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Date Posted: 09:12:32 01/06/05 Thu
Author: Nell
Subject: Valentine Challenge Story

In my slow approach to archiving my past work, I keep thinking that I will just edit/revise this, my very first ever posted LFN fic, one more time before I hit 'send.'

Okay - so, the story first went up in, oh, around 2001? But - who is in a hurry?

This was written in reponse to a fic challenge from Jean, to write a story for Valentine's day - however you wanted to.

I put the challenge together with something I'd been thinking about, and this is what came out.

Whatever concrit shows up here, I will respond to in one way or another - and then, yes, I will send this off to Ranma.

Thanks ahead of time,


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[> Valentine Challenge Story 1/1 -- Nell, 09:13:43 01/06/05 Thu

Most of the ops think ďvalentine missionĒ means ďfuck for section.Ē Sure - it usually does - but thatís not really the goal. The goal is far more insidious than that. The goal is to worm your way into the markís mind and rearrange enough so that they fuck themselves.

Those of us who are primarily valentine ops are actually pretty invisible around section. For one thing, weíre mostly women; a small minority around here. Most bad guys are just that, guysóand guyís guys on top of it. They respond best to women, and not necessarily the gorgeous ones. In fact usually not. Theyíll let a beautiful woman into their beds, but they will never trust her enough to let them into their minds. Most bad guys are not all that bright, or that sexy. When they get a beautiful woman they know that she is with them for their power, and in their world power is fleeting, which means she is too. Section uses beautiful women as lures or feints, a little T&A to distract, but they rarely, if ever, do the hard work of screwing with a markís mind. That job belongs to the valentine ops.

At a certain level your average terrorist knows that he canít really aim that high so they turn with some relief to a woman that think they can truly possess.

Women like me. Sure Iím big and blond, but thatís where every male (and some female) opsí wet dream and I part company. Itís not that Iím not pretty, I am in an unoriginal way. I have regular features, even teeth, good skin and a nice smile. Itís the rest of the package that keeps me out of other peopleís dreams. Iím five eight and 185 lbs. Iím quite fit. The boot camp element of Section took care of that long ago. Iím also a qualified level two cold op and go out pretty regularly, so I have a lot of reason to stay fit. I just canít stay slim. I carry a nice soft layer of fat over my solid muscles. I also have ďchild bearing hipsĒ as my mother used to say, because she couldnít quite bring herself to say I had a fat ass, and the big child nursing boobs to go with them. I donít waste my time trying to compete in the make-them-pant dressing contest. I usually wear dark knit dresses with long skirts and low shoes. Unobtrusive good taste for my figure, just as Madeline taught me. In other words, I vanish into the background.

So do the rest of us women who make this (were made into this?) specialty our own. It is excellent camouflage. No one really notices unobtrusive, supportive women who donít look like video stars.

We also work alone for the most part. Sure, Birkoff and his crew know what we do. But with the exception of them, most people are so distracted by the glamour ops and the cold ops that they donít understand just how important we are or what it is we really do - or how much our failures cost section.

And we do fail. According to Madeline our success rate as a cadre is about 67% or a failure rate of over 30%. Mine is lower, around 20%, but still, the point is that what we do is hard and uncertain. And our failures become cold op missions. Since all of us must be cold ops too, and are always sent out on the missions that result from our failures, we have a lot of good reasons not to failóif not just for ourselves, then for the ops around us. And yet we fail. Regularly. A good mind fuck is much, much harder than it looks.

Take my last big failure, for example. I was assigned to crack Bergomiís operation. Ahhh you say, but wasnít that the mission where about 20 ops bought the farm? Yes. Exactly.

Some of it was that Michael rushed the timetable that Madeline had given me, but as I told Michael at the time, I didnít think it would matter how many more months I had. Bergomi protected himself extremely well and my mark was falling apart too soon. I wasnít going to get to Bergomi through Tony, but it was too late for me to switch marks. Madeline probably wouldíve tried the valentine scenario one more time with different players, but I can assure you that the world is better off without Bergomi in it and in one year his absence saved more than the 20 lives lost in putting him out of business. That may sound pretty cold, but unwilling draftees or not, section ops are soldiers in a very dirty war and their job includes dying for the cause.

It was a pretty standard set up. Madeline had called me in about six months earlier and laid it out. We finally had pretty good Intel on the structure of Bergomiís operation, enough to identify our ideal mark. We generally look for a youngish guy about three out from the center. In this case, Tony Cina appeared to be perfect. In his middle thirties, he was in the inner circle because his older brother was Bergomiís second. Tony and his brother John had been with Bergomi almost from the beginning, so he was beyond loyal. He was also totally insecure about his position because he never knew if it was because of him and his work or due to Johnís influence. Heíd had his share of babes on his arm, but had married a childhood sweetheart who was by then unhappy and frustrated with the realities of life as a member of a criminal-terrorist organization. Absolutely ripe for the plucking.

Madeline wrote me into his life in the simplest way, simple is usually best for these things. I rear-ended him. He loved his car, an Ď86 midnight blue Jag. (I never understood why, so donít ask). And I crumpled the rear and bent the axle (wouldnít want him driving off too soon) with one of sectionís big clunky suburbans, repainted red and splashed with mud for the occasion. He was furious. I apologized. He yelled. I wept. He yelled some more, then hurt his hand punching the suburban. I had a fit of hysterical giggles. (One of my best tactics for disarming men.) I confessed that it was a used car that I carried no insurance on. He yelled at God. I touched his arm and begged to be allowed to pay for the damage myself, in installments, out of my meager wages as a secretary in a temporary office workers firm. He agreed, and swore to pick up the first payment out of my weekly paycheck the following day, which just happened to be a Friday. He came at lunch, and accompanied me to the bank to get his cut. I was grossly apologetic. I simpered. I gushed that he would allow me to do this for him. I allowed myself to become just the slightest bit flirtatious toward the end of the walk back to the office.

And so it began. I reeled him in over the next few weeks.

If you want to know some of the secrets of the valentine trade, read anything you can about Pamela Digby Churchill Harriman. Especially if you are seeking to work male marks. Someone once said of her, ďPamela can out wife us all.Ē And that is really all there is to it. You must become the ideal wife. Which has nothing to do with marriage by the way. You must be absolutely attentive, gracious, forgiving, supportive, encouraging, loving, and jealous in an attractively unthreatening way. His life becomes your own, his likes, your likes, his fights, your fights. He is your master in the traditional sense. As a couple you speak with one voice, and it is his. This doesnít imply that you cease to exist as an independent person. Hardly. You must be quite independent, strong willed, focused and competent to become the perfect helpmate. Your judgement of his needs and desires must be unerring and yet delicate. You must, in fact, manipulate him into being the man he dreams he is. Then, once he is completely, if however unaware, dependent on your services you can make your own play. Pamela Harrimanís was usually money, but she always liked politics too. Because what she mostly wanted was power - power to absolutely control her own life and to carve a place for herself among those with power. For valentine ops, the power is sectionís power, and used to whatever end section selects. Madeline is obviously the Sectionís most successful valentine op - her mark is, and has been for years, Operations.

And that is how I worked Tony. I was the male ideal of the perfect wife. I didnít demand anything of Tony that he didnít want to give and I gave him all he asked for and all he needed without prompting. Within three weeks he was telling me all about his unhappy home life and how unappreciated he was at work. Friday lunchtime expanded into long, eventually daily, phone calls and emails, then after-work drinks and a weekend walk. Four weeks to the day after I smashed his car, he asked me out for dinner and dancing. Our affair began that night.

It was a passionate, sordid affair, in the best of adulterous traditions. It involved much sneaking around to hotels and skanky apartments and boats in the middle of the day. And lots of desperate sex. I never said that a rudimentary knowledge of the karma sutra wasnít useful, just not really necessary. A compilation of Cosmoís sex tips for the last five years, plus maybe Maxim or another of the 90s menís mags will tell you all you need to know. Always remember that most bad guys, with the occasional exception of charismatic leaders, are just slightly stupid guysí guys who never figured out how to make a legal buck. An energetic wham-bam-thank-you-maíam in the good old-fashioned missionary position on a regular basis is more than enough for them. The occasional role-play or fantasy costume thing maybe, an occasional flirtation with leather or restraints, but mostly pretty basic. What valentine ops provide is emotional safety, marks donít have to impress because we are enthusiastic about whatever happens, so usually not much creative does happen - though quantity is often a requirement. These guys need and want a lot of reassurance that they are important and manly.

There are plenty of bad guys that are abusers too but they are rarely marks for this kind of mission, itís not worth it. They are so innately misogynist that they are almost never available through this route. Its not that section isnít willing to have their valentine ops smacked around, they are. Part of the reason my nose is so nice is that one of my marks broke it, twice, and sectionís plastic surgeons had to give me a new one. But that job was the exception. There are better mind fucks for abusers, through their current domestic punching bags usually. And thatís a job for the male valentine ops. I think their work must often be harder than ours, they more truly and regularly find that they are screwing women whom life has already dealt a really rotten hand. Their job is manipulation and betrayal, often leaving their marks in extremely dangerous and vulnerable positions that they donít have the resources to get out of. For us, the female valentines, our marks are the bad guys, victims sometimes it is true, but victims who have in turn become victimizers. While you may have some pity, it doesnít outweigh the disgust.

Tony, naturally, didnít want to divorce his wife (which wasnít possible in their circle anyway, but he didnít know I knew that, obviously) for fear of hurting her, but he fell in love with me, or the woman he thought I was anyway. But this turned out to be too much for him. Like our profile suggested, he was at heart a very loyal man and cheating on his wife and lying to his brother and boss about his whereabouts took their toll on him much faster than anticipated. My mission was to build him up to move more aggressively within the organization, to create and solidify a loyal following, take on more authority and draw Bergomiís attention to him. After that I was to encourage him to acquire the information we wanted about Bergomiís long term plans and security arrangements as part of an ambitious power grab for himself. I was simply going to piggyback this move, make sure it failed catastrophically, and then clean up the resulting mess with help from housekeeping. Unfortunately, he began to shatter before he moved ambitiously. Pretty soon it was all I could do to hold him together enough to keep his compromise from being discovered, which only wouldíve made Bergomi that much more careful and difficult in the future. I was still angling for a way to use Tony to get the Intel or disrupt the organization from his current position, but I didnít think I could hold him together for the year Madeline was talking about, when Michael called me to announce the change of plans.

I had managed to get Tony to take charge of several levels of security, so my task after Michael set a new time schedule was to crack Tony down the middle so that security would be disrupted during a crucial window of opportunity. I did that by leaving him in a tearful scene worthy of Erica Kane. Actually, soaps, US and otherwise, are a good place to get valentine tips because so many bad guys (and their gals) are addicted (all that daytime down time) and they get their ideas about how life works from soap opera writers. So, if you play out a scene from a soap opera, they think they are truly living a moment of high drama and passion - their great dream. Tony fell apart on cue. And security was disrupted enough that Section could take down the operation.

I thought about revealing myself to Tony at the end, but instead I let him die without knowing I had a hand in it. I donít like soap operas all that much.

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[> [> Re: Valentine Challenge Story 1/1 -- sk, 09:53:49 01/06/05 Thu

I'll go through this and come back later...

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[> [> [> Thanks - I will look forward to it. (r) -- Nell, 05:24:59 01/07/05 Fri

Especially as I already know how wonderful your beta comments are.

(Full disclosure: The incomparable sk has been beta reading many of my things - mostly WIP of one sort or another - for quite a while. I have been very, very lucky to have her and mere thanks never seem an adequate response, though I have no other.)

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[> [> Nell....(r) -- Mary, 16:23:31 01/06/05 Thu


I am certainly no beta reader. I'll make some suggestions after I look at this some more. But, my first impression:

Wow!!! And I love this in the opening paragraph:

The goal is to worm your way into the markís mind and rearrange enough so that they fuck themselves.

That is just great.



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[> [> [> The only thing that makes you a beta reader is willingness to beta! -- Nell, 05:28:31 01/07/05 Fri

In my experience - which isn't all that huge, btw - every beta spots something different. Some (like me) tend to concentrate on plot and characterization, pointing out only the truly gruesome and distracting style problems. Others are absolutely terrific at spottiing - and suggesting fixes - for irritating style tics of all sorts. My weakness for over long, cumbersome sentences for eample, or my penchant for providing adjectives in groups of three.

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[> [> You're brave, brave woman...(r) -- Swatkat, 01:04:03 01/07/05 Fri

My brain isn't working right now, but the first thing that sticks out to me are the long paragraphs. Okay, so I'm a bit crazy about paragraphs.

Will be back later with something more useful.


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[> [> [> Well, I like to think of it more as putting my money where my mouth is. (r) -- Nell, 05:30:54 01/07/05 Fri

Thanks for the paragraph thought - this was my first webposted story, and I hadn't quite conquered online formatting.

This one will be easy to solve. :-)

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