Lacie Ch. 09byDancingwizard©
Chapter 9: Lacie's Almost
"I don't understand." Lacie said. "What does this have to do with me? I mean, obviously, I want to help, and I will if I can, but I don't see where I fit into all of this."
Master and Bridget shared a look. Claire slid away from Master and crawled over to sit at the head of the big bed next to Lacie, wrapping one arm around Lacie's shoulders as she did. Master looked at his hands as he folded them in his lap. He took a deep breath and let it out as a sigh.
"You're a much bigger part of this than you know, Lacie. This is my dilemma though. We usually let a girl decide for herself if she wants to know why she was specifically chosen. And you were specifically chosen, Lacie. When I came to see you at the slave fair, I lied to you. You were not among a number of girls that I was there to look at. You were the only one I was interested in. I just couldn't say it out loud, I didn't know who, if anyone, might have been listening." He looked up at Lacie, a look of deep regret and apology in his piercing grey eyes. "But if we're to have your help, you need to know what almost happened to you, and I need to apologize to you for it, because, to a large degree, it's my fault."
Lacie's jaw dropped and instinctively, she pulled away from him. Before she could stop herself from recoiling, Lacie drew her knees up and ducked her head, making herself as small as possible. Instantly, once Lacie realized what she had done, she managed to partially unfold herself, but the damage had been done. A look of heart-wrenching pain crossed Master's face when he saw her shy away from him. His hands clenched into fists and he gritted his teeth.
"I am sorry, Lacie. And I deserved that. Hell, I deserve a lot more than that. If you let me tell you what almost happened, and why it was necessary, and you're still angry, I won't fault you for it. If you want me to leave the room, if you want me to never talk to you again, if you want to slap me till my head rings, go ahead, I'll understand."
Lacie was torn. Having heard Claire's story, she was more scared than ever to know what could have been. Master wasn't making it any easier. Still, Lacie knew he wouldn't be asking her to do this unless both he and Bridget felt it was absolutely necessary. Remembering that Bridget was in the room, Lacie snapped her gaze up, looking at the older woman. A look of fear crossed Lacie's face as she made eye contact.
"What should I do?" Lacie asked her.
Bridget's eyes softened.
"I don't know Lace. I don't. This is your decision."
"Why right now though? You said I had time!" Lacie's tone turned accusatory.
"We thought you did. Things progressed faster than we expected them to." Bridget flinched from Lacie's hot glare. "I didn't mean to lie to you. We have a new opportunity, and without your help, we might miss it. We'll eventually take them down, yes, but if we have your help, we can do it in months, not years. Maybe sooner."
Lacie looked at Claire, though the other woman refused to meet her gaze. Lacie pulled herself up and sat cross-legged, pulling her robe from the bedpost and tossing it over her shoulders. Glaring hotly at the other people that she now felt were invading her room, Lacie crossed her arms and huffed angrily. All three flinched slightly when Lacie spoke.
"Fine. Tell me. I'm not guaranteeing anything though. You've all known about this, and you kept it from me. You've been lying to me since I got here. You told me I was only here to help around the house, and now I find out you've been planning this. You told me that I had no obligations, and that I wasn't here for any other reason. You lied to me, I'm not going to forgive you just because you want me to."
"That's fair." Master said quietly, pulling his gaze up to look at Lacie. "Your involvement started about three months ago, just before you turned eighteen." he sighed. "You had been scouted a few times before then. You're attractiveness and school scores placed you in one of the top value brackets for sale. You were... expensive." Sitting up fully, Master turned to face Lacie fully. Despite herself, Lacie felt a little intimidated by him.
"So?" Lacie challenged, trying to maintain a hold on her anger.
"So, you were a perfect candidate for our next step in our plan." Bridget said.
"We sent out a 'leaked' e-mail to several of our target's direct competitors. It was fabricated, untrue and almost a complete deception. But... none of their competitors knew that." Master spoke, and despite herself, Lacie felt her anger cooling slightly. "In it, we stated their need for a new 'poster girl' for their advertisements. That much was true, their last girl had been 'requisitioned' by one of their board of directors for more... personal use. Since one part was true, their competition didn't even bother checking the truth of the rest of the memo."
"What did the rest say?" Lacie asked, not sure she wanted to know the answer.
"I'm getting to that. Once their competition knew about the e-mail, it wasn't long before our target company learned about it too. There really wasn't any way for them to refute it. We had backed them into a corner with it. The rest of the letter stated that they had chosen someone for their new ads, and to purchase her at all costs. It was a declaration of intent. The person indicated in the false letter was you." he said. "I'm so sorry, Lacie. There was no other way to force their hand, to get them to make a mistake."
Lacie's heart began to pound, fear of Master filling her as she realized what he had almost done to her. He had knowingly placed her at risk, he had dangled her like bait on a hook for some of the most sadistic people Lacie had ever heard of. This time when she recoiled, it was fully intentional. Claire's arms around her held her on the bed as Lacie struggled to pull away from him.
"Get away from me! Get the HELL away from me!" She screamed at him, fear and anger flashing in her voice. Master stood and walked away, stopping just behind Lacie's closed door. When he turned back, Lacie saw that her words had hurt him deeply. Bridget's eyes flashed at Lacie and she moved to join Master, but he held up a hand to stop her, shaking his head as he did.
"I deserve this, B. Let her be angry. She has every right to be. Lacie, I'm sorry. I really am. I'll let Bridget finish. I'm so sorry, Lace." He apologized again. Lacie could see the agony in his expression, and she knew her anger hurt him more deeply than if she had outright stabbed him. Despite her anger, despite her fear and the confusion whirling in her mind, her heart skipped a beat when he called her "Lace" Something deep inside her realized it was the first time he had ever used her nickname. Turning, Master opened her door and left her room, gently closing the door behind him as he vanished into the hallway.
"Lacie, you didn't have to yell..." Bridget began.
"DON'T! Just, don't, Bridget. Don't defend him right now. Just finish explaining why you were inches away from handing me off to a life of torture and rape, then get out." Lacie said harshly, tears of pain and broken trust falling from her eyes as she pushed Claire's arm off her shoulders. The other two girls looked at each other. Bridget began to speak, finishing the story.
"Okay, Lacie. Okay. So, you were the one they needed to buy. Master had backed them into a corner. All their competition knew they were going to buy you. They had no choice but to try and do exactly that."
"Why?" Lacie demanded.
"Because we routed the leaked message through their most secure internal servers. Either they had to say there was a mole in their highest ranks, or tell everyone that there was someone who could get in, send out messages and get back out without a trace. That kind of weakness would have had all their competition putting them to siege. Their only real option was to simply go along with it. These businesses are cutthroat. Admitting a mole or a hacker would be admitting weakness. It was much easier to say that the missive was accurate and that a careless employee had accidentally left the message laying around."
"So everyone bought it." Lacie spat.
"Yes, they bought it." Bridget agreed.
Lacie could see the hurt her anger was causing her friend, but she was furious that she had been manipulated without her knowledge. Knowing Lacie deserved a complete explanation, Bridget continued.
"Once they bought it, they still had to buy you. That's where Master stepped into the picture. He used the cover of having seen you at the slave fair as a reason to attend your auction. You were one of the girls that was actually auctioned rather than simply price tagged and sold. Once there, he began to bid for other girls, intentionally losing, using them as a cover. Finally, when you were up for sale, he sat back and watched. The company we're targeting had sent a representative to bid for you. Some of their competition had sent a few people as well, and it started a bidding war. It looked like the competition had underestimated our target though, as they were outbid every time. Finally, when the last of them dropped out, Master began to bid, only going a tiny amount over our target's bidder every time."
"Why?" Lacie asked, despite herself.
"To frustrate him. To make him angry. It worked. For nearly four minutes, forever in a bidding war, they went back and forth. Finally, their bidder made his mistake. He bid the entire auction amount they had authorized him to use on you. It was an attempt to intimidate. This had a few effects. It gave our target's competition a glimpse into our target's financial situation, while also telling them all how desperate they were to have you. Master acted intimidated by the amount they offered. The auctioneer counted down, and just as he was about to announce your sale, Master stood up. Everyone was dead silent as Master quietly offered his final bid. It was double what our target was offering. The auctioneer sold you to Master, and our target left in disgrace. He was fired the next day. The weakness they had been trying to cover up and avoid had become a total fiasco for them, as now it was far more public than it would have otherwise been."
"So, you got what you needed from me. Why do you need my help now? It seems like I've already done enough." Lacie said bitterly.
"We still need your help Lacie, because they're trying to recover. And they're close. We need one more reminder of their failure to convince their competition that they're weak and to attempt a hostile takeover. They're throwing a big party in three weeks, and Master was given an invitation. They're trying to rally his support to their side. If he seems to join them, their failure with you won't seem quite as bad, since the person they lost to will be seen as giving them tacit support. We need you to go to the party with Master. It'll be the last nail in their coffin. It'll be a blatant reminder of their failure and a huge slap in the face. At the same time, we'll hack into their internal servers again and send out more falsified data on our target. Once that data gets out, we believe some of their competitors will stage a hostile takeover. Our target is stronger than they'll expect, and we're trying to get them to bankrupt each other with their fighting. Master has an... associate that owns a similar company, though he makes no torture devices, only restraints and fetish stuff. Clothing, suspension frames, that sort of thing. After all of our target companies exhaust each other's funds, he'll sweep in and snatch up the pieces, once they're too weak to defend themselves from him. That's why we need your help, Lace. Everything else is in place."
"I...I'm not going to give you an answer right away. I need to think about this. But for now, I think you should leave, Bridget." Lacie said.
"I thought you might say that." Bridget said, reaching for Lacie's door handle. "By the way, Lace, I just want you to know, there was no way Master was going to let them buy you in that auction. He had a lot of money set aside for you, if he needed it. If you were wondering, he used quite a bit as it was. You cost more than all the other girls here combined. Four and a half million dollars. He had enough set aside to have bid over twice that if he needed to. He wasn't ever going to let them have you Lacie. Ever." Bridget slipped quietly out of Lacie's doorway as the brunette sat on her bed, dumbfounded. Claire stood up and wrapped her robe tighter around her shoulders. The rocker girl's haunted eyes looked back at Lacie a she moved to follow Master and Bridget out the door.
"Please... please, Lace. Think about it." she whispered. Claire turned and slipped out of Lacie's room, silently shutting the door behind her.
Lacie pulled her covers back up around her, slipping back into bed as she curled herself around a pillow. Fighting tears, Lacie was torn, she didn't know what to do. She knew that Master needed her help, but despite what Bridget had told her, Lacie knew she had still been in very real danger. The only reason she had been in that danger had been because of Master's plan. Still, a company that made the kind of devices that Claire had described needed to be taken down. Lacie just didn't know if she could ever trust the others at the mansion ever again, or if she even had the courage to face people who made money from things that were designed to torture. Confused, hurt, conflicted, Lacie closed her eyes and wept.