Hunt the Truth Season 1/Transcripts/Two

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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]