W Interrogates Raphael

<Raphael> The NERV cafeteria. It's not exactly bustling - though the Geofront may operate around the clock, and the bellies of its staff along with it, there's always a quiet period around mid-afternoon as the shifts change. Raphael is well aware of this phenomena, and he's taken advantage of it to chew his way through a salad in relative peace.-
<Raphael> His work with the Superheavy division has seen his largely absent from NERV headquarters these past few months, but the review meeting scheduled with the Colonel and Captain Marianne later this afternoon has left him with a bit of time to kill…
<W> A cup of tea and a reddish milkshake were set down on the table in front of the man, and the seat by it taken by a boy not much older than the Evangelion pilots were. His cane rested on the seat by him. His headphones were either on a rather quiet setting, or isolated the sound -very- well. The boy stared at the milkshake with just a hint of contempt.
*Raphael keeps on chewing away at his salad for a few moments, waiting until it becomes absolutely unmistakeable that the stare was aimed at him to glance up and meet it with one of his own. There's no matching contempt, of course… very little hint of emotion at all, truth be told. It's quite clear he's sizing the boy up. "… Good afternoon."
*W doesn't take his eyes off the glass. "Have you ever had one of these?"
<Raphael> "…" That gets a blink, which is probably a step in the right direction. "I've had a few in my time, yes."
<W> "Why?"
<Raphael> "I had a sweet tooth when I was younger," Raphael says slowly, in between mouthfulls of salad. "It seemed better than plain milk, I guess. Surely that's to be expected of children?"
<W> "It's a low-commitment, no-risk stimulus for the animal parts of the brain. It teaches children that it's alright to be weak and surrender to useless nihilistic impulses. Strawberry milkshakes are the lubricant on the downhill slope to the self-destruction of our species."
<Raphael> "They're quite delicious, though."
*W raised his head to face Raphael squarely, now. He was frowning. "Are they really? Or have you just been taught to think that?" The boy took a sip of the shake through the straw, pondering.
*Raphael almost manages to catch the smirk before it makes it to his lips… but not quite. He tries to hide it behind his next forkful of food. "… not to sound dismissive, but that sounds like a rather meaningless distinction."
*W frowned at the shake and put the straw back down. He moved to stare at the tea now, a gentle, warm steam still floating upwards from the cup. "It's the distinction of the two sides of this table, Mr Guillory. Maybe trivial from your perspective, but still an essential part of the world. Or do you think we could switch places and jobs without anyone noticing? I mean, I could take
*W your place, but your part'd be more difficult, obviously."
<Raphael> "No, it's the distinction of someone with limited time for existential dilemmas over flavoured milk. If I was to agree with you - that yes, we have been trained by our surroundings to have a positive opinion of the flavour of a strawberry milkshake, or by our biological makeup to gain some required nourishment from the drink - would it change the fact that I, right now, enjoy the taste? It's a matter of priorities." The name drop earns the very slightest narrowing of Raphael's eyes, but is otherwise uncommented upon.<W> "The reasons make all the difference in the world. We could debate whose priorities are the misplaced ones… but I really don't care about yours, so there'd be little reason." W dumped the cup of piping hot tea into the milkshake glass. The liquid filled the container perfectly, now. He began to stir it with the straw calmly. "How would you say being separated from Gabriel-Wei affected
<W> Zhang's decision making and combat capabilities during the Malchediel attack?"
<Raphael> "… and who is asking?"
<W> "Does your answer vary depending on my answer?"
<Raphael> "Whether you'll get one does."
*W used his non-stirring hand to fish out a NERV ID card and slid it to the man on the table. "Agent W - S2 Chief of Internal Inspection - Resident Wizard", it read. It had his picture, obviously, only without the headphones, just the glasses. W set the straw aside and took a sip of the teashake. "Now this I'd call a layered flavor."
*Raphael makes a bit of a show of raising the ID card up to the light to check the watermarking, but even with the ridiculous job title it's pretty unmistakeable. He slides the card back across the table and folds his arms. "Well, Agent Wizard… as I noted in my reports, I'd say Pilot Zhang's performance and poise were at least as good as my own under the circumstances. Possibly better." He sighs a little and gives W a hard look. "… If anything it's possible her performance around Isaiah was weaker. His injuries gave her something of a case of tunnel-vision, but the poor girl's a teenager under extraordinary pressure. Slips are to be expected."
*W examined the man's face intently as he spoke. "Mmh. And how do you feel about working with, and directly trusting your life to, a group of over-stressed teenagers?"
<Raphael> "Mmm. Every age group has its problems. The rookies have their stress and are still climbing up the learning curve, half the people my age are just clock-punchers who aren't sure if they want to be there, and the half the vets think they know your job better than you do. My job's to manage that. So I don't concern myself too much about age when worrying about who to trust my life to. You make a decision based on the person in front of you. And the three pilots I've met have earned my trust there."
<W> "Fair. And what about NERV? How do you feel about entrusting your life and work to them?"
<Raphael> "If I didn't would I really let the Section 2 agent be the first to know?"
*W inspected the man's expression for a few more moments, and then shook his head. "Is that right? All you soldiers really are the same. How would you say the other two pilots handled the Malchediel attack? I've been told you fought off a "Giant Reaper Monster" in the aftermath of your tunnel escapades."
*Raphael meets W's eyes without comment, actually smiling gently at the first part of his response. "Their group had a more traumatic trip than the one I was with - student deaths, both of children their own age and those much younger. They were carrying the bodies when we found them. That both Pilots were on their feet is something exceptional. Pilot de Pteres was nearly gutted, but as I understand it he was still the one to put the final bullet through that creature's head."
<W> "I see. The urchin's masochism is nothing new, of course." A ponderous silence, interrupted only by W slurping on the strange beverage. "What would it take to turn you against NERV, or the EVA pilots?"
<Raphael> "…" Raphael's expression turns hard at that, though he does a rather admirable job of keeping his look away from the realm of a glare. "Is there a reason I'm being interrogated, sir?"
<W> "Fun and profit, sir. If you found out during a battle that your commanding officer was, in fact, trying to steer you and your comrades into destruction, would you be open to reconsider following their orders?"
<Raphael> "Usually I'm one who believes in sacrificing my unit if ordered, but that loyalty is built around the rather pragmatic fact that NERV is the only group capable of providing the tools humanity needs to stop themselves from being ground to dust beneath the heel of an angel. If I considered NERV a bigger threat to the survival of our species, then that's when things would change. Right now I do not."
<W> "That sounds quite rational, Mr Guillory. What amount of contact and co-operation have you had with the Japanese branch of NERV?"
<Raphael> "Minimal. I've met their operations director at a social function, but that's possibly the most contact I've had with members of their branch. A few VTOL crews were selected to escort the pilots to the Tokyo-2 in December, but I was tied up with work in Paris."
<W> "False. I would hardly call engaging in romantic interactions with someone as "meeting" them. Try again."
*Raphael sighs and presses against the bridge of his nose with a thumb. "… How does this seem to come up in every conversation?"
<Raphael> He no longer seemed particularly surprised, it must be said.
<W> "So what exactly -is- your relationship with Miss Katsuragi?"
<Raphael> "We were both quite drunk. We kissed /once/ due to said intoxication," Raphael says tersely, obviously trying to push through the whole this in as few words as possible. "I sobered up enough to realize that was an astoundingly foolish thing to do with a superior officer, bought her a taxi home and haven't spoken to her since."
<W> "Hmmh. How did she react?"
<Raphael> "There was a… lively discussion, but we parted on agreeable terms."
<W> "She hit you, didn't she?"
<Raphael> "Yes sir she did."
*W grinned. "Congratulations."
<Raphael> "It was not one of the prouder moments of my life," Raphael admits, but his lip is curled in a way that would probably be the beginnings of a smile were he not in professional mode.
<W> "It's fine, as long as you understand your life expectancy dropped by about ten years because of that kiss." The boy finished his drink, grabbed his cane and got up. "Now, the Captain is now finished with her prior engagement, and I'll let you get on with your meeting. Farewell, Mr Guillory."
*Raphael cocks an eyebrow as the alleged wizard begins to depart, turning his salad fork over and over in his fingers. "… Right. You have a nice day, Agent."

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