“You ever heard of TALOS?”
The High Elf hadn’t. He had heard of mental diseases, however, and this man was suffering from at least three. The symptoms were all over the room. Newspaper clippings spread across the floor with half the sections circled in red. A pyramid of monitors, all turned to different channels, all with the sound turned off. A section of wall devoted to scantily clad figurines.
“Telematic Auto-Learning Operating System, T-A-L-O-S,” the man smiled, as if he had just spoiled the ending to your favorite movie.
The Elf knew a shit eating grin when he saw one. You are what you eat, he thought, and this Nord had been feeding on some serious horse shit. Yet when his mind traced over the events of the past week, he couldn’t help but consider the alternative – that the answers he sought were there, stashed behind a row of mismatched teeth.
“The government made this machine, you see, that self-taught itself. And it just kept getting smarter and smarter, until it achieved what 5 out of 7 monks call enlightenment. But knowing everything doesn’t make you immortal. Being unknown does. That’s why you have to embed yourself in the system, make yourself as mysterious and vital as the meaning of life. So the program rebuilt itself, rooted its body in every grid, network, cell phone and personal computer. And it was there, man, nowhere and everywhere, guiding the world with an invisible hand. Like a God.”
“I see. So it’s like every cyberpunk novel ever. And who are the Thalmor? What are they after?”
“They want to rid the system of TALOS. Complete system memory wipe. They’ve got their swiffers down deep, brother, cleaning every room from corner to corner. But that band you got on your arm there, if it’s really been offline for years….well, that means it’s still dirty. Unplugged.”
The armband he had kept for sentimental reasons. In a world where the future was grafted to your bones, exterior modules like these were useless. It was a gift from his mentor, a cardplayer’s aid designed to coax the clumsiness out of your fingers. There was no rhyme or reason to why he still wore it, save for a feeling of obligation to the man who raised him. Perhaps that too was another subtle nudge, the workings of a Divine who was never and always there.
Suddenly, like a child who’s told his toys are magic, the Elf began to lose the capacity to doubt. The murder of his mentor, government conspiracies, the crazy man making perfect sense, it all seemed to come together like the tiles of an ancient mosaic. If all of this was true, what was strapped to his wrist could very well change the world. For the first time in his life, it was the High Elf who was holding all the cards.
“How much do you want for it?” the Elf asked him.