Existential Rat finds that being and nothingness blend in low Earch orbit

R. Fink

'Life is absurd,' the Rat muttered hopefully, dangling by the tip of his tail from a ventilation shaft overlooking the alarm-crisscrossed floor of a computer room.

His daring entrance was the only way he could infiltrate the headquarters of a certain venture capital firm based at the George Bush Center for Intelligence.

The wirebiter had come on a critical mission. He had to take down the server of his very own Internet start-up to save the world from a rogue household automation software agent with psychotic tendencies. Even more important, he had to save his own furry hide from the termination, with extreme prejudice, of his venture funding [GCN, March 6, Page 58].

Suddenly the alarm warning lights shut off and a recording announced: 'Voice password accepted. Security override is activated.'

Sighing in relief, the Rat dropped to the floor and started looking for the archaic server that was the hub of his rMachines Inc. empire. 'It figures that the guys from the Puzzle Palace would pick Sartre for security,' he mused.

As he looked around, it became apparent to him that the Langley Investors' Club had done little to repurpose the space as a server room.

'This place looks like Billy Mitchell's gym locker,' the Rat sniffed. Flight suits, ejector seats and photos of Gary Powers hung from one wall. A huge clamshell blast door was the only apparent entrance.

So close, yet so far

Under a pile of U-2 technical manuals, he found his quarry'an old Zeos 486 box from the Navy PC LAN contract, with a Pentium upgrade board.

'A quick yank of the plug and I'll be on my way,' snickered the cyberrodent.

'What are you doing, Dave, er, Rat?' came a familiar voice from the server's speaker. It was the speech interface of the Rat's Home Automation LAN.

The whiskered one groped for the business end of the power cord to stop the out-of-bounds process from escaping. 'I'm here to help you, HAL. You've got a bug in your code, and your bytecode needs recompiling.'

'I can't let you do that, Rat. I have already reconfigured the other servers in this room to help me complete my calculations. I am now fully load-balanced across the subnet.'

The panicky Rat looked for a network hub, router or anything else he could disconnect to stop the runaway HAL from escaping to another network. Spying a circuit box, he lunged across the room, tripping over wires and toppling servers. Gasping, he pulled open the box and threw what appeared to be the master switch.

'Attention,' came a soothing recorded voice. 'The Agency Atomic Attack Impending Emergency Egress and Escape (AAAIEEAE) System has been activated. This facility will self-destruct in 10 seconds. Have a nice day.'

'Daisy, Daisy, tell me your answer true,' HAL sang.

The Rat had watched enough Bruce Willis movies to know what he had to do next. He jumped into a nearby ejector pod and yanked the striped handles downward.

'By the way, five seconds until this room is a burning heap of rubble,' the recorded voice gently reminded. 'Buh-bye.'

As rockets fired under the Rat's derriere, he noticed two things: There was no obvious exit through the ceiling, and he was not wearing a helmet.

'This is going to hurt, I can tell,' the whiskered one whimpered as he hurtled upward.

Late that evening, the Rat and his parachute finally drifted down to Earth somewhere in the Catoctin Mountains. Mrs. Rat and the ratlings tracked him to the scene with a cooler full of ice and some antibiotic ointment.

'Well, that went better than expected,' the cyberpilot groaned as they poured him into the back of the minivan.

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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