- “They told me to fight, and that's what I've done. Let historians sort through the wreckage, bodies, and broken lives to figure out the rest.”— Admiral Preston Cole 
Admiral Preston Jeremiah Cole (Service Number 03956-26127-PC)[note 1] was a UNSC Naval officer during both the Insurrection and the Human-Covenant war. He is best known as one of the most prominent commanding officers of the UNSC Navy, serving throughout the majority of the conflict, and for his role in creating the Cole Protocol, a central UNSC law of the Human-Covenant war.
Preston Jeremiah Cole was born on November 3, 2470, to Jennifer Francine Cole and Troy Henry Cole, in the rural reconstituted township of Mark Twain, Missouri. He was the third child of seven (three sisters and three brothers). Growing up he was described as a precocious child who obeyed his parents. He had wild black hair, and dark brown eyes. His father was a dairy farmer with no criminal record, no military background, and followed the Quaker faith with no particular zeal. His mother was arrested once at the age of twenty-one for protesting taxes (she was released on one year parole), and both her grandfathers served in the Rainforest Wars (one surviving, Captain Oliver Franks, received the Bronze Star). Tax records show that despite living in a period of prosperity, Cole's family struggled to make ends meet.
Preston's fifth grade teacher, Dr. Lillian Bratton, reported Cole as "...a boy of high natural intellect, [who] tends to work too hard even when he plays." She noted his tendency to over-analyze, and stated he had a lack of imagination. That same year he achieved an unprecedented perfect test score in Mr. William Martin's pre-algebra class. Upon being accused of cheating and retesting, he once again produced a perfect score. A social worker was sent to Cole's home to investigate the school's claims that Preston was being overworked at home, however they found no evidence physical or psychological abuse.
When he was fourteen, Cole wrote a paper in English class entitled "The Viability of Extended Colonization." Although it was not particularly well received by his teacher, Miss Alexander, it turned out to be prophetically accurate in predicting the Insurrection about a decade before the Callisto Incident. Although Cole wished to enlist in the UNSC Navy upon graduation, his low grades in high school kept him from immediately attending a prestigious military college. Instead, Cole enlisted as a crewman.
On September, 21, 2488 Cole enlisted in the UNSC Navy. Upon graduation from Unified Combined Military Boot Camp (UCMB) Sierra Largo and vacuum and microgravity training (aka "barf school"), Cole was assigned to the CMA Season of Plenty. While on the ship Cole formulated a new way of calculating slipspace input parameters. This combined with his strong work ethic resulted in his being recommended to the Luna OCS Academy.
At OCS he would fall into a scandal involving the overnight disappearances of Inna Volkov, the daughter of Admiral Konrad Volkov, from officers' family quarters on base. Sightings of the girl in the company of a young man were reported. Soon, a child was produced, presumably by those liaisons. On June 7, 2492 six cadets, one of them Cole, were brought before a Board of Inquiry to testify. Though Cole was not found guilty of any wrongdoing, he married Inna two months later. Witnessing the marriage were Admiral Volkov and Michael H. Cole. They had a two-week honeymoon, then Cole was reassigned to the UNSC destroyer Las Vegas. Ivan Troy Cole, who was not Preston's biological son, was born December 12, 2492.
In his report on Cole's life, Historical/Psychological Analysis of Cole, Preston J., Codename: SURGEON suggests three reasons why this marriage took place. The first was that the admiral knew which cadet was the true father and didn't like what he saw, and thus found a suitable replacement for his daughter: Cole. A second was that the child was not the offspring of any of the cadets and thus the admiral's grandchild would have been fatherless. The third was that Cole had the liaison with Inna, though was not the father of the child. Either way, Admiral Volkov either made Cole marry his daughter, else Cole was compelled by a sense of chivalry, or (as some of Cole's detractors claimed) a desire for political advancement within the UNSC military by being the son-in-law of an admiral.
The two remained married and over the next eight years had two more sons and a daughter, which were Cole's biologically. However, as the Insurrection flared up Cole saw very little of Inna and their children, being engaged on the frontier for months and even years at a time.
In 2494, while posted on the Las Vegas, Cole was involved in what would come to be known as the Callisto Incident. That year Insurrectionists captured the corvette UNSC Callisto. In response the UNSC dispatched a battle group consisting of three light destroyers - the UNSC Jericho, the UNSC Buenos Aires, and the Las Vegas - to hunt down the renegade ship. Their crews and their weapons were inexperienced and untested, and were caught by surprise when the Insurrectionists detonated an asteroid with a nuclear weapon, destroying the Buenos Aires and severely damaging the Las Vegas and Jericho. The entire bridge crew of the Las Vegas, save Cole, were killed or incapacitated, leaving him in command of the ship. Cole signaled the Callisto, declaring the crews' surrender. However, Cole ordered the crew to remove the ship's last Ares missile from its silo and transport it to Cargo Bay 5. When the Callisto docked with the Las Vegas the missile was fired directly into the corvette, crippling it and forcing its surrender.
Cole's faked distress signal was both a stroke of genius and breach of protocol so severe that UNSC CENTCOM dithered over whether to award him the Legion of Honor or to have him court martialed. Ultimately they did neither, to avoid setting a difficult precedent. However, from that point on Cole resolved to never again send a distress signal in enemy territory; no one would believe it. As he stated in his personal log:
Surrender, quite literally, is no longer an option for me.
Cole was quickly promoted to Commander and given a small corvette to patrol the Outer Colonies. After a dozen successful engagements in five years against insurgent forces and privateer fleets he was promoted to Captain and received the honor of commanding the first heavy destroyer-class vessel armed with a Magnetic Accelerator Cannon, the UNSC Gorgon. Cole led the vessel in numerous engagements, most notably in three against the captured frigate UNSC Bellerophon/Bellicose, which escaped Cole and the Gorgon twice and fought them to a draw once. In their final encounter, Cole and the opposing captain engaged in a tête à tête through a series of text messages.
Inna filed for divorce in 2500. Cole wrote her, accepting responsibility for the failure of their marriage, stating that she never wanted a long-distance military marriage, and though he would always love her, he could not ignore his duty to humanity. He continued to write home to his children, but received no replies, leading him to believe that Inna was burning his letters.
Cole would spend several years fighting Insurrectionists across the Outer Colonies. He would score victories in nearly all his battles, though he suffered psychological problems due to his divorce.
When Preston was on leave in November 2502 and married his second wife, Lyrenne Castilla, after a fourteen-month romance. Unfortunately for Cole, she turned out to be a high-ranked Insurrectionist and captain of the Bellicose. When ONI found out about Lyra's double-life, his integrity in question, Cole was recalled to Reach for debriefing. Only his fame as a war hero and the efforts of Admiral Harold Stanforth, a close friend of Cole, kept him from facing a court martial, but not a thorough interrogation by ONI agents. Shortly before Cole's debrief, the Bellicose was apparently lost with all hands during the Battle of Theta Ursae Majoris. The ONI interrogators read him the after-action report in an attempt to break his spirit, but all it did was cause Cole to remain stoic and silent and utterly stubborn in attempt to preserve her honor.
Cole was sent back to Earth to sit at a desk, and was promoted to Rear Admiral to keep him quiet. All his requests for reassignment back to space were denied, and all of his proposals to make the UNSC fighting forces more effective against the insurgency were ignored. After eight months at his desk job he was quietly offered early retirement with an honorary skip promotion to Vice Admiral. He accepted.
Over the next two decades Cole faded from public view, only resurfacing for his two highly publicized marriages to much-younger women, and their even more spectacularly publicized divorces. During this period he suffered two heart attacks. On May 11, 2525 his liver failed from cirrhosis and was subsequently replaced with flash-cloned transplants as were his damaged heart and endocrine system.
Battles against the Covenant
- “Cole won every major engagement he committed his forces to against the Covenant. On only two occasions did he encounter an enemy fleet he considered too large to take, and then he would return in both cases with reinforcements....”
After the UNSC Heracles returned to Reach, badly damaged from first contact with the Covenant, the Office of Naval Intelligence requested that Cole return to service to lead the largest battle group in human history, consisting of forty ships, to Harvest in hopes of defeating the extraterrestrial threat. He reluctantly accepted their request, and his old rank of Vice Admiral was restored.
Cole fought the Second Battle of Harvest in 2526, in which Battle Group X-Ray, 40 vessels in total, engaged a single Covenant vessel. The aliens' powerful energy shields, and powerful weaponry overwhelmed the fleet of smaller ships, and Cole's adjutant commanders suggested a full retreat. However, with the use of intelligence gathered during the Battle of Chi Ceti, Cole realized that Covenant shield technology was vulnerable to massive, concentrated fire. Cole ordered all ships fire everything they had at the ship, with MACs first, followed by Archer missiles and Shiva nuclear warheads. This last minute tactical inspiration worked. Although Battle Group X-Ray defeated the vessel, thirteen UNSC ships were destroyed during the fight.
The news of his promotion to full Admiral was announced on UNSC-controlled television. However, ONI had removed information of the Covenant and replaced the battle information with that of a communications satellite captured by Insurrectionists, which Cole was "ordered" to destroy. The worlds of Second Base and Green Hills were initially reported as attacked by Insurrectionists, but were in fact glassed and their combined population of two million killed. The abandoning of Chi Ceti IV was kept secret.
Due to the impossibility of keeping the war a secret indefinitely, ONI's Section II went public and gave Cole command of the majority of their warships. Cole continued the fight throughout the Outer Colonies for five more years.
At the Battle of Alpha Aurigae in the Origami Asteroid Field in October 2526 Cole had a total of 117 UNSC vessels and defeated the Covenant's twelve (at least three of which were Assault Carriers). The Battle of XI Boötis A in 2528 saw the loss of thirty ships out of the UNSC's seventy to the Covenant.
The Battle of the Great Bear at Groombridge-1830 in 2530 saw eleven destroyers out of the fleet of seventeen destroyed by three enemy ships. Following the conclusion of the battle, a Sangheili survivor was recovered. Admiral Cole then began writing what would become known as the Cole Protocol after interrogating it knowing now that the Covenant had little knowledge of Humanity; he realized that secrecy would be their best defense against them.
The Cole Protocol
United Nations Space Command Emergency Priority Order 098831A-1, better known as the Cole Protocol, was a law to prevent the Covenant from finding the location of Earth or any other human population center. Essentially, it was an order forbidding the Covenant to gain any opportunity to retrieve data regarding the location of human population centers, and forbade retreating vessels from setting a direct course towards Earth, the Inner Colonies, or any other human population center, as the Covenant were able to track Slipspace vectors and use them to calculate the destination. The policy also stated that if escape is impossible in order to prevent capture, any UNSC or Human vessel is to self-destruct after wiping all data matrices in order to slow the advance of the Covenant.
One of the first wide-scale uses of the Cole Protocol occurred during the Battle of the Rubble in 2534, where Lieutenant Jacob Keyes used it to escort one million people to Falaknuma using Section 4 of the protocol (creating an exiting slipspace vector not bound toward Earth or any other human population center). Some other UNSC officers were anxious regarding Keyes's evacuation, as a good portion of the refugees were Insurrectionists. However, Cole himself called Keyes's accomplishment a victory stating that men like Keyes would win the war, and then skip-promoted him to Commander.
Later career and death
It is possible that at some point after 2531, Admiral Cole was demoted or that his rank expired from full Admiral to Vice Admiral.[note 2]
The biggest and most crucial battle in Cole's career was the Battle of Psi Serpentis, in which Cole led a fleet of one hundred-sixty-two warships against two Covenant fleets totaling over three hundred ships. The engagement began when Cole's fleet, Battle Group India, exited Slipspace on the far side of the gas giant Viperidae. The Covenant fleet which had assembled there moved to engage the human ships, but Battle Group India split into two parts and attacked the Covenant from both sides of the planet. After tricking the Covenant into splitting their own forces, Cole's fleet quickly regrouped on one side of Viperidae and opened fire at one group of ships. With two thirds of the Covenant group decimated, the alien fleet regrouped and attacked Cole's fleet.
As the Covenant moved in to attack an Insurrectionist fleet led by the Bellicose suddenly exited Slipspace and charged the Covenant ships. The Insurrectionist fleet blew through the Covenant ships, and as suddenly as they appeared, jumped to Slipspace. With only a handful of Covenant ships left, Cole's fleet began to flee the battle. However, another Covenant fleet, numbering in over two hundred ships, then exited Slipspace to reinforce their other fleet. Cole ordered the remnants of Battle Group India to fall back from the planet, leaving Cole's command ship, UNSC Everest, to face the enemy alone. The Everest sped towards Viperidae, powered down all non-essential systems, but opened all missile silo doors. Cole beamed an open-com transmission to the Covenant fleet, openly mocking them and questioning their religious superiority:
Listen to me, Covenant. I am Vice Admiral Preston J. Cole commanding the human flagship, Everest. You claim to be the holy and glorious inheritors of the universe? I spit on your so-called holiness. You dare judge us unfit? After I have personally sent more than three hundred of your vainglorious ships to hell? After kicking your collective butts off Harvest - not once - but twice? From where I sit, we are the worthy inheritors. You think otherwise, you can come and try to prove me wrong.
The Covenant then ignored Battle Group India and all moved towards the Everest. Cole plunged into the immense gravitational pull of Viperidae, now unable to get back out. The Covenant fired at the ship, but the magnetosphere provided enough interference against the Covenant's plasma based weaponry and prevented a kill. Cole taunted the Covenant one last time:
Is that the best you can do? Watch what one unworthy human can do!
Cole then fired everything the Everest had—not at the Covenant—but into Viperidae. The super-pressurized Hydrogen inside the gas giant's atmosphere spontaneously underwent nuclear fusion by the one hundred Shiva nuclear warheads fired at it, and Viperidae exploded into a brown dwarf. When the micronova ceased every Covenant ship, apparently along with Preston Cole and the UNSC Everest, had been obliterated.
- “We knew him, we loved him, and finally we hated him for being the less-than-perfect military god that we had come to depend on.”— Codename: SURGEON's report, Historical/Psychological Analysis of Cole, Preston J.
A day of mourning was proclaimed July 28, 2543 as humanity grieved for the loss of arguably its greatest hero.
In December of 2552, Codename: SURGEON stated that A.I.s Phoenix and Lackluster analyzed the footage from the Battle of Psi Serpentis, and calculated that there was an 89.7% chance that Cole survived and escaped in an emergency slipspace jump. SURGEON also speculated that if Cole survived he may have found a planet to colonize on, as he always wanted to retire to be a farmer.
Whatever happened to Admiral Cole, he was remembered by Humanity as a brilliant military tactician and a symbol of hope, now lost, and the day of his supposed death was designated as a day of mourning.
- Halo Wars (Mentioned only)
- Halo 3: ODST (Mentioned only)
- Halo: The Fall of Reach (Mentioned only)
- Halo: First Strike (Mentioned only)
- Halo: The Cole Protocol
- Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe
- Halo Wars: Genesis
- Spirit of Bloody Fire. Cutter. Bloody hell.
- Halo: Silent Storm
- According to Halo: Evolutions, Cole's service number was 00814-13094-BQ, which contradicts the typical SN format.
- In Halo: Evolutions at the Battle of Psi Serpentis, Cole is constantly referred to in the short story as Vice Admiral. However, his memorial plaque refers to him as a full admiral; suggesting this is either a posthumous promotion or simple error.
- Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe, The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole, page 415
- Halo 3: ODST, ONI Memorial
- Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe, The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole, page 414
- Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe, The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole, pages 416-420
- Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe, The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole, pages 420-436 Cite error: Invalid
<ref>tag; name "early career" defined multiple times with different content
- Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe, The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole, pages 436-446
- Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe, The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole, pages 453-458
- Halo Wars: Genesis, pages 1-10
- Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe, The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole, page 471
- Halo: The Fall of Reach, page 98
- Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe, The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole, pages 462-467
- Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe, The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole, page 470
- Halo Wars
- Halo: The Cole Protocol
- Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe, The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole, pages 476-482
- Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe, The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole, page 481
- Halo: First Strike, page 100
- Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe, The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole, pages 486-487
- Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe - The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole, page 483
- Halo 2, level Cairo Station