Hunt the Truth Season 1/Transcripts

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Episode 00

Benjamin (Blog): What began as a high-profile hero story quickly turns into a full-blown investigation. Sources claim they know the “real Master Chief”: The boy, the soldier, the hero…the traitor? But who’s telling the truth?

Episode 00: PRIMER
Benjamin Giraud: When you're a war journalist, you see a lot of horrible stuff. All the stories I've done—I've seen the absolute worst of humanity. But I've also gotten to seen the best. Six years ago, I saw him. The greatest, most mysterious hero of our time, up-close in action. I witnessed, first hand, what he did that day, and it changed everything for me. Anyone listening to this knows exactly who I'm talking about. The guy who saved us, saved Earth, saved mankind: Master Chief Petty Officer SPARTAN-117, whom we now know as simply "the Master Chief".

A few months ago I was hired to do an in-depth profile on the Chief—exclusive access, the whole thing—since then, I've gotten to talk to a lot of people who claim they know the real Master Chief; the boy, the soldier, the hero... the traitor? See, I've always known where the story was going before it started. I'd known exactly the story I wanted to tell for years, the story of all of us wanted to hear—glossy, inspiring, the blockbuster hero biography. That's all this was supposed to be. But the truth isn't always that clean.

When I pulled that first loose thread, something broke. Now everything is caving in and I find myself stuck with all these ugly questions, questions I never intended to ask. Fabricated histories? People who aren't who they say they are? Cover-ups of cover-ups? That steady drumbeat of theories that used to sound insane, now they don't seem so '"out there".

And these disturbing rumors, reports of anomalies. Something big is happening in deep space, and I can't even corroborate a single fact about one man's life. It's clear to me now. I can't fix the pretty story, but maybe I can break the ugly one.

For the first time in my career I can honestly say I don't know the shape of where this is going. And in fact, the possibilities have me lying awake at night. But I believe we all deserve to know the real story. We need to know where this leads. I know I do.

So I find myself back at the beginning. Who is the Master Chief? Where does he come from? And is he keeping us safe?

Join me as I hunt the truth about the Master Chief.

Episode 01

Benjamin (Blog): Master Chief was born in the metropolis of Elysium City. Then known as John, he grew up like any kid in the Outer Colonies. Childhood playmates and school teachers share charming stories. But what happens when a single document throws everything into question?

Episode 01: A HAIRLINE FRACTURE

Benjamin Giraud (voiceover): There's a story you tell yourself when the world blows up in your face. There's no way you could have seen it coming. No one could have, so there was no way to stop it. This is what lets you sleep at night. But go back in your mind to before it all happened. Replay it in your head, except this time, maybe you'll see it: something small, out of place. Maybe it's just a single thread, but it's the truth. Nobody saw it coming when they arrived, an alien race known as the Covenant. Before 2552, there was no way anything like that could ever happen on Earth. On one of those distant planets in the Outer Colonies, maybe. But an attack on Earth? Couldn't happen, until it did. It's called glassing. Covenant warships rain plasma down on a planet until everything and everyone on the surface melts. Usually it's complete world destruction. Earth only got a taste. The prolonged orbital bombardment destroyed East Africa, killing millions before it ended. None of us were safe anymore. But something else happened that day, too. Or someone. You've heard the eyewitness accounts, every skeptic has seen the footage, I was there, and yet still to this day it's unbelievable. A massive man in green armor appeared, seemingly out of nowhere in New Mombasa, performed superhuman feats to singlehandedly repel a global invasion, and then disappeared. This was the Master Chief. The Unified Earth Government's military body, the UNSC, eventually released a statement: who he is, where he came from, and that he's continuing to keep us safe. And that was that. But, who is the Master Chief? Where did he come from? Is he continuing to keep us safe? I'm Benjamin Giraud, and this is Hunt the Truth. For all us cosmopolitan Earth types who don't venture into the far reaches of space, there's a planet way out in the Outer Colonies called Eridanus II. If you're thinking of visiting, don't bother. It was catastrophically glassed in a Covenant attack in 2530. But 19 years before it got wiped out, our hero, Master Chief Petty Officer John-117, then known as John, was born in a metropolis called Elysium City. That's where I started.

Deon Govender (in call): Do I remember him? Oh yeah, you don't forget a kid like that!

Giraud (voiceover): That's Deon Govender. He chatted with me from his home in the Outer Colonies. Deon's retired now, but years ago he taught John at Elysium City Primary Education Facility Number 119. Apparently, schools in the Outer Colonies don't have the catchiest names.

Govender (in call): John was something else. He was sharp and quick, always evaluating the situation. The other kids just gravitated to him, you know?

Giraud (voiceover): Deon seemed most excited to talk about John's athletic ability. The kids used to play King of the Hill after school. Ya' know, the game where you wrestle and push each other to try and be the last man standing.

Govender (in call): I would-- I would walk by sometimes, see 'em playing after school, ya' know, and w-- w-- w-- without fail, I swear, it was always John standing alone at the top of that hill. (laughs)

Giraud: Right. Right. (chuckles)

Govender (in call): Every single day. As a matter of fact, I think the other kids ended up fighting for who got to be king of halfway up the hill 'cause nobody was messin' with John.

Ellie Bloom (in call): I definitely remember John. You're going way back.

Giraud (voiceover): That's Ellie Bloom, another lifelong resident of the Outer Colonies. When she was young, she and John lived on the same street, just a few houses down.

Bloom (in call): Well, he was a little younger than me, but, let me tell you, that boy did not look like a kindergartner. He was a big kid. My friend Katrina and I used to meet him in this vacant lot in the neighborhood. The three of us would build these obstacle courses out of random junk and then race. Ya' know, just kid stuff.

Giraud (voiceover): As Ellie talked about her early years in Elysium, it wasn't long before she was getting nostalgic.

Bloom (in call): On warm nights, sometimes our parents would let us go out to the green space and lie in the grass. And we'd just lie there, stare up at the stars. It was a nice place to go out.

Giraud (voiceover): Finding Ellie was a huge win for me. When a planet's been glassed tracking down former residents can be damn near impossible. Any records kept locally; paper, hardened data storage, even human memories; after a full-scale glassing, they're just gone. Thankfully, though, the Office of Naval Intelligence, or ONI, had furnished me with a list of interviewees. That's how I'd gotten Deon. But I wanted to go the extra mile with this story, so I'd hit up some of my old connections in the Outer Colonies looking for more sources. Ellie was my only hit so far.

Giraud: Did you-- did you keep in touch with John?

Bloom (in call): No. I wasn't allowed to use Waypoint much when I was little. But I did keep in touch with Katrina. We still talk, actually. You know, she probably remembers John. I'm gonna tell her I talked to you. Wait-- uh, what was this for again? This a military thing?

Giraud: Oh. (laughs) No. No, John, uh, John is, uh, the Master Chief.

Bloom (in call): What? He's--

Giraud: Yeah, Jo- John became the Master Chief.

Bloom (in call): Like, the Master Chief?

Giraud: Yep.

Bloom (in call): Oh my God! No-- no way! Are you serious?!

Giraud: (laughs) I'm not kidding you, I'm telling--

Bloom (in call): Oh my God! That's crazy!

Giraud (voiceover): Ellie lost her mind for a few minutes. I guess it's not every day you find out that your childhood playmate saved the galaxy.

Ellie (in call): Oh my God, now I'm definitely telling Katrina! I mean, she is gonna freak out!

Giraud (voiceover): Alright, so maybe Ellie wasn't gonna be much help. I needed more of the 'young warrior' angle. Here's Deon again.

Govender (in call): Oh, did I tell you the boxing story?

Giraud: No. No, no, what's that? Not yet.

Govender (in call): Ok, ok, so-- I taught the primary kids, ya' know, right? But I also ran this-- this boxing league at the high school-- Now second week, the second week we're doing drills in the gym, John walks in.

Giraud: Yeah.

Govender (in call): Now, mind you, John is in sixth grade at the time. I say, "Hey, John, what's up?" He says, "I wanna sign up for boxing."

Giraud: (laughs)

Govender: And I say, "John, you're twelve," ya' know? (chuckles) "What are you talking about?"

Giraud (voiceover): But John was adamant.

Govender (in call): Well-- (laughs) But I-- I look at him and he-- he ain't leaving.

Giraud: Right.

Govender (in call): So I said, ok, what the hell, figure let it be a formative lesson for the kid. I don't know, but it's-- so I put him in the ring with one of the smaller guys. John pummeled this boy! Was over in about fifteen seconds, ok? So I, well-- well, I put him in with this bruiser, now a real good fighter.

Giraud: Yeah?

Govender (in call): Ok? Good fighter. Two punches! John laid him out. Twelve years old!

Giraud (voiceover): I liked talking to Deon. He was warm and funny in that grandfatherly, memory-lane kind of way. I realized I'd gotten lost in it all when the narrative took a dark turn.

Govender (in call): But then, one week... John just didn't show up.

Giraud (voiceover): It was 2524. John was 13. That's when the nightmare of the Insurrection that had been plaguing the Outer Colonies finally landed on John's community. Under pressure from UNSC troops, the rebels were on their last leg, desperately seizing territory in the region and launching paranoid inquisitions to find spies. Civilian abductions and interrogations became commonplace.

Thomas Wu (in call): Uh, they would just... (sighs) Ya' know, um, question you. Just these meaningless questions, for... hours, and hours.

Giraud (voiceover): Thomas Wu was living on a neighboring colony when the rebels showed up and hit hard, sweeping up Thomas and thousands of others in raids. What followed was months of horribly overcrowded detainment, neglect, and often constant questioning.

Wu (in call): Ya' know, "Did you know this guy? What are the encryption codes for this system? That system?" You know, and you have no idea... what they're even asking you.

Giraud (voiceover): In the final couple months, Thomas says his captors started coming unhinged. And then toward the end, they just disappeared, leaving Thomas and hundreds of others locked up, starving. I don't want to play this part of the interview, but I'll tell you it got bad. He talks about being packed in like sardines. Warm bodies, cold bodies, people dying in the dark, the smell. He doesn't know how long it lasted, maybe weeks, but Thomas and many others survived. They made it out.

Wu (in call): Well, you know, we-- we-- we helped each other, ya' know, we looked out for each other, ya' know, and I mean that's-- that's-- that was the only way. And we, and we made it through to the liberation. (sighs) And then we left. No, we-- we-- we-- we never looked back.

Giraud (voiceover): When I asked him where the survivors relocated to, Thomas began to list off which cities were safe for refugees at the time. Decades later, he can still recite them all from memory. I asked about John's hometown.

Giraud: What about Elysium City?

Wu (in call): No. Insurrectionist cesspool. Yeah-- no, they got it bad there.

Giraud (voiceover): Deon Govender confirms this.

Govender (in call): In Elysium City, people just disappeared back then. Just happened. Once Insurrectionists took over, whole neighborhoods just got scooped up.

Giraud (voiceover): This went on for months. He talks about watching his community get torn apart slowly, every day. I asked him about John.

Govender (in call): Yeah. Him and his parents. John missed the first practice... then the last one. Back then, seemed like everybody h... I'm sorry. (clears throat)

Giraud: No, no no, it's fine, take your time.

Giraud (voiceover): It was hard watching Deon break down like this. He just looked defeated. These kinds of interviews are brutal. I wanted to comfort him but it just felt condescending. Like I have any idea what it was like for him. So we were quiet for a bit. Before we ended, though, he said this:

Govender (in call): I think that if anything good can be said to have come for all of this, it's that... everyone who went through it can know that their struggle wasn't for nothing. When you have a young man who can rise up from something like this and do what John has done, he honors all of us.

Giraud (voiceover): Deon believed in John the way the rest of us believe in the Master Chief. He made it seem like this tragedy that shaped him was almost necessary. I certainly felt like I had the proper beginnings to a hero's origin story. The story made sense, it felt right. Sometimes, you have to go back though. Look again, because maybe you'll see something, something small... out of place. That single thread. Later that evening, after my interview with Deon, I was pretty drained, so I spent some time sifting through a bunch of file boxes. I'd paid this scavenger in the Outer Colonies to dig around and send over any Elysium City documents she could find. The only local government records left were hard copies but I took them anyway. I was sorting through a messy box of local census registries, when I stumbled across John's name. One line of basic information printed out in black and white. That's when I saw it. A single letter next to his name: D. I was staring at an official document that said quite plainly that in 2517, John died at six years old. Please join me for the next episode of Hunt the Truth.

Episode 02

Benjamin (Blog): An obscure record from the far reaches of the galaxy contradicts everything. Government officials and conspiracy theorists weigh in. Stories of a remarkable young man are once again torn down by conflicting accounts.

Episode 02: BAD RECORDS

Benjamin (voiceover): I couldn't believe it. According to the document I was looking at, John, the boy who would go on to become the Master Chief, died forty-one years ago. My protagonist, the greatest hero of our time, was dead at six. It was a major discrepancy - and I needed to find a way to fix it.

I'm Benjamin Giraud, and this is Hunt the Truth.

[theme music]

Office of Naval Intelligence AI (in call): Continue to hold.

Benjamin (voiceover): If you ever happen to obtain sufficient clearance to call the Office of Naval Intelligence, you'll be on hold for at least an hour. If you ever happen to get a call from them, you will also ... wait an hour. And in the end, they never unblock the video, so you just end up talking to a really crisp insignia.

Benjamin (in call): I am waiting to talk to Michael Sullivan, hoping he can help me with my little ... records problem.

ONI AI (in call): Continue to hold.

Benjamin: And it's been ... eighty-five minutes.

Benjamin (voiceover): Michael Sullivan, also known as Sully, works for the ONI in public relations. If it seems odd to you that the most secretive agency in our government has a PR department, you're not alone, but that's not something I'd mention to them. Besides, Sully had hooked me up with the assignment in the first place. I was grateful for the opportunity.

ONI AI (in call): Office of Naval Intelligence. Public relations.

Sullivan (in call): Ben!

Benjamin (in call): H- Hi! Sully, hey! Ah yeah, thanks for taking my call.

Sullivan: Absolutely. How are the sources?

Benjamin (voiceover): Up until this point, I'd had no problems with the story. All my facts had been lining up nicely, but now ... I had an obscure document from the far reaches of the galaxy that listed John as deceased. This contradicted everything. I needed Sully to make it make sense, and thankfully, he did just that.

Sullivan (in call): Welcome to the Outer Colonies! Nothing makes sense out there.

Benjamin (in call): No, I know, I know, it's just, uh- I just wanted to make sure that I buttoned up all the details.

Sullivan: And that's what you're doing! Look, Ben - it's the far reaches of space out there, and the planet you're talkin' about was glassed to hell. You know just as well as anybody that if there are any local records, they're a mess.

Benjamin (voiceover): OK, so - I felt a little stupid. Sully was right - it's a real problem in the Outer Colonies: planets destroyed by glassing have bad records. Every researcher knows this, and every researcher knows that questioning that fact is standard fodder for conspiracy theories.

Mshak (in call): It's a coverup! That's Government Secrecy 101!

Benjamin (voiceover): That's a message I received last week from a man named Mshak Moradi. He's one of many truthers out there who've come out of the woodwork since I started doing this story. Apparently, he heard I was investigating the Master Chief. Mshak seems less ridiculous than most of the characters who've been filling up my inbox, but he's definitely been the most persistent. He's left me a message every day for the past two months. I never respond, but I did find the timing of his last message pretty funny.

Mshak (in call): Let me guess - the government is telling you that the records don't make sense because the planet was glassed. Right? That's what they tell you!

Benjamin (voiceover): Technically, Mshak was right. That was what the government was telling me. But unfortunately for Mshak's theory, it was true - glassed planets have bad records. John's childhood friend Ellie Bloom has dealt with this reality her whole life.

Ellie (in call): ... you have no idea ...

Benjamin (voiceover): I recalled what she'd said in her interview.

Ellie (in call): I mean, it can be hard enough out here trying to do business between planets that haven't been glassed. There's so much upheaval. Keeping track of personal records, financial documents, medical records - it's a total crapshoot.

Benjamin (voiceover): In retrospect, I'd probably been asking for this kind of hiccup. Getting cute with the research, opening up a rat's nest of old paper records - and for what? All I'd dug up from slogging on my own was a few hazy kindergarten stories from Ellie and a nonsensical death record.

But - things were looking up. Sully had arranged a face-to-face interview with ONI Vice Admiral Gabriella Dvorak. That not only got me offworld, but it was onboard the newest Autumn-class heavy cruiser, the UNSC Unto The Breach. Got a private shuttle up, full luxury - they had me riding in style. When I came aboard, Dvorak even greeted me personally.

Now, civilians aren't normally allowed onboard an active duty ship, let alone given this sort of attention.

Benjamin (in recording): Ah, I-

Dvorak (in recording): Please. Call me Gabriella.

Benjamin (in recording): Okay ...

Benjamin (voiceover): This was not the kind of hospitality I was used to.

Benjamin (in recording): Um, what- what, uh, brings you way out here?

Dvorak (in recording): [brief laugh] Work.

Benjamin (voiceover): She told me she was on a detachment and in the neighbourhood. I guess I lucked out. The white-glove treatment continued too - captain's mess, officer's quarters, the whole thing. By the time we finally got to her office for the interview, Dvorak could have said anything and I'd have been thrilled. But she's the real deal, and she jumped right into it.

Dvorak (in recording): It was that 'finally' moment. After all the fighting was done, I was helping lead all the prisoners out of the containers. (fade)

Benjamin (voiceover): As lieutenant in the UNSC, Gabriella not only took part in the grand operations that freed John and countless others from the rebel labour camps in Elysium City, but she remembered the 13-year-old as well. She described the liberation.

Dvorak (in recording): When you saw them, what had been done to them, you realized who you'd been fighting to save. The aftermath of it, ah ... it was ugly. Everyone was streaming out into the daylight squinting, limping, just - grey and fragile and sickly. Their ... backs were hunched, all their eyes just staring at the ground, and - they looked ... they looked dead.

Benjamin (voiceover): That's when she saw John.

Dvorak (in recording): He was sticking out like a sore thumb. In the middle of all this - just - beaten humanity, there's this ... tall, young kid walking toward me, towering over the others, his shoulders back, his eyes forward, and when he passed me, he looked right at me. Looked in my eyes. Ah, I mean, that doesn't sound like much, but that eye contact coming from someone in that moment, who'd been in that circumstances ... was shocking. He looked malnourished and dehydrated like everybody else, but he was so young, and whatever had broken all these people - it hadn't broken him.

Benjamin (voiceover): In the aftermath, Dvorak remained stationed in Elysium City, working in the refugee camps. From the first day, John stepped up to help Gabriella with her duties. She came to know him well over the next several months.

Dvorak (in recording): There was a point when he told me about his parents. That they'd been abducted along with him. He didn't say much, but, um ... they didn't make it.

Benjamin (voiceover): Her understanding was that it had gotten ugly in there. They died a couple days apart, a few weeks before the Liberation - and John was there when it happened. On the rare occasion when John opened up about this, Dvorak says it was memorable.

Dvorak (in recording): He would get this look on his face when he talked about - eh - it's hard to describe. I'd see it on him other times too - he seemed to feel the weight of all that had happened, but still ... he was calm. Not angry, not desperate, just ... resolute. He was a remarkable young man.

Benjamin (voiceover): Like so many people at the time in Elysium City, and throughout this region of the galaxy, John had lost his home, his family, everything. People packed up whatever they had left, got out of town, and most never looked back. But Deon Govender - John's boxing coach - said many of them found a way to get some measure of closure.

Deon (in call): (fade in) Yeah, yeah, definitely. We all got separated and spread out across the planet and all the Colonies, but - some of us were able to cobble together a list of names. An, uh - kind of a memorial, that grew longer as we got more information. Yeah ... I remember seeing John's parents' names on the list early on, but ... but not John. After he missed that last practice ... never saw him again, but ... I remember thinking, "That's OK, you know, as long as I never see his name on this list, that's OK." And I never did.

Benjamin (voiceover): His will to survive left an impression on then-Lieutenant Gabriella Dvorak as well.

Dvorak (in recording): I think ... John just didn't wanna be a victim any more. I remember him telling me he was gonna enlist. He said he was gonna make a difference. I've never been more sure of another person than I was of him when he said that.

Benjamin (voiceover): Out of the chaos of war, from the rubble, a young John was able to forge a purpose for himself. A purpose that would drive him to become the hero the galaxy would one day need him to be. This is the kind of turn in a story that gives me patriotic goosebumps. I was feeling genuinely moved on my trip back home. When I got there, though, Ellie Bloom was gonna ruin all that for me.

Ellie (in call): Hey, I just wanted to follow up with you about your story. I'm - really confused.

Benjamin (in call): OK, uh, what's-

Ellie: Remember how I said I was gonna tell my friend Katrina about it?

Benjamin (voiceover): Katrina was that other girl in John's neighbourhood - the third wheel in Ellie's childhood stories of playing with John. Ellie had moved offplanet in 2517, but Katrina had stayed.

Ellie (in call): Sh- she said that John was dead. He died when he was six.

Benjamin (in call): Wai- wait a minute, wait, what?

Ellie: John was perfectly healthy, but then he just started wasting away. At first I thought maybe it was some autoimmune thing and then they thought it was something else, and then something else, and then meanwhile he's getting all these tests but the doctors couldn't figure it out at all, and his parents were panicking, I ... it sounded horrible.

Benjamin (voiceover): Then - John died. Just like that. I had no idea what to make of this. Ellie seemed convinced, though, so I got her to put me in touch with her friend Katrina. Katrina wouldn't let me record the interview, but this woman was adamant. I wanted to discount what she was saying, but she seemed to remember it so vividly, providing extensive detail - I couldn't ignore it. As far as this person was concerned, John - was - dead. Before I could even begin to wrap my head around that claim, though, here was the kicker from Katrina: John's parents were alive and well in Elysium City, all the way up until Katrina left the planet in 2528 - four years after their supposed death. She was wrong. She had to be thinking of someone else, or - she was lying? Why would she lie, though? I had to admit, she seemed pretty convincing, but - it didn't make sense otherwise. I still thought I could fix the story, though - make the pieces fit. Make it make sense. But what I didn't realize was that this crack was only the beginning - and the whole ugly mess was about to split open.

Please join me for the next episode of Hunt the Truth.

[theme music]

Episode 03

Benjamin (Blog): Conversations with retired military paint very different pictures of John. More questions arise about John's home planet and his involvement in a violent training incident. The cracks in the official account widen, and Benjamin is drawn in.

Episode 03: CRITICAL CONDITION

Benjamin: Ray, you've- tell me you got something.

Ray: U-Um, yeah-- I do.

Benjamin (voiceover): Ray Kersig is a good friend of mine, and a completely emotionless robot. I mean that in the best way. As an independent analyst, he's the most efficient and resourceful researcher I know. That's why I'd sicced him on this story a few days earlier. I needed to debunk the claims of Ellie's friend Katrina. He was in the area on business, so he took the time to come down and meet with me in my home office.

Benjamin (on recording): So Katrina told me that John died at six years old.

Ray: Right.

Benjamin: And his parents, who supposedly died in a rebel prison, were still alive years later.

Ray: Right.

Benjamin: Now, this woman's ruining my story, Ray. They- Tell me, te- te-te- tell me why she's lying.

Ray: Well - she's not.

Benjamin (voiceover): Ray had found copious financial records indicating that John's parents were not just alive past 2524, but working and paying their bills.

Benjamin (on recording): They died in 2524! Come on, man!

Ray: Well, sorry! Their employers, and a preponderance of local merchants, disagree with you. I mean ... the central repositories were really thin, but you dig through enough mirrored archives, it all pops up. ... The records are there!

[BG: Ray and Ben talking on record, Benjamin laughing]

Benjamin (voiceover): Ray swiped through document after document corroborating this. He even showed me medical insurance claims for a pediatric autoimmune specialist in 2517 - exactly when Katrina said John got sick. I was laughing, but I didn't find any of it funny. I'm Benjamin Giraud, and this is Hunt the Truth.

[theme music]

Office of Naval Intelligence AI (in call): [chime] Continue to hold.

Benjamin (in call): Oh, jeez ... come on, come on, come on, come on ...

Office of Naval Intelligence AI: Office of Naval Intelligence. [chime] Public relations.

Benjamin: Finally. Hey! Sully!

Sullivan (in call): Tell me good things, Ben.

Benjamin (voiceover): It was disconcerting to be talking to the ONI insignia again, but I started positive. The story was going really well - but that little data problem. The death record - it was back. I was hoping Sully would smooth it out for me.

Sullivan (in call): Ben ... ugh, I thought we talked about this. Glassed planets have bad records.

Benjamin (in call): No, I- I know, I know, I just, um--

Sullivan (speaking over Benjamin): Glassed planets have bad records, Ben, this is Colonial journalism 101. A- Are you serious with this? (louder) Glassed planets have bad records--

Benjamin (continuing to talk): --it's not just the records, actually, no, no- listen, Sully, if you could- pe- people are saying- people are saying- (louder, silencing Sullivan) Listen, do Co- Hey-- Do glassed people have bad records?

Sullivan: ... Ben, are you recording right now?

Benjamin: Yes. [chime]

Benjamin (voiceover): That was my cue to stop recording. The off-the-record conversation was brief. Sully asked me if I wanted to do the next interview, What he meant was, "do you want to keep this job?" I said yes.

Office of Naval Intelligence AI (in call): Your call is over. [termination sound, into:]

Jacob Walker (in call): Well, as you can see, I've pretty much permanently stationed myself on this beach.

Benjamin (voiceover): That was my next interview. Jacob Walker, retired navy. He lives in a beach community way out on Castellaneta. The first thing I noticed about Walker when he answered my call was that he wasn't wearing a shirt, which made us both laugh. He explained that after twenty-eight years of service, as far as he was concerned, it was all R&R, all the time. I couldn't argue with that philosophy. He slipped on a T-shirt and I asked him about the Master Chief.

Walker (in call): Oh, hell yeah, John - you bet your ass I remember him. (fades, continues)

Benjamin (voiceover): Walker's career began three decades ago with Naval Force Reconnaissance School at Black Sea. Little did he know boot camp would turn out to be something he'd never forget. Walker was there alongside the young man who would become the Master Chief. The gravity of that was not lost on him.

Walker (in call): I mean, they pushed us real hard, but John - well, he pushed us even harder, without even trying. You screwed up, you didn't know whether to be more scared of the CO or John.

Benjamin (voiceover): I first thought Walker was unimpressed.

Walker (in call): Oh, no, man - I remember ... think it was the first week, there was a lot of talk. We were outside the mess tent, me and these other two jackasses gettin' into it, chests all puffed up and talkin' about bein' cold-blooded killers, and steppin' on necks, all that. Not wantin' to be in leadership one day. And, o' course, I was 19 and jacked as hell, so - well, I figured I only had so much competition. Meanwhile, here's this quiet nobody from nowhere, standing on the fringes, looking at the horizon ... John. Heh. Him. First I thought he was 20, 21 - he was a big dude. Turns out he was only 16. Heh. I mean, that kid wasn't even on the radar. (fades, continues)

Benjamin (voiceover): Soon, though, Walker says all that machismo fell to the wayside, and a real leader emerged in John.

Walker (in call): ... training exercises, whoever finished last got the brunt. I mean, last one in on the 20-mile? You're walking back while we catch a Pelican dropship. And that there's some downright lethal terrain, too. Reach is ... well, it was a tough planet. But John - man, he- he took lead every time. Lot of risk and responsibility. Didn't have to, but- hell, he did it. And then, halfway in, he started to hang back, you know, and- help the stragglers. You're injured, whatever - he'd be right there helping you out.

Benjamin (voiceover): And then without fail, Walker says, John always made sure he came in last - and took the punishment.

Walker (in call): It was the way he did it all - he made us all wanna follow his lead. Try harder, help each other - I mean, we're supposed to do that, but nobody ever really wanted to, until then. Anyway, we did it. But takin' the hit for the group, now that was John's thing. I only challenged him for the honour once. I never made that mistake again.

Benjamin (voiceover): Walker's in his early fifties now, but he seemed lit up with the energy of a much younger man. It seems the will that he and the other recruits had, in a sense, borrowed from John so many years ago, was still inspiring Walker. It was remarkable - he knew John, lived with him for months, yet to him, John still seemed to be an almost mythical character.

Walker (in call): What he was able to do, gettin' back on his own like that in the pitch black, no nav equipment. Man, hah- he- he was inhuman.

Petrovsky (in call): That kid was a monster, like they all were.

Benjamin (voiceover): Anthony Petrovsky, retired Orbital Drop Shock Trooper I found through Mshak Moradi. Yes, that Mshak Moradi - the truther who's been messaging me for months. And yes, I was pretty desperate for leads. We'll leave it at that. But Petrovsky was definitely not on Sully's list of approved sources, so I went off-grid and contacted him through Chatternet. Here he is, talking about his only encounter with John.

Petrovsky (in call): That kid was a freak.

Benjamin (in call): [sigh] Can you be more specific?

Petrovsky: Yeah, I'd be happy to. You know - me and a bunch of guys were sparring in the gym one day, and there was this ...

Benjamin: Mmhm.

Petrovsky: ... young kid there, I mean - I guess you could call him a kid, he was- he was pretty jacked, you know, but his face looked twelve, maybe thirteen.

Benjamin (voiceover): Twelve or thirteen? After enlisting, John didn't even finish boot camp until at least seventeen. Petrovsky had to be wrong about his age, but I let it go.

Petrovsky (in call): Anyway, I guess he was actin' tough. When one of the guys, uh, asked his name, he told him, but he kind of, you know, gave him attitude, right? So - people start mouthing off, next thing I know, CPO orders the kid and four other guys into the ring. 'Cause it was supposed to, uh-

Benjamin (in call): W- h-hold on, Anthony, wait - you're - you're telling me that the CPO ordered four soldiers to fight a high school kid?

Petrovsky: No, a twelve- or thirteen-year-old, like I said.

Benjamin: Yeah, fine, either way - the CPO ordered four ODSTs to fight a kid?

Petrovsky (under): Yeah, man - (alone) you got it all wrong, okay, because those four ODSTs ... were like lambs to the slaughter.

Benjamin: What, John outfought them?

Petrovsky: No. No, no, no. It was way worse.

Benjamin (voiceover): As he tells it, the ODSTs did as they were ordered. They surrounded John, and one of them swung. What happened next, Petrovsky says, defied explanation.

Petrovsky (in call): 'Cause the sound this kid's fists made ... it sounded awful. 'Cause they weren't, like, punches, they were like - rapid-fire explosions. OK? I was across the gym, but I heard it. It was sick. Like meaty cracks in a drumroll. Just, [imitating the sound] BA-da-da-BA-da-da-BA-da-da-BA-da-da-BA.

Benjamin (voiceover): One of the ODSTs sustained a single body blow that instantly stopped his heart, killing him. Another trooper only took one shot from John as well - a punch that caved in the man's face. Two fatalities, one ODST with a cracked pelvis, and one with a shattered spine - that guy never walked again. No one had to break up the fight. It was over in less than five seconds.

Benjamin (in call): Wait, he ki- he killed them?

Petrovsky (in call): He did, it was impossible.

Benjamin: What do you mean impossible? Like, how-

Petrovsky: Like, like not human, alright? Like he was genetically augmented.

Benjamin: So you're, you're telling me that someone ... had augmented John, someone had genetically augmented a child?

Petrovsky: [draws breath] OK. Right.

Benjamin: No?

Petrovsky: You think I'm lyin'.

Benjamin (overlapping): I- I believe that's what you honestly think you saw, but-

Petrovsky (at the same time): Alright. No, sure, right, hey - it- (alone) loo-, look, here's the thing, Ben - I don't care if you believe me or not, this makes no difference in my world. I was there and you were somewhere else. So - y- y- you're gonna go write your little military cheerleader article, and - I'm gonna sit here and drink beer. So, good luck.

Benjamin (voiceover): Petrovsky left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Now it's no shocker that Spartans go through a few augmentations and upgrades, but those are fully developed adults. Could a seventeen-year-old - probably still growing - even survive that kind of procedure? It seemed horribly risky, and what if what Petrovsky was saying was true, and John was only thirteen? Well, that was one hell of an accusation to make, the ethical implications of which were nauseating. I was still thinking about it the next day when Ellie Bloom's name popped up in my call list. I'd let her listen to a rough version of my first episode and she had feedback for me. I didn't want to risk anyone listening in, so I let the call go, then hit her back on Chatternet.

Ellie (in call): Well, two things.

Benjamin (in call): OK.

Ellie: Two major things.

Benjamin: OK. Yeah.

Ellie: That boxing coach?

Benjamin: Deon Govender, yeah?

Ellie: He's lying.

Benjamin: W- ah, OK, how is ... he lying?

Ellie: There wasn't any boxing at the high school.

Benjamin: How do you know for sure?

Ellie: Because there wasn't any boxing on the entire planet.

Benjamin (voiceover): She said they'd outlawed it forever ago, after a kid got injured. Afterwards, there was a long-standing controversy over how youth boxing was illegal, but no one seemed to care about all the gravball concussions kids were getting. Regardless, by the turn of the century, she tells me nobody really boxed on Eridanus II anymore. She even gut-checks me, telling me to go ahead, ask anybody from the colony, they'd tell me the same thing.

Ellie (in call): And there sure as hell wasn't a league for kids to do it at the high school! That's like saying there was a gun range at the toy store. It just didn't happen. And the other thing - those kidnappings by rebels in Elysium? Also didn't happen.

Benjamin (in call): Hold on. I- I know that's not true. Y- you're wrong. OK? The Insurrection had a well-documented presence in Elysium.

Ellie (in call): Yeah, they did politically - they worked to influence local policy. It got tense, there was occasional violence, but nobody was "abducted". We lucked out. It was peaceful. That's why Elysium was refugee central. So, boxing coach? Total liar.

Benjamin (voiceover): I needed to verify what she was saying, but I had the gnawing sense she was telling the truth again. But what did this mean? If she was right and none of that happened, the whole story was wrong, and terrifyingly - that would mean someone had fabricated all of it. I needed explanations from my previous sources, and I needed them now. I tried to reach Deon, the boxing coach - no response. Gabriella Dvorak, the lieutenant who liberated John - in the field, unreachable. So I tried detainment survivor Thomas Wu. He answered.

Thomas (in call): [chime] Hello.

Benjamin (in call): Hi. Thomas?

Thomas: Who is this?

Benjamin: Yeah, I'm- I'm sorry to, uh, call so late - is it- is it late there? I ju- I just need to ask you something really quickly.

Thomas: Okay.

Benjamin (voiceover): I had no idea what I was gonna ask.

Benjamin (in call): OK, OK, do you ... know for absolute certain that Elysium suffered the same fate as your town?

Thomas (in call): Um, yeah. I told you that.

Benjamin: I, I, I know, but Thomas, I spoke to people who were in Elysium, and they said that wasn't true. Now, I- now look, I- I know you went through a lot, but I just- I wanna know the truth.

Thomas: ... OK.

Benjamin: Do you know, for absolute certain, that Elysium City was under the violent control of Insurrectionists?

Thomas: [sighs] Look, what I told you before - that is the best I can remember.

Benjamin: No, I'm sorry, ah, I'm sorry, but I don't believe that. You remembered it all perfectly. You rattled off the name of every single safe haven city in that region and you only hesitated once.

Benjamin (voiceover): I was completely making this part up. I was going for broke.

Benjamin (in call): You only hesitated where you would have said 'Elysium City', right?

Thomas (in call): I mean, I, I, look, I-I-I-I don't know for sure--

Benjamin: Bu- bu- but Ely- Elysium wasn't captured by the Insurrectionists, was it?

Thomas: ... Hey, what are you, defending them?

Benjamin: No. I'm, I'm definitely not defe--

Thomas: You know, after what they did, you can defend them? They left us locked up for weeks. They let all those people j- jus- jus- just die. And they did that all over the Outer Colonies. I mean, what does it matter if it was Elysium or somewhere else? After everything that they did, that-

Benjamin: Thomas, Thomas -- Thomas - look, I'm sorry, I'm sorry that I have to bring it up, I just-

Thomas: I just want peace of mind for my family, that's all I want is just ...

Benjamin: Wait. W- I, uh, I don't understand. [hesitantly] How does lying about Insurrectionists in Elysium buy you peace of mind for your family?

Benjamin (voiceover): At that moment, Thomas suddenly seemed to become entirely lucid, and his tone changed completely.

Thomas (in call): I shouldn't be talking to you.

Benjamin (in call): W- wait, Thomas, hold on-

Thomas: I can't. Leave us alone. [termination sound]

Benjamin (voiceover): I suddenly became lucid myself, with a single, awful realisation: that entire conversation had just taken place over Waypoint. Anyone could have been listening.

[theme music]

Benjamin: Please join me for the next episode of Hunt the Truth.

Episode 04

Benjamin (Blog): Rumors of discontent across the military and rumblings in the Outer Colonies are detected. A mandatory meeting at ONI branch headquarters takes an unexpected turn.

Episode 04: CROSSING THE BLACK

Thomas Wu (in call): I shouldn't be talking to you.

Benjamin (in call): W- wait, Thomas, hold on-

Thomas: I can't. Leave us alone. [termination sound]

(Call ends)

Giraud: Oh God. O- no. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no! Go down! No way! No way! No way that- you did not just-

Giraud (voiceover): If you want privacy online, ChatterNet is a pretty good bet: not foolproof, but relatively difficult for the government to monitor. Waypoint, on the other hand, is wide open. Supposedly, the Office of Naval Intelligence has software on the network capable of listening to every single conversation galaxy wide, and if you say the wrong thing... the conversation gets flagged.

Giraud: (continuing) Oh God! What did I just do?!

Giraud (voiceover): What I had just done was conduct an unsanctioned followup interview with a survivor of a war camp, accused him of lying about it, basically got him to admit that lie, and then ended by possibly indicating my employer, the most powerful military agency in history, in either bribery or coercion. I'd done all of that on Waypoint. I thought I was going to throw up.

Giraud: (continuing) Wait a min- wait a minute- wait a minute- wait a minute-

Giraud (voiceover): Maybe it wasn't that bad. I went and listened back. Would they flag that word? What about that one? That phrase sounds bad by itself but not in context. The factor in tone of voice, right? I was sitting there emotionally guessing how an insanely sophisticated algorithm is weighted. Basically, I was trying to outsmart a legion of robots.

Giraud: (continuing) Damn it, Ben!

Giraud (voiceover): It was too late. Those words were gone. That data had been processed. And I had either been flagged, or I hadn't. I had no idea what would happen next. I'm Benjamin Giraud and this is Hunt the Truth.

Mshak Moradi: Benjamin!

Giraud (voiceover): I've never been so happy to hear from Mshak Moradi. I made him triple check the security of our call.

Moradi: (continuing) Relax! We are under the tin foil hat of secrecy. (laughs) Seriously though, we are fully secure.

Giraud (voiceover): Mshak could probably tell I was desperate when after months of his unsolicited theories, I actually solicited one.

Giraud: (continuing) What's going on out there right now?

Moradi: I'm glad you asked. Strong patterns: a lot of chatter in the military bars, soldiers drunk and unhappy. Local graffiti corroborates these complaints. The helmet overfloweth!

Giraud (voiceover): This is how Mshak talks. For a while I thought maybe there was an actual group of people somewhere that used these terms, but there's not. It's just Mshak.

Moradi: (continuing) My prognosis? Ripples in the ranks. Army, Orbital Shock Troopers, Marines. Across the board; men at arms, up in arms.

Giraud (voiceover): When soldiers get frustrated, they get sloppy with their communication. The more frustration, the more unsecured chatter. Right now, there was a lot of both.

Moradi: (continuing) And there's a sizable leak of, booyah, worthy transmissions distilling the slush.

Giraud (voiceover): Ah, the slush. That immense soup of data siphoned off of insecure networks. The preferred source for nutjobs everywhere. The data's all legit, there's just such an ungodly huge amount of it that it's practically useless. To Mshak's credit though, he somehow managed to draw somewhat sound conclusions from it on occasion. It was kind of amazing. I asked why there was so much discontent across the military.

Moradi: (continuing) M.C. One-one-scepter.

Giraud (voiceover): That's Mshak for the Chief.

Moradi: (continuing) He's off being creative. He could be off the grid. FLEETCOM's trying to smokescreen like they're on top of his posish, but their not. The trombones are playing the brown note on that one and the grunts are a-grumbling. The military is one pissed off polygon right now.

Giraud (voiceover): Apparently, some are even questioning Master Chief's motivations and allegiances. The word traitor has been used.

Giraud: (continuing) Seriously? If he's disobeying orders that's bad, but calling the Chief a traitor? The guy who legitimately saved humanity multiple times, that's just- come on.

Moradi: Either way, you haven't considered the underlined question. M.C. is the precedent for free reign in the military. He's responsible for protecting a galaxy. A job that big requires absolute mobility. But then, that's a lot of power to give one man, hence the dichotomy, Benjamin. Power and responsibility.

Giraud (voiceover): Mshak was getting philosophical, and making a lot of sense. When it comes to threats against us though, this issue of power and responsibility has always been shrouded in secrecy. As civilians we don't know what's happening, who's out there, what their doing. And according to Mshak, that ignorance could be about to blow up in our faces again.

Moradi: (continuing) There's something else afoot, Benjamin, out here in deep space. I hoped these events would turn out to be random, but now it's... it could be bad.

Giraud: (voiceover) Mshak was a lot of things, but never vague. I asked him what sort of bad he was talking about.

Moradi: (continuing) Electromagnetic fluctuations, slipspacious disruptions, epidemic data corruption. All of it, ya' know, what's happening? It's quiet, it's slight, but it's effecting... everything. Ripples on a gigantic scale. I'm talking whole star systems, it's just- I don't want to say I'm frightened, ya' know what I mean? (phone ring) But to be honest-

Giraud: I'm sorry, Mshak. Hold on a second. Just... hold on.

Giraud (voiceover): As Mshak's sketch of a horrifying reality started to emerge, the last thing I wanted to do was interrupt him but I'd just been reminded of a more immediate, horrifying reality. From Sully, an event on my calendar, no message.

Giraud: (continuing) Oh no.

Giraud: (voiceover) My stomach dropped. My flight to ONI's Boston headquarters left in three hours. They were calling me in. This had never happened to me before. I said goodbye to Mshak. It now seemed painfully clear that my Waypoint conversation with Thomas Wu had been flagged. By the time I landed on Earth I was one giant ulcer. I'd spent every sleepless night's hour running over everything in my head. The conflicting stories I'd heard, the gut twisting possibilities of what would happen in Boston. I looked and felt like death. All I was looking forward to at this point was Petra Janecek. I'd hit her up right before I left, asked if she'd meet me near the ONI campus. Thankfully, she said yes. Petra and I are in the same line of work. We make the government look good. The last time I saw her was six years ago in New Mombasa, the day it happened. We were both there. We both saw the Chief do what he did. But afterwards, while I retreated to a quiet little hamlet across the galaxy, Petra stuck around and made a name for herself. I was hoping she could throw me a lifeline, so I threw some cold water on my face, pulled myself together, and met up with her at a local pub.

Petra Janecek: Ya' know, for a guy just returning from a six year spirit-walk in deep space, I'm impressed. You actually showed up on time.

Giraud (voiceover): Same old Petra. She'd already knew I got the Master Chief assignment and she was not happy. Apparently she was still waiting for her face to face exclusive with the Chief. I refrained from laughing out loud at that little fantasy, but she continued with the ball busting anyway.

Janecek: (continuing) So why are you here? No wait, lemme guess, lemme guess the title of your story: "Heroism Untold".

Giraud: (laughs) Something like that.

Janecek: Yeah, I'm sure it's hard-hitting. What's a Sully commissioned exposé look like nowadays, anyway? An ONI one-sheet of approved sources?

Giraud: Yeah. (laughs)

Janecek: Whatever, you can do a fluff-piece over Waypoint from your rebel rock. So, again, why are you here?

Giraud (voiceover): If you haven't noticed yet, Petra cuts to the chase.

Giraud: (continuing) Sully called me in.

Janecek: Sully? He what? He called you here?

Giraud: Yeah, yeah, that's what I wanted to talk to you about.

Giraud (voiceover): I told her about confronting Thomas Wu. How I'd contradicted a statement of his that was probably supposed to be Sully's main deliverable for the interview. Not only did Petra not see the problem with that though, she seemed to think it was cute.

Janecek: (continuing) Whoa! Whoa! Old Ben G-raud! You're coming off the bench feisty.

Giraud: No, no, no, no- I, I, I-

Janecek: The guy's not gonna run on you. They'll just make him look as bad-

Giraud: I-I did the whole interview on Waypoint.

Giraud (voiceover): That got her attention.

Giraud: (continuing) I think it got flagged.

Janecek: You think it-

Giraud: I got the summons from Sully a few hours later.

Giraud (voiceover): Petra's face and voice hadn't changed, but her eyes were suddenly on fire.

Janecek: (continuing) Ben-

Giraud: I-I-I messed up, Petra.

Janecek: You messed up how? I-

Giraud: The story! The story! It was falling apart! And these inconsistencies between the sources-

Janecek: Inconsistencies, with ONI sources?

Giraud: No, with mine.

Janecek: You found sources in the Outer Colonies?

Giraud: Yeah, yeah I made friends in the past few years. I doubt Sully realized I'd have that resource in my arsenal.

Janecek: He definitely didn't. Ben, listen to me. You used to be a government lapdog at your peak. Then you deep-spaced yourself into obscurity. You have no juice now, and that's why they picked you. Sully gives you this bone, you're supposed to be extra eternally grateful. Just wag your little tail, and play fetch. So why the hell are you peeing on the rug instead? Have you forgotten the way everything works?

Giraud: No, I don't know, I just- This is bad, Petra!

Janecek: Ben, it's-

Giraud: And it's not ancient history, either! There are rumblings in the Outer Colonies right now, maybe something really bad! I was talking last week to this guy I know-

Janecek: Mshak Moradi, I know.

Giraud: What?! H-How do you know that?

Janecek: I've continued being an actual journalist for the past six years, but who cares, Ben? I hear what you're saying ok?

Giraud: We can blow this thing open, Petra!

Janecek: (sigh) Ok. Alright, cowboy.

Giraud: No, seriously! This is big! I can't even begin to reconcile the things I'm hearing with the story I'm supposed to tell! Multiple sources that Chief died at six! Complete fabrications! Genetically augmenting kids!

Janecek: I know! They are crazy charging that much for a shore trip.

Giraud (voiceover): Suddenly, Petra was ranting about the beach, loudly, and digging the tip of her fingertip hard into my forearm. I just sat there totally confused as she rambled nonsense. Intermittently glancing down at her COM pad. What was happening? Then I understood... and I froze. They were listening. I'd figured there were cameras on us, there were always everywhere here, but there was full audio surveillance now too? Is that even possible? She glanced down at her COM pad one last time.

Janecek: (continuing) Ben?

Giraud: Are there ears on us?

Janecek: There were for the last forty-five seconds, but there are always eyes everywhere, so don't look so... dramatic. Talk about whatever you want, but look like you're talking about the weather and if I start actually talking about the weather, you play along, ok?

Giraud (voiceover): Apparently, the system didn't bother listening in until you gave it certain visual cues, facial expressions, body language, anything that looks intense like my little outburst, the video flags it and your conversation gets temporarily isolated. Petra's vacay babbling had just saved my ass.

Janecek: (continuing) Listen, I believe you that the truth about the story... is terrible, but what you're talking about doing, that's door-number-two stuff. You're a door-number-one guy.

Giraud: But I have-

Janecek: Oh, come on! Come on, what are you going to do, Ben? Get the real scoop? You're too sloppy, you can't do this, you're-you're out of touch. You haven't been-

Giraud: Maybe not by myself, but with your help, with other people's help-

Janecek: Honestly, I love the idea of cutting the strings and tearing it all down, but I'm sorry. It's not going to be today. And to be brutal, it's never going to be you.

Giraud: (voiceover) That was brutal. It stung. I got pissed. And then I immediately knew she was right.

Janecek: Ben, take the money. Do your job.

Giraud: God. Oh God. Oh God. I'm supposed to walk over there right now.

Janecek: Just- Hey, just tell Sully you were drunk, you were trying to get a rise out of the guy, something. Just play stupid. Besides you don't-you don't know you got flagged! This meeting could just be a coincidence.

Giraud: No, no, they called me in. This is so weird, I mean-

Janecek: You'll be fine. The worst thing they'll-

Giraud: They've never-

Janecek: Hey Ben, the worst thing they'll do is kill the story and cut you from rotation. That's probably it. I mean I can't imagine they would... no, you'll be fine. Just be a good dog. Knock 'em dead. I'll get the bill.

Giraud: Thanks, Petra.

Janecek: But Ben, if I were you, I'd upload whatever you got on the story before you go in, just send back ups to someone you trust, ya' know? Just-just in case.

Giraud (voiceover): That was the closest thing to concerned I'd ever heard from Petra. I immediately took her advice and was queuing up all my files to Ray as I crossed to Rainja Avenue toward ONI. The campus was integrated right into the city: a courtyard of dark buildings, mature oak trees, grass, walkways. It just looked like a campus. The only thing different about it was the side walk: twice as wide as it was across the street. In the inner half of the pavement was black stone. A thick, dark border several feet wide that surrounded the whole complex.

I walked right up to the obsidian half of the sidewalk and stopped. Something was off about the courtyard in front of me, like something was missing. I look both directions down the sidewalk. There were no fences or guards. Plenty of pedestrians, seemingly none of them paying attention to the complex as they passed, except for one tiny thing: none of them, not a single one of dozens of white-collar workers and shoppers and parents and kids walking up and down that sidewalk laid a foot anywhere near the black half of the pavement. On a twenty-five foot walkway, they were all moving single file, right up against the curb.

I turned and looked back at the campus, listening... no birds. That's what was missing. There were no birds in the trees. In fact, there was no sound in the air at all. Nothing moved. I stood at the edge of the obsidian. I had no choice. I swiped the transfer file over to Ray's hard drive, took a deep breath, crossed the black line...

Please join me for the next episode of Hunt the Truth.

Episode 05

Benjamin (Blog): A visit deep inside ONI branch headquarters brings unexpected results. A voice from the past returns. And an in-flight incident sparks a flame that can’t be put out.

Episode 05: OUT OF TIME

Benjamin Giraud: Hi, I'm here to see Michael Sullivan.

ONI receptionist: Do you have an appointment?

Giraud: Uh, yes. I'm Ben Giraud, I have a one o'clock.

Giraud (voiceover): Checking in with the receptionist at the Office of Naval Intelligence's bizarre formality: announcing myself, her asking me who I was there to see, it was all just an antiquated conversation. Part of their efforts to put a more human face on the operation. In reality, surveillance knew where I had been every minute. Since I had stepped onto the transit back at home. Throughout the morning, as I had made my way from the Boston terminal. This receptionist had likely been prompted with dynamic updates of my exact arrival time, deviations from my optimal course, bathroom breaks, my average walking speed, however they did it. They'd been expecting me.

ONI receptionist: I'll let him know you're here, Ben.

Giraud: Okay. Thank you.

Giraud (voiceover): The whole ONI facility was sleek and stark; everywhere you look, its sharp lines, the highest quality materials. Most striking though was the overwhelming amount of space and silence. This waiting area was particularly sparse. Two, minimalist carbon fiber chairs set twenty feet from each other. I also noticed the seats seemed oddly low to the ground. I picked one, and sat down. This chair was really low to the ground. It was awkward. I was probably looking at sixty to ninety minutes of customary wait time here, and squatting like this was not gonna help my anxiety level. But I was just pulling up some busy work, when the door behind reception suddenly slid open.

ONI receptionist: Ben, mister Sullivan will see you now.

Giraud: Now?

ONI receptionist: Yes.

Giraud (voiceover): I awkwardly struggled up from the chair and crossed the room. My heart was racing.

Giraud: Uh, thank you.

Giraud (voiceover): She didn't respond.

Giraud (voiceover): I stepped into a narrow, empty hallway full of closed doors. I was about to turn around and ask where I was supposed to go but the door immediately closed behind me. The lighting in the hallway shifted, indicating a closed door at the far end. I walked down the hallway pass what I assumed were offices. Everything was soundproof though; so I had no idea if there were actually people working in there. When I got to the end of the hall, Sullivan's door opened at the last possible second. When I walked in Sullivan didn't look up. He was sitting behind his desk and intently working on his COM pad.

Giraud: Hey.

Sullivan: Ben, I'm glad you made it.

Giraud (voiceover): I stood there awkwardly for a bit. I realized that this must be the room he'd always talked to me from. It was furnished as minimally as the rest of the building. There were was a few shreds of actual personality on display behind him though. A couple of knick-knacks, and this antique simulated analog clock. Sullivan still hadn't looked up.

Giraud: Should I uh... should I...

Sullivan: Make yourself comfortable.

Giraud: (Quiet) Ok. Yeah.

Giraud (voiceover): He continued swiping on his COM pad. I sat down on the chair, just like the other one, my knees were at my ears. I felt oddly far from his desk too. I tried some small talk.

Giraud: Hmph. I didn't take you for a antiques guy, Sullivan. Wh-Where did you get the clock?

Sullivan: Oh, I always had it.

Giraud: Nice, nice. So um...

Sullivan: Hows the story, Ben?

Giraud: It's good. It's good.

Sullivan: You getting what you need?

Giraud: Absolutely.

Sullivan: Wanna make sure you get all your uh... your questions answered.

Giraud: Great, no th-, well, uh yeah, yeah, I-uh, I am. I mean um...

Sullivan: Perfect.

Giraud (voiceover): I was still desperately trying to figure out what was happening, when Sullivan stopped swiping. He looked up at me for the first time and he had this little twinkle in his eye.

Sullivan: There is someone who would like to talk to you, Ben.

Giraud (voiceover): I'm Benjamin Giraud, and this is Hunt the Truth. Sullivan was walking fast and I was trying to keep up. The buildings were all connected underground, and the whole complex was far bigger than it had seems outside. As he led me deeper into the maze, the feel gradually became less corporate and more military, and the more military it got, the more nervous I was getting.

Giraud: Did'n- didn't realize they let civilians in this far.

Sullivan: It's a special day Ben.

Giraud (voiceover): Sullivan's department seems almost vacant, but now there were more and more people moving through the halls. Mostly in uniform, they didn't speak or look up, they just stared down at their COM pads like Sullivan, swiping as they walked. The ice cold efficiency of everything was striking.

Sullivan: We're here.

Giraud (voiceover): Sullivan led into a large, dark conference room and the door closed behind us. In the center of it, there was massive, well lit conference table with several chairs around it. Beyond the lights, the edges of the space and high ceiling, faded into shadow.

Sullivan: Have a seat.

Giraud (voiceover): I did as I was told, and sat into one of the chairs. It automatically sank beneath me. I squinted into the darkness, and made out one of the walls was entirely black glass. Probably for observation.

Sullivan: Need any water?

Giraud: Uh, no uh, I'm uh, I'm all good, I'm all good, thank you. Who am I um...

Sullivan: Oh, do you need to do a mic check or anything?

Giraud: A m- mic check, mic check? Are we...

Sullivan: I want to make sure you get all of this.

Giraud: Get all of... what? Listen I just...

Sullivan: Relax, Ben, this is gonna be big.

Giraud: Sully, I just wanted to say that I uh...

Sullivan: Ben, he's about to walk in, focus.

Giraud: Sully, Sully I just, I just wanted to say that I had every intention...

Sullivan: May I present to you Senior Chief Petty Officer Franklin Mendez.

Mendez: I Ben, how are you?

Giraud (voiceover): I stood up, the man who walked in was extraordinarily decorated. Gold Stars, Silver Stars, Bronze Stars, Purple Hearts, The Legion of Honor; he looked gritty and hardened, probably from decades of battle.

Giraud: Good, uh good afternoon sir.

Mendez: Are we gonna talk about the Chief?

Giraud: I uh, I uh...

Sullivan: Mendez is the man who trained the Chief, Ben. I told you I'd take care of you. You're gonna have everything you need for this story.

Giraud (voiceover): It was an interview. This was not at all what I was expecting. I don't know what I was expecting, but it was a high-profile face-to-face. All my anxiety completely evaporated.

Giraud: Right! Yes of course! (laughs) S-so you're the man to talk to when it comes to the Spartans hun?

Mendez: That's correct.

Giraud (voiceover): My conversation with Thomas hadn't been flagged. Petra was right. There was no way Sullivan wouldn't have at least said something. I couldn't believe it. My relief blossomed into full awe. I was about to get a insider's perspective, from the man who personally trained the Master Chief.

Mendez: Yeah, Chief's got a bad habit of jumping out of the dropship instead of waiting for it to land. Let's his armor to absorb the fall, but that's his prerogative at this point I guess. And it gets him a hell of a drop on the enemy.

Giraud (voiceover): No civilian, had ever heard this kind of detail about the Master Chief. Mendez told me that it wasn't long after boot camp that John's unique combination of abilities and drive, established a fledging reputation for the young man.

Mendez: That kid blew me away. His acumen, his mental quickness, his physical abilities, tactical judgment; I could tell even from a young age that John was burgeoning complete package. There was no question in my mind that he was ready for the augmentations, and he couldn't wait.

Giraud (voiceover): Once John had the procedures done, Mendez said everyone was blown away by the results.

Mendez: Medical engineers said his systems integrated flawlessly with the tech, his recovery time was impressively brief, but what was most incredible was how quickly his brain was able to acclimate to the upgrades. It can be like starting from scratch again after those procedures, you're remapping your whole neurology, but while the other guys were still trying to learn to walk, John was running, and jumping, and kicking ass. I'd never seen anything like it.

Giraud (voiceover): This was the birth of the Master Chief, he advanced rapidly, proving himself time and again in the field, constantly re-raising the bar for what a Spartan could be asked to do. Throughout his career, Mendez had gotten to analyze everything these elite soldiers have done in the field. He regaled me with accounts of the Spartans single-handedly taking out dozens of the Covenant. He spoke to the insuperable speed, strength, and accuracy; that continued developing over the years. He spoke to Chief's unwavering dedication, insurmountable will, but according to Mendez it was something else that would ultimately inform, this military legend.

Mendez: I've never seen a man, augmented or not, be able to make such extraordinarily high-stakes decisions so quickly. Chief, would find himself in a complex scenario in a dense field of variables, and almost instantly weigh the costs and benefits immediately generating a creative solution. He faces dilemmas: ethical, tactical, tough situations that would buckle most human beings if they had a year to mull it over, but he makes the call --usually on the fly-- and it's the right call, it's extraordinary. Not to mention of course, that he then makes a super human jump onto an enemy craft in midflight, yanks the pilot out of the cockpit, commandeers the bird, and then rams it back down the enemy's throat. The man can execute too.

Giraud (voiceover): Mendez tells me that the Chief has come to expand and deepen the definition of what serving is. In many ways, Mendez thinks it's that decision making ability that sets the Chief apart. It's what makes him a leader. It's what's made him a hero.

Giraud: Wow.

Mendez: I'm glad you're doing this story Ben, it's about time the Spartans finally get their due. People need to understand the level of sacrifice that the Chief and all the Spartans make to keep us safe.

Giraud: You talked a bit about Chief's personality, uh his dry wit, his loyalty. I'm sure you guys don't sit around talking about your feeling much, but uh in- in your opinion, do you think being held at level of responsibility, is hard for him? Protecting a whole galaxy it- it seems like it would be an unimaginable heavy burden.

Mendez: Well lucky for you, you don't have to imagine it, heh. No, it is a heavy burden, but Chief has broad shoulders. He's able to make those decisions and get it done, and he takes on that task willingly and with vigor. It's inspiring.

Giraud: Absolutely, absolutely. It's amazing, but do you think one man should have that much power?

Mendez: You see now, it's your phrasing there that could get you into trouble. It sounds like you're making a presumption that I could find adversarial, which in turn would make your tone condescending, and this conversation decidedly unpleasant. Now that's not something you want son.

Giraud: Uh, no, no, I...

Mendez: Would you like to rephrase the question?

Giraud: Of course, of course, I'm sorry, I uh...

A chime sounds.

Giraud (voiceover): At that moment, the lights suddenly changed in the room, and Sullivan started swiping through his COM pad.

Sullivan: Uhp, uh room's turning over, ah I apologize for the inconvenience gentlemen, but uh, we are about to get a change of venue.

Giraud: I'm sorry, wha- what I, sorry, what I should've said was i-if we're leading these kind of decision in...

Sullivan: Sorry Ben, hole on a second, um looks like we've got access to Jasper nine now, so we can just head down there if that's alright.

Mendez: Fine with me.

Giraud: Okay, okay.

Sullivan: Yeah it's a short walk.

Mendez: Uh gentlemen hold that thought, uh looks like I've got somewhere else I need to be.

Giraud: No problem. I-I can wait.

Mendez: Shouldn't be long, Sullivan can reschedule us for around 1600.

Giraud: Perfect, I appreciate it.

Mendez: You should appreciate what my Spartans did instead. The only reason you're breathing the air you need to even ask these questions, is because they sacrificed more than you'll ever know.

Giraud (voiceover): Mendez split off down the hallway, as a line of large men in suits silently filed past and disappeared into the conference room behind us. Sullivan was on the move again, buried in his COM pad. I followed after him.

Giraud: S-S-Sullivan!

Sullivan: Yep?

Giraud: Yeah, wh-wh-where should I report at-at 1600?

Sullivan: It's not up yet? Let's see, uh, oh no, um, what a minute...

Giraud: What, what?

Sullivan: Looks like we're getting a request for raw, now. Yep.

Giraud: For me?

Sullivan: Yeah you-your shipping raw files off for edit, by mmm, 0900 Thursday.

Giraud: No, hold on, I can't, I can't...

Sullivan: All right.

Giraud: ...ship off the raw files, it's all back at home, it's-I

Sullivan: You just received boarding docs for the five-thirty, that leaves you twenty-four hours to upload when you get back.

Giraud: Wait, I've only done mockups for the first few episodes.

Sullivan: That's editorial Ben, let them worry about it.

Giraud: But wh-wh-what about Mendez then?

Sullivan: That was awesome.

Giraud: But I didn't finish with...

Sullivan: You got amazing stuff from him man, killer interview. Love it, if the other stuff is even half that good the story going full distribution, wide screen.

Giraud: I just, no I'm still in the middle of it though, so I,I can, I can just wait for him, I, Sullivan, Sullivan, I, I, I can wait here and finish the interview with Mendez, I've got time.

Giraud (voiceover): Sullivan stopped walking when I said that. He turned around and walked right up to me. For the first time all day, possibly for the first time ever, I felt like he was giving me his complete, undivided attention.

Sullivan: Ben, you don't have time. You have a deadline and a boarding pass for the five-thirty. Okay?

Giraud (voiceover): In that moment, it dawned on me that perhaps my Waypoint conversation with Thomas Wu had been flagged. Sullivan turned back into Sullivan and kept moving.

Sullivan: Seriously though man amazing stuff, and remember, once this story hits, they're all going to be eating out of your hand. Travel safe. You earned this buddy.

Giraud (voiceover): For those of you that don't speak ONI, that was me getting fired.

Security AI: Your pass will expire in nine minutes.

Giraud (voiceover): And according to the AI, I was no longer a welcomed guest. I was about to take the long trip home. Taking a second interstellar trip, after less than twenty-four hours sucks enough when you haven't just lost your job. Once I was buckled in, all I wanted to do was get some sleep, but as we started to lift off the platform, something was bothering me, actually it was someone.

Giraud (to his COM pad): So there's a guy complaining to the attendant in the next cabin, it sounds like he's on his first trip out of the solar system.

Giraud (voiceover): These long flights to the edges of the inner colonies from Earth always had at least one 'that guy'. Some entitled Earth VIP who feels the need to yell about the outrageous inconveniences of slipspace travel.

Giraud (to his COM pad): So I definitely recognize his voice. It took me a minute, but, that's got to be, him? I think it's Jakob Walker.

Giraud (voiceover): Jakob Walker, the military retiree I'd spoken to a few weeks back. The happy beach bum who'd been in boot camp with John? That didn't make sense though, he was on permanent vacation near Saturn. Walker was the last man I'd expect to see on a flight leaving Earth.

Giraud (to his COM pad): So I'm about to take off here, but I got to know for sure.

Giraud (voiceover): I unfastened the belts, made my way down the aisle, and when I peeked around the partition, I saw him, sitting there, arguing with the attendant, but this man was wearing a suit and tie, and his hair was combed neatly on his head. He looked nothing like the unkempt Walker I saw during our interview. I went for it anyway.

Jakob Walker: I'm not trying to be difficult here, but...

Giraud: Jakob?

Walker: ... you can't have air quality this bad and expect it...

Flight Attendant Caroline: I'm sorry sir, but unfortunately there is nothing I can do about the air quality...

Giraud: Ja- Jakob Walker?

Giraud (voiceover): All the color drained out of the man's face.

Flight Attendant Caroline': Sir, you need to sit down.

Giraud: Jakob Walker?

Giraud (voiceover): If you're thinking I was mistaken and I just freaked out some random business traveler, listen to his reaction when I tell him who I am.

Giraud: Ben Giraud, we- we talked a few weeks ago.

Walker: Oh, yeah, course. The old boot camp stories, yeah I remember ya.

Giraud (voiceover): That, was the Walker I remembered.

Giraud: Are you- are you here on business or something?

Giraud (voiceover): Walker bumbled awkwardly in the conversation. He looked like he desperately wanted to get away, but he was stuck there.

Giraud: But wh- wh- wh what are you doing here on Earth?

Walker: Oh, I uh, yeah I'm just, you know, taking a little trip.

Flight Attendant Caroline: Sir, we are airborne, please take your seat.

Giraud: I- I thought you were retired.

Walker: Yeah, yeah I am, that's right, but oh hey Ben, I think we're about to get...

Giraud: I- I- I mean I thought you were permanently stationed on a beach.

Walker: Yeah, I...

Flight Attendant Caroline: Sir, last warning. you need to sit down immediately.

Giraud: Okay, hold on a second alright.

Flight Attendant Caroline: No, you're done.

Giraud: No, just- take- don't touch- what are you doi...

Giraud (voiceover): That's when the flight crew sedated me. I blacked out, and my conversation with Walker was over. I woke up in the terminal, back at home with a pounding headache. By the time I got back to my place, I had a nasty surprise in my inbox too. It was an order from the Inner Territories Transportation Administration.

Giraud: Notice of Violation: Benjamin Giraud, this is to inform you that attached is a ITTA order assessing several penalties for the in-flight incident. What? Oh God, they're fining me 50,000 Credits?

Giraud (voiceover): At least ONI was paying me well for this story. I checked the time, I still had twenty-three hours to deliver the raw files to Sullivan. That left me ample opportunity to tuck tail, and follow orders. I may have been fired, but I wanted the next job, so I needed to just put all of this ugliness behind me. This story was going to be someone else's problem now. I was queuing everything up to send off to Sullivan, when I noticed my COM pad was still recording. It had been recording... the whole time. The file was massive. I scanned by to the beginning, most of it was me sleeping, but then I heard something I hadn't remembered happening. It was right after the flight crew had put me down.

Walker (recording): Yeah, I...

Flight Attendant Caroline (recording): Sir, last warning, you need to sit down immediately.

Giraud (recording): Okay, hold on a second alright.

Flight Attendant Caroline (recording): No, you're done.

Giraud (recording): No, just, take, don't touch, what are you doi...

Giraud (voiceover): They hit me with the sedative, but then, this happened.

ONI Personnel #1 (recording): We'll take it from here.

Flight Attendant Caroline (recording): Wait, what?

Flight Attendant (recording): Just let them do their job, Caroline.

ONI Personnel #1 (recording): Mr. Giraud, you are legally obliged by ITTA regulations to comply with crew member instructions at all times.

Giraud (recording/slurred): Wait a minute, what did you jus- what did you just do to me?

ONI Personnel #1 (recording): Grab his feet.

ONI Personnel #2 (recording): Hit him with another half.

Giraud (voiceover): More sedative? No wonder I felt so awful.

Giraud (recording/more slurred): Wait what did you just do to me- what did you just do to me?

ONI Personnel #1 (recording): You'll be fine Ben.

Giraud (voiceover): Ben, they called me. I scrubbed through the rest of the recording, this is them carrying me through the transfer terminal, to my connecting flight.

ONI Personnel #1 (recording): Yeah, he'll be out for another twelve, we're good.

ONI Personnel #2 (recording): What the hell was he doing on that flight?

ONI Personnel #1 (recording): I don't know, but...

ONI Personnel #2 (recording): The no intersect was max priority here. How could that even happen? The system shouldn't even let you cross itineraries like that.

ONI Personnel #1 (recording): Yeah, it's bad, and Sullivan is going to here about it.

Giraud (voiceover): They had to be talking about Walker and me, but why? They didn't want me to know he was on Earth for some reason. They loaded my limp body into the shuttle, propped up, and strapped me in. They even said goodbye.

ONI Personnel #1 (recording): Have a safe trip, Ben. (laughs)

Giraud (voiceover): Ben, like they knew me.

ONI Personnel #1 (recording): C'mon let's get outta here.

Giraud (voiceover): I played the recording again and again, I sat their listening to it, over and over... I spent my career working for these people, doctoring photos, trimming threads, making tragedies a little less tragic, and patriotic stories a little more inspiring. I'd always taken every story they fed me, and obediently vomited it back out to the masses. And to be honest, I'd always been okay with that in the end of the day. Even on this story, after all the accusations of atrocities, all the gaping factual holes, I was just supposed to ignore, I'd still been willing to play along. I wish I could say it was my principals, or some moral stand that finally set me off, but it wasn't, it was my pride. Listening to that recording, the way they tossed me aside, every time they called me Ben, I checked the time, I only had a few hours left to turn in files if I wanted to keep on Sullivan's clock for the story. I cancelled the transfer. I was going to take that time for myself. I sat down in front of this very microphone, recording a quick intro, and uploaded the beginnings of my story, the real story of the Master Chief, loose threads and all, into the galaxy.

ONI Personnel #1 (recording): Have a safe trip, Ben.

Giraud (voiceover): Please join me for the next episode... of Hunt the Truth.

Episode 06

Benjamin (Blog): With major questions about the Master Chief now out on the open network, a flood of feedback and theories come in from all corners of human space. Rumors spread that ONI has fabricated elaborate lies, but why? What are they covering up? Has the investigation now put everyone's lives at risk?

Episode 06: BOXING STORY

Andy Walczak: "It doesn't matter who's lying, or who you think is lying. The Master Chief saved the world and you, you've managed to what? Stir up a couple nuts and get some idiots to call you up? Get real, Giraud. Where do you get off?"

Silas Mogensen: "You are a crusader, my friend."

Gábor Zsolt: "I always thought ONI and the government were fishy as..."

{a jumble of voices play over each other}

Ben Giraud (voice-over): 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.

{voice messages continue in the background}

Ben Giraud (voice-over): 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.

Aden Langereis: "Great work on the show."

Alea Maciejewski: "It's a sick pantomime."

Janet Goodwin: "No one cares!"

Alea Maciejewski: "This has to stop."

{Messages end}

Ben Giraud (voice-over): Before that, though, it had been quiet. Holing myself up in my place as I got the episodes ready, I only talked to two people. Petra called to make sure I'd made it back from ONI in one piece, and I called Ray about the fiasco on my flight. He said he'd start digging into Walker's identity. I didn't tell either of them about my plan. No one knew. After blowing past my deadline to turn in all the files to my employer, I'd been ducking calls from Sully's office, buying time to finish up. Right before I uploaded the story, I was still confident ONI had no idea what was about to happen, when I got one final message. From Michael Sullivan, himself.

Sully's message: "Ben, so uh.... we missed that deadline. Higher-ups weren't happy, you know? They do call them deadlines for a reason, that kind of thing. I told them, "Ben understands how deadlines work." Said you were having a little personal problem. I managed to convince them to extend the deadline until tomorrow. One-time deal. You know, it really seems like the story is at a critical juncture right now and, depending on what happens next, I think some big things could be on the horizon for you. I'm excited. Heh. Anyway, just checkin' one last time. I hope you're doing well, buddy. Talk soon."

Ben Giraud (voice-over): All the thoughts I'd been avoiding, the possibilities of how ONI would deal with this, started creeping up my throat, but I pushed them down. I took all of that extremely sensitive government property, audio that had been narrated with my perspective instead of propaganda, and I uploaded it all onto the open network.

{upload sound}

Ben Giraud (voice-over): Sully's office stopped calling.

{voice messages restart}

Ben Giraud (voice-over): I hadn't heard a familiar voice since. Sitting here, listening to all these messages pour in, I was feeling alone, intermittently terrified and... absolutely thrilled. I'd gone through door number two. And now I needed to make the most of it.

Dmitry Yudin: "Keep up the good work, I support you."

Ben Giraud (voice-over): I'm Benjamin Giraud, and this is Hunt the Truth.

Leckie Tom: "You call the Chief a traitor? You're the traitor, ya mouthy pig! Do the galaxy a favour: sign off for good, strip naked and jettison your treasonous arse out into space! Journalists. Augh! I bloody hate journalists!"

Ben Giraud (voice-over): It was fascinating, and often bewildering, to listen to everyone's theories on the truth. But I'd been way more excited to use all this feedback to figure out the facts, this rat's nest I'd been left with. Message after message confirmed what Ellie had said. Every Outer Colonist who'd heard this story seemed to agree. There were no Insurrectionist abductions in John's city, there was no boxing on John's planet, and yes, glassed planets have bad records. Taken together, all these messages were starting to give me a clearer picture. Between the witness I'd been provided and all the central government records, one thing was clear: ONI was telling an elaborate lie. But why? To cover up what? Listeners had clearly drawn the outlines of this fiction, but the most resonant take-away from all those messages, was something else. A strong indictment of one person. The only person who placed John alive, in Elysium, from the ages of six to thirteen.

Random voice message: "Deon? The boxing coach? He's a liar!" {additional overlapping voice messages join in}

Ellie Bloom: "I didn't even know what boxing was until I moved offworld."

Ben Giraud (voice-over): Ellie had been right again! There was absolutely no boxing on Eridanus II. And if Deon's whole story was fake, and you took it with Gabriella's story, what was the ONI lie? No one has disputed the first six years of the Chief's life yet, so the question I'm left with is, "What really happened to this young man between the ages of six and his first day of boot camp at sixteen?" It was something that ONI wanted to conceal. And I had no idea where to start.

Excerpt from interview with the alleged "Deon Govender": "John was something else..."

Ben Giraud (voice-over): I was struck by something, though. If Deon's entire story had been discredited, that would make him not only a liar, but a terrifyingly good one. I went back and listened to the recordings. I'd been so convinced by his emotion at the time, he had moved me. Even more strangely, now that I knew he wasn't making a single true statement as I listened to him talk, I still found myself believing that he believed what he was saying. It was chilling. Who the hell was this man? And then I heard from others who claimed they knew him.

Random voice message: "Is that that old man that owned Govie's in New Jay? I used to get drunk all the time in front of that place. That guy's crazy."

Random voice message: "Dude! Govie's! That's my cousin's old boxing coach, man!"

Random voice message: "That man was an institution in our neighborhood."

Random voice message: "But then you're up there blasting the guy, like you and that Ellie..."

Random voice message: "So what, his story doesn't make sense? You, you don't know what..."

Random voice message: "He's gotta be like, eight-five years old by now? Feel good about yourself? Jackass."

Ben Giraud (voice-over): Was Deon telling some version of the truth? Had ONI actually gotten a vulnerable man to tell all these lies? And not just tell them, but believe them. Convince him that a fake story about his own life was real? No matter what though, Deon had been completely discredited, and my understanding of the Master Chief's origin story was now in shambles. Maybe, if I focussed on the lies, I could find the truth. So I was putting all my faith in Ray. Thankfully he was already making his way to my place. While I waited for him, I was trying to figure out how the coverup had come to be. And I'd stumbled on some theories.

{door opening}

Giraud: Ray! It's great to see ya! Thanks for coming!

Ben Giraud (voice-over): By the time Ray got there I was pretty worked up. I asked him to hold off on his updates about Walker until I could get him up to speed. I really wanted him to vet what I'd been working on. Listening back now, I realize I didn't even give Ray a chance to talk. I guess after isolating myself for the past several days I'd let my manners slip.

Giraud: You are the best! You are the best, man. Have a seat, okay?

Ray Kurzig: Do you need help?

Ben Giraud (voice-over): Ray was trying to figure out where to sit. Apparently I'd let my housekeeping slide a bit, too.

Giraud: Okay, let me just - this doesn't need to be here. {sound of various items being swept onto the floor}

Giraud: Now, simple question: what do I know about the Chief's origin story?

Kurzig: Ben...

Giraud: It's this. Only two sources put him alive, in Elysium, between the ages of six and his enlistment at sixteen. Deon, and Gabriella Dvorak.

Kurzig: Umm...

Giraud: Deon's been completely discredited, and Gabriella's story requires a rebel labour camp in Elysium City that never existed. So the most convincing thing we've heard about John's childhood is that he died at six.

Ben Giraud (voice-over): That's when I hit Ray with my theories. About who John could be. Why the stories didn't line up. I'd even reverse-engineered my own version of an ONI cover-up, and I hit every last detail.

Giraud: And, you control the journalist, so even if there was a loose thread, no one you'd ever hire would have the slightest idea how to find it in the Outer Colonies.

Ben Giraud (voice-over): In retrospect, they weren't good theories. That had a lot of valid pieces, sure, but they were mostly unprovable. And by sharing them with Ray, I was only adding more confusion to the mix. Ray was extraordinarily patient with me. Sitting there, listening. It all brought me to one crucial, completely unreasonable, research request. At which point, Ray looked like he'd been hit by a tornado.

Giraud: Would it be possible to access the Master Chief's genetic profile and John's parents genetic profiles from medical records and compare the two? Without drawing suspicion?

Kurzig: What!? Ben, I'm - I'm sorry, man, but I really can't help you any more.

Giraud: What? Why?

Kurzig: I just came over to give you this information. Walker totally checks out. Full military records. His enlistment puts him on Reach for boot camp at the same time as John. It all checks out. Gabriella too.

Giraud: But, no-no-no-no-no. But see, they're lying. I mean, everything with Walker on the flight? He's not who he says he is. You heard him, Ray! And Gabriella's been completely invalidated by tonnes of independent actual people who actually live on Elysium. I mean...

Kurzig: Even if that's true, someone has covered up those tracks. I was unable to discredit their identities.

Giraud: Okay, fine. But what about Deon? All the messages, people who knew him? Ray! The real guy! ONI must have completely preyed on some poor senior citizen, and I mean...

Kurzig: Nah, Ben...

Giraud: Wait! {whispers} What is that?

Ben Giraud (voice-over): There was a noise coming from just outside my door. Ray turned pale. My heart started pounding.

Giraud: {whispers} I think somebody's out there.

Ben Giraud (voice-over): Ray was completely frozen. I had no idea what to do. I was debating between turning off the lights and hiding or jumping from the bedroom window when we ran out of time.

{door is kicked in}

Giraud: Oh! Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, wait, wait, wait!

Petra Janecek: You crossed the line, Ben!

Giraud: No, wait, wait, Petra! Aah! Aah!

{glass shattering}

Janecek: You didn't think I'd find out?! Huh?!

Giraud: Petra! Augh! Oh! Petra, wait!

Janecek: You recorded me?!

Giraud: What?

Janecek: When I was helping you! Augh! You wormy bastard!

Giraud: Oh. Oh, no, Petra, no, I'm sorry, I didn't even - I didn't even think about it!

Janecek: You didn't even think about it?

Giraud: No, I - I didn't. I didn't. I just uh...

Janecek: So you - you pointed your— Sit down, Ray!

Kurzig: Okay.

Janecek: So basically, you pointed your comm pad at my face and you weren't really thinking about it? Now you know as well as anyone, Ben, that you can use someone's words to destroy them. In that way, isn't your comm pad kind of like a gun? But wait, I have a gun. It's right under my jacket. {pulls revolver} What would you think if I took it out and pointed it at your face?!

Giraud: Please, don't?

Janecek: Would you want me to be concerned about what I did with it?

Giraud: Yes, but Petra...

Janecek: But what if I'm not, Ben? Hm? Maybe I'm just not really thinking about it. I don't really know, maybe I put it away, or maybe I'll UPLOAD AN INCRIMINATING RECORDING TO THE GALAXY!!

Giraud: I'm sorry, okay! I'm sorry.

Janecek: And let me guess: you're recording right now, too, aren't you?

Giraud: Yes, but...

Janecek: You little - gah!

Kurzig: Seriously, Ben?

Giraud: Yes. What do you want me to do?

Kurzig: Not record us? Erase what you have?

Giraud: Okay, but I need it for the story!

Janecek: I should actually kill him.

Giraud: Oh, come on Petra, don't be dramatic.

Janecek: Here's the deal, Ben: I'm going to leave your house now, and I'm going to go home. My gun will stay holstered, but I always have it. If I ever see your face again, I will immediately shoot part of it off. Got it?

Giraud: Petra, I'm sorry, okay? I never should have done that, it was stupid. And you're right, I didn't have the right to record you without asking. I never should have kept either of you in the dark like that. I know.

Janecek: No, Ben, you don't know. You have no idea. You don't see how much of a massive liability you are to every other human being around you. But I told you this already. You're sloppy.

Giraud: Look, I realize I'm a little out my depth here with a lot of the technical stuff, but Ray takes care of that part.

Kurzig: Nope, no I don't.

Giraud: And Mshak told me how to secure my lines. I've got it covered.

Janecek: {sighs} Ben! Ben, Mshak is probably listening to us on your comm pad right now!

Giraud: No, he's not.

Janecek: {clears throat} Mshak? Are you there?

Mshak Moradi: {from comm pad} Hi guys.

Janecek: See?

Giraud: Unbelievable. Mshak, how long have you been listening?

Moradi: Oh, I just hacked in a few weeks ago, you know so I could properly secure the line for you. You do it so wrong. And I just kind of left it open.

Giraud: Well that's comforting. Well, at least we're all here now.

Janecek: We're all here?! What do you think this is, Ben? Is it summer camp or something?

Giraud: No, but we're...

Janecek: Ben, this is real life, and you're poking the hive. I'm leaving.

Kurzig: Yeah, me too.

Giraud: No, no, no, wait a minute! You guys, wait, wait, wait! What else have you been doing that I don't know about Mshak?

Moradi: Oh, just little stuff, mostly. We rerouted some rogue monitoring bots, scrambled some drone surveillance, just little stuff. Oh! I also crossed some flight itineraries so you'd run into that Walker guy.

Giraud: You did that!

Janecek: Wait, hold, hold on. You hacked into ONI and overrode one of their travel protocols?

Moradi: Yup.

Giraud: {laughs} Mshak, you're a beast!

Janecek: Seriously? You're a nudge guy, that's active intervention, why'd you do it?

Moradi: Ahhh, well, I was contacted last week by someone about this whole thing, but before I told you about it I wanted to set up you and Walker, so you could see ONI panic. So you'd have a choice.

Giraud: A choice?

Moradi: I have some professional standards, man. I can't just refer anybody. I have a reputation to maintain.

Janecek: Who contacted you?

Moradi: This contra I've been hearing about for a while but never spoken to. FERO?

Janecek: FERO?

Kurzig: Who's FERO?

Janecek: Okay, well that's definitely my cue to get as far away from you guys as possible. Good luck with your... whatever this is.

Giraud: Petra, come on!

Kurzig: Who's FERO?

Janecek: No, you don't understand. This was already a mess, and now you have no id- {sighs} Right now, at this moment, everyone in this room has a chance to walk away and cut ties. Even you, Ben. Just stop.

Giraud: But what if FERO can help expose what they did to Deon? We don't know yet, it's just...

Kurzig: Ben, I'm leaving. I can't be here. But... I never finished telling you, I looked into Deon, too...

Giraud: And?

Janecek: Wh-Who's Deon?

Giraud: The first guy I interviewed. Sully sent me to him and everything he said, everything he said was wrong. But, like I said Ray, I found out from multiple sources that he was a real guy! So it's...

Kurzig: {interrupting} Yeah! He was...

Giraud: What?

Kurzig: Ben... Deon died seven years ago...

Janecek: What do you mean?

Kurzig: I don't know who you were talking to in that interview, but the boxing coach he was pretending to be is dead.

Ben Giraud (voice-over): That... was a smoking gun. Deon had been a person to me. Right in front me... a real person! This wasn't possible! I was stunned... I... I hardly noticed when Ray bowed out and left.

Kurzig: Do what you want with the recording man, I just...

Giraud: Thanks, Ray. {Ray leaves} They constructed him! He's... wh-who was I talking to?

Janecek: I don't know.

Giraud: Wh-what should I do?

Moradi: Find. The. Proof.

Janecek: No... Ben...

Giraud: No, it's fine. Petra, you should go, too. You're right, you can cut ties, I totally get it and I'll erase this recording too, okay? I promise I won't...

Janecek: {interrupting} Keep the recording, Ben.

Ben Giraud (voice-over): Petra left... and I totally understood. This wasn't her problem, or Ray's either. It never should have been.

Moradi: So... what's happening now?

Giraud: I need to speak to FERO. How do I get in touch with him?

Moradi: Actually, don't worry. She's about to get in touch with you.

Ben Giraud (voice-over): Please join me for the next episode of Hunt the Truth.

Messages

Messages

Micheal.Sullivan: "Ben, so uh.... we missed that deadline. Higher-ups weren't happy, you know? They do call them deadlines for a reason, that kind of thing. I told them, "Ben understands how deadlines work." Said you were having a little personal problem. I managed to convince them to extend the deadline until tomorrow. One-time deal. You know, it really seems like the story is at a critical juncture right now and, depending on what happens next, I think some big things could be on the horizon for you. I'm excited. Heh. Anyway, just checkin' one last time. I hope you're doing well, buddy. Talk soon."

Redding-Smyhte.Ian: "Do you have any idea how crazy you sound? The government kidnapping kids, turning them into soldiers?! It's something out of a bad sci-fi! You're calling yourself a journalist and you believe this crap?!"

Card.Daniel: "Yeah, it's Dan from Lethbridge, Corsica calling in. Why are you shoving your nose where it doesn't belong? Master Chief single-handedly saved Earth on multiple occasions. Who cares where he came from? Do you think UNSC will let you get away with this, this slander? We need a hero! Someone to keep us safe. Stop what you're doing before you get into trouble."

Adomo.Judith: "We're not talking about "some details were off" or "they were misinterpreting something". They weren't even exaggerating; they were complete fabrications."

Stillwell.Chris: "...I like you Ben. I like you a lot. I really do. But... how many imaginary ONI brass fringes do you have to grab to feel important? Hurting this man's legacy... I like you, but not what you think. What you're doing is wrong, I'd say, misleading even. Just... stop."

Rein.Eifinn: "Hey. I want to start, get this, a Master Chief-themed restaurant. I could have a burger called "the Master Beef" and a "Spartan Shake". I was just calling to ask ya, do you what Master Chief's favorite food is? I want to put it on a special menu. People would eat that up."

Walczak.Andy: "It doesn't matter who's lying, or who you think is lying! The Master Chief saved the world, and you, you've managed to, what, stir up a couple nuts and get some idiots to call you up?! Get real, Giraud. Where do you get off?"

Keegan.Josh: "I just don't think the UNSC would go to all that trouble. You have to understand that, from the perspective of living on Earth, it sounds like the Outer Colonists are constantly trying to prove insane conspiracies. Why don't you just relax out there?"

Zsolt.Gábor: "I always thought ONI and the government were fishy as hell, man! But to cover up this much info, about the Master Chief in incognito, whatever they're keeping about him from us has gotta be big! I mean, how many people have they blackmailed, blamed, or even plain out killed to just cover their trail, a mercy that they were taking to keep Thomas quiet when you were interviewing him? It's through his family?"

Chu.Hollie: "We're not talking about "some details were off" or "they were misinterpreting something". They weren't even exaggerating, they were complete fabrications! When I heard that lieutenant's liberation story, I almost got sick. Everything she was saying happened in Elysium, down to tiny details, sounded exactly like the story my brother had told me about surviving the camp on Dwarka. Who does that?"

Barrett.Oliver: "Who does this Benjamin guy think he is? Poking around trying to figure out who the Master Chief really is? It doesn't matter about his past. What matters is that he's here right now, to save us all. And he has, on multiple occasions. None of us would be here if it wasn't for the Master Chief. This guy has no right to be poking around."

Hannigan.Ryder: "Who the hell do you think you are, Giraud?! You're just some backwater conspiracy nutjob looking for a quick bump by damaging the reputation of the greatest hero humanity has ever had. One-One-Seven is the only reason you, me, anyone exists here, buddy, and you had better appreciate that! Let the Chief just do his job, and let respect what he's done for you."

Tom.Leckie: "You call the Chief a traitor? You're the traitor, ya mouthy pig! Do the galaxy a favour: sign off for good, strip naked and jettison your treasonous arse out into space! Journalists. Ugh, bloody hate journalists!"

Rukavina.Emil: "We live in the 26th century, Ben, and you know what holds society together at this point? Lies. Yes, we're not being told the whole truth, but you can't be so incredibly naive to assume that knowing the whole truth would benefit us. If we're shrouded in a cloud of deceit, then so be it, as long as out of that cloud come heroes, like the Master Chief."

Barker.David: "Ben! Don't tell me you haven't been talking about the Chief! The man who single-handedly saved us all from sheer destruction? And yet we still doubt him? You people can't put your trust in anything that you dig, can you? God, this is pathetic!"

Mogensen.Silas: "Personally, Ben, I love what you're doing. I am sick to death of the government spinning these tales, and we all know that that's what they're doing! You on the other hand, you are a crusader, my friend, and I cannot wait for you to catch these ONI bastards with their pants down! Keep going, dig deep!"

Langereis.Aden: "Hi, Ben, listen. Great work on the show. I mean, Chief is such an icon but the stuff that you're digging up about him, I mean, if he's got a secret, it's gotta be huge. And, you convinced me that I wanna know the truth. So, just keep coming out with the episodes and uh, please, just, stay safe."

Jackson.Derryl: "Yeah right! You know what the Master Chief does? Not people! There's a big giant pew! And all you want is to "hunt the truth". Master Chief is the truth! You know they say "what you don't know won't hurt ya", but in this case, what you don't know will hurt ya! Respect."

Arko.Jasper: "Ben, what I think you're doing is right, and I can't believe anybody hasn't actually done it sooner. The public needs to know where their heroes come from, and... the truth. Not what the government likes to shove down our throats. ...The Master Chief and what they did to him... you have to get to the bottom of this."

Yudin.Dmitry: "Hey, uh, Ben. I just wanted to, uh, contact you to let you know that, um, there's a lot of people out here who are very, very interested in your work, such as me. You know, people need to know who their hero is and, that's what you're doing, you're doing a damn good job. Keep up the good work; I support you."

Dias*Santos.Ana: "Look, Ben. I don't care if you're a "top journalist" or anything you call yourself. The Master Chief has saved humankind so many times that we could not care less where he came from. Stop prying where you're not supposed to."

Goodwin.Janet: "Where do you get off trying to tear down humanity's greatest hero? Do you keep combing these conspiracy theorists just to give them a direct path? No one cares! Even if it is true, hardship builds character and this time it's built us a savior. He was there when we needed him most, and your grotesque implications will never change that."

Moody.Richard: "This is a disgrace, Mister Giraud. We shouldn't be judging the Master Chief like this. You know, I thought we were better than that. And to think there used to be a time when we honored our men and women in uniform. They didn't judge them by their past. His actions speak louder than that. If anything, we should let him tell his own story, not you."

Weiland.John: "Benjamin Giraud! You are either the craziest man I've ever heard of in my life, or the stupidest. Challenging ONI and poking holes in this Master Chief's story? I was appalled at first, but... but by this point I think you should keep going. Finish what you started. And we are with you every step of the way."

Stephens.Leon: "Um, hey! Mr. Giraud, I love what you're doing, getting the truth out there and all that. But, I was wondering, how do you know that the Master Chief has always been one guy? Like, you know, maybe he's been different guys, wearing the same looking armor and the military just says it's the same guy? I don't know, what do you think?"

Quinn.Lucy: "I don't believe what ONI's saying for a second. Nothing adds up. But... aren't they supposed to be protecting us? The Master Chief doesn't deserve you poking around in his life."

Covington.Steve: "ONI is sick, Ben. What they've been hiding from the public, us, you and me, I- I feel betrayed. What you're digging into, it's bigger than you, Ben. You're just digging a grave for yourself. If they are willing to hide the truth then God only knows what else they'll hide. They'll bring this interview down and you down with it."

Maciejewski.Alea: "The Master Chief has only ever done what needed to be done for humanity. Even in the darkest of times, against the gravest of threats. To defame him with these false implications, it's a sick pantomime. This has to stop. No one could have done what he's done. Prove me wrong."

Drake.Matthew: "With all due respect, Ben, you need to stop! Your painful blame game is golden! You are tearing down someone that has brought for us peace and stability, and for what, you're own small niche fanbase, your own personal agenda?! You censored all the stories you done, you saw the worst in humanity, well you must have been looking in the mirror. You should be thanking the Master Chief, not defiling his past, not chasing his ghost. Leave it be."

Episode 07

Benjamin (Blog): In scanning the slush, Ray makes an interesting discovery. Petrosky returns to tell a terrifying truth about the origins of the Spartan program. And FERO finally surfaces, helping concoct a plan to expose ONI's ugliest secrets.

Episode 07: WHO'S LISTENING

Mshak Moradi (voicemail): Hello?

Benjamin Giraud: C'mon, Mshak.

Moradi (voicemail): Ah! If you think this is Mshak, think again! If it was Mshak-

Giraud: What makes him think that these are funny? What makes him think that these are funny? Wait- you- this is what you choose to leave on your phone for- I mean it's not even funny. It's not funny!

Moradi (voicemail): Good luck!

Giraud: Mshak, it's- neither of them are funny!

Giraud (voiceover): It had been three days since the Deon bomb. That friendly old boxing coach I interviewed? The guy who's facts weren't lining up? Turns out he'd been dead for seven years. Who had I spoken to? I had no idea. Whatever we'd thought this cover-up was, it now seemed like something far more sinister. Ray and Petra did the smart thing. They cut ties and left. Mshak was the only one that hadn't bailed.

Giraud: God! You know what?! It's not funny, Mshak!

Giraud (voiceover): Instead, he'd given me a potential break through. Apparently I was about to be contacted by FERO. A mysterious insergent with intimate knowledge of ONI's tactics and buried history. That was the good news. The bad news? I'd heard nothing since. FERO was a no-show, Mshak was AWOL, and I'd spent the past 72 hours listening to these two ridiculous prerecorded messages over and over.

Giraud: Ya' know what?! Who do you think you're outsmarting?! I'm the only human in existence who wants to find you!

Moradi (voicemail): Good luck!

Giraud: (sigh)

Giraud (voiceover): My team had been reduced to this man. In a weird way, I'd been comforted by the idea of Mshak's constant surveillance. I like knowing that at least somebody was out there, even if just to corroborate my existence.

Giraud: Mshak, are you there right now? Are you listening?

Giraud (voiceover): And now, he was gone. I was beginning to worry something had happened to him.

Giraud: Mshak, are you listening?! Just tell me if- if you are!

Moradi (voicemail): Wha- is that you?

Giraud: Mshak?!

Moradi (voicemail): (breathing heavily) I'm so glad you got through.

Giraud: Oh man! Where have you been?!

Moradi (voicemail): So now I can rub it in your face that you're now three whole days behind me!

Giraud: Oh, come on! Oh my God! Oh my God, if I ever get a hold of him I'm gonna kill him.

Giraud (voiceover): I'm Benjamin Giraud, and this is Hunt the Truth.

Ray Kurzig (in call): Hey, Ben. It's Ray. Um, listen... is there any chance we can grab a drink?

Giraud (voiceover): Ok, I was really glad to hear from Ray. With Mshak MIA, my imagination had been running wild. If anything had happened to either of them or Petra, that was on me. So getting this call was a huge relief. But, Ray's never been a "let's grab a drink" kind of guy. I rushed over to meet him at this dank dive bar near his place.

Giraud: So, I'm here with Ray. And, uh, a lot of loud drunk people.

Kurzig: (laughs) Think of all of them as providing cover, allowing us to talk in secret.

Giraud: Exactly, exactly. And Ray is aware I'm recording this.

Kurzig: Yes. I'm trying not to think about it honestly, but-

Giraud: Oh- you- it's fine. So... why'd you hit me up?

Kurzig: Well, my scavenger finally got back to me. He had been waiting on some additional military records on Walker.

Giraud (voiceover): I did not see that coming. I figured Ray would want to stay as far away from the topic of government cover-ups as possible. But if he was talking, I was all ears.

Giraud: And?

Kurzig: All the ONI military records still check out.

Giraud: ONI handles all military records so...

Kurzig: Well, almost all.

Giraud (voiceover): Ray explained that every enlisted soldier has to sign an affidavit that their service was voluntary. That way later on, if some grieving family member tries to claim it was involuntary, ONI is covered. But the office created to handle all those records... is a rubber-stamp joke. Of the roughly two hundred thousand involuntary service claims they've received over the years, they have ruled the exact same way: family loses, ONI wins. Every single time. The process is so automatic, Ray says that when his guy pulled the records, it was the first request the system had received from a human being in fifty years. And Ray was giddy, so I knew he was going to deliver the punchline.

Kurzig: One hundred and eighty days after a soldier's service period ends, the system is supposed to refile the record from active duty to retired.

Giraud: No.

Kurzig: Yes.

Giraud: Walker's records weren't retired.

Kurzig: And they weren't active either.

Giraud: What?

Kurzig: Jakob Walker is the only soldier in the entire military database that is neither active, nor retired.

Giraud: They missed that? How could they miss that?

Kurzig: (laughs)

Giraud: Nobody checks?!

Kurzig: Nope. Nobody but me.

Giraud: (laughs)

Giraud (voiceover): Ray had caught ONI in a major admin snafu. And I guess he was on a role, because what he said next blew my mind. Mild mannered analyst, Ray Kurzig, had used my recording of Walker's voice as a template to scan the slush... for voice matching audio. That was straight up pirate stuff.

Giraud: You what?! Ray.

Kurzig: (laughs)

Giraud: You're an animal right now. Who are you?!

Kurzig: (laughs)

Giraud: (laughs)

Kurzig: Oh, you are gonna love what I found, Ben.

Jakob Walker (commercial): Get ready to take back the road, Ganymede. This is your chance to be one of the first on the planet to have your very own Hog.

Giraud: No.

Kurzig: Here is our boy, Jakob, nineteen years ago hawking utility vehicles for some random dealership!

Giraud: Oh my goodness. It's a commercial?

Kurzig: Yeah. He's an actor.

Jakob Walker (commercial): Visit or call a qualified dealer. It's beauty, and the beast.

Commercial (Pig oinks)

Giraud: (laughs)

Giraud (voiceover): I couldn't believe it. I was listening to one of the military sources ONI provided me doing a commercial... for a Hog dealer on Ganymede, when records had him stationed on the other side of human space. ONI had completely faked Walker, and Ray had caught the stupid bastards red-handed.

Giraud: That's incredible! (laughs)

Kurzig: (laughs)

Giraud (voiceover): Sitting there, having that drink, all the frustrations and anxiety that had been blaring in my face for weeks... started to fade. We ordered another round. Ray was actually being funny! I don't even think we were talking about the story anymore, and for a little bit, I felt... normal. It didn't last though. Implications were percolating in the back of my mind and it wasn't long until it all came roaring back. If Walker's boot camp stories weren't real, then the fog around the Chief's origins extended beyond his fabricated age sixteen enlistment. How far did it go? Where did the truth even begin? All I knew at this point was who I had to speak to the moment I walked out of that bar. It was the only person that Walker's tale had contradicted, and it was somebody I had totally blown off. I just hoped Anthony Petrosky would take my call.

Anthony Petrosky (in call): (laughs) Oh so now, now you want to hear my story, huh?

Giraud: Yeah. Yeah, hey. Look I owe you an apology.

Petrosky (in call): Mhm.

Giraud: When we spoke, I didn't know what to believe and I...

Petrosky (in call): (sighs)

Giraud: I really should have given you the benefit of the doubt.

Petrosky (in call): Ok, ok, ok, just don't- don't get too weird, alright?

Giraud (voiceover): It was awkward, but after a few minutes, Petrosky eventually started warming up.

Petrosky (in call): I, uh... I've been listening to your story.

Giraud: Really? What do you think?

Petrosky (in call): Well, I mean, ONI's lying. (laughs)

Giraud: (laughs)

Petrosky (in call): It's disgusting, ya' know. They just- they just make up whatever the hell they want like we're all stupid or something, ya' know, like "Oh, where's the problem? Deep space? Well lets just throw a glassed planet at it, toss in some Insurrectionist bad guys and story's good to go", ya' know? It's ridiculous. So ridiculous. All your outer colonies people know, the listeners. Man, they're tearing that crap down. It's great. It's great.

Giraud: Oh, I know.

Giraud (voiceover): I knew exactly what question I had to ask Petrosky, but I didn't want to ask it. If I was being honest, I've been avoiding it my entire career. The Spartan program had a dark, dark cloud around its origins. Civilians had no idea, but soldiers had always whispered about it in the ranks. Even the few scattered details I'd gleaned during my years reporting from the front had been enough to convince me that this was one stone I didn't want to overturn. I was embarrassed to admit I'd just avoided it, but I couldn't avoid it anymore. Anthony would tell me everything. I just had to get the courage to ask and when I did, here's what he said.

Petrosky (in call): (sighs) Look, all I heard was rumors but everybody whispers about it. Ya' know, ONI kidnapping little kids, leaving behind decoys to cover their tracks. Those clones... clones that were doomed to get sick and die. And all the families thought they were burying their kids. But really though, their little kids where now government property, kept by ONI, training to be Spartans for years. And then when they're barely like teenagers, they start biologically augmenting them, which is just a fancy way of- of saying they tore the kids to pieces and rebuilt them with tech. Whatever tweaks could give the government tactical advantage. Jesus, man. Survival rate on something like that, it... but- but the kids who did live through it, ya' know, ONI eventually cut them loose just... sent them out the clean up the ugly in the galaxy. Ya' know all top secret: "the Spartans are super-classified so hush, hush soldier." But then the Covenant showed up. Earth got a front row seat and all of a sudden you got people throwing parades for them, kneeling at their feet: the pinnacle of humanity. But they're not human. Nobody really knows what the hell is under those Spartan masks, but sure as hell not a hero. It's not a person, whatever they are... it ain't us.

Giraud (voiceover): That was the story I never wanted to hear. I couldn't prove it. I couldn't report it as more than just rumors, but his story was the only explanation I'd heard since this mess began that actually made sense with the facts and it gave ONI more than enough motive to bury the truth, because the truth was a nightmare. The truth was treason, planned and carried out in the shadows with impunity. When you let those in power operate in the dark for long enough, sometimes the dark creeps in. Without checks and balances, it's in our nature to cut corners in the name of efficiency. Trim off pieces of our humanity a chunk at a time, justifying every cut until eventually all your left with is horror. By coming forward, Anthony had just broken a rigid code of silence. I asked him why.

Giraud (voiceover): Don't- don't you have, like a... a code of conduct or something that you have to follow?

Petrosky (in call): Whose code, huh? ONI's? (chuckles) Yeah, I don't care about that. Look, I don't blame that John kid, Master Chief, whatever the hell they call him. Just did as the masters programmed him to do. Now ONI- ONI that's the boogeyman. Some sadist CPO wants to test out his Spartan toy so he oils it up with the blood of my brothers?! No man, no I'm not keeping quiet for them.

Giraud: Aren't you afraid of retaliation?

Petrosky (in call): What are they gonna do? Tell me. What, are they gonna make my life suck? Even more than it does? It's too late. I mean, I understand Ben, you haven't- you haven't seen where I live, what my house is like. But let me just tell you this: you might prefer the shelter. I eat canned proteins, man. I am one missed check away from living on the streets all the damn time. I got, I got this, I got a titanium arm. Huh? Vets' benefits? On this planet, it's a joke. And this is how they repay me for running through their meat grinder for fifteen years, for laying down your life every damn day for them, and you think I owe them some kind of responsibility to be quiet? No, I don't owe them a damn thing, not after what I've been through.

Giraud: Uh, yeah good thanks. I uh- I got to go. I got to go.

Giraud (voiceover): I'm sure this sounds callous of me but as Petrosky described his hardships, I was drifting away. His story had left me dazed. I said I wasn't feeling well; I had to go. He understood.

Petrosky: Alright. I hope it, uh... I hope it helps, ya' know.

Giraud: It did, it did. Thanks.

Giraud (voiceover): I needed to step back and look at the full picture of what ONI had done, but my mind just wouldn't do it. Instead, I was fixated on one odd piece: the doppelgangers made to replace the kidnapped kids. Out of the disgusting quilt Petrosky had laid out, I was stuck imagining the tragic life of one of these clones. They were human, they were created in a lab, altered so their bodies grew painfully fast, their bones stretching by the hour, newborns inflated into six year olds. Someone taught them to walk, to speak. Did their handlers touch them? Did anyone look in their eyes? Did they have names? When it was time, ONI plopped them into some other kid's life, leaving them alone in a dark unfamiliar room in a bed that was probably still warm. In the morning, a family would walk in, strangers who wouldn't even know to explain any of this to them. No one would comfort them, they were completely lost. And then, these small children would begin to die. Breaking, withering away surrounded by confused heartbroken strangers who were powerless to help them, all the doctors making frantic attempts to stop the spreading rot from eating this little terrified person alive. It was all just desperate wailing against the inevitable and they would be forced to endure all of it, because no one knew the truth, that these children had lived in chaos until they died in excruciating pain because someone had designed them to do just that. The nightmare the clones endured was not a byproduct of ONI's plan, the nightmare was the plan.

FERO: Did you hear an unpleasant story?

Giraud (voiceover): It was still dark outside when I was awakened by that voice. I live alone and someone was calling me from the shadows. "Ben, come in here." I was petrified. Then I realized it was coming in over one of the networks. My communications system had been hacked. I started recording. FERO was finally here. And apparently, she let herself in.

FERO: Did you listen this time?

Giraud: Yes, I did. I feel like if people knew this story, if we could prove the cover-up, it could really start a fire.

FERO: Maybe, but you only have so much reach. With ONI controlling 90% of communication, that fire may take a while to spread, and we're not sure we have that much time, not with what's coming.

Giraud: What? What's coming?

FERO: The anomalies in deep space, your friend Mshak has been tracking. We don't know what it is yet, but it's getting stronger. Peices are moving up there and we have to move faster.

Giraud: Ok, how?

FERO: There are friendly ears in the UEG, people who have been kept in the dark, many of them with real power, and if they heard your story... they would come down hard.

Giraud: Who are you talking about? Politicians? Wha-wha-who's ONI been keeping in the dark?

FERO: There are high ranking senators who don't know about any of this. You need to tell them. Speak truth to power. Get ONI brass in the same room when you do it so they don't have a chance to spin it, and the senators will be able to blow it all up, right there.

Giraud: Ok, but wh-what am I gonna do? Arrange a round table with ONI chiefs and senate leadership? Even if those people ever where in the same room, they wouldn't invite me over to ambush half of them! I don't see the opportunity.

FERO: We create the opportunity.

Giraud: How?

FERO: By creating panic. We give the public a hard truth: ugly information that ONI can't contain.

Giraud: The cover-up, the Spartan program.

FERO: No, that's what will ignite the senators. The public needs a headline, imminent and explosive. Your story will make waves in the outer colonies, but on Earth and everywhere else, it's too complex and historical to cut out the noise. We don't have time for a slow burn. The public needs to hear a simple message, that we all might be about to die... and that's what we'll give them.

Giraud (voiceover): FERO was a force of nature, and something big was about to happen. It would get sympathetic politicians and ONI leadership all in the same room and set the table for me to lay out my proof, expose the cover up... and blow it all open.

FERO: ONI will be right where you want them, and then I'll open the door. And once you're in, you go for the throat.

Giraud (voiceover): Please join me for the next episode of Hunt the Truth.

Episode 08

Benjamin (Blog): FERO drops a bomb that ripples throughout human-occupied space, calling the Master Chief's allegiances into question. Did the Master Chief do that? Or are there more nefarious elements at play?

Episode 08: DRIP, DRIP, DRIP

(message tone)

Petra Janecek (voicemail): (chatter in background) Ben, what the hell have you done? Do you have any idea how much insanity this is causing, I can't even-- What are you doing?

Assistant (voicemail): The voice--

Janecek (voicemail): I know what they are! Why are you putting them in my face?! Hold the report!

Assistant (voicemail): I just thought that--

Janecek (voicemail): Ben, hold on, I need to fire an idiot for cause.

(message ends)

Benjamin Giraud (voiceover): This was the first I'd heard from Petra in a while.

(another message begins)

Janecek (voicemail): Ben, get your ass out of bed and call me now!

(message ends)

Giraud (voiceover): And judging by the messages she left me overnight, something major was happening. I hit her back right away.

(call begins)

Janecek (in call): Well, Ben, congratulations. You now have us all fully engulfed in flames. Would you like to explain why?

Giraud: Uh, wha....

Giruad (voiceover): I had no clue what was happening.

Janecek (in call): Any time today, Ben.

Giruad (voiceover): Petra picked up on that.

Janecek (in call): Ugh. You didn't do this.

Giraud: I, wha--, wha--, what do we even....

Janeck (in call): (sighs) I don't have time for this. Check your feed, call me back.

(call ends)

Giraud (voiceover): I did what she said. And the feed hit me with a tsunami of information unlike anything I'd ever seen. Every journalism outlet, every social hub, seemingly every person alive was buzzing about the same thing. The leak. The leak! It had hit the open network overnight, and it was all about the Master Chief. I didn't understand. As far as the public was concerned, reports of Spartan activity had almost always been categorically unknowable. And now he was front-page fodder? I skimmed the stories frantically, saw the same tags popping up over and over: collusion with the enemy, civilian casualties, abducting a hero, assassinating an icon.

Giraud: Oh no. Oh no. Oh my God, what could-- oh no! What?

Giraud (voiceover): The Master Chief did that?

Giraud: What the hell is going on?

Giraud (voiceover): Those were just the facts reported by journalists. The opinions of the public were far scarier, like missiles firing wildly in all directions from every corner of inhabited space. This leak about the Master Chief, whatever it said had already begun deeply dividing people, sending ideologues on both sides scrambling to gain the moral high ground. I needed to see the source material. It didn't take long to find. Everyone had the same file. A suppressed incident report from an embassy in the outskirts, that had already been viewed almost a half a billion times. What it said was perfectly clear. Ten days ago, in the outer colonies, the Chief had suddenly appeared, in the middle of a densely populated city at a regional embassy, where inside, long-awaited peace talks between human and alien delegates were on the cusp of an historic agreement. The Chief stormed in and instantly killed the body guard of outer colonies ambassador Richard Sekibo, starting a firefight that would claim nineteen human lives. He abducted the ambassador, and blasted an escape path through security personnel, mowing them down with extreme prejudice as he escorted the alien delegation to safety. Once aboard his waiting evac ship they fled the planet, leaving years of diplomatic work in ruins. The next day, local officials picked up a signal beacon which lead them to a nearby field. There, they found the architect of the talks, revered peace activist Richard Sekibo, last seen in the Chief's custody, lying dead in the grass. I'm Benjamin Giraud, and this is Hunt the Truth.

(call begins)

Giraud: Petra, what is happening?

Janeck (in call): I don't know, but I've been fact-checking for seven hours and it looks bad. The Earth hacks are calling him the "Fallen Spartan". Bastards.

Giraud: Wait, wait-- you think this might actually be true?!

Janeck (in call): Just-- just tell me now, was this FERO? Did she do this?

Giraud: No, I-- I don't--

Giraud (voiceover): I told her I didn't know, which was technically true but it was a cop out. Of course it was FERO, but why? It didn't make sense, why smear the Chief like this? After everything he'd done to save our asses? After everything ONI had done to him? Over the years he'd faced unimaginable catastrophes. We had no idea how many lives had hung in the balance. ONI had kept us all in the dark. But whether the Chief had always made the right call or not wasn't the issue, he should never have had to shoulder all that weight. But now he was shouldering all the blame. It wasn't right. As Perta relayed what some of the talking heads were saying about Chief on Earth, I started getting downright pissed.

(static)

Giraud (voiceover): Then, she was gone. Waypoint was gone. My COM pad, everything, gone.

COM pad AI: Your COM pad is experiencing unusually high volume. On sight diagnostics are required. Would you like me to schedule an appointment?

Giraud: Yes!

COM pad AI: First availability is in twelve days at 3 PM. Would you like me to schedule this appointment?

Giraud: Oh my God. This is a joke.

COM pad AI: I'm sorry. I did not get that. Would you like me to schedule this a--

Giraud: Yes!

COM pad AI: Appointment scheduled. All services disabled. Goodbye.

Giraud: No! You mother--

Giraud (voiceover): They were cutting my communications off for twelve days? This was no quadrant failure. ONI was trying to shut me down. And of course, they where doing it quietly. Mshak's security hacks had been keeping me a step ahead of them for the most part, but I didn't have time for this. I had to find out if we were actually stirring things up. I'd needed to find Mshak and to do that I needed a safe place to secure working comms. So I packed some essentials and headed out, taking back routes, dodging surveillance. Moving my work space to an undisclosed location was a precaution I'd been needing to take anyway. ONI's latest move had just gotten me to pull the trigger. When I got where I was going my contact help me set up shop, and once I was live, this was the message that was waiting for me.

Mshak Moradi (voicemail): Ben-jo-boss! Lovin' what you did with the story man. Really great pacing. But that last episode, wasn't the same. It was just missing a certain, I don't know... me element. Ha! Anyway I'm around, ya' know. Gimme a call.

Giraud (voiceover): After disappearing for eight days, Mshak Moradi was just calling to say hi. He was the most frustrating human being I've ever met.

Moradi (in call): Bemijem!

Giraud: Mshak! I c-- I was certain you were dead! I mean--

Moradi (in call): Uh, I think you were wrong.

Giraud: Mshak, where in the hell have you been?

Moradi (in call): Ben, listen, I'm sorry. Super sorry, but I had to go dark. I had to disappear.

Giraud: Ok, but why?!

Giraud (voiceover): I asked him if it had something to do with the disturbances he had been tracking in the outskirts. He said no.

Moradi (in call): Eh, not really, it was this other thing I was checking on for you. I don't know anything for sure yet, but I will soon.

Giraud: Fine, but listen! I realize you operate in a den of secrets, but you could have at least warned me before disappearing. I mean, you mind?!

Moradi (in call): No, not really. It's true, I operate in a very mysterious den of secrets, but this mission was on a level three stories below the subfloor of the secondary basement of my den of secrets. I shouldn't even be thinking about it! Just believe me, you not knowing was the only way.

Giraud (voiceover): Thankfully, Mshak laid off the riddles for a bit, seguing into news from the outskirts. My last episode was having an effect. People were listening, taking it to heart, and they were pissed. The kidnappings, the military-grade augmentations. Unless they were looking for somewhere to bury the truth, ONI seemingly had no regard for the outer colonies. This was an old ache for these people. Back when their survivalist spirit was bordering on independence, ONI had given the outer colonies their full attention. They pulled out all the stops to crush the oppressive Insurrectionists. No one was shedding tears over that. But then, when the Covenant showed up and started glassing their planets to genocidal hell, the outer colonies were widely left to fend for themselves. It was this principle of selective intervention that had never sat well. But where my story had started to reheat that unrest in the outer colonies, last nights leak... had bought it to a boil.

Moradi (in call): So the idea is that Chief went into berserker mode, right? That drip, drip, drip has a very different effect depending on where you live. All those herbivorous babies on Earth think they diverse their own dedicated Spartan messiah, like he's gonna camp out on the moon waiting to kill aliens or karate chop meteorites to keep them safe! So the word "rouge"... panics them.

Giraud (voiceover): But Mshak says it wasn't like that in the outer colonies. Whether the embassy story was true or not, the way they saw it, the Chief wasn't the problem. ONI was using him the same way the UEG had always used them: for utility, when useful. But, always disposable.

Moradi (in call): Sure, nobody really wants a seven foot tall murder machine with mad skills showing up in their neighborhood. But, in the outer colonies ONI is still the real monster.

Giraud (voiceover): My fury at Mshak had subsided. I was glad he was back. If I was going to pull of confronting ONI and exposing everything to the senators, I needed as much ammo as possible. And luckily, he was on the same page. After hearing my interview with Petrosky, he'd buried his face in the slush. Curating decades of data and the research of his nutjob predecessors, compiling sort of a greatest hits of ONI's atrocities. He pushed me to a scatter graph of every case of exotic pediatric autoimmune disorders for the first few decades of the century: any kid who had a disease like John's. After some variable tweaking, a galactic map of human space popped up. Decorated with clusters of dots: one for each sick kid. He told me I was looking at a reasonably accurate representation of where every single defective clone ONI planted... had died.

Giraud: Wow.

Moradi (in call): "Wow", he says. (chuckles) Of course wow! But you're about to turn into a wow when you see this.

Giraud (voiceover): He overlayed the graph on another map that showed the distribution of human population. He asked me what I noticed.

Giraud: It's not random.

Moradi (in call): It's... not... random. Ben, never be a statistics professor. This is the opposite of random, ok? For their Spartan abductions, ONI heavily favored the outer colonies. It's like their favorite candy store, except instead of candy they were scooping up child soldiers.

Giraud: Because it's easier to cover your tracks out there.

Moradi (in call): Yeah, and you can easily make the argument that these children's lives were assigned much lower value than, say, those of Earth kids or kids from Mars. Genetically they'll be no worse than inner colonies specimens, but after the human cost, outer colonies kids just spend easier.

Giraud (voiceover): I'm not sure if the data was going to be conclusive enough for the senators, but the implication... was certainly heinous enough. The whole point of abducting kids in the first place was to create supersoldiers for crushing the Insurrection. That was the original mandate of the SPARTAN program. But in their secret child poaching, ONI had favored the vary same parts of the outer colonies they were targeting for that military campaign. So years later when the Spartans landed their bloody anti-Insurrectionist campaign in the outer colonies, many of those Spartans were simply the harvested children of those communities... coming home. But these native sons weren't fighting for their homeland. They weren't there to protect their families. They were carrying out the political agenda of ONI, serving the very government that had violated their families and torn them from their childhoods! As far as the "not in my backyard" philosophy goes, this was double dipping by ONI, enough to incite pure rage. But Mshak had been working on something else too.

Moradi (in call): I've been tracking old police scanner data, pulling it together for your big whistle blow. Makes a pretty gnarly case.

Giraud: Ok?

Moradi (in call): Did you ever wonder what would happen if ONI's "doomed to die" clones... didn't die?

Giraud (voiceover): I hadn't considered that possibility, but it was chilling.

Giraud: What happened to them?

Moradi (in call): It's not what happened to them, it's what happened to the people they've been made to replace! Two soldiers ran into a perfect copy of themselves. Think about it, you're secretly plucked from your childhood bed, thrown into a totally different life, and now years later, you meet a mirror image of yourself! Someone who got to keep living... your... life. I mean, they'd probably seem to be more you than you. Two records I've found, two soldiers, both... suicides.

Giraud (voiceover): A story like that would be hard to listen to, but... it would also be hard to ignore. I just hoped FERO would know how to reach me.

Moradi (in call): Don't worry, she'll find you. Probably soon by now, who knows. Her mysterious den of secrets is like... under the planetary crust. Just keep me posted. Whenever you guys penetrate the dragon's lair and explode your truth serum, I'll be standing by to track the ripples.

Giraud: Thanks, Mshak.

Giraud (voiceover): I was having trouble falling asleep in my new workspace. The next time I heard a voice calling me in the dark. This time though, FERO sounded human.

FERO (in call/disguised): Are you enjoying the show?

Giraud: No, actually, I'm not! After everything ONI's done, people are calling for the Chief's--

FERO (in call/disguised): The infection goes to the core, Ben. When you cut all the way in to extract it, you can't always control what sprays out.

Giraud: But you're the one spraying it! You chose to smear the Chief!

FERO (in call/disguised): I'm not smearing anyone. Everything I leaked was real.

Giraud: B-- but you don't know the whole story, and the implications of this story are the--

FERO (in call/disguised): The only implication is that an aging Spartan may be going off the rails, and sadly it may be true. Your story set the table for that. When you brake children to make warriors, you take a risk of bearing psychological damage deep in your soldiers and for critical decision makers, that's a liability. I don't know what motivated the Chief to shoot up that embassy and I don't know what he's doing now, but he is off leash! He is proving the liability! All I did was expose it by pealing back the very layers of ONI secrecy under which that liability was born and allowed to fester!

Giraud (voiceover): I didn't know what to say. Thi-- this felt all wrong to me.

FERO (in call/disguised): Ben, the Chief is the savior of humanity, I know that, but your patriots know it too... and this is the painful part: right now, the Chief is being chopped down, but he will be vindicated. This is how we puncture to the core. By sacrificing the Chief in the short term, we've opened a deep hole and when the bleeding slows, it's ONI's exposed nerve that will get all of the cold scrutiny.

Giraud: It's just hard hearing what they say about him, and people are going nuts! I mean a lot of the inner colonists are actually denouncing him!

FERO (in call/disguised): They're terrified.

Giraud: And the anger in the outer colonies seems to be turning ugly fast! You see that right?

FERO (in call/disguised): The blood of their hero is spraying in their face. This is exactly what we need. This is the chaos I said would happen!

Giraud: I guess I just didn't think it was gonna be like this.

FERO (in call/disguised): Chaos has a high price, Ben, but the pieces are moving. Our opportunity has arrived.

Giraud (voiceover): FERO told me that as of this morning, the meeting had been scheduled. Personnel were already en route to Earth, and in a few days time ONI brass would be testifying in front of high ranking UEG senators in closed sessions. FERO was going to hack in and get me a direct, unbroken feed so I could lay out ONI's ugly secrets to a handful of the most senior lawmakers in the land. I had to prepare fast. I was anxious there wasn't enough time to make Mshak's data convincing enough, but FERO gave me an idea that could amp up the persuasion. She listened in as I made the call.

Giraud: Anthony?

Anthony Petrosky (in call): Hey man, how ya' doin'?

Giraud (voiceover): I just laid it right out there.

Giraud: Do you wanna help bring down ONI?

Giraud (voiceover): He didn't respond. I started to get nervous, but then he spoke up.

Petrosky (in call): You bet your ass I do. What do ya' need from me?

Giraud (voiceover): Petrosky was in. I gave him marching orders and hang up.

FERO (in call): I'm so happy to hear that.

Giraud (voiceover): FERO seemed pleased. Things seemed to be falling into place.

Giraud: So that's you're real voice?

FERO (in call/slightly disguised): For the most part. Just off enough to be untraceable.

Giraud: So-- so why'd you switch it up? What happened to the scary voice?

FERO (in call/slightly disguised): Well, we're about to go somewhere scary. I wanted you to feel like you knew who was going to be fighting at your side.

Giraud: I appreciate that.

Giraud (voiceover): I couldn't believe we were really gonna do this! But I was lit up and ready to go.

FERO (in call/slightly disguised): Ben, I wanted to give you a heads up. There's still one more leak coming.

Giraud: Oh no-- what-- what do you mean?

FERO (in call/slightly disguised): It's the icing on the cake. Just to keep the pieces in motion.

Giraud: Ok. Ok, what-- what is it? When is it hitting?

FERO (in call/slightly disguised): It just did.

Giraud (voiceover): I pulled up my public feed. It took a moment, and then it hit. Security video for the Outer Colonies Regional Embassy.

(gunshots and screaming from news feed)

Giraud: FERO... is this real?

Giraud (voiceover): FERO was already gone, but her latest leak was live. Right now, millions of people across occupied space were all watching the same thing. Master Chief Petty Officer SPARTAN-117, seemingly unprovoked, raging a brutal assault against the peace consulate on Biko. Please join me for the next episode of Hunt the Truth.

Episode 09

Benjamin (Blog): A new report surfaces about a Spartan abductee, but there’s no time to check the facts. FERO is missing, and the Senate meeting is about to begin.

Episode 09: PHANTOMS

Anthony Petrosky (in call/scratchy): Testing, testing 1, 2, 3. Can you hear me okay?

Benjamin Giraud: Yeah, just don't move around too much, it messes with the sound.

Petrosky (in call/scratchy): All right, roger that.

Giraud (voiceover): It was all coming down to the wire. In a couple of hours, FERO was going to hack into a closed-door session between the UEG and ONI and I was going to expose all of the intelligence agency's ugly secrets to Senate leadership. Having Petrosky remotely record his statement in advance like this was going to give me one less variable to worry about once we were in. But, I was still waiting on final materials from Mshak. I hadn't heard from FERO all day and I was urgently trying to pull it all together. I was a wreck.

Giraud: Come on, come on.

Giraud (voiceover): Considering he was about to accuse ONI of atrocious human rights violations, Petrosky, on the other hand, seemed completely calm. He wanted to chitchat about the Chief.

Petrosky (in call): So... high treason. Eh, you, uh, you think that's for real?

Giraud: Uh, I guess. That's what people are saying. Can-- can-- can you stay up sitting like that please?

Petrosky (in call): The Master Chief! Damn, that's gonna be a black eye for ONI PR, huh? (chuckles) You know, boots all across the military are gathered like they're at a slumber party or something.

Giraud (voiceover): Three days ago, FERO had leaked a suppressed incident report from an embassy in the Outer Colonies that had everyone in disbelief or disarray. Less than twenty-four hours later, FERO dropped the real bomb: a security video from that same embassy, showing that everything in the report was true. The Master Chief had turned diplomatic peace talks into a shooting gallery that claimed nineteen lives. The shock of that second leak immediately turned to outrage, polarizing everyone by the same familiar geography: the staunch patriots of Earth versus the dogged survivalists of the Outer Colonies. It was the same caustic regionalism that had far too recently defined us. And now those old ideologies were creeping back out, masquerading as opinions, angrily cracking open the scabs. Meanwhile, the Master Chief, the subject of my entire investigation, was now the most wanted man in the galaxy. I hadn't even had a chance to dig into any of it.

Petrosky (in call): So, do you think he did it?

Giraud: What?

Petrosky (in call): Do you think the Chief shot up that embassy on Biko?

Giraud: Uh--

Petrosky (in call): Maybe he finally went nuts. Maybe he thinks we're still fighting Insurrectionist guerrillas or something, I don't know, but man, working for the Covenant? Doh! That's a stretch, right?

Giraud: I really-- I don't know man. I'm sorry, we just gotta lay this down.

Petrosky (in call): All right, roger that.

Giraud (voiceover): We were running out of time and I needed Petrosky to focus. He started recording. I asked to introduce himself and tell the world about the SPARTAN program. From then on the was totally on point.

Giraud: So just, uh, say who you are, and then just go into it.

Petrosky (in call): Ok. (clears throat) I am Corporal Anthony Petrosky, retired trooper of the 105th ODST Division. I am testifying by my own free will under no duress by any parties and I wish to make the following statement. (clears throat) In April 2525, while serving on a detachment on the UNSC Atlas, I witnessed, firsthand, an incident involving a 12 to 13 year old male who identified himself as John-117. He had extensive scarring on his torso, consistent with post-procedural scarring I've seen on recently inducted Spartans. And under orders from an ONI CPO, John killed two ODSTs and critically injured two others, an attack that greatly exceeded natural human ability.

Giraud (voiceover): He didn't stutter. He didn't stammer. His thoughts were clear as crystal, told with purpose, as if he had been waiting his whole life to speak with this much conviction. After a grueling military career that took his left arm, Anthony Petrosky should have been rewarded with dignity and opportunity. Instead, he was one of countless veterans the government had left behind. But this was his moment and he never sounded more alive. As he laid out his damning testimony about ONI's biological augmentations of children, I knew FERO had been right. Petrosky's words would humanize the story and persuade even the most jaded senators to listen. I had exactly what I needed from Petrosky.

Petrosky (in call): I am testifying with absolute certainty that the speed, power, and coordination this person exhibited was categorically impossible without the benefit of a full battery of military-grade augmentations. Afterwards, the Office of Naval Intelligence, through our COs, issued an order of absolute suppression of all accounts of this incident. The coercion, pressure being brought to bear, we were ordered to keep silent, to never speak of this publicly upon fear of court martial. How's that? That okay?

Giraud: Uh, yeah! Tha-- that was amazing. I-- I can't thank you enough.

Petrosky: Yeah. All right, you give 'em hell.

Giraud (voiceover): Now I was just praying Mshak would come through, FERO would be able to bypass the most sophisticated security system in history, and I could get hacked into a meeting between the most powerful people alive. I needed a miracle, and I needed it to happen in the next ninety minutes. I'm Benjamin Giraud and this is Hunt the Truth.

(beeping)

Giraud: Oh God, what was I thinking?

Giraud (voiceover): As I tried and failed repeatedly to get a hold of Mshak, I was trying not to dwell on what my plan had been, particularly because it was sounded absurd. I was trying to corroborate my accusations against ONI by having Mshak Moradi convert nutjob conspiracy theorist data into documentation that a senator would find compelling. But I didn't have time to rethink the plan. I needed the documents. My calls to Mshak kept dropping though. Something was up, the networks were a mess. I did not have time for this and I was starting to panic when a message from the Outer Colonies finally came through.

Giraud: The files better make sense, Mshak.

Giraud (voiceover): But there were no files. And it wasn't Mshak. The message was from Katrina, the old friend of John's that Ellie Bloom had put me in touch with. The woman who had told me about John's death. I hadn't spoken to her in... weeks.

Katrina (in call): Hey, Ben. I don't really know who else to call but I was hoping you could maybe tell me what feedback you were getting from the Outer Colonies this week.

Giraud (voiceover): I had no idea what the listeners were thinking. Ever since I'd gone incognito I hadn't heard any of their feedback. Stupidly, when I set it up, I hadn't properly secured the feed and now I was afraid if I accessed it to hear what people were saying, ONI would trace my new location. I'd figured after my latest episode, the revelation that ONI had heavily poached the Outer Colonies for their child abductions would be garnering a strong reaction out there. But the way Katrina made it sound, the reaction was stronger than I could have ever imagined.

Katrina (in call): (sighs) People are going nuts. They're switching over to only using local ChatterNet services like it's fifty years ago or something. It's this New Colonial Alliance group. They're everywhere, holding all these demonstrations in the streets. Thousands of people are turning out! And they keeping chanting about self-reliance, talking about how we need to be preparing for this big embargo, all these boycotts, the UEG offices shutting down. I don't know. It seems peaceful right now, I just-- I feel like we should get off world, just in case it breaks bad. (sighs) I've kind of already been freaked out anyway. I don't know if I'm being paranoid but I think... someone maybe targeting me for helping you, and Ellie's in the same boat. All these power surges and these crazy service interruptions. Last time I talked to you, my entire system was overrun with corrupted files and my whole neighborhood lost power. I don't know, but if someone is trying to get us I'm worried what would happen if things get too chaotic out here. Um, I don't feel safe so if you anything about this or what we can do to protect ourselves, I mean they're already shutting down the st--

(call disconnected)

Giraud (voiceover): Katrina's message got cut off. I had no idea what was happening. I had no idea what the central government was going to do. I had no idea how to help this woman or Ellie or their families or anyone else. We were all in the dark. All I could do was present the senators with the ugly truth and hope it could convince them to help us all, and I was running out of time to make that a reality. Thankfully, Mshak finally emerged from his subterranean world.

Mshak Moradi (in call): So I just sent it.

Giraud: Perfect. Got it! Thank you, thank you! I-- God I hope it's convincing enough.

Moradi (in call): You should have a clear breakdown that exposes the blatantly unnatural pattern of child autoimmune deaths on the beginning of the SPARTAN-Program, particularly in the Outer Colonies.

Giraud: Yeah, yeah I see that. It's good. It looks solid.

Moradi (in call) (in call): And, I also cleaned up and edited that police scanner data. It's one of ONI'S abducted kids returning home and running into their clone.

Giraud: One of the suicides?

Moradi (in call): Yeah, some officer gets called to the scene of a home invasion. It's this middle-age couple and their teenage son whose in a wheelchair. The officer comforts the victim, assesses the situation, calls it in. There wasn't a confrontation or anything, no valuables appear to be missing, victims didn't even get a good look at the guy. The perpetrator just entered the house, went into the son's room, son freaked out, perpetrator fled the scene, blah blah blah. Now everything seems to be okay. During his report to dispatch though, the officer gets startled by a sound. Reports of possible shots fired somewhere nearby. Backup arrives, they canvass the area, about ten minutes later same officer reports discovering a body in a nearby field. A teenage kid, dead from what appears to be a self-inflicted gun shot wound.

Giraud (voiceover): That's where the officer's report to dispatch... took a turn.

New Houston Dispatch (recording): Seven-Charlie-Nineteen, what's the rush?

Seven-Charlie-Nineteen (recording): It's the exact same kid. The kid from the home invasion over at Stanton. I mean... this 10-56, looks like an identical twin. I don't know what to say.

New Houston Dispatch (recording): Seven-Charlie-Nineteen, M.E. is en route.

Giraud (voiceover): The medical data Mshak had sent along with the audio made the picture even uglier. The son was in a wheelchair because months of medical procedures had left him with permanent nerve damage... from when he was six years old, under treatment for autoimmune and significant cognitive disorders. Those procedures that left him paralyzed were nearly identical to those from John's medical records. Before the survivors had been removed from the data, this boy had been one of the dots on Mshak's scatter graph of likely clones. I didn't know what to say.

Moradi (in call): So I realize it's messy. Whether you can use it or not, at least now you know.

Giraud (voiceover): I didn't have enough time to wrap my head around this new piece. So I made the difficult choice not to use it, but hearing yet another ONI horror story made me all the more determined to blow it open. I just needed FERO to show up in the next few minutes with a miraculous way to get in the door.

Giraud: Thanks, Mshak. So this should all be going down here in a-- uh--

Moradi (in call): Don't be nervous, you'll be great. I've got all my channels open, ready to go. Whatever pops off, the murmurs will pop up. And if the Senators are making moves against ONI, that's the kind of chatter that rattles teeth. So don't worry, we'll know soon enough if it works.

Giraud: Thanks man, okay. I'll uh--

Moradi (in call): Hey, just real quick! I know you're super busy right now with your crusade of honor but as soon as you can, you need to get caught up with what's happening in the Outer Colonies. The last episode is turning kernels into popcorn. The fault lines are tectonic I need to talk to about about, so--

(call disconnected)

FERO (in call/slightly disguised): Ben will call you back.

Giraud (voiceover): Hacking in and cutting off Mshak: yet another dramatic entrance for FERO. And this one came not a moment too soon.

Giraud: FERO, what's happening? I'm all ready. Do you have a way in?

FERO (in call/slightly disguised): I'm already in and this is how it's going to work: you have the files ready for upload, I'll secure connection and give you a direct feed into the hearing. You'll present Petrosky's testimony, upload the files, and make your case. Quickly, because they're going to do everything in their power to shut it down. They might even be able to trace your location. If they run too much interference, I'll have to scale us back to a one-way feed so we may end up flying blind but they'll still see and hear everything you say for as long as I can keep that connection open. Are you ready to play for real?

Giraud (voiceover): I had to be.

Giraud: Yes.

FERO (in call/slightly disguised): Good. I'm patching you in now.

(beeps)

FERO (in call/slightly disguised): Go for the throat Ben.

Giraud (voiceover): This was it. Every shred of journalistic integrity I had left was about to go out the window. I had a strongly biased opinion and I was about to deliver it to some of the most important policy makers in government. This wasn't just an exposé of ONI's deeds, it was an indictment that constituted a call to arms. I just hope the Senators would listen.

(feed opens)

Giraud (voiceover): There was no audio but I suddenly had a full view of the congressional chamber hosting this meeting. I couldn't believe this was happening. My eyes I scanned the room. The twelve senators who represented the Senate Armed Forces Committee seemed to be there, and three of the six ONI directors lined up in front of them. My heart was racing, then I saw someone else.

Giraud: Wait, is that Sully?

FERO (in call/slightly disguised): Ben, you're live in 3, 2, 1.

Giraud (voiceover): I saw my face pop up in the main display at the head of the room. The proceedings seem to stop as all the heads turned and looked at me. For a moment... I froze... and then I began.

Giraud: Distinguished representatives of the Unified Earth Government and the Office of Naval Intelligence, my name is Benjamin Giraud. I was a journalist hired by Commander Michael Sullivan to do a profile on the Master Chief Petty Officer John-117 and my contract was terminated for exposing a widespread cover-up by ONI on his true origins.

Giraud (voiceover): As I spoke, I tried to look at the camera and ignore the return feed. The image of my own face speaking to a room full of supremely powerful people was incredibly distracting. I could see out of the corner of my eye though, that it was working. They were listening, then my feed went black.

(feed closes)

FERO (in call/slightly disguised): Keep talking, Ben. I had to cut the return feed but you're still live in the room.

Giraud (voiceover): I tried to focus.

Giraud: ONI has gone to great lengths to keep you and the public from knowing critical information about the SPARTAN program, their lack of institutional control of the Master Chief in the Outer Colonies, and the genetic modification of abducted children that eventually became warriors like the Master Chief. What I'm about to play for you is testimony from ODST Anthony Petrosky regarding the SPARTAN program.

Petrosky (recording): I am Corporal Anthony Petrosky, retired trooper of the 105th ODST Division. I am testifying by my own free will under no duress by any parties and I wish to make the following statement.

Giraud (voiceover): As Petrosky's testimony played, I was starting to doubt whether or not it was still actually live when I got a message from Sully. It said: "You're out of control Ben. Last chance to stop." I typed back: "I can't be a party to the crimes you and the rest of ONI have committed. Not anymore. I'm done." There was a brief pause and he responded: "Yes, you are." My gut sank... but I wasn't gonna back down

FERO: You have to finish up quickly Ben. They're hitting the hack hard, I can't keep it open too much longer. As Petrosky finished up, I quickly edited my final piece, chopping out any unnecessary language. Then, it was time to bring it home.

Giraud: Senators, uh, for their SPARTAN program ONI kidnapped young kids and illegally engineered doomed to die clones to replace them. They kept the children as military property, subjecting them to horribly unethical training regimens and eventually performed dangerous biological augmentations on them while they were still growing. This was how they made the Spartans. Half of these children most likely did not survive. I've provided you with files that corroborate my claims as to these egregious human rights violations. I ask you to review them with an open mind. ONI has gone to great lengths to cover up this story, including elaborate fabrications.

FERO (in call/slightly disguised/speaking over Giraud): Wrap it up Ben!

Giraud: I've also provided you to clear evidence of this disturbing cover up -

FERO (in call/slightly disguised/speaking over Benjamin): Come on.

Giraud: - as well as audio evidence of the threats I have received in the past several weeks for pursuing this information.

FERO (in call/slightly disguised/speaking over Benjamin): We're about to lose the feed.

Giraud: I've come forward at great risk to my personal safety -

FERO (in call/slightly disguised/peaking over Benjamin): Come on, come on, come on.

Giraud: - and my only hope is that you will look at the facts and take the directors of ONI -

FERO (in call/slightly disguised/speaking over Benjamin): Keep going.

Giraud: - and all responsible to task for these atrocities. Thank you for your time.

(transition ends)

Giraud (voiceover): The feed cut, at the last moment, I-- I was in shock. What had just happened?

FERO (in call/slightly disguised): Perfect. Now let's watch and burn. The revolution has started, Ben, and you were the spark. From now on, you're under our protection.

(call ends)

Giraud: FERO? (sighs)

Giraud (voiceover): She was gone. My head was buzzing. I felt like I was in a dream. What had I done? I looked down at Sully's last message, his response to when I said "I'm done"... it was chilling. "Yes, you are." That was all he said, that was all he needed to say. I felt dizzy, I-- I had to keep moving, find out if that kamikaze mission had any effect whatsoever. The first ripple popped up right away. It was a message from my bank.

Bank Message: We regret to inform you that you account at Battered Trust has been deactivated. If you have any questions, please speak with a financial representative.

Giraud (voiceover): I called immediately and got representative on the line. She told me I was under investigation for the unauthorized possession of sensitive government materials: the audio files from my story. I was being fined an astronomical sum for keeping them and as a result, my assets had been frozen indefinitely. I couldn't believe it. I checked all my accounts, either locked down or zeroed out. In retrospect, cashing out should have been step one before I took on the most powerful government agency in history. But it was too late now, ONI was bringing down the hammer and I had been financially ruined. I was reeling from this realization when two delayed messages popped up in my queue. The first one loaded quickly. It was Mshak.

Moradi (voicemail): Uh Ben, things are getting a little hectic out here so I don't know if this is going through, but I was trying to tell you before I got cut off that-- ok, no we need to talk in person. I-- i-- i-- it's urgent, it's very-- it's something I found but we can't over coms about it so I'm coming to see you in person the day after tomorrow. Don't talk to anybody, don't try to reach me. I'll be there soon and then we can sit down and go over the whole--

Giraud (voiceover): I couldn't wait for Mshak to get here so against his wishes and my better judgement, I tried to raise him. But something was wrong. Like everyone else in my region, I had plenty of failed calls to the Outer Colonies in my time. But this was different, like it didn't even send the call. I checked my ChatterNet feed, it was full of comments from people just like me panicking because they couldn't reach the Outer Colonies. Scattered reports that communication buoys themselves had been shut down. It didn't make any sense. The second delayed message finally finished loading. It was Katrina.

Katrina (voicemail/distorted): Ben, it-- (static) --I can't even-- (static) --point is down, it's totally gone, we're completely out-- (static) --my parents, Ellie, no one in the whole system is-- (static) --ChatterNet and there's a full-- (static) --please, if you can-- if you can tell someone what's happening or get somebody-- (static) --we need help and we-- (static) --food and--

(call disconnected)

Giraud (voiceover): And then... silence. That was it. I couldn't get through again. No one from the Inner Colonies could. The Outer Colonies had been completely cut off. After years of ONI quietly committing atrocities from their high perch, it felt like their phantoms were finally in motion, shifting the landscape with unknown objectives, somewhere out in the shadows they'd created. I listened to Mshak's message again. I needed him to help me sort this out, the idea of sitting here waiting in that darkness for him... scared the life out of me. I had to be patient. I just had to get through the next forty-eight hours. But he would never show up. That message... was the last time I heard... from Mshak Moradi. Please join me for the next episode of Hunt the Truth.

Episode 10

Benjamin (Blog): Freshman Senator Andrew Del Rio wastes no time turning Biko into an anti-Chief campaign, but news from the Outer Colonies tells a very different story. With the truth about the Spartan program hanging in the balance, how far will ONI go to bury it?

Episode 10: GAG ORDER

Benjamin Giraud (voiceover): Listen... and wait. That's what you do when you hide in the dark. And once you've fired everything you got at the monster, hiding in the dark is all you can do.

Giraud: One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand...

Giraud (voiceover): Ever since we'd hacked into the senate hearing, I've been listening and waiting, hoping our testimony would find the right ears, afraid ONI would find us first just sitting here in the shadows. I didn't know where ONI ended and the world began. And it was the not knowing that kept me up. Because even if we had landed a fatal blow, all we could do was watch and wait for gory chunks to surface. So far, the surface was calm. The only thing I knew for sure was Mshak had never shown up. Every day since had been sickeningly silent and every night my doubts grew darker, haunted by scenarios, had always ended in quiet black bags. What had I done? FERO and Petrosky could handle themselves, but if ONI had come for Mshak... it was my fault and now, they would be coming for me. I’ve been holed up here for days. Darkness brought nightmares so I stopped sleeping in it. Nighttime was work time and I kept my display as dim as possible. Only my contact knew I was here and I wanted it to stay that way. This place was all concrete and dark corners. I'd memorized the sounds the building made: the breeze shushing down the stairwells, the click of the cooling system’s hibernation mode, the scurrying of rats in the walls. Anything else and I would instantly black out my display, crawl beneath the window and wait, on high alert, until the sounds and shadows normalized again. Then, I'd count to a hundred, and crawl back. I hadn’t deviated from the protocol once… until tonight. With the storm pounding on the roof, screaming through the high vents, I was effectively deaf; anyone could have snuck up on me. All of the concrete was echoing and all those dark corners seem to be coming alive, coming down the hall and I-- I tried to remind myself: if anyone came, they’d hit the tripwire. I’d have five seconds to hide. But every bump was a footstep, every howl was a voice, and everything in me told me someone was inside the building. I wasn’t gonna wait for the tripwire. I slid over to the loose panel on the floor; beneath it there was a narrow space. I squeezed into the gap, and closed myself in. No matter how hard it stormed, no matter who came for me, no one would find me here. Waiting in the dark... that was the hard part. But spending the night under the floor... was the best sleep I’d gotten in weeks. I’m Benjamin Giraud and this is Hunt the Truth.

Newscaster (recording): Speaking from the steps of the Congressional Plaza today, freshman Senator Andrew Del Rio issued a formal statement addressing last month’s embassy massacre on Biko.

Giraud (voiceover): It’s not a promising sign for democracy when a catastrophe touches a majority of the voters and seemingly, every politician in the UEG was trying to leverage the public outrage into talking points. Everything from military spending to tax relief. Not Senator Andrew Del Rio though, his sights were centered on one narrow target.

Andrew Del Rio (recording): So… the Master Chief stormed an assembly of peace activists and began to gun people down. Now, I’m sorry, but the SPARTAN-IIs are fundamentally flawed and dangerously outdated. They are an embarrassment and danger with their rusting tech and degraded neurology, but (chuckles) we just keep bleeding taxpayers dry. Well, now we’re seeing the real cost. That program isn’t built on faded glory, but faded principles! Volatile remnants of powerful weapons governed by increasingly corroded minds. There is a reason you’ll never see video of a SPARTAN-IV attacking civilians or murdering heroes. I can vouch personally for the character of each and every SPARTAN-IV as warriors, and as people. After the tragic events on Biko, I don’t think there is a person alive who could say the same for the SPARTAN-IIs. Mark my words: if we fail to decommission the SPARTAN-IIs, there will be more Bikos and there will be more massacres. Nobody wants to say it, but damn it somebody has to! For those nineteen families whose loved ones are never coming home, because of this.. “False Spartan,” this... broken bastardization of a soldier who would abandon his post, dishonor his uniform, and slaughter the very people he's sworn to protect. In the name of decency, it’s time to tear down that statue and put down the Master Chief.

Giraud (voiceover): I had to hand it to Andrew Del Rio, the man had focus. However much I hated Del Rio and the whole propaganda machine, the leaks, the video, the report... they didn’t lie. The Chief shot Ambassador Sekibo’s bodyguard at point blank range, grabbed the Ambassador, then escaped with the alien delegation in a hail of gunfire, and dropped off Sekibo’s body the next day. Those were the facts, and no matter how corrupt these politicians were, I couldn’t argue with the evidence. Chief needed to come in and face due process so we could know the truth. I still believed in the Chief. I believed that his legend would be restored and I knew there had to be more to this story. I don’t know if I become overconfident by daylight or distracted by Del Rio… but I didn’t even hear the intruder until they tripped the alarm.

(loud rustling)

Giraud: Oh God!

Ray Kurzig: Ah, crap!

Giraud: Ray?! Is that you?!

Kurzig: Uh, yeah. Got caught in your booby trap.

Giraud: What are you doing here? You weren’t supposed to come until tomorrow! You scared the hell out of me, man!

Kurzig: Okay, can you hold that thought? I’m all wrapped up in dental floss and... camping gear? And this looks like something my daughter would make.

Giraud (voiceover): My trip wire wasn’t dental floss, it was fishing line tied to my mess kit balanced on a ledge. Very effective actually.

Kurzig: You look terrible.

Giraud: Oh thanks, Ray.

Giraud (voiceover): My life in exile wasn’t glamorous. Cot. Toilet. Sink. My clothes doubled as bedding. Outside of research, my daily regimen featured canned goods, sink washing, stretching, and security checks. I felt like I was back on the front lines.

Kurzig: Place looks… also terrible.

Giraud: Super helpful, Ray. Thank you, uh-- wait. Wait, wait, wait, what route did take to get here? Did you avoid the... you know the, um–

Kurzig: Relax, I took maximum precautions, Ben. As far as any unethical government surveillance is concerned, I’m still eating Thai food near my house.

Giraud (voiceover): I quickly learned Ray had nothing on Mshak, nothing on congress.

Giraud: Okay, but then what? N-news from the fashion world, what have you got?

Ray: That... or the truth about Biko.

Giraud (voiceover): Apparently after a Mshak slush combing tutorial, Ray had been listening. And a few days ago, he’d hit on an exotic frequency going somewhere it shouldn’t. The Sangheili, the alien race from the Biko peace talks, had sent an official transmission to UEG servers on Earth... the day after the leaks. And on their end, the government had buried it deep.

(message begins to play)

Kurzig: That’s the Sangheili clan leader saying they had nothing to do with the massacre and the Demon wasn’t responsible either.

Giraud (voiceover): The Sangheili refer to the Chief as the Demon, probably because Chief had killed thousands of their soldiers over the years so they weren’t doing him a solid. Besides, the Sangheili were all about the truth. If they shot up your embassy and sent you a message about it, it would be boasting about kill count, not an appeal for justice.

Sangheili clan leader (recording): Why do you sit silent while your people demand unjust blood?

Kurzig: He’s making it sound like Biko is lusting for vengeance.

Giraud: Huh? No-- no, I’ve been looking at Biko for days. Look, it’s totally peaceful there.

Kurzig: Exactly. I did some checking though: that feed is an old loop. The Outer Colonies are mostly cut off from us but someone’s cut Biko off from everybody. Nobody outside Biko knows what’s happening there and it’s ugly.

Giraud (voiceover): Ray had managed to track down Ravi, a scavenger who had made his living going terrible places, then selling intel to the highest bidder. He’d been sitting on Biko, fact-gathering since Sekibo’s funeral and for this job, Ray was getting his money’s worth.

(recordings of gunshots and yelling)

Kurzig: Protests. Riots. Martial law. But since the funerals, not a single prominent figure on Biko had said a word about any of it.

Giraud (voiceover): At least not in public; off the record, Ravi’s embassy contacts were livid. Sekibo’s people wanted to make a statement, clear the Sangheili, but they couldn’t. The magistrate, Laurel Adams, had silenced the leadership and the media. Nobody was talking.

Giraud: How does she have the authority to do that?

Kurzig: She doesn’t! Adams is a puppet. The gag order came from Earth.

Giraud: The UEG? Why would they squash the massacre? To protect the Chief?

Kurzig: Nope. To cover their own asses.

Giraud (voiceover): After uncovering a serious security threat one week before the talks, Ambassador Sekibo had petitioned the UEG for support, badly needed support. But the Senators blew him off with an automatic rejection. Sekibo’s office had no choice. Regional stability was hanging in the balance, so they went ahead with the talks. And it broke, very bad.

Kurzig: Gag order landed, media silence. And off the record, the only answer Ravi could get when he asked who did it was "not the Sangheili". But once FERO’S leaks hit and Chief was the bad guy, Biko’s streets popped off and Sekibo’s people took action. They broke rank, quietly launching an independent investigation into the massacre. The only suspects were a bunch of extremists called Sapien Sunrise.

Giraud (voiceover): The Sapien Sunrise believed species integration was destroying civilization. Humans pure, aliens bad; that sort of thing. Most of these groups just got together in somebody’s basement over baked goods and hate speech, but Ray was pulling up terrorist dossiers, donor registries, military protocols. Sapien Sunrise were packing way more than pastries and Sekibo’s talks would’ve represented everything they hated.

Kurzig: Here’s the overview: they did it.

Giraud: (sighs) Well, that’s a short investigation.

Kurzig: They plotted to assassinate Ambassador Sekibo, frame the aliens, and end the peace talks. Now, I don’t know if the Sapiens were counting on inept local intelligence or they’re just arrogant psychopaths, but they were brazen.

Giraud (voiceover): According to the investigators’ notes, Sapien Sunrise had been loudly threatening the embassy for months. No wonder the gag order had frustrated the diplomats. But once the investigation was on, it didn’t take long to tie four of the dead civilians to the local Sapiens chapter, along with four embassy guards and Sekibo’s personal bodyguard. A man with a substantial military jacket and Chief’s first kill upon entering the chambers. All in all, nine Sapiens were at the embassy that day.

Kurzig: And the Chief took out every single one of them.

Giraud: Damn.

Kurzig: And there’s evidence that the Chief didn’t kill a single innocent.

Giraud: Wait, what evidence? That’s not in the video.

Kurzig: Apparently, there’s a second video.

Giraud: Ray, do you have it?

Kurzig: No, but it’s out there. Coroner’s reports too.

Giraud: What?! Can we get it?

Kurzig: No. I--

Giraud: But what about the UEG communications with the magistrate? We can prove they were negligent in denying Sekibo’s security request.

Kurzig: Ravi couldn’t get that either. The gag order came back down hard, Ben.

Giraud: They were silent again?! After all that, they just stopped investigating?!

Kurzig: Ravi thinks the UEG must’ve offered the diplomats something sweet.

Giraud: Yeah, how about clearing the Chief and the Sangheili and throwing the Sapiens into a hole. I mean, come on!

Kurzig: Look, we’re lucky we got this. Besides, the diplomats made it sound like justice was coming soon.

Giraud: Justice?! They’re just gonna say Sapien Sunrise did it with Chief’s help! And-- and they’re gonna get away it! I mean, what’s wrong with these people?!

Kurizg: Uh… they’re evil.

Giraud (voiceover): Sekibo’s office had been trying to forge a better world in a region of space where very little is black and white. They'd asked for help and while the UEG refused to even read their request, the Master Chief had shown up. His ship entered their atmosphere so fast air traffic AI registered it as a fireball. And considering the beeline he made to the embassy, he must’ve had virtually no warning. Chief charged solo into a hopeless situation with no time. He interrupted an assassination, possibly averting war. He neutralized heavy combatants hiding behind civilians and there wasn’t a drop of innocent blood on his hands. He got Sekibo and all but three of the Sangheili to safety. The only thing the Chief couldn’t do… was keep Richard Sekibo’s heart beating. But in reality, without that second video or coroner’s reports to clear the Chief, without documentation of UEG negligence, I had nothing. I could already see it falling to pieces before my eyes.

Giraud: Ray, this is… thank you. You didn’t have to do this.

Kurzig: I didn’t have a choice, actually. I-- I need a favor.

Giraud: Okay.

Kurzig: Everything going on in the Outer Colonies... my parents are out there. Ravi couldn’t help and nobody’s getting through. But-- if you could talk to Petra, see what they’re saying on Earth...

Giraud: Yeah, of course.

Giraud (voiceover): Ray was powerless to find his parents. I’d been powerless to save Mshak, to help Katrina, to find Ellie. I didn’t know what I could do for anyone... but I called Petra anyway. It’s awful to admit, but I think I just hoped she would be powerless too. When Petra answered, I started rambling when suddenly she cut me off.

Petra Janecek (in call): Ben, Ben, listen. I’m-- I’m glad you called, actually. I have a lead for you.

Giraud: What?

Janecek (in call): It popped up a couple of days ago when… I’ve been sitting on it, debating whether to give it to you or delete it. It’s from someone I trust and--

Giraud: Petra, Petra, I don’t need a handout. Okay? If you want the lead--

Janecek (in call): Ben, I don’t want it. I just-- I didn't know if I wanna be responsible for having given it to you, but I know you need it. Here.

Giraud (voiceover): I opened the package. Coordinates, some sector in the outskirts. Underneath was a seventy-two hour window, it started soon. I looked up the location. It was on Bliss.

Janecek (in call): I’m not sure what you’ll find there. You know, maybe a server or--

Giraud: A server, on a glassed planet?

Janecek (in call): I don’t know, okay? Maybe-- maybe it’s a mass grave. All I do know is it’s an anomaly. They don’t know about it and for seventy-two hours, there will be a security lapse where no one’s watching. And that is a hard clock, Ben. You have to get in and out within that window. You understand?

Giraud: Uh… i-- i-- yeah, yeah, okay.

Janecek (in call): Ben, this is a once in a lifetime shot. Somebody risked their life to get me those seventy-two hours and I need to know that you're gonna be--

Benjamin: I'm-- I'm-- I'm sorry… I’d-- I’d... no. I appreciate that. I'm in. I’m-- I’m gonna do it, okay? Thank you.

Janecek (in call): (sighs) Okay. (ticket loads) That’s your ride: a silicate freighter. Leaves tonight; bring your piggy bank, everything you’ve got. These people only speak bribe and they’re not easily impressed.

Giraud (voiceover): I don’t know why, but somehow in that moment, I felt completely ready for this. It was time to make a power move and that’s what I was gonna do.

Giraud: Uh, Petra, just one more question. I hate to ask but--

Janecek (in call): Yes, you can keep the recording.

Giraud: (chuckles) H-how did you know?

Janecek (in call): God, you are the worst, Ben. Take care.

Giraud: (laughs) Okay, uh, thanks Petra.

Giraud (voiceover): If I was going to the far reaches courtesy of capitalists, I needed to stock up on essentials and grab all the money I had left in the world: the rainy day fund I kept squirreled away at my place. I was going home and surprisingly, it felt amazing. Stepping outside for the first time in so many days, finally having a real destination... it gave me freedom and purpose again. I was all ready for a quick grab-and-go, but as I breezed up the walkway to my building, I saw something weird: notices from the city stapled to the front door. This structure had been condemned. "Unfit for human habitation"? What the hell was this? My keyscan still worked though, so I pushed into the dim entryway. The power was off in the building, it was silent and every door down the length of the hall was ajar.

Giraud: What in the hell? Hello?

Giraud (voiceover): As I moved down the silent row, I glanced into my neighbors’ apartments.

Giraud: Hello?

Giraud (voiceover): Everything inside: furniture, fixtures, pictures, windows, everything had been draped in clear plastic sheeting that stirred as I passed. The second floor was the same way: silent, every door open, every last inch inside covered in plastic. As I turned the corner though, I noticed my door, still damaged from Petra’s boot... was closed. It was the only closed door. I pushed it open and my guts collapsed inside of me. Everything was gone. The entire apartment had been gutted.

Giraud: I mean, there’s nothing.

Giraud (voiceover): Everything, down to the light fixtures, the appliances, the cabinetry. They pulled up all the flooring, stripped all the trimming, ripped out all of the plumbing. All of it was just gone, without any hint that it had ever been there in the first place. As a breeze moved in through the gouged out sockets where my windows had once been, I realized it had gotten dark. The monster had been here. It had come inside my home. And now everything I had had been completely erased. Please join me for the next episode of Hunt the Truth.

Episode 11

Benjamin (Blog): The window on Petra's lead is closing. With only 72 hours to get past ONI and into Deep Space, it'll take a miracle–or a timely intervention–to keep the story on track.

Episode 11: DOWN TO THE BONE

Benjamin Giraud (voiceover): (sighs) I was running out of time to catch the freighter to Bliss and follow up on Petra's lead. But I wasn't going to the Outskirts; I wasn't going to take down ONI. I was going to sit here, in between the floor joists of my old bedroom and let all those loose bits of silica glass poke through my clothes and scratch up my skin. At this point I didn't care: the room I used to sleep in didn't even have a floor anymore. The night was pouring in over my shoulders and no matter how hard I tried to disappear into my hoodie, the temperature just kept dropping. I never should've come here. They'd evacuated my neighbors, taken all my things, my stash of money, torn everything down to the bone, and they haven't even left me a hint that I had ever existed in the first place. ONI could erase anything they wanted to.

Giraud: (whispering) Hunt the truth.

Giraud (voiceover): I just sat there. It was quiet... when I got a call.

Giraud: Hello, who is this?

FERO (in call/slightly disguised): Ben, you need to get out of there now. They've found you.

Giraud: What-- FERO? Wait, no-- how, how did you--

FERO (in call/slightly disguised): Ben, listen to me. I told you I'd protect you. Now go before it's too late.

Giraud: Protect me? I don't even know who you are, how can I even trust what you-- what you--?

FERO (in call/slightly disguised): Ben would you-- do you-- just--

Benjamin: What you-- what you-- I'm not going anywhere.

FERO (in call/slightly disguised): Damn it Ben, have a pity party later. You need to get out of there now!

Benjamin (voiceover): It was already too late.

FERO (in call/slightly disguised): Okay Ben, listen to me. Ben--

(shuts off call)

Giraud: Damn it , damn it, damn it...

ONI Operative #1: Oh...

Giraud (voiceover): I could hear them out there, through the giant hole where my windows used to be.

(ONI Operatives talking in the background)

Giraud: No, no, oh no...

Giraud (voiceover): I needed to hide, stay quiet. If they were using biometrics, I needed to slow my heart down too, but I was terrified. And then, I froze. ONI was here and everything became instant.

(door opens, quick footsteps)

Giraud (voiceover): I flew out of my apartment into the hall. A door, any door. I picked one. But the plastic sheeting, I stepped too loud, so I retreated and slipped to a door across the hall, soft feet this time, moving as fast as I could toward a back bedroom, avoiding the wrinkles on the floor, navigating the silhouettes of draped furniture, trying to be silent. I curled up beneath the bedroom window and listened. That was my door opening. They were in my apartment. Had I left any evidence?

ONI Operative #1: Okay, over there.

Giraud (voiceover): I needed to relax.

ONI Operative #2: Clear.

Giraud (voiceover): I breathed and waited.

ONI Operative #1: No, he's here.

Giraud (voiceover): They would systematically scan the building until they found me and then they were going to stuff me in a bag. I closed my eyes, tried to disappear. The sounds had gotten faint. This was my chance. I could make it to the stairwell but I had to go now. I went and three strides into the living room, I could hear them coming around. I dropped down out of sight behind a couch. They were right outside.

ONI Operative #1: Shhh... he's here.

Giraud (voiceover): I waited. It was quiet... and then they struck.

(ONI operative loudly breaks door)

Giraud: No, no, no, no!

Giraud (voiceover): The agents began to overpower me. They were about to put me down when...

(Giraud gagging, then gunshots)

Giraud (voiceover): The agents crumpled to the floor. They-- they were dead. What happened? I-- I tried to clear my eyes so I could see when suddenly, I heard one of the agents, still alive...

(ONI Operative gagging, than a gunshot)

Giraud (voiceover): And then he wasn't. I saw the shooter emerge from the shadows, snatching up the ONI COM pads and stepping right up to me.

FERO: Do you trust me now?

Giraud: (panting) Yes, yes! What-- why-- yeah--

FERO: More agents will be here in two minutes. You can wait here to die or you can get your ass out that window right now!

Giraud (voiceover): I did what she said.

Giraud: Okay, okay, okay!

Giraud (voiceover): I just met FERO. I'm Benjamin Giraud and this is Hunt the Truth.

Giraud: Alright, I guess.

Giraud (voiceover): FERO led the way along the ledge to the fire escape. I was trying not the look down. We jumped the last several feet and I immediately ran across the street to take cover.

Giraud: (whispering) FERO, where are we going?

FERO: Stop talking.

Giraud (voiceover): I did as she said, trying not to think. She moved quickly, staying in the shadows. I tried to step where she stepped but it was hard to keep up. I was almost out of breath by the time she finally ducked into a drainage canal and stopped. I was trying to digest what had just happened.

Giraud: (panting) W--were those agents-- Were those agents even--

FERO: I don't have time to talk. I only came here to make sure you stay a free man so I need you to listen carefully. If they haven't already, ONI's definitely greenlit you now. You need to get offworld; agents are probably searching your neighborhood as we speak and they won't stop until you're neutralized.

Giraud: Oh God, oh God, oh God, oh God...

FERO: Listen to me. We will protect you. Oh, we're mobilizing in the Outer Colonies right now. Major pieces are in motion so everything's on lockdown. You'll have to make it on your own for at least a few more days. We'll give you the resources you need to lay low.

Giraud (voiceover): She handed me a COM pad.

FERO: This is completely untraceable, so use it for whatever you need. It gives you access to a secure account too. You'll have more than enough credits.

Giraud: What, really? Seriously?

Giraud (voiceover): Ever since ONI froze my accounts, I hadn't even been able to buy a cup of coffee. And now FERO was giving me a trap door out of financial ruin. She already saved my life and now this.

Giraud: Oh, this is great. I-- I-- I can't thank you enough.

FERO: You can access our network of safehouses on there. The protocol's blocked right now but when the lockdown ends it'll automatically prompt you. I'll make sure they know to take care of you.

Giraud: Wait, wait, wait. Won't-- won't you be there?

FERO: The move we're planning is dangerous, but I'm about to go dark. And this time, it might be permanent.

Giraud: What?! Wait, why are you taking this much risk?!

FERO: There's no time. The window's closing and the Chief is still taking the fall. Your story exposed ONI, the Biko leaks cut deep. We have those bastards bleeding but when the senators didn't buy on our hack, ONI had a chance to recover so we are going all in while they're still vulnerable. That's why we're on lockdown. The mission's desperate at best, but there's no silver bullet here.

Giraud: No, no, there has to be.

FERO: It's okay, Ben. I'm not afraid to die. What we're doing is so much bigger than me, and I know there will always be people to continue the fight, people like you.

Giraud (voiceover): ONI was coming after me with everything they had. FERO had saved my life and now she was prepared to lay down her own. I couldn't lay low. I knew what I had to do.

Giraud: Wait, wait, wait, I may have a silver bullet.

Giraud (voiceover): I convinced FERO to hold off on her plan for a few more days while I followed up on Petra's lead. I knew whatever I did, with whatever I found there, would have to be big. But if it took making a major impact to keep another one of my friends from dying in the fray... I thanked FERO again...

Giraud: Thank you.

Giraud (voiceover): ...told her I'd see her soon and we parted ways. I stayed in the shadows and moved quickly across town to the freighter headed for Bliss, only stopping once at an old military surplus along the way. I stocked up there, then caught my ride out to deep space. When I arrived, I headed straight for the Office of Mineral Rights. On the ride up, the freighter captain had seemed far more interested in bribery than my aspiring prospector backstory. I was hoping the Claims Coordinator would be equally pragmatic.

Claims Coordinator: Mr. Jared, a entrepreneur diversifying into silicates does not usually hop on a deep-space freighter to walk the glass troughs. I like your gumption, but I'd love to show you some of these projected yields.

Giraud: Uh, actually I already have a projected plot in mind.

Giraud (voiceover): After negotiating transport up here, I understood better what the industry considered acceptable compensation. With all the haggard men outside holding gold-plated COM pads, I figured the man who issued the permits would have me plundering FERO's account. So 75,000 cR later, I had access, NAV, and full gear. He seemed alarmed though when I refused an escort.

Claims Coordinator: Uh, that's four klicks from here and beyond that periphery, it's a hard slog through raw glass. Some of those formations will stab through bone.

Giraud (voiceover): I just signed the waivers. To his credit, we offered me some parting advice... free of charge.

Claims Coordinator: Wind really kicks up out there, and the particulates' been extremely rough. We've had to close the shutters twice in the past week. So, uh... if you hear that alarm, you get to cover, okay? Otherwise, it'll tear your skin off.

(automated door opens)

Giraud: Thanks, appreciate it.

Giraud (voiceover): On the outskirts of the settlement, the horizon seemed to be all quarries. When I reached the periphery though, open pit operations stopped abruptly, and I saw the real glassed planet: a daunting chaotic sea of shapes and textures, black brittle swelling and troughing without end scattered with the skeletons of melted buildings. The terrain was brutal, repeatedly slowing my trek to a crawl, picking through fields of jutting glass. The climate was killing me too. Constant thirst despite constant water breaks. My skin felt like it was cracking beneath my soot-caked gear. And after choking on a mouthful of dust, I've been breathing on the respirator for the past hour. Occasional desert plants pushed through the cracks, bright blue or blood red. But aside from the crows stalking the settlement's landfill, that was the only non-Human life I'd seen. It was all that fine ash, thirty-two years later still suspended in the atmosphere; it precluded thriving life. As it painted the surreal sky above, constantly shifting with the erratic winds, gorgeous streaks to diseased poles; I had been making relatively good time when a cloud of dense ash suddenly descended. I stopped; I was totally blind. I didn't want to take a step; a lethal fall seemed far too possible. I checked the NAV, only twelve hundred feet to go. I was debating whether or not to wait out the fog when it suddenly lifted. It was beautiful for a moment... when a low rising growl snapped me out of that reverie. The storm siren. I pulled up the NAV and started moving as fast as I could. Sudden pockets of cold, hot, and cold again. The wind whipping, sharply back and forth. Bits of sand spraying against me. But I didn't see anything. Behind me everything was calm and front, the sky above the mountains were perfectly clear. Where was the storm? I looked down at the NAV, only a few hundred feet to go. Ahead, I saw the ruins of a huge complex; I'd be there in no time. But then I realized it: those weren't mountains. A black wall was coming from the horizon and it was coming right at me. I flat out sprinted. The storm was closing in. It was the color of night and impossibly tall. I got to the ping on the map; the structure had been leveled. There was nowhere to go and the sand was flying faster. Stinging my cheeks, I looked around desperately, trying to shield my face. They was a massive collapsed section up ahead. I scurried over, bits of glass starting to spray against the debris like tinkling wind chimes. The glass was stinging through my clothes. I half-climbed, half-slid down the waves that oozed and sloped in the pit, slicing my leg on the way down. The sound... was deafening. I had to get in now. I started tugging at a split in the collapsed floor. The storm blasted harder, my skin on fire. I made one last push. The glazing shattered and I slid in as the wall of glass exploded overhead and I plunged into the darkness. I laid there for a bit, before pulling off the respirator. My skin was stinging all over. I checked my outer thigh.

Giraud: Damn it, damn.

Giraud (voiceover): It was bleeding and it hurt like hell but it wasn't too deep. I pulled out my medical kit, wrapped it, and started looking around.

Giraud: Oh, it's collapsed here... also debris on the ground.

Giraud (voiceover): Whoever abandoned this place must have had advanced warning and left in a hurry. I shined my light along the back wall.

Giraud: Office of Naval Intelligence Subspace Communications...

Giraud (voiceover): It was an old ONI subspace relay facility. One of the hundreds scattered in deep space to cut back on comm delays between Earth and the outskirts. ONI wouldn't have left anything useful in a place like this.

Giraud: Okay, Petra, what am I looking for?

Giraud (voiceover): I followed every warning sign I could find, looking for anything "Restricted Access". Few flights down and dozens of turns in, I was standing in what appeared to be the lowest level and based on the long echoes in the darkness, the room was huge. I moved through dozens of rows of tall shelves draped with drop cloths. Whatever had happened on Bliss, hadn't made a dent down here apparently.

Giraud: What am I looking for...

Giraud (voiceover): I peered behind one of the cloths.

Giraud: Damn...

Giraud (voiceover): Guns, explosives, ammunitions, all kinds of after-market mods. None of this was UNSC-sanctioned.

Giraud: Seriously, guns?

Giraud (voiceover): Had I come all this way for neatly organized contraband?

Giraud: You got to be kidding...

Giraud (voiceover): But that's when I saw it, out of the corner of my eye. Coming from the shadows at the back of the room, through a glass door.

Giraud: No way.

Giraud (voiceover): A tiny blinking light.

Giraud: No way, it can't be active.

Giraud (voiceover): An active relay?

Giraud: The relay?

Giraud (voiceover): In an ONI facility? There could be anything on it, there could be everything on it if someone screwed up. The surface destruction was catastrophic; they could've just assumed that the glassing had gone this deep. And ONI probably wasn't even operating in any real capacity out here anymore. This had to be... why I was here.

Giraud: Okay, let's see...

Giraud (voiceover): I immediately hooked up my COM pad and I couldn't believe it. The server was in standby but it seemed fully functional. Something kicked on deep below and low auxiliary light filled the room.

Giraud: (laughing) Oh my God!

Giraud (voiceover): I started entering queries. Biko. It was current! I remembered the name of the raw file for the Biko video that FERO leaked. That video popped up and so did the second video, the one FERO hadn't seen. I pulled it down and opened the footage. It was a composite of every single angle cameras captured that day. The original video just showed Chief firing down the hallway where four civilians had died. But I didn't see civilians in that hallway, I saw two janitors with a rocket launcher. I saw two couriers with frags and none of them had a chance before Chief dropped them. Shot for shot, bullet for bullet, I watched him take out the terrorists, firing his handgun exactly twelve times, hitting only assassins every time. I saw the bodyguard and four embassy guards firing at Sekibo himself. And the best part was the coroner's reports backed up all of it. Ray's scavenger was dead on; it was indisputable. Chief killed the bad guys, bad guys killed the innocents. I found Sekibo's original request for security and the UEG's immediate automatic rejection.

Giraud: I can't believe it.

Giraud (voiceover): I had everything I needed to clear the Chief.

Giraud: Wow, we got him.

Giraud (voiceover): But there was so much more to implicate ONI. I got an awful idea, and I knew exactly what to search next.

(typing)

Giraud: Benjamin Giraud...

Giraud: As the results popped up, a chill went down my spine. Psychological profiles on me, conversations between Sully and his bosses, bulletpoint lists of my pressure points and relationships. This was making me nauseated. I downloaded the files but I couldn't read it.

Giraud: Oh, no way.

Giraud: I scrolled through the interviewees. Gabriella Dvørak's real military jacket? 2524, she was on Dwarka. She never set foot on the planet where she supposedly liberated a young John. The war camp survivor Thomas Wu, the man who also lied about there being camps on John's planet? ONI chose the carrot over the stick with him. They promised to fund more memorials and awareness campaigns for survivors of the Insurrectionist camps that Thomas and countless others endured. I found the actors too.

Giraud: Walker, I see you bastard.

Giraud (voiceover): Paul Gustivson, A.K.A Jacob Walker, was in there. His acting resumé, personality notes, agreements to surrender existing work and retire. And then I found Deon, or Simon Kensington. There was even video of him rehearsing, tweaking his "Deon" delivery, responding whatever prompts his ONI handler was giving. As I listened to him discuss my emotional vulnerabilities, my nausea turned to rage.

Giraud: Bastards.

Benjamin (voiceover): But when it came to the story I never wanted to hear, Anthony's story of the SPARTAN program, I realized I was still scared to see hard evidence, to prove the rumors... but I went for it. I quickly found myself looking at highly classified assignments pushed to ONI's scouts in 2516. Queries and requisitions from planet after planet, weighted toward the Outer Colonies and then the qualifications for the SPARTAN-II program: a list of physical and mental criteria, genetic compatibility with a slate of augmentation procedures, and optimal age: six years or younger. I did one last search.

Giraud: John-117.

Giraud (voiceover): There he was, on a list, 2517. I began to follow his name on a trail of documents that continued past the day his parents thought they buried him. The progress reports, written by scientists. Language you'd use to describe an expensive technological prototype, but they were talking about a child. They had done that to a hero. To my hero, and countless other children. I was just digging in when--

Giraud: What the hell is that?

Giraud (voiceover): Corrupted files started hitting my COM pad. I immediately disconnected from the server and checked the files. They were fine.

Giraud: Oh, thank God.

Giraud (voiceover): Then, it just shut down.

Giraud: Wait, wait, oh no. Oh-- oh no.

Giraud (voiceover): I was terrified. Had I gone over Petra's seventy-two hour window? Had ONI just caught me looking? I checked the time.

Giraud: (sigh) Ok. Ok, I'm fine.

Giraud (voiceover): I was fine but then, what was that? I looked at the server one more time. That little standby light? It was glowing brighter, pulsing at me. I was starting to lose it, but it didn't matter, I had what I needed and the storm was over. I emerged from the bunker. It was time to leave this sad, ashy nightmare behind. As I trekked back across the wasteland, I stepped with more confidence. I knew this terrain now, and I had ONI right where I wanted them. Please, join me for the next episode of Hunt the Truth.

Episode 12

Benjamin (Blog): Petra warns against the dangers of going public, but the gears are already grinding on one last, big plan. It’s time to burn ONI once and for all.

Episode 12: FULL PAYLOAD

(call begins)

Anthony Petrosky (in call): Who the hell is this?

Benjamin Giraud: Anthony, it's Ben Giraud. I don't have much time, but I got something real--

Petrosky (in call): Ben? I-- I-- I didn't recognize the feed. What, are you calling from prison or something? (chuckles)

Giraud: Listen, listen. I just sent you a location. I need you to get yourself there on Monday.

Petrosky (in call): Ah...

Giraud: What, you still want to tear down ONI, right?

Petrosky (in call): Yeah... (laughs) I don't know what to ell you, man. We dropped that bomb and it fizzled out. People in power apparently don't give a rat's ass--

Giraud: Yeah, but now we've got a real payload and we're going to deliver it to real power. Look, I totally understand either way, but I'm about to board this flight so I kinda need to know now. Are you in or out?

Petrosky (in call): I'm in.

Giraud: Yes, you are a badass!

'Petrosky (in call): I'm telling you though, the senate is not--

Giraud: Anthony, we don't need the senate! And trust me, by the time we're through every crooked line bastard in the UEG is going to be charged with high treason.

Giraud (voiceover): I'm Benjamin Giraud, and this is Hunt the Truth. My ride was about ready to leave Bliss. The freighter was fully loaded and doing safety checks. I hung back on the deck so I could make another call.

(call begins)

Ray Kurzig (in call): Hello? This is Raymond Kurzig.

Giraud: Ray, it's Ben. I fou--

Kurzig (in call): Dude, what is this feed you're calling me from?

Giraud: Ray--

Kurzig (in call): Are you ok?

Giraud: Yeah, I'm-- I'm-- I'm fine. Look... I found it.

Kurzig (in call): Found it? Found what?

Giraud: Everything.

Kurzig (in call): What do you mean everything?

Giraud: Look, I just transferred you the files. Don't say what it is.

Kurzig (in call): Ok? Hold on.

Giraud: I listened as Ray opened the folder and saw everything ONI had never wanted us to see.

Kurzig (in call): Oh my God. Ben, where did you get this?

Giraud: You wouldn't believe me if I told you, but this is our chance, man. This is our only chance to put a stop to all of this.

Kurzig (in call): I'm-- I-- I-- I don't know what to say.

Giraud (voiceover): Now, Ray had back up files on everything, and I needed one last favor. He was the only person I trusted with it. I pushed him a list of domains and asked if he'd forward every last file to everyone on it. When he saw the list of addressees, I could hear his jaw drop.

Kurzig (in call): (gasps)

Giraud (voiceover): After the shock wore off though, he said he would make it happen.

Kurzig (in call): Yeah, no problem.

Giraud: Man, I really can't thank you enough. But we got 'em, Ray. We got 'em, and I promise you no one will ever know that you helped me with Biko. I'm gonna upload the rest of my story when I get back and you won't be on any of the recordings. Not this conversation, none of it. You were right to cut ties and I just want to make sure that you are absolutely clear of this.

Kurzig (in call): Ben... they gutted my house.

Giraud: What?

Kurzig (in call): My house, they completely gutted it down to the studs. They--

Giraud: Ray, Ray, what--

Kurzig (in call): They did that to my home, where my wife and daughter sleep.

Giraud: How would they have known--

Kurzig (in call): I got them off world, they're in a safe place now. But... whether I want to or not, at this point, I can't turn back. How can I help?

Giraud (voiceover): Ray was one of the most selfless human beings I had ever had the pleasure to know. He went way out of his comfort zone time and again. Bravely sacrificing over and over. I don't think I can ever truly make him understand how much that meant to me. I sent him instructions over encrypted texts and we finalized our plans. I thanked him again, we wished each other luck, and we said goodbye. The next time I'd see him was going to be a life defining moment, and there was no one I'd rather have at my side. As I left the Outer Colonies behind, it was hard not to think how steep the price of our freedom and safety had been. So much truth had been buried, so many people. ONI had tried to bury me, too. But they'd failed. I wasn't scared anymore and I had something to say. How many sacrificed people was too many? As far as I was concerned, the answer... was one.

Mshak Moradi (voicemail): Hello? Oh man, I've been waiting for you to call! I have something very important to tell you... This is a recorded message! Haha!

Giraud: Mshak, haha! M-shak!

Giraud (voicemail): Mshak still haunted my dreams. Every time I close my eyes he was slipping into that black bag and I couldn't save him... but I would make it up to him. I'd make it up to Ray, I'd make it up to FERO, I'd make it up to Petra, and Anthony, and Katrina, and Ellie, and everyone in the Outer Colonies. Everyone our government had kept in the dark. Whether by choice or not, too many sacrifices had been made, and far too many of them had been people.

Giraud: I guess just-- what I wanted to say was thank you. (sighs) And I'm sorry.

(call ends)

Giraud (voiceover): For the first time in my career, I felt like I was finally going to tell the full story. Every ugly piece, from loose threads to the rotten core. That's why it wouldn't all have been in vain. That's how I would make it up to everyone. I would give them the dignity of knowing... the truth. I must have been nodding off when I got a call from Petra Janecek. For someone who had threatened me bodily harm on more than one occasion, she also, with far less fanfare, always seemed to check in to make sure I was ok.

Giraud: Ya' know, if I didn't know any better I didn't know any better I'd think you were concerned about my welfare.

Petra Janecek (in call): (chuckles) Get over yourself, Giraud.

Giraud: (laughs)

Janecek (in call): Just wanted to find out what you, um, found.

Giraud: No seriously, though, you've heard me apologize a hundred times for being such a, well jackass. For putting you reputation on the line, ya' know? But I figured you could stand to hear me say thank you again.

Janecek (in call): Well, your welcome.

Giraud: For everything you've done. I mean look, I-- I... (sighs) I really can't tell you how much it's meant to me. Just, um...

Janecek (in call): That's ok-- That's... that's enough.

Giraud: (laughs) Too much?

Janecek (in call): Yeah, a little bit. I mean now you're really ruining my reputation.

Giraud: (laughs)

Janecek (in call): Oh no. I hope this isn't what the end of your story is like. You tenderly speaking from the heart.

Giraud: (laughs)

Janecek (in call): Ugh, I thought everything else was bad, but-- ugh. Anyway, I just-- I wanted to find out what happened with the lead. What-- what did you find.

Giraud: You were right. It was one in a million.

Janecek (in call): Really? Ok, what? What did you--

Giraud: I got everything, Petra. Everything, all the undeniable proof anyone could ever want.

Janecek (in call): Be-- be specific, Ben. Did you-- did you find anything on Biko?

Giraud: Whole story, plain as day. Not only is the Chief innocent, but saved the day. He pulled off the impossible. I've got everything I need to prove it too, and the best part is I've got the UEG blatantly implicating themselves in legislative negligence and then conspiring with the Biko magistrate to cover it up! Coercion, bribery, all of it! Those arrogant pricks could have prevented the whole thing, and they know it too! ONI and the UEG have been sacrificing the Chief this whole time to save their own asses, to distract the public from what we've been digging up on them! But now, all of it is laid out in the files that they never wanted us to see. I've got 'em. Dead... to... rights.

Janecek (in call): (sighs) No, Ben, they're just gonna suppress all of it. I mean, come on!

Giraud: They're gonna try. I don't know when it's going down or how they're gonna do it, but they've made some deal with Biko. Their going bring the real perpetrators to justice, but somehow still let the Chief take the fall too. And i'm not gonna let that happen. We're gonna clear the Chief and expose ONI.

Janecek (in call): We? Who's-- who's we?

Giraud: Ray and me and Petrosky.

Janecek (in call): Oh, the three amigos, huh?

Giraud: It's all going down tomorrow.

Janecek (in call): Ben, you know you don't have to do it like this.

Giraud: No, Petra, it's-- it's ok. It's ok. I-- I know you're worried that I can't do this, that I'm sloppy, and you were right about all of that, but this time it's to--

Janecek (in call): No, I just don't want to see any thing bad happen--

Giraud: I need to do this.

Janecek (in call): (sighs) So tomorrow, huh? What's your big plan? Give one of the bones to your editors at Magellan to bite on the story?

Giraud: No. I'm not passing this off. I'm going all the way.

Janecek (in call): What does that mean?

Giraud: Actually I was hoping you'd do me a favor. Send out a blast to your network about it? It can be offline, but trust me, no one's gonna want to miss this.

Giraud (voiceover): Sitting here on the freighter, getting everything ready for tomorrow, I'm struck by how lucky I am to be part of this. If Ray and Anthony and I are successful, all that darkness ONI had had us drowning in for generations will finally light up. And it's because of the help of so many brave people. To everyone who's risked so much, and everyone who's left me messages, to all my friends, I want to say thank you. This will be my final transmission. Tomorrow you will witness the ending to this story that all of us deserve. After that, I will be going dark, at least for a while. But depending on how everything shakes out, I hope to be back sooner than later. To everyone who's listened to my story, those who've stood up and spoken out, I want each of you to know that simply by owning the truth we have the real power. And by sharing that truth, we wield that power. Please never forget that. It has been my honor and great fortune to have found myself at the nexus of all you're impassioned opinions and honest stories. It's been truly humbling, so to all of you listening right now, I want to say, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Most of all though, I want to thank the Master Chief. Chief, you have saved us in more ways, perhaps even you, could possibly know. You have sacrificed so much for us, and whatever the cost of my actions tomorrow ends up being, I believe it's a sacrifice we owe to you and all those who serve. And if I'm successful, in the end everyone will know that you are still the savior we all needed you to be.

Janecek (in call): Ok, but what is it? What are the particulars.

Giraud: We're going on ECB. I got a prime spot, old producer friend hooked me up. We're going wide-stream, full distribution.

Janecek (in call): Ok, uh, ok, you mean... you mean that your gonna--

Giraud: Petra. Petra, tomorrow we're going live on the networks. Potentially in front of every person alive. We're going to clear the Chief's name before they burn him at the stake. We're gonna douse the real monsters in kerosene, then once and for all, and with everybody watching, I'm gonna burn ONI to the ground.

Giraud (voiceover): I'm Benjamin Giraud... and this has been Hunt the Truth.

Episode 13

Petra Janecek (Blog): Every story has a villain. Today, we meet ours.

Episode 13: IN THE BAG

(ECB theme song plays)

Charles Kesler: Welcome back. Later in the show, we'll be continuing our Day of Remembrance Coverage with more survival stories from the labor camps. But first, we have an exciting ECB exclusive: journalist Benjamin Giraud is here to talk about his story that has been making waves throughout the colonies and here on Earth. It's called Hunt the Truth: The Story Behind the Master Chief, and Ben is here to tell us about some exciting developments. Welcome to the program, Ben.

Benjamin Giraud: Thank you. It's great to be here. I--

(ECB theme song plays)

Kesler: Oh, Ben, sorry. We've just got a breaking development from Biko. After a tight-lipped investigation, Magistrate Laurel Adams and UEG officials have just released additional security footage and autopsy reports from the embassy massacre, issuing a joint statement that federal charges have been filed against an extremist group called Sapien Sunrise, effectively clearing the Master Chief and the Sangheili of any wrong doing. The UEG called the massacre "an attack against peace" and vowed to continue supporting local diplomacy with alien delegations. Freshman Senator Andrew Del Rio also came forward to recant his earlier condemnations, calling the Chief a perinatal hero, and saying quote, "Every statue of him is a monument to be treasured." Now quoting to his office as of this morning the senator is taking some time off for unrelated family matters. Wow. Well, Ben, you've been working on the Master Chief's profile for... a while.

Giraud: Um--

Kesler: What do you make of all this?

Giraud: Did you ac-- did you actually believe the Chief did that?

Kesler: Well, Ben, my speculations about guilt are irrelevant.

Giraud: Well, it's classic ONI half truth. Yes, was the hero on Biko, but the Sapiens couldn't have done it without the UEG. If you pull up the Adams conversation thread from the from the files I sent you'll see what I mean.

Kesler: Oh, it appears we're still processing the files. Just for a moment--

Giraud: It's fine. I can just pull it up here.

Kesler: Oh, ok.

Giraud: Huh. Sorry, I'm-- I'm having issues with it too. Oh, they better not have-- I can't even-- Hold on-- hold on-- Let me try it again. Let me try it again.

Kesler: So wait, let's back it up just for those unfamiliar with your story.

Giraud: Ok, look--

Kesler: Are you saying--

Giraud: Sekibo asked the UEG for security help before the talks and they rejected it flat out. Could have prevented a couple dozen deaths, but they didn't even read the request!

Kesler: Let's--

Giraud: And-- and-- and now they're peace partners with Adams?!

Kesler: Now hold on--

Giraud: I mean, come on!

Kesler: You're saying the Biko embassy made a federal security request, but was left vulnerably because the senate refused the request without proper deliberation?

Giraud: Arrogant negligence is what I'm saying.

Kesler: Right, but the embassy hasn't said that.

Giraud: Not to reporters. Well, not to anyone anymore now that they're in on it. They took whatever Earth table scraps they could get, um... I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I have a question. Where is Ray Kurzig?

Kesler: Um...

Giraud: I mean he sent you the files, right?

Kesler: Yes, we received your files, but--

Giraud:And-- and now he's not here. He was supposed to meet me here.

Kesler: Let's move on, shall we?

Giraud: What about Petrosky? Is he gonna disappear too?

Kesler: Corpral Petrosky is being patched through shortly. Let's change gears.

Giraud: Yes, of course. Sorry.

Kesler: You were originally hired by ONI to do this story, correct?

Giraud: Yes, that's right.

Kesler: And, what happened?

Giraud: Well, I stumbled on several inconsistencies between the sources and they fired me.

Kesler: You were fired for finding inconsistencies?

Giraud: No. Look, don't act that surprised. You and I both know ONI makes you twist the story just, ya' know, to placate, but this Chief story... I'm telling you, was a whole other animal. At first, the cracks were small but then it got worse and worse until nothing made sense and I tried to fix it, ya' know, I-- until... until I found out the truth. The sources they'd given me were fake. They were actors. I mean, not all of them. Some of them were just real people who just needed a push and others just had no problem feeding me the elaborate lie, but seriously, actors! How devious is that?!

Kesler: We're still working to verify the legitimacy of all of those files, but we have the video queued up. Would you like to introduce it?

Giraud: Yeah, absolutely! So you're-- you're about to see the actor who played Deon Govender, John's supposed childhood boxing coach. This guy had me hook line and sinker, and then I found this video of him honing in on his performance for the role.

Simon Kensington (recording): (in character) In Elysium City, people just disappeared back then. I rem-- (out of character) Uh, what's that? Mm, well, ok, ok. Cause he's cracking here, right? Right, alright, cool. But, uh, we're still good with the working class serving barbecue granddad overall though, right? Ok. (clears throat) Yeah, I'm bringing the waterworks with this guy. (in character) In Elysium... In Elysium...

Giraud: Ok, you can stop it there.

Kesler: That's-- I-- I don't know what to say.

Giraud: I know!

Kesler: (sighs) We are here with Benjamin Giraud for this breaking story. The team is working diligently to verify all the evidence and documentation that Ben has provided surrounding his story, if your just joining us.

Giraud: And-- and-- and-- here's the disgusting part, right? The real Deon... is dead. That's how far ONI was going to cover this up.

Kesler: So what exactly are you saying they were covering up? Why would ONI go to the trouble of furnishing--

Giraud: Oh, I'll tell you exactly why: the SPARTAN-II program. Ask yourself this, how did recruitment luck into such an amazing crop of heroes? They didn't wait to recruit them. Someone at ONI made a list of impressive young children, kidnapped them, replaced them with clones designed to die, secretly brainwashed the kids into soldiers, and then butchered half of them in applicable medical procedures--

Kesler: Ben, sorry to cut you off. First of all, what you describe is unconscionable. And if true, we're not talking about deceit here. What you're asserting here are capital crimes against humanity.

Giraud: Completely, that's exactly where I was, but I brought files to--

Kesler: Hold on, before you continue, I'm getting word that our team has just finished reviewing your files, including what we just watched, some of which are dated from forty years ago. And I'm wondering, how do you explain the fact that all of the files you sent were created in the past two months.

Giraud: What?

Kesler: Ben, I don't know what kind of game you're playing here but none of the seals are real. You've provided us with fabrications.

Giraud: What? No!

Kesler: The interviews, the documents, all of it.

Giraud: No, no, no, no, that's not true, Charles--

Kesler: Now I don;t know what you're trying to do here or why you think you can come on my show--

Giraud: (chuckles) That's insane! Charles, how can you even interview--

Kesler: I'm- I'm at a loss. Did you think that we wouldn't check?

Giraud: Wait-- wait a minute. Hold on. If that was somehow true that I'm some mastermind who made this all up, why would I come here and admit my own crime?

Kesler: I have no idea, Mr. Giraud! Exposure, fame, ego? All of the above? (chuckles) It wouldn't be the first conspiracy theorist who had come--

Giraud: I don't-- no, that-- listen-- that's not--

Kesler: See, on my program we actually vet sources, which is why I'm close to throwing you outta here.

Giraud: I'm here, Charles, trying to expose government sponsored mass kidnappings and child murder! Is that worthy of your program?!

Kesler: Well, Ben, that would all be very brave of you if hadn't completely fabricated it for your own self interest.

Giraud: You don't believe me! Petrosky can verify all of this! Get him on the line! Ask the eye witness! Can your guys handle that?!

Kesler: (sighs) Happy to. Joining us now is retired Orbital Drop Shock Trooper Corporal Anthony Petrosky.

Giraud: Thank you. Finally.

Kesler: Anthony, hello.

Anthony Petrosky: Good afternoon.

Kesler: The honor is ours. It's always good to see a veteran in uniform.

Petrosky: It's alright to be here.

Kesler: If we can just jump right in, you've been working with Ben.

Petrosky: Uh, yes, I've been in contact with Mr. Giraud for several weeks now.

Giraud: Anthony, just tell them about the augmentations. They're trying to spin everything at me.

Kesler: Mr. Giraud, you've been interrupting since you got here. Don't make me cut your feed.

Giraud: Ah, d--

Kesler: Sorry, Anthony, in what capacity did you contact him?

Petrosky: Three months ago I contacted, uh, Mr. Giraud as part of a special investigation.

Giraud: What?

Petrosky: The UNSC had been monitoring a new sect of violent Insurrectionists bent on starting inter-regional war.

Giraud: No. This is now something we've discussed.

Petrosky: My assignment was to infiltrate the group and expose a plot to smear a high profile military figure.

Kesler: The Master Chief?

Petrosky: Yes sir.

Kesler: So you were undercover?

Petrosky: Yes sir, I was posing as a disgruntled veteran sympathetic to extreme Insurrectionist ideology.

Giraud: Anthony, what are you doing? Anthony, Anthony, what are you doing?!

Petrosky: And contacted Be-- Mr. Giraud and, uh, convinced him I demonize ONI.

Giraud: Anthony, don't do this.

Petrosky: I earned his trust helping him fabricate a statement that I had personally witnessed proof of atrocities.

Giraud: Anthony, don't do this!

Petrosky: It was part of Mr. Giraud's--

Giraud: Please don't do this, Anthony!

Kesler: You are out of control!

Giraud: Anthony, I don't know what they disgruntled you with! Don't--

(feed cut off)

Kesler: Apologies. Mr. Petrosky, please continue.

Petrosky: I, uh... I helped Mr. Giraud construct dramatic interviews to make the revelation of his novels as entertaining and compelling as possible for his listeners.

Kesler: So you were helping make provocative statements for his show, but all the while you were serving the UNSC as in your role as an undercover agent? Is-- is that correct?

Petrosky: Yes sir.

Kesler: Was any of it true? Did you witness anything that would corroborate the rumors of the SPARTAN program, the abductions or--

Petrosky: No sir. I've, uh, never witnessed anything like that. I never saw a child with biological augmentation scars, and as to all the other stuff about ONI and the SPARTAN program, I was just dramatizing old military ghost stories. No one really believes those rumors.

Kesler: I'd imagine that would be difficult. Misleading the public, slandering a hero.

Petrosky: Yes sir. That's the hardest part.

Kesler: And you've never met John-117?

Petrosky: No, I have never met John-117, but I would be honored to one day. He is the greatest hero of our time... and I wanna go on record saying that.

Kesler: Well, thank you for coming on, Anthony, and thank you for your service.

Petrosky: Thank you.

(call ends)

Kesler: Ladies and gentlemen, if your just joining us, we're here with Benjamin Giraud covering this story as it unfolds live. Ben, do you have anything to say for yourself?

Giraud: I don't know what ONI did to him, but those are lies that he's been fed. They compelled a good man, a soldier to lie, to make me look like a--

Kesler: Ben, try and help you out--

Giraud: You know your a puppet, right?

Kesler: Let's deal with facts.

Giraud: Perfect. Perfect.

Kesler: Can you tell me where exactly you found the files you gave us that you're saying came from ONI?

Giraud: You--

Kesler: If there's a time to divulge sources, Ben, it's right now!

Giraud: I'm really getting sick of this.

Kesler: That makes two of us.

Giraud: Listen! I don't know what the time codes say, but I downloaded those files two days ago from a server I accessed in an abandoned ONI facility on Bliss, o?

Kesler: You found your trove of government secrets in unguarded shack on a glassed planet?!

Giraud: I've seen the conspiracies you people pull together, I just never thought I'd end up embroiling--

Kesler: Mr. Giraud, I wanna show you something.

(starts video)

Kesler: This footage this footage was taken two days ago. Is this you entering the bunker on Bliss?

Giraud: What?

Kesler: The files you sent were all uploaded two days ago from that bunker we just watched you just watched you walk into.

Giraud: Wait, how did you get that footage? No, how did you-- how did you get this footage?!

Kesler: In a raid yesterday, local police found a large cache of weapons and that server of yours in that bunker. The property of the--

Giraud: Are you kidding me?!

Kesler: The property the bunker sits on belongs to a shell organization with ties to an insurgent named FERO, who earlier today was implicated by surviving members of Sapien Sunrise as the arms dealer who provided them with the weapons they used in the embassy massacre.

Giraud: You're trying to pin Sekibo's death on FERO? She wasn't involved in that!

Kesler: And the mods on those weapons came from the exact same place as the mods police found on the weapons in your bunker!

Giraud: Oh ok, I get it, I get it. Let me guess, I'm a terrorist who's been working for FERO this whole time? God!

Kesler: No. Apparently, your not working for anyone, Mr. Giraud.

Giraud: What? What does that mean?

Kesler: We also received this security camera footage from a few day ago showing two members of Sapien Sunrise entering your apartment building, where they say preliminary reports from the--

Giraud: They're not Sapien Sunri-- They were with ONI. They were ONI.

Kesler: They were murdered.

Giraud: They were murdered?

Kesler: What was it, hmm? A deal gone bad?

Giraud: They were ONI! They were coming to kill me! FERO saved me!

Kesler: And shortly thereafter, for the first time ever ONI agents got a hit on one of the proxy bank accounts used to fund FERO's terrorist activities near your apartment at an army surplus store! Here is a video of you making that transaction.

(video starts)

Giraud: O-- ONI had gutted my apartment, they sent people to kill me! She saved my life! She gave me some money! I was just trying not to die!

Kesler: We have all the feeds from the neighborhood, and the only people who entered your building that night were you and the two Sapien Sunrise members you murdered.

Giraud: They were not Sapien Su-- No. No, no, no, no, no, no.

Kesler: Look, Mr. Girud, FERO, whatever you call yourself, you've got the soap box you wanted.

Giraud: They're doing it. They're doing it.

Kesler: So if we can just skip to the part were you make your big rebel speech for all of civilization to here, I would like to end this circus of an interview!

Giraud: You--

Kesler: No?

Giraud: You don't-- Could you--

Kesler: Fine. I think I've reached my limit of sociopathic narcissism for the day.

Giraud: Where's Ray? What happened to Ray?

Kesler: Raymond Kurzig is just fine. We spoke with him yesterday.

Giraud: I don't believe a word coming out of your mouth.

Kesler: Ray did provide us with all of the files you'd given him, just as you asked, but he also gave us detailed information on exactly how you fabricated--

Giraud: I don't believe you. I don't believe you. Where is he? Where is he right now? I want proof that Ray Kurzig and his family are alive and well and moving freely. Get Ray on the phone right now.

Kesler: (sighs) After all the reckless accusations of atrocities and treason, your self-righteous truth hunt has hurled at innocent people, allow me to speak on behalf of our free press and everybody with a conscience and occupied space when I say, without qualification, that you are the atrocity, Mr. Giraud.

Giraud: ONI killed Mshak. They ki--

Kesler: And you are the definition of a traitor.

Giraud: Whether they put him in a black bag or through him in a hole, I don't know--

Kesler: Alright, that's enough.

Giraud: But now-- listen I've heard so much in the past few months, I know, I know what it means when I say the Chief is a hero! He's my hero! He should be everyone's hero, but you all turned on him! All you fair weather pricks!

Kesler: That's it, cut him off. Mr Giraud, will now be exiting in the custody of federal agents.

Giraud: Make up your own mind! Decide for yourself! Do not just let them tell you--

(federal agents begin to arrest Giraud)

Giraud: Get off me!

Kesler: Cut his mic. Cut his mic. You're done!

Giraud: Listen and you will find the tru--

(feed is cut)

Kesler: I am sorry ladies and gentlemen. I would like to apologies to everyone who had to witness that. These are the dangers of live reporting. I am certainly not going to sit by and let that kind of deception takeover on my show. At least now we know the real story. I'm Charles Kesler, we'll be back after this.

(ECB theme song plays)

Petra Janecek (voiceover): (sighs) Everybody saw it. The Chief was cleared and the world blew up in Ben's face. And now we finally had a story to tell ourselves: the hero and the traitor. That was the story we really wanted to hear. And as far as ONI was concerned, that's all this was supposed to be. All of the ugly ONI rumors and Chief smearing would be laid at Ben's feet. He would be tarred and feathered. And with Ben as a sacrificial lamb the Outer Colonies would come back into the fold. Trade would resume, the Waypoint buoys would power back up, and all of that incendiary anger would just disappear into whatever hole they were throwing Benjamin Giraud into right now. Ben said it was his wounded pride, the way ONI tossed him aside that finally set him off. They used him. I had to hand it to them, however ONI did it, the way all those dominoes fell... was inspired. I always thought I was too clever for all that, but in the end I was just another pawn in their game, their master stroke. The server on Bliss was Ben's undoing, it was bait. Whether I was meant to take it or they knew I'd pass it on, either way, they played me. While Mshak and Ray and Petrosky and everyone else that came near Ben's story got shown the carrot or the stick, ONI hadn't offered me either. And since I didn't go down into their net, I'm free to walk away from all of this. I think deep down Ben really just wanted respect, but that's not ONI's currency. For them it's all about fear. But I'm not afraid. Not with what I've got. Ben was sloppy, but Ray wasn't. He sent the back ups to someone he trusted, too, just in case. This is my story now. My mission. So I'm picking up where Ben left off. I'm gonna carve out the truth, and I'm gonna put it on display. Not because of any sort of loft principle, no. It's just that wounded pride stinging me like it stung Ben. But unlike Ben, I prefer to do things ONI's way. And they're gonna wish I'd gone down in that net too. This is my investigation now and I don't give a rat's ass about respect. This story is gonna be all about fear. I'm Petra Janecek and this is Hunt the Truth.

HUNT the TRUTH Season One Supercut(Blog Text Only)

Blog(Not canon): HUNT the TRUTH is a fictional investigative audio series hosted by Benjamin Giraud (Keegan-Michael Key), HUNT the TRUTH unfolds as Benjamin investigates the story behind the Master Chief, humanity’s greatest and most mysterious hero. As inconsistencies in the story emerge, Ben is faced with toeing the government line or cutting rank and breaking the conspiracy wide open. HUNT the TRUTH is presented by XBOX and 343 Industries, makers of HALO 5: Guardians.