Chapter 1 Summary
As Cinder begins, a cyborg girl named Linh Cinder is unscrewing her mechanical foot. When she yanks it off, she feels relieved. The human parts of her body have long outgrown the cyborg parts, and this foot has been far too small for years. She sits back and waits for her friend Iko, an android, to return with a replacement foot.
Cinder is a gifted mechanic, and also the only mechanic who keeps a booth at the busy weekly market in the city of New Beijing. Her work is highly respected, but she is not. The people of New Beijing are prejudiced against cyborgs—people who, due to accident or disease, have had some of their natural body parts replaced by mechanical ones. As Cinder waits for her foot, she receives a glare from Chang Sacha, the woman who owns the bakery across the street. “It’s not like wires are contagious,” Cinder mutters bitterly to herself. Nevertheless, she keeps the stump of her right leg out of sight and she wears a glove to cover her metal right hand. Most people do not know she is a cyborg, and she wants to keep it that way.
A customer arrives and tosses a broken android onto Cinder’s table. Cinder takes in his “copper-brown eyes…and lips that every girl in the country had admired a thousand times.” She knows exactly who he is, but the netlink in her brain automatically informs her anyway: he is Prince Kai, the handsome eighteen-year-old prince of the country known as the Eastern Commonwealth.
Cinder blinks to remove this information from her vision and, keeping her missing foot out of sight, stands up to make an awkward bow. Prince Kai explains that he is looking for Linh Cinder, the mechanic, to fix his personal android, Nainsi. He seems surprised when he learns that the most respected mechanic in his kingdom is a teenage girl.
As Cinder works, her own android, Iko, arrives at the booth. She brags that she got an excellent price on a slightly used cybernetic foot. Cinder quickly changes the subject so that the prince does not find out that the foot is for her. Instead they chat about Iko’s personality, which is quite flamboyant for an android. Most people would consider this a flaw, but Cinder likes Iko and considers her a friend.
Cinder cannot fix the prince's android immediately, so he says he can return next week to pick it up. When he leaves, Iko gushes about how handsome he is. Cinder, who considers herself too practical to have...
(The entire section is 563 words.)
Chapter 2 Summary
Cinder and Iko hide in the back of her shop until the marketplace clears of everyone except the emergency crew. When the crew is distracted for a moment, Cinder and Iko steal away, carrying the prince’s android with them.
At the large apartment building she calls home, Cinder goes down to the basement storage area. There she is allowed to keep a small workspace. She deposits Prince Kai’s android and a few other odds and ends on her work table. Then she climbs upstairs to her apartment.
When Cinder arrives home, she is surprised to find her stepmother and her two stepsisters being fitted for brand-new gowns. They do not acknowledge her. Only Peony, the younger of the two stepsisters and Cinder’s only human friend, smiles in greeting.
Cinder knows that the dresses are for the annual ball that Prince Kai holds every year. Adri, Cinder's stepmother, usually finds an excuse not to let Cinder go. Cinder asks if she can have a new dress. Adri replies that she cannot afford such an expenditure at the moment. This infuriates Cinder, who reflects that she is the sole breadwinner for the family and thus deserves a new dress more than anyone else. But as a cyborg, Cinder has no rights. She, and the income from her mechanic's shop, both legally belong to Adri.
As politely as she can, Cinder asks if she will be allowed to go to the ball at all this year. Adri says yes, but Cinder's cyborg brain interface makes an orange flashing light in the corner of her vision. This tells her that Adri is lying. Cinder knows she can do nothing about it, so she hides her disappointment.
Just then, Prince Kai appears on a TV-like device called a "netscreen" to give a speech about letumosis. He reminds the people that his government’s scientists are doing all they can to stop the plague. His own mother has already died of letumosis and his father is dying now too. Adri’s husband, an inventor, died of it as well, just after he adopted a little cyborg orphan girl named Cinder.
After Prince Kai’s address, the newcasters discuss the need for plague research subjects. Everyone who undergoes this research dies, so almost nobody volunteers. Every day, the government drafts one cyborg to act as a guinea pig for the scientists. Cinder feels queasy at the thought that she could be killed just because she has mechanical body parts. But if her name is drawn someday, she will not be able to do anything...
(The entire section is 432 words.)
Chapter 3 Summary
Downstairs in her workshop, Cinder prepares for a trip to the dump to look for spare parts for her family’s broken hovercraft. As she does so, she thinks about the ball and imagines dancing with Prince Kai. But she knows that this is a stupid thing to think about. After all, her status as a cyborg would make her feel out of place and Adri will never allow it anyway.
Iko asks why Cinder works so hard to earn money and repair broken machines when Adri refuses to do anything nice in return. Cinder says that she has no choice. Adri is short on money, and she is always threatening to sell Iko for spare parts. Cinder could not bear to lose Iko, so she tries to keep her stepmother relatively happy.
Changing the subject, Cinder points out that it will be wonderful to have the apartment to herself for one evening while the rest of the family is at the ball. Just then, Peony appears at the doorway of the workshop and says that she could use some time alone, too. She complains that her mother is driving her crazy. Adri is obsessed with the idea of finding a husband for her elder daughter, the seventeen-year-old Pearl, at the upcoming ball. The family's expenses will be easier to manage with one less mouth to feed.
Peony is still wearing her brand-new ball gown, and the hem brushes the grimy floor. Cinder advises her to be more careful, but Peony, who is far less practical than her stepsister, waves the warning away. This makes Cinder a bit grumpy. She envies her sister's new dresses and wishes she had one of her own.
But Peony is so sweet, nobody can be angry with her for long. She complains that her mother is unfair to Cinder, who deserves nice things as much as anyone else. Then Peony gives Iko a pretty ribbon, stolen from the dressmaker’s scraps, to wear as a bracelet.
Peony asks if she can accompany Cinder and Iko to the junkyard. Cinder says that the trip will not be fun, but Peony is desperate to get out of the apartment for a while. Eventually Cinder agrees, but she tells Peony to change out of her ball gown first. Inwardly, Cinder reflects that she is eager to tell the story about the conversation with Prince Kai at the market. Peony, who has a huge celebrity crush on the prince, will be excited to hear all about him.
(The entire section is 419 words.)
Chapter 4 Summary
At the junkyard, as Iko and Cinder look for broken-down hovers to scavenge for parts, Peony pumps them for information about Prince Kai. She makes a plot to be present when Cinder returns the android. She thinks that if she meets the prince before the ball, he will surely notice her and dance with her in front of everyone. “Pearl will be livid,” says Peony, evidently enjoying the idea of making her sister jealous.
Iko eagerly joins in Peony’s girlish chatter. Encouraged, Peony says that Prince Kai is planning to choose a bride from among the young women he meets at the ball. Cinder thinks this is ridiculous. Prince Kai is only eighteen; he is unlikely to marry for several more years. Peony huffily says that this rumor is better than the other active rumor on the net. Apparently some people think that Prince Kai is planning to marry Queen Levana.
At the sound of Queen Levana’s name, Cinder shivers and looks up at the moon. People from Earth colonized the moon many generations ago. Since then, the Lunars, as the moon people are called, have evolved strange mind control abilities. They are known to use these abilities mainly for greed and deception.
Queen Levana rules the moon, and she is the cruelest Lunar of all. She supposedly murdered her own sister, Queen Channary, in order to obtain her throne. Afterward, to consolidate her power, Queen Levana is believed to have murdered her three-year-old niece by burning the child alive in her nursery. Conspiracy theorists think that the girl may have been rescued, alive but badly injured, and brought to Earth. Cinder doubts this story, but she does not doubt that Queen Levana is evil. She would be Cinder's last choice for empress of the Eastern Commonwealth.
Continuing her search for spare parts, Cinder finds an extremely old vehicle hidden under a pile of rubble. At first she thinks it is a hover, but soon she realizes that it is an actual gas-powered car. It is an ugly, pumpkin-orange hunk of junk—but to Cinder it is beautiful. She says it should be in a museum. Iko and Peony do not share her fascination, and they both complain that they want to go.
Cinder is too fascinated by the car to leave right away. She ducks under the hood and takes a look at the ancient engine. She hatches a harebrained scheme to fix it up and drive it out of New Beijing—maybe even all the way to Europe. Iko and Peony complain that this is a stupid...
(The entire section is 488 words.)
Chapter 5 Summary
The letumosis rash is visibly spreading over Peony’s body. Cinder does not want to accept the truth, but the netlink in her head takes over her thoughts. It diagnoses Peony’s illness and provides statistics about the many hundreds of thousands of people who have contracted the letumosis plague. Every one of them has died.
Sobbing, Peony tells Cinder to stand back and avoid infection. Cinder stammers that she has to call an emergency hover—a sort of hovercraft ambulance. As she sends the message, she wonders whether she is responsible for this misfortune. After all, she was at the market today during an outbreak. Perhaps she is infected but not yet showing symptoms. She should have allowed herself to be taken to the quarantines. If she had done so, she would certainly have become infected, but that would have been better than killing Peony.
Cinder frantically checks her skin for a rash, but none appears. Her guilt mounts, and she drops to her knees and hugs Peony. Peony pulls away, pointing out that Cinder should not take risks; it is possible that she is not yet infected. Peony advises Cinder to run before the emergency hover arrives and forces her into quarantine. Cinder cannot deny that this is the smartest thing to do, so she reluctantly turns to go.
Cinder makes no effort to hide herself on her way to the junkyard gates, so the med-droids—robot doctors—see her immediately when they arrive in the emergency hover. They ask if Cinder has touched her sister in the last twelve hours. When she says yes, one of the med-droids inserts a syringe into her arm to extract a blood sample. The med-droid explains that it is testing her for the pathogens that carry letumosis. Cinder stands still, feeling certain that she will be diagnosed with the virus, and that she is responsible for infecting her sister.
As she waits, Cinder sees two more med-droids carrying Peony on a stretcher. Peony sits up, sobbing and looking around wildly, as if there is some escape. But she knows that any attempt to run would only infect and kill more people. So she waves good-bye to Cinder and allows herself to be carried away.
At this moment, Cinder’s med-droid beeps and announces that she is not infected. She is not dying. She does not have to go to the quarantines. Instead she has to go home and tell her stepmother and stepsister what has happened.
(The entire section is 415 words.)
Chapter 6 Summary
As Cinder walks home, the interface in her brain repeatedly replays the horrible images of the last few hours. Just before she reaches her building, she stops in her tracks, overcome with dizziness and a desire to vomit. She is about to face Adri and Pearl. “What am I going to tell them?” she asks.
Iko does not have an answer, and neither does Cinder. The two of them make the long climb to Adri’s apartment in silence. When Cinder steps through the door, she is surprised to see her stepmother and stepsister sitting on the couch, with two med-droids beside them. At first, Cinder thinks they may be infected, but then she sees that they are both holding cloths over their mouths. This suggests that they are still trying to protect themselves from infection.
Adri’s eyes are red and she says stiffly that she has been informed that Peony has letumosis. Furiously, Adri says that Cinder is responsible for this misfortune. After all, Cinder was in the market during the outbreak earlier, so she probably carried the virus home. Everyone knows how contagious letumosis is; if Cinder had cared about her family, she would have stayed away. “How could you be so selfish?” Adri asks.
Cinder explains that she is not infected, and that she would never have hurt Peony. “I love her too,” she says. But Adri is too overcome by her own grief to acknowledge Cinder’s. After all, a cyborg’s feelings are “just…programmed.”
Adri says that she wishes her husband had never chosen to adopt a cyborg. He did not explain his choice to her, and she cannot understand it. Nevertheless, when he died of letumosis, she honored his wishes and kept Cinder with the family. Now she has decided that this was a mistake. Against all evidence, she has decided that Cinder is a plague carrier and a danger to the family. Because of this, Adri has signed Cinder up to become a medical subject for plague research.
Cinder cannot believe that Adri would do this. Thus far, every plague research subject has died. Adri points out that everyone who gets letumosis dies, and that Peony’s only chance is a cure. The sacrifice of Cinder’s life may make such a cure possible.
The med-droids advance on Cinder. When one of them thanks her for volunteering, she protests that she never volunteered for anything. It turns out that this does not matter. Because Adri is Cinder’s legal guardian, it is only Adri’s...
(The entire section is 445 words.)
Chapter 7 Summary
Dr. Dmitri Erland, the lead doctor for plague research in New Beijing, sighs with annoyance. His latest plague research subject is a man in his thirties who is only 6.4 percent cybernetic. This is not the sort of subject Dr. Erland is looking for—but he cannot admit that to anyone. He tells his assistant, a young woman whose name he cannot remember, to send the man home. He is too old to be a research subject.
Dr. Erland’s assistant is clearly angry about this. Thirty-two is not old at all, and she thinks Dr. Erland should use the resources he has. The cyborg draft is a good program. After all, cyborgs are not human, and the government pays large sums of money to the families of the subjects who die.
The assistant shakes her head in impatience and her black braid jiggles. Dr. Erland has a sudden hallucination that it is a snake about to bite him. He closes his eyes for a moment, and the “vision” disappears—but he reflects that these hallucinations are worsening. He cannot explain this to anyone, either.
At that moment, another assistant, a man named Li, steps into the room. Li says that a new plague research volunteer has just arrived, a teenage girl from right here in New Beijing. Dr. Erland is obviously thrilled.
Again Dr. Erland's female assistant seems angry. She points out that he keeps releasing male subjects, but he is always thrilled to work on the young females. He is clearly surprised by the conclusion she seems to have drawn about his sexism. He stammers lamely that young subjects are healthier than older ones.
Dr. Erland goes into an observation room and looks through a two-way mirror at the unconscious teenage girl, Cinder, on the examining table. He notes that her right hand and leg are both cybernetic. Neither limb has been covered by skin grafting, so he can see the tarnished metal of the mechanical parts. Li responds that, in spite of their unremarkable appearance, the cyborg technology in Cinder's body is excellent. It has “autocontrol and a four-grade nervous system.”
Dr. Erland asks about the restraints on Cinder's arms and legs. Li explains that Cinder's guardian volunteered her, but that she did not want to come. She fought the med-droids, who shocked her with 200 volts of electricity. Dr. Erland seems unfazed by this news. He says that she does not need to be conscious for them to begin their work.
(The entire section is 413 words.)
Chapter 8 Summary
While unconscious, Cinder has a nightmare about burning up in a fire. She has some variation on this dream every time she falls asleep and she often wonders why. She lost her hand and leg in a hover accident, so it would make more sense to dream about that than a fire.
Cinder awakes to find herself tied to an examining table in a brightly lit medical laboratory. She struggles but cannot pull free of her restraints. When she turns her head to the side, she sees her reflection in the mirror that lines one wall of the room. Her gloves are off and her pant legs are rolled up, exposing the distasteful fact that her body is largely machine.
The voice of Dr. Erland greets Cinder through a speaker and promises not to “take up too much of [her] time.” Cinder, who knows that he is going to kill her, struggles more violently. She says that she is not here willingly. Dr. Erland’s voice replies that this does not matter; it is her legal guardian's choice that counts.
The testing begins with a scan called a ratio detector. A med-droid opens a panel on the back of Cinder’s head and sticks a two-pronged metal device inside. Cinder does not have any nerve receptors in her brain, but it disgusts and infuriates her that someone is poking around inside her head. She shouts that this is wrong, but nobody bothers to reply.
When the scan is complete, a holographic image of Cinder’s body appears on a netscreen in the corner of the room. She stares at it, taking in the image of the controls in her head, the wires running down her body, and the metal hand and leg. She is surprised to see that she has several metal vertebrae and ribs, and a partially synthetic heart. At the bottom of the screen, she sees a number, 36.28. She knows what this means: “She [is] 36.28 percent not human.”
Dr. Erland says, “You are quite the exemplary example of modern science, young lady.” He is clearly impressed, but she is disgusted. She never volunteered to become a cyborg, any more than she volunteered for plague research. It was just done to her.
The voice of Dr. Erland informs Cinder that he is going to infect her with letumosis and then give her an experimental antibody that will, hopefully, kill the plague. He admits that he has tried twenty-seven different versions of this antidote in the past, and that he has not yet succeeded in saving anyone. Still, for the sake of humanity, he intends...
(The entire section is 459 words.)
Chapter 9 Summary
Book Two of Cinder begins with the viewpoint of Dr. Erland, who stands staring at a computerized bioscan of Cinder’s body. She has just been injected with letumosis, and he is eager to see what will happen next. The plague pathogens are tagged with markers that make them visible to the scanner. Onscreen, many little dots move through Cinder’s veins, beginning the process of infecting her. Absently, Dr. Erland mutters that each dot is “like a vicious green firefly.”
Li and the other assistant are not terribly interested in the progress of the plague through Cinder’s body, as it is something they have seen many times before. However, they are very interested in her hardware, which is among the most complex cybernetic systems they have seen in the research subjects that have passed through their laboratory. They comment that the sale of her parts will more than cover the expense of the payout they will give to her family for signing her up. Dr. Erland disapproves of these callous comments, so he glares at them. They do not seem to notice.
After a while, the two assistants find a small metal box that is plugged into Cinder’s nervous system. They lean in close to the screen to examine it. Neither of them has any idea what it could do. Dr. Erland says uncertainly that it may help correct for a spinal cord injury.
When Dr. Erland returns his attention to the “vicious green fireflies” on the screen, he notices that one has disappeared. Soon another green dot vanishes from the screen, and then two more. The assistants check for evidence of immune system activity, and they find it “going berserk.” This is completely unexpected—to the assistants, at least. After all, Cinder has not received the trial antidote yet.
Dr. Erland asks a med-droid to draw more of Cinder’s blood and then to wheel her into a different examining room. Li protests that the other room is not a quarantined room, but Dr. Erland says it does not matter. “She won’t be contagious,” he says, heading for the door.
On his way out, Dr. Erland tells his assistants to order the med-droid to untie Cinder after they move her. The assistants protest, pointing out that she looks strong, and that she disabled two med-droids. Dr. Erland does not seem worried, and he assures them that they do not need to fear for themselves. He is planning to speak to Cinder alone.
(The entire section is 417 words.)
Chapter 10 Summary
Cinder lies on the exam table, terrified, waiting to feel the effects of the plague. She demands to know when she will receive “the pretend antidote,” but nobody responds to her question. After a while, the voice of Dr. Erland comes through the speaker, asking the med-droid for another blood sample.
The med-droid jabs Cinder’s arm yet again and she winces, thinking that the bruises from all these injections and blood samples will last for several days. Then she remembers that she will almost certainly die before the bruise has time to heal. She is shaking in fear, but she maintains her sarcastic façade. “You’re going to at least try to save my life, right?” she asks.
Instead of answering, Dr. Erland tells the med-droid to take Cinder to exam room 4-D. The android obeys immediately, pushing Cinder through the halls. She asks what is going on, but it does not answer. Hoping to befriend it—and get her hands free—she offers to oil a squeaky wheel on her exam table. The med-droid ignores her.
In exam room 4D, the med-droid releases Cinder from her restraints. When it leaves her alone, she gets up to look around. As far as Cinder can tell, there are no mirrors or cameras in the room. She looks for something heavy to use as a weapon and finds nothing—until she remembers that she has an extra wrench stashed in a hollow compartment in her cybernetic leg. She gets it out and holds it at the ready.
The door opens to admit a short, gaunt old man. His face is lined with old worries, but for now he is smiling. He introduces himself as Dr. Erland and asks her to sit down for a chat. This annoys Cinder, who points out that it is a bit late for people to start offering explanations. She reminds him that she did not volunteer to be a plague research subject, and then she raises her wrench, aiming it at his temple.
Before Cinder can take a swing, something strange happens. Her vision blurs, and her brain fills with “syrupy confusion.” A voice in her mind tells her that she does not want to hurt a friendly old man with pretty blue eyes. The orange light that signifies a lie flickers in a corner of her vision—but this makes no sense because Dr. Erland is not speaking, let alone telling a lie.
Cinder cannot make sense of the way she feels, but she cannot make herself attack Dr. Erland either. She gives up and lets her wrench fall to the floor.
(The entire section is 438 words.)
Chapter 11 Summary
When the fog clears from Cinder’s brain, she thinks that she must have suffered a programming error. The orange light in the corner of her vision goes out and her body feels heavy and sluggish. She has no desire to resume her attack on Dr. Erland.
Dr. Erland shows Cinder a scan of her body and explains that the letumosis virus, which he injected into her veins less than an hour ago, is gone. It takes her a minute to believe that she does not have the plague, and that she is not contagious. Her first reaction is relief, closely followed by suspicion. How could she be cured?
Patiently, Dr. Erland explains that Cinder is immune. She did not think this was possible, but he is quite sure of himself. He quizzes her about her childhood and whether she was ever exposed to the disease when she was young. She explains about her stepfather’s death when she was eleven. He asks about her life before that, and she replies that she remembers nothing from before the hover accident that killed her parents and damaged her body.
As the conversation continues, Dr. Erland asks detailed questions about Cinder’s accident and the operation that transformed her into a cyborg. Unfortunately, she cannot answer; she has no memory of her life before her operation. When she asks why he wants to know, he says he is merely interested. He tells her that he is going to examine her blood samples in order to learn as much as he can about her.
Now that Cinder has accepted that she is immune, she asks if she is free to go. Dr. Erland hesitates, and she says coldly that she does not want to be a prisoner. He considers this and says, “You have no idea how important…no idea of your worth.” He asks her to continue to help him save lives; he offers to pay her for her trouble..
Cinder turns this idea over in her mind and realizes that she would do almost anything that might help Peony. She agrees to volunteer, on three conditions. First, she wants the freedom to come and go. Second, she wants her income to be paid into a private account that she can keep secret from Adri. Third, she wants Peony to be the first person to receive treatment if Dr. Erland manages to create a cure.
To Cinder’s surprise, Dr. Erland agrees immediately to the first two conditions, but he hesitates on the third. If an antidote can be created in time, it is the emperor who will be the first to receive it. “But I can...
(The entire section is 455 words.)
Chapter 12 Summary
In the royal palace, Prince Kai stands outside of a glass quarantine wall and looks in at his dying father. The emperor only has a few days left to live. Torin, his adviser, says hesitantly that it is time to start preparing Kai to become emperor. Kai refuses; he is not ready. He decides to go down to the research facility and ask whether Dr. Erland has made any progress.
In the elevators on their way to see Dr. Erland, Kai and Torin meet a woman named Sybil Mira. As always, Kai shivers when he sees her. She is a Lunar—a person from the moon. Lunars are greedy, cynical people who use their mysterious mind control powers to get whatever they want.
Sybil Mira is a representative of the Lunar queen, Levana. Queen Levana has a tense relationship with Kai’s kingdom, as with the other countries of Earth. Before the emperor contracted letumosis, Queen Levana offered a peace treaty, on the condition that he marry her and make her empress of the Eastern Commonwealth. He refused.
Gravely, Sybil Mira explains that Queen Levana understands that the emperor is no longer healthy enough to accept her offer. Now she wants to marry Kai. This offer appalls Kai, who cannot maintain his usual courtly politeness. He refuses flatly to marry Queen Levana, and he stalks away.
When they are out of Sybil Mira’s earshot, Kai and Torin discuss their options. Kai points out that it would be dangerous to marry a Lunar, especially the ruthless Queen Levana. In such a position of power, she would use her mind control abilities to enslave Kai’s people. Torin agrees, but they both know that Kai has few options. Letumosis and a poor economy have placed the Eastern Commonwealth in a weak position.
Kai wishes aloud that he were already married. If he were, Queen Levana could not make her awful demand. Torin jokes dryly that Kai may meet a beautiful girl at the upcoming ball, fall in love with her, and live happily ever after. This joke annoys Kai, who knows that happy endings only belong in fairy tales.
Hesitantly, Kai admits that he has been researching “the Lunar heir”—the niece of Queen Levana, who was supposedly killed in a fire thirteen years ago. Torin tells Kai not to believe the ridiculous rumors that she is still alive. The child’s body was found in the ashes—parts of it. And even if she had survived, Torin thinks she would be an enemy:
Kai, the entire...
(The entire section is 516 words.)
Chapter 13 Summary
Cinder is busy talking with Dr. Erland. He explains that the surgeons who made her a cyborg must have been the best in the world. Many female cyborgs are infertile because of complications with the operation, but Cinder’s reproductive system is perfect, unscathed. On the other hand, many other parts are altered. Her eyes, for example, lack tear ducts.
Cinder is fully aware that she cannot cry, and she has long been annoyed by this because she wishes she could express emotions more like other people do. She tells Dr. Erland that she is “incapable of blushing” as well. He seems surprised by this, so she explains that her mechanical parts cool her down rapidly whenever she feels any strong emotion. Dr. Erland finds this fascinating. He thinks it must prevent her system from overheating.
While studying the bioscan, Cinder notices the strange device that is fused to her spine. She asks about it, and Dr. Erland says that his assistants asked the same thing. He suggests that it might be for “a glitch.” Cinder scowls, unsettled by the idea that she may have glitches like a machine.
Changing the subject, Cinder asks how long it takes her body to rid itself of letumosis. She is still worried that she is responsible for infecting Peony, and Dr. Erland’s answer does not assuage her fears. He says that Cinder’s body probably gets rid of the letumosis pathogens faster after each exposure. This time, it only took twenty minutes, but in the past it may have taken hours or even days.
Dr. Erland turns his attention back to Cinder and her immunity. He says that he has a few theories about her, and he promises to explain more to her after he examines her blood samples. In the meantime, he wants to learn more about the strange device on her spine. “Do you mind if I try something?” he asks.
Reluctantly, Cinder allows Dr. Erland to place his fingers on a spot on the back of her neck. She asks what he is planning to do, but he does not explain. He says to speak up if she feels anything out of the ordinary. As it happens, being touched is out of the ordinary for Cinder. She is about to say so when he suddenly presses hard on her neck. Her body is overcome by “fire and pain.” She falls off the examining table and passes out.
(The entire section is 408 words.)
Chapter 14 Summary
When Cinder awakes, she finds Dr. Erland and Kai kneeling over her. Dr. Erland seems unperturbed as always, but Kai is extremely agitated. He apparently saw Cinder pass out, and he demands to know what Dr. Erland was doing to her. Calmly, the doctor claims he was trying an ancient technique called chiropractics to help with a crick in her neck. Cinder listens dully, noting the orange light in the corner of her visual interface. He is lying.
When Kai helps her up, Cinder notices with surprise that she is feverish and sweating. This should be impossible; normally her system prevents her from feeling hot, just as it prevents her from blushing. But right now she has a more pressing concern: Dr. Erland knows that she is a cyborg, and he may tell Kai.
For some reason, Dr. Erland does not tell Kai anything—not even that Cinder is immune to letumosis, a fact that would definitely interest him. Instead, the doctor concocts a poor lie about Cinder being called to the palace to fix a faulty med-droid that was necessary for letumosis research. Cinder is relieved to keep her cyborg status a secret from the prince, but she also feels suspicious of the doctor. Why would he hide the truth about a breakthrough in his research?
Kai asks Cinder about his broken android and she is embarrassed to admit that she has not even looked at it. She stammers an excuse about being busy, but she cannot explain enough to make herself sound convincing without revealing her own abnormalities.
Dr. Erland makes a breezy comment about the necessity of protecting patient confidentiality, and he switches off the holographic representation of Cinder’s body. She listens to him uncertainly, unsettled by his obvious comfort telling lies to the prince, and unsure why the lies are necessary.
Eventually Cinder gets up to leave. Dr. Erland nods, indicating that it is okay with him if she goes. However, he mentions offhand that he has her ID number. She nods, guessing that he means this as a subtle threat: if she does not return when he wants her, he can find her and have her brought to him.
Cinder bows to the prince and hurries out, berating herself for stammering and being awkward in his presence. She tells herself that she should not care about this or about Prince Kai generally. It is silly and girlish to develop a crush on the prince—but that seems to be exactly what she is doing.
(The entire section is 420 words.)
Chapter 15 Summary
Cinder wends her way through the research wing of the palace, trying to find her way out. When she comes to a bank of windows, she stops and looks down on New Beijing. She normally thinks of the city as dirty and ugly place. But from above like this, it is beautiful.
As she looks down on the city, Cinder realizes that she has to go home to Adri and Pearl. She needs to protect Iko, who is likely to be sold for parts if Cinder is not there. She also promised the prince she would fix his broken android, which is still in the basement. Besides, where else could an orphan teenage cyborg go?
Even as she sets out, Cinder resolves not to stay with Adri long. She will save her money and bide her time, and eventually, she will run away. She cannot forget that she is not wanted, and she cannot forgive Adri for trying to have her killed.
When Cinder steps through her apartment door, she is amused by the shocked expressions on her stepmother’s and stepsister’s faces. She lies and says that the researchers could not use her, so they sent her home. Adri bitterly accuses Cinder of lying and deliberately thwarting her only chance to help Peony. Cinder, who feels that she is the one who was wronged, argues back just as bitterly.
By the end of the argument, Adri agrees that Cinder may stay in the apartment—but only if she remembers her place and obeys orders respectfully. Cinder chafes against the injustice of her position, but she agrees. As soon as possible, she withdraws to her workspace with Iko.
Iko is surprised but thrilled to see Cinder again. Down in the workshop, she listens to the story about the trip to the castle, Cinder's immunity, and Cinder's new income. Iko's first thought is that now it will be possible to buy a beautiful gown for the ball. Cinder alternates between amusement and annoyance at Iko’s romantic obsession with this ball. Iko even rescued Peony’s gown from destruction when Adri burned or sold off everything else. The gown is now hanging, wrinkled and dusty, in a corner of the workshop.
Cinder says she needs to think about more important matters than balls. She intends to go back to the junkyard and get that old orange gas-powered car. With Iko’s help, she will fix it up and drive it out of New Beijing—maybe even all the way to Europe. Iko has no particular interest in that old car, but she likes the idea of running away.
(The entire section is 438 words.)
Chapter 16 Summary
That night, a frantic Prince Kai dashes through the halls of the palace. He arrives too late at the quarters where his father has been quarantined. The emperor is already dead. In his grief, Kai blames himself for not being by the emperor's side at the final moment.
Kai wants to be alone to grieve, but Torin says that they need to call a press conference and announce the emperor’s death to the country. Hearing this, Kai realizes that he has not only lost a father; he has also gained an enormous responsibility. Now that the emperor is dead, Kai is the sole leader of a whole country.
This realization is reinforced moments later when Queen Levana calls. Neither Kai nor Torin is sure how she knows about the emperor’s death so soon, but they suspect that someone from the Lunar court is spying on them. In spite of the circumstances, Kai knows he must accept the call.
Queen Levana appears on Kai’s screen wearing a whitish veil over her face. She has always claimed that Earthens are not worthy of seeing her beauty, but Kai has heard that the queen is unable to manipulate other people’s brainwaves via camera. She needs to use her manipulative powers to make herself seem beautiful, and she cannot abide the idea of anyone seeing her as she really is.
Nervously, Kai greets Queen Levana, who offers brief and insincere condolences on the death of his father. Then she announces that she intends to come to Earth tomorrow to speak with him about a possible peace treaty. She says that he need not interrupt his mourning to prepare the palace for her arrival; Sybil Mira will take care of everything.
Throughout this call, Queen Levana speaks without pause. Kai has no time to respond. As soon as she finishes speaking, she hangs up on him.
Kai is outraged that Queen Levana is making a power play in response to his father’s death. He suspects that she thinks he is weak and easy to manipulate, just because he is young. He asks Torin if it would be all right to refuse her the right to visit, but Torin says they need to court peace, no matter how inconvenient the Lunar queen's demands may be.
Thinking back on the call, Kai asks how the Lunars will prepare the palace for Queen Levana’s arrival. Torin says that the Lunars will probably remove the mirrors from the guest wing. Mirrors, like cameras, upset Queen Levana because they fail to portray her mysterious illusions. Kai...
(The entire section is 484 words.)
Chapter 17 Summary
In the morning, Cinder is awakened by an automatic message saying that Peony’s illness has entered its third stage. Last night Cinder stayed up late pushing her getaway car from the junkyard to an unused corner of her building’s parking garage, and she is exhausted. Nevertheless, she drags herself out of bed, grabs a blanket for Peony, and makes her way to the quarantine facility.
Because letumosis is so contagious, family members of the plague victims are not allowed to visit the quarantine area. A sign outside announces that only androids and patients may enter, but Cinder walks confidently past it. She is surprised when none of the med-droids try to stop her, but on reflection she realizes that she may be the first person to break the rules. Fear of letumosis probably prevents everyone else from visiting.
The quarantine facility is in an old warehouse furnished with hundreds of cots. Most of the sick are either unconscious or busy writing electronic messages to their families; they do not seem to notice Cinder walking past them. It takes her a while to find Peony, who is now so covered in splotches that she is only recognizable by her hair. She is asleep, so Cinder spreads the blanket over her.
When Peony awakes, she assumes that Cinder is infected. She asks about her mother and Pearl, but Cinder assures her that they are okay. Then she explains about her immunity and her plan to get Peony the antidote as soon as it is developed. This seems to give Peony a little hope.
On her way out of the warehouse, Cinder hears someone calling her name. She turns and sees Chang Sacha, the baker from the market. Cinder goes to the woman’s side, trying not to express disgust at the sight and smell of her dying body. Sacha asks to see her son, Sunto, but it is impossible to bring him into the quarantine area without infecting him. Cinder hesitates, unable to think of any words that might offer comfort. Sacha dies.
A med-droid appears at Sacha’s side. Cinder hovers nearby, wondering if she should tell the med-droid about the dead woman’s last words. The android ignores Cinder. Taking out a scalpel, it cuts the ID badge from Sacha’s arm. Cinder protests, saying that this will render the body unidentifiable. The android goes on working, and Cinder sees that it is carrying dozens of ID chips. When she asks why, the med-droid says only, “I have been programmed to follow instructions.”
(The entire section is 425 words.)
Chapter 18 Summary
A med-droid stops Cinder on the way out of quarantine. Now, for the first time, Cinder feels a little nervous. She explains that she is not a patient, and she invites the med-droid to test her blood. The android takes a long time to complete the test, and Cinder begins to panic, wondering if she is susceptible to the disease after all. Ultimately she tests negative, and she is allowed to leave.
On her way to the palace, Cinder looks eagerly out the windows. As she admires the beauty of the gardens and the pagoda-style roof, her netlink informs her that the palace is a state-of-the art building meant to imitate architectural styles from before World War IV.
In the palace elevators, Cinder meets Prince Kai. As they greet each other, she checks her gloves to make sure they are hiding her cybernetic hand. He is as polite and charming as ever, but he seems unhappy—and Cinder is quick to discover why. The emperor has died. She tells him that she is very sorry.
The prince admits to Cinder that his father’s death is not the only problem on his mind. Queen Levana is coming to New Beijing—today. Cinder is appalled, and the prince appears to share her feelings. He begs her to finish her repairs on his android, Nainsi. Although he does not explain why, she gets the impression that his request has something to do with the Lunar queen. She promises to fix the android as soon as she can.
When Cinder and Prince Kai find Dr. Erland, they all discuss the letumosis problem. Once again, Dr. Erland lies and tells the prince that there is nothing new to report. Cinder cannot understand why he keeps doing this, but she does not stop him. If he revealed the truth, the prince would find out she is a cyborg.
Before he leaves, Prince Kai asks Cinder to be his “personal guest” at the upcoming ball. Cinder is flattered but also horrified. If she appeared in public with the prince, the whole country would criticize him for being seen with a cyborg. She cannot bring that embarrassment on him, so she reluctantly says no.
Prince Kai is obviously shocked that Cinder is refusing to go out with him. Obviously it does not often happen that a handsome prince gets turned down by an ordinary girl. However, Kai soon recovers himself. He bids a polite but stiff good-bye.
(The entire section is 410 words.)
Chapter 19 Summary
Cinder has no idea why Prince Kai has asked her to the ball. She tells herself that he cannot possibly like her; he probably just wants to avoid the silly girls who ordinarily fawn over him in public. She mentions this theory to Dr. Erland, but he seems uninterested in the prince’s feelings.
Dr. Erland examines the results of Cinder’s blood tests. She presses him to explain why he has not told the prince about her immunity, and he says that Prince Kai would make an announcement about it on the news. Dr. Erland does not want this to happen until he knows more about Cinder and her immunity. This makes sense to Cinder, as does the doctor's claim that her status as a cyborg is her own business.
As the conversation continues, Cinder admits that she went to the quarantine warehouse to see her sister. When she mentions the med-droid that cut the ID chips from the dead bodies, Dr. Erland seems surprised. He says that the chips are probably being sold on the black market, but Cinder does not understand. As far as she knows, everyone already has an ID chip. Dr. Erland explains that Lunar fugitives sometimes need to fake Earthen identities.
Cinder has never heard of Lunars living illegally on Earth, and the idea makes her sick. She does not like to think of “those savages” with “their ability to brainwash people” living on Earth and pretending to be human. Dr. Erland, apparently amused by her reaction, says mildly that most Lunar fugitives live away from the cities, where it is easier to remain unnoticed.
Because Dr. Erland seems to know so much, Cinder asks why Lunars do not like mirrors. Dr. Erland explains that Lunar magic is actually “the ability to manipulate bioelectric energy.” All life forms create this energy, but a Lunar can use it to make people “see what the Lunar wishes them to see, and even feel what the Lunar wishes them to feel.” Most of them choose to alter their own appearance, to make themselves more beautiful. Mirrors always display the truth, which make it difficult for Lunars to maintain their illusions.
Dr. Erland asks why Cinder is suddenly so interested in Lunars and she explains that Queen Levana is coming to Earth today. Dr. Erland is clearly flabbergasted—and displeased—by this news. He tells Cinder to leave the palace immediately, for her own safety. When she demands an explanation, Dr. Erland hesitantly reveals the truth: Cinder is Lunar....
(The entire section is 632 words.)
Chapter 20 Summary
Prince Kai stands in the hot sun on the palace landing pad, watching Queen Levana’s shuttle arrive from the moon. The shuttle is made of an unfamiliar material that shimmers in the bright sunlight, and it is covered in runes Kai cannot read. He reflects that the ship is smaller than he expected, considering the importance of the person within.
It is extremely hot on the landing pad, and Kai is sweating badly. He does not like looking at the bright ship, and he wishes that the queen would hurry up and disembark. However, he knows that his own feelings matter little. He forces himself to act patient and composed.
Eventually Queen Levana’s bodyguards emerge from her ship. Moments later, Queen Levana steps outside herself. She is veiled from head to toe, and the bright sun glints off her whitish gown. Sybil Mira greets her first, expressing her pleasure at the queen’s arrival and then lifting the veil to expose the queen's face. When Kai sees her, he cannot help but gasp:
She was indeed beautiful, as if someone had taken the scientific measurements of perfection and used them to mold a perfect specimen.
Queen Levana’s face is perfectly symmetrical, her skin smooth, her hair silken. And yet her appearance is more creepy than pleasing. Kai notes that her lips are so red, she looks as though she has just “drunk a pint of blood.” Overall she looks wrong, like she cannot be real. Kai has trouble keeping his eyes on her. Nevertheless, he imitates Torin, who gazes at the queen with a deliberate lack of emotion.
After Queen Levana exchanges greetings and pleasantries with Kai, her face changes its expression. Kai feels suddenly that the Earth is shaking beneath his feet, and that the sun has blinked out. Impossibly, he begins to feel that he loves Queen Levana, that he needs to be with her forever. However, he keeps his presence of mind just enough to know that she is using her mind control abilities on him. He jabs himself in the arm with his fingernails, and the feeling subsides. He gathers his willpower and offers to show the queen to her rooms.
Sybil Mira says that Kai’s help is unnecessary, and that she will show the queen around herself. The Lunar entourage departs. When they are gone, Torin congratulates Kai on resisting the queen’s illusions. Torin, too, felt their effects as well, and he knows that it was difficult to maintain...
(The entire section is 436 words.)
Chapter 21 Summary
As Book Three of Cinder begins, Cinder sits in her workshop worrying. Life at home is as hard as ever and her car is not yet ready to go. She hopes it will be ready in time for her to leave town on the night of the ball, when Adri and Pearl will be distracted—at least until morning.
The thought of the ball makes Cinder’s mind leap to Prince Kai. She knows that she was right to refuse to attend the ball with him, but she cannot help wishing she could have said yes. Life would certainly be easier if she were not a cyborg—and Lunar.
By now Cinder has accepted that she is Lunar, and she sees it as more reason than ever to run away. If anyone found out, Cinder would almost certainly be handed over to the authorities immediately. Idly, Cinder wonders what Adri's husband knew about her. Unfortunately, there is no way to answer such a question.
Cinder decides to distract herself with work, and she finally begins the repairs on Nainsi, Prince Kai’s android. While Cinder is working, Iko arrives wearing lipstick and a strand of Adri’s pearls. Iko explains that she has been imagining the ball. Cinder laughs, grateful as always to have such an unusually emotive android.
As Cinder continues examining the prince’s android, Iko notices something odd. Plugged into one of the many ports inside Nainsi's body is a chip made of an unfamiliar black shimmering material. Cinder examines it and figures out that it is a direct communication chip—a device that allows people to communicate without a net interface. Cinder wonders why anyone would want to use such an odd, archaic device in an android. She plugs the chip into a broken netscreen and tries to initiate communication, but nobody responds.
Suddenly, Nainsi switches herself back on. She immediately begins reciting a report about the possible whereabouts of the Lunar heir, Princess Selene. Cinder comprehends immediately that this is top-secret information not meant for her ears, so she orders Nainsi to stop speaking at once.
Nainsi scans her surroundings, then demands to know what is happening. Cinder explains about the odd communication chip, which apparently caused Nainsi to stop working. Nainsi has no memory of the installation of the chip, nor of the person to whom she was speaking at the time of her system’s crash. Cinder hopes that Nainsi was not forced to communicate with any of the prince’s enemies. She decides...
(The entire section is 429 words.)
Chapter 22 Summary
As Cinder approaches the palace, her mind is full of Dr. Erland’s warnings about the Lunar queen. While Cinder is breaking her promise to stay away, she sees no other choice. After all, Prince Kai’s android seems to contain valuable classified information about Princess Selene’s whereabouts. Besides, Cinder wants to see Kai again.
When Cinder arrives at the palace, she finds a huge crowd gathered in the square to protest Queen Levana’s visit. The chaos makes it difficult for Cinder to approach to the gate. When she finally arrives, a suspicious guard refuses to let her in. Nainsi flashes her ID chip, which automatically grants her admittance. Nainsi tells Cinder to wait. Prince Kai will surely send an entry pass so that Cinder can see him.
As Cinder waits among the protestors, a strange, creepy feeling suddenly comes upon her. She looks up at a palace balcony and sees Queen Levana, a cruelly beautiful woman, looking down upon the protestors. Cinder knows that running would draw attention, so she tries to hide herself among the crowd.
Just then, Cinder’s thoughts change dramatically. Queen Levana no longer seems horrible and frightening. Rather, she is a wonderful person. It seems to Cinder that this woman should become the empress of the Eastern Commonwealth. Only if she obtains power can the people of Earth live in safety and peace.
While these strange thoughts pass dreamily through Cinder’s mind, an orange light blinks in the corner of her vision. It takes her a moment to remember what this means: “Lies.” Cinder struggles to make sense of this message. How can the queen be lying when she is not even speaking? The answer occurs to her quickly: the queen is using her Lunar mind control abilities.
When Cinder realizes the truth, she is startled back to her senses. She stumbles and bumps into the man next to her. The rest of the crowd is standing perfectly still, mesmerized, so Queen Levana’s eye is drawn to Cinder. The queen looks shocked—then furious. She turns around and stalks into the castle. The protestors seem dazed as they silently disperse.
Cinder watches them go, unsure what to think. Dr. Erland told her that she was probably a shell, but he also said that a shell would be immune to the queen’s mind control. Cinder is not immune. She fell victim to it briefly before shaking it off. Worse, Queen Levana saw Cinder and recognized her as a...
(The entire section is 420 words.)
Chapter 23 Summary
Prince Kai sits with Torin and Sybil Mira inside the palace, listening to the crowd chant its protest against Queen Levana's visit. He is dismayed at how easily Queen Levana stops them with her mind control. He was privately hoping that she would fail.
Kai’s dismay increases when Queen Levana rushes inside and accuses him of violating the treaty between Earth and the moon. When he asks what she means, she explains that she just saw a Lunar fugitive among the protestors. Kai does not believe her. He has never heard of Lunars entering the Eastern Commonwealth, let alone New Beijing, and he finds the idea “absurd.” But he knows that it is important to keep the queen happy, so he promises to look into the matter.
Changing the subject, Queen Levana says that she has a coronation gift for Prince Kai. She claims that she is highly concerned by the spread of letumosis on Earth, and that Lunar scientists have spent years searching for a cure. She announces that an antidote has just now been discovered, and she gives Kai a small vial of it. Kai assumes that she has had the antidote much longer than she claims, and he is furious that she did not share it sooner, when it could have helped his father.
Clearly unconcerned by Kai’s anger, Queen Levana goes on to say that the Lunars can produce more of the antidote—for a price. Kai shouts at her for thinking of herself when people are dying, but Queen Levana says breezily that politics “is all about give and take.” Kai gapes at her, so angry he cannot speak.
At that moment, Nainsi appears in the doorway. Queen Levana, who does not like any kind of thinking machine, orders the android away. Kai takes her out himself. As soon as he is out of Queen Levana’s earshot, he screams and punches a wall to vent his feelings. It appalls him that anyone would use millions of innocent lives as a bargaining tool.
When Kai catches his breath, he asks Nainsi if she is all right. She says that all her memories are intact, so she and Kai can continue their search for Princess Selene immediately. As an afterthought, she adds that Cinder is waiting outside. Hearing this gives Kai a leap of hope. He really wants Cinder to come to the ball with him. If he has a date, he might be able to avoid dancing with Queen Levana.
(The entire section is 417 words.)
Chapter 24 Summary
Outside the palace, Cinder is lost in thought. Is she really a shell? Is she really a Lunar at all? She forgets all about her desire to see Prince Kai until an android arrives to escort her to him. Cinder is afraid to encounter Queen Levana again, but her desire to see Kai outweighs this fear. She follows the android into the palace.
When she sees Kai, Cinder explains that a direct communication chip was interfering with Nainsi’s programming. Kai finds this odd; he installed no such chip, and he does not know why anyone would. When Cinder tells Kai about the strange appearance of the chip, which was made of a strange black shimmering material, he guesses that it is Lunar. After all, Lunar ships are made of the same strange stuff.
Strolling through the halls of the palace, Kai once again asks Cinder to come to the ball with him. When he explains that he wants a date in order to avoid Queen Levana, Cinder realizes that she really must stay away or risk being seen again. She cannot tell Kai that she is Lunar, so she begs Prince Kai to ask some other girl.
This time, Kai refuses to accept Cinder’s refusal. He makes his request again, loudly, in the middle of the crowded hallway. People stop and stare. It is not every day that people see Prince Kai, the handsome young man who is about to be crowned emperor of the Eastern Commonwealth, begging for a date from a grease-stained girl in cargo pants.
Embarrassed, Cinder pushes Kai into an elevator and closes the doors. “It’s my sister,” she says. She explains that she cannot go to a ball without Peony, who is dying of plague. As Cinder speaks, she realizes that what she is saying is true—she would not want to go to the ball under these circumstances. She asks Kai to dance with Peony, “if, by some crazy miracle, she might survive.” Prince Kai solemnly promises to do so.
The conversation about plague reminds Kai of the antidote, and of Queen Levana. He knows that the queen will likely demand his hand in marriage as a part of the payment for the letumosis cure, and that it would ruin his life if he said yes. Musingly, he asks what Cinder would do if she were asked to give up her own happiness to save millions of people. “Ruin my life to save a million others? It’s not much of a choice,” Cinder says. He agrees, adding that one life is a small price to pay for so many.
Kai's hand happens to brush Cinder during...
(The entire section is 517 words.)
Chapter 25 Summary
Prince Kai takes Cinder into Dr. Erland’s office and explains that she fainted again. Dr. Erland promises to help, but he does not seem terribly concerned. Cinder notices that Kai is now looking at her differently, as if she is fragile. She finds this uncomfortable.
Before leaving, Kai gives Dr. Erland a small vial. He explains that it is an antidote to letumosis, a gift from Queen Levana. He asks Dr. Erland to try to duplicate it. The doctor promises to do his best, but it is clear that he is not optimistic.
When Kai leaves, Dr. Erland shouts at Cinder for coming to the castle today. He reminds her of the risk to her life. Cinder tells him that it is too late; the queen already saw her. She demands to know why Queen Levana's glamour affected her.
Sighing, Dr. Erland admits that Cinder’s stepfather invented a device called “a bioelectric security system.” This invention has two purposes. It allows Earthens to prevent Lunars from controlling their minds, and it prevents Lunars from manipulating bioelectric current to control others. Dr. Erland thinks that Cinder was adopted because her stepfather wanted to test his device.
It is hard for Cinder to stomach the idea of being a guinea pig for her stepfather’s experiments on top of everything else. Dr. Erland explains that the lock on her system has been good for her. Lunars, especially children, have difficulty controlling their strange abilities. If Cinder had not been prevented from using hers, she would almost certainly have drawn attention to herself on Earth. Some adult Lunars learn to control their gift, but doing so is unhealthy for them. It causes hallucinations and, eventually, insanity.
During his explanation, Dr. Erland lets slip that he, too, is a Lunar. This makes Cinder distrust him automatically, but he begs her to let go of her stereotypes. Some Earthen beliefs about Lunars are justified, but many are not, he says. He and most other Lunar fugitives would love to destroy Queen Levana.
Cinder asks why Dr. Erland hates his own queen. “She killed my daughter,” he says. His little girl was a shell, and Queen Levana kills shells. Dr. Erland was stricken with grief at the loss of his child, and he fled to Earth because of it.
As the conversation continues, Dr. Erland explains that the lock on Cinder’s system is breaking. Soon it will be gone completely, and she will have to learn to control the...
(The entire section is 491 words.)
Chapter 26 Summary
After leaving Dr. Erland’s office, Prince Kai attends a video conference with representatives from all the countries of Earth. Since World War IV, the people of Earth have consolidated themselves into just six countries. These countries are peaceful allies—but now they face the threat of war with Luna.
The other leaders of Earth are not surprised that Queen Levana wants to marry; everyone knows that Levana wants an alliance with a royal family from Earth. Only the Eastern Commonwealth and the UK have monarchies, and Kai is the only unmarried male who currently has direct control of his country’s throne. This makes him Queen Levana’s only viable option.
At the beginning of the video conference, Kai’s allies assume that he will accept the queen’s marriage proposal. Everyone reacts with surprise when they learn that Prince Kai wants to refuse. They discuss other possibilities, but they all know that there is little hope of peace until Queen Levana gets what she wants. Not only is she extremely power-hungry; she needs a royal husband to help her produce an heir. The people of Luna hold a strong superstitious belief that their rulers must have royal blood.
The queen of the UK wonders aloud if Queen Levana will use mind control to force Kai into marriage. This question scares Kai, but Torin says that Queen Levana is unlikely to do such a thing. She can only control a person’s mind if she is in the same room with him; it would be too inconvenient for her to have to remain by Kai’s side at every moment.
During the video conference, the leaders speculate about what will happen if Queen Levana does not get what she wants. Unfortunately, the prospects look grim. The President of America shows a series of satellite photos of what appear to be mutant soldiers engaging in training exercises on the Lunar surface. None of the leaders had any idea that these soldiers existed before now, but all agree that the army must have taken years to develop.
When the world leaders start to panic, Torin urges them to be cautious. He points out that nobody has any proof that the mutants are soldiers. For all anyone knows, they could be laborers. But Prince Kai does not buy this argument. He says that there is only one reason why Queen Levana would pose these marching mutants beneath satellite cameras now, after keeping them a secret for years. She wants to intimidate the Earthens—especially Kai.
(The entire section is 423 words.)
Chapter 27 Summary
The quarantine warehouse is much more crowded with letumosis patients than on Cinder’s first visit. She rushes inside and searches for Peony, who now shows all the signs of stage four letumosis: she is blue and has cracking skin and yellowed fingernails with blackened tips. Cinder tries to make Peony sit up and drink the vial of antidote. Peony is too incoherent to respond.
Cinder’s attempts to help Peony are interrupted by a series of communications from Adri. Cinder is too busy to answer, but Adri keeps trying. Annoyed, Cinder switches off her comm link. She holds the vial to Peony’s lips and begs her to drink, but Peony does not do it. She mumbles for her mother and loses consciousness.
Cinder begs her sister to wake up so she can drink the antidote and dance with Prince Kai at the ball. But it is too late. Peony cannot swallow the medicine, and she dies. Soon a med-droid appears with a scalpel, ready to cut out Peony’s ID chip. Cinder cannot stand the idea of some fugitive Lunar adopting her sister’s identity, so she orders the med-droid away.
When the med-droid refuses to back down, Cinder attacks and disables it. Then she cuts out Peony’s ID chip. As she does so, she tells the android that the chip belongs to Peony and her family, not to anyone else. When this ghastly task is over, Cinder is badly shaken.
On her way out of the quarantine area, Cinder sees Chang Sunto, the little son of the baker from the market. He is in the late stages of letumosis and is somewhat delirious. As several more med-droids advance on Cinder, she presses the antidote vial into Sunto’s hands and makes him drink it. Then she runs outside with Peony’s ID chip clutched safely in her hand.
Cinder’s attempt to flee is interrupted by the arrival of a hover. A group of androids disembark and order her to stop running. Cinder is confused. She thinks she is in trouble for taking Peony's ID chip, but this does not make sense; nobody could have responded to this crime so quickly.
Eventually Cinder realizes that Adri sent the androids. Apparently Adri was furious when Cinder ignored her messages, so she leapt to the conclusion that Cinder was running away from home. Adri reported Cinder to the authorities as a runaway cyborg. The androids arrest her for violating the Cyborg Protection Act, which places her under Adri's authority.
(The entire section is 421 words.)
Chapter 28 Summary
During dinner in the palace dining hall, Prince Kai and Queen Levana eat shrimp wontons and discuss war. Queen Levana says that Earth is prone to warfare because, unlike Luna, its government is fragmented into many countries. She goads Kai, suggesting that her world is better because the people live in peace, unified under one government, without disagreements.
Kai forces himself to keep calm. Queen Levana’s words make him angry, but he knows that she is trying to bait him. He remembers the pictures of mutant soldiers on the moon and reminds himself that, if he makes diplomacy mistakes, that army may attack Earth.
A group of servants enter the room carrying plates covered with silver domes, which they set down before each dining dignitary. When the servants remove the domes, Queen Levana shrieks. There is no dinner on her plate. There is only a small mirror—and everyone knows that Lunars despise mirrors.
The servant who delivered the mirror is a gray-haired woman who looks as astonished as everyone else. Queen Levana accuses the servant of deliberate insolence and says she must be punished. Kai protests, pointing out that there is no proof the woman did anything wrong.
Queen Levana waves away Kai’s objection, saying that if the servant woman is innocent, the real wrongdoer will suffer the punishment of guilt. The queen focuses her mind control abilities on the servant, who takes a knife from the table and, with a shaking hand, turns it on herself. At the same time, she cries out in fear, begging for mercy.
“I did it!” shouts Prince Kai. Everything stops, and he says, shakily, that he placed the mirror on Queen Levana’s plate. He claims that “it was meant as a friendly joke,” but that he now understands his mistake. He begs for the queen’s forgiveness and insists that she release the servant, who is not responsible.
The room falls silent as everyone waits to hear how the queen will reply. Kai is lying, of course, and everyone knows it. However, Queen Levana cannot prove it, nor can she attack the young heir to the throne of the Eastern Commonwealth. She allows the servant to drop the knife, then coldly accepts Kai’s apology and stalks out.
After the queen leaves, Kai examines the mirror. Its handle is made of a strange, shimmering material—a Lunar substance. He shows it to Torin, who immediately understands the significance. Queen...
(The entire section is 477 words.)
Chapter 29 Summary
Cinder stalks into her apartment and demands to know why she was arrested. She is not a criminal, and she was not even doing anything wrong. She does not intend to put up with this kind of treatment any longer.
Adri responds to this speech with a speech of her own. She has been tracking Cinder’s ID chip and knows that Cinder went to the palace, took a hover ride, and visited the warehouse district today. Adri asks what she was doing and how she got the money to pay for a hover. Cinder makes up a few lame excuses, but Adri dismisses them as lies. She says that from now on, Cinder has lost all trust. She will no longer be free to come and go as she pleases.
As it turns out, Adri is not only angry about Cinder’s mysterious movements through the city. She scanned Iko’s memory chip and learned that Cinder recently spent a large sum on a new cybernetic foot. This money was not Cinder’s to spend, and Adri says that intends to get it back. Her voice cracks when she adds that she needs the money for a funeral.
Cinder sighs and says that she can pay back the money, but Adri does not believe she can. She insists that Cinder give back her foot. Cinder stares at Adri, unable to believe that her stepmother would take her foot. But she does not have the right to refuse. The foot—like Cinder herself—belongs to Adri.
Defeated, Cinder heads for her room. Calling after her, Adri says, somewhat ominously, that she has already “begun selling off some unnecessary items.” The spare parts have been dumped in Cinder’s room, and Cinder will be expected to sell them off for extra money. Cinder feels the urge to attack Adri, but she decides against it. That will only land her in jail. If she keeps calm and sticks to her plan, she can get out of Adri’s life—and the Eastern Commonwealth—forever.
In her bedroom, Cinder sees what Adri meant about selling “unnecessary items.” On the pile of blankets Cinder uses for a bed is a pile of metal, including a spindly metal arm wearing a piece of ribbon as a bracelet. Cinder catches her breath, remembering the moment when Peony tied that ribbon around Iko's wrist. Adri has finally made good on her threat to scrap Iko for parts.
Appalled, Cinder sifts through the bits of metal, praying to find one “worthless” part in particular. After examining every scrap and screw, she finally finds what she is looking for. As Book Three of...
(The entire section is 458 words.)
Chapter 30 Summary
Book Four of Cinder begins back in the marketplace. Cinder sits in her shop, hiding her footless leg under a table, turning away all customers. Tonight is Prince Kai’s coronation and ball, and she is not going. The car is ready, and she is going to flee in it. She will drive all the way to Europe if she can. She has her own money now because Dr. Erland set up the bank account she had asked for. She is taking Peony’s ID chip and Iko’s personality chip. Cinder will never get Peony back, but she hopes she can find an android body somewhere and bring Iko back to life.
Cinder is startled out of her thoughts by Prince Kai. Grinning, he leans over the counter and says he has been having technical difficulties. Every time he sends a message to a certain girl, she does not reply. Cinder is glad to see him, but she knows she must send him away. She is tempted to show him her cyborg hand and missing foot to explain why. But she holds back. She has resolved to leave Kai behind, but she cannot bear to see him look at her in disgust.
One last time, Kai asks Cinder to the ball. When Cinder refuses, he asks her to lunch instead. She shifts her footless leg further under the table and tells him no. Then, finally, Kai gives up. He says glumly that it is stupid of him to have feelings for her anyway. He is going to make an announcement tonight: he and Queen Levana are going to get married. Dr. Erland cannot duplicate the antidote to the letumosis virus, and the Lunar queen will only deliver more if Kai does what she wants. He explains that he has been hoping, irrationally, that he will be able to change these facts if Cinder will only agree to come to the ball.
This conversation is interrupted by Pearl, who enters the shop carrying a stack of boxes. She does not notice Kai as she prissily orders Cinder to store the boxes “somewhere clean if such a place exists."
Kai interrupts Pearl to suggest that she be more polite. She whirls on him and starts to retort—but then she recognizes the prince. She stares in amazement, unable to believe that she is standing face to face with the young man who is about to be crowned emperor of the Eastern Commonwealth. Kai, for his part, looks at Pearl with obvious distaste. He excuses himself politely, leaving a present for Cinder behind.
As soon as Kai is gone, Pearl leaps on the present and tears it open. It is a beautiful pair of pearl-covered...
(The entire section is 575 words.)
Chapter 31 Summary
Cinder has no ride home from the market, so she has to walk. She limps badly without her foot, so she is tired and sore by the time she arrives home. Even then, she does not get a chance to rest. Pearl, still angry about the encounter with the prince in the market, immediately puts Cinder to work doing petty little jobs.
As Cinder works, she and Pearl bicker. Pearl claims she is going to speak with Prince Kai tonight to tell him that Cinder is a cyborg and a thief. Annoyed, Cinder goads Pearl, saying that Kai would have danced with Peony tonight had she been alive. At this, Pearl turns red and says that Cinder has no right even to speak Peony’s name.
Like Adri, Pearl believes that Cinder is to blame for Peony’s death. After all, it was Cinder who took the younger girl to the junkyard, where she got sick. Cinder stammers that she loved Peony, but Pearl will not listen. She blames Cinder not only for infecting Peony, but also for behaving unfeelingly:
She was sick and you were…meeting the prince, trying to catch his attention, when you know how she felt about him. It’s sick.
Cinder is almost thankful when Adri interrupts this argument, ordering her outside to wash the hover. The prince’s coronation is beginning, so Cinder watches it through her netlink while she scrubs the hover with soapy water. At the palace Prince Kai appears before the cameras in ceremonial garb. The audience is filled with the luminaries of Earth—plus three representatives from Luna, including Queen Levana. As always, the latter appears veiled before the cameras.
As Cinder washes the car, she listens to Kai accept the role of emperor of the Eastern Commonwealth. He gives a speech about the hard times his country is facing. He promises to do all he can to end the letumosis plague that killed his parents and to maintain peace with Luna:
I will do whatever needs to be done to ensure the well-being of my country. I will do whatever needs to be done to keep you all safe.
Cinder listens to this speech with a sinking feeling. She already knew that Kai was planning on marrying Queen Levana, but it does not mean she likes it. It is hard to watch him struggle over his words, and harder still to see the beaming faces of Queen Levana’s two Lunar companions. Cinder can see that they feel they have already won.
(The entire section is 423 words.)
Chapter 32 Summary
Cinder does not return to the apartment until she is sure that Adri and Pearl have left. Then she limps up the stairs, ignoring the pitying looks from the other inhabitants of the building, all of whom are leaving for the ball. She goes to her room and collects the few belongings she plans to take with her when she flees. She stores Iko’s personality chip and Peony’s ID chip in a compartment inside her cybernetic leg.
Before making her way to the car, Cinder stops in her workshop. She cannot take most of her heavy tools, but she rifles through her shelves for a few odds and ends. In the process, she finds her little foot; it is too small for her but she had worn it for years. She told Iko to throw it away long ago, but Iko must have saved it out of sentimentality.
Cinder is about to leave when she hears a strange beep. She looks around for its source and eventually realizes it is the old netscreen she installed with the direct communication chip she found in Kai’s android, Nainsi. Cinder fiddles with the screen to get the video working, and she is surprised to see a disheveled girl on the other end, sitting in a room surrounded by wires and computer parts. The girl looks just as surprised to see Cinder. “Why aren’t you at the palace?” she asks.
Cinder is not inclined to trust the strange girl, especially when she reveals she is Lunar. At first, Cinder is worried the girl will try to control her mind, but then she remembers that Lunar powers do not work through video. The girl is unsure of herself, and rather weepy, but she reluctantly explains that she is a servant—a slave—of Sybil Mira, the ambassador of Queen Levana. Hurriedly, the girl explains that Sybil Mira used the direct communication link in Nainsi to find out about Kai’s research on Princess Selene. Queen Levana knows everything, and she never forgives people who try to usurp her power. She is only marrying Kai now to place herself in a position of power. As soon as Levana is empress of the Eastern Commonwealth, she will kill Kai. Then she will wage war on the rest of Earth.
Throughout this conversation, Cinder's orange light remains switched off, meaning that the girl is telling the truth. Horrified, Cinder realizes she must tell Kai what she has learned. She considers sending him a message, but she is worried he will not receive it until after the ball. By then, it will be too late; Kai is planning to announce his...
(The entire section is 469 words.)
Chapter 33 Summary
Cinder puts on Peony’s wrinkled ball gown, her grease-stained princess gloves from Kai, and her too-small cybernetic foot. She looks disheveled and dirty, and she can barely walk. She is not sure the palace staff will even let her in, but she has to try. She sets out in her pumpkin-orange refurbished car and drives to the palace.
The car barely works, and just before it reaches the palace, the brakes give out. To stop herself, Cinder smashes into a cherry tree. A downpour has just begun, so she gets drenched on her walk to the gates. She is already so dirty and stained that being wet hardly makes any difference—but she still feels embarrassed as she enters the palace dripping dirty water and limping on her ill-fitting foot.
Inside, Cinder makes her way onto a balcony and hides behind a pillar to scope out the room. Kai is on the dance floor with Queen Levana. Cinder stays hidden, hoping to escape the queen’s notice. She watches the dance, noting how beautiful the queen is and how stiff Kai seems.
As soon as the dance ends, the queen leaves the ballroom for some fresh air. Cinder thinks this might be her chance to run in and give her message to Kai, but before she can move, she is horrified to see Pearl approaching the young emperor. Cinder freezes, imagining Pearl telling Kai all about the cyborg secret.
As Cinder hesitates, a palace servant approaches her and haughtily demands to scan her ID card. She asks why, and he says that he needs to make sure that everyone in attendance responded to their invitations. From his tone and manner, she guesses that he’s hoping to find an excuse to kick her out. Glancing down at Kai, who looks confused but not revolted or angry about whatever Pearl is saying, Cinder holds out her wrist.
The servant scans Cinder’s ID and then, looking astonished, completely changes his manner. He makes a respectful bow and says that she is on Emperor Kai’s personal guest list. This is a complete surprise to Cinder, as is the fact that personal guests of his majesty are publicly announced to the gathered crowd. Before she can stop it, Cinder hears a trumpeting fanfare. A magnified voice rings out through the room:
Please welcome to the 126th Annual Ball of the Eastern Commonwealth, a personal guest of His Imperial Majesty: Linh Cinder of New Beijing.
(The entire section is 413 words.)
Chapter 34 Summary
All the ball guests stare at the wet, mud-spattered, grease-stained, ratty-haired mechanic girl standing at the top of the stairs. Kai’s mouth actually drops open. Pearl, beside him, turns red with embarrassment. Searching the crowd, Cinder finds Adri looking mortified as well.
Cinder is in a tight spot. Pearl has probably told Kai she is a cyborg. She has no way to escape town now that she has crashed the car, and there is no chance that Pearl and Adri will forgive her for tonight’s embarrassment. Most worrying of all, Queen Levana may return to the ballroom at any time—and when that happens, Cinder will probably die.
In spite of all this, Cinder does not regret her choice to come to the ball tonight. She must tell Kai what she learned about Queen Levana’s plans, no matter what the consequences, and no matter what he thinks of her. She holds her head high and proudly descends the stairs. As she approaches him, his shock melts away. He looks like he wants to laugh at the spectacle she is causing.
Before Cinder reaches Emperor Kai, Adri stops her and accuses her of stealing Peony’s dress. When Cinder refuses to go home immediately, Adri raises a hand to slap her. Emperor Kai catches Adri’s arm. As the whole room watches, Kai tells Adri that he will not have his personal guest treated in this way.
Emperor Kai orders the party to resume, and the band starts playing a new song. Before Cinder knows what is happening, the emperor pulls her onto the dance floor. Everyone else is too shocked to join them, but Kai pretends not to notice. He banters with her briefly, and then asks, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Briefly, Cinder thinks that Kai knows she is a cyborg and still likes her. Then she realizes that he is talking about the death of Peony. He says that he is “the biggest jerk in the world” for forgetting what Cinder said about her sister being infected with letumosis. He apologizes for pushing her so hard to come to the ball.
Although Cinder is shaken by this conversation, she does not forget her mission. She hurriedly tells Kai everything she learned from the Lunar girl via the direct communication link: Queen Levana is planning to wage war on Earth no matter what Kai does, and she is planning to kill him as soon as they are married.
(The entire section is 413 words.)
Chapter 35 Summary
In spite of Cinder’s warning, Kai decides to go ahead with his decision to marry Queen Levana. At this point, war may be inevitable either way. But at least if he marries her, there is a chance that she will share the antidote to letumosis with the Eastern Commonwealth. Many lives will be saved, even if his own life is lost.
Kai climbs onto a stage at one end of the ballroom to make his announcement. Cinder watches him, certain that she must somehow stop him from making this wrong choice. Without really thinking, she dashes after him and—in front of the assembled crowd—kisses him. Then she says loudly that Kai cannot marry Queen Levana if he is in love with someone else. Kai looks perplexed, and the crowd laughs. Turning around, Cinder sees Queen Levana, who has returned from the gardens. The queen smiles and says:
How charmingly naïve…You must misunderstand my culture. On Luna, we consider monogamy to be nothing more than an archaic sentimentality.
Queen Levana goes on to say that she is far more upset by the fact that Emperor Kai apparently has feelings for a Lunar fugitive. Because Cinder’s ability to manipulate electromagnetic energy has not yet shown itself, Levana assumes Cinder is “an insignificant shell” who has none of the typical Lunar powers. She demands to know what crimes Cinder committed in order to obtain her Earthen identity.
As Kai protests that Cinder is an ordinary Earthen, Cinder realizes that she must tell the truth. She cannot easily explain that she only recently became aware that she was a Lunar. She simply admits that she is one and adds that she is glad she came to Earth. Up on Luna, she would be a slave—or dead.
Kai seems to feel betrayed—especially when Queen Levana says that shells are “quite literally” a plague on Earth. She tells Kai the truth that Dr. Erland has withheld from him: the letumosis plague was brought to Earth by escaped Lunars. Cinder protests that the Lunars did not know what they were doing, but Queen Levana says that this is no excuse. She demands that Cinder be handed over to her for punishment.
Although he is upset at Cinder, Kai remains as fair-minded as always. He says that Cinder is a citizen of his country, and that Queen Levana may not kill her—or anyone. Smiling, Levana offers a deal. She will allow Cinder to live, but only if Kai goes through with the planned...
(The entire section is 425 words.)
Chapter 36 Summary
Queen Levana repeats that if Kai makes her empress, she will allow Cinder to live. Cinder, who understands that Levana would use this position to wage war on all of humanity, tells Kai to say no. It is not worth starting a war over an insignificant person like Cinder.
Kai paces the ballroom, looking from the queen to Cinder to his frightened, confused guests. He says that he knows Queen Levana is more powerful than every country on Earth combined, and that he cannot prevent her from ruling her own people as she sees fit. Yet he has promised to keep his people safe, and he cannot marry a woman who would treat them the way Queen Levana would. Their marriage agreement is off, no matter what the consequences.
After Kai makes this statement, his eyes meet Cinder’s. His decision has placed her in danger, and he looks unhappy but firm. Silently she thanks him for making the right choice. But Queen Levana is furious.
As the queen and Kai argue, Cinder’s ability to sense Lunar bioelectric manipulation begins to improve. With the help of her cybernetic interface, she starts to see the Lunar queen as she really appears. Abruptly, Cinder realizes that the queen is not beautiful at all. She says so, loudly, in front of everyone.
Queen Levana's fury increases. Using her Lunar powers, she takes control of Cinder’s mind. Unwillingly, Cinder snatches a gun from a guard and points it at her own head. As Kai begs Queen Levana to stop, Cinder forces herself to resist the queen’s mind control. Screaming, she turns the gun away from her head and shoots it at the ceiling instead.
At this point of high emotion, Cinder’s mind finally finishes overriding the lock on her Lunar abilities. Her whole body goes hot, and something changes inside her. Her cybernetic parts try to tell her that she is sick, maybe dying, but she actually feels good. She sees electricity crackling over her metal hand, and she raises the gun to fire it at the queen. When a guard steps in to take the bullet, Cinder realizes that she cannot kill Queen Levana like this. She tosses the gun aside and flees the palace.
On the palace stairs, Cinder stumbles. Her ill-fitting foot snaps off, and she falls down. Running after her, Kai picks up the cyborg foot and stares at it. He looks at her in confusion and asks if she has been using her Lunar tricks on him all this time. She tries to tell him she would not lie to him,...
(The entire section is 544 words.)
Chapter 37 Summary
Cinder sits alone in a brightly lit jail cell. For some reason, she keeps reliving the moment when she first met Kai, the way he smiled at her on that first day in the market. She tries not to think about anything that happened after that. Now that she is going to be executed, there seems little point in worrying about the grief, embarrassment, and betrayals she has experienced over the last few days.
Outside the cell door, there is a commotion. Cinder perks up, thinking that Emperor Kai may be coming to visit her. However, it is only Dr. Erland. The guards tell him that he needs a special permission to enter, but he refuses to leave. He uses his Lunar glamour to brainwash them and allow him inside.
When Dr. Erland comes in, he gasps at Cinder. He closes his eyes for a moment, clearly forcing himself to withhold his surprise, and then he says that she needs to learn to control her glamour. This confuses Cinder, who is not aware that she is using her Lunar powers.
When Cinder asks, Dr. Erland says that Kai is feeling confused, but he is turning into a good ruler. Obviously he has feelings for Cinder and wanted to keep her safe, but he sacrificed his own desires to spare his country from war. This could not have been easy, but it was the right thing to do.
Opening his bag, Dr. Erland produces a state-of-the-art cybernetic hand and foot. He explains that he had them sized perfectly for Cinder. They will make excellent replacements for her lost foot and for her current hand, which was damaged in the confrontation with Queen Levana. Gleefully, he shows her some of the hand’s special attachments: a knife, a screwdriver, a tranquilizer gun, and several other useful add-ons. Cinder thanks him but points out that such features will not be necessary. Within a day or two, she will be dead.
Regarding Cinder seriously, Dr. Erland says that she must escape and flee with him to Africa, where there is a small community of Lunar fugitives. This sounds crazy to Cinder, who points out that her escape would lead Queen Levana to take revenge on the entire planet. “I am not worth starting a war over,” she says.
Dr. Erland replies that Cinder is wrong. He has analyzed her DNA and obtained some information about her bloodline. She is the one person who could possibly take control of Luna if Queen Levana were deposed, and as such, she is perhaps the only person in the world worth...
(The entire section is 452 words.)
Chapter 38 Summary
Cinder thinks Dr. Erland is making a sick joke but he assures her that this is not a joking matter. Like Kai, he has been searching for the Lunar heir for years. He knew that she was a cyborg because she had been badly hurt in Queen Levana’s murder attempt back on Luna. He knew from his investigations that she was in the Eastern Commonwealth. She was the reason he began drafting cyborgs for plague research—because he was looking for a teenage cyborg girl who might be able to depose Queen Levana. Cinder is sickened by the idea of so many cyborgs being killed just to find her, but Dr. Erland assures her that his choices are his own fault, not hers.
Continuing his explanation, Dr. Erland says that Queen Levana has almost certainly figured out who Cinder is. However, Emperor Kai does not yet know, and Dr. Erland cannot tell him until the Lunar queen leaves Earth. Dr. Erland adds that he—not Emperor Kai—is the person best equipped to place Cinder on the throne of Luna.
All this is moving too fast for Cinder, who does not even want to be the supreme ruler of a planetary body. She refuses to do it, but Dr. Erland says she is the only hope. If Cinder does not embrace her birthright, nobody can stop Queen Levana from maintaining her enslavement of Luna and expanding it to Earth.
When Cinder still hesitates, Dr. Erland says she does not have to accept this fate just yet. All he wants is for her to escape from prison and find a way to meet him in Africa. To Cinder, this does not sound quite so difficult.
When Dr. Erland leaves, Cinder thinks again that his plan is insane. Her brain races through all the information it can download on Princess Selene, Luna, the victims of the cyborg draft, and the prospects of Earth in war. She curls up in a ball on the floor, feeling guilty for all that has happened because of her.
But Cinder may also be the only person who can stop Queen Levana from killing Kai. She considers purposely controlling others’ minds in order to escape from prison and travel across the world. The thought makes her feel slightly sick, but she knows she can do it if she must. She decides to give it a try. As Cinder ends, Cinder cuts out the ID chip in her arm, resolved to set out for Africa and the unknown.
(The entire section is 421 words.)