Using electronic agents as eyes and ears keeps the furry one keyed up

The Rat has detected a distinct thickening in the atmosphere of
paranoia inside the Beltway.

He is acutely aware that feeling paranoid doesn’t necessarily mean somebody
isn’t out to get him.

Just ask the hordes of angry agency users looking to get a hold of a piece of his furry

To cover his tail, the Rat has been forced to deploy an elite platoon of allegedly
intelligent electronic agents that act as his eyes.

His agents may not be quite as sophisticated as the Smithsonian Institution’s
Minerva robot tour guide at,
but the whiskered one certainly places as much faith in them as he does in the Drudge

One of the Rat’s silicon minions recently got sucked into the ductwork of a
downtown Washington office building, and it happened to pick up audio from a meeting on
the floor above. Using the finest in voice-recognition freeware, the autonomous agent
transcribed the following:

“This investigation of the vice president’s phone habits is getting too hot.
Can’t we blow up some terrorists or something?” asks a female voice.

“No, ma’am,” replies a male underling. “The president already did

A corncob pipe is slammed noisily down on a desk. “Drat! Well, let’s see what
other targets for national disdain we can come up with. What’s Bill Gates doing this

“Um, let me look at the surveillance logs,” says another voice. “There
were some vague threats made to Andy Grove at Intel Corp.”

“I thought he retired.”

“No, ma’am, that was just a cover story,” says another voice.
“He’s working for us now as a special agent.”

“That’s convenient. So what kind of threats were made?”

“Let’s see.” Paper shuffles rapidly. “Here we go. Quote: ‘My
lawyers can beat up your lawyers. If you don’t do what I say, I’m taking my
operating system and going home.’ ”

“Hot dog. When is he scheduled to be deposed on the Windows 98 thingy?”

“We’re still working that out with his scheduling people,” comes yet
another voice. “They say it can’t be any time before something called

A slightly more industry-aware assistant chimes in, “After election day.”

“That won’t do, we need to move things faster. Let’s start a
full-fledged investigation of these, uh, threats, and leak them right away. What else do
we have?”

“Well, there’s a lot on the tapes about something called COM+ and Windows NT
5, and some screaming about somebody called Jim Allchin.”

“COM+? What’s that?”

“Some kind of programming doodad,” says the trade-savvy assistant.

“No, it sounds like a code word to me,” says another. “Maybe some sort
of conspiracy.”

“Whatever you think of it, don’t write me a memo,” says the female
voice. “I don’t want it subpoenaed by Congress. Hmm, a COM+ conspiracy. Say,
could COM be short for communist?”

“If it is, then the entire Internet is communist. Everything is something dot

“Then this could be bigger than I imagined—a communist conspiracy to take
over the Internet, and this NT 5 as the signal for worldwide revolution.” The
assemblage sits quietly for a moment.

“Gee, look at the time,” someone mutters. “Gotta run.”

“Don’t go anywhere, mister,” orders the ringleader. “In my legal
opinion, we’ve got enough for a warrant. Get me the judge.”

The furry one’s agent was at that moment blown out the exhaust of the
building’s ventilation system, landing on Ken Starr’s limo. Before being cited
for obstruction of justice—and traffic—the agent beamed back this report to the
Rat via spread-spectrum burst transmission sent in Basque and Pig Latin.  

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

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