Artemis and Bernard went out of the building, and into an area in front of it. It appeared to be some sort of court yard, village green, or open space surrounded by odd mushroom shaped structures.
"These are the habitats. This one is yours."
They all looked the same to him.
"How will I know ... ?" He began.
Bernard took his arm and walked him toward the structures. Off to the right, one of them glowed.
" This one will only open a portal for you and whoever is with you.”
"What about people just "popping in," like you do?
"That won't happen." Bernard replied, but didn't explain why.
They started off on a path that seemed to zig and zag arbitrarily among structures which shouldn't be standing at all, by standard laws of physics and gravity. Apparently those laws did not apply here. They approached an area which seemed to curve outwards, and beyond that was ... nothing. It was just black, light less, impenetrable.
"This is as far as we go. Beyond this is the ocean. Soon it will cover everything that you know, topside."
"Is there any way of stopping it?"
Bernard shook his head.
"The lands above have been destroyed by asteroid impact, and global warming. The Antarctica ice cap has melted. Soon there will be only water. There are several places like this that will take some of the people who are left, but not all of them. "
"Why not all of them?"
"There are not enough of these places to hold them all. Besides, many of the remaining humans would cause a great deal of trouble, and possible destruction of these outposts of sanctuary. People have to be screened and accepted before they are allowed to come down here, like yourself. You are the emissary for your people."
As they walked out of sight of the ocean that surrounded them, Scout concentrated all his imagination on Bernard. In a swirl of light and energy, he transformed from the image of a big dog to the image of a human male.
"Don't do that! " Bernard shook himself all over, irritably, and transformed himself back into a dog.
" I wish you would go back to that human image, Bernard. I was experimenting, really. I didn't actually think you would change. I think I would be more comfortable talking to a person, rather than a St. Bernard."
Bernard changed back into the human image.
"Next time, ask!" he said grumpily.
Inwardly, Scout wondered if he could change the images of any of the other beings besides Bernard. He didn't know why, but he had an intuition that an ability to change someone else's shape might be handy someday.
As they walked in silence, Scout gazed about him in awe and admiration. He had never seen anything so beautiful!
They came to a grassy area that had marble benches, flowerbeds, and a narrow winding path made up of glistening mother- of pearl coloured shells.
Beyond the path, there was an invisible barrier of some kind that kept the ocean out, and the city in. There was a well lit area beyond the barrier of about a hundred metres, where a myriad of fantastically varied sea creatures moved about in the light.
Right up close to the barrier there was a garden of plant life and choral formations that took his breath away with its' beauty. The wreck of an ancient sailing ship formed the central feature of the garden. Schools of small brightly coloured fish swam through it.
" I've never seen anything so beautiful!!
Scout almost whispered, because It just seemed wrong to break the silence that surrounded the vista before him.
"This is our Sea Garden. It's a popular spot for visitors."
"I can see why. I can't even describe it's beauty."
Bernard sat on a bench and indicated that Scout should be seated also. He turned to the side and peered at his companion at length.
This made Scout a little uncomfortable, but he didn't say anything. He assumed that Bernard was just not used to human company, and didn't realize that staring was rude.
Finally, Bernard stood up and faced Scout, who was still seated.
"In your world, topside, are you considered to be ... different?"
"In what way?"
"Are you able to do things with your mind that others of your species are unable to do?"
"What sort of things?"
"Things like make objects move without touching them, or see into another human's mind, or predict the future?"
"You mean, am I psychic?"
"Yes. Yes I am."