ABILENE, TX—After 47 tense days, the standoff between Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and members of the Saturn Family was finally broken Monday when an FBI strike team invaded the Saturn compound and seized 23 cars with their owners inside.
Agents also captured Mark Schechter, evangelistic car dealer and self-described "Father of the Saturn Family," who offered agents good deals on trade-ins upon capture, but has yet to surrender any information on activities inside the compound.
"At Saturn, we're a different kind of car company," a handcuffed Schechter said as FBI officials led him away from the scene.
According to reports, shortly before 7 a.m., following a night of the FBI's blaring Three Dog Night's "Joy To The World" over loudspeakers, heavily armed agents posing as customers burst into the compound, where they met with little resistance.
"They were real nice, not pushy at all," said Kurt Harwood, one of the FBI agents. "They let me walk around and look at whatever I wanted without pressuring me or giving me the 'hard sell.' Fortunately, we were able to overcome them before they could 'answer any questions' that we had."
Saturn owners captured in the raid are being flown to Washington, D.C., where they will be interrogated by FBI psychiatric profiling teams before being deprogrammed for reintroduction to mainstream society.
"They welcomed me warmly, as if I actually was a member of their family," recalled a visibly shaken young woman identified only as "Julie," one of the car owners rescued in the FBI raid. "After I bought my Saturn SL-1, there was a ceremony involving the setting of the dashboard clock, during which Mr. Schechter introduced me to the other family members and announced that it was my first new car. Everyone kept asking me if I was 'excited.'"
"Then," Julie continued, "the other owners started advancing upon me slowly, wearing happy, vacant looks. They seemed almost transfixed with joy. Mr. Schecter took a Polaroid of me. When it developed, they took it to a bulletin board full of similar photos. I recognized several of the faces as those of people around me. Then I realized—they weren't going to let me leave."
On day 11 of the standoff, Julie attempted to flee through a restroom window while she was supposed to be changing into the white linen raiment emblazoned with the Saturn logo which is used in the paperwork-signing ceremony of initiates. She was, however, caught and returned to the main showroom.
Julie's attempted escape was detected by FBI intelligence, and a rapid-response team arrived on the scene shortly afterward. But by that time the compound had been sealed off, and large, orange "Closed For Inventory" signs greeted agents at the door.
It was not until Monday that the woman was finally freed. "Reliability and service are nice, but at what cost?" Julie said. "I will not trade my soul for fiberglass side panels."
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raids on smaller Saturn dealerships in Idaho and Montana have produced evidence that activities similar to the ones described by Julie have been taking place across the country.
"We are pursuing several leads at this time," ATF director John Magaw said. "But we do know for a fact that the Saturn family has already infiltrated the fabric of our society to a startling degree. My sister owns one. My brother-in-law owns one. This thing is spreading."
Rumors currently being investigated by the ATF include accounts of ultra-zealous Saturn delivery-truck drivers and sightings of a red sedan painted with mysterious occult markings, driven by a man wearing a black satin Saturn jacket.
Reports of Saturnic rituals at a Northern California compound, involving the burning of the Sign of Saturn into the foreheads of new owners, are also being investigated.
Saturn, a division of General Motors, has been under close FBI surveillance since the company was founded in 1990. The company frequently holds secret, dealer-sponsored barbecues at which new Saturn owners are further introduced to the mysteries of Saturn ownership, the most famous of which are held by a high-ranking Saturn family member known as "Russ."
The company also holds annual "reunions" which are marked by mass pilgrimages of Saturn family members from across the world. According to FBI files, some Saturn owners find the car-buying experience so satisfying that they apply for and are sometimes accepted as salespeople. Some eventually attain the honored rank of "dealer," but only after hundreds of hours of serving Saturn.
"Thank goodness for the FBI," said Andrea Aberg, another rescued Saturn owner. "Next time I'm buying a Honda."