Those Left Behind

You had known from the beginning that forum rescue is lonely and dangerous work.

Lonely because developing and maintaining a reputation in the aggressive and paranoid world of far-right forums is a full-time occupation, the simulation of an obsessive, virulent sociability almost as venomous to healthy relationships as the real thing. Dangerous because the spirals of violent hate make PTSD a likelihood more than a possibility; because living in the asphyxiating alienation of a world of unstable overlapping conspiracies overloads the brain with untruths; because the things you have to say for them to look at you as one of them are actions as much as words, and self-loathing, even suicide, maybe the least bad outcome.

Some rescuers had even drowned while attempting to draw somebody out of those putrid psychic waters. They were the reason nobody thought the money paid by family members and employers was enough to explain why rescuers did what they do. They were also the reason there was compartmentalization in rescuers' groups: a fallen one could, might, would out the others.

No compartmentalization is perfect. There's people in your living room calling you by both your real name and one of your online aliases. None of them is unarmed. You are sure at least two of them are cops.

You had known from the beginning that forum rescue is lonely and dangerous work. The youngest of the men about to kill you is the one you had been paid, by his parents, to be brought back into the sun.