Free for all Electricity: The large sign above the motorway declared that all lanes were clear and that traffic was flowing and of course, as ever “electricity is free”. It was a message that people all across the world had become used to, they hardly needed reminding, they took it all for granted. So the electrically powered traffic hummed along, all moving smoothly at an even and controlled speed, no real running costs, no breakdowns, all free and easy thanks to the great electrical revolution. It was a world operating and powered in ways that an old guard scientist like Tesla could only have dreamed of and it all worked.
People looked back on the historic moment that everything had changed, it was in 2014, May 16th. A huge electrical storm had raged across the equator, lightning strikes were continuous, wild fires ran out of control, systems and communications failed all over the world. Aeroplanes fell from the sky, ships sank, building crumbled and satellites tumbled into the heaving oceans. The storm climaxed at midnight, there was a huge explosion, almost everybody in the world heard it. Then there was a long and pregnant silence. People huddled together waiting for the end, others prayed, others rioted but slowly order was restored and the damage and the effect of the storm understood, gradually.
It became apparent that the storm had created a fundamental change in the earth's characteristics. A ring of power was now hanging in place across the former storm. Ten miles hight and a hundred miles wide, earth was ringed like Saturn but with one that has a unique and incredibly powerful impact on the planet. Over time the ring was explored and understood and, thanks to some revolutionary processes tapped into and milked. Power was free, power was infinite and power was global; certainly for all of the countries on the equator. No more coal, oil or nuclear energy, almost overnight the power stations shut down as the new source came on line and was joined to the web of grids that fed the freely harvested power all across the world.
The freely available power had of course created instability, the old order had lost it's financial and negotiating base, minor wars and skirmishes broke out, there were disputes and political instability. Nothing could however change the fact that the ring of energy was (with the correct technology) easily and freely tapped into. The old costs were the harvesting equipment and cabling and transformer infrastructure. Fortunes were made and lost, ownerships disputed but inevitably the truth and equalising impact of free power was realised. Industry and commerce demanded it, all people welcomed it and the tap was fully turned on.
So it was that Mike bowed his head, he was allowed a few moments reflection, his eyes were dry, his palms were wet. His stomach was full from the steak and eggs, the cold beer had quenched his thirst and those wise worlds and warm ancient spells echoed around in the emptiness of his head and heart. He looked into himself and reviewed and archived his memories, turned over recollections, pondered the mistake, the one big mistake. A man had died, an innocent man, a man who had simply been at the wrong place at the wrong time. Mike had killed him, fried him with the flick of a switch as the power harvester loom had been turned on. The pilot was on a routine inspection, nothing should have gone wrong and wouldn't have if Mike had waited just a few seconds before turning on the harvesting gear. But he hadn't. He'd pulled the lever but he didn't check, he didn't follow the procedure and the microlight had been hit by the huge surge of power shooting downwards from the ring into the holder. Not much remained as evidence but the incident was well documented and understood.
Now it was Mike's turn, society demanded it, the power (and the glory) had to be respected, the power's sanctity had to have prime place in the courts and via the legislators and lawyers. There was a very fine balance and discipline to maintain, that had all been part of the settlement, part of the worldwide agreement. Anything else could and would destroy the dream and that could not be allowed, it was all too costly, freedom, however it is described always has a price. Mike would take his punishment, irreversible, terminal, inhumane, painful but quick. Those who live by the power die by the power. He sat in the electric chair and reflected on those events a little more. The Empress prepared to pull the lever.