PACKET RAT

Rat trapped in corporate cat-and-mouse game

When last heard from, our anthropomorphic hero was crawling through an air duct above a meeting room somewhere in Redmond, Wash., observing a band of giant pandas as they programmed intentional bugs into Microsoft Internet Information Server software to undermine national security.

The Rat had been strong-armed into this predicament by the Langley Investors' Club, the black-bag backers of his boss' deceased dot-com startup [GCN, Oct. 8, Page 42]. Now he faced a set of circumstances credible only to the imagination of Tom Clancy in a nightmare induced by narcotic cough medicine.

'I wish this were an episode of 'Dallas,' and Patrick Duffy could walk in and tell me the whole last season had been just a bad dream,' moaned the whiskered one.

He suddenly felt a pinprick near his tail and turned to see a long needle withdrawing into the shadows. Then there was nothing but darkness.

'Mr. Rat, it's time for your sponge bath,' said a distant voice.

He opened his eyes to see a distant chartreuse ceiling, with a tough-looking nurse returning his stare.

'Huh?' the cyberrodent mumbled as he tried to get his bearings. 'Where am I?' '

'Oh, good, you're back among us,' said a familiar voice from somewhere to the right. He turned his head and saw Mr. Pink, his erstwhile contact from Langley, sitting in a chair in what was apparently a hospital room.

'OK, can you tell me what I'm supposed to be back from?' asked the befuddled Rat, rubbing his noggin.

'You're in Walter Reed Army Medical Center. You were babbling something about sock puppets when your wife brought you in,' said the alleged nurse as she cranked the Rat's bed down and shoved a cold bedpan under him. 'Worst case of food poisoning-induced dementia I've ever seen.'

That answer would have satisfied the Rat, except for Pink's ominous presence in the room. After the nurse had scoured away several layers of fur, she went away and left the two alone.
'So what's really going on?' the Rat asked.

'What she said,' Pink winked.

'No, really.'

'Well, let's just say we think you saw enough to serve our interests,' replied Pink, propping a get-well bouquet on the windowsill. 'We have neutralized the situation now that we've gained the information we needed.'

'Neutralized ' What happened to the pandas?' the wary water rodent wondered.

'They're a protected species,' said Pink. 'They've been placed in a wildlife facility here in Washington as a show of good faith from Microsoft Corp. during the settlement negotiations.'

'You mean they're settling the antitrust case with the Justice Department? Is that what all this cloak-and-dagger stuff has been about?' the Rat inquired incredulously.

'No, they're settling our stockholder class-action suit,' grinned Pink. 'We've recouped our losses from last year in the stock market.'

The Rat grabbed a needle from his bedside table and chased Pink down the halls of the ward, screaming.

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@postnewsweektech.com.

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