CHERUB: Dark Sun - Robert Muchamore

CHERUB: Dark Sun - Robert Muchamore


July 2007

Honeywill Community School was a dump, but it was the last day before summer holidays so at least everyone was happy. Teachers who hadn’t cracked a smile since September let classes play Nintendo in the sun, the headmaster was bounding around in sunglasses and tennis shorts. Kids even took beatings with good grace, knowing their next appointment with the bullies wouldn’t be for at least six weeks.

All the displays had been torn off the walls in Greg’s second-floor form room. He stood on a chair, leaning out of the classroom window with his school tie fixed around his head like a bandana and all his shirt buttons undone. Lunchtime was in full flow on the concrete playground below: girls chatting in huddles, boys playing football and a massive queue at the water fountain because it was the hottest day of the year so far.

‘Smell that,’ Zhang said, as the overweight Chinese boy thrust a clear plastic tub up towards Greg’s nostrils.

The stench hit Greg like a fist. He recoiled violently, jumping off the chair and almost sprawling out as he backed into a metal paper basket.

‘You know it’s bad!’ Zhang grinned, swinging the pot back towards Greg’s nose.

‘Get off!’ Greg shouted, coughing and retching as he scrambled away between desks. ‘Is that your mum’s cooking?’

Zhang shook his head as he placed the lid back on the tub. ‘It’s coleslaw from the school canteen. Says use by November fourteenth, but I just found it at the back of my locker.’

The third boy in the classroom was a skinny lad called George and he was cracking up laughing.

‘Shut your mouth, stick boy,’ Greg shouted. ‘Unless you want me to rub your face in it.’

But now that the lid was safely back on the coleslaw, Greg saw the funny side himself and he smiled even more when he saw the mound of junk Zhang had cleared out of his locker: text books covered in mud where Zhang had dumped his football boots on top of them, food wrappers, dirty tissues and a bottle of correction fluid that had leaked over his exercise books and dried into a hard white lump.

‘Animal,’ Greg snorted. ‘Is that a locker or a TARDIS? I don’t even know how all that junk fitted in there.’

Zhang’s bulky frame swaggered across the room towards his two mates. ‘Greg, your locker’s neat because you’ve only been at this school for half a term.’

George shook his head. ‘No Zhang, his locker’s neat because he’s not a revolting fat slob.’

Zhang didn’t like being called fat and stepped up to George to face him off. ‘You want a slap?’

The pair had been best mates since nursery school, but that didn’t mean Zhang wouldn’t get physical if George mouthed off.

Greg tried to prick the tension. ‘You’re such a pair of tarts,’ he sneered. ‘Go on, snog and make up like you always do.’

Zhang took a step back before turning around and staring Greg out, but he wouldn’t have dared do anything: Greg was only average height for a Year Eight, but he was sturdy and biceps bulged under his rolled-up shirt sleeves.

‘Oh Greg, I forgot,’ George said, as he scooped the last of the junk in his locker into the open mouth of his backpack. ‘I’m getting dragged to some barbecue at my aunt’s house on Saturday, Zhang’s flying off to China on Sunday – so if we’re gonna have the X-box sleepover, I’m afraid it’s tonight or not at all.’

‘Oh,’ Greg said awkwardly, running his hand through a tangle of dark hair.

‘You can still come, right?’ George asked.

Greg shrugged, pulling a little Nokia out of his pocket. ‘Sure, I guess. I mean… I’ll just text my dad to make sure, but there’s nothing else going on, so I can’t see why not.’

‘Cool,’ George said, slamming the door of his locker before wiping his brow on his sleeve.

‘I take it my cousin Andy can still come?’ Greg asked. ‘I know you’ve never met him, but he’s the biggest laugh, I swear.’

‘More the merrier, I say,’ George answered, before making a big huffing sound. ‘I don’t mind the sun, but it’s just too hot today!’

Greg laughed. ‘This is nothing. When I lived in Australia you’d get days like this in winter.’

Zhang tried to copy Greg’s Australian accent. ‘When I lived in Auuuuuustralia it was four hundred degrees in the shade. It was so hot the koala bears dropped out of the trees ready-cooked.’

‘Don’t mock the accent,’ Greg smirked. ‘It drives