By Ben Manessis
Copyright 2012 Ben Manessis
I was one of the first to sight the Rationals. It was back when I was still a green, before I’d got my boots even. Every Erth kid did mandatory service at sixteen, you-see, so you was ready when the outer tribes came aterrorising. I'd never actually encountered them but my pop had—said they was savage types with no schooling at all, said he'd sighted one as a boy. Most kids had the discipline drilled into them by their parents already—my pop had taught me to hunt. Anyways, I wasn't making good progress in the Corp. Lieutenant Waverman said my aim was first-class, but that it would be a whiles before I earned full disciplinship. He coded me Lazy—said he'd received intel once about these famous workers from the old-times, each coded like he was. Grumpy was another one he said. He didn't relay any more names though, got the far-off sight a little. But from then forward I was Private Lazy.
So anyways, I'd been assigned to hunting duty with Private Barker, a trainee like me but much more jockular in his way. We was out scouting the Westlands and was walking along the Middle Road. I can still relay the sights from that day well. It was post-noon and crickets pulsed all ‘round us. Scrubs was prying open the road from below and it was all cracked up, but I could still walk on it easy bootless. Barker didn't have his boots yet neither. He was on point and I trailed a few paces behind. Buildings flanked us, watched us all distressed and vine-strangled as we passed by, their smashed-window screams too faint to hear now, too long gone to nothing. Sometimes I thought I could sight the ghost lines in the middle of the road, but when I sighted hard they'd disappear. Barker said they was just a myth.