(Note about the Notes: These are meant to be notes for a beginning spy to introduce certain concepts of espionage. Since they are based mostly on the world of SMK, do not expect these rules to be useful in real life. They apply only to the Agency. Jestress will not be responsible for any consequences that make occur should any of you try to incorporate these concepts into your daily life. On the other hand, it could be entertaining, and if you’re successful, the CIA, NSA, FBI, MI-5, MI-6, or any number of other fun and interesting organizations or individuals may want to speak to you. But, on your own head be it.)
How to Be a Spy: A special introductory guide for new agents.
Information supplied by Field Section of the Agency. Contributing Agents:
William Melrose (Head of Field Section, “Lancer”)
Lee Stetson (“Scarecrow”)
The Makings of a Spy: Personal Skills and Concepts
If you didn’t have any of these, you wouldn’t be reading this. At this point, you’ve already passed your clearances and begun your training. But, it’s worth reviewing the skills and personality traits that a spy should cultivate. Aside from your patriotism, you should develop mental discipline and strategic thinking. These traits will help you to stay in the proper mindset as you continue your training.
Objectivity and Staying Cool Under Pressure
“It’s our objectivity which makes us effective.”
–Billy Melrose, Saved by the Bells
There’s no point in mincing words: you’re going to find yourself in dangerous, even life-threatening situations. In those times, the greatest resource you have is your own mind. Whatever you’re facing, try to remain as calm as possible, and think the situation through. Remember what your priorities are: the successful completion of your mission, your own life, and the lives of your colleagues.
Because the safety your country is always the highest
priority, it’s possible that you or one of your colleagues might have to sacrifice your life to protect the safety of our mission. While we try to avoid such extreme sacrifices, we all know that this is a possibility. No single person’s life is worth the security of a nation of millions of people. In life-threatening circumstances, a cool and objective mind is necessary to evaluate the situation and decide if the sacrifice is truly necessary or if there is another way. Usually, there are other alternatives, provided that you remain clear-headed enough to see them.
You have dedicated your lives to the service of your country. We want you to stay alive and make the most of them.
Thinking On Your Feet
“An agent has to think on his feet.”
–Billy Melrose, Ship of Spies
The importance of thinking on your feet cannot be emphasized enough. You never know what life might throw at you on any given day, and in the espionage business, life can be even more unpredictable than usual. Some people might tell you to be prepared for anything, but realistically, there are more possibilities out there than the average person can even imagine. That’s where thinking on your feet comes in. When the unanticipated happens, you need to be able to take in the situation quickly, no matter what it is, and react just as quickly to keep yourself safe and accomplish your mission.
The first step to thinking on your feet is being aware of your surroundings. You can’t react quickly unless you know what’s going on around you at all times. Even when you aren’t facing an immediate problem, take note of your surroundings so that you can notice when threatening figures approach.
Besides being alert to people who are potentially hostile, also note potential allies. Even if no other agents are present on the scene, the presence of law enforcement personnel, security guards, or even ordinary civilians may make hostile agents more reluctant to act. Law enforcement personnel and security guards are likely to be armed and can be active deterrents against violent attacks, but even civilians have their uses and the presence of witnesses tends to discourage open hostility. (Important: Remember that you are the agent in charge on your mission. Recruitment of allies is at your discretion, and you are still responsible for the outcome of the mission.)
Note the objects in your surroundings so that you can be aware of potential obstacles and useful tools. If you need to get away from someone quickly, the last thing you want is to stumble over something lying in your path that you hadn’t noticed before or to end up trapped in a blind alley.
Some objects in your vicinity may be of help to you as well. Almost any object can be a potential weapon that can be used to fend off an attacker (Improvised Weapons by Jestress). Be aware of what is near you and how it may be used to your advantage. Conventional fighting techniques and weapons skills may be used in unconventional ways and with unconventional objects. Be alert to the possibilities!
Keep in mind potential exits that you can use if you need to leave the area in a hurry. Consider possible modes of transportation if necessary.
In general, it’s a good idea to know what is normal for a given area. When you’re on a stakeout or following a suspect, familiarity with the environment will help you to know whether there are people present who aren’t usually there, people absent who are usually present, people who are behaving in unusual ways for the area, important objects that are missing, or objects present which do not belong there. All of this information could be vital to helping you understand your circumstances, spot potential problems before they occur, and respond quickly if the worst happens.
Once you have taken note of your surroundings and are aware of potential threats, you need to be able to respond to them quickly and efficiently. In other words, you’ll act faster than it takes to describe what you’re going to do. Exactly how you react will depend on your circumstances, but being aware of your situation and your options will help you to choose the most helpful course of action. Do not overthink the situation and hesitate. Being active is crucial to preserving your life!
Do Not Let Expectations Get in the Way
“Nothing bad ever happens in the suburbs.”
— Lee Stetson, There Goes the Neighborhood
Even when you are aware of your general surroundings, there may still be moments when you are caught off guard. Your location may seem safe at first glance, but for your own sake, do not assume that it is safe without checking. You may encounter a particularly stealthy attacker or an enemy with an unusually clever disguise. Sometimes, the enemy may turn out to be someone you would usually consider harmless or maybe even someone you thought you could trust. Do not let these preconceived notions get in the way of protecting yourself. Once you detect an apparent threat, don’t let your enemy’s unexpected appearance slow your reflexes.
Is a former ally acting strangely? Find out why!
Is there something suspicious about that nun? Tackle her!
Do you see a little girl running toward you with a gun? Get her before she gets you!
To Move or Not to Move
Remember that the title of this section is Thinking “On Your Feet.” There are times when the best course of action is to pause and take stock of the situation, but in cases of active attack or pursuit, your best option is to keep moving. Remember, a moving target is harder to hit. Keeping in good physical shape will help your reflexes and give you strength and stamina to deal with whatever might come your way.
“Fight or Flight” are the usual reactions to a dangerous situation – either fight back or get away as quickly as possible. Which you choose depends on your circumstances, your opponent, and your own personal skills. Try to maintain a realistic view of all of these. When you’re outnumbered, fighting against an enemy with superior strength or skill, or facing someone who is just better armed, running is your best option. Get to a safe place and call for backup.
Just remember to keep your mind working at the same time as you move, being aware of your surroundings and potential sources of help.
“We don’t need any dead heroes.”
— Billy Melrose, DOA: Delirious on Arrival
Fight or Flight is not your only option. If you encounter someone who is somewhat suspicious of you but not actively hostile, you may be able to talk your way out of the situation. Keep your cover story in mind and stay in character. If you can establish in the other person’s mind that your actions are in keeping with your character and your character’s purpose, you may be able to lay their suspicions to rest without having to use force or abandon your current location. (Although, talking fast may enable you to abandon your current location, if necessary.)
Take Advantage of Opportunities
Taking advantage of opportunities goes hand-in-hand with thinking on your feet. It’s helpful in situations where you need to make a quick attack or a fast getaway, and it can also help in more subtle ways, such as examining a place as thoroughly as possible when you have the opportunity to be there and talking with a person who may be significant when you have the chance, even if it wasn’t planned.
Never pass up the opportunity to make connections with people whose skills may be useful or to learn new skills yourself.
Although the Agency will train you in all of the essential skills you will need to complete your missions, you should continue to improve yourself and take advantage of every opportunity to learn new skills that may be helpful to you later.
Learning a foreign language is always useful. Many of our agents can speak multiple languages. You may decide to specialize in one particular language or a certain region of the world. Some of you may think it isn’t necessary because your role at the Agency requires you to spend most of your time in the office or because you act in an auxiliary capacity to a higher-ranking agent, but it doesn’t hurt to understand at least a few basic phrases in another language even for short trips overseas. Otherwise, you may find yourself in a jail in Germany and only knowing how to say “edelweiss.”
(Amanda King’s Note: Very funny, Lee.)
(Francine Desmond’s Note: It kind of was.)
(Billy Melrose’s Note: Stay on task people.)
(Amanda King’s Note: This will be removed from the final draft, won’t it, Sir?)
(Billy Melrose’s Note: Yes, don’t worry.)
(Francine Desmond’s Note: Aww!)
At the moment, Russian is one of the languages that is most in demand. The Agency’s language tapes are available to any agent and include helpful everyday phrases, common code phrases, and phrases that can be useful distractions such as “The Red Chinese have taken Vladivostock!”
Combat and Self Defense
Know Your Weapons
Your primary weapons will be various types of guns, and the Agency requires that all field agents pass our courses in gun safety and target practice. You will not be issued an Agency-owned weapon until you earn a passing score and the approval of your instructor.
The Agency also offers classes in fencing, knife fighting techniques, and hand-to-hand combat. You are encouraged to attend as many of these classes as possible. While you will not become a master of all weapons, it is helpful to have a general knowledge of different fighting techniques.
The Agency provides lessons in various types of hand-to-hand combat, and all field agents are required to pass qualifying tests at regular intervals. While guns are considered a necessary tool of the trade, every agent should know how to defend himself or herself even when unarmed. You never know when or where you might need these skills.
You are encouraged but not required to go beyond even the basic training and to be proficient in more than one type of unarmed combat. Some of you will become more proficient than others, and some of you may even achieve mastery. Certain past agents and their associates have even created their own unique fighting styles and moves.
Dancing might not be one of the first skills that comes to mind of when you think of espionage, but the ability to mix with other people in a variety of social situations is useful. When you’re meeting a contact at a party, it looks a little suspicious if you don’t dance, mingle with the other guests, or appear to be having a good time.
The Rules and When to Break Them
”In order to survive in this business, one must always expect the unexpected.”
— Francine Desmond, A Class Act
Rules weren’t made to be broken, but there may be times when you will have to make your own decisions based on the circumstances around you. The field manual is meant to provide guidelines, and certain rules are more important than others. You should always respect the chain of command and follow the orders of your superiors, but if there’s one constant in this business, it’s that unexpected things happen.
There may be times when you’ll have to deviate from your superior’s orders in order to save lives or accomplish your mission. Your superiors may not be fully aware of your situation because there may not be time to notify them of new developments before you need to take action. Just be aware that you will always be held accountable for your actions and will have to bear the consequences of them, especially if you are wrong.
Thanks for sharing Billy, Lee, Amanda and Francine’s insights, Jestress. Comments and questions will be directed to Jestress, our expert on spy skills . Jestress will be back with Part 2 next week!
Squeeeeeee!!!! I finally get to enjoy Jestress’ posts!
Rofl thanks for clarifying.. I can’t take what I learn from smk into the real world. Got it!
I may have passed my clearances and begun my training, but if I told you, I’d have to kill you.
LOL given we are currently walking through DMLNT I think Francine needs a refresher!
Umm… see previous comment!
Swoon!!! Love to revisit Lee and Amanda’s first meeting
Love that improvised weapons post Jestress!
Again – given we are currently walking through DMLNT I think Francine needs a refresher!
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This is such an awesome post. I smiled all the way through it. I was imagining Amanda reading through this like one of the books Billy gave her to read in the beginning.
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Great post, Jestress! Love the quotes from the episodes. And although Amanda failed the shooting test, she is a master of many of the other skills you mention in your post. No wonder she made it at Lee’s partner! She is very cool under pressure and thinks on her feet as well as Lee, IMO. From the get go, with no spy training, she was able to get the job done at the Colonial Cookery spy house and save Lee. She seems to have a knack of fighting versus fleeing, even if she doesn’t have a gun or possess any martial arts skills. And talk about being a fast talker! Amanda sure took care of Dr. Glaser in IFCKill with her fast talking skills. Haha – love the part about breaking the rules. I don’t know why Lee always expected Amanda to stay in the car! She was good at breaking that rule and ended up saving his hide many times because of it.
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Loved it, Jestress!
It occurred to me as I read this: many of these skills and tips would be equally applicable to RL workplaces. Yes, thinking on your feet, fight or flight (I think I’ve done both!), not having preconceived ideas (about your colleagues!)…can all apply in the jungle that can be the modern workplace.
And then there is the dreaded networking – while martial arts is not immediately applicable in my workplace (:D), a knowledge of how to dance and thinking on your feet would certainly help. But your warning is duly noted, Jestress. I won’t blame you if my networking attempts fail (yet again!)
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It’s just as well. I also hate networking. 😛
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Oh gosh, yes…the dreaded networking! I HATE that! There is no such thing as “happy hour” when you are forced to mingle.
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Anyone here admit to liking networking? Several people loved brussel sprouts, so you networking lovers may be out there somewhere….
I’ll stick with brussel sprouts. 😉
Sage Learjet! I could totally benefit from learning a few of these lessons.. and I’m no spy 😉
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Yay! A new post! And a new author!! Way to go Jestress! I’m getting ready to head out of town for the weekend, but wanted to pop in and say congrats! I’ll get back and read through and comment as soon as I can. It looks awesome!
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Love it, Jestress! Always think on your feet and carry a can of whip cream. 🙂 Of course, having a Lee Stetson along helps too.
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Thanks! I could write a guide to finding a Lee Stetson, but I don’t think it would work well because it seems to involve being lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and being willing to carry packages from strange men onto trains. The first part is difficult to orchestrate, and the second one could be truly disastrous because most strange men you meet at train stations aren’t handsome spies in disguise. 😦
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