Revenge of the Golden JubJub
Nokura stared out her window at the grey-green hills of Shenkuu, bored out of her skull. She slid off her bed to see if there was anything good in the kitchen, to no avail. She swiped up a comic book she’d read at least half a dozen times already and promptly tossed it onto the table.
Upon hearing the sound, Nokura strained her ears. The window in front of her rattled slightly. She leapt off the couch and darted into her backyard. In front of her stood a giant baseball. It stood more than twice her height and looked oddly metallic. In the left side of the object the outline of a door appeared. With a hiss, the door fell open. A Royal Shoyru stepped down onto the grass. He looked straight at her.
She stared in silence for a moment. “Where the HECK have you been?”
He raised an eyebrow at her. “I do have a life other than traveling about Neopia with you, you know.”
“But today is the three hundredth anniversary!”
She shook her head at him in exasperation. “Oh nothing, Aekin. It’s only the most important day of the whole entire year!”
“Well, back on Shoyru Space Station it’s just a regular day.”
“Well, down here on Neopia, we have a little thing called the Neopian Times which just so happens to be the VOICE OF THE PEOPLE, and it’s celebrating its three hundredth issue today. The issue’s going to come out at two o’clock, and it’s already noon! We have to get down to the catacombs right away!” Nokura brushed past him into the baseball-shaped spaceship.
Aekin walked back inside after her. “Y’know, Nokura, my spaceship is not your personal taxi service.”
“I know, Aekin! But you did want me to show you around Neopia, right? You’re the one who said that the Shoyrus on Shoyru Station had been separated from Neopia for too long. All that Alien Aisha technology made you forget about all the good stuff on Neopia. Well Mister, the Neopian Times is a huge part of Neopia.”
“Alright, alright, I’m sorry I’m late,” he said. “I had to do some repairs on the ship if you must know.”
She gave him a wary eye. “Repair? Is something wrong with it?”
She remained suspicious as Aekin fired up the engines, but gazed down as the hills of Shenkuu fled from sight and were replaced by the blue ocean. Soon she saw land again, along with the suburbs clustered around Neopia Central. The marketplace popped up, glaring like a beacon of commerce. Aekin parked the ship in the trees behind the Hospital, camouflaging it as a baseball.
Nokura looked at him as if he were crazy.
“What? If I make it look like a tree, how am I supposed to find it again?”
She shook her head and led him through the marketplace up to a bronze statue of a Chia proclaiming something. Beside it in the ground lay what looked like a cellar door. Nokura walked down it, and Aekin knew better than to question her. As they traveled down, the air became cooler and scented with soil, coffee and paper. He could not help but notice Nokura take a deep breath of the smell. At the bottom of the stairs, he could see Neopians—human and Neopet alike—mingling with books and coffee and paper and pens in their hands. They all seemed to have a familiarity among them.
“Nokura, they look slightly... different from other Neopians I have met.”
“They’re writers! And artists, for that matter.” Nokura’s eyes skimmed over the crowd, coming to rest on a target in the far left corner. She grabbed Aekin by the arm. “Hey Marm!” she called and led Aekin through the throng.
A brunette stood staring at a sketch tacked to a corkboard littered with scribbled notes.
“Marm,” Nokura said as she stopped next to the woman.
Tashni jumped at the sound of her voice. “Nok, there you are.” She nodded at Aekin. “Glad you could make it.”
“I didn’t know you were bringing a Little Orby comic here,” Nokura commented on the sketch.
“Yeah, I just can’t seem to get that angle in panel three the way I want it. I got a couple good suggestions, though.” Tashni removed several of the notes off the corkboard and stuck their leftover tacks at the bottom. “You ready to go to the Dummy Ceremony?”
“Isn’t that a little rude?” asked Aekin.
“What?” replied Nokura.
“Calling someone a dummy.”
Nokura shook her head while Tashni spoke. “No Aekin, in magazines and newspapers, all the articles and artwork must be collected and put together so everything fits before it can be mass-printed. The ‘dummy’ is the original copy of what all the others will look like. Every fiftieth issue, there’s a Dummy Ceremony where the dummy issue is displayed, speeches are given, and the dummy is sent to press.”
“Oh,” said Aekin. “So that’s the Dummy Ceremony.”
“C’mon,” said Nokura. “It’s about to start.”
She led Aekin into the depths of the deceptively extensive catacombs, crowded with celebrators. They soon reached a massive cavern lit by torches and glowing Petpets overhead. A bandstand stood against the wall.
“Nok,” said Aekin, “they don’t have microphones.”
“Don’t have what?”
“Nevermind. How will anyone here what they’re saying on the stage?”
“Oh, this is way cool. This cavern is shaped just right so it carries sound all around the room.”
“You mean it’s acoustically perfect?”
“Ladies and gentlemen!” cried a brunette human. Her voice did carry surprisingly well, Aekin noted. “Welcome to the Three Hundredth Issue Dummy Ceremony!”
Cries of applause responded.
“The Neopian Times is a remarkable journal which has been a part of Neopia for almost six years. During this time, it has influenced the way we view Neopia and how it operates. The Times is always changing, hopefully for the better. Because of this, we have gained new friends,” she paused to smile at a White Weewoo in front of the stage, “while saying goodbye to others. In celebration of three hundred, we have invited a very important character in Neopian Times history to be our guest of honor. I would like to introduce... Salvador the Golden JubJub!”
From stage left strolled a gleaming JubJub to center stage. Applause and cheers roared through the room as he stood with utmost dignity before them.
“Who’s that?” asked Aekin.
“It’s Salvador!” exclaimed Nokura. “He’s the original mascot of the NT. He retired a while back, and the White Weewoo took his place. But it’s great to see him again!”
“Although rumor has it he was forced into retirement,” Tashni said as quietly as she could amidst the noise.
Salvador waited until the applause began to subside. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he declared, “it is most pleasing to see you all here today for the Issue Three Hundred Dummy Ceremony.”
“It’s great to have you with us again,” said the brunette Master of Ceremonies. “Now, I wish to present to you the three hundred dummy, so that it can be presented to all the NT fans here and sent off to the printing press!” Her excitement demanded another round of applause. She beamed with joy, while Aekin noticed that Salvador appeared strangely serious. After another moment, the brunette tenderly picked up a stack of papers from a table at the back of the stage, and while the applause roared at its loudest, handed them to Salvador.
With the dummy resting in Salvador’s large opposable toes, a small and wicked grin spread across his fluffy face. There was a flutter of nervous laughter and cheering from the audience, Nokura and Tashni included. In response, Salvador let loose one of the most truly dreadful laughs Aekin had ever heard. Silence fell over the assembly.
“At last,” cried Salvador. “You notice me once again! After years of being your beloved mascot, you toss me to the side like the newspaper you use to line your Petpet cages. And then you bring into the spotlight those silly white birds. Well, now you will all taste my revenge.” The JubJub produced from his golden fur a scepter, glowing with power. A cackle escaped his lips as he pointed it at the 300th dummy.
Gasps of horror erupted around them. “Aekin,” cried Nokura, “he’s going to destroy Issue Three Hundred!”
Aekin was already pushing through the crowd toward the stage, his own scepter in his right hand. “Stop,” he declared.
The JubJub looked down at Aekin, anger in his eyes. “Why should I? You destroyed my career, and now I shall destroy your beloved Neopian Times!”
Aekin leapt onto the stage beside Salvador and aimed his glowing scepter at the JubJub. “Put down that paper.”
Fury distorting his cuddly face, Salvador responded, “Do you think I care what happens to me? My life is already over.” He looked out over the captive audience. “You all took it away from me!”
“I’m sorry, Salvador,” said Aekin. “Really I am. Honestly, I don’t much care about the Times myself. I only heard about it for the first time today.” This comment demanded a collective gasp of shock from the audience, but he continued. “However, my friend loves the Neopian Times. And from all these people here right now, I’m guessing there are lots of people who love it, so I can’t let you destroy it.”
“Let me? LET ME?” screamed Salvador. “I have trained every day for the last two years for this day! You can’t tell because my body is covered with fur, but I’ve got six-pack abs!”
Aekin raised an eyebrow at this statement. “I really doubt that you can beat me, but I don’t want to fight you anyway. And don’t you think it’s obvious, Salvador?”
“Perfectly. This shall be the day that all of Neopia remembers Salvador!” He cackled again as he brought the paper closer to his fiery scepter.
“Exactly!” laughed Aekin.
This obviously puzzled the JubJub, for he paused and looked at him.
“Don’t you see? Look around you, Salvador. All of these people cheered for you when you came on stage. Even now, they aren’t trying to hurt or attack you. They love you. They remember you. For what, I’m not quite sure, because like I said I only heard about the Times today.”
Salvador looked suspiciously at the sea of Times fans below him.
“I remember you, Salvador!” cried a Uni in front of the stage.
He looked down at her.
“You are a symbol of the old Neopian Times. Of the great writers long since retired, of Snowflake and Mister Shankly. You remind us of all those wonderful people and stories.”
Salvador loosened his death grip on his weapon.
“I remember!” cried another in the audience. And another and another until all those in the cavern were crying out their fond memories.
Salvador stood in shock before them, his scepter fell to the floor. Aekin pulled back his own weapon.
“Salvador!” exclaimed a rather loud Grarrl pushing her way to the front. “Salvador!”
He looked at the Grarrl, speechless.
“I’m opening a gallery next week, a museum to honor the Neopian Times! I came here today to ask you if... well, if you would help me. Will you?”
Salvador locked eyes with the Grarrl, and a tear wet his golden fur. “Thank you,” he whispered. “I would like that very much.”
Cheers louder than any of those before thundered through the catacombs. The brunette finally spoke again. “Well, this has been the most exciting ceremony ever! Salvador, would you care to do the honors?” At this last question, a Mynci with ink-stained hands walked up to Salvador.
“May I take the dummy to the press for distribution?” asked the Mynci.
Salvador smiled weakly. “Of course.” He handed it over, and the Neopian Times headed for the printing press. Within hours it would be distributed to the Neopian public for the 300th time.
Celebration followed. It did not matter if you were human or Neopet, artist, writer or fan, or from Neopia or Shoyru Station. You were welcome to join in the joy of the Neopian Times.
“Goodness, Aekin,” said Nokura as they all danced together, waiting for the first issues to arrive. “Thing do take a weird turn whenever you show up.”
“You can’t mean this is my fault!”
“No, not really, but nothing like this has ever happened before.”
“Well I’M the one who kept him from burning the dummy, aren’t I?”
“Actually, I think it was the Grarrl,” retorted Nokura.
“If I hadn’t calmed him down, the Grarrl would never have gotten a word in edge-wise.”
“What?” yelled Nokura through the blaring music.
“What?” he yelled back.
Nokura’s eyes left Aekin’s and focused on something behind him. Aekin turned and saw a Neopet wheeling in stacks of papers—the 300th issue. Nokura leapt up into the air to fly above the stampede headed for first issues. Aekin tried to hold his ground, but it was hopeless. He was pushed forward with the crowd, and he flew up into the air to escape death by trampling. A moment later Nokura flew up to him, cradling the paper in her hands.
Aekin smiled. “All of that for a few sheets of paper.”
She stuck her tongue out at him.
“Nokura Acarsum!” cried Tashni’s voice from below.
The Shoyrus looked down.
“Get down here and let me look at that issue!”
The three huddled together to look through the papers of stories and articles and comics.
“Wow,” said Tashni. “Three hundred issues. It’s amazing.”
“And may there be three hundred more,” said Nokura.
“I really ought to see what all the fuss is about,” said Aekin as he snatched the paper from Nokura.
“I wonder what will happen to Salvador?” pondered Nokura.
“He’ll move on,” said Tashni with a sage nod. “Just like the Neopian Times does. Over the years, we have loved new stories and characters and we have said goodbye to others. Just the same, Salvador must say goodbye to his old life and look forward to what lies ahead.”
“Endings are as much a part of life as the beginnings,” said Aekin. “It’s an Aisha saying.”
“They sound like smart people,” commented Nokura.
“They are, indeed.”
Author's Note: It's hard to believe that the NT has been around for 300 issues! Congratulations to the editor, writers, artists, supporters and readers of the Neopian Times. This is an accomplishment for everyone!