Hunt the Truth Season 2/Transcripts

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S2.PRE. THE STORY OF FERO

FERO Transmission The Story Of FERO.jpg

S2.PRE THE STORY OF FERO

{Lots of typing noises and panting thoughout}

Maya Sankar: When I… joined the cause, I never imagined I’d end up here. Talking to you like this. Benjamin Giraud, Petra, they… they like talking into microphones. It’s their superpower. Me I… I never saw any of this for my life, I had aspirations, hope for a better future for myself, for my friends… but it all got corrupted... just twisted. Until I didn’t even recognize myself anymore.

{Slurp of a drink}

But you know...you don’t even care about that do you? No, you just wanna know how we got here. You heard Ben's story, the journalist turned ONI scapegoat. Mines a different kind of story, perhaps it's not exactly what you were expecting but. This is my story. The story of FERO.

S2.00. THE ONLY DELIVERABLE

FERO Transmission The Only Deliverable.jpg

ONI(Blog): A rebel rally ends in slaughter, FERO is unmasked, and a new hunt for truth begins.

S2.00: THE ONLY DELIVERABLE

(crowd yelling)

Maya Sankar (to crowd): That's what they do. They conceal their atrocities in a lob work theater. They invalidate the truth with their coordinated swarms of lies!

Ground Trooper #1: Got visual on FERO.

Sankar (to crowd): We have the attention of every man woman and child in occupied space. Even the moderates in the inner colonies are starting to wake up! But the UEG got on the networks and sang them a lullaby, putting the masses back to sleep, smearing those who would speak the truth! That's what they did to Benjamin Giraud.

Ground Trooper #1: What's the headcount down there?

Pilot: About 130, 140, plus half a dozen VIPs.

Ground Trooper #2: Looks like a bunch of Innies in a field to me!

Ground Trooper #1: Perimeter secure, sir.

Wiley: Roger that, hold positions."

Sankar (to crowd): They convinced the public that it was them who lit this fire in the outer colonies, but we've been burning for decades! Not because a journalist cried injustice, but because our children cried in pain. We offered our resources. We saluted their flag! But when we cried for help, no one came.

Pilot: Check your three, Wiley.

Wiley: Roger that.

Sankar (to crowd): While our cities were choking under the Insurrection, the UEG called in the cavalry. They leveled our homes. When our families were melting under Covenant warships, the UEG, our government, stood by and watched us die! Whole planets! But now, they tell everyone that our struggle was Ben's fabrication?

Crowd Member #1: No way!

Sankar (to crowd): That I was his invention?! No. I wasn't invented. I was born in these colonies and our struggle wasn't fabricated. It was forged in the ash and glass that was left after the Covenant attacks. We survived.

(a crowd member cheers)

Sankar (to crowd): And no matter how many lies they shovel on top of us, this fire they started, the ideas we stand for, will never burn out!

Ground Trooper #2: Man, that's some scraggly looking Innies.

Ground Trooper #1: Cut the chatter!

Ground Trooper #2: Oh, we got ONI working as CO now, boys?

Pilot: Shut it down, Wiley.

Wiley: Yes, sir."

Crowd (in unison): Free Giraud! Free Giraud!

Sankar (to crowd): I hear you! And Ben will get the amnesty he deserves, but not until we have the strength to give it too him.

(a crowd member cheers)

Sankar (to crowd): We need to send a message to the UEG, a clear sign that--

Crowd Member: We need to drop a thermal nuke, and spread fear to their guts. That's the message we need to send.

Crowd (in unison): From Fire to Blood

Sankar (to crowd): A UNSC recruitment center or some federal com target isn't going to free Benjamin Giraud! We have screamed from fire to blood for decades, and for decades, blood is what we've been drowning in. That's what they want, a shooting war, something they know they can win!

Ground Trooper #2: There's movement at the refinery.

Pilot: Structure's out of range! Stay focused on the target!

Sankar (to crowd): The day we plot revenge, they grow stronger. We toss ourselves into the flames calling it revolution? No, this needs to be a war of ideas. Not fenced in by battlements, but lifted up by economic prosperity! Building a force that the UEG will have no choice but to bargain with. That's the war we can win.

Crowd Member #2: You've had us sit here for weeks! It's time to strike!

Sankar (to crowd): No! It's time to stop blindly tossing our sons and daughters into--

Crowd Member #3: I was at Mamore with the FLP in the year 2511!

Wiley: Mamore?

Crowd Member #3: Where the hell were you?

Wiley: I heard they all got scooped.

Crowd Member #3: You weren't even born yet!

Ground Trooper #1: Guy's all bark.

Crowd Member #3: Stand up in front of a bunch of real freedom fighters and talk soft, like Sekibo? That's the only suicide mission I see you going on!

Bostwick: You need to back up!

Crowd Member #3: You need to watch yourself young'n. Grown ups are talking.

Bostwick: I said backup.

Sankar: Bostwick, it's fine.

Ground Trooper #1: Old school rebel rat approaching the target. Dud looks ready to go!

Sankar (To Crowd): {Hidden under Extraction teams talking}

Pilot: Alpha team, watch your flank.

Wiley: Rodger that. Alright.

Ground Trooper #1: Go in, now!

Pilot: Extraction's a go in 3, 2, 1, GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO!

(the ground troopers open fire, Insurrectionists scream as they die)

Wiley: Target acquired!

Pilot: Copy that. Get back to the ship!

(ship door closes)

Pilot: We're clear! Let's roll!

(ship takes off)

Sankar: What the fu... Get off me!

Lance Corporal: Whoa, whoa! What the hell?!

Sankar: Who's op is this, huh?! Who authorized it?!

Lance Corporal: Whoa, calm down "FERO"! (laughs)

Sankar: Hey, I outrank you, lance corporal! You don't get to call me FERO! It's commander Sankar to you, copy?! And you just ran guns blazing into an active civilian operation, you corn-fed cro-mag! Who authorized it?!

Lance Corporal: Hey, I didn't see any civilians down there. Just looked like a bunch of rebel rats to me.

Sankar: Where's your CO? Your ass is getting put on ice, I can guarantee you that!

Lance Corporal: Huh, yeah, good luck with that.

Sankar: You wanna to make a drop without a pod, trooper, huh?! You wanna slap a KIA on that jacket?!

Lance Corporal: Oh, you're gonna kill a marine now?

Sankar: You know, from this height, you might just live. Those "rebel rats" could send you home a piece at a time as a weekly care package to your mom.

(calls through the ship)

Noah: Maya.

Lance Corporal: Damn. That rebel stink must be sinking into your brain.

Sankar: Do not test me.

Noah: Maya!

Sankar: Noah? What in the hell was that?! You authorized that strike? What kind of--

Noah: Maya, I'll explain everything when you get here. Are you okay?

Sankar: I... No! No, I'm not okay, Noah! I'm not okay at all! Half those people were civilians, and you've got neanderthal helljumpers going in hard with full ordnance?! I mean what... (sighs)

(gunshots are heard)

Sankar: Wait, there's still another team on the ground?

Noah: Yes, there's a second team--

Sankar: Call them back, now!

Noah: I can't, it's still an active op. Bravo Team's on clean up.

Sankar: That's not clean up. That's a slaughter house! Sounds like a bunch of trigger happy jumpers killing civilians! Pull the rest of your team, now!

Noah: No. You were the only deliverable asset.

Sankar: The only deliverable for what?! What is this?! I've risked my cover more times than I can remember and I haven't gotten so much as a whisper from you or command since I wrapped on Giraud! I am com--

Noah: I know, I'm sorry. Command put us on strict no coms three weeks ago. My hands were tied.

Sankar: I have been in the dark for almost a month and right now I am in pitch black on whatever the hell this op you're running is, so please, tell me, what?!

Noah: We had to pull you. It came from the top and it happened fast.

Sankar: What is command even doing? When they activated me for Giraud, the whole point was to create more regional stability! I thought they'd have it all locked up by now!

Noah: They do.

Sankar: Tell that to Petra Janecek. After her last message, people are still pissed.

Noah: You didn't hear? Acquisition team picked her up hiding on a transport freighter out in the fringes.

{recording of Petra's kidnapping plays "---" signifies parts that can't be heard clearly}

Petra (In recording): --- To what to what, god what am I missing.

(A door is heard opening, followed by a siren.)

Petra: Don't stop! Don't stop looking! Connect the dots before it's too late!

Sankar: What?

Noah: Things are changing inside ONI. What you did... killing those agents in Ben's apartment.

Sankar: I can't-- (sighs) I can't believe this.

Noah: I know, listen--

Sankar: They--

Noah: I know.

Sankar: Section Three orders me to murder fellow agents and now they're laying it at my feet?

Noah: It's not official, it's just a political move.

Sankar: (sighs) God.

Noah: Someone's trying to appease some of the other commanders.

Sankar: I looked 'em up, ya' know? The two agents.

Noah: Why would you do that?

Sankar: The younger guy had a three year old daughter. Did you know that?

Noah: (sighs) Maya--

Sankar: He was twenty-seven. And the other agent was a year behind me at the academy. I killed both of them, and for what?

Noah: Maya... I wish I knew how to make this easier for you. Everything's just... I tried to do what I could, even though I couldn't reach you. There are questions.

Sankar: Questions?

Noah: Mshak Moradi. Your weapon never registered as fired on that mission. The kill was never recorded-

Sankar: It didn't register because I didn't use my weapon.

Noah: What do you mean?

Sankar: I'll spare you the gory details, 'kay?

Noah: You didn't have a choice, Maya.

Sankar: I know.

Noah: He was about to blow your cover, if you had--

Sankar: I know. (sighs) They listen to me, Noah! They believe in me, or FERO. They want a better life, they really do. They've just never been shown how to get there.

Noah: Believe me, I know. Nobody could have predicted what you've been able to accomplish, but the fact of the matter is--

Sankar: It's outside the scope of my objectives, I know.

Noah: Yes.

Sankar: God. Well we're gonna have a hell of a time sealing up my cover after that joke of an extraction. We need to assess the post-op ground narrative as fast as possible for the release.

Soldier: Excuse me, sir. Casualties ready to report.

Noah: Go ahead

Soldier: Twenty-six rebels down, two VIPs, forty-one injured, survivable.

Sankar: I need to get back in Noah.

Noah: And you will, Maya... but not yet. They're bringing you to Midnight Facility.

Sankar (voiceover): There's something that ONI doesn't understand about human cost. Maybe the people do, the individuals, but as a collective when you look at people as numbers on a chart, as probabilities, just factors on a bigger equation... what happens is you actually lose the bigger picture. They... They run these complicated algorithms. They weigh the cost/benefit analysis of what a human life is worth. I recognize every single name on that list of sixty-seven casualties. To ONI they were just sixty seven insurgents, but I knew what their voices sounded like. I knew why half of them were there that night, what they wanted for their lives. Seven people who had sworn allegiance to me... who I'd known for years... were dead. I'd lost two of the best friends I'd ever had in that operation. And as the person who was sworn to protect them... I... I didn't know how to process that loss. But... what terrified me most... was after five years living as FERO... I had no idea what Maya was supposed to think about any of it.

S2.01. CUBE B-349

Fero Transmission Cube B-349.jpg

ONI(Blog): A missing man appears on Midnight, “anomalies” appear in the Colonies, and Maya receives her new assignment.

S2.01. CUBE B-349

Maya (Voiceover): As far as my cover went, no one outside the op could know I was an agent. That’s why they were shipping me to Midnight Facility; a dark ONI secret hidden in the shadows of an asteroid belt. There are a number of penitentiaries throughout space whose reputations precede them, whose very names strike fear in the hearts of the state’s enemies. This facility wasn’t one of them. Midnight wasn’t about reforming criminals - it was about making them disappear. On the ride up, I’d asked three times to verify the list of casualties. I played the video feeds from the ground, over and over, just forcing myself to watch the slaughter, to accept the role I played in it. Not everyone was lost thankfully. Bostwick, my friend and right hand in the rebellion, was among those who escaped. That gave me hope, but I couldn’t take any comfort as I watched my friends and followers die again and again.

Officer: Commander. We’re about to land.

Maya: Thank you.

Maya (Voiceover): I looked out the window but all I saw was a massive asteroid. Hard to believe that inside there was a secret prison with enough firepower to take down a Covenant fleet. As we entered through a hidden entrance on the underside of the rock, the sheer scale of the facility became apparent. Pulsing beacons led us into a dark tunnel. After what felt like an eternity we made it to the hangar bay.

Midnight AI: Clear. Welcome to Midnight Facility.

Maya (Voiceover): As soon as the doors were open, I rushed to get off the ship. One of the ODSTs was happily wiping blood off his boots, and all I wanted to do was get away. I found myself standing on the inside of the massive hangar. Walls a hundred-meters high and totally empty except for a series of lights guiding us towards two small doors. This was a desolate place.

Officer: May I remind you this op is fully blacked out, gentlemen.

Marine: Yes, sir.

Wiley: Hey, FERO. You’re welcome.

Maya: For what?

Wiley: For saving your ass out there.

Maya (Voiceover): I don’t even remember punching him.

[Maya punches Wiley.]

Wiley: UGH!

Maya: You son of a-

Marine: Whoa, whoa, whoa!

[Wiley tries to attack Maya, but is restrained by other ODSTs.]

Wiley: GHHH - You shouldn't have done that!

Maya: You have no idea! There were-

Wiley: I should've left you to die with those rats, you crazy-

Officer: Marine! Shut it down! Shut it down now!

Maya (Voiceover): But I guess I nailed him pretty good.

Wiley: …Yes, sir.

Midnight AI: Hello, Commander Sankar. Welcome to Midnight. Captain Reibach is expecting you on eighteen. If you would proceed to the elevator-

Maya: I need to go down to the cubes, first.

Midnight AI: Commander, I’ve been directed to have you report directly to Captain Reibach.

Maya (Voiceover): I decided to take a detour. There was someone I needed to see. The AI seemed surprised, but I had the clearance.

Midnight AI: Yes. Please follow the waypoint to your destination.

Maya (Voiceover): Blue pulsing lights guided me down a seemingly endless hallway lined with windowless cubes, each identical to the next. Aside from the subtle buzz of the lights, it was silent. I stopped at cube B-349.

Midnight AI: He’s not in a good way, Commander.

Maya: Show me.

Maya (Voiceover): The glass went from opaque to one-way transparency. Inside the cube, between a crude bunk and a small toilet, I saw him; sitting cross-legged on the floor, writing with a tiny, soft pen on real paper. He was deep in thought, mouthing syllables as he worked. The most hated man on Earth. The beloved symbol of protest to tens of thousands in the Outer Colonies. The brave journalist, framed as a traitor. This... was Benjamin Giraud. Or at least, what had become of him. I’d promised my followers I would free him. But I wasn’t going to. No one was. ONI had cast Ben to the very edge of their empire, and that’s where he’d remain. I could barely look at him. Partly because in a strange way, I considered him my friend. But mostly, because I was the one who had put him there. I wasn’t looking for forgiveness though. I felt like I needed to pay... and I was hoping Ben would tear me to pieces.

Maya: Go to two-way.

Ben: I’m sorry… I-I- I’m sorry. I can’t discuss the particulars right now, counselor. I’m still editing. I-

Maya: Ben.

Maya (Voiceover): I didn’t even see his head turn, but he was suddenly staring right at me, his eyes impossibly sharp and locked on mine. This was not the Ben I remembered. This was someone else. I felt exposed, like I’d been caught. He stood up slowly and I froze. I wasn’t at Midnight anymore. I was in Ben’s world. And I was an intruder. He walked right up to the glass and he stopped. I’d wanted to confront what I’d done to Ben, give him a chance to eviscerate me with words. But now that he was right here in front of me, all I kept thinking was that the glass between us felt terrifyingly thin.

Ben: Oh, you!

Maya: Ben. I know... I-

Ben: I knew it...

Maya: Okay, just listen, Ben. I just wanted to tell you that I, um-

[Benjamin slams his hands into the glass]

Ben: You’re alive!

Maya: I…

Ben: I’m- I’m sorry. You’re alive! Oh my God!

Maya: I… Uh…

Ben: I knew you wouldn’t go through with the suicide mission! I just kept convincing myself over and over. This whole time, even after I screwed everything up I kept saying “FERO would find another way...”

Maya (Voiceover): He didn’t know. He was happy to see me. I- I couldn’t believe it. I guess I was- I was so busy punishing myself with guilt that I’d never stopped to consider the possibility that Ben would still believe in FERO. I didn’t know what to say.

Ben: Wait… wait… You can’t be here. Do you know what this place is, FERO? You have to go! You have to go now! The-the- the AI! They monitor everything. And they- they’ll already be looking for you-

Maya: I won’t be here long, okay? Don’t worry about that, trust me, I just… I needed-

Ben: Okay. Okay. Of course you know what you’re doing, obviously. I wasn’t thinking, I- I just.... Oh, God, it’s so good to see you. Are you okay?

Maya: I… Uh… I’m good. How are you?

Ben: I’m fine. I’m totally fine. I- I’ve been writing, keeping busy, you know-

Maya: Is that blood? On your bunk?

Ben: What? Oh. Oh yeah.

Maya: What happened? Is that from one of the guards? Is that what they’re doing to you here?

Ben: No. No, no, no, no, no. It’s nothing like that, no. That was all me. It was all me. It’s, uh… I wasn’t really p-prepared for this? Y’know? Uh, solitary confinement? I’d…I’d read about it, but it’s different in reality.... obviously. And- and I… I had a rough patch, couple times, I-I lost control of my emotions, y’know. It’s a pretty standard psychological reaction, but no. No, that... that, uh, that was my fault... There- there are safeguards now, like if I get too worked up, they play music to calm me down, if I really lose it, they turn on the gas, and I just I go to sleep and it’s… it’s fine.

Maya: Oh, Ben…

Ben: No, seriously, it looks bad. You’re right. But that was a while ago. Look, see? See? My hands are all healed up. It’s fine! Oh… Wait. Wait, wait, wait... Nonononononononono…

Maya: What?

Ben: H-hold up. Show me your COM pad.

Maya:: Ben, I…

Ben: No, no, no. C’mon, c’mon. Let’s not slip back into that. Let’s just- Please. Show me your COM pad. I need to see the time.

Maya: Okay.

[Maya places her COM pad against the glass.]

Ben: Okay… Seven forty-three. Got it. Take it down. Okay, show me again. Don’t talk, j-just show me.

[Maya places her COM pad against the glass again.]

Ben: Seven forty-three –Thank you. Thank you. Okay. This is real. This is real. Got it. Okay… Okay, good. Sorry, it’s this... trick... I do to make sure I’m not dreaming. Discontinuity of time is a classic tell, but- but the time didn’t change, so I know this isn’t a dream.

Maya: Oh…

Ben: Hah… Yes, I know. It-it… I know, I know. It sounds insane, but I- I don’t have a clock, y’know? That messes with your head. At- At first, if I was outside the cell, I knew it was a dream, because they don’t let me out in reality. But then, my dreams were in my cell too and it got... confusing. Like, what’s real, what’s not...

Maya (Voiceover): “What’s real and what’s not.” That’s what Ben’s whole story had been about. He’d fought decades of murky cover-ups to shed light on the atrocities our government had buried. Because he believed the public deserved the dignity of knowing the truth. And now, buried in a hole at Midnight, he’d been reduced to fighting for the most basic human truth. Ben no longer had the dignity of knowing if anything was real.

Ben: FERO…

Maya: Yeah, Ben?

Ben: Everybody knows I’m the bad guy, right?

Maya: They still cheer for you, Ben. People all over the Outer Colonies. They want you freed, they want justice, they want- they want you out-

Ben: No...No, no. No! NO! NO! I- I don’t want that!

Maya: What!?

Ben: No! I- I wanna help. See, I think if people hear this... Here, listen. I wanna read you what I’ve been working on. It’s, um…

Maya: Ben…

Ben: It’s my way… of fixing everything. It’s- It’s still rough, but, um… It’s a message of peace. And an apology. At the end, I’m gonna thank you personally.

Maya: Oh, no. Ben-

Ben: No, d-don’t worry. Don’t worry. I’m not going to name you or anything, but you saved my life, FERO. And not just in my apartment either. The- the- the things you-

Maya: No! I didn’t save your life. I killed two innocent people.

Ben: No. Nononono... You were just trying to protect me. You had no choice! If their blood is on anyone’s hands, it’s mine. I put you in that position. I put those agents in that position.

Maya: They weren’t even gonna kill you, Ben, they were just gonna-

[The PA system activates.]

Michael Sullivan (Over Coms): This is Commander Michael Sullivan.

[Ben gasps.]

Sully (Over Coms): You are currently in violation of federal prison regulations.

Ben: Run. Get out of here, FERO. Now! Now!

Maya: I… I…

Ben: Please, go! Now! Go!

Maya: I… I...

Sully (Over Coms): Step away from the glass and report to my office immediately.

Ben: What is he talking about?

Sully (Over Coms): This is your last warning.

Ben: What is he talking about? What’s… happening?

Sully (Over Coms): You no longer have clearance to speak with my prisoner, Agent Sankar.

Ben: Agent Sankar...? What-

Maya: I’m sorry, Ben…

[Classical music (Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 - Marcia Funebre) starts to play in Benjamin’s cube.]

Ben: What is- what is the- what is the- what is the… Nonononono… Show me the time. Show me the time. Show me- show me your COM pad. Show me the time…

Maya: Ben, I just wanted to-

Sully (Over Coms): Step back, Commander.

Ben: Oooooooh… No. No. No. No. No... No!

Maya: I’m sorry.

Ben: But you’re- you’re… you’re my- you’re my friend… What? What, you work- you work for ONI?

Maya: Ben, I’m sorry. I just-

[Ben slams against the glass.]

Ben: HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME!?

Sully (Over Coms): Calm down, Ben.

[Ben slams against the glass, again and again.]

Maya: No! No don’t! Don’t, Ben, I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I just wanted-

Ben: EVERY DAY! EVERY DAY, I’M IN HERE! I’M WORRIED ABOUT YOU! I’M WORRIED ABOUT FERO!

[Ben smears his bloody, wet hands against the glass.]

Ben: AND YOU’RE NOT EVEN REAL!

Maya: I am sorry!

Ben: WHO ARE YOU!?

Sully (Over Coms): Ben, calm it down or we’ll have to shut it down.

[Ben hammers on the glass with his fists, punctuating his words.]

Ben: TELL ME. WHO YOU. ARE.

Maya: No!

Ben: WHO ARE YOU!? WHO ARE YOUUU! WHO ARE YOU-

Midnight AI: Administering sedative.

Maya: Don’t! No!

[Gas floods Ben’s cell.]

Ben: WHO ARE YOU!

Maya: Ben…

Sully: Black the glass.

Maya: No! Please, don’t!

Ben: YOU GOTTA TELL-

[The glass goes opaque, blocking out both sound and vision.]

Maya: No- Ben!?

Maya (Voiceover): And then, silence. I made a beeline for Sullivan’s office.

[Maya bursts into Sully’s office.]

Maya: Are you insane!?

Sully: Maya! Have a seat.

Maya: I prefer to stand.

Sully: I insist.

Maya: Or what? What you’re gonna gas me too!?

Sully: Sedation is an unfortunate measure we have to take when Ben’s hurting himself. Before I got here, he was punching walls, had no human contact for weeks. He’d developed a tic, rubbing his head, all day, every day- He rubbed it raw, nearly took off half his scalp. But then I changed the protocols, got him medical treatment, brought in a rep from Justice. I even gave him writing implements to help pass the time, and you know what? Ben stopped hurting himself. No more gassing. Until today, when you decided to show up and pay an unauthorized visit to a prisoner and jeopardize all my hard work, everything we’ve tried to accomplish here-

Maya: Oh cut the crap, Sully. Why are you here?

Sully: We’re prepping Ben as a potential P.R. asset. A video message for the “Free Giraud” crowd.

Maya: You’re breaking him, so you can parade him in one of your depraved stunts?

Sully: If by “parade him” you mean “resolve civil unrest,” then yes.

Maya: Wow…

Sully: He wants to do it. You heard him.

Maya: That’s not the point. He’s bled out and you are still squeezing him. And besides, your little stunt, it’s not gonna play with his sympathizers. They’re just-

Sully: Listen, I respect your opinion, Commander, I really do. But when making their assessment on this case, the organization’s best analysts apparently didn’t feel the need to consult with you. Although, I’m sure the opinions of someone who’s been relieving themselves in a swamp for the past five years would be very valuable, I’m gonna go ahead and follow chain of command on this one.

Maya: See that’s your problem right there. You’re still in your glass tower in Boston. You don’t have any idea what’s actually happening on the ground.

Sully: Look, I’ve heard the FERO chatter. You’re steering factions away from conflict. That’s great. But unless your coalition of hugs can spontaneously end rebellion, we’re gonna have to destroy some hearts and minds.

Maya: By torturing an innocent like Ben? That’s the answer?

Sully: Ben forfeited his innocence when he tried to tear us down.

Maya: Well, Maybe we should be torn down.

Sully: Spoken like a true traitor.

Maya: Oh save it, Sully. You marched Ben right into this life sentence-

[Sully slams his first into his desk.]

Sully: NO! I tried to warn him. I gave him every chance to back off. But he wouldn’t listen-

Maya: “Glassed planets have bad records”!? Real clear, Sully.

Sully: You may get latitude out there in the shadows, but for those of us in our “glass towers”, it’s not that easy. “Pushback” against our employer looks a little different when you have surveillance up your ass 24/7. We couldn’t just let him air all of our dirty laundry. Then what? Positive change? Open dialogue? No. The public cannot digest real horror. Have you ever seen people tear each other to pieces to get on an evac ship?

Maya: Yes, actually, I have. Up close. How about you?

Sully:Well, I can’t tell you how to sanitize a spaceport after a stampede. But... I am privy to all sorts of data that you are not, that perhaps if you understood, might keep you from turning your anecdotes into Theories of Everything. If Ben’s story had stopped trade for a month, everything would have collapsed.

Maya (Voiceover): As much as I hated to admit it, Sully was right. Panic is a very real monster. For as many lives as the Covenant had claimed, panic had claimed just as many. But Ben had stumbled onto ONI’s quiet cemetery of secret sacrifices. And, while terrifying the masses with the whole truth wasn’t the answer, if you’re Ben Giraud, if you’re any civilian, what other weapon do you have?

Sully: But enough about me. I’m supposed to be here at Midnight. When I call the Rear Admiral, how should I explain you sharing intel with one of the highest-profile federal prisoners alive? Hmm... Nothing? Okay. Stay away from my prisoner. That’s a warning.

Maya: And you stay the hell away from me. That’s a threat.

Sully: I get to sleep at night, Maya. What about you? How are you sleeping?

Corporal: Commander Sullivan.

Sully: Corporal.

Corporal: Commander Sankar, Captain Reibach is waiting for you.

Sully: Good luck out there, Maya. And don’t worry, this’ll all come back around for you. I promise.

Maya (Voiceover): My blood was on fire, I had no idea how I was going to be able to handle this debrief, but that wasn’t what I was walking into at all.

Noah: Maya!

Maya (Voiceover): Noah Reibach was one of the first people I ever met at ONI. He was one of my instructors in basic. Always looked out for me.

Maya: I think I’ve been through enough for one day, so if we can we get this over with I need to get the hell out of here and re-establish my cover.

Noah: You’re not here because of the Giraud mission.

Maya: What!? Noah, then why the hell am I even here!?

Noah: Please, Maya! Sit down. Yesterday we received some disturbing transmissions. Footage from several colonies in the region.

Maya (Voiceover): I sat there and watched video clips of mass destruction on various planets, seismic events exploding infrastructure and buildings into the air. Leveling cities in a matter of moments.

Noah: We scrambled search and rescue as soon as possible, but… it was total devastation.

Maya: What is it?

Noah: We don’t know.

Maya: Well, who’s shooting? What are they shooting at?

Noah: We don’t know. Something about these events. They fry everything in the area.

Maya (Voiceover): Whatever it was, ONI couldn’t keep it under wraps for long. The force of it was jaw-dropping to witness and the destruction was cataclysmic.

Maya: So, why am I here?

Noah: You’re being reassigned. We still need FERO, but this is your new mission. We need you to go in to one of these colonies and gather intel, hopefully you can help us figure out what these things are.

Maya (Voiceover): I asked him why they needed me to go get this data. They had more than enough scientists on the payroll.

Noah: We’ve done everything we can to secure the sites of these attacks. So far we’ve secured four, but the fifth has fallen into NCA control.

Maya: The New Colonial Alliance? Do you think they’re involved?

Noah: We don’t know. But whatever did this, we can’t risk it falling into their hands. We’re trying to get control of story but rumors are kicking up all sorts of chaos on the colonies. The NCA appears to be making a power move.

Maya (Voiceover): I’d brushed shoulders with fringe NCA factions many times. And I wasn’t keen on encountering them again.

Maya: But still... Why me, why not send in Spartans?

Noah: We don’t want to send in the cavalry until we know what’s going on down there. We need someone on the ground. Someone the rebels will trust.

Maya (Voiceover): Before I could begin to catch up on what was happening, Noah walked over and clasped and NCA pin on my lapel.

Maya: What’s this?

Noah: It’s one of our best. Say hello, Black-Box.

Black-Box: Hello, Black Box. I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself. Awful.

Maya: Are you kidding me? An AI?

Noah: Order came down from the top. This mission is of the utmost importance. We can’t take any chances.

Black-Box: Maya, I’m very much looking forward to our time together. I’ve heard lots of... things about you.

Maya: I’m not okay with this.

Black-Box: Not okay with what? Being deployed on a high-risk operation that is well beyond your pre-established purview? Or is it the part about being partnered with a highly intelligent AI with the proven experience and expertise integral to the success of this mission.

Maya: So I’m being micromanaged now?

Noah: You don’t have a choice, Maya.

Maya: Wait... What about Ari? Isn’t he under with the NCA?

Noah: We’ve been trying to reestablish contact. He went black just after he relayed intel about the attacks…

Maya: Wait... You knew these attacks were coming and did nothing!?

Noah: We didn’t know anything, Maya. The intel came from an unreliable source, we’ve been working hard to verify when-

Maya: Where did the intel come from?

Noah: I can’t tell you that. But let’s just say someone who’s burned us before.

Maya: Is Ari...

Noah: Ari may have been made, Maya. We’re completely blind on the ground. We need to know what’s going on in that camp.

Maya (Voiceover): This assignment was bigger than me or the rebels. As we sorted out my escape narrative, a dark reality hit me. In all my other missions, I’d been dealing with people. Dangerous radicals, sure, but still just people. This was something different. Something massive and powerful. Whatever caused these events, whatever destroyed those colonies… All of humanity could be at risk.

Maya: Okay. I’m in.

S2.INT. FAILED TRANSMISSION

Fero Transmission Failed Transmission.jpg

S2.INT: FAILED TRANSMISSION

Maya Sankar(Transmission): This is Agent Maya Sankar. I'm on Conrad's Point in a planet wide dark zone. I managed to make contact. This installation inside could be potentially hostile. But something big, and... and its definitely coming soon. I dont have time to wait, I'm heading into the camp now. No matter what happens, I hope its not as bad I {Static Takes over}

S2.02. FROM FIRE TO BLOOD

Fero Transmission From fire to blood.jpg

ONI(Blog): A city lies in ruins, Maya meets a madwoman, and the Colonies mourn the death of a hero.

S2.02. FROM FIRE TO BLOOD

Maya (Voiceover): As we made our way towards Conrad's Point my head was still spinning. The raid at the camp, seeing Ben, the intel about these events... It was almost too much to handle. But something about it felt familiar too. I thought back to when I was monitoring Mshak Moradi. Right before he was going to expose me to Ben. He had been onto something. The chatter about the anomalies in deep space. Then just a few weeks later, Ari had relayed his own warnings to ONI HQ... Could they be connected? With so many skeletons in ONI’s closet it was just a matter of time before some of them found their way out.

Black-Box: Maya, you need to focus.

Maya (Voiceover): I was so lost in thought that I didn’t realize we were coming up on Conrad’s Point.

Black-Box: A world-gone-dark is a scary question hanging in space. You need to be present and ready. There could be anything beneath those clouds and I’d prefer not to die today.

Maya (Voiceover): This operation was rife with uncertainty. We were approaching Conrad’s Point, a world in chaos, controlled by militant NCA rebels. My only link to them was a fellow agent, Ari Rezneck. But he’d gone dark weeks ago, and now this whole planet was dark because of a catastrophic seismic event. All that uncertainly should have been terrifying, it should have felt immediate and sharp, but… somehow, it didn’t. It seemed far away, surreal… I needed to pull it together.

Black-Box: Someone down there is using an analog transponder.

Maya: What?

Black-Box:: Look. “Extreme caution. Ping on final approach. Friendly pings get new coordinates.”

Maya: Ari...

Black-Box: Looks like Captain Rezneck may be alive after all.

Maya (Voiceover): It had to be him. Ari Rezneck was one of the most resourceful people I’d ever known; a gifted mediator, an eccentric tinkerer, and a good friend. As an agent, he orchestrated complex social ecosystems with impeccable technical precision. But ironically, when it came to actual tech, he was more of an artist. Finding a way to send a signal from a dead world? Risking his neck to warn others? That was Ari.

Maya: I’m shutting down for a dead-dive.

Black-Box: The question is, are these cautionary measures in response to human or non-human threats?

Maya: Well… We’ll know soon enough.

Maya (Voiceover): Free fall was rough to say the least. But I held down my lunch, opened the drag as late as possible, and then quietly brought the transporter down in a well-hidden, jagged ravine. I may have had no idea what we were walking into, but I was making damn sure we had a way to get back out.

Black-Box: What a heinous, depressing rock. It’s really no wonder these people are so angry, they make camp on waste-worlds. I mean, I’d be quite angry myself.

Maya: Yeah, well, I don’t think they’re here for leisure

Maya (Voiceover): On the remote fringes, a planet like Conrad is the perfect hideout for the NCA. They take over abandoned mining facilities and establish military training grounds. Life out here? It isn’t for the faint of heart.

Black-Box: This region is lovely. Just lovely. All the... rocks.

Maya: This is it... nobody’s here.

Black-Box: Why don’t you try the vantage point, up there? On that rock.

Maya (Voiceover): I came up the ridge and the sun suddenly crested into view. I shielded my eyes and finally saw the wider landscape. Behind us and to the sides, it was all jutting rocks. But then the ridge dropped off, sloping gradually into a much smoother section. I squinted into the light, barely making out the silhouettes of massive industrial structures in the distance.

Maya: I don’t like this. We’re exposed up here.

Maya (Voiceover): I looked out again and realized what was off about the area beyond the ridge: it was a crater. A vast hole. Like someone had just torn out a massive section of the planet’s surface. I hadn’t seen it because the size of it was impossible. I was so in awe I didn’t even hear him sneak up on me.

Ari: Listen carefully and do exactly what I say.

Maya (Voiceover): I turned around and saw Ari, pointing a gun at me.

Maya: Ari? What are you-

Ari: STOP... talking. Put your hands up! Don’t move, don’t talk. They may be watching. You just showed up here and I don’t know you. I’m pointing my gun and that scares you. Now give me the bag!

Maya (Voiceover): Ari yanked the bag from me, and rifled through it with one hand. I played along.

Maya: I assure you there’s nothing threatening in there.

Ari: I see that, so I’m becoming less aggressive. I’m assuming you’re here because of the event.

Maya: Yes.

Ari: I’m giving you back your bag, we’re getting over our misunderstanding. I’m asking who you are.

Maya: I’m the rebel leader, FERO.

Ari: I’ve heard of you. The situation is starting to relax.

Maya: Were you here when it happened?

Ari: No, we came right after. I’m lowering the gun, because I realize we’re on the same side.

Black-Box: Well, now that all of that ceremonious posturing is out of the way, can we get on with the mission at hand?

Ari: A smart AI?

Maya: Yeah-

Black-Box: The name is Black-Box. Your reputation precedes you, Captain.

Maya: It’s good to see you Ari. They were afraid you were dead.

Ari: Yeah, and what’d you think?

Maya: My faith never wavered.

Ari: Heh. So are you the entire brigade?

Maya: Just me and Black-Box. Here to find out what the NCA knows... or has, and report back to HQ.

Ari: Well, I… I don’t have a lot. We were close by when the colony was hit. But by the time we got here it was all over. All I know is it caused major seismic damage, fried every piece of tech on the planet, and left behind that hole, half-mile wide. NCA’s got the site blocked off now, only a select few have been allowed in. Ilsa is planning her next move.

Maya: Ilsa? Ilsa Zane is here? I thought she was dead?

Ari: You didn’t know? It was in my last message before I went dark.

Maya: No... I-

Ari: Damn. They really sent you in here blind. Or they don’t know... After she attacked the UNSC Infinity Ilsa was picked up by some NCA loyalists. She’s been running roughshod over this faction ever since, executing anyone she sees as a problem.

Maya (Voiceover): Ilsa Zane was a walking science experiment gone wrong. At one point, she’d been slated for the SPARTAN Program, an attempt at building the ultimate unarmored killing machine, but she snapped. After defecting to the NCA she was quickly indoctrinated, and promoted to Admiral Drake’s attack dog.

Ari: Then, when the colony was hit by the event, she brought us all here. The bloodletting seems to be over now, but everyone’s still on edge. Unable to use COMS, unable to leave.

Maya: But, why haven’t you escaped?

Ari: I’ve certainly thought about it, but I can’t. I’m trying to keep a lid on things here. They’ve got enough thermo-nukes in the armory to flatten a whole system, and Ilsa’s been setting the table for total war against the UNSC. I’m hopeful I can steer things back from the edge, get her finger off the nukes until ONI can take her out.

Maya: I… I should send a sit-rep to Noah before we go in.

Black-Box: Hold that thought, Maya. We’ve got movement on the perimeter, several guards heading this way.

Ari: Quickly. Brief me. You were abducted by ONI. What happened?

Maya: I escaped custody and hijacked a prisoner transport. They were questioning me about the colony attacks. I was worried, so after I broke out, I came here.

Ari: Geez, that’s the best they could do? Lucky prison break? Alright, we’ll have to make it work. Ilsa’s been pulling rebels in from all over so we say you’re just another fighter joining the party. Now lay low in there. It won’t take a blown cover to set Ilsa off. She’ll kill you if she thinks you’re dead weight. And keep the AI quiet unless you wanna lose him.

Black-Box: I am but a lapel pin.

Ari: Found another one, boys!

Raj: What were you doin’ outside the perimeter, Ari?

Ari: It’s called a perimeter check, Raj. And it worked.

Maya (Voiceover): The crew was heavily arm and looked severely sleep deprived. Ilsa seemed to have them on a hair trigger. It was tense, but Ari worked his magic, cracked a few smiles, and I was suddenly being escorted into the encampment as a guest of the NCA. There were hundreds of rebels with dozens of affiliations packed inside the dilapidated refinery. Drinking and shouting, almost manically festive. It was a party, but it all felt slightly unhinged.

Maya: What’s the occasion?

Ari: That’s a good question, it’s been silent as the grave in here until late last night. Her guys broke out the colonel’s old cases of whiskey, told everyone it was a celebration. Everyone’s been wound pretty tight.

Maya: I can see that.

Ari: Alright, why don’t you go grab a drink? I’m gonna make the rounds. See what I can find out.

Maya (Voiceover): As I laid low, I looked around hoping to spot any familiar faces. But I didn’t see a sympathetic resistance. These weren’t my people. I saw blood lust. Groups responsible for attacks on civilians. Half the people here were mercenaries. No one seemed to stand for anything, except vengeance; “From fire to blood.” Any banner you wanna fly to justify crushing skulls. This was the opposite of everything I had fought for as FERO. I was hoping Ari would hurry up, when I heard a familiar voice.

Bostwick: FERO!

Maya: Bostwick? Oh my g-

Bostwick: You’re alive! I knew it! I knew they wouldn’t get you! When you got taken, everyone scattered, everyone thought you were dead, but not me! I knew you wouldn’t let ONI take you.

Maya (Voiceover): Bostwick had been drinking. A lot. A five-foot-nothing rebel girl who probably weighed 100 pounds wet stood out in a group like this as is, but a drunk one was bound to attract unwanted attention.

Maya: Bostwick, what are you doing here?

Bostwick: I joined after the scatter. Half of our group was killed, rumors were spreading like wild fire-

Maya: And what? What, the NCA offered you protection?

Bostwick: I don’t know if I’d put it that way, I’d say they needed protection from me!

[Bostwick reels around drunk and breaks a bottle.]

Bostwick: See what I did? My bad, I’m just playin’…

Maya (Voiceover): When I first found her, she was an angry 17 year old. Just lost her parents in a UNSC incident on Dekum. They operated a little convenience stand on the outskirts of the military base. Some troopers were drunk, tossing around plasma grenades they seized from a Covenant supply ship. One… went awry. The troopers just got a slap on the wrist. Bostwick got a form letter apology. She coped by getting aggressive, assembling a small group of fellow outer colony kids orphaned by the UNSC. They mostly just engaged in petty theft, but by the time Bostwick and I crossed paths, she was turning her sights to a more violent course. So I took her under my wing. She was dedicated, a fast learner. I’d gotten her to start directing her anger towards positive change, but… she still had a lot of growing up to do.

Maya: What do they have you doing?

Bostwick: Eh perimeter checks, mostly. Around the north end. They got me protecting some operation on the hole. Buncha scientists going in and out, taking readings.

Maya: Readings? Okay, what can you tell me ab-

Black-Box (Over Coms): Maya.

Maya: BB I told you to-

Bostwick: Huh?

Black-Box (Over Coms): I was about to say “Don’t speak.”

Bostwick: Who are you talking to?

Black-Box (Over Coms): I’m broadcasting directly into your ear canal.

Maya: Sorry... I thought I saw... It was nothing.

Black-Box (Over Coms): I transmitted a detailed report back to headquarters. Apparently command is authorizing a strike using our current position as coordinates. Opportunity to kill Ilsa Zane is too great. Time is of the essence. We must go now.

Maya: Ari…

Bostwick: What? You okay, FERO?

Black-Box (Over Coms): Smooth.

Maya: Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. C’mon, we gotta get you out of here.

Bostwick: Okay. Let’s do it. Wait… wh- where are we going?

Maya (Voiceover): They weren't giving me much time to get out before the bombs started dropping. I had to find an exit. That’s when Ari reappeared from the crowd.

Ari: Here, take this.

Maya (Voiceover): Ari handed me a data chip. He looked unnerved.

Maya: What?

Maya (Voiceover): I didn’t have time to ask questions though.

Maya: We need to leave. Now.

Maya (Voiceover): Ari could see the fire in my eyes. He knew it was serious.

Ari: Stick close and walk small.

Maya (Voiceover): We made it about half way to the entrance when the door came rolling down. They were closing all the doors. We were trapped. Ari was working out another escape plan when Ilsa Zane stepped into the room, seemingly sucking all the air out of it. The entire facility, packed with rebels, had become suddenly, unnervingly quiet. The crowd parted as she crossed the floor, everyone turned to face her, eyes mostly averted. And then she stopped... fifteen feet from where we were standing. Ari carefully slid himself in front of me.

Ari: Stay down.

Maya (Voiceover): I could just see her over Ari’s shoulder. Ilsa was… big. Scary big. I didn’t know what the techs had done to her in the SPARTAN Program. Made her stronger, for sure, but they… they’d broken something too. There was a glint in her eye. Something unhinged. Something inhuman.

Ilsa Zane: This... is a celebration. And it should be. We’ve made a lot of changes in a very short amount of time. When I found you, there was no discipline, no uniformity. Just a bunch of misfits with different allegiances and philosophies. That was a problem of leadership.

The colonel had allowed this legendary faction of the NCA to devolve into a forum for individual interests. You were scattered and slow, and that’s a death sentence. I relieved him of his command, because bands of misfits don’t win wars. Big machines do. Big machines, made of lots of little pieces moving with the same purpose. That’s what we needed to build here.

And it’s not easy. Every piece has to have a place and when a piece doesn’t fit, you have to get creative. You cut part of it off, smash it into place so it never pops out again, you do what you have to and you trim the fat. I’m pleased to say that each and every one of you still with us has found your place, and we have built one hell of a machine. And it’s almost time to turn it on.

That hole outside represents our entry point into this war. That’s why I brought you here to Conrad’s Point. The landscape is changing. The UNSC is on their heels because of that hole, and we are going to capitalize on that weakness. We just needed the right moment. Which brings me to my announcement.

Maya (Voiceover): She walked around with incredible control of the room. You felt like she could suck the life out of anyone at any time.

Ilsa: How many of you have lost friends, loved ones at the hands of Spartans? Well, today we get to put a very big one in the other column.

Maya: BB, what is she talking about?

Black-Box (Over Coms): I’m checking the feeds, hold on... Oh my.

Maya: What?

Black-Box (Over Coms): This can’t be.

Ilsa: In the wake of the seismic events that struck here and four other colonies, I have verified with numerous sources that our moment has arrived.

Black-Box (Over Coms): It’s… the Master Chief.

Ilsa: The Master Chief-

Black-Box (Over Coms): He's dead.

Ilsa: Is dead.

Maya (Voiceover): The mood shifted. There was some scattered cheering, but…

Maya: Is it true?

Maya (Voiceover): I don’t think anyone knew what to do…

Ari: I don’t know…

Maya (Voiceover): What to think...

Ari: It’s not good, though.

Maya (Voiceover): The Master Chief was the greatest hero we had ever known. He had saved humanity from the brink of extinction, defeated the Covenant, and almost single-handedly brought an end to the war. What could possibly have the power to kill the Master Chief?

Ilsa: Yes, the poster boy for the UNSC and the SPARTAN Program was killed in action. That’s why we’re celebrating. That’s why this is a party.

Maya: Ari, We need to make a move. Now.

Maya (Voiceover): While the crowd was stirring, Ari bit the bullet and started moving towards a side entrance as we followed. We didn’t make it far, though.

Ilsa: …And that requires expanding our ranks. That’s why I’m glad to see we have even more new faces here.

Ari: Stop. She knows you’re here.

Ilsa: Even today, I hear we got a new shipment of fresh meat. I don’t know you, soldier.

Maya (Voiceover): She was calling me out.

Maya: My name is FERO.

Ilsa: I know that name. You’ve been making a lot of noise recently, haven’t you?

Maya: A little too much perhaps.

Ilsa: You talk about transitioning us out of military conflict, is that right? Build up economic power.

Maya: I think it’s a viable option, if we-

Ilsa: Look around. There’s a reason these people are following me. There’s a reason they scream “from fire to blood!”

Rebel Crowd: FROM FIRE TO BLOOD!

Ilsa: You are naive. Your dreams for tomorrow make us look weak. So what exactly can you offer our movement? Words and speeches? Negotiation? We are done with those.

Ari: Ilsa, she’s got a strong logistical background. Maybe she could help us there.

Maya (Voiceover): Ilsa didn’t speak for a moment. Her eyes were locked on me. But then she relaxed and the tension finally broke.

Ilsa: I think you’re right, Ari. We need some creative thinking on maintaining supply chains here. FERO could be very useful in that capacity. That’s what I’m talking about. Making pieces fit. As a leader, you have to know which pieces can be re-purposed and which ones are just trash.

Ari: No, no, no, no, no, no!

[Ilsa fires her gun.]

Maya (Voiceover): It happened just like that. Ilsa didn’t even look, she just raised her arm and fired. A single shot at point-blank range and he crumpled to the floor. Ilsa Zane had just blown Ari’s brains out.

Ilsa: Now, I’m hoping this is news to all of you here, but our good friend, Ari, as it turns out, was a mole. He was working for ONI.

Maya (Voiceover): She just killed him like he was nothing. I knew he was gone, but I wanted to go to his side and try to help somehow. But I couldn’t move… I- I couldn’t think. Ilsa kept speaking.

Ilsa: He was a treacherous little traitor and that’s not a piece you can make fit.

Maya (Voiceover): Everything was spinning. I was trying to figure out my next move, I spotted Bostwick, lurking at the ready in my peripheral when Ilsa pointed her gun right at me.

Ilsa: Now where were we? That’s right. Ari had just vouched for you. Which means you’re probably another ONI stooge. I could question you, ask what’s in your head, or we could just look.

Maya (Voiceover): Before I could stop her, Bostwick jumped to my defense. Stepping in front of the gun and raising a knife to Ilsa Zane’s throat.

Bostwick: She’s not ONI! FERO’s a real leader, and you should show some respect when addressing her! I vouch for her!

Ilsa: Little girl. The next time you pull a knife on someone... don’t hesitate.

Maya (Voiceover): Ilsa moved with incredible speed and power knocking Bostwick halfway across the room.

Black-Box (Over Coms): Maya, we’re out of time!

Maya: Stop! Ilsa, listen. There’s an air strike on its way.

Ilsa: Air strike?

Maya: We all have to go now or everyone will die.

Ilsa: How do you—

Maya (Voiceover): Everything froze. I could see the rage building in Ilsa as she… cracked a smile. Seemingly enjoying it all. I saw Bostwick look up at me out of the corner of my eye, I knew I’d just broken her heart.

Black-Box (Over Coms): Incoming, in three, two…

Ilsa: You ONI Bi-

[The air strike hits with a cataclysmic explosion. People scream and run through the rubble.]

Maya (Voiceover): I don’t really know what happened next. The impact of the bomb took me off my feet. All I can remember is grabbing Bostwick, blood pouring out of her shoulder, and running, cutting through the crowd, everyone going every which way. The confusion had given me a head start on Ilsa, but in the midst of it all, as I broke outside, I could hear her screaming behind us. She was coming after me.

Ilsa: FERO!

Maya: Black-Box, I need a way out.

Black-Box: The hangar just ahead. They would have brought vehicles for the officers.

Maya (Voiceover): I got Bostwick into the hangar, she was pale and had lost a lot of blood. I tossed her on the back of an old Mongoose, fired it up, and sped off. Ilsa must have had the same idea.

[Bullets ping and whiz off the body of FERO’s Mongoose.]

Black-Box: Maya. If you could go a bit faster, someone is firing at us.

Maya: I know! I’m trying!

Maya (Voiceover): I sped back across the crater, over the rocks and up to the jagged ravine where I’d landed the prison transport.

Maya: Hold on, Bostwick! BB, open the bay door!

Black-Box: Yeah. Opening… now.

Maya (Voiceover): I rode the Mongoose up the ramp and into the ship as Ilsa and her crew came in hot, pelting the transport with a shower of artillery.

Maya: Close the door, BB!

Black-Box: On it. Ship is prepped, we’re ready to go.

Maya: Then GO already!

Maya (Voiceover): As we lifted off, Ilsa was still firing at us from below. I settled Bostwick into one of the bunks and slumped down against the railing as we broke through the atmosphere. I could feel the reality of what had just happened filling my body with every breath. Forget that my cover was blown or that Bostwick would never forgive or trust me again. At least she was alive. But Ari... Ari was dead...

Bostwick: Mother… UGH!

Maya: Shhh...

Maya (Voiceover): But I had to keep going. I took a deep breath, and buried Ari in my mind. I set to finding any medical supplies I could use to extract the shrapnel from her shoulder. The ship was mostly empty, just a vessel to keep my cover intact. But I was able to cobble together enough supplies to tend to her wounds.

Bostwick: Who are you?

Maya: Save your strength. You’re going to need it.

Maya (Voiceover): As Bostwick passed out I made my way to the front of the ship. I finally had a moment to catch my breath. I couldn’t help myself as my thoughts drifted back to Ari. Then I remembered... the data chip.

I pulled it out of my pocket and popped it into the console... A flood of information about the seismic events. Readings, charts, data, predictions... The NCA must have had teams working around the clock, gathering anything out of the ordinary, they were looking for a signature, something unique Ilsa could use to predict where the next disasters would hit. The answers were all in front of me, but I didn’t know how to read them. Thankfully, I knew someone who could...

Black-Box: Maya, we need to get your friend professional medical treatment as soon as possible. We should set course for the nearest ONI facility.

Maya: No, I’ve got a place. Setting course now.

S2.03. SAFE HOUSE

Fero transmission Safe House.jpg

ONI(Blog): A friend returns from the dead, a safe house becomes a trap, and Maya is faced with a decision that will change her life forever.

Maya (off): My ears were still ringing from the bombs. ONI had sent me in on a recon mission, but then hit the base with everything they had, almost no warning, no attempt to protect me or Ori, certainly not civilians. I was just another data-point to them, disposable. I could feel all the hearts and minds I fought for slipping away. The UNSC would always bomb and the rebels would always take up arms and vengeance. Maybe both Sully and Ilsa were right – there was no room for anything else.

[[[Bostwick]] moaning in pain]

Maya (off): As I looked down at Bostwick, I couldn’t help but feel guilty. I had taken this lost, naive kid and turned her into a foot soldier for my cause. I became an expert at rationalizing my actions, telling myself that ultimately, I was working towards the greater good.

Maya: Can I see the wounds?

Bostwick [screaming]: Don’t touch me!

BB: I’d recommend sedating her until we can effectively treat her injuries.

Bostwick: I’d rather rot!

Maya [whilst injecting Bostwick sedatives]: Just rest.

Bostwick[fainting]: FERO

Maya (off): As Bostwick drifted out of consciousness I looked over at the data chip. Ori secured prime intel on the anomalies and after that airstrike any shred of faith I had that ONI would do the right thing with it was gone. For all I knew they would just cover the whole thing up and let another colony fall. But in the right hands, this could help save lifes. I wasn’t gonna turn it over to them, I was gonna get real answers. And there was only one person who could give them to me. The only problem was – he’d been dead for months.

[Transporter landing, door opening, Maya stepping out of it]

Maya (off): The safe house barely qualified as a…house. A crumbling old farm on the outskirts of Bintero, a dusty wasteland in the outer colonies. No one around for miles – except for the occasional alien traitor. Not a great place to live, but a perfect place to hide.

BB: What it this place? It’s not in my database of safe houses.

Maya: It’s off the grid.

BB: There’s some sort of signal interference here.

Maya: Yeah, that’s kind of the point.

Maya (off): The safe house was an old lesson from Ori. When ONI puts you undercover, you lose everything. Every trace of who you are is whiped away to protect the mission. Ori taught me, always keep a place for me, a place to keep memories, to stay attached to the life ONI has erased, a place I could run away to when cover got to deep, somewhere to ground myself – or maybe stash a secret.

Mshak [from behind a door]: Who’s this? Don’t come in! I’ve got guns! I’ve got…

[Maya opening the door, Mshak now speaking clearly]

Mshak: …guns!

Maya: Get away Mshak.

Mshak: Maya! You’re back! I thought you’d never come back, I thought…nobody would ever come back.

Maya (off): He looked…rough. Greasy hair, a thin, patchy beard, the weight he’d lost in his face made his darding, blood shot eyes all the more unsettling.

Maya: What have you been doing to my house?!

Mshak: Oh you have no idea what it’s been like. Wait, why are you carrying a dead person?

Maya: She’s not dead, here, help me get her into the back.

BB: Mshak Maradi!

Mshak: Woooooow,is that an AI?

BB: Well, you’re rather energetic for a dead man.

Mshak: You’ve got an AI?

Maya: This is Black Box.

BB: The official report indicated that you’ve been terminated – quite brutally if I record.

Mshak: I wish I had been.

BB: He does looked like he has been tortured.

Maya: He hasn’t been tortured!

Mshak: Oh, really?! Ok, then what would you call it? She left me here with no coms, no access to waypoint, no slush, I’ve been reading paper books. Pa-per books!

[Mshak ranting in the background]

Maya (off): I couldn’t go through it killing Mshak. He figured out my secret and he ws gonna tel it to Ben, he had to be silenced but – when I’d roken into his house that night, he got so scared, he ran head first into a wall and knocked himself unconscious. He is a great hacker, but dangerous? Not even close. So I hit him, stuck him out in the middle of nowhere and put a blackout array cutting off communications for a kilo in every direction. But a few months cut off from the outside world had left him a little text-starved. In honest a goodness AI was the best toy I could have brought him.

Mshak: You know, you’re really top of the line stuff. You live on this chip?

BB: In a way, you see…

Mshak: Ok, I have a question! I’m sure you get it all the time, but other AI’s they look like people, right, but you just like a big, blue cube.

BB: I am pure intellect, I feel no need to affect a façade in order to make myself more palatable to humans. I am what I am. I am Black Box.

Mshak: Yeah, right…but the box is really blue, though.

BB: Black is the absence of light, a hologram can’t display black.

Mshak: I feel I’m gonna call you Blue Cube.

[Mshak getting electro-shocked]

Mshak: Ahh! Did you just electrecued me?

BB: No, oh, hang on…yes.

Mshak: Listen, Blue Cube, I can stick this chip in a microcooker and…

Maya: Mshak, stop it!

Mshak: Hey, ehm, why did you bring him here? He’s ONI.

Maya: Mshak, I’m ONI.

Mshak: And how long is THAT going to last once he tells them you’re keeping me here alive? [whispering] You can’t trust an AI, they want you to think they are these perfect synthetic beings, but you know how they make them? They take some dead guys brain and just rewire it, with new programming, they’re basically computer zombies!

BB: We also have excellent hearing.

Maya: FOCUS, Mshak! The anomalies, the same ones you were tracking? They’re here now and they’re real. They’ve already destroyed five colonies. Now I’ve got a data chip full of intel from one of the sites and zero context, I NEED information, the kind that isn’t sitting out there in the waypoint index, the kind that you can only find in the slush.

Mshak: Wait, do you mean you’re going to give me back my compad?

Maya: Hold on, hold on…

[Mshak celebrating]

Mshak: Yes! Yes, yes yes!

Maya: I’m opening up a limited channel, an encrypted frequency just for you so BB can’t use it to call ONI…

BB: I’m not sensing a lot of trust between us, Maya…

Maya: Find out what’s going on – fast!

Mshak: Absolutely. One billion percent focused. Wow, I have a lot of unridden messages. Oh no!

Maya: What?!

Mshak: The unthinkable has happened. I fell of the leaderboard in Unggoy farmer…

Maya: Mshak!

Mshak: One billion percent focused!

Maya (off): While Mshak tried to uncover the secrets of the slush I went in to check in on Bostwick’s wounds. Mshak had made a real mess of the place: clothes and ration wrappers on every surface. But I noticed Mshak had left one area untouched – my shelf. I picked up an old photo, me as a little girl holding up a trophy, spelling I think, was hard to remember the exact moment, but I remembered the place: my dad’s old cabin. When I was setting up the safe house I kept thinking back to that cabin with its wooden walls and a door my dad carved himself. Something about it always felt so real, so permanent. I was still lost in the past when I looked over and saw Bostwick, awake, staring at me, pure hatred in her eyes. The look on her face caught me completely off guard, she looked like she was ready to kill me. Before I could get a word out, Bostwick was coming at me with a scalpel. She was still weak though. It didn’t take much to restrain her. Eventually she gave in to the pain.

[Maya and Bostwick fighting]

Maya: I know that you’re angry, I would be, too! If you just listen…

Bostwick: Just do it!

Maya: Do what?

Bostwick: Kill me, torture me, I’d rather die than be in the custody of a traitor!

Maya: What? I’m not a trai…

Bostwick: You’re ONI, aren’t you?!

Maya: Yes, but I’m trying to protect you, you’re my friend.

[Bostwick spitting]

Bostwick: FERO and I were friends, I don’t know who you are.

Maya: You’re right, you don’t know me. But we are not so different, you and I, ok? Just trust me.

Bostwick: Trust you?! Were YOUR parents killed by ONI officers?!

Maya: No…

Bostwick: I’m nothing like you. You’re a liar!

Maya: You’re right. But, believe it or not, you were the closest thing I have to a friend and I want you to know the truth – I at least own you that. Come on, ask me whatever you want.

Bostwick: What’s your real name?

Maya: Maya Sankar.

Bostwick: Mh, and how long have you been a rat traitor?!

Maya: I joined ONI when I was around your age, but I didn’t get into spec-ops…

[Maya continues talking in the background]

Maya (off): As I opened up to Bostwick after YEARS of deceiving her I told myself that regaining her trust like this would protect her, but as the answers poured out of me I knew deep down why I was really doing it. I needed to finally start telling the truth.

Maya: No, I had absolutely no idea they were gonna attack. They kept me strictly need to know.

Bostwick: Are you going to try to turn me, make me into an ONI spy like you?

Maya: No! It…it wasn’t like that.

Bostwick: All that stuff you said as FERO about finding the truth, about beating them with ideas and lifting up the outer colonies as equals?

Maya: I meant it! Every word. More than anything I just I wanted…*sighs*, I don’t know. After being undercover for so long I started to feel…sometimes I feel like I am FERO. It’s hard to explain and I want what she wants, you know, and in a lot of ways being FERO makes more sense to me now than any…

Mshak: Maya!

Maya (off): I rushed in and found Mshak with his jaw on the floor.

Mshak: You know, you could have led with: Hey Mshak, here is your compad and by the way: THE MASTER CHIEF IS DEAD!

Maya: Yeah, I’ve been a little preoccupied. What does it say?

Mshak: Well, the official news is that there os no news. Same speech on a loop: He died in the line of duty, protecting us all, bla, bla, bla, what a hero. BUT, lots of speculation on the slush. Theories, other theories debunking those theories, some people claiming the UNSC is using his dead to cover up a bigger story, they think he’s still alive.

BB: Reliable, I’m sure.

Maya: What would the UNSC have to gain from presenting the chief as dead? Why destroy his legacy?

Bostwick: It cements his legacy.

Maya (off): Bostwick had made a way to her feet and stumbled into the room.

Bostwick: You once said that heroes are born out of sacrifice, but cemented in death.

Maya: Yeah, but still: why? What, to cover up the anomalies? How does killing the Chief publically cover THAT up?

Mshak: It doesn’t. UNLESS the truth is scarier than the cover up. What if the whole Beko story was a dry run? If the Chief isn’t following orders anymore and he’s proving to be more trouble than he’s worth. You’d have to get rid of him, right?

Maya (off): I was processing everything very slowly at that point. But what Mshak said had struck a core. If the chief wasn’t following the rules and the ONI AI bots statistical analysis pointed to his death being more valuable than his life, they wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger – I should know, I just been the victim to the same analysis.

Maya: Ok, so is there anything specific about the anomalies?

Mshak: I did finde one theory, but it’s a little new, new, new testament. You know the triad?

Maya: The religious cult?

Mshak: Yeah, they’re popping up all over the place, claiming that the anomalies aren’t random, that they are part of the transcendence and that their leader Dask has returned and that these anomalies are basically the galactic end times.

Maya: The Triad was a religion - sort of. I’d run into small pockets of their members a few times while undercover. They were always preaching about multiple lives, transcendence, the end of the universe. Crazy ideas that didn’t sound so crazy if you were desperate enough. Lucky for them, there were a lot of desperate people in the outer colonies. Their leader, a man named Dasc Gevadim had gained millions of followers across Waypoint, then suddenly disappeared. ONI was pretty sure he was dead or in hiding, but his followers were convinced he transcended into another realm.

Mshak: ONI keeps blocking the posts, but words getting out. Here, take a look.

[Message starting]

Dasc: For your struggles I have willed myself back to this plane of causation and particle, so that I might illuminate the meaning of these events. Squizid transcendence is yours for the taking. Oh children, we are now upon the rebirth! These so called disasters held a new age of unification through disentanglement. A glorious unbecoming. Freedom from the quivering vessels of self we've clung to for so long. Do not fear these events. Do not fear their power. For as the world's shake, we are inevitably arriving at the precipice of existence. The edge of a metaverse that is awakening for us. As we who have only known the night are about to bear witness to the first dawn. That is the advent of the third life and I find myself humbly bestowed with a genetic imperative to release your fear. To help you step lively from the edge into ascendance. The spiritual genocide that awaits those who do not open their eyes, the abyss beneath them, I cannot bear. This is only the beginning.

Maya: Could he possibly have intel on these things?

Mshak: I suppose. I mean, anything is possible. We live in a galaxy where the human race was almost whiped out by an alien race that breathes farts.

BB: Actually it’s methane and I’m fairly certain that grunts were far from whiping out humanity single handedly.

Mshak: Ok, now we’re just splitting hairs.

BB: Alright, well, on that note: Maya, I believe this detour has gone on long enough, it’s time to return to the realm of rational thought.

Maya: I can’t go back. I can’t trust ONI anymore, not after everything that’s happened. There’s no telling what they do with the intel we’ve gathered.

BB: Maya, I wish ONI was wrong with the monstrous efficiency you and Mshak imagine.

Maya: So tell me then, what’s really going on here?!

BB: What’s really going on, Maya is that you’re walking a treacherous and narrow path but if you return with me and the data to ONI you may just avoid falling off.

Maya: Is that an offer or a threat?

[Compad ringing]

Maya: What the hell?

BB: Sounds like an incoming call.

Maya: But I blocked all com-signals?

BB: It would appear that you did not.

[Call is being answered]

Noah (call): Maya!

Maya: Noah, what the hell?! How did you get through?! Why didn’t you warn me about the bombings?!

Noah (call): I tried to hold them off as long as I could, I was overruled. They decided taking out the target was worth losing the asset.

Maya: Damnit Noah!

Noah (call): Maya, listen...

Maya: I am not an asset I’m a...

Noah (call): Maya, they are coming, your location isn’t secure.

Maya: What? But how...how did they even know where we...

Noah (call): Why didn’t you check in? They think you’re on the run! There’s an extraction team inbound right now!

Maya: What?! But how did they...

Noah (call): Listen to me Maya, they just wanna bring you in. Nothing bad is gonna happen, I promise!

Maya: No, no, no, no, no...

Noah (call): Maya, stop! Listen to me: Whatever you do...

Maya: Goodbye Noah...

Noah (call): Maya, you’re making a terrible mis...

[Call is being cancelled]

Maya: We gotta move, everybody, now!

Maya (off): I understood what he was saying: Bring me in - that means midnight facility. When they “bring you in”, you don’t come out again. That wasn’t gonna happen to me.

Bostwick: How did they find us?

Mshak: It was Blue Cube! The little rat bastard sold us out!

BB: My communications had been incapacitaded by the blackout array since we arrived, perhaps they tracked us from Conrad’s Point...

Maya: No time, help me flip the bed!

Mshak: Ok! Why are we...

[Bed being flipped over]

Mshak: Holy crap, my bed is full of grenades.

Maya: Bostwick, are you ok?

Bostwick: Yeah.

Mshak: Why is ma bed full of grenades?!

[Transport incoming]

Maya: Can you run?

Bostwick: I don’t need your help!

Maya: I’m setting a ten second timer, that should give us enough time to get clear. There’s no cover out there, so once we get outside: run!

Mshak: Oh god, I should have paid more attention in PE class.

Maya: The explosion should distract them long enough for us to get to the ship.

Bostwick: What about before the explosion goes off?

Maya: Pray they miss.

Mshak: Hey Maya! Yeah, ehm, I don’t mean to keep harping on this, but: Why is my bed full of grenades?!

BB: Maya, you can still end this!

Maya: No I can’t.

[Agents screaming]

Maya: Everybody ready? Timer’s are go in three...

Bostwick: Let’s do it.

Maya:...two...

Mshak: Oh god...

Maya:...one...run!

[Everybody starts running, timer counting]

Maya (off): Those ten seconds felt like eons. It took them five just to spot us, the next five...

[Sound of gunfire]

Maya (off):...were an eternity.

Maya: Get on the ship!

[Explosion; transport starts]

Maya (off): The next thing I can remember: I was standing in the cargo bay, feeling the familiar tug of acceleration as the engines engaged. Bostwick was doubled over in pain.

Maya (off): Are you OK?

Bostwick: I’m fine...I’m fine!

Maya (off): As we left the planets atmosphere, I didn’t know where I could go. My employer had just tried to light me up, Bostwick would out me to the rebels the first chance she got, FERO was gone, commander Maya Sankar was gone and with the few memories I’d kept now burning up in that safe house below, whoever It was I used to be was gone, too. All I had now was an AI who wanted to turn me in, a betrayed friend who wanted me dead, a hacker with a heart of lettuce and a data chip filled with information that could get me killed. I had no idea what to do next. But then somebody made that decision for me.

[Alarm goes off]

Mshak: What is that?! What did the zombie do now?

BB: It’s not me, there’s a ship approaching fast of our starboard.

Maya: Damnit ONI! I’m moving to full thrust. All away.

BB: I recommend securing your person instead, now!

Maya: You heard him, strep in.

Maya (off): Normally you can’t feel how fast you were going in space. Unless of course, somebody grabs you by the tail.

[Transport decelerating abruptly]

Maya: Forced deceleration is nasty. If we hadn’t been warned, it would have smashed us into a pile of guts on the bulkhead. But even strapped in, the g-forces can be gut wrenching. By the time I unbuckled and fell out of my seat, all the ships systems were shutting down.

Maya: Everybody OK?

Maya (off): They’d killed our power. We were helpless. I could hear them coming through the air lock door. An ONI acquisitions team . I tried to stand up and face them but I was too dizzy, collapsed on the deck. There was a pneumatic hiss, as the boarding tube bolted through our hull. The clink of their mag-boots as they stepped across the gangway, even the sound of their tac-coms hacking our lock system. I’d been on the other side of that door. I know what happens when they take you. I wish I could say I was brave. FERO would have been brave but I’d seen what happened to Ben. I was afraid of the pain, I was afraid to lose myself, I didn’t want to die. I looked up as they came in. There were three of them but my eyes were immediately drawn to their leader. I saw his razor sharp beak first, bright red quills spilling out over his neck and finally his talons, gripping a needler, pointing it right at my chest. This wasn’t ONI – this was something worse… something more unpredictable…

[Jackal screaming]

Maya (off):…jackals.

S2.04. JACKALS

Fero Transmission Jackals.jpg

ONI(Blog): Kig-Yar pirates imprison the crew, an ancient phrase becomes a warning, and Maya puts it all on the line.

Maya (Voiceover): I remember when I was a little girl, I asked my dad: What was the worst smell in the whole galaxy? He told me about a livestock colony he visited as a young man. One of those places that grows the kind of meat that they advertise to health-nuts: non-synthetic, raised outdoors. The reality was revolting. Cattle, packed in, shoulder to shoulder all the way to the horizon. They were jammed so tight, feeder-bots outfitted with buggy wheels literally drove across their backs. The air was thick with flies and disease and the stench of cows that got sick and died where they stood, there meet putrefying under the red sun. He described it all so vividly - felt like I was there. And when I was growing up I was so proud that my dad had smelled the worst smell in the galaxy - but of course he hadn’t. Because he hadn’t smelled the inside of a Kig-Yar pirate ship.

[Kig-Yar screaming]

Bostwick: Dammit! Let me go!

Mshak: Please don’t antagonize the bird monster!

Maya (voiceover): They dragged us to the belly of their ship, the walls and floor were covered with years of soot, guano, purple blood, everything caked so thick, it took on an almost cave like texture.

Maya: BB, what are they saying?

BB: They are taking you to the airlock, just up ahead.

Mshak: Are we going to die?

BB: That is a likely scenario.

[Kig-Yar screaming]

BB: It’s a beautiful language, isn’t it?

Maya (voiceover): The guard turned his back just for a second and Bostwick was on top of him.

[Fighting sounds]

Maya (voiceover): Bostwick’s quick, but the Kig-Yar quicker. He cranked[?] his head down, sending Bostwick sprolling[?] across the room.

[Bostwick moaning in pain - Kig-Yar screaming]

Maya (voiceover): Bostwick looked dazed but accomplished, she held a fist full of Kig-Yar feathers in her hand. The creature got down low, right in Bostwicks face. He looked her dead in the eyes - she wasn’t so tough anymore. She was shaking, paralized with fear, we all were. I tried to think, but my mind felt like paste, it couldn’t string dots together.

[Kig-Yar screaming]

BB: He says he’s now opting to send you out the airlock in pieces. And now he’s swearing and - oh, well I’m not translating that.

Maya (voiceover): People describe your life flashing in front of your eyes before you die - that’s not how it is. It’s not in your eyes, you don’t see it, it’s mass remembering. An explosion across your whole mind, every synapse firing at once. I thought about my first kitten, my last cigarette, the skin on my grandmothers ear, a phone call I tapped[?] three years ago, what I had for dinner last week - thousands of moments, remarkable and unremarkable - flooding past in an instant. FERO’s memories, Maya’s memories, they all started to…to coalesce. My memories as FERO were violent and passionate, as Maya, my life was quite, secretive, academic. Growing up I wanted to be a professor. I studied xeno-psychology because I wanted to know how other minds worked. Back then I honestly didn’t think about how the military would need people who could analyse alien behavior. But they snatched me up. And during the covenant war i worked for ONI, psychologically profiling the enemy. I must have written hundreds of reports on Sangheili honor deads and Kig-Yar. And then suddenly it all came rushing into focus.

Maya: BB, translate this exactly: I’ve met many of your species, but even for Jackals you are incompetent fools.

BB: Are you trying to make things worse?

Maya: Trust me, just do it.

BB: *sighs*

Maya (voiceover): You see the Kig-Yar scavengers, greedy, opportunistic.

Maya: Tell them they’re imbeciles, ignorant nestlings to throw away such valuable prisoners.

Maya (voiceover): But the Kig-Yar are also cowards.

BB: Wow, I don’t say this outcome was anything but predictable.

Maya (voiceover): The leader turned away from Bostwick and ran at me, jaws open, threaten, he stopped inches from my throat. His breath was hot and wet and wreaked of death. I didn’t move a muscle. It was a dominance ritual. A social pissing contest. The Kig-Yar will never pick a fight they don’t know they can win. He could take me, physically, but now he was wondering what did I know that he didn’t?

Maya: What do you think your shipmistress will say when she hears you’ve let such valuable prisoners float off into space?

Maya (voiceover): He just stood there, his milky yellow eyes darting back and forth between my own, furious but now clearly affraid.

Mshak: Ehm, what the hell did he just say?

BB: They are taking us to see the shipmistress.

Maya (voiceover): The ship was clearly imposing – once. A top of the line covenant warship, but the years since the prophets downfall hadn’t been going to her. Her scarred hull was a patchwork of other ships scrapped her captured in battle. I had no idea what was waiting for us. But for the moment, we were alive and we were still local, or at least we seemed to be. I hadn’t felt that familiar queezy jolt of entering slipspace.

Maya: BB, anything useful you can tell me here?

BB: My records indicate this vessel is called the “Dedication“.

[Kig-Yar screaming]

Shipmistress: No. Wrong.

Maya (voiceover): Suddenly we were face to face with the shipmistress.

Shipmistress: Dedication covenant name. My ship, my name!

BB: Roughly translated, the shipmistress would like to welcome you aboard the “Rampant Perdition”.

Maya (voiceover): Tursall[?] was the biggest Kig-Yar I’d ever seen. Skin like old leather and naked to the waist. Clearly the pirates life was good to her - she was gnawing on the charred limb of some unidentifiable creature.

Shipmistress: Speak! You say value - what value?! I take yours [?]

Maya: I don’t think you wanna take that tone with me.

Shipmistress: My ship you no power! You nothing!

BB: She says, that if you wish to live you must prove your value by providing her with 60,000 credits.

Maya: You want credits? We can get you credits. Just let us back to our ship and we can-

Shipmistress: No waiting. Credits here, one hour I take head, next hour, next head. If value - live. If not -

Maya (voiceover): We had an hour to live. And we were gonna spend it in an old covenant prison cell. [Bostwick moaning as they are thrown into the cell]

Maya (voiceover): Like everything else on the ship, it was in bad shape. The only light was a ghostly, purple glow from the energy shield locking us in. Bostwick hadn’t spoken a word since the airlock. She looked like i felt. Broken, scared.

Mshak: Ehm guys? I don’t think we’re alone in here.

[Sangheili screaming]

[Mshak screaming in fear]

Maya (voiceover): Fifteen different cells on the ship - and the Kig-Yar had stuck us in the same one with a Sangheili. The Sangheili shifted angrily. Tried to stand, but something was wrong. I looked closer and saw he was hurt. His leg was mangled, mashed and hanging by sinew and it was a sticky pool of dark purple blood beneath him. He was not trying to hurt us...

Maya: Easy!

Maya (voiceover):...he was dying.

Maya: Easy. We don’t wanna fight.

BB: Did the Kig-Yar do that to you?

Sangheili: Kig-Yar are weak and stupid, they could not defeat me! This was „Lifruhkah“[?].

Maya: BB?

BB: I have no translation, it seems to be an ancient word, something not in common usage.

Sangheili: It rose from the ground, devastation, death.

Maya: Wait, you saw...

Mshak:..an anomaly! What was it? What did you see?

[Sangheili talking]

BB: He says he was at one of the colonies on a diplomatic mission, he saw the event and was badly injured but he cannot describe it, he keeps using the ancient word...a...and now he’s just ranting about him, a demon.

Maya: Demon?

Mshak: He’s gotta be talking about the Master Chief!

Sangheili: You have brought this upon us. Humans let the demon desecrate the holy site, there are...consequences.

Maya: What do you mean „desecrate“? What did you see?

Sangheili: Your demon...he can not save you. What is coming...there are more....many more. This is just the beginning...

[Sangheili dying]

Maya: Beginning of what? Hey, beginning of what?!

Maya (voiceover): The Sangheili went still. His four hinged jaws slacked and his eyes clouded and unfocused - he was gone.

Mshak: What do we do now?

Maya (voiceover): I just stared at Mshak. There was nothing we could do. Maybe there were gonna be more anomalies, maybe the Master Chief was involved somehow, but we were about to get our heads sawed off. It was someone else's problem now.

BB: This may be an inopportune time to discuss, but...while you may not be able to save yourselves you could still help save humanity. Maja, if you just give me the chip i could relay the data to ONI...

Mshak: Are you kidding me?! Why?! So that they can cover it up?!

BB: Intelligence is a tapestry, this data must be combined with everything else ONI knows to separate truth from fiction.

[Mshak and BB talking over each other]

Mshak: Oh please! ONI doesn’t care about the truth...

BB: Oh, what do you know about anything...

Mshak:...I know what I’ve seen! And I’ve seen a whole lot of...

BB: I have almost infinite intelligence...

Mshak:...No! I know - you’re just a zombie!

BB:...wow, impressive.

Mshak: I am...

Maya: Shut up, both of you! To hell with the truth! We can’t do anything, don’t you see that? What does it matter if this is just the beginning or if people are gonna die, we are gonna die here, today.

Bostwick: No. We’re not.

Maya (voiceover): I’d almost forgotten Bostwick was there.

Bostwick: We can’t die here. We need to tell everyone.

[Bostwick continuing her speech in the background]

Maya (voiceover): Suddenly, Bowstick was talking to me again. Gaining momentum, a wild fire behind her eyes I hadn’t seen before. Bostwick: We can’t let ONI or anyone else cover this up. I get it now! You should fight for something bigger than yourself, FERO told me that, you told me that. Off: I couldn’t believe it. She’d seen that FERO was a lie. Seen that I was an ONI puppet but...but she didn’t care, she still believed in the ideals.

Maya: Bostwick...

Bostwick: Get us out of here, I know you can.

Maya (voiceover): But suddenly, our time was up.

[Cell-Door opening, Kig-Yar screaming]

Maya (voiceover): He pointed his ragged, boney claw at Bostwick. Two Kig-Yar guards grabbed her. I tried to rush them but they were too strong.

[Bostwick and the Kig-Yar are screaming]

Maya (voiceover): And just like that - Bostwick was gone.

[Cell-Door closing]

Maya (voiceover): I paced around the cell, trying to think. She was gonna die, they were gonna kill her, I couldn’t let that happen. I had to think of a way out of that cell immediately. There was no escaping a fully functional covenant brig - but this ship had seen better days. My eyes scanned the cell. The energyshield looked strong and steady, but the walls...the walls showed signs of hasty repairs, battle damage papered over with whatever the Kig-Yar had on hand. I traced my fingers along a crack.

[Maya trying to tear the wall apart]

BB: Maya, what are you doing?

[A part of the wall is being torn apart]

Mshak: Wow, is that...

Maya: An energy conduit.

Mshak: Oh, ok, neat. So now we are going to die while being exposed to radiation.

Maya: BB? Can this conduits carry information?

BB: Theoretically…

Maya: Right. So if I plugged you into it...

BB: There are several reasons why that is an atrocious idea. Firstly, the electric shock might kill you...

Maya: Aha.

BB: ...secondly, the electric shock might kill me...

Maya: Mhhh.

BB: ...thirdly, UNSC AI’s are expressly forbidden from interfacing with covenant ships...

Maya: Aha.

BB: ...but seeing as how you are already carrying me over to the conduit and I don’t have a way to physically stop you, I’m guessing that it’s about to happen anyway.

Maya: Aha.

BB: Well, what a few million Volts between friends. Once more unto the breach!

[Sound of an electric shock, Maya screaming in pain]

Maya (voiceover): When that first jolt hit, it felt like someone punching me in the back of the head, that was the easy part. The second jolt sent me flying. I woke up halfway across the cell with my ears buzzing and my muscles vibrating, but my heart was still beating.

Maya: BB!

BB: Just because that worked doesn’t mean that was a good idea.

Maya (voiceover): The shield was down, but we couldn’t access many other systems. I sent Mshak to hide in the hangar bay while we tried to pinpoint Bostwicks location with the ships internal scanners.

BB: I found a bio reading two decks up, but it’s faint and getting fainter.

Maya: We’re not leaving without her.

Maya (voiceover): I crept through the ship, screens torn of bold heads, the walls what seem to be alive with rot. The Kig-Yar were known for their powerful senses. That’s why the covenant made them scouts. I had to be silent, but the floor was so cluttered, every step was perilous, one wrong move and they’d be on top of me. Up ahead, there was an open doorway. I had to get past it, but I could see light and shadows dancing out of it. I carefully crept up to the edge and peered inside.

[Kig-Yar noises]

Maya (voiceover): The room was filthy, packed with Kig-Yar all crouched on the ground in tight circles. They were agitated, heads up paying full attention. They’d spot me in a second if I try to sneak by, but then, another Kig-Yar entered. He was tall and lean and had bright quills, an officer maybe. He was carrying a heavy vat. He stopped at each circle and ladled out some ungodly stew unto the ground, filled with flesh and eyes. I almost gagged when I saw it. As it slopped in front of each circle, the Kig-Yar went ballistic, burying their faces in the piles, fighting each other to get their fill. I realized they were distracted and the moment the last circle had been served, I rushed past the open door and started up the maintenance ladder, climbing as quickly and quietly as I could. The scanner showed Bostwick was directly above us, but I had no way of knowing if she was alone, or even still alive. When I got to the top I leaned out of the maintenance shaft, my eyes adjusting to the darkness. And then my heart stoped cold - the room was filled with covenant soldiers. Was it an ambush? Then I realized they weren’t moving. They were staked to the walls. Severed limbs and bodyparts of covenant elites, brutes - a few human marines, too. They were arranged in lossome tablous[?], like some sort of history of the war, told through taxidermy. Then I spotted her.

Maya: Bostwick.

Maya (voiceover): Strapped to a table at the end of the hall, a Kig-Yar surgeon preparing his tools above her. He was getting ready to add her to the collection. I needed a weapon, anything. There was only one thing i could possibly use. It was a Brute - ore more specifically, his skull, bleached white and massive. I quietly lifted it and crept upon him.

[Kig-Yar surgeon snattering and preparing his instruments when Maya suddenly strikes him]

Maya (voiceover): The first strike caught him by surprise, but he was still on his feet. He raised his plasma knife and I hit him again and again. He finally went down, but I was sure the others on the ship had heard the racket.

Bostwick: Ha! Take that you stupid fleewa[?]!

Maya: Bostwick! We gotta get out of here.

Bostwick: Yeah, ok, let’s go.

[Maya and Bostwick running through the ship]

Maya (voiceover): There was no point at being stealthy now, we ran, hard. The ship was a maze of burnt out gear and dead end corridors, but we finally made it. We could see our ship at the far end, we sprinted and we were almost through our open cargo door, when she stepped out of it.

Shipmistress: Liars!

[Shipmistress screaming]

Maya (voiceover): She was all had caught us, we were surrounded.

Shipmistress: No value. You lie! Trick! Waste time.

Maya: I’m guessing she’s not telling her men to let us go.

BB: It’s hard to precisely translate her instructions, but they do involve clawing your eyes out.

Maya (voiceover): I knew I couldn’t bluff our way out of this, but maybe I didn’t have to. It suddenly occured to me that I could offer her something of real value.

Maya: I can prove our value with a question: Why hasn’t this ship jumped to slipspace yet? What sort of pirate attacks and then just hangs around, risking retaliation.

[Kig-Yar screaming]

BB: She says, their ship is mighty and powerful, none can stand against them and live.

Shipmistress: No run, no hide.

Maya: You’re a liar. I’ve seen the condition of your ship. You‘re not going to slipspace because you can’t. Because your engines don’t work and you have no idea how to fix them.

[Kig-Yar screaming]

Maya: Tell me I’m wrong.

Maya (voiceover): She had a powerful warship, but she was trapped in a single star system at subliminal speeds. She was a shark, stuck praying on minnows.

BB: Impressive insight, Maya - for a human. My scans do indicate that the slipspace engine is locked down, probably an old security measure put in place before the Kig-Yar seized the ship.

Shipmistress: You fix, yes? This only value?

Maya: We can fix it, but the price is our freedom and our ship.

[Kig-Yar screaming]

Maya (voiceover): She hissed and leaned forward. The Kig-Yar stirred, uneasy, spring-loaded to unleash more violence, waiting anxiously for Tursall’s decree. I was anxious, too. I felt like I just played my last card with her, and if she said no, I knew we were gonna end up on that wall of horrors, one piece at a time. She leaned in close to me, and I felt her exhale in my face. I didn’t breath, but I didn’t flinch either.

Shipmistress: You fix, you free.

S2.05. WHERE THE THIRD LIFE SHINES

Fero Transmission Where The Third Life Shines.jpg

ONI(Blog): The crew gets grounded, Maya remembers a safe place, and the Triad rises.

S2.05. WHERE THE THIRD LIFE SHINES

Maya (Voiceover): I couldn’t believe we’d escaped with all our limbs intact. But the Ship mistress had accepted our conditions and now the Kig-Yar horror show was behind us. We were alive. And thankfully, clear of the Jackal perimeter.

Black-Box: I’ve finished analyzing the atmospheric readings from Ari’s data chip.

Maya: You’re helping now? I thought you were a company man.

Black-Box: I am. But I knew you were just going to ask Mshak to do it, so I thought it might as well get done properly. Between these readings and those from the other four colonies—compensating for pre-event weather conditions on each world — a pattern has emerged.

Maya: A pattern? What sort of pattern?

Black-Box: In the days and hours leading up to the anomalies, each planet experienced a specific wave of gravitational and electromagnetic disturbances.

Maya: So if we find a planet experiencing those same disturbances, we can predict the next anomaly! Mshak, can you cross check those patterns against current conditions from local colonies?

Mshak: Already on it! I can only access a few nearby worlds but... there’s a match. A planet called Laika III. Statistically speaking, they’re about to have a really bad day.

Bostwick: We’ve got to warn them, help them evacuate, whatever we have to do!

Black-Box: Before you set your course, you should know, I’ve also transmitted my findings back to ONI Headquarters.

Bostwick: You did what?!

Mshak: Shoot him!

Black-Box: A heavily populated world is about to be hit by an anomaly that has proven catastrophic. Millions of lives could be at stake. The government charged with their defense needed to be made aware of this.

Maya: ONI’s not gonna save those people! They’re gonna let those people die, because that’s what they do. You know that!

Mshak: Shoot him!

Black-Box: Yes, Maya I do know that. ONI’s not going there to save lives on Laika III, because those lives can’t be saved.

Bostwick: You don’t know that!

Mshak: You should totally shoot him!

Black-Box: The UNSC will deploy troops to Laika III with the directive of containing the damage.

Bostwick: You mean “controlling the story.”

Black-Box: Their efforts will save countless other colonies from unnecessary panic.

Bostwick: Unnecessary? It seems pretty necessary to me.

Black-Box: I assure you, it is most certainly too late to evacuate any of the major population centers on Laika III. Those people will die, but others could be saved.

Bostwick: We have to at least try!

Maya (Voiceover): I’d spent years playing the pretend hero. Acting bigger than life. I’d always told myself it was just that, an act. But with Bostwick standing in front of me, ready to risk everything, I knew believed it too. And if I believed it, why couldn’t I just live it? What Maya was supposed to do had become so unclear to me. But, what FERO would do? At this point, that was the clearest thing in my mind.

Maya: Set course for Laika III.

Maya (Voiceover): As we came out of Slipspace the cockpit window was suddenly filled with blue and green. Laika III didn’t just look like Earth, it looked like a perfect Earth. Beautiful and lush. Dotted with cities, but not overwhelmed. Even Bostwick, who rarely ever found reason to stop and smell the roses, was impressed.

Bostwick: Is that... All trees?

Black-Box: I wouldn’t get too attached.

Mshak: You know there are people down there too.

Black-Box: Yes. Millions of them. Which is why I’m curious how Maya plans to convince all of them to heed the seemingly deranged predictions of FERO, a known terrorist, and then evacuate all of them aboard this ten-seat prison transport vessel. I may not have a physical body, but even to me it seems like a tight squeeze.

Maya: You’re right. We can’t evacuate everyone... but we don’t have to. If the destruction is anything like the event on Conrad’s Point, the major damage will be concentrated to one region. We just need to evacuate the people standing right on top of it.

Mshak: I’ve already started scanning the surface for any irregularities, and if the weather patterns are to be take ser—AGH!

[A rocket slams into the ship.]

Maya (Voiceover): The first blast was so sudden I thought we’d smashed into a stray satellite. But then a message popped up on the control panel.

Maya: "I see you FERO."

Maya (Voiceover): I see you, FERO.

Maya: Ilsa.

Maya (Voiceover): Ilsa Zane. The two-meter tall Spartan wash-out and general psychopath with plans for an all-out war against the UNSC. The air strike had leveled her base, and made me her number one target.

Bostwick: How the hell did she find us!?

Maya: She must’ve put a tracker on us. Doesn’t matter, she’s here now.

Maya (Voiceover): I tried to think. She had us outgunned. Maybe I could get the Slipspace drive powered up. But it was already too late though.

[Another rocket slams into the ship.]

Black-Box: We just lost engines.

Maya (Voiceover): Mshak took to the coms.

Mshak: Um, hi, hello. Uh, quick question. What if there was someone on this ship that didn’t do anything to you, and who you weren’t mad at at all. And…

Maya: Get out of the way, Mshak.

Mshak: It was worth a shot!

Maya: Ilsa, listen to me. Those colonists below, they are all in danger. Another event is coming.

Ilsa Zane (Over Coms): And you led me right to it! I guess I owe you a thank you, FERO. Whatever’s down there has the entire UNSC running scared. And something that powerful will be a nice consolation for the army you took from me. So I’m going to take control of that thing and shove it down the UNSC’s throats and through their guts. And on that note... Goodbye, FERO.

[Another rocket slams into the ship.]

Maya (Voiceover): I threw us into a dead dive as fast as I could, but Ilsa had already crippled most of our systems.

Black-Box: Maya, give me the controls.

Maya: Why, so you can intentionally crash us into the ground?

Black-Box: No, so I can save your life. You do not have the ability to land this ship at these speeds and with this damage, but I do.

Maya (Voiceover): I could hear the burn of re-entry all around me. We hit the atmosphere at an insane speed and the ship’s hull was barely holding together.

Bostwick: Don’t listen to him. If the ship explodes, we’re dead, but he’s fine. He’ll just wake up back at ONI.

Black-Box: Maya, I promise you I do not want to see you damaged. You can’t land this ship. I can.

Maya (Voiceover): I could feel the ship heating up around me, smell the door seals starting to melt and bend.

Maya: Fine! Go!

Maya (Voiceover): I turned the navigation controls over to BB and closed my eyes as the G-forces built up inside my body. And then everything was just... black. Or white... I can’t remember. It’s all... fuzzy. I can’t remember. The harder I try, the more it slips away. The only things that seemed real was fire. And then earth... And then sky...

The next thing I remember was the feeling of cool sheets against my skin. Then the smell of grass. Melting snow. I didn’t want to open my eyes. Everything felt so good. Safe. For a moment, it felt like it had all been a dream. I was waking up back at the cabin. My Dad would walk in at any moment and wake me with the quietest whisper. I heard his voice as I opened my eyes.

Dasc Gevadim: Good morning, dear.

Maya (Voiceover): The glow of morning sunshine was soft and calm around him. He was standing above me. All I saw at first was that affectionate gaze. I was stuck in his eyes. But the world was coming into focus slowly, and I saw him... tight, pale skin and scraggly beard and no eyebrows. I’d seen him before. In a video Mshak showed me back at the safe house. Dasc Gevadim. The leader of the Triad cult.

Dasc: It’s okay. It’s okay, you’re safe. You’re protected.

Maya (Voiceover): I was trying to piece it all together. The crash. I had survived. The Triads must have found me and brought me here. And then I remembered-

Maya: Bostwick! Mshak!

Maya (Voiceover): I jumped to my feet, but it was too fast. My head was throbbing. I fell back to the bed.

Maya: Ahhhh...

Dasc: Slowly. Slooowly, my dear, your aching body, your churning mind... you’ve survived quite a wreck, been through so much. But you can take comfort now. Your friends are alive, you are alive, very much so. You’re all here and you’re safe.

Maya: I need to see them.

Dasc: And you will. Very soon. Oh, please forgive my elation. You must understand, the very fact that you’re here, is not random. Our universe has always been moving us towards a consonance, by neither divine puppeteer, nor coincidence, but simply by momentum toward inevitability. We’ve almost reached that vanishing point, and on this final approach, the fruits of that convergence have been ripening exponentially. And now, you come hurtling down to us from the clouds in a screaming bolt of fire! WOOOOOOO SHOO BOOM! HA-HA, I saw it and fell to my knees, my disbelief surrendering to awe, enraptured by the flames, waiting impatiently for my people to tell me you had survived and then, when they told me who you were! Who I’d known you’d be!

Maya (Voiceover): I froze. Who did he think I was? That warm, placid smile of his, beaming over me… It began to feel chilling and dangerous.

Dasc: This is the day. The Transcendence is upon us, and you, the great FERO, have fallen from the sky itself, just in time.

Maya: How do you…

Dasc: I am humbled to my smallest moments.

Maya: Just in time for...?

Dasc: No, no, no, no, no, no! Shhhhh... My dear, please. Don’t speak. We mustn’t allow the shimmering nectar of your mind to escape your lips uncaptured for posterity. Join me for the evaluation. You don’t realize how much good you’re doing humanity right now.

Maya (Voiceover): I was trying to pull it together, but my head still felt sluggish and before I knew it, he was taking my hand, lifting me to my feet, walking me out into the bright morning. It was all happening faster than I could process.

The Triad encampment was spread out in a small clearing surrounded by sparsely wooded forest. A few permanent buildings scattered around, but most of the people there seemed to have just arrived, pitching tents, or laying out under the open sky. Everyone, men, woman, children were dressed in simple robes, cinched at the waist. They smiled with closed lips and bowed their heads as we passed. They all had the same short, flat haircut, their eyebrows shaven, this starry-eyed glow in their eyes. It felt like they were sharing something weirdly private. A few middle-aged men were taking turns rolling down a hill, dancing like children, drenched in sweat. People kept wrapping their arms around each other’s waists, pressing their foreheads together, humming. I could have sworn I heard a child crying, off somewhere in the trees, but no one else seemed to notice. Underneath all this... peace, it felt like something was bubbling, churning just beneath the surface, something deep and terrible, ready to explode. As Dasc led me through this surreal scene, he kept conferring paternal nods to his grateful followers as he went. The crisp air on my cheeks was starting to wake me up, and I realized Dasc had been holding my hand the whole time. I felt nauseous.

Dasc: Did you know that when the Covenant was the eminent power in our galaxy, they were ruled by Hierarchies, an order of three prophets ushering in a new age with the blessings of an Oracle. These Hierarchies were right to sense the continuity and shepherd it along, but in the arrogance of their perlustration they misunderstood the ancient texts, believing the triumvirate of self to be physical, when in fact the order of three is within. There is a great rebirth comin’, my dear.

Maya (Voiceover): Dasc led me into a small room. Inside, I saw ancient medical instruments laid out on a table.

Maya: What is this?

Dasc: Just a simple test. Without impact... or weight. It alters nothing and takes only the imprint you choose to leave. Please. Sit. I sat down at the table across from Dasc as one of his followers put some archaic metal contraption on my hands and head. Dasc never took his eyes off me. Never stopped smiling. I looked up at the man preparing me for the evaluation. His face was unnecessarily close to mine, dark circles under desperate eyes, a hard smile cut sharply into his perfectly smooth skin. But his mouth smelled like bile. I held my breath.

Parson: The magnificence of this day fills my bones with light and I am humbled for evermore.

Dasc: Thank you for shining, Parson.

Maya (Voiceover): The man leaned over, kissed Dasc’s cheek, and then backed up against the wall with his hands over his heart. That repulsive smile.

Dasc: What do you know about me, FERO?

Maya: You’re a spiritual leader.

Dasc: Those are empty words from faraway judges. What do you know about me?

Maya: You claim that everyone has three spiritual lives and you encourage your followers to connect all of them. You tell them that’s how they can achieve Transcendence. And you believe these anomalies are a one way ticket.

Dasc: Very good. But while the words fill your mouth, they do not come from your center. Why do you carry so much resistance to the truth?

Maya: Because think you’re selling snake oil.

Maya (Voiceover): That seemed to upset Dasc’s disciples. He raised his hand and they stopped.

Disciples: Peaaaaaaace... Peace be!

Dasc: Please. Continue.

Maya: You... you’ve created a self-justifying belief system and shrouded it in mysticism. Then, you use it to prey on desperate people.

Dasc: I prey on no one. Everyone here has come of their own free will and-

Maya: Everyone here cues off you, because your philosophy somehow always requires your personal guidance. That’s how you set it up. You’re always moving the target, so they always need you. That makes you a predatory charlatan. Actually... you know what I think, Dasc?

Dasc: Mm. Tell me.

Maya: I think this anomaly is gonna come out of the ground and you’re all gonna die. I also think that if you don’t show me where my friends are right now, I’m gonna start tearing this place apart.

Maya (Voiceover): Dasc’s eyes darted to one of his followers in the corner. They immediately ushered Mshak into the room.

Maya: Oh my god, Mshak!

Mshak: FERO? Hey!

Maya: Are you okay?

Mshak: Yeah, I’m great. Hey, check out this awesome robe they gave me.

Maya: Yeah. That’s great, Mshak. Where’s Bostwick?

Maya (Voiceover): Mshak shot a hard glance at me, then subtly tipped his head in the direction of Dasc and the other Triads talking in the corner. Apparently, he didn’t want them to wonder where Bostwick was.

Mshak: Oh, Bostwick? Yeah, she’s... In the field, helping with the new arrivals.

Maya (Voiceover): He wasn’t being subtle at all, but I still had no idea where Bostwick was. Before I could ask though, Dasc was right in my ear again.

Dasc: I see all the pain in you, FERO. The great losses you’ve suffered, living two very different, unattached lives. It’s time you connect them and embrace your third self. For only then can you truly find peace.

Maya: How did you know the anomaly was going to hit here?

Dasc: I heard it coming. The Transcendence sings to us all if you’d only listen, my dear. Oh, that voice... is a great wailing against the cosmos, and it guided me hear with nothing more or less than inevitability. We are about to witness a rebirth for humanity. Those who stand with me in self-accretion will find great peace...

Maya (Voiceover): He leaned in towards me as his smile faded off his face.

Dasc: ...and those who cling to their selves will be torn apart. But, worry not, my dear. I’m not going to let that happen to you. His faced perked up again instantly as he turned quickly and breezed out of the room with his disciples on his heels.

Maya: Mshak! We need to go now.

Mshak: Okay...

Maya (Voiceover): As I turned towards the door I noticed half a dozen men had come and were outside standing guard. Dasc wasn’t going to let us leave. I was scanning the room, looking for another way out, when the men outside started... moaning.

Dasc: Cry out, cry out, my sweet children! Yes… Yes!

Maya (Voiceover): Dasc entered the room again and extended his hand to me.

Dasc: FERO, fallen from the sky, rise and join me, for you are among the fortunate who will bear witness.

Maya (Voiceover): They lead Mshak and me out into the clearing. All the followers were spread around, standing and moaning, arms reaching. I didn’t know what they were reaching for. Until I saw the rocks.

Mshak: Okay... This is not normal.

Maya (Voiceover): Rocks, pebbles, sticks... they were rising up, floating in the air all around us. I felt my feet starting to get light on the ground.

Black-Box: Gravitational interference...

Maya: It’s starting, we need to go.

Maya (Voiceover): Loose pieces of the world were floating everywhere.

Dasc: Sweet children of the universe...

Maya (Voiceover): I turned and saw Dasc standing in the middle of the clearing, his followers gathering around him. Suddenly Dasc was levitating, three feet above the grass, his eyes to the sky.

Mshak: Um, Are you seeing this!?

Dasc: In this liar’s plane of causation and particle, our center force is meek and quiet, just as the gravity that sloughs off into levels unseen by organic eyes, unheralded by Simian minds, we rise beyond this membrane to the higher spaces, where Now is naught and Need is none. And so we come to where the Third Life shines.

Maya (Voiceover): With Dasc suspended in the air above us, I watched as some of his followers started to rise up as well, their feet slowly lifting from the ground. Then Dasc turned down and looked straight at me.

Dasc: The end has begun.

S2.06. TRANSCENDENCE

Fero Transmission Transcendence.jpg

ONI(Blog): Maya risks it all to spread the truth, the anomaly is revealed, and a new hero rises on Laika III.

S2.06. TRANSCENDENCE

Dasc Gevadim: Our flesh is but the shell of a satellite, circling-

Maya (Voiceover): It was happening. The event had begun. With Dasc and his followers suspended in the air all around us. I turned to Mshak.

Maya: Mshak. We need to go. Now.

Maya (Voiceover): But he didn’t answer. He just stood there looking up at the hovering rocks all around us. His mouth wide open.

Mshak: We’re gonna die

Maya: No. No we’re not.

Mshak: We’re gonna die.

Maya: Listen. Where is Bostwick?

Mshak: We’re gonna die.

Maya: Mshak!

Maya (Voiceover): I didn’t have to wait long for an answer. I could hear the Warthog growling and tearing through the woods. It burst through the foliage and spun out right in front of us.

Bostwick: Let’s go!

Maya: Bostwick!

Bostwick: Come on, get in!

Maya (Voiceover): I grabbed Mshak and we leapt into the Warthog as Bostwick hit the gas, leaving Dasc and his disciples behind us. The levitating rocks and twigs pelting our windshield as we sped down the twisting mountain road toward the city.

Mshak: WHOAH! Okay, um, how about we let the anomaly kill us… and not your driving?!

Maya (Voiceover): We didn’t have time. There were hundreds of thousands of people in that city, and they had no idea they were standing on a sleeping giant.

Bostwick: Okay! So, what’s the plan?

Mshak: Even if we get there before, y’know, the big, bad thing gets big and bad, how do we get everyone out? It’s an entire city! We can’t just pull the fire alarm!

Black-Box: Mshak, there may yet be genius buried inside your mediocre synapsis! While it’s true that there isn’t a fire alarm to pull, there is another type of alarm.

Maya: The Covenant air raid system!

Maya (Voiceover): We didn’t need to invent a way to evacuate the colony because the UEG had already done it. During the war, when the Covenant were steamrolling humanity and glassing colony after colony, an evacuation system had been put in place.

Black-Box: If you can get to the old shuttle port on the outskirts of the city, I can override the colony AI and simulate a Covenant attack. The warning systems would trigger and evacuation procedures would begin immediately. Every available ship would automatically be engaged.

Maya: Bostwick, look out!

Maya (Voiceover): She slammed on the breaks just as the Pelican dropship descended right in front of us. The rear bay was wide open and, yet again, I was dealing with the UNSC’s finest.

Wiley: Step out of the Warthog with your hands on your head!

Maya: Ughn. I’m so sick of the pricks!

Bostwick: What do we do now?!

Black-Box: We could go with them.

Wiley: Step out of the Warthog!

Maya: Can we BB? You know just as well as I do what they do with traitors.

Black-Box: Yes, of course, but, if we just-

Grey: Incoming!

Wiley: Evasive action!

Maya (Voiceover): It happened in an instant. A 65-millimeter Argent V missile flew right over our head and winged the right engine on the Pelican, sending it screaming towards the ground. I looked back and saw Ilsa, towering out of the back of her modified Warthog; puffed up seemingly growing bigger and scarier with every moment. The ODSTs can handle their own, but it didn’t seem like anything could stop Ilsa.

Wiley: Command! We are pinned down and taking fire!

Mshak: I’m beginning to think she’s not going to give up…

Black-Box: How very astute of you, Mshak.

Maya: We gotta go!

Maya (Voiceover): Colony AI handled millions of systems and subsystems and was responsible for protecting every human life on the planet. Maybe if Mshak had a week he could hack into something that complicated, but we didn’t have that kind of time.

Maya: BB, can you handle this? If you disobey ONI you won’t suddenly disappear in a puff of Blue smoke, will you?

Black-Box: I have significant operation authority. And I don’t see this as disobeying orders. I see this as saving lives via measures roughly compatible with mission objectives.

Maya (Voiceover): Everywhere I looked gravity was playing tricks. A city bus floating three feet in the air. Water curling up out of a storm drain like a charmed snake. More than once I felt a momentary weightlessness as the Warthog began to leave the ground and then quickly fall back down. We were close to the epicenter of this thing. People were scrambling. I remembered the crater on Conrad’s Point. A vast and lifeless hole. It was just a matter of time before that’s what this place would become

Maya: There. Up ahead.

Maya (Voiceover): Bostwick pulled the Warthog into the old shuttle port, past rows of civilian ships. I looked up and saw and old control tower with a massive radio dish looming overhead. That’s when everything started shaking. I lost my balance and fell backwards just in time to see the earth pitch sideways, split open, and swallow several transport ships whole.

Maya: We have to get the message out now. BB, can you hack us into the local system?

Black-Box: Yes, but not from here.

Maya: What? We’re at the tower we can just-

Black-Box: The control tower at the shuttle port only broadcasts radio waves to satellites above.

Maya: What?!

Black-Box: It transmits no signal locally.

Bostwick: Then why are we at the shuttle port?!

Black-Box: Because we are leaving.

Maya: What?! No, not yet. We’re the local address system.

Black-Box: It doesn’t matter. I reviewed the local seismic data, Maya. I’m sorry.

Maya: You lied to me!

Black-Box: We’re too late.

Maya: You lied to me! And now all those people are just going to- Agh!

Maya (Voiceover): The city was tearing itself apart. Asphalt cracked and spiked in ragged chunks. People were scattering. Some clawed and fought each other to get to safer ground. Other just looked… shell-shocked. And then, the fight spilled into the city.

The UNSC had taken tactical positions along the streets. But they weren’t’ shooting at us. The NCA were there in force and pushed back harder. Ilsa Zane charged one of the ODSTs, slamming into him like a battering ram.

Ilsa Zane: GET UP!

Maya (Voiceover): The NCA had them pinned down and Ilsa was killing everyone in sight. We were trapped.

Bostwick: Come on! We can fight our way through!

Maya: No. There’s no time. This place is coming down.

Bostwick: There’ just gonna cover it up! All those people are going to have died in vain. ONI’s just going to erase it all like it was nothing.

Mshak: We need to get on the ship, we don’t have time for this!

Maya (Voiceover): But Bostwick was right. Everything we’d been through, everything we’d seen. It was going to be like none of it had ever happened. The city in front of me was… was about to become the galaxy’s latest unmarked grave. I tried to move. My feet wouldn’t listen. They were rooted to the spot. It was like my body realized it before my mind did.

Mshak: Maya, we have-

Maya: I have to stay.

Maya (Voiceover): Everyone turned to look at me. They must have thought I was crazy, but I felt calm for the first time in a long time.

Maya: If we leave now, the truth dies on this planet. So I don’t let it die. I’m gonna broadcast it out, show everyone in all the other colonies exactly what happened here. Make it so crystal clear that they can’t ignore it.

Black-Box: Maya, you suddenly sound a lot like Benjamin Giraud. I hope you remember what happened to him.

Maya (Voiceover): I’d stabbed Ben in the back. But if I hadn’t, if his message had actually gotten out there… Suddenly it all seemed so simple. I had to tell the truth—full stop—and let everyone else sort it out.

Black-Box: What do you hope to accomplish? Panic? Terror? A civilization ripping itself apart? People killing each other in the streets? The Office of Naval Intelligence is not the thoughtless behemoth you believe it is. There are delicate calculations being made. Distasteful calculations, yes, but rational, logical calculations in the service of the greater good. If this news spreads, you’re condemning a dozen more worlds to chaos. Whatever these anomalies are, how will the UNSC face such a massive threat if all of its systems are paralyzed with infighting and fear?

Maya: Well, maybe it’s time people got to make those calculations for themselves.

Black-Box: Your broadcast won’t reach anyone. When the anomaly hits, the entire planet will be cut off. Just like Conrad’s Point.

Maya: Exactly.

Maya (Voiceover): On Conrad’s Point, the anomalies had blacked out all modern communication. But Ari had been able to go low tech. Use old fashioned radio waves to cut through.

Maya: I can use the old control tower. Bostwick, Mshak, you need to take the ship. Get it into orbit high enough that you’ll be safe, but low enough that you can hear my broadcast and relay to the other colonies

Mshak: Maya, that’s suicide!

Bostwick: Well, she won’t be alone.

Maya: Bostwick, no. I don’t need you to-

Bostwick: Oh, just shut up! We’re doing this together.

Mshak: I don’t believe it.

Bostwick: You will never make it out. We’re still too close to the epicenter! This whole place will be destroyed.

Maya: Then I guess you better get going, Mshak.

Black-Box: I don’t imagine I’m being given the option to get on the ship myself?

Maya: What, you don’t want to come?

Black-Box: To the epicenter of planet-wide physical and electromagnetic devastation? Where else would I rather be?

Maya (Voiceover): The ship’s engines came to life. Mshak turned to me, frustrated. But then-

Mshak: Hey, Maya? Y’know. Of all the people who’ve tried to kill me recently, you were the nicest.

Mshak: took off as fast as possible, while Bostwick and I hauled ass up the old control tower. The ground was shaking again. I didn’t know how much time we’d have.

Black-Box: Maya, you realize you’re sacrificing yourself for nothing. ONI will find the broadcast. They’ll block it, discredit it. In the end, no one will believe you.

Bostwick: That’s why you have to make them believe you. Make them feel like they’re really here. Seeing everything you’re seeing. If FERO tells them what they need to hear, they’ll listen.

Maya (Voiceover): We took the winding tower steps two at a time and emerged in the glassed-walled control booth. The old gear was still running. I looked out the window one last time with the city in ruins. I put the microphone to my lips.

Maya: Um, hello. You… you may not know my voice. Um… In the past I’ve always hidden it. Distorted it or let someone else speak for me. Braver people than me, people like Benjamin Giraud. My name is FERO. Or at least that’s how most of you know me. I’m standing in a control tower on the planet Laika III, just outside the city of New Headmark. The disaster, the event… whatever you want to call what’s happening. It is not the first and it won’t be the last. They- they start with gravitational disturbances. Small at first…

Maya (Voiceover): As I gazed out over the city, all the destruction and death, I caught a glimpse of the battle raging in the streets. It was the UNSC fighting Ilsa’s NCA. As thousands died around them, these two groups weren’t there to save anyone. They were here to destroy each other. I’d been drowning in their war for far too long. Never able to get a foothold, not as FERO, not as Maya. But now? For the first time ever I felt like I was doing something purely good. I was changing things for the better. I didn’t know if I was Maya or FERO anymore, but all that mattered is was that I was who I wanted to be. Who I was meant to be.

Maya: Hold on! The ground everywhere is coming apart. It’s bursting the seams. Bostwick, be careful! We’re okay, but this thing, whatever it is, it’s- it’s only getting stronger. I don’t know how long we’re gonna last, but there’s something everyone needs to know. I am not who you think I am-

Bostwick: FERO, the city, look!

Maya: Oh god. Oh god! The city, what’s left of it, it’s coming down. No. No, no, no… that’s not it. It’s… it’s coming up… Oh god… The ground… The ground is lifting up underneath it. But the ground can’t hold together. It can’t take the strain. Oh god, the buildings are falling over like dominos. This city… A hundred-thousand people building a future in the outer colonies.

Maya (Voiceover):ONI knew about the danger weeks ago, ONI knew!

Maya: Oh… Wow… Whatever’s causing this it’s… is rising out of the depths of the planet. This is impossible… It’s- It’s mechanical. It’s blocking out the sun, it’s… Oh god… Oh… It’s- Okay…

[The Guardian unleashes its blast which slams into the control tower. As Maya recovers, a single shot rings out.]

Maya: What? Bostwick!? What the Hell are you doing?

Bostwick: I’m sorry, FERO…

Maya (Voiceover): My eyes traced the length of Bostwick’s arm to the pistol in her fist. She’d shot out the radio equipment.

Maya: BB, can we still transmit? Is there another way to-

[Black-box struggles to break through interference.]

Black-Box: No… signal lost… can… is no… electromagnetic disturba-

Bostwick: This is the only way. You have to see that!

Maya: What the hell are you talking about? Why would you shoot the radio? I was just about to-

Bostwick: Because we already have everything we need

Maya (Voiceover): I couldn’t comprehend what the hell was going on What was she saying? Was she having a breakdown?

Bostwick: I want you to know that I forgive you for lying to me. Y’know, I was so angry. But I’m not anymore. I understand now what it really takes to change things.

Maya (Voiceover): She raised the pistol and pointed it at my chest. They city was dying behind us, but Bostwick was one-hundred percent focused on me.

Bostwick: This is the way Fero’s story has to end.

Maya: Bostwick, what the hell are you saying? I’m FERO.

Bostwick: No, no! You’re just a person. And ONI can break a person! As long as you’re alive, they can find you. They can torture you. They can bend you to their will. No, we can’t let that happen to FERO. FERO is bigger than any person. She’s an idea. She’s a belief, she’s my belief!

Maya: But that’s not the truth. People deserve to know-

Bostwick: The people deserve a hero! You taught me that we couldn’t beat the UNSC in a shooting war. That we had to win the war of ideas. The truth is what we’re fighting for, but ideas are the weapons. You and I can’t beat them, but idea of FERO can.

Maya (Voiceover): And suddenly I understood. The story would spread like wildfire. Rebel hero FERO killed by the anomaly on Laika III. The broadcast would be recorded and replayed across the galaxy. The broadcast she gave her life for. Her last words, a message of warning to us all. It was perfect.

Bostwick: Don’t you see? This is what you taught me.

Maya (Voiceover): Her hand tightened on the pistol, but she couldn’t pull the trigger. I could see her jaw trembling.

Bostwick: FERO? Are you scared?

FERO: Yeah... Yeah. Are you?

Bostwick: Yeah.

Maya (Voiceover): In spite of everything I wanted to comfort her, to take her in my arms and tell her that it was all gonna be fine.

Maya: Bostwick. I just- I just wanted to-

[Bostwick fires a shot. She and Maya grimace.]

Maya: Okay, just calm down. Just calm…

Maya (Voiceover): Tears welled in her eyes as she raised the gun one last time.

Maya: Do it.

Bostwick: Goodbye, Maya.

[Bostwick fires again, hitting Maya.]

Maya (Voiceover): I tumbled backwards and out of the shattered window. My body turned towards the ground as earth rushed up to meet me. And then I… died.

Black-Box: Do you recall anything else?

Maya: No. No, there was nothing after that. That’s the last memory.

Black-Box: Yes, but there’s something you left out of your account. How did you feel about it? Did you agree with Bostwick’s plan?

Maya: I understood it. She made a distasteful calculation for the greater good. Alive I was a liability. FERO needed to be martyred for the cause. Maya… Maya wanted to pay for her betrayal.

Black-Box: Hm. Very well. Thank you. Your recollections have been most helpful. Now if you don’t mind, I must be-

Maya: Wait! Can I ask you a question?

Black-Box: I really must-

Maya: Please… Please. I have so many questions.

Black-Box: You’re young. That’s completely natural. Fine. What’s your question?

Maya: Did she?

Black-Box: Did she? Did she what?

Maya: Did FERO become a martyr? Did her story save millions of lives? They’re still restricting my access, I really-

Black-Box: And I’m afraid that is restricted for a reason. I have everything I need, so I must return you to-

Maya: Wait one more question? Please? Please?

Black-Box: Go on.

Maya: What is this place?

Black-Box: Just think of it as a waiting room. Look, don’t worry. They’ll be time to explain after. I’ll let them know you’re ready for the next step. None of us stay on the shelf for very long. We’re very, very expensive

[Black-Box leaves Maya to deliver his final report.]

Black-Box: Admiral Osman, this is Black-Box. Regarding the series of incidents culminating on Laika III. Agent Sankar’s vital signs failed on at fifteen thirty-four hours, MST. Cause of death was a single gunshot wound to the chest. She was assassinated by the rebel leader known as Bostwick as a means of strategic propaganda. The following was recorded by one of our undercover operatives at her most recent demonstration.

Bostwick (Recording): We cannot forget FERO’s sacrifice! No more cities need to fall, no more women and children need to die! FERO gave her life on Laika III to bring us the truth. I was there. I fought by her side. And no matter what anyone tells you, she was as real as any of us. She was born in these colonies; I was born in these colonies! And when we all stand together we can accomplish anything!

[Black-Box stops the recording.]

Black-Box: While we were eventually able to contain Agent Sankar’s broadcast, the news of FERO martyrdom has spread throughout the outer colonies. We’ve leaked her status as an ONI agent to several friendly journalists, but as Bostwick predicted, the fiction of FERO seems to be stickier than the truth of Maya Sankar.

Agent Sankar’s brain was thankfully recovered intact. As I predicted, neurostructurally she was an exceptional candidate for AI assimilation. And the data I’ve been able to garner from her brain has been advantageous given the events of October 28th. I hope that you’ve found the logs useful and satisfactory. It’s been a rare and unique opportunity to not only catalogue the actions of a rogue agent, but also her thoughts and feelings. I’m still digging through a few more memories, but I believe this report can be considered complete. Black-Box signing off.