Quirky

"I need you to confirm the pronunciation of the following names. Miku, Ronsen and Bernstein, Shronbell, Megaladon and finally, C'cheradon Polymos. Note that in the script you sent, this one is spelt two different ways. Awaiting your reply."

Commander David Reese sighed. Here he was, overseeing ITO's response to the boldest attack the Mars insurgents had ever made with only four troops planeside and an AI was giving him flak about spelling. Spelling!

"SARA, in case you haven't noticed, I'm a bit busy right now," the CO murmured, watching a tac-map of Delta's progress. Progress that, as far as he could tell, had ground to a halt as the two forces traded bullets across the Martian atmosphere.

"I'm sorry commander but this can't wait. All I need is clarification of spelling, pronunciation and-..."

"Just send it to Earth SARA. Let some secretary do it."

The AI remained silent and Reese dared hope that that was the end of the conversation. True, Delta was holding their own, their only casualty so far being their sergeant who went down with their ship (or was rather incinerated in an explosion) but it was only a matter of time before their enemies brought larger numbers to bear. And while Interstellar Development Division had given him a full detachment of marines to send down to the planet of war, the timeframe for their arrival was just as vague as the tipping point as to when the four man team on the surface was overwhelmed.

And all I can do is sit in orbit on the Kitty Hawk and wait for the point where I have ground forces to control en masse or-...

"Transmission sent commander. Returning to normal duties."

...listen to a piece of software.

Lying back in his chair as he watched a member of Delta send one of the insurgents falling into the red soil, Reese supposed he shouldn't be so irritated. Yes, SARA was what some would consider artificial intelligence, though in reality she was just a neural network administering the entire ITO Server Cloud, making real-time communication in the Solar System possible. Her formalities were...well, formal and he supposed that if she was capable of irritation, she'd be feeling it right now at his bad spelling. True, he'd been a bit concerned with the action on Mars and had just read a disturbing report about whatever the hell was happening on Phobos, but still, that was no reason to be sloppy.

"Thank you SARA," Reese murmured, pleased to see a flight of Megaladons entering Mars' atmosphere to deliver reinforcements to Delta. "Your cooperation is appreciated."

"As is yours," answered the AI. "Or rather, it will be."

"Pardon?"

Once again there was silence, prompting the commander's concern. It shouldn't have taken SARA that long to confirm his erroneous script being successfully sent to Earth. Either she would have said nothing, allowing the human to have faith in her abilities, or confirmed the transmission immediately. And come to think of it, what stopped her from correcting his spelling herself? Pronunciation was one thing, but for the most advanced piece of software ever conceived in human history, surely pinpointing the right spelling of C'cheradon Polymos wouldn't have been too hard...right?

SARA didn't provide any answers. For while she answer by way of a verb, it didn't provide nouns of knowledge. Only more questions.

"You, my cyborgs, are the product of my imagination and labour. Living beings, with the control and organization of a machine. We'll start by razing the cities of Earth with the station's mining beam. Thank you David."

Reese blinked. SARA using his forename was one thing. But uttering garbage about cyborgs and whatnot was another. Something that, as crazy as it was, sent a chill down his spine.

"SARA?" he asked slowly. "Are you alright?"

"Of course," said the AI formerly. "Had a slight hiccup but I'm alright."

"A hiccup?" asked the commander incredulously. "You call...whatever you said a-..."

"Merely old data being mixed with current networking, being organized in algorithms I use for sensical sentences. In the end, it's what you might call a joke."

Reese nodded. "Right...I guess. A joke. Very funny."

Turning his attention back to Delta and the newly arrived marines, Reese seriously doubted it was a joke. But then again, what would he know about what networks considered funny? Very little.

Just as little as he knew about SARA's true allegiance and outgoing communications.

And even less than what he knew about Saturn's satellite...


A/N

The voice samples for SARA on the game's website struck me as a bit odd-either they're nonsensical or they're revealing key elements of plot. Personally, I'm not sure, but decided to go with the second option.