VALENCE – Season 1, Episode 1: ‘Pros and Cons’

RELEASE DATE: 1/11/2020

Liam loses power but gains an intriguing offer. Wait, that sounds ominous. He literally loses power–as in, the utility in his apartment. If anything’s ominous, it’s the offer, really.

VALENCE is a serialized fiction podcast meant for adult listeners. You can find more information, including our full cast list and transcripts, at You can support us on Patreon and get access to inspo images, bonus audio, and more.

VALENCE is a Hug House Production. You can find more about Hug House, including our VALENCE making-of documentary, Scoring Magic, at

– Our theme was made by Raul Vega,
– With guitar by Travis Reaves.
– This episode was written by Wil Williams,
– With editing and sound design by Julia Schifini.

Performances by, in order of appearance:

Special thanks to:
– Casey Trujillo
– Rachel Rauch
– Collin Gifford
– Kasey Fracica
– Amanda Stewart
– Ryan Boelter
– Danielle Welch
– Michael Hudson
– Ross Papa
– Robert Anderson


WIL: VALENCE is a serialized fiction podcast with discussion and depictions of struggles with mental health. You can check our show notes, or the transcripts on valencepod dot com for a full list of content warnings and their timestamps. It’s important to take care of yourself — especially here in New Candler.

[[theme music]]



[[LIAM ALDEN sits alone in his apartment, drinking. On the coffee table is Liam’s phone, which is vibrating. LIAM takes a drink. The phone continues to buzz.]]


[[The phone continues to buzz.]]

[[LIAM places his cup and an empty bottle of wine on the coffee table. He uncorks another bottle of wine and pours himself a glass. The phone is still ringing.]]

LIAM: Ugh.

[[He takes a sip. The phone continues to buzz. He picks his phone up, silences the call, takes a sip, and puts the phone down. For a moment, there is silence, but then the ringing begins again.]]

LIAM: Hmph.

[[He picks up the phone to silence it, but there are footsteps outside his door. The footsteps stop in front of his apartment, and he takes a small breath in.]]

FLYNN: (Outside the door) Hey! If you’re there, it’s just me.

[[LIAM takes a small breath out and puts his phone back down on the table. He takes another sip of wine, and shuffles in his chair. FLYNN fumbles around in his pocket to pull out his keys. He unlocks and opens the door.]]

FLYNN: (Upbeat) Hey! How are– (Confused, alarmed) Why is it like ten degrees in here?

LIAM: Is it?

FLYNN: Yeah, Liam, it is. Aren’t you freezing?


[[The phone starts ringing again. LIAM takes another long sip of wine.]]

FLYNN: Oh. (Sighs) I’m sorry, man. Want me to check it out?


If you would like.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Of course he wouldn’t like. Who the fuck do you think you are? What a terrible friend. What an embarrassment. Can’t even pick up a phone. Just decide to get so drunk you can’t feel the cold, all instead of just picking up a phone. You idiot. You pathetic idiot.

[[FLYNN picks up the phone. Liam takes another sip.]]

FLYNN: Hello?

POWER COMPANY REPRESENTATIVE (PCR): (Over the phone, almost inaudible) Hello, Mr. Hume?

FLYNN: Yes, this is Landon Hume. How can I help you?

PCR: Hi, Mr. Hume. We’re calling you to give you notice that we haven’t received any payment for your electrical bill this month, and we’ve had to shut off your power.

FLYNN: Ohhh–oh, I’m so sorry for that. The bill completely slipped my mind.

[[LIAM takes another sip.]]

LIAM’S INNER VOICE:Pathetic. Embarrassing.

PCR: I see that you’re not signed up for auto-pay–

FLYNN: No, unfortunately, autopay won’t work for us. If I have the money to you later today, will the power be put on by tomorrow?

PCR: Yes, but there is going to be a late fee.

FLYNN: Right. I understand. I’ll have it to you as soon as possible. Thank you for notifying me.

PCR: Of course. Have a nice day!

FLYNN: Thanks, you too.

FLYNN hangs up.

FLYNN: (Frustrated) Liam. Again?

LIAM: I didn’t realize.

FLYNN: No wonder it’s fuckin’ freezing in here. The heat’s been out all day.

LIAM: I realize this now, yes. (A beat.) I apologize. I didn’t–it–I didn’t want–in case of–it just–the ringing wouldn’t stop, and I didn’t–it was unlisted, and–

LIAM: I apologize.

[[FLYNN scrolls through LIAM’s phone.]]

FLYNN: No, no, no–it–it’s okay. I get it. We gotta take care of it, but I get it. What’s weird, though, is that most of these calls aren’t from this number. They’re from something else entirely. There was one call earlier this morning from the power company, but these other ones are coming from something else.

LIAM: (A stressed out noise)

FLYNN: Want me to block that other number?

LIAM: (An affirmative noise)

[[FLYNN blocks the number. LIAM takes another sip. FLYNN walks over to him and takes the glass out of his hand.]]

LIAM: Don’t–

FLYNN:(Scoldingly) Mm-mm.

[[LIAM sighs. FLYNN puts the glass down on the coffee table and sits down on the sofa next to LIAM’s chair.]]

FLYNN: I get why that was stressing you out, but now, we have to figure out how we’re going to pay this. My check doesn’t come in for another week, and honestly, it’s probably not going to cover much. How much do we have saved up?

LIAM: Little to none.

FLYNN: (Trying for optimism) Okay. That’s okay. We can make it work. We can . . . figure it out.

LIAM: I can–I can go to Trudon Circle. If needed.

FLYNN: (A beat) Are you sure? Will you be able to handle it after all of this?

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Of course not. You’re just going to leave the apartment and fall apart. As if you could do anything useful.

LIAM: Yes. I am sure.



[[LIAM walks towards TRUDON CIRCLE. The noise of the crowd gets louder and louder.]]

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: All of these people. This is too many people. How is the outside so big? How are there so many people in it? How do so many people fit in it? It’s so big but they’re all here so tightly and it’s so crowded and it’s too many people this is too many people this is too many where are you get out get get get out get back in get back in get back inside get back inside leave leave too many people you need to leave get out

[[Quietly, LIAM’s phone buzzes in his coat pocket, but he can’t hear it.]] 

ADVERTISEMENT: (Over TV) . . . and focus on what’s important. With the new Halo H4, muses–minor and major–can finally feel at ease. We’ve developed and reformed the Halo, making it more subtle and beautiful than ever before, while still offering the same amount of suppression the H3 has maintained for the last year . . .

LIAM: Ugh.

[[Traffic and crowd noises]]

JARLES: (With a midwestern accent) Wowwww, let’s get a picture!


JARLES: Okay, now honey, ya gotta move a little–

[[Someone bumps into JARLETTE.]]


JARLES: Hey! Ya almost ruined my shot! Okay, now, hon, ya gotta just move a little bit to the left now, I wanna get you right in front of the big quartz statue! Now just–hey!

[[Someone bumps into JARLES.]]

JARLES: Little bit of common courtesy here! We flew all the way from Michigan! What am I supposed to do, stand in the street?

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Just like we’ve practiced. Walk into him. Ghost through his pocket with yours to take the wallet. Then, keep walking. Act natural. This is fine. You’ve done this plenty of times before.

[[LIAM bumps into the JARLES.]]


JARLETTE: How rude!

LIAM: (Mumbled, quiet) Apologies.

JARLES: The people in this town!

[[LIAM’s phone buzzes.]]



LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Four thousand six hundred ten and thirty-seven cents plus the forty dollars nineteen from this wallet makes for four thousand six hundred fifty and fifty six, which should take us through at least another month, though I suppose I could–

[[LIAM’s phone buzzes.]]

LIAM: (Curious but annoyed) Hm.

[[LIAM unlocks his phone.]]

LIAM: Oh no.

[[LIAM taps a notification.]]

VOICEMAIL: You have 4 unread messages.

LIAM: Oh no.

VOICEMAIL: First unread message.

FLYNN: (Over recording) Hey, Liam! Um, just wanted to let you know that some, um, some people are here from the government to, um, to talk to you? To talk to Liam Alden? I’m sure that you’ll be back from the, um, from your dentist appointment soon. So . . . just give me a call back when you get this!

LIAM: Oh no.

VOICEMAIL: End of message. To deletel–

[[LIAM dials a number.]]

VOICEMAIL: Message deleted. Next unread message.

FLYNN: (Through the recording, whispered and frantic) Liam! Answer your phone! There are people here from the fucking government and they’re really chill but it’s freaking me the fuck out! What am I supposed to offer them to drink? 

LIAM: Oh no.

FLYNN: All we have is water and Gatorade and wine but I’m not old enough to serve them wine and they’re the government! They’re not with Halo so you can’t just leave me here hanging. Get back here!

VOICEMAIL: End of message. To delete–

[[LIAM dials a number.]]

VOICEMAIL: Message deleted. Next unread message.

FLYNN: (Through the recording, whispered and frantic) LIAM. Stop doing crime and get back here!

LIAM: Ohhhhh no.

VOICEMAIL: End of message. To–

[[LIAM dials a number. He starts walking.]]

VOICEMAIL: Message deleted. Next unread message.

LIAM: Yes, I know, come on.

FLYNN: (Through the recording, clearly speaking to someone in a different room) Yes, I’m sure he’ll be back soon. I know it’s very important–I’m so sorry about the delay! I know you tried to give us a heads up that you’d be stopping by, I’m sorry! (Whispered and frantic) Stop doing crime and get the fuck back home! I’m freaking out!

VOICEMAIL: End of message. T–

[[LIAM dials a number, walking more quickly.]]

VOICEMAIL: Message deleted. End of messages.

[[LIAM hangs up the phone and puts it back into his pocket, picking up his pace even more. He sighs.]]

LIAM: Oh no.



[[LIAM quickly walks to his apartment, breathing heavily. He quiets his walk as he approaches his door and holds his breath to listen as he fumbles for his keys as quietly as he can.]]

UNRECOGNIZED VOICE (GRACE): (Through the door) This is incredibly urgent, Mr. Velasco. I understand that Mr. Alden is unavailable, but I’m more than happy to keep waiting.

[[LIAM gets his keys out of his pocket.]]

FLYNN: (Through door) No, no, I’m sure he’ll be home soon. He’s usually very punctual with, um–

[[LIAM opens the door.]]

FLYNN: Hey! Liam, buddy! Hey, haha, welcome–welcome home!

FLYNN: This–this is Grace Chen. She’s from the, um, government. She has some questions for you?

UNRECOGNIZED WOMAN (GRACE): Please, Mr. Alden, so nice to meet you. Do come in.

GRACE: (A beat) So, Mr. Alden, how was the dentist appointment? No cavities, I hope.

LIAM: (Mumbled, almost incomprehensible) I would like to know why you are in my home.

FLYNN: Liam.

GRACE: Or, at least, I hope the mouth of Landon Hume is free of cavities. I’m assuming that’s the name you made an appointment under, given it seems you’ve been living with a false identity for about . . . what, six years now?

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Phase out of here. You’ve done it before, you can do it again. Just stop thinking about it and just do it just do it just get out of here just flee.

FLYNN: (Urgently) Liam, get out of here. You can–

GRACE: Let’s not be silly. I’m not here to have Mr. Alden arrested, even though I could. Very easily.

LIAM: Why are you–

GRACE: (Laughing, nonchalant) I’m here to offer you a job!

LIAM: . . . Pardon?

GRACE: A job! Employment. I represent the Thaumaturgical Energies Administration. We’re a new initiative under the United States Department of Health and Human Services. My work, specifically, deals with looking into the practices of companies like Reilley Industries and its subsidiary, Halo, Incorporated. We’re looking to recruit people who have specific information, and given your family ties–

LIAM: I have no family ties.

GRACE: Of course. Sorry–I mean your family history. Your lack of family ties is exactly what makes you a great fit for this position. We’re looking for people who have connection, but no affiliation, to Halo, Inc. We’re also looking for candidates who have at least some form of ability that could help us.

Mr. Alden, I believe you’re a magic user, yes?

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: They’ve found you out. They’ve found you out and now you know. They’re going to take you away or put you somewhere or do something terrible you need to hide–no, you need to protect yourself, no, no, you need to get out of here, you need to–

FLYNN: Liam?

GRACE: Mr. Alden, I can assure you that I mean you no harm here. If it helps, I can be frank about this–we’re trying to investigate some parts of Halo, Inc., and of Reilley Industries. They’ve repeatedly rescheduled their appointment with our inspectors and denied us access to their facilities. We have reason to believe the testing of the Halos has involved more, mmm, shocking procedures than initially suspected.

We want to investigate it so we can stop them. We want you to help us investigate.

LIAM: You want me to–to help you st–to–stop Reilley?

GRACE: Well, technically, what I care about is making sure people like you are taken care of.

LIAM: Because of my . . . family?

GRACE: Yes–I know, it sounds a little strange on our behalf.

LIAM: To say the least.

FLYNN: Liam.

GRACE: We know some of your history with your family. We know that from the age of eight years old, you stopped appearing in any publicity for your father, even though Reilley Industries was so small back then. We know that at age 18, you somehow popped up again here in the city, under a new name.

GRACE: You’re not really all that hard to track down. I’m guessing you did this to hide from your family, right? Magic user in the family that helped found the most commercially successful magic suppressant on the market to date, funding and lobbying for the most aggressively anti-magic campaigns I’ve seen in decades . . . it sounds like you had reason to hide.

LIAM: (Noncommittal noise)

GRACE: The problem is that we found you. Easily. We’ve got assets at our disposal that most people wouldn’t have, of course–but your father and Morgan Reilley aren’t most people, Liam. You know that.

But we know that you aren’t most people, either. If you help us, we can help you, too. We’ll do more than pay you. We’ll keep you safe.

GRACE: (To Flynn) What’s his focus?

FLYNN: You can speak to him.

GRACE: Of course. Sorry. You just aren’t being incredibly helpful. I’m sure this is a lot for you, but we’re going to need some answers.

LIAM: You’ve asked me no questions.

GRACE: (Huffs) Okay. Sure. Mr. Alden, would you like better protection from your family and Reilley?

[[Liam’s clothes, a sturdy wool coat, shuffling.]]

GRACE: Okay . . . would you like to be paid properly instead of having late fees on your utilities? Your apartment is only warm right now because I took care of it.

Mr. Alden, would you be interested in helping take down the people who made you live like this–hiding your name, running away from things, having to do some petty crime just to pay your bills?

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Say yes, you idiot. What the fuck is wrong with you that you’re even making her wait? This is a dream come true. This is the best opportunity you’ll ever have.

She’s here to kill you. She’s here to kidnap you, kill you, run tests on you. She knows what you are, so there’s no point hiding it. Say yes and you’ll be walking into your grave–not that that’s anything you should even avoid at this point.

LIAM: I would . . . consider it.

GRACE: Wonderful. I’m so glad to hear that. Here–have my card.

GRACE: Here.

We’re going to have a meeting with the special operations team on Monday. The address and directions are on the card. Please, don’t hesitate to call me for any questions you might have. If you need assistance getting there, we can call a car.

Well. Have a nice day, both of you. Thank you for welcoming me into your home this afternoon. Don’t worry about the heat–you’ll be set for the next six months, regardless of whether or not you come on Monday.

Mr. Velasco.

[[FLYNN stands. The two shake hands.]]

GRACE: Thank you so much for your help today. And for the, um, Gatorade. It was . . . refreshing.

Mr. Alden.

I hope to see you Monday.

FLYNN: Oh, here, let me get the door for you.

GRACE: Thank you, Mr. Velasco.

FLYNN: No worries!

[[FLYNN opens the door for GRACE. GRACE leaves.]]

FLYNN: Have a nice day!

[[FLYNN closes the door, then scampers back over to Liam.]]

FLYNN: Dude, what the fuck?

LIAM: Please be more specific.


All of it! All of it what the fuck!

LIAM: Yes. Agreed.

FLYNN: No but like, what the fuck to you, too, man!

LIAM: Hmph.

FLYNN: Look, I–I know, I know, government Bad. But she’s offering to pay you to take down your dad and Reilley. Isn’t that what you’ve always wanted, and also you’d get paid for it? I mean, that sounds perfect.

LIAM: I don’t trust it.

FLYNN: You don’t have to tr– (Sighs) No, you’re right, I’m sorry. That’s smart. We shouldn’t trust her.

LIAM: She knows about what I can . . . do.

FLYNN: Yeah, but sh–she’s not here to hurt you or judge you or anything. She said that she wants to help protect muses.

LIAM: Ostensibly.

[[LIAM gets up and walks to the kitchen.]]

FLYNN: I mean, don’t get me wrong–it’s super pretentious that she says “magic users” instead of smushing it together and just saying “muses” like everyone else, I’ll give you that. But it sounds like she wants to help people–people like–

LIAM: To what end?

[[LIAM grabs a bottle of wine and opens it.]]

LIAM: People don’t just help without benefiting themselves in some way.

FLYNN: I just don’t think we should dismiss them yet–and I don’t think she’s going to do anything to you for who you are. Honestly, I think she genuinely needs you.

[[LIAM pours himself a glass. He takes the glass back over to the coffee table and sits back down.]]

LIAM: This is also something I cannot fathom. If she’s had such a good track on me, I’m certain she knows how little I am capable of doing in essentially every regard. I’ve been incapable of keeping down any occupation, regardless of skill set. Any use of magic has been purely accidental and honestly catastrophic. I don’t even know much about Reilley given my . . .

FLYNN: I know. I know. You’re right. I just . . . Liam, she tracked you down so easily. And she knew so much about you. And she’s right–they probably could too, if they really wanted to. I thought we were being really careful.

LIAM: Yes, well, as did I.

[[He takes a drink.]]

FLYNN: It freaked me out.

LIAM: I’m no fan of the knowledge myself.

FLYNN: The money would be nice but honestly, Liam, she’s offering to keep you safe. That’s important.

LIAM: Ha. To whom–

FLYNN: To me. You don’t get to go all fatalism on me right now. This is important.

LIAM: Of course. I’m sorry.

FLYNN: It’s okay. I know you’re stressed. Just–just think on it, okay? I don’t want you to make any decisions right now.

LIAM: Of course.

FLYNN: Just think about it, yeah?

LIAM: Of course. (Sighs) Of course, Flynn.



[[Chatter, music, and bustle inside the cafe, LITTLE BIG QUESTIONS, or LBQ. The WAITRESS walks over to LIAM, holding his coffee.]]

WAITRESS: Cappuccino for Liam?

LIAM: Yes, thank–thank you. Yes.

[[He takes it, and she leaves. He takes a long breath, and then a long sip.]]

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: The pros and cons. A list. Weigh them in a list.

Pro: You will be able to finally seek justice for what has been done to you, what has been made of you. Yes.

Con: They will likely kill you.

Pro: You will, subsequently, die.

Con: It will be at their hands.

[[Liam sighs. He takes another drink.]]

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Pro: You will be able to undo what your family has done.

Con: No, you won’t. Assuming you could is ridiculous.

Pro: Yes, but that doesn’t mean 

(Woven with a dreamlike Flynn voice)

you shouldn’t try.

[[Another drink.]]

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Con: You don’t know what you’re doing, and they’re going to realize this. If you haven’t spoken with your family in years, why would you have any useful information that they wouldn’t? You can’t provide anything of value. You don’t even know how to hold a normal job.

Pro: They likely already know that, but they still think I’m useful enough to try to hire. Is–is that a pro? I don’t . . . hm.

[[Another drink.]]


Con: Danger.

Pro: Danger is better than . . . than anything you are right now.

Con: To assume I could ever be better than what I have already become is embarrassing.

Pro: But at least you could, for once, perhaps be useful–and even if you can’t, there’s money to be made. Money that is needed.

Con: Unless this is all a trap set up by your father and Reilley, and you are finally ensnared, and they kill you.

Pro: Unlikely, given their focus on efficiency. If they wanted that done and had the ability, they wouldn’t have sent Ms. Chen. They simply would have done it. They’re going to do it eventually anyway. Worst comes to worst, you simply get it over with.

Con: Listen to yourself. So dramatic. Dramatic and impractical. Wildly selfish, putting your own hypothetical wellbeing above Flynn’s reality, above being able to pay rent and the bills.

[[LIAM chuckles sardonically at himself, then clears his throat.]] 

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Con: It doesn’t matter because you’re too much a coward to do it anyway. Regardless of anything else, you may as well say no. You’re not going to show up. You could say yes, but you know you’re never actually going to do it.

[[Another drink. A sigh.]]

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: You know who you are.

[[LIAM takes one last sip before putting his cup down, getting up, and walking out of the cafe into the substantially louder street. The city is bustling, and LIAM walks quickly. He pulls his coat tighter around himself.]]

[[A young GIRL is crying, shouting, but her words are incomprehensible until Liam gets closer.]]

GIRL: No, please, I’m not dangerous! I don’t need one, I don’t want one! Please just, please

MOTHER: You’re making a scene. You need to stop acting like a child.

FATHER: It’s going to help you.

GIRL: I don’t need help! Please, please, don’t take me in there. I don’t want a Halo, I will get better, I–

FATHER: You’ve already set two couches on fire. We can’t risk you setting the whole place on fire.

[[Liam’s breath starts to quicken.]]

MOTHER: What if it happens when you’re sleeping? What if you have a nightmare and burn everything up?

GIRL: I won’t! I won’t, I promise, I promise. Please. Please don’t make me get one. I’ll learn how to control it better. Please.

MOTHER: Honey please. You’re making such a scene. Look at all of these people.

[[Liam takes a few steps back into the crowd.]]

GIRL: Please, don’t–I just–I just want to go home–

FATHER: Amy has one, and she loves it. She gets compliments on hers all the time. I promise you we’ll get you the nicest one we can afford. It’ll be pretty. It’s just like a bracelet.

GIRL: Please–

MOTHER: (Sharper) Listen. I know you don’t want it. I know you don’t like this. But you know your options. We’ve made our case. You can either act like a big girl and come get your Halo, or you can leave. Those are your choices. Do you understand?

GIRL: Mom, please-

FATHER: She asked you a question.

GIRL: Yes. Yes, I understand.

MOTHER: Which choice do you want to make?

GIRL: (Defeated) Okay. Okay.


[[Liam’s heart is racing, as are his breaths.]]

EMPLOYEE: Welcome to Halo Inc! How can we help you today?

[[The shop door closes. Liam tries to take deep breaths, tries to walk himself down from a panic attack. He walks down an alleyway.]]

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Con. Con, it’s con, it’s a con, it’s a con, it’s a con. It’s a con. No. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t do this. I can’t.

DREAMLIKE FLYNN VOICE: That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

LIAM: (Quietly) Fuck.

[Liam gets out his phone, unlocks it, and types a few numbers. He sends the call, and it starts ringing. It rings four times before going to voicemail.]]

GRACE: Hello. You have reached the voicemail of Grace Chen. Please leave a detailed message, and I will respond as soon as I am able. Thank you.

[[A tone]]

LIAM: This is Lan–Liam. This is Liam. Alden. I will be there. I make no promises, but I–I will be there.


[[ending theme.]]


VALENCE is a Hug House production. You can find more of our work at Hug House dot Productions.

  • VALENCE is edited and sound designed by Julia Schifini.
  • This episode was written by Wil Williams.
  • This episode was performed by, in order of appearance:
    • Josh Rubino as Liam Alden and Liam’s Inner Voice,
    • Caleb del Rio as Flynn Velasco,
    • Wil Williams–that’s me–as the Utilities representative,
    • Anne Baird as Voicemail,
    • Katie Youmans as the Halo ad,
    • Eileen Baird as Jarlette, the tourist,
    • Gavin Gaddis as Jarles, the tourist,
    • Katie Chin as Grace Chen,
    • V Silverman as the LBQ Barista,
    • Jamieson Ridenhour as the Father,
    • Gwyn Ridenhour as the Mother,
    • Evelyn Regan as the Halo Employee,
    • And Brynna Youmans as the Daughter.
  • We’d like to thank some of our IndieGogo backers who helped fund our first season:
    • Amy Giacomucci
    • Cameron Scroggins
    • Daniel Manning
    • Drew Ackerman
    • Brynna Youmans
    • Ross Papa
    • And Seth Terashima.

You can find our full cast list, and information on how to support this indie audio drama, on valencepod dot com.

Until next time: protect your magic.

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