Walking to stand behind the hyena, Judd placed a single finger against his temple. "Which part of your brain do you like the least?" He didn't need touch to work, but the theatrics helped. As did the mental push he applied, the one that must've felt like a slow-moving pincer around the man's head.
The hyena gasped but didn't speak.
"I'll destroy the part I choose, then," Judd said, making his voice metallically Psy. Despite his earlier thoughts about the threat to Brenna, he wasn't enjoying this. It was simply something to be done. Predators and scavengers respected only brute strength. The changelings weren't so different from the Psy in that regard.
The hyena's reaction was surprising. Tears leaked out from under the blindfold. "You weren't there!" he screamed. "You f**king weren't there!"
Judd stopped touching the man, his telepathic abilities sensing something odd. Backing up into the shadows at the edges of the room, he began working on the psychic level, aware of the physical conversation with the section of his mind functioning on that plane.
Indigo glanced at him. At his nod, she tugged down the blindfold. "Don't look behind you" was her first order. "We weren't where, Kevin?" she prompted when the male didn't speak again. "You talk or I let him do what he's good at. I think you can guess what the result will be."
Yes, Judd thought, threaten him with the Psy bogeyman. But he was far more interested in something else he'd found in the hyena.
Indigo growled low in her throat. "Talk. Last warning."
"Parrish, our pack leader" - Kevin almost stumbled over his words in his effort to obey - "he said we had to do what the Psy said and they wouldn't touch us."
"Why?" Indigo folded her arms, looking down on the male. Judd recognized the move as a display of dominance. "Kevin, I asked you a question."
The hyena's swallow was audible. "Because otherwise they would wipe us out. They killed eight of our pups as a warning."
Indigo swore, arms unfolding. "Why the hell didn't you come to us?"
Judd knew that while the wolves wouldn't hesitate to destroy trespassers in their territory, they'd also help a weaker changeling group against an enemy that didn't follow the rules of engagement. One of the most important rules was: No targeting minors.
"We did!" Kevin's scream faded off to a whimper. "You wouldn't come."
"Who told you we wouldn't come?" Indigo had softened her voice and crouched down in front of Kevin. Not submission but a signal that he might come out of this alive.
Kevin took a deep, shaky breath. "Parrish. He went to Hawke and your alpha laughed in his face. Said the loss of our pups was good riddance to bad rubbish. Then the leopards said they wouldn't help us unless the wolves did!"
This time, Indigo's oath was considerably more blue. "That, I can tell you, is a complete lie. Hawke has a thing about pups, and the cats make their own decisions."
Kevin reacted violently to Indigo's statement, going so far as to make aggressive sounds in his throat. "It's not a lie!"
"Your pack leader sold you out." Indigo rose to her feet, rage a cold mask over her sharply defined features.
"No! He had no reason to."
"Yeah? Try delusions of grandeur. Maybe he thinks he's going to replace Hawke and Lucas."
Kevin stopped struggling. The silence lasted for several long seconds. "He said that that would be our revenge - to take your place."
"What were Parrish's orders?" Judd asked, near certain of the answer.
Kevin's whole body twitched, as if he'd forgotten the danger at his back. "To do what the Psy said."
"And what did the Psy say?" Indigo prompted.
"Weird stuff about shields and lowering them." He sounded confused. "They hypnotized us to fix the ones who wouldn't."
"Give us a minute, Kevin." Raising his blindfold again, Indigo met Judd's gaze. He nodded toward the door.
Outside, the lieutenant leaned against the vehicle that had brought Judd to the cabin. "Mind control?" she asked, spine rigid.
He shook his head. "More like programming. Full mind control needs to be maintained by a constant link between the controlling Psy and the victim and that link sucks power."
Judd had never stepped over that line, but he'd been taught the technical aspects. He had no doubt that had he stayed in the Net, he would have ended up using that knowledge. Evil had a tendency to wear away at humanity. It was a truth the Ghost didn't yet see. "If you don't want that drain on your resources," he continued, "you can program someone to do certain things. The downside and upside compared to mind control are both the same - the victim cannot and will not deviate from the set plan. The hyenas wouldn't have turned back even if they'd been confronted by armed wolves."
"This is a mess." Indigo kicked up snow with her boot. "If they got to the hyenas, we don't know who else they might have influenced."
"Finding that out is your job." Judd began walking back to the cabin. "Mine is to clean Kevin's mind."
"Wait!" Indigo ran to his side. "We can use him as our eyes and ears."
He met her eyes. "No." That was on the other side of that line between humanity and the clawing darkness that constantly whispered at the corners of his mind. "I won't replace one kind of slavery with another."
Indigo's face blanched. "You make me feel like a monster."
Judd didn't answer, already to the door. Pushing it open, he walked inside. Kevin was in the same position as before, but his terror seemed to have whittled down to grim acceptance. He thought he was going to die.