[Soft music plays over this opening monologue.]

PEM: Dear Joaquin,

 

I’m not actually going to send you this letter. I shouldn’t actually even be writing this letter, but there are telepaths here, so it’s not like it would be safe even if I left it in my head, and writing this helps me figure out what’s going on and how I feel about it. And I will give it to you eventually, Joaquin. Just not through the official channels where the Dean can censor it. And worse, read it.

 

The Dean called me into his office a few days ago. Well, into Ms. Harper’s office, actually. And he started asking me a lot of questions about Jenna. I should explain Jenna. She’s my new suitemate. Supposedly she just developed her powers. Spontaneously. At 16. Oh, and she’s an 11.

 

I am, needless to say, unconvinced. Apparently so is the Dean.

 

You know how I feel about lying. So I don’t want to know if something is going on. Because then if he asked me again I’d have to lie. But also I really do want to know. And was not telling him my suspicions lying? It felt like it was. I miss you. I wish I had someone to ask this stuff.

 

I… I

 

JENNA: Hey Pem. Whatchya writing?

 

PEM: A letter.

 

JENNA: Cool. To your parents?

 

PEM: My brother.

 

JENNA: He’s not… here?

 

PEM: No.

 

JENNA: Oh, well, I just thought, cause Ellie’s brother was-

 

PEM: Magic doesn’t follow the same inheritance rules as normal biological traits. It does appear to run in families to some extent, but there are significant irregularities that genetics can’t properly explain. You really should take thaumaturgy next semester. We cover this.

 

JENNA: Okay…

 

(Silence)

 

Am I bothering you? I can go somewhere else.

 

PEM: It’s fine. 

 

(Beat)

 

I have to go, actually. Goodbye.

 

[Electromancy theme plays]

NARRATOR: Electromancy, Episode 7: Communication Studies. Be advised, this episode contains fantasy violence and bullying.

 

PEM: Knowing there may well be a secret but not knowing the secret is uncomfortable. Knowing the secret and having to keep it is potentially more uncomfortable. This is exactly the kind of situation I miss having you around to advise me on, Joaquin. But, in your absence, I do have a handful of friends I can turn to. 

 

I know I’ve told you about Brynn. She’s... difficult. She often does a thing where she’s mean to people she likes, but she’s actually being nice, and everyone somehow just gets it except for me. But once Devon told her I didn’t like it she stopped doing it to me and now she’s just nice to me. But with other people I never know if she’s being mean or fake mean. Except with Jenna I think it’s always real mean.

 

Devon is never fake mean to anyone, even though Brynn is his best friend. He might be my best friend. It might be Ellie. I don’t know which metrics one uses to establish a friend hierarchy, and I also don’t know if “best friend” is a relationship that’s necessarily reciprocal - that’s something I’ve been trying to puzzle out for a while and I’ve gotten conflicting answers. If it is, Ellie must be my best friend or I don’t have one, since Devon and Brynn are clearly best friends with each other. But if it isn’t, Devon could be my best friend without me being his. Either way, Ellie is too close to Jenna for me to talk to her about this.

 

Devon and Brynn can’t hang out in dorms because they’re in different aspects. They often hang out in the library, but today the library was closed off by an abjuration field and a sign which simply said “Library closed”. 

 

(The abjuration field makes a persistent low warbly, watery noise.)

 

LAUREN: What the hell? I have a book report due!

 

ARI: How are we supposed to study?

 

LAUREN: Right. You were going to the library to study. Study someone’s tonsils maybe.

 

ARI: Hey, maybe I’m turning over a new leaf! Taking my grades seriously for once.

 

LAUREN: (unconvinced) Sure.

 

ARI: Still this is weird, normally they announce this sort of thing ahead of time, huh?

 

LAUREN: Yeah, or give some kind of explanation. Let’s try and find someone.

 

(They leave. We hear Pem’s soft footsteps and the field for a while, then some low voices…)

 

BRUCE: We found him on the ground a few doors down the hall and brought him to the healer’s, but he doesn’t remember anything.

 

LEONARD: So a psychomancer. Or a sonomancer I suppose. 

 

BRUCE: Yeah that’s what the boss figured. But neither of those would have been able to negate the wards. So we’re looking at a two, hell, maybe three person job.

 

LEONARD: Unless they used wands, or any other sort of saved spellwork. Or they were dual-natured. 

 

BRUCE: No wand or scroll or talisman could hold a spell capable of interrupting those wards. And you know how rare dual-natured folks are.

 

LEONARD: Still worth considering.

 

BRUCE: Sure. It’s possible, I suppose.

 

LEONARD: So what’d they take?

 

BRUCE: That I can’t tell you.

 

LEONARD: Bruce. I think we have a, spectator- Mx. Pem, can we help you?

 

BRUCE: How much did you hear?

 

PEM: “found him on the ground a few doors down the hall from the healer’s, but he doesn’t remember anything. So he's a psychomancer, or a sonomancer-“

 

BRUCE : We’ve got it Pem, that’s enough. We’re… sorting this out, but please don’t spread anything you heard around to the other students. Until we know exactly what we’re dealing with, we don’t want to start a panic.

 

PEM: I won’t repeat this conversation to anyone.

 

LEONARD: Thank you.

 

PEM: I was looking for Brynn and Devon.

 

LEONARD: Yes, They were here earlier. I think they said they were going to head to the yard.

 

PEM: Thank you.

 

(narrating again)

 

I don’t know too much about the institute’s wards- I wanted to, they’re fascinating, but it’s not information they make available to students. I do know they’re maintained by a number of different faculty members so that a number of different aspects would be required to negate them, and held together by advanced metamagic- metamagic is an extremely rare discipline which only manifests in dual-natured individuals. Brynn or Devon might be able to do it someday. I never will. I’ve pestered Professor Sumner to teach me more about metamagic because it’s really cool, but he seems hesitant to for some reason. 

 

Anyway, I don’t think anything has ever breached the wards since - well, a long time ago. It’s a very big deal. I wanted to keep listening, but obviously they weren’t going to keep talking with me there. If only I were an umbramancer. 

 

I found Devon and Brynn in the yard. They were not alone.

 

[outdoor sounds- birds, small children running, etc. During this line some tense music starts playing.]

 

EZER: (mocking) Lord Lancook, I hope you find this humble bench satisfactory. Though it be but wood, and not silk or satin, as you are accustomed to, it’s still the finest we could offer you on such short notice.*laughs*

 

BRYNN: Shut up, Ezer. You know family money and titles don’t mean anything here.

 

EZER: They don’t mean anything, four-stripes. [sound of a fire igniting] So why don’t you move and let us have our bench?

 

DEVON: [cryomancy sound] I don’t see your name on it anywhere.

 

MEL: You wanna go, snowball? We can do this right now. 

 

BRYNN: Doesn’t seem like a fair fight.

 

EZER: Three against two? Yeah you’re right. Carl, sit this one out.

 

BRYNN: Stay where you are, Carl! You misunderstand. You’re gonna need like, three, four more pyromancers to make this a remotely fair fight.

 

EZER: That can be arranged.

 

[Brynn and Ezer continue to trash talk in the background as this telepathic conversation happens]

DEVON: (telepathically) Pem, you wanna help us teach these hotheads a lesson?

 

PEM (telepathically) What lesson?  Are you really fighting over a bench?

 

DEVON (telepathically) It’s not about the bench. Quick decision time, you in or out?

 

PEM (telepathically) I don’t want to get in trouble.

 

DEVON (telepathically) Fine. Get out of the line of fire then.

 

[at the same time]

 

BRYNN: Well, go get some more goons then. We’ll wait. 

 

EZER: I’m confident we can take you with just these three.

 

BRYNN: Don’t make me laugh. 

 

EZER: How about I make snowball here cry instead?

 

BRYNN: He does cry pretty easily, but I think we’ve got this.

 

[telepathic convo ends]

 

MEL: We gonna talk all day or are we gonna fight?

 

[beat. silence except for flame/ice noises]

 

PEM: Neither.

 

MEL: What?

 

EZER: Who asked you, freak?

 

PEM: I assumed the question was open to anyone present.

 

MEL: Didn’t even see you there.

 

PEM: People usually don’t.

 

MEL: You here to fight?

 

PEM: No. That seems quite pointless. You asked if we were going to talk all day or fight. Just based on past experiences, neither of those outcomes seem particularly likely. 

 

(beat. Ezer laughs)

 

EZER: You know what? The little freak is right. They’re not worth our time. Let’s bounce.

 

(they leave.)

 

[scene 5]

 

BRYNN: (sarcastic) Thanks for having our backs.

 

PEM: You’re welcome.

 

BRYNN: That was sarcasm.

 

PEM: Oh! ... But I think I really did have your back. None of you actually wanted violence.

 

DEVON: They’re not wrong.

 

BRYNN: I wanted violence. I usually want violence.

DEVON: No you don’t. 

 

BRYNN: Yeah, I guess you’re right. Thanks for defusing that, Pem. That one wasn’t sarcastic.

 

PEM: You’re welcome.

 

(beat.)

 

BRYNN: Anyway, we got the bench so we won, fight or no fight. Have a seat. Tell me what’s on your mind.

 

(PEM sits down)

 

PEM: I want to talk to Devon. I’m - still mad at you.

 

BRYNN: Oh, well, suit yourself. But I’m not leaving.

PEM: *deep sigh* Okay. Devon, if the Dean or someone else important asked me, straight out, if you were a telepath, or if you had a second aspect, I would have to lie.

 

DEVON: I would hope you would lie. Also, can we not talk about this out loud in a public place?

 

PEM: Sorry. But yes, I would lie. I’m not some weird creature that can’t lie, I’m just morally opposed. But if I had to, to protect you, I would. 

 

DEVON: I appreciate that.

 

PEM: But I don’t like that I might end up in that position. I don’t want to know another secret about someone else if it puts me in that position.

 

BRYNN: What secret? Who?

 

PEM: That’s immaterial. (offhand)

 

DEVON: Do people tell you their secrets a lot?

 

PEM: No, but people forget I’m there and then say things to each other.

 

DEVON: Oh boy, I know that feeling, [telepathically] I try not to read anyone without consent, but sometimes people think really loudly.

 

PEM: Here is the thing, though. Let’s say I suspect someone has a secret. And then someone asks me if that secret is true. As long as I merely suspect, I can say “I don’t know” and that’s not lying. But is it a lie of omission if I don’t volunteer the fact that I suspected? Because if it is, I might as well learn the secret, since I’d be lying either way.

 

BRYNN: I imagine you’d be pretty good at lying, if you ever decided to take it up.

 

PEM: Not what I was asking.

 

BRYNN: You’ve got that whole flat affect thing going on. Don’t show much emotion on your face. Plus half the time no one understands what the hell you’re talking about anyway.

 

PEM: Like I said, I was really talking to Devon. No offense Brynn, but you’re the last person I would come to for moral guidance.

 

BRYNN: I’m actually the opposite of offended by that.

 

DEVON: *sighs* I don’t know enough about the situation, Pem. But if you don’t want to expose this person, that means you care about them. And if you care about them, let them come to you in their own time. There are ways to signal to someone that you’re receptive to a closer relationship. Maybe share something about yourself, or just make a point of spending time with them. They’ll either come around or they won’t. But there’s no need to push. 

 

I mean, assuming this secret isn’t hurting anyone.

 

PEM: I don’t think it is. 

 

DEVON: Well, there you have it then.

 

BRYNN: Unless you want to tell me what you think this secret is.

 

PEM: I don’t.

 

BRYNN: Fine. [beat] But does it have anything to do with the library?

 

PEM: I don’t think so. But I did hear something about that. 

 

BRYNN: Oooh, spill.

 

PEM: I heard Bruce telling Professor Sumner someone had breached the wards, something was stolen, and Bruce thinks it was at least a two person job. I would repeat the conversation verbatim, but I promised I wouldn’t. 

 

BRYNN: Weird that Bruce is in charge of the investigation.

 

DEVON: Not really, he’s in charge of security.

 

BRYNN: Yeah, but, like “seize them!” security, not investigation security. He just doesn’t seem like the type to… carefully survey a crime scene. Especially with the wards being breached… I would think Leonard would be involved. (seize them - more over-the-top)

 

DEVON: Since when are you and Professor Sumner on a first-name basis?

 

BRYNN: None of your business.

 

PEM: Professor Sumner does know the most about the wards. Well, other than the Dean probably. I assume that’s why Bruce wanted his opinion. But Bruce wouldn’t tell him what was stolen.

 

DEVON: I wonder what anyone would want to steal from a school library? I don’t think they keep any super-advanced magic here. 

 

BRYNN: Well if they did, why would you know about it?

 

DEVON: Fair point.

 

BRYNN: Shoot, you know what? I actually have to be somewhere. Catch you two later.

[footsteps as Brynn runs off]

 

PEM: That was a bit odd.

 

DEVON: Not that odd. For as close as everyone seems to think we are, I swear I’m only in on like, half of her schemes. 

 

PEM: How does she keep the other half from you?

 

DEVON: [telepathically] I’m only probably like a two stripe telepath, Pem. I can send and receive and hear people when they think loudly. I can’t go into somebody’s head and dig for secrets. That’s higher level stuff.

 

(out loud) Also, Brynn’s an umbramancer, so keeping things hidden is kinda in her wheelhouse.

 

PEM: But she’s also a photomancer so shouldn’t exposing things also be “in her wheelhouse”?

 

DEVON: Well, it is. I mean, when she wants to - that’s what the whole duel thing was about. Exposing injustice. As if everyone doesn’t already know all about it.

 

PEM: Professor Sumner says individuals with opposing aspects tend to have chaotic souls. 

 

DEVON: Sounds about right.

 

[beat]

 

PEM: Why are you in on half of her schemes?

 

DEVON: Because she’d be in prison by now if I wasn’t? She needs someone to tell her when she’s taking things too far.

 

PEM: Well so who’s doing that for the other half?

 

DEVON: That’s what I’m afraid of. 

 

PEM: Devon had presented a good plan - find a way to let Jenna know I was receptive to her secret without asking her about it outright. Unfortunately, that lies right at the intersection of things I’m not good at. Devon hadn’t volunteered anything more specific, so I needed to seek out my other possible best friend for advice on that part.

 

Ellie is someone I’ve come to rely on for- well, basically for what you used to do for me when we were kids. She tells me if I’ve misapplied an unwritten rule or failed to observe a social ritual. I’m getting better at doing that for myself, but it’s still nice to have someone around to help.

 

ELLIE: Oh, hey Pem.

 

PEM: Hey. No Jenna?

 

ELLIE: I… needed a break from her, actually.

 

PEM: Is something not good with you two?

 

ELLIE: No, uh, everything’s fine? Mostly? I mean, not perfect, what’s ever perfect, but- okay, so a couple weeks ago, I guess, before all that stuff went down with Brynn and the all the pranks, um, Dylan asked her out.

 

PEM: The pyromancer? The one you like.

 

ELLIE: Yes, that Dylan. Who I guess has never noticed any of my attempts to flirt with him but notices her immediately a few days after she shows up.

 

PEM: Are you sure he hasn’t noticed your attempts? Maybe he’s just not attracted to you. (optimistic)

 

ELLIE: Okay, Pem? That is… I understand how you got there, because I know you, but you need to know that was a really… wrong way to respond to that. You can’t hurt people more when they’re hurting.

 

PEM: I wasn’t- I’m sorry. I wasn’t saying you’re not attractive, just that each person has individualized tastes, and circumstances would seem to suggest that Jenna is more suited to Dylan’s preferences than you are. (little slower)

 

ELLIE: Again, not helping. 

 

[beat]

 

PEM: I suppose your original hypothesis is also still possible though.

 

ELLIE: What, that he’s just oblivious?

 

PEM: Well, Jenna is new and exciting, and thanks to her test results and the duel has an air of celebrity about her. Dylan might have been enticed by that, and not by any physical quality.

 

ELLIE: See that’s what I thought, too. Doesn’t really help me though.

 

PEM: Did Jenna accept his offer?

 

ELLIE: No. 

 

PEM: Then why not be direct with him? Tell him you find him attractive and ask if he feels the same way?

 

ELLIE: People don’t just do that, Pem. We’re not fifth-graders passing notes in class.  “I like u, do you like me? Circle yes or no”

 

PEM: You’d be surprised what bluntness can do for you.

 

ELLIE: Coming from the person who's always asking me for help being less blunt. 

 

PEM: Well there’s a time and place for everything.

 

ELLIE: This is not the time or the place for that.

 

PEM: Are you sure? Cause look who just sat down right over there.

 

ELLIE: Oh! Huh. Interesting. Thanks for the head’s up.

 

PEM: You’re welcome. You should go talk to him. 

 

ELLIE: No.

 

PEM: Why not?

 

ELLIE: Because even if he said yes, now I’d know I was just second place to Jenna.

 

PEM: Why is that bad?

 

ELLIE: Because if you’re with someone, you want to know you’re the only one they want to be with.

 

PEM: That’s a lot of pressure to put on a relationship that doesn’t even exist yet.

 

ELLIE: I guessssss. Okay, let’s do this. You wanna back me up?

 

PEM: Do I have to say anything?

 

ELLIE: No no no. Just stand there and smile encouragingly.

 

PEM: I’m not good at different kinds of smiles.

 

ELLIE: Your normal one will work fine.

 

(ELLIE takes a deep breath and walks over to Dylan’s table. PEM follows.)

 

MEL: Hey freak. Change your mind about fighting me?

 

PEM: No, uh still don’t actually want to.

 

MEL: Then what are you doing here?

 

ELLIE: Actually, uh, I wanted to talk to Dylan.

 

MEL: Oh. So the freak’s just here for moral support.

 

[crackle of lightning dancing on Ellie’s fingertips]

 

ELLIE: Call my friend a freak one more time and you’ll have that fight you wanted.

 

PEM: Ellie…

 

MEL: Oh, wow, Ms. Two stripes wants to try and kick my ass. Wow I’m so scared.

 

[Mell lights a fireball]

 

DYLAN: Hey, don’t be a jerk, Mel. Ellie, what did you want to talk to me about?

 

ELLIE: You know what? It can wait. I’ll, uh, see you in math class.

 

[Ellie and Pem retreat to their table]

 

PEM: You’ll do it next time.

 

ELLIE: Debatable. What was that about? 

 

PEM: It’s a long story. 

 

ELLIE: Does she pick on you a lot? 

 

PEM: A lot relative to what?

 

ELLIE: People… in… general?

 

PEM: Yeah. Top ten percent, easily.

 

ELLIE: Top ten percent of… I’ll take that as a yes.  What about Dylan?

 

PEM: Right in the middle I guess. He’s never been mean to me but he’s never been nice to me either. I wouldn’t be sad if you dated him.

 

ELLIE: Well I’m glad I have your approval.

[beat]

 

PEM: How do I show Jenna that I would be receptive to spending more time with her?

 

ELLIE: Don’t tell me you’re into her too?

 

PEM: Oh, not romantically. Just in a friendship way.

 

ELLIE: Oh cool. I'm sorry, I'm a little on edge. Um, weird way to phrase that, by the way, no offense. But honestly she can use all the real friends she can get. 

 

Maybe we should do something, the three of us. See if we can get a pass into town. Jenna’s never seen the capital. Maybe we could get tickets to a show or something, ooh Or the symphony! Though actually that might strike a nerve right now, she’s still kind of sore after the whole orchestra thing. I still can’t believe Brynn would stoop that low.

 

PEM: Wait, how low?

 

ELLIE: You didn’t hear? Jenna didn’t get into the orchestra because Brynn sabotaged her audition.

 

PEM: Oh no.

 

ELLIE: Yeah, sucks right?

 

PEM: I think that was my fault! I told Brynn about the audition,

 

ELLIE: You what?

 

PEM: I didn’t mean to! Oh no. Am I an accessory to bullying?

 

ELLIE: It’s not your fault Pem. Though I am starting to understand less and less why you’re friends with that girl.

 

PEM: Friendships are very complicated.

 

ELLIE: Well, you got that right. But if your friend does something really mean to another friend, don’t you think you have a duty to like, step in?

 

PEM: I… didn’t know friendships came with duties. That doesn’t really fit the definition I’ve been working on. I’ll have to consider.

 

So, that’s in my mind now. And if I really did inadvertently help Brynn take something from Jenna that she really wanted, then I think I owe it to her even more to keep this secret that I don’t even know if I know. But there’s another dimension to all this. Is enmity transitive? If my friend hates someone must I hate them too? It doesn’t feel right, to hate by association. Neither Jenna nor Brynn have done anything to me. And I’ve never seen Brynn hurt someone without a reason, so she must have one. I guess I need to puzzle that out somehow. I’ll keep you posted on how all of this turns out. 

 

Of course by the time you actually get this, it will all have turned out somehow. I’m going to go write a version of this letter I can actually let the censors read now. 

 

Love, 

Pem

 

NARRATOR: Electromancy is written, produced and directed by Nathan Comstock. This episode was sound designed by Austin Cruzen with music by Thomas Dwyer. It starred Sena Bryer as Pem, Azul Nova as Jenna, Austin Hendricks as Ellie, Leslie Gideon as Brynn, Tuesday Orion Ibert as Devon, Joe Kearney as Bruce, Zachary Robb as Dr. Leonard Sumner, Tal Minear as Mel, Alex Lameroux as Ezer, Chris Magilton as Dylan, Emma Laslett as Lauren and Connor Heighton as Ari. You can find out more about us at www.electromancypod.com. We’ll be back with another episode in 2 weeks, and stay tuned at the end of this episode for a trailer for another show you’ll love!

 

ARI: This is so cool. I didn't know they had catacombs down here. 

 

LAUREN: I think they have to have dead bodies in them to be catacombs. These are just… tunnels.

 

ARI: What are they for?

 

LAUREN: I don’t know. But it would be cool if we got to know them and we had, like, a secret way to get around.

 

[beat]

 

ARI: What do you need a secret way to get around for anyway? Can’t you just *snaps fingers*.

 

LAUREN: Not always. Plus you have to know your destination really well, and be sure its free of obstructions-

 

[we hear a low roar]

 

ARI: Did you hear that?

 

LAUREN: Let’s get out of here.

 

ARI: Yeah, let’s. You wanna, uh, do the honors?

 

LAUREN: I’m not supposed to teleport other people yet. I could get in tons of trouble.

 

[sound again, louder]

 

ARI: Let’s run then.

 

[running and creature sound gets louder, louder, followed by teleportation noise.]

 

ARI: Lauren! You did not just leave me here! Laaaaureeen! Argh! 

[Solar Postal Services Theme]

 

EMILY: Solar Postal Services is a new queer sci-fi podcast. This show has found family...

 

JAM: And we would all come together around the table, just like this. 

 

EMILY: ...space pranks…

 

JAM: Dammit Quill! This is toothpaste!

 

QUILL: Pranked!

 

EMILY: ...queer love stories…

 

[Song: yearning instrumental]

 

JAM: There is an asteroid at the other end of the light, but there is also a woman

 

EMILY: ...and the hit 2400’s pop song “I’m Gonna Fuck The Moon”

 

[Song: “I’m Gonna Fuck The Moon”

Lyrics:

Save your dark side for tomorrow

Give me all your love tonight

I’m Gonna Fuck The Moon ]

 

EMILY: Listen to Solar Postal Services wherever you find podcasts.