By: T.G. Browning
* * *
When Camber DeSal was twenty-one, he spent his birthday in sin city, Las Vegas, and discovered something about people, life, fun, profit, and himself. Everything was nuts. Las Vegas has no reason to exist where it did. It was an act of flagrant stupidity for so damn many people to set up shop in the middle of an arid desert, simply to generate carcinomas, shekels, venereal disease, liquor stores and slot machines. It was also inevitable.
Probably inedible as well, he mused to himself as he watched people on the strip, caroming off each other in the neon darkness, in and out of casinos, hotels and all night restaurant/show extravaganzas. What this damn place needs is water, he thought. As an engineer, newly graduated with a masters degree in both mechanical and electrical engineering (stupid, Camber wasn’t), he thought perhaps that was something he ought to investigate. A bit out of his field, since you were probably talking materials science, but what the hell? Could be worthwhile. Could be fun. Could be damn profitable as well. That’s what Cam thought to himself as he watched a volcano erupt before having dinner.
Fast forward five years, six months and one failed marriage to Brandy Billings (lasted eight months of which five had been heaven, two a draw, and one of hell), Cam sat up in the middle of the night in his San Francisco apartment with an idea. Fast forward thirty-three hours non-stop work. Cam’s brown eyes were bloodshot, his face stubbled and his expression both crafty and slightly crazed. It would work. It was bound to work. He just had to have the right patents.
Over the next three years, flash-forward five or six times in various stages of exuberant greediness when Cam managed to conquer yet another problem, solve another design flaw, patent another process, whatever. Until he reached construction mode, which began in the year 2013, in downtown Las Vegas, when a construction company owned entirely by Cam got the bid for redoing all of the sidewalks along the strip over a three year period, using space age materials that Cam had designed, patented, and shall we say, slipped into position.
Oddly enough, two years into the project, a new company takes shape in the greater Las Vegas area that is going to pipe seawater to Vegas and desalinate it. The salts will be used to fill old pumped out salt domes that once contained oil. Oddly enough, Cam isn’t associated with the company, at least, visibly. You have to go through about seven layers of dummy corporations before you get to any mention of Camber DeSal.
A TV reporter stood in front of the first mile of new soft sidewalk running along the strip. The new material used was a hit with drunks, clumsy people and those who tend to stumble occasionally from gawk-induced clumsiness. Lawyers weren’t as happy, if the truth were known, because it certainly looked like there’d be less personal injury suits in the future. Allison Stern, the reporter, had just finished a set of interviews, talking to several different people, getting their enthusiastic response, when she spotted the not very well known figure of the project designer, the guy who had come up with the idea and the material. “Mr. DeSal, could you spare a minute?”
Camber looked taken aback for a moment and then grinned. Perhaps it was time. “Sure, not too long though. I have a meeting in a half-hour with the local power people and the city.”
“How does it feel to have added such a unique aspect to the Las Vegas strip?”
Cam regarded the brunette blankly for a moment and then grinned in an almost predatory way. “Actually, unique is about the most accurate description you could possibly have made. “This material,” he pointed down, stomped on it, and slid his foot around, “as you can tell, is not slick at all, and carries that property through a wide temperature range.”
“Yes, that seems to have been a point that the lawyers were mentioning earlier today.”