- “Men like him will save us, you know. We need more like Keyes.”
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.
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In 2517, seven weeks out of the OCS, Lieutenant (J.G.) Keyes was assigned to the UNSC Magellan when those orders were rescinded and he was chosen by Dr.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
- 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. 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.
- Main article: 2552
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 slipspace 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
- Main article: 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.
- “Good to see you, Spartan. Halsey assured me I could count on you.”— Keyes to Noble Six, SPARTAN-B312, after Six arrives with Cortana
- “Not just me, sir.”— Six, after giving Cortana to Keyes.
- “They'll be remembered.”— Keyes, honoring the rest of Noble Team
At some point after retrieving John-117, Keyes docked the Pillar of Autumn at the Aszod ship breaking yards while waiting to receive a fragment of Cortana from Noble Six. This fragment held valuable navigation data that would lead the Pillar of Autumn to Halo. 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
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. Initially, the Flood used him as a Combat Form, but they soon realized Keyes had numerous information and merged him and other Combat Forms into a Proto-Gravemind, where he was subsequently tortured by them. 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.
As John and Cortana realized that they could not stop the Flood without overloading and exploding the Pillar of Autumn's engines (as setting of the ring would kill everyone instead), they needed to find Keyes and take his Command Neural Interface to do so. As they boarded the Truth and Reconciliation, Keyes was able to contact John-117 three times; believing that he and Cortana had come to rescue him, he warned them to stay away instead. By the time John reached him, he had already become a part of the Flood. 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.
- “The thought of retreat is invisible to a soldier's heart. He will not struggle to kill those who have taken the lives of his brothers. He will fight on, until he cannot or until his target is destroyed. For his last breath on the battlefield is a trigger squeeze or saving his comrades. Not one will hesitate, to bring sacrifice and honor to his brothers. For he will lay down his life for those in danger, or be known as a coward.”
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.
There are nine ribbons on Keyes' uniform. U.S. Armed Forces ribbons are worn by order of precedence, from left to right, top to bottom. For the sake of this article, they will be numbered Ribbons 1 through 9, in this order.
These Ribbons coincide with the following modern U.S. Air Force decorations:
- Ribbon 1: Medal of Honor
- Ribbon 2: Distinguished Service Cross
- Ribbon 3: Purple Heart
- Ribbon 4: Air Force Commendation Medal
- Ribbon 5: Combat Readiness Medal
- Ribbon 6: Armed Force Expeditionary Medal
- Ribbon 7: Outstanding Airman of the Year Ribbon
- Ribbon 8: NCO Professional Military Education Graduation Ribbon
- Ribbon 9: Basic Military Training Honor Graduate Ribbon
- The Colonial Cross (Posthumous)
Note: Ribbon 7 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.
Along with the Medal Decorations, Keyes is depicted with Captain's Bars Insignia (above the name tag), a Marine rank of Captain which is much different than a Naval rank of Captain. A Marine ranking Captain (O-3) is a Company Grade or Junior Officer which is ranked three steps lower than a naval Captain (O-6). A Naval Captain is equal to a Marine Colonel, According to his military record, Keyes graduated from Luna OCS Academy, a Naval Academy. Also, in Halo: The Fall of Reach, Admiral Michael Stanforth promotes Jacob Keyes from Commander, a Naval rank, to Captain. This implies that Bungie made a mistake when making the Keyes model, and should have rendered the Navy Captain's Eagle instead.
Keyes was often quite officious, overly formal 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 Earth. He would often charge headlong into battle keeping a straight and calm face whether fighting alongside his men on the ground or in space. As a captain, Keyes expected the best from his Marines by maintaining their morale even through hopeless situations. This was seen when he silenced one Marine for panicking when there was no available escape route in the Truth and Reconciliation and when he angrily ordered Private Mendoza to resume his position when the latter was attempting to flee from their first encounter of the Flood. 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. He had a strong will as he prevented the proto-gravemind from discovering the location of Earth, when he was consumed by the Flood.
- 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 Chinese character for "bastard" or "bad-ass."
- 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."
- 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" did not fit onto the texture for his in-game physics/collision model.
- The Marathon logo on Keyes's tunic was replaced with the Seventh Column symbol in Halo: Reach. However, there is a possibility that he swapped the Seventh Column symbol for the Marathon insignia on his uniform after settling on board the Pillar of Autumn or simply changed attire. This can be supported by the fact that his name tag nor the ships name are present on the his tunic prior to boarding the Autumn while fleeing Reach. In CEA, in the new graphics, it is still a Seventh Column emblem and there is no identification of his name or the ship's name.
- 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.
- In Halo: The Cole Protocol, Keyes is the first officer to put the new Cole Protocol into effect while escorting the Exodus asteroid from The Rubble.
- On the Truth and Reconciliation mission in Halo: CE, Keyes will always first try to find a needler when rescued.
- During the mission Keyes in Halo: CE, Keyes' pipe can be found hanging off of the elevated platform that holds the Proto-Gravemind. It is located to the right of the ramp leading to the platform hanging over the small trench below the platform.
- In the Halo: CEA mission 343 Guilty Spark, Keyes can be clearly seen wearing his officer uniform instead of the jungle combat uniform he wore in Halo: CE's version of 343 Guilty Spark.
- In Halo: CE, if the player uses bump possession on Keyes during the Truth and Reconciliation level, in conjunction with the deathless player command, Keyes can still "die," meaning a game over can occur and the player will be reverted to a checkpoint, even though he is still moving and his AI is still on. This is most likely because Keyes has a certain number of hit points he can take before the game forces him to die, overriding the deathless player command.
- If you kill Captain Keyes after he gives you the pistol on the Pillar of Autumn mission, Cortana will say you have gone rampant and the marines on deck will shoot you.
- Keyes refused to testify against a fellow ensign while at OCS, something that he had in common with Preston Cole.
- Halo: Combat Evolved (First appearance)
- Halo 2 (Mentioned only)
- Halo 2: Anniversary (Mentioned only)
- Halo 3 (Hillside Memorial)
- Halo: Reach
- Halo: The Fall of Reach
- Halo: The Flood
- Halo: First Strike (Mentioned only)
- Halo: Ghosts of Onyx (Mentioned only)
- Halo: The Cole Protocol
- Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe
- Halo Legends
- Odd One Out (Non-canon appearance)
- Halo: Glasslands (Mentioned only)
- Halo Waypoint - Universe, Jacob Keyes
- Halo: The Essential Visual Guide, page 106
- Halo: The Cole Protocol, page 354
- Halo: The Fall of Reach, page 17
- Halo: The Fall of Reach, pages 19-20
- Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe, page 16
- Halo: The Fall of Reach, page 28
- Halo: Reach, Dr. Halsey's personal journal
- Halo: The Cole Protocol, page 28
- Halo: The Cole Protocol, page ??
- Halo: The Fall of Reach, pages 138-139
- Halo: The Flood, pages 225-227
- Halo: The Flood, pages 253-254
- Halo: The Flood, pages 290, 303 and 305-306
- Halo: The Flood, page 306
- Halo: Combat Evolved, campaign level The Truth and Reconciliation
- Halo 2, campaign level Cairo Station