Harry Potter's magic wand makes the Rat's net wizards vanish

Late on a Friday afternoon, the Rat heard the help desk phones ringing off the hooks.

Apparently, a larger than usual percentage of his underlings had skated out on him to wiring closets unknown or had taken off early for what promised to be a perfect summer weekend.

'Well, what can you expect?' grumbled the whiskered one as he crawled under yet another desk to fix yet another abused Ethernet patch cable. 'It's a lot to expect to get actual work out of people in July.'

After recrimping yet another Category 5 connection, the Rat wandered past a few of his acolytes' cubicles. Sure enough, they were empty. Most people had logged out and shut down, but one had turned off the monitor and left his system running.

'Looks like an opportunity for arbitrary justice,' smirked the Rat as he flipped on the monitor and put his paws to the keyboard.

The unwitting apprentice's calendar was up on screen. A reminder blinked: 'HP, Friday p.m.' The Rat scratched his ear and wondered what could be going on with Hewlett-Packard Co. at closing time on Friday.

Booked up

Out of curiosity, he hacked into the calendars of his other absent assistants. A few of them also had reminders mentioning HP, and one named a location: a local bookstore's cafe within walking distance of agency headquarters.

The cyberrodent's concern grew. What was half of his staff doing meeting with HP on a Friday afternoon'and off-site for that matter? Was it some sort of headhunter attack? The Rat was only too aware of the tight labor market, and the skills of his handpicked henchpersons were in high demand. But usually his sources clued him in on any sort of trolling for talent by vendors. This time, he was absolutely clueless.

'Clearly, an investigation is in order,' the Rat said. He donned a pair of dark glasses and skulked out of the building to observe the mutinous malcontents incognito.

'Reminder to self: Give Carly Fiorina a piece of my mind on Monday about these unsavory tactics,' he muttered as he approached the bookstore.

It soon became obvious that lots more was going on than a stealth job fair. There were people lined up around the block, some of them wearing pointy hats and robes, waving wands, brandishing brooms and just making spectacles of themselves.

'Little early for Halloween,' mused the Rat as he reached for his vibrating text pager. As he read the screen, a wave of epiphany, as Avery Brooks would say in an IBM Corp. commercial, washed over him.

The message was an e-mail from his online book pusher: 'This is to confirm that your order for Harry Potter IV has been filled and will be delivered by Owl Post Equivalent (Express Mail) tomorrow morning. Thank you for shopping.'

HP was, of course, Harry Potter. The Rat sighed, having just spotted his own ratlings, two eager wizards in training, lined up for the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. They were quaffing espressos while batting at each other with wands made from scrap wiring conduit.'The Rat had been muggled.

Considering the nature of his work, he should have caught on sooner. After all, network administration has always been a dark art involving complex incantations from the Cisco Certified Network Engineer spellbook and the Micro-nomicon.

'Well, I guess I'll lift that curse off everyone's password,' the Rat sighed back at the command cubicle. He tapped in an e-mail command to his server. 'Too bad I already formatted their hard drives."

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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