A ratlike nightmare: visions of Baby Bills dancing in one's head

Rat Fink

The Rat was trying to get in an extra autumn-weekend snooze, but the phone just kept ringing. Finally, Mrs. Rat kicked him out of bed to answer the call.

'Strategic Missile Command,' the weary whiskered one said into the receiver. 'Warheads without waiting. How may I help you?'

'Apocalypse Redmond,' came the reply. Checking the database on the Palm III in his pajama pocket, the cyberrodent recognized the disguised voice on the other end as that of his operative at the Microsoft Corp. antitrust trial'one of Judge Jackson's clerks.

'What's up, Sparky? Action Jackson kick you out of his chambers again?' the Rat queried.

'No, Your Craftiness. The judge told me to 'light the Bat Signal, or whatever it is you do' to get your technical assistance.'

'Me? What does he need me for? He already hacked apart the finding of fact I cribbed for him,' the Rat replied.

'The judge asked me to apologize for his excessive dumbing down of your wordsmithery. He humbly requests your further assistance in determining an appropriate penalty for the defendant.'

Teeth in it

'He wants my advice on how to stick it to Bill?' the wire-biter quipped.

'Er, yes, though I'd prefer you didn't use that particular wording. Let's just call it 'dispensing justice.' '

'OK, Sparky, this is going to take a few compute cycles,' the Rat said.'Let me work on it and get back to you.'

'Alrighty. Use the same signal for contact when you're ready.'

'Aw, jeez, the tape-in-the-window thing again? You've been watching 'X-Files' too much. Can't I wear a hammer-and-sickle tie to work?'

'Just walk past the courthouse twice, then head to the Washington Monument. I'll meet you in line.'

The Rat grunted an affirmative, then hung up and wove his way back to bed through the Lego minefield laid by the ratlings.

'Who was it?' asked Mrs. Rat.

'Sparky down at the judge's. He wants some ideas on what to suggest for the remedy against Microsoft.'

'Hasn't Bill suffered enough?' his better half muttered from under the quilt. The whiskered one couldn't tell if she was smirking or not.

'Oh, yeah, he's gone through hell,' the Rat replied. 'I figured time served, public service and mandatory competitor sensitivity training would do the trick.'

'What else would accomplish anything? A breakup makes him richer, and Microsoft is already moving the important parts of its development platform to its application and BackOffice groups anyway,' Mrs. Rat said.

The Rat stared at the ceiling. Then he turned to the mound of blankets that covered his wife. 'Have you been reading my e-mail again?'

Tidying up

'Couldn't help it. The kids hacked the server, and I was just checking the damage,' she replied.

As the Rat settled back into slumber, his dreams were filled with visions of Baby Bills. Atop the mountain, the Big Bill sat and watched the Baby Bills running in packs, chasing competitors and stripping them of their products, wallets and clothing. The Rat could hear Gates on the hill saying, 'I knew an investment in cloning would pay off someday.'

The Rat bolted upright in bed. 'The kids hacked my server?'

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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