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, "All
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
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
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
can’t find it," Gloria snarled in frustration.
the little red glowing thing," Fallon offered helpfully.
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 for that."
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
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
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 deported."
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 good lawyer."
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, plus one.
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,"
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