This is a fanon expansion of a canon element. To see the original canon article, follow the link to Halopedia: Melissa McKay.
"How old was I when the Covenant war started? Four. I was four when the galaxy suddenly became a frightening place. Like there was nowhere you could hide, and you didn't know when you were going to die, because for all you know the aliens could be at your colony by tomorrow, and they'll kill you and everyone you care about, and then they'll burn your home to ashes. That was the mentality I've had ever since I was four, and that's no way for any kid to grow up. And trying to remember what it was like to feel safe—what it was like before my life got turned upside-down—it's not easy when everything's going to hell day after day. But I try, and I do my best to hold onto that, because that's what I'm fighting for. I'll do anything to feel safe again—for humanity to feel safe again."
In 2550, McKay was given the rank of Captain and served briefly as the 22nd Battalion's adjutant until May 2552, when she disobeyed orders during an operation on Mamore and was consequently demoted to the rank of First Lieutenant. Lorente and Silva's next-in-command, Captain Mizuki Katsumawa, were both Killed In Action during the Battle of Reach, and McKay assumed the position of executive officer under Silva's command. She was with the members of the 22nd Battalion that escaped Reach on board the UNSC Pillar of Autumn towards the end of the battle.
McKay played a major tactical role in the ODSTs' operations during the Battle of Installation 04 and was tasked with a commanding role that would have under normal circumstances exceeded her authority. Nonetheless, she performed well due to her previous military experience and her own skills as both a tactician and a field officer. She led numerous successful operations over the course of four days on Installation 04, including the capture of a Covenant-held Forerunner butte as well as the commandeering of the Covenant CCS-class battlecruiserTruth and Reconciliation.
McKay was killed when she deliberately crashed the Truth and Reconciliation onto the surface of Installation 04, believing that Silva had become blinded with the prospect of glory in bringing the Flood-infested ship back to Earth and that he was unaware of the dangers of doing so. She died with every surviving member of the 22nd Battalion along with all hands on board, shortly before the destruction of Installation 04. Six months after her death, McKay's heroic efforts were recognized with her being posthumously awarded the Silver Star medal at the Voi Memorial on March 3rd, 2553.
Melissa was born to a fairly wealthy Taradian family as the second of four children to Ilyena Theiner and Tomas McKay, with a mixed ancestry of what was considered Russian, German, and predominantly Irish by Earth inhabitants. Ilyena was a high-ranking member of the Anguaro mining supercorporation, and Tomas was a high-ranking ONI officer. Melissa and her older brother Florian (born June 15th, 2518), as the two eldest children of the family, were expected to either inherit Ilyena's business or enter military service for a considerable period in their lives. Ilyena and Tomas were determined not to give the impression that their children were spoiled due to their affluence, and brought them up firmly and with discipline.
After war broke out against the Covenant in 2525, Melissa's parents conceived two more children; Jonathan (born August 5th, 2526) and Matias (born June 22th, 2528), since Tomas had caught word that the UNSC could possibly introduce a drafting mandate that required a minimal number of members per family to enlist. Though Melissa had never felt nervous about joining the UNSC before, the idea began to make her nervous at the idea of having to take up arms against aliens.
Melissa McKay, age 16.
By 2532, the McKay family's wealth began to diminish. With Anguaro's efforts diverted to repurposing their resources into military hardware, Ilyena was also having trouble earning more than she sent to the UNSC. By the end of the year, the McKay family was forced to sell their manor and move into a more modest home. Melissa had no qualms about the change; she had never taken well to living in luxury, and even found it indulgent at times. After settling down into a residential area, she found that she was able to make friends more easily. A particularly close friend she found was one Lucia Oros, a headstrong, energetic girl who would later serve alongside Melissa in the Marine Corps.
In 2536, Florian was drafted to join the UNSC Army, something that greatly concerned Melissa. Although the Covenant hadn't yet found Taradia, the general populace was uneasy and the sizable UNSC force guarding the colony only made everyone more nervous. Several months later, Ilyena made a breakthrough when Anguaro discovered multiple Forerunner installations belowground, attracting the interest of the UNSC's Advanced Research Projects Agency and immediately providing support for expeditions. The project was cut short, however, when the Covenant arrived at Taradia and besieged it, sending ground forces to the surface to search for tier-1 artifacts. Ilyena, who was heading one of the expeditions at the time, was captured by Rtas 'Vadum's squadron and forced at gunpoint to lead them through the dig sites. A UNSC Army unit was soon sent to stop them, and among them was Florian, now a Private. The unit's efforts were successful, eliminating most of 'Vadum's team and forcing him onto the run; however, there were many civilian casualties, including Ilyena. After the battle was over and the Covenant was forced off-planet, Florian brought the news back to his family. Tomas, heartbroken, would later focus his career aims on saving lives in the war effort. A devastated Melissa also vowed to do her own part, and made up her mind to join the UNSC when she became of age.
Early Military Career
Enlistment and Early Military Career (2539—2543)
Melissa enlisted to the Marine Corps on March 11th, 2539, her 18th birthday. Though Tomas had been initially reluctant to allow her to join a branch of the UNSC that would most likely take her away from Taradia, he relented upon her insistence that the decision felt right for her. Before she left, however, she made sure that Jonathan and Matias would be safe, and met up with Oros, who was three years her junior and promised to enlist once she turned 18 as well. Shortly afterward, Melissa was shipped out for training.
"We all fought our hardest. Every soldier on the battlefield was determined to win, to show the Covenant that we weren't scared and send them back to where they came from. That was what I believed. I was scared, but I thought that if we just did everything we could, it would be enough. (Laughs bitterly) It was a stupid idea, and one that I lost very quickly. And it was just terrible...you feel so helpless, so angry—'why can't we win?' the rookies would ask—and I was one of them. And the cold hard truth is that maybe we just can't. I want to believe there's another way—that by some miracle, it'll be alright in the end. But no one wants to see their first battle end in glassing; to face death alongside thousands of your brothers and sisters, and to limp away with a fraction of that number. It really makes it hard to be hopeful about anything."
McKay and Lance Corporal Aiden Jenkins (right) defend Kholo against the Covenant.
McKay was given the rank of Private on July 13th, 2539, and sent to the nearby colony of Kholo, which had come under Covenant attack on July 26th. By the time the main UNSC forces arrived the next day, the planet's orbital defences were already destroyed. McKay's first deployment was onto the surface of Kholo, with approximately twelve thousand military personnel. Under the command of then-Gunnery SergeantAvery Johnson, she participated in numerous skirmishes and trying to locate and evacuate whatever few civilians and Army forces were still alive. After two days, however, the battle was declared lost, and the surviving human forces were ordered to retreat as the Covenant glassed the planet. McKay's total kill count for Kholo was twenty-seven. She made it off-planet with fewer than two thousand civilians and military personnel, something that greatly discouraged her sense of duty.
"Let me just make one thing clear to you, McKay. You didn't kill those civilians, nor did you let humanity down, nor are you 'not good enough'. You saved lives on Kholo, and you will continue to save lives as long as you're a living, breathing Marine with a gun in your hand! If your actions kept even a single person alive when they would have otherwise been dead, then the battles you fight will never be for nothing. Understood?"
―Avery Johnson to McKay after the Battle of Kholo
Under Johnson's guidance, McKay eventually found her focus and resolved to fight every battle to the best of her ability regardless of the outcome. She performed outstandingly in the next few years, advancing to the rank of Private First Class little more than a year later. However, her confidence took a beating once more when she learned that Florian had been Killed In Action when the Covenant made a second assault on Taradia in 2541. Too far to return home, and struggling to come to terms with her increasingly bleak future, McKay hardened herself more with each battle. By 2542, she had reached the rank of Lance Corporal, and was awarded the Purple Heart twice as well as the Bronze Star, among several other distinctions.
In 2543, McKay participated in an anti-Insurrection operation on Arcadia, to shut down a rebel smuggling operation that could possibly lead the Covenant to the colony. When the Marine team was sent in to capture Armagan Kervan, the leader of the operation, the rebels sprung a trap and captured the entire team. While being escorted towards the brig, McKay managed to escape along with the team's marksman, Corporal Aiden Jenkins. The two Marines, on the loose inside the base, worked to find a solution to both capture Kervan and escape with the rest of the squad. Upon gaining access to the facility's main database, McKay discovered that Kervan wanted Johnson because he had once been a part of the SPARTAN-I program and wanted to study his augmentations. She was contacted shortly afterward by Kervan, who demanded she and Jenkins turn themselves in or he would execute the entire Marine team. McKay countered by threatening to lock down the facility, destabilize the rebels' supply of smuggled volatile chemicals, and burn it down with everyone inside. After a short round of negotiations, Kervan agreed to release every member of the squad except Johnson, and McKay asked Jenkins to bring them to the extraction point.
Kervan pulled a double-cross, however, and sealed all exits in the facility. But McKay, who had expected the treachery, revealed that the Marines' extraction was a ploy, while they were in fact in the hangar bay. She also revealed that she had leaked carbon monoxide into the brig where he and Johnson were, and that he would die if he didn't lift the lockdown. Reluctantly, Kervan opened the doors, allowing the Marines to leave the facility, and was taken into custody by McKay.
After the mission, McKay was awarded with the Meritorious Unit Commendation medal and hailed as a hero by her team. Johnson, who was impressed with her quick thinking and her calm nature in the face of a difficult situation, recommended that she apply for OCS and become a commissioned officer. She was initially hesitant on the idea, reluctant to part ways with the team she had grown close to, but agreed when Johnson promised her that she was always welcome to work with him. She attended the ten-week program and passed with flying colours, and shortly afterwards received the rank of Second Lieutenant.
Officer Commission and Operations After Reassignment (2543—2546)
The now-Lieutenant McKay was reassigned as a junior officer placed in charge of a Marine platoon for field operations. At first she was somewhat uncomfortable giving orders to non-commissioned Marines, half of whom had as much if not more experience than she did. However, she was often given moral support by the company's staff officer, Captain Jayden Anderson, a former militia trooper from Harvest who had trained under Johnson himself. With his help, she soon adjusted to her position and before long the Marines she commanded trusted her as much as she did herself.
In 2544, the company was stationed at Miridem when the Covenant found and attacked the colony. McKay's platoon, being the closest to a UNSC research facility where Dr. Catherine Halsey was conducting her work, was ordered to get to and defend the facility. McKay aided Sheila-065 in clearing the facility of enemies and getting Dr. Halsey to safety, while Anderson quickly set his company up in positions to keep additional Covenant forces from getting to the facility. McKay suggested that Sheila take Dr. Halsey and slip off discreetly while her platoon continue to defend the base until everyone was evacuated. Although it would not be until later that McKay learned of Sheila's death at the hands of Thel 'Lodamee, his departure to pursue Dr. Halsey did give the Marine platoon ample opportunity to eliminate the majority of his forces. McKay made one-hundred twenty-six confirmed kills on Miridem, which later earned her the Combat Action Ribbon and the Miridem Campaign Medal.
McKay: "This is ridiculous! Who would take a junior field officer off the field? No...I won't do this. I'm not going to tell Colonel whats-his-face to go screw himself, but I sure as hell am not going to just let this happen. And I know the place to go where they can't pressure me into something like this again..."
Anderson: "Truth be told, you always struck me as a little too cautious to join up with those knucklehead Helljumpers. But I can say for sure that babysitting duty is going to be a waste of your talents. And you've never disappointed me before...yeah, maybe you should do it."
―Captain Anderson about McKay's proposal to sign herself up as an ODST
In 2546, McKay was promoted to the rank of First Lieutenant. However, she soon discovered that she would be tasked with primarily supervision of the company rather than commanding a platoon in the field, as per a Colonel's suggestion that her tactical capabilities would be better suited not to put herself at risk in the field all the time. She immediately wanted to refuse, however Anderson advised her not to appear impudent to a senior officer. As an alternative, McKay declared that she was going to join the Orbital Drop Shock Troopers to ensure that her duties would remain in the field. After some hesitation, Anderson offered her his support.
Induction Into Orbital Drop Shock Troopers and Later Campaigns (2546—2552)
"So, you're the new kid. I'm MajorAntonio Silva, and this is my executive officer, Captain Delgado. If either one of us says 'crap', then I expect you to ask 'what color, how much, and where do you want it?' Do you read me?"
―Major Silva introducing himself to McKay
Initially, McKay had trouble finding a way into the ranks of the ODSTs. Several years ago, her father had made a revision to the UNSC's conscription policies to lengthen training periods; Tomas had observed that most of the UNSC's experienced servicemen had been killed from 2525 to 2540, with the UNSC increasing drafting rates and lowering age requirements as a result. He conducted studies proving that the changes caused higher casualty rates in comparison to similar battle scenarios, and set the conscription age from 17 back to 18. In addition, he shifted a substantial amount of funding away from the UNSC Marine Corps' ODSTs in order to improve training standards for recruits.
As a result, many ODST officers were unable to find a space for new junior officers because they had to prioritize new members to their non-commissioned applicants. But the first officer to approve Melissa's application to join the ODSTs was Major Antonio Silva, a keen-edged, battle-ready officer with more confidence in his own abilities than he had troopers under his command. At the time, Anderson had advised McKay not to take assignment as one of Silva's officers, warning her about his unorthodox methods and the fact that he liked to hold onto his grudges. However, McKay was impatient to officially join the ODSTs for fear of waiting too long and ending up with her potential desk job, and accepted Silva's command.
Before long, however, she quickly realized that Anderson had been correct in his warning, and found herself subject to Silva's frequent hostility, which was extreme even for a superior officer. As a result, many of his subordinates, most of them male, made McKay's new position difficult as well. At one point, she became so frustrated that she had threatened to shoot a number of mischievous ODSTs when they had tried to give her a humiliating initiation. She ended up in trouble for her words, however, and was angered when Silva suggested that she was not well-suited for being an ODST. Despite his obvious bias, McKay was determined not to give into their antics and sought to earn their respect no matter what it took.
At first, McKay had thought that Silva's pointed attitude towards her was because she was female, and only resolved to work harder to prove him wrong. But after numerous telling-offs from the Major, many of which McKay found unfair, she found herself running out of patience and heedlessly railed at his superior officer for the way he was treating her. But the response that received surprised her; Silva was in fact not prejudiced against her because of her gender, but because of her wealthy family background. In addition, it quickly became apparent that he had a heavy dislike to Tomas McKay for his actions in cutting support from ODST funding. Despite Melissa's own qualms about her father's decisions, she was astute in defending his position as someone who wanted to save as many lives as possible. Although she did not intend to gain Silva's favour through insincerity, she did make every effort to make it clear to him that she was not her father.
Battle of Mamore
The 22nd Battalion's First Company was sent on their first anti-Insurrection operation in years on May 1st, 2552. Melissa was assigned as the ranking field officer of the UNSC ground forces present there, both in her company and outside of it, with her primary role as trooper support. Under orders from Vice Admiral Tomas McKay himself, Melissa's main objective was to locate and take out the insurgency's de facto leader, Major Jonathan Ulan. Her secondary objective was to assist a Spartan who was designated as only "LONE WOLF" in taking down Ulan's ship, the Revolutionary Fervor, which was hiding somewhere on or close to Mamore.
Unbeknownst to Melissa or any of the infantry she commanded, LONE WOLF would not be the only one in the operation working under ONI's agenda. While the First Company was busy eliminating Ulan's supporters in pitched battle, one Valerie Sulzer was snooping around to root out Ulan's exact location.
As the battle went on, Melissa found herself subject to making more and more questionable tactical decisions. On a colony as war-ravaged as Mamore, it was often difficult to distinguish between insurgents and bystanders. After numerous reports of rebel sympathizers among the civilian population ambushing and dealing heavy casualties to the UNSC forces trying to provide aid for them, Melissa was put under increasing pressure to eliminate all unknown contacts on sight.
The situation did not get any easier as the UNSC forces realized just how many sympathizers were present on Mamore. Many of them were affected by the bombings of the first Mamore uprising in 2511, and there was a general outcry against the UNSC that had caused millions of innocent deaths through radioactive fallout, as well as biological defects among the affected population. By the end of the first week, Melissa's forces were pitted more frequently against rioting sympathizers than actual Insurrectionists.
Frustrated by the slowed progress in their mission and unwilling to allow Jonathan to get away, Admiral McKay sent in Shortsword squads on May 10th to carpet-bomb the districts surrounding Ulan's hideout. Melissa was horrified when she heard about what would soon become a repeat of the 2511 uprisings. She tried to convince Tomas to call off the bombers; adamantly, he refused, giving her additional orders to get her troops into environmental suits and ready themselves to move into Ulan's territory once the bombings were finished.
Instead, Melissa left her post with two hundred eighty-eight members of the First Company, and headed straight into the districts that were lined up to be bombed. The ODSTs stood their ground, taking out multiple pockets of Insurrectionists by ground skirmishes but refusing to leave and make way for the Shortswords. A furious Admiral McKay relented and the bombers were withdrawn from the fight.
Despite the initial setbacks to the battle that Melissa's actions caused, it had one crucial outcome that would keep her off the board of inquiry's attention. During the commotion of the bombings, Ulan, anticipating that his base would soon be found and attacked, left his headquarters and began making his way out of the major cities. His base was destroyed shortly after by a series of charges planted by Sulzer, and Ulan would have potentially been believed to be dead. However, Ulan was later spotted by Lieutenant Oros, who hastily sent in reports that he was alive and on the run. Melissa then quickly moved First Company to close in on him.
But Ulan had a backup plan as well. During his attempts to cover his tracks from the ODSTs pursuing him, he called the Revolutionary Fervor to lift off from the mountains in where it had been hidden. The destroyer remained at low altitude and began raining heavy gunfire and missiles down on the surface of Mamore, mercilessly cutting through the First Company's numbers. Melissa was forced to lead her teams into cover, frantically calling for assistance as overwhelming casualty reports flooded into her data feeds.
Admiral McKay responded quickly to the crisis but was caught in a dilemma himself. With five frigates at his command, he had more than enough firepower to take out the Fervor. But because of the destroyer's proximity to Mamore's surface, to open fire on it would rain heavy amounts of debris onto the planet, as well as send the ship crashing down right on the ODSTs' position. Instead, he sent in LONE WOLF on a YSS-1000 Sabre to disable the Fervor's weapons. The Spartan destroyed most of the destroyer's autocannons and missile pods without taking a single hit, and also managed to bait it into space.
With sixty percent of the First Company still able to fight, Melissa quickly rallied them to find Ulan. Unfortunately, the havoc wreaked by the Revolutionary Fervor had cost them their opportunity to eliminate Ulan. Sulzer's attempts to lure him onto the Fervor were unsuccessful, and LONE WOLF was forced to cripple the ship without him on board. Meanwhile, Ulan slipped away on another transport and successfully escaped Mamore, leaving the UNSC to answer for the heavy collateral damage left on Mamore.
Following the failure of the operation, Melissa was demoted to the rank of First Lieutenant. Although she was let off on charges of insubordination due to the extremity of the circumstances, she was held responsible for putting so many ODSTs in her company in the open ground. Out of the forty percent casualties in the First Company, more than half were either Killed in Action or later succumbed to their wounds. Melissa was taken off her post on Mamore and reassigned to Sigma Octanus IV.
When she made her report to Silva at Sigma Octanus, she was surprised to find that both he and Lieutenant Colonel Lorente gave her their approval for her actions. The Major in particular was quite verbal about how difficult Melissa's position was, and that out of everything, she had taken the initiative to stand up to Admiral McKay and step in to do the right thing. Lorente then followed through with the Admiral's orders and promoted Lieutenant Mizuki Katsumawa to be the battalion's replacement adjutant. Despite Melissa's demotion and the fact that Ulan had escaped, she also maintained that her actions on Mamore were rightful, and was happy to have earned Silva's respect.
Battle of Reach
Lister: "Only the Major would jump into pitched battle without a briefing."
McKay: "Feet-first into hell, Miles, that's how we roll. We can get our briefing while we're on the ground. Besides, what's there to figure out but shoot the bad guys?"
Lister: "But if the Covenant got onto Reach without anyone knowing about it, then there's gotta be more to it than 'shoot the bad guys'."
McKay: "You're right, there is. But just worry about the shooting leave the thinking to me. That's why I'm the El-tee and you're the dumb muscle."
―Lister and McKay at the Battle of Viery
On August 12th, 2552, Lieutenant Colonel Lorente assembled the 22nd Battalion into the Battle of Viery, alongside the 2nd, 7th, and 11th Battalions. Most of the troopers hadn't been previously aware of the Covenant presence on Reach, but nonetheless Silva acted quickly and before long the ODSTs were on the ground and in the midst of battle.
The fighting turned bad very quickly, however, especially with the 22nd being among countless trooper battalions to be sent into the worst of the battle. With every passing day, the 22nd's missions seldom varied from deploying from orbit and shooting through massive hordes of Covenant. By the end of the first week, the 22nd's Sixth Company was completely wiped out, and McKay was Wounded in Battle twice. But with the tight-knit need for field officers among the ODSTs, many of whom held high casualty rates, McKay continued to contribute to fending off the Covenant to the best of her ability.
By the end of the second week, the situation only became more bleak. The Third and Fifth Companies were also severely diminished in numbers, with the survivors being integrated into the surviving companies. Among the deaths was Captain Mizuki Katsumawa, who had become Silva's second-in-command after McKay's demotion on Mamore. Consequently, McKay was required to take her place once again as the 22nd Platoon's executive officer.
McKay spearheads the Second Company through a battlefield on Reach.
The 22nd's officers were put on even more pressure when they received word that Lieutenant Colonel Lorente was Killed in Action on August 28th. By the late stages of the battle, it became clear that Reach was about to be lost. Nonetheless, Silva was determined to keep the news quiet to prevent panicking the other troopers. Now virtually on their own, McKay did her best to help Silva carry out orders whenever received by High Command, and continued to eliminate any Covenant infantry they found. But it became clear that the ODSTs were losing their drive as the predicament became more hopeless, without any promise that they would have a way to escape Reach when it was to inevitably fall.
On August 30th, the 22nd Battalion was ordered by ONI to fall back to Aszod's ship breaking yard and ensure that the UNSC Pillar of Autumn safely took off from Reach. Although the reasons were not specified, no one, not even McKay, questioned the order. Now with less than 550 ODSTs making up the Battalion, and Silva serving as the ranking officer, the exhausted, flagging troopers were glad to simply have a secure ride off the doomed planet.
Battle of Installation 04
The Pillar of Autumn exited Slipspace in the Soell system at 0037 hours on September 19th, 2552. By the order of CaptainKeyes, McKay was quickly brought out of cryo sleep along with every surviving member of the 22nd Battalion. Major Silva was placed in command of the Autumn's infantry, and McKay reprised her role as his second-in-command. The ODSTs were assigned to protect the ship's engine room, and McKay was tasked with keeping Covenant forces out of the nearby armoury. With her were seven other Helljumpers, six of which took positions outside either entrance to the armoury. McKay guarded the main entrance, with the rear entrance being held by Lance CorporalHolly Suzuki, and PrivatesAlex Dawkins and Fahad Al-Thani.
Not long after the Covenant boarded the Autumn, they found the corridor leading to the engine room and attempted to make their way inside to disable the ship. McKay took advantage of her flanking position to put heavy gunfire on the enemies, and with the combined effort of Sergeant Lister, who was holding the line outside the engine room, the ODSTs were able to force the Covenant into drawing back.
However, the defensive strategy did not hold up for long. A second Covenant squad, including two Mgalekgolo, made a ruthless attack on the armoury's rear entrance, as the Covenant lurking near the front entrance launched a second assault. Dawkins and Suzuki were shot down almost immediately by the initial wave before the rest even realized what was going on. The ODSTs had no choice but to fall back, although McKay managed to drag a critically injured Al-Thani with her before taking plasma bolt in the shoulder. Lister's squad managed to put down the main Covenant strike team and called for heavy weapons, and he covered for McKay on taking back the armoury while she was brought back to the engine room for medical attention.
Despite the best efforts of the 22nd's Corpsman, Petty OfficerAdrián "Doc" Valdez, Al-Thani soon succumbed to his wounds. McKay was angry about the fact that she had been outdone so predictably and that three of her ODSTs had died as a result. But she had no time to dwell on the matter, because Silva ordered all Marines to evacuate from the Autumn. After being patched up, McKay waited until every Helljumper in the First Company was in their SOEIVs before launching away from the cruiser herself.
She landed on Installation 04 at 0617 hours half a kilometre from Silva's designated rendezvous point, with 124 additional ODSTs active from under her command. Not long after regrouping, Silva briefed her on the First Company's objective to capture a Covenant-held butte, designated "Alpha Base". With the joint tactical effort between her and Company SergeantCarter, the First Company advanced on the butte while Silva held off the additional Covenant response teams by rallying the 22nd Battalion into an infantry square.
McKay led the First Company up a winding path leading towards the butte, engaging Covenant forces from the ground. Meanwhile, Silva brought in reinforcements directly on top of the mesa with the aid of Echo 136 and Victor 933. Alpha Base was soon claimed by the 22nd Battalion, two hours before Echo 419 arrived with the first group of surviving UNSC personnel. Silva's AI, Wellsley, soon received a radio report from Cortana that Captain Keyes had been captured, and sifted through Alpha Base's records left by the Covenant, including information about the Truth and Reconciliation, where Cortana stated that he was held. McKay was helping Silva put together a rescue mission when they received a report that among the last group of survivors was SPARTAN-117. Silva immediately ordered that the Spartan report in, to McKay's consternation.
Warrant OfficerPolaski: "Get your team on board, Lieutenant. Cookie and I spotted a lot of Covenant patrols circling the Autumn on our last round. Let's get all your Helljumpers to the LZ before the Covenant start getting curious."
McKay: "Relax, Polaski. The aliens are looking the other way right now. The Master Chief and the boys from Charlie are wreaking havoc on the Truth and Reconciliation, which should keep their attention off us. You just get my men to the Autumn and let me worry about the Covenant."
―McKay talking to Echo 206's pilot before deployment
After SPARTAN-117 was briefed on the mission to rescue Captain Keyes, McKay was sent out later that night with three platoons of ODSTs to retrieve resources from the Pillar of Autumn. The First Company was flown from Alpha Base to a landing zone one kilometre from the Autumn, by Echo 136 and Echo 206. By 0341 hours the next morning, the ODSTs were assembled and ready to charge the crash site. The Covenant vehicles circling the Autumn were neutralized mere seconds after the attack began. Enemy infantry was quick to appear but were also overwhelmed by Marine snipers. By sheer luck, the First Company had even managed to destroy a Spirit dropship that was deployed in an attempted counter-assault. The ODSTs entered the Autumn through its lifeboat airlocks, merely sixteen minutes into the attack.
McKay leads a daring raid through the Covenant-held Pillar of Autumn on Installation 04.
Within three hours, McKay's team successfully forced the Covenant out of the Autumn's lower levels and immediately began gathering up weapons and supplies from its armouries and storage chambers. Lieutenant Oros was also able to secure one of the hangar bays to allow Echo 136 and Echo 206 to gather up the supplies. In total, the Marines recovered thirty-three intact Warthogs, as well as four Scorpions, and more than enough weapons and ammunition to last the UNSC forces an entire week. In addition, McKay was impressed to hear that Oros had sent the Pelicans back to Alpha Base with two of the Autumn's 50mm autocannons.
Once everything of importance was obtained, McKay led the First Company back towards Alpha Base in the convoy of vehicles that were recovered. She set the Marines up into three platoons, each with their own roles to ensure that most of the ground forces would make it back alive. She took charge of fifteen Warthogs, placed at the outside of the convoy, to eliminate Covenant ground forces. Oros was given command of the remaining Warthogs to bring down hostile aircraft, while Sergeant Lister was tasked with providing heavy fire support with his Scorpions. The ODSTs had made it to a wide pass that was between them and the butte before the Covenant launched their retaliation.
Initially, the First Company held their own well, effectively destroying the first wave of Covenant aircraft with rockets and machine gun fire. However, they began to take casualties as Covenant tanks and Ghosts joined the battle. With the Marines forced to move between two overarching points where the aliens could rain fire down on them, McKay's and Oro's platoons began to lose Warthogs in full. However, thanks to Lister's quick response, the Wraiths were soon destroyed by his Scorpions. While McKay was distracted with her efforts to hold off the Covenant ground forces, Oros slipped off with four other ODSTs with a risky plan to bring down the remaining Banshees. Although the ruse was successful and McKay had taken note of the cleared airspace during the battle, it would not be until later that she would realize that Oros had been killed in action for her brave but foolish plan. However, she made it back to Alpha Base with more than three quarters of the First Company alive and well, effectively fortifying Alpha Base's defences and giving the human forces a firm foothold in their territory on Halo.
Skills and Abilities
Although McKay primarily specializes in tactical roles, she is also very skilled in direct combat. During ground operations, she often puts herself into positions commonly regarded as risky for most company-grade officers, in order to have a greater edge against enemies in battle. Due to her experience in the field and her keen sense of tactical advantage and danger, her techniques rarely result in injury on her part. Her favoured weapons are usually a BR55 and an M7 SMG, due to the balance between the two weapons and the lack of visible tracers emitted from gunfire.
During typical engagements against the Covenant, McKay usually targets Kig-Yar and Sangheili, and with the proper support, Jiralhanae. She is very skilled at breaking Kig-Yar formations by aiming for their exposed arms and feet, allowing other ODSTs to gun them down effectively. Against larger enemies, she mostly focuses on bringing down energy shields with sustained gunfire, although she usually leaves the her sharpshooter, Private Dawkins, to bring them down with a headshot.
McKay is also a fairly skilled driver. She has quick instincts in manoeuvring a Warthog on rough terrain or in heavy combat. She can also operate a Ghost with great skill if required to. However, she is less familiar with larger Covenant vehicles such as the Spectre and the Brute Chopper. She has never flown a Banshee in the field, although she has knowledge on operating one in theory. Generally, however, McKay opts to ride in the passenger seat of a vehicle, as she has a steadier aim than most when sitting in a fast, lurching vehicle.
McKay is a sharp-witted, quick-thinking Marine who doesn't panic in sticky situations. In the field or off it, her subordinates rarely question her orders, mostly due to her reputation for preserving the lives of those she commands. Her cavalier, often feisty method of giving orders resonates more confidence in her subordinates on the more hazardous missions and enables them to carry out their objectives with reduced potential error.
Due to McKay's scarce but impressionable encounters with Spartans, she does not hold the same prejudice for the supersoldiers that many of her fellow ODSTs do. Her operations with Jorge-052 during the Battle of Skopje made her particularly aware that Spartans were essentially just as human as any other. Although she kept this opinion mostly to herself, it sometimes brought her at odds against superior ODST officers, particularly Major Silva.
One of the most vulnerable chinks to McKay's psychological armour is her tendency to become discouraged when her troopers take heavy casualties in battle. She becomes quick to appoint self-blame out of the belief that she acted poorly as a Company Commander and that she had wasted the lives of those who trusted her. In her career as an ODST officer, she had two notable occasions of requiring a psych evaluation after a crushing mission where many of her Marines were killed. Nonetheless, McKay's superiors rejected ONI's recommendations to replace her with someone less emotional, believing that her strengths by far outweighed her shortcomings.
When off-duty, McKay's favourite hobbies include arm-wrestling, playing chess, and listening to music. She enjoys alternative and symphonic rock, and is a fan of Myras Tyla. Although McKay has attempted to play music herself, she struggles with playing instruments and quickly gave up on trying to learn the styllight. Her favourite books are Khaled Hosseini'sThe Kite Runner, Joseph Heller'sCatch-22, and unbeknownst to anyone, a secret copy of James Martel's contraband novel, World In Shadow. She is an agnostic theist.
One of the 22nd's senior NCOs that McKay is more familiar with is Gunnery SergeantMarcus P. "Pete" Stacker. Although he was technically assigned to the Third Company, the two ODSTs often found themselves starting friendly competitions at the battalion's firing range, or chatting over drinks. One of the recurring topics that would come up between them was Stacker's efforts to successfully ask out one Erin Coney; McKay would be amused at the Sergeant's struggle with securing a relationship, but she would give him advice whenever she had any.
Lucia Oros was one of McKay's closest lifelong friends, in the UNSC and out of it. On numerous occasions, the two officers had saved each other in battle, and on occasion, McKay would stick her neck out should Oros find herself faced with charges of insubordination, as she was sometimes known to do. Oros' death on Installation 04 would mark the turning point for McKay's mentality as a field officer; after she returned to Alpha Base with the supplies that Silva had needed, she allowed herself the night to grieve in solitude. Although it had been Oros' own headstrong nature and carelessness that had gotten her killed, McKay took personal responsibility for her friend's death and felt that she hadn't protected her well enough. In the remaining days of the battle, she would keep a closer eye on her Marines and become more easily disheartened when there were casualties.
One of the few ODSTs in the company that did make friends with McKay from the start was Silva's second-in-command, Captain Reaver Delgado. As a Marine who had a difficult career before joining the 22nd Battalion, he was often sympathetic when McKay's position caused friction between her and the ODSTs that she commanded. For much of McKay's early years as an ODST, Delgado would serve as her mentor since Silva hadn't particularly cared to do so himself. He would often remind her not to go chasing after Silva's approval, but to rather carry out her own duty as well as possible. Following Delgado's death on Arcadia in 2549, McKay would work harder than ever to remember his words to her.
McKay's relationship with Silva wasn't an easy one for much of her career under his command. His stubborn dislike for what he saw as her father's interference meant that McKay was rarely shown the respect from him that she felt she deserved, or that her efforts would often end up being undermined. To her displeasure, the more neutral Lieutenant Colonel Lorente was usually occupied with matters more broad than the breadth of her authority, which meant that she would end up reporting to Silva for most of her duties. Nonetheless, Silva was almost never treated McKay with outright unfairness, although her later promotion to Captain did not change their relationship at all. It wasn't until the Battle of Mamore did McKay get Silva's attention and earned his full respect. After he was forced to take charge of the 22nd Battalion with the fall of Reach, he was unhesitant to assign McKay to be his executive officer. However, she had remained wary of his overreaching sense of ambition, which eventually led to her stopping him from flying the Truth and Reconciliation to Earth by forcibly crashing it on Halo and killing both him and herself.
Master Sergeant Miles Lister was considered by McKay to be one of the sharpest and most reliable ODSTs in the battalion. As a result, a common inside joke between them would involve her playfully insulting his intelligence whenever the opportunity came for it. In combat, Lister would often be the first to take the initiative whenever McKay or another ODST officer required assistance. His impressive career gave him an excellent knack for hindsight, something that McKay would appreciate about him. During the Battle of Installation 04, she frequently delegated him to tasks in combat that were usually meant for officers, due to Lieutenants Oros and Dalu being assigned more technical roles.
In McKay's military career under Sergeant Avery Johnson's command, he had quickly earned her respect in a way that she would not forget. While serving as one of his Marines, she looked up to him greatly and sought to forge her principles after his. She saw him as a figure of fearlessness and integrity, and found his coarse manner of talking to be likeable rather than intimidating. Although McKay rarely saw Johnson after she became a commissioned officer, she would continue to push herself into becoming as dutiful and hardworking as he was. She had the opportunity to work with him again when the crew of the Pillar of Autumn became stranded on Installation 04, and she sought him out to greet him when he was flown to Alpha Base. When Johnson disappeared in a swamp along with Captain Keyes, McKay later heard the news from the returning survivors of the two Marine squads that had been with them. She had refused to accept that he was dead, however, and firmly believed that he was still wandering the ring world elsewhere. Unbeknownst to Silva, she secretly interrogated the infected Private Wallace Jenkins about Johnson, and although he had knowledge of the Sergeant's survival and escape from the Flood facility, he had been unable to convey the information to her. McKay would never see him again before her death.
"Keep in mind, the next time you boys sneak up on me while I'm holding a gun, I will shoot you even if I do hear you coming."
―McKay to a group of ODSTs after they tried to give her "the initiation"
Dalu: "Hey, El-tee! You planning on taking out those Wraiths today, or do you want to finish sucking off the Major first?"
McKay: "Bite me."
―McKay and Second Lieutenant Dalu on Skopje in 2547
Oros: "Think the Covenant keeps chocolates in that base of theirs, Melissa?"
McKay: "Oh yeah, I'm sure that's their secret. Who can't win a war when you've got an army of methane-breathing toads, plasma weapons, and chocolate?"