Chapter 23 – Tango’s Two BTCents (Part I)

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“Well, that was cryptic,” Frog said after Tango logged out.

Tango didn’t spend long on World of Warcraft, but he did spend long enough to deliver some confirmation to Hadaly about the academic cheating. He didn’t mention any upcoming meeting with the dean or why he was contacting her; instead he dropped the names of three ASU professors who he thought Elaine should look into—he also mentioned Bitcoin again.

Hadaly giggled and shrugged her virtual shoulders, “Name me an FBI agent we know who isn’t cryptic?”

“We don’t know any FBI agents,” Elaine said.

“No FBI agents aside from Tango,” Hadaly retorted.

Elaine ignored her, “I guess that means what he’s investigating may be related to our case as well… It also means that he knows a lot more about the case than I’m comfortable with.”

“When you spoke previously, Tango asked you about Bitcoin, didn’t he?” Elaine said. “I didn’t think it was that strange at the time—after all, he’s been asking numerous cryptography-related questions on the forums. But why did he make that the topic of discussion?”

Frog tossed her head to remove some errant hairs from her shoulder. “He did think that he was interviewing you,” she said. “It might be part of an investigation. He’s obviously had his sights on you for a while.”

Hadaly smiled. “I have a secret.”

“You don’t get secrets,” Elaine said.

The AI paused and let her smile dim a few watts but then she ramped it back up to a full amperage smirk. “So it’s not a secret, but it’s still fun,” she said. “After our talk about bitcoins got me to looking into what the FBI has been doing with them lately and…care to guess what I found?”

“No,” Elaine said.

“Spoil sport,” Hadaly replied, pouting at Frog.

“Outguessing a computer program,” the green-haired girl retorted. “That could take all day.”

“And all night,” the AI said. “Fine. It goes like this. Tango asks me about Bitcoin while we play together trawling the Deadmines for favor and certain IP addresses otherwise affiliated with our dear Tango—not the one he used to visit me in Warcraft though—start checking up on particular wallet addresses to see where coins are flowing.

“Those wallets have the usual flow in and out, large pulls in from a few months ago, and then they dole out funds between each other—but finally to one single other account that seems to be accessed via an IP address out of Russia. Goes to a proxy service that runs some sort of modem dial-out that I couldn’t trace in the time I had. No help there. The wallets the FBI is watching, however, they all get accessed by IP addresses straight out of ASU’s address block.”

Elaine munched on a pocky stick thoughtfully. Hadaly was resourceful, and willful, and that certainly was fine; although she wished that the little AI would spend more time on the proper projects—however, all that willful behavior had her stumble on something that might actually be salient to the investigation proper. After all, he had bugged the dean’s office, interviewed who he thought would be her about Bitcoin, and the FBI were tracking a people from ASU who were involved in using the currency.

“If Tango is investigating me because of Bitcoin transactions then the FBI is looking in the wrong place,” she said. “We only use Tor nodes for trading and that wouldn’t lead anyone back to ASU. Somehow I don’t think the FBI is that sophisticated.”

“If they’re looking for you—or me for that matter—they’re looking in ass-end of the wrong place,” Hadaly said.

“Therefore we must conclude that the FBI is looking for someone else,” Elaine said.

Frog shifted on the stairs and sniffed. “Didn’t the dean say that the FBI agents had come because of your indiscriminate use of research funds to purchase a giant flat of prepaid cell phones? The same one’s you’re using for encrypted communication, I might add. Cell phones, FBI, a la terrorism…and that leads to Bitcoin?”

“Looking at the available data,” Elaine said, “I don’t think these sets are related.”

“Alright.” Frog put her hands in her lap. “What’s next?”

Elaine tilted her head slightly and nodded, closing that thought, she moved onto the next available goal she’d set for the day: the investigation into the cheating ring for the dean.

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