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Hunt the Truth Episode 03: Critical Condition

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

Ray Kurzig: Uh, yeah, I do.

Giraud: (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.

Giraud: So Katrina told me that John died at six years old.

Kurzig: Right.

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

Kurzig: Right.

Giraud: No this woman is ruining my story Ray, tell me why she's lying.

Kurzig: Well she's not.

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

Giraud: They died in 2524, come on man!

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

Giraud: (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.

Operator: Continue to hold.

Giraud: Oh jeez, come on, come on, come on, come on.

Operator: Office of Naval Intelligence. Public Relations.

Giraud: Finally. Hey Sully!

Michael Sullivan: Tell me good things Ben!

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

Sullivan: (continuing) Ben, ugh, I thought we talked about this, glassed planets have bad records.

Giraud: No, I know, I know, I just erm...

Giraud: (Simultaneously) It's not just the records actually, no, listen Sully if you could- people are saying- people are saying-

Sullivan: (Simultaneously) Glassed planets have bad records, Ben, this is colonial journalism 101. Are, are you serious with this? Glassed planets have...!

Giraud: Listen! Do- hey- do glassed people have bad records?!

Sullivan: Ben, are you recording right now?

Giraud: ...Yes.

(Recording stops)

Giraud: (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.

Operator: Your call is over.

(call ends)

Jakob Walker: Well, as you can see I've pretty much permanently stationed myself on this beach.

Giraud: (voiceover) That was my next interview, Jacob Walker, retired Navy. He lives in a beach community way out on Castellaneta, the first thing I noticed about Walker, when he answered my call, was that he wasn't wearing a shirt, which made us both laugh. He explained that after 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: (continuing) Oh hell yeah John. You bet your ass I remember him!

Giraud: (voiceover) 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.

Walker: (continuing) I mean, they pushed us really hard, but John, well he pushed us even harder, not even trying! You screwed up, you never know if you would be more scared of the CO or John. (laughs)

Giraud: (voiceover) At first though Walker was unimpressed.

Walker: (continuing) Oh no man, I remember, think it was the first week there was a lot of talk. We were outside the mess tent, me and these other two jackasses, getting into it chests all puffed up and talking about being cold blooded killers and stepping on necks, all that. I wanted to be in leadership one day, and of course I was 19 and jacked as hell so, way I figured I only had so much competition. Meanwhile, there's this quiet nobody from nowhere standing on the fringes looking at the horizon: John. Yeah, first I thought he was 20-21, he's a big dude. Turns out he was only 16. (laughs) I mean that kid wasn't even on my radar.

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

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

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

Walker: (continuing) He made us all want to follow his lead, try harder and help each other. I mean we're supposed to but nobody really wanted to until then. Anyway, we did it... but taking the hit for the group, now that was John's thing. I only challenged him for the honor once. (laughs) I never made that mistake again.

Giraud: (voiceover) 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.

Walker: (continuing) What he was able to do, gettin' back on his own like that in the pitch black, no Nav equipment, man he was inhuman.

Anthony Petrosky: That kid was a monster, alright they all were.

Giraud: (voiceover) Anthony Petrosky, a retired Orbital Drop Shock Trooper I found through Mshak Moradi. 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 Petroski 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.

Petrosky: (continuing) That kid was a freak.

Giraud: (sigh) Can you be more specific?

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

Giraud: Mhm.

Petrosky: Young kid there, I mean I guess you could call him a kid he was... he was pretty jacked, you know but his face looked 12, maybe 13.

Giraud: (voiceover) 12 or 13? After enlisting John didn't even finish boot camp until at least 17. Petroski had to be wrong about his age, but I let it go.

Petrosky: (continuing) Anyways, I guess he was acting tough when one of the guys asked his name. He told him but he kind of, you know, gave him attitude, right? So people start mouthing off, next thing I know the CPO orders the kid and four of the guys into the ring. As I was supposed to...

Giraud: Wait, hold on Anthony, wait. Your- your telling me that the CPO ordered four soldiers... to fight a high school kid.

Petroski: No, a 12 or 13 year old, like I said.

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

Petrosky: You got it all wrong, okay 'cause those four ODSTs... were like lambs to the slaughter.

Giraud: What, John outfought them?

Petrosky: No, no, no it was way worse.

Giraud: (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.

Petrosky: (continuing) 'Cause the sound the kid's fist made... it sounded awful. 'Cause they weren't like punches, they were like rapid fire explosions. Okay, I was across the gym, but I heard it. It was sick, like meaty cracks in a drum roll. Just prgg, prgg, prgg, prgg, prgg.

Giraud: (voiceover): 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. Two fatalities, one ODST with a cracked pelvis and one with a shattered spine, that guy never walked again. No one had to break up the fight. It was over in less than five seconds.

Giraud: Wait he killed- he killed them?

Petrosky: What he did was impossible.

Giraud: What do mean impossible, like how...?

Petrosky: Like not human, alright! Like he was genetically augmented.

Giraud: So you're- you're telling me someone had augmented John, someone had genetically augmented a child?

Petrosky: (sighs) Okay. Alright.

Giraud: No?

Petrosky: You think I'm lying.

Giraud: I- I believe that's what you honestly think you saw, but...

Petrosky: Look, look, here's the thing Ben, I don't care if you believe me or not. This makes no difference in my world. I was there and you were somewhere else, so... you're- you're gonna write your little military cheerleader article and I'm gonna sit here and drink beer, so good luck.

Giraud: (voiceover) Patrosky 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 back on ChatterNet.

Ellie Bloom: Well, two things.

Giraud: Okay.

Bloom: Two major things.

Giraud: Okay, yeah.

Bloom: That boxing coach.

Giraud: Deon Govender, yeah.

Bloom: He's a liar.

Giraud: Wh- uh ok? Uh, ok, how is he lying?

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

Giraud: How do you know for sure?

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

Giraud: (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.

Bloom: (continuing) And there sure as hell wasn't a league for kids to do it at the high school. That's like saying there was a gun range at the toy store, it just didn't happen. And the other thing, those kidnappings by rebels in Elysium also didn't happen.

Giraud: Hold on, I know that's not true. You're wrong, okay. The Insurrection had a well documented presence in Elysium.

Bloom: Yeah they did, politically. They worked to influence local policy. It got tense, there was occasional violence but nobody was abducted. We lucked out. It was peaceful. That's why Elysium was refugee central. So boxing coach, total liar.

Giraud: (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 Dvørak, the Lieutenant who liberated John: in the field, unreachable. So I tried detainment survivor Thomas Wu. He answered.

Thomas Wu: (Tired voice) Hello?

Giraud: Hi, Thomas?

Wu: Who is this?

Giraud: Yeah, I'm sorry to call so late. Is it, is it late there? I just need to ask you something really quickly.

Wu: Okay.

Giraud: (voiceover) I had no idea what I was going to ask.

Giraud: Okay, okay, do you... know for absolute certain that Elysium suffered the same fate as your town?

Wu: Um, yeah. I- I told you that.

Giraud: 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.

Wu: Okay.

Giraud: Do you know for absolute certain that Elysium City was under the violent control of Insurrectionists.

Wu: Look, what I told you before, that is the best I can remember.

Giraud: 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.

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

Giraud: (continuing) You only hesitated where you would have said Elysium City, right?

Wu: I mean, I, I, look I don't know for sure.

Giraud: But, Ely- Elysium wasn't captured by the Insurrectionists was it?

Wu: Hey! What are you defending them?!

Giraud: I'm- I'm definitely not defe...

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

Giraud: Thoma- Thomas- Thomas, look I'm sorry, I'm sorry that I have to bring it up, I'm s...

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

Giraud: Wait... wait I, uh... I don't understand... how does lying about Insurrectionists in Elysium buy you peace of mind for your family?

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

Wu: I shouldn't be talking to you.

Giraud: No, wait, Thomas hol- hold on.

Wu: I can't. Leave us alone.

(Call ends)

Giraud: (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.

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