intermittent bone-chilling drizzle that had been
drifting down upon the nation’s capital since midnight
began again as the unmarked colorless gray delivery van
pulled into the only available parking space on Gladiola
Avenue. The sliding door opened and a hooded figure
leaned out, carefully looking up and down the deserted
street. Satisfied with the quiet emptiness, the skulker
stepped cautiously onto the wet sidewalk, bringing with
him a large green garbage can that had the bottom cut
out. Gently placing it over the fire hydrant next to the
van, Fallon Overside smiled happily, What fire
back into the van he eased the door shut before removing
his cloth hood and whispering, "And you all
laughed. I told you that between the rain and the
hydrant under cover, no one is going to even begin
thinking about a red zone."
about the streetlight on the corner, Oscar?" Diji
Simi, the skulker’s soul mate, asked quietly, giving
Fallon a congratulatory pat on the shoulder.
"It’s awfully bright."
it covered," Oscar Mayer, defacto leader of the
group, reassured her. "Gloria, you’re up,"
he cued the number two in his life and small command.
a sec. Doing this in the dark out here is not quite as
easy as when I practiced it in the closet. But ready or
not," Gloria Darling announced to her cohorts,
"I’m as ready as I’ll ever be." She
scooted around so she faced the double doors at the back
of the van. One last squirm and she whispered anxiously,
Clear. Clear," his nervous compatriots assured her,
checking the street from their assigned vantage points.
then. Here we go," she muttered, pushing open one
door and flipping the toggle switch on the heavy shoebox
resting in her lap.
purposefully down the long slender glass tube at her
target, she anxiously held her breath. A soothing hum
emanated from the sneaker holder, followed by a blink of
red light and a soft ‘plop’ as the light on the pole
quietly imploded. The laser pointer had done its job.
The booster box, courtesy of the physics department at
George Washington University, turned the low power map
pointer into a one shot mini-laser powerful enough to
burn through the plastic lens cover of the streetlight,
effectively causing its destruction without any outward
Close the door. Here comes a car," Gloria warned.
down. Freeze. Don’t move," they warned each
other, waiting until the car drove slowly around the
corner before exhaling a collective sigh of relief.
"Uh-oh, Houston. We have a problem,"
interrupted the serenity of the moment.
What? What?" the co-conspirators chattered, edging
ever close to full panic.
is?" Fallon asked.
box," Gloria answered curtly.
hot?" Oscar asked cautiously.
damn hot," Gloria swore, dropping it on the floor.
the switch. Turn it off," Diji urged. She may have
been the low man on the command totem pole, but she knew
her "Booster boxes."
can’t find it," Gloria snarled in frustration.
the little red glowing thing," Fallon offered
girl," Oscar pleaded. "It’s getting
louder." He joined in as the four of them made a
mountain out of a molehill. Much scrambling, kicking and
swearing later, the little box was easier to see,
glowing as red as the indicator light. No easier to
handle though, it began to chatter like an angry
squirrel defending its nuts.
side door slid open. Four pairs of scrabbling legs
frantically kicked the chattering hummer into the gutter
where, joining the swift current of street debris, it
bobbed along, hissing angrily, before being swept down
the storm drain at the corner. Listening to the splash
and furious bubbling, they leaned back instinctively as
a cloud of steam shot from the opening.
Diji, my love," Fallon asked quietly, once the door
was closed. "What exactly was in that box?"
she could answer, there was a brilliant flash. So
bright, they hunched up against the coming thunder.
Hearing none, they rose as one, peering out the windows
just in time to witness a gigantic belch of steam from
the storm drain openings up and down the street. As one,
very impressed, they lowered themselves out of sight.
Breaking the reflective silence, Oscar offered a simple
prayer, "Jesus, I hope no none was on the throne
the nervous laughter died down, Gloria, somewhat less
than tactfully, exclaimed, "Goddamn, Diji. What the
hell was that? If that thing had gone off in here,
we’d all be crispy critters."
Diji protested, "You said you wanted something to
knock out a light and that’s what you got. Besides, if
you’d remembered to turn off the switch, we wouldn’t
have had the problem. Anyway, I think the water was the
real catalyst of the ‘incident.’"
everybody," Oscar interrupted, "I don’t
think we’ve been compromised—yet. But just to be on
the safe side, let’s get into our cover-story
positions, all right?"
cover being they were two couples stopping off on their
way home for a little curbside loving. It sounded better
than, "Officer, we are going to accost the director
of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, forcing her to
listen to our warning of an upcoming theft of gold bars
from the federal repository at Fort Knox by renegade
agents of the FBI."
had started simply enough. Four computer hackers,
graduate students all, having a good time enjoying a
normal Saturday night game of "See who can break
into the most interesting and heavily protected computer
system." On this night, Gloria won hands down,
shouting, "Goddamn! I’m in."
Everyone wanted to know.
FBI," she gloated.
traps?" Diji whispered fearfully.
No traps. But they are real crafty little devils,"
she admitted. "I had a super hard time getting …
Whoa! Look at this." In an instant, four heads were
ear to ear staring intently at the monitor. On the
screen was a warning of impending jail time for any
Gloria. How did you get here?" Fallon asked
worriedly. Jail was Number One on his short list of
places not to visit.
being new to the group but with a normal fear of
invading the fed’s private domain, suggested,
"Gloria, maybe you ought to scoot."
No way. I ran my password program and bingo! Here we
are. I want to see what happens next."
happened next was the screen went blank for a second
before granting the user access to a file in progress,
code-named Golden Locks, asking the user if he was ready
to download the material. "Hell yes," Gloria
shouted, pushing all the right buttons. With a cheep,
chirp, and a tweedle, the printer on the table beside
them sprang into action.
Oscar saw the light on their Caller ID unit, sitting
next to the phone on the desk, blink.
Abort! Abort!" he screamed, diving across the desk
in order to yank the phone line from the wall.
What?" the others cried in unison.
trace. The son of a bitches had a back tracker
working," he said, the worry obvious in his voice.
God. We’re going to jail for sure," Fallon
groaned. "The big house. The slammer. Hard time
with a cell-mate named Tiny."
about me?" Diji cried in despair. "I’ll be
we’re all liable to be deport … Wait a minute, Diji.
Deported to where? Connecticut? The last time I heard it
was still part of the Union. We all know you wish to be
one of the oppressed, but having rich parents might come
in handy someday—like when you and your friends need a
was halfway to the front door before Oscar called out,
"Anybody checked the blocker?"
right," they said sheepishly.
does it say?" Diji asked in a trembling voice.
smiling with relief, announced, "We’re good. No
one got in. They tried though. Man that was close."
nodded right along with his friends as they stared at
the little beige box that in theory, would send anyone
trying to back-trace their inquiry, a signal back to the
tracer, displaying a number that was the tracer’s own,
knew it would work," Fallon said. When the laughter
died down, they resumed watching the little box flash
its reassuring message—"No entry. No entry."
wonder what set them off? Everything was going along
just fine," Gloria mused.
me, Gloria, but look. We’ve got mail," Fallon
said excitedly, pointing to the tray on the printer.
here, too." Diji exclaimed, tapping the computer
monitor. Gloria and Oscar read the printed material
while Diji and Fallon read the same material off the
computer monitor. Gloria’s question about what
happened was forgotten as the four became engrossed with
the pilfered material.