These stories might get spoiled during this article. Proceed at your own risk.
(For reference, Halo: Podcast Evolved and Blogging Evolved use Halopedia as our primary source of information)
The UNSC Spirit of Fire, adrift in space without a slipspace drive from 2531 until 2559, was sent to The Ark through a portal by the Forerunner AI Little Bit, not Mendicant Bias as many people have assumed, to save the ship from the reach of Cortana and the Created. When the Ace of Spades, Rion Forge's salvage ship, discovered the remnants of the Battle of the Etran Harborage in 2557, they recovered a piece of a Forerunner AI, setting up a sequel that will intersect with the beginning of Halo Wars 2. Smoke and Shadow ends with Forge and her crew still on the hunt for the Spirit of Fire, and the just-announced Halo: Renegades will pick up where Smoke and Shadow left off, ending in Little Bit saving the ship by sending it out of Cortana's grasp.
At the beginning of Halo Wars 2, we are reintroduced to the crew of the UNSC Spirit of Fire, who find themselves over The Ark, that infamous Forerunner construct that we spent so many hours fighting on as Master Chief in Halo 3. The crew is dumbfounded as to how they got there, but they know enough that they couldn't have drifted to the Ark, or frankly anywhere, without a slipspace drive in only twenty-eight years. Their investigation is rapidly put on the back burner, however, as a UNSC signal is discovered on the surface of the Ark, and the Banished are discovered shortly after that. Though it is only mentioned briefly in the opening cutscene of Halo Wars 2, it is worth watching if you have either never seen it, or if it has been a while since you played the game.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
I have actually been thinking about this theory since shortly after Smoke and Shadow was released in 2016, and planned on writing this article up for this week's post for the past month or so. Then that wily Jeff Easterling went and announced a new Halo book on the horizon, Halo: Renegades. We know nothing of the book other than the name and the author, Kelly Gay, though as she was the author of Smoke and Shadow, I fully expect Renegades to be a sequel to that story, continuing to follow Rion Forge's hunt for her father and the Spirit of Fire. So while I the timing of this article coincides very nicely with the announcement of Halo: Renegades, it is merely coincidence and not the work of any master plan (that I am aware of).
FORGING HER OWN PATH
I mentioned the potential spoilers at the beginning of this article like I always do, but know that this one is going to be a little heavier on the spoilers than my last few posts. As long as you are caught up with Smoke and Shadow and Halo Wars 2, or at least don't care to get spoiled a bit on those stories, feel free to keep on going. You have been warned.
In Smoke and Shadow, Rion Forge, daughter of John Forge of Halo Wars fame, is introduced as a scrappy post-war salvager, in search of military scraps leftover from the nearly thirty-year war with the Covenant. You quickly learn, however, that what she is truly after is the location of her father, who was lost along with the entire crew of the Spirit of Fire in 2531. A mission to the remains of a Halcyon-class light cruiser, the Roman Blue, provides her with a breadcrumb to the Spirit of Fire's last known location, leading her to yet another wreck, this time a Covenant ship on the uninhabited planet of Laconia. With a lot of grit and a little bit of luck, Forge and the crew manage to recover the navigational buoy dropped by the Spirit of Fire over Arcadia during the Battle for Arcadia in 2531.
Using the nav buoy, the coordinates to the Spirit of Fire's destination, lost for the past twenty-six years, were discovered, and the Ace of Spades follows them blindly, in hopes of finding anything that might help them find the ship or her dad. There, the crew discovers the rubble left over from the Battle of the Etran Harborage, and is confronted by Gek 'Lhar, Sangheili salvager and commander under Jul 'Mdama. 'Lhar attacked Forge and her crew, killing Cade, but leaving Forge alive and the Ace of Spades intact. It was here that Forge then discovered a fragment of a Forerunner AI left in a console within some of the rubble of Shield World 0459, calling itself Little Bit. The Ace of Spades then left the system, leaving without the location of the Spirit of Fire, but with another breadcrumb to the location of her father's ship.
We get the briefest of glimpses of the power Little Bit wields at the end of the book, managing to significantly upgrade the Ace of Spade's slipspace drive while existing within a chip on a desk in the ship. Little Bit states that he (she?, it?) could make the drive even better were he given physical access to the ship. The book pretty much ends there, though it is fairly obviously setting up the story for a sequel. But what that sequel will be about, and how that story will tie into the story of Halo Wars 2, is what I am really interested in.
ACE IN THE HOLE
The last we hear from Rion Forge and the Ace of Spades is on Venezia, recovering from the incident at what was left of Shield World 0459, at the beginning of 2557. That is about a year and a half from the Rise of the Created, meaning there is a decent amount of potential story to tell between the end of Smoke and Shadow and March 28th 2559, the day the Spirit of Fire arrives at the Ark. We don't know exactly what Forge plans on doing next, but we do know she is determined to find the Spirit of Fire, and she has a VERY smart Forerunner AI to help her. The Ace of Spades will no doubt be upgraded by Little Bit, and it seems that Little Bit has the ability to upgrade the ship to at least the most modern technology the UNSC has at its disposal in the post-war period. This will provide Forge with the tools to help find her father, and she will set off, along with her crew, to go follow the breadcrumbs she has discovered.
Along the way, Forge will no doubt find more breadcrumbs, leading her ever closer to her goal. She will be on the verge of finding the Spirit of Fire, when Cortana and the Created will get in her way, threatening her entire mission, and the lives of her and her crew. They will run and hide, but continue their search. At some point in 2559, Forge will find the Spirit of Fire, and likely Cortana will too. With no good options left, Rion, with the help of Little Bit, will be forced to use the Forerunner portal system to transport the Spirit of Fire to the Ark, away from the reach of Cortana. How exactly this will happen I don't know, But I suspect the book will end in one of two places.
BACK TO THE SOURCE
The first option is that the Ace of Spades physically finds the Spirit of Fire, and is forced to send the ship away to the Ark to protect it, potentially sacrificing themselves in the process. This option seems to make the most sense, as we have been given no information regarding the whereabouts, or even existence of the Ace of Spaces in Halo Wars 2. Were the portal system activated from the Ark, you would think the Ace of Spades would still be there when the Spirit of Fire arrived. This leaves one big issue, however, namely how would Little Bit use the Ark's portal network without being at the Ark?
THE LESSER OF TWO EVILS
The second option would be that the Ace of Spades gets to the Ark and activates the portal network from there. This makes a bit more sense from the perspective of using the Ark's portals, though they would still have to locate the Spirit of Fire in order to transport it. While it makes sense from a Forerunner technology perspective, this option leaves a huge question: Where is the Ace of Spades in Halo Wars 2? Do they activate the portal and leave the Ark? Do the Banished find them and destroy the Ace of Spades after the portal is activated but before the Spirit of Fire arrives? Both are options, but seeing as we don't hear a peep about another ship during the entire Halo Wars 2 campaign, some issues would need to be addressed if this is indeed what actually ends up happening.
SHOWING MY BIASES
Keen Halo lore enthusiasts have no doubt by now been asking the question: What about Mendicant Bias? The intervention of Mendicant Bias has been the primary suspect for bringing the Spirit of Fire to the Ark ever since we learned of the setting for Halo Wars 2. This tends to get the hardcore Halo fans all hot and bothered too, since many in the community have been begging to see Mendicant Bias appear again since the Halo 3 terminals and the Forerunner Saga. While I am not against this per se, I don't see anything in the current Halo media that points to him being the reason for the Spirit of Fire's arrival at the Ark. We don't have any current story that involves Mendicant Bias, and as far as I can recall, we don't have any information regarding whether he survived the firing of Installation 08 at the end of Halo 3 (I will undoubtedly be corrected very quickly if I am wrong about this).
What we do have, however, is a new story arc that involves a person searching for the Spirit of Fire, who happens to now have a very smart Forerunner AI at her disposal, and a galactic threat that would provide a reason for sending the ship to the Ark in the first place. Maybe Mendicant Bias will become involved with the story as well, working with the Ace of Spades to recover the Spirit of Fire, but that seems unnecessary. My money is on Little Bit and Rion Forge.
A RENEGADE BY ANY OTHER NAME
Before learning of the existence of Halo: Renegades last week, the idea for this article was mostly unchanged. This had been my theory for a while, and the announcement of a new book by Kelly Gay only cemented my belief in this idea. The only question this new tidbit of information brings to mind is whether or not this second book will follow the Ace of Spades in the interim period from 2557 to 2558, or if it will follow the story of them finding the Spirit of Fire in 2559. It is possible that this is going to be a trilogy of books, with some third book covering the discovery of the Spirit of Fire, but that is very doubtful. While GrimBrotherOne didn't say much regarding Renegades, he does say the following in the latest Community Update:
To me this strongly hints at Renegade's story becoming involved with Halo Wars 2, as I can't think of another story from the 2557-2558 timeframe that would make sense for the Ace of Spades to become intertwined with. I could be forgetting something huge, which does happen, but I have a very strong suspicion that I am right. Only time will tell whether or not anything I said is even remotely correct, but now that Renegades is in the Halo pipeline, that time is just over the horizon.
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