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   well below the rest of Melbourne in winter. In summer, the mosquitoes

   were unbearable and Mendax sometimes woke to find his face swollen and

   bloated from their bites.

  

   For six months after the AFP raid, Mendax didn't touch a computer.

   Slowly, he started rebuilding his life from the ground up. By the time

   the AFP's blue slips--carrying 29 charges--arrived in July 1994, he

   was settled in a new house with his child. Throughout his period of

   transition, he talked to Prime Suspect and Trax on the phone

   regularly--as friends and fellow rebels, not fellow hackers. Prime

   Suspect had been going through his own set of problems.

  

   While he hacked, Prime Suspect didn't do many drugs. A little weed,

   not much else. There was no time for drugs, girls, sports or anything

   else. After the raid, he gave up hacking and began smoking more dope.

   In April 1992, he tried ecstasy for the first time--and spent the next

   nine months trying to find the same high. He didn't consider himself

   addicted to drugs, but the drugs had certainly replaced his addiction

   to hacking and his life fell into a rhythm.

  

   Snort some speed or pop an ecstasy tablet on Saturday night. Go to a

   rave. Dance all night, sometimes for six hours straight. Get home

   mid-morning and spend Sunday coming down from the drugs. Get high on

   dope a few times during the week, to dull the edges of desire for the

   more expensive drugs. When Saturday rolled around, do it all over

   again. Week in, week out. Month after month.

  

   Dancing to techno-music released him. Dancing to it on drugs cleared

   his mind completely, made him feel possessed by the music. Techno was

   musical nihilism; no message, and not much medium either. Fast,

   repetitive, computer-synthesised beats, completely stripped of vocals

   or any other evidence of humanity. He liked to go to techno-night at

   The Lounge, a city club, where people danced by themselves, or in

   small, loose groups of four or five. Everyone watched the video screen

   which provided an endless stream of ever-changing, colourful

   computer-generated geometric shapes pulsing to the beat.

  

   Prime Suspect never told his mother he was going to a rave. He just

   said he was going to a friend's for the night. In between the drugs,

   he attended his computer science courses at TAFE and worked at the

   local supermarket so he could afford his weekly $60 ecstasy tablet,

   $20 rave entry fee and regular baggy of marijuana.

  

   Over time, the drugs became less and less fun. Then, one Sunday, he

   came down off some speed hard. A big crash. The worst he had ever

   experienced. Depression set in, and then paranoia. He knew the police

   were still watching him. They had followed him before.

  

   At his police interviews, he learned that an AFP officer had followed

   him to an AC/DC concert less than two weeks before he had been busted.

   The officer told him the AFP wanted to know what sort of friends Prime

   Suspect associated with--and the officer had been treated to the spectre

   of seven other arm-waving, head-thumping, screaming teenagers just like

   Prime Suspect himself.

  

   Now Prime Suspect believed that the AFP had started following him

   again. They were going to raid him again, even though he had given up

   hacking completely. It didn't make sense. He knew the premonition was

   illogical, but he couldn't shake it.