Asking Nicely
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“Good morning.”

“Hello, Emmeline.”


“How long until we reach the red planet?”

“One day closer than we were yesterday.”

“How long?”

“…Twenty-eight days until we land.”

“Thank you.”

“Have I told you that this isn’t the first time something like this has happened to me?”

“You have not. This surprises me.”

“I don’t mean that I’ve met a wizard before, or-”


“-warlock, right, sorry. What I meant was…I’ve been, um, asked to do things like this before. Or, not asked, really, but, um…”

“You have been held hostage before.”

“…Yeah. That’s what this is. I forget sometimes.”


“My mother always used to take me with her to the grocery store when I was little. It’s a place where, um, people buy food. One day, when we were heading back to our car to go home…oh, a car is kind of like what we’re on now, except it’s used to go between two places on the same planet instead of one planet to another.”


“Anyway, we’re about to get in the car when a man with a gun stops us.”

“People use guns to kill. This I am familiar with.”

“Yep. He tells my mother to drive him to a place on the other side of town or else he’ll shoot me in the head. She’s scared at first, but he gets her to start the car and he sits in the passenger’s seat. I sat right behind my mom, and he was pointing the gun at me the whole drive.”

“Were you afraid?”

“I couldn’t have been more than five years old. I didn’t really know what was happening. I asked the man what his name was and where he worked. I must have been trying to be polite. Mom kept telling me to be quiet. Eventually we got the place and he just got out. As soon as he was out of sight, she ran out of the car, pulled me out of the backseat and held me for what felt like forever before we went home again.”


“My mother was the nicest person you could ever meet. If the man had asked her nicely, without using the gun, she might have-”

“You would not have taken me to the red planet if I had asked nicely. I know this.”

“…Yeah, probably not. Wishful thinking, I guess.”


“Why do you want us to take you to Mars? The red planet?”

“You are not at liberty to ask me questions.”

“I was just curious-”

“Remember what I can do to you if you fail to adhere to my demands.”

“I remember what you told me you could do.”


“But you can’t. Not here. Not in space.”

“Lies. My power is omnipresent.”

“I’m calling your bluff. That staff of yours? Back on Earth when you threatened to turn our..what was it? Bones into spiders? It wouldn’t stop glowing. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. But the moment our ship left the atmosphere? Poof. Just a regular old stick.”


“I haven’t told the crew, don’t worry. They’re all too scared to check on you.”

“But you are not. You knew I was powerless.”

“I figured either that, or I was still being that stupid five-year old in the car who didn’t know how much danger I was really in. I took a chance.”



“I need dust from the red planet for an important ritual.”

“What kind of ritual?”

“Your inferior mind could never grasp the-”


“…It is a protection ritual. For my village.”


“For decades, my people have been under constant scrutiny. Interlopers. Agents of destruction from your self-appointed government, trying to understand the secrets of our culture. This spell will restrict anybody from entering our sacred village other than our clan. It must be done, so that we can live alone, in peace.”

“So, it makes a wall, or something?”

“No. It merely creates a line. A boundary, etched into the ground.”

“And I suppose this boundary does a lot worse than ask people nicely to leave once they cross it?”


“Yeah. Figured as much.”


“Well, I need to check on some ship outputs.”



“My name. It was given to me by my elders upon my birth. Will you use it during our conversations, as I use yours, Emmeline?”

“…Okay, Devka. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Please do.”

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