Authors: Robert Muchamore
was born in 1972. His books have sold millions of copies around the world, and he regularly tops the bestseller charts.
He has won numerous awards for his writing, including the Red House Children’s Book Award. For more information on Robert and his work, visit
‘These are the best books ever!’ Jack, 12
‘So good I forced my friends to read it, and they’re glad I did!’ Helen, 14
‘The CHERUB books are so cool, they have everything I ever wanted!’ Josh, 13
‘Never get tired of recommending
to reluctant readers, because it never fails!’ Cat, children’s librarian
‘My son could never see the point of reading a book until he read
. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for igniting the fire.’ Donna
The Henderson’s Boys series:
... and coming soon:
One Shot Kill
The CHERUB series:
Man vs Beast
CHERUB series 2:
... and coming soon:
Copyright © 2012 Robert Muchamore
First published in Great Britain in 2012
by Hodder Children’s Books
This eBook edition published in 2012
The right of Robert Muchamore to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. Apart from any use permitted under UK copyright law, this publication may only be reproduced, stored or transmitted, in any form, or by any means with prior permission in writing from the publishers or in the case of reprographic production in accordance with the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency and may not be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
A Catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
ISBN 978 1 444 91387 3
Hodder Children’s Books
A division of Hachette Children’s Books
338 Euston Road, London NW1 3BH
An Hachette UK Company
CHERUB is a branch of British Intelligence. Its agents are aged between ten and seventeen years. Cherubs are mainly orphans who have been taken out of care homes and trained to work undercover. They live on CHERUB campus, a secret facility hidden in the English countryside.
Quite a lot. Nobody realises kids do undercover missions, which means they can get away with all kinds of stuff that adults can’t.
About three hundred kids live on CHERUB campus. Key qualities for CHERUB recruits include high levels of intelligence and physical endurance, along with the ability to work under stress and think for oneself.
Cherubs are usually recruited between the ages of six and twelve and are allowed to work undercover from age ten, provided they can pass a gruelling hundred-day training programme.
Twelve-year-olds RYAN SHARMA and FU NING are our heroes. Ryan is regarded as a promising new CHERUB agent, although he was kicked off his first big mission in disgrace. Chinese born Ning is a more recent recruit who is nearing the end of basic training.
With large grounds, specialist training facilities and a combined role as a boarding school and intelligence operation, CHERUB actually has more staff than pupils. They range from cooks and gardeners, to teachers, training instructors, technical staff and mission specialists. CHERUB is run by its chairwoman, ZARA ASKER.
Cherubs are ranked according to the colour of the T-shirts they wear on campus. ORANGE is for visitors. RED is for kids who live on CHERUB campus but are too young to qualify as agents. BLUE is for kids undergoing CHERUB’s tough one-hundred-day basic training regime. A GREY T-shirt means you’re qualified for missions. NAVY is a reward for outstanding performance on a single mission. The BLACK T-shirt is the ultimate recognition for outstanding achievement over a number of missions, while the WHITE T-shirt is worn by retired CHERUB agents and some staff.
12 March 2012
Twelve kids had started basic training back in December, but four quitters, two cracked bones, a badly sprained ankle, a chest infection and an asthma attack meant only three were left as the sun came up on the course’s hundredth and final day.
Instructors Kazakov and Speaks had spent the night in the cabin of a dilapidated trawler, playing cards and sipping whisky while their captain navigated choppy waters off Scotland’s west coast.
Daybreak had a rugged beauty: golden sky, islands shrouded in mist and the little boat struggling against the sea. But the three trainees appreciated none of this because they’d spent the night out on deck, pelted by sea spray in temperatures close to freezing.
The closest thing the trio had to shelter was a mound of fishing gear. They’d dug in under buoys and rope and huddled together, hooking their limbs around slimy netting so that big waves didn’t pitch them across the deck.
Ten-year-old Leon Sharma had the warm spot in the middle, propped against his twin Daniel with his face nestling the broad back of twelve-year-old Fu Ning. Leon had one eye open and there was enough light for him to see the angry red mosquito bites on Ning’s neck, and her pale blue training shirt stained with grass, blood and rust-coloured Australian dirt.
Before basic training Leon wouldn’t have been able to sleep on a wooden deck with freezing Atlantic water sloshing about, but the instructors kept trainees in a near-permanent state of exhaustion and his body had conditioned itself to take whatever sleep was on offer.
But pain had woken him up before the others. He’d lost his footing and crashed into a bush on a speed march the previous day. A thorn had driven beneath his thumbnail, splicing it down the middle and leaving a throbbing, bloody mess at the tip of his right thumb.
It was the newest and most painful of two dozen cuts, scabs and blisters on Leon’s body, but an even greater torment came from a growling stomach. The fall meant he’d missed his target time for the march and Instructor Speaks had thrown his dinner on the fire as punishment.
Tantalisingly, Leon had food within reach. Trainees weren’t supposed to carry food, but Leon knew Ning had a secret stash of biscuits in her pack. He’d seen her swipe them from the hostess’s trolley on their plane back from Australia a few days earlier.
Ning had hooked the straps of her backpack around her ankles to stop it getting washed away. As a mini-wave swept the deck and sploshed through the mound of ropes, Leon reached towards the zip on Ning’s pack.
It was a risky move: Ning was two years older and a champion boxer who could easily batter Leon if he pissed her off. Despite the throb of the trawler’s propeller shaft and the sounds of wind and water, the click of each zip tooth felt like a gun going off.
Once he had an opening big enough for his hand, Leon felt blindly inside Ning’s pack. He burrowed past underwear, which had been hand-washed but packed before fully dry. Grains of sand stuck to his arm as he went deeper, feeling the smooth handle of Ning’s hunting knife, then at the very bottom pairs of shortcake biscuits in plastic wrapping.
As Leon pulled up shortbread, his palm touched a larger packet. It was rectangular, with the biscuits sitting in a plastic tray and a spongy feel when he pushed down. It
to be Jaffa Cakes.
Saliva flushed Leon’s mouth as he anticipated the tang of orange and chocolate melting against his tongue. As a small wave washed over the deck, he pulled out the little package and ripped it open with his teeth. Leon hadn’t eaten in eighteen hours and stifled a satisfied groan as he crammed a spongy biscuit into his mouth whole.