The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole

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The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole is one of several short-stories in Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe. The story is framed as a report by Codename: SURGEON to Codename: USUAL SUSPECTS summarizing the life of Admiral Preston J. Cole. Throughout the report, the narrative sometimes shifts to the moment in Cole's life that is being summarized.[1]

It was written by Eric Nylund, bestselling author of Halo: The Fall of Reach, Halo: First Strike and Halo: Ghosts of Onyx.

Plot summary[edit]

The story is written as a report from Codename: SURGEON to Codename: USUAL SUSPECTS on the early life, military career, and supposed death of Vice Admiral Preston Cole.

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 (released on one year parole), and both her grandfathers served in the Rain Forest Wars (one surviving, Captain Oliver Franks, received the Bronze Star). Tax records show that despite living in humanity's Golden Age, Cole's family struggled to make ends meet.

In his fifth grade, 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 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 mere crewman.

On September, 21, 2488, Cole enlisted in the UNSC Navy. Upon graduation from the Unified Combined Military Boot Camp (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 Officer Candidate School.

At OCS, he would fall into a scandal involving the overnight disappearances of Inna Volkov, the daughter of Admiral Konrad Volkov, from her 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, with the Admiral acting as a witness. They had a two-week honeymoon, then Cole was reassigned to the destroyer UNSC Las Vegas. Ivan Troy Cole, who was not Preston's biological son, was born on December 12th, 2492.

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 UNSC 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 a nuclear weapon hidden inside an asteroid, destroying the Buenos Aires and severely damaging the Las Vegas and Jericho. The entire bridge crew of the Las Vegas, save Cole, were either 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 precedent. However, from that point on Cole could never again send a distress signal in enemy territory; no one would believe it.

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 twice and fought 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.

Preston took a leave from duty in 2502 and married his second wife, Lyrenne Castilla. Unfortunately for Cole, she turned out to be a high-ranking Insurrectionist and captain of the former Bellerophon, now renamed the Bellicose. When ONI found out about Lyra's double-life, his integrity in question, Preston's talents were put to waste as the Navy reassigned him to a desk duty after promotion to Rear Admiral. Only the efforts of Admiral Harold Stanforth, a close friend of Cole, kept him from facing a court-martial. Shortly after, Cole was informed that during the Battle of Theta Ursae Majoris System, the Bellicose was caught in a gas giant's gravitational pull and is presumed to be lost with all hands. This event further compounded Cole's psychological problems.

By 2525, after being sent to a desk job on Earth, Cole retired after being skip-promoted to Vice Admiral and was living alone in his apartment. He had gone through three much publicized divorces, and his health was worse for the wear: he had two heart attacks and had a cloned liver implanted.

After the UNSC Heracles returned to Reach, badly damaged from first contact with the Covenant Empire, 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.

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' superior weaponry and technology overwhelmed the fleet, and Cole was on the verge of retreating. However, Cole realized that Covenant shield technology was vulnerable to massive, concentrated fire. Cole ordered all ships to fire everything they had at the ship, with MACs first, followed by Archer missiles and Shiva-class nuclear missile. Although his fleet defeated the vessel, thirteen UNSC ships were destroyed during the fight.

Due to the impossibility of keeping the war a secret, 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.

After the conclusion of the Battle of the Great Bear at Groombridge-1830, a Sangheili survivor was recovered. Admiral Cole began writing the Cole Protocol after interrogating it, now knowing that the Covenant had little knowledge of humanity; he realized that secrecy would be their best defense against them. He then created 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 Earth, and forbids retreating vessels from setting a direct course to Earth, 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 prevent the advance of the Covenant.

In the Battle of 18 Scorpii, the Bellicose was revealed to have survived the engagement four decades prior and assisted UNSC forces to destroy a single Covenant vessel. The revelation pushed Cole's already deteriorating mental health to the breaking point. Codename: SURGEON noted that his personal logs stopped shortly after, and his behavior slightly altered.

The last and most successful battle in Cole's career was the Battle of Psi Serpentis on April 18, 2543, in which Cole led a fleet of one hundred-sixty-two warships against a fleet of over three hundred Covenant ships. The engagement began when Cole's fleet, UNSC 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. Tricking the Covenant into splitting their own forces, Cole's fleet quickly regrouped on one side and opened fire at one group of ships. With two-thirds of the Covenant fleet decimated, the alien fleet regrouped and attacked Cole's fleet. Battle Group India scattered across the system, being picked off by the Covenant.

Just then, however, 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 back into slipspace. With only a handful of Covenant ships left, Cole's fleet began to finish off the stragglers. But just then, two Covenant fleets, numbering at 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, 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 gravity's interference 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 superpressurized hydrogen inside the gas giant's atmosphere was ignited by the one hundred Shiva nuclear warheads fired at it, and Viperidae exploded into a brown dwarf. When the explosion ceased, every Covenant ship, along with Preston Cole and the UNSC Everest, had been obliterated.

After his apparent death, there was speculation that Admiral Cole, after destroying two whole 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, his 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. 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 following the Human-Covenant War's conclusion.

Characters[edit]

Sources[edit]

  1. ^ Halo: Evolutions - Essential Tales of the Halo Universe, The Impossible Life and the Possible Death of Preston J. Cole