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   the time, however, Pad left the older Atari alone. His elder brother,

   an aspiring chemist, used it for writing his PhD thesis.

  

   Before dialling out, Pad checked that no-one was on the house's single

   phone line. Finding it free, he went to check his email on Lutzifer. A

   few minutes after watching his machine connect to the German board, he

   heard a soft thud, followed by a creaking. Pad stopped typing, looked

   up from his machine and listened. He wondered if his brother, reading

   in their bedroom upstairs, or his parents, watching telly in the back

   lounge room, could hear the creaking.

  

   The sound became more pronounced and Pad swung around and looked

   toward the hallway. In a matter of seconds, the front door frame had

   been cracked open, prising the door away from its lock. The wood had

   been torn apart by some sort of car jack, pumped up until the door

   gave way.

  

   Suddenly, a group of men burst through from the front doorstep, dashed

   down the long hallway and shot up the carpeted stairs to Pad's

   bedroom.

  

   Still sitting at his computer downstairs, Pad swiftly flicked his

   modem, and then his computer, off--instantly killing his connection

   and everything on his screen. He turned back toward the door leading

   to the sitting room and strained to hear what was happening upstairs.

   If he wasn't so utterly surprised, he would almost have laughed. He

   realised that when the police had dashed up to his bedroom, they had

   been chasing every stereotype about hackers they had probably ever

   read. The boy. In his bedroom. Hunched over his computer. Late at

   night.

  

   They did find a young man in the bedroom, with a computer. But it was

   the wrong one, and for all intents and purposes the wrong computer. It

   took the police almost ten minutes of quizzing Pad's brother to work

   out their mistake.

  

   Hearing a commotion, Pad's parents had rushed into the hallway while

   Pad peered from the doorway of the front sitting room. A uniformed

   police officer ushered everyone back into the room, and began asking

   Pad questions.

  

   `Do you use computers? Do you use the name Pad on computers?' they

   asked.

  

   Pad concluded the game was up. He answered their questions truthfully.

   Hacking was not such a serious crime after all, he thought. It wasn't

   as if he had stolen money or anything. This would be a drama, but he

   was easy-going. He would roll with the punches, cop a slap on the

   wrist and soon the whole thing would be over and done with.

  

   The police took Pad to his bedroom and asked him questions as they

   searched the room. The bedroom had a comfortably lived-in look, with a

   few small piles of clothes in the corner, some shoes scattered across

   the floor, the curtains hanging crooked, and a collection of music

   posters--Jimi Hendrix and The Smiths--taped to the wall.

  

   A group of police hovered around his computer. One of them began to

   search through Pad's books on the shelves above the PC, checking each

   one as he pulled it down. A few well-loved Spike Milligan works. Some

   old chess books from when he was captain of the local chess team.