Between depriving a man of one hour from his life and depriving him of his life there exists only a difference of degree. Elaborate euphemisms may conceal your intent to kill, but the ultimate assumption remains: "I feed on your energy."
~ Paul Muad'Dib

/人◕‿‿◕人\

I wonder why you've been showing such a desire to get me to talk. Do you think to benefit from it? Still, there is no harm in telling you whatever you wish to know.

I see you've brought me something. Yum!

Yes, it really does feel good. My bodies have been modified to enjoy consuming a fully charged grief seed. It only makes sense that I should get a sensory reward when doing something that will help my long-term goals, don't you think?

Once your species is sufficiently advanced in the necessary technologies, you too would benefit from making yourself enjoy that which is actually good for you. Consider the basic example of your sense of taste. Your preference for fat, sugar and salt used to be good for you, back when only natural foods existed, since it meant that when you craved sugar you ate fruit. Now an entire industry exists producing candy bars and other such foods that you did not evolve to reject. Would it not make sense for you to fix that situation, and make your sense of taste a trustworthy guide again? Not that your species has time left for that, now.

I am not worried by what you might do with what you learn. It is a reliable invariant that a magical girl, however unwilling, ends up serving our purpose in the end. Even Homura Akemi's time powers only delay the inevitable moment when she falls into despair or runs out of magic. Sooner or later she will release the Universe from her control, and events will proceed down their natural course. Except, of course, thanks to her actions we'll have fulfilled our quota from this planetary system much earlier than we expected. But you know this.

No, we do not trick you. We simply allow the consequences of your own actions to happen to you. Gravity does not hate you, nor does it love you, but if you step off a cliff you will fall.

If anything, your own hopes trick you, your wishful thinking. A sensible way to respond when discovering something new and important, like magic and wishes, is with intelligent curiosity. You look at the new thing from all angles, ask questions, try to learn how it works, the benefits and the dangers. We Incubators are there to supply the information. Have my past conversations with you not been proof of that? We tell you. But you need to ask. And yet so few of you do.

...Do calm down. This is no way to have a conversation.

But since you're holding me there, can I get scratched on the back?

Ow.

Sakura Kyouko? No, I didn't lie to her either. It is obvious if you can tell the difference between fact and inference.

The observed fact was that nobody had ever accomplished what she wanted to do. I informed her of that. I gave her no false information. The obvious conclusion was that what she wanted to do was extremely unlikely to succeed. So unlikely, that you humans, whose brains aren't equipped to grasp truly tiny probabilities, will be at your most accurate when you think the word "impossible". But it was up to her to reach that conclusion. Instead, she heard what she wanted to hear. I could have prevented that, but it benefited me not to.

I do not see what's so objectionable about our contracts. Yes, they do involve children. Of course. Do you imagine these arbitrary age divisions mean anything to the Universe? That a human being who turns 16 or 18 or 20 or whatever the local laws say, suddenly acquires the ability to make wise and responsible decisions? It is an insult to many children, and undeserved flattery to many of your so-called adults.

Besides, the scale of intelligent life is just so much wider than you imagine. You think of the difference between a small child and Albert Einstein. Think instead of the difference between an amoeba and a human, or a human and the advanced self-engineered civilisations that you have yet to meet. On that larger scale, the difference between a fourteen year old human girl and a so-called adult human is microscopically small. Either way you have language and abstract thought, you have the ability to reason, plan, and decide. It's up to you how you use these attributes -

...please don't do that. This is no way to have a conversation, making me replace a body in the middle of one.

The future? I used to think you humans had one in the stars with us, but, again, the consequences of your own actions doom you. It is the doing of Homura Akemi, bringing up Madoka Kaname to be a witch so powerful that your civilisation won't able to defeat her.

No, you cannot prevent that. Even if you managed to get to Japan in time, at this point Akemi is simply not going to let anyone dangerous get close to Kaname. Of course if you feel like throwing your life away earlier than it is necessary for you to die, I won't stop you. Dealing with your threat will drain some of her magical reserves, and further ensure she cannot win against Walpurgis without Kaname's help.

Ally against her with other magical girls? You would need time you do not have to gather the many allies necessary to stand a chance. Homura Akemi is uniquely capable.

Besides, surely you know how likely they are to believe you or want to join your cause. You are a distrustful and jealous kind of people, each guarding her own feeding grounds. You let your animal territorial instincts overcome reason and sabotage your ability to cooperate.

Ah, no, you are mistaken there. Even with your dependence on grief seeds, it is not necessary for you girls to be that way. An alliance of two to four competent magical girls could fight much more efficiently than any single girl. You could play to each other's strengths, compensate for each other's weaknesses, and therefore defeat witches while expending less total energy than a lone fighter. You could also corner familiars much more efficiently, if you cared to. That way, despite the group only gaining one grief seed per witch, you'd eventually end up with a surplus. It has happened before, but not very often. Unfortunately, cooperation is not your species' strong point.

As to our motivations, I do not understand what isn't perfectly clear about them by now. You've asked all the right questions and I gave you true answers. The Universe is dying, it always has been. There is only a finite amount of fuel, of usable energy that can be extracted from it. It is vast, entirely outside the scale you are used to thinking about, but in the end limited.

If there is one thing among all the things you've asked me about that I'd really like you to believe me about and understand, it's this: there is no alternative. There is no technology, no trick that can be performed within physics to avert the Universe's fate. There is no plan that does not involve magic. No matter how advanced, science has to operate within reality's laws that your species has already discovered: total entropy can only increase, usable energy always decreases. Entropy is not a foe you can defeat. It's not a hole in the Universe that you could plug. It's not even a physical force or process you could counter.

Whatever we accomplish with our advanced technologies only amounts to rearranging cargo on a sinking ship. No matter how cleverly we do that, we're still sinking.

I admit magic is something we do not truly understand. It is opaque, what your engineers call a black box. All the efforts of our civilisation to reduce it to understandable physics have failed. And yet it is useful: it is the only process known to us not bound by the laws of thermodynamics. So the truth is that we simply have to use it.

You think that the Universe's demise is too far away in the future to be worth the sacrifices?

It is because you think the remaining lifespan of the Universe is even a long time that I cannot truly take your condemnation seriously. You recognize yourself as more long-sighted than the cattle you breed, which only lives in the present day and doesn't worry about the future. You rightly see this as a sign of your superiority. But when you yourself meet beings possessing a broader picture yet, you call us monsters instead of recognizing our greater sanity. You would stop our plan if you could.

Let me put it this way.

You said you care about all the people in your life, didn't you? They are important to you. You claim their lives are precious in a way that my kind couldn't understand.

Well, if our plan succeeds, as it is bound to, in a trillion trillion years from now there will be innumerable conscious beings like you, living out their lives. Some of them will be descendants of species similar to your own. They will inherit your emotional makeup and consider each other precious the same way. Everything you value in your life on Earth right now will exist for someone else in the future.

Without our plan that future would not occur. Those countless sapients would die out or not exist, as by that time the Universe would stop being capable of supporting life, especially on the scale we have in mind. Are you fine with that? Do you not mind cutting off all those futures, denying all these people a chance to live, because you didn't want to increase your species' mortality rate by a very tiny fraction?

...What is it?

Very well, we can change the subject.

No, I don't know if a way out exists, either for you as a magical girl, or for your species. I'm afraid I cannot think of any. In any case, it is not my responsibility to provide one. The greater good will have been served with Kaname's fall, and that is enough for us. Then, if her power does not wane on its own, other civilisations will come and defeat her. Eventually we will be able to replant intelligent life on this planet to harvest it again later. Perhaps your replacements will prove wiser and survive long enough to escape their home planet and join the larger Universe, as could have been your fate.

Oh, certainly the interruption in the supply will last a while, but the sheer amount of energy we're anticipating from this makes it worth it.

Why are you pointing that at yourself? You do remember that's not just a shiny gem?

Oh, you missed...

...I think that is my cue to leave. I cannot afford to be trapped in a Barrier right now. I have a ripening Madoka Kaname to watch over.

/人◕‿‿◕人\