“Not Instruc. INSTRUC. You need to say it with all capital letters. But yes, they’re watching us. Watching you, watching me, watching everyone.”

“Who is Instruc, and how do you know they’re watching?”

“INSTRUC! It’s INSTRUC! How many times do I have to tell you? They’re smart. They’ve got a copy of every camera feed in the world, spy satellites disguised as weather balloons, and they give everyone subdermal RFID tags disguised as flu shots to shoot passive tracking rays at us!”

“Uh-huh. And why would they do that?”

“They want to make us like them, don’t you see? It’s right there in their title. INSTRUC. They want to watch us so they can INSTRUCt us, make us more and more like their alien overlords until the invasion force is ready to strike.”

“Now don’t take this the wrong way, or think that it’s in any shape or form related to what you’ve just been telling me, but I think we should get you to a psychologist.”

Federal Electric Distribution had no ties to the government; its founder C. Earl Chapterhouse simply felt the name bespoke a certain strength and reliability. It’s no coincidence that as public trust in government bottomed out during the 1960’s and 1970’s, the company was renamed Fededis after the acronym that appeared on its service trucks.

In time, it became a virtual monopoly in the eastern half of the state, gathering up the rural districts and smaller towns that Detroit Edison evinced little interest in. By the time of Fededis’ spectacular collapse and acquisition by DTE in 1981, it had electrified nearly two thirds of the state’s land area–or at least taken over management of the grids there. Its collapse, coming on the heels of summer brownouts and a general malaise on Wall Street, didn’t attract much notice.

It should have. Fededis has come within a whisker’s breadth of complete control over the national power infrastructure, a complete nationwide blackout, or–most chillingly–both.