Next morning, Bill told Paul: "I think we're ready to give them a preliminary configuration. We can continue refining and pruning, but I think we're at the 95% range now."
"That's 95% reduction, right?" Paul asked facetiously.
"Young man, what do you think we're doing here, playing horse's asses?"
Steve and Ben were excited when Bill and Paul went to tell them the news. Steve said: "I'll have a team of draftsmen go full time on three views. I'll have a model making team work on the guts of it."
"Yeah," Paul chimed in, "I wanted my model to fly to add some badly needed wow-factor for a little boy and a woman I care about. This time, I want us to mount this baby on a pylon and show the engineers what it can do."
Paul went home at lunchtime to see Marsha. First, he applied several coats of glue to finish the doping. The fuselage was by now hard as plastic. It would take some beating, and he'd teach Marsha how to help Pete patch it if he put any holes in it.
"Thanks for coming by," she murmured as they lay together in bed.
"I want to spend every moment I can with you."
"That's nice." She stroked his hair. "I'm yours for as long as I can stay."
"Maybe..." he started, but she put a finger over his lips.
"Honey, you have your life here with your planes and nose cones. I have mine in Oregon. I don't want us pining for each other. Sometimes we have to be strong in life and do what's right. Especially when we've done what's wrong."
He looked down at his hand, which rested on her breast, which was soft and warm, like jelly. She wrapped one arm around him from behind and pulled him onto her. "Take me," she said through gritted teeth, "take me now."
Back at work, Paul stopped in at the plant so see what the model makers were up to. A ten foot wooden model was taking shape on a long table in the cavernous hangars where, during World War II, P-38's had rolled off the production line.
By now, insiders were referring to the concept as The Diamond.
Someoneperhaps Ben Richwas calling it the Hopeless Diamond, in a twist on the name of arguably history's most famous diamond. Hadn't the Hope Diamond, like King Tut's tomb, killed everyone who'd gone near it? Paul wondered if the reversing of the name might imply a different fate for those near the Hopeless Diamond.
"She'll be ready to test tomorrow," one of the technicians told Paul.
Paul went away whooping, but he was full of butterflies.
Tomorrow would tell the tale!
That evening, Pete was suitably awed.
"We are ready to take our first test flight," Paul announced. "One little coat of primer, like so" (he walked around the flying saucer, which sat on a sawhorse in the back yard) "and she'll be dry by the time we finish supper."
Holding Marsha around the waist, and Pete by the hand on his other side, he walked to her house.
"I made meat loaf," she said. "You said it's your favorite."
They talked and laughed and ate.
The September sun was showing signs of going away a little earlier.
"We'd better get out there," Paul said wiping his mouth with a napkin.
"Yeahhhhhh!" Pete said, rushing to the door, and his yeah trailed out onto the lawn after him.
Marsha stood in Paul's back yard, arms folded, as Paul and Pete fired up the bird.
"Here," Paul said, handing her a tiny bottle of some cheap liqueur he'd picked up on impulse at the drugstore. "You have to christen her."
"Oh okay, what are we calling her?"
"Condor III," Pete yelled.
"Okay," Marsha said, "here goes. I dub thee Condor III." She tapped the bottle against the plane, and of course it didn't break. "What do I do now?"
"I don't know," Paul said. "It's supposed to break on the bow. The rule book isn't clear."
"That's for ships," Pete yelled. "This is a plane. You don't break bottles on planes. You fly the bottle and serve it to the passengers."
"That's it," Marsha said. She placed the bottle on top of the saucer.
Paul noticed a flash of light out of the corner of his eye, but ignored it in the excitement. "Good going." He shook Pete's hand. "Captain, take her aloft."
"Aye aye, matey!"
Pete delicately worked the controls. Condor III, a flying saucer a foot in diameter and about eight inches thick, slightly more rounded on top than on the bottom, lifted smoothly.
"Keep the controls together so they are all on the same power level." He wished now he'd built in more sophisticated controls.
But Condor III wasn't hard to fly at all, as long as one made changes slowly. She swung around a corner, and the little bottle fell off, lost forever in a mass of clover.
"Well," Marsha said, "there goes the passenger. He'll have to sleep it off."
Pete brought Condor III in to a smooth landing. They refueled the three cells and sent her up. This time Pete took her up to rooftop level.
"Careful," Marsha said.
"As long there isn't a wind gust," Paul said.
But Pete brought her back down without any trouble. "She flies like a dream."
"She's all yours."
Marsha kissed Paul.
Across the street, somewhere, a car pulled out and drove off, its headlights stabbing the road ahead of it.