Cade McDonough was a former UNSC Marine and a salvager working on the modified Mariner-class transport ship, the Ace of Spades. He was romantically involved with the ship's captain, Rion Forge. In January of 2557, he was killed by the Sangheili Commander, Gek 'Lhar, during an altercation in the debris field of the Etran Harborage, a Forerunner shield world.
War and Plunder
At some point after his eighteenth birthday, Cade enlisted in the UNSC Marine Corps. As a marine, he fought in numerous theaters during the decades-long Human-Covenant War. His encounters with Mgalekgolo especially left deep scars, as he saw people killed ruthlessly by them a hundred times or more. The last time he saw one was around 2551, after he had already been discharged and become a salvager. He killed more than his fair share of Unggoy and Kig-Yar, and even a few Sangheili, during the war. On a select few occasions, he had even seen Spartans in action. During the war, Cade's home world was glassed by the Covenant and his entire family was killed. In one fell swoop, he lost his wife, his two children, his parents, and his siblings. When he was honorably discharged the return to civilian life was difficult for him, as he had nowhere to go and nobody to call family. Eventually, he found work on a salvage ship, the Hakon, and it was there that he first met Rion Forge. On Rion's twenty-fourth birthday in 2549, she got into a fight with a crew member named Sorely in the ship's cargo hold. A crowd gathered to watch the fight and place bets. When Sorely tried to throw Rion against the bulkhead, she instead was slammed into Cade. He caught her and whispered in her ear that Sorely had bad knees and a left shoulder injury before smacking her on the ass and pushing her back toward him. So shocked at his audacity, she was blindsided by a punch to the face and dropped to the deck. However, Cade's advice ultimately caused her to overcome Sorely, who she killed. Rion would go on to become the captain of the Hakon in 2551 after the deaths of its captain, Bjorn Birger, and his wife, Unn. Eventually Rion left the Hakon behind and instead acquired the Ace of Spades, a modified Mariner-class transport ship. Cade followed her. New Tyne, Venezia, became the place from which they conducted salvaging runs. On a few occasions, the crew stumbled upon human remains amidst wreckage. In July of 2556, the crew of the Ace of Spades vacationed on Sundown, and by December of that same year, it fell into one of its largest paydays ever. Rion personally participated in a four-way bidding war for a small piece of a Forerunner navigational databoard at a small bazaar on Komoya, and after winning the bidding war, she sold the databoard to a Sangheili for a large profit. In January of the new year, the crew returned to Venezia after having been gone for six weeks. There, another profit was made through the sale of a stasis field generator, Type-25 Spikers, and Type-51 carbines.
While Rion was in New Tyne with Kip Silas and Lessa, two other members of the crew, Cade remained at the New Tyne Airfield so he could perform maintenance on the ship's track system. When the three finally returned they found him seated a story up on a catwalk, still hard at work. Rion notified him of a planned meeting to take place in fifteen minutes and he responded with a curt nod. When those fifteen minutes had passed, the crew found itself gathered around the ship's mess table to hear what the captain had to say. Rion revealed that she had used some of their recent windfall to purchase information regarding another potential claim; specifically, the wreckage of a ship that could very well be a military vessel downed during the war. The possibility of discovering a UNSC ship sparked a debate between Kip and the siblings, Lessa and Niko, as Kip believed the UNSC Salvage Directive would need to be followed in such a case. Cade leaned back in his chair and quietly observed the argument with crossed arms. Rion met his somber gaze before she added her voice to the discussion by assuring Kip that she would do the right thing if any heavy ordnance was discovered. When Cade then spoke, he told Kip he should stop worrying and that Rion would be fair. He then asked her what their destination was, to which she replied "Ectanus 45". Their prize was located on a moon in that system, Eiro. Cade thoughtfully considered the news and reminded Rion that it was right on the edge of the Inner Colonies, which was not their usual haunt and could lead to trouble for them. Rion was resolved to make the journey regardless, justifying it by way of the reward it could bring. After the conclusion of the meeting, Cade sparred with Rion after she worked out by herself. By the time they finished it had been an hour since they had left Venezia.
Eiro is tidally locked to an uninhabited planet, but there is a narrow twilight ring on its surface that supports a small settlement. The crew's target was purportedly located around fifty-six kilometers from this ring on the dark side of the moon. Once settling into geosynchronous orbit, it didn't take long for Lessa to locate the ship. Given the moon's deathly cold temperatures, Cade joined Niko in sarcastically remarking on an eagerness to freeze. As Rion and Lessa stayed on the birdge to land the Ace, Cade, Kip, and Niko headed for the staging bay, referred to as the "locker room", to suit up. With sixty seconds until touchdown on Eiro's surface, Cade broached the subject of dead bodies over comms to Rion. The captain gave a noncommittal answer that suggested she didn't want to think about it unless and until they needed to. Once the two women joined everyone else, Cade showed Kip how to link his wrist commpad to his helmet's HUD and to the rest of the crew. Accepting Kip's thanks, he smacked Niko on the helmet as he walked past him and jokingly reminded him to not forget his plasma cutters, as he had done during a previous excursion. Cade rallied the crew to disembark into the snowy outside and upon first viewing the ship, a Halcyon-class light cruiser, Niko innocently asked him if it brought back memories. For his oblivious insensitivity, Lessa smacked her brother in the head, but Cade just calmly affirmed that it did indeed. After walking around the hall of the cruiser, it became apparent that at best, only a quarter of the ship was present and that it had been cut in two by a Covenant weapon. Cade identified the damage to have been done by a plasma energy projector. In order to cover as much ground as quickly as possible, Rion had the crew split up. Cade was directed to find an armory.
He set off in search of one near the bridge, as it was likely there were one or two located in close proximity to it. Around forty-five minutes after their scavenging began, Rion checked in with Cade over their comms. He let her know he had discovered a decent payload: thermite paste, small arms, rifles, jetpacks, body armor, and heavy ordnance. Rion reiterated that the heavy stuff would be left for the UNSC to recover but she instructed him to pack up everything else. After Rion went to explore the cabin of the captain of the cruiser, discovered to have been named the UNSC Roman Blue, she exclaimed and made other noise over the comms upon making some shocking discoveries. Cade and the others, unaware whether everything was okay, filled her earpiece. Just then, a hard blast struck the Roman Blue and made the whole thing shudder. Cade was the first one to react with a clear pronunciation that they were under attack. Rion ordered everyone back to the Ace of Spades, but seeing as she was still back at the captain's quarters, it would take her around fifteen to twenty minutes more than everyone else to get there. Cade let her know that he would by no means be leaving without her but she overrode him by reminding him she could fend for herself and that they had been in similar situations before. Cade reluctantly gave in and agreed to get airborne in their ship and to go dark and lie low to wait for a further signal from her. The unknown attackers glassed the Roman Blue, but Rion managed to escape in one piece and the Ace of Spades remained hidden.
Rion reestablished contact with her crew after the coast was clear and the ship set down to pick her up with just ten minutes of her oxygen to spare. As the ramp descended, Cade was waiting for her. She could tell he was pissed at her from the way he commented on her general appearance and his use of her surname. The two of them made their way to the lockers to they could get out of their coldsuits. Cade used his knife to help Rion get one of her boots off that had partially charred in the recent plasma-generated heat. After establishing that she was okay and despite a tension between the two of them, Cade agreed to meet in the lounge with everyone else in thirty minutes. When Rion first arrived after showering, she found Cade standing at the observation deck and staring out into space. He refocused his attention on the others and made his way to the meeting table once the conversation started. Rion appealed to Cade when she found herself having to defend her decision to have the Ace go dark, but Cade admitted that it had been a difficult thing to do with her life on the line down below. Then, when Rion announced they would not be going after the ship that had glassed the Roman Blue, even Cade was puzzled. He quickly guessed, however, that the responsible party had in fact been UNSC Armed Forces, lending some credence to the call. Rion then produced a data crystal chip she gathered from the Halcyon-class light cruiser and gave it to Cade to insert into the holotank. He navigated through the data for her until the footage she wanted to show them was located: a recording from William Webb, the captain of the cruiser. The log revealed that a log buoy had been dropped by the UNSC Spirit of Fire in 2531 just before it went missing. Rion's father had been assigned to the Spirit of Fire at the time, and Rion had been wondering what had happened to him since she was a little girl. Webb had stated that a Covenant CPV-class heavy destroyer, Radiant Perception, may have intercepted the buoy those many years ago. Rion was determined to find the Radiant Perception, it being her first real lead on her father, and at this, Cade smiled. Salvaging a Covenant destroyer like the Radiant Perception meant that they could also come upon a luminary, which was a prospect Cade called "salvage gold".
In order to begin the investigation into the whereabouts of the Radiant Perception, a course was plotted for the in-system planet, Chi Rho, as there was a communications satellite orbiting it that the crew could use to research their target. Four hours out from Chi Rho, Cade shared his thoughts about their chances of actually finding the destroyer with the other members of the crew. He admitted that as much as he wanted Rion's plan to work out, it was a big galaxy and the likelihood of success was slim. Despite this, he and other others remained hopeful for Rion's sake, which genuinely moved her. Cade even gathered glasses so that they could toast Alt Burgundy to finding the answers they sought. After the others had dispersed, Cade approached Rion with another glass of burgundy while she found herself staring out into the void. The two of them embraced the silence of the moment, and though Rion initially felt there was still a lingering tension from on Eiro, she finally leaned against him when he started talking about ways in which the log buoy could just be waiting for them to find it. Rion found herself appreciative of his warmth and stability, and he put his arm around her back. Cade then let Rion know that he sympathized with her struggle, as he could relate to agonizing over losing family members and to having personal demons and regrets. This actually made Rion feel slightly guilty, as she at least still had family, including her mother, back on Earth. Regardless, Cade's words did comfort her and the two were evntually joking with one another. Rion finally lay her head on Cade's shoulder as he pulled her even closer. When the ship was approaching Chi Rho, Cade was back in its old once more, working on the tracking system. By the time the satellite was accessed for Niko to begin researching the CPV-class heavy destroyer they sought, Cade had discreetly reached out to old contacts of his that might know something about the ship, but it would be a while before any responses could make it back to him. While Niko collected information, he also managed to discover a tracking device Rion had previously suspected the Ace had been tagged with at some point. Cade helped him pry it out of its hiding place in a well of the Mariner-class transport ship's aft landing gear.
Nor Fel informed the Ace of Spades crew that the Radiant Perception had spent the last twenty-six years grounded on the surface of Laconia in the Procyon system, where it had crashed during the war. The Covenant and Covenant remnants had stayed away because of the presence of Mgalekgolo that had apparently killed the destroyer's crew and multiplied for the following decades. After jumping to a point six million kilometers outside the Procyon system, Cade monitored Lessa's attempt to course correct and take them to Laconia. Rion added that she wished to swing by Arcadia so that it was in visual range, and upon seeing it the entire crew was silent in the face of the glassed world. Once arriving in low geostationary orbit over Laconia, Cade and Lessa pulled up the best image they could of the CPV-heavy destroyer through the planet's ashen atmosphere using lidar and the Ace's quick mapping system. Life detection software confirmed the presence of a solitary lifeform inside the ship, but also eight smaller forms gathering outside it. Another vessel was also sighted: a Covenant war-freighter. Cade was confident the eight were Sangheili, but the software was at first inadequate to confirm whether the large form was a Mgalekgolo or not. Upon observing that the Perception was wedged in an old lava flow, Cade suggested that they might approach from a position three klicks away because deep scores and ridges of the volcano between could provide cover. He asked Rion for her thoughts, and she floated the idea of waiting for the Sangheili to leave. To this, Cade replied that there could be months' or even years' worth of salvage below, and that it would take that long for the Sangheili to finish going through it. He was determined that if they were going to stake a claim there, they would need to do so before the aliens called for reinforcements. However, Cade's enthusiasm drastically was cut short when it was realized the form inside the ship was not only Mgalekgo, but that it was on the bridge and thus unavoidable. Cade suddenly had serious doubts about whether their plan to enter the destroyer was worth it. He described what he had seen Mgalekgolo do as a marine and also cautioned that in all likelihood, another one was lurking nearby but unable to be detected by them for some reason. Rion was obstinate to his protestations in the face of this threat and in response, Cade stormed off the bridge. Rion found him in his quarters soon afterwards lying on his bunk and staring at the ceiling. He expressed frustration at her stubbornness and perceived disregard for her own safety but ultimately smiled because this was just who she was. He then found himself struggling to ask questions about where there relationship was heading, if anywhere. Before she could give an answer, he reminded her of the day they met to emphasize that he had her back.
Rion and Cade made their way toward the heavy destroyer on foot. Cade armed himself with a rifle and both made use of active camouflage modules in their possession. When the Ace was three kilometers behind them, Niko asked Cade over their comms whether he had ever killed a Hunter. Cade admitted that he had not, but that he had seen plenty of them killed by others. The two salvagers entered the ship through a gaping hole that a Magnetic Accelerator Cannon had produced in its hull. Rion jokingly thanked Cade for their entrance, given his history with the UNSC. Soon after, the two of them shut down their comms to the rest of the crew. They squeezed through a hole created by a bent bulkhead and made their way toward the bridge, all the while surrounded by the skeletons of various Covenant races and the more recent remains of dead Lekgolo. Cade marveled at the wealth of salvage aboard the ship and stated that they could exploit it for decades. He also joked that Niko could get the raise he was always asking for and poked fun at her for being a "tyrannical" captain. Walking past dropships that appeared to be in working condition, they stuck close to a wall before finally entering the bridge, with Cade in the lead. After turning some corners, a motionless but intact Mgalekgolo was sighted slumped in a corner. A short distance away, a dead one was found and it became clear that the two had been a bonded pair and that the one still holding onto life was responsible for triggering their sensors earlier. Cade moved to finish the hulking creature off, but Rion stopped him, due both to the need to keep quiet and out of discomfort with executing an enemy that appeared to be no threat. Rion's call angered Cade, but he assented to her authority. When she moved on, however, he opted to remain with the Hunter to keep an eye on it. Two hours and ten minutes later, Rion returned from a fruitless search to find Cade leaning against a console with his rifle against his lap. She confirmed she had no luck finding the buoy and he could tell she was frustrated. Rion then activated one of Niko's drones they had brought with them and left to continue her search again. This time, she did find what she was looking for, but upon turning a corner to return to Cade, she was met head-on by the fully erect Mgalekgolo. As it turned out, Cade had panicked when it finally stood up. He had frozen in fear before falling backwards and hitting his head on debris, knocking himself out in the process. He came to in time to unload a barrage of bullets into the creature at that moment, however and to put it out of its misery. As he edged around the giant mass of worms with his weapon still trained on it, Rion noticed that he was breathing heavy, trembling, pale, and bleeding from the side of his head. Tripping over his words, Cade profusely apologized for his failing. Rion downplayed what had happened, but Cade stormed off the bridge in shame. When the Ace of Spades came into view again, Rion grabbed his arm and spun him around. Cade's embarrassment, guilt, and horror was plainly evident on his face and as much as Rion tried to console him, he refused to make excuses or forgive himself. She told him that she was okay and that she never asked for him to protect her, at which point he flinched. He was able to calm down before they resumed their trek back to their ship, however.
After a debriefing with the crew, Cade joined Rion on the ship's loading ramp where she was seated. Allowing a few moments of silence, he proceeded to encourage her about the log buoy they had found and attempted to make light of the recent heated exchange they'd had. Both apologized to one another, and Cade affirmed that while she had never asked him to be her savior, she would be missing a few fingers, limbs, and ships were it not for him. Cade requested that Rion never tell the others about what happened on the Radiant Perception, and she could tell it would be a long time before he got over this. Cade expressed some self-doubt due to the feeling that he was just getting old and more easily scared, which she flatly rejected. She suggested they could just retire together. At that moment, Less and Niko, whom had been watching the couple, accidentally gave themselves away. Cade and Rion chased after them, but then Kip got everyone's attention by alerting them to a human running toward their ship. This was Ram Chalva, another salvager who had been kidnapped by the Sangheili crew, led by Gek 'Lhar. Rion ordered Cade to the bridge to take control of the ship's weapons as they made to swoop in and scoop Ram up. Cade fired her cannons and manged to hit the Sangheili's war-freighter on the wing before the Ace safely pulled away from Laconia with one more person than it arrived with. Rion and Cade both spent most of there time immediately thereafter in the med bay giving medical attention to Ram. When they joined Lessa, Niko, and Kip at dinner they announced that he was going to make it. They then all had a good time eating and playing Alerian dice. As they approached Arcadia once again to follow the trajectory recorded by the recovered buoy, Rion had Cade assist her in transferring Ram from the med bay to a cryotube so that he could be frozen until they returned to Venezia.
Etran Harborage and death
Following the trail left behind by the Spirit of Fire almost twenty-six years earlier, it took the Ace of Spades a little over four days to arrive at the appropriate coordinates in an uncharted location within the Milky Way's Cygnus Arm. The lack of any recognizable objects in sight confused the crew, but Cade confirmed they were at the right spot. He and Niko both took charge of monitoring the space for signals or other items of note. Rion determined that they should get closer to the Korinth Prior system's dwarf star and Cade agreed when Lessa proposed coasting at two-Gs. Over an hour later, Cade recalled Rion to the observation deck to bring to her attention what appeared to be a dense asteroid belt. He navigated the ship toward it, but it soon became clear that they were in fact viewing the remains of some sort of planetoid. Unbeknownst to the crew, they were looking at all that remained of the Etran Harborage, a Forerunner shield world destroyed in 2531 by forces of the Spirit of Fire. Niko located a piece large enough to have its own significant gravity well that looked to be partially covered by an active energy shield, so Cade plotted a course toward it. He continued to monitor their position in the field while Lessa kept an eye on any rogue debris. Cade made sure Rion remained focused and picked out a spot to land atop an uneven slab of rock of a nearby cliff face under the dome of energy.
After going through a rundown with the crew, Rion and Cade stopped at the weapons store before disembarking from Ace. Cade grabbed his assault rifle, a sidearm, and the sack of grenades once more. His environment suit told him that the atmospheric conditions and temperature of the rock they were on were safe for humans, and so he removed his helmet. Their target was an identifiable door at the end of what seemed to be a flagstone road. Niko guided them through rocks along the road as they made their approach. Before landing, faint life signs had been detected just meters below the surface at the structure. Cade confirmed with Niko that they were still present and openly wondered what could be down there. A few steps into the structure, a blue light swept over Rion and Cade, who figured they must have tripped a sensor. Lights on the floor also were illuminated to show a path to a central console. Rion was inexorably drawn to place her hand on it, but Cade prevented her from doing so by grabbing her wrist. A flare of anger rose in her, but then she wondered why he hadn't had the same urge come over him. She asked "You don't want to touch it?" and he smiled, turning her question into one of sexual innuendo. Just then, Niko started shouting that the war-freighter from Laconia had followed them and was already present on this slab of debris. Cade ran to the entryway to begin laying down covering fire so the Ace could get airborne without being shot at. He noted that he could see the Sangheili vessel. Suddenly, Gek 'Lhar revealed himself by surprising Rion from behind and effortlessly tossed her against the console in the middle of the room. Meanwhile, Cade shouted orders to the crew aboard Ace of Spades and tossed a fragmentation grenade to provide a distraction and cover. Two other Sangheili present in the structure headed for the exit to ambush Cade, but Rion shouted a warning and he was able to dispatch them both with a thermite grenade. He turned to head back to where Rion was, but was caught completetely off guard by Gek. Right before the Commander plunged his Type-1 energy sword through Cade's chest, he slide the remaining grenades across the floor to Rion. Gek bent over to rip Cade's dog tags from around his neck and add them to his collection on his shoulder before leaving, having been injured by Rion. Cade's massive wound had been cauterized by the plasma of the sword, but his breathing was shallow and his gaze was unfocused as he fought to blink. He grabbed Rion's hand and tried to speak, but blood is his throat nearly prevented him from doing so. He managed to just tell her that it was okay before slipping away.
Sometime later, the others from the crew joined Rion where Cade's body lay, having brought a grav stretcher to transport it. They all mourned together there before returning to the ship. Its service elevator was used to take it to the medbay, where Rion spent around two-and-a-half hours removing his gear, cleaning him, and putting him in his dress blues. Then, having approached Korinth Prior, they all watched as a personnel pod with Cade's body inside was fired into the dwarf star. Rion reflected on all the ways Cade has changed her life and changed who she was. She felt guilty for what had happened and regretted their refusal to commit to each other long-term. In addition to finding her father, she now had another goal as well: to make Gek 'Lhar pay for what he'd done.
During the Requiem Campaign in February 2558, Gek was killed by Spartan Paul DeMarco of Fireteam Majestic. DeMarco and Gabriel Thorne recovered Gek's collection of stolen dog tags, including Cade's.
Personality and traits
Cade had grim eyes, a deep voice, and a tic in his jaw. He stood a good deal taller than Rion, who was herself 5 feet and 10 inches tall. He was also older a good deal older than her. His face was usually stoically passive, though at times he could get a wicked grin. Rion thought him to be "all business", as he brought a sense of order and efficiency to the Ace of Spades' small crew. This didn't stop him from being able to tease and flirt with the best of them, however. He was never crude, though, and he never disrespected Rion in front of the crew. It was not uncommon for him to serve as the "voice of reason" when Rion was prepared to push their work beyond their capable limits. He was steady, stoic, reliable, and the kind of person who could get a job done. He often didn't say much, but when he did, others tended to listen and he was known for being sarcastic. Any feelings of guilt or embarrassment came very rarely for him. Rion was amused by the fact that he called her "Forge" when he was pissed. He also simply called her "Ri" on occasion. He commonly told her she was lucky while grinning and shaking his head. Cade never had the same outward disgust for the UNSC that Lessa and Niko did. but the trauma of losing his family made him have his own personal issues with the way the military had made certain strategic decisions during the war. For a part of him, that war would never end and he would always struggle with viewing ex-Covenant races as anything but "the enemy".
When he and Rion met, they would passionately debate about politics and wars, but as their relationship deepened, they stopped doing so and focused their energy and loyalty on the one thing they could truly count on: themselves. They were the one constant in each other's lives. The reality of having someone you could truly count on was immeasurable. He had been saving her ever since they met, as that was just part of who he was. The number of times that Cade and Rion had been in impossible situations but gotten out okay was more than Rion could count. Many of these situations had caused the two of them to almost come to blows over Rion's tactics. Cade and Rion's relationship repeatedly cycled through stages of friendship, sex, and tumult, though it was the deep, abiding friendship that was a steady constant. Cade understood Rion's drive better than anyone. It was his own similarities to her in that respect that led to their becoming friends to begin with, even though they each did dance around their future prospects. Both of them, scarred as they were, didn't want to experience more loss and hurt, so it was easier to pretend to be noncommittal.
Cade's experience as a marine and later a salvager made him a man who knew more than anyone the price of taking risks, of jumping systems, and hunting salvage others would fight and kill for. For this reason, Rion valued his insight and considered him her second-in-command. Despite their closeness, Rion still never knew what Cade did with the credits he earned. Even after fully committing to being a part of the crew on the Ace, Cade maintained a clandestine network of former contacts from previous portions of his life that he could rely on for information.
Like the other crew members of the Ace of Spades, Cade had his own set of armor for working in cold environments. This coldsuit included a helmet with an opaque visor made of a tempered glass composite. He kept a knife sheathed in his belt and had his own MA5 assault rifle. In the thin-oxygen environment of Laconia, Cade donned a jacket to keep warm and in order to approach the Radiant Perception unseen he used active camouflage. He also took a sack of grenades with him on multiple occasions, which included M9 High-Explosive Dual-Purpose grenades, thermite grenades, and flashbang grenades, a few of which he would strap to his belt for quick access. Cade never got rid of his dress blues from his time in the UNSC Marine Corps and also continued to wear his dog tags after being discharged. These were forcibly stolen from him by Gek 'Lhar following his impalement.
List of appearances