Chapter 26 – Something Strange is Afoot (Part I)

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“Boss,” Hadaly said, her voice projected from the speakers on Elaine’s Enoch so that Frog could hear it as well. “I think that Operation Honeypot has revealed something interesting when correlated with the bitcoin transactions related to the Tango’s professors.”

Elaine and Frog had crossed most of the campus between the Math buildings and the Office of the Dean but they both stopped in their tracks when Hadaly’s announcement came over the speaker. Recalling the gravity of the situation she’d seen projected on the screen and the imminent arrival of Tango at the offices, Elaine waved for Frog to keep walking and she herself quickened her pace. It would still be three minutes and approximately twenty seconds to reach the offices.

“Go ahead,” she said. “We’re listening.”

“I’m still collecting data from the student records but it’s beginning to reveal that those students ‘cheated’ by the chaos pump dynamics also appear to have various Bitcoin wallets associated with them that sent funds to the professors listed as their advisors in their dossiers.”

Frog hmmed softly and shook her head. “Wouldn’t that mean that the students involved weren’t in fact ‘cheated’ but were part of the scam? I thought we’d concluded that they must have been totally unaware of what was happening.”

A long, drawn out pause from the AI brought a raised eyebrow from Elaine and Frog spun her fingers in the air with a hurry-up motion.

“Data is still coming in,” Hadaly said finally, “but I am at an impasse on an answer to this discrepancy in the previous reasoning. If I may conjecture, I do not believe the flaw is with Elaine’s conclusion; but with the presentation of the data.”

“How so?” asked Elaine.

“The wallets and their placement seem to coincide too closely with the effect of the chaos cheating ring fluctuations,” Hadaly said, “and from a little poking around some of the wallets received bitcoins from elsewhere and none of them show any traces of anything exchanged. In every case, there’s also too much public information that links the wallets. Coinbase accounts with public info, MtGox, other exchanges that allow me to easily tell who’s wallet it is… One or two people might be a coincidence, but every single student?”

“So you’re trying not to say you think they might have been forged,” Frog said.

“Not forged,” Elaine said, tapping a finger on her chin as she walked—the building that the Office of the Dean of Engineering was housed in began to resolve in the dimming light. “A reverse-style legend, as when spies need a back story that can be checked. I think this is starting to fall into place. I think that whoever is currently running this scheme may be trying to double-cross the professors involved in the making of the software so that if something goes wrong, there’s a lot of blame fingers to point around.”

“You don’t think that Tango’s professors are in this alone?”

“I don’t think that most academic mathematical geniuses would just make a functioning Rössler Engine and keep it under wraps,” Elaine said, in her I’m-thinking-out-loud far-away voice. She turned her head towards Frog and squinted one eye. “Would you?”

Frog smirked. “Doll, I think you underestimate human greed.”

Every light in the building ahead was out and the sun had begun to streak rays of red across an ever darkening sky. Elaine pulled her goggles down and they superimposed a brighter world in augmented vision—including the silhouettes of two shadowy figures in the office beyond—one of them the dean and the other an unknown tormentor.

“The plot thickens. We must move quickly,” Elaine said. “We should get inside before Tango gets here. We’ll need him for the next part of this plan to work.”

With swift fingers she keyed in the spellcode that would unlock the door to the offices (without unlocking the rest of them; she opted for a program that simply infiltrated the electronic lock at the front and made it think it had received the proper key code.)

“…and possibly to rescue the dean.”

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