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.”