An Encounter With Tobias Linden

<Raphael> Raphael’s world was slowly beginning to return to focus as the seconds ticked by following the catastrophic destruction of the T-RIDEN-T. That the hail of positron fire that had torn apart the rest of the mech so efficiently had left the cockpit and its ejection module largely unharmed was a miracle, but even the one stray bolt that glanced across his pod had resulted in an explosion of sparks and light shrapnel through the cockpit as it plunged towards the city.-
<Raphael> And now the Group Captain began his first tentative movements, feeling the pain from a gash in his side and discarding it the moment he was sure it wasn’t anything more than a flesh wound. From what he could see from the one unobstructed viewing window, his pod had plowed into the remnants of a blown out building before coming to rest.-
<Raphael> Raphael takes a moment to check his sidearm before trying the escape hatch.
<Tobias‘Linden> [His regulation pistol remains in its holster. The escape hatch feels like it’s a little jammed…]
<Raphael> «ploughed*»
*Raphael has to work hard to maneuver in such a tight space, but eventually he manages to get into a position to set his shoulder against the hatch and push.
<Tobias‘Linden> [The hatch was treacherous.-
<Tobias`Linden> [The moment Raphael applied his shoulder to it it fell away completely.]
*Raphael grunts as the weight of the hatch strikes him on the head, but thankfully he manages to catch the metal door before it does to much damage. With a mutter of discontent he lifts up with both hands and awkwardly pushes it into the debris alongside the pod before lifting himself out into the open air.
<Tobias`Linden> [Boston looks far different from this scale. Buildings have collapsed as positron bolts annihilated entire chunks of walls or foundations, leaving them to fall in on themselves; bright, actinic streaks of energy hurl themselves across the sky. He can see, like giants, the war machines that dominate the city.-
<Tobias`Linden> [The street he’s on hasn't exactly been spared. Chances are he's probably done some of the damage. The road in front of him is covered in a metre-high pile of rubble and masonry.]
*Raphael can't help but spend a few moments staring up at the giant shapes of the Evas and Solaces battling overhead. He's been at street level in these battles before, but never at this scale, and never in a city. He wonders whether there are any civilians left here…-
<Raphael> Still, there's little time to waste. Raphael draws his pistol and lowers himself down onto the rubble, taking a moment to get his bearings before heading in the direction of the nearest Minifront entrance.
<Tobias‘Linden> [Which is east…-
<Tobias`Linden> [About a minute passes when something passes over head. Something -massive-. A T-RIDEN-T, its sheer bulk overpowering, the noise of its engines drowning out everything and sending Raphael’s ears ringing. It lands more or less exactly in his path, 300 metres away.]
<Raphael> "…" He recognizes the model, of course - After all, it’s only been a handful of minutes since he’d been shooting at it himself. Raphael lets out a harsh breath and dashes off the main road and into cover, trying to keep a close eye on any movement from those enormous feet.
<Tobias‘Linden> [… It’s fortunate he does.-
<Tobias‘Linden> [There’s an absense of noise for a second, as though the entire world pauses for breath.-
<Tobias‘Linden> [The space where he had been standing is suddenly -crushed- beneath a massive, extremely densely armoured violet foot as EVA-04 lands during its float-jump, only to hurl itself forward once again. The sheer impact is enough to unbalance Raphael, and cause ominous cracks in the buildings nearby- especially the building within whose shadow he now stands…]
*Raphael is sent toppling forward, losing his breath as the rubble strikes him hard in his already wounded side. But still, he’s back up on his feet again a moment later… and this time he's scrambling in the opposite direction. No sense seeking shelter in a collapsing building.
<Tobias‘Linden> [A torrent of collapsing brick and wood fall in his wake, completely covering his previous cover.-
<Tobias`Linden> [A roar fills the air- the roar of ignited propellant. A bolter round hurls itself from EVA-04’s gun- and a second later, that threatening T-RIDEN-T's head is obscured in a massive explosion. When the explosion clears, it totters, then slumps forward, smashing into the ground below and wiping out a city block.]
<Raphael> The discarded bolter shell casing is hurled clear of the gun and plunges through one of the roofs to his left, but Raphael keeps running moving. But he still manages to catch sight of the T-RIDEN-T being swallowed up by smoke, and even in the chaos his face falls ever so slightly…
<Tobias‘Linden> [A piece of debris- or several pieces- hurtle down the road, towards him and other buildings- one of them smashes into an alleyway he can’t see, but the others pose a far more current danger.]
<Raphael> There's no real time to consider his next action; Reflex and instinct has taken over by now. He takes a split second to try and estimate the path of the debris before diving into cover behind the low ruins of a brick wall, unheeding of the fact that there's little more than bricks and shards of concrete to break his fall.
<Tobias‘Linden> [The fall hurts, but it’s better than being crushed. By the time the debris has passed, the street is eerily quiet as EVA-04 hurls itself away once more.]
<Raphael> He has to take a moment to catch his breath after that last bit of footwork, idly considering the remarkable rate with which he's building up bruises. Still, eventually he's able to pull himself up again to take a good look around the street… and then the skies above them for any more surprises on the way.
<Tobias‘Linden> [Only the odd fighter jet. It’s clear, for now. There's the sound of something collapsing nearby, but not near enough to be of concern.]
*Raphael lets out a quiet sigh and checks his compass before setting off again, pulling a compact radio from his belt as he goes.
<Tobias‘Linden> And so he walks. It’s a -lot- longer on foot than in Grendel, obviously…-
<Tobias‘Linden> A few minutes pass. He hears a sound behind him- like footsteps, something clicking, like a gun. "Halt!"
<Raphael> Raphael has his pistol drawn at the first sound of boots on rubble, but he’s just a second too slow. He lets out a sigh, shifting his hand on the gun to grip it by the trigger guard with his thumb and index finger and holds it up over his shoulder.
<Tobias‘Linden> "In concordance with Protocol I of the Geneva Convention, Part 3, Section one, Article 41, you are hereby considered to be hors de combat and are now under my protection of a prisoner of war. Please place the gun on the ground slowly and turn to face me."
*Raphael hesitates. There was nothing stopping him from making a run for cover, and in this sort of terrain there was a good chance of making a clean escape. And yet, there was always a risk. He’d be no good to Rei dead…-
<Raphael> "With due respect, sir, I don’t have time for this."
<Tobias`Linden> "I understand your response. But I am simply doing my duty."
<Raphael> "Quite aware, soldier. I don’t blame you." He says calmly. A moment later he gently places the pistol on the ground at his feet and turns to face his captor.
<Tobias‘Linden> The man who now holds him at gunpoint is none other than Tobias Linden. Long hair tied back in a braid, wearing a long flak coat over his piloting uniform. The tail of the coat catches the wind down the street, blowing it behind him. A German-made pistol is held in his right hand.-
<Tobias`Linden> But as Raphael turns, Linden’s eyes widen. "Shinji Ikari?"
<Raphael> It catches him off guard, and even in the middle of a warzone with a gun trained on his chest it’s enough to make him laugh. "Captain Linden. I’m glad to see you survived Pilot Zhang." He says, still smiling wanly. "… And no, I'm not Pilot Ikari. Although I hardly expect you to believe that."
<Tobias‘Linden> "I, too, am glad to see I survived." Says Tobias wryly, but his eyes narrow. "… No, I believe you. I see Shinji Ikari, but you are subtly different. Also, why would Shinji Ikari be in Boston? Without his Evangelion? And I would know if the infamous Berserk Maiden were anywhere nearby. So you must be a body double. Or… Perhaps a clone."
<Raphael> "The result of Angelic AT manipulation, as a matter of fact." Raphael says mildly. "The Nineteenth did not treat its victims particularly well."
<Tobias`Linden> "Ah. I will take that explanation. Name and rank?"
<Raphael> "Group Captain Raphael Guillory, First Superheavy Regiment."
<Tobias`Linden> "Ah. I see. Well met, Group Captain Raphael Guillory. I see you escaped the destruction of your vehicle unharmed. That is good."
<Raphael> "Quite." Raphael nods. "Was there any further news of your daughter, Captain?"
<Tobias`Linden> "I am afraid not." A flicker of worry breaks his calm demeanor. "I am going to trust what you said earlier, Group Captain."
*Raphael nods slowly. "Out of all of the Parisian pilots I suspect she’s safest in the hands of Pilot Blanc. She has… something of an idealistic streak, to say the least."
<Tobias‘Linden> Linden nodded slowly. "I am glad. I am unsure of what I would do without Minerva… Do you have children of your own, Group Captain?"
<Raphael> "One daughter, sir - Suzanne." He says slowly.
<Tobias`Linden> "Ah. A good girl, I hope?"
<Raphael> "The best, Group Captain." Raphael says, and even now he can’t hide the hint of pride. "She's not mine by blood, but I don't think I could be prouder of her."
*Tobias‘Linden smiles. "Ah, Group Captain. I would have to disagree. My daughter is clearly the best."
*Raphael scoffs. "I think you might be mistaken, sir."-
<Raphael> His gaze slowly shifts back to the gun in his hand and then he glances back over his shoulder in the direction of the minifront. "Alright, Captain Linden. I admit, you’ve caught me at a rather inopportune moment and in the middle of something exceedingly important, but caught me you have. What do you plan to do?"
<Tobias‘Linden> "Something important? May I inquire as to what it is?"
*Raphael is quiet for a few moments as he shifts his weight, increasingly aware of the dozens of aches and pains littered across his body. "… The Minifront is still under attack, sir. There are people I care about involved in the fighting."
<Tobias`Linden> "Hm. You’ve put me in a bad position, Group Captain." Says Linden. "If I let you go, then there is every possibility that through your actions, others- comrades, soldiers fighting beneath my same banner- might die as well. In that case, letting you go is putting the onus on me to choose between their life, or those you care about. You are a cruel man."
<Raphael> "A fair point." Raphael nods. "And I'm not going to deny that it's a likely possibility. But you did ask."
<Tobias‘Linden> "So I did." Linden sighed. "On the other hand, to stand where you are now, whilst those you care about are in danger, but you are unable to assist them- it is… Disturbing, painful."-
<Tobias`Linden> "I am a soldier, Guillory. I am also a father. But if I have learned something, it is that being a soldier is a state that can come to an end; but being a father is something that never disappears."-
<Tobias`Linden> He reached up, pulled out his braid. His hair began to flick about wildly, getting in his eyes.-
<Tobias`Linden> "My duty is to keep you here, but if I were to, say, be obscured by my own hair, a would-be prisoner might escape with the distraction…"
<Raphael> … a small smile spreads across his face.-
<Raphael> "Mmm. They’d have to be quick, though." Raphael says, leaning down to grab his pistol and moving it straight to his holster. "Best of luck to you, Group Captain. And your daughter as well."
<Tobias‘Linden> "And to you, Group Captain. Let us hope, whatever the outcome of this war, one day we meet in days of peace."-
<Tobias`Linden> "After all, I have yet to convince you of my Mauschen’s superiority…"
*Raphael lets out a quiet laugh and gives Tobias a quick nod before disappearing into the ruins at a jog, heading east…
<Tobias`Linden> … Linden watched him go. He holstered his pistol and sat down on a clump of rocks. "How rare, the sight of the honest man."

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