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Hunt the Truth Episode 06: Boxing Story

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Andy Walczak (message): "It doesn't matter who's lying, or who you think is lying. The Master Chief saved the world and you, you've managed to what? Stir up a couple nuts and get some idiots to call you up? Get real, Giraud. Where do you get off?"

Silas Mogensen (message): "You are a crusader, my friend."

Gábor Zsolt (message): "I always thought ONI and the government were fishy as..."

A jumble of voices play over each other

Giraud (voiceover): They've been inundating my inbox with messages like these, around the clock, for the past four days. Voices from all corners of inhabited space. A staggering sample size of factual testimonials and a deluge of theories in every shape and color imaginable.

Giraud (voiceover): Earlier this week I released the beginning of my story, the "Hunt for Truth" about the Master Chief, posing a large, messy question to anyone who might listen. And now, even though I wasn't sure how to process all of it, answers were flooding in. I suddenly had direct access to a hive mind that spanned the galaxy. And it was buzzing, loud.

Aden Langereis (message): "Great work on the show."

Alea Maciejewski (message): "It's a sick pantomime."

Janet Goodwin (message): "No one cares!"

Alea Maciejewski (message): "This has to stop."

Messages end

Giraud (voiceover): Before that, though, it had been quiet. Holing myself up in my place as I got the episodes ready, I only talked to two people. Petra called to make sure I'd made it back from ONI in one piece, and I called Ray about the fiasco on my flight. He said he'd start digging into Walker's identity. I didn't tell either of them about my plan. No one knew. After blowing past my deadline to turn in all the files to my employer, I'd been ducking calls from Sully's office, buying time to finish up. Right before I uploaded the story, I was still confident ONI had no idea what was about to happen, when I got one final message. From Michael Sullivan, himself.

Sullivan (Message): "Ben, so uh.... we missed that deadline. Higher-ups weren't happy, you know? They do call them deadlines for a reason, that kind of thing. I told them, "Ben understands how deadlines work." Said you were having a little personal problem. I managed to convince them to extend the deadline until tomorrow. One-time deal. You know, it really seems like the story is at a critical juncture right now and, depending on what happens next, I think some big things could be on the horizon for you. I'm excited. Heh. Anyway, just checkin' one last time. I hope you're doing well, buddy. Talk soon."

Giraud (voiceover): All the thoughts I'd been avoiding, the possibilities of how ONI would deal with this, started creeping up my throat, but I pushed them down. I took all of that extremely sensitive government property, audio that had been narrated with my perspective instead of propaganda, and I uploaded it all onto the open network. Sully's office stopped calling.

Voice messages restart

Giraud (voiceover): I hadn't heard a familiar voice since. Sitting here, listening to all these messages pour in, I was feeling alone, intermittently terrified and... absolutely thrilled. I'd gone through door number two. And now I needed to make the most of it.

Dmitry Yudin (message): "Keep up the good work, I support you."

Giraud (voiceover): I'm Benjamin Giraud, and this is Hunt the Truth.

Leckie Tom (message): "You call the Chief a traitor? You're the traitor, ya mouthy pig! Do the galaxy a favor: sign off for good, strip naked and jettison your treasonous arse out into space! Journalists. Augh! I bloody hate journalists!"

Giraud (voiceover): It was fascinating, and often bewildering, to listen to everyone's theories on the truth. But I'd been way more excited to use all this feedback to figure out the facts, this rat's nest I'd been left with. Message after message confirmed what Ellie had said. Every Outer Colonist who'd heard this story seemed to agree. There were no Insurrectionist abductions in John's city, there was no boxing on John's planet, and yes, glassed planets have bad records. Taken together, all these messages were starting to give me a clearer picture. Between the witness I'd been provided and all the central government records, one thing was clear: ONI was telling an elaborate lie. But why? To cover up what? Listeners had clearly drawn the outlines of this fiction, but the most resonant take-away from all those messages, was something else. A strong indictment of one person. The only person who placed John alive, in Elysium, from the ages of six to thirteen.

Voice message #1: "Deon? The boxing coach? He's a liar!"

Ellie Bloom: "I didn't even know what boxing was until I moved off world."

Giraud (voiceover): Ellie had been right again! There was absolutely no boxing on Eridanus II. And if Deon's whole story was fake, and you took it with Gabriella's story, what was the ONI lie? No one has disputed the first six years of the Chief's life yet, so the question I'm left with is, "What really happened to this young man between the ages of six and his first day of boot camp at sixteen?" It was something that ONI wanted to conceal. And I had no idea where to start.

Deon Govender (Recording): "John was something else..."

Giraud (voiceover): I was struck by something, though. If Deon's entire story had been discredited, that would make him not only a liar, but a terrifyingly good one. I went back and listened to the recordings. I'd been so convinced by his emotion at the time, he had moved me. Even more strangely, now that I knew he wasn't making a single true statement as I listened to him talk, I still found myself believing that he believed what he was saying. It was chilling. Who the hell was this man? And then I heard from others who claimed they knew him.

Voice message #2: "Is that that old man that owned Govie's in New Jay? I used to get drunk all the time in front of that place. That guy's crazy."

Voice message #3: "Dude! Govie's! That's my cousin's old boxing coach, man!"

Voice message #4: "That man was an institution in our neighborhood."

Voice message #4: "But then you're up there blasting the guy, like you and that Ellie..."

Voice message #6: "So what, his story doesn't make sense? You, you don't know what..."

Voice message #7: "He's gotta be like, eight-five years old by now? Feel good about yourself? Jackass."

Giraud (voiceover): Was Deon telling some version of the truth? Had ONI actually gotten a vulnerable man to tell all these lies? And not just tell them, but believe them. Convince him that a fake story about his own life was real? No matter what though, Deon had been completely discredited, and my understanding of the Master Chief's origin story was now in shambles. Maybe, if I focused on the lies, I could find the truth. So I was putting all my faith in Ray. Thankfully he was already making his way to my place. While I waited for him, I was trying to figure out how the cover-up had come to be. And I'd stumbled on some theories.

Giraud: Ray! It's great to see ya! Thanks for coming!

Giraud (voiceover): By the time Ray got there I was pretty worked up. I asked him to hold off on his updates about Walker until I could get him up to speed. I really wanted him to vet what I'd been working on. Listening back now, I realize I didn't even give Ray a chance to talk. I guess after isolating myself for the past several days I'd let my manners slip.

Giraud: You are the best! You are the best, man. Have a seat, okay?

Ray Kurzig: Do you need help?

Giraud (voiceover): Ray was trying to figure out where to sit. Apparently I'd let my housekeeping slide a bit, too.

Giraud: Okay, let me just - this doesn't need to be here.

Giraud: Now, simple question: what do I know about the Chief's origin story?

Kurzig: Ben...

Giraud: It's this. Only two sources put him alive, in Elysium, between the ages of six and his enlistment at sixteen. Deon, and Gabriella Dvørak.

Kurzig: Umm...

Giraud: Deon's been completely discredited, and Gabriella's story requires a rebel labor camp in Elysium City that never existed. So the most convincing thing we've heard about John's childhood is that he died at six.

Giraud (voiceover): That's when I hit Ray with my theories. About who John could be. Why the stories didn't line up. I'd even reverse-engineered my own version of an ONI cover-up, and I hit every last detail.

Giraud: And, you control the journalist, so even if there was a loose thread, no one you'd ever hire would have the slightest idea how to find it in the Outer Colonies.

Giraud (voiceover): In retrospect, they weren't good theories. That had a lot of valid pieces, sure, but they were mostly unprovable. And by sharing them with Ray, I was only adding more confusion to the mix. Ray was extraordinarily patient with me. Sitting there, listening. It all brought me to one crucial, completely unreasonable, research request. At which point, Ray looked like he'd been hit by a tornado.

Giraud: Would it be possible to access the Master Chief's genetic profile and John's parents genetic profiles from medical records and compare the two? Without drawing suspicion?

Kurzig: What?! Ben, I'm - I'm sorry, man, but I really can't help you any more.

Giraud: What? Why?

Kurzig:I just came over to give you this information. Walker totally checks out. Full military records. His enlistment puts him on Reach for boot camp at the same time as John. It all checks out. Gabriella too.

Giraud: But, no-no-no-no-no. But see, they're lying. I mean, everything with Walker on the flight? He's not who he says he is. You heard him, Ray! And Gabriella's been completely invalidated by tons of independent actual people who actually live on Elysium. I mean...

Kurzig: Even if that's true, someone has covered up those tracks. I was unable to discredit their identities.

Giraud: Okay, fine. But what about Deon? All the messages, people who knew him? Ray! The real guy! ONI must have completely preyed on some poor senior citizen, and I mean...

Kurzig: Nah, Ben...

Giraud: Wait! {whispers} What is that?

Giraud (voiceover): There was a noise coming from just outside my door. Ray turned pale. My heart started pounding.

Giraud (Whispers): I think somebody's out there.

Giraud (voiceover): Ray was completely frozen. I had no idea what to do. I was debating between turning off the lights and hiding or jumping from the bedroom window when we ran out of time.

Giraud: Oh! Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, wait, wait, wait!

Petra Janecek: You crossed the line, Ben!

Giraud:No, wait, wait, Petra! Aah! Aah!

Janecek: You didn't think I'd find out?! Huh?!

Giraud: Petra! Augh! Oh! Petra, wait!

Janecek: You recorded me?!

Giraud: What?

Janecek: When I was helping you! Augh! You wormy bastard!

Giraud: Oh. Oh, no, Petra, no, I'm sorry, I didn't even - I didn't even think about it!

Janecek: You didn't even think about it?

Giraud: No, I - I didn't. I didn't. I just uh...

Janecek: So you - you pointed your— Sit down, Ray!

Kurzig: Okay.

Janecek: So basically, you pointed your comm pad at my face and you weren't really thinking about it? Now you know as well as anyone, Ben, that you can use someone's words to destroy them. In that way, isn't your comm pad kind of like a gun? But wait, I have a gun. It's right under my jacket. What would you think if I took it out and pointed it at your face?!

Giraud: Please, don't?

Janecek: Would you want me to be concerned about what I did with it?

Giraud: Yes, but Petra...

Janecek: But what if I'm not, Ben? Hm? Maybe I'm just not really thinking about it. I don't really know, maybe I put it away, or maybe I'll UPLOAD AN INCRIMINATING RECORDING TO THE GALAXY!!

Giraud: I'm sorry, okay! I'm sorry.

Janecek: And let me guess: you're recording right now, too, aren't you?

Giraud: Yes, but...

Janecek: You little - gah!

Kurzig: Seriously, Ben?

Giraud: Yes. What do you want me to do?

Kurzig: Not record us? Erase what you have?

Giraud: Okay, but I need it for the story!

Janecek: I should actually kill him.

Giraud: Oh, come on Petra, don't be dramatic.

Kurzig: Um...

Janecek: Here's the deal, Ben: I'm going to leave your house now, and I'm going to go home. My gun will stay holstered, but I always have it. If I ever see your face again, I will immediately shoot part of it off. Got it?

Giraud: Petra, I'm sorry, okay? I never should have done that, it was stupid. And you're right, I didn't have the right to record you without asking. I never should have kept either of you in the dark like that. I know.

Janecek: No, Ben, you don't know. You have no idea. You don't see how much of a massive liability you are to every other human being around you. But I told you this already. You're sloppy.

Giraud: Look, I realize I'm a little out my depth here with a lot of the technical stuff, but Ray takes care of that part.

Kurzig: Nope, no I don't.

Giraud: And Mshak told me how to secure my lines. I've got it covered.

Janecek: Ben! Ben, Mshak is probably listening to us on your comm pad right now!

Giraud: No, he's not.

Janecek: Mshak? Are you there?

Mshak Moradi (From COMpad): Hi guys.

Janecek: See?

Giraud: Unbelievable. Mshak, how long have you been listening?

Moradi: Oh, I just hacked in a few weeks ago, you know so I could properly secure the line for you. You do it so wrong. And I just kind of left it open.

Giraud: Well that's comforting. Well, at least we're all here now.

Janecek: We're all here?! What do you think this is, Ben? Is it summer camp or something?

Giraud: No, but we're...

Janecek: Ben, this is real life, and you're poking the hive. I'm leaving.

Kurzig: Yeah, me too.

Giraud: No, no, no, wait a minute! You guys, wait, wait, wait! What else have you been doing that I don't know about Mshak?

Moradi: Oh, just little stuff, mostly. We rerouted some rogue monitoring bots, scrambled some drone surveillance, just little stuff. Oh! I also crossed some flight itineraries so you'd run into that Walker guy.

Giraud: You did that!

Janecek: Wait, hold, hold on. You hacked into ONI and overrode one of their travel protocols?

Moradi: Yup.

Giraud: Mshak, you're a beast!

Janecek: Seriously? You're a nudge guy, that's active intervention, why'd you do it?

Moradi: Ahhh, well, I was contacted last week by someone about this whole thing, but before I told you about it I wanted to set up you and Walker, so you could see ONI panic. So you'd have a choice.

Giraud: A choice?

Moradi: I have some professional standards, man. I can't just refer anybody. I have a reputation to maintain.

Janecek: Who contacted you?

Moradi: This contrive I've been hearing about for a while but never spoken to. FERO?

Janecek: FERO?

Kurzig: Who's FERO?

Janecek: Okay, well that's definitely my cue to get as far away from you guys as possible. Good luck with your... whatever this is.

Giraud: Petra, come on!

Kurzig: Who's FERO?

Janecek: No, you don't understand. This was already a mess, and now you have no id-

Right now, at this moment, everyone in this room has a chance to walk away and cut ties. Even you, Ben. Just stop.

Giraud: But what if FERO can help expose what they did to Deon? We don't know yet, it's just...

Kurzig: Ben, I'm leaving. I can't be here. But... I never finished telling you, I looked into Deon, too...

Giraud: And?

Janecek: Wh-Who's Deon?

Giraud: The first guy I interviewed. Sully sent me to him and everything he said, everything he said was wrong. But, like I said Ray, I found out from multiple sources that he was a real guy! So it's...

Kurzig: Yeah! He was...

Giraud: What?

Kurzig: Ben... Deon died seven years ago...

Janecek: What do you mean?

Kurzig: I don't know who you were talking to in that interview, but the boxing coach he was pretending to be is dead.

Giraud (voiceover): That... was a smoking gun. Deon had been a person to me. Right in front me... a real person! This wasn't possible! I was stunned... I... I hardly noticed when Ray bowed out and left.

Kurzig: Do what you want with the recording man, I just...

Giraud: Thanks, Ray. They constructed him! He's... wh-who was I talking to?

Janecek: I don't know.

Giraud: Wh-what should I do?

Moradi: Find. The. Proof.

Janecek: No... Ben...

Giraud: No, it's fine. Petra, you should go, too. You're right, you can cut ties, I totally get it and I'll erase this recording too, okay? I promise I won't...

Janecek: Keep the recording, Ben.

Giraud (voiceover): Petra left... and I totally understood. This wasn't her problem, or Ray's either. It never should have been.

Moradi: So... what's happening now?

Giraud: I need to speak to FERO. How do I get in touch with him?

Moradi: Actually, don't worry. She's about to get in touch with you.

Giraud (voiceover): Please join me for the next episode of Hunt the Truth.

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