At high noon on the first and third Sunday of every month (weather permitting), a troop assembles on Freedom Plaza -- some in latex uniforms, others under casual cover, as though they were just out for a leisurely "roll." Anything but. We're talking WAR here. That's Washington Area Rollerskaters, most of whom whiz around on in-line skates, which are sort of like ice skates with polyurethane balls instead of blades.

Roy Vanderhoef, co-organizer of the club, has been in-line since he rented a pair and fell in love with them four years ago. For months he's been "jumping in front of people, tripping them, anything to make them stop" so he can invite them to the meetings on the plaza, at 14th and Pennsylvania NW.

Trudi Davis is a comparative newcomer. "Notice how the wheels are fluorescent," she says. "That's so when you're sprawled out in the street nobody will drive over you." A writer for the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, Davis worries about such things as winding up on disability. It took her a week to learn how to skate down the block, never mind master the technique for stopping.

But Vanderhoef has a solution for that. "You really never do stop," he says, skating by in a spray of sweat. "You just change direction."