After the sirens fade, Cinder opens the door to her booth and watches as men in gas masks burn Chang Sacha’s booth to the ground. Hoping to avoid the men, Cinder and Iko sneak out with Nainsi and take back alleys out of the market. Cinder runs back to her own street, noticing netscreens blaring the news about the plague outbreak in the city center. When she also catches a glimpse of New Beijing Palace, it hits her that she just met Prince Kai—he even knows her name.
The fact that men in gas masks burn Chang Sacha’s booth after the outbreak implies that the plague is dangerous and highly contagious. News of the outbreak is broadcast in the city center for everyone to see, which further shows how dire and frightening the plague is for everyone in New Beijing. The plague—and finding a cure for it—will likely play a central role throughout the novel, as it clearly poses a dire threat to society as a whole. Cinder shows how brave she is in the face of this danger, as she runs home despite the risk of being exposed to the plague.
Cinder scans into her apartment building with the ID chip embedded her wrist and descends to the basement, where Adri lets her work. She sets Nainsi down and then rides the elevator to the 18th floor. There, Adri is instructing a seamstress to make adjustments on Pearl and Peony’s dresses as they get fitted. She wants the dresses exceptionally tight and flattering so that her daughters can find wealthy husbands at the upcoming ball for Prince Kai.
This passage introduces Adri as materialistic and somewhat cruel. She seems desperate for her daughters to go to the ball looking thin and beautiful solely for the purpose of finding wealthy husband—even if that means Pearl and Peony are uncomfortable in skin-tight dresses. This sets Adri up as someone who isn’t resourceful the way Cinder is. She relies on others (in this case, Pearl and Peony’s potential suitors) rather than providing for and her daughters.
Cinder tells Adri that she’ll get cleaned up and ready for her dress fitting. When Adri says that Cinder can only attend the ball if she fixes their hover, Cinder explains that she needs money to buy a new magbelt (which makes a hover run). She reminds her that the money she earns at the market is deposited directly into Adri’s account. Adri snidely replies that they can’t buy both a magbelt and a new dress for Cinder, so they’ll have to choose one or the other—or they could sell Cinder and Iko off for spare parts.
As harsh as Adri is with her daughters, she is even crueler to Cinder. While Cinder works to support the family, Adri simply takes the money and uses it for herself and her biological daughters rather than her adopted one. She even hints at the fact that she would give up Cinder for money. As the head of the family, Adri should presumably take care of Cinder—but instead, she uses her position of power to take advantage of her.
Just then, a broadcast comes up on the netscreen: Prince Kai is giving a speech, explaining that research on a vaccine for letumosis is a top priority. The disease appeared a dozen years ago, and hundreds of thousands of people have fallen ill and died since. This includes Adri’s husband Garan, who adopted Cinder from Europe when she was 11 years old. Cinder has very few memories of the man, as he died soon after they returned from Europe. Newscasters then state that Emperor Rikan, Kai’s father, has just entered the third stage of letumosis.
As the book establishes the scale of the letumosis outbreak, it also reveals the difficult consequences of the disease. For Kai, whose father is gravely ill with letumosis, it means that he will soon take over the Eastern Commonwealth. His press conferences hints at his transformation from a teenager to a ruler, as he recognizes the need to do right by his citizens.
When the press conference ends, Pearl suggests that Cinder volunteer for cyborg plague testing. A year earlier, the cyborg draft was created: the government draws a cyborg’s ID number each day, and those selected become guinea pigs for antidote testing. It’s framed as a way of sacrificing oneself for the good of humanity, but it’s really a reminder that cyborgs aren’t like everyone else. Still, Cinder knows that Adri won’t volunteer her for testing, because Cinder is the only one in the family who works.
Not only does Cinder experience discrimination for being a cyborg on an individual level, but there is also society-wide and government-endorsed discrimination against cyborgs. Using this group as guinea pigs for plague testing only reinforces the belief that they are subhuman and expendable. Meanwhile, Cinder hints that the reason why Adri wouldn’t volunteer her for testing isn’t because she cares about Cinder, but because Cinder is the breadwinner of their family.