Things rarely go as planned. It's an axiom as old as civilization.
Mason's plan to strike at the marauders when they were at their weakest, doing the most damage to them possible before retreating (killing all of them was highly unlikely in any scenario) didn't work out. More marauders appeared from even more camps we weren't aware of, and the number of zombies left by the time they showed up was small enough that they probably wouldn't have given us an advantage.
The opportunity just never came, so we retreated. A good number of the marauders are dead, and the rest have been shaken by the events of the last several days. My team have used up our bag of tricks and lost the element of surprise. There isn't much left we can do here. It's a crap situation, but being pissed about it changes nothing.
The large number of captives we released are staying behind. Well, most of them. A few have decided to take vehicles we liberated from the destroyed camps and run for it. I gave them directions to New Haven. The rest are going to stay nearby and try to fight. I don't know if they'll be successful, but most of them are passionate about stopping the marauders at any cost. The ones staying behind aren't very happy that my team and I are leaving.
My team and I aren't happy about it either, but we've got a job to do. Staying here any longer would jeopardize that mission even more than we already have. Helping these people and weakening the marauders is about the best we could have hoped for.
Time is a factor. Our attacks over the last few days have essentially destroyed the careful perimeter the marauders had in place. There are zombies moving into the area, and we need to get moving before enough of them gather to make travel difficult. I don't like having to run, but it's no longer a choice.
Mason is doing what he can to give the captives help in their fight. I don't know if these people can weather the swarms of undead while trying to make war on their living enemies, but if they fail it won't be from lack of determination. They're on fire to get revenge, so powerful it's almost religious. I won't insult anyone's intelligence that stopping the marauders as a threat for the good of others is their primary driver. These folks want their pound of flesh.
Mason reports that the marauders have gathered into one large camp and are eliminating the last of the zombies threatening them. There is some base level of cooperation between monsters, it seems. Zombies work together sometimes. Why shouldn't the worst form of living human be able to do the same?
It's a little unfair that the marauders' one weakness, their distrust of one another, seems to be fading. It's going to make the fight all the harder for the captives.
Damn I feel bad about leaving.