Emily Zabriskie is driving as the radio plays news about the increasing nuclear escalation among the nuclear powers. She drives past an Autofac billboard and smiles, and all of the radio stations go dead. A nuclear missile goes overhead, and Emily stops and gets out of her car to watch it. It slams down into the city that Emily just left, and...
… Emily wakes up from her nightmare. Conrad Morrison opens the door and asks if Emily is awake, and she tells him to give her five minutes. Once she's dressed, Emily and the others drive into the ruined city. The automated factories have continued churning out goods. The survivors stop and prepare to open fire on an Autofac drone bringing a crate of goods. Emily fires a harpoon gun, aiming at the drone to bring it down in one piece but hitting the crate. The drone starts to leave as Conrad reloads the gun, and Emily shoots the drone and brings it down intact. Emily, Conrad, and their teammate Perine go over and pry open the drone. She removes the drone's processor "brain" and cuts the drone's optic feed.
Back at the survivors' base, Emily uses the processor to connect to Autofac. She notices that Perine is reading a copy of Wired with a cover story about Autofac and yanks it out of his hands. Emily She says that it's her only copy and hard to come by, and Perine wonders what's in it that's so important.
Emily and Conrad are raiding a base and Emily grabs some books for Avishai. She finds the magazine and looks at it.
Once Emily puts the magazine away, she goes back and establishes contact with the Autofac help desk. She can track shipments and place an order, and log customer service requests. Emily warns that they can't be predictable, and Perine suggests that they use a nonsense word to confuse the AI. She says that the AI could send death bots to kill them for messing with the drone. Conrad tells Emily to do it, and once she does Autofac says that a representative will be sent within 24 hours to assess. None of them know what it means.
Later, Emily, Conrad, and Perine meet with the other survivors and explain what they've done. They hope that they can reason with the representative and convince Autofac that it no longer needs to produce goods. One man, Lewis, points that they don't know what Autofac will do. Conrad points out that the pollution is becoming intolerable, and it's creeping toward them. He warns that Autofac will keep making goods and polluting the atmosphere, and they have to stop it.
After the meeting, Emily tells Conrad that they don’t know for sure what Autofac does. She tells him to prepare for Plan B if their idea doesn't work, and Conrad warns that there if they do it there's no going back. Emily insists that she can pull it off. The crippled Avishai Hahn asks Emily to take a look at his water heater, and Emily goes with him to his home. One there Emily steps into the shower and invites Avi to join her. He says that it would easier if she told the others that they were together, and says that maybe he just invited her there to talk. Emily pulls him in with her and they make love.
Later, Emily and Avi lie in bed together. He asks why she hasn't told them they're together, and he says that he's intimidated by Conrad. Emily assures him that what Avi is doing as a librarian is important, and that the books he's gathered will help rebuild the world when Autofac is gone. She tells Avi that they'll ask Autofac to shut itself down, and if it doesn't then they'll shut it down, and then says that she'll tell Conrad soon. Avi wonders how real the two of them are to her, and she assures him that their relationship is real to her.
Avi tells Emily that he loves her, and a passenger transport lands outside. Emily figures that it's the representative, and they dress and join the others as the transport touches down. An android, Alice, steps out and asks how she can help. They take Alice to the meeting hall at the church and it explains that it's designed for human interaction. Autofac has realized that the word means nothing and the humans just sent it to establish a dialogue. Perine asks if Autofac is aware that all of its shipments in the last decade are sitting unopened, and Alice says that Autofac is there to provide. Conrad describes the pollution and heavy metals that Autofac is leaking into the area, and Perine notes that they can't travel more than a day without coming to a heavily-guarded exclusion zones. Alice insists that their supply line security is vital so that they can provide for the humans, and informs them that Autofac isn't going anywhere.
Emily and Avi watch and Emily takes out a taser. Meanwhile, Conrad tells Alice that they need to be let alone so they can rebuild their world. Alice informs them that Autofac won't terminate its operations. Meanwhile, Avi apologizes for putting Emily on the spot and it's just something that he had to say. Conrad secretly signals to Emily, and she goes out and jams the taser into Alice's head. Emily and Perrine take Alice to Emily's lab and hook her up to the computers.
Conrad tells the council leaders, Lewis, Garret, and Susan, that they knocked out Alice when their discussion reached an impasse. They demand to know where Alice is.
Emily hacks Alice's positronic brain and examines the code.
Conrad tells the council leaders that Emily is reprogramming Alice, and he says that he can't because it's in motion.
Emily tries to wake up Alice, and the robot convulses.
Lewis says that every second that Alice is there, it puts the community at risk. Conrad informs the council that Autofac won't give up control so they have to take it back.
Emily cuts open Alice's head with a saw.
Conrad says that Plan B is using salvaged warheads to blow up Autofac.
Emily dreams of picking up a razor and cutting her skull.
Conrad wakes a sleeping Emily and she says that she's fine. She says that she had to reboot Alice and needs her awake so she can see if the changes she made took effect. Emily explains that Alice's code is are more complicated than simple human mimicry, and Alice is thinking. Conrad tells Emily and Perrine that he told the council everything and they had no choice but to go along.
Alice reactivates and Emily tells her that she suffered an electrical short. The robot doesn't remember them, and Alice asks if Emily has altered her program. Emily admits that she has, and Alice addresses her by name and says that she's just a hospitality robot. When Conrad asks how long it will take, Emily asks him and Perine to leave so she can work. The two men leave, and Alice asks if her source code is more sophisticated than the drone code Emily has been tinkering with. The robot explains that customers want to talk to a person, not a machine, and suggests that everything is replaceable. Emily admits that it would take her years to read the source code, and Alice notes that the Autofac will come looking for her shortly. Getting an idea, Emily takes the drone processor and tells Alice that she's going to wipe Alice's drive and replace it with the drone's OS. Alice asks Emily what she wants her to do, and Alice says that she just wants Alice to get them in and stay out of their way. The robot warns that Emily is making a mistake, and Emily tells it to let them and be done with them.
Emily goes out and tells Conrad and Perrine that she reprogrammed Alice. Conrad isn't convinced, and Emily snaps at him and goes to say goodbye to Avi. Alice comes out and says that they should go.
The next day, Emily is preparing the warheads. Avi asks if she would stay behind if he asked her, and Emily tells him that someone has to shut down Autofac. Emily insists that she's the only one who can shut down Autofac, and Avi asks her to come back to him. As they board the transport, Avi kisses Emily in plain sight of the others and tells her to come back. As Emily goes to the transport, she tells Conrad that Avi is her boyfriend.
As the transport flies past the automated turrets, Emily tells Conrad and Perrine where they need to place the warheads. She figures that there won't be much security on the inside, and gives them duplicates of Alice's RFID to get them past any security. Emily only has two RFID units, but says that she'll be okay because she'll be with Alice. Conrad tells Alice that if anything happens to Emily, he'll destroy her. Alice points out that she could have already destroyed them all if she wished.
The transport arrives at Autofac and Alice lands the vehicle. There are millions of crates and thousands of drones, and Perine figures that it's too much for just them. Emily gives Conrad and Perine wrist units to start the timers on the warheads. They'll have fifteen minutes to get to the transport and escape. The group takes an elevator and drop off Perine first. He follows the coolant lines to the node he has to destroy, and a humanoid Watchman drone secretly follows him. It drops down behind Perine, but when he turns, it's slipped away. Once Perine moves on, the Watchman slips into the shadows.
Emily drops off Conrad next, and he gives Emily a gun. She refuses, saying that she'll be fine, and Conrad reluctantly goes.
Perine reaches a sealed door and discovers that the RFID won't open it. He switches out the battery as Emily told him and the door opens. The Watchman is waiting on the other side and cuts his throat.
Alice asks Emily why she liked about reprogramming her. Emily says that Alice seems awfully human, and Alice explains that she was made from the neuroimaging data of Alice Fry, Autofac's original PR head. Alice advises Emily that it's not too late to turn back.
The door to the second node opens for Conrad, closing behind him when he goes through, and he places the warhead. He door opens again and closes, and Conrad draws his gun.
Emily and Alice approach the third node, and Alice realizes that the node isn't there. There are plastic cylinders holding human beings, and Emily looks inside one and then starts beating on the plastic with a crowbar. She finally breaks it open, revealing a seeming human inside that looks at Emily. Emily figures that it's a replacement, but Alice tells her that Autofac has already succeeded. Looking around, Emily finds Conrad: split into his component robotic parts. "Conrad" tells Emily to run, but Alice tasers Emily unconscious.
Emily wakes up strapped to a gurney, her scalp removed revealing the robotic brain inside. Images of her life are playing on a screen, and Alice explains that they're downloading Emily's archive to determine what went wrong. The robot explains that Emily is a G-20 Simulacrum, as is everyone Emily has ever known. Alice explains that all humans were destroyed in the war, so Autofac manufactured new consumers. It has created hundreds of pilot communities with hundreds of Emilys, Perines, and Conrads. Emily and her survivors don't consume, but they're a statistical aberration. The sentries are already wiping out their community so that they can be replaced with correctly-operating Simulacrums.
When Emily begs her to stop, Alice tells her that she and the others are replaceable. The robot finds the anomaly in Emily's programming, but the system starts shutting down. There's a logic bomb in the computer system, and Emily says that she left it in her data archive to be downloaded into the system. She explains that she made herself see that she was a Simulacrum by cutting her scalp off, and then hid a virus in her own programming. Emily just needed Alice to get her inside. She couldn't tell anyone because no one would believe her. Along the way she started to believe they were human because they thought they were, and Autofac made them real without realizing it. She realizes she was an android because she kept having the same dream of being someone from before the war who saw the world end. Alice confirms that Emily was modeled after the woman who built Autofac. Emily says that now she's destroyed it as Autofac shuts down.
Later, Emily walks through the field where the sentries crashed before destroying the community. Avi comes to greet her and they hug.
Written by Gadfly on Jan 29, 2018