Golden Ember


As Ember Sparks exited the tunnel into the darkened arena, dozens of strobe lights and spotlights illuminated her and the other 99 PetraDash competitors. Techno music reverberated as 50,000 screaming spectators cheered for their favorites. The one hundred hopefuls ran a lap around the field, waving to their ardent supporters.

Ember waved to a group of women in the front row wearing all red and holding “Burn ‘em up, Ember” and “Sparks Will Fly” signs. Ember was used to being popular in her sports career, but this tournament had swelled the ranks of her fan club by an order of magnitude. She basked in their adulation and didn’t want to let them down.

The music faded as the arena lights came back on. The athletes stretched, their bare skin glistening with sweat, and not a shred of clothing among them. Their nude bodies would be enticing targets for the relentless machines. The competitors fanned out along the forty-meter-long edge of the field and waited.

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen!” boomed a deep voice from speakers throughout the arena. “This is Jim Ziegler up in the press box. Welcome to the final round of the PetraDash World Championship, presented by StoneSport! It looks like our fearless competitors are ready to rock. Shall we get the party started?”

The crowd thundered its unanimous approval. Ember brushed a strand of red hair from her forehead and took a couple of deep breaths to calm her ragged nerves. She needed to relax and get in the zone to finish this final chapter of her storied athletic career. Hers was an unlikely journey from professional soccer and track to the top echelon of StoneSport competition, going head-to-head with many of the greatest sports stars of all time.

“All right then,” said Jim. “Good luck to our athletes. The PetraDash final begins now!”

The naked rivals sprinted onto the grassy field and dove behind the first row of waist-high stone barriers. A hundred meters away, the polished chrome barrels of twelve autonomous laser cannons swiveled and locked onto the approaching targets, unleashing a flurry of energy pulses. The green bolts narrowly missed several athletes as the fans cheered.

Seconds later, the fearless competitors clambered back to their feet, bobbing and weaving as more laser pulses grazed their bodies. Ember dove and slid behind another barrier, rolling over and looking back. Several pulses found their marks, striking athletes on the chest and legs.

The competitors hit by the pulses slowed down, managing another step or two before stopping mid-stride. Blooms of mottled white radiated outward from all impact points, consuming their naked flesh within seconds and irreversibly rendering their bodies in solid marble. The crowd erupted in thunderous applause.

“And that is how we do it, folks!” exclaimed Jim. “Those PetraCannons are the real deal! PetraTec sure builds a quality product. And just like that, we’re down to 79 hopefuls still in it. Who will get rock hard next?”

Not pausing to ponder her permanently inanimate rivals, Ember burst from behind her barrier and dashed toward the next one, dodging a hail of laser fire that struck many of her opponents. She took cover behind a large, muscular man as he lumbered along. Unsurprisingly, he was hit and slowed down a few seconds later as marble washed over his body.

Ember narrowly avoided plowing headlong into his inert form but tripped over his trailing foot. Visions of herself as a nude statue in some art collector’s home danced in her mind as she sailed through the air.

At the last moment, Ember tucked and rolled before popping up and sprinting ten more meters to the next barrier. She dove behind it with laser pulses nipping at her heels.

Newly minted statues covered the field behind Ember in various dramatic poses—their kinetic energy forever captured like lightning in a bottle.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” said Jim, “our lead runners are halfway through the course. We have 47 athletes still vying to win it all. It’ll only get tougher the closer they get to those PetraCannons. Who will claim the victory?”

Ember wiped the sweat from her brow, tabled any lingering nerves, and ran headlong into laser fire. With fewer remaining runners, the field was a less target-rich environment for the twelve PetraCannons. The hive-minded, AI-powered weapons took full advantage of this. They pummeled the advancing humans with a withering barrage of petrifying energy, rendering many of them in stone for eternity.

Ember zigged, zagged, and zigged some more to stay a split-second ahead of the lasers. In a high-stakes gambit, she vaulted the next barrier without stopping and sprinted toward the following one. Three PetraCannons concentrated their fire on her fleeting flesh. Through a series of contortions no human should be capable of, Ember dodged all the pulses and slid behind the next barrier.

Many of her opponents were not so fortunate and joined the ranks of the inanimate.

“Oh, my!” exclaimed Jim. “With a daring move, Ember Sparks has separated herself from the dwindling pack. They’re trying to catch her but taking losses left and right. We’re down to our last thirteen runners.”

As Ember caught her breath, her dozen remaining rivals emerged from behind the previous line of barriers. They mounted a full-frontal assault, each attracting the undivided attention of their own PetraCannon. Most of them absorbed multiple laser pulses as marble flowers blossomed on their chests before spreading over their naked bodies.

Three men managed to get through the maelstrom and vaulted Ember’s barrier before charging ahead toward the next one.

“Oh, hell, no!” yelled Ember. “Not on my watch!”

She rolled over the barrier and took off in pursuit, weaving among dozens of beams. One of the men ahead of her stumbled. As he tried to rise, laser pulses struck him in eight places. Ember rolled over the man’s crouching statue as the cannons powered down.

“All right, folks,” said Jim. “That’s it for the PetraCannons, as we are down to our final three! It’s a race to the finish for gold, silver, and bronze!”

Ember poured on the speed, sliding across the top of the penultimate barrier and gaining ground on the two men only five meters ahead. One looked back and lost his footing, crashing into the final barrier. Ember caught the other man as they surmounted the last obstacle and began a sprint to the finish. At full speed, they dove onto the grass with three meters to go and slid across the finish line as the crowd screamed and cheered.

“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a photo finish!” exclaimed Jim. “The results are in, and it’s Ember Sparks by a centimeter! What a phenomenal competition! Let’s give it up for our three metalists.”

Ember and the two men jogged to the center of the field and congratulated each other on a hard-fought contest. Facing away from the PetraCannons, they waited for the ceremony to begin.

“All right, folks,” said Jim. “The time has come to honor tonight’s PetraDash metalists: Lance Reynolds with the bronze, Michael Cunningham winning silver, and Ember Sparks claiming gold! Please climb the center barrier and await your reward.”

The three metalists ascended the barrier to thunderous applause and stood centimeters apart with arms at their sides, bare chests out, and heads held high. Ember basked in the glow of her well-earned PetraDash victory. Eighteen months of grueling training followed by a dozen qualifying rounds had led her to the culmination of a long-shot quest for glory and the perfect capstone on a decades-long athletic career.

“All right, metalists,” said Jim. “Please hold still for a moment.”

Ember trembled in anticipation and smiled as she and her fellow metalists absorbed energy pulses from PetraCannons behind them. The tingling warmth spread from Ember’s lower back down her torso and claimed her legs and loins before wrapping around her abdomen and racing upward. Ember glanced at her chest as the metallic wave washed over it, rendering her breasts in solid gold. After claiming her arms next, the transformation continued unabated up her neck, flowing over her chin, mouth, and nose. The crowd’s roar subsided as her ears solidified, and her thousands of delirious fans faded from view as her eyes became blank golden orbs. The wave crested her head and spilled down her fiery hair, fusing it into a tangled mass of gleaming metal.

Ember’s thoughts slowed down as her brain hardened. This glorious golden victory was precisely the ending she wanted. Content in her heroic achievement and enduring legacy in the annals of StoneSport, Ember embraced immortality as the spark of her consciousness drifted into the gathering night.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” said Jim, “let’s give it up for our three metalists!”

The crowd roared their approval as spotlights converged on the breathtaking gold, silver, and bronze trophies standing atop the barrier, surrounded by marble statues.

“All right, folks,” said Jim. “We’ll place our three metalists in the StoneSport Trophy Hall, but we’ll begin the auction of their 97 vanquished foes in thirty minutes. If you want to go home with a souvenir, please join us on the field to inspect the merchandise and decide which pieces you want to acquire. The rest of you are welcome to stay and watch the proceedings. Otherwise, we wish you a pleasant evening. Thank you for supporting StoneSport!”

Copyright 2023 Olivia Quinn

Photo by Willian Justen de Vasconcellos on Unsplash

Story notes

“Golden Ember” is a brief glimpse into the high-stakes world of StoneSport, an organization dedicated to the eternal glory of transformational athletics. I have enough material in my head to write an entire series of books set in this world, so stay tuned for more stories soon!

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Olivia Zoe Quinn lives in Ohio with her dog and two cats, who mostly get along. She is pursuing her BA in Creative Writing while working part-time in a lingerie shop. She may be found after hours standing motionless among the mannequins. Olivia is the Editor-in-Chief of Stone Cold Stories and an Associate Editor at Rock Hard Press and GAZMYK Magazine. Olivia is the author of the upcoming sci-fi erotica novel, StoneSport Chronicles: Volume 1, due out in the fall of 2024.

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