— Luis Valienté on Waltzing
The Great Elusivo
In March 1848, Luis was in London, performing as The Great Elusivo at the Victoria Theater, when he met Oswald Hackett for the first time. When Luis came out of the theater after his show, Oswald approached him and invited him to have dinner at the Drunken Clam since he was quite fond of oysters. Oswald talked fast, afraid that Luis would vanish, stepped to show he could do it as well and reappeared in front of an astonished Luis.
Having Luis hooked, he then introduced himself. The two men were walking through the crowd as Luis was studying Oswald who seemed to know a lot about Luis's past. After a while, Luis, who didn't like the fact that he had been noticed again, stopped Oswald, told him he thought he was the only one with this ability and asked if he had a name for it.
The gentleman replied that the others thought they were unique as well and that this ability existed for a long time. According to his own family stories, Hereward the Wake was one of his ancestors.
Oswald then proposed to Luis that they stepped together, he asked him what was his preference between widdershins or deiseal and led him to an alley where he held out his cane. Luis, staring at him, thought about how he could silence him in the sinister forest, this man's life for his but also was curious about what he had to say. Making a choice, Luis grasped Oswald's cane. Oswald, glanced around to make sure they were not being watched and stepped way, leaving behind the crowded streets of London for a forest of tall oak trees.
Oswald was clutching his stomach and quickly swallowed a couple of anti-nausea pills he carried with him in his waiscoat pocket. When he looked up, he realized that Luis didn't seem to be affected by the nausea at all.
He told him he envied him and that he was evidently a more skilled Waltzer that he was, informing his companion at the same time, that he called whatever this was that they were able to do Waltzing.
He asked Luis if he ever explored this new world but Luis replied he didn't see what he would gain be doing that. Oswald quickly discovered that Luis also never tried to Waltz further and had no curiosity of what could be found on those other worlds as long as it didn't mean making a profit.
It was Luis's turn to question Oswald, asking what an ability like that could be useful for except that to make a profit out of it. Oswald looked at him in the eyes and suggested that it would be useful to serve their country but all this could be discussed in front of oysters.
Serving the country
The pair ate together and didn't talk much as oyster shells were stacked up next to them. Between two rounds, Luis asked how many of them there were. Oswald replied that there was fifteen of them he knew of and that they were a rare breed. Recently he even met two others during a vacation in Margate.
Luis inquired about what Oswald did for a living and Oswald replied that he inherited a comfortable trust fund on his majority and invested it wisely in railway shares. As for his free time, he considered himself as a sholar.
Oswald then asked Luis when he first became aware of his special gift and Luis told him the story of how he stepped for the first time when he was six while being chased by a bull. Oswald, while lighting a pipe, told him that he first stepped when he was at school, aged sixteen at the time, while being in the arms of the headmaster's wife.
After talking about how Oswald found Waltzers, Luis asked for what purpose. Oswald told him about his ambition of organizing Waltzers for the first time and present themselves as a gift to the royal family, helping Britain staying the dominant force on this world. All this for the betterment of mankind.
Luis, dubious, asked Oswald what prevented the government to arrest them on the spot and what he would do about the Chartists.
Oswald whispered that they had to prove their worth and talked about the Chartists demonstration scheduled for next month at Kennington Common.
The Chartists demonstration
The Chartists demonstration happened on April 10. Before the event, Luis, who didn't care about the outside world before, spent his time to learn about the Chartists. The plan was for Oswald and Luis to infiltrate the march and use their ability to take care of ringleaders and troublemakers. Luis hesistated since it defied every instinct he had developed about keeping his ability a secret but Oswald went on, saying he had friends among the constables and had an arrangement with them.
Luis understood the hidden message behind that : if he would run away, Oswald would send the constables after him. Luis had no choice but to comply if he wanted to keep his head.
So the day of the demonstration, the pair infiltrated the march and set off to work. The plan consisted of approaching a troublemaker, that the constables would point out, stepwise, come back to London, grab the target, bring him widdershins and go back to the crowd. The work proved easy for Luis who could look after himself in a fight even if he got hit in the ribs multiple times and would have a black eye.
The crowd had among ten thousand agitators, most of the men Luis carried were French and he wondered how deep the movement had been infiltrate by foreign agitators. As he was standing next to a double-up Frenchman spilling his guts, he noticed another man, tall, skinny, waving at Luis and standing next to another man doubled-up.
The man said his was a Scotsman. Luis, surprised to see another Waltzer, replied only after a while that his own was French. After a brief chat, the man went back to work and disappeared.
After a hard day's work, Luis made if off without any incident. Oswald showed up a Luis's theater at night saying they had an appointment with royalty.
An appointment with royalty
That night, Luis borrowed a suit from his theatre's manager, saying he had to attend a wedding. Oswald gathered his men at Charing Cross where they boarded a landau for Windsor.
They were eight men in total, all Waltzers. Luis recognized the man he saw earlier in the forest but Oswald discouraged introductions and chitchat arguing that the least they knew about each others, the safer they'll be.
The skinny man that Luis spotted during the day approached him and introduced himself as Fraser Burdon. Both talked briefly as they boarded the carriage and Luis learned that Fraser met Oswald in Cambridge. They got into their coachs with Oswald and didn't have another occasion to talk.
At Windsor, they were lead through multiple corridors by servants then to a staiway that lead underground. All the servants, who were surrounding them, were all big, powerful men with plenty of room for weapons under their loose jackets.
Oswald told them they were privileged to be where the royal family held their most private meetings. Luis, feeling uncomfortable, said he was half-tempted to Waltz out of the place but Fraser told him you couldn't Waltz underground unless if there was a cave or a cellar widdershins of deiseal and realized at the same moment that Luis didn't study his abilities more than he needed to.
The Knights of Discoporea
— Oswald Hackett
Finally they arrived in a bigger room where there was already a group of men. One of them was named only 'Mr Radcliffe' but Lord John Russell, the Prime Minister, and Albert, the Royal Consort were among them.
Oswald explained how their ability worked to the Prince and about his family history. Having caught Albert's interest, he declared that he should call them his Knights of Discorporea and that they were at his service.
Albert replied that he discussed it with the Queen and accepted Oswald's offer. Luis noticed that the Prime Minister didn't appear to care. After a short speech, welcomed by a round applause, Albert called for refreshments and snacks. He then put his arm around Oswald's shoulders and started to talk about their next mission.
Fraser nudged Luis with his elbow and Luis spotted the Queen looking at them through an open doorway, with an air of disapproval, before she disappeared. As servants arrived with more drinks, Luis also noticed that Radcliffe was standing still in the middle of the room as if he was trying to memorize the faces of all the Waltzers.
New Orleans and the Undergroung Rail Road
They strolled through the streets towards their lodgings with their luggage. Oswald led them to a bawdy house full of young women, all beautiful to Luis's eyes, where they met with the madam of the house.
The madam took them to her office where, behind a secret panel, was an entirely enclosed room. The three Englishmen entered the room while she closed the door behind them.
Once the door was shut, they Waltzed widdershins. West of their position, stood a battered army field tent where clothes had been left to dry on the spine.
The trio approached the tent and where welcomed by Simon, a runaway slave that Oswald has met before, and Abel, his grandfather. Luis was surprised by young man's refined and well spoken accent despite his short experience with the American intonation.
Oswald reassured the two runaways that the plan was still in place. They had to board the River Goddess to Memphis and change again and again until they reached their destination. After discussing about the details of their plan, Fraser asked Simon about his past and the runaway slave told them about how he was raised and why he ended up running away.
After hearing this touching story, Oswald took Luis and Fraser aside to discuss tactics. Outside the tent, the three Britishmen discussed about the cruelty of slavery and Prince Albert's encouragements to work with the Underground Rail Road until they were interrupted by Simon, telling Oswald that his grandfather was asking of Albert had made new speeches.
Waiting that Oswald went back inside the tent, Fraser told Luis he was getting fed up with Oswald constant sermoning and self-righteous attitude and asked what he had planned after this mission. Luis replied that he was considering maybe seeing more of America since it was the first time he travelled farther than France. Fraser then asked him if he wanted to make lots of money. Valienté, dubious, asked if he was referring to something illegal but Fraser put his mind at ease by explaining that he wanted to use the hard work of gold miners of the Gold Rush to find accessible gold seams on the widdershin worlds.
Luis felt that it was like cheating but agreed that it wasn't unethical. Fraser further argued that they have been following Hackett for four years doing humanitarian work and that they deserved more than a pat on the back. Luis, nearly thirty years old, thought that he should prepare for his future and said that he'll consider the idea. The pair went back inside the tent where Oswald was reading one of Prince Alber's speeches to Simon and Abel.
A rich and quiet life
His adventure with Simon and Abel over, Luis was now rich. Luis invested his money in steam engines while Fraser invested his in armaments, a growing industry after the war in the Crimea. As the years went by, he became less and less involved in the affairs of the Knights of Discorporea and even got married, not long after his American adventure, with a woman who used to be a singer in variety halls. Together, they settled in Richmond and had two children, Elspeth and Robert. As the kids grew up, Luis kept an eye on them but none of them showed any signs of being a Waltzer, much to Luis's relief.
In 1861, Prince Albert died, leaving Luis to wonder how his death would influence of work of the Knights. But by the time Luis reached his fortieth birthday in 1863 he barely knew what they were up to and knew nothing of their exploits, his old age making him useless as an agent.
An European war
to Luis's surprise, in spring 1871, Oswald contacted Luis and Fraser for a mission in Berlin, Germany. He tasked them to take separate trips and visit several locations like government buildings and royal residences. Luis didn't want to get involved but complied since he didn't want to anger Oswald and did his part without any incident.
A few weeks later, the three of them were summoned to Windsor once again. Luis stayed overnight in a hotel on the Strand but didn't sleep much. He was up before dawn and spent his time walking the city until it was time to meet the others. The trio met once again at Charing Cross, just like in April 1848. This time only Mr Radcliffe and a few servants, all men again, were there to meet them in a drawing room deep in the bowels of the castle.
Radcliffe told them about their mission in Berlin and asked them to go with him to the archive downstairs. Oswald started but Fraser grabbed his arm, refusing Radcliffe's invitation and, to Luis's surprise, Oswald followed Fraser's lead.
Radcliffe mocked Fraser, saying a famous gold-miner like him surely wouldn't be scared of finding himself shut in but failed to get the response he wanted from him. Radcliffe then gave up and listened to their reports in the drawing room.
When they finished reporting to him, Radcliffe asked if they guessed why they ordered such a mission. Oswald said that they wanted to strike at Bismarck himself and Radcliffe barely flinched at that. He argued that it was in order to prevent an European war.
Oswald replied that it was quite a step up, even compared to when they sent the Knights in Sebastopol during the siege. To this, Luis raised his eyebrows since he didn't know about it. Burdon, smiling, told Radcliffe he couldn't be serious since such an act would destabilize Europe even faster. Radcliffe said it was the will of the Queen but Fraser dared him to bring her and have her say it in person.
Radcliffe then insisted again that they should go to the archive so he could explain the operation better with maps and reports. The Waltzers still didn't move and Radcliffe told them that the Prime Minister was waiting for them downstairs. Fraser laugh at this and said he didn't believe that Lord John Russell was waiting for the likes of them downstairs. Oswald admitted it was unlikely and started to ask for clarifications but got cut off by Fraser who declared this meeting over.
At this, Radcliffe gave an order to his 'servants' and they all grabbed the Waltzers and knocked them out.
Trapped in the vault
When they woke up, they were in the vault, all tied up in armchairs with heavy iron chains at the wrists and ankles. Each with a solder at his back.
Oswald was furious but still inquired about his companions. Fraser, oddly, seemed to be at ease. Thinking back, Luis realized that he seemed to have been in control of the situation from the start and was hoping it was still the case. Oswald asked Radcliffe what he was up to.
Radcliffe replied that during the years since their first meetings, they have been experimenting and practising on how to take down Waltzers. He pursued by saying that they were tolerated because of Prince Albert but since now he was dead, the Queen, who found them repulsive, wanted them gone.
He always found the Waltzers suspiscious and accused them of using their ability to get rich, like Fraser with his fake gold mine in California and Luis and his Great Elusivo act. Since they were among the first to present themselves, they would have the privilege to be the first to be taken down. Luis realizing suddenly the implications of that began to fear for his children.
Fraser asked on whom did they practice and Radcliffe answered that they had scientists from the Royal Society test whomever they could find by stressing them. Less than one in a thousand showed signs of the ability but most of them didn't know about it and came right back in the arms of the soldiers.
The ones they manage to catch were brought to the basement under the Royal Society where they practised vivisection on them. This confession filled Oswald with anger.
Radcliffe admitted that the government wanted to get rid of all the Waltzers and planned to conduct a similar programme in the colonies once Britain was cleansed of them.
After his speech, he was interrupted by Fraser who expressed doubts about the success of his plans. Then Burdon turned to Luis and Oswald and told them to step widdershins. Oswald reminded him that it was impossible since they were in a cellar. Fraser counted to three and, surpisingly, they all Waltzed.
Luis found himself, without his shackles and his chair, in another hole in the ground lit only by candles. Luis, standing up, called for Oswald and Fraser but only Hackett seemed to be with him, Fraser was nowhere to be found. As they realized they were in a mine and marvelling at how long it must have taken to plan that, Fraser reappeared with a blade where blood was dripping.
He told them that he went back and killed Radcliffe. Then, they all realized that their families were in danger so they decided to Waltz back from a safe place where run away with their families and live in hiding from the government's assassins.
— Oswald Hackett
In October 1895, Oswald send an invitation to Luis and Fraser so they could have lunch together at the Drunken Clam. Since that event in 1871, Luis changed his name to John Smith and has been living alone since his wife died and his children, now grown-ups, left the family nest.
Luis took a train from Bristol to London and could resist to walk around the city, visiting places he hasn't seen for decades. As a result, he arrived late to the oyster-house.
Oswald, over the years, had fattened up and lost all his hair. Now he could only stand with the help of a cane. On the table, in front of him, Darwin's Origin of Species and H.G. Wells's The Time Machine.
When Luis arrived, they started by introducing themselves under their new names. Oswald was now known as Richard Foyle and Fraser as Woodrow Boyd. Oswald laughed at the lack of originality of Luis's name.
Oswald asked his two companions if they told their children about their past. Luis replied that he did but his son Robert wanted to keep the family name. Fraser said he'd condemn him but one of his sons made the same choice.
The oysters arrived and they started to eat. After Fraser tried an oyster and didn't find it to his liking, he tapped the Origin of Species and asked about it. Oswald told them that it was this book that prompted him to gather them together.
Luis pointed out that Darwin's book has been published thirty years ago so why meet up now? Oswald then told him the answer was in Wells's novel. He gave them a brief summary about how, in the novel, mankind changed over the millenias to end up completely different from the modern stock. Then went back to talk about the Origin of Species where it was described that pigeons were bred for certain traits.
Luis didn't get it at first but Fraser was faster to understand, Oswald wanted to cross-breed their children. Luis was shocked when he understood by Oswald reassured him by saying what he had in mind was more like arranged marriages and that rich families and royalty were already doing that kind of thing.
Oswald proposed to create a Fund that would be handled by banks and would keep a list of all their families. When two young people were of marriageable age, they would receive a letter from the Fund saying they would receive money if they were to consider a liaison and additional money if they were to produce a child but still could walk off if they wanted to.
Luis asked how much money Oswald had in mind and recoiled when Oswald declared he wanted to make it a thousand pounds. Oswald replied that, while the three of them had enough money to establish a healthy fund, he found other families of Waltzers. He produced a piece of paper hidden in The Time Machine where were written the names Blakeney, Burdon, Hackett, Orgill, Tallis, Tallyman and Valienté.
In the end, Oswald managed to convince his companions and the Fund was created. Within decades of its creation, there was already an increase of natural steppers in the population.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 The Long Utopia - Chapter 1
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 The Long Utopia - Chapter 18
- ↑ The Long Utopia - Chapter 16
- ↑ The Long Utopia - Chapter 17
- ↑ The Long Utopia - Chapter 20
- ↑ The Long Utopia - Chapter 23
- ↑ The Long Utopia - Chapter 24
- ↑ The Long Utopia - Chapter 34