Hunt the Truth Season 1/Blog posts
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Benjamin (Blog): A few months ago I was hired to do an in-depth profile of the Master Chief. Join me each week for a new episode.
Benjamin (Blog): An investigation into the origins of modern-day superhero Master Chief, this digital log serves as part docu-diary, part audio archive. Join me each week for a new episode as we question everything and assume nothing.
Benjamin (Blog): For decades, I’ve served the galaxy as a journalist and war photographer. I’ve covered human-interest stories on Earth and in the Inner and Outer Colonies. I’ve also contracted for the government, covering military affairs. I was at New Mombasa when the Master Chief first appeared to combat the Covenant attack.
Benjamin (Blog): Join me next Sunday 3/29 as we dig deeper.
Benjamin (Blog): Here’s the offer letter from ONI, outlining the assignment. Sounded so easy when it all started. How could I say no?
Benjamin (Blog): Here it is. An old, tattered census record with one line of basic information and a single letter next to John’s name: D.
Benjamin (Blog): This is the infamous photo I took that fateful day at New Mombasa. Perfectly polished propaganda. But to give you the whole picture, here’s the original with UNSC and ONI notes. Never before seen.
Benjamin (Blog): These are just a few of the screens Katrina sent me after we spoke. Diary entries from when she was seven years old. Proving she knew John. Proving she was there when John died.
Benjamin (Blog): This is a photo I shot on a previous assignment. But it never saw the light of day because it didn’t pass UNSC standards. Very few got to see a planet firsthand after a Covenant glassing. To look out over all that death and destruction. The desolation is devastating. A petrified sea of what once was. This image has haunted me for years.
Benjamin (Blog): Here's a postcard Walker sent me from Castellaneta. The "sunny side" of Saturn looks nice. Not a bad place to retire.
Benjamin (Blog): Mshak sent me this picture of some UNSC recruitment posters featuring the Master Chief, all tagged to hell. The relationship between Spartans and ODST has always been a little shaky, but this seems like something else entirely.
Benjamin (Blog): I stared at this screen for what felt like an eternity. I was one click away from tucking my tail and being the good dog Sullivan hired me to be. Or I could take door #2 and crack this story wide open. Just this one click that would determine the rest of my life. I guess you know which path I chose.
Benjamin (Blog): Here’s the Notice of Violation and penalty I got slapped with for “unruly and uncooperative behavior.” Not a nice note to wake up to after getting tranquilized and knocked-out in flight.
Benjamin (Blog): After being holed up in my place for weeks, it was about time I had a few visitors… This was not the kind of visit I was expecting.
Benjamin (Blog): Since going live with my story a few weeks ago, my inbox has been overflowing with an insane influx of messages. I’ve been archiving them as they come in, but I’ve kept Michael Sullivan’s at the top as a glaring and terrifying reminder of ONI’s thinly veiled threats. You can listen to a few of the message that came in here.
Xbox Tumblr: You have 343 new Messages.
Soundcloud: They’ve been inundating my inbox with messages like these around the clock for the past four days: voices from all corners of inhabited space, a staggering sample size of factual testimonials, and a deluge of theories in every shape and color imaginable.
Earlier this week I released the beginning of my story, the hunt for truth about the Master Chief, posing a large, messy question to anyone who might listen. And now, even though I wasn’t sure how to process all of it, answers were flooding in—I suddenly had direct access to a hive mind that spanned the galaxy, and it was buzzing loud.
Benjamin (Blog): I couldn't believe my ears. From hocking Hogs on Ganymede to shilling fake stories about the Master Chief, Walker's taken us all for a ride.
Benjamin (Blog): I jumped to my feet when the voice buzzed in, stinging my ears from the other room. She was finally here.
Benjamin (Blog): This image has been haunting me ever since I first saw the video from Biko. I feel like the Master Chief is looking right at me. The incident report was bad, but this makes it so much worse.
Benjamin (Blog): It felt like all of humanity was in mourning. Memorials were everywhere. But it was the one on Biko, where they found Richard Sekibo’s body, that I couldn’t put out of my mind.
Benjamin (Blog): Going incognito had cut me off completely. Shuttered schools, the paranoia... the thousands-deep crowds of colonists, shouting for ONI's head.
Benjamin (Blog): The report wasn’t nearly as unsettling as the thought that there might be more. How many incidents—how many deaths—had been erased to protect the SPARTAN program?
Benjamin (Blog): Sapien Sunrise propaganda was pretty common in the Outer Colonies, but I'd never thought of the group as much more than pamphlet-pushers. Turns out ONI made the same mistake.
Benjamin (Blog): I had to give it to them – for a group of terrorists, they had a good marketing department.
Benjamin (Blog): I couldn’t believe the station had survived, and yet here it was—an administrative tomb sealed in layers of glass.
Benjamin (Blog): It was hard to imagine this wasteland as a city. Glass stretched for miles in every direction, frozen like an ocean in mid-churn. Even here, where excavation had left some kind of human thumbprint, the landscape was a harsh one.
From Manikata to Site #1774:
The Silicate Industry and the Profits of Tragedy on the Outskirts
When an alien race launches a catastrophic global attack on a human planet, melting everything on the surface into a chemical soup, most of us would look at that and see a horrifying tragedy. But BXR Mining Corporation saw a business opportunity. As they annihilated world after world in the Outer Colonies with blistering plasma bombardments, the Covenant was doing the silicate industry a solid—literally liquidating every resource curated by society.
Cities that belonged to millions had now been reduced to concentrated surface deposits that belonged to no one. In fact, as part of the rebuilding effort, governments actually offered subsidies to anyone who would remove these building blocks of civilization, already repackaged in convenient silicate glass form. BXR and the rest of the cartel got paid to claim mother lodes of raw materials, and then they sold them at bargain rates. Ever since, silicates had been quietly booming.
Politicians claimed that these open-pit operations made up a crucial first step in the rebuilding process; but virtually none of the resources mined were used to rebuild anything in the Outer Colonies. Market prices sent everything inward, for industries in the Inner Colonies to make every product imaginable. The prices were so low that no one seemed to mind that a disturbing percentage of those products contained the partial remains of millions of melted people. BXR just called those silicates "organically enriched"— not coincidentally richer in valuable zeolites - and I guess when you have ungodly amounts of money, you can call the commercial sale of genocide victims whatever you want and an expensive PR campaign to infer that the dead had all simply evaporated. A partial, but cynical contortion of the messier truth.
I arrived on BXR1774 looking to dig up the truth of the Master Chief; but I unearthed something else along the way: the wholly foreign cultures that accrete in isolated mining settlements. Bliss wasn't a planet anymore; it was an industrial excavation site—not legally BXR's property, but they effectively controlled everything here. And within the confines of the operations perimeter, it's an oddly bustling world: a complex of bars and casinos and commissaries, street vendors with kiosks on every corner selling shockingly expensive goods. You wouldn’t imagine a tiny, gold-plated COM-Pad worth upwards of 6,000 credits to be a hot commodity in a mining settlement; but it was. Everywhere I looked, I saw roughnecks walking around in filthy coveralls, swiping away on their high-end devices.
It seemed as though the miners lived a hard, weird life. Mostly loners, living in barracks, doing back-breaking work 100 hours a week and making a lot of money. People, as it turns out, are much more durable in silicate dust storms than mechanized mining equipment, at least until the constant exposure catches up with them. Apparently, this is how they spent their money—living in this noisy, grimy, depressing place where above the sounds of street commerce and machines and wind, the only sound seemed to come from the countless cawing crows that survived off of the settlement's trash.
Further out, it was all quarries, spanning into the distance, gouged a quarter-mile deep into the crust, massive drills and earth-movers growling way down at the bottom. From the road above, the workers looked like ants.
Beyond the periphery though, I saw the real glassed planet: a wavy, bumpy, chaotic sea of brittle, black glass, cresting in the strangest shapes, crunching and cracking underfoot, jaggedly rough, then suddenly smooth. The landscape resembled a bizarro, surrealist’s nightmare, completely abstract until a familiar shape would materialize from the chaos—skeletons of buildings, pieces of vehicles, the most unexpected pieces of civilization. I guess everything melts a little differently.
I didn't realize how striking BXR's appropriation of land was until it dawned on me that no one working here ever referenced what this place used to be. Everyone who remembered that life was either dead or long gone. Still, out here, some sections had been cleared away—unlike the extreme gouging of the mining operations though, this work had been done with care. I'd heard about that—people going back to their home, clearing away the glass.
Even if they couldn't stay or didn’t want to, they'd spent all that time, trying to reclaim the small plot of land that had been taken from them. From the meaningless weirdness, reminders of what had been seemed to emerge and recede everywhere: crude memorials to victims carved into the glass, curious remnants of lives, lived and lost, reaching from the sludge, frozen in time. The occasional shrine popped up, usually shredded by the storms, but in some places, the sentiments had survived. I repeatedly had to remind myself that half-a-million people used to live in this city. It was their home. It was called Manikata — but to BXR employees, this was simply Site #1774.
Whether you could put the history out of your mind or not though, it was impossible not to see the destruction—it was everywhere. I began to wonder what would happen if the Covenant's attack on New Mombasa six years ago had claimed all of Earth. Or Mars even. What if the Covenant had decimated one of the worlds where UEG Senators and the media moguls had their vacation homes? I’d imagine BXR and the rest of the industry would tread over that wreckage with a little more reverence. We’ll never know though, because no one would ever have let that happen.
That reality had to be infuriating for the people who had carved out a life in this remote region of space. While the patriots of Earth often dismissed the grievances of the Outer Colonists as the whining of entitled children, it occurred to me these people had actually shown remarkable restraint. They'd had more than enough reason to stage a bloody revolt years ago. Perhaps if the Inner Colonists could walk these glass troughs, they wouldn’t be so outraged by the idea of a fight for independence in the Outskirts. Civil conflict would be horrible, but in a way, it would just be the bill finally coming due.
If they could see what I had seen, they would know that so many out here had gone through so much pain. This was the consequence of powerful forces—ONI, BXR, the media—operating in the shadows. Whether for money or power, too many of them had exploited hard-working people, courageous people who stood tall and held themselves accountable—trying to do the right thing, trying to make their corner of space a little bit better. But greed is a pig’s mouth with a black hole for a stomach; and if you let it, it will devour everything that makes us good.
As my freighter cleared the orbital space around Bliss, leaving the Outskirts behind for the comforts of the Inner Colonies, I wondered how many innocent people’s remains were spread throughout the cubic mile of silicates in the cargo holds below. How many people who had tried to make their corner of space a little bit better? How many parts per million of "organically enriched" silicates was low enough, that after tallying all those profits, BXR and all the rest of us, could justify that human cost?
I guess I used to be a pragmatist—a human version of the A.I. that steered ONI's policy—believing that there was always a cost-benefit calculation. But I don’t think I believe that anymore. Because those bits of silica that still hung over that broken planet, trapped in the atmosphere of a world that had been erased, hurt like hell when they hit you in the face. And the insulation that a contractor had squashed into the floor of my apartment, purchased at a bargain rate—a discount made possible by the loss of so many lives in the Outer Colonies—was filled with those same little bits of glass. Now that I'd seen where they came from, the fact that some of those silicates were organically enriched was still scratching at my skin.
The price of our freedom and safety had been steep. ONI had buried that truth under the floorboards, but now they’d torn a few of them up to make a point. But I wasn't scared anymore.
How many people had our government kept in the dark? How many had been rendered powerless or ground up for profit? How many sacrificed people were too many? As far as I was concerned, the answer was one.
Benjamin (Blog): How far would you go to defend your heroes? Looking at the statue of the Chief on Barrier, I knew what my answer was.
Petra (Blog): I guess it's true what they say, glassed planets have bad records.