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   NorTel DMS telephone switch installed from Boston to Bahrain. What

   power! Mendax thought, what if you you could turn off 10000 phones in

   Rio de Janeiro, or give 5000 New Yorkers free calls one afternoon, or

   listen into private telephone conversations in Brisbane. The

   telecommunications world would be your oyster.


   Like their predecessors, the three IS hackers had started out in the

   Melbourne BBS scene. Mendax met Trax on Electric Dreams in about 1988,

   and Prime Suspect on Megaworks, where he used the handle Control

   Reset, not long after that. When he set up his own BBS at his home in

   Tecoma, a hilly suburb so far out of Melbourne that it was practically

   in forest, he invited both hackers to visit `A Cute Paranoia' whenever

   they could get through on the single phone line.


   Visiting on Mendax's BBS suited both hackers, for it was more private

   than other BBSes. Eventually they exchanged home telephone numbers,

   but only to talk modem-to-modem. For months, they would ring each

   other up and type on their computer screens to each other--never

   having heard the sound of the other person's voice. Finally, late in

   1990, the nineteen-year-old Mendax called up the 24-year-old Trax for

   a voice chat. In early 1991, Mendax and Prime Suspect, aged seventeen,

   also began speaking in voice on the phone.


   Trax seemed slightly eccentric, and possibly suffered from some sort

   of anxiety disorder. He refused to travel to the city, and he once

   made reference to seeing a psychiatrist. But Mendax usually found the

   most interesting people were a little unusual, and Trax was both.


   Mendax and Trax discovered they had a few things in common. Both came

   from poor but educated families, and both lived in the outer suburbs.

   However, they had very different childhoods.


   Trax's parents migrated to Australia from Europe. Both his father, a

   retired computer technician, and his mother spoke with a German

   accent. Trax's father was very much the head of the household, and

   Trax was his only son.


   By contrast, by the time he was fifteen Mendax had lived in a dozen

   different places including Perth, Magnetic Island, Brisbane,

   Townsville, Sydney, the Adelaide Hills, and a string of coastal towns

   in northern New South Wales and Western Australia. In fifteen years he

   had enrolled in at least as many different schools.


   His mother had left her Queensland home at age seventeen, after saving

   enough money from selling her paintings to buy a motorcycle, a tent

   and a road map of Australia. Waving goodbye to her stunned parents,

   both academics, she rode off into the sunset. Some 2000 kilometres

   later, she arrived in Sydney and joined the thriving counter-culture

   community. She worked as an artist and fell in love with a rebellious

   young man she met at an anti-Vietnam demonstration.


   Within a year of Mendax's birth, his mother's relationship with his

   father had ended. When Mendax was two, she married a fellow artist.

   What followed was many turbulent years, moving from town to town as

   his parents explored the '70s left-wing, bohemian subculture. As a

   boy, he was surrounded by artists. His stepfather staged and directed

   plays and his mother did make-up, costume and set design.


   One night in Adelaide, when Mendax was about four, his mother and a

   friend were returning from a meeting of anti-nuclear protesters. The