A Shift at The Factory
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Anthony lifted his goggles from his eyes. He watched the man working at the nearest conveyor belt. Anthony had never bothered to learn the man's name, despite working with him for almost three years. It just wasn't something you did at The Factory. Work related accidents were all too common to really build up a rapport. And if you weren't one of the people who suffered from a lethal accident, or among the few that would simply throw themselves into the machinery, there was the ever-present threat of simply disappearing.

Yet, after three years, Anthony was still alive. Still working in The Factory instead of off fighting Nazis. He had lost most of his left hand at some point, he couldn't entirely remember when or how as the lengths of the shifts caused one's sense of time to dilate somewhat. But he was still employed. And so was the man at the nearest conveyor belt. Unlike most employees, the man was unharmed despite his length of employment. Anthony wasn't really sure how that was possible, but apparently he had found a way.

The man was stamping The Factory's mark onto a series of circular tin containers that looked like they were already coated in rust. He brought the lever down and The Factory brought down one of its many arms and embossed the bottom of the little tin. Then the belt whirred briefly, and a new tin sat before the man. He repeated the action, his eyes unfocused.

Anthony felt a sweltering heat encase him as he pulled his goggles back on. He wrapped a shiny hoop around the cylindrical chamber and welded the ends together to reinforce the frame. Welding with only one-and-a-half hands should have been near impossible, but he had never found it to be much of an obstacle. Anthony wasn't even sure what the thing was meant to do, he just was to create the central chamber and then drag it over to the woman who would affix the gauges and tubes to it. Then he would go back to his station to find the beginnings of another chamber. He never bothered to find out where they came from. Questions in The Factory often led to unpleasant answers.

It was toward the end of a shift when it happened. Anthony was delirious to the point where he tried welding without his goggles. Before he could place the torch to metal a hand placed itself on his shoulder. He looked up to the Manager, which wagged one of its many fingers as a playful warning. Anthony took a few moments to realize what to do, but he pulled the goggles back over his eyes. He was sure his eyes would begin boiling, but he knew the Manager would reprimand him with much worse. He felt the Manager pat his head gently, and Anthony could see it walking away in the edges of his goggled vision. He thanked it and it waved him a nonchalant dismissal with its various limbs.

Anthony was about to start welding properly when he noticed the man at the conveyor belt was acting strangely. A grin covered the man's face. Anthony discounted it as his exhausted mind; no one smiled at The Factory. The man bent down, rummaged through his bag, and came back up with two small toy robots. They didn't resemble something of Factory make. They were too shiny, too new looking. He placed one on the console and seemed to whisper mad nothings to it before carrying the robot's twin after the retreating Manager, leaving his bag open. The little toy on the console turned to face the conveyor belt and yanked on the lever, but nothing happened. The man didn't notice in his rush after his superior.

The Manager turned around when it heard running footsteps. Work momentarily halted as everyone watched the proceedings. Nothing like this had ever happened before, at least not during their shifts. The Manager watched the man approach and took the toy when it was offered. It examined the device, turning it over time and again. It gestured to the man, who nodded and claimed to have created the little marvel — and many others just like it.

The Manager held the toy in its appendages as it held it at the man's eye level. Anthony grimaced when the metal crumpled helplessly in the Manager's grip. The man looked like he had been shot. He lifted his cupped hands and the Manager dropped the ball of scrap into his hands. With a swift motion the Manager brought down an arm, removing both of the man's hands. They and the former robot hit the ground with a wet clang.

The Manager took note of the abandoned conveyor belt and glided over to it. The man scooped up his hands and cradled the wreckage against him. He followed the Manager back to his work station. It swept up the robot standing on the console and set it atop the waiting tin. The man called out in terror.

The toy viewed its creator and its fallen brother silently. It turned to the Manager. The Manager wrapped a tendril around the lever. The man fell to his knees before his superior, but was ignored. Anthony lowered himself to watch the man dig into his bag sitting by the console. The man brought out a small tube that reminded Anthony of toothpaste, holding it as if his arms were chopsticks. The man chewed off one end and bit the tube, squirting something yellow-green onto the stumps he called wrists. The man fiddled with the wreckage before stuffing the metal ball into the bag. He hooked his arm through the bag's straps and dashed off. Anthony noticed that the man's hands were somehow reattached, though they didn't look to be moving. The Manager watched the man run off and pulled what looked like a pistol from seemingly nowhere.

The Manager spoke in words Anthony did not understand and aimed the pistol at the retreating toymaker.

The toymaker let out a yell that Anthony didn't understand the meaning of, though he at least understood the words.

The toy responded to its maker's cry by opening up its chest and firing a rocket at the Manager's face.

The floor of The Factory that Anthony was on stopped. The conveyor belts halted, the welding torches went out, and for a brief moment the workers didn't even breathe. Then something broke the silence. A single sentence, spoken in a tinny voice. Something no doubt meant for the dying Manager.


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