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Captain Jacob Keyes (SN: 01928-19912-JK) was a legendary naval 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 the ability to keep a secret made him an almost natural choice to command the UNSC Pillar of Autumn and its most secret cargo. He could often be seen chewing the tip of his grandfather’s pipe.

Early career:

Captain Keyes was born on Earth and spent some time around the Pacific Ocean during his early childhood. At some point in his life he read work by Elias Carver, but considered his view of the situation in the colonies to be pessimistic. Keyes attended Officer Candidate School (OCS). During his second year of training, 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’ refusal to testify is what sparked Catherine Halsey’s interest in the then Lieutenant Junior Grade Keyes.

In 2517, seven weeks out of the OCS, Lieutenant (J.G.) Keyes was assigned to the UNSC Magellan when those orders were rescinded and he was chosen by Dr. Catherine Halsey to assist her with the task of studying approved 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 observed was SPARTAN-II subject 117, or John-117. 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 any 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 and he became an excellent strategist, especially in dealing with the Covenant. At some point in the early 2520s he had a relationship with Dr. Halsey which resulted in the birth of their daughter Miranda Halsey who later changed her surname to Keyes. 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. He later toured on the Stealth Frigate Midsummer Night. Captain Keyes garnered many citations and years of combat experience against the Covenant during these tours. During one of these tours, Keyes went to Charybdis IX. There, he killed his first human being with a modified T-25 DER, during a riot.

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. He was promoted to Commander by Preston Cole for this feat.

He later taught at the OCS Academy. Some of the top brass at HIGHCOM 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.


Keyes eventually assumed command of the UNSC Iroquois in April of 2552. In 2552, he foresaw a Covenant attack on Sigma Octanus IV thanks to a paper by SPARTAN-084 and a slip space report by Ensign William Lovell. 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 an A.I. 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 he 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, where he met John-117 once again.

Fall of Reach:

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 ransom to end the Human-Covenant war. As part of this command, Keyes was given control over the UNSC 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 the Supercruiser flagship of the fleet (not to be confused with the Super Carrier that had already been destroyed by Noble Team just before the fleet arrived), but ultimately, his efforts were in vain. He could only pick up John-117 along with SPARTAN-058 and a handful of Marines from the station just in time to flee the pursuing Covenant.


The Pillar of Autumn’s AI Cortana ended up navigating the vessel to Installation 04. They were once again assaulted and boarded 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 John-117 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 Elites on Ghosts. Thanks to the 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 even though she helped the Covenant find them. 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 in a holding chamber until John-117, 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, 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. 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).

However, before Keyes succumbed to the overwhelming pressure, John-117 boarded the ship once again looking for Keyes and found only the Proto-Gravemind form. The Captain was able to contact John three times, warning him to leave him behind, before the Proto-Gravemind fully overwhelmed him. Keyes’ life officially ended when John 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.” 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.


Admiral Cole gave Keyes his Commander Status for his protection of one million people after the Battle of the Rubble and he also stated that “Men like him will save us, you know. We need more like Keyes.”

The Keyes family lived on in 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. After presenting it, Lord Hood said “Your father’s actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of military service. His bravery in the face of impossible odds reflects great credit upon himself and the UNSC. The Navy has lost one of its best.” In 2553, he was remembered at the Hillside Memorial alongside his daughter, Sergeant Johnson, Master Chief 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 history.