Kai brings Cinder into Dr. Erland’s office and informs him of Cinder’s pain, but she assures them both that she’s fine. Kai then says he has to go—the prime minister of Africa has called a world leaders’ meeting. Before leaving, Kai hands Dr. Erland the vial with the antidote and asks if he can try to duplicate it. Dr. Erland says that he’ll try his best. Kai then asks Cinder to let him know if she changes her mind about the ball, and she agrees.
Kai wants to take care of those who are personally close to him (especially Cinder), but he also has greater duties to fulfill for the good of society as a whole. In this way, he has to juggle different levels of self-sacrifice and caring for others, and he decides that potentially helping people on a global scale (through the world leaders’ meeting) rather than a personal scale is his primary responsibility.
After Kai leaves, Dr. Erland angrily asks what Cinder is doing at the palace, because Queen Levana might see her. Cinder says that she had to deliver Nainsi to Kai, and that the Queen already saw her. Hearing this, Dr. Erland grows concerned. Cinder then asks why Levana’s glamour worked on her in the courtyard, accusing him of lying. He assures her that she is Lunar, but he then reveals that he’s been doing research on her adoptive family. Her stepfather, Garan, designed a bioelectrical security system that ties in with a person’s nervous system. It prevents outside manipulation of personal bioelectricity, and on a Lunar, it keeps them from manipulating others’ bioelectricity.
As Dr. Erland continues to unravel new aspects of Cinder’s background, he reveals how Cinder’s identity as a cyborg has actually been advantageous to her growing up: the bioelectrical security system has actually been protecting her from Lunars who might have wanted to do her harm. This again shows that the very qualities that make Cinder different and target her for discrimination are also the things that help her.
Cinder then asks why people touching her causes her to pass out. Dr. Erland explains that putting a biological lock on her gift protected her identity, because otherwise she would have drawn too much attention to herself—it’s hard for Lunars to control their gift at a young age, and those who do manage to control themselves experience debilitating physical effects. Cinder suddenly realizes that Dr. Erland himself is Lunar—that’s how he knows so much about it. He used his gift on her the first time they met, to stop her from attacking him with the wrench. Dr. Erland assures her that he’s never abused his gift once, and as a result, his senses are failing him. He tells Cinder that she can trust him.
The information that Dr. Erland finally reveals to Cinder speaks to the pros and cons of secrecy: putting a “lock” on Cinder’s gift has allowed her to remain anonymous among Earthens, which is helpful. But at the same time, Dr. Erland lying about himself being a Lunar ends up undermining his intentions. While he wanted Cinder to trust him, it only makes her feel less sure that he is on her side. Even when secrecy has good intentions behind it, it can sometimes run counter to one’s goals.
Cinder asks if Kai knows that Dr. Erland is a Lunar, and he says no. He understands the prejudices against Lunars, but not all of them are greedy and self-serving. She asks why he decided to run away, and Dr. Erland reveals that Queen Levana killed his daughter because she was a shell. Dr. Erland then says that Cinder’s gift is starting to return to her, overwhelming her cyborg system, which is why she’s been experiencing pain. Eventually, it won’t cause this reaction, and she’ll be able to use her gift.
Dr. Erland counteracts the stereotypes about Lunars here. While he acknowledges that people like Queen Levana and Sybil Mira are willing to perpetuate crimes against their own citizens to maintain their power, not all Lunars would do the same. In this way, the stereotypes that Cinder (and Earthens more generally) harbor about Lunars are misguided. Dr. Erland has sacrificed himself just like Cinder has, putting his own well-being at risk so that he could escape oppression, come to Earth, and help with letumosis research.
Cinder then asks Dr. Erland if he’s immune to letumosis, and he says yes—that this is how he’s been developing the antidotes so far. Cinder realizes that her immunity won’t actually help them find a cure. At that moment, she receives a notification on her brain interface that Peony has entered the fourth stage of letumosis. When she tells Dr. Erland this, he gives her a quarter of the liquid in the vial, explaining that he promised her she would get the antidote. But, Dr. Erland says, she must promise not to come to the palace again while Queen Levana is there.
This is another example of how Dr. Erland’s secrecy has caused harm, even though he kept information from Cinder in order to protect her. Because he wasn’t honest about his and Cinder’s identities, Cinder and Kai both held false hope that Dr. Erland would be able to find a cure for letumosis. As a result, Cinder has been continuing to visit the lab, despite the fact that the tests are dangerous.