5 Chapter 5 - Yogi the Bear

    After the initial euphoria ran out, Kip found himself being tossed about mercilessly on the back of the Big Silly Bear. He had almost lost his grip and fallen off about a half dozen times already. It had become old very quickly, and he was just about to the point where he'd prefer to walk.  Even if walking meant taking much longer to get to his destination and carrying a more significant risk of getting eaten.  At least then he could rest his poor backside that was receiving the brunt of the torture.

    "Can we slow down Bear?" He yelled. He was cloaked, so it was probably pointless to yell, yet the bear had heard him mentally, or well however this communication worked.

    The Bear slowed to a gentle trot that was still likely faster than the speed limit on most Interstates during the 21st century.

    The most important thing about this trot to Kip was that he could now sit atop his furry mount in a stable position without feeling like he was going to plummet off at any second. His next priority was to find out The Bear's name so that he wouldn't have to keep calling it "The Bear" or other pronouns that got old if he repeated them too often.

    "What is your name?" Kip shouted, this time remembering to remove his "Absolute Cloaking" ability first.  He didn't think he needed it while riding this fuzzy behemoth as he was pretty sure most beasts would steer clear.

    A series of images flashed into Kip's mind that took him a moment to interpret.  First, was an image of a bear running, then an image of a leaf blowing in the wind, followed by a swiftly running stream, and finally the rising Sun.

    "Whoa whoa, your name is Running like the Wind, Flowing like a Stream, into the Rising Sun?"

    The Bear thought for a moment, then sent feelings of Partial Agreement, but made it clear that he hadn't quite gotten it.

    "Regardless that is way too long. My name is Kip. See nice, short, and easy? I need to give you a nickname that doesn't take me ten seconds to say. If I have to say all that whenever I try to communicate with you, I may as well just keep calling you Bear," Kip said exasperatedly.

    The Bear for his part slowed a bit further as if waiting for Kip's pronouncement amusedly.

    "Oh great, now I understand The Bear's body language without him even projecting anything!" He exclaimed mostly to himself.

    This exclamation was not lost on the Bear which responded with Amusement.

    "Right, laugh it up Fuzzball! Hmm, maybe that would be a good name? What do you think of Fuzzball?" He suddenly asked.

    A Strong Negative response emanated from the Bear followed by the image of a ball of hair rolling along with the wind. Then a vision of what looked to Kip like a historical image a domesticated housecat chasing that ball of fur.

    "Okay, okay, not Fuzzball... How about Yogi?" He asked projecting the images he had seen in rare picture books that had been copied over and over again by scholars and artists to keep their history and culture alive.  He fondly remembered images of the Great Yogi Bear in Jellystone Park, stealing picnic baskets from unsuspecting humans who left them unattended!

    Surprisingly, The Bear sent strong feelings of Amusement and then Acknowledgment of the images as if to confirm it was okay to call him Yogi.

    "Well okay then, Yogi it is!  Beware the world, Yogi the Bear is here! You had better hide all of your picnic baskets!" He exclaimed loudly.

    Yogi chuffed and once again sent Kip the image of a young cub chasing his tail paired with a picture of Kip. This time Yogi had also included an image of a Mama bear cuffing the little bear for apparently being an idiot.

    That one was pretty obvious, so Kip shut up as no cuffing was required. A cuff from his new bear friend would likely break most of his bones. Hmm, getting scolded by a bear. Yogi despite the funny name definitively was, "smarter than the average bear." Hell, Kip thought, he was probably smarter than the average human.

    They had been traveling probably fifteen minutes at various speeds between 100km and 200km an hour when Yogi suddenly came to a stop. As he stopped, he sent images and thoughts to Kip including a picture of his family, the scarf he had given to Yogi to sniff, as well as a quarter of The Moon's cycle.

    So, if he got that right, his family had been here less than a week ago? What he didn't understand was weren't they missing long before that.

    Yogi stopped and laid down as if he wanted Kip to get off and started sniffing around the area. He also sent images of the leopard he had shown earlier as it faded to invisibility to Kip.

    Kip took the hint and cloaked himself while clambering down off Yogi's bulky form.

    They were still along what seemed to be a trail. It was likely an ancient concrete covered road that had been mostly subsumed by nature, yet still retained enough of its former self to prevent it from being fully reclaimed. Salvage teams frequented these ancient roads as they offered a more accessible path through the woods. Old wrecks of what used to be "cars" sporadically dotted the way as well. While most of them had rusted away long ago, the rare partially rusted scrap metal remained. Mostly from cars that had been buried by nature quickly which effectively protected them from most of the elements. There was also almost always glass and polystyrene, while sometimes other plastics were salvageable as well.  These plastics were especially precious as the raw materials to produce them were no longer accessible.

    A small abandoned campsite sat in a clearing off the side of the road.  The grasses and undergrowth were cut back in a circular area with what looked to be a shredded tent still present.  The scene though fairly obvious still confused Kip. While he wasn't the best tracker ever, the only footprints he saw were that of humans.  If the expected wild beast attack had not occurred, what had happened?

    Yogi after sniffling around for a bit sent the image of a crowd of what looked to be thirty or so humans. Which was likely how many different scents he had picked up.

    His families scavenging party only had ten people...what would thirty humans be doing out this far from the base?

    Yogi then sent the image of blood and humans fighting.

    "The humans fought?" he said to himself while asking Yogi.

    Acknowledgment was the only thought that Yogi sent back.

    "Hmm, but why would they fight?" He thought to himself making sure not to include Yogi.  He had found he could hold internal dialogues without Yogi hearing as long as he kept his emotions under control.  Suddenly the image of Banner popped into his mind, sharp enough that he failed to exclude Yogi.  Banner had wanted them to come this way and had also been recently rejected by his sister. Could he have organized some evil plot to take revenge?  He doubted it as they were so far away from the safety of their valley, but then again Kip had no idea what other settlements were around. He had thought they were the only settlement for hundreds of mile in any direction, yet maybe he was wrong?

    Yogi as if sensing his thoughts, sent him an image of the crowd of humans once again followed by an image of the compound in Fort Valley.

    "How do you know that all of the humans came from Fort Valley?" He asked so surprisedly at the news that he accidentally dropped his cloaking.

    Yogi as if annoyed chuffed and sent him an image of himself sniffing outside of the Fort, then sniffing at the North Gate, then he snuffled inches away from Kip as if to emphasize the point.

    "Okay, so you smelled them near the Fort and then along the path to here? Got it." He said realizing how close he was to Yogi's huge toothy maul.

    Yogi seemed to sense his unease and poked his nose into his chest forcing him to stagger back. His nose was about as big as torso after all!  At the same time Yogi sent images of Kip, then a picture of a skunk, then an image of a bear holding its tummy as if sick.  These images were followed by the image of Kip disappearing as if in reprimand.

    "Ha, I get it, so I don't taste good. Well, that is a relief." Kip said as he cloaked himself again chagrined. Feeling bold he stepped in next to Yogi's huge toothy maul and scratched a spot on the side of his head he had seen Yogi scratching at unsuccessfully before.

    Feelings of Contentment and Thanks flooded into his mind from Yogi as he continued to scratch.

    Kip's actions were interrupted however when he noticed a small blue object on the ground. When he bent down to pick it up, he found a small object that he had seen hundreds of times before. It had been a present that he had given to his Sister. A gift he had hardly ever seen her without over the past few years. She had called it her good luck charm and was sure to wear it whenever she went out on missions.  It was a small locket that held a tiny drawing of both himself and his parents that Kip had strung on a blue wire cord that he had found in a scrap pile.  The wire was now only a few inches long and to his horror covered in what looked like blood. His mind went blank with both rage and sorrow as he stood there staring at the bloody pendant.

    Thoughts and images flowed to him from Yogi, but he couldn't think rationally enough to comprehend any of them.  It took him some time to bottle up his emotions enough to string more than a few thoughts together at a time.

    The image of his Sister that Yogi sent, followed by the image of the setting Sun brought him back to reality.

    It took him a minute, but he thought he understood what Yogi meant.  His sister alive and to the west? He asked while pointing in the direction he thought was west based on the current location of the Moon in the night sky.

    Yogi sent Acknowledgement along with the image of maybe twenty people, a noticeable amount less than the thirty he had sent earlier.

    It dawned on him that it was likely that at least ten people had died in the fight. Sure enough with Yogi's assistance, he found almost a dozen corpses discarded a few hundred meters away from the road in a shallow depression covered haphazardly with dead foliage. It took everything he had not to empty his stomach right then and there while forcing himself to look through the corpses to see if he could identify his parents.  He thought he recognized two or three members of his parent's scavenger team, but sadly he couldn't recall their names. The remainder were mostly unfamiliar to him. He did think he spotted another male that had been a friend of Banner, but with all the damage it was hard to tell.  Identifying the remains had also become much more difficult as vines had already "rooted" themselves in some of the corpses, further altering their appearance. This also did nothing to improve the feeling of nausea that threatened to bring him to his knees.  His only counter was the feeling of relief that washed over him when he didn't see his parents.  They had fought, bled, and were likely captured, but they were still alive when they left here.  While it wasn't a guarantee that they were still alive, it did offer him a small measure of hope that he could find them alive. He almost felt guilty for not caring about those that had died already, but he didn't have time to mourn anybody just yet.

    That would come later.
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