This story is based on the Monster Rancher game, not the Anime. Some of the conventions of the game, such as the short monster lifespan, may be surprising to those familiar with the show. Likewise, the game does not have the convention from the show of naming monsters after their type. It is also important to know that the Pixie/Henger combination is not possible in the game.

Later chapters of this story will contain violence, sexual themes, and disturbing imagery. For this reason it is rated PG-13.

Monster Rancher, the Monster Rancher universe, and the monsters unique to this game are the property of Tecmo. This is a work of fanfiction. The characters in this story, including the unique depiction of the Pixie/Henger combination, are my own creation.

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"The Experiment"

Chapter 1

I was born in the summer, when the ground was warm and rich with the smell of life. The breezes blew down from the mountains, cool and pleasant. My first memories are of the stable doors, standing wide open, as I lay in the shade, sniffing the air for hints of what awaited me out there in the sunlight.

My Master named me Steppenwolf.

My childhood was an idyllic one, filled with love and happiness. My Master was never too firm with me, although I knew that he expected a lot from me, and I strove to do the best I could to please him. I grew from a clumsy and inexperienced child into a strong and agile young adult, and soon mastered every task I was given to do.

In the Arena I made my Master proud. I fought valiantly and hard, learning from my mistakes and taking pride in my accomplishments, as I found myself growing stronger and more skilled. And my Master was proud of me, too. That meant more to me than anything else.

Before I was even a year old, I began to understand that I was special, unique, a rare Gray Wolf and not just a mere Tiger. My Master told me that I was his favorite, his star monster. Although I knew that he was just saying it to make me feel proud of myself, and that he loved all the monsters of the Ranch equally, it still made me feel good.

As the months passed and I worked myself up through the ranks I could feel my Master's pride in me grow. There were many elder monsters on the Ranch, the oldest being the Master's first, a Rover named Ralph. He was always brought out of the Freezer on holidays, even though he did not have many days left. He told me of my Master's dream to be a great breeder and finally get one of his monsters to the Big Four tournaments. I promised myself then and there that I would make my Master's dream come true.

And I did just that. I was there when my Master became a Master Breeder. I was never happier than when I stood beside him at the ceremony. I wanted everyone to know that as strong and fast as I had become, it was my Master's love and skill as a trainer that had gotten me that far.

Even before that great day, however, I had become aware of the passage of more and more time between the tournaments for which I was brought out of the Freezer. I understood, of course. A monster's life is short and harsh, like an Arena battle, and in the end it is a battle that you can never win. I was happy that I was able to bring money into the Master's Ranch, and help it grow into a beautiful, happy place.

As Ralph had done for me, I shared my wisdom with the younger ones, letting them know that they were important and loved. Some of them, of course, did not feel the power of loyalty as only a Tiger can, but they were all happy. And so was I.

But I was only being brought out for the sporadic Grand Tournament every year or so. I began to realize that my Master was growing old. He had never started a family, and tried to raise children of his own. His monsters were his children, but I began to wonder what would become of us if anything were to happen to him.

It was in my third year that my worst fear came true.

* * * * *

I awakened cold and somewhat stiff, as I always did after a Freezing. I shook myself, to get the last of the icicles out of my coat, and looked around. Master was usually there to greet me when I was revived, but this time there was only the Lab Technician. This fellow was new, I had not seen him when I was Frozen, so I did not know his name.

"Steppenwolf... is it?" he looked down at his notepad. "Are you feeling all right?"

It was normal to check on a monster's condition right after a thaw, since there was a possibility of a bad Freezing. "Sure, I feel all right. A little cold, but no lingering effects." I stretched my legs, to test them.

"Follow me." The tech had an uncomfortably businesslike tone to his voice, but I was looking forward to seeing Master. I followed him as he led me out of the Freezer area and into the front room of the Lab.

Master was not there. I looked around for him, although I could clearly tell that his scent was not present in the room. I began to suspect that something was wrong, but I kept silent.

The technician led me over to a pair of men. One of them was a fairly overweight man in very expensive clothes. I had seen his type before, at the Tournaments. Many of the monsters I had fought were raised by these kinds of trainers, who bought the very best monsters and training equipment money could buy in order to recoup the expenses in the Arena. I always defeated such bought and paid for monsters, but it was always a tough fight.

The other man was a Lab Tech type, an intelligent looking man in a long coat. He looked me over, carefully. The other man, however, did not even spare a glance at me.

"This is the one. He's won the Big Four twice and consistently wins the Diamond Cup. He's considered one of the five best monsters on the continent. He's won over 100,000 gold."

The man in the coat looked startled. "100,000 gold, in only three years!"

"More, actually. 110,800, to be exact."

I had never heard how much money I had made for my Master. I was proud to know that it was that much. But I had other concerns, at the moment.

"Excuse me. Where is my Master?"

The fat man frowned at me. "Tell that animal to shut up. I'm trying to do a deal here."

I felt every muscle in my body tense, as anger rose within me. My first instinct was to force it back down, but instead I let it out as a snarl of indignity. My Master deserved at least that much.

"I would like to know what has happened to my Master," I said, to the Lab Tech. "I can see that something has happened and I deserve to know what is going on, before this goes any further..."

The Tech looked a little startled, then uncomfortable. "I'm sorry. Your trainer is dead. He was killed in an accident a few weeks ago."

I struggled to keep from fainting. "What kind of an accident?"

"We're not sure about the details... he was on an expedition. There was a cave in or a rock slide... like I said, I'm not sure about the details."

"Couldn't you have explained all this later?" the fat man complained. "My time is valuable."

"I apologize," I said. "I had a feeling something like this had happened. I was unable to just stand here and say nothing. I will not interrupt you any more."

"I hope not." The man said.

He turned back to his dealings with the Lab Tech, but for me the sick feeling in my stomach was only getting worse. This was clearly not the kind of trainer I was used to. I had heard stories, of course, of trainers that whipped or even injured their monsters with their strict discipline. I doubted that I would need to be controlled in such a way, but if this was the type of Human who would abuse someone for no reason...

No sense worrying about that, I told myself. Whether I am being sold because my Master had debts, or simply because he left no heirs to inherit his Ranch, I will do my Master's memory proud. I will serve this new master as I did my last.

* * * * *

I saw very little of either of the two humans for a while, as I was packed into a crate and placed on a ship. The trip was uneventful, but not very comfortable. Again, I could not help but think that this Trainer was not a very kind one, if he packed monsters in crates, but I resolved to make the best of it. I did everything that I was told, allowing unfamiliar handlers to take me off of the ship and bring me to my new master's ranch.

The fat man's Ranch turned out to be a very comfortable place. It was, as I expected, trimmed with the trappings of wealth, fresh paint on the stables, fine, new equipment, elaborate landscaping, and large areas for display of trophies and certificates. The Ranch was actually bigger than I thought a Ranch could be, a huge, grassy field, dotted with buildings arranged in rows and connected by wide paths.

It was late, and apparently all the monsters were in the stables for the night. Even so, I could tell by the scents in the air that there were many monsters here. I had only ever encountered more at a Tournament. It amazed me that one trainer could be raising so many monsters, all at the same time. I guessed that with so many monsters to care for, the handlers were not very close to any of them, and in fact they were very strict and businesslike with me.

I was led to a large building near the center of the field. As the handlers brought me inside, I started to realize that this was a Lab of some sort, as there was Freezing and Combining equipment set in rooms off to either side of the main pathway down the center of the building. There didn't seem to be any techs around, but that might have been due to the lateness of the hour.

We stopped near a room close to the back of the building. The men gestured me inside and I did as I was told. There were a couple of tables in the room and some equipment that I did not recognize. "Wait here." One of the men said. "The tech will be here in a second."

I turned and sat on the floor, as the ranch hands left me there. They walked away, chatting with each other about things completely unrelated to me. I resigned myself to wait for this technician to arrive.

As silence fell over the lab, however, I heard a sound from nearby. It was a female voice, humming. Curious, I left the room, in search of the source of the sound and found it in another room next to mine. Sitting on the table in that room, kicking her feet, was a young Pixie, maybe six months old.

She didn't look like any Pixie I had ever seen before. She wasn't a Mopsy, but her hair was a dark, rich shade of brown. And her eyes were vivid green, almost glowing, in the half darkness. She had a large bruise under one eye. There was some sort of a tan covering over her legs and arms. She wore a one-piece suit of the same color over her chest and belly.

She jumped into the air, as she saw me, and hung there, her wings beating gently. Her wings were white, but not feathered, like an Angel's. They were skin, stretched over tan colored pinions. She looked startled, maybe even frightened, and I spoke quickly to calm her down.

"Sorry I scared you. I'm new here. My name's Steppenwolf."

"What are you doing here?" She asked accusingly.

"I'm not sure. I just got here, like I said. I guess the tech is going to check me out."

"Frank? Check you out?"

"I guess..." I glanced back over my shoulder, as there was the sound of footsteps from the other side of the building. "Here comes someone now."

I stepped out of the way as the technician approached. It was the man that I had seen before, with the fat man, when I was awakened. He smiled at me as her came near and then saw the Pixie in the room behind me. She settled down onto the table as he entered.

"Hello, Sandy. What's wrong?"

She shrugged. "Nothing. That dumb Gene just brought me in here anyway."

The man walked over to her and tilted her face up. She scowled at him. "Looks to me like you got into another fight."

The little Pixie jerked her head free. "It wasn't my fault. She started it."

"Who? No, never mind, it doesn't matter. You should just stay away from them. They're just jealous, you know."

"What do you know about it?" Sandy crossed her arms, pouting. The name fit her; she was sort of the color of sand. "I don't wanna have anything to do with 'em. They always start it."

"I know." The tech walked over to a cabinet and brought out some kind of a jar. He put some cream on the Pixie's bruise. "They're just jealous because you're unique and they're not."

"A freak, you mean." She said.

"Different, I mean. Now you stay out of fights from now on. You'll be training for the Arena soon and we don't need you all bruised and beat up."

"I can handle myself."

There was a moment's silence while the tech studied his handiwork, then he looked down at me. "So... Steppenwolf. Have you met Sandy?"

"He just walked in here," the Pixie said. "I didn't tell him to."

"I heard her from next door. I didn't think anyone would mind."

"No one does. Welcome to the Curtis Ranch."

"Are you Frank?"

"Yes." He glanced at Sandy. "Was she telling you about me?"

"Actually, we hadn't talked that much before you showed up. We were just getting acquainted."

"Butting in, you mean," Sandy said. She crossed her arms again.

"Sandy, be nice," Frank said. "Steppenwolf is new here. He needs a friend."

"I don't need him," Sandy protested.

Frank started to speak, but I interrupted him. "What kind of Pixie are you?"

"None of your business..." She uncrossed her arms. "But I'm a Pixie/Henger."

"Oh?" I looked at Frank, startled. "So she isn't a rare?"

"She might as well be. She's the only Pixie/Henger anyone has ever successfully bred. She's the culmination of years of research."

"You do research here?"

Frank nodded. "We've been doing research since the boss's great grandfather started this ranch a hundred years ago. This is the largest and most advanced Ranch in the IMa area..."

That startled me even more. "I'm on the IMa continent?" I thought about it for a moment. "I guess that boat ride WAS a long one."

"Well, you're here now and I need to run some tests on you. But first, let me get Sandy back to her stable."

Frank helped the little Pixie down off of the table, but as they walked past me, I stopped her.

"Hold on." I turned to Sandy. "Have you ever seen a Tiger like me before?"

She frowned at me, but then her frown faded as she studied me. Her head sort of tilted to one side.

"You haven't have you? I'm a Gray Wolf... a rare in the FIMBA area... and there aren't any like me at all here, are there?"

I looked up at Frank for confirmation, and he nodded. "I'm unique, one of a kind, different... just like you. And the other monsters used to tease me, too."

Sandy reached out, to touch my silvery gray fur. "It's soft..." she muttered. Oddly, so was her hand, although it appeared to be made out of black iron. And it was warm, too, not cold, as a Henger's hands usually were.

She drew her hand back, the frown returning, as she closed back up again. But I could tell that I had gotten to her. "If you ever want to talk, you just come look for me. I'll be around."

Sandy stared at me for a moment more, but then she bit her lip, and sort of exhaled. "I... I will." Frank led her to the door, and she disappeared into the growing darkness.

"Thanks a lot," Frank said, as he walked back over to me. "The other Pixies tease her mercilessly. It'll do her good to have a friend here."

"She needs a friend. I know what she's going through."

"You're not like most of the monsters I have to deal with," Frank said, with a grin.

I looked up at him. "You're not like most of the ranch hands at this place. You seem to care about these monsters."

He sighed. "You're far too perceptive. Mr. Curtis doesn't view monsters as creatures with feelings and hopes, he just sees them as a way to make money. As I said, his father was a Trainer, and his father a Trainer before him. To him, this is a business..."

"And to you?"

He smiled. "A little more than a business. A chance to make a name for myself. And to make a difference."

"This ranch was the first to breed a Henger/Dragon. We were the first to create a Disk Niton from one of your Disk monsters. And I've been doing research into DNA... what makes one monster different from another... in hopes of unlocking the secret of why rares, like you, can't be bred."

"So you're going to be Combining me, then?"

He shook his head. "No, you're too valuable for that. But if I can use some of the material from your body in another Cross, to create a Gray Wolf like you..."

"I wouldn't be unique any more..." I wasn't sure if that made me excited, or scared.

"All I need is a few blood samples. And I'll want to do a complete physical, to see what kind of shape you're in. If you'll hop up on this table..."

"Sure." I leaped up onto the tabletop, turning around to look back at him. "I guess this lab's as good as the one I was in, huh?"

"Pretty much." He watched me, apparently impressed by how effortlessly I had made the leap. "You seem in pretty good shape for your age. Your trainer must have been talented."

I sighed as I thought about my Master. "I owe everything I am to him."

"You miss him, don't you?" He then laughed at himself. "That's a dumb question, of course you do."

"I don't want to burden you with my problems. This is my home now."

He ruffled my mane. "I know enough about Tigers to know what that means. And thanks. But listen... any time you feel like talking, you come see me. You need a friend too, you know."

Frank smiled. "I know I can't ever replace your Master. But I hope I can at least be your friend."

I smiled back at him. "I am sure that you can."