Over the next few weeks, Paul was deeply immersed in the FORTRAN programs that he needed Steve Rossi to run on the big IBM mainframe.
He spent some hours each day working in the cold, empty office they'd given him. The laughter of secretaries and bookkeepers traveled along the echoing corridors, and he smelled the scent of their perfume, and their cigarette smoke, and he heard the constant clatter of their typewriters, but he lived in a world apart from them.
Steve would pop in every day: "How's it going? Keeping up the old spirit?"
"Got more code that we can get keypunched?"
"Yeah, here." Paul would hand over another sheaf of yellow legal pad papers with fine pencil markings on them. He wrote several thousand lines of code this way. Bit by bit, the stealth system was taking shapenot in steels and plastics yet, but in his mind, in the conceptual constructs formed in the wonder of data processing.
Ben Rich sometimes stopped by too. "We're looking hard at this thing you're doing, Paul. It sounds like it has a lot of promise."
"I'm building a small scale model to give you a taste," Paul said.
"You remember the D-21?"
"Paul, I just want you to know that I think there is a lot of work coming down the pike for us. The Air Force has a real problem with radar penetrability, and they are farming out some work. I can't say anymore because of your security clearance status, but I want you to know I can't wait for you to come back to work in the plant."
"Thanks. I appreciate that."
In the evenings, Paul would tinker with his model. He had a real personal urgency to get it in front of his managementthe results of the FBI investigation were due any day.
Sometimes Pete came over and they'd fly the Condor around.
"I'll build you a plane of your own one of these days," Paul promised.
"Would you?" Pete shouted. "Would you?"
Marsha would appear to take him home, but there was definitely some barrier there now. The thank you's and hello's were distant. Pete came over less and less.
Then, too, one Saturday evening the green Jaguar appeared in the driveway.
Paul heard the honk of the horn and looked up. There, in the last blush of daylight, sat Alex Fitch. Paul heard the familiar slam of her front door, the shout of a final instruction to the baby-sitter in her excited voice, and then the run down to the car with her sweater fluttering over her bare shoulders. She wore a mighty nice black dress that came down to her ankles in folds, and black pumps, and carried a matching purse. First time, Fitch did not get a hug.
A week later, Fitch did. Paul looked away, sick inside.
The next week, Paul didn't look up when the horn sounded.
The program was ready, and Steve and Ben began to analyze the output. Running the program hundreds or thousands of times, each time tweaking the variables a bit, they began to sketch the ideal configuration of a stealth plane. Since the project was not classified, they could bring Paul sketches.
Paul looked at the monstrosity shaping up on paper. It looked like an insect. It looked baleful.
"This will be a nightmare to sell to the Air Force. We don't even know if it's really aerodynamic," Steve said. "This is going to be tough, Paul."
Ben added: "Let's see what the stealth profile is. We can decide our path from there. We'll know if it's worth arguing a case for it."
Paul learned a little more about Alex Fitch from Steve. Paul had not said a word, but Steve seemed to have a sixth sense. "Our pal Alex Fitch, who goes around telling everyone he was an Army officer... well, he was, kind of. His wealthy folks pulled strings. He's the kind of guy that has everything, but if you have something, he's gotta take it from you anyway."
Paul asked cryptically: "What do those kind of people do once they have it? Do they keep it, or throw it away?"
Steve made questioning eyebrows. "What?"
"Nothing. Just thinking out loud."
"I guess if you have a lot of money, you go through a lot of toys." He shrugged and walked out the door, looking uncomfortable in the dark suits the auditors were making all of management wear these days.
"That suit isn't you," Paul called out after him.
"Tell me about it," Steve said walking jauntily away.