Packet Rat: As storm blows over, another brews in the Rat's den

The Rat

Michael J. Bechetti

'Relax, honey,' the Rat had told his wife as Hurricane Isabel approached the North Carolina coast. 'We've got nothing to worry about.

By the time that storm gets here, it will be little more than an overblown thunderstorm.'

Less sanguine, Mrs. Rat had been glued to Weather.com, waiting for forecast pages to refresh. She didn't buy her husband's nonchalance'she'd seen him sneaking in extra bottled water and checking the voltage of the backup generator for his personal server farm. And if there's anything that is an accurate predictor of foul weather, it's the cyberrodent's disaster recovery instincts.

And sure enough, Isabel deposited a ration of destruction upon the Rat household. But it wasn't anything that the Rat's IT instincts could have prepared him for.

Sensing the approaching storm, the Rat had lashed himself to the phone pole that supported his T1 line, so he could make emergency splices with the wirecutters in his teeth. 'It's nothing but a small squall,' he yelled to his two oldest ratlings as they laid sandbags around the burrow entrance.

The wind blew, the lights flickered and the broadband crashed. By the time Isabel had passed, the furry one was damp, but all of his levees, electronic and physical, had held back total disaster.

There was, however, the small matter of the ratlings' schools.

While the Rat dashed up to Baltimore to check on whether the flooding had fried the infrastructure at his agency's branch offices, Mrs. Rat was stuck at home with their three offspring. Most counties in Maryland closed schools starting on Thursday'before the storm even threatened. Schools were closed on Friday ... and Monday ... and even Tuesday.

As the whiskered one dialed home from his kayak, he sensed an impending dump of parental rage and hung up. 'Best to take that storm head-on in person,' he grimaced as he pulled his boat up on the roof of the Ratmobile and headed back to his agency's command bunker in Washington.

Weaving through the debris of downed trees, the Rat made his way into the office. While things in D.C. didn't get as subaquatic as in some parts of Baltimore, the power was still down, and the Rat's acolytes had taken to siphoning gas from parked cars to keep the generators topped off. 'Everything's fine here,' the Rat's lieutenants reported. 'No users have come in, the Web servers are humming and the phone lines are still up.'

'And speaking of which,' said one underling, handing the Rat a stack of pink message notes, 'your wife called a few times. Something about her personally restoring power to the kids' schools herself if you don't get home to relieve her.'

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the ratlings had been busy collecting all the DirectTV antennae blown into the Rat family's backyard. With some rerouting of wires and an extension cord from Dad's workbench, they had fashioned a crude microwave pulse weapon suitable for popping popcorn from a range of 50 feet.

'I wonder what it would do to pigeons,' the eldest ratling pondered, as he and his brother poured birdseed into one of the satellite dishes.

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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