Cole earned the nickname "Preacher" for constantly quoting from the Bible he always carried with him in Vietnam. His squad, designated "Special Recon Force J-7", was the subject of a secret government experiment to test whether eradicating the need to sleep would create a better soldier. The experiment was carried out by Doctors Saul Grissom and Francis Girardi, and involved the surgical removal of a part of the subject's brain. Any ill effects of the soldiers' sustained wakefulness was alleviated by serotonin medication.
In one sense, the experiment was a brilliant success: without the need for sleep, the soldiers of SRF J-7 not only had twice as much time to devote to combat duties, but also experienced dulled sensations of fear and greatly heightened aggression. SRF J-7 tallied the highest kill ratio in the Marine Corps (over 4,000 confirmed kills by only 13 men). In another sense, however, it was a terrible failure: the squad suffered a collective psychotic breakdown and went AWOL, making up their own combat missions on the fly and often massacring Vietnamese civilians, including children.
In Cole's case, the sustained wakefulness led to an unforeseen side effect: he developed psychic abilities that allowed him to project illusions (i.e., "living dreams") that felt so real they could induce physiological changes in the people who experienced them.
In the early 1990s, he took it upon himself to find and kill the remaining soldiers from the squad, as well as the two doctors responsible for the experiment, as punishment for their sins during the war.
He killed Dr. Grisson by creating an illusion that his apartment was on fire. Though Grissom's body was untouched by any flames, his internal organs hemorrhaged and calcified, as if exposed to extreme heat. Likewise, when Cole tracked down his old squadmate, Henry Willig, he created an illusion that over a dozen Vietnamese civilians had risen from the grave and shot him with automatic rifles. Again, there were no actual bullets, but Willig's body, "believing" that it had been shot, spontaneously developed over a dozen internal hemorrhages and splintered bones, perfectly mimicking the internal effects of multiple gunshot wounds.
Cole's last target was Dr. Girardi, but he was interrupted by FBI Agents Mulder and Krycek. Mulder wanted Cole alive to testify about the government experiment, but Cole, desperate for the peace he had not had for 24 years, tricked Krycek into shooting him by holding out his Bible, making Krycek believe it was a gun aimed at Mulder. Cole's last words were, "good night."
It was later implied, however, that Krycek had not been fooled by the illusion, but instead had shot Cole on orders from the Cigarette Smoking Man, to prevent Mulder from learning more about the experiment.(TXF: "Sleepless")
Augustus Cole was played by Tony Todd.
The name Augustus Cole is shared with a more recent character, Augustus Cole of the video game series Gears of War. This may be entirely coincidental, although they share many characteristics. Both characters are African-American, both are special unit soldiers and both have a seemingly mental instability.