HUNT the TRUTH – Out of Time

After entering the ONI campus from the last episode of Hunt the Truth, Benjamin Giraud checks in with the receptionist for his 13:00 appointment with Michael Sullivan.  The receptionist is more a formality than a necessity providing a more “human” interaction for the experience.  ONI had likely been tracking him ever he left home up to the minute he walked into the building.  After checking in, Ben takes a seat on one of the two chairs in the large reception room with scarcely any furniture or decorations.  Buildings were sleek and stark as Ben puts it, with very sharp lines.  Shortly after Ben sat down in one of the short chairs, the door behind the receptionist opened and he was beckoned that Sully was ready to see him.  At this point, Ben is obviously uncomfortable, thoughts racing about what he was about to walk into.  After walking through the door, the door shut behind him and the lights in the hallway adjusted to indicate a door at the end of the call where he was to go.  As he stepped up to the door, it opened revealing Michael Sullivan’s office.

When he entered the office, Sully was working intently on his comm pad.  Ben annonced his presence and Sully acknowledged without looking up.  As Ben awkwardly stood there for a moment, he thought of how this had likely been the office where Ben had talked to Sully over Waypoint.  After a little while, Ben sat down in a chair similar to the one in reception.  As Sully continued swiping through his comm pad, Ben still nervous engages in some small talk with Sully asking about an antique clock he had on his desk.  Sully continues on by asking Ben how the story is going and if there was anymore he could do to help get all of his questions answered.  Ben, still unsure what angle Sully was coming from and the reason for him being here, told him that everything was good.  Another moment goes by before Sully looks up at Ben and tells him there’s someone who wants to talk to Ben.

Both of them leave Sully’s office and walk through a series of underground hallways that connect all of the ONI buildings underground and where more of the standard foot traffic was.  Ben noticed everyone was looking at their comm pads, intently focusing on their work.  Everyone down this far were either military or ONI personnel, which Ben finds out it’s rare a civilian gets to roam the halls of ONI.  It was a special day and not for the reason Ben initially thought.  Arriving in a conference room, Sully invited Ben to sit down at a conference table offering him water and asking him about checking his microphones.  Sully didn’t seem to slow down, causing Ben to be uncomfortable about ready to start apologizing for the possible recording that got flagged, when suddenly, Sully introduces Senior Petty Officer Franklin Mendez to Ben.  This was the man that trained the Spartan IIs.

To Ben’s relief, this was not bringing him in based on his conversation being flagged on Waypoint: it was an interview, or perhaps the interview.  Petra had been right; the conversation wasn’t flagged.  In Ben’s mind, Sully would have definitely mentioned something if it had.  Ben’s anxiety vanished as he realized he’s getting a one-on-one, high profile interview with the man who personally trained the Spartans, including the Master Chief.  Mendez expresses his appreciation for Ben doing the story on John, knowing that the publicity will give the Spartans the credit they’re due.

At the beginning of his interview, Mendez expresses John’s abilities and determination built up a reputation for him among his peers recognizing this from a young age.  He knew John was going to be the complete package and ready to take on the augmentations.  While everyone was getting re-acclimated to them, John’s recovery was very brief, seemingly natural accommodating to the tech and upgrades.  As Mendez puts it, while the others were still learning how to walk, John was running around going to work.  This was the birth of the Spartans proving time and time again their value and for the Master Chief, raising the bar for what Spartans were able of accomplishing.  According to Mendez, the one attribute that set John apart was his ability to make dynamic, tactical decisions on the fly.  Ben mentioned how the weight of responsibility on the Spartans must be tough to bare.  Mendez acknowledges that responsibility is one the Chief is able to handle and we don’t have to.  Ben continues down the rabbit hold asking if one man should bare that much responsibility, the concern that Mashak mentioned during his interview.  Mendez warned Ben that the phrasing of the question could come across adversarial, making his tone condescending and the conversation unpleasant.  At that moment, the lights in the room changed and Sully says that the room is getting taken over and they would have to move to another room to finish the interview.

As they leave conference room, Mendez breaks off saying he has somewhere else he needs to be and that he could follow up with him at 16:00.  Ben catches up with Sully asking him where he can wait until Mendez would be ready.  As Sully looks through his comm pad waiting for the appointment to show up on his itinerary, he tells Ben there’s been a request for raw footage in a couple of days and that he has a flight out later in the day to get home and upload his recordings.  All that aside, Ben keeps pressing on wanting to finish the interview with Mendez.  Sully encourages Ben that the interview material he just got was golden, probably making everything before then he had already recorded seem like nothing.  Ben insisted on wanting to finish the interview since he would still have time to get what he needed and catch his flight.  At that point, Ben tells us, for the first time, he felt he had Sully’s full and undivided attention.  The friendly attitude vanished.  As Sully put it, Ben had no time but he did have a flight to catch and a deadline to meet.  Sully returned to his normal self, walking away making it sound again that the interview material he had would make for a great story that would make the public go crazy over Ben’s story.  That, however, was Sully’s way of telling Ben that his conversation with Thomas Wu had been flagged and he was now fired.

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As his flight home was just taking off, he overheard someone arguing with one of the flight attendants in the next cabin, someone he knew sounded familiar.  Unbuckling himself from his seat, he goes to investigate the commotion and discovers Jacob Walker, the permanent retiree stationed on a beach near Saturn, arguing about the air quality.  Walker didn’t resemble the same laid back retired personality as Ben remembered him from his interview, but rather a clean-looking man in a suit.  When Ben introduced himself to Walker as the guy who he had the interview with not to long ago, Walker eased back into the same personality he had during the interview.  Ben’s questioning why he was on Earth while he was supposed to be permanently stationed on retirement off Saturn made Walker babble on in a fleeting manner.  After several warnings from the flight attendant to sit back down, Ben continued to bombard Walker with questions until he was sedated and blacked out.

When Ben woke up in the terminal back home, a splitting headache welcomed him back to reality.  When he got home, an awaiting notice in his inbox from Inner Territories Transport Administration assessing civil penalties for the incident on the flight had him owing 50,000 cR for the incident, which thankfully could be covered from the advance payment of the story he received.  Ben still had 23 hours left to upload the raw footage to ONI, but realized that his comm pad had still been recording up until that point.  He scrubbed back through the massive file and found the point where the flight crew sedated him.  He found something that he didn’t remember happening.  After being sedated, Jacob Walker and another man took over the situation from the attendants.  Walker told Ben that under ITTA regulations he was to comply with all crew member instructions.  Ben still seemed in a daze, asking what they did to him, to which he received another sedative.  As they dragged him back to his seat, the comm pad recorded a part of the conversation that Ben found unsettling, when Walker said, “You’ll be fine, Ben,” almost like they knew him personally.

Further on in the recording, it caught them at the transfer terminal dragging him to his connecting flight.  Part of the conversation that got recorded between Walker and the other person revealed that there should have been no way Walker and Ben should have been on the same flight.  The system in place to ensure itineraries don’t intersect each other failed to take into account the possibility of these two crossing paths.  For some reason that Ben couldn’t wrap his head around, they didn’t want him to know Walker was on Earth.  They dragged his limp body to his seat, buckled him in and said, “Have a safe trip, Ben.”  Again fixated on the fact they called him in a way that made it seem like they personally knew him unsettled Ben.

Ben listened to the recording over and over recalling that all his previous jobs with ONI, he’s been the obedient one to take whatever story he was given and spit it right back out as instructed: doctoring up photos, making tragic stories seem less so, whatever ONI told him to do.  He was always fine with doing what he was told and he was ready to do it again despite all the gaping holes and contradicting theories pulled from his own sources; but now, it wasn’t some moral compass that he wishes he could claim that set him off, but rather his pride.  The way that the ONI officers tossed him aside and the way they called him Ben was enough to make him rethink his decision and cancel the transfer to ONI.  He took the remaining few hours he had left before the deadline to take to himself, record a small intro and begin releasing his findings out to the masses.

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