Tinkerbell: I thought you’d left me alone in this hellhole.
Neverlander: 24 hour ban. No big deal.
T: What did you do this time?
N: Called the group moderator a jobsworth. He did a word search, then booted me.
T: You’d think they’d be more open-minded in an art group. Which mod?
N: Which one do you think?
T: They all hate you. Could be any of them.
You’re being too blase with the target. Neverlander is seeking validation as a rebel. He wants you to think of him as low-key romantic hero, which calls for low-key fawning. Give him what he wants and turn it up a notch. You’re way behind schedule, Tinkerbell.
N: Aren’t you impressed by my heroics?
T: Keyboard warriors don’t impress me much.
N: What does?
T: I like nice men. With manners.
T: Old-fashioned. A gentleman.
N: I’ll get a top hat and monocle.
T: You know what I mean.
N: Not really.
T: Someone who isn’t taken in by all the BS.
N: What BS?
T: You know, celebrity culture, tabloids, social media, all that garbage. I like men who read.
N: I read all the time. I’m reading right now. On my phone screen.
T: Books, I mean.
N: Oh, those. I like the ones with pictures.
T: You’re allowed: you’re a painter. BTW, I can tell when you’re being sarcastic.
Don’t forget that you’re dealing with a subversive. You know how dangerous his work is, so do your job. We need him brought in safely. Quietly.
T: Don’t be. I like it.
N: I was thinking: maybe you’d like to come to an exhibition with me? One of my pieces is being displayed.
This is sooner than we planned, but agree to the meet anyway. Don’t overplay it. Give him a short, positive response. Bag this one for us and you’re up for promotion. It’s already been approved by top brass.
N: Meet me at the main entrance to the gallery? You know where it is, don’t you?
T: The one by the King’s Dock?
N: 3pm Tuesday?
Gallery’s a hundred metres north-northwest. Take the revolving door and remember to smile. We just need him to trust you.
N: Hey, Tinkerbell!
Let him pull away from the hug first.
T: So good to meet you, finally.
N: Wait, that’s not sarcasm, is it?
T: Oh, har. My sides.
N: You want to check out this floor first?
T: What is it?
N: Belgian Minimalism. I like it.
T: There’s not much of it.
N: Well, there’s another—
T: I’m kidding.
That’s good, Tinkerbell. His heart rate just elevated. Pupils dilated. Keep it up.
N: Ha. You want a coffee?
We don’t want the caffeine skewing his biometrics.
T: I’m fine. Which floor is your painting on?
N: You want to see it now?
N: Let’s take the lift. It’s on the top floor.
Tell him you’d rather take the stairs. You don’t like enclosed spaces. He’ll find it endearing. Plus you’ll be alone. No-one takes the stairs anymore.
T: Why don’t we take the stairs?
N: Fine with me.
T: I don’t like enclosed spaces.
Why didn’t you wait for his prompt? Stick to your training. We don’t want to have to deploy Hook so soon again after the last travesty. We know you’re fond of the target, Tinkerbell, but keep focus. Don’t go all sensitive on us now.
N: Sorry. I didn’t know.
T: It’s just a stupid thing.
N: No, I get it. I don’t like them, either.
Tinkerbell, if you can’t suppress your blush response, we’ll have no choice but to use Hook. You’ve never had this reaction to a target before. Get it under control. Walk in front of him up the stairwell so that he has a good view of your backside.
N: You can see the river from the next floor.
He’s trying to fight the dopamine, but we’ve got him, according to his readings. Just don’t trip up on the home straight.
T: You can see the whole docklands from here.
N: I like watching the ships come and go.
T: Always dreamt of stowing away on one when I was a teenager.
N: So did I. Still do.
T: Thought I’d find adventure in some exotic land.
N: Running a beach hut on the Copacabana?
T: Goat-herding in Mongolia.
N: Cobbling shoes in Sicily.
T: Making bread in Campagne.
N: Ever make it any of those places?
T: Too busy with work.
N: I know what you mean. Still working for the marketing company?
T: Don’t I know it.
Your bios reacted to the lie. You’re in danger of telegraphing.
N: Long hours?
T: Thinking about jacking it in.
N: We should stow away on that cruise ship in the dock.
T: Don’t tempt me. I would.
Should we be concerned that your biometrics didn’t flare for that lie? It is a lie, isn’t it, Tinkerbell? Confirm by touching your earpiece. Are we back on track? That’s a relief. We thought we were losing you. We don’t want another Wendy.
N: Do you mind?
Don’t allow it, lieutenant. Holding hands is too intimate at this stage.
T: I don’t mind.
Hope you know what you’re doing. No further physical contact unless we say—
Lieutenant, this is General Spafforth. Break hands with the target at the top of the stairwell. That’s a direct order.
N: Everything ok?
T: I’d rather not hold hands in public for now.
N: I knew it was too forward. Sorry. I—
T: I like you, too. We’re just going a bit fast.
N: Can we just forget about that?
T: Forget about what?
N: You’re so beautiful. I wasn’t expecting you to be so—
You’re blushing again, Tinkerbell.
T: I said not so fast.
N: I can’t help it.
T: You’re pathetic.
N: I know. Have pity on me.
Stop laughing. Your dopamine is sky high. And what exactly is going on with your adrenaline? Tap your earpiece twice to confirm you’re still in control.
Good. Now, here’s the crucial part. When you see his painting, be underwhelmed. Say you’ve seen much better in smaller galleries. Then, after you’ve stuck him, twist the knife with the story about your ex and his exhibitions at the Tate.
T: Did they hang your painting this far away from the entrance for a reason?
N: I never thought about it. Until now. Thanks.
T: Have you ever done a nude portrait?
That’s good, Tinkerbell. Very creative.
N: Uh, no?
T: Would you like to?
N: Are you flirting with me? It’s hard to tell.
Easy with the eyelashes.
T: Is this it?
N: This is it. Feels like an unveiling.
Ok, lieutenant. Let him have both barrels.
T: Oh, my God. It’s beautiful.
What are you doing?
N: Are you being sarcastic?
N: I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. Here, have a tissue.
T: I’m not upset. I love it. So. Much.
General, the lieutenant has broken protocol. Tinkerbell is kissing Neverlander. I repeat, Tinkerbell is kissing Neverlander. Endocrinal readings are all shot to hell. Tinkerbell, abort mission. I repeat, abort mission.
T: I’ve been waiting a long time for that.
N: So have I.
T: Wanna stow away with me?
N: What about your job?
T: I just handed in my notice.
T: Right now. We have to leave right now.
Initiating Wingpull. Agent Tinkerbell marked for extraction.
N: I’ll have to pack—
T: No time. We’ll buy new stuff.
N: You’re actually serious about this.
T: Please. We have to go.
N: You’re crazy. What’s going on here? Is this a set up?
T: I’ll tell you everything on the boat. Trust me.
N: I’m leaving. If this is some kind of prank, it’s a cruel one. I trusted you.
T: Please come with me.
Lieutenant, this is General Spafforth. I’m ordering you to cease and desist from pursuing this ruse. And stop looking at him like that.
N: Ok, I’ll play along, but if this is—
T: I swear to you it’s real.
N: I don’t have any money for a ticket.
T: I told you: I’ll take care of it. You can buy me a coffee when we get to … Wherever.
N: Sounds exotic.
T: Just come on.
N: Hey, stop roughing me up.
T: Wait here two seconds. I need to use the loo.
N: Have I got time for—
N: What is your real name anyway?
Don’t do it, Tinkerbell. Our agents will find you. Operation Wingpull has never failed—
Check out a short story about a psychonaut’s strange encounter.
Learn more about sexpionage.