Preston Cole

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Preston Cole
Biographical information


Mark Twain, Missouri, URNA, Earth


November 3, 2470[1][note 1]


Officially April 18, 2543[2] (aged 72)





Hair color:

Black[note 2]

Eye color:

Dark brown

Political and military information




Vice admiral

Service number:


Notable info:

"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."
—Vice Admiral Preston Cole[3]

Vice Admiral Preston Jeremiah Cole (service number 03956-26127-PC)[note 3] was a UNSC Navy officer who served during both the Insurrection and the Human-Covenant War. Cole is best known for being the commander of the majority of the UNSC Navy from 2525 until 2543 and for his role in creating the Cole Protocol, a central UNSC law responsible for defending Earth's location for decades.[2] A military genius, he defeated the Covenant in every major battle he fought[4] and his battle record was considered to be without equal, even more impressive than that of the SPARTAN-IIs.[5]


Early life[edit]

Preston Cole was born on November 3, 2470, to Jennifer and Troy Cole, in the rural reconstituted township of Mark Twain, Missouri, URNA.[1] He was the third child of seven, having 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.[1] Tax records show that despite living in a period of prosperity, Cole's family struggled to make ends meet.

Preston's fifth grade teacher, Doctor 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, though they found no evidence of physical or psychological abuse.[6]

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 it is generally considered to have begun. 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.[6]

Early career[edit]

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 Colonial Military Administration vessel 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.[7]

At the 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 Cole's brother, Michael.[7] After their two-week honeymoon, Cole was reassigned to the destroyer UNSC Las Vegas. Ivan Cole, who was not Preston's biological son, was born December 12, 2492.[7]

In his report on Cole's life, Historical/Psychological Analysis of Cole, Preston J., Codename: SURGEON suggests three reasons this marriage took place. The first was that the admiral knew which cadet was the true father and did not like the truth 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 military by being the son-in-law of an admiral.[7]

The two remained married and over the next eight years had two more sons and a daughter, who 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 Jericho, the 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 crew's 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.[8]

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 precedent. From that point on Cole resolved to never again send a distress signal in enemy territory, as he felt that no one would believe it.[8] 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 armed with a Magnetic Accelerator Cannon, the UNSC Gorgon. Cole led the vessel in numerous engagements, most notably in three against the captured frigate Bellerophon (later 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 at his apartment before returning to Navy service in 2525

Cole would spend several years fighting Insurrectionists across the Outer Colonies. He would achieve victory in nearly all his battles, though he suffered psychological problems due to his divorce.

When Preston was on leave in November 2502 he 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 the Office of Naval Intelligence found out about Lyra's double-life, Cole's integrity was put into question and he was recalled to Reach for debriefing. Only his fame as a war hero and the efforts of Admiral Michael Stanforth—a close friend of Cole—kept him from facing a court-martial, but not a thorough interrogation by ONI agents.[9] 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 Castilla's honor.

Cole was sent back to Earth and given a desk job; he 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.[10] 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[edit]

"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."
Codename: SURGEON's report, Historical/Psychological Analysis of Cole, Preston J.[11]

After the CMA Heracles returned to Reach, badly damaged from first contact with the Covenant,[12] the Office of Naval Intelligence requested that Cole return to service to lead the largest battle group in recorded 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.[10]

Cole's promotion to admiral on a news program.
Cole's defeat of the Covenant at Harvest

On March 1, 2526, Cole fought the Second Battle of Harvest, in which the forty ships of Battle Group X-Ray engaged a single Covenant vessel. The aliens' superior weaponry and technology overwhelmed the fleet, 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.[10][13]

The UNSC-controlled civilian news media reported Cole's promotion to full admiral, though he would continue to hold the rank of vice admiral in later years.[note 4] In order to prevent mass panic ONI removed information of the Covenant and replaced the battle information with that of a communications satellite captured by Insurrectionists, which Cole's forces were said to have destroyed. 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.

Cole interrogates a Sangheili survivor of the Battle of the Great Bear.

Due to the impossibility of keeping the war a secret indefinitely, ONI's Section II publicly unveiled the conflict. Cole was then given command of the majority of the Fleet.[10] He 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 CAS-class assault carriers); thirty-seven UNSC ships were lost. The Battle of XI Boötis A in 2528 saw the loss of thirty ships out of the UNSC's seventy to the Covenant.[14][10]

The Battle of the Great Bear at the Groombridge 1830 system 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. Vice 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.[10][14]

Cole would return to Harvest in 2531 with the UNSC Navy's Third Fleet under his command,[15] removing the Covenant forces that had encroached on the Epsilon Indi system for the last five years.[10][16]

The Cole Protocol[edit]

Preston Cole creating the Cole Protocol.
Main article: 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 civilian vessel was 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 2535, 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).[17] Some other UNSC officers were anxious regarding Keyes' evacuation, as a large portion of the refugees were Insurrectionists. However, Cole himself called Keyes' accomplishment a victory stating that men like Keyes would win the war, and then skip-promoted him to commander.

Later career and apparent death[edit]

The biggest and most crucial battle in Vice Admiral Cole's career was the Battle of Psi Serpentis,[18] in which he led a fleet of 162 warships against two Covenant fleets totaling over 300 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.[18]

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 toward 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[19] 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 ordered Everest to fire all available munitions 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 had been obliterated. The same fate had apparently befallen Everest and her commanding officer.[18]

After his apparent death, there was speculation that Vice Admiral Cole, after completely destroying two Covenant fleets, might have made a last-minute jump into slipspace. He apparently used the crippled UNSC Io as a substitute for the Everest, prematurely detonated a flock of Archer missiles in front of his ship as a decoy to prevent anyone from seeing the slipspace rupture, and then safely escaped. According to Codename: SURGEON, AIs have analyzed footage from the Battle of Psi Serpentis, and calculated that there was a 89.7% chance that Cole survived and escaped in an emergency slipspace jump; before the battle, he had consulted the Reach super-AI network to calculate the parameters for a jump in conditions identical to those at Viperidae.

It has also been speculated that he may have found a planet to colonize on with his lover, Lyra, as he always wanted to retire to be a farmer. After the battle, rumors of independent human forces successfully fighting the Covenant begins to emerge, but eventually died out. Preston Cole 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 a day of mourning. Codename: SURGEON recommended to Codename: USUAL SUSPECTS that the UNSC should try to find Cole and persuade him to fight for humanity again, considering the highly unstable and weakened state of humanity after the Human-Covenant War's conclusion.[20]


Admiral Cole's ONI memorial plaque
"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 upon."
—Codename: SURGEON's report, Historical/Psychological Analysis of Cole, Preston J.[3]

A day of mourning was proclaimed on July 28, 2543, as humanity grieved for the loss of the man who had arguably been its greatest hero.[21]

By 2552, there existed a painting in the HIGHCOM Security Committee Headquarters entitled Admiral Cole's Last Stand, a tribute to Cole's final showdown at the Battle of Psi Serpentis.[22]

In December of 2552, Codename: SURGEON stated that AIs Phoenix and Lackluster had analyzed the footage from the Battle of Psi Serpentis and had 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.[20]


List of appearances[edit]


  1. ^ According to the ONI Memorial, Cole was born April 4, 2484.
  2. ^ Halo Wars: Genesis depicts Cole with brown hair. His hair is contrarily established as black in Halo: Evolutions, which was released eight months after the graphic novella.
  3. ^ According to Halo: Evolutions, Cole's service number was 00814-13094-BQ, which contradicts the typical service number format.
  4. ^ Halo Wars: Genesis, the pre-release Halo: Combat Evolved timeline, and the in-game and online Halo Wars timelines explicitly state that Cole was promoted to full admiral after the Second Battle of Harvest. His memorial plaque at ONI Alpha Site in Halo 3: ODST also refers to him as a full admiral. However, The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole makes no mention of Cole's promotion and consistently refers to him as a vice admiral; this is corroborated by Halo: The Essential Visual Guide. This may indicate that his rank of admiral was temporary or that he was demoted to O-9 before being posthumously promoted back to O-10. In the ONI Directorate Memorandum Interrogation Findings, Cole identifies himself as a fleet admiral, though he has not been referred to as such in other media.


  1. ^ a b c Halo: Evolutions, The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole, page 415
  2. ^ a b Halo 3: ODST, ONI Memorial
  3. ^ a b Halo: Evolutions, The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole, page 414
  4. ^ Halo: Evolutions, The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole, page 470
  5. ^ Halo: Evolutions, The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole, page 414
  6. ^ a b Halo: Evolutions, The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole, pages 416-420
  7. ^ a b c d Halo: Evolutions, The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole, pages 420-436
  8. ^ a b Halo: Evolutions, The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole, pages 436-446
  9. ^ Halo: Evolutions, The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole, pages 453-458
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Halo Wars: Genesis, pages 1-10
  11. ^ Halo: Evolutions, The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole, page 471
  12. ^ Halo: The Fall of Reach, page 98
  13. ^ Halo: Evolutions, The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole, pages 462-467
  14. ^ a b Halo: Evolutions, The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole, page 470
  15. ^ Halo: The Essential Visual Guide, page 188
  16. ^ Halo Wars
  17. ^ Halo: The Cole Protocol
  18. ^ a b c Halo: Evolutions, The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole, pages 476-482
  19. ^ Halo: Evolutions, The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole, page 481
  20. ^ a b Halo: Evolutions, The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole, pages 486-487
  21. ^ Halo: Evolutions, The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole, page 483
  22. ^ Halo: First Strike, page 100