Sable Online - Marie Hall

Chapter 1: A villain is born

1960

The mother gripped her child's hand tightly, unsure and yes, very afraid that she was doing the wrong thing. Aleric looked so tiny and frail hooked up to all the hospital wires. A machine breathed for him. His tiny rib cage inflating up, then down with each manipulated breath. His hair had fallen out weeks ago; the chemotherapy had been extremely hard on him. It was difficult seeing this new child she didn’t recognize. She traced the bald contours of his head, shuddering at the softness of the flesh.

He was dying. That was obvious; his small body could no longer fight the cancer. Heather couldn't believe she was here, that this was really happening. It'd only been twelve weeks ago that he'd complained of headaches and began having awful nose bleeds. When she took him to the doctors she'd expected them to say he had a sinus infection, not stage four brain cancer. And the way it had spread. Her heart flipped, and not for the first time she fought the almost crippling churn of a stomach ready to heave its meager contents. He was only seven. It wasn't fair.

She had few options at this point, but something, call it mother's intuition, instinct...whatever, something made her ill with foreboding.

"Ma'am, I do understand your reluctance," the doctor said gravelly, "this is not a light matter. And I would never try to sway you one way or another."

She bit her bottom lip and brushed her fingertips over his bald brows. She heard what the doctor said, but it was the look, the gleam of desire snapping through his eyes that told her the truth. He not only wanted her to sign the final bit of paperwork, he was anxious she do it quickly.

It felt wrong. Any mother should be thrilled at the possibility of a lifesaving surgery, even one in its trial one, but she wasn’t. Heather wanted to yank Aleric out of the bed and run far, far away. To a place where evil couldn’t touch him, where things like cancer didn’t exist. But Neverland existed only in books, this was real life, and the choice was killing her.

Aleric would only be the second candidate to receive the cerebral cortex infusion. She still wasn’t even sure what that meant. She rubbed her forehead; pain bloomed at her temples. "I don't understand."

His shoulders stiffened and she could tell he bit back a loud sigh. Anxiety riddled her soul. One wrong word, one wrong move and she’d bawl. The wet heat lingered behind her eyes, ready to come crashing down her face at the slightest provocation. Her husband was stationed in Korea, they were using every channel available to bring him home, but the process was slow and everything was caught up in red tape. It was like trying to run through a bog to get anything done.

This was all on her, this decision, this moment; what if she was wrong? This wasn’t like buying a car and then realizing you preferred the other model instead. This was life or death. Nothing could prepare someone for this. Nothing.

And yet here was this doctor acting like she was a moron for trying to make sense of a world she no longer understood.

"What don't you understand, Mrs. Delacort?" his tone was condescending.

"I'm sorry,” she snarled, “this isn't your son strapped to a bed and dying is it?" Her breathing was hard.

She was so angry. So pissed. This shouldn’t be happening. She curled her fists, wishing she had the guts to punch him. To make him feel in some small way the pain she felt. The pain that ate her insides, sapping her of life, of any type of joy she’d once known. Those days seemed an eternity and another lifetime ago.

His lips thinned and he muttered a low apology. "We haven't much time. It is imperative that if this surgery is to take place we must get the serum into his body while he is still strong enough to handle it. His white blood cell count is right at the verge of being too low. One more day, heck,” he shrugged, “one more hour will probably be too late."

"But how can you be sure this will work?" she asked, her words breathless with grief and laced with that awful hope that could kill as surely as any disease when it didn’t pan out.

He shoved his glasses up his nose, tucking Aleric's medical records under his arm. "I wish I could tell