Packet Rat: The desert Rat goes tactical

The Rat

Michael J. Bechetti

'I can't believe they let him fly a fighter jet,' the Rat griped as he watched the president address the crew of the USS Lincoln.

'How much stick time has he had since he last went on an Air Guard drill?'

Mrs. Rat rolled her eyes. 'So 5,000 hours of playing F-15 Strike Eagle gives you the right to question the president's flying credentials? Well, excuse me, Mr. Top Gun. Maybe if you're nice to the folks in-country, they'll let you make your own landing.'

While Dubya spoke from the flight deck of the Lincoln, the Rat was busy sucking beach sand out of his notebook PC in preparation for replacing the grains with desert sand.

After some serious backroom haggling, not to mention a few well-placed phone calls, the whiskered one had managed to avoid wire-pulling duty in Basra. The alternative was a somewhat less forward position in the reconstruction phase of the Iraq war.

He'd managed to convince those drafting his services that he would be much better utilized at the mother of all Mideast network operation centers. Considering how much commercial satellite time U.S. forces had gobbled up running the war, the Rat figured folks on the banks of the Potomac wouldn't mind a bit of traffic optimization as the Army prepared to award an IT Enterprise Solutions contract.

His bandwidth budget had always been slim, but he argued that he could find new ways to squeeze a few extra bits into the sky queue. Plus, with the Air Force moving out of Saudi Arabia in the next couple of months, the Rat was betting there would be a good market for network-provisioning skill as Central Command relocated air operations to Qatar. Furthermore, he noted in his correspondence with the spooks who wanted to reassign him, they might not necessarily facilitate speedy reconstruction by sending a large, anthropomorphic rodent with limited diplomatic skills to press Iraqi flesh.

There was just one last hurdle: how the spooks were planning to transport the cyberrodent abroad.

'We're a little tight on transport space right now,' his handler said as they checked in his gear. 'But we've figured out a way to get you there low-profile. You'll need to be fitted for a flight suit and cut back your gear a bit, though.'

'Oh, really?' the Rat grinned. 'You're going to stick me in a two-seater F-15?' Visions of barrel rolls danced in his head.

'Uh, or something,' his handler said. 'I hope you don't mind tight spaces.'

'Well, it's an occupational hazard,' the Rat shrugged. 'What kind of aircraft are we talking about?'

'We've got a surveillance UAV drone we need to send over that way, and it looks like you just make the weight restrictions.'

'Uh, doesn't the U in UAV stand for unmanned?' the now wide-eyed wirebiter inquired. But it was too late.

As he was shoved with oxygen bottle and parachute into a payload tube slung under a Global Hawk, he wondered whether he perhaps had been too hasty in turning down that posting to Basra.

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at [email protected].


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