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Daring to look up, she saw more than one flushed face, and no one daring to make eye contact with her. The new cyborg queen of Luna.

Except Kai, who looked ashamed to be included with the others. But despite his decision to stop the cyborg draft for letumosis testing, the Commonwealth continued to have many of the same injustices as the rest of the planet.

Kai was the first to nod. “The Commonwealth agrees to your request. These laws are unfair and antiquated.”

After another long silence, Queen Camilla cleared her throat. “The UK agrees as well. We will begin the reexamination of the laws in earnest upon my return.”

Prime Minister Bromstad bashfully admitted that he would need to set up a parliamentary vote before any changes could be made into law, as did the other republics, but there was general agreement around the table. It was by no means a hearty agreement, Cinder could tell, and she tried to disguise how much this irked her. She knew that just because one cyborg had saved the world didn’t mean they were ready to give up generations of prejudices, but Cinder hoped it was a start.

“Second. I ask that all restrictions on Lunar emigration be removed. Lunars should be free to come and go between Luna and Earth as they please—I don’t want Luna to feel like a prison to its citizens anymore. Likewise, once we’re prepared for it, I will open Luna’s ports to Earthen travel and emigration. Like it used to be, when Luna first became a country and trade and travel were encouraged. I feel like it’s the only way our two societies will begin to start trusting each other.”

As she spoke, she noticed many glances being passed between the other leaders.

It was the Australian governor-general who dared to speak. “While I understand your motives, how can we trust that the Lunars who come into our countries won’t…” He hesitated.

“Manipulate you?” said Cinder. “Brainwash your people? Commit unspeakable crimes against humanity, knowing how easy it will be for them to get away with it?”

He flashed a wry smile. “Exactly.”

“I believe that Earthens and Lunars can coexist peacefully,” said Cinder. “We’ve seen it in Farafrah and other north African towns over the past decade, where close to fifteen percent of the population is made up of Lunar immigrants. They work together. They trust each other.”

“Fifteen percent?” said Africa’s Prime Minister Kamin. “I’ve never heard this statistic.”

“They don’t publicize it, but it didn’t seem to be a secret, even to the Earthen locals. They had formed a mutually beneficial relationship.”

“As lovely as that thought is,” said Kamin, “with all due respect, you are very young, Your Majesty. You may not be aware that there was a time when travel was encouraged between Earth and Luna, and in that time, we experienced episodes of mass brainwashing put upon our people, forced suicides, rapes … Not only is it difficult to prove when a Lunar has manipulated an Earthen, but half the time, we can’t even tell a crime was committed.” She stopped herself as her voice started to rise. “I of course mean no disrespect to you, Your Majesty.”

“No disrespect taken,” said Cinder. “I am, in fact, quite familiar with the Massacre at New Haven, 41 T.E., the Mindless Marches of 18 T.E., the highly publicized case of Roget v. Caprice in the second era, and, oh, about a thousand other notable examples of Lunars exerting their gift on the people of Earth.”

Kamin looked taken aback. In fact, the whole table seemed more than a little surprised.

Leaning forward, Cinder spoke very clearly. “I have a computer in my brain,” she said. “So while I’m not going to tell you that I am the smartest or, by any means, the most experienced person in this room, I would suggest that no one use my youth to believe that I am also ignorant.”

“Of course,” said Kamin, newly tense. “Forgive me. I meant no offense.”

“Your concerns are legitimate,” said Cinder. “If I could offer you a solution—a promise that no Earthen would ever be manipulated again, or would at least be given an opportunity to protect themselves against that manipulation—would you agree to my request?”

“It would be worth considering,” said President Vargas. “And I, for one, am dying to know what this solution might be.”

“Right.” Cinder flicked her hand toward her stepmother. “This is Linh Adri, a citizen of the Eastern Commonwealth.”

Adri started, whipping her gaze around the table of very important people.

“Adri’s husband, a man named Linh Garan, was an inventor who specialized in android systems and cybernetics. He’s deceased now, but when he was alive, he invented a … device. It attaches to a person’s nervous system and can protect them from being manipulated by the Lunar gift. Levana learned of this device recently and did her best to have all patents and blueprints concerning the device destroyed, even going so far as to have Adri, the rightful owner of the technology, imprisoned here on Luna.”

Adri had gone pale. “I’m sorry, but I don’t know anything about it. This device, if it ever existed, is long gone—”

“Well, it’s sort of long gone,” interrupted Cinder. “As far as I know, there were only two working prototypes. One was in an Earthen woman named Michelle Benoit, who was killed during the attacks in Paris. The other is inside me.” She turned to Dr. Nandez, whose interest seemed piqued for the first time since the meeting had started.

Leaning forward, the doctor cupped her chin in one hand. “On your axis vertebra?” she said. “I saw it on your holograph, but I didn’t know what it was.”

Cinder nodded. “I hope you’ll tell me the device can be safely removed, and the hardware reproduced. If we can copy it, there could come a time when everyone who wants to avoid bioelectrical manipulation would have the power to do so.”

A rustle of disbelief.

“Is that possible?” said President Vargas.

“Absolutely,” said Cinder. “It worked on me, and it worked on Michelle Benoit.”

“I hate to be pessimistic,” said Dr. Nandez, “but your installed device appeared to have severe damage. Though it’s possible we could use it to create a blueprint for the hardware, I have to assume that any programming has been damaged beyond repair. If Queen Levana really did have the data destroyed, I don’t know how easily it can be reproduced.”

“You’re right. Mine was destroyed.” Cinder risked a glance at Adri and Pearl, who were frowning as they tried to follow the conversation. “Luckily, Linh Garan created a backup for the device’s internal software. He was clever enough to hide it in an obscure place where no one would think to look for it. Do you know, Linh-jiĕ?”

Startled at the formal greeting, Adri shook her head.

“He hid it inside the personality chip of a lowly Serv9.2.”

Iko squeaked.

Redness crept into Adri’s cheeks. Dawning comprehension, and horror. “Oh—but I … but the android … I didn’t know she was—”

“Valuable?” Cinder smiled wryly. “I know. Adri had the android in question dismantled and sold off as spare parts.”

There was more than one gasp around the table, and a lot of furious glances passed toward Adri and Pearl.


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