Black Friday (CHERUB) - Robert Muchamore


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.

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. The 300 kids who live on CHERUB campus are recruited between the ages of six and twelve and allowed to work undercover from age ten, provided they make it through a gruelling hundred-day basic training programme.


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.


In April 2012, CHERUB agent RYAN SHARMA was promoted to the rank of Navy Shirt following a successful American-led operation to infiltrate a global smuggling organisation known as the Aramov Clan.

Rather than immediately destroying the Aramov network, United States Intelligence decided to take over the clan. The aim was to slowly wind Aramov operations down, while gaining valuable intelligence on dozens of other criminal groups that use the Aramov smuggling network. This covert takeover was led by a unit known as TFU, under the command of DR DENISE HUGGAN.

Shortly after his promotion, Ryan Sharma returned to the Aramov Clan’s headquarters in Kyrgyzstan, posing as the son of CHERUB instructor YOSYP KAZAKOV. While TFU agents discreetly controlled the Aramov Clan from the top, Ryan and Kazakov operated at grass roots level, picking up the kind of intelligence that never reaches senior management.


November 22nd 2012, Manta, Ecuador

Manta Airport’s only terminal felt like its best days were behind it. Built to serve a United States Air Force squadron running anti-drug operations, the Yanks didn’t like it when the Ecuadorian government kicked them out and before leaving they’d stripped everything – from the main radar in the control tower to the benches at the departure gates.

Fourteen-year-old CHERUB agent Ryan Sharma squatted on a canvas backpack in the airport’s sparsely populated passenger lounge, hearing cheesy piped music compete with rain pelting the metal roof.

Ryan had barely slept during a twenty-hour journey from Kyrgyzstan. The long flight had given him a sore throat and bloodshot eyes. A hot shower and soft bed would have been perfection, but it would be a long time before he got near either.

For the past seven months, Ryan had been based at Aramov Clan headquarters in Kyrgyzstan – known as the Kremlin. Ryan’s job was to scrape gossip out of the smuggling operation’s employees and family members.

The Kremlin didn’t offer much in the way of entertainment and the main hangout for teens was an outdoor yard full of weightlifting equipment. Ryan had pumped enough metal to put ten centimetres on his chest. He liked the way he looked with his shirt off now, and so did the girl he’d fallen in love with.

Three aircraft could be seen through plate glass windows across the shabby lounge. It was early morning, but clouds blotted the sun and it felt more like twilight. The smallest plane was a turboprop flown by the Ecuadorian Post Office; next door was a Boeing 737 cargo jet with custard-yellow hull and the logo of Globespan Delivery. The company’s slogan was painted beneath it: Anywhere, Anytime, On Time.

The third much larger aircraft loomed behind these two, standing on eighteen threadbare tyres, with flaking paint and patched-up bullet wounds. It looked badass, like it might roll up to the two smaller planes and make them hand over their lunch money.

It was an Ilyushin-76. The four-engined Uzbek-built freighter had rolled off the production line in 1975 and could swallow a truck through its gaping rear cargo door. This old bird first saw action when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Records showed the Soviet Air Force selling her for scrap in 1992, but in reality