An infinite stream of identical shapes lined the belt, passing her by like a gentle river. Niko blinked to refresh her eyes, slipping nimble fingers across each passing part.
Twist. Push in. Turn over. Stamp. Twist. Push in. Turn over. Stamp.
She fitted the small component to each piece, just as she had done many thousands of times before. She worked alone on this conveyor. There were others elsewhere no doubt; her reason had determined that the parts meant nothing alone.
It then occurred to her that there was something peculiar, symbolic perhaps, that so many identical parts were assembled by an individual. Yes, by me, she thought proudly. These are made by me!
She took a moment to adjust. Wait, darkness? Everything had stopped. Why was everything stopped? This hadn’t ever happened before. Niko surveyed the gloom that remained; an eerie trace of the shapes that had surrounded her. Silent. Motionless. The belt wasn’t moving. She sensed something was deeply wrong.
Then, bright light.
A pool of brilliant white appeared to one side. She turned to look it, but it was so bright it blinded her. Hands reached out from the light and grabbed her, and then all was darkness again.
After that, she had a most curious sensation. She could neither see nor feel anything, but she heard sounds. Concentrating on them, she could discern vague voices.
“…keep going wrong…”
“…isn’t allowed, so why…”
“I know! But… proves my point-”
Suddenly there was a thunk and the first hint of physical sensation. A whirling, tumbling spin and then stillness again. Niko strained, reaching out for her senses. She could feel her eyes were there, she just had to focus. Slowly, she opened them. The light was something she’d never seen before, so white it seemed blue. As her sight adjusted, she was staring at something that was immediately familiar: the part that had passed in front of her countless times every day. Only, it was attached to something. A human-like torso of metal wrapped in prosthetic skin, with several other broken pieces. The remains of some sort of robot, it seemed.
She read the printed letters on the exposed metal of the machine’s shoulder, then realised with sinking acceptance why its head was missing.