She listened for him to walk into the back room. When she heard him close the door, she moved to pick up the dog food. The front door chimed, and with the hope for something interesting, Echo quickly picked up the dry and left to greet the visitor.

~Rusty James~

"Are you sure you want to do this?" Steve's voice resounded off the dark alley walls. Rusty James could hear him stumbling over crates and litter, trailing farther and farther behind him. At the moment, Rusty James didn't care. He was furious with Biff for talking trash about his girlfriend, Patty. His anger fueled his strength and his need to fight.

"Slow down, would ya?" Steve's voice was distant in the alley and Rusty James's mind. Rusty James stormed ahead ignoring Steve's request. He didn't even realize Steve was having a hard time keeping up because he was kicking things over as he exploded down the cobblestone enclosure. Rusty James exited the alleyway underneath a street lamp, calming himself so he could allow Steve to catch up and preserve his energy for the fight. Steve stepped out of the alley, bent over and breathing heavily. Rusty James walked on, lacking concern for Steve's struggled breathing. He picked up his pace and rounded the corner. Biff and two members of his gang strode confidently toward Rusty James. They didn't look like they were carrying weapons, and Rusty James felt confident that he could take them. He recognized the guy to Biff's left. His name was Nick, and he had an honest reputation as a hell of a fighter. But Rusty James knew his weakness; he swung blindly when he was taunted. The other guy didn't look so bad, and he felt confident he could size him up in under a minute. Rusty James stopped and waited for them to reach him. Steve came up short behind him, breathing as if those were his last breaths.

"Well, well we meet again, Rusty James." Biff reminded Rusty James of their fight a couple of months ago. Biff had cheated and pulled a knife on him, but Rusty James still beat him with help from the Motorcycle Boy. The only memory from the fight was a long, jagged scar that rested lazily on Rusty James's chest.

"Ready to get beat again?" Rusty James asked, teasing him about last time. Biff smiled, an evil taunt lurking in his eyes.

"You think you can take all three of us?" He turned and looked at his friends who smiled broadly and nodded.

"You know I can." Rusty James smiled back at them, becoming exhilarated at the idea of the fight.

Biff sneered. "Then I guess I'm ready."

Rusty James readied himself. He let Biff edge closer while keeping his eye on the other two. He heard Steve take a long, slow gulp and followed his gaze. A light bounced in the corner of Rusty James's sight. He felt the cold, sharp make of the metal pierce his skin before he saw it coming.