Discouraged, Paul called up Steve Rossi, who came over with Ben Rich. "Come on into my office," Paul said, "and close the door."
They laughed humorlessly looking around at the cold surroundings.
"Sorry I can't offer you brandy or cigars. You can take turns sitting on my chair though."
"This is your place of exile, I take it," Ben said. "One day, it will be as famous as Elba when you return to fight again."
"Yeah, at Waterloo," Paul said. "I need some help."
"What do you need?" they said in one voice.
"I need to tell you what's going to happen with the investigation. I need you to put in a good word for me." He explained about the meeting he'd just had with John Mandigar of the FBI. Both Rich and Rossi reacted with incredulity. Rossi said: "I've known you for several years. I know pretty much where you're coming from. You're one of the best people we have, Paul. We'll go to bat for you."
Ben added: "You understand what's going on here. They're leaning on us, letting us know we need to be on our toes. It's uncomfortable for a lot of people, but this is just a damned nightmare for you and for our team."
"There is something else I need help with." Paul reached into his large desk drawer and pulled out an object he'd made of paper mache on a wire frame made of chicken wire stiffened with coat hanger wire.
"What in the hell is that?" Steve Rossi exclaimed, lighting up a cigarette.
"This is the stealth mockup." He held it up, a model about a foot long, that looked somewhat like a praying mantis about to leap at its victim.
Ben smiled. "You gonna run around waving that in the air? Because I don't see how that thing will fly."
"I need you to coat it with the best absorptive material you have. Then I want it back because I have built a machine that will fly it through the air for you."
Ben looked pained. "I can't do that, Paul. You can't take secret materials off the premises."
"I was afraid you'd say that. I was hoping to have some fun flying it around for you."
Ben allowed: "You can bring it in, and we'll have the shop coat it, and then we'll fly it, but we can't tell you the results. We could wink at you, maybe, if all went well."
"Yeah..." Paul nodded dejectedly. "That's what we'll have to do, then."
That evening, he decided to do a little pre-test. He had managed to obtain a small amount of ferrous oxide in a paint base from an electronics supply house. Iron was a radar-diffractive metal; so was aluminum.
Before doing anything, he used one of his ancient surplus state police hand-held traffic radar guns to shoot the bird, and it showed up very large on his green cathode ray tube display.
He would shoot the bird from the sidethe whole plane had a complex shape, but the sides were the least difficult. It did not have to be perfect. All he had to demonstrate was some effect.
First, he glued fine strips of aluminum foil to the surfaces of his model. It took several hours just to get a flat, perfect fit. There must be no perpendicular lines that could show up, so he folded the aluminum over the model's port side.
He had built the model up with material cut from egg cartons. As was standard with stealth construction, he'd put zigzagging 45 degree spars inside, made of aluminum foil covered balsa wood, and filled with sawdustall strategies to absorb some of the radiant energy that would penetrate there after the coatings broke it up.
Last, he applied a paint of ferrous oxide to coat the central portion of the fuselage.
Even before the paint dried, he was ready.
He took a deep breath, said a prayer, and pulled the trigger on his radar gun.
Alarmed, he looked at the cathode ray display and saw there was no difference.
It didn't work.
Dejectedly, he shifted his stance, ready to drop the gun and give up, when he heard a rustling sound.
The display had changed. The rustling was the sound of the temperature inside the tube changing as a different display painted inside.
There was a shimmering, fuzzy halo around a dark patch.
He propped the gun up with a stack of books and went to get a beer.
Wonderful, he thought. Wonderful!
The radar return on the model looked as though someone had shot a hole through the plane. It was stunningthough he figured it was only a 20% effect at best. With a professionally done model, it would be much better.
Much, much better. He grinned and toasted the model.
Next morning, he brought the model to work. He met Ben and Steve in his office again. Steve, interestingly enough, wore not the dark suits of recent, but a brand-new three-piece baby-blue polyester suit.
Paul locked the door and put the model on his desk. "I'm going to ask you to give me the drive portion back when you're done. I want to give it to a little boy who lives in my neighborhood."
"Sure, Paul. Should we be laying odds here?"
"It worked last night. I tested it at home."
"That'sincredible, Paul," Ben said.
"I made it from scratchI got a 20% reduction on a test spot."
Steve whistled. "That's impressive!"
"I want to show you how this works. It's going to be a bit noisy in here." He grinned. He'd built a somewhat crude control box of unpainted plywood. He'd already ensured that all three engines full fuel tanks. "Ready?" He pressed the three magneto connections one by one, and one after another the three powerful mid-size model airplane engines whipped into life, turning three propellers, each with a six inch wingspan.
All three engines pointed straight up. Each had a power damper that could increase or decrease the power through a ten percent range. That was enough to control the plane.
Ben and Steve smiled like little boys when the model rose slowly off the table and hovered about three feet above the desk. Papers flew everywhere.
Someone pounded on the door.
Ben opened it slightly, listened to a question, and nodded. He yelled above the deafening whine of the model: "Everything is fine here. We are drilling a hole through the wall and should be done in about fifteen minutes."
Steve walked around the model with sparkling eyes and arms open in worship. "Paul, I've always known you were great, but this is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen."
Ben said dryly: "Yeah, and it appears to have some aerodynamic properties."
Paul held the box in both hands and nodded excitedly. "Look. Picture the three engines. They form a triangle pointing forward. Right now, she's stable at three quarter power. If I goose the two rear engines equallyand I built a special switch for thatshe goes forward."
The model moved forward, accelerating like a cake of soap squeezed by someone in the shower.
"Ooops!" Quickly, Paul reduced the rear power and upped the front. The model slowed and came to a hovering stop inches from the wall.
"Don't crash it or the shape will be distorted."
Paul flew it back to the desk and landed it. He cut the engines.
In the grayish blue light, oily smoke roiled around the three men's heads. The silence almost hurt more than the noise a moment ago.
Paul said: "You'll have to buff off the coatings I put on last night and then put on your best stuff. It's loaded inside with sawdust, aluminum, all the good stuff. Go test it, guys, and don't let anyone see that shape!"
Ben said: "Paul, if the radar return works as well as that model flies, and if we get the kind of results you say you got at home last night, you're going to be a hero around here."
Paul said: "I'm going to go home and go for a bicycle ride."
Steve set the model back in its bag. "We'll try to move quickly."
Ben said: "We should have some results by tonight."
"Tonight?" Paul asked. "You're going to stay and work on it?"
Steve grinned and shook Paul's hand. "Full bore, my friend. We're both excited as hell. Oh, and by the way. Things may be looking up for you."