Disclaimer: I cannot believe that I still have to say this, but Halo is all 343 Industry's.

Author's note: Here is the other big point of divergence. I will be introducing a very important OC: a mysterious benefactor who will help change the course of the war.

"You make the impossible possible, doctor. I make the possible practical." - Col. George Yang

1500 Hours, January 11, 2549 (Military Calendar) / Epsilon Eridani System, Edward Teller Research Facility, planet Reach

Doctor Halsey reviewed the files in front of her, her mind rebelling against the revelations. Someone had actually beaten her to the punch, to complete the project that she never could: a truly viable Spartan Program. Her raw anger was visceral and visible. Her knuckles clenched white and angry veins showing on her temples.

And the source of that shocker sat not two meters across from her and behind the desk: Colonel George Yang of ONI Section III. The man stood at just over one and three quarters meters with short cropped hair and chocolate brown eyes of east Asian descent. His appearance was nothing worth noting, neither handsome nor repugnant with no marks or scars that stood out. He was a man that could pass unnoticed to anyone. Now he sat completely emotionless, awaiting her response.

"You son of a bitch!" Halsey spat. The ONI Colonel showed no sign of being cowed. Far from that, he appeared mildly surprised at the Doctor's rage. "The terms of the Spartan Project were explicit. It is my operation!"

"Yes, it did say that." The Colonel responded dispassionately. "It also promised that a whole regiment would be trained. You failed to deliver, so the project was passed to someone else. It was not my decision, but you of all people should know how it works."

"So you stole my work and made it as your own. These Spartan-IIIs of yours..."

"IVs, Doctor. The IIIs were under Ackerson. I started the IVs when he was shut down."

Despite her immediate anger, a thin smile shone through at the news of Ackerson's fall from grace.

"And where is Ackerson now?" Halsey asked, savoring the spite as she spoke the name. The gall of that man to attack her efforts for years only to steal her work. The colonel left his chair for the window, looking out towards the unending forests of Reach.

"He's dead. One of his later projects finally bit him in the ass. What is that old saying? 'Those who ride to power on the back of a tiger often end up inside.' Very appropriate in this situation. The finer details of his demise could be made available to you if you wish." The Colonel smiled at the thought and Halsey couldn't resist a moment of camaraderie with him along with cold sense of satisfaction. It was about time that Ackerson got what was coming for him. The Germans have a word for her state of mind at that moment: Schadenfreude.

"So why are you telling me all of this?" Halsey prodded, though in a more conciliatory manner. "I know your type. You wouldn't tell me that water was wet if you could keep it a secret."

"Simple, I'm looking for a partner. I'm taking over as head of Section III, and I want you to be my top civilian director and adviser. You will be second only to me."

Her eyes rose slightly in shock at that statement, but the Doctor quickly suppressed it.

"Why me?" Halsey question, her tone completely emotionless.

"Because I need the best." Yang replied simply.

"Spare me the flattery, Colonel. You could take my research no matter what I do. I want the real reason."

"You wound me, Doctor. Flattery it may be, it was also accurate. My reasons are simple: our skills compliment each other. You make the impossible possible, Doctor. I make the possible practical. Think of what we can accomplish."

Halsey remained unmoved by Yang's words. The Colonel returned to his desk.

"I trust you've heard that Operation Red Flag has been given the go ahead."

Halsey simply nodded in affirmation before the colonel continued.

"Did you know that HighCom didn't even look at your suggestion to capture a prophet until I backed it?"

Halsey's eyebrow raised on that one.

"Did you also know that there's been a rather significant series of revisions to your proposal? HighCom has decided that it's time to activate the 822nd now that we won't lose everything in one roll of the dice. This will be a joint operation, though your Spartans will take the lead. I will send two of my best teams to back them up."

The doctor was stunned silent for a moment. The 822nd would be activated. In some sense, her decades spanning dream – or perhaps nightmare – would finally come to fruition. She'll give Yang his due credit; he knew exactly how to corner her by bringing up her Spartans.

"Let me tell you, Doctor, the exact nature of the Spartan-IIIs under Ackerson's aegis. Expendable supersoldiers to be thrown en mass against the Covenant to trade lives for time. They used subpar equipment and enhancements as dangerous to the user as it is to the enemy. There were two battalions of three hundred each that were wiped out nearly to a man in exchange for just a covenant refueling station and a minor shipyard. The covenant onslaught continued as if nothing had happened."

"And what does that have to do with you?" Halsey interjected.

"Simple. I was the one who shut Ackerson down."

Halsey scoffed at the claim.

"You'll forgive me for not taking you on your word on that. It wouldn't be the first time that someone high up in ONI has spun a tall tale for me."

On that note, Yang reached into his file cabinet and tossed a folder to the doctor.

"All the proof you'll need is in there." After a few seconds of review, Halsey gasped.

"Ackerson was a fool in addition to being a bastard. It's only when one first realize just how cheap life can be do we realize its true value. But different people draw different conclusions. In his view, he wasn't wasting their lives because they didn't have much worth. You and I know different, that they are actually invaluable. We make Spartans. He made cannon fodder. He gave them the numbers and tools to accomplish suicide missions for Pyrrhic gains. I gave them numbers and tools to survive and triumph and, more importantly, to make a difference. Isn't that what we all seek in life: knowing that we made a difference."

Yang leaned into the desk towards Halsey, looking into her steely eyes.

"These are my Spartans, Catherine, just like the IIs were yours. Now I ask you, help me to help them to make a difference."

She couldn't help but understand what he was implying. So Yang has a personal stake in this mission just like her. She could sympathize with him. The burden of their lives rest in his hands just like John, Kelly, and the others rested in hers.

"Alright. I'm in."

A/N: Going forward, the differences will be stark. For starters, Colonel Yang will be a recurring OC, though one off the battlefield. He is the enabler, facilitator, and more. In essence, I am trying to write this fic with a UNDF (Yes, the UNDF as I don't really enjoy the term UNSC as it seems somewhat corny) that is not so schizophrenic and constantly fighting itself. More importantly, I'm trying to write this fic as Dr. Halsey unleashed because it always seemed to me that she was horrible underutilized in canon. And with Yang, she gets a partner that could keep up with her and who compensates for what I think has always been her weakness: a far too strong focus on the theoretical and not nearly enough on the practical. Finally, as a political benefactor, Yang covers her biggest weakness in that she is very often a victim of politics.