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   `Yeah, there's a party going on over here too.'

  

   Mendax went back in to the kitchen where an officer was tagging the

   growing number of possessions seized by the police. One of the female

   officers was struggling to move his printer to the pile. She smiled

   sweetly at Mendax and asked if he would move it for her. He obliged.

  

   The police finally left Mendax's house at about 3 a.m. They had spent

   three and half hours and seized 63 bundles of his personal belongings,

   but they had not charged him with a single crime.

  

   When the last of the unmarked police cars had driven away, Mendax

   stepped out into the silent suburban street. He looked around. After

   making sure that no-one was watching him, he walked to a nearby phone

   booth and rang Trax.

  

   `The AFP raided my house tonight.' he warned his friend. `They just

   left.'

  

   Trax sounded odd, awkward. `Oh. Ah. I see.'

  

   `Is there something wrong? You sound strange,' Mendax said.

  

   `Ah. No ... no, nothing's wrong. Just um ... tired. So, um ... so the

   feds could ... ah, be here any minute ...' Trax's voice trailed off.

  

   But something was very wrong. The AFP were already at Trax's house,

   and they had been there for 10 hours.

  

   The IS hackers waited almost three years to be charged. The threat of

   criminal charges hung over their heads like personalised Swords of

   Damocles. They couldn't apply for a job, make a friend at TAFE or plan

   for the future without worrying about what would happen as a result of

   the AFP raids of 29 October 1991.

  

   Finally, in July 1994, each hacker received formal charges--in the

   mail. During the intervening years, all three hackers went through

   monumental changes in their lives.

  

   Devastated by the break-down of his marriage and unhinged by the AFP

   raid, Mendax sank into a deep depression and consuming anger. By the

   middle of November 1991, he was admitted to hospital.

  

   He hated hospital, its institutional regimens and game-playing

   shrinks. Eventually, he told the doctors he wanted out. He might be

   crazy, but hospital was definitely making him crazier. He left there

   and stayed at his mother's house. The next year was the worst of his

   life.

  

   Once a young person leaves home--particularly the home of a

   strong-willed parent--it becomes very difficult for him or her to

   return. Short visits might work, but permanent residency often fails.

   Mendax lived for a few days at home, then went walkabout. He slept in

   the open air, on the banks of rivers and creeks, in grassy

   meadows--all on the country fringes of Melbourne's furthest suburbs.

   Sometimes he travelled closer to the city, overnighting in places like

   the Merri Creek reserve.

  

   Mostly, he haunted Sherbrooke Forest in the Dandenong Ranges National

   Park. Because of the park's higher elevation, the temperature dropped