Packet Rat: 'Ax not what your country can do for you'

The Rat

Michael J. Bechetti

The Rat arrived in the Arabian Gulf with even less dignity than he had anticipated. Flying strapped into a payload tube under a Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle,he felt his stomach rise into his throat. He was in free fall.

A moment later, a loud bang announced the ejection charge of the parachute that was supposed to slow his descent. Apparently, a runway landing was not in store.

'So this is how it feels to be a smart bomb,' the whiskered one reflected as he plunged earthward toward a less-than-soft landing. Praying that the sand below would absorb the shock, he curled up tight in his flight helmet and braced for impact.

Qatar proved to be somewhat rockier than one might expect of a desert kingdom.

Eventually he arrived in the Camp Snoopy infirmary at Doha International Airport, after being pried out of a 6-foot-deep impact crater by the in-country IT support team.

After freeing his tail from his headgear, they proceeded to trundle the whiskered one toward Central Command headquarters at Camp As Sayliya.

'So,' he remarked to his escorts, 'was that trip really necessary?'

'At least they paid for a parachute,' retorted one of the clean-cut, black-ops fiber splicers. 'I got low-altitude-dropped right onto the comm center roof. The pilot used my tube to practice dive-bombing tactics.'

'Hmm,' the Rat grunted. 'Why are we all being delivered air parcel post instead of, say, by live freight? I mean, doesn't this draw more attention to us?'

'It's a budget thing,' another stealth wirejockey explained. 'Funding for this project originally didn't include transportation. But there was a surplus budget for unmanned aerial reconnaissance, so they decided to use that line item to relocate us.'

Having sat through many a budget-drafting process, the Rat nodded gravely. It made perfect sense.

As soon as he and his coterie arrived at As Sayliya, the wirebiter was herded into a briefing room to hear the first inkling of the nature of his duties at Dustbowl Central.

'Here's a network jockey's most important piece of equipment around here,' said one of his escorts, pulling a pickax from a duffel bag and handing it to the tailed technician.

Staring at the item in his uncallused paws, the Rat inquired, 'How's that?'

'Well, we're laying fiber conduit right now. And to lay fiber conduit in this coral rock, first you gotta dig through the rock.'

'Welcome to the highest-paid chain gang this side of Enron Corp.,' joked a Cisco router specialist, twirling his pickax.

'So this is like that movie, 'Holes,' only without the treasure or the poisonous lizards?' the Rat asked.

'Well, without the treasure,' came the reply.

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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