1.12: Monsoon

VALENCE
SEASON 1, EPISODE 12
“MONSOON”
RELEASE DATE: 08/01/2020

A storm of sorts breaks as the TEAm breaks into Reilley’s facility. Also, a bunch of other things break.

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 magical violence throughout
  • Discussions of familial death from 32:00 – 33:00

Credits:

Performances by, in order of appearance:

Special thanks to:

  • You. Thank you.

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. HOTEL ROOM – DAY

LIAM, MAHIRA, SARAH and NICO have arrived in PALLADIDE. LIAM and NICO sit on the bed, MAHIRA sits on the couch, and SARAH sits at the desk, not typing for once.

SARAH: Everyone take a drink of water. It’s like you want to get altitude sickness, I swear. Christ.

MAHIRA takes a gulp of water from a reusable water bottle. LIAM takes a drink from a cup. NICO doesn’t take a drink.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: This is ridiculous.

MAHIRA: So. We can’t keep avoiding these blueprints.

LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: We can do this.

SARAH: Yeah. You’re right. Ugh, I can’t believe I’m gonna say this, but I’m–I’m not gonna lie, guys, I’m pretty scared about all of this.

LIAM: You’d be stupid not to be scared, I think.

NICO: Nah, we’re gonna be fine.

LIAM: Unfortunately, not all of us have the confidence of a racoon plundering its hundredth trash can.

NICO: Well, sounds like you all need to get more familiar with trash cans.

MAHIRA: Trash cans aside, let’s try to work on what we’re afraid of and what we can prepare for. Sarah’s worried, which makes sense, because she’s going to be the most vulnerable out of us. Not that you’re not a badass, Sarah, it’s just–

SARAH: Tiny, nerdy badass, not magic punching badass. I’m going to have to stay focused on the Havens, too. I know they’re gonna have some, and I’m almost done figuring out the code to daisy-chain them to turn off if one is turned off.

MAHIRA: I thought you already finished that?

SARAH: Oh, do you want to try to code something super complex and brilliant in some weird hyper-advanced tech that doesn’t make sense and doesn’t even seem to use normal coding languages? Because if you do, I’d love to–

LIAM: Mm. I can stick with Sarah and help guard her. If she’s going to be working with Havens, I might be able to help in some way, given electricity? I’ve tried it a few times on the Haven my–the–the Haven that was in my apartment before I gave it to Sarah, and I might be able to short one or two out, depending on whether I can get close enough to hit it but far enough away to be out of its range.

MAHIRA: Okay, good. 

NICO: Mkay so what about that asshole who tried to kill us at the end of the benefit? Blondie? Because if we can’t do magic, she can’t do magic, but she can probably do something that we’re not gonna know about. Call in security or something.

SARAH: I mean, you brought your gun, right?

NICO: Which one?

MAHIRA: No, we need to avoid Blondie, and Richard, and anyone else who might be there. As much as I hate to say it, our goal for today is to get the test subjects out, not exact vengeance on the people doing the testing. Stealth is our safest and best option here. Because the second we’re seen, everything gets worse.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: They’re going to find us eventually. We should just get it over with.

SARAH: Yeah, that’s true.

NICO: Well duh. Why do you think I dyed my hair black? The aesthetic

MAHIRA: I mean, honestly, yes.

SARAH: Pretty much.

NICO: I am not Liam, gross. The green is just, you know, a little harder to blend in. And if there’s Havens, I can’t just glamour it to be boring.

LIAM: If we see the person, shouldn’t we just take care of the situation then? Otherwise, we risk potentially having a fight on our hands when we’re already drained from everything else. That seems risky.

MAHIRA: Less risky than bringing all of the fight to us off the bat. So, we go in, and Liam guards Sarah. First, we’ll try to solve whatever Haven situation is going on. Next, Sarah, you’ll try to work on the security cameras, see what you can make of where they’re keeping people. The blueprints only go down as far as a Basement 1 level, but the details of the support structures they’ve got in place make me think there’s a secret lower level situation going on.
And I guess that means that, Nico, you and I will be the brute squad? You’re good in a fight even without magic, yeah?

NICO: Yeah whatever.

MAHIRA: And once Sarah’s got the Havens down and a clear line of sight on where we need to go, we head there as quickly as possible and we take care of anyone in the path as quietly as we can.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Didn’t even flinch at her talking about killing people. Do you care? Would you care if you had confirmation Nico had, too?

LIAM: (Sighs) So now we wait?

MAHIRA: So now we wait.

SCENE TWO

EXT. PALLADIDE – NIGHT

LIAM, MAHIRA, SARAH and NICO stand in the woods in view of the TESTING FACILITY, hidden behind a thicket of trees. A van pulls up, crunching on the gravel of the auxiliary parking lot. It slows to a stop and the engine turns off.

NICO: Here we go.

MAHIRA: On three? One. Two. Three.

We hear LIAM, MAHIRA, and NICO each doing magic. The van’s doors had just begun to slide open, but stop suddenly. The four people inside slump down, asleep. The one who had stood up to open the doors makes a slightly louder thump as he drops to the van floor.

LIAM: Not shocking that Reilley wouldn’t bother having the Havens extend out this far.

SARAH: Or that she’d make the help park out in the middle of nowhere.

MAHIRA: Ok, quick now. Uniforms on, grab their equipment and badges and let’s get going.

They hurry over to the van, quick, deliberate, as quiet as possible, but the gravel still crunches beneath their feet. They rummage around in the van, unclipping badges from the sleeping bodies and clipping them on their own fake uniforms, grabbing cleaning equipment and picking up the sleeping bodies to drop them in the back. MAHIRA drapes a dropcloth over them.

SARAH: Think that’ll do it?

NICO: No one’s going to come out here in the middle of the night to investigate the back of a windowless van that’s here every night anyway. We’ll be fine.

LIAM: And no one will question the fact that we aren’t the usual crew?

SARAH: No one notices the help.

MAHIRA: Shitty, but convenient for us right now.

They slide the doors closed and lock the van. SARAH pockets the keys. All together, they walk up to the building, equipment in tow. There’s an uncomfortable, heavy silence as they trudge up the walk.

NICO: (muttered softly) Showtime.

He presses the buzzer outside the front door and waves at the camera.

NICO: Cleaners here.

SECURITY GUARD: (yawn) Yup, come on in.

The SECURITY GUARD buzzes them in, the doors unlock and slide open. The team walks in, sticking close together.

SECURITY GUARD: Oh, there was some kind of office party in the conference room on three – might want to hit there first. It’s a goddamn mess.

MAHIRA: You got it, boss.

SECURITY GUARD: (grunts)

The team walks down the length of the atrium towards the service elevators, footsteps echoing off the high ceilings.

SARAH: (sotto voce) There’s a Haven in a utility room on three, so that works out fine for me. Let’s make this as quick as possible. How’s the . . . how are you three feeling right now?

LIAM: Strange, but nowhere near as bad as the one before. It feels more unnatural than anything else.

NICO: Definitely a phantom limb vibe, and not really in a fun way.

SARAH: Good. Wait, what? Yeah, no, don’t answer. Makes sense–I’m sure there’s muses working here too. 

MAHIRA: Fingers crossed nobody on three decided to work late tonight.

They reach the elevators. SARAH jabs the button, the doors open, she pushes the button for the third floor, the doors close. 

NICO: Fuck I could use a smoke right now.

MAHIRA: Nerves?

NICO: (unconvincingly) What? Shut up. I didn’t say anything. You said it. Who cares? Just need something to do with my hands.

The doors open and the team steps out onto a quiet floor of cubicles and offices/conference rooms along the edges. Everything is very slick, modern, open. Only the best for Reilley.

SARAH: This way. The utility closet should be, uh . . . yeah, over here.

MAHIRA: Have you two got this under control?

SARAH: Yeah, we should be ok.

MAHIRA: Good, Nico and I will head off and find out what we can while you work.

NICO: Later, kids.

MAHIRA and NICO walk past cubicles and towards a stairwell as SARAH and LIAM open up the utility closet and go in. It’s a small, cramped space full of…..whatever is in a utility closet. A Haven is mounted high on the wall and there are panels that connect to wiring, and that’s what SARAH needs. They close the door behind them, squashed together in the closet.

LIAM: Well, do we–what do we–what should I be doing? To help, that is. Or do you have this all under control?

SARAH: I . . . might need a boost.

LIAM: A boost of what?

SARAH: (laughs) Of height? That Haven is all the way up there, and I’m sure you could reach it, but I really don’t think we want to find out what happens if a muse touches an active Haven while we’re trying to be stealthy–do you?

LIAM: Ah. No, you’re right, that is sensible. Ah, these are fairly close quarters though–I’m not really sure how to–should I–here.

LIAM laces his fingers together for SARAH to use to stand on. SARAH has to bend awkwardly to get her foot up high enough without kneeing LIAM, and it’s all just awkward as fuck. There’s some rustling and thudding and mumbled apologizing from both before she gets up and can pry the Haven off the wall.

LIAM: No, your left. Your left.

SARAH: Sorry

LIAM: Ah, for fuck’s–

SARAH: Got it. You can let me down now.

Soft thump of SARAH hopping down and LIAM catching some of her weight to muffle her landing.

LIAM: It’s funny–I’d assumed it would look more . . . sinister? In person, at least. As if the one my fa-the one I gave you couldn’t be the final design. But no, they all just look so. Bland.

SARAH: Like any other smart home device, yeah. That’s how they trick people into thinking they’re innocuous, or better yet, just forgetting about them. But that means that, like any other smart device, it has to get updates somehow. And that makes it vulnerable, which is good news for us. Lemme just–

SARAH cuts herself off and pulls a device out of her bag. She powers it up.

LIAM: I wanted to ask before–how did you get the code to work?

SARAH: Nothing I was doing on my own was working right. I got the idea to build this thing with pieces scavenged from the Haven we destroyed–

LIAM: The one Nico shot? You kept it?

SARAH: Never let perfectly good scrap go to waste. And it turned out useful, so I was right. And once I’d incorporated some of the scrap Haven, something about it seemed to respond to the intact one. So now I’m using this one here to make a daisy chain with the others, take care of the redundancy they have set up with their fields overlapping. Plus, I threw in a fun surprise that’ll brick them all. Once the chain is started, they should all shut down one right after the other, nice and quiet without us having to go anywhere, and they’ll be useless paperweights after that. But while we wait . . .

SARAH starts fiddling with the panel concealing seemingly endless wires. She goes through several, muttering to herself as she reads the labels for them. Finally, she finds what she’s looking for. She pulls a small laptop out of her bag and connects…something.

SARAH: Got it!

LIAM: The surveillance?

SARAH: Yup, and since I’ll be able to get a hard connection, it’s not like they’ll be able to trace a hack or anything. I’m just one more output point quietly watching what they’re watching.

LIAM: Do you see Mahira and-

SARAH: -and Nico, yup. They’re . . . huh. I don’t see them anywhere.

LIAM: But is that good or bad?

SARAH: Probably good. We can check though. Earpieces, remember? “Hello, the government?”

LIAM: I–I had forgotten.

SARAH: (softly, to the earpiece) Mahira, Nico, you there? I’ve got the cameras but we’re not seeing you

MAHIRA: (over the earpiece) Good, that means I’m doing my job right. 

NICO: (over the earpiece, laughs)

MAHIRA: Yeah, we’re in the ceiling on basement level two. You’d think Reilley would spring for something nicer than shitty drop tile ceilings, but apparently not. 

LIAM: And you’re both alright?

NICO: (over the earpiece) Your concern is touching, Vamps. 

MAHIRA: Vom. He means we’re fine.

SARAH: Good. The Havens should be powering down near you in about twenty-three seconds. I’ve got mine down up here, but it’s likely going to take a few minutes to cover the whole building.

LIAM: Once that happens, we can come down and meet you in the–fuck.

MAHIRA: Wait, what fuck? Fuck where?

SARAH: Oh.

NICO: Liam, if you’re gonna meet me in the fuck, then I need more words to understand what’s going on.

LIAM: Noel.

SARAH: And Blondie from the benefit is with her. They’re heading down the atrium, looks like–yeah, toward the authorized personnel only door.

MAHIRA: We stick to the plan. Stay unseen, don’t make it an issue if we don’t have to. Take care of it if it comes to that, but hope it doesn’t.

LIAM: You’re not going to take care of my sister.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Oh, sure, now you care about her.

A beat.

MAHIRA: No, Liam, sorry, I didn’t mean it like that. Bad word choice, definitely.

SARAH: (to Liam) We need to get down there. The Havens are going to be down across the entire building soon and I know you. You’re going to want to be there with them when that happens.

LIAM: (affirmative noise)

LIAM holds up a hand and a small crackle of magic leaps between his fingers.

SARAH: Not in here, asshole! Lightning near all these electronics, I swear . . .

LIAM: Sorry. But yes, let’s get down to them as quickly as possible.

SARAH snaps her laptop shut and puts it back in her bag, along with the small device that shut down the Havens.

SARAH: Let’s go.

SARAH and LIAM walk down the length of the floor toward the service elevator. LIAM presses the Down button, the elevator arrives, they get in.

SARAH: What do we do when our disguises get blown?

LIAM: We don’t do anything. You get to safety and I . . . I will figure it out when it comes to that.

SARAH: (frustrated hmph noise) Y’know, for all the downsides of being a muse, there’s plenty of downsides to being the squishy one on the team.

LIAM: (fond chuckle) Want to trade?

SARAH: No thanks, I’ve met your family.

The elevator doors open and SARAH and LIAM step out.

LIAM: I’ve got this.

LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: You’ve got this.

LIAM clenches his fist and splays his fingers forcefully and his magic crackles sharply before getting very muffled and soft.

SARAH: What did you just do?

LIAM: A trick I learned from Mahira and then . . . modified. We’re not really invisible, but we’re about as close as you can get. Unless someone is specifically watching for us, we should be able to walk around unnoticed.

SARAH: Ok, uh, and what do we do if someone is specifically watching for us?

LIAM: We run.

SCENE THREE

LIAM and SARAH walk quickly and quietly down the length of the atrium. Their steps have that same muffled quality that LIAM’s magic had a moment ago. They reach the door that shouldn’t be there.

SARAH: Did Mahira teach you her lock picking trick?

LIAM: Yes, but I also don’t think Reilley would have left this door open to that risk. And we’re . . . pretty much invisible. So we have a little more time to work with.

LIAM hovers his hand near the door and we hear a soft fzztpop, like something short-circuiting.

LIAM: Mmm. We can’t get lucky every time. Analog it is, then.

LIAM pulls a small fabric case out of his pocket, opens the flap, and pulls out metal lock pick tools. He begins to pick the lock on the doorknob while SARAH stands back to back with him and keeps watch.

SARAH: Did Mahira teach you that too?

LIAM: No, this was Nico.

SARAH: Huh. Weird date activity, but ok.

LIAM: It wasn’t a–

SARAH: Yes, it was.

LIAM grumbles, but manages to pick the lock. The tumblers click and he stows his tools back in his pocket quickly. He swings open the door and the two of them slip in, closing the door behind them.

SARAH: Let’s be quick. (into her earpiece) Hey, we’re past the door. We’re moving down the hall, there’s a spiral staircase at the end. I don’t know if we’ll still be in range for these earpieces to work once we’re down there, but . . . just so you know. Liam left the door unlocked for you two.

MAHIRA: (through the earpiece, with crackly audio) Yeah, you’re already starting to break up. We didn’t find anything useful on Basement Two so Nico and I split up to cover more ground, see if we could find anything that way.

SARAH: Lemme check something before we’re completely out of range . . .

SARAH pulls her laptop out of her bag and clacks a few keys and pauses

SARAH: Shit.

NICO: (crackly audio) Always love hearing that.

SARAH: Blondie. Nico, she’s basically on top of you.

NICO: (with all the swagger he can muster) No worries, that’ll give me something to do. I’d been looking forward to a chance to fuck her up after our last date. I’ll keep her away from you all. (away from the earpiece) HEY BLONDIE! WERE YOU LOOKING FOR A FUCKIN FIGHT?

LIAM: Shit, I–

SARAH: I can take care of myself–go help your idiot.

LIAM: (affirmative noise)

LIAM runs down the hall and down the stairs. 

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Running awfully fast to get somewhere you’ll only be a hindrance.

LIAM: Fuck off.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: You don’t even know where you’re running to. You dashed off before you could figure out the route to where you want to be.

LIAM: I’ll . . . oh shit. . . . what if I–

As he’s running, we hear a faint sound that could be background noise, or it could be NICO’s magic (spoiler, it is) that grows louder as it morphs into LIAM’s magic crackle, and then a sharp pop as LIAM uses the trace NICO put on him to poof to where NICO is. He is thrown into the room and stumbles, but steadies himself.

In the room, NICO is doubled over, panting from exerting too much magical power. HAILEE is beginning to show wear, but not nearly as much as NICO.

NICO: Liam what the fuck I did this literally to get you away from danger

LIAM: And we’ve established I don’t pick up on hints.

NICO: (whatever is nico’s version of pleading) This wasn’t a hint, Liam, it was a flashing neon sign saying RUN.

HAILEE: Ew, what is this? Whatever. I’m almost done with this one, I can handle you too, no problem.

We hear HAILEE’s magic sound, a rush of water forming into a blade.

HAILEE: I’ll just remember to tell them to pick up two bodies instead of one. And hopefully–

HAILEE looks LIAM up and down.

HAILEE: –they’ll get yours out of here before she sees.

HAILEE summons up more magic (dealer’s choice on how that should sound??) and LIAM does the same. Lightning crackles along his fingers, up his arms, and he steps quickly to get between her and NICO.

HAILEE: I literally do not have time to do the dramatic showdown thing with you and your boyfriend. Ugh.

LIAM: Consider, then: you could simply choose not to be a murderer. It really is that easy. I choose to not murder people every day.

HAILEE scoffs and sends a stream of water whipping across LIAM’s face. LIAM bites back a yelp as it slices his cheek.

HAILEE: She’s going to be pissed at me if she ever finds out I was the one who did this . . . guess I’ll just have to make sure she doesn’t.

LIAM: Noel–

LIAM is cut off when HAILEE sends dart after dart of ice towards him, slicing his arms and face as he tries to block any of it hitting NICO. One makes it past, but NICO is waving a hand and sends some of the darts back her way. HAILEE makes a frustrated shout as she throws up a wall of water to block them, and they clatter to the floor.

LIAM: Thank you.

NICO: (panting with exertion) Not the time, Vamps.

LIAM: Mm.

LIAM summons up more electricity, forming it into a ball between his hands, growing it as quickly as he can, before throwing it at HAILEE with a grunt of force. HAILEE throws herself out of the path and whips water at his feet, sending LIAM falling to the ground.

HAILEE: Careful where you’re shooting those. Wouldn’t want it to track back and cook your boyfriend, would you?

NICO: Not his boyfriend.

HAILEE: (laughs)

LIAM: (surprised noise)

NICO: Or whatever. But also fuck you.

HAILEE: Really nailing this trash talk, huh Nicolo? Yeah, of course we know who you are. We have eyes everywhere. The world invited us into their homes. And to have a powerful son of a powerful man and heir to his empire standing here with the lost Alden, in the same place, at the same time? My god, why didn’t you just wrap yourself up with bows for us?

LIAM: Mmm, I think I agree with Nico here. Fuck you.

HAILEE: (sickly sweet) You wound me.

Distant rumbling of water.

HAILEE: Only fair if I return the favor!

Several pipes in the wall behind HAILEE burst and she sends the jets directly towards LIAM and NICO. LIAM screams and the overhead lights burst as he sends electricity down from those, through the water, and back to HAILEE. HAILEE screams as she is electrocuted. The water falls, HAILEE falls, and the only sounds left are the slow trickle of water from burst pipes and LIAM panting as he steadies himself. There is a pause, and then HAILEE laughs.

HAILEE: (ragged breathing from her injuries) Oh, Liam. I’ve got you figured out. You’re still the scared little boy whose family locked him away to avoid having to think about him, having to explain him to anyone or bear that shame. 

LIAM: (through gritted teeth) I am not.

HAILEE: You’ll always be that boy. Unable to help your friends. Unable to help yourself. It’s pitiful having to watch you try. Noel must find you so fucking embarrassing.

LIAM: THAT’S IT.

LIAM summons up lightning and fires it directly at her. There is a horrible crackle and sizzle and thud as HAILEE suddenly goes limp and is dead.

NICO: Fuck.

LIAM: (distant, vague): Is she . . .

NICO: Not your fault. It’s not your fault. It was, uh, us or her.

LIAM: (dully) So she is. I . . . don’t know how I expected to feel. Not like this, though.

LIAM’s knees give out and he lands on his ass, panting heavily. 

LIAM: It is my fault. But that’s . . . that’s fine, I think.

NICO scoots over, wincing with pain. 

NICO: (over his earpiece) Oh boy. Please–please tell me one of you can hear me.

SARAH: (over earpiece, crackly) Sort of–are you ok? Is Liam ok? I can see you but I don’t have sound on my end.

NICO: We’re. Yeah. He’s gonna need a doctor before all this is over. I’m fine.

SARAH: Are you . . . are you ok to keep going a little longer?

LIAM: Yeah.

SARAH: Good. I found where they’re keeping people. I can walk you through how to get there.

NICO: Just gimme approximate distance and direction and I can get us there.

SARAH: You have enough juice left for that?

LIAM: Definitely not–

NICO: Easy as pie.

SARAH: Alright. It’s one floor down, about 400 feet ahead and maybe 250 to your left. Behind a thick locked door that needs a badge to swipe in.

LIAM: We have a badge.

SARAH: You do?

LIAM: . . . she won’t be needing it anymore.

SARAH: Oof, yeah, ok.

NICO: Hold on tight.

NICO gets up shakily, takes HAILEE’s badge out of her pocket, and walks back over to LIAM. He grabs hold of LIAM and poofs them to just outside the door, swipes the card, and lets the heavy metal door swing open after the lock pings.

SCENE FOUR

LIAM and NICO walk into the basement testing facility. Initially, it looks like they’re the only ones here so far.

LIAM: I know you’re going to be pissed at me for even saying this, but you really shouldn’t–

NICO: What other choice did we even have–

NOEL: Liam.

A beat.

LIAM: Noel. Listen–

NOEL: You need to get out of here, you idiot. What are you even doing? What do you think you’re going to accomplish? You’re not going to change anything. I can’t believe this is what you wound up risking so much for. You know I can’t–you–you know I can’t just let you do anything.

LIAM: Please. Please don’t make this be something. Please just leave.

NOEL: And what, throw our family’s work away? That’s something you’d do. Not me. Not–not me.

LIAM: The Havens are down. If they reboot, we have the other mage’s Halo. We’ll be able to cast even with it on, just like you will. Please don’t make it be like this. Please.

NOEL: No, you’re the one who needs to leave. You don’t get it. Liam, there’s–

There’s a beep of the door being unlocked with a key card again. SARAH and MAHIRA walk in. MAHIRA coughs raggedly. They’re both panting.

MAHIRA: Stand down!

NOEL’s magic starts crackling. SARAH gets a thumb drive out of her pocket.

SARAH: It’s done, Noel. I’m sure you know enough about me to know that the second I get into this terminal, you won’t even have the time to–

NOEL shoots a bolt of energy at SARAH, but it’s deflected in the air by a bolt of LIAM’s own magic. NOEL’s magic crackles and sputters against a wall.

LIAM: Noel. Please. Please.

MAHIRA: (Still breathing hard) I can fire at any minute and you’re–you’re done.

SARAH puts the drive into the terminal and starts typing.

NOEL: Stop! You need to listen to me! You’re not going to get away with this. Look at all of you. None of you can fight. You’re all hardly breathing except for Harris. You’re–

A new magic sound, one we’ve never heard before, starts slowly winding up.

NOEL: What? No, nonono, it’s not–

The magic sound gets faster. NOEL glows dark red and then disappears.

NICO: Hahahahaha uhhhhhh what the fuck? What the actual fuck??

MAHIRA: Did she just–

LIAM: It looked like she got pulled out of here.

MAHIRA: What even has the capability to do that?

SARAH: No time right now. Almost done unlocking all of these cells. I just need another, like, 30 seconds–

The magic sound winds up in the room again. It starts echoing off the metal walls.

NICO: Oh what now

MAHIRA: Noel was right, I don’t know how much I can help–

The sound blips out cleanly. A bomb has appeared in the room, and a beeping countdown has replaced the magic sound.

NICO: Thaaaaaaaat’s a–

NICO and MAHIRA: –thermobaric–

MAHIRA, NICO, and SARAH start panicking. LIAM’s breathing gets faster and sharper, quickly spiraling into a panic attack.

NICO: Oh, this is just fucking choice, this is so fucking stupid, of course I wasted all of my energy on some fucking LL Bean Protestant sack of shit and now I’m going to die here in this goddamn nightmare lab run by some–

MAHIRA: Fuck I’m so sorry everybody I don’t know how to–I’m so sorry–I can’t–

SARAH: Someone do something someone do something someone do something SOMEONE DO SOMETHING

LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: You can do something. I can do something. I want to live, goddammit.

As the bomb erupts, LIAM focuses his magic to shove the energy back into the shell. At first, it seems like it’s working–LIAM laughs, mostly out of shock–but then the explosion starts breaking out again.

LIAM: Nonono–

MAHIRA puts her hand on LIAM’s shoulder. Coughing, she starts funneling the last shreds of her magic into him

MAHIRA: I don’t have much, but you need to take it.

LIAM: You’re too–

NICO puts his hand on LIAM’s shoulder and does the same.

NICO: She said take it, Vamps.

MAHIRA: We might stand a chance together.

NICO: Ugh.

LIAM: Okay. Okay.

With their magic joining his, LIAM struggles, but then shoves the force back into the bomb. The bomb repairs itself.

SARAH: Ohhhhhhhh my god is it done is that it is it done

LIAM: (Panting) It’s–yeah. It’s done.

NICO: And now we have . . . a bomb . . .

MAHIRA: Nope. Nope.

MAHIRA falls over, steadying herself on the wall.

SARAH: Okay. Now that’s it’s safe I can just. I can just do it.

SARAH hits one last key. The cell doors start opening and people start clamoring out. Another prisoner starts running off but stops when she sees NICO.

ELISHA: Nico? Is that you?

NICO: Oh, Christ.

ELISHA: It IS you! I don’t–I don’t understand–

NICO: Elisha, you’re like dying. Ok? Please. Get the fuck out of here.

ELISHA: But–

NICO: I’ll talk to you later. For real this time. I–ugh–I promise. Ok? I fucking promise.

ELISHA continues running off.

LIAM is starting to lose consciousness, and sounds around him are fading in and out.

NICO: We need to leave too. Like now.

SARAH: We really should get all of them and Liam to the hospital. You look like you could use a doctor too, Nico.

NICO: (firmly) No. Not me. I don’t do hospitals–just get him some help.

SARAH: I . . . ok.

NICO: Need you not to pass out just yet, Liam. Hey? Buddy?

LIAM: Mmm . . .

MAHIRA: (gently) You sure you don’t want to go with him?

NICO: I swear to fuck, I already said this. I’m not doing a hospital.

LIAM: Don’t . . . don’t be stupid . . .

LIAM is basically unconscious at this point, and we can only barely hear NICO’s response as MAHIRA scoops LIAM up.

NICO: Never am, Liam.

SCENE FIVE

INT. LIAM and FLYNN’s apartment, evening.

LIAM, SARAH, MAHIRA, GRACE, and SOL sit in the living room. FLYNN walks in from the kitchen, holding too many mugs. His steps are slow and deliberate to avoid sloshing them.

FLYNN: Okay, here’s the hot chocolate but, just don’t move. I don’t wanna spill. I just fuckin mopped.

SOL: I still think we should have gone for Abuelita instead of Ibarra.

FLYNN: Mm, Sol, I need you to know that I love you very much. Even though you are so fuckin wrong. Liam, here you go–

LIAM reaches for the mug but winces and almost drops it.

LIAM: Sorry, sorry–

FLYNN: No worries, you’re good, buddy. Just gonna put this on the coffee table for you. Yeah, oh! How long did the doctor say it would be before you were good to go?

MAHIRA: Four to six weeks.

FLYNN: (low, drawn out whistle) Damn. Hey, Liam, remember all those times that I told you that I’m not a sugar daddy, and that need to get a job to, like, pay the rent and shit?

LIAM: Yes?

FLYNN: Yeah, so, I take it back. Never try to get a job again. Please? I’m gonna, like, sell feet pics on Patreon or something, and I can support the both of us. It’s fine.

LIAM and FLYNN laugh, and the laughing makes LIAM let out a small groan of pain.

FLYNN: Shit, dude. Any broken ribs?

LIAM: Just my shoulder, I think.

There’s a knock on the window in LIAM’s room.

SARAH: Is he allergic to doors?

FLYNN: Don’t worry, I’ll get it.

LIAM: No, no, I got it. I’m fine.

LIAM gets up with some difficulty and walks to his bedroom. He opens the window for NICO.

NICO: Wow, get good, Vamps. You look like shit.

The two walk back into the living room.

LIAM: At least I don’t still have a black eye.

NICO: Liam, obviously I could magic this gone, ok? It’s a whole look for me. 

MAHIRA: Okay, Team Dumbass, let’s not get into comparing battle scars. We all know I win.

SARAH: I think I win by not having any.

FLYNN: I don’t have any either! Well, except for this one time, in the fifth grade, in Mrs. Valdez’s class I like–

GRACE: Okay, kids, can we focus on the news? They’re going to bring up what we found any moment now. And who knows. Maybe this time it’ll stick.

NICO: Pfff. Or whatever they say when they don’t believe what you’re saying.

FLYNN: Maybe.

SOL: Maybe.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Maybe.

SOL: Nico, right? I’m Soledad. It’s . . . nice to meet you. I think everyone’s been using [he/him] pronouns for you, but I figured I’d ask first.

NICO: Yeah, mostly. Yours?

SOL: Today, they/them. Tonight, she/her. Tomorrow, something else entirely? Gender is, uh, gender is weird.

NICO: Tight tight tight. I’ll re-up next time we talk too, note to self.

GRACE: Children, please, you’re interrupting my drama. Shh, it’s starting.

A news report’s intro theme plays off of GRACE’s phone.

NICO: Ugh, no thanks. (whispered) Hey, Liam

LIAM: (whispered) Hm?

NICO: (whispered) Fuck this, right?

LIAM: Right.

NICO waves for LIAM to follow him and slips out of the crowded living room into LIAM’s room. LIAM follows while the rest of the group is engrossed in the news. Once they’re in the room, NICO opens the window and the two hop out to sit on the fire escape.

NICO: You want?

LIAM: (gently, joking) Even after I didn’t offer you any of my shitty sadboy wine?

NICO: I am an extremely giving person.

LIAM: No, but thanks. Why did you call me out of the room?

NICO: Didn’t want to have to hear the spin the news puts on whatever version of the story they’re going to tell.

LIAM: Mm. Understandable.

NICO: Yeah.

There’s a moment of comfortable silence with the faint voices of the rest of the group drifting in from the living room.

LIAM: I’m sorry if this is prying, but . . . why were you so against going to the hospital? Back there?

NICO: Huh. I was–I wasn’t sure if you’d even remember all that, the way you were in and out. I–uh–don’t do so hot. In hospitals. Or any kind of medical setting? Not since my mom.

LIAM: Oh. Was she–

NICO: Car crash or whatever. Kids make weird mental links, so who the fuck even knows. She didn’t–they called it at the scene, but. But that’s–that’s not really why I–shit, I was trying to take a break from all the emotional ta–

LIAM cuts him off with a kiss. They break and sit there for a moment, their foreheads pressed together.

NICO: Wow, gay. What even the hell though?

LIAM: (small laugh) I’m not sure. I wanted to distract you from . . . all the emotional talk. And that seemed the best way to do it?

NICO: (laugh) I’m a terrible influence on you.

LIAM: Most likely . . . but I don’t think I mind it.

GRACE: (Yelled from inside) Liam! The other one! Get back in here. We’ve still got work to do.

LIAM: (Sighs) Christ, what an understatement.

NICO: Gross, look at you. You love it.

LIAM: Ugh. You’re right. I think I do.

END OF EPISODE 12

[ending theme]


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

Special thanks to:

  • You. Thank you.

Until next time: protect your magic.

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