Energy Woes

The truck camper shook with the vibrations of the generator crammed into what Beck called his mobile laboratory, a red, rusted, 1972 Ford. Beck dreamed of the day he could repair his truck, heck he'd be rich enough to buy a new truck all he needed to do was make his energy cell work.

He adjusted the schematics on his makeshift computer. The text scrolled across the green monochrome screen and the computer beeped the irritated sound which was the only noise it could make.

The numbers we right he was certain and having tapped into the electric grid should have enough energy to charge the cell.

The truck grew bright then black as the overhead light grew bright and then exploded overwhelmed by the power. Then just as he was convinced he had failed the meters attached to the small cell began to flicker. It only gave off about as much energy as a watch battery but since it used quantum forces it would never run down. Effectively free energy, though it would take years for it to replace the energy that it took to create it.

Beck jumped into the cab of the truck, but as he turned the key again he heard only the grinding of his starter and he hit the steering wheel and the truck shook and started.

The truck bounced down the dirt road and Beck thought about where to go. He couldn’t afford to make the cells himself. He needed a buyer and the obvious choice was the military. But that would ensure they were a national secret designed to help the USA to regain its superpower status and that wasn't why Beck created his cell. He wanted to end suffering and destroy greed. That meant he needed everyone to have the cells.

It took most of the day to reach the edges of the Seattle stopping every few miles to let the engine to cool until he reached the Dipnoteck buildings. As he entered he tried not to think about his old worn coveralls and three dollar hair cut. He wouldn't be looked down upon much longer. Dipnoteck could pay him until so many cells were produced money became obsolete.

The glass doors slid open and Beck entered the lobby. An impressive sight with marble floors and a wide stairway leading to the second floor which was a long balcony leading secretarial offices open in the middle so you could see the gold and silver painted roof, but as much money as the building cost the business wasn't stupid, they didn't waste money. There were no lights on in the lobby, instead using sunlight to light the room and the elevators had been closed of running them became prohibitive.

"Do you have an appointment, sir?" a middle-aged woman at the front desk said.

"Just contact Dr. Creach and tell him Dr. Beck is here. He'll want to speak to me,” Beck said. The man might not like him, but he knew he was brilliant and would want to know what he had discovered.

The woman typed something into her computer then looked up at Beck, frowned, and said, "Dr. Creach died three years ago, sir."

Beck's shoulders fell. His best chance had been Creach, but any physicist should understand what he had done so he said, "Let me talk to anyone in research and development. Tell them I can earn them a lot of money."

Greed should get him an appointment but the woman only said "You need to make an appointment,” then looked him up and down and chuckled. They wouldn't meet him. They assumed he was a nut who found Dr. Creach's name in a scientific journal.

"You don't understand I went to school with Dr. Creach. We developed a theory and I've proven it right. I can change the world and make you all rich,” Beck said, but he knew arguing made him sound more insane.

He had burnt too many other bridges and so he drove towards the nearest military base.  Not an ideal choice but eventually they would have to admit the technology existed. It would take far longer, but that might actually be good. They military could certainly build the cells faster and getting a meeting wasn’t hard.

The general’s office was a large room dominated by an oak desk covered with papers and a metal desk lamp with a green shade. The light was on though the room was more than bright enough without it. Military extravagance if Beck had ever seen it.

Behind the desk was a powerful looking man. He sat calmly and watched Beck. He made him more aware of his appearance than the secretary at Diponteck. This man was judging him and Beck knew he came up short.

"Hello Beck. Can you explain what we're here for in the next five minutes?" the general ask. The tone in his voice almost mocking but Beck but didn't care. He would have their respect once they knew what he had done.

"I've created an energy cell that will revolutionize the military. It produces small amounts of energy but it never runs down or needs recharged. It is free energy,” Beck said.

The general nodded and said, "I'm don't remember much of high school science but isn't A perpetual motion machine physically impossible."

"It isn't a perpetual motion machine!" Beck yelled. He had known people would say that. But he calmed quickly and said, "It just taps into the energy of the universe in a way no one knew was possible. I’m not creating energy, just using it."

"You don't understand how much this will cost me if the cell isn’t what you claim. This will cost a lot of money and energy to test,” The general said.

"And what if it's real? What if we can eliminate the energy crisis? What then?" Beck said, the general wanted something.

"Then the brilliant scientist get the credit and I get nothing. The military doesn't reward people for doing their jobs right,” the general said.

Beck couldn't do it. He had dedicated his life to destroying greed. But he wasn't willing to tell the general that so he said, "Let me get the cell you have contacts which will buy it I am certain."

Beck walked out to the old green truck and got in. He would find someplace else to sell the energy. Heck he could eat off the amount of energy it was creating already and if he got a job he could buy enough energy to make another in a year.

As he got into the Truck he saw something more, armed soldiers coming towards him, one of them talking on their radio. The general was going to simply steal the cell and all of the information in his truck.  That left him no choice and Beck pumped the gas pedal and spun the wheel rushing towards the general’s office.

There was nothing left. They had won, the world had beat him, but he knew that there was one last way to prove his cell worked. That was the joke he thought laughing. The energy would be unmistakable, but also impossible to replicate without him or his laboratory. Perhaps that would change things as well. 

And so with that final thought Beck swerved the truck into building smashing through the stone of the building.  With the sudden impact on the cell it released all the energy it could have produced in a century leaving behind nothing but the evidence that humanity had given up it chance to have everything because of its greed.

Author's Note

One of the things that I love about science fiction, especially older science fiction is the idea that a single person with a great idea could change the world. On the other hand it seems as if everyone knows someone who knows someone who claims to have created super engine that was bought and destroyed by the car companies. This story examines a reasonably classic science fiction inventor trying to deal with those issues.