Jacob Keyes

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This article is about UNSC naval captain. For other uses, see Keyes (disambiguation).
Jacob Keyes
HaloReach - CAPT Jacob Keyes.jpg
Biographical information




February 8, 2495[1]


September 21, 2552 (aged 57)




6' 4" (1.943 meters)[1]


212 pounds (96.2 kilograms)[1]

Hair color:

Black (graying)

Eye color:


Political and military information


UNSC Navy, later The Flood



Service number:


Notable info:


"Men like him will save us, you know. We need more like Keyes."
Admiral Preston Cole[2]

Captain Jacob Keyes (Service number 01928-19912-JK) was one of the most brilliant tacticians in the UNSC Navy. He commanded great respect as a highly skilled strategist and inspirational leader to those under his command. His many decorations, thirty-five years of combat experience against the Covenant, and ability to keep a secret made him an almost natural choice to command the UNSC Pillar of Autumn and its secret cargo.


Early career[edit]

Captain Keyes was born on Earth and spent some time around the Pacific Ocean during his childhood. He had a sister who later resided on the colony world of Dwarka. At some point in his life he read the work of Dr. Elias Carver, but considered his view of the situation in the colonies to be pessimistic. During his second year of training in Officer Candidate School, an incident occurred where fourteen ensigns were killed due to an instructor's error during a poorly planned test. Keyes suffered plasma burns during the test and had to be rehabilitated in a hospital for two months. Keyes refused to testify against the instructor and was nearly demoted for it. Keyes' stubbornness is what brought him to the attention of Dr. Halsey.[3]

A young Jacob Keyes with Dr. Halsey.

In 2517, seven weeks out of the OCS, Lieutenant (J.G.) Keyes was assigned to the UNSC Magellan when those orders were rescinded and he was chosen to assist Dr. Catherine Halsey with her task of searching for usable subjects for her SPARTAN-II project. Keyes was chosen by Halsey for this assignment partly because he could "keep a secret". In order to fool anybody who was suspicious, they told them that they were looking for a school for their daughter, and so they both began observing the chosen subjects for the program. The first child they chose was SPARTAN subject number 117: John. Later, he expressed doubts when Halsey actually let Soren-066 choose whether he wanted to become a Spartan, saying it was an "awful lot to lay on a child, even one who's grown up so fast."[4] Keyes never forgot this assignment or the names of each and every one of the children.

As Keyes slowly started learning of the true nature of the SPARTAN-II project, Dr. Halsey immediately sent him back to normal duty with a full Lieutenant commission.[5] In November 2524, he was reunited with Dr. Halsey while attending a conference at the University of Calippus; it was on this occasion that they conceived their daughter, Miranda Halsey.[6]

Human-Covenant War[edit]

Early in the Human-Covenant War, he became a widely known hero when he led a small group of security troops against the Covenant ambush of the frigate UNSC Meriwether Lewis and held the Covenant off long enough for the ship to escape. He sustained a deep gouging plasma burn to his thigh and had his hand shattered, which was later rebuilt.[7]

Because of his injuries, Keyes was removed from active service and reassigned to the Luna OCS Academy. Some of the top brass at UNSC High Command disapproved of him and he got the nickname "Schoolmaster" from those detractors, who thought he didn't belong in command of anything but a classroom, if that. In 2531 he agreed to take in his daughter Miranda, when her mother felt she was unable to give her the care she needed. Miranda grew very close to her father, taking his surname, following him into the service, and becoming one of the youngest candidates ever accepted into the OCS Academy.

In 2535, Keyes was placed back on active duty, serving as navigation officer on the stealth frigate UNSC Midsummer Night. During the tour, Keyes, helping to inforce the newly written Cole Protocol, realized that an Insurrectionist ship was planning to suicide bomb itself against the Midsummer Night. Keyes managed to warn the frigate and get the boarding party of Orbital Drop Shock Troopers back aboard. The ODSTs were grateful that he had taken action, and Major Faison, the senior Marine, had him tattooed with the ODST brand, saying any ODST would help him if he showed him it.

However, the Midsummer Night was also on a secret mission to locate the supply source of Insurrectionists who were receiving weapons from the Covenant. As part of their mission, the Midsummer Night went to Charybdis IX, and Keyes was part of the ground unit. There, he killed his first human being with a modified plasma rifle, during a riot.

Main article: Battle of Charybdis IX

Shortly after this confrontation, Charybdis IX was glassed by the Covenant. The Midsummer Night chased an Insurrectionist freighter, the Kestrel to the Rubble. Keyes took command of the Midsummer Night after his commanding officer, Dmitri Zheng was killed by a traitor of the command crew. He later fought in the Battle of the Rubble, and towed Habitat Exodus to Falaknuma, saving over a million human survivors from the Rubble. Although Keyes expected he would be court-martialed for violating the Cole Procotol by giving the Insurrectionists navigation data, Admiral Preston Cole was impressed with Keyes and skip promoted him to Commander.[8]

Sigma Octanus[edit]

Main article: Battle of Sigma Octanus IV

Keyes eventually assumed command of the UNSC Iroquois in April of 2552.[9] In 2552, he foresaw a Covenant attack on Sigma Octanus IV thanks to an astrophysics journal by SPARTAN-084. His actions resulted in the destruction of a Covenant destroyer, two Covenant frigates and the retreat of a Covenant carrier with a daring maneuver dubbed the "Keyes Loop", all without a ship AI to help him. This unprecedented victory against a Covenant force earned him a promotion to Captain and aided him to become recognized by the entire UNSC. Keyes and the Iroquois remained in the Sigma Octanus system to fight in the Battle of Sigma Octanus IV. Keyes' brilliance and hindsight allowed him to find out what the Covenant were up to, and intercepted a transmission beamed for a Covenant stealth ship to receive, saving Sigma Octanus IV again. He later returned to Reach (inadvertently disclosing the location of Reach to the Covenant via a homing beacon attached to the Iroquois) and was debriefed by an ONI council at Camp Hathcock. Here he met SPARTAN-117 once again.

Fall of Reach[edit]

Main article: Fall of Reach
Noble Six delivers Cortana's fragment to Keyes.

At Reach, Keyes was given an important mission by Rear Admiral Stanforth: to transport the SPARTAN super soldiers deep into Covenant space in order to capture a Prophet, who would then be used as a ransom to end the Human-Covenant war. As part of this command, Keyes was given control over the Pillar of Autumn. Before the Autumn could leave Reach for slipspace, the Covenant attacked Reach. His mission scrubbed, Keyes offloaded most of the Spartans to the surface of the planet and sent three to Reach Station Gamma. He then tried to aid in the defense of Reach and even destroyed a powerful Covenant "sniper ship", but ultimately, his efforts were in vain. He could only pick up SPARTAN-117 along with SPARTAN-058 and a handful of marines from the station just in time to flee the pursuing Covenant.

At some point after retrieving SPARTAN-117, Keyes took the Pillar of Autumn to the Aszod ship breaking yards on the ground to retrieve a fragment of Cortana from Noble Six. This fragment held valuable navigation data that would lead the Pillar of Autumn to Halo. As he met with Noble Six to receive the Cortana fragment, Keyes noted that Dr. Halsey's judgment in choosing the package's carrier had been correct. Noble Six reminded the Captain that the mission's success was thanks to the efforts of the whole of Noble Team, to which Keyes replied that their sacrifice would be remembered. Noble Six gave covering fire against a Covenant CCS-class battlecruiser and waves of other Covenant aircraft with a ground-based mass driver as the Autumn took off and withdrew.


Main article: Battle of Installation 04
"Whoever controls Halo controls the fate of the universe."
—Captain Keyes
Keyes arms himself with a Needler and prepares to fight his way out of the Truth and Reconciliation.

The Pillar of Autumn's AI Cortana ended up navigating the vessel to Installation 04. They were once again assaulted by Covenant forces, and Captain Keyes told Cortana to lock in a selection of landing zones on the ring and to upload them to his neural interface. Keyes then assigned the Master Chief to protect Cortana and she became a valuable asset to him. Keyes locked in the codes and the Pillar of Autumn crashed on the ring.

Keyes and the command crew of the Autumn managed to escape in a Bumblebee life pod, Kilo Tango Victor 17. During the descent, the Ossoona, Isna 'Nosolee was discovered to be lurking aboard by Keyes, and subsequently killed by the Captain. Unfortunately, they were still spotted in the descent by two Sangheili on Ghosts. Due to the actions of traitor Ensign Ellen Dowski, the Covenant were able to find out where Keyes and the command crew were. When they got there they incapacitated the Captain and killed the rest of the command crew, including Dowski herself. Despite being an inspirational leader to many under his command, the Captain also has a great deal amount of respect for each and everyone of his crew and he dearly cares about them. The death of his crew shocked him, and he had wished to die as well as he was captured by the Covenant.

Keyes was taken aboard the Covenant CCS-class battlecruiser, the Truth and Reconciliation. There, he was interrogated, tortured, and held prisoner until the Master Chief, the ODSTs, and a group of Marines were able to rescue him with the help of Cortana. Combining what Keyes found out from what Cortana was able to hack from the Covenant Battlenet, they were able to figure out some of the truth about Halo. They were forced to commandeer a Spirit dropship, during their escape and Keyes piloted it out himself, even going so far as to ram two Hunters on the flight out for "a little payback".

Keyes and Sergeant Johnson engaging Flood infection forms as their squad is overwhelmed.

Keyes then went to Alpha Base, taking command of the base from Major Antonio Silva briefly. He then took Staff Sergeant Avery Johnson, Fire Team Charlie and Second Squad to a facility they thought held a Covenant weapons cache. It turned out that the structure was one of the Halo's Flood containment facilities. Keyes and his Marines were ambushed by the Flood. During the ensuing firefight, an infection form latched onto his back and infected him.

Keyes observed helplessly as the form took over his body and attacked his mind. Originally, Keyes' body was a combat form, but the Flood, apparently realizing his importance, merged him and several other combat forms into a proto-Gravemind. One of the tortures Keyes endured was having his memories ripped away one by one as the Flood tried to learn anything that would help attain new sources of food.[10] The Flood hoped that his intelligence would help them to operate a damaged Covenant cruiser and escape the ring, but Keyes was able to fend it off by constantly accessing data that was permanently stored in his command neural interface, while feeding it those of his memories that were not vital to the survival of humanity, such as his name, age, and service number (though definitely not anything that could lead to the thought of the location of Earth).[11]

Jacob Keyes, now part of a proto-Gravemind form.

Just as Keyes acquired the determination to defy his infection, he finally submitted to the Flood.[12] However, before Keyes succumbed to the overwhelming pressure, the Master Chief boarded the ship once again looking for Keyes and found only the proto-Gravemind form. The Captain was able to contact the Chief three times, warning him to leave him behind, before the proto-Gravemind fully overwhelmed him.[13] Keyes' life officially ended when the Chief punched through his skull to retrieve his command neural interface after his mind had been absorbed by the Flood infection, with Cortana stating that "she knew that this was what he wanted".[14] His command neural interface enabled Master Chief and Cortana to start up the Pillar of Autumn's engines so they could destroy the Halo ring by overloading and exploding the engines.


"Your father's actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of military service, his bravery in the face of impossible odds, reflecting great credit upon himself and the UNSC. The Navy has lost one of its best."
Fleet Admiral Terrence Hood to Miranda Keyes after awarding her father with a posthumous Colonial Cross.

Admiral Cole gave Keyes his lieutenant commander status for his protection of one million people after the Battle of the Rubble, and also stated that "Men like him will save us, you know. We need more like Keyes."

The Keyes family lived on Luna, including his daughter, Miranda Keyes. She accepted a posthumous Colonial Cross awarded to her father for his bravery during the events on Installation 04 by Lord Hood. In 2553, he was remembered at the Voi Memorial alongside his daughter, Sergeant Johnson, and many other victims of the Human-Covenant War. His courage and skill were never forgotten, making him one of the most important and remembered naval officers in human history.


Keyes was often quite officious and put the safety of the UNSC before his own personal safety, even going as far as to almost self destruct the ship he was on so that the Covenant wouldn't find Earth. He was prepared and willing to give anything for his planet. He would often charge headlong into battle keeping a straight and calm face, along with an underlying strategy. Keyes was also known to be fearless in most situations, as he refused to tell Zuka 'Zamamee about John-117, and even dared the Elite to kill him. At times he thought of his sister and her fate on Dwarka. He had banished the guilt of not being able to save her by knowing he had saved the lives of millions from The Rubble. Keyes also had a habit of fiddling with his grandfather's pipe, often chewing on its tip to aid in concentration. [15]


An artist's rendition of Captain Keyes's medal ribbons.

Keyes wore nine ribbons on his uniform at the time of his death in 2552.[16] For the sake of this article, these will be numbered Ribbons 1 through 9, in this order.

These ribbons coincide with the following UNSC and old U.S. Air Force decorations:



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  • It is mentioned in Halo: The Cole Protocol that Keyes received the ODST tattoo on his right arm due to the fact that he saved a group of ODSTs aboard an Insurrectionist cargo ship. The tattoo is Japanese Kanji for "bastard" or "bad-ass". It would be different from the symbol seen on the back of ODST body armor in Halo 3, which is apparently Chinese, not Japanese, despite holding the same meaning.
  • Ribbon 7 on Keyes' uniform is out of order. In the modern U.S. Military, it would be worn before Ribbon 6 (however, this can be the common occurrence in works of fiction of portraying military personnel as slightly off regulations). Then again, it is also unlikely that Keyes, a naval captain, won an award for being an enlisted member of the Air Force. We can only assume that the meaning of these ribbons has changed.
  • Keyes enjoyed smoking Sweet William cigars along with many other people in the UNSC such as CPO Mendez and Sergeant Major Avery Johnson, but was only ever seen using his pipe.
  • On the Halo 3 Legendary Edition bonus disc, Martin O'Donnell jokingly describes Captain Keyes of having at least twelve polygons. He is also jokingly called the "Captain of Exposition".[citation needed]
  • In Halo: Combat Evolved, Captain Keyes' tunic features the Marathon logo, which is also the logo of the Pillar of Autumn. The text on the tunic states "Hello My Name Keyes". The missing "is" probably did not fit onto the texture for his in-game uniform model. The Marathon logo is replaced with the Seventh Column symbol in Halo: Reach due to Bungie-Microsoft copyright issues, and again to a cog in Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary.
  • In the original Combat Evolved, Keyes wore Marine fatigues when he arrived with the other troops at the Flood containment facility. However, in Anniversary he is still wearing and fights in his uniform.
  • In Halo: The Flood, according to one of his memories while being consumed by the Flood, Keyes first killed a human with a pistol. However, this was retconned in Halo: The Cole Protocol, in which Keyes first killed a human with a modified plasma rifle.

Production notes[edit]

Captain Keyes was voiced by Pete Stacker in Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo: Reach. The Captain Keyes model for Halo: Combat Evolved was created by Marcus R. Lehto.


Despite holding the Naval rank of captain (O-6), Keyes is consistently depicted with the bars of a UNICOM captain (O-3) rather than the proper Captain's Eagle. This mistake was first made in Halo: Combat Evolved and remained uncorrected in both Halo: Reach and Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary.


List of appearances[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Halo: The Essential Visual Guide, page 106
  2. ^ Halo: The Cole Protocol, page 354
  3. ^ Halo: The Fall of Reach, pages 19-20
  4. ^ Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe, page 16
  5. ^ Halo: The Fall of Reach, page 28
  6. ^ Halo: Reach, Dr. Halsey's personal journal
  7. ^ Halo: The Cole Protocol, page 28
  8. ^ Halo: The Cole Protocol
  9. ^ Halo: The Fall of Reach, pages 138-139
  10. ^ Halo: The Flood, pages 225-227
  11. ^ Halo: The Flood, pages 253-254
  12. ^ Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Terminal 9
  13. ^ Halo: The Flood, pages 290, 303 and 305-306
  14. ^ Halo: The Flood, page 306
  15. ^ Halo: The Fall of Reach, page 17
  16. ^ Halo: Combat Evolved, campaign level, Truth and Reconciliation
  17. ^ Halo 2, campaign level, Cairo Station opening cutscene