ZARK by UnpublishedWriter
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The various series of robotic sentinels had performed well over the decades, particularly the ZARK and SUSAN models. Individual units of models ZARK/1 through ZARK/6, and the SUSAN series, had successfully guarded against or watched for threats throughout the Sol system, needing only a few alterations and improvements as operational requirements changed.

All this changed with the ZARK/7 model. Somehow, some way, word had come down that the ZARK/7 should have a human voice and personality. Psychologists thought that people did not like or respond well to the usual voice of a ZARK unit, and they even thought the chassis needed work. It should be friendlier in all ways.

In and of itself, this wasn’t a bad idea. Unfortunately, the designers of the changes were --- inept, to put it kindly. The body design became an egg with rudimentary arms and extendable legs with a small jet-system for movement. They had a chance with the voice, and at first, the change wasn’t too objectionable. For a voice, they had picked that of a 20th Century actor known mostly for his work on a television show about a talking horse and on several animated series. Then they blew it again: the ZARK/7 model’s personality was hideously sycophantic.

To make matters worse, the ZARK unit installed at Center Neptune, 7-ZARK/7, was a simpering twit. It and the SUSAN unit on Pluto had developed a peculiar bonded data-sharing system that the AI and IT techs could not separate.

“How did this happen?” Security Chief Anderson wondered for the millionth time, as he suffered through another bizarre recording of the data transfers between the two units. If he hadn’t known better, he would have thought he was listening to a silly woman who spent more time doing her hair than her job, and to her smitten admirer. At other times, the transfers were disturbingly sexual.

This time, a Spectran stealth mecha had slipped past the sensor systems monitored by the SUSAN unit. According to the transmission from the unit, her antennae were up in curlers at the time.

This could not be more bizarre if Spectra had planned it.

He looked up to see Mark wincing. “Are they all that bad?” the young man asked.

“Yes. And the cumulative effects are worse than any torture.”

“Then that might explain the staff reaction to this memo.” Mark handed it over. Anderson reached for the extra-strength ibuprofen.

7-ZARK/7 was getting a dog-robot. 1-ROVER/1.
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