Captain Jacob Keyes (service number 01928-19912-JK) was a commanding officer and 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 Insurrectionists, and ability to keep a secret made him an almost natural choice to command the UNSC Pillar of Autumn and its secret cargo.
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.
In 2517, seven weeks out of the OCS, Lieutenant (J.G.) Keyes was assigned to the UNSC Magellan when those orders were rescinded and he was chosen to assist Dr.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." 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. In 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.
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.
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, transferred aboard the UNSC Armageddon's Edge to Chi Rho in the Ectanus 45 system. He was transported to the planet's surface by Petty Officer Jeffries. At Camp Patmos, Keyes met with Vice Admiral Jean Mawikizi, Commander Dmitri Zheng, and Major Akio Watanabe. He was briefed on the newly instated Cole Protocol and offered a position to serve with the bridge crew, under the command of Zheng, aboard the modified Stalwart-class light frigate UNSC Midsummer Night to help enforce the newly written protocol. Keyes accepted the offer and convinced Mawikizi to transfer Jeffries to the frigate due to his incredible skill in piloting, believing it would be useful in the unorthodox missions that the frigate would be assigned to.
Raid on Finnegan's Wake
The Midsummer Night travelled to the edges of the Ectanus 45 system, shadowing a freighter, Finnegan's Wake, that had slowly edged its way past the system's ecliptic plane. To ensure that the freighter's navigation data had been deleted, Keyes led a boarding team of Orbital Drop Shock Troopers into Finnegan's Wake. The ODSTs and Keyes discovered the captain of the ship and interrogated him. Before the ODSTs could make their way to delete the navigation data, an explosion in the ship went off, throwing Keyes to the ground and killing several ODSTs, including their commander, Canfield.
Insurrectionists began attacking the ODSTs and an emergency beacon was activated, asking the Midsummer Night for reinforcements. Realizing that the Insurrectionists were the ones that triggered the beacon, Keyes attempted to warn the frigate, believing the freighter was rigged to blow, but communications were jammed. Keyes borrowed the armor of an ODST, Markov, and ordered the others to pile the deceased and injured ODSTs into cargo containers. Using the force of a rigged explosion, the ODSTs, Keyes, and the cargo containers were launched from the freighter towards the frigate, using battle rifles to propel themselves into the right direction. The insurgents realized what the ODSTs were doing and desperately blew up the freighter in an attempt to take out some of the nearby ODSTs. Over twenty ODSTs were killed and Keyes was wounded with a piece of the freighter's hull plating. However, more ODSTs had survived than expected, earning Keyes the respect of nearly everyone on the ship.
Charybdis IX riots
After the Finnegan's Wake incident, Keyes and the rest of the Midsummer Night bridge crew were debriefed by Watanabe and Zheng. It was revealed that Covenant weapons, modified for human use, were being distributed to human civilians and insurgents. Deemed a great violation of the Cole Protocol, the Midsummer Night was to find out where the weapons were coming from. The Office of Naval Intelligence had discovered a container of these weapons on the Outer Colony of Charybdis IX, and the Midsummer Night was assigned to help the ONI operatives of the planet discover who the weapons were being distributed to. Upon arriving in the Charybdis system, the ODSTs "demonstrated" that they were grateful for Keyes' service at Finnegan's Wake and Major Faison, the commanding ODST after Canfield's death, had him tattooed with the ODST brand, saying any ODST would help him if he showed it to them.
Jeffries transported Keyes and Watanabe to Scyllion, the planetary capital, in a D77-TC Pelican. Watanabe explained the history of Scyllion to Keyes and that rioting was becoming commonplace in the city. The two were delivered to the ONI mobile command center in the edges of the Scyllion Warehouse District, where they met with Captain Corinthia Hansen. Pretending to be a insurgent, Hansen attempted to deliver the cargo container of modified weapons to rebel leader Jason Kincaide, hoping to discover where Kincaide distributes his weapons. However, due to escalating riots nearby, they were forced to capture Kincaide and attempt to flee the city. However, fellow Insurrectionists and dissatisfied citizens of Scyllion destroyed the ONI convoy of vehicles, killing most of the ONI operatives and freeing Kincaide. Kincaide began to incite the rioting mob and told them to kill all surviving UNSC personnel. Keyes, Hansen, and Watanabe barely escaped the rioters as they began hunting down survivors.
They attempted to escape with Jeffries' Pelican, but it was destroyed by rebel RPG fire, resulting in the death of Jeffries. The trio fled to the roof of the building, where they called in for ODST reinforcements from the Midsummer Night and engaged in firefights with the rebels and rioters. Soon, Kincaide began arming rioters with the modified Covenant weapons. While attempting to listen to the rioter discussion below, Kincaide and three rioters attacked the trio. Watanabe killed two of the rioters but was killed by Kincaide, along with the third rioter. In retaliation, Keyes shot Kincaide multiple times and the two wrestled for control of Kincaide's modified plasma rifle. Keyes gained the upper-hand, and shot Kincaide with the rifle, decapitating him. At first taken back upon realizing he had killed his first human, Keyes threw Kincaide's corpse into the streets below and warned the rioters to disperse and cease hostilities, or else they would be shot.
After the death of Jason Kincaide, twenty ODSTs dropped into Scyllion and broke up any remaining resistance. Two snipers eliminated any surviving RPG-wielding rebels, allowing Keyes and Hansen to be picked and taken to the Midsummer Night. Although Keyes considered the engagement to be a loss, Hansen told him otherwise, informing him that they learned of the origin of the modified weapons from Kincaide. While in transit to the frigate, Zheng detected a Covenant fleet arriving near Charybdis IX. While Keyes and Zheng were in favor of making a last stand alongside the three UNSC destroyers guarding the planet, Hansen revealed that she had a rank higher than both of them and ordered them to continue their search by following the Kestrel, a freighter that had supplied Kincaide. Hansen was dropped off at an orbiting depot and the Midsummer Night fled the system before the Covenant could attack.
Battle of the Rubble
The Midsummer Night trailed the Kestrel for nearly a week, eventually following it to the 23 Librae system. The freighter made its way to the asteroids orbiting a gas giant in the system, Hesiod. Upon further inspection, the crew of the frigate discovered that all the asteroids were connected, forming an Insurrectionist metropolis known as the Rubble. The crew further learned that the Insurrectionists were working with the Kig-Yar. While admiring the Rubble, Badia Campbell revealed herself as a rebel-sympathizer and mortally wounded Zheng and shot Dante Kirtley and Rai Li. While Keyes and Campbell wrestled for control of her sidearm, she gained the upper-hand and proceeded to commit suicide. Campbell had damaged the ship's fusion core coolant system, leaving the frigate nearly disabled. At Zheng's orders, Keyes attacked the Rubble's fleet of freighters, with the Midsummer Night being damaged with a mass driver round. While Zheng left the bridge of the ship to check on engineering, the Rubble hailed the frigate, asking to speak with its commander. Keyes left the bridge to find Zheng dying near engineering, having surrendered to the overwhelming rebel forces. Zheng warned Keyes not to trust anyone and gave him command of the frigate before dying. As the rebels boarded the ship, Keyes ordered the ODSTs to stand down.
The Midsummer Night was forced to dock with the Habitat Asuncion asteroid and the frigate's crew was given the option to become a resident of the Rubble or be held in prison cells. Keyes gave a speech telling the crew that he would forgive them if they choose to become residents, but he decided that he would not join their citizenry. Maria Esquival warned him that he was not allowed to make any more speeches and had him arrested. Meanwhile, the leader of the Kig-Yar working with the Rubble's citizens, Reth, was beginning to pre-emptively invade the Rubble to show that he was still loyal to the Covenant. Jai-006, from Gray Team, arrived at Keyes' holding cell and rescued him and the rest of the frigate's imprisoned crew. The Rubble's AI, Juliana, offered to help Keyes and his crew escape the system in a Kig-Yar ship, if he helped her discover what the Kig-Yar were attempting to do. Keyes met with Ignatio Delgado aboard the freighter Mighty Sparrow and took command of it, with several of its crew. He intended to dock it with Reth's flagship, the Infinite Spoils, and allow Juliana to infiltrate the vessel's systems.
The Mighty Sparrow rammed the Infinite Spoils, allowing Faison, his ODSTs, and Jai to board the raider. The ODSTs and Jai quickly eliminated the small Kig-Yar contingent aboard the ship and took control of its bridge. However, a Kig-Yar troop carrier, commanded by Shipmaster Thel 'Vadamee, attacked the two ships. The troop carrier disabled the Mighty Sparrow and Keyes ordered everyone to make their way inside the Infinite Spoils, during which Faison was mortally wounded by a Kig-Yar. Keyes and the surviving members of the boarding party made their way to the docks and donned vacuum suits. Juliana released the air from the docks, killing most of the Kig-Yar inside. After the ODSTs eliminated any survivors, Keyes came aboard Gray Team's freighter, Petya.
After discovering the Unggoy army Reth had created on one of Hesiod's moons, Metisette, Keyes prepared to launch a counter-attack to destroy the Covenant forces. Keyes retook control of the repaired Midsummer Night and used the frigate to deploy Gray Team and ODSTs to the moon. To allow Juliana to orbitally bombard Metisette with the Rubble, the Spartans and ODSTs destroyed Kig-Yar AA guns and sensor stations. After they completed their mission, Keyes had Gray Team and the surviving ODSTs returned to the frigate. Keyes used the Midsummer Night to protect Habitat Exodus while the Rubble's citizens were evacuated inside it, during which the frigate was damaged. After the Exodus asteroid detached from the rest of the Rubble, Juliana used the asteroids to destroy the Unggoy army on Metisette and killed Reth. However, the Exodus could not make a slipspace jump to safety like it intended to do. Keyes decided to convince the Rubble Security Council to travel to an Inner Colony, which was still possible at the time. After a short speech to the Council members reminding them of their duty to protect all the Rubble's citizens and the duty to fight back against the Covenant who took their homes, the Council decided to travel to Falaknuma, an Inner Colony in the 18 Scorpii system.
Keyes was brought down and debriefed by ONI Commander Hadley and Admiral Preston Cole himself. Although Keyes expected he would be court-martialed for violating the Cole Protocol by giving the Insurrectionists navigation data, Cole congratulated Keyes for his commendable bravery and work and promoted him to Commander.
Keyes eventually assumed command of a Halberd-class destroyer, the UNSC Iroquois in April of 2552. 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. The Iroquois, still in orbit and badly damaged by the maneuver pulled off by Keyes, deployed the SPARTAN-IIs to engage the Covenant forces on the surface of Sigma Octanus IV towards Côte d'Azur.
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. During the battle, Keyes used the Iroquois to ram the stealth ship and destroyed it with Archer missiles, leaving his destroyer badly damaged. Shortly after the battle, the Iroquois was tagged by a Covenant spy probe, subsequently leading the Covenant to Reach. At Reach, Keyes was debriefed by an ONI council at Camp Hathcock. He was congratulated on his victory and assigned command of the UNSC Pillar of Autumn. During his time at Hathcock, Keyes met with John-117.
Fall of Reach
At Reach, Keyes was given an important mission by Rear Admiral Stanforth: to transport the active SPARTAN-II commandos deep into Covenant space in order to capture a High Prophet, who would then be used as a ransom to end the Human-Covenant War. 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 Gamma Station. 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 John-117 along with Linda-058 and a handful of Marines from the station just in time to flee the pursuing Covenant.
At some point after retrieving John-117, Keyes took the Pillar of Autumn to the Aszod ship breaking yards on the ground to retrieve a fragment of Cortana from SPARTAN-B312. This fragment held valuable navigation data that would lead the Pillar of Autumn to Installation 04. As he met with Noble Six to receive the Cortana fragment, Keyes noted that Dr. Halsey's judgement 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 from the system.
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 Type-32 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 Mgalekgolo on the flight out for "a little payback".
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, a Pod infector latched onto his back and infected him.
Infection and death
Keyes observed helplessly as the Pod infector 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. 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).
Just as Keyes acquired the determination to defy his infection, he finally submitted to the Flood. 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. 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". Despite this, Keyes' corpse continued to make faint breathing sounds.
Keyes' 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.
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.
Personality and traits
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 Sangheili to kill him.
As a captain, Keyes expected the best from his Marines and ensured to maintain their morale when facing a hopeless defeat. He silenced one Marine for panicking when there was no available escape route in the Truth and Reconciliation and angrily ordered Private Mendoza to resume his position when the latter was attempting to flee from their first encounter of the Flood.
Jacob Keyes was very caring to those under his command and attempted to be a strong fatherly figure to his daughter, Miranda, knowing that she had limited time with both of her parents. Although he did not prefer teaching at the Luna OCS Academy, he was glad that he was able to spend time with Miranda. Upon being offered a position aboard the UNSC Midsummer Night, he was hard-pressed about leaving his daughter alone on Luna, but believed that he would be protecting her by fighting Insurrectionists and the Covenant. Although they were not particularly close, Miranda aspired to be like him, even taking his last name, and joined the UNSC Navy to serve with 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. However, he felt guilty for the deaths of the ODSTs during the raid on Finnegan's Wake, despite not being responsible. He also was grieved by the death of Jeffries, the pilot Keyes had transferred aboard the Midsummer Night, who was killed by insurgent RPG fire on Charybdis IX. Keyes also had a habit of fiddling with his grandfather's pipe, often chewing on its tip to aid in concentration.
Keyes wore nine ribbons on his uniform at the time of his death in 2552. 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:
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