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Kerblam! Recap

The Doctor takes the TARDIS through evasive actions to avoid the teleport pulse, it hits the TARDIS. A Kerblam robot appears holding a box and announce that it has a delivery for the Doctor. She takes the box and the robot teleports away, and the Doctor explains that Kerblam is the biggest retailer in the galaxy. The Doctor opens the box and takes out the fez that she ordered, wrapped in bubble wrap. Yasmin finds the packing slip with "Help me" printed on it. They figure that it can't hurt to check and head for Kerblam's warehouse moon in orbit around Kandoka. Ryan says that he feels like he's back at the factory, and the Doctor tells them that they're going undercover.

The group arrive at the desk claiming that they're new recruits, and the "Head of People" person Judy Maddox says that they're not expecting anyone. The Doctor presents her psychic paper and sonics Judy's tablet, and Judy soon lets them in. Worker Dan Cooper is trying to banter with one of the robot TeamMates, and Ryan and Graham both find the robots creepy.

Judy has the system scan the group to determine their optimal job placement and explains that the Kerblam robots are there to supervise the organic workers and explains that 90% of the workers are robots while 10% are certified people. The lights go out and then come back online a few seconds later. Judy says that they get the occasional power drain, and assumes that everyone's morale is good given how hard it is to get jobs. The robots put on group-loop bracelets on their ankles, and Judy takes them on the tour of the vast shipping complex. The Doctor asks to do the packing slips, but Judy tells her that only the purple group-loops do the slips. Graham has a purple group-loop, and once Judy leaves the Doctor switches colors with Graham.

The robots take Yasmin off to one area, and the Doctor and Ryan to packing slips. Graham ends up working in premium maintenance. The Doctor and Ryan work with Kira Arlo, and Ryan is a natural since he used to work in a warehouse. He talks about how his mates used to cover for his physical condition until he caught in, and Kira says that she had the same problem. The Doctor wonders why Kerblam has humans to do automated tasks, and Kira explains that due to labor laws people have to make sure that at least 10% of the workforce is human. Kira talks about how she reminds herself of all the customers that she's helped, and says that she never knew her parents so never got presents from them. She doesn't know where the packing slips come from, and the Doctor asks if she's ever met anyone there who needs help.

Yasmin works with Dan and asks the same question, and Dan warns her that the TeamMates can hear every word if they choose and there's no such thing as privacy there. He tells her not to bump into the TeamMates, switches scanners with her, and shows Yasmin the poster he ended up on. Dan shows Yasmin a necklace that his daughter made for him and figures that it will outlast him. A TeamMate tells them to move on, and Dan tells Yasmin that he saves his money for his daughter's education so she doesn't end up like him. He admits that he was a rubbish husband but is trying to make up for it with his daughter. Another TeamMate comes by and tells them to keep the social interaction down and the productivity up. Yasmin gets a procurement order and when she reads off the location in the Triple 9s, Dan tells her it's not a good idea to go there on her first day and he'll take it, and the last person who went down there disappeared and was apparently sacked. After a moment, Yasmin goes after him.

The power goes out again for a moment, and Jarva Slade comes in and tells the Doctor, Ryan, and Kira that it's just a glitch. He tells Kira to engage her brain if she can find it, and Ryan objects to the insult. The Doctor agrees with him and introduces herself, and Jarva says that he's her boss. She tells him to be nicer to Kira, and when Jarva threatens her with a warning for insubordination, the Doctor tells him that respect goes both ways. The Doctor says that the best managers know when someone is asking for help, and asks him if he knows anyone who needs help. Jarva abruptly leaves and Kira tells the Doctor be careful of him. She says that a man got a warning about leaning on the conveyer and then he was gone, and admits that a few have gone recently and one of them never arrived home.

Dan goes to Level 999 and finds a TeamMate waiting for him. He asks why the TeamMate is not in his designated location, and the TeamMate just stares at him. Dan goes over to check on it and it doesn't respond, but grabs him when he turns away.

Yasmin searches for Dan and hears him scream. She finds Dan's abandoned cart and broken scanner, and his daughter's necklace nearby. A TeamMate steps out and advances on Yasmin, and another one appears behind her. She ducks through the shelves to the next aisle and runs out.

Two TeamMates instruct Graham on the safety rules, and Graham's maintenance mentor Charlie Duffy arrives. Once the TeamMates leave, Graham introduces himself and asks Charlie how it all really works. Charlie explains that the TeamMates check on them after every task. There's another power drain and the system instructs the humans to take a temporary break in the home zone.

The group meets in the park-like home zone and Yasmin tells them what happened. The Doctor asks Graham to find out the history of the company and get plans of the complex, and Charlie comes over. As Graham introduces him, Kira drops her food tray and Charlie immediately picks it up. He assures her that she's fine and then walks off, and Ryan figures that it's a workplace crush.

The Doctor, Ryan, and Yasmin go to Jarva's office to file a complaint about Dan's disappearance. Judy is with Jarva and explains that Kerblam is its own jurisdiction and there are no police. The Doctor shows them the packing slip and asks who has access to the printing system for the packing slip. Jarva says that their automatically generated but put in the boxes in fulfillment. Ryan points out that there's no time to fill out slips, and the Doctor tells them that if they don't do something then she might suspect that they're responsible. Judy promises that they'll look into it and Jarva reluctantly agrees, and the Doctor warns that if they don't keep their promise then they'll have her to answer to.

Out in the hallway, the Doctor says that she doesn't like bullies and people being in danger. She finds a hidden alcove and says that they'll wait there until Jarva leaves and then break into his office.

Back in the maintenance room, Graham asks Charlie how long he's had a thing for Kira. Charlie says that he can't concentrate when he's around her, and she smells perfect. Graham tells him that he needs help getting around and could use plans of the layout. Charlie agrees and takes him to the lobby, and says that the exhibits are of the entire history of Kerblam. Graham gets the original plans and says that he's taking them to the Doctor to help him "study".

The Doctor, Ryan, and Yasmin go into Jarva's office and discover that his filing cabinet is locked. They open it and stare at the paperwork in shock. Judy comes back, saying that their group-loops told her that they came, and demands to know why they returned. She's also confirmed that there are no shuttles and wonders if they're spies. The Doctor says that people are vanishing and Jarva is keeping a running tally. The disappearances are on the increase, and the Doctor accuses Judy of negligence.

The power goes out again and Judy realizes that it's a total system blackout down to the foundation levels. Graham and Charlie come in and Graham gives the original plans to the Doctor. Ryan points out that a TeamMate standing in the doorway is still active, and it throws a punch at Charlie. It grabs him by the throat, and the others run over and Judy tears its head off. Yasmin explains that the TeamMates came after her. The power comes up and the Doctor discovers that the receptor cells on the TeamMate are blown out. She scans it and determines that the system channeled all of its power into it, meaning the system is attacking them. Judy says that a human wouldn't have done it. When the Doctor questions her sincerity, Judy says that she's worked for years to keep humans working, and Charlie agrees. The system shows that the missing workers are alive and working, and the Doctor figures that if she can get a copy of the original code then she could hack into the system and see what it's hooked to. Graham figures that they can get it.

The group return to the lobby and get the original delivery bot, Twirly, from its display case. In his office, Jarva sees them on the monitor and takes out his gun.

Two TeamMates approach Kira and tells them that she is an exceptional worker, and she has been designated Employee of the Day. In recognition of their work, they have a gift for her. The TeamMates tell her to come with them and she does.

The doctor realizes that she has to recharge Twirly before she can get the code. Judy gets a notification that Kira's GroupLoop has gone off the system, and they figure the system sent the signal deliberately to lure them in. Kira is in Dispatch, in the company's foundation, and Judy warns that there's no route down. Ryan says that he'll get there with Yasmin and Charlie. They go to a dispatch hatch and slide down. Charlie says that he'll go on his own, but Ryan ad Yasmin insists that they're in it together and they all slide down.

The TeamMates take Kira to a room and tell her to make herself at home. They leave, locking the door behind them.

The trio arrive in Dispatch and land on the convey belts, and Ryan high-fives Charlie... knocking him off onto a lower belt. Yasmin tells Ryan that they'll both jump, and Ryan reluctantly jumps with her.

The Doctor manages to reactivate Twirly and has it stop the upselling. Judy shows Twirly her credentials and says that they need it to carry out a task to save Kerblam. The Doctor patches Twirly into the base codes that only it can recognize and then deliver the information to them. She plugs it in and the Kerblam system speaks through Twirly, asking the Doctor for help. The Doctor realizes that the system asked her for help, and says that help is needed in Dispatch where the others are.

the trio go through disinfection and then run as the system tries to disintegrate the organic "infection". they get out the other side into the Foundation Level,, and hear Kira calling to anyone who can hear her.

As they go back to the lobby, the Doctor says that the delivery bots have teleport systems. Jarva arrives and draws his gun on them, and the Doctor activates the teleport system and then immobilizes Jarva with Venusian Aikido and takes his gun. He insists that he's recording the missing and something is wrong with the system, so he made his notes in analog. Judy says that he could have told her, and Jarva says that he doesn't know if he can trust her and still doesn't. Graham finds the remnants of the missing workers and the Doctor realizes that they're under a liquidation tank. The Doctor looks in the hangar next door and sees thousands of delivery bots.

The trio find Kira on the other side of a one way mirror. A package teleports into her room addressed to her, and Kira prepares to open it.

The Doctor realizes that the delivery bots are being held back, and there are huge reserves of power being built up for one simultaneous teleport. She figures that the boxes are weapons, opens one, and finds a toy wrapped in bubble wrap. All the other packages have something different in them... except for the bubble wrap.

Kira opens the box and finds a piece of bubble wrap inside. She takes it out and starts to burst one of the bubbles. Charlie yells at her to stop, but she doesn't hear him. When the bubble bursts, there's a release of energy and Kira is vaporized. Ryan realizes that Charlie knew something was going to happen, and he says that the system has done it deliberately. Yasmin and Ryan go to find the Doctor.

The Doctor scans the bubble wrap and confirms that it contains tiny little bombs ready to explode. She tells the others that Kerblam is killing its customer. Ryan and Yasmin arrive and tell them what happened, and Charlie comes up with a controller and says that Kira wasn't intended to die but the system has been fighting back against her. The Doctor realizes that as a maintenance man, no one would notice Charlie and he could go anywhere. Charlie explains that he needed test subjects to make sure the explosives were effective, and admits that he lied on his application so that Judy would let him in. He asks about the other 90% unemployed, and the number of employable humans will continue decreasing.

The Doctor figures that Charlie is going to make the system malfunction so people will turn against it. She says that the system has a conscious and has been fighting him, and it sent the TeamMate after Charlie and then killed Kira so he'd understand how all the families and friends of his victims will care. The Doctor tells him to learn from losing Kira, but he refuses to let the systems take control. She says that how people abuse the system is the problem, but Charlie activates the delivery bots via the controller and then destroys it.

The Doctor warns that she doesn't have enough time to fix the controller, and tells her companions to get a delivery bot's head as Yasmin holds Charlie. Charlie pulls free and runs down, and says that the Doctor can't stop him. The Doctor activates Twirly and links him into the delivery bot system to make a change of address. She wants every bot to open the order they've just delivered to themselves and pop the bubble wrap. Charlie is down in the hangar with the bots, and the Doctor yells at Charlie to get out. The Doctor teleports them out as the bot activate the explosions, destroying themselves and Charlie.

Later, Jarva says that they're suspending operations for a month and all workers have been given two weeks' paid leave. Judy is going to propose that Kerblam becomes a People-Led organization in the future. She invites the group to join the management team, but the Doctor says that they're freelance. Back in the TARDIS, Yasmin says that Dan switched scanners with her and saved her life, and she wants to take the necklace to his daughter and tells her how much he loved her. The Doctor immediately agrees. Graham finds some bubble wrap and considers popping it, and then puts it back in the box.

Written by Gadfly on Nov 19, 2018

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