I’ll be posting a new deleted scene or excerpt from The Lunar Chronicles every Friday through January 27, spanning the releases of The Lunar Chronicles Coloring Book on December 6 and Wires and Nerve, vol. 1 on January 31.
SPOILERS WARNING: Even though this scene was ultimately deleted (or heavily altered), it still contains information and references to things that did make it into the book. I strongly encourage readers to enjoy the published books before proceeding!
Lunar Chronicles Deleted Scene #7
(Part 2 of 2)
From: Winter, 1st draft
Featuring: Almost Everyone
Helpful set-up: This scene takes place immediately after Deleted Scene #6. Definitely read that one first!
Also, an interesting note about this scene – you’ll notice that I left notes for myself to describe Levana in a later draft. The reason is that, when I wrote this in 2011, I still didn’t know what she looked like under the glamour! In fact, I didn’t finally figure out Levana’s true appearance until I wrote Fairest nearly two years later.
* * *
Cress’s heart leaped when Captain Thorne’s voice filtered through the ship’s speakers, ordering the doctor to report to the pod dock immediately. Her knees gave out with relief and she sank onto a nearby crate, her immediate fear slipping away.
The captain was alive. He had returned.
But new fears quickly moved to take their place.
Who was in need of a doctor? What had happened on Luna?
Was Cinder gone, for good now?
She glanced at the screen on the wall, waiting to establish a direct-link with Cinder, but nothing had come through yet. Panic scratched at her lungs—what if she’d failed? What if the link didn’t work and they still wouldn’t learn anything new about the palace or capture video footage of the queen?
Moments later, steps thudded on the ladder leading down into the heart of the ship. Cress launched herself off the crate and stood, hands wrapping around themselves, until a head of red curls arose from the hatch.
Scarlet heaved herself out of the hatch and didn’t look at Cress as she darted into the medbay.
Cress stood, waiting, shuffling her feet. She could hear rummaging inside the medbay and was just taking a step forward when Scarlet returned with a pitcher of water and a first-aid box in her hands.
“What’s going on?” she asked. “Is the captain all right?”
“Captain’s fine.” Scarlet tucked the box under her arm. “He brought the Lunar guard back with him though, and he’s . . . where’s the—doctor!”
Dr. Erland hobbled out of the corridor, fixing his hat atop his head.
“I’ve been summoned,” he said, his blue eyes taking in the supplies in Scarlet’s arms.
“Yes, good. Take this and pass it down to me.”
Scarlet handed the pitcher to the doctor before disappearing back down the shaft without another word. His lips wrinkled as if he wanted nothing to do with the crew that had gone against his wishes, but he didn’t argue when Scarlet asked him to hand down the pitcher.
“What can I do?” Cress said, dashing to the side of the hatch while Dr. Erland started to lower himself carefully, rung by rung.
Scarlet glanced up. “Any word from Cinder?”
Cress shook her head.
“Stay up there and wait for her.”
Cress heard the door to the dock open and soon, both Scarlet and Dr. Erland had disappeared, leaving her alone again on the ship’s main floor.
Heaving a thick breath, she rocked back on her heels.
The guard was hurt. They’d known he would be, but she couldn’t imagine what the queen had put him through.
And Cinder . . . what would she do to Cinder?
She stuck an end of hair in her mouth, sucking nervously while she paced back to her crate, and waited.
She could hear nothing from the dock. The ship felt almost deserted, filled only with the constant noise that went unnoticed after so much time spent aboard. The hum of the life support systems, the quiet crackling of halogen (?) lights, the steady engine beneath her feet.
Pulling her hair out from her mouth, she tucked it behind her ear, wondering why she hadn’t had the forethought to install cameras in the dock weeks ago. She could at least know what was happening down there.
Maybe she should comm down to the level, just to see, just to ask . . .
Just to pester.
Frowning, she pulled her knees up to her chin and wrapped her arms around them.
They were busy saving the life of another of Levana’s victims. She would just have to wait for news, and orders. She would just have to wait.
Hopping off the crate, she paced to the screen and checked that the D-COMM chip, the companion chip to Cinder’s link, was still in place and firmly installed. All seemed to be in place.
Blowing her hair out of her face, she swung back around and took four steps back toward the crate when a chime startled her.
She pivoted, her attention focusing back on the screen just fast enough to catch the flicker of words: Direct communication now connected to LinCinBMI.
A second later, the words were gone, replaced instead with a shaky image.
A live feed.
Cinder was in a large docking station, pristine and filled with clean lines and white walls. She was following behind a woman – DESCRIBE THE BACK OF LEVANA – and two guards marched at either side.
The point of view shifted, Cinder looking over her shoulder, and Cress could see two muscular men walking uncomfortably close, wearing the uniforms of Levana’s army.
A tingle rushed down Cress’s spine, terror gripping her even from thousands of miles away. Though she was safe, the idea of being surrounded by Lunars, captured, being led somewhere unknown, had her trembling, like watching a terrifying film.
One that Cinder was living.
The group on the screen reached an elevator bank and the woman turned, showing her face to Cinder’s internal camera for the first time.
Cress didn’t recognize her, which was peculiar. She had memorized the faces of Levana’s thaumaturges and as many royal guards as she could, as well as the highest ranking Lunar diplomats and officials and nobles, all from studying Lunar news feeds, but this was a new face. Who could be so high-ranking that Levana would have them collect her most prized prisoner?
Someone who the other guards in the elevator would gather respectfully, protectively around?
Someone who would eye Cinder like a crazed, proud cat?
The ground suddenly fell out from Cress’s feet. She stumbled back, her hips colliding painfully with the corner of the crate behind her.
It was the queen.
The queen herself, claiming her prisoner.
Cress’s hands flew to her mouth.
Cinder had done it. She had captured video footage of the queen, without her veil to hide behind, and the queen had no idea.
The thoughts were already spinning in Cress’s head as she considered everything that could be done with this footage. She could have it on every screen on Earth before the end of the day. Levana would be mortified . . . and livid. The backlash of her anger would be unjustified.
And doing so would ruin the element of surprise they hoped to have when they broadcast their message to the people of Luna, encouraging them to rise up and rebel against the higher classes and their queen. If Levana knew that such a video existed, she would no doubt take swift measures to ensure it never made its way into any Lunar feeds.
Gulping, Cress tried to calm her rampaging heartbeat.
They had a plan. Cinder had already succeeded in her role, now it was up to Cress to make sure her sacrifice wasn’t wasted.
Letting out a slow breath, she followed Cinder’s progress out of the elevator and into a winding labyrinth of dark caves lined with cells. Her stomach twitched at the memory of being locked up, a prisoner in her own satellite, for nearly her entire life. And now Cinder was going to be kept in this nightmare.
She chewed her lip, wishing she would have had more time to install audio communication so she could tell Cinder to stay strong, that the video had come through, that she had succeeded, but all she could do was watch.
It occurred to her for the first time that perhaps she should tell the rest of the crew what was happening, that the D-COMM link worked, but she didn’t want to take her eyes from the screen for a second. Besides, they no doubt had their hands full helping the guard, and there was nothing anyone could do for Cinder up here.
They paused. One of the guards opened a cell door, leading into a cramped, shadowed cell, but rather than entering, Cinder turned her sight to another door just across the way.
Cress stared hard as they opened another door and dim light fell across a crumpled form.
It was impossible to make out, the screen almost entirely black, until the form moved. Whitish-blonde hair shifting into the almost-light. Cress came closer, her nose inches from the screen as she stared, waiting for the image to focus and make sense.
It was a person, so covered with dirt and blood he almost blended in to the filthy, rocky walls of his cell.
Then he looked up and his eyes caught in the light.
Cress gaped, trying to make sense of what she was seeing. She could swear—he looked just like—
Did Sybil’s guard have a twin brother? Or had Cress been confused and this was not the guard they’d agreed to trade Cinder for after all?
Or . . .
Her gut clenched.
Or it was all a trap.
The air left Cinder in a rush, like someone had just hit her in the stomach. She teetered on her feet, but managed to lock her knees and steady herself before falling into the open cell.
The guard’s eyes widened as he looked up at her, shock and terror fixing to his gaunt face, but then he cringed as if the expression caused more pain than he could handle.
“Lovely,” said Queen Levana. “I see you recognize each other. I hope you’ll enjoy getting to know each other better during your short stay here. I must say I’m quite pleased with you both right now . . . for doing exactly as I expected you to.”
Cinder gulped, unable to pry her gaze away from the guard who lay broken and crumpled before her. “Who was the man you sent with Thorne?”
“My head thaumaturge.” The queen folded her hands in front of her. “He was quite convincing, wasn’t he?” She gestured that the guards should release Cinder and they did, leaving her feeling oddly abandoned in the middle of the dank cave.
Clenching her teeth, she met the queen’s haughty stare, hatred overflowing. The orange light was almost immediate when she focused on the queen, recognizing the illusion. She wished she could see beneath the glamour as easily as her retina recording device could, so she wouldn’t have to see those sickening red lips or onyx eyes ever again, but the queen’s true image had never been fully assimilated in her eye before, no matter how hard her brain interface attempted to see past the illusion.
The queen smiled and twisted her wrist toward Cinder’s empty jail cell. “Won’t you make yourself at home?” she said, her voice melting like chocolate.
Cinder felt her right leg twitch as if acting on its own accord. It took half a step toward her jail cell before she realized what it was doing.
Setting her jaw, she steeled her body against the tampering. A warning flashed in her gaze that she was experiencing bioelectrical interference—the failsafes in her brain managed to resist the queen’s attempts to force her to enter the cell against her will.
Rather than look surprised or irritated, the queen merely shrugged her slender shoulders. “As I thought. It seems we will have to execute you the old-fashioned way.”
Anger, more than fear, gurgled up from her stomach, making her limbs quake. She couldn’t stand to think what a fool she’d been to walk into this trap, to allow herself to be so easily fooled, and now not only had she walked right into Levana’s clutches, but she’d endangered her friends as well.
Her instincts told her to fight. One solid hit to the queen’s head with her metal fist could be all it took . . .
Before she could act on the idea, one of the soldiers grasped her elbow and half-shoved, half-threw her into the gaping jail cell. She hit the back wall with a grunt. By the time she’d spun around, the door had already been slammed shut, leaving only a small barred window a few inches above eye level.
“I am greatly looking forward to seeing you killed, again,” said the queen. “At first I’d planned on having you executed immediately and not bothering with you for any longer than I already have, but then it occurred to me that you may wish to stay alive long enough to see my wedding ceremony. In fact, I’m tempted to make you a special guest.” Cinder heard a cruel tinge in Levana’s voice. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I must commence with my preparations. My guests will be arriving soon.”
A lock was turned and soon the shadows passed by the grate and booted footsteps echoed down the hall, dissolving into cold, eerie silence.
Cinder found herself frozen against the wall, already starting to shiver from the damp air. The stench was making her stomach heave, but she managed to keep from throwing up and forced herself to take steady breaths—the sooner her senses adjusted to the smell, the better.
When she was sure the queen and her entourage were gone, she opened the tip of her finger and let the tiny flashlight create a pale spotlight on the iron door. She flashed it around the cell, seeing years of words carved into the stone cave walls. A bowl filled with slop sat in the corner and she ignored it entirely, knowing that was where the stench was originating and not wanting to know or see any more than that.
Refocusing on the door, she knelt down and examined the space where she knew the lock was on the other side. Sliding her screwdriver out, she tried to wiggle it into the crack of the door, pushing and prying and scratching at the stone wall, but it was impenetrable and the door was too tight to the jamb to allow her to get any leeway against the bolt. The door’s hinges were on the outside.
Heart hammering, she stood to examine the small window with the grate. If she could somehow detach the bars and wriggle her arm out and maybe use the dart gun in her hand . . .
She froze at the croaking voice, her hand wrapped around one of the bars. “Excuse me?”
“How did she get you?”
The guard’s voice was rough as if it had been used only for screams lately. She shivered and wished the thought hadn’t occurred to her.
“She . . . she offered a trade,” she said, her own stupidity encroaching on her thoughts again. “I thought she was going to spare your life, for mine.”
Something between a groan and a whimper seeped across the corridor. “Idiot.”
She bristled. “Look, it obviously didn’t work out how I’d planned, but I was trying to save your life!”
“Exactly.” His voice seemed to grow stronger as he tested it. “You traded your life for me, a nobody, when you—” She heard a hiss of pain and his angry words didn’t start up again.
Pressing her forehead against the bars, Cinder stared down at the circle of light her flashlight was casting around her boots. She huffed. “I’m a nobody too.”
“Don’t,” he said, his voice hollow. “I know who you are.”
“You think you know who I am, but I’m not her anymore.” She blew her hair off her face, frustrated with herself, with the plan, with everything. Her thoughts flew back to Thorne and the fake guard and she wondered if he’d gotten back to the ship yet. She hoped the crew would see through the glamour. She hoped they’d been watching the footage and would know instantly they were in trouble. She hoped they would realize her mistake before it was too late.
A thaumaturge was soon going to be aboard the Rampion, if he wasn’t already, and there was nothing she could do about it.
And it was all her fault.
Turning her back to the door, she slid down until her knees were pulled up to her chest.
“What do you suppose she meant by executing me the old-fashioned way?” she called over her shoulder.
“No magic or brainwashing,” came back the tired, irate reply. “Usually she has her thaumaturge force people to kill themselves, but with you it sounds like someone’s going to have to get their hands dirty.”
“I know that,” said Cinder. “But—how do you think she’ll do it?”
There was a hesitation, followed by another groan as she heard him changing positions in his cell. “Beheading?” he ventured.
She flinched and ran her fingers over her neck.
“Or drowning,” he said. “Stoning. Firing squad.”
“Thanks,” she said, “I think I got it.”
She bit her lip, realizing that this was the second jail cell she’d been trapped inside in the past two months. If she had just stayed in New Beijing, if she had just let Levana come and take her, this is where she would have ended up anyway. She still would have been executed. She still would die.
But instead she’d tried to run, she’d tried to fight—and all she got for it was a spaceship full of friends who she’d now be taking down with her.
“She’s going to win,” she whispered, half to herself, to see how the words would feel. Final. Hopeless. Inevitable. Gut tightening, she turned off the flashlight and buried her head against her knee.
In the quiet, in the darkness, she heard the guard’s tired voice.
“She won the moment you walked into her hands.”
Change: no plague given to Winter. He instead uses his gift to force her not to breathe, a la the corsette.
“Stop! Wait!” Cress screamed, bypassing the ladder and dropping down into the sublevel corridor with a grunt. She shoved herself off the wall, hurtling toward the open door of the podship dock.
She caught herself on the doorframe, gasping, adrenaline pumping through her veins.
Her eyes fell on him immediately, fear strangling her heart. He was laying on the floor beside the podship, half-supported by Princess Winter on one side and Dr. Erland on the other. His near-black eyes landed on her and sparked with surprise and the cruel recognition of a shell.
He could not have looked more different from the guard he was supposed to be. He had broader shoulders and dark brown skin and no hair on his head—and he was in perfect, healthy condition. Not a scratch, not a wound, not an ounce of blood, and yet it was clear that the doctor had spent the last ten minutes attempting to bandage invisible wounds.
Wetting her lips, she weakly pointed at the imposter. “Thaumaturge,” she breathed.
His lips twitched upward as the crew all turned to gape at Cress.
Captain Thorne reacted first, and almost had his gun out from its holster before he released a guttural shriek of pain and collapsed to the floor, shaking.
The doctor dropped his charge and fell backward, scrambling away. The princess tried to slink back, but the thaumaturge wrapped an arm firmly around her waist, securing her to his side.
Cress knew when he’d dropped his glamour because the eyes of her comrades suddenly widened, taking in the stranger in their midst, with his white embroidered coat and unnecessary bandages.
“Aimery.” Wolf said the name around a growl, placing himself between the thaumaturge and Scarlet.
Aimery grinned, his arm still tight around Winter. “Lieutenant Kesley. I thought you’d died honorably in battle, but I see I was mistaken. Ah—and the lovely Miss Benoit. I suppose I should have known.”
Thorne screamed again, thrashing on his back.
“Captain!” Cress threw herself at his side, protecting his head just before he slammed it into a metal cabinet.
“Cress, run!” Dr. Erland said, but his warning was drowned out by Scarlet’s shrill scream.
Glancing over her shoulder, Cress saw Scarlet backing up against a wall, staring at Wolf.
Wolf, hunched over, hands clawing at his hair, face contorted in barely restrained rage. Changing. Morphing. “Wolf! Stop it! Leave him alone!”
Scarlet rushed for Wolf and grasped his elbow, trying to pull his attention back toward her, when he spun on her. His hand whipped out, shoving her against the nose of the podship. She cried out in pain and slumped to the floor.
Cress gaped, her fingers idly digging into Thorne’s hair, mesmerized and terrified as Wolf’s back hunched, his fingernails lengthened, teeth morphed into sharp canines.
Warm hands suddenly wrapped around Cress’s throat.
Gasping, she looked down, catching the mortified look in the captain’s blue gaze, staring first at his own hands, then up at her.
Cress opened her lips to question, to scream, but the noise was locked off as the captian’s thumbs pressed into her windpipe. A strangled, panicked cry gurgled off her tongue and she tried to shove herself off him.
“Cress—I can’t—it’s not—”
“Stop it! Leave them alo—!” The princess’s words were cut short. When Cress glanced at her, she saw Winter clutching her head, swooning in agony.
Her throat ached, her lungs burned. She clawed at Thorne’s hands, desperately trying to pry the fingers away, but they were like iron around her. Her gaze fluttered helplessly around her companions. Princess Winter, still in the thaumaturge’s hold, gritting her teeth against a pain Cress couldn’t fathom. Dr. Erland not two paces away from her and the captain, staring in horror, but his eyes seemed the only part of him that was alive. The rest of his body appeared frozen in time as he watched his daughter strangled, within arm’s reach.
Scarlet seemed to be the only one not yet being manipulated by Aimery, and clearly he had no reason to bother with her yet. She was distracted enough, scrambling beneath the podship, trying to put distance between herself and Wolf as his transformation was nearly complete.
“What an uncivilized welcome,” said Aimery, smiling at the chaos he’d wrecked in so few moments. His dark eyes shimmered as he looked down at the weak princess in his hold. “And I even brought you a gift.”
A wave of dizziness passed over Cress. White lights flashed in her gaze. Burning tears seeped out of the corners of her eyes as her.
As she stared, fingernails gathering skin and blood as they desperately tried to fight of Thorne’s grip, the thaumaturge pulled a thin object from his sleeve. Uncapped it. Blackness threatened to seep into Cress’s thoughts just as she recognized what it was—a syringe.
The princess hardly seemed to notice, too distracted with the pain in her skull. It was clear she would have collapsed to the floor if it wasn’t for Aimery’s hold keeping her plastered to his side.
With a sickening grin, Aimery tilted the princess back and stuck the needle into the side of her neck.
A scream tore through her.
“Cress.” Thorne’s voice was weak, seeming to come to her over a mile instead of mere inches. “The cabinet—tools—”
As if angry that he would attempt to defy them, Thorne’s hands tightened on her throat. She instinctively sank her knee into his chest, trying to shove off of him, and he grunted with pain—but then his words shifted through the panic.
One hand still clawing weakly at his fingers, the other reached for the cabinet handle. Pulled. Rummaged blindly inside. Her fingers closed around something cold and long and heavy.
Her body itched to swipe it across Thorne’s head, but rationality fought the instinct. Looked up through the bright spots and threw.
A thump was followed by a cry of pain and Thorne’s hands dropped away from her.
The first breath sucked into her, stinging her throat. Cress clambered off the captain, throwing herself toward the back wall.
Aimery dropped the princess and she fell unconscious to the floor. Reaching up, he pressed two fingers to his skull. They came away glistening with blood. Then he looked down at the ten-inch wrench on the floor.
He dropped his control long enough for Dr. Erland to heave himself at Thorne and throw a punch to the captain’s jaw, before Thorne caught his fist and batted him away. With his free hand, the captain grabbed for his gun, ripped it from the holster, and tossed it at Cress’s feet.
No sooner had the gun left the captain’s grip than he slammed back against the cabinets, keeled over and clutched at his stomach.
Aimery turned toward her, his lips smiling though his gaze was harsh and furious. “You shells always cause so much trouble.”
Cress gulped. She still felt weak, her lungs struggling to take in the oxygen that had been missing. Her legs were trembling, barely able to support her, and all the while the gun at her feet called to her, its presence looming in her thoughts.
It was so close, but she couldn’t bring herself to take her gaze from the thaumaturge for one second. Her heart hammered. A drop of sweat dripped down her back.
A snarl sent a chill racing down Cress’s spine. Not animal, not human. From the corner of her eye she could see Wolf, but not Wolf, prowling toward her around the back of the podship. He lumbered with an awkward gait, half-crouched and ready to spring. At her.
She focused her attention on Aimery, her fingers itching for the gun, imagining the weight of it, the feel of it—though she’d never held one before [true?]. She imagined aiming. Pulling the trigger. Prepared her body, her fingers, her mind.
A drop of blood slipped down Aimery’s brow, arching down his temple.
A flash of cinnamon-red caught in Cress’s vision. Scarlet planted herself squarely between her and Wolf, arms outstretched, blockading her. “Cress! Now!”
Cress fell to her knees and snatched up the gun, feeling it warm and slick in her palm and for the briefest of moments she imagined she could do this.
Then Wolf roared and Cress remembered that she was the only one immune to the thaumaturge.
She had no allies.
As Wolf lunged, Scarlet’s feet sidestepped as smooth and graceful as a dancer.
Cress screamed as the force pushed her over onto her back, kicking the breath from her tortured lungs. She had enough time to see the fervent, cruel glint in Wolf’s emerald eyes, before he lowered his head and clamped his jaw around her upper arm. Her scream shrilled as fangs pierced her flesh, hot pain blinding her. Her fingers dropped the gun, her muscles and tendons helpless and burning.
The thaumaturge chuckled. She spotted him over Wolf’s shoulder, collected as he tucked his hands into the wide sleeves of his coat.
“The rest of these traitors may come in quite useful,” he said, smiling down at her, even as the world spun and she found herself again fighting to stay conscious. “But I’m afraid I have no use for you.”
Wolf pulled his head away and Cress screamed as she felt flesh ripping beneath his pinched jaws.
Gritting her teeth against the burning pain, Cress fumbled at Wolf’s waist with her free hand. Trembling fingers found his holster, blessedly, the handle of the gun still in it.
Towering over them on Wolf’s other side, Aimery didn’t notice until she’d pulled out the gun and aimed it for his chest.
As she felt claws rip into her abdomen, her shaking finger pulled the trigger.
The kickback from the shot threw the gun out of her hand, the ring of the blast echoing in her ears, her entire body throbbing and burning. That was the last she remembered.