If Kate had brought her stein into the room, she would have dropped it onto the floor.
“The Thule Society?” she exclaimed, anger and disbelief fighting for control of her tone. “You’re telling me that Professor Scrumtumbler worked for the damned, dirty Nazis?”
Professor Reinhardt smiled sadly again, and the wrinkles around his eyes made him look more grandfatherly than ever. “Hitler’s government can be very persuasive. Your professor became involved with them before any outsider could have seen how corrupt the regime truly was. Once he went in deep enough, he recognized the evil. As did I. As will, I believe, all of the German people. Someday.”
Kate studied him with her one good eye. She felt unbalanced now, just like the time her stabilizer froze during a barnstorming exhibition. Professor Reinhardt was muddying everything up—it was supposed to be black-and-white. It was supposed to be good-versus-evil. Life was so much simpler when viewed through a single eye, because everything was neat and flat. Depth made everything much more confusing.
“You’re trying to justify an evil cause,” she said, more to convince herself than to convince him.
Reinhardt shrugged. “Perhaps. But I believe that the German people will suffer greatly for our mistakes. In the mean time, some of us are working to fight that evil. Your Scrumtumbler was one of those men. He stole information from them, information about the Hollow Earth. That is why he designed his drilling machine—he wanted to beat the Nazis in a race to inner-space.”
“I only care about one thing: how to get him back safely. So he can keep building me airplanes, of course.”
“Of course. Which is why I have given Dr. Scott information on Castle Vevelsburg. It is a Thule stronghold only a few hundred kilometers west of here. They have been researching a means to open a passage to the Hollow Earth.”
“Why should we trust you? How do we know we aren’t just walking into a trap?”
“I can offer no proof to satisfy your mind until your heart is ready to accept it. You may choose trust, or you may choose fear. But I have one other thing to offer. A gift—something entrusted to me by Professor Scrumtumbler.”
He bent down to unclasp the latches of the large suitcase. Then he gestured to indicate she should have the honor of opening it.
“What is it?”
“This is what the professor designed for the Nazis. But he gave them an inferior model and then, later, he burned the blueprints. This is the only existing advanced prototype.”
“And why are you giving it to me?”
“Perhaps I am hoping that you will realize that a Nazi and a German are not the same thing.”
She squinted at him for another moment before turning her attention to the box. When she opened it, the light glinted off the contents. She gasped and all prejudices fell away from her mind.
“Is this…” She had to clear her throat before she could finish her sentence. “Is this as fast as I think it is?”