Charon is dead, and though General Wharington's team has deleted all the electronic copies of him, one problem remains: Alpha. Indistinguishable from a woman, Alpha has superhuman capabilities and Wharington's superiors want her dismantled and studied but he believes her behavior is becoming more human. Is she developing emotions, or just learning to counterfeit them?
In this first book in the Step by Step trilogy, global catastrophe occurs as all plastic mysteriously liquefies. All the small components making many technologies possible--navigation systems, communications, medical equipment--fail. In Sycamore River, citizens find their lives disrupted as everything they've depended on melts around them, with sometimes fatal results. All they can rely upon is themselves.
The shipwrecked stranger washed up on the beach near Samantha's home turns out to be a half-human experiment by the notorious criminal Charon, a practitioner of illegal robotics with evil plans. Samantha and the man seek help from Sunrise Alley, an underground organization of AIs that have gone rogue.