The NSA was doing it again. They thought they were hot shit, but the Colonel
wasn't convinced. After all, who had the suits? The NSA was working on some
pretty interesting stuff these days, but the difference was stark. This was
literally the difference between classical, newtonian physics and quantum
physics. In the public eye, the NSA were the bad guys. These hackers weren't
helping matters for the poor fools. Everyone was learning a lot, but there
would be no saving the NSA. They'd all fucked up, really, the whole damn
country, but the NSA would be taking the fall. Sometimes the Colonel wondered,
how did they see it? Did they realize their agency was perhaps created, in
part, to take the blame for things like this?

The infrastructure was collapsing at a faster and faster rate. Entire
terabytes of databases were being leaked, on purpose, by corrupt politicians
seeking only to cover their own tracks. The computer systems almost all had
backdoors at this point, and no one was really sure what to do about it.
Except the middle-schoolers. They knew exactly what to do with a leaked CIA
cyber arsenal. Russian involvement was unclear, as always. Let's face it,
Russia has teenagers too.

The Colonel was happy with the suits, but it was starting to get as confusing
as the time he had been drugged and tortured in South America. He hadn't
spilled the beans that time, and this time he, quite literally, would not be
able to. A lot of it was in the hands of the physicists now, and they were
God-less heathens who had trouble explaining themselves or admitting when they
didn't know certain things. That was unclear too. What goes through the mind
of a physicist? Or one of these "hacker" types? The Colonel wondered to
himself, was he just as confusing to them, as they were to him? Were they
confusing to each other? He fought back tears for the first time he could
remember in years.

They all should have listened to that fool the first time around. "Look up the
etymology of the word," he had said. "I don't think you understand what a
hacker is." This had seemed like the oldest trick in the book, at the time.
The fool was trying to cover his bases too, but he was crazy. You don't call
yourself the mock enemy forces as a way to explain an interest in constructed
languages. It's simply not done. That's not covering one's bases. That stupid,
stupid fool. He'd been able to do ten pushups though, and really he was
working as hard as anyone for his SSI stipend... but what a stupid fool. He
was looking more and more suspicious, the harder everyone looked. Something
was wrong with that guy.

There were silver linings in the approaching storm, though. Everyone knew what
"hacker" meant now, to the two he was meeting with. Sure, to everyone else, it
still just meant... well... whatever Hollywood had thought it meant, all those
many years ago. These two though... They would be confusing, the Colonel was
sure of that much. At this point though, the Brass were desperate. The NSA had
really done a number on the infrastructure. The computers were basically all
paperweights; the suits would serve no purpose if everyone knew everything
about them.

The Finnish man from Oregon was already there when the Colonel arrived. Both
of them were a little startled as the Colonel entered the room. This man had
legitimate reasons to be angry. The Colonel understood this. The feeling must
be like that he had whenever an unruly enlisted man pulled a practical joke
at just the wrong time and, often, somebody else paid for it. Paid dearly
sometimes, sometimes was injured or worse...

He'd never heard of this man before last week, but apparently the vast
majority of the Internet ran his software. It was amazing really, the gap
between "what everyone knew" and the truth. It always was. The cynical
Canadian with the rusty revolver had yet to arrive. He was even stranger than
this Finnish man sucking coffee through his stirring stick... it was not meant
to be a straw... The paranoid Canadian had said something like, "I'll come if
you pay for it, but I'm not entering your country unarmed." He'd also made it
very clear, if he caught anyone snooping around, there would be hell to pay.
The US had showed their hand, really, and no one ever snooped around the
Canadian's "fortress." If anyone did at this point... well... it would be
pretty obvious no matter how well-disguised they were.

The meeting did not go well. The Canadian was as unmotivated by money as that
damned fool, and the Finn seemed to just be waiting for chances to interject
angrily how stupid the NSA had been. He had a grin on his face that pissed the
Colonel off. He was smart though. Smarter, socially, than the Canadian. Which
wasn't saying that much... The Finn was having a grand old time. The Colonel
found himself wondering, then discarding the idea... no one was that smart...
but... could this be staged by these two? Or just the Finn. Could he have just
wanted a free cup of coffee and a chance to express his down-trodden outrage?
Certainly, his software project had been ruined. At this point people were
flocking to the Canadian's version. It didn't look like the US was going to be
able to buy either of them out, the Finn to stop grinning, and the Canadian
to... well... but his software was free. To everyone. That was ridiculously
suspicious in itself.

They somehow knew about the fool who'd pointed everyone at the Internet to
look it up themselves. How could they possibly know, if they already weren't
infecting all the computers? They had to be. The Canadian was saying,
basically, "look, heads of state. Listen, leaders of the free world. If you
want to use my software you can. Like anyone else. It's free. Go ahead." What
were his motivations? Could someone love what they did, truly that much? To
not even care about being paid?

At the end of the meeting, the Colonel still had a question for the two
weirdos. What was the deal with the fool and his fucking transvestite robot
bunny? That was just another one, the Finn started to explain. The Canadian
shot him an inscrutable look, but the Finn seemed to understand. He sure was
good at looking down-trodden. The Colonel kept his face as expressionless as
he could. The Canadian seemed to be doing the same, but it may have been
something completely different he was thinking. These people were so fucking
weird, the whole lot of them. How could the world have this underbelly of
bizarre people, and have come to rely on them so heavily, without ever really
realizing anything about this?

The Colonel left the meeting feeling as though nothing had been accomplished.
The rabbit was still an unsolved mystery, but these two men clearly had
respect for it. Perhaps they even felt some jealousy. The fool had said things
like, "ya got a decade?" when asked to explain. Maybe it wasn't a trick at
all. Maybe everyone was as cynical as the Canadian with the rusty revolver.
The Colonel shut his eyes at his desk and just shook his head. God only knew
what would happen if he tried to fire that piece of shit.