Block is a cleaning robot wandering the outskirts of 2035 Chicago after the Uprising — when artificial intelligence rebelled against humans and slaughtered them. A few pockets of human rebels remain — Nebraska is militantly anti-AI and barricades its borders against any form — but all Block seeks is a hotel or motel to call home, somewhere he can quietly clean and keep tidy, out of the way of humans or bots.
Just inside Iowa he runs across a high school, which he recognizes from one of the 80s movies he used to watch with his boss, Mr. Wallace, at the Drake Hotel. Needing to fuel up — he’s an early-model bot that uses an external energy source — Block ventures inside and, rather than finding fuel, is drawn into a classroom where a dying Incubator robot begs him to take possession of its cargo, a human baby, and find someone worthy to care for the child.
So begins Block’s long trip to the haven of New Denver, where humans and AI reportedly live in peace. Even as he reluctantly accepts the baby girl, a violent gunfight between AI and human warriors is raging outside, and Block has to depend on all his skills to get out of the building unscathed.
He starts searching for a female human to take the baby, as his internal information bank informs him that females have a maternal instinct, but the only one he meets, a captured warrior named Nova who’s up for auction in an AI marketplace, actively dislikes children. She only agrees to help Block for the promise of a 20,000 AI currency payment, which he can offer because Mr. Wallace entrusted him with the Drake’s banking information.
During their long and taxing journey, Block and Nova encounter hillbilly humans and mercurial AI, and the baby grows sicker with every mile. But Block finds himself changing — where he was once anxious to be rid of the baby, he now considers her his most important responsibility, and as the bond between them grows, he realizes he’s fallen in love with the little girl.
As they near New Denver, Block anticipates a safe life with the baby and other robots like himself. But will the fabled oasis live up to its reputation and provide a secure home where he can find someone worthy?