This one was easy! Captain Jacob Keyes.
Unlike my last entry about the Ur-Didact, Jacob Keyes is a comparatively minor character. He’s only appeared a few times in the series and generally serves as a commanding officer figure to order the Chief to go from place to place, but if you’ve read the novels (specifically The Fall of Reach) you’ll quite easily see that there’s more to this stoic commander than what meets the eye.
I have two particular moments that immediately come to mind when somebody brings this character up.
1) The ‘Keyes Loop’.
This was a maneuver featured in Eric Nylund’s The Fall of Reach where the then-Commander Keyes found himself going up against an entire Covenant battlegroup and won by setting his ship on a collision course with a Covenant Destroyer and launching a nuclear warhead in (what appeared to be) the wrong direction. Two Covenant ships fired a plasma torpedo at Keyes, and just before he hit the Destroyer, Keyes changed course which resulted in the torpedoes disabling the Destroyer’s shields. Cue the “FIRE EVERYTHING!!!!” moment as Keyes then decided to slingshot his ship around the near-by planet, detonate the nuke which he’d fired before (the one that looked like it went in the wrong direction) and then blasted the Covenant ships into oblivion with the MAC gun.
This was a pulse-pounding battle in the book, Nylund’s strongest point when it comes to writing is easily space battles and this is demonstrative of why.
2) Death by Flood.
“Keyes. Jacob. Captain. Service number 01928-19912-JK… YOU. WILL. NOT. HAVE. ME!”
What a way to kill off a character! George R.R. Martin would be proud, I tell you! Not only is Keyes captured and infected by the Flood, but he’s merged with the Proto-Gravemind which is plotting to repair a damaged Covenant vessel to escape Installation 04 and spread across the galaxy. John and Cortana see this abominable horror first-hand, as John has to smash his fist into Keyes’ skull in order to get his neural implants as part of their plan to blow up the Pillar of Autumn which will destroy the Halo installation.
“No human life signs detected. The Captain… he’s one of them!”
In 2011, to mark the 10 year anniversary of Halo, 343 Industries updated Combat Evolved and added in a number of Terminals – short, animated videos which focus on 343 Guilty Spark’s solitary life and descent into madness on Installation 04 following the firing of the Halos. In the penultimate mission, just before you bash Keyes’ skull in, you can find a short video clip from the Captain’s point of view as the Flood slowly erodes his mind. He fights so hard to try to hold on to everything that makes him human – memories, emotions, experiences. But, like with the Ur-Didact, the willpower of the Flood is infinite and Keyes dies in agonising pain as he fights against an enemy that could devour the stars themselves.
This was an amazingly emotional and unexpected way to kill him off, the only disappointment from that point on was how Bungie replaced him with his completely incompetent and poorly written daughter to delivered some of the worst lines of dialogue in the series. Miranda lacks both the scientific genius of her mother and the piloting skills of her father, but that’s a story for another day.