Green Power

They had all lived in hope; a belief that things would soon get better. But the world had continued to fall apart, and BC was no exception. The roads became rutted, power was erratic, water became polluted, and food – when available – was often spoiled. It was a joke among South Asian immigrants that it was becoming “more like home”. Everything was heading downward, but there was the belief, particularly among South Asians – whose religions foretold this dark age – that it was part of a greater cycle, where everything would fall, but then arise.

However, the arrival of grid dismantling teams surprised even them. In units of ten trucks, they took down a whole kilometre of power lines at a time. They used eight-axle logging trucks; the first unit loaded with hydro poles, and the second one with wire spools. The residents of Valley Road were given no warning. One day they had erratic electricity, and the next day it was gone.

A leaflet was delivered to Ashok’s house, titled “Lucerne Valley Energy Independence Pilot Project”. The Authority stated that the world had changed immeasurably in our lifetimes, with the System bearing many new stresses and strains. The “opportunity of our generation” was that of self-reliance. There was no longer a need to be tethered to global, national, or even regional infrastructures. We should become independent in every way possible, and return to living in small, self-sufficient communities. A first step in this process was dismantling rural areas’ electricity grids.

The leaflet said that “The Authority is following the philosophy of the 3 R’s”. They would Reduce electricity usage by downsizing the system. They would Reuse the raw materials – primarily wood and metal. They would Recycle any subsidiary materials. There was basic information on generating your own power – via solar-electric, solar hot water heating, wind turbines, geothermal fields, and biogas. And in the short term, using gas generators or burning wood. There was also advice that the best route to efficiency was not producing more energy, but reducing your usage. It said, “With wise materials choices, earlier rising, and extra sweaters, you can cut your power usage by 90%”. And they had decided to begin with the Lucerne Valley, “an isolated community with a proud history of self-reliance.”

When residents saw the grid coming down along Valley Road, they sprang into action. A century of tax payments had paid for its installation and maintenance – so in truth it belonged to them. Those able to work quickly stayed ahead of the eight-axle logging trucks, and took some spoils for themselves.

Ashok claimed two large spools of wire and two small transformers. His workshop was full, so he loaded the items into his truck and drove to his cabin. It was two hundred metres off the road, and pretty well hidden. That would be a good place to store them.

The grid dismantling work was completed in two weeks. Some people struggled without grid power, but most were coping, at least for now. They’d pulled out their old oil and propane lamps, and used woodstoves more often. The Authority provided cheap golf cart batteries to store energy. That way your generator didn’t need to be running constantly; just two hours daily to charge them up.

“Have you heard about the break-ins?” said Ashok’s neighbour. “It’s pretty strange; houses all along the Valley Road, but nothing stolen. And they’ve ransacked sheds and workshops. Nothing much taken from those either. Only things missing are grid components. I guess some people got greedy and wanted them all.”

“Have the police caught anyone yet?” said Ashok.

“No-one’s reported the thefts to the police, you dummy. What do they say: ‘Officer, I stole some cables and cans, and now I’ve lost them; what should I do?’ It’s opportunists, maybe not from the Village; probably some City crew.”

Ashok went to check his cabin. The bastards had better not have broken into there. He was pleased to see they hadn’t, but he was nervous now and considered returning the grid components. What would he do with them anyway? He could leave them at the side of the road. No-one would know he had taken them.

As he pondered the best course of action, the end of a wire spool caught his eye. He was no electrician, but that definitely wasn’t copper or aluminium; it seemed like fibre-optic cable. Why would they use that in power lines? What a strange thing to do. He studied the transformer can for clues. There was something about that too; but he couldn’t say what. Hey, was that a USB hub near the bottom? It seemed to be. That was curious. And the can was really light; was there anything in there at all? There were only six screws to undo, which he managed in a minute. The can was filled with computer components. Is that the inside of a transformer, thought Ashok? Just like a PC. He plugged a USB cable from his computer into the transformer. No security code was needed; a series of folders appeared. It made no sense. Files on a transformer.

He thought a search may be fruitful, so typed in his address. A related file appeared. When he opened the file, it had nothing to do with stepping down voltage for transmission to his home. It was a series of snapshots and notes about him. The photos were taken from outside his house – recording his comings and goings. There was a prominent note – an e-sticky – on the file that read: “Grid Systems Analysis: This individual is by nature suspicious. Post-deregulation, he is likely to be disruptive. In the event of his becoming aware of Valley-Wide Surveillance, he would add significant risk to T/T (Telecomms/Telepathy Projects). We recommend elimination.”

Ashok heard the floor creak behind him, but turned too late to see. An elite Hydro Service bullet went right through his head, and hit the transformer. Like a gong marking the end of a great cycle, it clanged too loudly.

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One Response to “Green Power”

  1. Some minor comments. Although there is a school that says the word “said” is always OK, I’m not sure that applies after a question mark.
    The reader of the notice would not need both the T/T and the definition.
    How loud is too loudly; I think the “too” gets ikn the way, and no intensifier at all is useful.

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