aSG: Project Corrigendum - The Formation

Eric Burns sabre at
Fri Jun 30 08:04:22 PDT 2017

                          aSG: Project Corrigendum
                               The Formation
                              Eric Burns-White

                            **Altiverse 023SG**

August 11, 1950
Washington D.C.
The White House

     She was a bombshell—a real looker. Too hot by half and too cool for
school. Her hair was so brunette it was practically blue, her legs went sky
high and any college professor would want to study her body of literature.
That was true when she was walking down Broadway in New York, the
Champs-Élysées in Paris, Skid Row in the City of Angels, or the Nevsky
Prospect in the city they called Leningrad these days. She looked equally
comfortable in all those places—confident, head up, slight smile.... Where
some snobs might project old money or breeding, this woman immediately gave
off the sense that she was better than you because she knew more, could do
more, and was more successful at anything either of you might try. It was
an attitude born of experience, much to the chagrin of almost anyone who
went head to head against her.
     Today she wasn't walking through a slum, a shopping district, or a
Soviet avenue. Today she was walking through the halls of the White House.
And yet, every move suggested she wasn't any more impressed by these
storied walls than she'd been by the cracked sidewalk on Pennsylvania
Avenue. And as she passed by, every head turned to watch. They practically
clicked like gears in a watch. Tic... tic... tic... drawn to her charisma,
her amusement, or her legs, depending on who was looking.
     She walked past Connelly, the President's appointments secretary,
without even acknowledging the thin faced man. Connelly's head could be
turned by more than her stockinged calf—there were oil men and shoe
manufacturers and the like who'd figured out the man who made the
President's appointments wasn't much used to being given nice things. It
was a weak point in the President's outer shell, and she didn't have time
for weak points. She did half-smile at Rose Conway—the President's primary
secretary, who'd followed him from the Vice Presidency and would likely
follow him into machine gun fire if he asked.
     "He's in a meeting," Rose said, smiling slightly herself.
     "He is at that," the brunette said, pushing into the Oval and swinging
the door shut behind her. The President was startled but not cowed—he
didn't cow easily—standing smoothly as she walked straight to the desk.
"Good afternoon, Mister President," she said, her smile in full force.
     The President's meeting was apparently with Representative Brehm of
Ohio. The thick faced man had jumped out of his seat, too. "What in the
world— Harry, what kind of place are you running here."
     "Now Walter," the brunette said, her smile twisting slightly. "You
know full well that a President's time is never guaranteed. How is that
clerk of yours, anyhow? What's her name—Craven? Oh yes, Emma Craven. Where
does a girl like that even put her hands on a thousand dollars, do you
imagine? Well, it's understandable—money just turns up sometimes, falling
out of any given filing cabinet... it's like ants in the sugar bag, really."
     Brehm frowned, lip curling as he prepared a retort, before his color
changed—paler, as her words set in. "I—"
     The President was frowning as well. "I'm sorry, Walter. Sometimes
people forget the basics and need to be reminded. Have you met our Miss
Cordelia Anfoesegol? Beetle Smith absolutely despises her and won't
hesitate to tell you about it, but also won't take most jobs unless she's
got a position too. What that says about the good General I'm not entirely
sure." He turned to Anfoesegol, frowning. "She doesn't seem to think
waiting rooms or chairs apply to her. I'm not inclined to encourage her."
     "And I'm not inclined to take meetings with anyone unless I can get
the most use for my time out of them, Mister President. I'm certain the
Honorable Mister Brehm understands that." She turned to the Representative.
"Right, Walter?"
     "I... think we were pretty much done anyhow, Harry," Brehm said
tightly—still quite pale and clearly angry, but doing a bad job of
pretending he wasn't. "I wouldn't want to hold Missus An...Andro—"
     "*Miss,* actually. Miss Anfoesegol. But don't worry—no one gets it on
the first go-round." She smiled sunnily. "And thank you *so* much for your
     The President had a slightly dark expression on his face, but nodded.
"All right then, Walter. We'll talk later."
     "Thank you, Mister President," the Representative said, then made the
barest of nods to Anfoesegol and retreated the field.
     "I'm worried he's not getting enough meat in his diet, Mister
President," Anfoesegol said, lightly. "Anemia's no joke."
     "What in God's name did you have on him, Cordelia?"
     "This and that. I pay attention, listen to the wind. It's why
Ambassador Smith both hates and adores me."
     "He does more than that. You know I pigeonholed him to take over the
Central Intelligence Agency—make some sense out of that damn morass... and
that was *before* those dunderheads managed to miss the entire damn
invasion of South Korea until it was in the past tense column!"
     "I know a lot of things, Mister President."
     "Really? Why didn't *you* warn us about Korea then?"
     "Because I was elsewhere, which is why I'm here now. In this oh so
modern world you have to look after priorities."
     "And something had a higher priority than the invasion of Seoul?"
     "Oh, Mister President. *So* many things have a higher a priority than
the invasion of Seoul. "
     "People are dying, Miss Anfoesegol."
     "Yes they are, Mister President. All over the world, every day. In
wars and squabbles and sickness. People die every day, and sometimes it's
because of the Communists and sometimes it's not, and either way there's
plenty more important things than that. That's why I'm here."
     "It's also why Admiral Hillenkoetter wants to fire you. He's wanted to
fire you as long as he's been the Director of Central Intelligence, which
is almost as long as there's *been* a Director of Central Intelligence."
     "During which time he didn't just miss the Soviets preparing to test
their atom bombs, he literally missed them blowing them up. Which is hardly
a surprise. Hillenkoetter fundamentally doesn't believe that a single
agency can both gather intelligence and execute covert action, and as a
result the CIA doesn't do either particularly well."
     "I'm aware." The President turned to look out the Portico windows.
"That's why I'm tapping Beetle Smith. And Beetle Smith is why you've kept
your job dating back to the OSS despite both Smith and Hillenkoetter hating
     "None of which is particularly important to why I'm here."
     "When I tapped Beetle to take over as Director, he told me I should
give you the job instead." The President didn't turn around as he spoke.
     "Ambassador Smith's quite perceptive."
     "You agree? You think you'd be better than General Walter Bedell
     "I don't think any such thing, Mister President. I know it. He knows
it. You *should* know it, and what's more I think you *do* know it." She
paused. "But as I keep alluding to in this meeting, there are higher
*priorities* at play than the CIA."
     The President finally turned to look at the woman. "So. It's done,
     "It's done, yes. The Exeter Project no longer exists. Everything they
learned we know, and we are the only ones. Seventeen superhuman operatives
have been neutralized, and four have been turned through a combination of
     "And how exactly did you manage to do all of that?"
     Anfoesegol smiled once more. "I can't think of a *single* good reason
I should answer that, for either of our sakes, Mister President."
     "How about 'because the President told you to?'"
     She shrugged. "That President needs deniability, now more than ever."
     "Deniability's another way of saying cowardly, Miss Anfoesegol."
     "And honorable courage is another way of saying idiotic, Mister
Truman. You've had scandals. You've lost the atomic lead we've held from
the beginning. You have the Communists *daring* you to try and stop them on
the Korean Peninsula, and they did it under your nose. You have several
compromised staff members who are mostly guilty of naiveté which itself is
*shocking* given how long you and Mister Roosevelt jointly held this
office. I am aware 'the buck stops here,' but that doesn't mean it should
ever start. You don't need to know how I accomplished my goals. If you knew
how I accomplished my goals you would likely find fault with my
methodology, my common sense, or my morality, and not one of those things
matters so long as the job is completed."
     The President's eyes narrowed, and he leaned forward, putting his
hands on his desk. "I think every one of those things matters, Miss
     Anfoesegol's smile grew slightly. "And so long as we don't go into
details you can go on thinking that, Mister President. Which is why I'm
here." She stepped forward, walking up to the other side of his desk.
"There are more important things, and right now we aren't looking after
them at all. Admiral Hillenkoetter doesn't think your Agency can handle
both the passive and active sides of espionage. Ambassador Smith knows
better... but is focused on the threats of the world the way it was. It's
not his fault. Soldiers *always* want to fight the *last* war."
     "So what, exactly, is the next war?"
     "You know the answer, President Truman. Just like you knew the answer
to the question of the atomic bomb." She cocked her head to one side. "Do
you remember the Wave swimming out into the Battle of Midway, Mister
Truman? And do you remember her pulling the water up and around, until the
*Hiryū* capsized? Do you remember that *Life* Magazine cover, taken by that
suicidal photographer she hauled behind her on the surfboard, looking
*down* on the *Yamato* as the water crashed towards its decks from above?"
     "I'm a mite tired of your tone, Miss Anfoesegol."
     "Then I apologize. Of course you remember. And you remember Lieutenant
Blockbuster obliterating tank columns from the air, and the Quick pulling
rifles out of infantrymens' hands." She looked in the President's eyes. "Do
you think the Soviets remember them too?"
     The President paused. "Of course they do, damn it," he muttered.
"That's no excuse for—"
     "Oh, I'm sure it'll be fine, Mister President. We will maintain our
standards of civility. I'm sure it will be years before they actually
develop a functional atomic bomb." She cocked her head, smiling. "Oh,
sorry. That was the *last* go-around."
     "And some damnably dirty pool, Miss Anfoesegol."
     "It's meant to be." She stood back up. "For whatever reason... America
has more people manifesting these abilities right now than anyone else in
the world. Despite nearly three hundred and seventy million people in
India, or five hundred and sixty million in China, far more Americans have
shown these powers and abilities than anyone else. But it won't last. The
Exeter Project was a symptom. I promise you—the Soviets are trying to
unlock the secret of superhumanity. So are the Asians. For Heaven's sake,
the *French* are trying to make replicable powered humans, Mister
President. We *must* stay on top of this. We *must* disrupt or subvert any
resources they manage to get. And we *must* develop the capacity for
controllable, reproducible powered humans of our own."
     "And this is what you want to do instead of heading up the country's
Intelligence efforts?"
     "Intelligence..." she shook her head. "Mister President, I obviously
don't need to remind you about our Atomic program. You know better than
anyone about what we've gone through and what we—and you—had to decide
during the war. But during the Manhattan Project... we had the best and
brightest working on solving this issue. And for most, it was a monumental
task, wherein we were literally going to break apart the stuff of matter
into an explosion greater than thousands of tons of TNT. It fascinated and
horrified them. But for a very small number of those scientists... they
were excited because this incredibly powerful, destructive force would make
a perfect trigger for a *real* bomb. Kilotons weren't ambitious enough."
     "I know this, too. Earlier this year I authorized the development of
that bomb."
     "I know. Teller and Von Neumann and the rest. And they're working on
it—working on an atom bomb shaped to implode hydrogen into a fusion
explosion the world can't begin to imagine. And I know they're not talking
about kilotons of dynamite any more, Mister President. They're talking
about *mega*tons. *Millions* of tons of dynamite. That's where that world
is going. Well, that world is our world, Mister President. Ambassador Smith
is going to take the Central Intelligence Agency to new heights—to all
sides of Intelligence, whether active or investigatory. But that's not
enough in a world of people who fly, and explode, and sink Aircraft
Carriers with their minds and a swimsuit. We need the hydrogen bomb of
Intelligence. We need a *Megaintelligence* Bureau. It is the single most
crucial priority in espionage today, and we are *sleeping through it.*
     "And you need it without pesky things like bothering the President
with what you're doing?"
     "Mister President, we need to protect American freedoms. We need to
promote American values. We need to assure American superiority. And we
need to spread American hegemony. Because if we don't, then I absolutely
promise you the Kremlin will, only their values and hegemony won't be
*American.* And we need to do that either with or against people who can
lift tanks over their head. None of that can happen if we're playing to the
agendas of Congressional beancounters and Presidents who change every few
years and bring their doctrines with them."
     "Then who exactly will provide oversight for your Megaintelligence
     "We will. *I* will."
     "Provide oversight for yourself? You're insane! And you really do
think I'm stupid! That's a recipe for the worst excesses! How do you expect
to fight corruption—"
     "Fight it? I'm going to recruit for it! Mister President, anyone can
be turned with the right inducements. You lost your closest aide over a
bribery scandal where the bribes were literally *kitchen freezers.* You've
already pardoned two former United States Representatives after they were
imprisoned for corruption!" She lifted her chin. "If you find a man who's
good at what he does, alongside all the picayune crap he's wrapped around
himself and skeletons he thinks he's closeted... let him know what *you*
know and imagine for himself what he can lose… and then show him all the
wonders he can *gain* from working with you? You have him by the testicles
for life. You control him. *That's* oversight."
     "And who has your testicles for life?"
     She half-smiled again. "Mister President, a Megaintelligence Bureau,
operating on the fringe, can dig into this new world of mystery men and
super guys and gals. We can make sure the powered are working for our
nation's aims and we can blunt those who work against us. All you have to
do is let us do it... and if you don't, then the next unexpected atom bomb
will be a person walking through Megapolis Heights, bringing buildings down
while bullets bounce off his skin and the Communists sit and wait for our
     "And you don't think those mystery men will protect America without
you? I don't remember needing to ask them to stop Nazi spies, much less
volunteer to help us win in Africa and the South Pacific."
     "Well, that is true. I'm sure they'll gladly protect us. As a
reaction, after who knows how much damage has been done, since they won't
know about it in advance. But that'll be fine. After all, the South Koreans
weren't overly inconvenienced by the surprise attack from Pyongyang, were
     The President's frown turned hard. "There's a line between telling
truth to power and being offensive, Miss Anfoesegol. You may have noticed
passing it a few minutes ago."
     "Please, sir. Call me Cordelia." She paused. "You know I'm right. You
know this keeps happening. And you know you want to be in *front* of this,
this time. You need this Megaintelligence Bureau, Mister Truman."
     There was a pause. The President turned, and rang a small bell. The
door to the side opened, and Rose came in. "Yes, sir?"
     "Please bring a coffee service in. I think Miss Anfoesegol and I have
a lot more to discuss."
     "Yes sir, Mister President."
     Anfoesegol smiled a bit more as Rose left, taking a seat.
     "You're seriously intending to call this the 'Megaintelligence Bureau?"
     "I am."
     "That's the worst agency name I've ever heard in my life."
     "I know. It's absolutely perfect."
     "How could that be possible?"
     "Because it describes our mission while being completely
ridiculous—which means absolutely no one will believe it when they're told
about it." She leaned back. "You find the most distinctive, most laudable
and respectable name when you want the world to know you're on the job and
better than any of them. The Central Intelligence Agency. The Federal
Bureau of Investigation. The name becomes the mystique. Not that our good
Admiral Hillenkoetter hasn't worked hard to destroy that mystique, but I
have hopes for Ambassador Smith. He's really quite capable."
     "So why would you pick a frankly stupid name?"
     "Because no one would ever believe it, like I said. Rumors will fly,
but then they'll see they're attributed to a government agency called the
'Megaintelligence Bureau,' they'll decide it's just a rumor or joke. It
works better than you think. During the war my OSS kill squad was called
the Understudy Whiffenpoofs. No failed missions, even though I know at
least six times our operational details were intercepted."
     Truman shook his head. "This is insane. All right, if you're going to
be that secret with no oversight, how exactly are we going to authorize and
fund you?"
     "Same as always—set up a cover organization then bury yourself in it."
     "What cover organization?"
     Anfoesegol looked delighted. "This is almost my favorite part. The
Department of Operational Intelligence."
     There was another pause.
     "You... intend to conceal a covert, undoubtedly illegal spy ring
inside a *public spy ring?!*"
     "Mm." Anfoesegol smirked. "I don't think we're a ring, per se. Maybe a
cabal? I'll need to check the handbook."
     "If this has been a complete waste of my time—"
     "I already told you, Mister President—you pick a name with mystique or
panache, and let it carry your mission ahead of you. You pick a ridiculous
name to make your agency's existence unbelievable. But an agency like the
'Department of Operational Intelligence?' It's worse than a bad name—it's
*mediocre.* It screams 'archiving and compiling and analysis and
accountancy' and no one wants to discuss it. The D.O.I. isn't about
espionage—it's clearly about shuffling papers for rubberstamping. But it
can have branch offices essentially everywhere, which means being able to
move pork into congressmens' districts, and having an actual, entirely
impressive bureau hidden inside of it? No one would ever buy that story. It
would be like embedding Underwater Demolition Team operatives inside the
Navel Observatory's mailroom."
     "God damn stupid way to run a government."
     Anfoesegol shrugged. "It's useful."
     "Why will the Republicans go for this 'Department of Operat...'
whatever it was? I don't even know how I'm going to sell it to my *own*
     "Oh, that I'm not worried about. It'll pass—not overwhelmingly, not
squeaking by—just business as usual."
     The President frowned slightly. "You sound very certain about that."
     "I've already told you. If you know a man's shames and his desires,
you have him by the testicles. They'll pass it, in exactly the numbers you
     The President flushed slightly. "You're literally talking about
blackmailing Congress. To me. In the Oval Office. And you expect—"
     "Ambassador Smith really does hate me, Mister President. To the point
where he's spoken of killing me before, purely out of the public good. But
when you tried to refight the last war with your ersatz O.S.S. and the
good, decent men you tapped to run it failed, he told you to get me. Yes. I
will blackmail Congress. I will blackmail the Kremlin. I will sacrifice
innocents and I will ruin honorable men in front of their children. And in
the process I will protect American freedoms, promote American values,
assure American superiority, and spread American hegemony, and literally
ask for nothing but a free hand and a relatively modest government salary."
     Anfoesegol pulled a photograph out of her purse and set it on the
President's desk. It was of an attractive, smiling girl in a formless
dress, sweater and kerchief. "This is a sixteen year old girl in Kirghizia.
I talked to her for quite a few minutes. She's a sweetheart. Kind to old
people and animals. She believes in the Revolution. She believes in the
five year plan. She believes in Stalin. She believes in her country and she
believes in the evils of Capitalism."
     Anfoesegol took a second picture out, setting it in front of the
President. "And... this is that same young woman holding her hand out and
levitating a pond. Seriously. All the water in a pond. You can see the fish
if you look close." She looked at Truman. "When Captain Kōsaku Aruga looked
up from the deck of the *Yamato,* and saw a wave taller than the Empire
State Building breaking downward towards him, what do you think he thought
about, Mister President? What do you think he said? Or did he say anything
at all?"

Commentary and acknowledgements at

023SG is Copyright 2017 Eric Burns-White blah blah blah. Seriously, the
idea is to *not* steal things from people while letting me write stuff.
Have questions? Write me at eaburns at
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