Chapter no 13

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1)


technology I’ve ever seen in a cyborg.” Dr. Erland spun the holograph one way and then the other. “And look at this wiring along your spine. It melds almost perfectly with your central nervous system. Pristine workmanship. And ah! Look here!” He pointed to the holograph’s pelvis. “Your reproductive system is almost untouched. You know, lots of female cyborgs are left infertile because of the invasive procedures, but from the looks of it, I don’t suspect you will have any problems.”

Cinder sat on one of the exam tables, chin settled atop both palms. “Lucky me.”

The doctor wagged a finger at her. “You should be grateful your surgeons took such care.”

“I’m sure I’ll feel much more grateful when I find a guy who thinks complex wiring in a girl is a turn-on.” She kicked her heels against the metal base of the table. “Does this have anything to do with my immunity?”

“Maybe, maybe not.” The doctor took a pair of spectacles from his pocket and slid them onto his face, still staring at the holograph.

Cinder tilted her head. “Don’t they pay you enough for corrective eye surgery?”

“I like the way these feel.” Dr. Erland dragged the holograph down, revealing the inside of Cinder’s head. “Speaking of eye surgery, do you realize you’re missing tear ducts?”

“What? Really? And I thought I was just emotionally withdrawn.” She pulled her feet up, hugging her knees. “I’m also incapable of blushing, if that was going to be your next brilliant observation.”

He turned around, his eyes magnified behind their spectacles. “Incapable of blushing? How so?”

“My brain monitors my body temperature, forces me to cool down if I get too warm, too fast. I guess just sweating like a normal human being wasn’t enough.”

Dr. Erland pulled his portscreen out, punched something in. “That’s really quite smart,” he muttered. “They must have been worried about your system overheating.”

Cinder strained her neck, but couldn’t see the little screen on his port. “Is that important?”

He ignored her. “And look at your heart,” he said, gesturing at the holograph again. “These two chambers are made primarily of silicon, mixed with bio tissue. Amazing.”

Cinder pressed her hand against her chest. Her heart. Her brain. Her nervous system. What hadn’t been tampered with?

Her hand moved to her neck, tracing the ridges of her spine as her gaze traveled over the metal vertebrae, those metallic invaders. “What’s this?” she asked, stretching forward and pointing at a shadow on the diagram.

“Ah, yes, my assistants and I were discussing that earlier.” Dr. Erland scratched his head through the hat. “It looks to be made of a different material than the vertebrae, and it’s right over a central cluster of nerves. Perhaps it was meant to correct a glitch.”

Cinder wrinkled her nose. “Great. I have glitches.” “Has your neck ever bothered you?”

“Only when I’ve been under a hover all day.”

And when I’m dreaming. In her nightmare, the fire always seemed to be hottest beneath her neck, the heat trickling down her spine. The unrelenting pain, like a hot coal had gotten beneath her skin. She shuddered, remembering Peony in last night’s dream, crying and screaming, blaming Cinder for what had become of her.

Dr. Erland was watching her, tapping his portscreen against his lips. Cinder squirmed. “I have a question.”

“Yes?” said the doctor, pocketing the screen.

“You said before that I wasn’t contagious after my body got rid of those microbes.”

“That’s correct.”

“So…if I had contracted the plague naturally, say…a couple days ago, how long before I was no longer contagious?”

Dr. Erland puckered his lips. “Well. One can imagine that your body is more efficient at ridding itself of the carriers every time it comes in contact with them. So if it took twenty minutes to defeat them all this time…oh, I would think it would have taken no longer than an hour the time before that. Two at the most. Hard to say, of course, given that every disease and everybody works a little differently.”

Cinder folded her hands in her lap. It had taken a little more than an hour

to walk home from the market. “What about…can it cling to, say, clothing?” “Only briefly. The pathogens can’t survive long without a host.” He

frowned at her. “Are you all right?”

She fiddled with the fingers of her gloves. Nodded. “When do we get to start saving lives?”

Dr. Erland adjusted his hat. “I’m afraid we can’t do much until I’ve had a chance to analyze your blood samples and map your DNA sequencing. But first I wanted to get a better grasp on your body makeup, in case it could affect the results.”

“Being cyborg can’t change your DNA, can it?”

“No, but there have been studies suggesting that human bodies develop different hormones, chemical imbalances, antibodies, that sort of thing, as a result of the operations. Of course, the more invasive the procedure, the more


“You think it has something to do with my immunity? Being cyborg?”

The doctor’s eyes glowed, giddy, unnerving Cinder. “Not exactly,” he said. “But like I said before…I do have a theory or two.”

“Were you planning on sharing any of those theories with me?”

“Oh, yes. Once I know I am correct, I plan on sharing my discovery with the world. In fact, I have had a thought about the mystery shadow on your spine. Would you mind if I tried something?” He took off the spectacles and slid them back into his pocket, beside the portscreen.

“What are you going to do?”

“Just a little experiment, nothing to worry about.”

She twisted her head as Dr. Erland walked around the table and placed the tips of his fingers on her neck, pinching the vertebrae just above her shoulders. She stiffened at the touch. His hands were warm, but she shivered anyway.

“Tell me if you feel anything…unusual.”

Cinder opened her mouth, about to announce that any human touch felt unusual, but her breath hiccupped.

Fire and pain ruptured her spine, flooding her veins.

She cried out and fell off the table, crumpling to the floor.

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