1.7: Cost Benefit Analysis

VALENCE
SEASON 1, EPISODE 7
“COST BENEFIT ANALYSIS”
RELEASE DATE: 04/04/2020

Who benefits when Halo, Inc. throws a benefit? The rich. Well, and those who crash the benefit to steal hors d’oeuvres. And information. Information doesn’t benefit. It’s stolen.

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:
– Depictions of alcohol and food throughout
– Depictions of a panic attack from 9:18 – 10:30
– Depictions of violence from 28:00 – the end of the episode

Credits:
– Our theme was made by Raul Vega,
– With guitar by Travis Reaves.
– This episode was written by Wil Williams and Katie Youmans with story consultation by AJ Goldman,
– With editing and sound design by Julia Schifini.

Performances by, in order of appearance:

Special thanks to:

  • Danielle Welch
  • Evelyn Regan
  • Jeff Van Dreason
  • Leslie Joyce
  • Phoebe Seiders
  • Ryan Boelter

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.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. APARTMENT BUILDING – EVENING

LIAM adjusts his sleeve uncomfortably. He, NICO, MAHIRA, and LUIS sit in LIAM and FLYNN’s living room, waiting to leave for the Benefit.

LIAM: How do I look?

NICO: Still boring. I wasn’t gonna let you be the pretty one of the two looks we’re copping.

MAHIRA: You look different. And that’s what matters most.

LUIS: And actually, looking boring is a good thing. It’ll help you blend in better. If nothing goes wrong, nobody would ever guess that you are you. Good work on the disguises for both of you, Nico.

NICO: Yeah. I’m amazing. So can we like, y’know, go now?

MAHIRA: Once we have the greenlight from Team Cool–

LIAM: We’re not calling Sarah and Flynn “Team Cool”–

MAHIRA: –then Team Cooler can start heading off–

LIAM: And Nico and I are not Team Cooler!

NICO: Yeah, because we’re too busy being Team Coolest.

MAHIRA: –And then about thirty-five minutes later, Team 3, Luis and I, will head over and make our way in.

LUIS: Everyone’s phone charged? Liam, do you think you can do the battery thing we’ve been working on just in case?

LIAM: I think so.

MAHIRA: Ok, but are you really bringing the bandaids Flynn wanted you to take along too?

LIAM: I–I am, but I don’t imagine they’re going to help or anything. I just know he’d be worried if I didn’t bring them just in case.

LUIS: Well, there’s no harm in bringing them! Great. You’ve got this.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Ha, debatable at best. You’re just going to fuck it up and disappoint him, like you always d–

LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: Stop. Remember what you’ve been working on with Luis. What proves that you’re going to fuck it up?

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: You fuck everything up. You can hardly manage your magic. You’re just going to panic and flounder.

LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: Is this you talking, or is this your family talking?

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: It’s everyone talking.

LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: What evidence do you have of that? (A beat) Try not to let your family win over your brain tonight. You’re too logical for that. You don’t have to be what they tried to make you. You don’t have to–

LUIS’s phone buzzes. He picks up the call.

LUIS: Hey kid. You’re on speaker.

FLYNN: (Over the phone) Team Dank Memes reporting in. Looks like we’re golden.

LIAM: We’re not

NICO: I didn’t know we could choose good names!

MAHIRA: Okay. Team Coolest, you’re a go. We’ll see you when we’re there.

SCENE TWO

INT. LOBBY OF AN EVENT SPACE – EVENING

LIAM and NICO walk amongst the crowd in the open area of the event space. Some people stand at tall tables eating hors d’oeuvres; some people talk amongst each other drinking champagne and wine. A string quartet plays.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Don’t fuck this up don’t fuck this up don’t fuck this up–

NICO: So who’s the first mark?

LIAM: For–for speaking with or–um, with, or, the–the phone–

NICO takes an hors d’oeuvre off a passed tray. He takes a bite.

NICO: Surprise me.

The two stop talking. LIAM surveys the area.

LIAM: Mm. There. See the tall one? Black suit, red tie? Balding? Looks like the human version of the color beige?

NICO: Hm, that’s everyone here.

LIAM: The one who looks as though he has very important opinions about the benefits of creating a multi-level marketing company.

NICO: Yup, got him.

LIAM: That’s Philip Plummer. I met him when–before. He does something in accounting, or–or at least, he used to.

NICO: Okay, boring.

LIAM: Boring unless we can get information about what money is being put where. But–but also, admittedly, I just remember him being truly just a bastard and I would like him to no longer have his phone, as well as unwittingly giving information to his enemy. Love those concepts.

NICO: (Chuckles) Lead the way Vamps.

LIAM: And what will you be doing? Are you going to talk or get the phone?

NICO: Oh, uh, neither. Nu uh not a chance. I wanna see if you can actually pull off doing a crime. I still don’t buy it.

LIAM: Wildly helpful, thank you. Fine. I’ll handle this one. Hmm. But if I do, you’re tasked with the next.

NICO: You don’t get to task me with anything.

LIAM: Fine. I suppose you’ll just be bored all night then.

NICO: I suppose I will.

LIAM shrugs and walks towards PLUMMER. NICO walks towards a table with champagne, keeping his distance but staying in earshot.

LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: You can do this. Don’t fuck it up in front of–don’t fuck it up. You can do this. You’ve been trained on how to be professional and presentable. You can–you can feign charisma. Or at least normalcy. Or–or something.

Perhaps just focus on the phone, actually, instead of speaking.

LIAM picks up a nearby glass of champagne and takes a long sip.

LIAM: Plum– Plummer. Philip. Plummer. Is. (Clears throat) Excuse me. You’re– you’re Philip Plummer, yes?

PLUMMER: . . . I am, yes. Do I know you?

LIAM: Oh, no, sir, we haven’t met. I work over in R&D.

PLUMMER: Ah, R&D, huh? How’s that nice corner office treating you?

LIAM: I–I’m actually fairly new. I recognized you from my boss asking me to check something with you, but I didn’t have time before I left on Friday. I know this isn’t really the time or place, but–

PLUMMER: Do you report to Barnett or Edmonds?

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Fuck.

LIAM: Barnett?

PLUMMER: Hmm. Okay. But tell Barnett he owes me. What do you need?

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Oh. Fuck.

LIAM: He–I was asking over how much some of our operations cost out of curiosity, and he realized he might not have the most updated numbers, so–

PLUMMER: (Sigh) Why do I even bother sending that guy emails? Does he want the numbers for Palladide or the numbers for tonight? Because if he wants the numbers for tonight, he’s a little past prime for that.

LIAM: Palladide.

PLUMMER: Well, you can tell him we’re looking at about 9.4 with the new added security, which puts you all at least 2 million over budget, but that’s really more on the ops team–and anyway, you’re bringing in, what, 30k a day for now?

LIAM: I believe so, if all is, ah, according to plan.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: What the fuck does any of this mean?

PLUMMER: So that debt should be recouped soon enough, especially if you’re bringing in more. And hey, don’t let Barnett bust your chops too much. He’s usually a good guy even if he can be a hardass.

LIAM: Right. Good to know. You said–9.4 for Palladide, 30k a day?

PLUMMER: Right.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: 9.4, 30k, Palladide. 9.4, 30k, Palladide. 9.4, 30k, Palladide–

PLUMMER: Hm. You know, Barnett didn’t talk about any new hires this quarter. Was that approved by ops or did you just know him and have an in?

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: –9.4, 30k–fuck–

LIAM: Oh, I–I didn’t know him, no, and–

PLUMMER: Because I know Alden’s been trying to crack down on expenditures. You know how she can be.

LIAM: I haven’t–uh, I actually haven’t met–

A waiter walks by with a tray of hors d’oeuvres.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Phone, now.

LIAM: An hors d’oeuvre? I’m grabbing one for myself.

PLUMMER: Yeah, gotta get something out of these events, right?

LIAM takes a step forward and “accidentally” knocks into PLUMMER as he reaches for the food. As the two collide, the phone jumps from PLUMMER’s pocket to LIAM’s.

LIAM: Oh, excuse me.

PLUMMER: Careful there.

LIAM: Sorry, sorry. Well, thank you, I should really go call Barnett just to make sure he–

PLUMMER: Why call him when he’s over by Rich?

LIAM: Oh–right, good call, I’ll–

PLUMMER: Hang on, what did you say your name was?

LIAM: Thanks again for the information, Mr. Plummer. You’ve helped me more than I can say.

LIAM walks away just slowly enough to not be too suspicious while still walking as quickly as he can. He finishes his glass of champagne. As he makes his way to the edge of the room and grabs another glass of champagne, NICO walks over to join him.

NICO: So on a scale of a pile of bricks to me, how useful were you?

LIAM: Well, I know some numbers with absolutely zero context.

NICO: So bricks. Or like, bricks plus a human baby.

LIAM: But I also got the phone.

NICO: Hey, fucko, that’s halfway to me! That’s like, ehhhhh, I dunno, like a, like a melon baller or something probably. Let’s open it.

LIAM: We don’t need–

NICO: Well duh but what if he has embarrassing shit on here?

LIAM: You have a point. How should I open it?

NICO: You figure it out.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: You can’t just magic this open here. And you don’t even know how to do it.

NICO: Unless you can’t.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: How da- Do it, figure it out immediately.

LIAM focuses on the phone in his pocket and sends a small wave of magic through it. He unlocks it almost exactly as he unlocked the door with MAHIRA.

LIAM: And there we are.

LIAM starts scrolling through the phone.

NICO: Aww, come on, I wanna take all his bank shit so I can take his money later! Lemme have it.

LIAM: Bank information is a good plan. I was looking through his gallery in case–and, yes, there we go. Exactly as mediocre as I thought. What do you think the HR email at Halo is? Do you suppose it’s as simple as HR@, or–ah, ooh, here we go, it’s in his contacts.

NICO: Wait, c’mon, I wanna see the mediocre dick.

LIAM: But you’ve been so loudly bored this evening. I can promise this won’t help.

LIAM holds the phone up to show NICO. NICO laughs, and then a grimacing noise.

NICO: Christ, Vamps, you weren’t kidding. Who the fuck was he gonna send this to? Do they need help? I can help.

LIAM laughs and hands him the phone.

LIAM: Your turn. Don’t blow it up.

NICO: Fine. But I can’t promise this is gonna make its way back into his pocket at the end of the night.

LIAM: That’s Team 3’s affair. Certainly none of my business.

NICO cackles gleefully and scrolls through the phone.

RICHARD: (Quietly, in the distance, approaching) . . . good to see you too, Drew. I’ll be sure to have it on your desk Monday–

LIAM: So, should we–

RICHARD: (In earshot)

–But again, I’m really not here to talk business. Have fun at the party.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: That’s him. Run. Can’t move. Run. You need to run. Can’t give up your cover can’t move need to run have to run need to get out of here have to–

NICO: This fuckin dumbass still uses a Hotmail email address–

LIAM: We need to leave.

NICO: The fuck? We just got start–Ohhhhhhh oho oho it’s this motherfucker! Time to see what it feels like to get got instead of getting get–

NICO starts walking towards RICHARD, but LIAM grabs him by the wrist in panic.

LIAM: Nico. We need to leave. Please.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: He’s going to know who you are. Why did you think you could hide?

LIAM’s heartbeat and breath get faster.

NICO: No can do, buckaroo, it’s time for some good ol’ fashioned vengeance–

LIAM: Nico. Please. (A beat) If–if anyone deserves vengeance, please remember–

NICO: Yeah let’s get you out of here come on. I’ll do a vengeance later.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: You’re making a scene. Useless. What an idiot.

NICO gets out his phone and dials as the two walk further away from RICHARD. 

SARAH: Hey. Status?

NICO: Hey, Zelda. I found your phone down here–you must have left it at the table. We’ll come bring it to you. Where are you right now?

SARAH: Flynn talked the front desk into giving us a room key. We’re in the hotel section, room 220.

NICO: Great. We’ll be up in a sec.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: You’re never going to make it there. He’s going to realize who you are and take you again, and take Nico, and then find Flynn and Sarah and Luis and Mahira and he’s going to–

NICO: HEY Vamps do you still have the bandaids from Flynn

LIAM: What?

NICO: The bandaids, the ones Flynn wanted you to take.

LIAM: Yes?

NICO: Gimme.

LIAM gets the bandaids out of his pocket and hands them to NICO, too confused to panic in this moment. NICO unwraps a bandaid, takes the little paper thingies off, and puts it on LIAM’s face.

NICO: And there. Band-aid face, brain better.

LIAM: That’s–that’s not how it works.

NICO: Nooo, I’m pretty sure it’s exactly how it works.

LIAM: It’s a-a deep, decades-long trauma that–

NICO: Mmmmmmmmmmm nonono, pretty sure bandaids on the face fix the brain bad! Don’t question me, Vamps, I have a PhD in Bad Brain Studies, and the science says it’s all comin’ up bandaids!

LIAM: (Starting to laugh) You can’t just bandaid away–

NICO: I mean, it’s not about body shaming, you know, it’s just, you can just tell he doesn’t even know how to work with what he’s got, Mr. Pasty Accountant Man. You know? He just looks like he–

LIAM laughs.

NICO: See? Bandaids work. You good, Vamps?

LIAM: Oh, definitely not. But better. Thank you.

NICO: Yeah whatever shut up about it. Let’s get you another champagne and then get to Team Nerd.

SCENE THREE

INT. HOTEL HALLWAY – EVENING

LIAM and NICO walk to the door of Room 220, chatting and joking quietly. When they reach the door, NICO knocks three times, quickly and decisively.

NICO: Zelda, we’ve got your phone, you in?

SARAH opens the door and lets them in.

SARAH: Hey, thanks. It must have fallen out of my purse. Come on in.

She closes the door. LIAM stands next to FLYNN, and NICO flops down onto the bed and hands the phone to SARAH.

FLYNN: What’s with the bandaid? Did you get hurt on your . . . face?

LIAM: Science.

FLYNN: Okay?

SARAH connects the phone and starts typing.

SARAH: Did you learn anything or just get the phone?

LIAM: Learned–ah–learned something I don’t understand. He said something about palladium but not, and some figures–Palladide, I think. Which is nothing, to my knowledge.

SARAH: Flynn, can you take notes?

FLYNN: On it. Palladide? Like, one . . . two Ls? Two Ls?

LIAM: I believe so. I have no idea what it is, but he–this is Philip Plummer, from accounting, who I don’t think has had much upward mobility in the company for an embarrassing amount of time, not to mention–

NICO tries to suppress a laugh.

LIAM: –Anyway. He says that . . . numbers. Ah, remember the numbers. He said that it was over-budget. It was costing somewhere around 9 million. 9.3–9.4. 9.4. He said it was 2 million over budget, but it was bringing in $30,000 a day.

FLYNN: Jesus. What brings in that much money in a day?

SARAH: A lot of things. I’ll look for those numbers if I can get past the encryption in their email, and then past the encryption in their server. I bet I can figure some more of this out. Team Very Uncool, do you think you can get me another two or three phones before we hand them off to Team Tepid?

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: You can’t go back there. You’ll just fuck up again.

LIAM: . . . We–we should be able to, yes.

NICO: And besides, isn’t Big Brother herself about to do a big ol’ speech about whatever the fuck they’re unveiling pretty soon here?

LIAM: You’re right–that’s scheduled in about an hour. We should get back down there. And I should drink more.

FLYNN: Aah, do you really think–

LIAM: Yes.

NICO: Ah, a hundred percent yup.

LIAM: We’ll likely be able to get at least a few more phones in that time, no?

NICO: Well yeah, duh. I’m me. We’ll get you nerds plenty of phones.

NICO’s phone buzzes in his pocket. He looks at it and huffs.

NICO: Ugh, I gotta take this. Vamps, I’ll come find you later.

NICO leaves.

SARAH: Keep us in the loop, and let us know what’s up once the presentation starts. I’ve got a bad feeling about whatever this stupid party is really for.

SCENE FOUR

INT. EVENT SPACE – EVENING

LIAM walks amongst the crowd in the open area of the event space. Some people stand at tall tables eating hors d’oeuvres; some people talk amongst each other drinking champagne and wine. A string quartet plays.

Suddenly, there’s a sound that could be a static shock if you’re not paying attention. It’s a tiny burst of NICO’s magic.

LIAM: (Hisses) Ow

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Who gets a shock on their forearm, weirdo?

NICO walks up to LIAM.

NICO: Mkay Vamps let’s do this it’s phone time.

LIAM: How did you know where I was?

NICO: Uh, I’m the one who made your disguise, dummy.

LIAM: Did your call go well?

NICO: Nope. So, my turn now?

LIAM: I believe that was the deal.

NICO: I don’t sign deals, Vamps. But I do prove people wrong when they act like I’m not the fanciest pewpew motherfucker out there.

LIAM: Fanciest?

NICO: Pff. You were there when I hit up Gucci last month.

LIAM: Yes, when you stole everything you kept.

NICO: C’mon now, Vamps. We both know I could afford all that shit. I just didn’t want to. Anyway okay so who’s the mark who’s the mark who’s the mark just kidding it’s that guy right there.

NICO points to a person, STARTUP FOUNDER, nearby.

LIAM: Ugh, by all means. I don’t recognize them, so they may not work for Halo, but . . .

NICO: Who — butbutbut who fuckin cares I wanna take their stuff

LIAM: Exactly.

LIAM and NICO walk towards STARTUP FOUNDER. LIAM walks behind NICO and STARTUP FOUNDER to give a safe distance while still within earshot.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: God, what are you doing? Stop being so chummy. You’re embarrassing yourself.

NICO: Evening!

STARTUP FOUNDER: Do I know you?

NICO: Not yet.

STARTUP FOUNDER: Hmph. Okay. Listen, I’m just here to buy whatever new thing they’re releasing tonight to help poor kids or whatever.

NICO: Ooh, a real Halo fan, huh?

STARTUP FOUNDER: Well, yeah, I wouldn’t have paid five k to be here otherwise.

NICO: You a maven then?

STARTUP FOUNDER: What? Ew, god no. But some of my employees are, and we have a mandatory Halo policy for them, of course. I’m hoping whatever they debut here will be something more permanent so I just won’t have to worry about them wrecking my shit.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Ugh.

NICO: Ooh, you’re a business owner.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Of course he’s going the flirtation route.

STARTUP FOUNDER: Yeah. A couple of buddies and I started up Umagain. We’re the app that makes you talk better.

NICO: Ooh, your office is over in what, uh . . . East Ober?

STARTUP FOUNDER: Pff. No, we’re up in Puckstead.

NICO: Oh, tight. Tight tight tight. Well, I’d love to, y’know, come see the place sometime. Seems like you know what you’re doing.

NICO leans in closer, but STARTUP FOUNDER isn’t going for it.

STARTUP FOUNDER: Yeah no I don’t think that’s gonna happen. We’re very protective of our proprietary software and I’m not into–

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: No, we’re taking his shit.

LIAM: Mr. Edison!

LIAM walks forward quickly, knocking STARTUP FOUNDER briefly into NICO, who takes the opportunity to pickpocket STARTUP FOUNDER without magic.

LIAM: It’s so good to see you here. I wasn’t expecting you. 
(To STARTUP FOUNDER) So sorry for interrupting.
(To NICO) I was wondering if you’d had a chance to look into my proposal for investment? I know I only sent it earlier this week, but your offer was just so generous and I wanted to make sure you were still interested. I know you said you were looking into other business to invest in, but I promise that–

NICO: No no, uh . . . Tom, was it?

LIAM: Alex, actually, sir, but that’s fine, nothing to worry about.

NICO: Right, sorry. No, let’s talk. I don’t think this conversation needs me much anyway.
(To STARTUP FOUNDER) Nice to meet you. And, uh, best of luck.

NICO and LIAM walk away, but as soon as they’re out of earshot, LIAM starts laughing. NICO does not.

LIAM: Acting like you forgot the name was a fantastic touch.

NICO: What the fuck was that?

LIAM: What?

NICO: That. I had it fucking handled. And then you just fucking jumped in like I was some rookie or something. I know what the fuck I’m doing.

LIAM: I know that. It just looked like–

NICO: You think I couldn’t have recovered from that?

LIAM: I knew you could have. I just wanted to–

NICO: I don’t need your help.

LIAM: I don’t understand. I thought it–I thought it was a quick way to overcome a hurdle and have some fun in the mix. I-I didn’t mean to . . .

NICO: Yeah, well, it wasn’t a hurdle. I’m fine on my own. 

LIAM: I never said you weren’t. I never even implied you weren’t. Why are you being so defensive about this?

NICO: I’m not. Or maybe I am. But who fucking cares?

LIAM: Well, I do.

NICO: Ugh.

LIAM: Listen. I’m sorry if me stepping in came across as condescending. I didn’t realize it would be. And I am sorry. If you don’t want me to step in further, I won’t. I know you’re good at what you do.

NICO: . . . But?

LIAM: What?

NICO: There’s a but at the end of all that horseshit.

LIAM: . . . Is there?

NICO: Well yeah, Vamps, that’s what happens after apologies.

LIAM: Oh. No, I just–I just meant it, I think. I don’t think there was a “but” in this apology.

NICO: I mean, there could be a butt in this apology–

LIAM: What?

NICO: Ha. Nothing, nothing. So–okay, well, you’re fucking weird.

LIAM: Okay. I mean, that’s–that’s certainly true. But I am just simply sorry. It won’t happen again.

NICO: Ugh, gross, stop, stop. No, okay, so, next one, I’m thinking we should go full accents and everything on it. (in a terrible voice) How’s your German accent?

LIAM: Oh, bad. So, do you want me to–

NICO: Perfect. Okay, we’re from Germany, we came all the way here for this, and I’m probably allergic to something in the tartlets. You’re trying to get me help. I’ll cough, and you’ll do the thing where you knock them into me. Watch my left hand when you do it, but be chill about it. I’ll teach you to pickpocket like a normal so you don’t keep wasting energy on it when you do it all fancy.

LIAM: . . . Okay, uh. Germany, then? Why not Italy? You’re fluent.

NICO: Eh. I’m bored. In the words of your sweet dork-ass bestie, might as well play on hard mode.

SCENE FIVE

INT. EVENT SPACE – EVENING

To massive applause and upbeat, modern introduction music, DR. MORGAN REILLEY takes the stage. LIAM and NICO sit at the back of the auditorium-style seating.

REILLEY: Good evening everyone. Thank you all for being here. Thank you. Thank you.

Slowly, the applause dies down.

REILLEY: I’m here tonight to introduce an exciting new product to you all from Halo, Inc. It’s something we’ve been working on for a long time, and we’ve been waiting for the right time to unveil it. The testing phase has finally been successfully completed, and just at the right time.
I know you’re all excited to hear what it is. Before I tell you, though, I’d like to guide you through a thought experiment. Close your eyes. [a beat] Good. Now, imagine you’re at home. Your house is beautiful. It’s the house you’ve always wanted.

NICO: (Quietly) Wow. Can’t believe Morgan Reilley is making my dream of living in a big neon trash can finally come true. What a fuckin’ saint.

REILLEY: And your house is filled with the people you love. Your family is there with you. Your spouse, your children.

LIAM: (Quietly)

This isn’t explicitly straight, but it also is.

REILLEY: And then, imagine that out of nowhere, your house is engulfed in flames.
It was too sudden to stop, and now, it’s too dangerous for anything to be done. The flames weren’t put here by anyone. They don’t have any intent. They just happened–but now, everyone is in danger.
This is the reality of living with mavens every day. Here at Halo Inc., we do our best to minimize these spontaneous fires, no matter what form they take. But so far, we’ve only been able to help the mavens that want to help themselves. Until now.

The HAVEN SOUND plays in the auditorium as a graphic of the HAVEN, a small white box similar to a smoke detector, displays on the screen behind REILLEY. LIAM’s phone starts buzzing in his pocket.

NICO: Um, who’s texting you? That better be Team Nerd.

LIAM: Team Tepid. I’ll text Luis that we can’t talk right now–hopefully it’s nothing urgent.

REILLEY: I’d like to introduce the Haven, the newest product by Halo Inc. Think of it as a smoke detector for magic–a smoke detector that doesn’t just sound an alarm, but also extinguishes the flame before you, or your family, can be harmed.

The crowd applauds.

LIAM: Fuck.

NICO: That’s the thing that–

LIAM: Yes.

REILLEY: By a show of hands, how many people in the audience here are wearing Halos? No need to be ashamed–we’re always here to help you.

Some shuffling in the crowd as a few attendees raise a hand.

REILLEY: Thank you for sharing. I appreciate you, and I appreciate that you have taken the steps you need to protect yourself and your loved ones.
In a few minutes, I’m going to ask you to do something scary. But I want you to trust me like you did when you first put your Halo on. This time, I’m going to ask you to take your Halo off.

Some murmurs of confusion and worry from the crowd.

REILLEY: The revolutionary technology of the Haven will allow your magic to be alleviated in this whole room. In fact, using this model, the Haven Plus Pro, you’ll be alleviated from your magic up to seven thousand feet from where the Haven is placed. That means you’ll be alleviated in this hall, in the lobby, and almost to the door of this convention center. The Haven is instant, discrete, and painless.

NICO: Christ. Painless my ass. Guess they made a version that’s all comfy cozy for consumers.

LIAM: They can’t be serious. That’s–that’s–how–

REILLEY: Don’t worry. I wouldn’t expect you all to just take off your Halos without proving the Haven works first. I’m no maven, of course, but at Halo Inc., we have plenty of employees who are–including our head of Research and Development, Noel Alden. Ms. Alden is a brilliant young woman in tech, and without efforts like hers, products like the Haven never could have been developed.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: She became just like them because you abandoned her.

LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: Maybe she’s still in there somewhere.

REILLEY: Let’s welcome her to the stage.

The crowd applauds. Intro music plays.

REILLEY: Ms. Alden, thank you for helping us with this demonstration.

NOEL: It’s my pleasure, Dr. Reilley.

REILLEY: It looks like today you’re wearing the Halo Seraph in Rose?

NOEL: I am. It’s my go-to for dressing up for events like these. Usually, you’ll find me wearing a Halo Sport in Platinum or Amethyst.

REILLEY: Ms. Alden, your team, along with our visionary scientific minds at Halo Inc, have been working on the Haven for years now. Are you confident in taking off your Halo and just using the Haven?

NOEL: Absolutely.

NOEL takes off her Halo and places it on a podium.

REILLEY: Could you confirm your abilities for everyone? Don’t worry, audience; Noel is one of the most controlled mavens I’ve ever met, and she’ll be sure to make her usage small and as safe as possible.

NOEL holds out her palm and emits a small beam of light. The crowd gasps.

NICO: Wait fuck we need to bail.

LIAM: What?

NICO: Uh, yeah, they’re gonna test the thing and it’s gonna affect here we need to fuckin bail

LIAM: Oh fuck oh fuck–

LIAM and NICO get out of their seats and start walking quickly towards the exit of the auditorium.

REILLEY: And now, with the simple press of a button, we’ll turn the Haven on. You’ll know it’s begun working when you hear its tone.

NICO: Almost there–

The Haven tone plays. NICO and LIAM’s disguises drop. So do LIAM’s cloak over his mark, NICO’s mark on LIAM, and NICO’s mark from his family. REILLEY and NOEL look directly at LIAM.

NICO: This is fuckin’ — go go!

The two exit through the doors and start running.

LIAM: They knew I was there.

NICO: Well yeah, dummy, we rushed out and our disguises, like, fuckin’ vanished.

LIAM: No, before that. When they turned it on, Luis’s shield on me dropped and Reilley and Noel immediately knew where I was. They have a mark on me.

NICO: That doesn’t make any sense. I mean, it-it fucking does, but your marks stopped working when that thing turned on. I mean–I’m saying it would have had to, right, because magic?

LIAM: Maybe they made the Haven so that everything but theirs would stop working.

NICO: Yeah, fuck, makes sense I guess! (To himself) Fuck, the mark, aww fuck they’re gonna be pissed they’re gonna be so fuckin’ pissed

LIAM: I have to call the others and let them know–

NICO: Yeah but keep running, we gotta get the fuck out of here. Just follow me. We can’t go out the front–there’s gonna be security out there, so we’re gonna have to do roof. If they can track you, we gotta not take ‘em to the others, too.

LIAM gets his phone out and dials. FLYNN picks up quickly.

FLYNN: (Over the phone) Oh thank god, Liam, we were really freaking out down here, Luis was-

LIAM: Flynn, we have to leave. We have to leave right now.

FLYNN: (Over the phone)

What? No, Luis says we have to stay here and–yeah, here, you can–

LUIS: (Over the phone) Liam, we can’t leave, we have to stay here and figure this out. I tried to call you but you wouldn’t pick up–we found something horrible. Horrible. The Palladide project that you found information on? It’s–

LIAM: They turned on the thing that stops magic. They know I’m here. We have to leave now.

LUIS: We can’t just–

LIAM: Luis, I’m sorry, but you don’t understand. They have a mark on me. They know where I am. They’ve seen Nico and I. They–they’re going to–I just–I need to–I–

NICO and LIAM round a corner to an area where RICHARD is patrolling.

RICHARD: Hey! What are you–

LIAM: Fuck–

RICHARD: Liam?!

LUIS: Liam, what’s–

NICO takes the phone out of LIAM’s hand, hangs it up, and stuffs it in his pocket.

NICO: Zero time to focus on that horseshit come on we’re going this way hurry up hurry up hurry up we can outrun him he’s old and shit.

RICHARD: What are you doing here?!

NICO: Fuck that??

LIAM makes a choked sound that might be a sob, might be a gasp, he will never admit which. 

NICO: Come ON

NICO grabs LIAM by the hand, and LIAM’s first couple steps are clumsy, dragged across the floor as he stares behind him at RICHARD

RICHARD: Liam, wait!

NICO: Time to go time to go time to go Liam

LIAM: Left here!

A heavy metal door slams shut behind them.

NICO: Stairs?

LIAM: Go down!

NICO: People are there, up’s our only option my good bitch!

The door slams open again, followed by the sounds of high heels on tile. It’s HAILEE.

HAILEE: Alden, you’re just standing there and they’re getting away!

LIAM and NICO run up the stairs, followed by HAILEE. The sound of a gun cocking echoes off the cinderblock stairwell walls.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Fuckfuckfuckfuck A GUN? FUCKFUCKFUCK

HAILEE: You’re only making this worse for yourselves!

NICO: Ah, roof access – this is our stop!

NICO slams into the crash bar, opening the door right as LIAM skids behind him. They shove the door shut, their shoes crunching on the fine gravel on the roof.

LIAM: Fuck. Now what? Where do we – 

We hear a faint crackle — it’s LIAM’s magic.

LIAM: Oh.

NICO: It’s time to go, Vamps.

LIAM: I-I think I’ve got this . . .

LIAM grabs hold of NICO as HAILEE reaches the door, shoving it open and stepping out onto the roof. LIAM’s magic crackles louder. HAILEE screams as the lightning around them grows stronger. We hear the first split second of a gunshot that is cut off by LIAM and NICO teleporting away.

END OF EPISODE 7

[ending theme]


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

  • VALENCE is edited and sound designed by Julia Schifini.
  • This episode was written by Wil Williams and Katie Youmans, and story consultant AJ Goldman.
  • This episode was performed by, in order of appearance:
    • Josh Rubino as Liam Alden and Liam’s Inner Voice,
    • John Westover as Nico Salvai,
    • Ishani Kanetkar as Mahira Varma,
    • Jordan Cobb as Sarah Harris,
    • Caleb Del Rio as Flynn Velasco,
    • Giancarlo Herrera as Luis Acebo,
    • Christopher Wilson as Philip Plummer,
    • David S Dear as Richard Alden
    • David Rheinstrom as the attendee,
    • Alex Welch as Noel Alden,
    • Naomi McMillan as Morgan Reilley,
    • and Julia Schifini as Hailee.
  • Special thanks to: –
    • Danielle Welch
    • Evelyn Regan
    • Jeff Van Dreason
    • Leslie Joyce
    • Phoebe Seiders
    • Ryan Boelter

Until next time: protect your magic.

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