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   was eerie.

  

   Par took a few more drags of his joint, watched the fish some more,

   drank his Coke and then turned his attention back to his computer.

  

   That night, Par saw something he shouldn't have. Not the usual hacker

   stuff. Not the inside of a university. Not even the inside of an

   international bank containing private financial information about

   Middle Eastern sheiks.

  

   What he saw was information about some sort of killer spy

   satellite--those are the words Par used to describe it to other

   hackers. He said the satellite was capable of shooting down other

   satellites caught spying, and he saw it inside a machine connected to

   TRW's Space and Defense division network. He stumbled upon it much the

   same way Force had accidentally found the CitiSaudi machine--through

   scanning. Par didn't say much else about it because the discovery

   scared the hell out of him.

  

   Suddenly, he felt like the man who knew too much. He'd been in and out

   of so many military systems, seen so much sensitive material, that he

   had become a little blasé about the whole thing. The information was

   cool to read but, God knows, he never intended to actually do anything

   with it. It was just a prize, a glittering trophy testifying to his

   prowess as a hacker. But this discovery shook him up, slapped him in

   the face, made him realise he was exposed.

  

   What would the Secret Service do to him when they found out? Hand him

   another little traffic ticket titled `502C'? No way. Let him tell the

   jury at his trial everything he knew? Let the newspapers print it? Not

   a snowball's chance in hell.

  

   This was the era of Ronald Reagan and George Bush, of space defence

   initiatives, of huge defence budgets and very paranoid military

   commanders who viewed the world as one giant battlefield with the evil

   empire of the Soviet Union.

  

   Would the US government just lock him up and throw away the key? Would

   it want to risk him talking to other prisoners--hardened criminals who

   knew how to make a dollar from that sort of information? Definitely

   not.

  

   That left just one option. Elimination.

  

   It was not a pretty thought. But to the seventeen-year-old hacker it

   was a very plausible one. Par considered what he could do and came up

   with what seemed to be the only solution.

  

   Run.