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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.