Somewhere in the early twenty-first century, in the civilization known as Earth--likely in a nondescript location in a North American town with ample wireless hotspots and a name like Buford, or Richland, or Gibsonia--there is a secret workshop. It is on this workshop that we focus our attention for the moment. Particularly, on a corner.
This corner of the workshop is blank and unremarkable except for four inanimate objects: a spindly table on which sits a laptop computer (we can only see the thin sliver of its screen from the side), an office chair, and a large somewhat battered cardboard box with an assortment of shipping labels on it, laying open on its side.
The only other features of this corner are its current occupants. In the chair sits a person, also entirely unremarkable save for a black fedora rakishly tilted on his head. This person is pounding furiously at the laptop keyboard while being surrounded by approximately twenty-three kittens--who, having recently escaped the confines of the cardboard box, are milling about as kittens do. Some are climbing onto his lap. Some are weaving about the chair's swivel base. One is atop the table, batting at the back of the laptop screen. One is purring loudly and trying to insinuate its nose under his fingers, uncaring of the fact that said fingers are otherwise occupied. The kitten steps on the keys/.;;;;;;;lllllllll'[[[[[[[[[[l,,,,,,until it is shooed away.
The others...well, you can imagine, if you like, the scene in the rest of the workshop: a multicolored explosion of wires and alligator clips--connecting the shells of eviscerated tower desktops, meandering through random bits of electronica and the occasional disassembled laser ray, snaking past the mute blinking chaos of a hundred wireless routers. To a ten-week-old kitten who has just escaped a boring box with twenty-two of its kin, this is basically better than an amusement park. Five wires have already been chewed through entirely. Ultra-thin display screens crash to the floor as the effect of gravity is tested by curious paws. The air is filled with a cacophony of high-pitched mewling.
Back to our corner, and the furious typing. Instead of Configurable Analog Transmitter Stack, box contained vermin. Would not buy again. No sooner has the person in the chair finished typing this comment and emphatically hitting "Submit", than the mewling sounds are drowned out by something else--rather like the sound a 28K-baud modem would make if it were wired into the guts of a grand piano. The typist spins around in his office chair to see a blue Police Box materializing asthmatically in the middle of the workshop, nonetheless disturbing not a single kitten nor distracting them from their various acts of mayhem.
The door to the Police Box opens and a man in a tweed jacket and blue bow tie storms out.
"You left me negative feedback!" he cries, pointing an accusatory finger at the figure in the black hat before he can say a word.
Black Hat looks at the laptop screen, which says amiably "Your comment has been logged. Please give us a few moments to integrate this information into our systems. Thank you for using eBay!" He sits back, contemplating for a moment. Then he tilts his head, indicating the mobile mass of claws and curiosity currently destroying his workshop, and says, "You mailed me a box of kittens."
"Hmpf," Bow Tie scoffs. "I mailed you a configurable analog transmitter stack."
"Kittens!" Black Hat reiterates.
"It's not my fault you don't happen to have VoJF enabled." Bow Tie rolls his eyes, picks up a passing kitten and coos at it.
"Forget the setback to my plans--" Black Hat stops mid-thought and glares at Bow Tie. "Wait, what enabled?"
"Voice over Juvenile Felines," Bow Tie answers, tickling the purring mobile destructo-unit between its ears and setting it down again, before going back to pouting. "There's an RFC for it, ten-ex-apple-seven. Now I'm down to sixty percent positive feedback and a C minus rating. Who will trust BowTiesAreCool now?"
Black Hat sighs. "You're new to this whole eBay thing, aren't you? Why on Earth--" he pauses and peers past the incongruous man in his workshop through to the open door of the blue box, and reassesses that sentiment. Then, "Wait a minute," he says, thinking back on his recent apparent goldmine of discoveries online. "You're blue_box_42 as well, aren't you? And don't tell me"--he rubs at a headache that is spiking behind his completely nondescript-looking eye--"superSonicScrewdriver?"
Bow Tie just smiles smugly. Realization dawns.
"You did this on purpose!" Black Hat says, staring around his defunct workshop and not sure whether he should be more angry, afraid, or amazed. "You destroyed six months of work! With kittens!"
"Yes, I thought that was rather clever." Bow Tie raises his eyebrows and rocks back on his heels. "I must admit I wasn't worried when you bid on the quantum server racks alone. But, then when the bids started coming in for those subfold concentrators I salvaged from the old control room, and then the OC three-hundred pipes--"
"That wasn't me--!"
"And then," Bow Tie interrupts, "the Universal Integrated Distributor Hubs, well . . ."
Black Hat tries to deny it again but Bow Tie just points to a disheveled workbench, where the components in question have been re-appropriated into silicon scratching posts. Black Hat's shoulders sag. "I used a botnet and sixteen separate compromised accounts to buy those components," he grumbles.
"Yes," Bow Tie lectures, "and I tracked the IP addresses associated with those accounts to a series of snide comments on Wikipedia Talk pages, which, honestly, hardly even needed a formal lexicographical analysis to confirm they were written by the same person." He tsks and aims a knowing glance at the blue box. "Amateurs."
Oh, that insult stings. Black Hat is nearly lost for words as the interloper glares at him. Did he know who he was talking to? Did he . . . and who was he kidding, Black Hat realizes. Here he is, staring at a possible alien who has just materialized into his secret workshop in a Police Public Call Box bigger on the inside, and who has just thwarted his un-thwartable plan using a box of kittens. Something . . . something catches in Black Hat's tiny nearly unrecognizable heart. He looks longingly at the blue Police Box and for a fleeting moment finally understands what it feels like to be confronted by infinite possibility. It's . . . it's absolutely glorious.
"As I was saying," says Bow Tie, "the only reason I could think why someone would want all of those components is to insert a series of compromises into distributed resource and information sharing platforms, that continually inject random bits into the environment and open loopholes through which the eventual flood of information exits spontaneously upon reaching the critical mass of the infrastructure. If one had a big enough pipe and a subfold concentrator to reliably hijack the Border Gateway Protocol for Autonomous Systems . . . well, I don't need to tell you all of this, do I?"
A kitten rubs encouragingly at Black Hat's ankle, and he sighs. It had been his most genius plan yet.
"I was going to seed The Cloud, yes," he admits. "And then collect, concentrate and direct the resulting denial of service storm at whoever deserved it. How did you know?"
"Oh, when you've seen one diabolical weather controller, you've seen them all," Bow Tie answers dismissively as he surveys the destroyed workshop. "Classic villain tactic. Always the megalomaniacs with those ones--and hang on, why are these co-ordinates hard-wired to track the current position of Cory Doctorow? Anyway," he spins around and waggles a finger at Black Hat before heading back toward his blue box. "Just so you know, I've got my eye on you now. Also, these little tykes are getting hungry. And I'd add a few litter pans around before they start"--he wrinkles his nose--". . . improvising."
"What's to stop me rebuilding?" Black Hat asks, suddenly desperate for this strange person not to leave. Bow Tie stops and narrows his eyes, and Black Hat's nerve--that never, ever fails him, ever--starts to falter. "I could just kick all these cats to the curb and . . . start anew," he says, and trails off.
"Well, they've all got psychically active microchips, haven't they!" Bow Tie says witheringly. Then his demeanor immediately brightens. Behind them, the laptop starts as if by magic to open a series of web browsers displaying various cat macros as he continues. "Enhances their natural ability to foil Black Hats like you . . . oh." He pauses and looks appraisingly at Black Hat as though he's seeing something for the first time. "That is splendid, isn't it?" he says, and in one quick move plucks the hat off of Black Hat's head and rests it on his not inconsiderable coif, then tips it graciously and jaunts back into his blue box. There is the quick sound of rummaging, and a red fez flies through the doorway into the middle of the workshop, sending kittens scattering away from it in frizzed crab-like scampers.
"Fair trade," Bow Tie calls. "Try this one!" Then the door slams and the box wheezes and disappears before the stunned (former) Black Hat even has time to ask whether it has native IPv6 support.
In the ensuing relative silence, he feels nearly bereft of purpose, of identity. Anger surfaces and he storms toward one of the small furry vehicles of his destruction, intent on hurling it out the door into the cold. But as he reaches it, he slows. The kitten looks up at him with endearing eyes. The anger ebbs away.
"Aw, you're a kitty," he says, picking up the purring bundle. He collects the fez from the floor, places it on his head, and goes back over to the laptop to look for a good online deal on pet supplies.