Dark Secrets Unveiled by I.T. Lucas

Jacki’s cheeks pinked. “The first bite was on Monday, and I started transitioning on Thursday. But maybe it didn’t happen because of the first one, and the second bite triggered it.”

Kalugal wrapped his arm around her. “I assure you that it started after the first one. It just took three days for the transition process to start manifesting symptoms.”

When a knock sounded at the door, one of the goddess’s butlers rushed to open the way.

“Good morning, Master Kian and Mistress Syssi.” He bowed. “Good morning, Mistress Amanda and Master Dalhu.”

“I apologize for arriving a little late, Mother.” Kian walked over to the goddess and kissed her cheek. “I had an interesting call from Turner.”

“I have no excuse.” Amanda walked over and kissed her mother as well. “Not a good one anyway.” She winked at her mate before taking a seat next to the goddess.

The lack of response from Annani indicated that she had no problem with her children sharing that kind of information with her. For someone so ancient, she was surprisingly progressive. David would have never dared talk like that in front of his father or his mother.

“What was the call from Turner about?” Kalugal asked.

“A new case that he’s working on. As you know, he runs a hostage retrieval operation. People come to him when all other options have been exhausted. This time, however, it’s not about a hostage but about a woman who joined a cult voluntarily and doesn’t want to be rescued. He asked me to lend him a couple of Guardians.”

“What does he need the Guardians for?” Amanda asked.

“He can’t get her out against her will, and his own thralling ability is so-so. He needs a Guardian to thrall her so she leaves voluntarily. Or at least it seems so.”

“He could use Kri,” Amanda suggested. “As a woman, she would attract less suspicion.”

“That’s a good idea.” Kian pulled out his phone. “I’ll have Onegus suggest her to Turner. It’s a low-risk mission, and Kri would love to see some action.”

“Maybe she’s happy in the cult?” Jacki asked. “What if the Guardian forces her to leave, and then she throws a tantrum about having been abducted?”

“She might.” David leaned forward so Jacki could see him. “She probably thinks that the cult leader is her savior and that he loves her. It will take a lot of work to undo the unhealthy attachment.”

Kian lifted a brow. “Can you explain?”

“I’m not an expert on the subject, but I can give you an overview that will shed a little light on how totalitarian systems work. Cults, dictatorships, terrorist groups, even abusive partners and some political movements are all totalitarian systems that use similar methods. They distance their members from family and friends, often alienating them by painting them in horrid colors. They create an isolated and self-contained environment and supply a total world view and a total ideology that has all the answers. People need to belong, to be loved, and to feel safe, and since those are basic survival instincts, they are hardwired into us. Those needs are exploited by cults. When we are isolated, overwhelmed, and insecure, we seek all that from the authority figure in charge.”

“Do they also use intimidation methods?” Jacki asked. “I don’t think that isolating people from family and friends and supplying them with a complete world view is enough to brainwash them.”

David nodded. “A cycle of punishments and rewards keep members off-balance and vulnerable, allowing an unhealthy attachment to replace the healthy ones that existed prior to the indoctrination.”

“You mean that they feel attached to the cult leader,” Jacki said. “Or the commander of the terrorist group. Now I understand why Director Simmons isolated us from the outside world, and why they drowned us in work. They were using the same tactics in the program.” She chuckled. “But something must have been missing from the mix because I never liked the bastard, let alone felt attached to him.”

David frowned. “What program are you talking about?”

“The government collects people with paranormal abilities and trains them in a secret facility. I was part of that program, but the clan got me out.” She smiled. “I wanted to leave, though. No one needed to thrall me to do that. Not that they could. Even as a human, I was immune to mind manipulation.”

David had read about the military and the intelligence community’s investigation of paranormal phenomena. The program had existed from the fifties all the way to the nineties, but he’d thought that it had been shut down after the Cold War had ended.

The arms race with the Soviets was over, including the psychic one.

Apparently, though, there was a renewed interest in the subject, and he wondered about the reason for it. The original program had been created after both the Soviets and the Americans had discovered research done by the Nazis on what they’d called the occult sciences, aka paranormal abilities.

As far as he knew, the success of that program had been very limited, which was an additional reason for its termination.

What could have been the impetus for its revival?

Perhaps Jacki could shed some light on that. “What did they train you for?”

Jacki shrugged. “To be spies, I guess. What else are paranormal talents good for?”