1.8: Ghosts

VALENCE
SEASON 1, EPISODE 8
“GHOSTS”
RELEASE DATE: 05/30/2020

It’s time to confront the past and the present if the goal is a better future. The team clashes around important decisions. Liam gets several rude awakenings. And then, things change forever.

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.

This episode of VALENCE is brought to you by Hit the Bricks. You can find Hit the Bricks right here on your podcatcher, or at https://hitthebricks.com/.

Content warnings:

  • It’s another rough one, pals
  • Discussions of the prison industrial complex/imprisonment throughout
  • Discussions of inhumane medical/scientific testing throughout
  • Discussions of abuse from 13:13–that wasn’t intentional, oh my god–to the end of the episode
  • Depiction of a panic attack from 19:15 to the end of the episode
  • Discussions of death from 19:15 to the end of the episode

Credits:

Performances by, in order of appearance:

Special thanks to:

  • Christopher Magilton
  • Gabrielle Watts
  • Jennifer Sugden
  • Michael Hudson
  • Rebecca Sentance
  • Robert Anderson

Transcript

VALENCE

SEASON 1, EPISODE 8

“GHOSTS”

RELEASE DATE: 05/30/2020

CONTENT WARNINGS:

  • It’s another rough one, pals
  • Discussions of the prison industrial complex/imprisonment throughout
  • Discussions of inhumane medical/scientific testing throughout
  • Discussions of abuse from 13:13–that wasn’t intentional, oh my god–to the end of the episode
  • Depiction of a panic attack from 19:15 to the end of the episode
  • Discussions of death from 19:15 to the end of the episode

WIL: Hey friend. This — I’m recording this on May 28th, and this has been a really rough week in the news and in general. Um, so I just wanted to emphasize again, before anything else when the episode starts here, that VALENCE can be really heavy, and this is a really heavy episode, so, um, I want you to be sure that, if you think you might need it, um, check out our content warnings in the show notes, and that should hopefully kind of guide your feelings on whether or not this is a good time for you to listen. Um, take care of yourself. I know that I say that again in, like, the typical beginning, but, um, it’s important.

Hi. It’s been a while. I’m glad you’re back.

This episode of VALENCE is brought to you by Hit the Bricks, an indie audio drama about adventuring into the world of Oz. It’s been 100 years since Dorothy’s adventures, but now, she’s missing. When Jessi moves to Dorothy’s old neighborhood in Kansas following her parents’ divorce, she and her cousin Wallace find themselves taken to Oz just like Dorothy. This audio drama is stunning. It’s a different, loving take on Oz that brings a new feel to a nostalgic world. The sound design is gorgeous, and the songs–did I mention it has songs like a musical–uh, they are amazing? You can find a link to Hit the Bricks in our show notes for this episode.

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

T.E.A. CONFERENCE ROOM – NIGHT

In the CONFERENCE ROOM, LIAM and SARAH sit in their usual spots. FLYNN has taken GRACE’s chair, and NICO sits on the edge of the table. SARAH types rapidly. FADE IN on their conversation, recapping the events of the Benefit for Team Coolest.

LIAM: . . . she chased us up a few flights of stairs, but because none of us were capable of using our abilities, it was just a matter of outrunning her. And, ah . . . not getting shot. Once we were at the roof, I shifted us away. I think that was the first time I’ve done it intentionally–or with another person.

FLYNN: And you’re sure that the cloak on the trace is working again, right?

NICO: Yeah his shit’s all working.

FLYNN: How do you know?

NICO: Because I’m incredible.

FLYNN: Hmm.

LIAM: Flynn, you have to be at least a little impressed, no? We retrieved, what, seven phones? Eight? And escaped with time to spare?

The sounds of MAHIRA and LUIS arguing and walking down the hallway approach.

FLYNN: No, I am, it’s just–well, they’re here, and I’m sure they’re going to–

The arguing gets closer and louder. LUIS opens the door.

MAHIRA: . . . and I understand that you’re pissed off–I am too! You know I am!–but you’re just not being rational about this.

LUIS: Hello, everyone.

MAHIRA: This is why you stopped coming out on jobs like this. You can’t just save everyone, Luis. You have to strategize.

LUIS: Alright, well then let’s stra–

LIAM: What’s going on?

MAHIRA: Luis is being impulsive is what’s going on.

LUIS: Mahira, I haven’t done anything yet. I just. Want. To talk.

LUIS takes his usual seat. MAHIRA stays standing.

SARAH: We haven’t told them anything yet. I’m still going through the data I pulled.

LIAM: Will someone please explain?

A tense beat.

LUIS: Mahira, you can give the report if you want.

MAHIRA: Yeah. I do. Okay.

Sarah started going through the first phone when we got to the event. Sarah, do you want to–

SARAH: Busy, you explain.

MAHIRA: Okay. Sarah looked around for things that matched the numbers you gave and things that mentioned Palladide. We found out what it is. It’s a–a lab. Kind of. It’s also holding people.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Fuck. I knew it. I knew they were doing this.

NICO: Yeah, no shit, I told you all they’re taking people.

MAHIRA: But they’re also profiting. And this isn’t just kidnapping one person. They have at least fifty people trapped there, based on the numbers Liam gave us and some figures Sarah found, and they want to bring more in, and they’re profiting off of keeping them there. All muses. And all being–being tested on.

LIAM’s heart rate quickens.

LUIS: So you can see then why it’s important that–

MAHIRA: Luis.

LUIS: –that we need to do something, and we need to do it now. Not everyone is going to be as capable as Nico is to get themselves out.

NICO: Nobody’s gonna be as capable of me.

LUIS: So we need to go. We need to go now. We have the location, we can just go right now and get those people out of there. I don’t understand why this is an issue. We just need to go. I-I-I can book us flights, or–or Nico and Liam can just, can just take us there. We have four muses here, and we’re all at least somewhat capable of defending ourselves. We could save fifty people!

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: We can’t. We’re not ready.

I’m not ready.

MAHIRA: And if we run in half-cocked and fuck up, what then? They tighten security, discredit us, and carry on. Best case scenario there.

LUIS: I can’t believe you are acting like I’m being ridiculous here. There are people being tested on. Probably being killed. Who knows if their families know where they are! Who knows how long they’ve been there! We have the capability to go fix this. We can’t just wait here. Their lives are on us.

A tense beat. Sounds of nervous shifting from everyone in the room.

LUIS: Really?

. . . Really?

Liam, you must agree. This is what you’ve been wanting for so long. This is a chance to right some of your family’s wrongs. This is a chance to do something good.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: He’s right. You know he’s right. And yet you’re going to stay here and do nothing, aren’t you? Because you’re a coward. Or maybe because you don’t actually care.

LUIS: Liam.

LIAM: I–I don’t know. I know you’re right. I do.

LUIS: Yes! Yes-yes-yes, so then you know we have to do something.

LIAM :I . . . I do. But. I just. I don’t–I don’t think we have the . . .

LUIS: No!

NICO: Mmm, it’s getting hella awkward in here so I’m just gonna fuckinnn, what’s the word, fuckin bail. Uh, yeah, Flynn you in?

FLYNN: Yes thank you please.

LUIS: You can’t be serious. Neither of you want to do anything?

NICO: Nah.

FLYNN: Of course I do, Luis, but I’m not trained in any of this. I only just kind of got trained on things for tonight, and even that’s a stretch. This is way out of my league. And I–I think Mahira’s right. I don’t think it’s gonna be that simple. And I’m sorry, I–I’ve got work tomorrow.

LUIS: Nico, you really don’t care?

NICO: What are you, fuckin new? Come on, Flynn, let’s bail.

He and FLYNN head for the door.

FLYNN: I’ll see you at home, Liam.

They leave.

LUIS: Sarah, nothing?

SARAH: No. Busy looking for things that will actually help us instead of getting us all killed.

LUIS: But people could be getting killed right now!

SARAH: Yeah, which is why I’m trying to work fast. But I don’t really understand your math on 54 dead people being better than 50 dead people.

LUIS: (Scoffs)

I can’t believe you all. You’ve been training and working for months now, and for what? To just sit here? To just do nothing? I’m–I’m so disappointed in you all. I’m so shocked and so, so disappointed. Y’know, I–I really thought this team would be different. I really thought we’d be making a difference.

LIAM: We–we will. We just need more time. I just–I don’t know what I’m doing yet, Luis. Maybe you do, but I–I don’t. I’m trying. I am. But there’s so few of us, and the last time we even got close to one of their buildings, Mahira and I were incapacitated. Even Nico hardly managed to get us out. I just–I want to help. I do. You know I do. But I can’t yet.

I wish I could.

But I can’t.

LUIS: I’m just amazed that knowing this, you still wouldn’t even try.

You’re right, Mahira. This is why I don’t do these jobs anymore. Because I couldn’t stand being the only one willing to take the risks you have to take to help.

LUIS stands up and heads towards the door.

MAHIRA: Where are you going? Don’t do anyth–

LUIS: I’m going home to Sol, because at least they’ll understand. I’m not going to do anything “stupid.” Even if it would be doing what’s right.

LIAM: I’m s–

LUIS: Don’t, Liam. Just don’t.

LUIS leaves. A beat.

SARAH: You two should go home.

LIAM: What about you?

SARAH: [scoff]

I need to work. I need to crack this all as soon as I can so we can go help.

MAHIRA: You should sleep.

SARAH: I know.

SARAH stops typing for a moment.

SARAH: For what it’s worth, I know you two are good people. I don’t, like, I don’t think pretty much anyone is good people — they’re not, but I think you two are.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Oh.

SARAH: Yes, Liam, including you.

LIAM: I didn’t say anything.

SARAH: Your face did.

MAHIRA: Well, for what it’s worth, I think you’re a good person too, Sarah. And you, Liam.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Oh god. They expect me to say it. Oh god.

LIAM: Mm. Mmhm. Mmhm.

An awkward beat. Sarah goes back to typing.

SARAH: And Liam, please just go make out with Nico. Flynn and I are so sick of watching your sad puppy dog eyes about him. Oh my goood.

MAHIRA: (Laughs)

LIAM: What?!

MAHIRA: Oh come on, kid.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Ohhhhhhh my god nononono that’s nothing, that’s absolutely not a thing, how could they even think that’s a thing we don’t even really get along actually I can’t even–no, this is nothing.

LIAM: That’s–that’s not–pff–

SARAH: Oh my god. He’s hopeless!

MAHIRA: Ohhh you’re still in denial! Awww.

LIAM: This isn’t even anything.

SARAH: Well good, because I think he fucking sucks.

LIAM: Maybe the problem is that you just don’t get him, and subverting your expectations is his–oh my god.

MAHIRA and SARAH laugh.

LIAM: Oh, he’s a friend. How dare I defend a friend when someone is being unkind about them.

SARAH: For the record, I only kind of think he sucks.

MAHIRA: Hey Liam, do you trust him?

LIAM: Of course I do. Fuck. No, that’s nothing! I trust both of you!

SARAH: Awwww. He trusts us!

MAHIRA: I’m honored.

LIAM: Oh my god. I’m going home. Tonight has been very awful, and so have you two.

SARAH and MAHIRA laugh again. LIAM walks out the door and into the hallway.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: This isn’t even anything. This is nothing. This is, no. This isn’t. This is not. And besides, you don’t even have the time or energy for this. Not to mention how caring about more people complicates the need to stop existing once you just fix things. So just don’t think about it. Because it’s absolutely nothing. It’s nothing, and it’s 100% easier to not think about it than to think about it.

NICO (MEMORY): Mmmmmmmmmmm no, 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 (MEMORY): (Starting to laugh)

You can’t just–

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Ugh. He’s an idiot.

LIAM: Oh noooooo.

SCENE TWO

LIAM’S BEDROOM – MORNING

LIAM’s phone vibrates on his bedside table. LIAM groans and dismisses the alarm. With a yawn, he sits up and stretches.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Just don’t think about it. Simply don’t think about it.

LIAM gets out of bed. He starts getting dressed.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: See how easy it is to not think about it? Easy. Incredibly easy. You’re not even thinking about it or him right now. At all.

LIAM continues getting dressed. He opens his bedroom door and walks towards the living room.

The HAVEN noise sounds.

LIAM gasps. His heartbeat quickens immediately. He holds out a hand as if to shoot lightning as he sees RICHARD sitting in LIAM’s chair in the living room.

RICHARD: Put your hand down, Liam. You can’t attack me with the Haven on.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Go to the kitchen and get a knife. Just run. Run back to your room and leave out the fire escape. Go go go go go

LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: Can’t move can’t move

LIAM: What the fuck are you doing here?

RICHARD: That’s no way to speak to your father, and that’s no way to treat a guest. I taught you better than that. Come and sit down.

LIAM: No. Get out of my house.

RICHARD: Oh, stop. I’m not here to harm you.

LIAM: What do you want?

RICHARD: Don’t behave like a child. Listen: I’ve come here to . . . make amends.

LIAM starts laughing.

LIAM: Why would you think that’s even a possibility?

RICHARD: Because I realize some of the beliefs I held were a bit . . . misguided.

LIAM: (Still laughing)

Oh, oh, this is fabulous. I will sit down.

LIAM takes a seat across from RICHARD.

LIAM: Please, do elaborate. Be specific.

RICHARD: I have reconsidered my affiliations with Morgan. With Dr. Reilley.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: You shouldn’t have sat down. It’s a trap.

LIAM: You expect me to believe that?

RICHARD: Why would I risk coming here otherwise? You think I don’t realize what a risk this is for me? I didn’t bring the Haven to threaten you. I brought it to protect me. But I–it’s–I’ve been doubting for some time. A year, maybe. Maybe two. I’ve seen her effect on Noel. She’s molded her into a copy of herself. She’s cast me aside almost completely because Noel is more impressionable than I am, less likely to question her. And it’s put some of my previous actions into . . . perspective. Including what I did to you.

LIAM: What about what you’ve done to other people like me–like us?

RICHARD: Of course. I–I have regrets.

LIAM: Do you still think magic is some sort of plague? Do you still think people like us are monsters?

RICHARD: I can accept the sinner while hating the sin.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: God, he doesn’t care at all. If any of this is real, it’s just because his ego is bruised. If it is just a trap, you’re at least going to be murdered with your dignity.

LIAM: Phenomenal. So, why are you here?

RICHARD: To–to make amends. I said that. I’m sorry, Liam.

LIAM: Good.

RICHARD: . . . What?

LIAM: I don’t think you understand that, what you did to me, and what you did to those people–that can’t be fixed. So I don’t see how you realizing the error of your ways really makes up for anything. You said you’re sorry. I’m telling you that you should be. This seems like the likely end of our conversation, unless you have any useful information for me.

RICHARD: I do–that’s also why I came, but–Liam, I’m trying to apologize. You’re acting ridiculous.

LIAM: I don’t care about your opinion of me.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Oh.

I don’t.

RICHARD: Fine. You can have your information before I leave. You need to know this is probably the last time you’ll see me.

LIAM: Well, I didn’t want to see you this time, so thank god.

RICHARD: (Huffs)

Do you want the information or not?

LIAM: Yes. Please give me whatever information you have so I can help undo all of your mistakes.

RICHARD: Fine.

First off, you’re going to fail. Their resources are too strong. They know who you are, they know where you are, and they know that you’re coming. They know how to target you all. They pinpointed your locations this morning, just before I left. 

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Why this morning?

RICHARD: If you’re planning on attacking them, their security is too tight. You won’t succeed. They don’t just have mavens. They have well-trained armed guards who don’t need magic to make sure you’ll fail.

A beat.

LIAM: Is . . . is that it? Is that the information you came to give me?

RICHARD: Yes. I came to tell you that you should give up before you’re found. You’re not going to survive.

LIAM starts laughing again.

LIAM: Oh, you think I care about surviving? Oh my god. You’re hilarious.

RICHARD: You are absolutely petulant. You’ve always been petulant, you know that? I always knew that, even before you showed signs of magic. No empathy. You’ve always been petulant and heartless.

LIAM: Naturally. It’s difficult to develop a sense of empathy when you aren’t allowed to interact with other people during the formative years of your life.

RICHARD: How dare you blame me for something I’m trying to apologize for?

LIAM: Because an apology means nothing other than that, yes, you feel bad for something you should feel bad about!

You do not get the luxury of breaking into my home with a Haven and then simply apologizing for years of treating me like a monster! You do not get the luxury of simply saying ‘I’m sorry,’ and making everything fine in your conscience! It isn’t fine, and it never will be. You have done irreparable damage–not just to me, but to so many people. Do you even know how deep the damage you’ve done to me is, let alone helping countless other muses you don’t even know get hurt in the process. You don’t get to feel better! You get to live with what you have done and feel that regret in every bone of your body. 

So, how dare I? How dare you act as though an apology can fix anything? I do not want your apology. I do not care about your apology. You do not get to entitle yourself to redemption because you have decided that an apology can make up for a lifetime of what I have gone through. 

You are entitled to nothing. I owe you nothing. How dare you.

RICHARD: Fine. I’ll leave. But don’t say I never apologized to you, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.

LIAM: Yes, fine, of course, goodbye forever.

RICHARD huffs. He stands up and walks towards the hallway.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: But why this morning?

LIAM: One last question before you go.

RICHARD: Fine.

LIAM: Why did they locate us all this morning? Our shields went back up last night.

A beat.

RICHARD: Ah. You don’t know yet.

LIAM’s heartbeat speeds up again.

LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: What does he mean?

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: You know what he means.

LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: No. He can’t. He can’t mean that.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: You need to keep it the fuck together until he leaves. You need to keep it. The fuck. Together.

RICHARD: Huh. And now you do.

RICHARD walks down the hallway and leaves the apartment. As soon as the door closes, LIAM starts having a panic attack.

LIAM: No, nonono, nonononono, nonono

LIAM scrambles to get his phone out of his pocket. He dials quickly. It rings once and then goes directly to voicemail.

LUIS (VOICEMAIL): Hi! You’ve reached Luis Acebo. Unfortunately, I’m not able to make it to the phone right now, but if–

LIAM: Nonononono

LIAM hangs up and dials again. It rings once and then goes directly to voicemail.

LUIS (VOICEMAIL): Hi! You’ve reached Luis Acebo. Unfortunately, I’m not able to make it to the phone right now, but if you leave your name, number, and message, I promise to get back to you soon. Have a nice day!

VOICEMAIL VOICE: Please leave a message at the tone.

The voicemail beep sounds.

LIAM: Nononono

LIAM hangs up. Liam lets the phone drop to the rug without hanging up. Still sobbing, he walks to the kitchen and shakily pours himself a glass of wine. As he chugs it, the automated voice comes through faintly.

VOICEMAIL ROBO VOICE: You have reached the end of the message. Press 1 to listen to your message, or 2 to send.

LIAM pours himself a second, chugs it, and pours himself a third. He walks back and, hands still shaking, and still sobbing, he picks up the phone, ends the call, and dials again. It gets picked up after two rings.

FLYNN: Hey, Liam, what’s–oh no, what’s wrong?

LIAM: Flynn. I know you’re at work. I’m sorry. God, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry–

FLYNN: What’s wrong?

LIAM: I think Luis is dead.

END OF EPISODE 8

[ending theme]


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

Special thanks to:

  • Christopher Magilton
  • Gabrielle Watts
  • Jennifer Sugden
  • Michael Hudson
  • Rebecca Sentance
  • Robert Anderson

Until next time: protect your magic.

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