1.6: Praxis

VALENCE
SEASON 1, EPISODE 6
“PRAXIS”
RELEASE DATE: 3/21/2020

Liam asks the questions that need to be asked. The team makes a plan that needs to be made. And Flynn finds out about a symphony that . . . needs to have cannons.

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

Content warnings:
– Depiction of a hangover (and debatable alcoholism) from 1:00 – 1:34

Credits:
– 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: 
– Giancarlo Herrera as Luis Acebo,
– Josh Rubino as Liam Alden and Liam’s Inner Voice,
– Katie Chin as Grace Chen,
– Jordan Cobb as Sarah Harris,
– Ishani Kanetkar as Mahira Varma,
– Caleb Del Rio as Flynn Velasco,
– John Westover as Nico Salvai,
– and Elena Fernández Collins as Soleded Marquez.

Special thanks to:

  • Amanda Stewart
  • David Rheinstrom
  • Erin M Speckley
  • Jeff Chaney
  • Jordan Stillman
  • Nate Harrison
  • Sara Ghaleb

TRANSCRIPT

WIL: VALENCE is a serialized fiction podcast with discussions 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]]

SCENE ONE

INT. OFFICE BUILDING – MORNING

LIAM lies down on the couch in LUIS’s office. His head is throbbing, his heartbeat loud. 

LUIS: (Too loud and close in the mix)

Quite the night, huh?

LIAM: Shh . . . shh . . . quiet

LUIS: Are you sure this Salvai kid didn’t–

LIAM: Nico.

LUIS: –didn’t do something we should be worried about to knock you out?

LIAM: (Sighs)

No, this is definitely just . . . ugh, a typical hangover. Trust me.

LUIS: (Hesitantly)

Are you that familiar with hangovers?

LIAM: Ugh, I’ve had my share.

LUIS puts his hand on LIAM’s forehead. He carefully magics the hangover away, and slowly, the heartbeat becomes quieter, and then fades away entirely. LUIS’s voice goes back to its normal placement in the mix.

LUIS: Better?

LIAM: Yes. Well–mostly. Now I can feel this itch on my forearm that I’m not–

LIAM rolls up his sleeve.

LUIS: Is . . .

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: You’ve got to be kidding me.

LIAM: . . . Hm.

LUIS: Huh. So I’m guessing you don’t remember–

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Who even am I?

LIAM: No.

LUIS: Do you have . . . any other tattoos, or–

LIAM: No.

LUIS: Is that the, um–that’s-that’s a math thing. Sol would kill me right now.

LIAM: Fibonacci sequence. Golden Ratio.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Well, at least it’s pretty.

LIAM rolls his sleeve back down.

LIAM: Thank you, Luis. I really do appreciate it. I should get to the conference room.

LUIS: No problem. I’m here to help. I’d lecture you for being hungover on a workday, but after last night . . . And hey, uh, real quick, we’re still on for dinner tonight?

LIAM: Yeah–Flynn is looking forward to meeting you.

LUIS: Soledad’s looking forward to meeting you too. I’ll see you later, Liam–and hey, be sure to put some unscented lotion on that every once in a while, okay?

LIAM: Right. Certainly. Of course.

(Sigh)

LIAM leaves LUIS’s office, heads down the hallway, and opens the door to the conference room.

GRACE: Liam, good. Let’s get started.

LIAM takes his usual seat.

GRACE: Sarah was just filling us in on some of her findings from last night.

LIAM: From last night? Already?

SARAH: Well yeah–what was I gonna do, wait to figure it out?

LIAM: Did you sleep?

MAHIRA: Sarah? Sleep? C’mon.

SARAH: Super irrelevant.

What’s relevant is that we figured out what this big event is. Totally off the mark for a bridal shower or whatever. I was right–it’s a benefit. A huge one.

MAHIRA: So if it’s a Benefit, it has to be for some sort of nonprofit effort.

SARAH: Yeah . . . brace yourselves. It’s bad.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Of course it is.

SARAH: It’s to get Halos to children in . . . ugh . . . “developing countries.” Their words. Not mine. Fucking obviously.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Well, that’s enough thought for one day.

LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: No, mm-mm. Stay present. Listen. You can’t keep ejecting your soul from your body and then whining that you’re useless. Be useful. Listen.

MAHIRA: So that’s awful, but is it useful for us right now?

SARAH: I didn’t think so at first, but actually, yeah. So, first off, there’s going to be a bunch of big shareholders there, as well as a ton of employees. It’d be a great way to snag a phone or something off of someone so I can get into it–also probably a great way to talk to some people and see what we can get out of them.

LIAM: How will we know some of those . . . things from the server farm won’t be used?

SARAH: We don’t–but we can be smart. I’ll go in first, maybe with Grace to make sure I’ve got someone with me. I’ll let you know if I see any.

MAHIRA: So we’re going to need some resources for disguises. Grace, you’ve been . . . quiet.

GRACE: I have been, yes. I understand the plan, but the department isn’t going to go for this.

MAHIRA: Eh, come on, has that ever s–

GRACE: We’ve already had a loss at the server farm. We’ve already given ourselves up too much. And now you’re asking for resources for an extremely risky mission?

MAHIRA: It’s not that risky.

GRACE: What if you get found out? What if there are those things there and Sarah just doesn’t notice them? I’m sure as hell not going, so is Sarah going to go in there alone? What’s your extraction plan? And what if you go in and find nothing at all? We’re just wasting that time and money on nothing?

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: She’s right. This is ridiculous. This is ridiculous.

MAHIRA: We can’t just do nothing knowing there’s an opportunity–

GRACE: Mahira, listen. I know. I understand. I don’t like it either. I wouldn’t be doing any of this if I didn’t care. I think it’s a good opportunity too. . . . and I’m going to present it to the higher-ups. I just know for a fact they’re going to turn it down.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Fucking bureacracy. What does she even plan to do if . . .

LIAM: Grace. If I might?

GRACE: Yes, Liam?

LIAM: What’s, uh . . . what’s your end goal here?

GRACE: Excuse me?

LIAM: Your end goal. If we expose Reilley and her company. What next? What is the end goal of this department?

GRACE: Well . . . like any government department, there are several long-term plans in place that rely on organization and regulations. The end goal would be to register magic-users–

LIAM’s heartbeat quickens.

MAHIRA: Just call us muses.

GRACE: –so we can make sure their accommodation needs are being met. They can be enrolled in courses to help them manage their abilities, and we can monitor them if absolutely necessary. It’d be a way to receive benefits. It’d be a huge step forward.

LIAM’s heartbeat stops.

LIAM: [Laughs] Fascinating.

GRACE: I don’t see what about this is funny.

LIAM: Tell me, Grace, who made this plan? Was it you?

GRACE: Of course not–I’m just–I’m just a manager here. But I do agree with it, and–

LIAM: And how many muses were consulted on this plan?

GRACE: . . . I wasn’t a part of those meetings.

LIAM: Ignorance certainly is bliss, isn’t it? So. You didn’t come up with this plan. You, seemingly, don’t know who did. So tell me: if this plan were implemented, who would be in charge of the registry? How would muses be registered? Is the registry public? Who has access to it?

SARAH: Liam, maybe–

MAHIRA: No, no. Let him talk.

LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: What are you doing?

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: You’re not done here.

LIAM: So we’re to be enrolled in classes. What is the curriculum? Does this replace a standard education? Is it in conjunction? When will they happen? How will educators be found and trained? How will funding be allocated between standard education programs and those for muses? What happens if there’s a muse child somewhere but no educators able to reach them? What–what happens if someone hides instead of registering? Would their privacy be a criminal offense?

What happens when there’s an administration change? What if a politician is placed in power who wants to use this registry for other reasons?

You intend on carrying out a plan with no–no concept of how its implementation would affect real muses in the real world. It is a plan that exists in such a fantastical vacuum outside of reality that–it’s just– [Laughs] Oh, I’m disappointed in myself by being disappointed by you, Grace. I should have known better.

GRACE: Liam. I–I’m at a loss for words. I really am.

A beat.

GRACE: I don’t . . . I don’t want to respond just yet.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Of course not. Classically political response.

GRACE: I want to process this. I want to think it over. I just–I just really hadn’t considered it from that angle. Which I now know was wrong. But I want to take that in and process it before I respond. I don’t want a debate. I think we both deserve better than that.

LIAM: Hm.

GRACE: For now, let’s . . . let’s call it a day. I don’t know. Without any other leads, I’m not sure what to do with us next. I’ll take this plan to my supervisors. They’ll turn it down. I’ll keep processing all of this. And then we’ll meet up tomorrow and see where we are. Okay?

SARAH: Okay.

MAHIRA: Thanks, Grace.

GRACE gets up, leaves, and closes the door behind her. The group pauses, looking at each other.

MAHIRA: Good job, Liam.

SARAH: Liam, your place is closest, right?

LIAM: I–really, I don’t think that–

SARAH: Great.

SARAH closes her laptop, puts it in her backpack, stands up, and puts her backpack on.

SARAH: Great. Mahira, go grab Luis. Liam, see if Nico can get over to your place. He’s probably going to be helpful, unfortunately. You have a roommate, right? You should probably give them a heads up if they’re gonna be home.

LIAM: I don’t–what, wait–what’s happening now?

SARAH: We’ve got a party crashing to plan.

SCENE TWO

INT. APARTMENT BUILDING – MORNING

MAHIRA: So–we’re definitely going to be fired after this, huh?

LUIS: Grace isn’t going to be happy about it, that’s for sure . . . but I think I trust her to make the right decision here and advocate for us if she has to.

NICO: Ew.

LIAM: That makes one of us.

MAHIRA: Two of us. I think.

SARAH: Two of us, then.

A beat.

FLYNN: Can I, um, get anyone anything to drink? We have water and, uh . . . Gatorade . . .

SARAH: Hm. What kind of Gatorade?

FLYNN: Blue?

SARAH: Light blue or dark blue?

FLYNN: Gross, light, obviously.

SARAH: Yeah I’m down.

FLYNN: Hell yeah.

FLYNN gets up and goes to the kitchen to start getting SARAH a Gatorade. Initially, he just assumes to bring her the bottle, but then he goes back into the kitchen, gets a glass down from the cabinet, puts ice in the glass, and pours the Gatorade into the glass. He brings her the Gatorade; meanwhile, the rest keep talking.

MAHIRA: So, let’s get started?

SARAH: Right. So, this stupid benefit is starting at 6PM on December 8th, and it’s going to be at Fivepoint Theater on 62nd and Kenly. It looks like, to incentivize donations, they’re going to be matching for every pre-order of a new something they’re unveiling. Reilley’s doing some sort of, I dunno, fucking TED talk thing, so I guess at least she’ll be distracted for a little bit.

SARAH: So, I’m guessing we’ll go in teams, kind of. I’ll go in first, alone, and let Liam, Luis, Mahira, and Nico know if it’s safe.

SARAH takes a sip.

NICO: Uhhh, and, who’s paying me to go on this party date?

LIAM: The ability to fuck with the people who would attend a benefit like this.

NICO: Oh, Vamps, sweetheart, we both know that I could do that without any of you.

MAHIRA: Well the problem with doing this on our own is that we don’t have the resources to really–

LIAM: Hm. Please help us?

NICO: (Laughs) Wh-what?

LIAM: (Chuckles) It just seemed polite. Please help us?

NICO: (Laughs again) Yeah, fine, I’ll go.

A very confused beat.

LUIS: Well. Sarah, do you know if the other Aldens are going to be there?

SARAH: So here’s something weird: I can’t get into the emails, but I can see that some were sent. And it looks like Reilley stopped emailing Richard about a month ago. 

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Why? What happened? Why does that make me so anxious?

SARAH: Just–just no more emails to him at all, poof, unless they gave him a new address that I’m not finding. Still emailing Noel, though, and it looks like a few from an Erica. I’m guessing that’s, uh–

LIAM: Yes.

MAHIRA: So we’ll need to have you disguised somehow. I haven’t done much disguise work in a while, but since we’re gonna be on the same team–

NICO: Well that shit’s easy peasy for me so just switch it around and I’ll take care of it.

LUIS: It’d make sense to have Mahira and I on a team together anyway. We’ve worked together before. And the reverse-trace I’ve got on Liam isn’t going to help enough to not have a disguise people really won’t be able to see past.

At “reverse trace,” NICO makes a curious noise.

LIAM: He’s right–if he has no problem with handling a disguise, this simply makes more sense.

LUIS: I am still worried about Sarah going alone, though.

FLYNN: How come she has to go alone?

SARAH: I’m the only non-muse in the group. I’m the only one who won’t get hurt if they have those things there.

FLYNN: Mmm, I’m not a muse.

LIAM: No.

FLYNN: C’monnnn! Let me be part of the spy mission!

SARAH: It would be nice to a flunkie someone to help me carry all my gear without being too obvious.

FLYNN: Her gear, Liam! She needs a flunkie–that could be me!

MAHIRA: We could train him up so he can help us out a little. We’ve got almost two months before then.

LUIS: In Liam’s defense, this is going to be extremely dangerous–

LIAM: You are not allowed to put yourself in this kind of danger.

SARAH: I mean, I’m pretty badass, I can definitely protect him.

FLYNN: Yeah, she’s like, totally badass! And besides, I’ve been wanting to help more. You’re not the only one who wants change. I-I promise I’ll stay safe.

LIAM: You literally cannot promise that.

FLYNN looks at LIAM. LIAM sighs.

LIAM: Fine.

FLYNN: Yes!

LUIS: So, what’s the plan once we’re there?

MAHIRA: The goals are to get a few phones, talk to as many people as we can without being conspicuous, and find out what they’re planning next. The best way to go about the phones would be to get them back on their people before the night is over so we go as unnoticed as we can. I’ve got some experience pickpocketing–Liam, I know you do too–

LUIS: Huh.

NICO: O-ho.

MAHIRA: –and I’m guessing Nico does too–

NICO: Crime? Me?  (Sniffs dramatically) I don’t think so.

MAHIRA: –so I think we should set up a trade-off. Liam and Nico take the first step, talking to people and getting their phones off of them. Those two figure out how to get the phones to Sarah and Flynn. When step one is done, step two is Sarah and Flynn getting as much information off of the phones as they can. Step three is me and Luis getting the phones and getting them back to their people. And then step four is high-tailing it out of there. Well, actually, step four is eating some hors d’oeuvres. Step five is the high-tailing.

SARAH: It’s going to work best if I can chug through a ton of the phones at once. Maybe we can find a way of getting me a safe room or something?

MAHIRA: You want looped footage again?

SARAH: Can do, but we’ll need someone to actually be in the venue before then so I can snag some footage to, y’know, actually loop in the first place.

FLYNN gets his phone out and starts typing.

FLYNN: Hey, Sarah, wanna come with me to see the New Candler Orchestra play some old, dead white dude’s 1812 Overture next weekend?

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Flynn, oh my god.

SARAH: Oh shit, is that the one with the cannons?

FLYNN: (Delighted gasp) It has CANNONS?

SARAH: If it does, I’m in. You know what? Actually, um . . . either way, yeah sure. Actually. Yeah. Whatever.

FLYNN: Sooooo it’s a date?

SARAH: I’m ace, so chill.

FLYNN: Got it. No worries!

SARAH: But I’m not aromantic so yeah. It’s a date now shut up, we’re in a business meeting we can talk later.

The others laugh.

SARAH: Okay well BYE FOREVER, THE REST OF YOU. Jesus . . .

LUIS: Actually, I should really get back and see how Grace is doing. Maybe I can help her process all of this.

MAHIRA: Want me to make sure Sol’s in the loop with this all?

LUIS: Ah, no-nope-nope! No I’ll, um, I’ll let them know when I get home later today. Liam, Flynn, I’ll still see you tonight for dinner?

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Oh, god, this is so much socialization in one day.

FLYNN: Of course. Wouldn’t miss it.

NICO: Kay bye.

NICO starts walking back towards the fire escape.

MAHIRA: (Calling out to Nico) The door’s this wa–

NICO leaves through the window.

LUIS: (Low whistle) What a, um, card. Anyway. See you two soon.

MAHIRA: See you tomorrow, Liam.

SARAH: Flynn I’ll call you I guess or you can call me or–

MAHIRA: Ohooooooo!

SARAH: OKAY BYE godda-

They leave. Once the door is closed, LIAM takes a long breath out.

LIAM: We can’t cancel on him?

FLYNN: We really shouldn’t.

LIAM: I’m exhausted.

FLYNN: (Chuckles) Dude, it’s like noon.

LIAM: You know what I mean.

FLYNN: Yeah, I know. Lunch and a documentary?

LIAM: Are you really going to stop me if I try for any wine?

FLYNN: Yep.

LIAM: Even a white?

FLYNN: Yep.

LIAM: Even just one glass?

FLYNN: Yes. Now, come on. Let’s see if that new Thai place Nico drunk texted you about delivers.

SCENE THREE

EXT. APARTMENT – EVENING

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Just knock on the door. Just knock on the door it’s just a door you can knock on the door it’s a door.

LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: Just walk away so you can stop yourself before you fuck this up. You know you’re going to–

A knock at the door – small and uncertain–Liam. A pause, and then two quick, more assured raps–Flynn.

LUIS: It’s open!

FLYNN: . . . hello? Luis?

SOLEDAD: We’re in the kitchen!

LIAM: Should we-ah-where should I-is this a shoes-on or -off home?

SOLEDAD: On, definitely. And hello! It’s wonderful to meet you, especially after I’ve heard such good things from Luis.

LIAM makes a skeptical noise. The oven timer dings.

LUIS: Let me get that, and Liam, could you take these two bowls out to the table? Just through there.

LIAM: Oh, of course.

LIAM groans under the weight of the massive ceramic bowls and leaves the KITCHEN. LUIS takes the dish out of the oven and lets the oven door swing shut with a squeak.

LUIS: [sotto voce, and in Spanish] Flynn, ¿cómo le va?

FLYNN: [in slightly-less-certain Spanish] Él está… como… así así, más o menos? Tienes sus días buenas, y sus días.. malas.

SOLEDAD: [in Spanish] ¿Y hoy? ¿Cuál es?

FLYNN: [in English]: Good-ish, I guess?

LIAM comes back into the kitchen, his steps creaking softly on the hardwood floor

LIAM: Is there more I should be doing?

SOLEDAD: No, you’re a guest! You and Flynn, go make yourselves comfortable at the table and we’ll be in with the rest in just a minute.

LIAM and FLYNN seat themselves. LIAM fidgets with his silverware.

FLYNN: [sotto voce] Stop. It’s just dinner, and you like Luis. You’ve said as much.

LIAM: Finding someone to be a pleasant coworker and being invited to their home for dinner with them and their partner are exceedingly different.

FLYNN: [laughs] Ok, but can you imagine liking anyone enough to call them “pleasant” even a few months ago?

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: He’s not wrong.

LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: Which is frustrating, to say the least.

LIAM: Hm.

SOLEDAD and LUIS come in, both carrying food and wine.

LUIS: I hope you’re hungry! We got . . . a little carried away.

SOL: Oh, are we expecting Jessi tonight?

LUIS: No, she called earlier – papers to grade. And she said to say she loves you.

SOL: [fond/affectionate noise] Me hace tan feliz que nos introduciste.

LUIS: She did suggest you go over later tonight though.

SOL: Mmm, I think I can do that . . .

FLYNN: Jessi? Who’s that?

SOL: Oh! Jessi’s another partner of mine. I’m polyamorous.

FLYNN: Ooh, legit.

SOL: Wine, either of you?

LIAM: [Immediately] Absolutely, thank you.

FLYNN: None for me, thanks.

LUIS: Please, help yourselves. We don’t stand on ceremony in this house.

Overlapping thanks and sounds of food being served, wine being poured, clinking of silverware.

LIAM: Everything smells wonderful.

LUIS: I can’t take the credit–the recipe for the fish is from Sol’s Tía Daniela. But I can take credit for the ice cream we have for later. There’s a little shop on my way home from work that makes their own–

SOLEDAD: Oh! I almost forgot–Luis, what was it that had you at the office so late the other night? You never did tell me . . .

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Do they not know does Luis not tell them what he does . . .

LUIS: Hmm? No, no. No fue nada. Es, eh.. Just a bad feeling. The team was out doing field work and something told me I’d better stick around for when they got back.

SOLEDAD: Field work, huh? I know someone has to do it, but I can’t tell you cuan feliz estoy someone isn’t you anymore. You have such a big heart, Luis, and I know you want to save the whole world, but every night you were out on assignment, I–

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: If he doesn’t tell them what he’s doing then what am I allowed to say? Nothing seems safe. I’ll just say . . . nothing. All night. Perfect.

SOLEDAD: –got my stomach twisted up in knots. Oh, my god! Not that it’s any better with you in danger, Liam! I didn’t hear how that sounded until I was saying it, and I didn’t even think about–

LIAM: It’s alright–it is better, I think. 

Uncomfortable beat of silence

LIAM: Oh! No, I–for once that’s–I simply meant that my magic seems better suited to active–with in-the-field–I wasn’t implying . . .

FLYNN: You sure about that?

LIAM: I . . .yeah. Hm.

LUIS: I’m glad to hear that you’re settling in well with your role. I won’t lie–I have no desire to go back to what I was doing when I was ten years younger and ten years less stiff in my knees. I’m perfectly happy to leave all that to Mahira.

SOLEDAD: [Mid-sip of wine] Mmm! How’s she doing? She hasn’t been over in ages. Flynn, have you met her yet?

FLYNN: Briefly, yeah. She came over to our place to plan-uh–

SOLEDAD: To plan . . . ?

LUIS: The team found important information they have to act on. There’s an event coming up with a lot of moving parts that TEA needs to stay on top of.

SOLEDAD: And will you be joining them at this event?

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Shitshitshit

LUIS: (Laughs) I did just say I was glad to be done with capers and spy shit, right?

SOLEDAD: Mmmhm.

FLYNN: Actually, would it be alright if I did try the wine? I’m not 21 yet, full disclosure, but . . .

LUIS: I’m sure a little bit won’t hurt anything–it’s not like you’re going to be driving home.

LUIS’s chair scrapes the floor as he reaches over to pour the wine for FLYNN.

SOL: So, Liam, Luis wasn’t joking about you only wearing black, huh?

LUIS: One of these days, I tell you, I’ll get him to wear a color. A pattern, even!

FLYNN laughs. 

FLYNN: That’ll never happen!

The scene fades out on the group talking over sounds of eating.

END OF EPISODE 6

[ending theme]


WIL: 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 and Katie Youmans.
  • This episode was performed by, in order of appearance:
  • We’d like to thank some of our IndieGogo backers who helped fund our first season:
    • Amanda Stewart
    • David Rheinstrom
    • Erin M Speckley
    • Jeff Chaney
    • Jordan Stillman
    • Nate Harrison
    • Sara Ghaleb

Until next time: protect your magic.

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