Rhyket shook violently, trying to rid himself of the constant snow that fell upon him.

"This isn't the time to get a shower, you little orange menace!" Cardy shouted.

"I wasn't the one who suggested it, but you do need one anyway."

"This isn't the time for jokes!"

"Whatever."

Rhyket's trudging abruptly stopped, causing Cardy to bump into him. "What was that for?"

"Listen." He said simply. Cardy did as she was bidden, and at first couldn't hear anything. Before she could comment about that though, a new sound reached her ears.

It sounded like a gigantic beast roaring in pain.

Cardy took off after Rhyket, snow flying beneath their feet; wakes of powdery stuff puffing up from their tracks.

The chimera was no easy opponent, to say the least. The seemingly harmless fur on its back turned out to be a set of porcupine-like quills that only Soondra could touch without the risk of injury. Of course, Diamondback had to learn that the hard way.

Cursing as he ripped the quill out with his teeth, he used his sharp tail to counter another of the ugly menace's attacks.

"Sheesh! What the 'ell have they fed this thing, puppy chow?!"

"Yeah, but this thing ain't a puppy anymore." Soondra said, trying, without success, to bash it on the head with one of her fists.

This thing was incredibly fast. While lacking the strength of Soondra or Diamondback, it could easily counter their slow attacks with a leap backwards, then charge forwards again with its horns.

The snake eventually figured out its strategy, and went about the same thing as before: waiting for it to attack Soondra, and then jump at him without warning.

It leaped at the enormous tortoise, then back flipped into the top branches of a tree. Snarling again, it shot towards the snake.

He simply smiled, waiting until the last possible moment. When its teeth were right at his throat, he coiled, pulling his head into his twenty-odd feet of length.

The chimera was stupid enough to follow him. It scrambled over his tail, and once again right at his neck. Thinking it had victory, it made an inhumane shriek.

Diamondback twisted out of its grip, then hissed. "Stupid." With a roar, he slammed all of his coils together, crushing the chimera with a sickening crack.

It screamed in pain, but yelled louder as the oversized snake looped a coil around him, and lifted him high. With no remorse, the giant rattlesnake heaved the creature into the ground with a loud thud, snow spraying in all directions.

The thing whimpered, and that pushed the snake even more. He lifted the limp form up once again, then slammed it again. Panting heavily, the snake continued his assault.

Finally, with one last heave, he threw the freak of nature into a nearby clump of trees. One collapsed with the force, the others' branches spearing the mutated beast.

"Whoa."

"You can say that again."

"Whoa."

Soondra rolled her eyes. "Just remind me never to get you angry, okay?"

"As you wish." The snake panted.

Metheen flapped wildly. "But wasn't that a person?"

He nodded wearily, his wounds from the creature's claws and teeth beginning to heal.

"But I thought that we were going to try to help the other experiments, weren't we?"

"He was beyond help. That poor creature is already–" He didn't finish his sentence as the great beast lunged, hitting him full force in the back. Falling forward, he writhed, bucking the beast off of him.

"Just as I feared." He said quietly. The chimera snarled, for the umpteenth time.

"Doesn't that guy have anything else to do?" Metheen said to no one in particular.

Soondra ignored her. "But . . . how?"

"Simple. He's gone feral. His strength and regenerative capabilities are probably far more than our own. See? He doesn't have any more wounds."

Their unwillingness to believe did them no good, as there wasn't even a single mark on the thing.

It seemed to see their distress, and it almost laughed maniacally.

"Great. An ugly guy who doesn't have a sense of humor either . . ." Soondra muttered.

The chimera stood on its hind legs again, and readied a jump. The hips seemed to lock into place, then the creature leaped at full speed.

This thing was fast, so fast that its momentum knocked Soondra over, caused Metheen to lose a little lift from the wind rivets that went through the air.

Soondra let out a roar as she was knocked clean off her feet, and barreled into a clump of trees, flattening them.

The chimera wasn't so stupid as to follow with her, as it leaped off of her once her momentum was established and began bounding towards Diamondback once again.

He coiled in response, ready to fight. He needed not do that.

As the chimera closed in with yellow, blood stained fangs bared, two blurs of fur shot past the snake's head. Cardy, right in the path of the beast, reacted quickly to the coming onslaught. She spun, and by using the flat of her ice pick, she gave the chimera such an uppercut that its momentum forward was eliminated, and was sent straight upwards.

It screeched in pain, and landed on its head with a sickening crack a few meters away.

Soondra rolled out of the group of trees she had flattened. "That was a prickly bed . . ." She turned towards Cardy, who had stuck a fighting stance. "Well, its nice for the two furballs to show up. What took ya?"

"Avalanche, more soldiers, and plain old stupidity," the cat said simply.

The thylacine grimaced, though said nothing.

Sickening cracks reached their ears as the chimera began to stand again.

"Sheez, isn't there ANY way to get rid of this thing?"

"Metheen, can you do that gas trick?"

"Which one?"

Rhyket rolled his eyes. "The one with all the fire and stuff!"

"Nope. No fire. Gas won't work."

Diamondback chuckled quietly. This was too much . . .

Cardy abruptly turned to him. "Do we have to kill it?"

"Yes. That poor soul is already feral; there is no hope for him of ever turning back."

The thylacine's grip on his lance changed slightly. "Very well."

The chimera cracked its back, then looked over its competition. The serval had her back turned, the bat was out of reach, and the turtle wasn't an option. No matter how hard he tried it just shoved him off.

The serval seemed like an obvious choice to hit, but that snake was too near to her, and she could easily turn around at any moment and just hit him again with that weapon.

That left the thylacine . . .

The chimera stumbled into a hopping run, faking out who he was going after. He leaped at the snake, but it was only half hearted. When he was almost on it, he stopped by jabbing his foot into the ground, and swiveled in the right direction. The thylacine would be . . .

Gone?

The chimera stopped his assault, and looked around for a moment, confused. How could that pathetic creature move so quickly?

He suddenly felt an unbearable pain in his back. Trying to turn, but to no avail, the pain increased ten fold.

Rhyket stood on the thing's back, twisting his lance into the thing cruelly. His stomach was trying to force his lunch out with all the cracking bones that could be heard, but he forced it down. The chimera was screaming in pain, but he paid no heed. The person in this thing was dead, so there was no reason for remorse.

Was there?

The chimera wearily shook Rhyket off, making sounds that were equivalent to groans. Its eyes flared, then it opened its mouth. The tongue shot out, all twenty feet of it.

Cardy yelped in surprise as the lengthy tongue whipped about them, aimlessly swatting at its targets. Metheen kept her distance; for now she could do nothing, since there was no flame nearby to ignite her methane gas mixture.

The tongue retracted, Rhyket within the creature's sights. It made a sucking sound, then projected some sort of gel-like substance from its mouth with an audible "Ptooie!"

"Ack! Mutant loogie!" Rhyket jumped upwards, staring in awe as the ground began to shrivel where the projectile had landed. With a sizzle like frying eggs, the acid burned into the ground, leaving a wide, though shallow hole.

"That's just what we need . . ." Diamondback muttered.

Soondra growled, leaping her great bulk sideways to evade a large blotch of loogie. "This is just perfect. I'm too slow to get close to him."

Cardy took a fighting stance. "Rhyket and I aren't." But with its healing ability, how were they going to stop it? The wound from the lance was healing before their eyes . . .

Metheen kept her position high in the air. Perhaps the moment would reveal itself when she could be of help . . .

Rhyket jumped against a tree, exploding towards the chimera. It made the sucking sound, but too late did it release. The flat of the lance was already at the creature's throat, forcing it to the ground, cracking the frozen earth in the process.

It made a gagging sound, then the smell of burning flesh reached their noses. Rhyket winced, as the creature was right in his face. The screaming ended after a few minutes of pinning it down, and the creature lay still.

Cardy cautiously walked over. "Is it . . . dead?" The creature's throat suddenly dissolved, giving them a clear view of the ruined windpipe.

Diamondback sighed. "Such a waste . . ."

"How did it die, anyhow? Did it just suffocate or something?" Soondra asked.

"Yes and no. The acid, I assume, is produced by mixing two separate chemicals that are produced from glands in its neck, much like Metheen. It was getting ready to fire it, but Rhyket stopped the thing's shot in its mouth, so the acid just burned through its neck."

"Jeez." Cardy's bewildered voice entered the conversation.

"It seems we're much more wanted than we could have realized." The snake sighed. "If this was just the first of a line of ''enchmen,' so to speak, we're in a LOT of trouble."

Metheen sniffed the carcass. "Yeah, if all of them smell this bad, we'll never be able to beat them: we won't be able to breathe!" She saw her companions look at her with expressions of disbelief, Rhyket and Soondra shaking their heads wearily.

"What?"

"Never mind, Metheen. You'll find out . . . eventually." Rhyket smirked at her confused expression, and followed his friends as they began to walk through the frozen forest. They had a lot of work to do, and many questions that needed answering.

Cardy looked up to the sunset. Normally, she would have seen the incredible colors that any person would have seen. She hung her head for a moment, trying not to drop her unshed tears. She would never see color again; all that she would see was shades of grey.

Rhyket turned, smiling slightly with a sad grin. His eyes showed his own loss; his own fate. He knew that they might never see their own families again, for they thought them dead anyway.

Yet there was something here that they had that they had never expected: a new family.

Rhyket breathed in the fresh air as a cool breeze washed over them as an invisible wave. They were different, and that was their strength. In their pain, they had found strength.

They were the heroes of difference.