Packet Rat: The Rat hatches his own regime change

The Rat

Michael J. Bechetti

With new agency projects log-jammed and old projects at status quo, the Rat has found himself reading the Federal Register a lot lately.

'Looks like the Agriculture Department is taking comments on whether to extend the marketing order on California nectarines,' the whiskered one told his cellmates in the network command bunker.

'You need to get a life,' sniggered a jejune acolyte who was tuning up his martial skills against Nazis and zombies, courtesy of Id Software Inc.'s Return to Castle Wolfenstein.

The Rat rolled his eyes. A distinct lack of mental stimulation hinted that it might be time for a change of employment scenery. As he opened the Office of Personnel Management's USAJobs Web site on his handheld computer at the dinner table that night, his spouse discerned his discontent.

'Job shopping, are we?' she asked with a smirk. 'Ooh, that GS-9 slot at Dugway Proving Ground looks appealing.'

The cyberrodent shook his head. 'No, that's not the kind of scenery change I'm looking for. There's a small matter of rattlesnakes. By varmint standards, Iraq would be safer.'

'Well, I bet there're openings there,' Mrs. Rat grinned. 'I hear there was a lot of turnover recently.'

The throwaway remark got the Rat's gears turning in ways that his better half had never intended. What with the Defense Department's interim administration rolling into Iraq, and retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner facing the ultimate infrastructure upgrade with limited local buy-in and a tight deadline, there might be a chance of a nice bullet item on the whiskered one's resume: Iraq interim technology proconsul.

'The power to determine a whole country's information infrastructure ... high-profile, high-risk ... why, I could leave my paw print on the entire future of the Middle East. Hmm,' the Rat mused, 'presidential data palaces.'

'That was not a serious suggestion, dear,' his wife interjected.

'I wonder who the hiring authority is?' the Rat muttered as he started tapping search queries into his browser. 'Agency for International Development or Army? Or maybe it's Bechtel's gig.' With a sigh, Mrs. Rat wrapped up the leftover baba ganoush.

That night, the Rat had a dream. He was sitting at a mahogany desk in a former presidential palace in Baghdad, with dozens of flat-screen monitors arrayed before him. Behind, a mosaic portrait of Saddam Hussein had its tiles rearranged into a nobler, furrier visage. Outside, a crowd was chanting.

He went to the window and beheld a mob of several thousand citizens hurling personal digital assistants and CD-ROMs toward the palace. 'Down, down with the Rat!' they chanted. There was a sound of splintering wood, and the Rat turned to face ...

The ringing telephone woke him from the nightmare. He fumbled for the bedside receiver.
' 'Lo?' he squeaked.

'I understand you may be interested in a temporary posting overseas,' said a familiar voice. 'Pack a bag.'

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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