SEASON 2, EPISODE 3
RELEASE DATE: 03/06/2021
Out with the old and in with the new. Liam changes things and makes a new friend, but is it enough to distract him from the rest of his life? (No. Obviously.)
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. Don’t miss out on… The Soap Cut.
VALENCE is brought to you by Changing Hands Bookstore. You can use our link at bit.ly/hhchanginghands to support this podcast and indie bookstores. This episode, Katie recommends the Mirror Visitor Quartet, starting with “A Winter’s Promise,” by Christelle Dabos.
- Depictions of familial trauma throughout
- Discussions of oppression and imprisonment starting at 28:30
- Our theme was made by Travis Reaves,
- With production by Raul Vega.
- Additional music provided by Loyalty Freak Music and Kai Engel.
- VALENCE was created by Wil Williams.
- VALENCE is edited and sound designed by Wil Williams.
- VALENCE is directed by Katie Youmans and Anne Baird.
- VALENCE is produced by Anne Baird.
- This episode was written by Wil William
Performances by, in order of appearance:
- Josh Rubino as Liam Alden and Liam’s Inner Voice,
- Caleb Del Rio as Flynn Velasco,
- Julie Cleburn as the hairdresser,
- Vyn Vox as the tattoo artist,
- Bennett Medi as the florist,
- Mads Upton as the shelter employee,
- Sable as Soap,
- Jordan Cobb as Sarah Harris,
- Ishani Kanetkar as Mahira Varma,
- Miracle Fonmanu as Zoe Kafoa,
- Katie Chin as Grace Chen,
- Alex Welch as Noel Alden,
- and Maddison Dabbs-Petty as Elisha Dawes.
(and yes, I call this episode “spreaning” in my head.)
[[A door handle turns and clicks open. Soft wind chimes tinkle.]]
ANNE: Brought to you by Hug House Productions
AD (Katie): VALENCE is brought to you by Changing Hands, an independent bookstore based in Phoenix, Arizona. My recommended read this week is actually a series — the Mirror Visitor series, by Christelle Dabos. The first book, A Winter’s Promise, I found entirely by accident, trying to avoid a bad brain day by emotionally spending. Don’t do that! Instead, just read this book normally.
In the first book, A Winter’s Promise, plain-spoken, headstrong Ophelia cares little about appearances. Her ability to read the past of objects is unmatched in all of Anima and, what’s more, she possesses the ability to travel through mirrors, a skill passed down to her from previous generations. Her idyllic life is disrupted, however, when she is promised in marriage to Thorn, a taciturn and influential member of a distant clan. Ophelia must leave all she knows behind and follow her fiancé to Citaceleste, the capital of a cold, icy ark known as the Pole, where danger lurks around every corner and nobody can be trusted. There, in the presence of her inscrutable future husband, Ophelia slowly realizes that she is a pawn in a political game that will have far-reaching ramifications not only for her but for her entire world.
I genuinely love this series, and it was originally published in French — the author is French. This means that the fourth book, the final book in the series, exists, but is not yet translated into English. So if you speak French, you can read all four books right now. If, like me, you don’t remember enough French from class to read, you’re gonna have to wait. But we can suffer together!
If you’d like to support Hug House, and indie bookstores, we’d appreciate it if you could use our affiliate link: bit.ly/HHChangingHands. That’s bit (dot) l y (slash) H H, like Hug House, Changing Hands.
Wil: VALENCE is a serialized fiction podcast with discussions and depictions of struggles with mental health. You can check our show notes, or the transcripts on valencepod dot com for a full list of content warnings and their timestamps. It’s important to take care of yourself — especially here in New Candler.
[[theme music – bright, synthy beat with airy, flowing strings that fade into a brief moment of a darker synth more reminiscent of the Season 1 theme]]
INT. THE APARTMENT BUILDING – MORNING
LIAM lays in his bed, still/again.
FLYNN: [Through the door] Liam? You awake? It’s like 2 in the afternoon.
LIAM: I’m awake.
FLYNN: You gonna get up?
LIAM: I don’t see why I should.
FLYNN: Don’t you think just staying in bed is making you feel worse?
Flynn opens the door and steps into the room.
FLYNN: Bruh. You’re like an Animorph turning into a slug.
LIAM: [begrudgingly] Yes.
FLYNN: Dude, come on. Remember what Sol said about changing your situation if you don’t like it?
LIAM: True. You’re right.
FLYNN: Damn right I’m right.
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: Yes. Making changes. Cut your hair.
LIAM: Maybe I’ll go run some errands today.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Dye your hair.
Liam gets out of bed
Thank you for the inspiration, Flynn. I have decided that this will be a good day.
Um–okay! Well, good to hear!
LIAM’S INNER VOICE
You can’t just make that decision.
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE
Yes I can. Fuck you.
Subway transition to:
SCENE 1.2: HAIR SALON
LIAM sits in a salon chair while a hairdresser looks him over.
HAIRDRESSER: So, what were you thinking?
LIAM: I have no concept of what hair should look like on me.
HAIRDRESSER: Okay . . . well, I think we could take some length off, for sure. How would you feel about going just a touch darker?
LIAM: Extremely positive.
Snipping transition to:
SCENE 1.3: TATTOO PARLOR
TATTOO ARTIST: You’re lucky I had a no-show today–I don’t usually do walk-ins.
LIAM: I’m terribly grateful you’d take someone on such short notice.
TATTOO ARTIST: Eh, happy to help a guy out. So, just this little orchid on your wrist?
LIAM: Yes, thank you. In coral tones, please.
TATTOO ARTIST: Gotta admit, you don’t seem like a tiny coral orchid kinda guy.
LIAM: Ha. No, not, ah, not terribly. Hopefully this tattoo will serve as a reminder to be more like a friend of mine who was.
Buzzing transition to:
SCENE 1.4: BUYING PLANTS
FLORIST: So if you’re looking for something low-maintenance and not huge, I’d recommend probably this asparagus fern, this pancake plant, and maybe a peace lily–oh, wait, do you have any cats?
LIAM’S INNER VOICES, in chorus: A cat
LIAM: Not yet.
FLORIST: Um. Okay. Well, if you plan on having cats, definitely don’t get any lilies. Trust me — I know from experience
FLORIST: Here, let me show you the cast iron plants, too—
Leaves rustling transition to:
SCENE 1.5: SHELTER
LIAM walks around an animal shelter.
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: Well of course some muses still have familiars. Is that–is that anything? Just look for a tiny black kitten. Surely they have one—
SOAP: [In meows] EXCUSE ME. WHY ARE YOU INTRUDING.
LIAM: Oh! . . . Oh. [to the employee] Is–is this one okay? They look . . . decidedly not . . . okay.
EMPLOYEE: Oh, that’s just ol’ Soap. She’s fine, she’s just an asshole. She’s been here forever.
LIAM: Her–her name is Soap?
EMPLOYEE: Yeah, no clue why. No clue how she lost her eye, either.
SOAP: [In meows] IT IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.
LIAM: Will she attack if I try to pet her?
EMPLOYEE: Probably, to be honest!
LIAM: Can I–can I try anyway?
EMPLOYEE: As long as you promise not to sue us.
LIAM: Who would sue a shelter?
EMPLOYEE: In New Candler? Plenty of people. Trust me.
LIAM: Well, I promise I won’t.
SOAP: [In meows] ARE YOU GOING TO PET ME, OR WILL YOU JUST KEEP WASTING MY TIME?
Liam reaches out to pet Soap. Soap lets him, and purrs.
EMPLOYEE: Wow, aren’t you special?
LIAM: Yes I would like this cat please thank you.
FADE OUT on the sounds of Liam, Soap, and the other cats.
INT. THE APARTMENT BUILDING – AFTERNOON
Liam stands in the hallway in front of the apartment’s door, reeling as the past day’s worth of wild decisions actually sink in. He holds a cat carrier, complete with cat, but only a few idle scratches can be heard for now.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Well, go on then! Unlock the door! You’ll have to explain this all to Flynn and Sarah eventually!
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: It’ll be fine. It’ll be fine! It’s all good things! They’ll be fine with it.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Oh my god.
Liam takes a deep breath in.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Okay okay okay okay okay keys in lock—
He unlocks the door.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: —open the door—
He opens the door.
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: –and maybe smile to show that everything is fine?
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: That smile does not feel reassuring.
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: No time to worry now go go go!
Liam walks into the apartment. Sarah and Flynn, hanging out on the couch, both look at him.
FLYNN: Um . . . heyyyy, buddy . . .
SARAH: So which part of this are we gonna unpack first?
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Oh no.
FLYNN: You, um, you got a new haircut! It–
SARAH: And it looks like a new tattoo?
FLYNN: –looks nice!
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Oh no.
FLYNN: And very . . . not you.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Oh no.
FLYNN: But it looks nice!
SARAH: Also, that is a . . . cat?
SOAP: [In meows] HELLO. I AM THE KING OF HERE NOW.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Oh no.
SARAH: And a million plants.
FLYNN: You um, you doing okay, fam? Having a real normal one?
LIAM: I am doing fine.
FLYNN: . . . uh-huh.
SARAH: Sure you are.
LIAM: I know that it is not, um, mannerly to. Bring home. A cat. When you have roommates. And did not consult them about the, um, the. The cat acquisition.
FLYNN: [quietly] Catquisition . . .
SOAP: [In meows] SET ME DOWN, FOOL, FOR HERE I SHALL REIGN. WHO ARE THESE STRANGERS. YOU WILL PROTECT ME. I WILL PROTECT MYSELF.
LIAM: But I know we have all wanted to adopt a cat and I, um. I made an. Executive Decision.
SARAH: Are we, um, are we convinced that’s a cat, because–
LIAM: [Gasps] How dare you.
SARAH: I didn’t expect you to–okay, well, first off, I didn’t expect you to come home with a cat at all, let’s set that straight up top. But I really didn’t expect you to come home with a, um . . . a bright orange, uh . . . oh my god, is it missing an eye?
LIAM: She is missing an eye, and she will not stop yelling at me, and I love her, and she is perfect.
SARAH: Because she yells at you?
FLYNN: Nono, that tracks. Y’know how, like, monks in the Renaissance used to flagellate themselves? That’s kinda like what this is.
Flynn sighs. Soap hops up onto the sofa.
SOAP: [In meows] TWO NEW HUMANS. I PROPOSE A DEAL, AND YOU WOULD BE WISE TO ACCEPT: SHOULD YOU CHOOSE TO PET MINE FUR, I WILL, FOR THE TIME BEING, SHOW YOU MY TRUST. FOR NOW.
Flynn scritches Soap. She starts purring.
FLYNN: So, what are we going to name her?
LIAM: Oh, nono. She has a name.
LIAM: Her name is Soap.
LIAM: Well, I didn’t name her. It was her name at the shelter.
FLYNN: Liam, I don’t know if you know this, but it’s pretty normal for commoners like us to rename pets when we adopt them. You know they come with stupid names, right?
LIAM: (without a lick of irony) Pfft. Who are we to name a cat?
FLYNN: Ugh. Well, this isn’t really how I pictured getting a cat, but I’m glad you saved her from the shelter. I always get worried cats like this will just be there forever, alone, and that’s just fucked.
SARAH: So, what’s the “t’too”?
LIAM: Oh, ah. It’s.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: You failed him, don’t you miss him? How dare you miss him. As if you have the right.
LIAM: Just some, ah, small flowers. As a reminder of, to–to remind myself of the things Luis tried to teach me.
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: You don’t need to speak to yourself like that. You’re allowed to mourn a friend.
SARAH: Oh, nice.
FLYNN: Love it.
SOAP: [In meows] ME ME ME ME ME
FLYNN: Ok ok, I stopped for, like, a second!
Flynn laughs and resumes petting her. She resumes purring.
FLYNN: You sure you’re okay, Liam?
LIAM: (Sighs) No, I’m–I’m definitely not.
FLYNN: Yeah, I know. I was just trying to see if you would admit it out loud.
LIAM: And that’s so embarrassing.
FLYNN: It’s not–
LIAM: I mean that I am embarrassed by it, regardless of its objective levels of being embarrassing.
FLYNN: Okay. That’s fair.
LIAM: But these things did help. At least for today.
SARAH: Oh yeah. A post-breakup hair change is always killer. After my last breakup I got this, like, blue blue weave, and it felt great.
FLYNN: Remember that time I pierced my own eyebrow when I was getting over Anya?
SARAH: You pierced your own eyebrow?
FLYNN: Listen. I have not always been the smart man you see before you today.
SARAH: Can’t wait to see what you’ll do when you realize you have to let me go because you’ll never be as good as me at Tetris.
FLYNN: (Laughs) Mean!
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: You’ll never have this.
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: Don’t.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Your hair looks stupid.
LIAM: DOES MY HAIR LOOK STUPID
FLYNN: [cracking up] No, Liam. It looks good. It looks good!
SARAH: Yeah. It’s a good look, Liam.
SOAP: [in meows] I REQUIRE SUSTENANCE, YOU HEINOUS BEASTS.
LIAM: I . . . I should feed Soap. I’ll put her in my room for now so she doesn’t get too overwhelmed or, ah, destroy everything that matters. Th-thank you both for, ah. Hmm. Mm.
FLYNN: That’s what we’re here for. (laughing) Welcome home, Soap!
SOAP: [in meows] I SAID FOOD, YOU MONSTERS.
INT. FIRECREEK – EARLY MORNING
Early on a weekend morning, Firecreek is maybe a quarter full, fairly quiet. Light, jazzy music plays in the background as espresso machines start up for the day and patrons chat.
MAHIRA: Hey, Liam, did Sarah text you what she and Flynn want?
LIAM: I asked before I left the apartment — Sarah just said “sugar”, so . . . do with that what you will.
MAHIRA: [laugh] And Flynn?
LIAM: Nothing for him today.
MAHIRA: Did he say that?
LIAM: Not in words so much as . . . some kind of throat rattle? The two of them were up late working on The Icarus.
MAHIRA: Mmm, I’d still feel bad showing up without anything for him. Let’s get him a muffin or something. But I saw that they got Elisha’s blog post up last night! I gotta admit, I’m pretty impressed. I know I was down on the blog initially, but. Yeah.
LIAM: I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but hearing Flynn talk about it last night . . . there was something about him.
MAHIRA: You think he’s glad to be getting more actively involved?
LIAM: More than that, I think. He’s — the way he talks about it all makes me believe in what we’re doing a little more. It feels more real when he talks about his plans for–
BARISTA (Zoe): Can I help the next cust — oh! Hello again.
LIAM and MAHIRA step up to the counter
LIAM: H-hi. Good morning.
MAHIRA: Do you two know each other?
ZOE: [cheeky] Well, not nearly as well as I’d like. Do you want your usual?
LIAM: I thought I might . . . try something different?
LIAM fishes his wallet out of his pocket
MAHIRA: I can pay this time – you got it last time.
LIAM: Oh! Thank you. [to Zoe] Um, could I get. Hmm. A latte, I think. With an extra shot.
ZOE: Living on the edge today! Anything else?
MAHIRA: Yes, if we could add a quint shot with almond milk, a hot chocolate, a blueberry muffin, and . . . what do I want . . . a green tea latte, please.
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: [overlapping with the tail end of Mahira ordering] See everything’s fine you’re not thinking about the call with your sister, and you’re certainly not thinking about your miserable breakup at all you spent a day getting it all out of your system and now you have a cat and a tattoo and frankly far too many plants and oh no what if Soap is eating the plants the nursery said they were nontoxic but she could still get sick and then where would we be why did I think I was qualified to look after a living creature–
MAHIRA: Hey, Liam?
LIAM: [surprised noise]
MAHIRA: [laugh] You were kinda . . . staring a hole in the wall.
LIAM: My apologies — I got lost in thought.
MAHIRA: Our order came up while you were lost. Could you help me carry everything?
LIAM: Of course, let me just . . .
LIAM sets his things down (phone, wallet, book) and goes to take the drinks and bakery bag from MAHIRA
ZOE: Have a good day, ok?
LIAM: And you!
MAHIRA’s phone alarm goes off
MAHIRA: Shit, we’re late! Ok, you’ve got those, I’ll grab your stuff, and let’s run.
MAHIRA grabs the phone and the wallet. They hurry out the door.
INT. LIBRARY STUDY HALL – MORNING
The team is settling into their weekly meeting. MAHIRA hands everyone coffee from the carrier LIAM is still holding.
MAHIRA: . . . and Grace, here’s yours, standard too many shots–
FLYNN: . . . I mean, she’s pretty cute, to be honest.
SARAH: Yeah, not gonna lie–
MAHIRA: –Sarah, your hot chocolate–
SARAH: Oh, thanks–yeah, no, she’s actually pretty cute.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: You have to tell them.
SARAH: I mean, at least, in an ugly way.
SARAH leans over to show GRACE her phone.
GRACE: Well, your hair looks nice, even if your . . . your cat looks like shit, Liam.
FLYNN: Liam, didn’t you say you were gonna bring Luis’s book today? Did you forget it at home?
LIAM: [absently] I . . . hm. Must have.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: You have to tell them.
MAHIRA: And Flynn, we got a muffin for you. Hope blueberry’s ok?
FLYNN: Oh! Yeah, thanks!
FLYNN takes the container.
SARAH: Liam? You ok over there?
LIAM’S INNER: You’re a terrible liar.
GRACE: Let’s all take a seat and start the meeting. Unless you wanted to talk about something that isn’t work-related, Liam?
LIAM: Mm. No, no, it’s–let’s–yes, let’s start the meeting, I suppose.
The group sits down in their old, dorm-style chairs in the study room.
FLYNN: So, what’s up?
LIAM: I need to tell you all about a call I got.
MAHIRA: Who was it?
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Abandoned her, you abandoned her, left her behind, it’s your fault she’s with them, your fault . . .
LIAM: It, um. It was m–it–it was Noel.
GRACE: But you wanted to bring this up during the meeting?
LIAM: Yes. It wasn’t exactly a social call.
GRACE: What was the call about?
LIAM: She tried to, um, offer–offer me a job. At Halo.
MAHIRA laughs loudly.
SARAH: Let’s all just take a minute to think it over before saying anything.
GRACE: That’s interesting.
FLYNN: They can’t really think you’d go for it. Right?
LIAM: They–it–Noel didn’t seem to think I actually care about, ah, adv–advocating for muses. She seemed to think it was just something I did. Probably just for money.
MAHIRA: They think you’d risk your life for money?
LIAM: Or maybe for vengeance without the actual care for the “greater good” or whatever.
GRACE: They have to have reasons they’d want to employ you specifically.
MAHIRA: Well, not to bring this up, but . . . I mean, they are down at least one muse after what we did in their testing facility.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Murderer.
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: Self defense.
LIAM: I don’t know. Noel didn’t know either. She seemed to think it was ridiculous.
SARAH: I don’t trust any of this.
FLYNN: Liam, what do you think about it?
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: [quietly, muffled in the background] SAVE HER SAVE HER SAVE HER SAVE HER SAVE HER
LIAM: It–I–it’s ridiculous, isn’t it?
MAHIRA: Well yeah. Obviously.
GRACE: [the gears audibly turning in her head] Maybe.
MAHIRA: Pfffff. Come on, Grace.
GRACE: It would be nice to have someone on the inside.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: It’s a trap, obviously.
FLYNN: And that person is supposed to be Liam??
GRACE: Well, we don’t exactly have any other options.
SARAH: This is definitely a trap. That’s obvious, right? That this is obviously some kind of ploy?
There’s simultaneous agreement between everyone in the group.
SARAH: So? We’re supposed to just go for that? We’re supposed to just send Liam into a trap?
MAHIRA: Yeah, I don’t think so. Pass.
GRACE: Even if it’s just a quick look behind the scenes. It might be good to just get more names of people who work there.
SARAH: I can get that. I have gotten that. There’s nothing that Liam could get that I couldn’t.
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: SAVE HER SAVE HER SAVE HER SAVE HER
LIAM: But–but what if I could?
SARAH: Like what?
LIAM: What if–what if I say yes? And I stay there? And–and maybe I just, maybe I convince them that what Noel thinks is true? And what if I do work from the inside of it and bring information back?
LIAM: There’s no reason they’d need to trap me. They–if they wanted to kidnap me or kill me or do anything else, they know where I am. It would be easy. They know that. They must want me for a reason, and–and maybe we should know what that is. And if they’re foolish enough to think I’ll side with them, shouldn’t we take advantage of this?
MAHIRA: It’s too dangerous.
FLYNN: Liam, I have to ask–is this about Noel?
LIAM: No. Well–yes. A little. I don’t know. Some of it is because of Noel. I suppose I shouldn’t lie about that. Ugh, Flynn, it’s so much harder to lie to the team about having feelings with you here.
FLYNN: Good! I should be here all the time, then!
GRACE: What a good addition to the team.
LIAM: But it’s also–well, frankly, when I was saying all of that, I was sort of just talking, but it’s–it’s something, isn’t it?
SARAH: It’s something. I don’t know if it’s a good something, or a smart something, but it’s something.
GRACE: And it’s more than we’ve been doing.
MAHIRA: This is ridiculous.
MAHIRA: No, I didn’t–don’t do that. Don’t do the self-deprecating joke thing you do. This is actually ridiculous. I’m not okay with any part of this plan.
FLYNN: I mean, neither am I. I don’t think any of us are.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: You’re going to get killed. You’re really thinking about going through with this? You’re an idiot.
SARAH: Maybe Liam has a point, though. They wouldn’t really need to trap him. And maybe–ugh–maybe he could get something out of them, if you and I help train him, Mahira. I could help him figure out how to get into their system. You could help him be, like, an actual spy.
MAHIRA: I’m not losing another friend to them.
A tense beat.
LIAM: I know this isn’t what you mean, Mahira, but–I–I don’t think we’re without that risk as long as they’re operating.
MAHIRA: You know that’s different. You just said you know that.
LIAM: I just . . . I don’t want to stop. I don’t want–I don’t want to feel like we’ve failed. I don’t want us to give up. I won’t ever be able to rest until I’ve done everything I can to make up for my–to–to stop them. I just. I know what working with you all means. I know the risks. I have accepted them. And not just because of . . . how I am. But because I can’t let them keep doing this. And if there’s even the slightest chance of doing that, would you turn it down?
LIAM: I know you, Mahira. Were this you–were this your brother, you’d go in in a heartbeat. Without question. Not without a plan, but without question.
MAHIRA: [sigh] That’s different.
LIAM: Is it?
MAHIRA: . . . well, yeah, Liam. It . . . I think it is. You were older than me when you got out, but Rahat and I were — we were close. We did everything together, and we told each other everything. You may have been in the same house as Noel longer, but you can’t tell me you really interacted once you were —
MAHIRA: [sigh] I’m going to remove myself from a vote here. But if you go through with it, I’m going to double down on training you in magic so that you can defend yourself. And yeah, Sarah, I’m gonna teach him how to actually spy too.
GRACE: So–a vote?
LIAM: I suppose.
GRACE: Alright. All those in favor of Liam going to work at Halo? I’ll go first: aye.
SARAH: . . . Aye, I guess.
FLYNN: No. No!
FLYNN: Liam, you’re sure?
LIAM: I–I have to try to help her, Flynn. This might be the only way.
FLYNN: But what if–what if she’s not–
LIAM: Don’t. I have to try. You know I do.
FLYNN: Yeah. You’re right. I mean, I hate it, but I know you’re right.
GRACE: Well. Then I guess it’s decided. Liam, thank you for making this choice. I’m excited to see what you can find.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: It’s a trap.
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: You can save her.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: You can’t.
LIAM: I suppose we’ll see. Should I–should I call her?
SARAH: If she tracks the call, I don’t think there’d be any suspicion about you being here with us. Another perk of meeting in a library.
GRACE: If you think you can sound natural with us here, go for it.
Liam dials Noel.
NOEL: [Over the phone] Well, this is a surprise. And here I thought it’d be another sixteen years.
LIAM: Mm. Ow.
NOEL: Go on.
LIAM: Is the offer still on the table?
LIAM: And if I were to accept, I’d work with you directly?
NOEL: So it seems.
LIAM: And nobody there would–would judge me for being a maven?
NOEL: Since when do you say”maven”?
LIAM: You–you know I don’t like being this.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: You’re a terrible liar, but this is hardly lying. You’ll do just fine.
NOEL: Nobody would judge you as long as you wear a Halo when your abilities aren’t needed. Everyone there knows we require it for what we do.
LIAM: And what–what exactly is that, the work I’d be doing?
NOEL: I literally cannot answer that question over the phone before you’ve signed a contract and an NDA.
NOEL: Can I go now?
LIAM: I–when should I be in?
LIAM: When should I be in, to start work?
LIAM: I’m saying yes.
NOEL: What? Why? I mean–it’s just–I’m surprised.
LIAM: I need the money. And I miss you.
NOEL: And you’re willing to just . . . give up on everything you’ve done for that.
LIAM: I thought you said you didn’t think I cared about any of that.
NOEL: I don’t know! I don’t–I don’t really know you, Liam.
LIAM: Well. Now you can. When do I start?
A LIMINAL SPACE – LATE AFTERNOON
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Okay. Elisha’s post on The Icarus. All you have to do is read it. Allll you have to do is read it. You just need to stay informed. And this is how you stay informed.
SFX: faint typing at the beginning, fades out. Just enough to establish that this is Elisha’s blog post. The audience is now in Elisha’s inner voice, in Elisha’s memories.
ELISHA: If this blog post gets me murdered, I think I’m owed an “I told you so”. Put that on my obit. But on the off chance it doesn’t . . . I feel like I have to share my story.
How do I even start this? How do I even begin to explain the things that happened to me, that were done to me, for the sake of, what? Money? “Progress”?
Halo paints itself as a source of goodness, of safety, of reclaiming your autonomy, free from worry. That is not an accident. Even after the stories splashed across the news about the secret testing facility with muses locked up like lab rats, they’re trying to preserve that narrative. You’ll see conspiracy theories online that it was only the dangerous, violent muses who were locked up, and that Halo was making everyone safer with that program.
I was one of those muses. I was locked in a room about the size of a queen mattress, let out only to be escorted to endless tests by armed guards, and then escorted back. No contact with the outside world. No idea if my friends and family thought I was dead. No clue if they’d been told I was dead. All because I had magic.
[Her voice cracks with emotion] I don’t anymore. They took it — she took it. I don’t know how — it shouldn’t be possible. If anyone knows how that’s possible, please contact the people running this blog. Somehow, Morgan Reilley has developed technology that can take away people’s magic, and we need to get the word out to stop her.
I wasn’t dangerous. My magic’s focus was healing. I was a walking first aid kit. I can’t explain Halo kidnapping a muse whose main use for her magic was patching up friends who cut themselves in the kitchen, or who drank a little too much and were feeling it the morning after. And I don’t have a powerful or influential job. I’m a sculptor, and I taught pottery part-time at a community center. What made me dangerous enough to be a target for Morgan Reilley?
The only answer I can come up with is that I had any magic at all. If you are a muse, no matter how big or small your power, no matter how you use it, no matter where you are, your magic makes you a target.
I was a target.
You are a target.
Protect yourself. Protect your magic.
Valence is a Hug House production. You can find more information at Hug House dot Productions.
VALENCE is created by me, Wil Williams. This episode was written, edited, and sound designed by Wil Williams. This episode was directed by Anne Baird and Katie Youmans, and produced by Anne Baird.
This episode was performed by, in order of appearance:
-Josh Rubino as Liam and Liam’s Inner Voices,
-Caleb del Rio as Flynn Velasco,
-Julie Cleburn as the hairdresser,
-Vyn Vox as the tattoo artist,
-Bennett Medi as the florist,
-Mads Upton as the shelter employee,
-Sable as Soap,
-Jordan Cobb as Sarah Harris,
-Ishani Kanetkar as Mahira Varma,
-Miracle Fonmanu as Zoe Kafoa,
-Katie Chin as Grace Chen,
-Alex Welch as Noel Alden,
-and Maddison Dabbs-Petty as Elisha Dawes
Hoo. This was a hefty one, huh!
-Our theme music for season 2 was written and performed by Travis Reaves,
-with production from Raul Vega.
-Other music is provided by Loyalty Freak Music, a trans composer who rules and makes music people can use for free. You can find their work at loyaltyfreakmusic.com.
-You can find our full cast list and information on how to support this indie podcast on valencepod dot com. There, you can find a link to our Patreon, and if you support us monthly, you’ll have access to a super special edition of this podcast: the Soap Cut. It’s where instead of Sable playing Soap, *I* wil play Soap, with her lines written as they are in the script instead of meows. It’s bound to be… something. Very loud!
-Until next time, protect your magic.