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   evidence of his break-in after he left and plug it. On the

   other hand, he didn't want the people at Purdue tracing his

   connections.

  

   He waited a few more minutes, trying to hedge his bets. Feeling nervy

   as the extended silence emanating from Spaf's machine wore on, Phoenix

   decided to jump. With the lost treasures of Aladdin's cave fading in

   his mind's eye like a mirage, Phoenix killed his connection.

  

   Electron and Phoenix talked on the phone, moodily contemplating their

   losses. It was a blow, but Electron reminded himself that getting

   Deszip was never going to be easy. At least they had the passphrase to

   unlock the encrypted Deszip taken from Dartmouth.

  

   Soon, however, they discovered a problem. There had to be one,

   Electron thought. They couldn't just have something go off without a

   hitch for a change. That would be too easy. The problem this time was

   that when they went searching for their copy from Dartmouth, which had

   been stored several months before, it had vanished. The Dartmouth

   system admin must have deleted it.

  

   It was maddening. The frustration was unbearable. Each time they had

   Deszip just within their grasp, it slipped away and

   disappeared. Yet each time they lost their grip, it only deepened

   their desire to capture the elusive prize. Deszip was fast becoming an

   all-consuming obsession for Phoenix and Electron.

  

   Their one last hope was the second copy of the encrypted Dartmouth

   Deszip file they had given to Gandalf, but that hope did not burn

   brightly. After all, if the Australians' copy had been deleted, there

   was every likelihood that the Brit's copy had suffered the same fate.

   Gandalf's copy hadn't been stored on his own computer. He had put it

   on some dark corner of a machine in Britain.

  

   Electron and Phoenix logged onto Altos and waited for Pad or Gandalf

   to show up.

  

   Phoenix typed .s for a list of who was on-line. He saw that Pad was

   logged on:

  

   No Chan User

  

   0 Guest

  

   1 Phoenix

  

   2 Pad

  

   Guest 0 was Electron. He usually logged on as Guest, partly because he

   was so paranoid about being busted and because he believed operators

   monitored his connections if they knew it was Electron logging in.

   They seemed to take great joy in sniffing the password to his own

   account on Altos. Then, when he had logged off, they logged in and

   changed his password so he couldn't get back under the name Electron.

   Nothing was more annoying. Phoenix typed, `Hey, Pad. How's it going?'

  

   Pad wrote back, `Feeny! Heya.'

  

   `Do you and Gand still have that encrypted copy of Deszip we gave you

   a few months ago?'