The Rat takes his show on the road and finds train travel on track
The Rat's agency headquarters has tightened its security following a wave of pie
attacks on the information technology hierarchy over the past few weeks. No one can pin
down the identities of the attackers.
The only thing they have in common is a strange war cry: "MEII--Minimum Essential
The Rat has managed to maintain plausible deniability. He's been nowhere near agency HQ
for weeks. Instead, he's been off with his merry band of IT pranksters, installing systems
management software at field offices.
The Rat normally doesn't tolerate traveling in the physical world all that well. Travel
means a couple of hours disconnected from the network. But life has changed now that the
cyberrodent has found a truly wired way to travel. He and the rest of the digerati take
You'd think rail travel was anachronistic for someone who lives at least 15 minutes
into the future. The Rat, however, has noticed more notebook computers per capita on an
Amtrak Metroliner than on any puddle jumper.
In fact, the Rat's couple of hours on a train have turned out to be the most productive
of his week. He can stay tethered to the network, because trains almost never get out of
range of a cell phone transmitter, except inside tunnels.
Try hooking up a cellular modem aboard an airplane, and the flight attendant will come
by to put your tray table into its full upright and locked position.
Then there's electricity. The unwired Rat used to drum his paws through many a two-hour
flight, waiting to get into the rest room to plug his dead notebook into AC power. On new
Metroliners, there's a 120-volt outlet for every pair of seats.
The Rat has even pondered taking his show on the road permanently. There's great appeal
to a rail-mobile office, akin to what made the Pentagon so fond of the MX missile.
Angry users can leave all the voice mail they want, but they cannot find you to wreak
vengeance. With Caller ID on his cell phone, the Rat has managed to dodge the stickier
phone conversations he would have had to handle politely.
On top of that, the coffee on the Metroliner compares favorably to the caffeinated
water back at the office.
And the hot dogs are better than those in the Senate cafeteria, although there's no
navy bean soup.
All this rail-bound bliss got the furry one thinking: Maybe the government should make
the entire executive branch rail-mobile. Amtrak would never need a another subsidy if the
General Services Administration leased rail cars instead of office buildings.
District of Columbia traffic would become manageable, and Kenneth Starr's subpoena
servers would never be able to find anyone.
Rail-mobile stations could assuage the ambitions of every sub-undersecretary and every
GS-12 or higher fed.
Everyone would have a window office, and the view would never get too boring. Entire
agencies could reach crisis sites in hours, complete with administrative support and rest
Of course, the Rat would prefer to keep the rails for himself and his minions. He
doesn't want a long line in the lounge car waiting for inebriants. And having too many
people in the aisles would break up the infrared LAN he and his staff have rigged to play
The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets
in cyberspace. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.