The Recruit: Mission 1 (Cherub Series)by Robert Muchamore
CHERUB agents are highly trained, extremely talented--and all under the age of seventeen. For official purposes, these agents do not exist. They are sent out on missions to spy on terrorists, hack into crucial documents, and gather intel on global threats—all without gadgets or weapons. It is an exceptionally dangerous job, but these agents have one crucial… See more details below
CHERUB agents are highly trained, extremely talented--and all under the age of seventeen. For official purposes, these agents do not exist. They are sent out on missions to spy on terrorists, hack into crucial documents, and gather intel on global threats—all without gadgets or weapons. It is an exceptionally dangerous job, but these agents have one crucial advantage: adults never suspect that teens are spying on them.
James is the latest CHERUB recruit. He’s a bit of a troublemaker, but he’s also brilliant. And CHERUB needs him. James has no idea what to expect, but he’s out of options. Before he can start in the field he must first survive one hundred grueling days of basic training, where even the toughest recruits don’t make it to the end....
Meet the Author
Robert Muchamore was born in Islington, England. He still lives there, and works as a private investigator. These are his first novels.
More from this Author
Read an Excerpt
Mac drove James across the CHERUB campus in a golf buggy. They stopped outside a traditional Japanese-style building with a single-span roof made of giant sequoia logs. The surrounding area had a combed gravel garden and a pond stuffed with orange fish.
“This building is new,” Mac said. “One of our pupils uncovered a fraud involving fake medicine. She saved hundreds of lives and billions of yen for a Japanese drug company. The Japanese thanked us by paying for the new dojo.”
“What’s a dojo?” James asked.
“A training hall for martial arts. It’s a Japanese word.”
James and Mac stepped inside. Thirty kids wearing white pajamas tied with black or brown belts were sparring, twisting one another into painful positions, or getting flipped over and springing effortlessly back up. A stern Japanese lady paced among them, stopping occasionally to scream criticism in a mix of Japanese and English that James couldn’t understand.
Mac led James to a smaller room. Its floor was covered with springy blue matting. A wiry kid was standing at the back doing stretches. He was about four inches shorter than James, in a karate suit with a black belt.
“Take your shoes and socks off, James,” Mac said. “Have you done martial arts before?”
“I went a couple of times when I was eight,” James said. “I got bored. It was nothing like what’s going on out there. Everyone was rubbish.”
“This is Bruce,” Mac said. “He’s going to spar with you.”
Bruce walked over, bowed and shook James’s hand. James felt confident as he squashed Bruce’s bony little fingers. Bruce might know a few fancy moves but James reckoned his size and weight advantage would counter them.
“Rules,” Mac said. “The first to win five submissions is the winner. An opponent can submit by speaking or by tapping his hand on the mat. Either opponent can withdraw from the bout at any time. You can do anything to get a submission except hitting the testicles or eye gouging. Do you both understand?”
Both boys nodded. Mac handed James a gum shield.
“Stand two meters apart and prepare for the first bout.”
The boys walked to the center of the mat.
“I’ll bust your nose,” Bruce said.
James smiled. “You can try, shorty.”
“Fight,” Mac said.
Bruce moved so fast James didn’t see the palm of his hand until it had smashed into his nose. A fine mist of blood sprayed as James stumbled backwards. Bruce swept James’s feet away, tipping him on to the mat. Bruce turned James on to his chest and twisted his wrist into a painful lock. He used his other hand to smear James’s face in the blood dripping from his nose.
James yelled through his gum shield, “I submit!”
Bruce got off. James couldn’t believe Bruce had half killed him in five seconds. He wiped his bloody face on the arm of his T-shirt.
“Ready?” Mac asked.
James’s nose was clogged with blood. He gasped for air.
“Hang on, Mac,” Bruce said. “What hand does he write with?”
James was grateful for a few seconds’ rest but wondered why Bruce had asked such a weird question.
“What hand do you write with, James?” Mac asked.
“My left,” James said.
There was no way Bruce was getting the early hit in this time. James lunged forward. Trouble was, Bruce had gone by the time James got there. James felt himself being lifted from behind. Bruce threw James on to his back then sat astride him with his thighs crushing the wind out of him. James tried to escape but he couldn’t even breathe. Bruce grabbed James’s right hand and twisted his thumb until it made a loud crack.
James cried out. Bruce clenched his fist and spat out his gum shield. “I’m gonna smash the nose again if you don’t submit.”
The hand looked a lot scarier than when James had shaken it a couple of minutes earlier.
“I submit,” James said.
James held his thumb as he stumbled to his feet. A drip of blood from his nose ran over his top lip into his mouth. The mat was covered in red smudges.
“You want to carry on?” Mac asked.
James nodded. They squared up for a third time. James knew he had no chance with blood running down his face and his right hand so painful he couldn’t even move it. But he had so much anger he was determined to get one good punch in, even if it got him killed.
“Please give up,” Bruce said. “I don’t want to hurt you badly.”
James charged forward without waiting for the start signal. He missed again. Bruce’s heel hit James in the stomach. James doubled over. All he could see was green and yellow blurs. Still standing, James felt his arm being twisted.
“I’m breaking your arm this time,” Bruce said. “I don’t want to.”
James knew he couldn’t take a broken arm.
“I give up!” he shouted. “I withdraw.”
Bruce stepped back and held his hand out for James to shake it. “Good fight, James,” he said, smiling.
James limply shook Bruce’s hand. “I think you broke my thumb,” he said.
“It’s only dislocated. Show me.”
James held out his hand.
“This is going to hurt,” Bruce said.
He pressed James’s thumb at the joint. The pain made James buckle at the knees as the bone crunched back into place.
Bruce laughed. “You think that’s painful, one time someone broke my leg in nine places.”
James sank to the floor. The pain in his nose felt like his head was splitting in two between his eyes. It was only pride that stopped him crying.
“So,” Mac said. “Ready for the next test?”
• • •
James realized now why Bruce had asked which hand he wrote with. His right hand was painful beyond use. James sat in a hall surrounded by wooden desks. He was the only one taking the test. He had bits of bloody tissue stuffed up each nostril and his clothes were a mess.
“Simple intelligence test, James,” Mac explained. “Mixture of verbal and mathematical skills. You have forty-five minutes, starting now.”
The questions got harder as the paper went on. Normally it wouldn’t have been bad but James hurt in about five different places, his nose was still bleeding, and every time he shut his eyes he felt like he was drifting backwards. He still had three pages left when time ran out.
• • •
James’s nose had finally stopped bleeding and he could move his right hand again, but he still wasn’t happy. He didn’t think he’d done well on the first two tests.
The crowded canteen was weird. Everybody stopped talking when James got near them. He got “Can’t talk to orange” three times before somebody pointed out cutlery. James took a block of lasagne with garlic bread and a fancy-looking orange mousse with chocolate shreds on top. When he got to the table he realized he hadn’t eaten since the previous night and was starving. It was loads better than the frozen stuff at Nebraska House.
• • •
“Do you like eating chicken?” Mac asked.
“Sure,” James said.
They were sitting in a tiny office with a desk between them. The only thing on the desk was a metal cage with a live chicken in it.
“Would you like to eat this chicken?”
“I can see that, James. Would you like to kill it?”
“James, are you saying you want to become a vegetarian?”
“If you think it’s cruel to kill the chicken, why are you happy to eat it?”
“I don’t know,” James said. “I’m twelve years old, I eat what gets stuck in front of me.”
“James, I want you to kill the chicken.”
“This is a dumb test. What does this prove?” James asked.
“I’m not discussing what the tests are for until they’re all over. Kill the chicken. If you don’t, somebody else has to. Why should they do it instead of you?”
“They get paid,” James said.
Mac took his wallet out of his jacket and put a five-pound note on top of the cage.
“Now you’re getting paid, James. Kill the chicken.”
“I . . .”
James couldn’t think of any more arguments and felt that at least if he killed the chicken he would have passed one test.
“OK. How do I kill it?”
Mac handed James a biro.
“Stab the chicken with the tip of the pen just below the head. A good stab should sever the main artery down the neck and cut through the windpipe to stop the bird breathing. It should be dead in about thirty seconds.”
“This is sick,” James said.
“Point the chicken’s bum away from yourself. The shock makes it empty its bowels quite violently.”
James picked up the pen and reached into the cage.
• • •
James stopped worrying about the warm chicken blood and crap on his clothes as soon as he saw the wooden obstacle. It started with a long climb up a rope ladder. Then you slid across a pole, up another ladder, and over narrow planks with jumps between them. James couldn’t see where you went from there because the obstacle disappeared behind trees. All he could tell was that it got even higher and there were no safety nets.
Mac introduced James to his guides, a couple of fit-looking sixteen-year-olds in navy CHERUB T-shirts called Paul and Arif. They clambered up the ladder, the two older boys sandwiching James.
“Never look down,” Arif said. “That’s the trick.”
James slid across the pole going hand over hand, fighting the pain in his right thumb. The first jump between planks was only about a meter. James went over after a bit of encouragement. They climbed another ladder and walked along more planks. This set were twenty meters above ground. James placed his feet carefully, keeping his eyes straight ahead. The wood creaked in the breeze.
There was a one and a half meter gap between the next set of planks. Not a difficult jump at ground level but between two wet planks twenty meters up, James was ruffled. Arif took a little run up and hopped over easily.
“It’s simple, James,” Arif said. “Come on, this is the last bit.”
A bird squawked. James’s eyes followed it down. Now he saw how high he was and started to panic. The clouds moving made him feel like he was falling.
“I can’t stand it up here,” James said. “I’m gonna puke.”
Paul grabbed his hand.
“I can’t do it,” James said.
“Of course you can,” Paul said. “If it was on the ground you wouldn’t break your stride.”
“But it’s not on the bloody ground!” James shouted.
James wondered why he was standing twenty meters up, with a headache, an aching thumb, plus dried blood and chicken crap all over him. He thought about how rubbish Nebraska House was and what Sergeant Davies had said about his knack of getting into trouble landing him in prison. The jump was worth the risk. It could change his whole life.
He took a run up. The plank shuddered as he landed. Arif steadied him. They walked to a balcony with a hand rail on either side.
“Brilliant,” Arif said. “Now there’s only one more bit to go.”
“What?” James said. “You just said that was the last bit. Now we just go down the ladder.”
James looked. There were two hooks for attaching a rope ladder. But the ladder wasn’t there.
“We’ve got to go all the way back?” James asked.
“No,” Arif said. “We’ve got to jump.”
James couldn’t believe it.
“It’s easy, James. Push off as you jump and you’ll hit the crash mat at the bottom.”
James looked at the muddy blue square on the ground below.
“What about all the branches in the way?” James asked.
“They’re only thin ones,” Arif said. “Sting like hell if you hit them though.”
Arif dived first.
“Clear,” a miniature Arif shouted from the bottom.
James stood on the end of the plank. Paul shoved him before he could decide for himself. The flight down was amazing. The branches were so close they blurred. He hit the crash mat with a dull thump. The only damage was a cut on his arm where a branch had whipped him.
• • •
James could only swim a couple of strokes before he got scared. He’d had no dad to take him swimming. His mum had avoided the pool because she was fat and everyone laughed at her in a swimming suit. The only time James had been swimming was with his school. Two kids James had bullied on dry land had pulled him out of his depth and abandoned him. He’d got dragged out and the instructor had had to pump water out of his lungs. After that James refused to get changed and spent swimming lessons reading a magazine in the changing rooms.
James stood at the edge of the pool, fully dressed.
“Dive in, get the brick out of the bottom, and swim to the other end,” Mac said.
James thought about giving it a go. He looked at the shimmering brick and imagined his mouth filled with chlorinated water. He backed away from the pool, queasy with fear.
“I can’t do this one,” James said. “I can’t even swim one width.”
• • •
James was back where he’d started, in front of the fire in Doctor McAfferty’s office.
“So, after the tests, should we offer you a place here?” Mac asked.
“Probably not, I guess,” James said.
“You did well on the first test.”
“But I didn’t get a single hit in,” James said.
“Bruce is a superb martial artist. You would have passed the test if you’d won, of course, but that was unlikely. You retired when you knew you couldn’t win and Bruce threatened you with a serious injury. That was important. There’s nothing heroic about getting seriously injured in the name of pride. Best of all, you didn’t ask to recover before you did the next test and you didn’t complain once about your injuries. That shows you have strength of character and a genuine desire to be a part of CHERUB.”
“Bruce was toying with me, there was no point carrying on,” James said.
“That’s right, James. In a real fight Bruce could have used a choke-hold that would have left you unconscious or dead if he’d wanted to.
“You also scored decently on the intelligence test. Exceptional on mathematical questions, about average on the verbal. How do you think you did on the third test?”
“I killed the chicken,” James said.
“But does that mean you passed the test?”
“I thought you asked me to kill it.”
“The chicken is a test of your moral courage. You pass well if you grab the chicken and kill it straight away, or if you say you’re opposed to killing and eating animals and refuse to kill it. I thought you performed poorly. You clearly didn’t want to kill the chicken but you allowed me to bully you into doing it. I’m giving you a low pass because you eventually reached a decision and carried it through. You would have failed if you’d dithered or got upset.”
James was pleased he’d passed the first three tests.
“The fourth test was excellent. You were timid in places but you got your courage together and made it through the obstacle. Then the final test.”
“I must have failed that,” James said.
“We knew you couldn’t swim. If you’d battled through and rescued the brick, we would have given you top marks. If you’d jumped in and had to be rescued, that would have shown poor judgment and you would have failed. But you decided the task was beyond your abilities and didn’t attempt it. That’s what we hoped you would do.
“To conclude, James, you’ve done good. I’m happy to offer you a place at CHERUB. You’ll be driven back to Nebraska House and I’ll expect your final decision within two days.”
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >