Page 126


Undergound. Go to Table of Contents.

   disinterested or emotionally cold and breaking into violent outbursts

   of anger.

  

   But it was Phoenix's younger brother who seemed to be the problem

   child. He ran away from home at around seventeen and dealt in drugs

   before eventually finding his feet. Yet, unlike Phoenix, his brother's

   problems had been laid bare for all to see. Hitting rock bottom forced

   him to take stock of his life and come to terms with his situation.

  

   In contrast, Phoenix found less noticeable ways of expressing his

   rebellion. Among them was his enthusiasm for tools of power--the

   martial arts, weapons such as swords and staffs, and social

   engineering. During his final years of secondary school, while still

   living at his grandmother's home, Phoenix took up hacking. He hung

   around various Melbourne BBSes, and then he developed an on-line

   friendship with Force.

  

   Force watched Phoenix's hacking skills develop with interest and after

   a couple of months he invited him to join The Realm. It was the

   shortest initiation of any Realm member, and the vote to include the

   new hacker was unanimous. Phoenix proved to be a valuable member,

   collecting information about new systems and networks for The Realm's

   databases. At their peak of hacking activity, Force and Phoenix spoke

   on the phone almost every day.

  

   Phoenix's new-found acceptance contrasted with the position of

   Electron, who visited The Realm regularly for a few months in 1988. As

   Phoenix basked in the warmth of Force's approval, the

   eighteen-year-old Electron felt the chill of his increasing scorn.

  

   Force eventually turfed Electron and his friend, Powerspike, out of

   his exclusive Melbourne club of hackers. Well, that was how Force told

   it. He told the other members of The Realm that Electron had committed

   two major sins. The first was that he had been wasting resources by

   using accounts on OTC's Minerva system to connect to Altos, which

   meant the accounts would be immediately tracked and killed.

  

   Minerva admins such as Michael Rosenberg--sworn enemy of The

   Realm--recognised the Altos NUA. Rosenberg was OTC's best defence

   against hackers. He had spent so much time trying to weed them out of

   Minerva that he knew their habits by heart: hack, then zoom over to

   Altos for a chat with fellow hackers, then hack some more.

  

   Most accounts on Minerva were held by corporations. How many

   legitimate users from ANZ Bank would visit Altos? None. So when

   Rosenberg saw an account connecting to Altos, he silently observed

   what the hacker was doing--in case he bragged on the German chat

   board--then changed the password and notified the client, in an effort

   to lock the hacker out for good.

  

   Electron's second sin, according to Force, was that he had been

   withholding hacking information from the rest of the group. Force's

   stated view--though it didn't seem to apply to him personally--was one

   in, all in.

  

   It was a very public expulsion. Powerspike and Electron told each

   other they didn't really care. As they saw it, they might have visited

   The Realm BBS now and then but they certainly weren't members of The

   Realm. Electron joked with Powerspike, `Who would want to be a member

   of a no-talent outfit like The Realm?' Still, it must have hurt.