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Preston Cole was born on Earth, in Missouri, USA in the year 2470. Preston grew up on a dairy farm, and here he became familiar with the stories about his great-grand fathers, who fought in the Rain Forest Wars. Showing great skill at critical thinking, he and his 6 brothers and sisters went to the Wallace Fujikawa Elementary School. While in 5th grade, Preston's teacher Lillian Bratton realised that Preston required guidance to reach his full potential, and seemed to work too hard even when he played, overanalysing every situation.
Showing great prowess in the sciences, Preston got himself in trouble when he received full marks for William Martin's algebra class; a perfect score had never been accomplished on that test. Assuming Preston had cheated at the test, Mr. Martin made a new test, and proceeded to closely monitor Preston during the test. After the test, Mr. Martin was shocked to see that Preston had achieved another perfect score, unprecedented.
A few years later, at the age of fourteen, Preston wrote an English essay titled "The Viability of Extended Colonization". Although Preston did not receive particular high marks for the essay, it later turned out that the paper was prophetically accurate as it predicted the Insurrection 10 years before it was formed.
Although Preston 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, Preston enlisted as a crewman.
CMA Season of Plenty
Preston was now on board his very first ship, the CMA Season of Plenty. The ship was operated by the Colonial Military Administration to help in the establishment of new colonies and settlements. One of these settlements was the city named Lazy Acres, on the colony Paradise Falls. After the Season of Plenty was done, they were preparing to leave. In order to receive routine maintaince, the on-board AI Lorelei went offline. In order to train his Ensign, Lieutenant Commander Nevel ordered him to do the necessary 'Shaw Multivarate' calculations to tell the ship where to go. Normally this was done in mere seconds by the AI, but in case of emergency, the navigator should be able to do on his or her own as well. But instead of calculating himself, Ensign Otto Seinmann ordered Preston to do them. Using his own technique to do the calculation, Preston was able to do the equations.
As LCO Nevel stepped onto the bridge, he demanded the calculations he had ordered from Otto. Otto, only having done some rough calculations, gave them to LCO Nevel. As LCO Nevel gave the calculations to the now-online Lorelei for double-checking, she informed the LCO that Otto's calculations "would have gotten the Season of Plenty there—albeit 160 million kilometers off course… and pathing through a brown dwarf". After Lorelei dismissed the calculations, she continued with the launch preparations, launched the ship and entered slipspace. All this time, Preston was still working on the calculations at an auxiliary workstation. Only after almost five hours of working, during a shift change, did LCO Nevel notice that Preston was still there. "Crewman, what precisely are you doing?" "Sir, finishing the slipstream space calculations Ensign Seinmann ordered me to double-check". Showing anger, disgust and a hint of amusement, LCO Nevel dismissed Preston, before taking a look over his work.
Looking intently at Preston's work, LCO Nevel inquired if Lorelei had been helping Prestion doing his calculations. It took Lorelei nearly half a second (a life-time for AI) to scan all the available data for similar calculations. She then informed the LCO that Preston had designed a completely new way of doing these calculations. This caused LCO Nevel to not only reprimand Ensign Seinmann, but to recommend Preston for the Luna OCS Academy.
From Cadet to Father
Now a student and the Academy, Preston would fall into a scandal involving the overnight disappearance of Inna Volkov, the daughter of then-Admiral Konrad Volkov. She had been sighted as leaving the base with an unidentified man on several occasions, which resulted in Inna's pregnancy. Six cadets, Preston among them, were brought before a Board of Inquiry to testify, Preston was acquitted. Two months later, Preston and Inna would marry, and go on a two-week honeymoon. Preston would go on and be assigned to the UNSC Las Vegas, Ivan Troy Cole would be born a few months later.
ONI operative SURGEON would later suggest three reasons why this marriage took place: The first was that Inna's father knew which cadet was the true father and didn't like what he saw, and thus found a suitable replacement for his daughter: Preston. 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.
Preston and Inna would remain married for the next eight years and have two sons and a daughter. However, as the Insurrection he had long ago prophesised flared up Preston saw very little of Inna and their children, being engaged on the frontier for months and even years at a time.
The Callisto Incident
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 signalled 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 Honour or to have him court martialled. 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".
After recovering from the events and resuming his against the Insurrection, Preston was given the rank of Commander. After a dozen successful engagements in five years against insurgent forces and privateer fleets he was promoted to Captain and received the honour of commanding the first heavy destroyer-class vessel armed with a Magnetic Accelerator Cannon, the Gorgon.
Inna filed for divorce in 2500. Preston 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.
Preston 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. After a fourteen-month romance, Preston married to Lyrenne Castilla. This led ONI to investigate the new Mrs. Cole, and found out something disturbing. It turned out that Lyrenne was in fact a high-ranking member of the insurgency in the Outer Colonies. Either to find out secret military information, or to turn Preston to the Insurrection, her job was to stay close to Preston. As ONI came to arrest both Preston and Lyrenne, Preston's good friend Harold Stanforth pressured the UNSC to not charge Preston. This was only partially successful, as Preston endured a thorough interrogation. As the UNSC was covering this up, Preston was given the rank of Rear Admiral and given a desk job; the UNSC was trying to keep Preston out of the spotlight. After 8 months at his desk job, Preston was offered early retirement with an honorary skip promotion to Vice Admiral, he accepted. All this took a toll on him, suffering from two heart attacks and having his liver replaced with a Flash clone before he went into retirement.
After the CMA Heracles returned to Reach, badly damaged from first contact with the Covenant, ONI requested that Preston return to service to lead the largest battle group in human history, consisting of forty ships, to Harvest in hopes of defeating the extra-terrestrial threat. He reluctantly accepted their request, and his old rank of Vice Admiral was restored.
Preston 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 Preston's adjutant commanders suggested a full retreat. However, with the use of intelligence gathered during the Battle of Chi Ceti, Preston realised 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.
This amazing first victory earned Preston the rank of Admiral, his promotion was televised on UNSC-controlled television. At the Battle of Alpha Aurigae in the Origami Asteroid Field in October 2526 Preston had a total of 117 UNSC vessels and defeated the Covenant's twelve (at least three of which were 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.
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. Preston 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 realised that secrecy would be their best defence against them.
The biggest and most crucial battle in Preston's career was the Battle of Psi Serpentis in which Preston led a fleet of one hundred-sixty-two warships against two Covenant fleets totalling 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 destroyed, the alien fleet regrouped and attacked Preston'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, Preston'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. Preston ordered the remnants of Battle Group India to fall back from the planet, leaving Preston'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:
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:
Cole then fired everything the Everest had—not at the Covenant—but into Viperidae. The super-pressurised hydrogen inside the gas giant's 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 Covenant ship, apparently along with Preston Cole and the UNSC Everest, had been obliterated.
A day of mourning was proclaimed 28 July 2543 as humanity grieved for the loss of arguably its greatest hero.
By 2552, there existed a painting in the HIGHCOM Security Committee Headquarters entitled Admiral Cole's Last Stand, in reference to Cole's final showdown at the Battle of Psi Serpentis. In December of 2552, SURGEON stated that AIs Phoenix and Lackluster analysed 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 colonise on, as he always wanted to retire to be a farmer.