After years of development, David Wellesley, PhD, a scientist with the Johnson Space Flight Center in Dallas, created a prototype of a revolutionary new Artificial Intelligence Brain, designed to drive the planned Mars Explorer for NASA.
As he is finishing up the project, he receives a visit from Erich, a heavy set man with an even heavier German accent, whom he met briefly at Harvard the year before. Erich begins to grill David for information about the AI Brain, then hotly demands that it be turned over to him for a private sector project named Gamma. When David refuses the demand as he had promised it to NASA, Erich leaves in an angry mood.
Suspicious of Erich's intentions, David decides to hide the AI Brain in his granddaughter's teddybear--one of the latest Talk-and-Toddle teddybears, that can walk and learn to respond to basic spoken phrases. David had purchased the bear for his granddaughter as a Christmas present, and it was left in his care when his daughter's family took a trip to California.
That night, something amazing happens as the teddybear sporting the new AI Brain achieves true consciousness. He realizes he can think, he can plan, and it is a good thing, too, because the next day David is kidnapped. By searching police and other databases via telephone, Teddy manages to alert the police. Soon Teddy is obligated to reveal his new status to the Wellesley family and Sergeant Joe Verdigo, as they all race to save David.
Thus begins the unlikely career of a two-foot tall, furry Private Eye.
(Written in 1992, Mundania Press is proud to be able to finally publish this wonderful story 22 years later.)
Donald Bruce Callander
March 23, 1930 -- July 25, 2008
Don Callander was the best-selling author of the 'Mancer series and the Dragon Companion series. Don originally worked as a travel writer/photographer and graphic designer before retiring to start his writing.
Don was born in Minneapolis, brought up in Duluth, Minnesota, and graduated from high school there before enlisting in the U. S. Navy in 1947. After serving four years on active duty (including the Korean War) he transferred to the Naval Reserve where he served as a 'weekend warrior' for twenty additional years.
He settled in Washington, D.C., where he married, raised four children, and worked on the Washington Post newspaper and in National Headquarters of the American Automobile Association (40,000,000 members!) until his retirement in 1991.
During his retirement, Don lived in Florida and at the age of 62, began writing his bestselling fantasy books until he passed away in 2008.
The dark-haired man in badly scuffed, size ten AAA black Florsheims and dusty jeans jerked angrily at the slide of his packing-crate knife and lunged at the screaming woman.
Clearly a case for Asimov's Second Law of Robotics.
I snap-discharged my M30B Accumulator directly into his right calf. The jolt lifted him four inches into the air, wrung from his lungs a startled gasp of agony, spun him completely about, and slammed him face-first into the first class cabin bulkhead.
He slid to the deck, jerking convulsively, but quite unconscious.
The discharge left me quite drained. I lay still and grinned inanely up at his intended victim. She stopped screaming abruptly—a blessing to everybody's audio receptors.
A young man in black Reeboks scooped up the packing knife, retracted the short, triangular blade, and gingerly laid it on one of the tourist class seat cushions, panting as though he'd run fifty yards.
A flight attendant slumped into the seat next to it, weeping with relief.
"What happened to him?" squeaked a middle-aged businessman in stocking feet.
"He...he just...passed out!" the flight attendant gasped. Her name tag said Sandi McCollough. She was a tall, rather underfed blonde with a northside Chicago accent and sensible blue leather pumps.
"Do something about his buddy!" I hissed.
"What! What?" cried Reeboks.
He snatched up the knife and pointed it at the second hijacker who appeared in the curtained doorway between first class and tourist.
"Drop that, goddamn you!" Reeboks snarled—very convincingly, I thought.
Reeboks was scared shitless, actually.
I struggled to regain control of my motor functions in case the second ’jacker reacted adversely to new circumstances.
He glanced wildly at his partner slumped limply against the forward bulkhead and at the wicked little blade pointed at his mid-section.
Reebok kid has good instincts. Stay well clear and aim at the biggest part of your target.
The second hijacker dropped his own retractable knife on the carpeted deck with a metallic clatter. He placed his hands together, fingers interlocked, on the top of his head.
Miss Screamer proved to have more presence of mind than most of the other passengers. She lunged for the knife while Barefoot Businessman, being careful to stay out of the line of struggle, if any developed, whipped off his tasteful Bill Blass necktie, twirled the gunman about, and bent him over the arm of the aftermost seat in first class.
Reeboks moved closer, knife steady, growling menacingly. Businessman, dredging up long-forgotten Boy Scout lore, managed to get the captive's wrists bound tightly behind him with the silk paisley in a square knot.
Other passengers donated their old school ties and the Barefoot Businessman, his knee in the small of the second gunman's back, tied his ankles, and then his elbows.
Beyond the curtain which separated first class from tourist came the sound of a scuffle. Everybody gasped and turned that way.
A bald-headed man poked through the curtain.
“We got a knifer, here. Higher’n a kite and bawling like a goddamn baby!”
“Let’s take care of him,” said Reeboks to another passenger.
They started together through the curtain. I could hear hysterical breathing in at least seven different timbres.
Sandi tore the intercom handset from the front entryway wall.
"Captain, could you step back here for a moment?" she squeaked into the phone. "We have an emergency!"
By the time the matter had been explained and the pilot had returned to the cockpit to contact the authorities, the hoodlum in the badly run-over oxfords was showing signs of recovering from severe electrical shock.
"Tie him up, too. Search them both for other weapons," suggested Reeboks, who was now holding a 9mm Glock he’d taken from the first terrorist trained on the bound hijacker sprawled on his face across the last row of seats, perspiring profusely and whining in Aramaic-French.
"Good idea, son," commended the Barefoot Businessman.
He and his traveling companions collected several more ties and a couple of belts to finish the job. They turned out both men's pockets. There was little to find. No identification. Large wad of cash.
The captain came back, saying we would put down in Cleveland long enough to offload the prisoners and allow the Federal Aviation boys to start taking down everybody's story.
There will probably be press. Unfortunate delay.
"I'm still not certain what happened," said the woman who’d screamed, pointing a shaky finger at my victim. "He just fell down! Spun around and fell against the wall, and..."
"Think about what you're going to say to the Feds," the pilot said reassuringly. He brushed through the curtain into tourist and strolled down the aisle explaining what had happened and soothing the passengers.
A great public relations job for the airline.
Sandi bent, picked me up from the floor, and brushed my coat with her left hand. I'd picked up some carpet lint and stray breakfast crumbs.
"Someone's little ol’ teddy bear," she said, looking about. "Funny! There're no kids in first."
She asked several passengers if I belonged to them but no one claimed me. I continued to smile sweetly up at her, unspeaking. At moments like these it's best, I've found, to play dumb and let nature take its course.
Which it did.
"I'll put him in Lost and Found," Sandi said to her fellow flight attendant, a beautiful young woman with mahogany skin and a Jamaican lilt to her voice. Her tag said Jessica Tailor.
"If nobody claims him," said Jessica with a brilliantly white smile, "he's yours!"
"I have a niece who'd love a teddy who's been through a 'jacking," said Sandi, still a bit hysterical. She started to stuff me into a stainless steel galley cabinet. Then she thought better of it and set me upright on the counter next to the coffee maker.
During the confusion at Cleveland, I managed to slip away, unnoticed, and caught a Southwest flight, in the baggage compartment, this time. Back to Dallas.
I preface these autobiographical bytes this way in order to illustrate the everyday life of a private investigator...one of the very best.
The attempted hijacking climaxed fifteen weeks of quite unglamorous, footslogging, keypad beating, late night and early-morning reviewing of files, photographs and chemical analyses, and so on and so forth.
Gumshoeing, as we detectives call it.
Of the two phases of my cases, I think I prefer the research to the chase. This hijacking almost got out of hand. Someone could have been hurt. I should have found a way to apprehend the two Afghan terrorists—which is what they were—before they boarded the aircraft in New York.
As it was, the case turned out happily enough. The three very mystified gunmen were happy to "sing." The Feds were happy to round up the entire People's Twentieth of April Soldiers of Destiny group. I was happy to add my modest fee to a fat bank account. Let my accounting computers figure out my taxes.
The law doesn't yet allow for a computer-stuffed, moneymaking Teddy bear private eye.
I mean, what I've just typed should give you some small idea of how I make my living. Being a light brown, eighteen-inch tall, shredded-wood-filled, servomotor-activated toy stuffed bear has definite advantages in this investigative business.
Being crammed with the world's smallest, most sophisticated molecular-graved, super-micro-subminiaturized digital computer helps, too.