How it came about is a story unto itself.
After much discussion we came to the conclusion that the only real option we had was the one least appealing: one of us would have to go up to the door and make our presence obvious. Becky ended up going, banging on their gate until someone poked their head over the top and yelled at her. The finer points of the discussion were lost to Mason, Steve, and I, as all of us were at a safe distance.
After the fact, I know that Becky asked for our people back. I could see that the person speaking to her wasn't pointing a gun at her, but Mason was keeping an eye through the scope of his rifle just to be safe. Becky's body language was tense but not panicked, but that changed when the main gate opened.
The idea was for her to ask for the release of Will and Rachel, no threats involved. She would explain the situation, that we were travelers heading toward a destination and were interested in setting up trade with everyone we could.
She did all that, and the gates opened. Four men walked toward Becky, armed with weapons ranging from homemade spears to machetes. She didn't bolt in fear, but things were obviously going to get ugly. That was when I got on the bullhorn. I told them to stop coming toward Becky, but they wouldn't. I warned them that we'd open fire unless they halted and released our people. They didn't seem to care.
It was lucky the men were so close together. Mason dropped three of them in less than ten seconds. The last one dropped his weapon and put his hands up in surrender. Apparently everyone else was inside the walls of their apartments. Next thing we saw, Will and Rachel were running toward the gate, met up with Becky, and all of them ran like hell toward the rest of us.
We didn't waste a lot of time getting out of there. Will and Rachel brought back some observations and information about the place and the people in it, but that's for tomorrow. Right now, we're settling in at the community that has been our destination for so many days. We made it here in less than three hours after freeing our friends.
A mission of peace and hope, and the first encounter we had with new survivors ended with shots fired and lives lost. I want to think it can only get better from here.
Time and again, life has taught me the sad lesson that no matter how bad the situation, it can always get worse. We're alive, and safely tucked away with allies. That's about the best outcome we could have hoped for. Still, it doesn't feel like enough.