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Authors: Stuart Gibbs

Spy Ski School

BOOK: Spy Ski School
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For my best ski buddies over the past years: my parents, my sister, Darragh, Ciara, Andy Gibbs, Mike Matthews, Ken Parker, Mark Middleman, Adam Zarembok, David and Learka Bosnak, Jon Mattingly, Jeff Peachin, John Janke, Kent Davis, Garrett Reisman, “Ches” Thompson, and Ed Cohen—and my favorite new ski buddies, Dash and Violet


In case it isn't obvious
during the reading of this book, I like skiing. A lot. The first place I ever really saw anyone do it was in James Bond movies, which had so many incredible ski sequences that I couldn't wait to get out onto the slopes myself. Since I grew up in Texas, though, I didn't get much chance to ski until I was in my teens. And the first time I went was near Cleveland, Ohio, which isn't exactly famous for its skiing. Still, I'm grateful to the Klein family—Steve, Ann, Alan, and Rob—for taking me. And I owe huge thanks to Saul and Ilene Cohen, who later introduced me to skiing in the significantly better mountains of Vermont.

When I was in college, though, my parents moved to Colorado, and a whole new world opened up to me. I am indebted to the staff at Vail and Snowmass Mountains, particularly the ski instructors, for all their help in making this book—and for all the great ski days throughout the years. Also, thanks to my editor, Kristin Ostby (who is quite a good skier herself), for her enthusiastic encouragement on this story. Finally, an enormous thank-you to my wonderful, incredibly supportive wife, Suzanne, who doesn't ski, but who still let me spend so much time on the slopes to research this book. It was difficult work, but it simply had to be done.

December 4


Given the evidence you have provided, the review committee has sanctioned Operation Snow Bunny for immediate deployment. Academy of Espionage students
have both been approved for this operation, with the option to activate additional operatives if needed.

However, the committee would also like to make clear that it has serious reservations about using such young agents on a mission of this caliber. It is only the absolute necessity of
—and the unfortunate failure of our previous operations to do so—that has led us to sanction this.

Should these young agents not be up to the task—should they fail due to their inexperience—the burden of this failure will be placed squarely on your shoulders. The CIA will disavow any knowledge that
, or that
in order to maintain the secrecy of

Enclosed in the attached dossier, you will find plane tickets, ski passes, and forms for reimbursement of expenses.

Good luck on your mission, and God bless America,


CIA Director of Operations

P.S. There's a restaurant in
called Hänsel ünd Grëtel that has excellent fondue. Check it out while you're there.

Destroy this document immediately after reading.


Bushnell Hall

CIA Academy of Espionage

Washington, DC

December 6

1130 hours

The summons to the principal's
office arrived in the middle of my Advanced Self-Preservation class.

Normally, I would have been pleased to have an excuse to get out of ASP, as it was my worst subject. I was only getting a C in it, even though, in real life, I had been quite good at self-preservation. Over the past eleven months, my enemies had kidnapped me, shot at me, locked me in a room with a ticking bomb, and even tried to blow me up
with missiles—and yet I'd survived each time. However, my instructors at the CIA's Academy of Espionage never seemed very impressed by the fact that I was still alive. They just kept giving me bad grades.

“There's a big difference between running away and being able to defend yourself,” my ASP instructor, Professor Simon, had explained, shortly before the call from the principal came. Professor Georgia Simon was in her fifties and looked like someone my mother would have played canasta with, but she was an incredible warrior, capable of beating three karate masters in a fight at once. “So far, all you have done in the field is run.”

“It's worked pretty well for me so far,” I countered.

“You've been lucky,” Professor Simon said. And then she attacked me with a samurai sword.

It was only a fake sword, but it was still daunting. (The academy had stopped using real swords a few years earlier, after a student had been literally disarmed in class.) I did my best to defend myself, but it was only twenty seconds before I was sprawled on the floor with Professor Simon standing over me, sword raised, ready to shish kabob my spleen.

Which was all the more embarrassing, as it happened in front of the entire class. ASP took place in a large lecture hall. My fellow classmates were seated in tiers around me, watching me get my butt kicked by a woman four times my age.

“Pathetic,” Professor Simon declared. “That's D-grade work at best. Would anyone here like to show Mr. Ripley how a real agent defends himself?”

No one volunteered. My fellow second-year students weren't idiots; none of them wanted to be embarrassed like I had been. Or hurt. Luckily for them, at that moment, the announcement from the principal came over the school's public address system, distracting Professor Simon.

There were plenty of other, far less outdated ways to deliver urgent messages to the classrooms at spy school, but the principal didn't know how to use any of them. In fact, he wasn't very good at using the PA system, either. There were a few seconds of fumbling noises, followed by the principal muttering, “I can never remember which switch works this stupid thing. This darn system's a bigger pain in my rear than my hemorrhoids.” Then he asked, “Hello? Hello? Is this thing on? Can you hear me?”

Professor Simon sighed in a way that suggested she had even less respect for the principal than she had for me. “Yes. We can hear you.”

“Very good,” the principal replied. “Is Benjamin Ripley in your class right now? I need to see him in my office right away.”

A chorus of “ooohs” rippled through the room: the universal middle-school response to realizing that someone else has just gotten in trouble.

Professor Simon gave the class a warning glare and the “ooohs” stopped immediately. “I'll send him right now,” she replied. Then she looked down at me and said, “Go.”

I leapt to my feet and hurried for the door, pausing only to snatch my backpack from my seat. Zoe Zibbell, one of my best friends, was in the next seat over. She looked at me inquisitively with her big green eyes, wanting to know if I knew why I'd been summoned. I shrugged in return.

Next to Zoe, Warren Reeves snickered at my misfortune. Warren didn't like me much; he had a crush on Zoe and saw me as competition, so he was always rooting for my downfall.

I made a show of hustling out the door for Professor Simon—and promptly slowed down the moment I was out of her sight. I was in no hurry to get to the principal's office.

I had been summoned to the principal four other times, and it had always been bad news: Previously, the principal had sent me to solitary confinement, placed me on probation, informed me that my summer vacation plans were cancelled in favor of mandatory wilderness training—and expelled me from school. (I'd been reinstated, however.) So I dawdled, wondering what trouble lay in store for me this time.

I exited Bushnell Hall and entered Hammond Quadrangle on my way to the Nathan Hale Administration Building. It was the week after Thanksgiving. Fall had been mild and beautiful
in Washington, DC, but now winter had arrived with a vengeance. Frigid winds were stripping the trees bare of leaves, and a crust of icy snow carpeted the ground.

As I meandered across the quad, my phone buzzed with a text. It was from Erica Hale:

stop dawdling and get your butt up here. we're waiting.

I stared up at the gothic Hale Building, wondering if Erica was watching me—or if she simply knew me well enough to presume I was dawdling. Either was a likely possibility.

Erica was only a fourth-year student, but she was easily the best spy-in-training at school. However, she'd had a head start on the rest of us: She was a legacy. The very building I was heading toward was named after her family. Her ancestors had all been spies for the United States, going back to Nathan Hale himself—and her grandfather, Cyrus, had been teaching her the family business since she was born. When I'd been learning how to assemble Legos, she'd been learning how to assemble semiautomatic machine guns. Blindfolded.

BOOK: Spy Ski School
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