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   a half dozen computer systems, the pursuer would never get past the

   battlements. Mendax could just disappear behind the firewall. He could

   be any one of 60000 NorTel employees on any one of 11000 computer

   systems.

  

   Mendax telnetted out to the Internet and explored a few sites,

   including the main computer system of Encore, a large computer

   manufacturer. He had seen Encore computers before inside at least one

   university in Melbourne. In his travels, he met up with Corrupt, the

   American hacker who told Par he had read Theorem's mail.

  

   Corrupt was intrigued by Mendax's extensive knowledge of different

   computer systems. When he learned that the Australian hacker was

   coming from inside the NorTel firewall, he was impressed.

  

   The hackers began talking regularly, often when Mendax was coming from

   inside NorTel. The black street fighter from inner-city Brooklyn and

   the white intellectual from a leafy outer Melbourne suburb bridged the

   gap in the anonymity of cyberspace. Sometime during their

   conversations Corrupt must have decided that Mendax was a worthy

   hacker, because he gave Mendax a few stolen passwords to Cray

   accounts.

  

   In the computer underground in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a Cray

   computer account had all the prestige of a platinum charge card. The

   sort of home computer most hackers could afford at that time had all

   the grunt of a golf cart engine, but a Cray was the Rolls-Royce of

   computers. Crays were the biggest, fastest computers in the world.

   Institutions such as large universities would shell out millions of

   dollars on a Cray so the astronomy or physics departments could solve

   enormous mathematical problems in a fraction of the time it would take

   on a normal computer. A Cray never sat idle overnight or during

   holiday periods. Cray time was billed out by the minute. Crays were

   elite.

  

   Best of all, Crays were master password crackers. The computer would

   go through Mendax's entire password cracking dictionary in just ten

   seconds. An encrypted password file would simply melt like butter in a

   fire. To a hacker, it was a beautiful sight, and Corrupt handing a few

   Cray accounts over to Mendax was a friendly show of mutual respect.

   

   Mendax reciprocated by offering Corrupt a couple of accounts on

   Encore. The two hackers chatted off and on and even tried to get

   Corrupt into NorTel. No luck. Not even two of the world's most notable

   hackers, working in tandem 10 000 miles apart, could get Corrupt

   through the firewall. The two hackers talked now and again, exchanging

   information about what their respective feds were up to and sharing

   the occasional account on interesting systems.

  

   The flat structure of the NorTel network created a good challenge

   since the only way to find out what was in a particular site, and its

   importance, was to invade the site itself. The IS hackers spent hours

   most nights roving through the vast system. The next morning one of

   them might call another to share tales of the latest exploits or a

   good laugh about a particularly funny piece of pilfered email. They

   were in high spirits about their adventures.

  

   Then, one balmy spring night, things changed.

  

   Mendax logged into NMELH1 about 2.30 a.m. As usual, he began by