Hunt the Truth Season 1/Transcripts/Ten

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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.