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Captain Daniel Clayton is a former commissioned officer of the UNSC Navy who defected to the New Colonial Alliance, an insurgent organization. He is the illegitimate son of the renowned Captain James Cutter.
Early life and military career
Daniel "Danny" Clayton was born on the Inner Colony world of Tribute to James Cutter and his mistress. Clayton has no memories of ever meeting his father, though his mother claimed he once did. Cutter and his command, the UNSC Spirit of Fire, disappeared following the Battle for Arcadia in February 2531. Then-Captain Terrence Hood (Cutter's former executive officer) blamed himself for allowing the ship to go missing, as he ignored orders to avoid contact with the Covenant; the ensuing engagement prevented Spirit of Fire's log buoy from being recovered, thus denying the UNSC any indication of the ship's whereabouts.
Out of guilt, Hood provided support for both Cutter's legitimate family (his apparent widow Mary and their daughter) and his secret one, sending Clayton's mother money for years. Clayton eventually joined the UNSC and rose to the rank of captain; by 2558 he had come to serve under Rear Admiral Horatio Temkin, the UNSC's ambassador to Sanghelios. Clayton eventually learned that Lord Hood had been acting as a benefactor throughout his entire career in an attempt to make up for the loss of Cutter and Spirit of Fire. Feeling he had never accomplished anything for himself, Clayton joined Admiral Mattius Drake's New Colonial Alliance and sought vengeance on Lord Hood.
Having learned of Hood's diplomatic mission to Ealen IV, Clayton leaked intel about the peace talks and employed the help of a Sangheili mercenary, Vata 'Gajat. On March 5, they led an attack on the peace conference. Clayton also had his own agent among the delegation's security detail, SPARTAN-IV Vladimir Scruggs. During the battle, he was notified by Scruggs that Fireteam Jackknife was eliminated. The tide of the battle changed when the delegation reestablished communications with their orbiting fleets and escaped from the planet. Not wanting to risk being identified, Clayton and 'Gajat retreated before the UNSC Infinity and their allied Sangheili and Jiralhanae ships could engage them.
After their failed assault on Ealen IV, 'Gajat and Captain Clayton lured Admiral Hood and the UNSC Infinity into a trap. They launched a freighter, the Pilgrims' Pride, which sent out a distress signal that was later picked up by Infinity. When Infinity arrived in the Artesia-702 system, it found the damaged freighter leaking atomic matter with faint life signs aboard and tugged the ship into one of its deployment bays. An ambush was sprung within the bay when the freighter set itself to self-destruct and multiple UNSC aircraft exited its cargo bay. The attack was repelled and Infinity later discovered the assault crafts used were from the Spirit of Fire. Infinity tracked the freighter's origin to Oth Lodon where it found a Covenant space station operated by NCA forces. Captain Clayton revealed himself and his motives to Lord Hood and fired on Infinity with the station's energy projector.
After firing several times the cannon overheated, forcing Clayton and the others to wait to bring it back online. The station then detected several OF92 Booster Frames and he ordered the station's smaller arms online. He asked 'Gajat to keep Infinity busy until they brought the cannon back online. 'Gajat however, questioning Clayton's vision, decided capturing the ship would get them more money than working for Clayton. Five Spartan-IVs boarded the station and seized control of it, ordering everyone to freeze. Clayton told them not to listen, asking the Spartans if they knew who he was. One of them said they did know him and knocked him out with their sniper rifle for killing his friend Paul DeMarco during the Battle of Ealen IV.
Clayton and the others were captured and brought aboard Infinity. Lord Hood came to see Daniel in his cell, Clayton already assuming he was going to the Midnight Facility. Hood wanted to know why Admiral Drake would allow Clayton to destroy Infinity when four years earlier, the NCA had sought to capture it. Saying that Drake was twice the man Hood would ever be, Clayton went on to claim that the New Colonial Alliance had agents on every human world, including Earth and confidently stated that the UNSC and Earth would fall. As Hood turned to leave, Clayton hit one of his Marine guards and said they would meet again, when Hood would watch his empire fall.
List of appearances