by Danny Cohen
The beautiful new home for Corbelient Systems on the edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the border of Virginia and Tennessee is “a cathedral to innovation.” It’s a tall metal behemoth that, when finished, will be covered in black glass, dancing with the reflection of the nearby river. The exact cost is unknown, but at least millions of dollars were spent to turn the land that Fort Requisite sat on for a hundred years into a world class research and development center for the newly formed Corbelient Systems. While the work being done there is top secret, the never ended caravan of government vehicles and private black cars lets the world know that something big is happening. And the man at the top lets the world know that it’s only a matter of time before that something big will change it forever.
* * *
Marquis Corbel was born in Lille, France in 1969 to a waitress named Louisa. Nine months earlier a Belgium gangster named Bruno had been hiding out in Lille and soon fell in love with Louisa. Yet, a very public midnight shootout in Citadelle de Lille left Louisa to raise Marquis all on her own. Despite his family’s hardships, the young boy became interested in chemistry and physics, interests that were nurtured by local neighborhood characters.
There was Alvan, the ex-government chemist, who was always bickering with the socialist physicist Francois. The two of them would fight from the sun’s dusk to the sun’s dawn. When Louisa and Marquis were forced out of their home, Pierre the Librarian let them sleep in the library, where Marquis would regularly fall into a lush world of imagination, with Pierre acting as his guide. Bryce and Aaron, the twin butcher and baker, would provide Marquis with a meal if he would recite scientific facts. The entire town got behind Marquis, and he was a lovable little scamp who was hit by a government truck when he was 14.
The truck not only crushed his leg, but also his youthful vigor. Marquis retreated further into books and studies. Sometimes he would go on walks along the river, but his limp made it difficult for him. He never had much use for friends. Yet, thanks to this curiosity, persistence and his mother’s constant encouragement, he gained entry into the Institut National des Sciences Appliquées de Toulouse at the age of 18. In 1993, he was recruited into the French National Centre for Scientific Research. It was here that Marquis made the first of his many important discoveries.
Marquis was part of a team tasked with helping soldiers heal faster. While this endeavor may sound altruistic, the French government was mostly worried about the rising costs of health care. Marquis was the one who discovered a rare protein in a frog that could regenerate its nerves very fast. While it could not do anything for illnesses or bone breaks, it was the precise remedy that could remove Marquis’ limp. Yet, he chose never to take it himself. He believed the limp was a reminder. “When the world is fixed,” says Marquis, “I will fix myself.”
* * *
In 2004, Corbel became disillusioned with the French government and took a job working for Fluid Combine Industries. While he was not changing the world, he knew what FCI’s interests were: making money from combining fluids. Corbel was instrumental in the Bone Enamel Oil, made from deer bones for lubricating rear axels on trucks. In 2009, FCI was bought by hPharma and Marquis went to work creating pharmaceuticals such as Sasmox, a very effective hair-growth pill. Finally, in 2010, Marquis moved over to TARK. Following TARK’s indictments for tax evasions, the company was restructured and Marquis was made the lead researcher for the Future Properties Lab.
During this time, back in Lille, Marquis’ mother Louisa was hit by a government truck and died. (In fact, the French driver of the truck got out, scratched his head and said, in an American Southern accent, “Paw, I done did it again!”) Marquis was unable to make it in time to her funeral, needing to be in the US as the TARK restructuring took place.
It was also during this period that a coworker, Saladé Pantis, rebuffed his advances. All of this led to immense homesickness, isolation and depression for Marquis. Yet, despite all of his hardships, Marquis did as he always did and poured himself into his work.
TARK’s heavy investment in the ownership and operation of SuperMax Prisons led Corbel to develop CorbelLoaf, a genetically modified food that tasted and smelled great, was perfectly nutritional and efficient to feed to prisoners. When Corbel presented his loaf to the board, they refused to bring it to market. They didn’t want the prisoners fed or treated well.
Corbel was furious and began his exit from TARK. In a last ditch effort in the cafeteria, he begged to Saladé Pantis to be with him. He informed her that he “wanted her to be his ‘first’.” He was laughed out of the company. “This was a dark time,” says Corbel, “I lost my way in what my cause was. The reason that I left TARK was only because of myself. I allowed myself to focus on love. This was a folly.”
Yet, it was Corbel who would have the last laugh. Thanks to a lack of oversight, Corbel was the sole inventor named on all of TARK’s patents for the four years of his employment, during which time he developed many of their key products. Corbel took TARK to court and won, effectively ruining the company.
It was with his immense winnings that he bought Fort Requisite from the United States Government and begin construction on the headquarters for his new operation: Corbelient Systems.
Corbel stands in his office — or what will be his office once construction is complete — in his trademark dark silver suit and a purple polo shirt completely buttoned, two inches shorter than he should, thanks to his limp. He enjoys eating CorbelLoaf, which he has been having a small plant in nearby Abingdon, Virgina produce. In fact, it’s all that he eats. It’s looks like a tube of grey cookie dough. He munches on it as he shows me around his new facility. He calls it his “cathedral to innovation.”
“What we believe in is innovation, and only innovation.” says Corbel. “Everything here today will be gone tomorrow. We must always start anew.” Then he took me to one of the few areas that had been finished, complete with a state-of-the-art security system from a company that Corbel won’t disclose. It is a simple black polished room with a long fish tank. In the middle of the tank is a filter, and probes on either side of the filter run up to screens on the wall showing the purity of the water. Corbel walks over and grabs a vial from a refrigerator. He shows it to me: “Cholera.” As he pours the vial into the water, the purity levels drop. The water becomes contaminated. Then Corbel presses a button on the filter and it buzzes to life.
And this buzz. This small whirring of tiny micro-motors within the filter. This is the sound that prayer sounds like in this cathedral. The filter is a miracle as the purity levels rise and the contaminants are gone. Corbel explains that it removes contaminants from the water, breaks down the impurities into individual molecules, and then disperses those molecules as harmless particles of air. I remark that it is genius.
Corbel turns and tells me that it is only what is necessary to save lives. “Genius would be finding a way not to ever need these at all,” laments Corbel as he takes a bite of his CorbelLoaf. His plan is to begin installing these filters in water supplies worldwide in the next fourteen months. By 2016, his plan is to have everyone in the world drinking clean water. It’s a monumental task, but for Corbel he sees no choice. For him, saving the world is the only answer. ✦