(voiceover) When you're a war journalist, you see a lot of horrible stuff. All the stories I've done... I've seen the absolute worst of humanity. But I've also gotten to see the best. Six years ago, I saw him: the greatest, most mysterious hero of our time, up close, in action. I witnessed firsthand what he did that day, and it changed everything for me. Anyone listening to this knows exactly who I'm talking about. The guy who saved us. Saved Earth. Saved mankind. Master Chief Petty OfficerSpartan-117 whom we now know as simply the Master Chief.
A few months ago, I was hired to do an in-depth profile on the Chief. Exclusive access, the whole thing. Since then, I've gotten to talk to a lot of people who claim they know the real Master Chief. The boy. The soldier. The hero. The traitor? See, I've always known where a story was going before it started. I'd known exactly the story I wanted to tell for years. The story all of us wanted to hear: glossy, inspiring, the blockbuster hero biography. That's all this was supposed to be. But the truth isn't always that clean. When I pulled that first loose thread, something broke. Now everything is caving in, and I find myself stuck with all these ugly questions, questions I never intended to ask. Fabricated histories? People who aren't who they say they are? Cover-ups of cover-ups? That steady drumbeat of theories that used to sound insane, now they don't seem so out there. And these disturbing rumors, reports of anomalies. Something big is happening in deep space, and I can't even corroborate a single fact about one man's life. It's clear to me now. I can't fix the pretty story. But maybe I can break the ugly one.
For the first time in my career, I can honestly say I don't know the shape of where this is going. And in fact, the possibilities have me lying awake at night. But I believe we all deserve to know the real story. We need to know where this leads. I know I do. So I find myself back at the beginning. Who is the Master Chief? Where does he come from? And is he keeping us safe? Join me as I hunt the truth about the Master Chief.
(voiceover) There's a story you tell yourself when the world blows up in your face. There's no way you could have seen it coming. No one could have, so there was no way to stop it. This is what lets you sleep at night. But go back in your mind before it all happened. Replay it in your head, except this time, maybe you'll see it: something small, out of place. Maybe it's just a single thread, but it's the truth. Nobody saw it coming when they arrived: an alien race known as the Covenant.
Before 2552, there was no way anything like that could happen on Earth. On one of those distant planets in the Outer Colonies, maybe. But an attack on Earth? Couldn't happen. Until it did. It's called glassing. Covenant warships rain plasma down on a planet until everything and everyone on the surface melts. Usually, it's complete world destruction. Earth only got a taste. The prolonged orbital bombardment destroyed East Africa, killing millions before it ended. None of us were safe anymore.
But something else happened that day too. Or someone. You've heard the eyewitness accounts; every skeptic has seen it in the footage. I was there and yet still to this day, it's unbelievable. A massive man in green armor appeared seemingly out of nowhere in New Mombasa, performed superhuman feats to single-handedly repel a global invasion, and then disappeared. This was the Master Chief. The Unified Earth Government's military body, the UNSC, eventually released a statement: who he is, where he came from, and that he's continuing to keep us safe. And that was that. But who is the Master Chief? Where did he come from? Is he continuing to keep us safe? I'm Benjamin Giraud and this is "Hunt the Truth."
For all us cosmopolitan Earth-types who don't venture into the far reaches of space, there's a planet way out in the outer colonies called Eridanus II. If you're thinking of visiting, don't bother. It was catastrophically glassed in a Covenant attack in 2530. But 19 years before it got wiped out, our hero, Master Chief Petty Officer John-117, then known as John, was born in a metropolis called Elysium City. That's where I started.
Deon seemed most excited to talk about John's athletic ability. The kids used to play King of the Hill after school. You know, the old game where you wrestle and push each other to try to be the last man standing.
That's Ellie Bloom, another lifelong resident of the Outer Colonies. When she was young, she and John lived on the same street, just a few houses down.
As Ellie talked about her early years in Elysium, it wasn't long before she was getting nostalgic.
Finding Ellie was a huge win for me. When a planet's been glassed, tracking down former residents can be damn near impossible. Any records kept locally; paper, hardened data storage, even human memories; after a full-scale glassing? They're just gone. Thankfully though, the Office of Naval Intelligence, or ONI, had furnished me with a list of interviewees. That's how I'd gotten Deon. But I wanted to go the extra mile with this story, so I'd hit up some of my old connections in the Outer CColonies looking for more sources. Ellie was my only hit so far. (continuing interview) Did you keep in touch with John?
Oh. (laughs) No, no, John, uh, John is uh... the Master Chief.
Yeah, John became the Master Chief.
I'm not kidding you.
(voiceover) Ellie lost her mind for a few minutes. I guess it's not everyday you find out that your childhood playmate saved the galaxy.
Alright, so maybe Ellie wasn't going to be much help. I needed more of the "young warrior" angle. Here is Deon again.
(continuing interview) No, what's that?
(voiceover) But John was adamant.
I liked talking to Deon. He was warm and funny in that "grandfathery memory lane" kind of way. I realized I'd gotten lost in it all when the narrative took a dark turn.
It was 2524, John was thirteen. That's when the nightmare of the Insurrection that had been plaguing the Outer Colonies finally landed on John's community. Under pressure from UNSC troops, the rebels were on their last leg, desperately seizing territory in the region and launching paranoid inquisitions to find spies. Civilian abductions and interrogations became commonplace.
Thomas Wu was living on a neighboring colony when the rebels showed up and hit hard, sweeping up Thomas and thousands of others in raids. What followed was months of horribly overcrowded detainment, neglect, and often constant questioning.
In the final couple months, Thomas says his captors started coming unhinged. And then toward the end they just disappeared, leaving Thomas and hundreds of others locked up, starving. I don't want to play this part of the interview, but I'll tell you it got bad. He talks about being packed in like sardines. Warm bodies, cold bodies, people dying in the dark. The smell. He doesn't know how long it lasted. Maybe weeks. But Thomas, and many others, survived. They made it out.
When I asked him where the survivors relocated to, Thomas began to list of which cities were safe for refugees at the time. Decades later, he can still recite them all from memory. I asked about John's hometown. (continuing interview) What about Elysium City?
(voiceover) Deon Govender confirms this.
This went on for months. He talks about watching his community get torn apart slowly everyday. I asked him about John.
(continuing interview) No, no, no. That's fine. Take your time. (voiceover) It was hard watching Deon break down like this. He just looked defeated. These kinds of interviews are brutal. I wanted to comfort him, but it just felt condescending. Like I have any idea what it was like for him. So we were quiet for a bit. Before we ended though, he said this:
Deon believed in John the way that the rest of us believe in the Master Chief. He made it seem like this tragedy that shaped him was almost necessary. I certainly felt like I had the proper beginnings to a hero's origin story. The story made sense, it felt right. Sometimes you have to go back, though. Look again, because maybe you'll see something, something small, out of place. That single thread.
Later that evening after my interview with Deon I was pretty drained. So I spent some time sifting through a bunch of file boxes. I payed this scavenger in the Outer Colonies to dig around and send over any Elysium City documents she could find. The only local government records left were hard copies, but I took them anyway. I was sorting through a messy box of local census registries when I stumbled across John's name. One line of basic information printed out in black and white. That's when I saw it, a single letter next to his name: D. I was staring at an official document that said quite plainly, that in 2517 John died at six years old. Please join me for the next episode of Hunt the Truth.
(voiceover) I couldn't believe it. According to the document I was looking at, John, the boy that would go on to become the Master Chief, died 41 years ago. My protagonist, the greatest hero of our time was dead at six. It was a major discrepancy, and I needed to find a way to fix it. I'm Benjamin Giraud, and this is Hunt the Truth.
If you ever happen to happen to obtain sufficient clearance to call the Office of Naval Intelligence, you'll be on hold for at least an hour. If you ever happen to get a call from them, you will also wait an hour. And in the end they never unblock the video. So you just end up talking to a really crisp insignia. (waiting for call) I am waiting to talk with Michael Sullivan, hoping he can help me with my little... records problem.
And it's been... 85 minutes. (voiceover) Michael Sullivan, also known as Sully, works for the ONI in Public Relations. If it seems odd to you that the most secretive agency in our government has a P.R. department, you're not alone, but that's not something I'd mention to them. Besides, Sully hooked my up with the assignment in the first place. I was grateful for the opportunity.
(continuing) Sully! Yeah, thanks for taking my call.
(voiceover) Up until this point, I'd had no problems with the story. All my facts had been lining up nicely, but now I had an obscure document from the far reaches of the galaxy that listed John as deceased. This contradicted everything. I needed Sully to make it make sense, and thankfully he did just that.
(continuing) No, I know, it's just, I want to make sure that I button up all the details.
(voiceover) Ok, so I felt a little stupid. Sully was right. It's a real problem in the Outer Colonies: planets destroyed by glassing have bad records. Every researcher knows this and every researcher knows that questioning that fact is standard fodder for conspiracy theorists.
That's a message I received last week from a man named Mashak Maradi. He's one of many truthers out there who've come out of the woodworks since I started doing this story. Apparently, he heard I was investigating the Master Chief. Mashak seems less ridiculous than most of the characters who have been filling up my inbox, but he's definitely been the most persistent. He's left me a message every day for the past two months. I never respond, but I did find the timing of his last message pretty funny.
Technically Mashak was right. That was what the government was telling me. But unfortunately for Mashak's theory, it was true. Glassed planets have bad records. John's childhood friend Ellie Bloom has dealt with this reality her whole life. I'd recalled what she'd said in her interview.
(voiceover) In retrospect, I'd probably been asking for this kind of hiccup. Getting cute with the research, opening up a rat's nest of old paper records, and for what? All I dug up from slogging on my own was a few hazy kindergarten stories from Ellie and a nonsensical death record. But things were looking up. Sully had arranged a face to face interview with ONI Vice Admiral, Gabriella Dvørak. That not only got me off world, but it was onboard the newest Autumn-class heavy cruiser, the UNSC Unto the Breach. Got a private shuttle up, full luxury. They had me riding in style. When I came aboard Dvořák even greeted me personally. Now, civilians aren't normally allowed onboard an active duty ship, let alone given this sort of attention. (starting interview) Uh, I...
Ok? (voiceover) This was not the kind of hospitality I was used to. (continuing interview) What brings you way out here?
(voiceover) She told me she was on a detachment and in the neighborhood. I guess I lucked out. The white glove treatment continued, too. Captain's nest, officers' quarters, the whole thing. By the time we actually got to her office for the interview, Dvořák could have said anything and I'd've been thrilled. But she's the real deal, and she jumped right into it.
As a lieutenant of the UNSC, Gabriella not only took part in the ground operations that freed John and countless others from the rebel labor camps in Elysium City, but she remembered the thirteen year old, as well. She described the liberation:
That's when she saw John.
In the aftermath, Dvořák remained stationed in Elysium City, working in the refugee camps. From the first day, John stepped up to help Gabriella with her duties. She came to know him well over the next several months.
Her understanding was that it had gotten ugly in there. They died a couple days apart, a few weeks before the liberation, and John was there when it happened. On the rare occasion when John opened up about this, Dvořák says it was memorable.
Like so many people at the time in Elysium City, and throughout this region of the galaxy, John had lost his home. His family. Everything. People packed up whatever they had left, got out of town, and most never looked back. But Deon Govender, John's boxing coach, said many of them found a way to get some measure of closure.
His will to survive left an impression on then lieutenant, Gabriella Dvořák, as well.
Out of the chaos of war, from the rubble, a young John was able to forge a purpose for himself. A purpose that would drive him to become the hero the galaxy would one need him to be. This is the kind of turn in a story that gives me patriotic goosebumps. I was feeling genuinely moved on my trip back home. When I got there though, Ellie Bloom was going to ruin all of that for me.
(continuing) Ok, uh, what's-
(voiceover) Katrina was that other girl in John's neighborhood. The third wheel in Ellie's childhood stories of playing with John. Ellie had moved off planet in 2517, but Katrina had stayed.
(continuing) Wait, what? What?
(voiceover) Then, John died, just like that. I had no idea what to make of this. Ellie seemed convinced though, so I got her to put me in touch with her friend, Katrina. Katrina wouldn't let me record the interview, but this woman was adamant. I wanted to discount what she was saying, but she seemed to remember it so vividly, providing extensive detail. I couldn't ignore it. As far as this person was concerned, John was dead. Before I could even begin to wrap my head around that claim, though... here was the kicker from Katrina: John's parents were alive and well in Elysium City all the way up until Katrina left the planet in 2528. Four years after their supposed death. She was wrong. She had to be thinking of someone else, or she was lying. Why would she lie, tough? I had to admit, she seemed pretty convincing but, it didn't make sense otherwise. I still thought I could fix the story though. Make the pieces fit, make it make sense... but what I didn't realize was that this crack was only the beginning, and the whole ugly mess was about to split open. Please join me for the next episode of Hunt the Truth.
(voiceover) Ray Curzig is a good friend of mine and a completely emotionless robot. I mean that in the best way, as an independent analyst he is the most efficient and resourceful researcher I know, that's why I sicked him on this story a few days earlier. I needed to debunk the claims of Ellie's friend Katrina. He was in the area on business so he took the time to come down and meet with me in my home office.
(continuing) So Katrina told me that John died at six years old.
And his parents who supposedly died in a rebel prison were still alive years later.
No this woman is ruining my story Ray, tell me why she's lying.
(voiceover) Ray had found copious financial records indicating that johns parents were not just alive past 2524 but working and paying their bills.
(voiceover) Ray swiped through document after document corroborating this, he even showed me medical insurance claims for a pediatric auto immune specialist in 2517, exactly when Katrina said John got sick. I was laughing but I didn't find any of it funny. I'm Benjamin Giraud and this is Hunt the Truth.
(continuing) Oh jeez, come on, come on, come on, come on.
Finally. Hey Sully!
(voiceover) It was disconcerting to be talking to the ONI insignia again but I started positive, the story was going really well but that little data problem, the death record, it was back, I was hoping Sully would smooth it out for me.
(continuing) No, I know, I know, I just erm..
(Simultaneously) It's not just the records actually, no, listen Sully if you could, people are saying. people are saying.
(continuing) Listen! Dude come on, do glassed people have bad records?
(voiceover) That was my cue to stop recording, the off-the-record conversation was brief, Sully asked me if I wanted to do the next interview, what he meant was do you want to keep this job. I said yes.
That was my next interview, Jacob Walker, retired navy. He lives in a beach community way out on Castalleneta, the first thing I noticed about walker when he answered my call, was that he wasn't wearing a shirt, which made us both laugh. He explained that after 28 years of service as far as he was concerned it was all R&R all the time. I couldn't argue with that philosophy. He slipped on a t-shirt and I asked him about the Master Chief.
Walker career began three decades ago with naval force reconnaissance school at black sea, little did he know boot camp would turn out to be something he'd never forget. Walker was there alongside the young man who would become the Master Chief. The gravity of that was not lost on him.
At first though Walker was unimpressed.
Soon though walker says all that machismo fell to the wayside and a real leader emerged in John.
And then without fail Walker says John always made sure he came in last and took the punishment.
Walker's in his early fifties now but he seemed lit up with the energy of a much younger man, it seemed the will that he and the other recruits had in a sense borrowed from John so many years ago was still inspiring Walker, it was remarkable, he knew John, lived with him for months, yet to him john still seemed to be an almost mythical character.
Anthony Petrosky, a retired Orbital Drop Shock Trooper I found through Mashak Maradi, yes that Mashak Maradi, the truther who's been messaging me for months and yes I was pretty desperate for leads, we'll leave it at that. But Petrosky was definitely not on Sully's list of approved sources so I went off grid and contacted him through ChatterNet. Here he is talking about his only encounter with John.
(continuing) *Sigh*, can you be more specific.
(voiceover) 12 or 13? after enlisting John didn't even finish boot camp until at least 17. Petrosky had to be wrong about his age but I let it go.
(continuing) Wait, hold on Anthony wait your telling me that the CPO ordered 4 soldiers to fight a high school kid.
Yeah fine, either way, the CPO ordered 4 ODST's to fight a kid?
What? John outfought them?
(voiceover) As he tells it the ODST's did as they were ordered, they surrounded John and one of them swung, what happened next Petrosky says, defied explanation.
One of the ODST's sustained a single body blow that instantly stopped his heart, killing him. Another trooper only took one shot from john as well, a punch that caved in the man's face. 2 fatalities, one ODST with a cracked pelvis and one with a shattered spine, that guy never walked again. No one had to break up the fight, it was over in less than five seconds.
(continuing) Wait he killed, he killed them?
What do mean impossible, like how...?
So you're, you're telling me someone had augmented John, someone had genetically augmented a child?
I, I believe that's what you honestly think you saw but...
(voiceover) Petrosky left me with a bad taste in my mouth, now it's no shocker that Spartans go through a few augmentations and upgrades, but those are fully developed adults, could a 17 year old, probably still growing even survive that kind of procedure? It seemed horribly risky and what if what Petrosky was saying was true, and john was only 13 well that was one hell of an accusation to make the ethical implications of which were nauseating. I was still thinking about it the next day when Ellie Bloom's name popped up on my call list. I'd let her listen to a rough version of my first episode and she had feedback for me, I didn't want to risk anyone listening in so I let the call go and hit her up on ChatterNet.
Deon Govender, yeah.
Wh- uh ok? Uh how is he lying?
How do you know for sure?
(voiceover) She'd said they'd outlawed it forever ago after a kid got injured, afterwards there was a long standing controversy on how youth boxing was illegal but no one seemed to care about all the Gravball concussions kids were getting. Regardless by the turn of the century she tells me no one really boxed on Eridanus II anymore. She even gut checks me, to go ahead, ask anybody from the colony they'd tell me the same thing.
(continuing) Hold on, I know that's not true, you're wrong. Okay the Insurrection had a well documented presence in Elysium.
(voiceover) I needed to verify what she was saying but I had the gnawing sense she was telling the truth again, but what did this mean, if she was right and none of that happened, the whole story was wrong and terrifyingly, that would mean someone had fabricated all of it. I needed explanations from my previous sources and I needed them now. I tried to reach Deon the boxing coach: no response, Gabriella Dvořák, the Lieutenant who liberated John: in the field, unreachable. So I tried detainment survivor Thomas Wu. He answered.
(continuing) Hi, Thomas?
Yeah, I'm sorry to call so late. Is it, is it late there? I just need to ask you something really quickly.
(voiceover) I had no idea what I was going to ask.
(continuing) Okay, okay, do you... know for absolute certain that Elysium suffered the same fate as your town?
No I, I know but Thomas I spoke to people who were in Elysium and they said that wasn't true. Now I, now look I know you went through a lot but I just, I want to know the truth.
Do you know for absolute certain that Elysium City was under the violent control of Insurrectionists.
No I'm sorry, I'm sorry but I don't believe that, you remembered it all perfectly, you rattled off the name of every single safe haven city in that region and you only hesitated once.
(voiceover) I was completely making this part up, I was going for broke.
(continuing) You only hesitated where you would have said Elysium City, right?
But Elysium wasn't captured by the Insurrectionists was it?
No, I'm, I'm definitely not defe...
Thoma-, Thomas, Thomas, look i'm sorry, i'm sorry that I have to bring it up, i'm s...
Wait... Wait I uh... I don't understand... how does lying about Insurrectionists in Elysium buy you peace of mind for your family?
(voiceover) At that moment Thomas seemed to become entirely lucid and his tone changed completely.
(continuing) No, wait, Thomas hold on.
(voiceover) I suddenly became lucid myself, with a single awful realization: that entire conversation had just taken place over Waypoint... Anyone could have been listening. Please join me for the next episode of Hunt the Truth.