Cinder is a mechanic in New Beijing. She waits int he shop for her spunky android friend, Iko, to return with her new foot. The baker, Sacha, pulls her child away from the store because Cinder is a cyborg. Suddenly, Prince Kaito of the Eastern Commonwealth comes to find the best mechanic in New Beijing. He is surprised to find a young girl. Cinder looks over his android and tells him she will look at it. He says he will return to check on it. A short while after he leaves, people in the streets start screaming. Sacha has the plague. Shops start closing up and Cinder rolls down their metal door. She puts a rag over her mouth and stay in the corner.
Men in rubber suits come to burn down Sacha’s booth. Cinder uses the distraction to sneak out and avoid quarantine. Back home, her adoptive mother (she refers to as her stepmother), Adri, is having her daughters fitted for dresses to wear to the festival. Adri demands Cinder fix the hover with her own money before the festivities. She promises to let Cinder go if she does and gets herself a dress as well. Cinder’s indicator shows that her stepmom is lying. Pearl, the oldest daughter, suggests they volunteer Cinder to the cyborg draft (medical research to cure the plague). The queen has already died and the Prince appears on a broad cast to say the King is not doing well.
Cinder goes through her tools in the apartment’s basement to get what she needs for the junkyard. Iko starts to get excited about Cinder going to the ball, but Cinder explains she isn’t going. She tries to make herself feel better by listing the things she would rather buy than a dress. Peony (the younger daughter) comes in to escape her mother. cinder has to keep her from ruining her dress with all the grease that is covering everything. Peony is upset Cinder won’t go to the ball with them and that her mother didn’t buy her a dress. She gives Iko a piece of ribbon and ties it around her wrist joint. Peony asks to go to the junkyard with them. Cinder agrees and sends her to change out of her dress before they leave.
As Cinder looks for a magbelt inside an old hover, Iko and Peony fantasize about the prince choosing them. Peony mentions a rumor that Prince Kai is having the ball to find a bride. She mentions another rumor that the Prince may marry Queen Levana. The Lunar Queen is said to be horrible and has killed many people to get the throne and keep it. Cinder has heard of the Lunars evolving beyond humans to be able to use mind control to feed their greed. Moving on, cinder is shocked to find an old gasoline car. She dreams of restoring it and using it to get away. Peony is disgusted with it and its horrible condition. Cinder goes to brush some dirt off of Peony and they realize there are bruised marks on her. She has letumosis.
Peony starts screaming and crying in the middle of the junk yard. Cinder doesn’t know what to do. She wonders if she gave the plague to her sister from the market. She goes to hold Peony and comfort her, but Peony pushes her away and tells her to go so she isn’t taken to quarantine. While she is fleeing, Cinder runs into medical droids. They take her blood and she determine she is not a carrier. They take Peony away on a gurney. She waves at Cinder before she is gone.
Cinder arrives back home. Adri and Pearl are waiting up for her with three emergency medical droids. Adri sends Iko to dispose of anything Peony has worn in the past week. She blames Cinder even though she is not a carrier. Cinder tries to explain, but Adri won’t hear it. Sh has volunteered Cinder for the cyborg draft to help find a cure. Since her late husband, Garan, was the one who wanted Cinder (before he left for Europe and died), Adri has no remorse about giving her up. The droids shay her loved ones will be paid for their sacrifice. Cinder refuses to go with them. She uses the magbelt to take out two droids before the third one shocks her, forcing her brain to shut down.
Dr. Erland tells his assistant, Fateen, to send a 32 year old man home with a placebo because he is too old and has a son. He is looking for someone young, healthy, and having a higher ratio machine parts. Fateen points out he seems to let the men go, but keeps the young women. Li, another assistant, comes to get Dr. Erland to show him Cinder. She is what he has been looking for.
Cinder has a reoccurring nightmare where her body is on hot coals. This time, there are limbless people all around her with blueish spots. Peony is there and blaming her for getting sick. Cinder wakes up as her control panel reboots. A med droid hooks wires into her control panel and her body is diagramed on a screen. She protests that she did not volunteer, but the man behind the mirrored window doesn’t seem to care. He explains they will inject her with the letumosis microbes they will track through her body. Then they will give her antibodies and hope they work. Cinder struggles , but there is nothing she can do as she is injected with the disease.
Dr. Erland and his assistants watch the microbes of the plague make their way through Cinder’s body. They notice a chip-like piece on one of the metal vertebrae in her neck. When Dr. Erland zooms back out on the diagram of her whole body, he notices on of the microbes they are tracking as disappeared. As they watch, more disappear. Dr. Erland wants another blood sample, especially since they haven’t given her the antidote yet. he tells Fateen and Li to move her to a different lab and to untie her once they are all gone. He wants to meet with her in private.
The med-droid takes more blood from Cinder before wheeling her off to a new exam room as ordered by a female voice over an intercom. Once there, the restraints are removed and her belongings are returned. Dr. Erland comes in to talk wit her. She notices he isn’t wearing a mask. She wants to hit him over the head with the wrench she took out of her calf compartment. An orange light appears in her vision as she feels that she doesn’t want to hurt the kind looking old man. She drops the wrench and he asks her to sit so they can talk.
Dr. Erland explains to Cinder that she is immune to letumosis. He wants to use her to find a cure. He asks about her past and she tells him she doesn’t remember anything before the accident that made her a cyborg, but knows that she is from Europe. Cinder points out that she is strictly a volunteer and makes a few demands - money her guardian can’t get to, freedom, and Peony is cured right after the emperor. He agrees.
Prince Kai watches over his dying father who has only been sick for five days. Konn Torin (father’s longtime advisor) wants to start planning for Kai to take over as emperor. Kai leaves to go see Dr. Erland. The Lunar ambassador, Sybil Mira, head thaumaturge to the Lunar Crown, is there in the hallway to great him. She hopes Kai will agree to the Queen’s terms for peace, but he assures her he won’t overturn any of his father’s decisions. Once the Lunars are away, Torin tries to convince Kai to think about what he will do. Kai refuses to marry the queen. He has been thinking about the rumors - Princess Selene (Queen Channary’s daughter/Queen Levana’s niece, the rightful heir to Luna) may have survived the fire she was said to have died in. People have said they spotted her living on Earth. Torin points out even if she is alive, the bloodline would cause her to be just as bad as the rest of her family. He points out they shouldn’t look into it at the risk of upsetting Queen Levana. Kai storms off to the labs.
Dr. Erland tells Cinder about her body (very complex control panel, reproductive system in tact, and an odd material on the metal vertebrae in her neck). She asks how quickly her body would kill the disease. He says it took about 20 minutes this time and probably would have taken about an hour the previous time. She is slightly relieved that Peony probably didn’t get letumosis from her. The doctor has a few theories as to why she is immune. Cinder wants to start helping people, but he wants to try something to help him understand her. He presses a finger to the odd spot on her neck and she erupts into pain.
Cinder wakes up on the floor to her system rebooting. Kai is there and worried about her. She tires to keep her cyborg pieces covered from him as he helps her up. Dr. Erland lies to the prince and tells him he was adjusting Cinder’s spine with chiropractic techniques. Kai asks about his droid. Dr. Erland takes this clue and says Cinder is just there to fix a med-droid. She says she will get to the prince’s droid before the festival. Dr Erland excuses her and she says she will be back the next day. He agrees. Cinder leaves chiding herself for babbling. She resigns herself to not think about Kai; or at least try not to.
Cinder downloads a map of the palace’s research wing to find her way out she is impressed with the view of New Beijing from a window above the city. She dreads going home,but does so anyway. Adri is not happy to see her. Cinder says she did not meet their criteria and was sent home before slamming the door to her closet of a room. She and Iko make their way to the basement (where Iko has stored Peony’s festival dress). Cinder starts making a list of things she needs to do to get out of there. She wants to buy and fix up the old gasoline car. She also sees the prince’s droid she needs to fix.
Prince Kai runs through the halls to get to the visiting room next to his father’s sick room. He doesn’t get there in time; the emperor is already dead. Torin is there and says they will hold a press conference in the morning so the Commonwealth can mourn with them. A comm comes in from Queen Levana. She is covered by a veil (supposedly the Earthens are not worthy of her beauty) and gives her sympathies. She intends to visit and will have Sybil make the arrangements for her stay (removing all mirrors). Kai doesn’t want to deal with her, but Torin points out he must to maintain peace.
Cinder and Iko make a late night trip to the junkyard to get the car. They hide it in a corner of the apartment’s garage so she can work on it. The next morning, Cinder takes a blanket and comms for a hover. She goes to the quarantine outside of town and finds Peony in one of the many beds. Cinder gives her the blanket and tells her how they are trying to use her immunity to make an antidote. She promises to bring Peony her port screen so she can talk to her mom and Pearl. On her way out, Cinder hears the baker, Sacha, call her name. Sacha asks Cinder to bring her son and then she dies. A med-droid comes to remove her ID chip and put it in a bloody pile with many others.
While Cinder is in the elevator at the research wing of the palace, Prince Kai joins her. He makes some small talk with her until they start running into people giving their condolences. She checks her net screen to see the emperor has died. She apologizes. He tells her about the Lunar queen coming to visit as well. He asks after his droid and indicates his childhood tutor holds very important information. She promises to look at it as soon as possible. When they reach Dr. Erland, he says he doesn’t want to give false hope and will update Kai when he knows more. Kai kisses Cinder’s hand before leaving. He quickly returns and asks her to the ball. She declines because that is the night she and Iko are planning to run away. Kai leaves after bidding her a very formal and cold goodbye.
Cinder asks why Dr. Erland didn’t tell the prince she is a cyborg. He skates around an answer and figures the prince will eventually find out if he keeps taking an interest in her. She asks about the ID cards. The doctor explains they are sold legally and are constantly in high demand. Thieves and refugees use them. He tells her about Lunars hiding on Earth. They use bioelectricity to manipulate others (any living being has bioelectricity). The removal of the mirrors is because they have no biological makeup and can’t be deceived. They have been killing the “shell” children at the queen’s command because those without the gift can’t be controlled. Some parents went through great lengths to get their children to Earth. Like migrating people often do, they brought the letumosis disease with them. When Dr. Erland learns Queen Levana is arriving, he tells Cinder she has to stay away from the palace until she is gone because Cinder is a Lunar refugee. Cinder has a difficult time accepting this.
When Queen Levana lands, Prince Kai and Torin are in her small welcome party. She comes out of her ship and a second-tier thaumaturge lifts her veil. Kai welcomes her and reminds himself her beauty is only an illusion. He feels her trying to manipulate how he feels about her and has to dig his nails into his palms to keep his mind straight. Sybil says she will take the queen to her room and the Lunars leave them. Torin warns Kai that it will get worse.
Cinder is in the basement at her work desk. She has opened up the prince’s droid to see what is wrong. Iko comes in wearing Adri’s pearls and lipstick (though she doesn’t have a mouth) wanting to help. Cinder checks the tutor droid’s hardware and everything seems to be fine. Iko points out an odd chip in the back. Cinder pulls it out and sees it is a direct-comm chip (expired technology; used for privacy during comm’ed conversations, but took too much bandwidth). She puts it in a port and it tells her the direct communication can’t be established. With the chip removed, the droid starts up. She talks about the rumors of Princess Selena. cinder tells her to stop and asks about the d-comm chip. The droid has no idea. Cinder tells her to get caught up on the events of the past few days.
Ignoring Dr. Erland’s warning, Cinder takes Nainsi to the palace. There are a lot of people gathered to protest the arrival of Queen Levana. Cinder goes to the guard, but he only lets Nainsi through. When Cinder insists, the droid says she will have Kai comm her a pass to get in. Queen LEvana appears on a balcony and Cinder feels her bioelectric influence making everyone love her. Cinder’s orange (lying) indicator flashes to bring her out of the brainwashing. She stumbles and draws the queen’s attention. Cinder wonders why she wasn’t immune to the queen’s power like a shell is supposed to be.
Prince Kai does not approve Queen Levana brainwashing his people. She trivializes the action and says New Beijing is in violation of their current agreement by harboring a Lunar fugitive. Kai tries to assure her they have never heard of this before. Levana insists all fugitives be found and brought to her. Kai has trouble being diplomatic, so Torin makes the promise. She then gives him a gift: the letumosis antidote. She says her scientists can start producing it for a fee. Kai is outraged and Levana says it was only a confirmed antidote right before her ship left for Earth. Nainsi comes into the room and Kai uses her as an excuse to leave. Once alone, he asks about Cinder. Nainsi tells him she is waiting at the gate.
Cinder is waiting outside the gate when a droid comes to let her in and takes her to Kai. He asks her to walk with him to see Dr. Erland. She tells him what was wrong with Nainsi and they determine Sybil probably put the chip in and now knows Kai is looking for Princess Selena. They are in an elevator about to exit onto their floor when Kai asks her to the ball again. She pushes him back into the elevator for privacy. She tells him she won’t go because of Peony. He gets really close and asks if ruining one life is worth saving the world. Cinder answers it would be worth ruining her own life. He resigns himself to a ruined life and goes to kiss Cinder. She collapses in pain (like when Dr. Erland touched the chip on the back of her neck). Kai flinches away when he thinks he sees something, but tells her he imagined it.
Kai gets Cinder to Dr. Erland, but has to leave shortly after giving him the antidote. The doctor scolds Cinder for coming. She tells him the queen already saw her and her glamour worked on her. Dr. Erland tells her the chip in her neck is to keep Cinder’s bioelectric abilities dormant. If she had grown up with them, she would have drawn too much attention, especially without knowing how to control it. Her adoptive father used her as a guinea pig to protect her. He lets slip that he is Lunar. He tells her he come to Earth because his daughter was taken from him because she was a shell. He hasn’t used his power and as a result, his mind is going. Her glamour is starting to overpower the chip. He says she might experience the crippling pain in extreme emotional situations. He gives her part of the antidote to give to Peony and makes her promise not to come back to the palace while the queen is there.
Kai meets with the world leaders through secure direct comms. He confirms Queen Levana is on Earth to work out a peace agreement. They know she will require a royal marriage. Africa points out the Commonwealth isn’t the only monarchy. Someone suggests Princess Winder is eligible instead of Levana, but the Princess doesn’t actually have royal blood, so Levana will be looking to make an heir herself. America shows pictures of a mutant army the Lunars are massing. Kai thinks Levana is trying to threaten him.
Cinder rushes to quarantine in order to give the antidote to Peony. She is too late and her sister dies in her arms unable to drink the vial’s contents. She sees the baker’s son and gives it to him to drink. A med-droid comes for Peony’s chip, but Cinder destroys it and takes the chip herself. She runs away and is found by a police hover. Adri reported her as disappearing unauthorized. They are to return her to her stepmom.
Kai eats with his Lunar guests in the dinning hall. when the main course is served, Queen Levana’s plate is uncovered to reveal a mirror. She moves away from it and Sybil gives a knife to the servant that brought out the tray. She intends to make the woman put the knife through her eye. Kai says he had the mirror put there as a joke. Levana lets the servant go and dismisses herself from the table. She tells Kai she also knows how to pick her battles in war. When she is gone, they look at the mirror and see it is Lunar. A man comes to tell them about a disturbance at quarantine and a child that is recovering.
Adri is furious with Cinder. She went through Iko’s memory to find out Cinder spent 600 univs on her new foot. She has been tracking Cinder and questions her visit to the palace and the hover rideCinder tries to explain to her without telling the truth. However, her stepmom will not hear anything because she is mad that Cinder is alive and Peony is dead. Cinder Realizes it is the Lunars fault the plague came to Earth. She offers to by Peony a gravestone. Adri brushes her off and bans her from the ball or anywhere she doesn’t approve first. She tells Cinder she has to give up her foot as well. Cinder goes to her room to find Iko destroyed. She finds the droid’s personality chip in the mess.
Cinder sits at her festival booth because Adri makes her. She declines new work knowing she won’t be there long enough to complete it. Kai comes to visit knowing it will probably be the last time they will see each other. He gives her a gift that she tries to refuse. Pearl shows up and demands Cinder take car of her boxes from shopping. The prince calls her out on her lack of manners before leaving. Cinder pretends Kai is only a client, but Pearl sees through the lie. She grabs the wrapped gift and opens it to find long white silk gloves. Pearl realizes the prince doesn’t know Cinder is a cyborg. When Pearl starts ranting that is the only reason the prince looks at her, Cinder points out the prince barely noticed Pearl. Her stepsister throws Cinder’s new gloves on the ground and dumps a toolbox over them. Cinder tries to rescue them, but they are permanently stained with grease.
Cinder has to limp the whole way home from the festival because Adri and Pearl left her behind to clean up her booth. Pearl decides to mock Cinder by asking which shoes she should wear. Cinder mentions the Prince’s promise to dance with Peony. Pearl says she is going to tell the prince all about Cinder. Adri sends Cinder to wash the hover. She goes to the garage and washes as she watches Kai’s coronation. Afterwards he gives a speech saying he will do whatever it takes to end the war against the letumosis plague. The Lunars that aren’t veiled seem very smug.
Cinder starts packing up everything she plans to take with her. She starts to cut out her ID chip when the net-screen she has the d-comm in finally answers. A girl with a ridiculous amount of blonde hair says her mistress, Sybil, forced her to spy on the emperor. She tells Cinder that Levana plans to marry Kai, kill him, and then start a war with the rest of Earth. The queen knows Kai is looking for Princess Selena and thinks he wants her to usurp Levana. The blonde girl confirms Princess Selena is alive and on Earth. Cinder takes the d-comm chip with her to go to the ball to warn Kai.
After getting into Peony’s dress and the gloves from Kai, Cinder finds her old misfitted foot and attaches it. She wears the boots Pearl decided against. Cinder gets in the old gasoline car and drives it to the palace. She walks in trying not to be noticed and sees Kai dancing with Levana. Pearl gets the attention of the new emperor and they talk. A servant scans Cinder’s ID Chip and then announces her because she is Kai’s special guest.
Everyone turns to stare at the disheveled Cinder. She starts making her way toward Kai, but Adri gets to her first. Adri causes even more of a scene by yelling about how Cinder doesn’t belong there. Cinder answers back that she does. Adri goes to smack her, but Kai is there to stop her. He dances with Cinder and apologizes for not being more sensitive about Peony’s death. Cinder realizes he still doesn’t know she is a cyborg. She starts to tell him about the d-comm and Levana’s plans. She asks if there is somewhere they can talk in private.
Torin comes to get Kai. The emperor thanks Cinder for warning him so he can be prepared. Cinder kisses him to try to convince him. The queen comes along and tells Kai that Cinder is a Lunar shell. Cinder admits she is Lunar. Levana demands Cinder is returned to her and blames the shells for the plague. Cinder explains the shells don’t know the damage they are causing. She admits she isn’t a shell. When Kai goes to defend Cinder, Levana points out that keeping a Lunar fugitive from her is an act of war. She asks if he is willing to bargain for Cinder.
Kai says he sin’t willing to trade freedom for peace, so he will not marry Levana. He silently apologizes to Cinder before he agrees to hold her prisoner until the queen returns to Luna. Cinder gets distracted when her cyborg pice of mind shows her what Levana really looks like. When Cinder says something about it, the queen glamours her into taking the gun from the guard that is holding her and putting it to her own head. Just as she is about to pull the trigger, she points it at the ceiling and it goes off. She shakes off Levana’s brainwashing and tries to shoot the queen. A guard jumps between and gets hit in the shoulder. Cinder runs, but falls on the stairs with her cyborg foot coming off. Kai wonders if she used her glamour on him, but she doesn’t have time to explain. Kai orders her held and to be sent back to Luna with Levana. The queen promises not to go to war for this event, but points out Kai has done other things to offend her.
Dr. Erland comes to visit Cinder in her cell. The guard won’t let him in, so he glamours the proper paperwork into the guard’s mind. Once alone, the doctor gives Cinder a new hand (with multiple utilities and weapons) and a new foot he had specially made for her. He tells her he is going to Africa to see if he can study Lunar fugitives that are carriers of the letumosis disease. Cinder tells him she isn’t going to escape because she isn’t worth starting a war over. Dr Erland tells her she is Princess Selene.
Cinder is stunned as he continues. She is overwhelmed and not sure she can handle a hostile takeover of the moon, let alone ruling it. He tells her all she needs to do is escape her cell and meet him in Africa. If she doesn’t, Levana has already won. Dr. Erland leaves and Cinder uses her net-link to do some research. She believes she is Princess Selena. She uses the knife in her new hand to cut out her ID chip. Her cell door was left open.