P.T. Zenith III woke up feeling optimistic. His UberCondo air filter hummed warmly as P.T. flipped on the Gateway to check his stocks. Mmm. Good. Back east, the market rose gleefully. Business looked good.
Since P.T. moved the whole outfit to Nevada, things had never been better. It was a darn good thing he’d seen that special advertising supplement to Forbes featuring Reno as the best bet for biz, a place where outdoor recreational opportunities abound.
Of course, that was back near the turn of the century. Plenty had changed since then, sure. To see that, you need look no further than the 40-foot fence surrounding the Microsoft Inland Sea, the lake formerly known as Tahoe.
But Northern Nevada had been perfect. No personal income tax. No corporate profits tax. No inventory tax. And that was just the start. Low property tax rates didn’t hurt. He’d been able to build this huge custom home with a view of the Sierra. Of course, he had to send the kids to a private school back east. Anyone with sense did that.
P.T. reached for a chilled bottle of imported water while he read the MSNBC AOL Time Warner McDonalds Gazette. Geez. Nothing local anymore since MATWMcD inhaled Gannett and replaced the Reno Gazette-Journal with a syndicated rag. The daily paper’s Reno newsroom was almost empty now, except for two para-copy editors trimming stories to fit around the ads for Harrahs.com.
Oh well. P.T. was optimistic. He rang for his driver, Nadir, hoping the poor guy had bathed recently.
Nadir lowered the solar-copter onto the roof, hoping his boss didn’t notice the dirt under his fingernails. Nadir hadn’t washed for four days. He hadn’t been able to buy water for at least a week. That wasn’t unusual this time of year. He and his two boys used and re-used water for washing and cleaning up until it turned into muddy sludge. But now, the last of the damp sludge had evaporated.The boys had matured in the past year. Too bad their mother couldn’t see them. But his wife had finally succumbed to diabetes last year. Nadir hadn’t been able to manage the cost of taking her to a registered nurse, let alone a doctor.
Nadir ran his tongue over his dry, cracked lips, feeling deeply thirsty. He’d spent nearly all of his last paycheck on water—and he’d even bought low-grade tap, rather than an import. Could be worse, though. At least he didn’t have to worry about paying the power bill, now that Juiceco had cut him off for good.
P.T. sat down in the copter and sniffed. He hated the smell of the cheap bar soap that Nadir used to cover his unwashed odor. One of P.T.'s girlfriends had warned him about coddling Nadir after the man’s wife died. Maybe it was time to cut him loose. P.T. knew Nadir could pull himself up by his knotted tennis shoe strings and be a success. P.T. believed that anyone could make it, if that person just tried hard enough."Nadir," he began. "I’m going to have to let you go …"