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Colonel Marmon Crowther, callsign Dagger Actual, was the commander of the United Nations Space Command Marine Corps' elite 21st Space Assault Battalion, nicknamed the Black Daggers. He commanded the Black Daggers throughout the UNSC's daring Operation: SILENT STORM early in the Human-Covenant War.
Marmon Crowther was born circa 2476, eventually enlisting in the UNSC Marine Corps. He rose to the rank of colonel during the Insurrection, becoming an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper and taking command of the 21st Space Assault Battalion, a special operations battalion with advanced zero-gravity combat training. His ODSTs came to be known as the "Black Daggers" and were greatly respected by other UNSC personnel. At some point prior to March 2526, the Black Daggers raided a United Rebel Front-controlled supply depot at Bomogin, capturing it before the rebels even knew they were there.
Operation: SILENT STORM
When Vice Admirals Preston Cole and Michael Stanforth, along with Dr. Catherine Halsey, formulated Operation: SILENT STORM—their plan to slow the Covenant's advance through the Outer Colonies, they chose Crowther's Black Daggers to assist in this mission. Along with the SPARTAN-IIs, these ODSTs would board Covenant vessels and destroy them from the inside using nuclear weapons, a strategy that had already been successfully executed on two separate occasions by the Spartans. On March 8, 2526, Crowther was summoned by Preston Cole aboard the UNSC Vanishing Point, along with John-117, Captain Halima Ascot, Staff Sergeant Avery Johnson, and Dr. Halsey, to discuss the plan. It was theorized that the Covenant's next target would be Biko due to its proximity to Etalan, which was already being glassed by one of their fleets. An ice quarry on Biko's moon of Seoba was chosen to be their staging ground as they waited for the Covenant to arrive.
With the briefing over, Task Force Yama left for the Kolaqoa system. As the Vanishing Point travelled through slipspace, the Spartans trained with the Black Daggers in the vessel's mission preparation hold. The Spartans made short work of the marines in every exercise until Staff Sergeant Johnson taught they some new, unorthodox strategies that were much more effective. After four days of this training, Colonel Crowther had them all gather in the drop hangar to discuss the specifics of the plan. Despite their performance, Crowther was skeptical about deploying the Spartans to the front lines due to their inexperience on the battlefield as well as their apparent young age, much to John-117's frustration.
Battle of Seoba
Upon arriving in the Kolaqoa system on March 18, Task Force Yama set course for Seoba and the abandoned ice quarry that would house their prowlers until the Covenant arrived. Eager to not waste any time, Colonel Crowther decided that his Black Daggers and John-117's Spartans would practice a full-scale landing into the quarry, dubbed Operation: ICE DANCE. With the drop bays of the task force's Razor-class prowlers packed full with forty-two ODSTs each, it would take time for them all to be deployed into the moon's low gravity, which would have each platoon strewn across a thirty-kilometer area unless they slowed down. Because of the Spartans' seeming lack of experience, Crowther also had each of them at the back of the drop bays, making them the last to deploy and in the worst position to provide support, according to John's assessment.
While on approach, Task Force Yama intercepted communications from the Biko Independence Army, revealing that they were in the process of preparing a coup against Biko's chancellor and that these insurrectionists were occupying the very same quarry that the UNSC force had selected. With the Vanishing Point doing its best to jam any transmissions from the moon, Crowther announced to his men that Operation: ICE DANCE was no longer a drill and that their insertion would likely be hot. He also ordered them to eliminate any communications equipment that they came across while on the ground, in the event that the insurgents had found a way around the jamming. For operational security, all Black Daggers would identify themselves as members of the Chancellor's Guards to any insurrectionist captives.
Once the prowlers reached their designated drop off zones and began letting off their complement, the entrenched insurrectionists tore into the ODSTs with M41 Vulcans. In the chaos, John-117 disobeyed orders and leapt from the UNSC Ghost Song to face the insurgents head-on, with the rest of Blue Team following his lead. They softened up the insurrectionists enough for many of the Black Daggers to deploy safely. Ghost Flight managed to disable the enemy's communications center in their attack run, but the Spartans soon had to focus on preventing them from repairing it to call for reinforcements. As a form of payback for disobeying orders, Lieutenant Nelly Hamm of the Black Daggers' Alpha Company tricked the Spartans into being a distraction so that her men could stop the insurgents from repairing the relay themselves. With the relay permanently disabled and enough ODSTs safely deployed, the ice quarry soon fell under UNSC control. During the battle, Captain Zelos Cuvier, the commanding officer of the Black Dagger's Alpha Company, was killed, resulting in Crowther promoting Lieutenant Hamm to captain and commanding officer of Alpha Company.
The day after the battle, Crowther's men had repurposed the quarry's Assembly Chamber 4L430 for an informal debriefing led by Captain Ascot. A UNSC flag was hung on the chamber's polycrete-coated walls, with portable standing lights and a folding conference table also set up for the debriefing. Along with Captain Ascot and Colonel Crowther, the meeting also included Lieutenant Commander Hector Nyeto of Ghost Flight, now-Captain Nelly Hamm, Avery Johnson, John-117, and Dr. Halsey. Here, they discussed the difficulties with the previous day's battle. After John's maverick action was discussed, the discussion soon turned to the young Spartan's true age. Ultimately, the truth came out that John and his fellow Spartans were all around the age of fifteen, and Crowther refused to send them into battle again as a result. The conversation then turned to why the insurrectionists had seemingly been ready for their arrival, with John realizing and convincing the others that they had instead been waiting for the Covenant, with the intent to meet them for negotiations. While they were planning for the Covenant's inevitable arrival, a flotilla of the alien ships appeared in-system and set course for Seoba. The other UNSC leaders then rushed out of the chamber to ready their forces for the imminent continuation of the battle, as Crowther remained where he was to talk with John. He assigned the Spartans to guard and load the captured insurrectionists into a transport as the Black Daggers mobilized to ambush the Covenant. Despite being relegated to babysitter, John accepted his orders. However, he also requested that Crowther no longer refer to him as "son," to which the colonel agreed.
With the flotilla nearing Seoba, Crowther was busy organizing his men onto the prowlers, with Ascot's own Night Flight receiving the final company of ODSTs. Crowther himself was aboard the Ghost Song with Lieutenant Commander Nyeto. As the UNSC Starry Night launched, it was hit by a blast from the Covenant corvettes, causing it crash into the quarry. Nyeto was frantically reporting over the task force's command channel that the vessel was still intact when Crowther interrupted him, informing the lieutenant commander that he would advise if more information about Ascot's flagship was needed. Nyeto indignantly proclaimed that there could be survivors in need of help, but Crowther cut him off once more, telling him to proceed as planned and to observe Protocol Echo. This was an instruction to treat communications as non-secure, and the colonel used it to warn to Nyeto that the extent of Covenant eavesdropping technology was unknown. Now that Nyeto was silenced, Crowther attempted to hail the Starry Night, but received no response. Fearing the worst, he began searching for a Black Dagger unit that could be sent to the crash site. However, all of his ODSTs had already launched with prowlers. Those aboard the other three prowlers of Night Flight were eager to assist, but it would require sending them back into an increasingly intense plasma bombardment. He denied their offers, not wanting to lose any more ships.
Because no other units were available, John-117 decided that he and his Spartans would search for the Starry Night themselves, knowing that Crowther would not assign them to the task. Once they made it into the quarry, John accessed the command channel once more and requested a waypoint leading to the downed prowler. Crowther responded by asking what he thought he was doing. John stated that they were checking on the status of the Starry Night as they were the only unit that could so at the moment, carefully choosing his words so that Crowther could deflect blame onto the Spartan if need be. This would make it more likely for Crowther to not stand in the way of their self-assigned mission. As such, Crowther acknowledged John's plan, but ordered him to not take action unless immediately warranted. He also informed him of Biko's naval response to the alien bombardment of Seoba and that Nyeto believed that the small Covenant flotilla would either be in full retreat or destroyed within the hour by the approaching overwhelming force. After nearing the provided waypoint, the Spartans discovered that the Starry Night was largely intact, but sat atop a large avalanche about seven hundred meters up the quarry wall. Also, they spotted an intrusion corvette moving into position over the prowler, seemingly preparing to recover it for study. John opened the command channel again and relayed this information to Crowther, who insisted that they could not let the Covenant take possession of the Starry Night. The vessel's navigation computer and other onboard data devices could reveal the locations of UNSC outposts, entire force deployments, or worse. Crowther asked Nyeto if there was any way that the prowler's nuclear self-destruct system could be remotely activated, to which the lieutenant commander responded in the affirmative. However, there were only three positions that had access to that ability. The first two were the flight commander and wing commander, both of which were roles held by Captain Ascot, who was either dead or unable to be reached aboard the Starry Night. The final person with the ability to remotely detonate the prowler was the captain of the Vanishing Point, which was unfortunately holding station two planetary orbits out from Seoba. At that distance, it would take nearly an hour for the request to be sent to the cruiser and for the return signal to arrive. By then, the Covenant might already have retrieved sensitive data from the wrecked prowler. Crowther began to reluctantly order the Spartans to prevent the Starry Night's capture, but John cut him off, assuring him that they would not fail. The Spartan requested that Task Force Yama assist them by keeping the assaulting corvettes off their backs. Nyeto began to say that their prowlers were not designed for ship-to-ship combat when Crowther interrupted him, promising that they would find a way. Crowther started to tell John to standby for instructions on how to manually activate the prowler's self-destruct, but he reassured the colonel that his Spartans already knew how to activate a nuke.
As Nyeto's support was too slow in arriving, John had his team fire onto the ice drift below the Starry Night, causing it and the surrounding ice to tumble down to the quarry floor and away from the Covenant. Finding that some of his Spartans had escaped being buried in ice, John ordered them to board the prowler as he switched back to the command channel to report to Crowther and Nyeto. When he asked once again where their support was, the lieutenant commander told him that it was on the way and that he should not worry. Growing increasingly frustrated with Nyeto, John made it clear to him that they needed support immediately. Crowther interrupted to reassure him that they would be there soon, even though he was not very confident in Nyeto's plan himself. While Fred-104 led a team inside of the Starry Night, Nyeto made his move and destroyed two of the approaching intrusion corvettes. However, the corvette that was attempting to recover the prowler was unharmed. John ordered Fred's team to activate the prowler's Fury nuke and escape with the few survivors found on the Starry Night—four Black Daggers and Staff Sergeant Johnson. Fred decided that they would use one of the vessel's escape pods to flee the blast radius. When it launched from the prowler and soared out of the quarry pit through Seoba's low gravity, Crowther was surprised and asked what that was. John informed him that it was some of his Spartans and survivors from the crash, and that the Starry Night would self-destruct in twenty-five seconds. Nyeto sarcastically thanked John for the short notice, to which he responded in kind regarding the delayed support. Crowther told them to can the chatter and informed John that they would land to recover his squad as soon as the nuke's electromagnetic pulse cleared. All of the Spartans and the five survivors from the Starry Night made it away safely before the detonation, which also destroyed the Covenant corvette that was attempting to take possession of the prowler.
On March 20, Crowther attended a funeral service honoring the two-hundred-and-three men and women that Task Force Yama had lost the previous few days. The ceremony was held in the Vanishing Point's command hangar as the vessel maintained a high parabolic orbit around Biko. Crowther was one of one-hundred-and-one officers in attendance as a chaplain gave the eulogy, and Lieutenant Commander Hector Nyeto—now the de facto commander of the task force—delivered the Committal as the interment capsules were ceremoniously jettisoned into space. After the service, only a handful of senior officers and the Spartans remained to hear what their new commander had planned as their next move. Nyeto approached John-117, complementing him on what he and his compatriots had accomplished the day prior. When John asked if he would reconsider sidelining them due to their age, Nyeto promised that they would be seeing all the action that they could handle for the rest of the operation. Hearing this, Crowther strode forward and told him that that decision was not his to make as the Spartans reported to him. Nyeto reminded the colonel that he now reported to him, and that they needed the obvious talents of the Spartans. When Crowther reminded him that they were only fifteen, Nyeto pointed out that Admiral Cole had surely been aware of that when he formed Task Force Yama. Unfazed, Crowther told him that sending children into battle would be a big mistake, threatening the lieutenant commander by hinting that he would report him to a UNSC board of inquiry. Finally, Nyeto relented and promised to run their next ambush by the book, with only the Black Daggers participating in the mission.
As everyone departed from the hangar shocked that they had just witnessed two senior officers threaten each other with career-ending charges, Crowther sought out Staff Sergeant Johnson and walked with him back to the Black Daggers' quarters. He apologized to the younger marine that he had to see that exchange, but Johnson told him he had seen worse. However, he also warned Crowther that his disagreement with Nyeto was not a "pissing match" he was going to win. It had been decided far above the colonel's pay grade that the Spartans were not children and that they were the right fit for the mission. Crowther surprised Johnson by agreeing with this sentiment, saying that the Spartans had saved them at Seoba and that they were ready for battle. He then revealed to the staff sergeant that he was suspicious of Nyeto and his strange attitude toward the Spartans. It had seemed to him like Nyeto had purposefully stalled in supporting them during the previous day's battle. As such, Crowther wanted to keep the Spartans away from Nyeto until he figured out what was going on. To this end, he informed Johnson that he was sending him and the Spartans on a mission to sabotage the Covenant's supply chain at Etalan.
Battle of Biko
Later that same day, Crowther was still aboard the Vanishing Point when the expected Covenant fleet of roughly one hundred warships arrived in-system and began moving to attack Biko. As planned, the Black Daggers were deployed via prowlers, hoping to board and destroy as many alien vessels as possible. However, the Covenant had learned of their plan, and expected the Spartans to board their warships. To prevent this, they kept a tight fighter screen around their capital ships so that no prowlers could easily slip past. This forced Crowther to delay all boarding actions until an opportunity presented itself. Meanwhile, the Covenant fleet accelerated toward Biko's meager navy, showing no signs of slowing down. While the Black Daggers were waylaid, Crowther sent Johnson to visit Blue Team in one of the Vanishing Point's small maintenance hangars and inform them of their new mission to Etalan. The Spartans were skeptical of Crowther's apparent shift in attitude toward them, but they agreed to take the mission after Johnson revealed that Crowther was being cautious due to his mistrust of Nyeto.
Change of heart
Having realized that Lieutenant Commander Nyeto was likely an insurrectionist, Crowther began quietly working with the Spartans on missions against the Covenant while publicly continuing to butt heads with them, claiming at one point that he was going to send them back to Reach while having Staff Sergeant Johnson pass them secret orders. Crowther was later responsible for John's promotion to the rank of Master Chief Petty Officer.
Betrayal and Death
During the attack on the Covenant supply world of Zhoist, Crowther gave contradicting orders to Sierra Force, the prowlers that fell under John's command to disrupt Hector Nyeto's planned betrayal. Crowther then waited on the flight deck of the UNSC Ghost Song with Sergeant Avery Johnson for backup to make his move and relieve Nyeto of command when Nyeto attempted to betray them to the Covenant. When Nyeto began his betrayal, Crowther revealed that Nyeto's Insurrectionist loyalties were already known and attempted to relieve him of command and place Nyeto under arrest for treason. However, the entire prowler's crew turned out to be Insurrectionists and turned on Crowther and Johnson. When Johnson handed Crowther a hidden pistol, the Ghost Song's sensor operator drew an M6E magnum and shot Crowther in the chest and head, killing him instantly. Johnson returned fire, killing the sensor operator and escaping, but Nyeto blew all of the ODSTs into space. Nonetheless, Johnson and Crowther succeeded in foiling Nyeto's plan through a combination of Nyeto's orders and Johnson using his emergency distress beacon to draw the Covenant's attention to Nyeto, forcing him to flee.
Crowther would ultimately leave a lasting impact John-117 despite their differences. After the successful operation, John chose not to go AWOL and chase Nyeto as he knew that it was not something that Crowther would've wanted. Instead, John intended to honor his legacy by carrying on with the fight. Crowther's example also taught John the important but subtle difference between a leader and a commander. Additionally, Crowther's decision to promote John to Master Chief would become a promotion that would ultimately define the Spartan's career.
Personality and description
John-117 initially suspected Crowther of wanting to save his own reputation when he was reluctant to use the Spartan-IIs in operations after he found out they were minors and blamed the Colonel for not giving the Spartans more commanding roles within the battalion. Crowther later changed his mind after the Battle of Seoba and privately recognized that they were magnificent soldiers, but kept up appearances after he realized that there were Insurrectionists on board. After Crowther confided to John-117 that he was weary of Hector Nyeto - whom he suspected of having Insurrectionist sympathies and wanting to kill the Spartan-IIs - however, he became more accepting and respectful of the Spartans in general, and John in particular; the latter especially saw him as a father figure and a role model for commanding. When John attempted to apologize for his previous behavior, Crowther's response was to never apologize for making himself clear and that Crowther himself never did.
Marmon Crowther was notably short and slender. He had black hair, olive skin, and eyes the color of blued steel.
List of appearances