(Podcast Evolved and Blogging Evolved use Halopedia as our primary source of information)
In a previous article, I predicted that Rion Forge and the Ace of Spades, with the help of Little Bit, the newly discovered AI fragment at the end of Smoke and Shadow, would eventually discover the location of the Spirit of Fire and be forced in some manner or another to send it off to the Ark to save the crew. Based on the events of Renegades, it is apparent that theory was not exactly correct, but can be easily fixed by exchanging the AI Little Bit for 343 Guilty Spark, which is almost exactly what happened during the events of that book. While we will have to wait for another novel to discover how the Spirit of Fire got to the Ark, it is apparent to me that Rion Forge, with the help of Spark, will eventually find the lost ship and be forced to send it off to the Ark for protection.
This is probably going to be a fairly short article because I already wrote out most of this theory several months ago, just before Renegades was announced. At the time, I had a theory floating around in my head that the story of Rion Forge and the Ace of Spaces would eventually become intertwined with the story of the Spirit of Fire. We had already been introduced to Rion Forge before Halo Wars 2 was released, who was a post-war salvager in search of her long lost father, John Forge, a marine aboard the Spirit of Fire, lost since 2531. We had also seen the return of the Spirit of Fire to the Halo universe in Halo Wars 2, where they arrive under mysterious conditions to the Ark in March 2559. When the game was released in 2017, and even through the time of this writing, the only information we were given was that a portal from the Ark was opened and brought the Spirit of Fire to it. What we were never told was who initiated the trip and why.
A HISTORY OF THE ETRAN HARBORAGE
At the end of the original Halo Wars, the Spirit of Fire sacrifices its slipspace drive to destroy the Etran Harborage, escaping through conventional means by performing a slingshot maneuver around the shield world’s artificial star and launching the ship clear of the explosion. While safe, the crew was now left without a way to get home, and was mostly put into cryo to extend their lifespan until they could be rescued. Without any other options left, the ship drifted through space, lost to the rest of the UNSC and all of humanity.
We know that the Spirit of Fire didn’t get to the Ark on its own, because it lost its slipspace drive. We also know that something did transport the ship to the Ark using a portal, presumably one powered by the Ark itself. But who initiated the jump, and what was their reasoning? It would have to be someone with access to the Ark and the Ark’s portal system, which in the post-war era, limits our options considerably. It would also have to be someone who knew were the Spirit of Fire was, otherwise there would be no way to open a portal exactly where the ship was and send it through without the crew taking any actions. And it would also have to be someone who wanted to send the ship to the Ark, otherwise whomever found the ship would just rescue (or kill) them.
A MODERN (FUTURE?) WHODUNIT
When I wrote out this theory originally, I was already able to narrow down my list of options to one, and while we now know more about Rion Forge’s continuing story in the post-war era including the introduction of additional characters, the list of possible candidates remains at one. The UNSC forces on the Ark might have had access to the portal system, but they wouldn’t have known where the Spirit of Fire was, and they were all dead by the time the ship arrived anyway. The Banished also could have initiated the slipspace jump, but again, they wouldn’t have known where the ship was, and besides, they have no motivation for bringing the ship to the Ark. The Banished seem completely surprised by the unexpected arrival of a UNSC ship in the area. ONI, through the actions of agent Hahn and the UNSC Taurokado, may have been able to deduce where the Spirit of Fire went exactly and tracked it down, but they have no reason to send the ship off to the Ark rather than rescuing the crew.
The only reasonable explanation for how the Spirit of Fire got to the Ark is through the actions of Rion Forge and 343 Guilty Spark. Through Smoke and Shadow and now Renegades, she has been on the hunt for any clues relating to the whereabouts of the her father, or if nothing else, his ship, the Spirit of Fire. By the end of Renegades, she knows that the ship likely survived the destruction of the Etran Harborage, though she is also aware that her father sacrificed himself to keep the rest of the crew safe. Using what she now knows, it is reasonable to assume that she could track down the ship, because while it left the system almost thirty years ago, it didn’t have a slipspace drive, leaving it drifting at no faster than the speed of light. Even travelling at the speed of light, which the laws of physics tells us it could never reach, the ship would be a short slipspace jump away, so long as you knew where to go.
Rion also presumably has the means to access the Ark’s portal system. I originally thought she would be able to use the knowledge stored inside the Forerunner AI fragment Little Bit to gain access to Forerunner technology, though this theory was quickly squashed at the beginning of Renegades when ONI confiscated Little Bit, removing it from Rion’s control. Who needs an ancilla fragment, however, when you have an entire Forerunner monitor in the form of the infamous 343 Guilty Spark? Not even halfway through the book, Rion discovers the wreck of the UNSC Rubicon, and in the wreck, a fully functioning monitor in an armiger body. This monitor turns out to be Spark, who after taking the Ace of Spades on a journey, decides to join the crew. We know this monitor can access all sorts of Forerunner facilities including the Ark, and even knows where the Ark is.
The only thing I can’t be sure about is the motivation for sending the Spirit of Fire to the Ark rather than rescuing the crew. While that story hasn’t been published (or perhaps even written), there is one very good reason Rion would send the ship off rather than waking the crew and bringing them back to populated space. That reason is the Created.
Renegades ends in September 2557, a few months before the Infinity would return to Requiem and fight off Jul ‘Mdama’s Covenant during the Requiem Campaign, and just over a year before Cortana would use her connection to the Domain to try and subjugate the galaxy under her control. We know the Spirit of Fire isn’t sent to the Ark until March 2559, so in that time, Rion Forge and crew are presumably searching for the ship. When the Created took over, it would have likely made that process much more difficult, but also much more important. We know the Spirit of Fire is completely unaware of the Created, as is everyone on the Ark, so my guess is that the Ace of Spades is in a race to find the ship before the Created can and rescue the crew. Again, we don’t know what happens yet, but if Cortana was about to find the ship, it would be reasonable to assume Spark could use the Ark’s portals and send it off where Cortana couldn’t reach.
This last part is all conjecture, of course, but it is the only theory that makes any sense. As I said last time, while there are people who really want Mendicant Bias to return to the lore by being what opened the portal, there is just no need for him. He hasn’t been seen in any sense since the Halo 3 terminals, and we don’t even know if he is alive. Mendicant Bias also doesn’t know where the Spirit of Fire is, as far as we know. There is the real possibility of Spark communicating with Mendicant Bias on the Ark in order to open the portals, but this is totally unnecessary as far as I am concerned.
To wrap this all up yet again, everything we have been provided in the lore, from the games to the novels, points to Rion Forge and 343 Guilty Spark being the ones who end up sending the Spirit of Fire to the Ark in March 2559. They are the only ones in the known canon that have the desire, means, and knowledge required to locate and send the ship using the Ark’s portals. That isn’t to say Rion won’t get paired up with a third Forerunner ancilla in the next Kelly Gay book, or another set of characters won’t get introduced that fit the criteria even better, but at this point there is a very reasonable and logical answer to the question of who sent the Spirit of Fire to the Ark, and that answer is Rion Forge, 343 Guilty Spark, and the crew of the Ace of Spades.
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