Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

As Bestiarius entered the cold and damp gladiator’s stockade, he tossed his blood splattered shields, sword, and mace into the weapons pit for cleaning. Then the four armed, four legged Quadnotaur stepped onto the Transformer Pad to be returned to his natural humanoid form. Exhausted, he entered the prison cell he shared with his fellow champion, Thraeces, and collapsed onto his wooded bunk.

“How did it go, Friend Bestiarius,” asked the concerned Thraeces.

“Not well, Thraeces. I was pitted against Murmillo. He fought valiantly, but refused to attempt any mortal blows. As punishment, that bastard Habet ordered him thrown to the leogatos, as an example to the rest of us to fight more…enthusiastically.”

“It’s not your fault, Bestiarius. Murmillo knows, as do I, that you are the only hope we have of killing Hoc Habet. Nothing else matters. Not even our lives. We don’t dare harm you.”

“But, Thraeces, I’m not even positive it can be done. It’s just a feeling that I possess while I’m in the form of the Crab. It may not have merit.”

“Even so, we will all sacrifice our lives for the remote chance that Habet can be killed. Our honor demands it. Now, get some rest. Tomorrow is another day.

The following morning, Hoc Habet’s voice woke the two champions from their restless sleep. “Get up you two skylos. It’s going to be a special day today. You will be fighting each other.”

Bestiarius roared, “You will pit your two champions against each other? Have you lost your mind?”

“The Emperor himself made the request. It’s his fiftieth birthday, and he wants to celebrate in grand fashion.”

“The Emperor honors us with his presence today,” mocked the defiant Bestiarius. “Does he not have planets to plunder, or barnyard animals to rape?”

“Shut you blaspheming mouth, Bestiarius, or I’ll cut your tongue out myself. Now, move to the transformer.

Reluctantly, they headed toward the transformer. Thraeces entered first, and Bestiarius’ heart sank when he saw his friend emerge as a Crab. That meant they would choose a different creature for him. But when he was transformed, he was also a Crab. “What’s this? We fight as the same creature?”

Habet smiled, and said, “Also at the Emperor’s request. He wants a good show today, and Crab blood is more colorful. So, don’t disappoint him.”

For thirty minutes, the two warriors spared tentatively, to the dismay of the crowd and the royal court. Habet sent 50,000 volts through the arena floor to warn the gladiators; start fighting, or you both die.

Bestiarius whispered to Thraeces, “I will retreat and then charge you. When we meet, grab my hind legs and lift me above the retaining wall.”

“But, Bestiarius,” protested Thraeces, “Even if you get over the first wall, you’ll be cut down before you reach the second.”

“Not over it, my friend, above it. I now know the Crab’s secret.”

As Bestiarius charged, Thraeces bowed down to make his carapace into a step. In one fluid motion Bestiarius stepped on Thraeces’ back and was lifted high above the retaining wall. Even before Bestiarius reached maximum height, a blow tube that no one knew existed, extended from his mouth, and he began launching three inch long darts at bullet-like velocities. Six found the Emperor’s chest before the guards could react. Bestiarius was still spraying the court as the guards opened fire. While he was still above the wall, he spotted Hoc Habet, frozen in shock. Bestiarius buried his last three darts into Habet’s neck. They were both dead before either hit the ground.


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