The next morning, Paul knocked excitedly on Steve Rossi's office door.
Paul shoved the door open. He waved the Russian paper. "Steve, I've got." He stopped, sensing something was wrong. Steve and Ben Rich sat at the conference table, as if huddled in conversation. Their looks were serious.
"You got a haircut," Steve said.
Ben rose. He became all warmth and smiles. "How's our favorite nose cone engineer?" Without waiting for an answer he turned to Rossi. "You'll take care of your end, then?"
Steve rose. "I will."
Ben, a trim man in his 50's, with white hair and a tan, clapped Paul on the shoulder and hurried from the room. Ben was known as a tough man, but a fair one, with a brilliant mind, and many gifts from engineering through management through Federal contract politicking.
"What are you all excited about?" Steve asked Paul when they were alone.
"Look," Paul said, placing the paper on the table and forcing Steve to sit down. Both men sat. "I have a wonderful idea for a stealth technology. It's from this Russian paper."
"A Russian?" Steve asked, sitting back in sudden suspicion.
"I know what you're thinking. They're trying to throw us off the track. But they aren't. I've checked the math ten times to Sunday. Look, if they had something hot, they wouldn't let this get out, would they? I can't believe they let this paper goit's worth gold. The Soviets missed something here, Steve, and I've caught it."
"What have you caught?"
"Diffraction. The answer isn't coatings or absorption. It's diffraction."
"No, really. The numbers are all here. Old Maxwell equations are the basis. Very standard, tried and proven stuff. I need computer time, Steve. I need to run some more numbers to get the exact shape of this thing." He turned the title page over and drew a rough sketch.
"What the hell is that?" Steve asked, rumpling his upper lip.
"It's a stealthy plane."
"That thing there doesn't even look aerodynamic."
"I know. I understand. Steve, please listen. Right now it's just a concept. We have magic in our hands, and we can go someplace with it. We just need to do the testing, the R&D. We can beat any coating technology in the world."
Steve sighed. "I've known you for several years now, which is the only reason I'm not tossing you out my office door. I can get you computer time next week."
"Next week? Steve, this is hot."
"Listen to me, Paul. There's some heavy politics going on. When was the last time you took a vacation?"
Paul rose and almost yelled: "Vacation? Are you crazy? I'm on to the hottest thing we've ever done here."
Steve regarded him dourly. "Those auditors hate you. They've asked that we fire you and make room for a veteran."
"Who? What veteran?"
"Doesn't matter. Any veteran who's got the degree."
Paul sat down hard. "What?"
"You're not going to be fired, Paul. Ben and I just discussed it. He's going to bat for you. He wants you to get out of here this morning. This is a Thursday. Go home and lay low for a few days. Things will be a little different on Monday, but everything will work out okay."
"Don't know yet. The details are being worked out. Go on, Paul. Have a vacation. I'll see you Monday morning."
"But my idea."
"Can wait. I'll listen to the whole thing next week. I'll get you twenty hours of computer time on the Big Blue, okay? We're going to take care of you, Paul, because we know what you're worth to us, even if those idiots don't."
Stunned, Paul marched down the corridor and to his car, which was parked in a reserved space nose-in to the building, at the end of the same row that started with Kelly Johnson, then Ben Rich, then Steve Rossi, and so on down the line. Paul was the most junior senior engineer. Paul tossed the paper in the trunk of his carnoticing the library books thereand peeled out. He drove to the gate so fast the guard came out and told him to slow down. He was boiling.