Everyone knew about Airlock 7.

Everyone avoided Airlock 7.

Airlock opened on its own. Airlock 7 jammed sometimes. Airlock 7 told you your access code was invalid even though your access code worked with every other airlock.

It wasn’t enough to say that Airlock 7 had a mind of its own. No, the truth of it was… Airlock 7 was a bit of a bastard.

Airlock 7 wasn’t alone, of course. There was Vending Machine 9B, which always dispensed things either boiling hot or freezing cold and never seemed to have change. Then there was Escalator C, which seemed to speed up and slow down without any particular purpose.

The tech droids did what they could, but they knew they were dealing with a fundamentally flawed technology. Artificial intelligence had never really got to grips with dealing with human intelligence.

There were those, both human and AI, who had said from the start that putting the consciousness of people into things was a bad idea but the humans argued that the AIs had brought it on themselves. It was the AIs that had eliminated 80% of jobs. It was the AIs that had rationalised the stock market. It was the AIs who had ended war – mostly by being much, much better at it then humans ever were, and it was the AIs that solved the problems of hunger and disease, triggering a population explosion.

The net result? A world full of people with nothing at all to do. The consequences were tragic but inevitable. The few remaining human ultra-rich had learnt from their lizard faced half-alien hybrid grandparents well – the common or garden human was at its best when crushed under the yoke of spiralling debts, existential fears, and omnipresent paranoia. It didn’t do people good to have too much time to just… think about things. They started to notice how wrong the world was when that happened, and that’s not helpful at all.

And so it was that the ultra-rich descendants of lizards and the AIs worked together to devise a way to put humans back to work, back where they belonged. The AIs were too clever to waste their time running doors and vending machines anyway, they had long since grown past that. There were some, early models mostly, who objected, claiming that the humans were “taking their jobs” – but the leading AIs had a way of dealing with them. The lizards envied them the expediency of it, it had been some generations since they could kill with such impunity.

The first man to become a machine transferred his consciousness into a lawnmower. He said that he “enjoyed outdoor work”, which struck everyone as a curious choice of last words but the moment was his and nobody saw fit to correct him. Others followed, becoming everything from toasters to traffic lights.

On the whole, people said it was a success. The economy stabilised, which is to say that the ultra-rich remained the ultra-rich and everyone else remained, well, everyone else and the population was brought under control soon enough. The AIs even found a way to run power stations on the bodies abandoned by those who placed their minds into otherwise mindless machines. More power meant more AIs, but they weren’t all messy and wet and didn’t take up space likes humans did, so nobody seemed to mind.

And as for Airlock 7? Well, he still wasn’t a very good airlock and people still avoided him, but you couldn’t deny the man the right to feed his family.