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Two desktop-printer engineers quit their jobs to search for the ultimate source of endless energy: nuclear fusion. Could this highly improbable enterprise actually succeed?

 The source of endless energy for all humankind resides just off Government Street in Burnaby, British Columbia, up the little spit of blacktop on Bonneville Place and across the parking lot from Shade-O-Matic blind manufacturers and wholesalers. The future is there, in that mostly empty office with the vomit-green walls -- and inside the brain of Michel Laberge, 47, bearded and French-Canadian.

The endless race for fusion energy pits a giant reactor in France against two upstarts in North America.

In the still and silent scrublands of Provence, France, near a 1,000-year-old castle that overlooks two rivers, 3,500 scientists from countries that represent over half of the world’s population are about to start work on ITER, a device as grand as its ambitions: a $15 billion, aircraft-carrier-size reactor built to withstand a fire that will burn at 100 million degrees and prove, finally, whether fusion, the energy that powers the sun and stars, can be harnessed.

Tucked away in the back corner of an old mattress warehouse in this Vancouver suburb sits a silver sphere not much larger than a human head. Like some mad inventor’s futuristic Chia pet, it sprouts numerous wires that lead to banks of capacitors, batteries capable of delivering their charge at lightning speed.