I woke with a jolt. To my surprise, I was staring at a ceiling fan.
There was a beeping sound to my left. I turned to see a monitor with jagged lines and numbers. I was attached to it by wires.
Soft morning light shone through a window, illuminating the room. I squinted as my eyes adjusted to its brightness. Sitting next to me was a figure in an armchair, sleeping peacefully. After a moment, I recognized that it was my brother, Micha. He appeared as if he had just come straight from a mission that involved a fierce battle. His dirty blonde hair was tufted. Dark rings encircled his eyes like shadows. His beige-green mixed uniform that he usually kept in prime condition were worn down with some nicks, tears, and dirt stains. His precious green mission vest dangled over the side of the chair. I have never seen my brother so beaten up, even on the most difficult missions of his career as a ninja. What had happened to him?
"Micha?" He didn't wake up. I tried to sit up and immediately regretted it. My side felt like it was on fire. I touched the spot and could feel the bandage through the gown. More importantly, what on in heaven's name happened to me? My brother must have some answers.
I leaned over to tap him on the leg. I froze. My arm felt heavier than usual. I lifted it to find that it was under a cast. I didn't remember hurting myself, especially my dominant arm. In fact, the last thing I could remember was heading home after delivering a package. How did I wind up in the hospital?!
"Micha!" I exclaimed a little too urgently. My brother almost leaped out his chair.
"Took you long enough, sleepyhead." He mumbled, rubbing his weary face as he settled back into his chair.
"What happened?" I started to panic.
"Why am I in the hospital? And what in the world happened to my arm?!"
"You got into an accident while you were going to deliver a package." He told me, placing a comforting hand on my cast. "You fell and fractured your arm on the way down."
"I fell?! How come I don't remember it?"
"The doctors said you were exhausted or sick, causing you to pass out. You were unconscious."
Had I fainted? In the middle of nowhere? That thought was scary enough and embarrassing for a long distance runner such as myself.
"How did I end up here, in the hospital if I fell in the middle of nowhere?"
"A team of SOC found you as they were returning from a mission. They brought you to the hospital, contacted the Delivery Corp. who contacted me. Thankfully, I had just finished a mission so I was able to come straight here."
So I had passed out on the way to Lumberton, fell off something, and broke my arm in the process…? I tried to think back but I couldn't recall anything. My mind felt like a giant fur ball. Everything was confusing and hazy, so much that it made my head throb.
Micha got up and sat down beside me. "What do you remember?" he asked, his voice thick with concern.
"Nothing much." I replied. "All I remember is that I delivered a package to Lumberton. Anything past that is a blank."
Micha's posture shifted. He was more relaxed now. Why would news of my amnesia relax him?
I watched Micha intently gaze at his hands as if he was considering something. The next thing I knew Micha's arm was pulling me into an awkward half hug.
"Um, Micha? Why are you hugging me?"
"What? I can't hug my sister?"
"It's not that you are hugging me. It's why." I told him. Micha wasn't acting himself, I knew that much. He should be giving me a lecture about how my job is too dangerous and that I should quit my job. My brother was doing neither. Instead, he was hugging me.
Micha paused before answering, "I was extremely worried when I was told that you were out there somewhere, unconscious and hurt. So many scenarios played through my head, none of them were good." I looked up and our eyes met. "I thought I lost you." His gray eyes were becoming misty which dumbfounded me. My brother is an uptight, overprotective brother who took his job as a ninja seriously. He is always calm and has a constant fierce demeanor to him. Him showing any sign of emotion is a rarity, especially after mother died. "I'm glad you're safe." he finished and lightly kissed my forehead.
I let out a groan. I knew fully well where this conversation was going. "I hate to ruin this beautiful moment but if you are going to start complaining about my job then might you as well let me go."
Whenever we were together, he always managed to bring up the fact that he hated that I was a Deliverer. Traveling is part of the job description, meaning I might run into some trouble now and then. The concept never goes through his thick skull.
Micha revealed a sly smile, the one he has when he is about to pull off something cunning. "I don't need to," he responded. "Doctor specifically said that you have to stay in bed-"
"What?" I shoved my brother off the bed. "You can't be serious!"
Micha stood tall and folded his arms across his chest, the definitive sign that he was back to his usual serious self, except for the hint of a smirk that was a growing larger on his face. "You took a hard fall and we don't know whether it was because you were sick or out of exhaustion. Either way, running around is very the last thing you need right now."
"But my job-"
"Your boss already sent someone else to finish the rest of your pending deliveries." he finished. "He also told me to tell you to take some rest. Your co-workers are saying the same thing." Micha paused again which made me all the most nervous about what he was going to say next. He sat on the edge of the bed and I held my breath.
"Quincy, you haven't been home in a while. Your boss told me that you've been taking extra hours. You've clearly been overworking yourself. Father, I, and everyone is seriously concerned about you. I know you love your job but maybe its time you took a break."
I didn't like the idea of taking a break from something I love. Running packages is not even a job, but a dream come true. Why in the world would I give up my dream just because I fell and happened to get hurt?
Still, Michael made some good points. I haven't been home in a long time. I had recently started to pick up extra assignments for fun. I didn't think twice about how it would affect my health or my family. Also, I didn't want to make Father worry any more than he should have to.
"Does he know I'm here?" I asked Micha.
"Yes, I told him right after I find out. He's wrapping up something but he should be here later today. He almost had a heart attack when I told him you broke your arm."
I winced. Great, the last thing I needed was Father freaking out. I should comply. If I do, then they wouldn't be pissed when I go back to work earlier than what I had agreed to. By the quiet stare Micha was giving me with those anticipating eyes that always seemed to bear into my conscious, it didn't look like I had much of a choice anyway.
"Fine. You win. I'll stay home."
Micha smiled brightly and gave me another crushing hug. "Great! It has been kind of empty in the house without you around."
"Yeah, yeah," I said, squirming my way out of his grip. "But let me tell you now that it will only be until my arm heals."
"Deal." Micha extended his hand.
"Good." I responded, shaking his hand, sealing the agreement.
A couple of moments later there was a knock on the door on the other side of the room. A nurse peeked from around the doorway. "There are two visitors here to see Darby."
"They can come in," I said.
The nurse nodded and opened the door for two men in similar combat uniforms, Aaron and Karza. They have been Micha's closest friends since they were kids, joining the academy together, training outside of class to get ahead, and finally being placed in the same squad. The three were a perfect team and fought like one as well. They had more missions under their belt than any other team of their rank. Their long history also meant that we all know each other's families. Aaron and Karza don't have biological siblings, Aaron being an only child and Karza being an orphan. I was basically their sister. That also meant they were just as overprotective as Micha is when it comes to me.
"How's Clumsy Quincy?" Karza teased. He may consider me as a sister but that doesn't stop him from picking on me or me from despising him with a passion. His physique was lean and muscular, his biceps slightly bulged under the non-existent sleeves of his uniform as he crossed his arms over his chest. His teeth were jagged like razors, glistening proudly under the sunlight. His grin was wicked enough to turn children's dreams of sugar and spice to salt and fire. His hair was dyed gray like shark skin, spiked sharply on top. He was vicious as his appearance suggested. We both never got along because I think he is too arrogant. He thinks he is the top fish in the sea. If someone proved him wrong or gave any hint of ill treatment, he unleashed his wrath. I couldn't stand his cockiness and forceful nature. He thinks his wrath alone can defeat anyone that comes his way. He was no different from a bully. To my joyful surprise, a side of his face was horribly injured. Someone had proven him wrong. There was no way I could let him escape without some comments. Then I noticed that face was had a skin-colored bandage. Even better, his nose was broken. There even a hint of a missing tooth. "What happened to you? It looks like someone used you as a punching bag."
"A crazy bitch got me," Karza responded.
"Excuse me?" Did he just say, what I thought he just said? Micha and Aaron were just as shocked as I was to hear such a vulgar reply so suddenly.
"A female dog." he immediately elaborated. "It was while we were on the mission. We were sent to get her but she was stubborn... delusional... You know how they are, right?"
"How are you, Quincy?" Aaron interjected before I could reply. Aaron is the analyst of the team, assisted by his patient and observant behavior, similar to my father. His sea blue eyes are always waiting, looking, and absorbing. He knows just what to say and when to say it which makes him both kind and as cunning as a snake at the same time. Compared to Karza, Aaron is still the personable one, even if his tall stature made him seem more powerful than Micha and Karza combined.
"Fine, considering I don't remember much and my arm is broken."
"She's going to be home until her arm heals," Micha added.
A wave of what looked like relief passed over Aaron's face. It was brief, but I caught it. "That's great! We were really worried when we heard you fell."
"I'm sure you were…"
"We're heading the meeting." Karza said to Michael. "You coming?"
"Yes. Get some rest, kid." Micha said to me, ruffling the top of my hair a little too roughly.
"Hey!" I swatted him away. He made my head feel even fuzzier.
My brother sternly turned around at the door. "I'm serious, Quinn get some sleep. I'll come by later if I can." After giving me one last look, he softly closed the door, leaving me alone with nothing to do but to rack my brain.
The last thing I remembered was reading the Deliverer manual for directions from Lumberton. Anything beyond that moment was a haze. Questions buzzed in my mind like flies. How did I fall? Where did I fall? Why did the SOC bring me in? How long was I alone like that? Would I ever find out?
All the curiosity only made my head throb more. This was ridiculous! Honestly, did it matter anymore? I was safe, now, wasn't I? The answer was an obvious "yes" but deep down inside, I couldn't deny that something wasn't right.