PACKET RAT

The wired one returns to his natural technical environs: his cubicle

R. Fink

Hurricane Floyd did have one positive effect: It liberated the Rat from corner-office hell and returned him to his native habitat, the lead-lined cubicles of his network command bunker.

Considering how the whiskered one has overextended himself lately, the fall from power couldn't have come at a more opportune moment. The paneling in his erstwhile corner office was aggravating his particle-board allergies, and the thought of permanently acting as agency chief information officer made him queasy.

'After all,' the Rat mused, 'CIO does stand for 'career is over.' '

Most recently, the soggy cyberrodent spent time battling the floodwaters that threatened to claim his server room before system backups could be completed. Having pressed his ostensible boss, the agency undersecretary, into service as a sandbag while his underlings made off to higher ground with the backups, he took the opportunity to demonstrate his natural swimming abilities.

But the undersecretary had one feature in common with the sandbags that surrounded him. He didn't float.

The Rat found himself serving not only as acting agency CIO but also as a flotation device.

In the course of ferrying the waterlogged political appointee to safety, the Rat shared his opinions about agency operations. Many of the comments, given the circumstances, are not printable.



When the undersecretary, irate about being requisitioned as shoring material for a leaking serial port, began to protest, the Rat retorted, 'Pardon me, sir, but shut up, or you'll end up like Shelley Winters in 'The Poseidon Adventure.' '

Fortunately for the undersecretary and, in hindsight, fortunately for the Rat, they managed to avoid that fate. The furry one lugged the less-than-buoyant boss to a stairwell where he climbed above the floodwaters.

Later, as the Rat directed his ragtag band to rig up something approximating a campus network with spare departmental servers and leftover token-ring hubs, the undersecretary appeared with some towels.

As the Rat brought the agency Web server back up on a 486 portable running Linux, the boss cleared his throat. 'Um, nice piece of work there, considering,' he said. 'May I have a word with you?'

The rodent smelled something fishy, and it wasn't himself. Out of earshot of the acolytes, the undersecretary coughed and said, 'Clearly, your real skills are best utilized as chief technician. It would be a waste of your true talent to lock you away at the management level.

'Besides, all the other department heads are ready to form a lynch mob if I don't kick you back to your cubicle. And let's just say I'd rather not have your policy comments brought up at the next meeting with the secretary, if you know what I mean.'

The Rat felt his chains breaking. 'Does this mean that I'm''

'You're officially relieved of your duties as acting CIO, without prejudice,' the undersecretary said. 'We'll find someone less technically qualified to fill the position.'

The rodent's followers had inched closer and overheard the final exchange. They cheered, and as the Rat rejoined them they broke into a chorus of 'Born Free.'

'Let all end users tremble,' the whiskered one cackled. 'The Packet Rat is back on his throne.'

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

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