SEASON 2, EPISODE 5
RELEASE DATE: 04/03/2021
Liam’s nervous–but in, you know, new ways. Liam gets a new name. The boys go shopping.
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.
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, we recommend “The Brilliant Death” by Amy Rose Capetta.
- 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 Katie Youmans and Wil Williams, with story consulting from Caleb Del Rio.
Performances by, in order of appearance:
- Josh Rubino as Liam Alden and Liam’s Inner Voice,
- Miracle Fonmanu as Zoe Kafoa,
- Alex Welch as Noel Alden,
- Michael Schubert as Todd from Accounting,
- Richie Ammons as Halo Security Officer,
- Sarah Evins as Test Subject N-414,
- Jordan Cobb as Sarah Harris,
- Katie Chin as Grace Chen,
- Ishani Kanetkar as Mahira Varma,
- Caleb Del Rio as Flynn Velasco,
- Maddison Dabbs-Petty as Elisha Dawes,
- Rue Dickey as the Shopkeep, and
- Tal Minear as Ash
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[[A door handle turns and clicks open. Soft wind chimes tinkle.]]
ANNE: Brought to you by Hug House Productions
AD (WIL): VALENCE is brought to you by Changing Hands, a local indie bookstore here in Phoenix that does a lot of great work–and ships nationally. My recommendation this week is The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta… which I swear I read well after writing Nico. Here’s the summary from the back of the book…
“All her life, Teodora has hidden the fact that she secretly turns her family’s enemies into music boxes, mirrors, and other decorative objects. After all, everyone in Vinalia knows that stregas—wielders of magic—are figures out of fairytales. Nobody believes they’re real.
Then the Capo, the land’s new ruler, sends poisoned letters to the heads of the Five Families that have long controlled Vinalia. Four lie dead and Teo’s beloved father is gravely ill. To save him, Teo must travel to the capital as a DiSangro son—not merely disguised as a boy, but transformed into one.
Enter Cielo, a strega who can turn back and forth between male and female as effortlessly as turning a page in a book. Teo and Cielo journey together to the capital, and Teo struggles to master her powers and to keep her growing feelings for Cielo locked in her heart. As she falls in love with the witty, irascible Cielo, Teo realizes how much of life she’s missed by hiding her true nature. But she can’t forget her mission, and the closer they get to the palace, the more sinister secrets they uncover about what’s really going on in their beloved country—and the more determined Teo becomes to save her family at any cost.”
The Brilliant Death is lush, whimsical, suspenseful, queer, and horny as hell. It’s maybe my favorite book, especially when combined with its sequel, “The Storm of Life.” These books are, to date, the only depiction of gender that makes me feel understood.
You can find The Brilliant Death at Changing Hands by using our link, bit/ly/hhchanginghands. That’s bit.ly/hh–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. FIRECREEK COFFEE – EARLY MORNING
The morning rush has barely begun – there is sleepy, quiet chatter and sounds of the espresso machine over soft, Fiona Apple type music.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Two cappuccinos, a ginger scone, and the book. Two cappuccinos, a ginger scone, and the book. Just mention the book casually. You left it here and you need it back it belonged to a friend and you left it here and it’s not a big deal yes it’s about how to use magic but it’s not a big deal two cappuccinos a ginger scone and the book . . .
ZOE: Hey, nice to see you again! You feeling adventurous again, or is it back to the cappuccino?
LIAM: [caught by surprise] Two! . . . two cappuccinos. And a ginger scone. And-
ZOE: Oh! And you forgot your book here yesterday. Let me ring you up, and the customer behind you, and then I can get it from my locker, yeah?
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Why are you blushing?
LIAM: That-that would be great! Thank you.
ZOE: No trouble at all. That’ll be $12.23.
LIAM taps his phone on the pad, the machine chimes that the payment went through.
ZOE: Perfect, those should be ready in just a minute.
[calling to the next person in line] Can I help who’s next?
LIAM shuffles over to wait for his order when his phone buzzes – a text message.
LIAM: [softly, to himself] Hmm? From Noel . . .
NOEL: [narrating the text] Liam, please arrive 10 minutes early if possible. I will need to debrief you before we begin our day. Thank you.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: This is when they fire you and kill you because they know you’re a spy.
LIAM starts fidgeting impatiently. The hubbub in the shop grows louder, more oppressively close in the mix, until-
ZOE: Hey, you alright in there?
ZOE: [laugh] You looked a million miles away — anyways, I’ve got your order.
ZOE sets down the cups and bag. She starts walking towards the employee lockers in the back room, and LIAM follows.
ZOE: So let’s get your book. C’mon, it’s back in my locker. I figured that was the safest place for it. Most everybody who works here is pretty chill, but like. Why risk finding out someone’s been a secret asshole all along? You know what I mean?
LIAM: I . . . do? Thank you. For looking after it for me.
ZOE: No problem!
ZOE opening her locker, rifling through it, pulling out the book
ZOE: I’ve been wanting to talk to you for ages, but never got up the nerve before now, so maybe I should be thanking you! I think it’s so cool you’re comfortable being so open about your magic, about how you’re trying to learn more! You don’t really see that a lot anymore. And I just–
[she notices his Halo and is audibly crestfallen] You . . . you’ve got a Halo?
LIAM: Oh! I–yes–well, it’s for my–it’s not because I don’t want to cast magic or-
ZOE: No, you don’t need to explain or anything. It’s not really my business anyways what you do or don’t do with magic. After all, we don’t even know each other, do we?
LIAM’s phone chimes with another text message.
LIAM: Sorry, I have to — I’m running late for work…
ZOE: No, yeah, of course. Here you go. I guess I’ll see you around.
LIAM: That’s — yes, I’m sorry. I’ll — goodbye.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Good job, idiot.
CWs: Medical testing (9:00-12:45), oppression, familial trauma throughout
INT. HALO INC HQ – MORNING
LIAM walking up to the front, fumbling with the coffees and bag
LIAM: [frustrated grumbles]
TODD FROM ACCOUNTING: Oh, hey, let me get that for you!
pulling open the massive glass door, two sets of footsteps into the foyer and towards the elevator bank, slight echo off of the high ceilings
LIAM: Ah, thank you, . . . ?
TODD: Todd, from up in Accounting. No problem, man! Happy to–wait, you’re Alden, right? Liam, that is. [laugh] So many Aldens here. Or . . . wait, nah, just you and Noel I guess. Haven’t seen Richard in a minute.
LIAM: [attempting to play it cool and get more info] Oh? I suppose you’re right–not since the, um . . .
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Not since he broke into your home with a Haven? Hmm?
TODD mashing the call elevator button as he speaks. It dings partway through him talking, and the doors slide open.
TODD: The benefit, yeah. He hasn’t shown up to the office since then, at least. Maybe he’s off wooing investors or something. Hell if I know.
What floor do you need?
TODD: You got it.
TODD hits two buttons, his floor and Liam’s. The doors slide closed.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: He mentioned Reilley wasn’t trusting him with anything anymore, and Sarah mentioned the lack of emails. Did something happen to him, or did he just go?
elevator ding, doors open, TODD steps out
TODD: Take it easy!
LIAM: Y-you too.
doors close, elevator whir, doors open, LIAM steps out
NOEL: Ah, Liam, there you are.
LIAM: You were waiting by the elevators?
NOEL: Of course not. I was heading towards the break room to get a–you’re holding two coffees.
LIAM: I am. One of them’s for you. And-and the scone. I didn’t know if you still like ginger, but I took a guess.
NOEL: [taken aback] Why?
LIAM: Why what?
NOEL: Why did you bring me coffee and a scone?
LIAM: I . . . wanted to? I thought it would be nice.
NOEL: [deciding how to feel about this, settling on touched] Oh. Then . . . thank you.
[back to business] But we’ll have to have these as we walk. Follow me. There’s a few things I’ll need to go over with you before we start.
LIAM: Start what?
NOEL: The research part of Research & Development.
NOEL takes a sip of her coffee and sets off walking down the hall at a brisk pace, her heels clacking on the flooring. LIAM hurries to keep up.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Absolutely hate the sound of that.
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: This was why you agreed to work here at all. To get more info on the inner workings of the company. And maybe to try to save her.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: If she even wants to be saved.
NOEL: Here we are. Let me show you how to badge in. Hold up your Halo to the sensor. Just there, by the door.
LIAM: My Halo?
NOEL: The signal has been registered to your employee profile — we use it to give people access to certain areas of the building.
LIAM raises his wrist to the sensor and there’s a small, pleasant tone. The door unlocks, and NOEL pushes it open. LIAM follows after her. They stop at another door a few meters down the hall.
NOEL: And one more — let me.
NOEL holds up her wrist to another sensor and there’s that same tone. The door unlocks. LIAM’s heartbeat gradually grows louder.
NOEL: Don’t hold your Halo up to that one. You don’t have clearance to be in there unaccompanied. I–hmm. I’m not actually sure what would happen if you tried it. But obviously, it wouldn’t unlock. Follow me, please.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Where the hell is she taking you what is this for she said research they’re going to lock you up and test on you this whole thing was a ruse get out get out get out
LIAM: So, is this the–
NOEL: This is one of the places where we do our final phase of testing for Halos and Havens. We don’t keep anyone in here, in case you have any grand plans to give a repeat performance of that night a few months back.
LIAM: I–I see.
At the end of the hall, NOEL unlocks another door with her HALO and they both step through. It’s a room that looks like a smallish meeting room — a table, four chairs, and a laptop.
NOEL: Have a seat. You can start looking through this-
She sets a file folder down on the table. LIAM pulls out one of the chairs slowly and sits.
NOEL: -to familiarize yourself before they come in. We’ll be seeing a minor Maven today. I thought it wise to start you small, and see how you do before moving you up to majors.
Page flipping as LIAM skims the file. LIAM’s heartbeat gets louder, more rapid, closer in the mix
LIAM: Is there anything I should know that isn’t covered in this file?
NOEL: You will be referred to as Glass. She might refer to me as Bloom, and you should only use that to identify me. You can call her N-414. She’s a minor magic user. She has the ability to make sparks, but they aren’t potent enough to affect someone much more than any other static.
LIAM: Why the codenames?
NOEL: It’s-it’s part of the terms of our arrangement with volunteers. Both for them and for us. They come in, help us with testing new devices, they leave, we deposit compensation for their time into their bank accounts. All of their information is encrypted so we can’t access personal data. It’s mutually beneficial.
LIAM: But why Glass? Why Bloom?
NOEL: It’s based on the color of our magic. Yours is Aqua Glass. Mine is Winter Bloom. They’re part of a standardized color system.
LIAM: It all sounds very clinical.
NOEL: What did you expect?
Two sets of footsteps down the hall, and a brisk knock at the door. NOEL opens the door.
SECURITY OFFICER: N-414 is here for you, ma’am.
NOEL: Thank you. I’ll let you know when she’s ready to be escorted back down.
A young woman, test subject N-414, walks into the room and takes a seat at the table opposite LIAM. NOEL closes the door and the lock re-engages.
N-414: [chipper] Oh, hi there! Good morning, Mr . . . ?
LIAM: Glass. Mr. Glass.
N-414: Glass, it is! I’ve always met with Ms. Bloom alone before — are you new?
NOEL: Mr. Glass is new, yes, so he’s here in a learning capacity. Do you mind if he sits in?
N-414: Oh, no, not at all. Ah, what do you have for me today?
NOEL: We’re testing a new version of the device we released recently — the Haven. Are you familiar?
N-414: Of course! I follow you all on social media, so I saw the post about the first gen release. I would love to have one once there’s a home version. Oh! Is that what we’re testing today?
NOEL: A prototype of it, yes. Could I ask you to remove your Halo so we can begin the test?
N-414: [uneasy giggle] I always forget I’m wearing it — it’s such a part of me by now. Let me just . . .
She slips off the Halo and sets it on the table with a soft clink. NOEL activates the Haven, and the same pleasant tone from the gen 1 version sounds.
LIAM: N-414, could you please attempt to produce a few sparks? Your file says that’s how your magic manifests.
NOEL: [soft, approving noise]
N-414: Sure thing.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: So eager to win over your sister that you jump headfirst into this nightmare, testing random innocent muses, figuring out how to make Reilley’s tech even more effective at controlling people just. Like. You.
A magic crackle — similar to how sparklers sound — that is quickly cut off by the Haven, and the pleasant tone sounds. NOEL types a few notes on the laptop.
NOEL: [thoughtful hmm]
N-414: Should I try again?
LIAM: Would you be able to try it at varying intensities? Smaller and larger sparks?
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Traitor.
N-414: I think I can do that . . .
The same magic crackle and the gentle thud of the magic being halted.
INT. LIBRARY STUDY ROOM
LIAM: . . . and it seemed like the Haven responded with varying levels, adjusted based on what she was throwing at it, so it suppressed it completely without causing her any discomfort.
SARAH: Fascinating. I mean, it makes sense that they’d be working on home models already — the office ones keep selling out and there’s a three-month waitlist right now.
MAHIRA: I don’t like this.
ELISHA: [over the phone] Well, yeah, none of us do. Least of all the one of us who saw the uglier side of those tests that didn’t involve simple afternoon visits and paychecks.
MAHIRA: That — ok, yes, absolutely that. But this situation feels really off to me. There’s no way the benefits outweigh the risks.
GRACE: You’ve made this clear already. I need you to explain why you’re so against all of this? Is it because you’re worried Liam will slip up?
LIAM: I’m hardly a new recruit by now — can-can you please just trust me?
MAHIRA: [clearly struggling to articulate precisely why she’s upset] It’s not that! Or, at least, not in the way you think. It’s . . . it’s complicated. Ok?
SARAH: It’s the sibling thing.
MAHIRA: Yeah. Probably.
LIAM: The . . . sibling thing? Are you worried because of Noel? Because we can’t trust her yet?
MAHIRA: I’m worried because you just said “yet”, Liam. You want so badly to save her — it’s clear as day — and I don’t blame you, because I would give anything to get a chance to save Rahat, but with Noel . . . she hasn’t given you any indication that she wants to be saved. You’re going to let your guilt eat you alive, and I worry that you’re going to do things because of it. Things you can’t take back, and I worry that you’ll regret them.
[a beat] I worry we’ll all regret them.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Of all the selfish, overbearing, insulting, callous, condescending . . .
LIAM: [frustrated] And what would you suggest we do instead? Would you recommend I simply stop showing up? Stop talking to Noel while I’m there? That’s good! That I wear an earpiece and communicate with you all the entire time?
MAHIRA: I don’t know, Liam! [frustrated sigh] I don’t know. There’s no good choices here.
FLYNN: Liam’s smart, and I trust him to let us know if it gets to be too much for him.
SARAH: I don’t hate the earpiece idea, though.
LIAM: I was being hyperbolic!
SARAH: [shrug noise] Hey, listen . . .
GRACE: I think everyone has made valid points. For now, Liam, the information you are getting feels valuable enough to be worthwhile.
LIAM: Thank you.
GRACE: That said, I want daily reports on what you learned, as well as on your emotional and mental state. There may come a point when your attachment to Noel makes this too risky to continue.
GRACE: And when that time comes, I want us to be ready and have plans in place. I don’t want us to be taken by surprise, and I have no desire to reopen past wounds.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: They don’t trust you not to turn. They think you’re weak and foolish.
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: They’re concerned about your wellbeing, which is a completely normal thing for friends and coworkers.
LIAM: I . . . am amenable to this. If you all think it important to do so.
MAHIRA: It’ll do for now.
FLYNN: It sounds like a pretty fair balance.
SARAH: Just. Just make sure you keep the reports in a safe place. Our replacement phone budget isn’t what it was.
GRACE: [claps her hands together] Then it’s decided. Alright, unless anyone has any further questions, I’d like to break for the evening.
FLYNN: Ooh, same, I just got a notification that my new game was delivered.
SARAH packs up her laptop into her backpack, other general shuffling and packing up sounds
SARAH: Ooh, let me know if it’s any good. I’m holding off until the DLC is released too.
FLYNN: Can’t you just . . . get it early on the darkweb or something? Is PirateBay still running?
SARAH: Excuse you! I support small businesses! I would never steal from an indie game company. . . . but yeah, I could.
Sounds of the team standing up from chairs, opening the door, walking out
LIAM: Could we stop at that place on Sorrel on our way home?
FLYNN: Oooh… kebabs tonight? Yeah, sounds good to me.
ELISHA: [over the phone] Hey, I think I know that place? Ooh, there’s a queer-owned magic shop nearby you should check out, if it’s still there. We should really be making connections with muses if we want any of our work to grow. Also, like, to be honest, I just want you to give them money. They’re amazing. It’s called–okay bear with me–it’s called Pane in the Glass.
LIAM: Oh, lord.
FLYNN: Oh hell yes.
ELISHA: Tell them I say hi! Okay, later everyone.
Elisha hangs up.
SARAH: Will you bring me something home? I’m kinda not in the mood for people-ing any more today. I’m sure they’re nice, I just—
FLYNN: You got it.
LIAM: The usual?
SARAH: Yyyeah. Yeah. Thanks, guys.
LIAM: Trust me, I understand.
FLYNN: Don’t go playing my game while we’re gone!
SARAH: Oooh, just try and stop me. This was my plan all along! Ha ha! No I’m just kidding I just wanna read a book you’re good.
FLYNN: And as if I’d actually care. Alright, Liam, you set?
LIAM: [strained sounding] Mmhm.
The two leave.
FLYNN: You seem tense. Worried about the magic shop?
LIAM: I just–I just think it’s surreal that they can openly sell things like that. And besides, isn’t it all a fake money grab? Little trinkets don’t actually work like that.
FLYNN: [huffs] Liam, you’ve still got some shit to unlearn. No, it’s not a money grab. Who do — who do you think would call a muse business a money grab that sells fake shit?
LIAM: [sighs] People who hate muses.
FLYNN: And you literally just, like, figured your magic out. Don’t talk shit about people who have been doing it for longer than you.
LIAM: You’re right. You’re right. Okay. Let’s go.
CWs: References to the policing of trans people, dysphoria (20:25-21:10)
INT. PANE IN THE GLASS
Wind-chime noises, chill music. A shop door opens with a ding.
SHOPKEEP: Hi, welcome in.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: It’s fine. This is fine. It’s normal. Elisha says this shop has been here for years. It’s normal. Nobody is going to hurt you or anyone else.
SHOPKEEP: Let me know if you have any questions.
FLYNN: Do you have any wards for an apartment?
SHOPKEEP: Yeah, a bunch! They’re right over here. Our smite uses Black Tourmaline for those, usually.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Wait, they can sell that? I thought it was just fake love spells for teens who don’t understand consent.
The three walk over to a table on the right side of the store.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Black Tourmaline. That sounds so pretentious. They’re probably just charging for the stone itself without it actually working. It’s a money-grab!
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: Listen to yourself.
SHOPKEEP: So, we have them categorized by size. Depending on your square footage, you can get away with something kinda small, like this little turtle—
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: Oh no I love it
SHOPKEEP: –so you’re not paying for more than you need.
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: They’re not going to try to upsell?
FLYNN: What if you, like . . . really need to keep some shit away from your place?
SHOPKEEP: You could get a bigger one or double up.
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: I love it it’s so cute
LIAM: Can we get, like, five of those?
SHOPKEEP: [laughs] You must have a huge place or some really strong enemies!
An awkward beat.
SHOPKEEP: Oh. Um. Yeah, I’ll–I’ll grab you, um, I’ll grab you five. I think we have some more behind the counter.
They walk back to the counter
FLYNN: And, um, do you have anything for, like . . . helping with dysphoria?
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: TOO DANGEROUS
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: He knows what he’s doing.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: TOO DANGEROUS
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: You don’t get to have an opinion on this!
SHOPKEEP: Yeah! I can actually show you what I’ve been using. It’s not perfect. There’s some side effects. And it’s not, um, it’s not not legal, but it’s not legal, either. But like . . .
Shopkeep pulls a few jangly enamel pins and pieces of citrine from under the counter
SHOPKEEP: It’s kind of a two-part system. The crystal charges, and the crystal’s linked to the pin. If you wear the pin, it’ll act as a glamour. Which is why non-muses don’t like it.
FLYNN: Yep! Yep. So. I’m not a muse–how do I make this thing work?
SHOPKEEP: Totally fine. I’m not either. You charge up the crystal under the moon–you got a fire escape?
SHOPKEEP: That’ll work if you’ve got some good headphones.
FLYNN: Yeah, I got that good noise-cancelling shit.
SHOPKEEP: Good. Because you have to hold the crystal and meditate. And that can be really hard in the city. So, hold it and meditate and really think about what changes would be affirming to you. Once you’ve done that, let that get hit by the moonlight until the morning.
FLYNN: So, hold it and meditate all night?
SHOPKEEP: Yeah. It sucks, but the results are pretty worth it.
FLYNN: For sure. How long does that last?
SHOPKEEP: You have to charge the crystal up each full moon.
FLYNN: Okay. Doable.
SHOPKEEP: And it’s not, like, permanent. It’s a glamour, so it’s just like being really good at contour or whatever. I’m using it to hold me over, but the smite here has told me it’s probably not wise as a forever thing. It’s not like we can run clinical studies on the lasting effects or anything. And the side effects have been pretty minimal for me, but they might not be for you. It’s the reason my hair is red.
FLYNN: I won’t have to buy dye anymore?!
SHOPKEEP: Maybe. And not all of the side effects are fun. Sometimes excess magic bounces off of you, and that can be dangerous. And sometimes the magic slips a little, which—
FLYNN: Can also be dangerous.
FLYNN: Got it. Thank you.
SHOPKEEP: You want to pick a pin out still?
FLYNN: Yes, definitely.
SHOPKEEP: Go for it. Those are all of the ones we have in stock right now, but sometimes we change them out for newer pins. I’ll start ringing up your, um, five wards.
FLYNN: Oh dope. Liam, help me pick out a pin!
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: Look at how happy he is.
LIAM: I’d love to.
FLYNN: Oooh, this one’s got a little FROG!
LIAM: Thank you for convincing me to come here. I’m really glad we did.
FLYNN: Yeah. Me too. Thank you. IS THAT PIZZA RAT?? [excited gasp] And look at the moogle!
[fade out on Flynn still rummaging through the pins]
EXT. STREET OUTSIDE FIRECREEK, EARLY MORNING
Pouring rain, early morning hubbub, occasional car rumbling by on the slick streets, LIAM passes a shop blasting their radio
LIAM walking towards the door and pulling it open, door bell chiming
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Just play it cool for once in your exhausting life. Please. Try not to come off like a serial killer.
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: Come on, you’re not that bad at human interaction. . . . anymore. . . . most of the time.
The door closes and LIAM walks up to the counter. The coffeeshop is nearly empty this early, and you can hear the water dripping off of his coat and onto the hardwood floor.
ZOE: [surprised, not at all excited] Oh, you’re here early.
LIAM: I — sorry.
ZOE: No, no, it-it’s fine. Did you want your usual? Or the two and the scone again?
LIAM: Just, ah. Just the usual, please. And to apologize. And to thank you better?
LIAM digs out his phone and taps it on the payment machine thing.
ZOE: Seriously, you don’t have to apologize.
LIAM: No, I know. I just. I would like to. Or at least, to explain? The, um . . .
LIAM raises his hand and pushes up the sleeve to show the Halo
ZOE: [realizing he’s not going to drop the issue, but also a little curious] Hm . . . I can take my five in a second. You’re lucky we’re pretty dead right now. [to her coworker] Ash, can you hold his order once it’s ready? We’ll be right back.
ASH: Yeah, sure.
ZOE: Thanks. [to Liam] Ok, follow me.
ZOE walks quickly from behind the counter and down the same small EMPLOYEES ONLY corridor as before, opening the door that leads to the alley behind. LIAM hurries to follow, wet shoes squeaking on the tile. Outside, it’s still pouring rain, but they’re under a metal awning. The door shuts loudly behind them.
ZOE: Ok, I’m all ears.
LIAM: Right, yes. So, I wanted to thank you properly for keeping the book safe. It belonged to a friend.
ZOE: Belonged? [an uncomfortable silence] Oh.
LIAM: Yes. He-he’s one of the reasons I’m as comfortable with magic as I am, which . . . still isn’t much. But that’s not why I have the Halo. I have it because I-
ZOE: Hey, so, before you spill your guts to me any more, I’m realizing I don’t actually know your name. And that’s starting to feel a little weird to me, because like. Yeah, you’re a regular and all, but we’ve always just called you The Man In Black.
LIAM: You- [small, surprised laugh] You have a nickname for me?
ZOE: Well, yeah. We’ve got nicknames for all the regulars. Yours just happened to be one of the nicer ones.
LIAM: Why’s that?
ZOE: Well, you always tip well, and also you look like a little lost puppy when sitting by yourself.
[leaning in like it’s a secret] Some girls live for that shit.
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: Is this flirting? Is she flirting with me?
LIAM: That–that doesn’t sound right.
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: How would you know — Nico was your most recent example of flirting and that mostly consisted of [Nico impression] Hey Vamps, let’s go do crimes and get high and make out in a filthy alley or some shit.
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: We are in a filthy alley at the moment . . .
ZOE: [laugh] Mhmm, I’m pretty sure at least one of the baristas here thinks you’re pretty fucking intriguing.
LIAM: Oh, do they?
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: [still sounding suspiciously like Nico] Wow, Vamps, you moved on from me real fast, huh?
ZOE: Yup. She has it real bad, too. Like, memorizing your order and using up her break on you and-
LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: Let me be impulsive for once?
LIAM: Your drinks aren’t the only hot thing at Firecreek
LIAM’S INNER VOICE: [slow clap]
ZOE: Oh! [surprised noise as she audibly recoils] Sorry, I-I mean, yeah, I was talking about me, obviously, but . . . like, maybe start smaller??
LIAM: Oh I’m so sorry of course, that was completely out of line–
ZOE: But I wouldn’t mind if you asked me to drinks tonight, and then made a move after. Just so you know.
LIAM: I . . . would really like that.
ZOE: [cheeky] Then you should ask.
LIAM: Oh! Would–would you like to go out for drinks tonight?
ZOE: You’ve talked me into it.
ZOE unlocks her phone and hands it to LIAM
ZOE: Here. Text yourself so you’ll have my number.
Liam taps out “Hello, Zoe. This is Liam.” and his number, and presses send
ZOE: Perfect. I’ll see you tonight, “Man in Black”.
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 by Katie Youmans and Wil Williams, with creative consulting by Caleb Del Rio. All of that trans magic talk? Caleb’s incredible work, adding really amazing nuance and depth to our world that I’m so grateful for. Be sure to find him on Twitter at @Caleb_DelRio. This episode was 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,
-Miracle Fonmanu as Zoe Kafoa,
-Alex Welch as Noel Alden,
-Michael Schubert as Todd from Accounting,
-Richie Ammons as Halo Security Officer,
-Sarah Evins as Test Subject N-414,
-Jordan Cobb as Sarah Harris,
-Katie Chin as Grace Chen,
-Caleb del Rio as Flynn Velasco,
-Maddison Dabbs-Petty as Elisha Dawes,
-Rue Dickey as the Shopkeep, and
-Tal Minear as Ash
-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 we love and who 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* will play Soap, with her lines written as they are in the script instead of meows.
-Until next time, protect your magic.