As we used to say back in the '80s: "Shazam!" American Science & Engineering (NASDAQ:ASEI) really blew it out of the water Tuesday, didn't it? Well, maybe.

Sure, with the stock now up nearly 14% from its pre-earnings price, an investor's first instinct is to assume that first-quarter 2008 earnings were good. But the fact is that you can't tell a whole lot about how AS&E did in any given quarter, based on the earnings report alone. These guys take laconic to a whole different level -- even the Spartans call AS&E close-mouthed.

What we know
Here's what we do know, based on the little that AS&E has said about its quarter:

  • Sales, at $44.5 million, increased nearly 50% in comparison with last year's fiscal Q1.
  • Per-share profits, rocketing 61% to $0.66, did even better.  
  • Management has settled on a number for its new quarterly dividend: $0.20 per share. Multiply that by four quarters and this stock is now yielding a respectable 1.2% (hey, it's better than nothing).

And that's about it. Sure, CEO Anthony Fabiano gave us a little extra color, mentioning that sales strengthened "across all product areas," and that international orders helped to boost earnings. But to be honest, anyone who read our Foolish Forecast on Friday knew that already. I mean, we laid it all out for you, describing multimillion-dollar orders for OmniView Gantries, Gemini Parcel Scanners, and Z Backscatter Vans from multiple domestic and Middle East buyers.

What we don't know
As we've come to expect, though, that's about all Fabiano had to say Tuesday. No guidance for next quarter -- or even for the fiscal year. No mention of cash flow (or, natch, an attached cash flow statement). On the first point, I suppose all we can do is just keep a close eye on the firm's press releases for further news of material sales (hopefully, a closer eye than the analysts kept. They blew their sales prediction pretty badly Tuesday). We'll also want to watch out for news releases from rivals L-3 (NYSE:LLL), Analogic (NASDAQ:ALOG), GE (NYSE:GE), and OSI (NASDAQ:OSIS), on the theory that any contracts they win are contracts that AS&E will not.

On the second, we'll want to read over AS&E's 10-Q filing once it comes out. While the firm is not obligated to include a cash flow statement in its earnings releases, the SEC kind of insists on it. In the meantime, I'd just point out that with accounts receivable rising just 2.4% year over year, and inventories only 45% -- both slower than sales growth -- I'll be very surprised if AS&E's free cash flow performance turns out to be anything less than superb.

What did we expect out of AS&E last quarter, and what did the news reveal? Find out in:

American Science & Engineering is a Rule Breakers pick. Check out what other high-growth stocks David Gardner has his eye on with a free 30-day trial.

Fool contributor Rich Smith owns shares of AS&E. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy sees all, shows all.