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   They often joked about the other's bad taste in music. Powerspike

   liked heavy metal, and Electron liked indie music. They shared a

   healthy disrespect for authority. Not just the authority of places

   they hacked into, like the US Naval Research Laboratories or NASA, but

   the authority of The Realm. When it came to politics, they both leaned

   to the left. However, their interest tended more toward

   anarchy--opposing symbols of the military-industrial complex--than to

   joining a political party.

  

   After their expulsion from The Realm, Electron had been a little

   isolated for a time. The tragedy of his personal life had contributed

   to the isolation. At the age of eight, he had seen his mother die of

   lung cancer. He hadn't witnessed the worst parts of her dying over two

   years, as she had spent some time in a German cancer clinic hoping for

   a reprieve. She had, however, come home to die, and Electron had

   watched her fade away.

  

   When the phone call from hospital came one night, Electron could tell

   what had happened from the serious tones of the adults. He burst into

   tears. He could hear his father answering questions on the phone. Yes,

   the boy had taken it hard. No, his sister seemed to be OK. Two years

   younger than Electron, she was too young to understand.

  

   Electron had never been particularly close to his sister. He viewed

   her as an unfeeling, shallow person--someone who simply skimmed along

   the surface of life. But after their mother's death, their father

   began to favour Electron's sister, perhaps because of her resemblance

   to his late wife. This drove a deeper, more subtle wedge between

   brother and sister.

  

   Electron's father, a painter who taught art at a local high school,

   was profoundly affected by his wife's death. Despite some barriers of

   social class and money, theirs had been a marriage of great affection

   and love and they made a happy home. Electron's father's paintings

   hung on almost every wall in the house, but after his wife's death he

   put down his brushes and never took them up again. He didn't talk

   about it. Once, Electron asked him why he didn't paint any more. He

   looked away and told Electron that he had `lost the motivation'.

  

   Electron's grandmother moved into the home to help her son care for

   his two children, but she developed Alzheimer's disease. The children

   ended up caring for her. As a teenager, Electron thought it was

   maddening caring for someone who couldn't even remember your name.

   Eventually, she moved into a nursing home.

  

   In August 1989, Electron's father arrived home from the doctor's

   office. He had been mildly ill for some time, but refused to take time

   off work to visit a doctor. He was proud of having taken only one

   day's sick leave in the last five years. Finally, in the holidays, he

   had seen a doctor who had conducted numerous tests. The results had

   come in.

  

   Electron's father had bowel cancer and the disease had spread. It

   could not be cured. He had two years to live at the most.

  

   Electron was nineteen years old at the time, and his early love of the

   computer, and particularly the modem, had already turned into a

   passion. Several years earlier his father, keen to encourage his

   fascination with the new machines, used to bring one of the school's

   Apple IIes home over weekends and holidays. Electron spent hours at