“I don’t understand,” Hanso whined. “What’s so great about getting into the five hundredth issue of the Neopian Times? Brynn! Are you even listening to me?”
“Of course I am,” she replied, even though she really wasn’t. She was rushing to the prestigious office of the Neopian Times with a rejected manuscript in her arms. Earlier that day she had received her very first rejection notice and had fled to Hanso’s Neohome in tears. He hadn’t understood why she was so upset—sometimes she swore the Ixi barely understood the concept of putting one hoof in front of the other—but he had agreed to come with her to sort things out.
Brynn knew the manuscript she had created for the five hundredth special edition of the Neopian Times was her best one yet. She had previously had nine other works published—in addition to the special avatar she had hoped to receive for making it into the five hundredth issue, she would also have received the gorgeous ten-issue milestone avatar—and none of her other stories could even come close to standing up to this one.
So why couldn’t the editor see that?
“Brynn!” Hanso whined again. “Slow down! These shoes are brand new, you know!”
“There’s the office,” she said, slowing her pace just the tiniest bit and pointing. “Do you see it?”
He squinted. “That’s a Hubert’s Hot Dogs stand.”
“No!” she said in exasperation, rolling her eyes. “BEHIND that, Hanso.”
He squinted again. “Oh! That.”
“Yes,” she said. “That.”
The Neopian Times building was truly breathtaking, even if Hanso couldn’t see it. Brynn often passed by it on her way to the Kadoatery, and almost as often she found herself stopped on the sidewalk, staring up at it and wishing that one day she could work there, seeing herself in an office, reviewing submissions from all over Neopia...
Now that dream was fading fast. The rejection of her most brilliant work had hit her hard, and she was no longer sure what she could do with the rest of her life. Even if she tried, she couldn’t see herself there anymore, working with the greats, making her Neopoints doing what she loved... so what was she supposed to do? Become a thief like Hanso?
“Brynn? Brynnnnn. Brynn!”
“Huh? What!” she said, snapping out of her brief reverie and looking around. Hanso was waving a hand in front of her face, looking pained. At some point, they had reached the doors of the Neopian Times.
“We’re here,” he told her. “Are you all right? You seemed kind of out of it for a minute there.”
So he wasn’t totally obtuse. That was good to know.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” she said. “Let’s go.” She reached for the door handle, then pulled. To her surprise, it didn’t open. She rattled the handle for a minute, then turned to Hanso in frustration. “It won’t open!”
“Maybe they’re closed,” he suggested.
“They can’t be closed!” Brynn cried. To her horror, there were tears welling up in her eyes, and she turned away from Hanso and blinked them back. “They can’t be...”
He put his hand on her shoulder and turned her to see her face, looking concerned. “Let me see if I can get in.”
She laughed through the tears she hadn’t been able to completely hold back. “Hanso, with your kind of help, the last thing I’ll have to worry about is not getting into the Times!”
He looked wounded. “Hey, the best thing about lock picking is that no one can prove anything. Come on, Brynn,” he wheedled when she didn’t respond. “What do you say? Time for some amazing heroics?”
She thought about it for a second, and glanced around. There were so many people around, someone might see them... wait, there was no way her biggest moral problem with this was someone seeing them! This wasn’t right, this could get her in big trouble with the Neopian Police Department, this was...
“Okay,” she said, knowing it was a mistake the second she said it. Hanso’s face split into a huge grin.
“Great!” he enthused. “Fortunately, I carry a lock picking kit with me at all times. For, uh, emergencies.” He looked around. “Now all we have to do is find a side door.”
“I know where one is,” Brynn said. “Follow me.” She led him around the side of the building, next to a dumpster, then wrinkled her nose. “Ugh. How can you stand to do this on a daily basis?”
He shrugged with a bright grin. “You get used to it. Where’s this door of yours?”
She pointed, then stood guard, crossing her arms and looking around while Hanso took out his lock picking kit and began to work. It wasn’t long before she heard a click from the door and an “Aha!” from Hanso. She turned from standing watch to see him gesturing at the door with a proud grin on his face.
“You did it,” she said. Not that she was surprised, but it did seem like the thing to say.
“I did it!” he agreed, then gestured at the door again. “Ladies first.”
She gulped, glancing around at the dark hallway the door led to. “You don’t have an... emergency flashlight... or something, do you?”
“Nope,” he said, then added with a smirk, “but if you’re too scared...”
She glared at him before taking a purposeful step inside the building. She was scared! It was dark, and there could be Spyders or something lurking in the shadows. So she moved through the hallway as quickly as possible, hoping her eyes would adjust just a little faster. Then the hallway was flooded with light, and she let out a small involuntary shriek as the brightness burned her eyes. She turned behind her and stared at Hanso in disbelief, who looked sheepish.
“Sorry,” he said. “I, uh, found the light switch. I thought you’d want it on.”
“You could have given me some warning first!” she snapped.
“Sorry,” he said again. She rolled her eyes.
“Let’s keep going.”
They made their way through the deserted building, searching for...
“What exactly are we looking for?” Hanso whispered.
Brynn shrugged. “I dunno, some sort of printing press? Whatever they use to make the newspaper go out to everyone.”
“You’re going to put your story in the paper? That’s what we’re doing?”
Brynn nodded and clutched her manuscript tighter. Hanso let out a low whistle.
“Brynneth, I’m surprised at you! But in a good way,” he added quickly when she gave him a look.
She opened her mouth to reply, but then she caught sight of a door labeled ‘Printing’ and pointed at it. “Hanso! Over here.”
He looked at the door. “You think that’s it?”
“Yeah,” she said, “I do.” She stepped up to the door. It opened without a struggle, and Brynn’s mouth dropped open as she looked inside. “Wow...”
“Wow,” Hanso agreed, looking over her shoulder. “That’s a big machine.”
And it was. The room was huge, and the printing press took up all of it, even though it wasn’t running. Brynn walked in, looking around in awe. She might have stood there forever if Hanso hadn’t said, “Hey, Brynn? Someone’s going to come in here eventually, and we don’t want to be here when they do, you know?”
“Oh!” she said. “Right. Sorry.” She caught sight of several dozen papers upside down at the front of the machine. “Hanso! This must be where they put the issues to be printed!”
“Guess so,” he said. “Now what do we do about it?”
She walked over to where the papers were and examined the area. “There’s no extra space for another story.”
“So we take one off,” Hanso replied, picking up one of the papers and looking at it. His nose crinkled. “This isn’t even well-drawn.”
“Give it here,” Brynn said. She held out her hand and Hanso put the comic into it. Tears started forming in her eyes again as she looked at it. The comic was sweet, adorable, and obviously drawn by a very young Neopian who must have been thrilled to get her comic into the Neopian Times. How could she want to take that away from her?
How could she have even considered it?
She handed the comic back to Hanso. “Put it back.”
His brow furrowed. “But—”
“I said put it back, Hanso!” Brynn snapped. He put his hands up in surrender and carefully placed the comic back where it had been. She turned and walked out of the room. He followed after her and closed the door behind them.
“Why the change of heart?” he asked once they were safely outside. She smiled at him, all trace of tears gone from her eyes.
“Some things are more important than getting in.”