New Life : A Second Chance 260 The Past: Oreo Iii

New Life : A Second Chance -

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Ralph's head felt heavy and touching it, he was surprised to feel it wrapped up. He looked around and realised for the first time, that he was in a hospital. On a hospital bed in a hospital gown.

His head hurt as he tried to make the connections.

Just then, a nurse walked in.

"Ah, Mr. Machhio. You're awake," she said with a gentle smile.

Ralph looked at her, and she seemed familiar but he couldn't quite remember.

"Do you know who you are?" she asked kindly.

Ralph nodded.

"Do you know where we are?"

"Hospital XYZ?" he said tentatively. After all, that was the last thing he remembered.

"That's good," the nurse replied as she carried out the normal checks on him. Temperature, blood pressure and so forth.

"Your operation was successful," she continued, "The doctor will come by later to do the full check-ups."

"Operation?" he mumbled.

"Yes. The surgeon said that it was a close call," she replied, "From the looks of it, it was ready to burst. Without this operation, you would have been dead by now."

Ralph's eyes went wide open at that.

The thoughts of his daughter being all alone after he died made him panic. But operation? How? When?

He looked about the room again, realising - yet belatedly again - that it was a private room. He couldn't afford the operation, let alone this room! He had to get out before they found out. No, he couldn't do that. That wasn't honorable.

"I'm sorry, Nurse," Ralph began, "But I think there's been a mistake. I can't afford all of this."

She looked at him with a smile, "Oh, don't worry. It's all been paid for already. Your boss from MIB said it's part of your medical plan."

Ralph's eyes narrowed at that.

Just then, a phone rang. It kept on ringing until the nurse asked, "Aren't you going to pick that up?"

"Huh?" Ralph said in a daze.

The nurse took it to mean that Ralph was still not in full capacity, due to the surgery. Thus, she took the phone that was at the bedside table and handed it to Ralph just before she left.

On the front, were the words, MIB.

Ralph answered, but didn't say a word. He just listened.

"I know you're not happy with this, but the operation was needed," the voice on the other end said, "There are no strings attached."

"Yeah, right," Ralph said scoffingly, unable to hold back any longer.

The guy laughed, "Yes, you believe that there is no such thing as a free lunch, right?"

"So why the lie?" Ralph pointed out.

"I didn't lie," the guy said, "There are no strings attached. Everything has been done and paid for. The operation, the ward for one month, your daughter's medication, and caretaker for her while you're at the hospital."

Ralph's eyes went wider and wider after each sentence. His mind just hurt thinking about the debt that was piling up.

"You're my charity case for the month," the voice went on.

"No," Ralph insisted, "I rejected your offer on MIB but I will repay you for all of this."

He took a deep breath, "No matter how long it takes, I'll pay it back."

"I know," the voice said, "How about a compromise then? I send you some jobs to do for MIB. It's entirely up to you if you want to do it or not. 50% of the pay goes to you and 50% as repayment for the bills."

Ralph snorted inwardly. Like he'd ever take up any of those jobs the guy would give him. He's going to do good, honest work.

"Fine by me," Ralph said non-committedly.

"Great," the voice went on, "Keep the phone. I will keep in touch."

Ralph snorted after putting down the phone. The guy was right about one thing. The deed is done, and he had literally saved his life. So, for now, he had this life debt to pay.

Meanwhile, Kyle smiled wistfully at the phone. Did he feel guilty for Plan B? No, not even a little bit. He needed Ralph and he would do anything to get him, so long as it didn't go against his own moral grounds.

Since his first death though, the line of what was 'ethical' and 'right' was very, very low. He was tortured and killed over doing what was 'right' after all ... so saving a man's life without his consent would hardly give him any loss of sleep.

Ralph was probably going to resent him for a long time for this, but that was something he didn't care about and was willing to take.

~ A year later ~

Ralph stood outside the building that he managed to purchase for the mysterious boss of his. No, bosses. He scratched his head, wondering just what went on in the minds of that pair. Initially, he had thought that they were lovers but the more he interacted with them, he figured out that they were best friends.

As he stood there, he was still surprised at the fact that he stayed. All the jobs that were sent were basic stuff like finding suitable workers. Checking their background. Being a bodyguard to two babies once in a while.

He had been shocked senseless at that one, for he recognised the boy as the one that had run away from his bodyguard. Apparently, the boy got attached to him. He had tried to dig out some information as to the connection between his bosses and the boy, but he was shot down immediately.

The longer he worked for them, the more he knew that there was nothing shady going on. Even the pay given for each job was proper: it wasn't too little as to take advantage of him, nor was it too high so as to make him think it was a trap (make him so greedy for money that he would sell his soul to the MIB Devil).

The building was to be the HQ, filled with people that he had personally selected and pre-approved. The name wasn't MIB though. It was Zen. Such a short, simple name.

His bosses finalised the deal. He wondered why his bosses never showed up personally and always needed him to do the mundane things.

Ralph answered the call from J, the guy who was his boss.

"So, Mr. Macchio," Kyle asked, "Are you interested in joining MIB full-time? Just for what you have been doing so far, just full-time."

"Okay," Ralph replied, thinking it was a good deal.

That was the beginning of when Ralph began work with MIB. Initially, he was just another one of those 'grunts' that ran the office. Their role was simple at first: finding investments. It then expanded to providing security, to gathering information.

After another year, Ralph and a few selected individuals were called up for a special meeting.

In the secure meeting room (which had darkened one-way windows and soundproof), the projector showed the hazy image of the MIB two bosses: J, and K.

"The three of you have been carefully selected to start the second phase of MIB," began J.

"The second phase?" asked Ralph.

"Yes," K replied, "What you've been doing so far is the foundation of MIB and a cover of sorts, in a way."

Ralph's eyes narrowed. What was this? Was his initial hesitation two years ago spot on? Were all the training, information gathering and security all just a front for a terrorist group? Or underworld?

"MIB's true purpose," said J, "Is to be the backing for the Smith Twins, specifically, the possible Heir."

"Wait, what?!" shouted Ralph. Was that why they always had some sort of connection to the twins?

"The Smiths have a lot of enemies, and the heir would be in the hot seat," K explained, "The Smiths want something completely new and separate existence from the Smith Industries, which could not be traced back to the twins."

All three nodded. It made sense.

"The second phase, however, is top-secret. Once you agree, you can't back out anymore," J warned, "So think carefully before you make up your mind."

Ralph looked at the other two, whom he had been working with for the past two years. He had no issues with them and in fact, admired them as well.

They were hard-working, meticulous and skilled. Most importantly, he knew them to be good people. They weren't ruthless, but they were firm.

From that, Ralph knew in his heart - that this MIB wasn't bad.

"I'm in," Ralph said.

Soon, the other two agreed as well.

With that, K started clapping and jumped around happily. J turned to look at her and shook his head. The other three were used to her outbursts, so they didn't think much of it. J was the super serious one while K was the happy-go-lucky one.

"Great!! I now will give you your codenames. This is to add to the secrecy bit," K said.

They agreed, understanding. They were to lead double-lives now and it made sense that they would have code names.

"You are Oreo, Cornetto and Twisties!" K said happily.

Ralph choked while the other two were too shocked to respond.

"Wh?" Ralph began, cleared his throat and asked, "Why those names?"

"Cuz they're my favourite snacks! And you three are my favourite agents! Great codenames, right??" K asked.

The three of them didn't have the heart to say "no".

Just then, Ralph got a phone call. It was the hospital.

"Meetings adjourned," Kyle said, knowing what the call was about, "Details about your new role will be sent soon. For now, just work like normal."

They nodded and left the room while Ralph took the call.

"Mr. Macchio," said the voice on the other end.

"Yes?" he said nervously, worried about the news.

For the past two years, his daughter had barely been hanging on. Medication had kept her alive so far, but time was running out.

Despite hanging on and searching relentlessly, they had been unable to find a matching donor for the life-saving hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) replacement that she needer.

Ralph was in order to truly be cured, but the likelihood of finding a matching donor was very small, "Is my daughter okay?"

"Mr. Macchio," the voice said again, this time there was a hitch in her voice which made Ralph panic a bit.

"She is more than okay, Mr. Macchio. We found a donor. We found a donor!"

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