We've moved on yet again. The places we're visiting now are more familiar to us, the people having met Steve before. This portion of the trip is mostly his ball game, given his previous encounters with many of the communities in the south. It's a bit difficult to write anything of importance at present, mainly due to the overwhelming requests for privacy by those we visit and the short duration of our stay at each stop.
Right now we're between communities. We stopped to have lunch, and Will decided this would be a good chance to help Rachel hone her hunting and forestry skills. He's more experienced than she is, and they both thought a little practice would be a good thing.
Here's a tip: always walk as quietly as possible. It helps keep from scaring away animals, and if you happen upon a camp of marauders it could save your life.
For obvious reasons, I'm not mentioning where we are. Because that quip about marauders isn't a hypothetical. Rachel and Will spotted the smoke from their fire about an eighth of a mile away, and Will made his way toward their camp alone. It was only sheer luck he wasn't spotted by their sentries, who were clearly not looking Will's direction from their perches in the trees surrounding the camp.
Will saw them first, and ducked under a shelf of rock. He observed them from there for almost half an hour, until the sentries changed shifts and he took the chance to leave.
From what he tells me, these people are almost professional. They keep strict order in their camp, constant watch duty, and discipline among them seems tight. We would probably be leaving them alone completely except for one thing--Will saw captives being moved from one vehicle to another. They weren't the ragged, emaciated lot that marauders usually make out of their victims over time. These must have been freshly captured, some of them still had blood on their clothes.
Will estimated their numbers. He thinks we have a shot at taking out this camp. Those people could well be from our next stop, maybe our last. Either way, if there's a chance we can help them, we'll try. I'm hoping to get some volunteers from our next stop to come meet us nearby and give us some backup. I don't like the odds, even with the element of surprise.
The choice is to do nothing or to risk our lives. The more time I spend away from home, seeing people I've never met struggle and triumph even as they suffer, the more convinced I become that being pragmatic can only take you so far. Some people will always try to take and take. There has to be a time when someone says "Enough", and takes action. If enough people fight back, eventually intelligent enemies will learn to be wary of attacking.
Taking a stand is always risky. That's their nature. We can't leave these people in good conscience, so there really isn't a choice at all.