"Kyubey promised that humanity will reach the stars one day. The Incubator tactfully refrained from saying too much about what they would find there."
In the latter half of the 25th century, humanity finds itself locked in total war against alien invaders.The Cephalopods attacked without warning and for no discernible reason. Their weapons have a significant technological edge over humans, and the science with which they build their wormhole generators to spread into human space is inconceivable to humanity's most brilliant minds and AIs. The only hope for turning the battle in humanity's favor lies within its aloof allies: the enigmatic Incubators, and the direct consequences of their meddling into human affairs: nigh-invulnerable augmented superhumans able to bend the rules of causality itself.They are known as... magical girls.To the Stars is a distant sequel to Madoka Magica, taking place several centuries after the anime's epilogue. Featuring a detailed exploration of the possible future, it is one of the most thorough Madoka Magica world-building fics.Two surviving characters from Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Mami and Kyouko, are also main characters in this fic, and Yuma from Puella Magi Oriko Magica appears in a supporting role. The third and central protagonist, Ryouko Shizuki, is a girl whose entry into the world of magical girls begins a little after the story's start.Just to give prospective readers an idea of how long it is, the first 100K words alone cover just the first 24 hours of the story. Despite its length, To the Stars will capture your interest if you're at all interested in realistic assessment of how would the existence of Puella Magi affect mankind for the next few centuries, and what would it look like if magical girls were starring in rather hardMilitary Science-Fiction set in an elaborate, massively detailed world of the 25th century.Dark and deconstructive elements as well as interpersonal drama, however, have been toned down - which, however, is expected as the story is set after the original series' uplifting ending. The fic began before the release of Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie Rebellion and ignores events from the film.The epic tale can be found here, the Wiki here and the author's Tumblr here, featuring additional details (see sidebar) along with answers to reader-submitted questions.Character page under construction.
Tropes found in the stars include:
Abnormal Ammo: Human weapons are advanced enough that the officer's sidearm is able to assemble specialized ammunition on the fly and shoot grenades, missiles, or even small drones from the same clip. However, alien weaponry still has an advantage as it's mostly energy based, and dependent on a compact but massively powerful energy source that seems to be quite hard to reverse-engineer or replicate.
Artificial Gravity: Present and hand-waved. While it's not said to be reliant on some kind of Applied Phlebotinum, it's apparently unreliable by the virtue of being relatively new. Thus, humanity is in no hurry to switch everything from ordinary propulsion systems such as scramjets even if they require runways and other infrastructure, because all said infrastructure is already in place.
Ascended Fangirl: Ryouko lapses into a bit of hero worship when she happens to see Mami.
Repeated later when she meets Clarisse van Rossum.
Attack Drone: Used by both sides of the war... and by Patricia, who's power is implied to be unique.
Badass Preacher: Kyouko, full stop. The other leaders of the Cult of Hope all qualify as well, being Magical Girls.
Barrier Warrior: Usually paired with a teleporting magical girl. Homura was also this, when she stopped a giant Wave Motion Gun by flying straight to it, halting it by a simple wave of hand, and reflecting it back to the ship. After that, there wasn't a single weapon that capable of harming her.
Biopic: The holomovie Akemi, an unapologetic piece of pro-MSY propaganda produced based on surviving historical records and interviews with the surviving members of the Mitakihara Four. Some liberties were taken.
Big Damn Heroes: Mami and Kyubey save Ryouko and Simona from a horde of Demons at the last second. Much earlier, Kyouko, Mami, and Homura saved and 'befriended' Yuma under similar circumstances.
Bile Fascination: In-universe Ryouko is a little too absorbed in examining her (still living and recovering, if a little uncomfortable) grandfather's bloody stumps where the legs used to be.
Blue and Orange Morality: Kyoukoís lecture on the pulpit accuses the Judeo-Christian god of being unable to understand humanity because their morality system is so different from humanityís. The Incubators suffer the same problem in relation to humanity. One of the principle, though lesser known roles of a major division in the MSY is to serve as an advisory body for the Incubators with regards to human affairs.
Brain/Computer Interface: Direct Connection Cable, used for virtual training and running spaceships. The business end is just a tape with microneedles instead of a large typical cyberpunk plug, so no need for sockets in the body.
Once the situation became less dire, and political pressure grew, the military decided that quality was better than quantity, especially considering the scarcity of Puella Magi, and withdrew magical girls under 13 year old from direct battle to give them training. This was, at least, a slight improvement. Continuing pressure from forces within the government to completely avoid this sort of use has been steadily growing.
Church Militant: Every member of the Cult of Hope is a superpowered Magical Girl with a military commission and has dedicated her life to fighting Demons and Aliens. Forget this at your peril.
The Conspiracy: Thereís something strange going on that Mami, Kyouko, nor Yuma can figure out. Said conspiracy may have a hand in Ryouko's vision of Kyouko's death, what with the targeting and intent to completely destroy her soul gem as the results seem to indicate.
Somewhere along the way, the MSY stopped being a simple Magical Girl union and became a secret pseudo-government for the whole humanity. Now less so after they revealed themselves.
The Corruption: Magical girls are constantly fighting not to succumb to this and fade away. Homura isnít being allowed to go, her wish still active and preventing her passing.
Cosmic Retcon: The opening of chapter 16 mentions that wishes can change the past, and speculates that "the most powerful wishes are the ones we don't know about". Oh, how right they are. Ryoko's wish may have done this.
Crazy-Prepared: Might as well be the Mahou Shoujo Youkai's calling card... although even they didn't plan for an alien invasion. They did have a fleet of stealth ships, though, and equipment for space combat.
They also learned to prepare decoy targets and shielding for soul gems, to keep them from being destroyed by savvy foes; they even put the shielding on the decoys so that enemies would have to try all the targets and hope to get lucky before the magical girls get them. Although the ruse doesn't always work.
Crystal Dragon Jesus: The Goddess is starting to gain traction and popularity even among the non-contracted to the point she starts to replace the Judeo-Christian deity as a figure of speech. This is likely due to disillusionment with conventional religions, the Cult of Hope's teachings being non-dogmatic and easy to empathize with, and a significant amount of evidence that she actually exists.
Cult: The Cult of Hope, led by Kyouko. Created after Homuraís miraculous superpowered destruction of an entire alien fleet while having a completely corrupted soul gem convinced her that Homuraís ramblings about the Goddess were true.
Decontamination Chamber: The medical bay has one of these. Ryouko isn't a big fan of the searing UV cleanser or the skittering robobugs.
Defector from Decadence: Many from the Freedom Alliance before and during the Unification Wars, most notably a group a AIs who were so horrified by the atrocities committed by the FA hyperclass elite that they rebelled against their programming and defected to the United Front.
Despair Event Horizon: Homura hit this after the major battle when the magical girls revealed themselves to humanity and the attacking aliens.
Divide and Conquer: The Human Fleet are forced into this situation after the failed raid on the wormhole generator.
Door Stopper: As one reviewer puts it:"...Fun fact: To the Stars is now longer than the first two Harry Potter books combined." It is also, as of September 2013, the longest PMMM fic on Fanfiction.net.
Epigraph: Each chapter starts with one or two excerpts from in-universe works such as history books, instructions, documentations, documentaries etc. etc, that are relevant to the chapter. And one Shout-Out to Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri.
Eternal English: Human Standard is a variation of English, but implants translate everything anyway.
Expy: The Aliens are pretty much the Ceph from Crysis, but a few centuries late.
Famed in Story: Tomoe Mami is one of the top human military officers; Sakura Kyouko founded the only religion that's still gaining members; Chitose Yuma is the face of Magical Girls in the government; Akemi Homura is a hero venerated for her role in saving humanity.
The Greatest Story Never Told: Miki Sayaka's role in the Mitakihara Four is mostly glazed over in-verse, due to her early death and the others' unwillingness to expound upon the topic. And of course there's Madoka, whose story is only known for sure by Homura, who was usually vague about most details when telling about it to others. The only info she concretely provided was that she was a human who ascended and that her wish brought hope to Puella Magi. It took several Ribbon visions for the Cult of Hope to deduce anything about Madoka's physical appearance, and they only know that she wears pure white. Very recently, they learned that her hair is pink.
Family Business: Itís noted at one point that the temperament for becoming a magical girl runs in families, informally known as Matriarchies. Some families even call becoming a magical girl the family business! Some of the older generations girls, like Kyouko are understandably unhappy about this because how difficult their life were as magical girls. It is strongly implied that some of these families are extremely influential.
Fantastic Recruitment Drive: The MSY has been much more open about this since gaining the government's support thanks to the war. Parents are less than thrilled.
Started to overlap with Mutant Draft Board ever since the war started. Every fresh recruit is required to serve for 30 years (or until the cessation of hostilities) in the military. Given the dire straits humanity would be in otherwise, very few seem to object.
Force-Field Door: Rare outside of ships and the like, but the Mitakihara base has at least two: one protecting the arena, and one in the Ribbon Shrine.
Foreshadowing: Someone mentions that since Mami is Ryouko's mentor, Ryouko is likely headed to Mami's command staff. Several chapters later, she gets transferred out of her current squad and promoted to 1st LT by command of Mami.
Genre Savvy: Kyouko and her council learn of an ominous vision predicting her death. What do they do? Why, take the matter 100% seriously and plan her itinerary to avoid placing her in that sort of situation. This is stated to be cult policy regarding prophecies.
Goal in Life: The Cult of Hope explicitly exists to provide one of these to Magical Girls who would otherwise become angsty.
God Before Dogma: The official stance of the Cult of Hope. There are no holy books or articles of faith and everyone is free to intemperate just what that 'Hope' means for them. The only exceptions are the existence of a Goddess and Homura's role as her prophet.
It's Raining Men: The MagOps method of infiltration on the planet with the incomplete Wormhole Generator they were sent to destroy. Unfortunately, the Cephs were Properly Paranoid and nuked them out of the sky, all due to slightest disturbance on the sensors.
In-Series Nickname: The Mitakihara Four, a group of magical girls that led their kind in their survival, revolutionary history, and finally, acceptance in society.
Instant Expert: Magical Girls are born knowing how to fight. You can also call up a frightening amount of data on cue if you have the right implants and clearance.
Job-Stealing Robot: The creation of Volokhov AIs accelerated the replacement of human labor with the automated one to the extreme levels.
Kansas City Shuffle: Mami and the rest of General Staff hopes that their attack on the wormhole generator will pull enough defenses to attack the fleet so that the MagOps team will slip by and destroy the generator, while praying for the aliens not to notice this. And then the aliens made their own shuffle with the reinforcements coming from the unexpectedly operational wormhole.
Kill All Humans: Say what you will about the Aliens, at least they know when to keep things simple.
The Kindnapper: An accepted Magical Girl practice is to chain rogue girls to a bed and out of reach of their soul gems until they have a change of heart. It's called "befriending." Mostly practiced before MSY became an official entity, but still effective to this day.
Lamarck Was Right: It's already said the psychology that makes the girls form their contract was inherit to the descendants, making magical girl into some kind of Family Business. The same is also can be said to Ryouko, who Mami and Kyouko have found out to be from a bloodline that is really dense of the contractees from both sides of her families, and only does not become one herself for this long because of her parents' interference.
Laser-Guided Amnesia: Used by Magical Girls for therapy in very extreme cases, and by Black Heart for their special ops.
The Leader: Mami, the main representative of the magical girls in the army; Kyouko, the leader of the Cult of Hope; Yuma, the main representative of the magical girls in politic; Homura, the representative of power and hope for most of the magical girls who has disappeared to find the reason that Madoka hasn't come to take her to paradise after her soul gem became completely corrupted. In short, the Mitakihara Four is an example of Authority Equals Asskicking.
Lie to the Beholder: Only Magical Girls and special agents can do this legally. Mami abuses it to watch a movie in peace.
Lighter and Softer: Nowhere as dark in tone as the original series, partly due to the consequences of Madoka's Cosmic Retcon, and partly because the magical girls themselves became organized on a global level, no longer need to keep their existence a secret, are respected and valued for their unique skills and contribution, and gained copious reserves of Genre Savvy.
The Magocracy: MSY is big. It has a stake in just about every aspect of Earth's government, industry, science and military matters, plenty of resources and subordinate organizations, is supported by subordinate corporations, and is none too keen about disclosing its affairs to the general public. However, it still abides by the rules set up by democratic consensus of Earth's governance at large. This respect for authority might come from the fact that the Governance aren't ordinary humans either, but mostly AIs and heavily augmented and networked humans which fill the role of mediators.
Make a Wish: In exchange for letting Kyubey put your soul in a gem and making you fight demons until your gem goes dark. In theory. In practice, your participation in demon hunting is likely to be a token affair with minimal risk involved and you'll have ample gem cleansing cubes in exchange for cooperating with MSY... which, right now, demands you to fight an interstellar war against an enemy far more dangerous than any demon.
Mega Corp.: Mahou Shoujo Youkai started as a delivery service, and eventually ran several Mega Corps.
Memento MacGuffin: Madokaís ribbons, which have never worn after hundreds of years, one of which Homura has and the other which she gave to Kyouko. The latter resides in the Cult of Hopeís main base, open to all magical girls to see. The ribbon is also said to give visions of the future and a glimpse of the Goddess herself.
The Men in Black: The Black Hearts, who are so secret that even knowing about their true existence requires security clearance, though conspiracy theories abound.
Mildly Military: The MSY military isn't big on regulations for regulations' sake, with numerous justifications. Every recruit already has instinctual combat ability and going Drill Sergeant Nasty on them would be a very bad idea due to the fact their very lives are dependent on their emotional stability. As such, instead of being put through a Military School, new magical girls are instead given a crash course mostly consisting of Virtual Training Simulation in order to learn coordination and teamwork. Due to future technology, they are able to master the required knowledge in a matter of two weeks. When on active duty, they are allowed many civilian comforts within reason due to, once again, the importance of maintaining a coherent emotional state.
A Million Is a Statistic: In the attack on the wormhole generator, the human fleet suffered 44 thousand casualties in personnel just from the first missile barrage from what is only an outer layer of alien defense, and expecting at least million casualties.
Mundane Utility: Some of the uses the girls find for their powers just make everyday life easier. Yuma is the queen of this trope.
Murder Is the Best Solution: For dealing with insane Magical Girls, or at least it was until the Mental Health Division started rehabilitating them. Occasionally, it still is the best solution.
Mystery Cult: Subverted. The Cult of Light looks like it could be this, but the upper echelons don't have a clue what it is they're worshiping either.
Naming Your Colony World: Humans love New Something and Names-the-Same. And in Chapter 20 there is a discussion on why would someone name the colony Acheron, a river of pain in hell of Ancient Greek Mythology.
No New Fashions in the Future: Military uniforms are still traditional, and Kyouko's followers like to wear jeans and t-shirts. It's debatable how much of the second one is this trope and how much of it is the girls showing their age.
No Poverty: On earth, everyone is guaranteed enough Allocations to live comfortably, although those who perform vital roles in society, contribute significantly to culture, or have family members serving the the military receive extra. The colonies, on the other had, have capitalist economies that ensure that poverty exists in some form.
One World Order: Ever since the Unification Wars, as the result of Governance trying to prevent any future large-scale wars. They reasoned that since War is a conflict between two or more parties, the obvious solution is to make sure that there will never be a second party to oppose the first one (themselves) and to make sure the population will stay content and loyal to them to prevent civil wars.
People Jars: Spare bodies for the magical girls who managed to survive as soul gems, usually used as a last resort as it is very traumatic for those who lost their bodies; It is also technically illegal, so it is kept secret from the public.
Post-Cyberpunk: Present-day Governance is a result of 200 years of political, economical and cultural reforms, most of which were made to prevent the any further large-scale wars like the Unification Wars, which itself is result of the worst Cyberpunk elements taken to their logical extremes.
Pro-Human Transhuman: MSY's internal policy. Many magical girls flat out refer to Muggles as "Human", implying they're, in fact, something else. Regardless of the fact, they do not consider themselves superior to non-contracted humans in any way, and likewise, cases of discrimination against the girls seem to be rare due to the recognition of all the contribution MSY has provided for the society at large.
Really 700 Years Old: Most everyone, save for the actual teenage girls. People living to be over 200 years old isnít uncommon among both magical girls and civilians. Veteran magical girls such as the cast of the original Madoka, however, got a headstart by the virtue of becoming ageless before human technology developed to allow for rejuvenation.
Required Secondary Powers: Mentioned in one of the epigraphs about acquiring new powers, citing one common example: the Telecluster group consisting of Telekinesis, Teleportation, Clairvoyance and Mind-Reading.
Scenery Gorn: The aftermath of Wormhole Generator's destruction, a combination of a massive thunder storm usually only seen on Jupiter-like gas giants, a large amount of orbital ordinance striking down from the heavens and the off the charts time-space distortion making everything look surreal.
Science Marches On: In-Universe the stable wormholes were deemed impossible and all research on the subject was halted, and then the aliens arrived and brought with them the means to create stable wormholes, and the humans frantically played catch-up since then.
The Singularity: A possibility that humanity has intentionally left unrealized, but has access to if needed. In situations of emergency, a majority vote by mankind can activate "Emergency Modes," which effectively bring humanity closer and closer to a single-minded entity, with a "philosopher-king" technocrat comprised of a mixture of human and AI government consciousnesses dictating the actions of every single human alive. It is strongly suspected that the Cephalopods have crossed this threshold and never turned back, which is why they're uniformly hostile.
Shout-Out: Plentiful, to everything from prominent writers of hard science fiction, to gaming, to use of tropes. Most are well disguised though.
It's mentioned that the natural instinct of any teleporter in combat is to teleport behind the enemy, reminiscent of the Shadowstep ability used by rogues in World of Warcraft. A few chapters later, the reference is made more explicit: a souvenir T-Shirt depicts a magical girl performing a Back Stab on an alien with a slogan that's a variation on the famous rogue meme: "Teleporters do it from behind".
The stealth frigate Spectre is pretty much a word-for-word copy of the Normandy SR1. The ship's computer is mentioned to be strangely infatuated with ground ops and has a (slightly customized, presumably author's own character) female Shepard in battle armor lookalike as its holographic avatar. The name is also a reference to Shepard's position as a Spectre - secret agent of the galactic council.
Take No Prisoners: So far the invading alien Cephalopods have not been seen taking prisoners, whether regular human or magical girl.
Taking You with Me: Cephalopod infantry is equipped with self-destruct devices that activate upon death. The teleporter-type magical girls take advantage of it by teleporting the about to explode bodies to the living aliens.
The Syndicate: The MSY wasn't above setting up criminal organizations as fronts.
Tear Off Your Face: A Magical Girl sniper gets the Two Face treatment during a Demon hunt... and that's just one of her gruesome injuries.
The Cephs are building a Wormhole Generator so that they could get reinforcements faster and in greater numbers. Naturally, its destruction is a high priority for the humans.
There Are No Therapists: Gloriously averted with the Mental Health Division. The MSY was genre savvy enough to realize this trope, and set-up a division to provide psychological services to Puella Magis, given how critical emotions are to Puella Magis, and the immense stresses of that occupation. Indeed, this trope has been so thoroughly averted that therapists are very influential among Puella Magis!
Cyborgs: Everyone, basically. The Hollywood style is absent, though.
Emergency Transformation: Humans are equipped with implants that send them into crisis mode, pumping chemicals into the brain and advising them on what actions to take. They'll even tell you when you can no longer save yourself.
Nanomachines: They do essentially everything, from building ships to installing implants to reformatting the brain to detoxifying alcohol.
The Needless: The need for sleep has been abolished for military personnel, and members of the infantry don't need to excrete waste.
True Companions: Many of the magical girl teams are said to always stick together, unless one of them gets married and starts a family. Even then, they stay close.
Tube Travel: Larger human spaceships have FTT, Fast Travel Tubes, a transport network made possible thanks to the Artificial Gravity generators neccesary for such ships, so that diverting a little of their power for transportation didn't cost much.
The Unmasqued World: The magical girls had to reveal their presence to help save humanity from utter annihilation.
Virtual Training Simulation: The MSY base in Mitakihara has an arena that simulates Magical Girl abilities based on recorded fights, allowing for girls to go all-out while sparring.
Most of Chapters 18 & 19 takes place in the simulator, where the magical girls are trained on the basics of organized warfare, which includes Unwinnable Training Simulation scenarios.
The War of Earthly Aggression: Governance conquered a few minor privately-funded colonies for conducting questionable practices. There is also a possible issue of the core world colonies potentially being unwilling to completely merge with Earth Governance, which goes against Governance's edict of being one and only government for humanity, but then aliens showed up and the issue was placed on the backburner.
War Is Hell: The Battle of Epsilon Eridani. Destruction of several Earth's colonies might also this, but because of so little known about them, the scale tips on A Million Is a Statistic.
Warrior Therapist: The MHD is an organization composed of superpowered girls who are also therapists trained to deal with the most emotionally unstable people on earth.
The Wiki Rule: In-universe. Each chapter has two different wiki sources explaining about the theme of the chapter, complete with citations and direct links.
Who's Laughing Now?: The Magical Girl researchers who insisted on developing methods of space combat.
Who Would Want to Watch Us?: Everyone. In-universe, the story of Mitakihara Four is so legendary, and the movie is covering several hundred years. From (movie-makers' purely guess) Doorstop Baby that is Homura, her search of Goddess and her gradual cynicism, her contract, finding her Goddess, her leading the magical girls surviving under radar for several decades with their never aging bodies, the Very Loosely Based on a True Story sudden Big Damn Heroes of the magical girls in the Battle of Epsilon Eridani, and Homura's disappearance. And it's awesome.
Young And In Charge: Magical Girls serving in the military are frequently appointed as commanders of squads of ordinary troopers. The reasons for that are manifold: first, it allows them to make use of their supernaturally augmented senses to gather information, second, because magic was determined to best function as squad support weapon rather than in mage-only regiments, and third, because battle hardened veterans would do their damndest to protect a child from harm, even if the child in question is Really 700 Years Old.