1.11: Covalent Bonds

VALENCE
SEASON 1, EPISODE 10

“RECALIBRATE”
RELEASE DATE: 07/04/2020

The TEAm plans. But things don’t always go according to plan. Why get comfortable with a situation instead of expecting the unexpected?

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.

Credits:

Performances by, in order of appearance:

Special thanks to:

  • Bob Raymonda
  • dr.t.love
  • Josh Timlen
  • Karilyn Rust
  • Kat Schwartz
  • Michaela Voorhees

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. T.E.A. – AFTERNOON

SARAH is typing furiously at her laptop while GRACE, reading over her shoulder, scribbles down notes. LIAM is sitting on the opposite side of the table, fidgeting.

LIAM: Are you sure there’s nothing I can help with?

GRACE: Mahira will be back soon, and the two of you can work together with the documents she’s bringing over.

LIAM: Would it not have been faster to access them digitally? The city hall put all of their plans on their site ages ago.

SARAH suddenly stops typing.

SARAH: Liam, please tell me you did not just try and access the blueprints on your phone.

LIAM: I…yes?

SARAH: (sigh) Alright.

SARAH stands, pushing back her seat. She walks around the table to LIAM and holds out her hand.

SARAH: Phone please.

LIAM: Why?

SARAH: Phone please.

LIAM: O–ok.

LIAM hands over his phone. SARAH opens up the tray with the SIM card and snaps it in half. She drops the pieces on the floor and smashes them further with the metal leg of a chair, making a grunt of effort to really crumble the hell outta the pieces. Then, she drops the phone itself into LIAM’s cappuccino. 

LIAM: Hey! My cappuccino–and my phone!

SARAH: (matter-of-factly) There. That should minimize the damage done. I’ll buy you a new one.

LIAM: What the hell?? 

SARAH: We can’t afford any electronic trail that leads back to us. Zero breadcrumbs to show Reilley where to find us. Please, once you have your new phone, do not look up anything related to our work. Dumbass.

GRACE: If it makes you feel any better, she’s done that to me twice now.

SARAH: You’re welcome.

GRACE: You can expense it out of the budget that you just readjusted for us.

SARAH returns to her seat, pulls her chair in, and resumes typing. LIAM grumbles to himself as he throws his phone/coffee in the trash and sits back down. Moments later, we hear MAHIRA’s boots in the hall outside. She opens the door and drops a stack of papers on the table.

MAHIRA: I have a good feeling about all this. I got some great stuff here.

GRACE: And you weren’t recognized?

MAHIRA: (laughs) It’d be pretty hard to see a middle aged white guy with a receding hairline and blood pressure issues and recognize him as me . . . but yes, I was careful, and we’re fine.

GRACE: Good. We’ve already lost one phone today in the name of security.

MAHIRA: Oh no, who was it? Grace, didn’t you learn your lesson last time?

LIAM: (petulant grumble noise)

MAHIRA: Aah, yup, that makes more sense.

LIAM: Hey!

MAHIRA: But I have something that’ll cheer you up. Floor plans!

MAHIRA unfurls three rolls of paper, putting staplers, phones, coffee cups in corners to hold them flat.

MAHIRA: Ok, so it looks pretty standard at first glance. Boring and sterile and everything lining up with everything else. However . . . they also had brochures of local landmarks and places to go over at the Palladide City Hall, and guess who offers tours of their main floors.

She jabs a finger down on one of the papers – the brochure.

GRACE: Mahira, tell me you didn’t.

MAHIRA: What, take a tour? No, of course not. No, something about one of the photos stuck out to me. Look here – the main atrium.

A beat.

LIAM: The proportions don’t match. That door shouldn’t be there.

SARAH: No, it shouldn’t . . . the brochure mentions a digital tour. Let me . . .

She trails off as she grabs her laptop and starts typing.

LIAM: Wait, how come it’s safe for you to take a look–

SARAH: Do you know how many layers of security I have on this thing? And anyway, I’ve got it.

GRACE: And? Does it let you look through that door?

SARAH: No, but Liam’s right. Looking at the blueprints, that door shouldn’t even exist, and yet there it is.

MAHIRA: You see any other discrepancies?

SARAH: Yeah . . . it doesn’t let me go through that door, but I can go through the one next to it, and that room is shallower than it ought to be. It’s like there’s a hallway that wraps around and goes . . . who the fuck knows where.

LIAM: What does it show for that spot on the next floor down?

SARAH: Nothing. It’s just . . . nothing.

MAHIRA: It’s shaded out though . . . like it’s dead space or something.

GRACE: Would they really be brazen enough to have the door to their evil secret lair just–just sitting there? In the open? It’s the main entrance, for Christ’s sake! Tourists walk past it multiple times a day. Someone would have noticed.

LIAM: Noticed what? A door marked Authorized Personnel Only? That would occasionally have authorized personnel walking through it? There’s nothing to notice about that. It would just fade into the background.

SARAH: That’s. Huh. It actually makes a fair amount of sense.

GRACE: But there would have been building inspectors, people from the city, o-o-officials whose jobs involve making sure plans are followed!

MAHIRA: Grace, you’re going to need to stop thinking like a bureaucrat. People miss details, gloss over things they don’t feel like dealing with, and sometimes . . . sometimes people can be bought.

LIAM: You think they bribed local officials?

SARAH: Not necessarily. Reilley’s been scaling up production and announcing new locations, and people want those contracts. They want those jobs coming to their towns, or staying in the towns that already have them. When it comes down to it, I mean, if people are still willing to shop at stores they know commit human rights violations every day in their factories? Then something as inconsequential as a small deviation from the submitted blueprints isn’t going to make anybody think twice. 

MAHIRA: Or it could be as simple as a change added later, after everything passed inspection. But regardless of how it got there, it’s there. And I have a feeling it’s our way in.

GRACE: I’ll want a lot more information than a feeling before we move forward. Sarah, is there anything you can do with their cameras?

SARAH: I . . . maybe? I mean, I can do it, but can I do it without anyone there spotting me? We had to be on-site for me to get into the data farm’s cameras and that was nowhere near as shady as what they’ve got going on in the basement of this building.

GRACE: Hm. That’s fair. I’d rather you take your time and do it safely than rush and risk putting yourself in danger. I–

GRACE’s stomach grumbles.

GRACE: Oh, sorry about that! I think with all the tension and planning today, I forgot to eat . . . anything? Not since breakfast.

MAHIRA: Iced coffee is not breakfast, Grace.

GRACE: (indignant) Technically, anything you break your fast with is breakfast.

SARAH laughs, MAHIRA groans. SARAH stands and walks over to a bookshelf, rummaging around in a box.

MAHIRA: No . . . no.

SARAH: Let me dig the takeout menus out of here . . . how does the bistro down on Hyssop and 23rd sound?

General sounds of agreement

SARAH: Perfect, everybody write down what they want — I’m not having a repeat of last time when I tried to memorize all your orders and everyone changed their minds when I was halfway back. And uh, Liam?

LIAM: Hm?

SARAH: We’re gonna need you to be the one to call it in. You can use my phone, if you want.

LIAM: . . . sure, but why?

MAHIRA: (laughs) Sarah and I are both blacklisted there.

GRACE: There’s a story here, isn’t there?

MAHIRA: Barely! I didn’t know she was the owner’s niece! You flirt with a cute waitress one time and suddenly you can’t go back to your favorite lunch spot ever again without an old man chasing you and brandishing a ladle.

SARAH: And I was there too.

LIAM: I see.

SARAH: And it was considerably more than flirting.

MAHIRA: Ok, so you make out with a cute waitress one time.

SARAH: Four.

MAHIRA: (nearly overlapping, cutting Sarah off) Four times.

GRACE: I regret asking.

LIAM and SARAH laugh, MAHIRA passes the menu to LIAM.

LIAM: Ok, I’ll go call this in and pick it up?

SARAH: I can come with for the pickup, so long as he doesn’t see me. 

LIAM: Alright, but I’m using your phone.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: You can do this you can do this it is a normal phone call just like normal people do all the time. Oh my god why do phones still exist why did they have to choose a place that doesn’t have online ordering actually I think instead I will die? I think instead I will–NO, LIAM, you are doing MUCH scarier things soon, be a goddamn adult and use the phone like a real person. You can DO this you absolute idiot.

LIAM: (dialing, and then the phone rings) H-uhmmm-hh. HIIiii. (Clears throat) Hi, yes, I’d like to place an order for pickup? 

SCENE TWO

INT. subway platform. Crowded, but of course everyone is pointedly ignoring that anyone else exists. Occasional muffled announcements that are 100% unintelligible over the PA system, occasional rumbling of trains arriving on other platforms.

SARAH: –and I don’t know if you’ve ever been to the Grand Canyon, but it’s somehow more over- and underwhelming than you’d expect. At the same time. And somehow really fucking ominous if you’re there at night. Out there during a new moon, next to no light, it’s like this chasm that just keeps going. Screws with your brain a little.

LIAM: N-no, I don’t . . . I haven’t traveled much since before–mm. Since. Since I was a child. I went to London a few times. Chicago once, I think. But the–regardless, I’m not especially outdoorsy.

SARAH: (laughs) You? Not outdoorsy? Well, you had me fooled. Never could have guessed that.

LIAM: I admit, I don’t know very much about you, but I also wouldn’t have thought that you would be the sort of person who’d enjoy wilderness.

SARAH: Why’s that?

LIAM: (embarrassed) Oh, uh. Well. Because computers–they don’t–they’re not terribly . . . rugged?

SARAH bursts out laughing.

SARAH: Oh my god, Liam, do I act surprised when you reveal interests outside of monochromatic clothing and Byronic brooding?

LIAM: (grumbling) I have plenty of interests outside of brooding.

SARAH: (laughs) Yeah, my guy, that’s the point!

LIAM: Yes, well. I–do you know when our train is coming? The food will get cold.

SARAH: Eh, crimson line always takes forever. And also, the food was already cold. It’s salads and sandwiches. But don’t think I don’t notice you deflecting there.  Can’t slip that one past me — not when I’m the master of deflection.

LIAM: Sarah, would you–are–do . . . Are we . . . Sarah, do you think of me as a friend?

SARAH: Yes? I mean, yeah, of course, but why do you ask?

LIAM: I’m realizing how little I really know about you, and I suspect you know all there is to know about me.

SARAH: (thoughtful) There’s a lot you can’t find out from hacking someone’s life . . . I can put together the whats and wheres and whens, but when it comes to the whys, I’m just guessing most of the time. You and Flynn and Mahira are a lot better at that than I am. Learning those kinds of things needs some vulnerability on my part, some putting myself out there, and I–I don’t like doing that. It makes me feel too exposed.

LIAM: What makes you think I’m better at being vulnerable?

SARAH: I just figured, y’know, because you and Flynn are so close?

LIAM: (laughs) Every bit of personal growth has been dragged out of me kicking and screaming by the people around me who actually know how to function in the world! Almost none of it starts out as my own idea, even if I acknowledge the value of it after it’s been thrust upon me.

SARAH: Huh. Well, I guess I didn’t know everything about you.

LIAM: And I know a little bit more about you.

A garbled announcement about the train arriving and to please stand back from the edge of the platform. The train screeches to a stop in front of them.

SARAH: Come on, I want a seat! I don’t feel like standing for the whole ride back.

They hurry on, jostling other passengers, and slide into two seats just as the doors close and the train pulls away from the platform.

SARAH: So what are you up to tonight? Any exciting plans after dinner with everybody?

LIAM: Oh, not really? I was planning to stay back for a little while, borrow some of Lu–borrow some books on magic theory. I’m getting better, but . . . 

SARAH: But it never hurts to know more?

LIAM: I worry.

SARAH: I get that. It’s hard going from not having anybody you really need to worry about, to having lots of people you care about, and want to keep safe. But so far, I’ve got to say, I think it’s worth it.

LIAM: You reminded me of Luis there. That seems like something he would have said.

SARAH: Yeah . . . guess that means I’m right, huh?

LIAM: (laughs) Probably. Oh, I wanted to thank you.

SARAH: What for?

LIAM: After he–well–when I was intent on shutting everyone out and wallowing, you didn’t push me to get up and go out. But you didn’t let me push you away either. I appreciated that. I think it was exactly what I needed then.

SARAH: I think you and I grieve in pretty similar ways. I prefer to be left alone, but that’s exactly why I shouldn’t be — at least not for a while. Give me a minute to deal and get myself back together, and then we can be around each other, but just . . . coexisting for a bit. Actively trying to cheer me up when I’m like that is going to backfire. So I–I needed to be around people, but not really have to interact.

LIAM: Exactly. You and Flynn got that. I think any grand gestures to try and be cheery would have gone badly — like you said.

SARAH: I’m not really a grand gestures sort of person anyway. I–hm. Ok, here’s something about me. So, some people show they care by making things for their friends — cake or whatever. But I can’t do that, and the reason is my dad’s 38th birthday. I was this dumb kid with no money or transportation to go buy anything, but I knew I wanted to give him a cake, so I decided to make it. Trouble was, I had no idea how to make a cake, and I didn’t trust any of the recipes I found because they were all different. So I tried to wing it. And I was so, so proud of myself until about 30 minutes in, when the house started filling with the worst-smelling smoke you can imagine. The oven looked like the inside of a nuclear reactor after a meltdown. 

SARAH and LIAM laugh. The train screeches to a stop and the doors open.

SARAH: Oh! C’mon, this is us.

SARAH and LIAM jostle their way out of the train and onto the platform.

SARAH: So yeah, that was my last attempt at any big gestures. And baking.

LIAM: (chuckling) Probably for the best, all things considered. There’s plenty of things you’re amazing at. It’s a little comforting to know there’s something you’re terrible at.

SARAH: Hey! Rude! And after I was nice enough to pick you up a new phone while you were paying for dinner.

LIAM laughs out loud as the train screeches away and they start up the stairs up and out of the station.

SCENE THREE

INT. T.E.A. HQ, LUIS’s old office – NIGHT

LIAM is sitting at LUIS’s desk, paging through one of his reference books on magic theory. He yawns and leans back in the chair, which makes a creak. He sits back up and puts the book aside, picking up another one and flipping to the index. He taps a pen idly on the desk and sighs.

LIAM: (muttering to himself) Where was that . . . right, here we go. Page . . . 714.

He flips to that page and scribbles down notes on a pad of paper. 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. What the–

LIAM’s phone buzzes with a text. He picks it up quickly and it buzzes again, and then again. He starts to unlock his phone, but NICO pops into the room in a burst of magic.

NICO: Hey WHAT the FUCK

LIAM: Oh well hello, apparently! Glad you still exist!

NICO: Well HA HA HA that makes one of us. What the FUCK! Luis got fucking MURDERED?!

A beat.

LIAM: I’m sorry. I tried to call, but–

NICO: Well yeah I see that now but Jesus Christ

LIAM: Yeah.

NICO: Well, fuck, Vamps. So what are we gonna do about that?

LIAM: We’re, um, we’re going rogue, so to say.

NICO: “Going rogue.”

LIAM: Grace and Sarah have relocated as many T.E.A. assets as they can and so we’re just–we’re–we’re just going to go in and do . . . our best.

NICO: Oh, you’ve got to be fucking kidding me. You’re still idiots! 

LIAM: Do you have a better plan?

NICO: Yeah, don’t fucking do it, dummy. Were you going to just go in there, guns blazing–without me there? D-Do you actively wanna die? Oh my god.

LIAM: Hey, how did you know I was here and not at–

NICO: And Vamps what the FUCK is with your texts like you kept acting like you were trying to mind your own business but like you didn’t actually fucking want to and I was gone for like, what, a fucking month, at most? And what even is this, like–you sent me a fucking meme–like, look, there’s a fucking cat in it. And I couldn’t respond. Why would you do that??

LIAM: Nico how did you know I was at Luis’s office–

NICO: And like this is why it’s a waste of time to give a shit about me cause sometimes guess what? I’m gone! I’m just gonna fucking bail because it’s fun! And it’s not even gonna matter if something like your fake dad died because that’s just what fucking happens sometimes, POOF!

LIAM: I guess I’m just going to have to get used to that, and that seems like a choice I get to make for myself!

NICO: I don’t even know what that means!

LIAM: Why won’t you answer my question about how you knew where I ohhhh my GOD YOU MARKED ME.

NICO: Pff, no, I don’t, I don’t even–

LIAM stands up abruptly, his chair scraping the floor sharply and cutting NICO off. As he stands, he smacks his palms on the table for emphasis.

LIAM: [shouting] The tattoo is a mark! Oh my god! I thought I just kept getting really specific static shocks!

NICO: [shouting] It’s not my fault you’re bad at magic!

LIAM: [Slowly starting to laugh, still shouting] You fucking marked me! So you could keep tabs on me! You give a shit about me.

NICO: Okay well you kept texting me even when I wasn’t responding!

LIAM: Yeah, because I missed you!

NICO: Then stop that, stupid!

LIAM: Not really a choice I get to make at this point, Nico!

NICO: I don’t know what that means.

LIAM: Do you want me to just stop texting you because you can simply say that if that’s the case??

NICO: That’s not–that’s not what I even fucking said and you’re avoiding the question!!

LIAM: There was no question!

NICO: Yeah but, y’know, maybe but I don’t know what the fuck is going on here anymore!

LIAM: I cleary have feelings for you!

NICO: [spluttering] What does–dick feelings or heart feelings??

LIAM: Well both, really!

NICO: Well then I guess we should make out?!

LIAM: I guess we — wait, what?

NICO: You heard me.

NICO starts walking forward, invading LIAM’s personal space. LIAM takes a step back, bumping into his forgotten chair. He sidesteps it awkwardly.

LIAM: I mean–yes, I did, and I agree, but is that really all you have to say about–

NICO: Uh, yeah, I don’t think I feel like talking now.

NICO pushes the chair out of his path. Liam takes another step back, bumping his back against the wall.

LIAM: So, wait–

NICO: (amused) Why?

LIAM: Well, because you asked me what sort of feelings I was having on the matter, and I answered, but you nev–mmf!

NICO swoops down and pushes LIAM up against the wall, cutting him off before he can ask his question. He chuckles at LIAM’s surprised noise and leans in to kiss him.

The writers of this episode turn in our voucher for ONE (1) smooch noise. The episode fades out on NICO and LIAM laughing at how stupid this situation is.

END OF EPISODE 11

[ending theme]


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

Special thanks to:

  • Bob Raymonda
  • dr.t.love
  • Josh Timlen
  • Karilyn Rust
  • Kat Schwartz
  • Michaela Voorhees

Until next time: protect your magic.

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