Sorry for all of those who are waiting for the next chapter of The Master Hacker, I will begin the next chapter when this is uploaded.

Chapter 11: a lone conversation in private

"What do you mean, you don't know?" Ash asked to the medic. We were all currently in the medical station where the doctors took Ferno. We were in the lobby and Ferno was being tested in the other room behind the doctor.

"Well, she is physically ok, save the giant gash on her forehead, but she is not waking up. She has a steady pulse, no signs of fever and her body temperature is normal… well, for a fire sprite's standards, but whatever we try she just won't wake up."

"Can we see her?" Astrid asked the medic.

"Uhh, we prefer that you don't, just for safety reasons."

"Buddy," I started at the medic. "I have had about enough of it. I get stuck down here, we get attacked, one guard really gets me mad, and my friend gets hurt. Now, I'm not in the best of moods, and I have enhanced strength, so if you don't let us in, you are gonna have to be pulled away on a stretcher too, get me?"

The medic froze for a moment.

"Umm… you make a fierce argument… very well, you may enter, but you may not touch her. There may be radiation from the core."

We all rushed in, I went last because I wanted to growl at the medic just to prove a point.

We walked in and passed several empty beds, only a few were filled but the patients were just struck with fever or something. We found Ferno, lying unconscious on a bed. Everyone was immediately over her, trying to see if she would wake up. Geo, as sneaky as he thought he was, tip toed over to the other side of the bed and tried to put her arm in his mouth so he could eat it.

"Geo, you even think about it, you are going in the bed next to her." I said.

"Awwwwww… hungry." He replied hanging his head as he walked back to me.

"Hold on one sec." I told the others as I went to the nearest doctor and asked him for saltines." He showed me to a box in the corner and I grabbed as many as my pockets could hold, then walked back to Geo.

I tossed five or six packs into the air and Geo caught them all in his mouth, wrappers and all he swallowed them down.

"That should keep you quiet for a time." I said to no one in particular.

"Any luck with her?" I asked the others.

No one responded because they were still trying to figure out in their own way what was wrong with her, but I noticed that john was smirking at me.

"What?" I asked.

"You said that she was your friend. That was the first time you actually admitted it."

"Uhh… no I didn't. What are you talking about?"

"Yes you did, you were getting angry at the doctor and said 'my friend is hurt'."

"Well… umm… I had to… you know, make it convincing…"

"So she isn't your friend?" John asked.

"No, she's just… umm… someone that I know… an acquaintance, nothing special." I said… obviously, that had not been put together as well as I thought, but honestly, Ferno is only an acquaintance, she's not a friend. John just caught me off guard.

"Uh huh, we'll see." said John.

"She seems to be really out of it, she might not wake up for a while." concluded Astrid.

"Maybe you should perform CPR." mumbled John.

"John, I will kill you." I said forcefully.

"What should we do?" Jenny asked.

"The reason I brought you all here was so that Seth could find you all a way home. If you wish to pursue the way home, be my guest. I am staying here with my sister." said Ash.

"No thanks, we'll stay here until Ferno gets better. I don't want her waking up and thinking that she'll never get to see the surface. She would have my head if that happened." I said.

Ash turned to me and thanked me for my sacrifice of time, but there was something else that made me want to stay here. I thought back to my visions of the dragon headed, armored creature. I had to figure out what it all meant.

"If you don't excuse me, I have to go do something." I said leaving the medical station into the vast hallways of the palace. I lost my way for a second, but I finally made my way back to the throne room where the king was just finishing up a meeting with some other creatures that did not look like humans, unlike the king and Astrid… and the fire sprites but you already get the point. I waited until the other creatures left before I approached the king. He saw me and immediately welcomed me.

"Ahh… if it isn't Seth Cosmic, I heard what happened to your friend, and I am indeed saddened by this stroke of misfortune. What brings you here at this moment?"

"Well, she is not my… never mind. I have a question. If I get a vision from the core, will it come true?" I said.

The king pondered over this for a minute.

"That depends on the vision that you saw."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Well, say that you had a vision where you saw a man get struck down by someone that you know. That very much might come true, but say you saw a vision of something unrealistic, say… your friend ate your prehistoric in one bite. That is most likely not to happen, depending on your friend's appetite."

We both laughed.

"But wait, why I get a vision of something that is unrealistic?" I asked.

"Sometimes your unconscious dreams mix in with the visions. Therefore, you have an unrealistic vision." he said.

"Is there any way to stop a vision, at least a realistic one?"

"I do not believe so. Usually when you see a vision you don't like, your natural instinct is to stop it when really, your vision takes place when you try and unsuccessfully stop it."

"Oh… ok then." I said disappointed. I thanked the king and turned to leave when one last question came to my head.

"Wait, I have one last question; is there any way to communicate with the core?"

"What do you mean?"

"You know, like talk to the core?"

"Hmm… yes and no I believe. The core is a living organism, and it communicates with the visions that it gives you, but it's not like you can have a full conversation with it. Well, no one has tried any way… I guess it may be possible if it is willing to speak."

"Thanks, King Astrid." I said eagerly and I turned to leave.

"Certainly." He said behind me.

I ran through the hallways with only one thing on my mind; I have to talk to the core. I ran up the flight of stairs and headed down the hallway until I reached the wooden door. I pushed it open and stood just outside the palace. As I shut the door behind me, I noticed that there were no guards here like there usually were.

"Good," I thought to myself "A lone conversation in private."

I walked over to the core and then circled around it once I got over to the massive and lengthy tower, where the core just floated in place. I looked down at the stone floor and saw a spot of dried blood from Ferno when she smashed her head.

"Alright you oh so powerful core, you and I are going to have a nice little chat about my visions and you will tell me what they mean." I said to the core which gave no answer.

"Did you hear me? I'm talking to you, whatever you are. You got a lot of explaining to do." I tried again to which I still got no reply.

I was mad, not just at the lack of responses I was getting, but because I had major questions about my visions. Call me crazy, but I think that when the core gave me the visions, it gave me the notion that I had to fight this dragon headed thing, which I didn't like because that human guy, Skander's dynasty or something, threatened to kill me too since I was going to be "useless to stop the darkness" whatever the darkness is.

I just circled the core for a minute. But then the idea hit me, what if the dragon headed monster was part of the darkness. And what if it is, does that mean that the guard is related to the darkness? I saw him in my vision when his eyes were turning a purplish black.

"Is that what you were trying to say when you gave me the visions? Is this all connected to the darkness?"

The stubborn thing kept silent again, and I just about had it.

"Answer me dang it!" I hollered at the core, and for the first time, it answered, but not in the way I expected.

My whole vision zoomed into a white endless landscape, and standing in front of me was King Astrid.

"Seth Cosmic…" he said slowly. "Why do you dare disturb my meditation?"

"King Astrid?" I asked.

"No, I am the core of the underground civilization. I have no shape, size, or form. I only take the form of someone from your memories.

"Oh… well anyway, you would already know why if you had been listening to me when I was yelling at you the first time." I said.

"You want to know the truth about your visions? So be it then, I will tell you. You are the first dynasty to find our civilization. There are others, who have formed dynasties with creatures like yours, but you are the first to stumble upon us, and it was no accident either. I knew you were to find us the moment that you activated the entrance to the fire sprites home."

I took it that he was talking about when my friends and I fell through the volcano. Just remembering that experience made shivers go down my spine.

"You already know about the darkness, but you don't know much. All you need to know at the time is that the darkness is coming."

"When, where, and why is it coming?"

"Soon, this city, and because the dynasty war is arising, and you are the first to fight against it. You must gather other dynasties together and fight off the darkness, but not yet. First you must focus on defending the city. After that, you may return to your daily life and you will be called to gather the dynasties when you are needed."

Actually, I understood that all quite clearly. In this white infinite space, my mind was sharper, and I could comprehend things more easily. But then I noticed something off in the distance, something wearing red.

"What is that?" I asked the core.

"That is the fire sprite Ferno."

"Wait, what? Why is she here?"

"When she smashed her head, she fell into unconsciousness and her unconscious being was scattered. Her mind is here focusing on trying to wake up without losing any memory fragments."

"Is there any way I could help her wake up faster?"

"Maybe if she sees you, she will remember you, even if her memory is damaged when wakes up."

So I tried to move to her, but I couldn't move my legs.

"What do I do?" I asked the core.

"Try to imagine yourself moving toward her."

"What, am I going to magically float to her?" I asked myself, and as if karma was mocking me, I did. I was instantly floating next to her in a second.

She was lying down… while floating I guess… like she was lying on a bed. The only difference from how she looked here and how she looked in the hospital, was that she was twiddling her thumbs, she was moving her red colored feet, and she was… humming? She was humming a tune quietly to herself."

"Ferno, what are you doing?" I asked her. She gave no response. That's just great, as if I hadn't been ignored enough today.

The core came up behind me so quickly and quietly that I almost jumped when I saw him.

"She is gathering her thoughts." He said.

"And humming is how she's doing it?" I asked.

"If you were in her position, you probably would be doing that too." He said.

Ferno opened her eyes and stared blankly at me, with a slight smile. It wasn't like she was happy to see me, it was that he being was just happy in general, she was still humming and she again didn't respond when I asked her again what she was doing.

"Does she remember me?" I asked.

"Her mind does not know that you are here, it is preoccupied. But her image see's you, and in a few seconds, it should alert her mind that you are here."

"Kind of like a loading screen." I said, but I then got the image of Ferno's face as the loading screen for a video game... "Eww…"

But she did come to recognize me. She then yawned and her eyes drooped down to a drowsy look.

"S-Seth? What are you doing here?" she asked barely keeping her eyes open.

"It doesn't matter, are you ok?" I asked.

"I- I'm tired. What happened… where are we?"

"We're alone." was all I said to her. In fact, it seemed like the core left us alone.

"Look, we need to talk," she yawned again. "when I wake up."

"About what?" I asked.

"The… surface." She said as she closed her eyes for ten seconds, and then opened them again.

"Hey, you solid?" I asked.

"Don't… know… I'm… tired…" she replied. Then she fell asleep again and her image faded. I was, once again, facing the core.

"Alright, well at least she knows me, so what do I do. You know, to defend off the city?"

"That, you must decide on your own." Said the core as the image around me began to fade into the real world.

"Good luck, I depend on it." were the last words that I heard before I too fell asleep.