It had been three days since the revelation that Deon Govendor died seven years ago and since the end of Benjamin Giraud’s previous podcast, he hasn’t heard from anyone. Petra and Ray had gone their separate ways cutting ties, which made sense given the situation. Mashak had given him a potential breakthrough source who knew the ins and outs of ONI, but FERO was a no-show and countless attempts to contact Mashak Maradi went unanswered. It was obvious that ONI was covering up something sinister, and Ben is actually happy knowing that Mashak was monitoring him leading up to a few days ago, but now left in the silence, he didn’t know where to turn. The answering machine recordings he got from Mashak were frustrating and agonizing, even one that made it sound like he actually picked up.
It wasn’t much longer before he received a call from Ray, a relief to Ben knowing that nothing had happened to him and likely Mashak or Petra. According to Ben though, Ray has never been the, “Let’s grab a drink,” guy, which Ray asked for meeting up at the Steak Dive bar located close to Ray’s home. The bar was noisy, a good place for them to talk in private, and yes, Ben did get permission from Ray to record their conversation. What Ben wasn’t expecting was Ray to provide more information regarding Jacob Walker. As far as Ben knew, Ray wanted to get as far away from the story as possible, just like Petra, but if there was info to be gained, Ben was happy to entertain what Ray had. Ray was waiting on one of his scavengers to get back to him, who was waiting on some additional military records. ONI’s military records all checked out on Walker, but not all records are managed by ONI.
Ray explains to Ben every UNSC soldier is required to sign an affidavit stating their service is voluntary, covering ONI’s back to prevent grieving families from claiming their service wasn’t. The office created to handle the matter is such a joke that out of the more than 200,000 involuntary claims ONI has received, every ruling has gone to ONI’s favor. When an active duty service member retires, the system is automatically supposed to update their record after 180 days. When the records were queried for Jacob Walker, he was listed as neither active duty or as retired, in fact it was the first time the system had received a human query in over 50 years. Ray had caught ONI’s administrative oversight and that was just the appetizer.
The audio of Jacob Walker from Ben’s recording Ray used as a voice template to search the slush of information out there for voice matches, and he struck gold. He managed to find a car commercial from 19 years ago with Walker as the announcer selling civilian warthogs on the other side of human space where ONI military records had him stationed. Turned out Jacob Walker was a professional voice actor. Ben and Ray were completely entertained by the evidence, that they ordered another round of drinks, relaxing and having a good time. Ben said it was the first time he felt normal since starting the story. The feeling didn’t last long as thoughts in the back of his head started churning away at Walker’s fabrication of John starting boot camp at sixteen and wondering where the origin really began. Ben knew the one person he had to talk to as soon as he left Ray, someone he totally blew off during their conversation, the ODST that was ordered to fight John, Anthony Petrovsky.
Ben apologized to Anthony for not giving his story due credibility when they first talked. At the time, he was still unsure of what to believe with the conflicting stories. The first few minutes were “weird”, but Anthony opened up and said he had been listening to Ben’s podcast. He found ONI’s actions in making up the story with glassed planets and Insurrectionists typical, obvious signs that they’re lying. To Ben’s credit, Anthony told him the outer colonies are soaking it all in. All their talking lead to one inevitable question that Ben didn’t want to ask; something he had avoided his entire career: the Spartan program. It was something that civilians had no knowledge of, military leaders whispered about it and the few details that Ben had heard previously was enough to convince him that this was something he didn’t want to uncover. Now he can’t avoid it any longer.
Ray admits all he knows is rumors, but everyone in the ranks whispers about it enough to draw some concrete conclusions. He mentions how ONI kidnapped kids, put clones in their place as replacements doomed to die. Families had no hope as they watched and buried who they thought were their kids, when in fact their real kids were now ONI property training to be Spartans. About the time they were teenagers, they underwent biological augmentations, tearing up the kids and putting them back together with technology; whatever could give the government an edge. Survival rate for something that extensive on kids can’t be high, but the ones that did survive were trained and eventually let loose to do the government’s work. At first the Spartans were top secret and anyone in the military was told to keep word of them under wraps. When the Covenant showed up, the Spartans were front row to everyone on Earth and were being praised for their heroism. In Ray’s mind, the Spartans aren’t even human: not heroes, not even people.
This was the story Ben never wanted to hear: the grueling truth behind the program, yet it was the only story he had heard so far that actually made sense with the facts. If true, this would be a good reason for ONI to bury the truth behind the Spartans. Anthony had just broken a rigid code of silence to be upheld by the military, and when Ben asked him why, the situation explains itself. He doesn’t care about ONI’s code and he doesn’t even blame John for what he did because he was merely carrying out orders; ONI is the real problem. When a CPO orders his men to fight a Spartan for fun just to test out its abilities spilling his brothers’ blood, Ray doesn’t have any motivation to stand up for ONI and not afraid of retaliation either. The current situation Ray is in has him living paycheck to paycheck, eating canned proteins, he has a titanium arm and given his living situation, says the shelter would be better than his home. These so-called benefits he was receiving were the bare minimum and in his mind, he owed ONI no silence after serving for fifteen years going through hell with the Spartans.
Ben couldn’t take anymore; everything he had heard caused him to drift away and loose focus. While it was somewhat callus to interrupt him, Anthony understood. Ben found Anthony’s testimony very helpful and informative, but he needed to step back and see how it folded in with the rest of the story. He needed to process what ONI had done, but couldn’t wrap his head around the facts, one in particular: the clones. Grown in a lab with accelerated growth, these “kids” were taught to walk and talk not knowing who they were and when reintroduced to their “families”, in the middle of someone else’s life, were amongst strangers, to them completely lost. The clones would then die, leaving these strangers and doctors powerless to help them. Ben concluded ONIs plan to kidnap kids and replace them with clones wasn’t a byproduct of the Spartan program, but it was part of the plan all along.
In the middle of the night, Ben was awoken by a voice coming from his computer over one of the networks. His communications had once again been hacked and once he realized where the voice was coming from, he started recording. FERO had finally shown up and she let herself in. The first words we hear Ben record indicate that she had been keeping an eye on him asking whether he listened to the facts this time. Of course this time he has and wants nothing more than to blow the top off this story. While he has the info, FERO doesn’t believe the news will spread as fast as it needs to. The anomalies in deep space that Mashak told Ben about earlier are coming, spreading quickly and growing stronger. Whatever is out there, FERO believes they should be moving faster. She tells Ben there are friendly ears amongst the United Earth Government with real power who have been kept in the dark on what ONI has done. If they heard Ben’s story, she believes they would come down on ONI hard. FERO tells Ben there are high ranking senators who have not heard about any of this and need to hear his story with ONI brass in the room at the same time so they don’t have the chance to twist his story. As Ben eloquently points out, he’s not in the position to just call up senators and ONI to a roundtable discussion. FERO’s solution to that is to create panic within the public by giving them hard truths, something ugly that ONI can’t contain. Ben starts to glean towards the ONI coverup of the Spartan program. FERO says that will get the senator’s riled up but the public needs something more imminent, something that will make the headlines and spread like wildfire. While Ben’s story will do well in the outer colonies, it’s to complex and historical to have an impact elsewhere than just a slow burn. She continues on suggesting a message to the public that everyone is about to die, giving them something that will catch their attention. Once the fire is blazing and the senators and ONI brass are all in the same room, FERO will open the doors for Ben giving him the opportunity to lay everything out and expose the coverup.