Preston Cole

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Preston Cole
Biographical information


Mark Twain, Missouri, URNA, Earth[1]


November 3, 2470[1][note 1]


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





Hair color:

Black[1][note 2]

Eye color:

Dark brown[1]

Political and military information




Vice admiral

Service number:


"Even if you pierce the veil of propaganda and discount the vast number of Cole's victories, promotions, and decorations as nothing more than engineered drama to prop up our population's then-sinking morale—Preston Cole still has an unparalleled battle record… even far and away more impressive than the legendary Spartan-IIs. He was the greatest hero in modern times, a legend before, and in spite of, our meddling."
Codename: SURGEON's report, Historical/Psychological Analysis of Cole, Preston J.[3]

Vice Admiral Preston Jeremiah Cole (service number 03956-26127-PC)[2][note 3] was a human officer of the UNSC Navy 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.[3]

Originally born on a small farm on Earth,[1] Cole eventually enlisted in the UNSC Navy and quickly accelerated through the ranks after his graduation at the Luna OCS Academy. As the Insurrection began, Cole was hailed as a hero throughout human space by the Navy as he led numerous battles and campaigns against insurrectionist and pirate forces. However, after beginning a relationship with Lyrenne Castilla—a rebel leader, unbeknownst to Cole—he was relegated to a desk job for the rest of the war, where he eventually retired and faded into relative obscurity.[5]

However, after the Human-Covenant War begun in 2525, the Office of Naval Intelligence elected to have Cole lead a battle group against the Covenant at Harvest, leading to Cole's victory at the Battle of Harvest. For the following decades, Cole led numerous campaigns against the Covenant with moderate success.[6] In 2543, at the Battle of Psi Serpentis, Cole was presumably killed after he caused a gas giant to go nova to destroy a massive Covenant fleet. Nonetheless, some UNSC officers believe that Cole survived the battle and choose to privately retire away from the UNSC.[7]


Early life and education[edit]

"How long can Earth and its close colonies extend without producing offspring that differ sufficiently to want to break away from the parent? As William Butler Yeats said: "The center cannot hold.""
—Preston Cole's report on colonial expansion, written at age fourteen[8]

Preston Cole was born on November 3, 2470, to Jennifer and Troy Cole, in the rural reconstituted township of Mark Twain, Missouri, URNA on Earth. He was the third child of seven, having three sisters and three brothers. While his father was a dairy farmer with no criminal record or military background, his mother was once arrested at the age of twenty-one for protesting taxes, though she was released on one-year parole. Both of Cole's maternal great-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 as the family's small farm was largely unable to compete with colonial worlds essentially created for agriculture.[1] As his father refused to accept government financial aid, Cole was often tasked with a large amount of chores to help support his family, giving him little time to rest or play.[8]

Cole attended Wallace Fujikawa Elementary School in the Missouri Rain River School District. Preston's fifth grade homeroom 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. When he was fourteen, Cole wrote a paper in his high school 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. Cole's grades continued to falter throughout his high school career, likely due to lack of interest and increasing demands on his family's farm.[8]

Cole soon gained interest in traveling to the human colonies and interstellar exploration. However, due to his family's financial situation, Cole saw the UNSC Navy as his only opportunity to pursue this desire.[8] Upon his graduation from high school, his low grades in high school and lack of connections kept him from immediately attending a prestigious military college. Instead, Cole decided to enlist as a crewman.[9]

Early naval career[edit]

"Humanity's future is among the stars. There is no single more important thing than to help men and women build new lives on distant worlds. I have no illusion that this is some manifest destiny, but rather, it is the only logical place left for humanity to evolve. I plan to be a part of that, learn as much as possible, and then one day become one of those humans on some distant world, on a little farm of my own under a night sky full of stars that I've never before seen."
—Preston Cole's reason for enlisting in the Navy[10]

Cole enlisted in the UNSC Navy as a non-commissioned recruit on September 21, 2488. He was ordered to attend Unified Combined Military Boot Camp Sierra Largo, and was then endured six additional weeks of vacuum and microgravity training. Upon his graduation as crewman recruit, Cole assigned to the Colonial Military Administration vessel Season of Plenty. By September 22, 2489, Cole had been promoted to crewman apprentice as Season of Plenty was preparing to help establish a new city dubbed "Lazy Acres" on the world of Paradise Falls. While on the ship, out of laziness, Ensign Otto Seinmann ordered Cole to do the ship's required slipstream space calculations for him. However, Cole ended up formulating a new way of calculating slipspace input parameters, much to Lieutenant Commander Nevel's surprise. This, combined with his strong work ethic noted at UCMB Sierra Largo, resulted in his being recommended to the Luna OCS Academy at Mare Nubium, Luna.[9]

During his time at the Officer Candidate School beginning in 2489, Cole would fall into a scandal involving the overnight disappearances of Inna Volkov, the daughter of Admiral Konrad Volkov, from the 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—including 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. 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.[11]

Aside from this scandal, Cole's time at the Luna OCS Academy was largely impressive, having graduated magna cum laude with high degrees of excellence and specialization from the Rutherford Science Magistrate. After his two-week honeymoon, Cole was reassigned for duties in the Outer Colonies aboard the destroyer UNSC Las Vegas, serving as a navigation officer. Ivan Cole, who was not Preston's biological son, was born December 12, 2492. Regardless, Cole and Volkov 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.[11]

Insurrection and retirement[edit]

"Surrender, quite literally, is no longer an option for me."
—Preston Cole, after the Callisto Incident[12]

In 2494, while posted on Las Vegas, now-Second Lieutenant Cole was involved in what would come to be known as the Callisto Incident. That year, insurrectionists in the 26 Draconis system captured the corvette UNSC Callisto. In response, the UNSC dispatched a battle group consisting of three light destroyersJericho, Buenos Aires, and 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 Buenos Aires and severely damaging Las Vegas and Jericho. The entire bridge crew of Las Vegas, save Cole, were killed or incapacitated, leaving him in command of the ship. Cole signaled 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 Callisto docked with 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 Central Command dithered over whether to award him the Legion of Honor or to have him court-martialed, as he had violated Common Space Law. 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.[12]

With some protest, Cole was quickly promoted to first lieutenant and later to commander, and he was given command of a small corvette to patrol the Outer Colonies. After a dozen successful engagements in five years against rebel 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, UNSC Gorgon. The Navy used Cole as a figurehead to quell reluctance among the Inner Colonies in reference to the Insurrection, hailing him as a hero. Cole led Gorgon in numerous engagements, most notably in three battles against the captured UNSC frigate Bellerophon—later renamed Bellicose. Though, the frigate had escaped Cole twice.[12] However, Cole's success in the military came at a personal cost. Inna filed for divorce in 2500.[13] While Cole continued to write home to his children, he received no replies, leading him to believe that Inna was burning his letters.[5] On June 2, 2501, Captain Cole had engaged in two battles with rebel forces in the Theta Ursae Majoris system within the last three days, and Gorgon's munitions were nearly depleted and her crew was exhausted. Bellicose arrived at the destroyer's location and, after a brief skirmish, Cole and the opposing captain engaged in a tête-à-tête through a series of text messages. Both ships recognized that neither vessel had remaining ammunition and Bellicose left the system.[14]

A retired Cole at his apartment in 2525

Cole searched for Bellicose in five different systems, laying ambushes in preparation, though he was unable to find the frigate. Cole had also participated in several other engagements, including a skirmish with two rebel corvettes and a merchant privateer. When Cole was on leave on the backwater colony of Roost in September 2501 he began a relationship with Lyrenne Castilla, the owner of a bar on the world. After a skirmish at Capella, Cole took a month of leave on Roost, where he married Castilla in November 2502. With Castilla pregnant, Cole returned to duty in the Theta Ursae Majoris system. Unfortunately for Cole, Castilla turned out to be a high-ranked insurrectionist and captain of Bellicose. When the Office of Naval Intelligence found out about Lyra's double-life in 2503, 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. Shortly before Cole's debrief, 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.[5]

Cole was sent back to Earth and given a desk job, where 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.[15] Over the next two decades Cole faded from public view, only resurfacing for his two highly publicized marriages to significantly younger women, and their even more spectacularly publicized divorces. During this period he suffered two heart attacks.[16] 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.[15]

The Covenant War begins[edit]

"This first encounter with the aliens is a test—for them and us. So far we have failed that test. We have to show them that we cannot be so easily defeated. We have to win no matter the cost."
—Vice Admiral Preston Cole, in a personal log written on November 15, 2525[17]

In February 2525, the UNSC lost contact with the Outer Colony of Harvest and Battlegroup 4 was dispatched to the Epsilon Indi system to discover the reason for loss of contact. Upon arriving at the system, the battle group quickly discovered that Harvest had been glassed by the alien Covenant. The battle group was attacked by Covenant cruiser Rapid Conversion and only the badly damaged CMA Heracles was able to return to Reach with word of the incident.[18] In response to the alien threat, Central Command moved to create a battle group of forty warships to retake Harvest. Cole was ultimately selected by CENTCOM to lead this force; a "fallen hero" that lived a scandalous retirement, Cole served as an easy scapegoat if CENTCOM's counterattack on the Covenant failed. Additionally, Cole was considered to be a brilliant commander during the Insurrection that was willing to sacrifice himself and anyone under his command to complete his task.[15] On November 2, 2525, ONI had Lieutenant Commander Jack Hopper and Lieutenant Demos visit Cole and convince him to lead the battle group. Reinstated as a vice admiral of the Navy, Cole was given command of Battle Group X-Ray in December of 2525,[19][20] conceived as the largest assembled fleet at that point in human history.[18][21][22] By November 12, 2525, Cole had begun preparing himself for the battle by reviewing data and reports from previous encounters with the Covenant at Harvest and Chi Ceti IV, and realized that Covenant energy shielding would prove to be troublesome in battle. With the Valiant-class super-heavy cruiser UNSC Everest serving as his flagship, Cole requested numerous modifications to the cruiser. He ensured that his crew was battle-tested and competent,[17] and artificial intelligence Sekmet was chosen as Cole's shipboard AI on Everest.[23]

Cole's defeat of the Covenant at Harvest

On March 1, 2526, Cole and his battle group arrived at the Epsilon Indi system and the Battle of Harvest began, in which the forty ships of Battle Group X-Ray engaged a single vessel, a Covenant super-destroyer in orbit over Harvest. The Covenant ship's 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 energy shielding technology was vulnerable to massive, concentrated fire. Cole ordered all ships in the battle group to simultaneously focus their fire at the Covenant ship, with salvos of MACs first, followed by Archer missiles and Shiva-class nuclear missiles. This last-minute tactical inspiration worked; the super-destroyer's shields were overwhelmed, allowing the UNSC battle group to fire their remaining armaments into the super-destroyer's hull, destroying the Covenant ship. Although Battle Group X-Ray managed to destroy the super-destroyer, thirteen UNSC ships were destroyed during the battle.[16][24]

Following the Battle of Harvest, Cole returned to Earth, where he discovered that the Covenant had destroyed several other colonies.[19] The ONI-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 rebel forces, but they were in fact glassed by the Covenant and their combined population of two million killed.[16]

The Cole Campaigns and the Cole Protocol[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.[25]
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.[16] He continued the fight throughout the Outer Colonies for five more years, participating in a series of battles later known as the "Cole Campaigns".[15] At the Battle of Alpha Aurigae in the Origami Asteroid Field in October 2526, Cole had a total of one hundred and seventeen UNSC ships and defeated a Covenant fleet of twelve ships—at least three of which were CAS-class assault carriers. However, thirty-seven UNSC ships were lost by the battle's end. The Battle of XI Boötis A in 2528 saw seventy UNSC ships engage eight Covenant warships in the XI Boötis A system. While Cole was victorious, the UNSC lost thirty ships.[16][4]

The Battle of the Great Bear at the Groombridge 1830 system on December 24, 2530 saw Cole lead a fleet of seventeen warships against three Covenant ships. The UNSC lost eleven destroyers in the battle, though Cole's fleet managed to destroy two of the Covenant ships and caused the third to crash-land on Groombridge 1830. Following the conclusion of the battle, a Sangheili survivor was recovered.[16][4] Cole, along with First Lieutenant Richard Barclay, interrogated the Sangheili and learned that the Covenant intended to wipe out all human worlds as they saw humanity as an affront to their gods.[26] After realizing that the Covenant had little knowledge of humanity, Cole began writing a new protocol that would allow the UNSC to use secrecy as a defense against the Covenant.[16][4]

Cole would return to Harvest in 2531 with the UNSC Navy's Third Fleet under his command,[27] removing the Covenant forces that had encroached on the Epsilon Indi system for the last five years.[16][28] Following the battle, Cole and his fleet traveled to Arcadia in the Procyon system to assist UNSC forces on the world after the planet had been attacked by the Covenant in February of 2531. After a brief battle, Cole's forces were able to repel the Covenant invaders from the planet.[29]

Preston Cole creating the Cole Protocol

By 2535, Cole had finished writing United Nations Space Command Emergency Priority Order 098831A-1, better known as the Cole Protocol—a law to prevent the Covenant from finding the location of Earth or any other human population center. Essentially, the Cole Protocol 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.[16][19] Following the Battle of the Rubble in 2535, Lieutenant Jacob Keyes evacuated one million people from the Rubble to Falaknuma. Some other UNSC officers were anxious regarding Keyes' evacuation, as a large portion of the refugees were insurrectionists. However, Cole called Keyes' accomplishment a victory, stating that men like Keyes would win the war, and then skip-promoted him to commander. Afterwards, Cole provided Spartan-II Gray Team with a prowler to allow them to combat hostile forces in Covenant space.[30]

In 2537, Cole engaged Covenant forces in the Leonis Minoris system. Although only ten UNSC ships were lost, two of the system's three human colonies were glassed. By 2541, Cole had participated in twenty-three more engagements throughout the war, as well as an unusual encounter at Alpha Cephei. Cole won every major engagement that he committed his forces to; only on two occasions did he retreat after believing himself to be overwhelmed, though he returned in both cases with reinforcements. As the fleets and battle groups under his command were constantly suffering heavy losses, CENTCOM continued to provide Cole with new ships and crews instead of letting him rest. Regardless, Cole was dedicated to winning the war and believed that if he stopped, billions of lives were at stake.[4] By 2543, Cole was in command of military operations in FLEETCOM Sector Three.[31]

Apparent death at Psi Serpentis[edit]

"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."
—Vice Admiral Preston Cole to the Covenant fleet at Psi Serpentis[32]

The biggest and most crucial battle in Vice Admiral Cole's career was the Battle of Psi Serpentis, in which he led a fleet of 162 warships against two Covenant fleets totaling over 300 ships in the Psi Serpentis system. 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 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. 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, questioning their religious superiority, and challenging them to pursue him.[32]

The Covenant then ignored Battle Group India and all moved toward 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!" With that, Cole then ordered Everest to fire all available munitions into Viperidae. The super-pressurized hydrogen inside the gas giant's tightly compressed atmosphere spontaneously underwent nuclear fusion by the one hundred Shiva-class nuclear warheads fired at it, and Viperidae exploded into a brown dwarf. When the micronova ceased, every remaining Covenant ship had been obliterated. The same fate had seemingly befallen Everest and her commanding officer.[32]

Legacy and possible survival[edit]

"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.[33]
Vice Admiral Cole's memorial plaque located at ONI's Alpha Site at New Mombasa, Earth

Following Cole's presumed death, 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.[32] By 2552, there existed a painting in the HIGHCOM Facility Bravo-6 at the UNSC Security Council chambers entitled Admiral Cole's Last Stand, a tribute to Cole's final showdown at the Battle of Psi Serpentis.[34] After Cole's death, the Covenant's campaign throughout the Outer Colonies continued with renewed efforts, as they swarmed UNSC defenses to push their way into the Inner Colonies.[7]

In December of 2552, ONI operative 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; 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. ONI operatives theorized that Cole had used the crippled UNSC Io—a cruiser that Cole had requested for use in the battle, but never used—as a substitute for 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. A major issue in the theory pertained to the fate of Cole's crew; it was unlikely that Cole would kill his own crew by abandoning them on Everest nor could he have convinced the entire crew to agree to a wartime desertion. However, prior to the battle, Cole conducted a massive personnel transfer, possibly intending to fill his ranks with those that were either sympathetic to his motives or were unwaveringly loyal to him. Cole could have also detained potential dissenters among his ranks in cryo-chambers indefinitely.[7]

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. The sudden reemergence of Bellicose at the Battle of 18 Scorpii and later at Psi Serpentis supports this theory. After the battle, rumors of independent human forces successfully fighting the Covenant began to emerge, but eventually died out. Preston Cole was remembered by humanity as a brilliant military tactician and a symbol of hope, now lost. Codename: SURGEON recommended to fellow operative 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.[7]

Personality and traits[edit]

"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[33]

Preston Cole was instinctive and a tactically brilliant officer of the UNSC Navy. Highly regarded as a strong, heroic, and legendary commander, Cole's tactics were commonly replicated and employed throughout the Navy.[6] During his career at the time of the Insurrection, Cole believed that his success in combating insurrectionist forces was attributed to luck rather than skill, and questioned whether his rapid promotions through the Navy's ranks was warranted or not. Cole correctly assumed that the Navy was using the atrocities committed by insurgent forces to increase public reception of the UNSC's quelling of the rebellion, while hailing Cole as a hero.[12] During the Human-Covenant War, Cole was again highly regarded by both the military and civilians. Cole was favored by his superiors, as he had the willingness to sacrifice himself and any number of subordinates and ships if the sacrifice brought greater victory, an action that many other naval officers were reluctant to do.[15] UNSC Central Command continued to provide Cole with ships and crews to combat the Covenant, despite the large amount of losses Cole accumulated over time. However, Cole himself was unwilling to stop and was dedicated to win, despite the cost of lives, ships, or affect on his sanity. He believed that it was his responsibility to succeed and, if he failed, the Covenant would destroy billions of lives and hundreds of worlds.[4] Regardless, Cole's sanity predictably suffered, partly caused by stress originating from the large amount of faith the Navy put in Cole to defend human space. It was later presumed that, if Cole had indeed faked his death at the Battle of Psi Serpentis, Cole would seek to leave in isolation from the UNSC to relieve himself from decades of non-stop fighting and stress.[7]

Even as a child, Cole was highly intelligent, though had little means to express him creativity when he was young. Wishing to see the colonies and explore space, enlisting in the UNSC Navy was Cole's only option to pursue this desire due to his family's limited finances.[8] As a child, Cole was described as precocious and obedient to his parents. He had an unwavering stare that unnerved both his classmates and teachers.[1] Cole was a child who often over-analyzed situations and needed to cultivate his imagination. He rarely seemed to have fun at his school, seeing everything as a task that needed to be completed. Cole often feel asleep in class, the result of having a large amount of chores at his home. However, Cole's family instilled a no-nonsense work ethic and discipline in Cole that made him seem rather anachronistic in comparison to the rest of the population, who were enjoying the benefits of their "golden age" and had a noteworthy sense of entitlement.[8]

Cole was noble and had a sense of chivalry. While stoic and utterly stubborn, Cole refused to abandon or provide incriminating information on the women in his life, even when he faced a court-martial or even capital punishment.[5] On August 3, 2530, after learning of an incident in which Sergeant John Forge assaulted Lieutenant Prosser after the officer had attacked Forge's daughter in a bar, Cole personally ensured that the resulting investigation was fair. After Prosser ultimately received a court-martial, Cole had Forge transferred to UNSC Spirit of Fire to keep the incident quiet.[35] After his retirement from naval service, Cole became regarded as a "fallen hero" that turned into a womanizer who drank too much, particularly enjoying Finnish black vodka. Despite this, Cole continued to read books on military histories, naval battles, biographies of military commanders, and theoretical mathematical monographs on slipstream space. After learning of the Covenant threat, Cole was quick to return to service with the Navy.[15]

Personal life and relationships[edit]

"I wish I could give this up and come home, be a husband for you, and a father for our children who are growing up not even knowing me, apart from the official broadcasts that are sent to Earth. But the Navy needs me, too. Just by being here, I am saving lives… saving us all by stopping these border conflicts from flaring into full civil war. Maybe you don't want to understand that, or can't. But I do. I have to stay. I will always love you. I will always love the kids."
—Preston Cole to Inna Volkov, after she filed for a divorce[13]

Though Cole married Inna Volkov for unknown reasons despite not being the father of her first child, he came to love her, her child, and the three other children that the couple had over the following years.[11] However, Volkov filed for a divorce in March of 2550. 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 by attempting to prevent a full-blown civil war.[13] Cole was devastated by the divorce and attempted to maintain contact with his children, though he never received a response and assumed that Volkov was burning his letters. Several years later, Cole began a relationship with Lyrenne Castilla, a bar owner he met on the backwater colony of Roost. However, after marrying her, Cole discovered that Castilla was an insurrectionist leader and the captain of Bellicose—the rebel frigate that he had pursued for years. Cole was heavily affected on a personal level; after losing the first woman he loved and suffering, he found another chance at love only to discover that she was an insurgent.[5] ONI operatives later believed that—following the reemergence of Bellicose during the Covenant War—Cole had faked his death at Psi Serpentis to reunite with Castilla and spend the rest of their lives together in isolation.[7]

Cole maintained a close relationship with his brother, Michael Cole. During his service in the Navy at the time of the Insurrection, Cole often wrote to his brother, detailing his exploits that occurred throughout his early naval career and often confiding in him. After initiating a romantic relationship with Castilla, Cole continued to provide Michael with details on their relationship and later provided him with photos and videos of their wedding. Cole also had a close friendship with Michael Stanforth, a fellow naval officer. After Stanforth discovered that Castilla was an insurgent, he broke regulation to warn Cole before ONI arrived to interrogate him. Throughout the incident, Stanforth provided Cole with support and pressured ONI into giving him a fair investigation process.[5]


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 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 d e f g Halo: Evolutions, "The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole", page 415
  2. ^ a b c d Halo 3: ODST, ONI Memorial
  3. ^ a b Halo: Evolutions, "The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole", page 414
  4. ^ a b c d e f Halo: Evolutions, "The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole", page 470
  5. ^ a b c d e f Halo: Evolutions, "The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole", pages 453-457
  6. ^ a b Halo Encyclopedia, page 72 (2011)
  7. ^ a b c d e f Halo: Evolutions, "The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole", pages 486-487
  8. ^ a b c d e f Halo: Evolutions, "The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole", pages 416-420
  9. ^ a b Halo: Evolutions, "The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole", pages 420-427
  10. ^ Halo: Evolutions, "The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole", page 421
  11. ^ a b c Halo: Evolutions, "The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole", pages 430-436
  12. ^ a b c d Halo: Evolutions, "The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole", pages 436-447
  13. ^ a b c Halo: Evolutions, "The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole", page 448
  14. ^ Halo: Evolutions, "The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole", pages 450-451
  15. ^ a b c d e f Halo: Evolutions, "The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole", page 458
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i Halo Wars: Genesis, pages 1-10
  17. ^ a b Halo: Evolutions, "The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole", page 462
  18. ^ a b Halo: The Fall of Reach, pages 117-126 (2010)
  19. ^ a b c, Halo Storyline
  20. ^ Halo: Evolutions, "The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole", page 461
  21. ^ Halo Encyclopedia, page 299 (2011)
  22. ^ Halo: The Essential Visual Guide, page 88
  23. ^ Halo: Evolutions, "The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole", page 465
  24. ^ Halo: Evolutions, "The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole", pages 462-467
  25. ^ Halo: Evolutions, "The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole", page 471
  26. ^ Halo: The Fall of Reach, Bonus Content (2010)
  27. ^ Halo: The Essential Visual Guide, page 188
  28. ^ Halo Wars
  29. ^ Halo: Reach, Dr. Halsey's personal journal
  30. ^ Halo: The Cole Protocol, pages 351-354
  31. ^ Halo: Evolutions, "The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole", page 473
  32. ^ a b c d Halo: Evolutions, "The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole", pages 476-482
  33. ^ a b Halo: Evolutions, "The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole", page 414
  34. ^ Halo: First Strike, page 100 (2003); page 125 (2010)
  35. ^ Halo Wars, Timeline