Words and pictures by me (Oli)
(Code name: Triple-0-7)
I’ve had loads of Secret Agent practice from all the adventures Skipjack and I have had. Here are some of the things I’ve learnt:
I use codes all the time. With a sister like Tara I have to – she is a human bloodhound and will sniff out any secret. A good code to start with is called THE CAESAR CIPHER. It’s named after old Julius and it’s how he sent messages to his generals. All you do is replace each letter with another letter further down the alphabet. For instance, if you move them all on by 3, then A becomes D, B = E etc etc. So the message:
MEET ME IN THE GRAVEYARD AT MIDNIGHT.
PHHW PH LQ WKH JUDYHBDUG DW PLGQLJKW.
It’s really important that you and your Secret Agent Partner both know what the code is before you start. If I sent that message to Skipjack and he thought he had to move all the letters on by four instead of three, he wouldn’t be able to read it at all. On the other hand, he would NEVER meet me in the graveyard at midnight anyway, so it would have been a really stupid message to send him in the first place.
A determined code-cracker like Tara would work out the Caesar Cipher pretty fast. (Julius didn’t have that problem because the barbarians couldn’t read, so he didn’t really need to use a code at all and he just did because codes are MORE FUN.) If you really want to keep a secret you’ll have to make the code more difficult. Try squashingallthewordstogetherwithoutgapsinbetween, or writing it sdrawkcab, or making every 5th letter compxletezly raqndomw, just to throw the enemy off the track.
This is another great way to send a message that your enemies can’t read. There are LOADS of things you can use, like your own wee (and if you think that’s sick just think about getting a message written in SOMEONE ELSE’S WEE)…
…or there are Professional invisible inks called things like plutonium nitrate but you have to break into a nuclear factory to get those.
The easiest thing to use is lemon juice. Just cut a lemon in half and use a pointy stick or a cotton bud to write your message and then leave it to dry. When your partner gets it he (or she) has to hold the message close to a light bulb for a couple of minutes and the heat will make the message appear.
Don’t forget to write a normal message over your invisible ink message. Otherwise if your message falls into enemy hands and it’s just a blank bit of paper, they will INSTANTLY suspect that you’ve used invisible ink. But if the message says LIVERPOOL BEAT MAN U – YAY they’ll just think you don’t like Man U. Which is fine. Also, lemon juice can leave wrinkles on the paper and writing over it helps to hid this from your enemies (or your sister the human bloodhound).
Sometimes you have to secretly watch your enemy to catch him up to something Dodgy. Secret agents call this SURVEILLANCE. The important thing here is not to be noticed. You can hide behind trees or wear disguises or you can cut eye-holes in a newspaper and watch through that.
(I used all these methods during the Case of Dodgy Dentist Vladimir Vakloff, or DOCTOR DOOM as Skip and I called him.)
Secret Agents spend a lot of time hanging around waiting for things to happen, which can be a bit boring, to be honest. You can use this time to practise your OBSERVATION SKILLS. Pick a suspect like your teacher and memorise what he/she looks like – how tall/short, how thin/fat, what colour hair/eyes, unusual features (like a forked tail or horns ha ha). This is also a good way of getting through boring lessons and you never know when your teacher might pinch the school football cup and go on the run and the police will be really grateful that you’ve noticed all this stuff.
Keep your distance and be ready to tie your shoelace or duck into a shop or a bush if your suspect turns round.
You can practise your surveillance techniques on your family and friendly neighbours before you try them out for real. But BEWARE: For some reason grown-ups can get really annoyed if you do this so make sure you ask the ones who can remember what it was like to be a kid, like Skipjack’s granny who can remember EVERYTHING that happened when she was 10 years old even though she can’t remember ANYTHING that happened last week. If you don’t live near Skipjack’s granny you could ask your own.
The most important thing about being a good Secret Agent is to be ready for action all the time, just in case you see something Dodgy going on.
GOOD LUCK AND GOOD SPYING – 0007