The big city of New Metropolis never failed to impress Charlie. After Belle had left for Brisvegas without saying good bye, Charlie had decided to head overseas. Awesomica had always been the one place he wanted to visit, so after his messy break up with Sunny, he packed his bags and left.
New Metropolis was wonderful. Very little to no crime, beautiful clean streets, no crumbling dam to worry about. Public transport ran like clockwork, schools were all well-funded, there were several Universities to pick from and did I mention the lack of crime? The capital of Awesomica was definitely a standard to live up to.
He walked along one of the many long, bright, happy streets, looking in all of the windows at all of the beautiful displays. He was about to head back to his apartment, when he bumped into someone.
“Oh! Sorry mate, didn't see you there!” Charlie readied himself to get punched out as one would in Pleasantville, but all he heard was a chuckle.
“That's all right friend. You're foreign?” The stranger asked. He was dark, tall and grinning. Charlie grinned back.
“I'm from Pleasantville, Ostraya. Name's Charlie.” He offered his hand in greeting.
“Damien.” The stranger shook his hand. “Welcome to Awesomica.”
“Thanks.” Charlie felt great. The people here were awesome!
“Let me show you around.” Damien motioned for Charlie to follow him. Damien showed him a far bit of the city, all of the best places to grab a coffee or a meal or see a show or some sports. Charlies mind was blown.
“Thanks for the tour!” Charlie smiled at his new friend.
“No problem. You're free to hang out with my friends and I any time.” Damien replied.
Charlie watched as his new friend walked away. He was about to head back to his apartment, when something he saw changed his mind on Pleasantville forever.
A young lady had been walking past, minding her own business. She was clearly wealthy and proud of it, with expensive looking clothes and jewellery. From her shoulder swung a beautiful red velvet handbag.
Charlie squirmed uncomfortably when he saw her – anyone who dressed like that in Pleasantville was just begging for an attack, and it seemed no different here. A young thug grabbed the woman while another went for her handbag.
She screamed loudly as the two men ran off. A loud wailing sounded throughout the street as a police car appeared and took off after the crooks. Charlie blinked. How on earth did the police respond THAT quickly?
Within the hour the handbag had been returned and the thugs apprehended. Within the week, Charlie read in the paper that the crooks had been placed in gaol for a year, where they would be making bricks to be used in construction. It was a shock to Charlies system – the law enforcement here actually WORKED!
Over the next three years, Charlie saw more and more that made him realise that Belle might have been right.
“Charlie! We need you to help us with a new campaign!” Damiens boyfriend Jake barged in the door one day.
“Campaign?” Charlie looked confused.
“They're going to knock down the old Cat Manor to build apartments!” Jake cried in anguish. “We have to stop them!”
“If the Council says that the building is going, what can we do?” Charlie resumed his breakfast.
“If we stage a peaceful protest they'll have to back down!” Jake pointed out.
“You'll just get arrested.” Charlie pointed out.
“No we won't! If we keep within the letter of the law, then they can't do a thing!” Jake grinned. “Haven't you ever protested before?!”
“Uhhh…” Charlie hesitated. In Pleasantville, protesting was unheard of. No one dared upset the status-quo, everyone was too afraid of the criminal element.
“Come on!” Jake dragged him out of the house.
Charlie was quite surprised. It was nothing like what he thought a protest would be like. The very large group were standing on a large patch of grass just outside the Council office, singing old songs about history and the Awesomica way of life.
“And the Council will listen to this?” Charlie was stunned.
“Of course! They know that we won't vote for them if they upset us.” Damien pointed out. “There's a fair whack of the voter base here today.”
“Voting?” Charlie was intrigued. Voting meant nothing in Pleasantville, everyone knew the Mayor was just a figurehead who bowed to the will of the Death Valley Mobsters.
“What planet did you come from?” Jake laughed.
Charlie went bright red. Not from his ignorance – but from how shamefully he treated Belle. This had been what she'd been talking about. The people of Pleasantville standing up and saying “No more!”
And they could do it too. The civilians and the police easily outnumbered the hundred or so Mobsters. However, as proven by the peoples wilful ignorance when it came to the flood, the people of Pleasantville had no intention of rousing themselves.
While the people around him started singing of their founding fathers, he thought back to his last few months in Ostraya.
“Where WERE you?!” Sunny cried. “Ruby completely kicked our backsides out there! We needed you!”
“Forget it. I'm not doing the whole Chuckles thing any more. Not without Giggles.” Charlie lay down on his bed, looking across to the bedroom that held his ex-best friend.
“Why not? What's wrong with you?!” Sunny sighed. “Belle can't be Giggles any more, she's leaving for Brisvegas remember? Plus she's still sick from being flooded with Ruby power.”
She sat down next to him. “Talk to me Charlie.”
“I just can't. She won't do anything with me any more. I keep trying to include her but she just won't have it.” Charlie sighed.
“She just needs some space Charlie. You know she's been working hard. Plus this has been a bit of a shock to her, and now on top of losing her aunt she's lost her grand-father.” Sunny pointed out. “You needed a lot of space when your grand-father died.”
“She's been pushing me away ever since we got together! She's nothing but a jealous brat!” Charlie snapped, slamming his window closed.
“You've been pushing this all on her since we got together! You were so insistent that we all got along that you didn't give her time!” Sunny hugged him.
“I just wanted things to be the way they were. Her and me.” Charlie looked sadly at Sunny, who frowned.
“They couldn't be Charlie. It's you and me now, not you and her.” She smoothed his hair. “You'll always be best friends, but you can't be joined at the hip any more.”
“I didn't realise dating YOU meant choosing.” Charlie scowled at her, pulling away.
“It was always going to be that way!” Sunny cried. “Do you REALLY think that we could carry on together with HER always hanging off you like the leech she is?!”
“Don't you DARE call Belle a leech!” Charlie got up. “You're still jealous aren't you?”
“Jealous? I'll ALWAYS be jealous. Every night I walk into that house and everyone is cold and awkward around me. They don't know how to treat me well after years of ignoring my existence, while Belle walks home into hugs and toys and pampering!” Sunny shot back. “And then I finally get you, but nooooo, she's still got her little claws stuck into the one person I thought I could have to myself.”
“You sound like you're only with me to get back at her!” Charlie spat. Sunny was shocked.
“That's not true!” She defended herself. But a shadow of guilt haunted her face, and Charlie knew that while it wasn't the whole reason, it was part of it.
“It isn't, huh?” He stared coldly at her.
Sunny couldn't bear the cold. She felt it all the time, and to have it directed at her from Charlie was too much.
“It WASN'T.” She corrected him, just as coldly. “It's over Charlie, go back to your stupid unwanted bastard.”
She ran out of the room, slamming the door behind her.
Thinking over it more, Sunny had been right. Belle had needed more time. She also really DID have a need to study.
A few months after the rally, the Mayor was voted out in favour of someone who would protect historical land. Charlie was beginning to understand what Belle had been trying to tell him – that when people took responsibility for their community and held their chosen leaders to account, the community benefited. It wasn't the task of eight kids to stop the Death Valley Mobsters and their hold on Pleasantville – it was up to the people to hold the Council to account, and then the Council needed to stand up and fix the problem.
Belle was studying so she could make a difference. So she could set an example to others. So she could even get into the Council and change it from inside, to continue the work her father was starting.
She had talent, brains and had a brilliant work ethic. Not like him, who simply relied on sheer dumb luck.
“Oi! Wake up Chuckles!” Damien laughed
“Wha-?” Charlie jumped a mile. Did Damien just call him Chuckles?!
“Your name is Charlie, which is shortened to Chuck, and your eyes were glazed over. It was a joke.” Damien reassured him.
They were sitting on the balcony of Charlies apartment, sipping beer and looking out over the beautiful coast.
“Aren't you glad the right guy won the election?” Damien grinned.
“Yeah, it's pretty different from Pleasantville.” Charlie admitted. “You only get to run for Mayors Office if you're under the control of the Death Valley Mob there, otherwise you don't get a look-in.”
Damien looked disgusted.
“If any of our elected representatives were corrupt there'd be HELL to pay! People would be marching down the streets demanding a resignation! How do you LIVE like that?!” He asked, taking another mouthful of beer. “Doesn't anyone stand up for themselves?”
“We did. My friends and I.” Charlie said. “Chuckles and Giggles, with the Knights of the Last Order. We were the local vigilantes.”
Damiens eyes grew wide. “That's why you were startled when I…you FOUGHT the bad guys?!” He yelped.
“Keep it down, I don't want it going around.” Charlie chuckled. “Yeah, I did. Managed to get my hands on the Lions Claw Blade for a short while too before I lost it.”
“Why aren't you fighting any more?” Damien asked as Charlie took another swig of beer.
“Belle and I had a fight. I broke up with my girlfriend too, who was a Knight. Plus I lost my magic. The family magic, the Improbability Clause.” Charlie explained.
“Magic?” Damien looked quizzically at Charlie.
“Yeah, it was pretty much sheer dumb luck. Made even better when Belle was around – her family and my family have been friends for centuries.” Charlie said. “My Dad and her father are brilliant at using the Clause – apparently there's some secret about it that they know that we don't.”
“Secret? How did it work anyway?” Damien asked.
“I'd come up with a brilliant plan, Belle would pooh-pooh it and then everything would work.” Charlie explained.
Damien thought for a second. “When you say she pooh-pooh'd it, what do you mean by that?”
“She basically would tell me…every…thing…that…” Charlie stopped.
Belle would tell him everything that could have gone wrong with the plan. THAT was why the Improbability Clause worked. Because when Belle told him off, she was really going over the finer points of his plan that he missed. His quick brain would then take her information in and, with a bit of dumb luck, formulate something that worked every time.
“I am such a moron.” Charlie sighed. Damien looked at him quizzically.
“Ah…okay.” Damien sat back. “You said you got a hold of the Lions Claw Blade?”
“Yup. Belle had the Lucky Seven Gun for a bit there too, a modified Colt .45 with an extra chamber and an interesting pattern on the handle..” Charlie smiled with the memory. It had been a few years now since those days.
“I wonder…I have a gun, and Jake has a whip. It's an average Colt .45 though, but the handle has a weird design.” He got up and pulled his gun from his holster. Charlie jumped up.
“That's the EXACT same design as on the Lucky Seven Gun!” He pointed to it. “Jakes whip, does it have a small chain with a talisman at the end of it?”
“Yeah, it does. It's called the Stingrays Tail Whip, and this is the Palatable Six Gun.” Damien said. “We got them at a sale, the guy was insistent that they be sold together.”
“I wonder if there are other weapons like this?” Charlie wondered.
“I bet there is.” Damien smiled.
Charlie sat back down.
“I was horrible to Belle.” He sighed. He told Damien what had happened between himself, Belle and Sunny.
“You should go back and apologise. You've been here for years, surely it's time you went home?” Damien looked at his friend.
“I know.” Charlie sighed, finishing off his beer. “Another drink?”