It’s hard to imagine what slipping a deadline for the most powerful, secret organization in the galaxy is like, especially for someone who’s always done what they were told. As we heard from the last episode, Ben Giraud did just that. After missing the deadline, Ben took the time he had, assuming ONI didn’t know what he was up to, putting together the last few podcasts we’ve heard. He only talked to two people since then: Petra, who followed up to make sure he make it back, and Ray to follow up on his encounter with Jacob Walker on his trip back. He continuously dodged calls from ONI’s office until the very last call he received, which was straight from Michael Sullivan himself. In his chipper Sully attitude, he tells Ben he negotiated to extend the deadline one more day, convincing ONI that Ben understood deadlines and was doing through some personal issues. Sully acknowledged the critical point this story had come to and felt that there would be some very big things for Ben once the story got published. Ben began thinking about how ONI would respond to his stunt he was about to pull, but pushed those thoughts aside. Shortly after was when Ben started uploading his version of the story and the calls from ONI stopped.
A few quiet days went by before Ben’s voicemail was inundated with messages from across known space filled with testimonials, accusations, theories, and much more than Ben could have hoped for. In his words, he now had access to an extremely noisy hive mind of information spanning the galaxy and wasn’t exactly sure what to do with it all. He felt alone, terrified, but excited at the same time. Having access to this wealth of information help him piece together the truth. Many of the messages he received validated Ellie Bloom’s side of the story: there was no insurrectionist occupation in Elysium City, there was never any boxing, and glassed planets do indeed have bad records. Everything he received completely discredited Deon Govender, the alleged boxing coach at John’s school. Between the ONI established interview and central government records clashing with the inundation of undeniably factual accounts from messages streaming in, ONI had crafted an elaborate lie; but to hide what?
Out of all the theories and conclusions Ben made from the messages, there was one thing they seemed to point to: a strong indictment of the only person that put John alive on Eridanus II between the ages of six and sixteen, Deon Govender. Ellie’s claim about no boxing on Eridanus II was proven right and Deon’s completely fabricated. There was no dispute over the first six years of John’s life, but corroborating Deon’s story with Gabriella Dvorak’s, we’re left with Ben questioning what happened after that ONI is trying to cover up.
Listening back on his interview with Deon Govender, now knowing everything that he said was a lie, was terrifying. He recalls that when he sat down with Deon, the emotion that he portrayed while he told his story was enough to convince Ben, but not only that. Even while lying, Deon was so inspiring, Ben was convinced Deon believed what he was saying. Ben received a handful of messages regarding Deon including those who knew him. Perhaps Deon was telling part of the truth or maybe ONI had convinced the man to, not only tell all these lies, but believe them convincing him that made up stories of his own life where real. Regardless, at this point, Ben had enough evidence to completely discredit Deon’s story and now the Chief’s origin story lay in pieces. Ben began to think that if he started following up on all the lies, he’d get to the truth, which was where he hoped Ray would be able to pitch in.
As Ray was on his way, Ben drew up some of his own theories and not the second Ray had the chance to walk in and take a seat, Ben began unloading them onto Ray to “get him up to speed,” not really giving him any chance to talk. Ben told Ray how Deon’s story was discredited, Gabriella’s story was invalidated from the requirement of the insurrectionist occupation and that the only thing he felt most convinced of so far was that John died at the age of six. After stumbling through theories for a few minutes, Ben asks Ray if it’s possible to pull up John’s and his parent’s medical records without raising any suspicions. Getting back on track, Ray tells Ben he can’t help him anymore and just came by to give him the last bit of information he requested. Jacob Walker and Gabriella Dvorak both checked out with full military records. For Walker, it placed him on Reach at the same time John would have been there for boot camp. Ben refused to believe it: Gabriella he already invalidated and the incident with Walker on the flight makes him not who he says he is. While quite possibly true, Ray found nothing to discredit their identities. Ben couldn’t even imagine Deon being validated with everything he’s heard from actual Elysium citizens, thinking ONI must have preyed on some poor old senior citizen to get him to tell these lies. Ray was about to respond to Ben’s theory on Deon when both of them heard a noise outside the door. Ray froze and Ben was in the middle to deciding to turn out the lights and hide or escape through his bedroom window, when the door came crashing in.
Petra headed straight for Ben, knocking him out of his chair, in a fit of rage over finding out he had been recording her and used that audio in his podcast. Ben, still recovering from the unexpected entry by Petra takes a minute to realize what she’s talking about. Admittedly, he confesses he wasn’t thinking about what he was doing when he included his recordings with Petra and Ray, let alone even doing it without their consent in the first place. Ben should know, just like any other journalist, that words can destroy a person, and Petra doesn’t hesitate to bring up the fact that, in a way, that’s like a gun. Petra has Ben consider how he would like it if she didn’t think about using her gun: she could either put it away or perhaps upload incriminating evidence to the galaxy. Ben profusely apologizes for what he did, only to be called out by Petra that he’s recording them now, a little to Ray’s surprise. He expects Ben to not record them at all without asking and erase the recordings he had. Ben says he needed them for the story, and Petra somewhat jokingly says she should just up and shoot him now.
Petra decides for now to keep her gun holstered, but threatens Ben that if she ever sees him again, she’ll shoot off part of his face. Ben continues to apologize for what he did, that he knows what he did was out of line. He doesn’t know what he’s doing, according to Petra, bringing up how much of a liability he is to the people around him and, as she mentioned in the pub just outside ONI, sloppy. Ben admits, he’s not as tech savvy as he probably should be, but he says Ray helps him out with that, which Ray immediately denies and that he got Mashak Maradi to tell him how to secure his comms. Even further in disappointment, Petra tells Ben that Mashak is likely listening to their conversation at that very moment. When Ben doesn’t believe her, she calls Mashak out and seconds later, he responds over his comm pad.
Turns out, Mashak hacked into Ben’s systems a few weeks ago to secure the comms line for their first exchange when Ben reached out to him. Petra and Ray started heading out when Ben told them to hold on and asked Mashak what else he had been up to. It just so happens, Mashak was the one who bypassed ONI flight itineraries and got Ben and Walker on the same flight. Petra was a little surprise by this; the fact that Mashak was an edge guy doing active intervention wasn’t very common. Mashak changed itineraries to make Ben see ONI panic and give him a choice to follow orders or go his own route. It seems that Mashak has some professionalism to keep about himself even when referring someone, causing Petra to question who contacted him. According to Mashak, a contrive by the name of Pharaoh reached out to him, someone he had heard mumblings about but didn’t have any direct contact with until recently. That was Petra’s queue to leave and get away from everyone as far as possible. She explains to the group that right now everyone has a chance to cut ties and walk away, even Ben as long as he stops what he’s doing. Ben doesn’t shy away from the possibility that this Pharaoh person could possibly help expose what ONI did to Deon. Ray interrupts him and begins to leave, but not before telling Ben the last of the information he gathered regarding Deon: he dies seven years ago.
That was Ben’s smoking gun. The person that was completely real to Ben when he interviewed him, completely fabricated. Ray left, telling Ben to do what he wants with the recording. Ben, completely stunned still grasping at what he’d just heard, asked what he should do next. Mashak said, “Find the proof!” Petra objected, but Ben said it was fine, that she should be going to, cut ties before anything else happened. She also told Ben to keep the recording. After she left, Mashak asked Ben what was happening on. Ben asked to speak with Pharaoh as soon as possible. Mashak assured him not to worry and that she would be contacting him soon.
At the very end of the episode, a broadcast that sounds like Morse Code, but in reality is an encoded spectrogram. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen audio used to encode clues like images and text. Thanks to the lightning like response of the community, we were lead to StolenGauntlet.com, which redirects to the following YouTube video.
The apparent Ford commercial is littered with the same disruption from the Xbox UK video released last week and a section from the bullet teaser. It doesn’t seem to contain anything new, but as many community members have discovered, the username of the person who posted the video, Shar Eldy, is actually an anagram for Dr. Halsey.