A weary, confused Carl fills a kettle from the INS water cooler, and then tries to put it on the hotplate. He gets it on the second try, he then staggers over to his desk and spends a few moments looking for his tape recorder. Finding it beneath his hat, he begins to dictate: "
April 2, Sunday, 11:25 p.m. Professor Avery Walker was working late. Prof. Walker was a member of a crack team of researchers, but tonight he was working alone. He had received specific orders, and being a fastidious man, he intended carrying out those orders to the letter." Prof. Walker is working in a laboratory, over an unclad, flesh-colored man-figure with circuitry for a face. As Walker turns to check some computers, the figure twitches. Walker checks it again, but when he next turns his back, the figure rises, grabs his neck, and squeezes. Avery dies in seconds. The figure then strides out of the laboratory.
On a quiet city street, a postal van drives by. "1:15 the same night. Postal Worker Arnold Techman was an hour behind. Techman was addicted to hot Texas chili, but it always made him sick, and late. That made the mail arrive late. But tomorrow it would arrive even later." The figure comes up behind Techman and throws him into a pile of crates, then relieves him of his uniform.
Later, the figure stands standing outside a magic & novelty store. It contemplates a series of masks, then breaks the window and takes a blue face mask with human features.
A cheery Carl arrives in the office the next day, to be greeted with an equally cheery "Good morning, Carl!" from Ron. Carl's then summoned in to see Tony, who wants to know where Carl was yesterday. Carl relates how he went up to West Falls to check an alleged murder, but it turns out it was an accident after all. Tony (correctly) figures out Carl weaseled out to get in a day of fishing. As punishment, Tony gives Carl a report on Professor Avery Walker, who is big on computer science, and tells him to do an obit. The file is out of date. Carl says that Ron is into obits and should do it. Tony tells Carl how Ron is off to do a story that should have been Carl's: the Mendenhelm trial in San Francisco. Carl sputters. "Need I say it, Carl? One either fishes, or cuts bait."
Carl drives up to the Walker residence, noticing someone watching the house from a car across the street. The man, Peters, makes a report on his car phone. In the house, Mrs. Walker pours herself a drink. Carl offers his condolences, but the widow seems unconcerned. Carl mentions Walker's Nobel Prize, and how his death is a great loss. Carl asks for details, and she says, "'they' said it was a heart attack." She identifies 'they' as the doctors at the Tyrell Institute where he was working. Carl is unaware that Walker was working on some secret government work. "What sort of government work?" "I just told you--secret." Mrs. Walker knows nothing more except that it involved "ring." She notes that they probably let Leslie Dwyer see him. Dwyer worked with her husband, and the widow appears jealous of her, hinting the two were having an affair.
When Carl leaves the house, he pulls over to the surveillance car, and wants to know what the man's reading. "Listen, study it good, because we're going to have a quiz later this afternoon." The guy pulls off after Kolchak, stopping only to check with a van also watching the Walker home.
Carl heads off to talk to Dwyer, but hears a police call about a 241 in progress. "As I got within a few blocks of her address, I heard an opportunity to return to my normal comfortable pursuits: the reportage of crime, mayhem, and destruction." The mysterious figure, still in postal uniform and blue mask, bursts through the window of Glengary Mortuary. He casually tosses aside policemen and a construction worker from a nearby theater, while Captain Akins calls out "No shooting! Hold your fire!" The figure goes into an alleyway, climbs a ladder, and rips off a fire escape to deter his pursuers. Akins knocks aside a policeman taking a shot as the figure escapes over the rooftop.
When Carl asks why the creampuff treatment, Akins refuses to answer. The mortuary owner, Carmichael, stumbles over and Carl asks the undertaker ("Not undertaker, cosmetologist.") what happened. Carmichael relates how he and his assistant found the fellow stealing facial putty and make-up. Akins shows up to tell Carmichael not to talk to the press. "I thought he was one of your men." "Hardly." Carl asks why the thief would want undertaker's wax ("cosmetologist - not undertaker."), but gets no answer. He then sees Akins consult with a colonel in an unmarked car, and the man who was watching the Walker home.
Carl departs, following the car. He follows it to the Tyrell Institute, but is stopped at the gate. Carl tries to talk his way past the guard, but fails. Identifying himself as a reporter, he is told to phone the office of public information for info on Walker. Carl wants to know what kind of installation Tyrell is but gets the runaround. As Carl departs, the guard takes down his license plate.
At the Dwyer home, Carl identifies himself through the door as a telephone man, and asks about "ring". Dwyer doesn't react, and Carl identifies himself as a reporter. He asks about "Ring" again, but Dwyer denies any knowledge of it. She says she's no longer working at Tyrell, and was laid off due to the recession. Carl mentions mortuaries, and describes the events at Glengary, and how they led him to Tyrell. Dwyer says she can't help him, and everything she worked on at Tyrell is classified. Carl notes she has several tapes, including one on Moral Man in an Immoral Society. Carl tries some chauvinistic charm, but is interrupted by Dwyer's boyfriend. The reporter beats a hasty retreat.
The figure is next seen ripping a mirror off of a van, then applying the flesh-colored wax over his mask.
That night Carl is driving, having no luck with his few friends in the news business finding out about "ring". He does get the name of a member of the appropriations committee, Sen. Duncan LaBeaux Stevens. The Senator doesn't respond to the word "ring," and notes that Tyrell was working on a top-secret project related to computer miniaturization. Carl and the Senator verbally spar a bit, and Carl notes, "I'm not exactly Jimmy Olsen, Cub Reporter." The Senator has his secretary escort Carl out. Carl pauses only to ask, "Do you validate?" Stevens then makes calls to General Brody at Tyrell, and Peter Vreeland in Washington.
At INS, Tony is having a long conversation on the phone with his superior. Carl starts to outline his investigation, noting, "I have a feeling it'll make Watergate look like a pie fight." Tony decides to send Carl out to San Francisco on an emergency, noting that Ron, "...had a big brouhaha with the artist who does the courtroom sketches." When Tony promises Carl a big expense account, Kolchak realizes something is up. The heat is on: the home office wants his story killed, which only make Carl happier. Tony wants to know what's so important about "ring." Carl proceeds to explain and Tony reluctantly acquiesces to Kolchak's continuing on the story."
3:15 p.m. Carl is heading for the public library to check the Congressional records, when he hears a call for Captain Akins over the police band radio, to report to the library. Akins is examining a large hole in the library's wall as Carl takes photos. Akins ignores Carl's questions and chats with two government men who also ignore Carl. Carl then chats with a librarian nearby in the blind-books area. She says the intruder was rampaging about, then left through the wall when it saw her. She remembers it was in the philosophy and humanities section. Carl spots a cassette tape, The Works of St. Thomas Aquinas and pockets it as Akins sends the librarian to talk to the Feds.
That same night, 11:25 p.m. At Dwyer's apartment, she returns and is confronted by the figure, who advances ominously on her. April 3, 7 a.m. Carl goes to Dwyer's apartment. She is missing, and there are signs of a struggle. Passing himself off as "Major Kolchak, Retired." Carl finds out from a policeman that a newsboy spotted a big guy with heavy make-up on his face. The two Feds from the library are also at the apartment, confirming Carl's suspicions.
Carl then goes back to the Walker home and talks with the sobered-up widow. She is preparing to leave, but knows nothing more about Ring. She's happy to hear about Dwyer's disappearance, but denies her previous implication that the doctor and her husband were having an affair. She notes that their's was a passion of the mind, and mentions Dwyer's interest in "autonetics." Her husband's was microcircuitry.
Mrs. Walker rattles off a list of the various subjects... ...which Carl recites to Tony at the office. He concludes from the list of subjects that Walker, Dwyer, and Tyrell were developing a robot with artificial intelligence, and that's RING. He suspects the robot had enough and left. Vincenzo is unimpressed. Carl relates that he hopes to track down Dwyer. Meanwhile, the government is threatening to restrict the INS international wire, citing the military's need to use it for an uprising in El Salvador. Carl reassures Tony that when the Salvadorian tanks show up, he'll be there with Tony. Vincenzo sends the reporter on his way.
Miss Emily has been tracking down books for the blind, and the fifth library loaned out the types of philosophy/humanity tapes Carl is looking for. Carl calls the library and gets the phone number of the person who checked out the tapes. Using contacts at the phone company, he backtracks the number and gets an address, to a large summer home north along the shore of Lake Michigan.
Carl drives up to the house and knocks. Getting no answer, he sneaks in via the back way while RING watches. Carl makes his way through the house and upstairs. There, he finds a dozing Dr. Dwyer and a reel spinning on a tape player. Carl wakes her and asks about the project being built with the public's hard-earned taxes, noting, "Forget them, it was built with my hard-earned dollars, and I want to find out what's going on." Carl appeals to Dwyer, saying Walker may have family or friends who would want to know how he really died. Relenting, Dwyer explains that RING (standing for Robomatic Internalized Nerve Ganglia) killed to protect itself. Dwyer was responsible for the programming, and Tyrell fired her when she resisted their demands for aggression programming. Walker was assigned to deactivate the robot, unaware of how far it had advanced. RING killed Walker and fled, seeking out Dwyer for a set of moral guidelines.
RING bursts through the door, but halts at Dwyer's request. "Good...gosh!" Carl exclaims. Dwyer wants Carl to talk to RING and understand it. Carl asks for the time. The robot suggests he consult a rudimentary clock. Carl then has the robot calculate pi to the 12th power: it does so, but Carl has no idea if the answer is right. Carl then asks who is the father of modern psychology is, and RING answers correctly. Carl has it say the same thing in French. Then Carl asks what the difference is between right and wrong. RING is stumped, and Carl pursues the matter further by asking who had the greater right to life, RING or Walker? The robot is unable to process the information. Dwyer notes that RING could have killed Carl, and that ethically and morally it is still a child, and came to her for guidance.
A number of police cars and military jeeps pull up outside, and Colonel Wright calls for them to come out. Carl goes to talk to them as they break in. The Colonel is unimpressed, and has his men move the reporter out of the way. Facing the inevitable, Dwyer brings RING down. The Colonel's soldiers move her aside and then go for the robot. It goes berserk, lashing out, and a soldier shoots it in the chest. As Dwyer walks away, Carl snaps some pictures, but is taken away by the soldiers.
Back at the office and in the present, Carl drinks his coffee, noting he has no idea where he was or what they gave him. "I can't even be sure the events ever happened the way I told them. Perhaps when I'm complete back in this world, I'll turn on this tape and not believe any of it myself. But I doubt it. Because I believe that somewhere, some place, they or someone else will put some other RING together without the help of Leslie Dwyer. And who...who will program him then?"