Halo’s fictional universe is vast and detailed, with stories filling in the gaps between the games and more. In the build up for the series’ next release, Halo 5: Guardians, Microsoft and 343 Industries has once again taken to viral advertising to fill in more of these gaps. This time, using audio diaries and images, we are invited to join fictional reporter Benjamin Giraud as he recounts the history of Halo’s hero: The Master Chief. Join us as we examine Benjamin’s Hunt for the Truth.
Part 0: Primer
Episode 1: A Hairline Fracture
Episode 2: Bad Records
Episode 3: Critical Condition
Episode 4: Crossing the Black
Episode 5: Out of Time
Episode 6: Boxing Story
– Spoiler Warning –
In order to properly frame the details of the Hunt the Truth campaign, I will have to divulge details that have been established in all aspects of the Halo Universe that have been revealed up to this point. I will try my best to limit what I discuss to the content of currently released games, but some of the back story revealed in some of the other expanded fiction may still need covered or explained. If you don’t want the games, books, movies, and other side stories spoiled, I recommend you don’t scroll down any further. You have been warned.
The only extra material we received this week is an ad for a Golden Warthog. Lore fans may smile at this, as a Golden Warthog has been a running joke in halo fandom for years, as well as a luxury civilian model featured in some of the game’s fiction. This poster represents an ad that comes up in this week’s episode, so we’ll circle back to this in a bit.
It’s been a few days since Ben discovered that the real Deon Govender had died and the man Ben interviewed was a fraud. Since then, Ben had been trying to get a hold of Mashak Maradi without success, getting only prank voicemail messages. While Ben tried to come to grips with the ONI plot unfolding around him, Mashak was the only one of his friends (the term friend should be applied loosely) to stick around. Ray and Petra had distanced themselves from him following their last meeting and he had few avenues left to continue the search for the truth behind the ONI cover-up.
Ben wanted to talk to Mashak about FERO, a hacktivist who reported to have insider information on ONI and its secrets. FERO was supposed to contact Ben but for three days he was left waiting. Ben grew angry at Mashak as the voicemail messages got more and more elaborate. He mentions that with all the ONI secrets they are uncovering, Mashak’s safety is now a concern for him, especially since he’s still actively hacking them.
Then, out of the blue, Ray calls Ben and asks if they could go out for a drink. Ben agrees, noting that Ray wasn’t typically a “go out for a drink” sort of person. They met at a dive bar and used the loud crowd as cover for their conversation. Ben made it clear that he was recording this time, which was permitted by Ray.
Ray had a contact scanning “The slush”, the overly dense cluster of information flooding public networks, for more ONI military information regarding retired officer Jacob Walker. Ray was quite excited about what he found. He first explains that per standard procedures, all soldiers in the UNSC must sign an affidavit saying they joined up voluntarily. He then notes that this is mostly hot air, because all claims of involuntary assignment were handled by ONI always ruled in favor of the UNSC and never in favor of the soldier. The dismissal of the counter claims was so common, it became automated. In fact, all management of a soldier’s status, be it active or retired, was automatically managed. When a soldier leaves the service, the system marks them as retired 180 days after.
This norm becomes somewhat incriminating for ONI, as Ray discovered that Jacob Walker was not listed as active or retired in the database, meaning Jacob Walker was the only soldier in the UNSC without an official status. It would appear that Walker’s records were addressed by hand and may have fallen victim to human error during the scheming of ONI agents.
Ray then reveals he used Ben’s recorded conversation with Walker to do a voice-print analysis, and discovered that Walker had been a voice actor for a Warthog Dealership commercial during a time when he was supposed to have been on active duty. Whoever this guy is, it was looking like he was not an actual soldier, but an Actor. The implications were staggering. With this knowledge, it was clear that ONI was using fake testimony to hide the actual circumstances of the Master Chief’s past, including how he joined the UNSC, as well as his training.
Ray realizes that he needed to talk to Anthony Petrosky, the retired ODST who’s story Ben dismissed a few episodes back. When the two spoke, Ben apologized for his past rudeness, and Petrosky seemed to understand and saw that Ben was slowly seeing the truth: ONI Lies.
Petrosky claims that ONI makes up just about everything these days, using the insurrection and glassed planets as an excuse to hide the truth of things going on outside the public eye. It was at this point that Ben finally worked up the nerve to ask what is perhaps the most important question of the entire story: What is the true history of the Spartan Program? The story Petrosky told, despite being based only on rumor, was perhaps the most shocking revelation Ben had encountered yet.
The story he told is not new to Halo fiction, but I’ll quickly summarize. ONI Genetically screened children under the age of six to be candidates for the Spartan-II program. Those deemed acceptable were kidnapped from their homes at night and replaced with “flash clones” of the child. These clones were rapidly grown to match the age and appearance of the original host, and were designed to die a short time later in a way that appeared to be natural in cause. The parents would then have no idea their real child was taken, and ONI gets away with the kidnappings. Sinister does not begin to describe this idea. It’s pretty horrible.
The kidnapped children, meanwhile, were taken to Reach and trained to be Spartans. Their young minds, being more susceptible to influence, were easily swayed into believing that they were called to serve humanity and further the goals of the ONI program. As they approached their teenage years, they were given genetic and physical augmentations in order to make them stronger, faster, and more resilient. Augmentations are serious procedures, and these kids were essentially disassembled and reassembled with artificial implants and DNA adjustments. The survival rate among adults is very low, and on children it was even lower. Those that didn’t die were either successfully augmented or left horribly disfigured and disabled.
Ray called the resulting Spartans’ humanity into question, and Ben was deeply troubled by the tale. He did believe it to be true despite not being able to prove it, and quite accurately called the whole thing “a nightmare.”
Ben then asks Petrosky why he was willing to speak about this, referring to a code of conduct among UNSC officers. Petrosky dismissed the whole notion of such a code, going into a tirade about how the UNSC doesn’t really care about their veterans. He claimed he didn’t resent John specifically, but he did seem to have issues with how the Spartans operated. He talked about how his comrades were basically sent into battle prior to the Spartans and died needlessly, only to be followed by people like John who came out looking like heroes. He was not afraid of ONI coming down on him for his tell-all either, saying that his life was already pretty lousy. He had multiple lasting injuries from his service, had poor living conditions, little wealth, and no medical or financial support from his government. He clearly had no love for the UNSC or ONI and felt any retaliation they would take against him could do little to make his life much worse anyway.
At this point in the story, Ben reflected more on the flash clone part of the children’s story. He was horrified at the process of newborn being grown to appear age six so rapidly, and had all sorts of questions about the quality of a clone’s life. Did they have minds of their own? Who raised them? How painful was the rapid growth, and did they ever understand it? How did they react to being placed in their host’s life out of nowhere, with new strangers as parents and a life that was not their own? Worse, he was pretty horrified at the idea that they died a few months later, with the parents of the kidnapped child mourning over the death of their child that was a farce. The crimes of ONI were mounting up… and ONI went through painstaking steps to keep it all a secret.
Later, while Ben was sleeping, a voice-masked transmission from the other room woke him. It was FERO finally getting in touch with him, and he had a lot of things he wanted to cover. He was ready to use the information he gathered to help her bring down the ONI quilt of lies. FERO, surprisingly, seemed a little unsure about how effective he could really be, and instead spoke of a bigger threat on the horizon. As Mashak alluded to when Ben first spoke to him, some strange things were happening in deep space. Anomalies of some sort that were large in scope and unexplained. She didn’t elaborate on them, but they were clearly the bigger focus of hers and she wanted to make sure everyone knew that whatever coming danger was not kept secret.
She informed Ben that there were powerful people in the United Earth Government that had no idea about ONI’s web of lies. If they were made aware of what was going on, they were powerful enough to actually do something about it. They had to be informed about ONI’s continued operations in a position where ONI could be blown open before having a chance to orchestrate more cover-ups, and she wanted Ben to do it.
Ben didn’t know how he could possibly arrange such an event, so FERO suggested that the best way to go about such an awakening would be to involve the public. She wanted him to expose the public to a “hard truth” that would be impossible to contain by ONI. Ben thought she was talking about the his story and the Spartan-II program’s actual origins, but she shot that down, claiming it was not explosive enough outside the Outer-Colonies.
Instead, they needed to tell all of humanity something more serious: They were all about to die. Once again, she didn’t elaborate on this other than the previous allusion to deep-space anomalies, but her tone was insidious. A threat on that level, first given to the public to incite panic, would get the UEG, ONI, and other top brass into a room together in order to address. Only then would Ben be able to drop the ball on ONI’s dealings. Only then could everything get blown to pieces.
The episode ends after that conversation. The most entertaining part was the FERO talk that alluded to some sort of deep space occurrence that, as she implies, threatens all of Humanity. This may be the most interesting part of this whole ad campaign to me, mostly because it makes the primary goal of these recordings (The Master Chief), a minor player in a bigger story. Something big is coming to the Halo universe, and all this talk about the Chief, Spartan Locke, and ONI’s shadow dealings may all be red herrings as we get closer and closer to Halo 5: Guardians.
This episode turned the entire ongoing story of Ben Giraud upside-down for me. As a fan of the series, these new and mysterious threats on the horizon are the most exciting thing coming out of Hunt the Truth, and I cannot wait to find out what they are.
Here is this week’s Reddit post covering this episode more in-depth.
Lots of government info added to the dump, as well as Jameson Locke, if only because he’s bound to pop up eventually.
Please note that these links may lead to articles that are more updated than this post may be, and may contain spoilers as a result.
- Ellie Bloom
- Ray Curzig
- Vice Admiral Gabriella Dvořák
- Benjamin Giraud
- Deon Govender
- Petra Janecek
- John-117 / The Master Chief
- Katrina (no last name)
- Jameson Locke
- Mashak Maradi
- Senior Chief Petty Officer Franklin Mendez
- Anthony Petrosky
- Michael Sullivan
- Jacob Walker
- Thomas Wu
- Corbulo Academy of Military Science
- Elysium City
- Eridanus II
- Outer Colonies
- Battle of Mombasa
- Colonial Administration Authority
- Flash Cloning
- Golden (Civilian) Warthog
- Insurrectionist Movement
- Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI)
- Slipstream Space
- Spartan II Program
- Spartan III Program
- Unified Earth Government
- United Nations
- United Nations Space Command
- UNSC Army
- UNSC Navy
- Waypoint (Communication System/Device)
(Bold entries indicate new data for this week)
Keep an eye on LevelSave for coverage of upcoming episodes, and feel free to theorize further (or correct me) in the comments