“Thanks,” Zack said, his feathers relaxing.
“What was that robot?” Georgie Boy asked, “and how did it get in the castle?”
“We don’t have any security here,” Sassy said. “We’ve never needed it. It probably rolled right in and started messing things up around here.”
“Actually, it cleaned up the kitchen, recreation room, and preening parlor,” Conure Chick said. “They look and smell nice. It tidied up our play rooms and private cages too, but it pulled out all of the toys.”
“Why would it do that?” Momo asked.
“Mommy usually rotates our toys once a week,” Chloe said, “but she’s pretty flexible about it. If we seem to be enjoying one, she’ll leave it in there for another week.”
“And yukka chews always get two weeks,” Zack said, “but the robot said something about it not being a Toko Toy. What’s that?”
“The same thing that hacked our weather probe,” Sassy said. “The question is, who’s behind Toko Toys?”
“Dr. Igor Toko,” Quarkybirdy said, pecking at the computer. “I found more files on this chip from the robot. Dr. Toko is a scientist that recently retired from a major toy and electronics manufacturer and set up shop in a small cottage on the western borders of our land. It looks like he’s trying to start his own business.”
The room blacked out. The anipals squawked in darkness for a few seconds before the power came back up. The computer screen showed the face of a man with wild, grey hair and thick glasses. “Greetings strangers! How do you like the gifts I sent you?”
“Those were gifts?” Jinx asked.
“Yes, the first of my creations. I wanted to introduce myself by sending presents to make your lives easier and more enjoyable.”
“How were they supposed to work?” Sassy asked.
“The probe was adjusted to balance your weather so it’s neither too hot nor too cold, and the robot was supposed to clean your castle, assist with chores and errands, and prepare your meals. Did they perform satisfactorily?”
“The probe dumped two feet of snow and gale force winds on us,” Jinx said. “And the robot took our yukka chews!”
“My apologies,” Dr. Toko said. “They performed exceptionally in my experimental lab. I meant for these to be a treat for you before I came over with a surprise soufflé!”
“The surprises have already been here,” Sassy said.
“Kind sir,” Quarkybirdy said, “we certainly welcome you to our borders, and are happy to test out your inventions, but could you let us know what you plan to send first?”
“Yes, we have strange occurrences here occasionally,” Chloe said, “so it would be good to know what to expect and what to Kung-fu.”
“Certainly my friends, and I apologize,” Dr. Toko said. “I didn’t realize you had strange incidents in Anipal Land before. You have a reputation as being the happiest place anywhere.”
“You wouldn’t believe what we’ve seen,” Jinx said. “Happiness is apparently magnet for all kinds of strange, silly stuff.”
“Why don’t you save the surprise soufflé for Friday?” Sassy asked. “We always have a feast on Fridays, and we’d love to prepare a proper welcome for you.”
“Absolutely!” Dr. Toko said. “I look forward to seeing you then!”
Everybody breathed a sigh of relief as the signal winked out and returned to their regular computer screen.