Through a Board Director's Eyes: A tale beyond the RDNA-verse.
Or, a snapshot from within the Agency.
Epilogue - In Memoriam
15 years ago...
Logan was part of a small expedition in yet another "undertaker" mission. The aging Austrian operative, now considered a veteran in his line of work, was put in charge as the expedition's leader. But this time though seemed different. Peculiar readings from this world, designated APH-0987-45, prompted him and his fellows to return here one more time. Officially, it's to collect whatever else could be salvaged and find if possible the source of the strange, if faint readings. Which shouldn't make damn sense, he mused while going through rubble. No one was supposed to be alive here. If anyone was left, they surely must be on their last breath by now.
They were at the fringes of what was once a small community, presumably of what was left of humanity. It was very eerie to say the least. There wasn't even a sound from the wind. Underneath his grey coat, he was wearing protective body suits and a transparent mask underneath his hood. His suit's programmed body safeguard protection should be enough to protect him from the radiation effects. Enough to kill a man in a matter of hours. At least it's better than those bulky radsuits...
"Sir, there's no sign of life anywhere here," one of his expedition members muttered through a vox-radio. "There's no one left."
"Keep searching, damn it!" he groaned. "At the very least, we should be able to find the source of this mess!" Looking around, he caught glimpses of what the last days of this world must have been like.
"To think there was a war here just weeks ago. Torn this place apart until there's nothing left here," one of the newer members of the undertaker expedition crew mumbled, rather upsettingly as an older member put his arm over his colleague in comfort.
And who could blame 'em? Here and there were the remains of belongings: books, furniture, broken toys and other artifacts left over from far better times. From a world before an even greater conflict than the once that had just happened consumed it in fire. And signed everyone's death warrants. All surrounded by rotting corpses, some of which no longer looked human. Logan remembered the first time he took this undertaker duty.
"Monsieur Logan!" One of the French-speaking Agents called out to the Austrian as she and another colleague approached him. "I think we found a signal, but it's very faint."
They pointed to a faint path leading away from the smoking ruins. It was towards the barren lands beyond that were covered in even more dangerous levels of fallout. All while this settlement bled itself to nothing.
"Not even my world's end got this bad," he sighed to himself before following the trail, motioning the expedition to keep pace. As he did, he approached an all too familiar hamlet, or rather what remained of a more decent home. This was one of the first places he came to when he and his team first arrived at this now dead world. This really can't be...
Glancing about, he noticed objects scattered about the floor. Objects that weren't visible the last time he was here. The trail, now with more discenable footprints, seemed to go past a hole in the hovel and back into the dusty wastes. But among the scattered items on the floor was a peculiar photograph. It was yellowed with age and nearly colorless. He gently picked up the photograph, careful not to rip it or cause damage. It was of a young family with their son in the middle. Yet something about the parents seemed oddly familiar. Almost like a coincidence. Gott, this can't be them...can it? Before he could look closer, he heard a faint cry in the distance.
"Um, Monsieur Logan?"
Logan turned around to find the French woman and the rest of his increasingly jittery team.
"Did you hear something?"
"Hear what, Monsieur?"
Verdammt, can't be in my head! Without saying another word, the Austrian rushed to follow the trail once more. With each passing second, the footsteps grew more fresh, the faint sounds more audible. Over the horizon, he saw a great mass of rubble and fallen buildings on both sides of a now dried up riverbed. After running down the trail for who knew how long, at the middle of the former Danube, he finally saw what looked like a small group of people laying on the dry bedrock. Fighting exhaustion as he came closer and closer, he ran towards them.
Gott, you better not die on me! You...Nein...
What Logan found however made his heart sink with shock. Before him were two dead bodies, rapidly decaying with each passing second. Hands reaching out for each other. Despite their rotted clothing, hair and dwindling skin, there was still enough to identify the remains. One was of a woman. The other, a man. He noticed a peculiar dead flower still attached on the dead woman's hair. A pair of cracked glasses laying close to the dead man's corpse. For a brief moment, he thought they seemed familiar. As if they're...Nein, couldn't be!
He lowered his head, more overcome with grief than any sense of sickness. "Gott. I'm too late..."
It was then that he noticed the body of a small child not far from the two decaying corpses, an arm outstretched as if trying in vain to reach for them. A young boy in ragged garments who, despite his nigh-skeletal body, looked more asleep than dead but not by much. Logan quickly went over to check on the child.
"Bitte, be alive. Durch Gottes Willen!" he swore as he took out his sonic probe, scanning the boy's body. To his relief, he noticed a faint pulse from the child's chest. That it seemed incredibly unusual for any human being to survive this crumbling world up to this point, for a brief moment didn't register to the Agent. All that matter was this lone survivor's safety. I have to get him out of here!
Logan carefully picked up the near-dying boy and turned to his expedition team who had been trying to catch up with him. "We found what we came for! Quickly, get us back to the Portal Terminal NOW! Schnell!"
"About time!" the other Agent sighed. "This world's very stability is on the brink!"
Soon afterwards, all members of the undertaker exhibition team were teleported away in a flash of light, one by one. The leader with his unconscious discovery sighed, looking at the corpses as the light consumed them both.
"I'm sorry, kid. I couldn't save them..."
"Do I get to stay with you, Herr Logan?" A now recovering and healthier looking Jonatan timidly asked Logan on his medical bed in the Medical Center.
The old Austrian nodded warmly. "How time flies. Eh, kid?"
It had been six months since the old Agent rescued the child out of that dying world. And none too soon. While the child was still very thin and fragile, it masked the incredibly fast recovery Jonatan had...
The young boy shyly smiled. "I'm going to live with your family, ja?"
"Of course!" Logan smiled. "Wouldn't want you to be out alone here!"
"Are they nice?"
"Ja. They are. Good people, one and all."
Jonatan nodded, almost hesitantly before looking out the window at the soaring galactic sky of the Hub Sanctuary.
Logan sighed softly before he took out a little present from the inner pockets of his jacket. "Hey, I've something for you. It is your birthday today, ja?"
Jonatan raised his eyebrow as he turned to the old Austrian man. "W-Why did you ask?" The young boy was then given a wrapped up present, very confused at first.
"Go on, Bitte. Open it," Logan encouraged the young boy. He watched as the kid carefully unwrapped the ribbon and wrapping paper to find a box. His smile however became somber when Jonatan opened the lid.
It was a small, framed photograph. A vividly coloured copy of a very familiar young family, with a much younger Jonatan smiling in the middle. Even the wilted flower on his late mother's brown hair seemed to glimmer. The boy stared at the picture frame as he held it in his hands with wide silent eyes.
"I asked a good friend of mine to make a colored copy of the original photograph. It took some time, but it paid off. Just for you, kid," Logan explained in a soft tone.
Jonatan's hands shook the more he stared at the picture. "H-How?!" he gasped. Then with startling speed, the kid crumpled the replica and threw it out the window. This took the old Austrian aback. He didn't expect the child's reaction to be like this. "I'm - I'm sorry," he said as he hugged his legs on his bed, tears beginning to well up.
The old Austrian sighed as the boy looked down, hair covering his face as tears dropped from his cheeks. "Nein, I shouldn't have done that. Perhaps one day-"
"NEM! I don't want it!" Jonatan snapped at him angrily before his face softened down to a very apologetic look, "I don't want to see it again." His head buried in his arms as he cried. "I don't want to see them anymore!"
Without saying a word, Logan stood up and laid a gentle pat on the child's back before turning away. One day, you'll have to face it... But as he was about to exit the room, he turned back with a melancholy smile. "Trust me on this, kid. You'll make it. You've got to."
All was quiet inside Jonatan's medical room as the night dragged on. The young boy was soundly asleep. His pillow however, had long become a bit dampened. A soft hand, however gently cradled the young child's cheek, wiping away the tears as he slept. Even if he couldn't feel it.
"Dies ist nicht richtig," a male voice whispered in an elegant if melancholy accent.
"Nem. Ez nem," the voice of a woman answered back in a soft tone.
Glancing about, the two figures saw an aging man in a rustled, old-fashioned suit and tie asleep on a chair.
"Also blieb er. Eine edle österreichische, dass man."
"Talán ez a legjobb, szerelmem. Ő majd lesz egy jó őre a mi gyermekünk."
The ghostly figure of a man in tattered clothing and cracked glasses nodded somberly. In his hands was the crumbled replica of the family photograph Jonatan had thrown away. A moment of much happier times captured in one photo.
"Unser Kind nicht dieses Schicksal verdient. Er sollte nicht so leiden."
The woman, in her tattered dress and an odd withered flower nestled on her hair, frowned. Saddened as she looked at the child. Their son.
For a moment, Jonatan stirred in his sleep. Audibly muttering out, "...Mama...Papa..."
The wisps formerly known as Roderich Edelstein and Elizaveta Hedervary were still coping with their changing forms. But even in their current state, they could do little else to console their son.
"Nagyon sajnálom, a fiam," the mother somberly said as she gave her child a soft kiss on his forehead. "Mi mindig itt figyel téged."
For a moment, Jonatan seemed to relax a bit as he continued to sleep. The father gently placed the crumbled picture frame down on the bedside table before going over to his wife's side. Without saying a word, they held each others' hands.
"Boldog születésnapot, Jonatan."
Logan stirred up abruptly as he grumbly woke up. He groaned as he looked his wristwatch. "Gott. It is that late already."
He then noticed the framed photograph that Jonatan threw out the window earlier today, now on top of the table next to the bed. But when the old Agent looked around for any signs of entry, there was nothing else other than a sleeping kid and the dim night sky beyond the window. It puzzled him as he glanced back over to the picture.
"Then how did you get back here?" He asked in no one in particularly as he picked it up. He shook his head. Must be fatigue again... He glanced over to the Jonatan, soundly asleep before looking back at the photograph. Logan knew deep down that he could never truly replace the boy's true family, let alone his heritage.
But you needn't worry. I promise.