"In 1887, the Michelson-Morley experiment successfully detects the presence of the luminiferous aether. As scientists begin to study the elusive medium they realize that human thought can influence its behavior. The invention in 1891 of the first aethereal lens allows the concentration of that power. Very quickly wondrous applications are possible: as a power source, to create vehicles that defy gravity or to animate mechanical automatons in a way that seems to give them life.
But it's the military applications that governments are most interested in. An arms race situation is created with all the major powers vying for superior aether-based weapons.
The year is now 1913, tension between European countries has risen to a point where most believe that war is unavoidable. But scientists and thinkers are warning that such a conflict using weapons of unprecedented power would only result in total mutual destruction."