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 about it.