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   Mendax made many of his friends through the computer community. He

   found Trax easy to talk to and they often spent up to five hours on a

   single phone call. Prime Suspect, on the other hand, was hard work on

   the phone.

  

   Quiet and introverted, Prime Suspect always seemed to run out of

   conversation after five minutes. Mendax was himself naturally shy, so

   their talks were often filled with long silences. It wasn't that

   Mendax didn't like Prime Suspect, he did. By the time the three

   hackers met in person at Trax's home in mid-1991, he considered Prime

   Suspect more than just a fellow hacker in the tight-knit IS circle.

   Mendax considered him a friend.

  

   Prime Suspect was a boy of veneers. To most of the world, he appeared

   to be a studious year 12 student bound for university from his upper

   middle-class grammar school. The all-boys school never expected less

   from its students and the possibility of attending a TAFE--a

   vocational college--was never discussed as an option. University was

   the object. Any student who failed to make it was quietly swept under

   the carpet like some sort of distasteful food dropping.

  

   Prime Suspect's own family situation did not mirror the veneer of

   respectability portrayed by his school. His father, a pharmacist, and

   his mother, a nurse, had been in the midst of an acrimonious divorce

   battle when his father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. In this

   bitter, antagonistic environment, the eight-year-old Prime Suspect was

   delivered to his father's bedside in hospice for a rushed few moments

   to bid him farewell.

  

   Through much of his childhood and adolescence, Prime Suspect's mother

   remained bitter and angry about life, and particularly her

   impoverished financial situation. When he was eight, Prime Suspect's

   older sister left home at sixteen, moved to Perth and refused to speak

   to her mother. In some ways, Prime Suspect felt he was expected be

   both child and de facto parent. All of which made him grow up faster

   in some ways, but remain immature in others.

  

   Prime Suspect responded to the anger around him by retreating into his

   room. When he bought his first computer, an Apple IIe, at age thirteen

   he found it better company than any of his relatives. The computers at

   school didn't hold much interest for him, since they weren't connected

   to the outside world via modem. After reading about BBSes in the Apple

   Users' Society newsletter, he saved up for his own modem and soon

   began connecting into various BBSes.

  

   School did, however, provide the opportunity to rebel, albeit

   anonymously, and he conducted extensive pranking campaigns. Few

   teachers suspected the quiet, clean-cut boy and he was rarely caught.

   Nature had endowed Prime Suspect with the face of utter innocence.

   Tall and slender with brown curly hair, his true character only showed

   in the elfish grin which sometimes passed briefly across his baby

   face. Teachers told his mother he was underachieving compared to his

   level of intelligence, but had few complaints otherwise.

  

   By year 10, he had become a serious hacker and was spending every

   available moment at his computer. Sometimes he skipped school, and he

   often handed assignments in late. He found it difficult to come up

   with ever more creative excuses and sometimes he imagined telling his

   teachers the truth. `Sorry I didn't get that 2000-word paper done but