This week’s post is going to highlight one of my favourite characters from the Halo Universe, Captain James Cutter. Captain Cutter was first introduced as the Captain of the UNSC Spirit of Fire, a retrofitted Phoenix-class support vessel, during the Halo Wars campaign. He was a reluctant commander thrust into the middle of the Human-Convenant War and told to take back the planet Harvest. It took over 5 years for the UNSC to finally re-take that small piece of land and it costs them far too much to accomplish this task. Captain Cutter has a very storied career with most of his accomplishments occurring in the last 25 years of his service record.
James Gregory Cutter ( service number 01730-58392-JC) was born on June 12, 2479 on the UNSC Military world of Reach. He had a very uneventful childhood until he graduated form high school. James’ father wanted him to get a university degree but was furious when James enlisted as an ensign in the UN Colony Logistics Office; his anger only intensified when James further enrolled in flight school. James and his father had a very strained relationship from that point on with James’ father saying he was “nothing more than a trucker”.
On September 15, 2500, James Cutter enrolled in the UNSC School of the North Star where he eventually graduated magna cum laude with a particular emphasis on astronavigation and political science. On June 19, 2504, he was admitted into UNSC Officer Candidate School where received further training on astronavigation and leadership.
On November 16, 2507, James Cutter entered naval service as a lieutenant and junior navigation office aboard a diplomatic attaché vessel called The Stick. On January 9, 2514, he was assigned to the UNSC warship, Final Summit, where he was given the title of Chief Navigation Officer. Cutter participated in the 12 year long campaign, OPERATION: TREBUCHET, against the insurrectionist forces for which he received a medal of service. Cutter would go to serve on many colony ships until he was reassigned to the UNSC Glasgow, on August 8, 2519. Cutter would go on to earn a Bronze Star for his actions against Insurgent forces while serving on the Glasgow. Cutter had married earlier in his career to his girlfriend Mary, the two of them had a daughter who lived and died on Reach. During his time on the Glasgow, Cutter had an affair with a woman from the planet Epsilon Eridani III (Tribute). This affair resulted in Cutter’s illegitimate son Daniel Clayton being born. Prior to August 8, 2525, Cutter’s mother had passed away and on that day in August that he accepted command of his own ship, the refitted Phoenix-class colony ship, Spirit of Fire. Prior to the Spirit of Fire leaving for its tour, Cutter’s father came aboard for a tour and to speak with his son. During this tour, Cutter’s father admitted that his son must have known what he was doing to get his own ship, that he was proud of him and that Cutter’s mother would’ve been proud too.
On January 30, 2528, Cutter was offered the opportunity to command the Marathon-class heavy cruiser the UNSC Prophecy, Cutter turned down the offer as he was content with the Spirit of Fire and how it kept him close to his wife and daughter. The Spirit of Fire served as a support ship for whichever fleet it was attached to during the early years of the Human-Covenant War. Following the release of Sergeant John Forge from prison in 2530, Admiral Preston Cole told Cutter to expect his new leader of ground forces to the Spirit of Fire.
On January 3, 2531, The Spirit of Fire, had become part of Third Fleet’s Battlegroup D, which had recently come into contact with the Covenant fleet Glorious Interdiction over the colony of Harvest. Admiral Preston Cole chose the Spirit of Fire to provide immediate close support to the UNSC Prophecy which had succeeded in repelling the Covenant Forces over Harvest but had sustained critical damage during the process. Cutter performed a final inspection of various points on his ship including the Shaw Fujikawa (light speed drive) drive room, Drop Bay Bravo and the Ordnance storage room before beginning the month long journey to the Harvest system. Prior to entering hyperspace to meet up with the Prophecy and launch an offensive against the Covenant fleet in the Harvest system, Cutter ordered his A.I. Serina to update the servers so his crew would get any pending messages form their families. While en route to rendezvous with the Prophecy, Cutter received a message from Professor Anders, a professor assigned to the ship by ONI (Office of Naval Intelligence) to study the Covenant, demanding better quarters that what she was given and a meeting with the Captain upon her arrival. Not wanting to deal with Anders’ demands, Cutter assigned Lieutenant Blake to deal with Anders and explain the situation on the ship.
When the Spirit of Fire arrived in the Harvest system they immediately received a message from the Prophecy, stating their reactor had gone critical and was leaking radiation into the ship forcing the crew to retreat to radiation bunkers. As the Spirit of Fire neared the Prophecy, three small Covenant ships emerged out of hyperspace on the far side of the system using the crippled Prophecy as cover. EVA teams were scrambled as the Spirit of Fire managed to maneuver and drop one of the Covenant ships using the MAC (Magnetic Acceleration Canon) gun. While the Spirit of Fire occupied the Covenant ships in space, the EVA teams boarded the crippled UNSC warship, purged the data banks, rescued what crew they could and triggered the self-destruct sequence. The remaining Covenant ships were destroyed by the use of nukes authorized by Cutter leaving the Spirit of Fire to watch as the Prophecy‘s self-destruct sequence triggered. The crew that the EVA teams managed to save ultimately died as they had absorbed too much radiation from the leaking reactor.
“Five years, five long years. That’s how long it took us to get Harvest back. At first it was going well. Then setback after setback… Loss after loss… Made what was going to be a quick and decisive win… Into five years of Hell. Of course, that’s all Harvest really is today… It’s Hell down there, but now it’s ours again.” – Captain James Cutter, Halo Wars
Harvest was the first planet where humanity had encountered the Covenant. Following Contact Harvest, it remained a battleground that was under the control of the Covenant for many years before the Spirit of Fire arrived to take it back. As mentioned by the previous quote from Cpt. Cutter, it took five years before the Spirit of Fire was able to take the planet back from the forces of the Covenant and the then Arbiter, Ripa ‘Moramee. The Arbiter and his forces were concentrated on the northern regions of Harvest where an ancient Forerunner facility was buried in the ice. Captain Cutter dispatched Sergeant Forge to investigate the facility and see what was going on. Forge and his men come under fire from a group of Brutes lead by a chieftain named Thrallslayer, they managed to clear the ruins of the Covenant forces and get a glimpse of what the aliens were hoping to find, a star map. The map pointed to a human occupied system called the Procyon system; and in particular, the map pointed to the human colony of Arcadia. Covenant reinforcements swarmed the facility and the human forces were forced to evacuate the area and await further orders. Forge and Dr. Anders debriefed Cpt. Cutter on the bridge of the Spirit of Fire where Anders made a strong case for following the map to Arcadia. Cutter agreed to request permission to head to Arcadia from Admiral Preston Cole, the creator of the “Cole Protocol”. The Cole Protocol is a directive that in the event of any human vessel being boarded by the Covenant, they are to scrub all navigational data and make a blind hyperspace jump away from Earth; if the jump is not possible, the ship must be scuttled in an effort to keep the location of earth a secret. This protocol became general practice in the UNSC military and is actually how the UNSC’s Pillar of Autumn discovered the first Halo ring.
When the Spirit of Fire arrived at Arcadia, there was a single Covenant Battle cruiser in Orbit. Serina, the Spirit of Fire’s AI, noted that there was two but the UNSC Belfast & Texas has been destroyed taking out the other battlecruiser. When footage from the capital city of Pirth was beamed tot he ship, Cutter saw Spartan II’s on the ground defending the civilians from the Covenant forces so they could get out of the City. Cutter ordered his troops to provide any and all assistance to save as many people from the city as possible. Following the battle for Pirth City, the UNSC troops retreated into the wilderness and set up a defensible position while they waited for orders. The Covenant had set up a massive dome that was opaque and impenetrable. It took advanced plasma weapons reversed engineered from Covenant tech to drop the dome. When the dome was destroyed a partially built Scarab walker was hidden underneath. The Spirit of Fire fired from orbit with its MAC (Magnetic Acceleration canon/Rail Gun) destroying the walker. The Arbiter was understandably very angry and attacked Forge & Anders, capturing the doctor and fleeing the planet. Cutter and his ship gave chase and for 13 days pursued the Arbiter through slipspace before coming out at a Forerunner world.
The Covenant were trying to use the doctor and her knowledge of the Forerunners to unlock a massive Forerunner fleet that would certainly mean and end to the human-Covenant War in favour of the Covenant. Knowing what it would mean if the Arbiter succeeded, Cutter refused to retreat and call for reinforcements. Instead he decided to make their stand there and now to hopefully buy humanity even a small amount of time to pull off Operation: REDFLAG. The planet was overrun with Flood and the Covenant forces making the outcome bleak. Serina and Anders came up with the idea to detonate their Shaw-Fujikawa translight engine in the artificial sun at the center of the hollow planet. This would cause the sun to go supernova and destroy the planet along with the massive Forerunner fleet contained within. Forge and Spartan Red Team, Jerome-092, Alice -130 and Douglas-042 were dispatched to get the engine to the elevator that would take it up to the artificial sun. The Arbiter and a large force of Elites attacked the small group to stop their plan. While the Spartans engaged the other elites to defend the engine, Forge took on the Arbiter himself, stabbing the massive hulking elite with his own energy sword. In the battle, the remote detonator was damaged and so Forge stayed behind the detonate the reactor refusing to allow Jerome to do it, citing that “Before this war is over, we’re going to need every Spartan we have”. The massive gravitational pull from the sun was too much for the engines of the Spirit of Fire to escape without help. Cutter plotted a slingshot maneuver around the sun and managed to escape the planet as Sergeant John Forge detonated the engine, incinerating all the Flood, Covenant and Forerunner ships on the planet.
Following their escape from the Forerunner world, Cutter ordered the crew into stasis to try and survive the trip to Reach. The closest military outpost they had. With their translight engine gone, the trip would take several decades. The Spirit of Fire was officially listed as lost with all hands and a memorial service was held for the crew on February 10, 2534.
After 28 years of drifting through space, the UNSC Spirit of Fire arrived at the Ark, of Halo 3 fame. There they encountered a new enemy, The Banished. The Banished are a group of Covenant that were cast off from the main group. They are led by a vicious Brute named Atriox who’s influence and power has grown exponentially since his exile. Red Team was dispatched to investigate a UNSC distress beacon that was being cast from the planet. When the Spartans arrived they were ambushed by Atriox and his Banished. Jerome ordered a missile strike from the Spirit of Fire as they fled the small outpost. They managed to grab the AI, Isabel, from the outpost as they fled and brought her back to the Spirit of Fire. Douglas had been injured in their retreat and Alice had stayed behind to provide cover for Jerome to get their injured comrade out of harms way. Isabel relayed the history of Atriox and the Banished to Jerome and Cutter on the bridge of the Spirit of Fire. Cutter listens intently and resolves that while they are not as prepared as he would like they are not running away. His speech to rouse the troops is one of the best of the whole series.
Cutter refused to run in the face of an enemy that the Covenant themselves feared and through the tenacity of his crew and one particularly ambitious AI, managed to deal a massive blow to the Banished and their forces.
Not to mention we are given this badass scene from Jerome and Isabel to aid Cutter and his crew in their final objective.
Captain James Gregory Cutter is one of the most stalwart members of the UNSC ever showcased in the Halo universe. He is a compassionate leader and a brilliant strategist. He stood against an enemy that the Covenant were afraid of and refused to blink instead believing in his crew and their ability to persevere in the face of insurmountable odds. His faith in humanity is what drives him forward to continue to perform “…long past what anyone expected of us” and wanting to leave the galaxy a better place than it was when he first enlisted. Currently James Cutter and the crew of the UNSC Spirit of Fire are alive and fighting the Banished. At the conclusion of the Halo Wars 2 story, Anders was taken by one of the Guardians to an unknown planet with several other Guardians in orbit.
This was just a very brief outline of one of the finest officers that the UNSC ever produced. I would rank Cutter right up there with Captain Jacob Keyes and Admiral Preston Cole for the role they played in shaping the outcome of the human-covenant war and humanity as a whole.
See you all next week!
“If we don’t stop Atriox now, we leave the galaxy at the mercy of a monster. So no, Isabel. We won’t be running anywhere today.“— Captain Cutter.