HUNT the TRUTH – Phantoms

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Benjamin Giraud has been tracking down the origins of the Master Chief, but the deeper he dug, the darker secrets he found shrouding John’s past.  Now in just a couple of hours, the culmination of his work and his journalistic integrity are about to be put on the line when FERO will hack into a closed door session between ONI and UEG senators.  This would be the opportunity for Ben to expose all of ONI’s dark secrets behind the Spartan program.  As he’s making final preparations for his presentation, Ben pre-recorded Anthony Petrovsky’s testimony against ONI to avoid anything that could go wrong from happening during the hack.  He was still waiting on final material from Mashak and hadn’t heard from FERO all day.  As he anxiously waits on contact from them, he gets ready for Anthony’s testimony.

For someone about to accuse ONI of egregious atrocities, Anthony was rather calm and in the mood to chit chat about the latest news of the Chief.  As discovered in the previous episode, FERO released suppressed incident report of the Master Chief raiding an embassy on Biko, breaking up a peace talk seemingly favoring the aliens later leading to the human ambassador found dead in a nearby field causing galactic panic throwing people into disbelief and disarray.  The second bombshell made people outrage as the Master Chief was seen shooting up the same embassy solidifying the story of the first leak that the Chief was dismantling diplomatic peace talks.  This polarized humanity between the inner and outer colonies similar to before the Covenant war.  Master Chief was now the most wanted man in the Galaxy.

Ben didn’t have time to process all the information and Anthony kept asking him questions and opinions of what really could have happened.  The fact that Chief would be working for the Covenant seemed a bit beyond belief to Anthony, but could very well see the possibility of Chief cracking or believing he’s still fighting the Insurrectionists.  The Chief was a big black eye to ONI right about now, Anthony said but Ben eventually gets him to focus and prepares him to record his statement.  Ben has him start by giving his name and rank, and let him fill in the rest as he made his testimony.  He mentions the event in which, while serving onboard the UNSC Atlas, he was ordered by a CPO to take on John who killed two of his squad mates and injured two others, including himself.  He goes into details about the things he noticed about John, signs showing him as being part of the Spartan program, which they were ordered to never speak about publicly upon fear of court-martial.  Ben notes that during the recording, Anthony spoke with true conviction, not stuttering even once, like he was ready to tell the story his whole life.  This man should have been someone that was taken care of after the incident, but the UNSC just left him out to dry.  Now all that was left was Mashak getting Ben his last bit of information and FERO showing up in time to give Ben the audience to make his case.

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Memorial found for Richard Sekibo, the human ambassador found dead after being kidnapped by the Master Chief on Biko.

Ben was trying desperately to get a hold of Mashak questioning his own methods on how taking information from Mashak Maradi to corroborate his story against ONI.  Taking nut-job conspiracy theories turning into understandable documentation to convince senators was absurd, but it was too late to change his plans now.  He was eagerly awaiting files from Mashak, but couldn’t get through.  The networks in the outer colonies were a mess.  When Ben finally did receive a message, it wasn’t from Mashak, but John’s childhood friend Katrina.

She wanted to know if Ben had heard any kind of response from the outer colonies regarding his last episode.  Since he didn’t have time to properly secure his channels, he didn’t even consider trying to access the networks to get a read on what was happening.  He assumed it would have been pretty major, but his sense of what Katrina was inflecting seemed to indicate the reaction was much stronger than he anticipated.  According to Katrina, everyone is resorting to using local Chatternet services and people are organizing together in what is being called the Colonial Alliance Group, putting on demonstrations and talking about self reliance from the central government.  Thousands of people were turning up to these events.  It’s still peaceful, but she feels they need to get off world, in case it turns ugly.  She’s already been unsettled by the feelings of someone targeting her and Ellie for helping Ben with his story.  Shortly after her talk with Ben, she experienced waves of corrupt files affecting her systems and complete loss of power to her neighborhood. Since then they’ve been experiencing power surges and service interruptions.  If someone is really out to get them, she’s afraid what would happen if things got chaotic.  She was asking Ben if there was anything he could tell them about what’s going on or how to protect themselves saying they were already shutting down the streets when her message got cut off.

Ben was helpless, not knowing how the UEG was going to respond, how to help Katrina or Ellie; they were all in the dark.  All Ben could do now was present his finding before the senators.  Mashak finally broke through and delivered as promised.  The files Mashak sent over contained a summary on the pattern of kids who died with the autoimmune disease tied to the abducted kids, particularly in the outer colonies and a cleaned up police scanner data of one of the kids running into their clones and committing suicide.  Mashak tells Ben the details of police responding to a home invasion where the victims, a teenager in a wheelchair and his parents were consoled and no one seemingly harmed and nothing stolen.  The family didn’t get a good look at the guy, but reportedly the perpetrator entered the house, entered the son’s room, freaked out then fled the scene.  While the officer called in the report, gunshots were heard in the distance.  The officer called for backup and went to investigate the sound where they found a teenager in a nearby field with a self inflicted gunshot wound.  That’s when the officer’s report to dispatch took an odd turn.  In the recording of the report, the officer told dispatch the teenager they found looked exactly like the kid they just saw in the house that was broken into.

Medical data Mashak also sent over for the kid explained why he was in the wheelchair: months of medical treatments and procedures for autoimmune and cognitive disorders left him with permanent nerve damage since he was six years old, nearly identical to the treatments found in John’s medical records.  Unfortunately, this new piece Ben didn’t have enough time to fully understand, so he decided to not use it in his report to the senators, but it did give him more determination to blow open his story.  Ben was still nervous but Mashak tells him that he’ll do fine and that he’ll be watching for the ripples, especially if the senators start to talk.  Before leaving Mashak tells Ben that he needs to get up to speed with the waves his podcast created and the major things that are happening.  That instant, FERO hacks into the call telling Mashak Ben will call him back.

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FERO was already hacked into ONI, ready to kick things off.  She told Ben how things were going to proceed. Ben would prepare the files for upload, FERO would hack Ben in with a live feed straight into the closed session, present Anthony’s testimony, then make his case fast.  ONI will try to shut down the connection, run interference that may cause them to go to a one way feed, but they will still be able to see and hear him as long as she can keep the line open.  She asked him if he was ready, every shred of journalistic integrity about to be thrown out in this one heroic attempt at exposing ONI with his biased opinion he was about to throw out to UEG senators, and he replied, “Yes.”  FERO patched him in.  There was no audio, but Ben could see the whole congressional chamber where the meeting was taking place.  As he scanned the room, he saw the twelve senators representing Senate Armed Forces Committee and three of the six ONI directors lined up in front of them.  Just before FERO counted him down to going live, he spotted Michael Sullivan in the room.  When his face popped up on the main display at the head of the room, everyone stopped talking, turned to look at him and he froze.  After a moment, he began his testimony.

He began by stating he was hired by Michael Sullivan to do a profile on the Master Chief and his contract was terminated when he exposed a widespread coverup by ONI of his true origins.  Ben tried to not be distracted by the return feed and focus on the camera, but out of the corner of his eye, he noticed that the people in the room were listening.  His return feed suddenly went out, but FERO reassured him he was still live and to keep talking.  Ben continued on telling the senators that ONI kept critical information regarding the Spartan program, loss of control of the Master Chief in the outer colonies and the genetic augmentations performed on abducted children in the outer colonies that eventually became the Spartans.  Next he presented Anthony Petrovsky’s testimony he recorded just hours earlier.  While the recording was playing, Ben received a message from Sully saying he was out of control and this was his last chance to stop.  Ben replied that he would not be a part of ONI’s crimes committed and that he was done.  Sully replied with a cold, “Yes, you are.”

As Anthony’s recording started to wrap up, FERO tells Ben the hack was being hit hard and that he wouldn’t have much time left.  He quickly edited his final script taking out any unnecessary language and got ready to deliver the punch line.

Senators, for their Spartan program ONI kidnapped young kids and illegally engineered doomed-to-die clones to replace them. They kept the children as military property, subjecting them to horribly unethical training regiments and eventually performed dangerous, biological augmentations on them while they were still growing.  This was how they made the Spartans.  Half of these children most likely did not survive.  I’ve provided you with files that corroborate my claims as to these egregious human rights violations.  I asked you to review them with an open mind. ONI has gone to great lengths to cover up this story, including elaborate fabrications.  I’ve also provided you with clear evidence of this discerning coverup as well as audio evidence of threats I have received in the past several weeks for pursuing this investigation.  I come forward at great risk to my personal safety and my only hope is that you will look at the facts and take the directors of ONI and all those responsible to task for these atrocities.  Thank you for your time.

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The feed cut out, at the very end.  Ben had done it: the spark he planted had just started the revolution.  From then on, Ben would be under their protection.  The call from FERO dropped.  Ben’s head was buzzing; he felt like he was in a dream.  He looked down at Sully’s last message, the chilling response to Ben when he said he was done.  Ben had to keep moving, see what effect his kamikaze mission had.  The first ripple effect was a notification from his back that his account had been locked down.  He immediately called a bank representative reporting that he was under investigation for unauthorized possession of sensitive government materials, his audio recordings.  He was being fined a massive sum resulting in his accounts either being zeroed out or frozen.  In hindsight, the first thing he should have done was cash out, but it was too late for that.

While he was mulling over this realization, Ben received two delayed messages, the first of which was from Mashak following up on what he was trying to tell him before FERO cut in.  Things were getting hectic and there was something that Mashak had to tell him in person: something not safe to talk over comms about.  He was coming to meet Ben in two days, told him to not talk to anyone and not try reaching back, but against Mashak’s wishes and his better judgement, Ben tried to raise him.  Something was wrong, and not the normal network outages or dropped calls, but almost like the call wasn’t going through at all.  His Chatternet feed was filled with comments from others who couldn’t reach the outer colonies with scattered reports that the communication buoys themselves had been shut down.  The second delayed message finally loaded from Katrina.  The message was disrupted, parts dropped out.  Katrina said Waypoint was totally gone, they were completely isolated.  Her parents and Ellie weren’t on the system, not even on Chatternet and there was some full on coordinated effort going on.  She asked Ben to tell them anything about what was going on and to send help and food.  The message died and then, silence.  He couldn’t contact the outer colonies; no one could.  They were completely cut off.  After years of ONI committing atrocities from their high perch, the ripples had finally started in motion.

Ben listened to Mashak’s message again.  He needed Mashak to help him sort through the waves that he created, and waiting in the darkness for him scared him greatly.  He would have to wait patiently for the next 48 hours, but that last message was the last he would ever hear from Mashak Maradi.

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