Staring up at the Emperor, Colleen desperately fought to keep the tears from welling up in her eyes as she listened to the earth shaking approach of the Faux-Rex.

Once, long ago, she'd served aboard the Federation Starship Democritus as the ship's science officer. The Democritus had just entered orbit around an unexplored earthlike world when the attack came. Hit by powerful disruptor batteries, firing from cloaked orbital weapon's platforms, the Democritus was quickly disabled. With engineering destroyed and with what little life support that remained failing, the ship's survivors had no choice but to take to the escape pods and abandon the Democritus. Even now, Colleen can still remember that horrible moment that the Democritus exploded, the ships antimatter reactor finally losing containment. The surviving escape pods landed on the east coast of the planet's main continent where Colleen and her fellow survivors quickly found themselves captured by the planet's military, the legion's of New Rome.

Founded in the early days of humanity's expansion to the stars, the colonists adopted the culture and customs of ancient Rome while retaining all their modern technology. A world of extremes, a world where the Emperor's Praetorian Guard carried swords and wore gilded armor while controlling orbital disruptor batteries, a world of Imperial pleasure palaces and of brutal gladiatorial games.

Extremely xenophobic, the Emperor ordered the Praetorian Guard to execute the Democritus survivors after their interrogation. As senior surviving officer, Colleen watched helplessly as the surviving members of her crew went to their deaths. The men dying one by one in gladiatorial combat against skilled opponents. The women gutted and beheaded, their obscenely painful deaths serving as nothing more than intermission entertainment between the arena's gladiatorial bouts.

Watching the last of her crew die, Colleen fully expected to follow them into the arena, there to end up on her knees, disemboweled and beheaded for the amusement of the cheering crowd. Sadly, as the senior surviving officer of the Federation Starship Democritus, the Emperor had other plans for Colleen's execution, something that made ritual disembowelment and beheading look almost humane, something special.

I didn't need to look to know that the Faux-Rex was near, the crowd had suddenly grown silent with sickening anticipation. The Emperor had been kind enough to show me recordings of the last women sent to die on the fangs and claws of a Faux-Rex. Named after the ancient earth dinosaur they closely resembled, the Tyrannosaurus Rex, the Faux-Rex were indigenous to the planet when the colonists arrived. Carefully preserved on some of the larger outlying islands, the Faux-Rex now performed an important role in the Emperor's arena. The same role once performed in ancient Rome by lions.