16 Awakening


By Valomi Lewis

Sector 4’s metal gate slowly falls until touching the ground, and when it does, ceiling lights illuminate the entrance door leading to the training simulation. I run my fingers over the top of my head to make sure my braid is still intact, then tuck the end in from the bottom. If I make it today, I have sworn to cut it off so it’s out of my way during our reign over the enemy.

The screen above the entrance lists the competitors of the day. I, Yaco-Mina: Sector 271 will be trialed with Raph-Winder: Sector 41. An image of us both is displayed on the screen next to our identification. He has dark-brown skin, four cornrows braided back on the top with the perimeter freshly shaved. He’s quite young to be a competitor, as am I. He stands younger, separated by only two uni-mons of age. What a stupid mistake, to be seventeen and smile in his image. My image was taken in my sector. I have long hair and dark, chestnut skin brightened by the lighting.

The entrance door clicks. I take a few deep breaths, in and hold, out relax. With elbows out positioned horizontally, I interlock my fingers to my chest and look up to the screen now showing the radiating galactic pyramid, the symbol of our commander’s race, glorious and superior.

Orra O Rethmeec Tuc”. ‘Glory to the Cona Trons’ I salute.

With that, the entrance pops open, enough for a crack of light to escape. With a few forceful shoves, the door slides open and I step into… sand? No, it’s thin like dust. The lack of oxygen provokes me to let out a painful cough, but I quickly control my breathing patterns. A breeze contradicts the warm weather. In view were rocky dunes, a ground blanketed in red dust, and a creamy-colored sky.

Cor Odmee Acto”. ‘Odmee Red’, the rendezvous point of our enemy. The perfect simulation to prepare me for the war ahead.

I continue forward, knowing the door once behind me is no longer there. The enemy is stupid for choosing a place with such a thin atmosphere. They may have protective gear, but Cona Trons have gifted my race the ability to withstand such harsh environments. Many generations of experimental trials and natural adaptations have brought me here. I will not fail to honor my commander and the species that inhabit our home planet. Today I will finally prove my worth as a soldier and a worthy member of my creators.

Though fortunate, time is limited as I was not designed to live on a planet like this. After walking for many clicks, I spot a large device behind a small rock formation. It has six wheels, three on each side of it, panels on its back likely serving as a contributing energy source, a stem connecting to a rectangular head, and eyes that look like lenses. It’s shaped like a well-known hostile species at home but made out of metal scraps. When I walk around the rock I see something else. Huge pieces of metal scattered neatly into piles. Six big wheels line up on the side, supporting the theory this is a bigger version of the other titanium life form. metal part.

I master in exercised combat, while Raph-Winder is skilled in something I dangerously lack the knowledge for. Using the environment to your advantage. The commander paired us to

test the strengths of my internal discipline versus his external adaptability. A clash between each other’s weaknesses. I will forever admire the commander’s formulation of strategy!

I will not let my excitement put unnecessary distance between us. I have to keep moving to find my competitor, Raph-Winder. A few clicks longer and he will gain rank for being ‘cowardly avoidant’.

As I continue passing a few more scraps, I wonder what he’s accomplished during my hunt. Just a click later, a vrooming sound echoes from my left as a larger version of the titanium life-form zooms in front of me and creates a huge cloud of dust. Solely unimpressed, I click the button on my wrist attached to the uniform. My weapon of choice, the advanced combat staff extends into my hand. With great force, I whip the staff, sending out a gush of wind that slashes through the dust cloud. A figure coughs and uses his arms to guard his face. I dash toward Raph-Winder preparing my attack, but when I swing the staff it collides with a metal panel instead of his face.

You’re quick Raph-Winder,” I say in our tongue, militant and fierce as it should be. He keeps the panel steady, shaking from my strength.

And you should have cut your hair.

What?” An aggressive tug on my braid sends my head to the ground. One of the giant titanium life forms, now with a newly attached metal claw, clamps over my neck. “Ah! Get this off me you Ren Orct!

I know I’m sorry! Didn’t intend to hurt you, but I can’t have you kill me either. This way, we’ll have time to talk for a moment.”

Talk?” He’s trying to manipulate me! “There is no use in wasting either of our time!” I swing my leg and knock him off his balance. The titanium life-form unclamps, allowing me to roll over and retrieve my staff, but by the time I stand back up, he’s gone. Quickly, I whip around and see him placing his hand on the titanium life-form. It powers back on and speeds around me in circles. Nothing but red dust was in sight, but that brief moment allowed me to make a

game-changing discovery.

You can control the technology here to your will. Must have been what you chose for your uniform design.

Yeah, something like that,” he replies. I dart toward the sound of that idiot’s voice. When through the dust cloud and with Raph-Winder clear in my view, I prepare a swing with my staff. He sees me and closes his eyes shut. This annoying encounter will be over soon.

My staff abruptly retracts back into my uniform. I trip over Raph-Winder who had tried to duck to avoid my attack. My arm hits his chest and I fall to the ground. The titanium life form clamps me by the neck once again. Raph-Winder manages to balance on his knee. He lets out a few aggressive coughs.

You pack a crazy punch,” he wheezes. His control must include the technology attached to me as well. He crawls to my side. “Can we take a moment to recover? We-”, a cough interrupts him, “We don’t have time so please listen to me.” I glare at him. “I know. I’m sorry, Yaco-Mina, but I need someone like you to know what we’re truly fighting for. I’m just gonna say everything so try

to process this all immediately.” I’m confused but maintain a stern look. “It turns out we are actually on the wrong side. We aren’t fighting to take back what our enemy, the Ren Orct, stole from us. They didn’t take our home planet like our race was tought. The Cona Trons took us from our home and are now training us to fight so we destroy each other.” I stare at him for a moment.

Excellent. I’m paired with insanity himself.

No it’s the truth! Think about it. We’ve always been weaker compared to the commanders race.” “They are superior, you cracked lunatic.

Okay, and we’ve been taught that the Ren Orct are shape shifters, yet they can only take the form of our species.

They’ve prepared for deca-mons, just as we have. It’s a strategy to manipulate us.

But how do we know if we’ve never seen them? Their planet is a great distance away. And according to our history, we last saw them the very first time we encountered them.” A smaller version of the titanium life-form rolls to Raph-Winder’s side. “See, this thing is actually called a ‘Rovar’ and the red planet in their system is called ‘Marsa’. They’ve only recently started exploring this planet because they are not yet advance enough to go any further. We’ve only been taught about them changing their form because the Cona Trons want to hide that they look exactly like us. We fear them, yet they’re supposedly as strong as we are.” I swallow to moisten my dry throat.

So Raph, what are you professing?” He sits up and looks at me intensely. “This is why we will never belong. We are Ren Orct.

I exit through the door and slide it shut, then put my hands on my knees and take a moment to treasure the cool ventilation. On the screen above the entrance door, my name is highlighted. The green hue of the room indicates my success. I win. The boy forfeited. He will never get the chance to become a soldier no matter his rank. Forfeiting is the end and he did it to somehow prove his lies. He claims to be a Ren Orct because he knows he’s as weak as they are.

After changing out of my uniform I pace down the simulation hallway. I’m just ready to be notified of my acceptance and return to my sector. I couldn’t walk with my chin up.

Happenstance from a kid who could have easily immobilized me brings great shame to my superiors.

I halt as a frigid shadow blocks the light in front of me. Elbows out, I interlock my fingers over my chest and look up.

Orra O Rethmeec Tuc,” I salute to my commander. Commander’s presence alone shrinks me to the size of a micropod. The commander is wearing the hovering triangle-shaped shield as protection for its head. Separate, existing particles attract to the commander, creating a heavy black hue. The sharp, black, and gray tentacles have grown shards small enough to slice a single hair strand. Commander’s front and side blades manage to bend and extend to will. I know

I will never encounter another Cona Tron immensely as illustrative, not a single one in the entire species. The commander clicks four times with space in between each sound.

Octmee cut elacorra tuctuc ren”, ‘May your success liberate our world’, it echoes.

Commander moves forward, lightly piercing the ground with each strut.

I quickly retreat to my sector before dusk. Once verifying my identity, changing into resting clothing, and sitting on the berth, I unbraid my hair, but then something falls out and lands on the comforter. A button-sized device, but how did it get in my hair?

When my hand hovers over it, it expands into a large holographic report. I stand up and stare in disbelief. The message displays several records that are supposed to be securely accessed by only the higher-ups. All of the history, the facts, the built-up lies, all on this one little device.

The real historic records reveal Cona Trons found the Ren Orct when they were in their early stages of civilization. Plentiful were brought here, erasure of their former lives proceeded through de-recognition, and they began populating under the rule of the superior race. All the preparation for war is to wipe out the Ren Orct because they’ve advanced too far.

Fear of them traveling past their system and exploring the macrocosm prompted elimination methods.

An unsuspecting race. My race. Raph-Winder, your lack of sanity and abundance of naiveness somehow led you to the true motives behind speciocide.

My rank allows me to immediately contact any sector, so, with no time for hesitation, I use my room’s screening system to locate an exact location in Sector 41. The screen shows the entirety of Raph-Winder’s room and him awake, reading the same unauthorized report whilst typing notes through a separate hologram.

Ren Orct!” Raph-Winder jumps and shuts down his personal systems. “I demand to know how a spineless micropod could be stupid enough to share knowledge belonging to the


Decrease your volume! I already told you, I’m not trying to do anything bad.

You’re trying to kill all of us! You find all these reports and share them to me thinking I wouldn’t report treasonous behavior? Are you mad?” He stands frozen, unable to mutter a word, then just drops onto the berth and stares at me through the screen.

I just want the fighting to stop. That’s all I’ve ever wanted.” His hands are trembling now.

… I didn’t report you, but if you want it to stay that way, I need you to tell me everything.” His eyes widen.

Yaco, I just want to end this all. You’re always tunneled to your goal. You’re known for wanting to save everyone. Before, I didn’t know if you were like me-

I will never be like you,” I cut him off. Without fail, he makes sure to never avert his eyes. No matter how great the fear of exposure, nothing derails his concentration, “but I suppose learning something would be beneficial to me.” He smiles with glee from my reassurance.

Okay, I’ve got a few ideas, but they involve breaking a few rules. Are you alright with that?” I take a moment to think to myself, think about my commander, think about every time I’ve cowered at the sight of a Cona Tron’s galactic pyramid. If I do this I may be as treasonous as

him. But then again, if I don’t, what have I trained for all this time? I vowed to protect those in need no matter the cost, so, “Where do we begin?” Raph-Winder turns the hologram back on, types something then moves it to face me. The Ren Orct‘s green and blue planet, the one they call home is shown to me.

We go back home.


Anoka County Library Write On! 2023 Short Story Contest Winners Copyright © 2023 by Avrie Siedschlag; Ella Howard; Greta Graham; Renad Taher; Rachel Mueller; Daniel Gbati; Julia McBride; Audrey High; Lucia Floan; Rhett LeBeau; Anna Moline; Hannah Jemming; Valomi Lewis; Fen Hendren; Kathryn Downs; Megan Nguyen; Lizzie Elsenpeter; Sophia Accord; and Sophia Acord. All Rights Reserved.

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