That's what it was, no way around it.
The marauders went to sleep last night, only protected by four guards keeping watch, and one of my teammates managed to get in close. The guy is a lifelong hunter, used to moving around silently, and the darkness gave him the edge he needed. We didn't have to get inside the boundaries of the camp, only up to the back of one truck.
That was where the water was kept. Big old container of it, shared among the whole group. One of the things we brought with us was a powerful kind of poison. It's not something I plan on sharing with you, sorry to say. Some things have to stay secret in order to remain advantages. Suffice it to say that we make the stuff ourselves, it's in powder form, and it's water soluble.
I acted as a distraction for the guards, making noises out in the darkness, while teammate number three covered us with a rifle from the trees. The truck with the water tank in it wasn't being watched closely anyway, and the tank itself had its collection funnel attached, as it was raining off and on all day yesterday. Our man slipped in close and dumped a few cups of the stuff in there. Not powerful enough to take a man off his feet in an instant, but definitely capable of making you wish you were dead with a little time to work.
Within an hour of waking up, most of the marauders were sidelined. Half a dozen of them must have had canteens or something, as they didn't fall ill, but the rest were vomiting their guts out, some passed out from the severe nausea. In the confusion, our rifleman covered while teammate number two and I rushed the camp with our bows, firing arrows into the people still standing. Thank god most of the sick people were too out of it to realize that the sharp and short sounds they were hearing were muffled screams.
The able-bodied went down first, right there in the middle of the camp. From there we moved inside the campers and RVs, and that was close-up work. Most of them died before they realized we were strangers, enemies. Their murderers.
The worst part of it is that right now, all I can think about is going home. I feel bad that I had to do these things, I'm trying not to remember the hot gush of blood across my hands as I held mouths shut and swept my knife through windpipes and arteries. I got one guy through the kidney from behind, and as I slapped my hand over his mouth I saw the surprise on his face. He couldn't scream, though he tried. The wound was so painful his throat constricted hard enough to make sound impossible.
We murdered them. Coldly. Weirdly, it doesn't make me feel any better to have seen the evidence of the abuses they'd heaped on people. There were old chains and old stains in those vehicles. One had a cage with human hair still jammed in bloody clumps in the corners of the bars. Those men did terrible things to people at one time or another. But it didn't ease my conscience.
Not that it feels very heavy. Maybe I'm just distancing myself from the horrible reality of it, but I don't feel the soul-deep revulsion I expected to have. They're dead, I'm alive, and they had it coming. They were Bad Guys, right?
Yeah, they were. But if we're being honest, and I try to encourage that by example...well, being bad guys was pretty much immaterial to this. Their past deeds weren't the issue. They could have been a band of house-building, zombie-slaying missionaries up until they showed up near Clinton. Once they became a threat, once they started looking with greedy eyes toward that community, their status as human beings didn't matter. They were as much a threat to be eliminated as the zombies themselves.
I'm not saying that's right or moral. I'm just saying it's math. It was either kill them, all thirty of them, or watch them come into conflict with allies and possibly threaten many times that number. That's what I'm telling myself, anyway.
I'm going home. Let's focus on that.