Benjamin Ripley is an agent with the CIA.
He is 12 years old and in middle school.
It would not be unexpected to blink at both those statements. Kids barely into their teens are not supposed to be recruited into the government's chief spying organization. This, despite the fact that one of Ripley's dreams for some time was to be a spy. When the man came to his door and told him he was an exceptional young man just perfect for attending a special school for spy training, Ripley could not have been more excited. A dream come true.
What no one told him then, and would not tell him for a while, is he was not wanted so much for being exceptional but because he could be used as bait to snare some very nasty people. The fact that bait is usually eaten by the prey before the snatch is completed is not lost on Ripley. The title of the mission he was originally pulled into was Operation Creeping Badger. As we learn in the first page of the first adventure from a memo by the CIA's Internal Investigations unit, the mission did "not proceed as planned" and the need arose to "determine exactly what went wrong, why it went wrong, and who should be terminated for it." No mention is made of what sort of termination was in order.
Now, naturally Ripley is ignorant of the whole 'bait' part. To him he was selected because he had come to their attention because he had accessed the CIA's website 728 times, usually to "play the games on the kids' page - at which you performed very well, by the way" but he also checked out the employment and the internship pages regularly. "When you express an interest in the CIA, the CIA becomes interested in you. (good to know)"
Ripley may be a dreamer in his fantasy about becoming an agent but he also has some impressive skills and is "a straight-A student who speaks three languages and has 'Level 16' math skills (meaning he has a gift for mathematics). He also knows, according to him, exactly what time it is. He aced his STIQ exams, which are explained as Standardized Test Inserted Questions, or questions the Agency places into every standardized test to assess potential espionage aptitude".
Ripley is accepted into the Academy of Espionage of the CIA. Never heard of it? Neither had Ripley but he was assured by the man making the offer to him that it exists and is "a fine institution, dedicated to creating the agents of tomorrow today". Training at the Academy lasts six years, from 7th to 12th grade. The outside world thinks of the Academy as being the St. Smithen's Science Academy for Boys and Girls.
Ripley has an interesting life ahead of him, if he lives that long.