Hollow Vessel: A G1 Mirage "Spotlight"-style story Hollow Vessel: A G1 Mirage “Spotlight”-style story Writer's note: After reading the Mirage Spotlight story from IDW and scratching my head, I decided to write my own "Spotlight"-style story about Mirage. I wanted to expand the G1 character's background, and it's been fun. Here are the first two chapters, with chapter one referencing events at the end of More Than Meets the Eye, Part 3. Comments appreciated. You can read my other fiction here: Before the Dawn (still in progress) and The Best Conviction ****** Chapter One ****** Mirage’s feet hit the ground of the alien world and it felt strange, foreign. On Cybertron, he’d trekked to the center of the wilderness in the Neutral Territories many times and felt the primal surface of the world he loved, the world he called home. It had felt ancient and purposeful. This planet, this dirt and dust now under his feet, felt young, unstructured, chaotic. It wasn’t home. It could never be home. Just behind him, the sea was boiling around the enormous aft thrust structures of the Decepticon space cruiser. Mirage watched the last piece of purple plating as it slipped beneath the waves. He had caused the ship’s demise, and as it disappeared under the corrosive liquid that covered so much of this planet, he felt a pang of regret. Another pathway home is gone forever, he thought to himself. He didn’t dare say such a thing aloud as his Autobot comrades crowded around him, cheering and chanting his name. He nodded at them and accepted their thanks as he pulled free of his parachute tethers. The crowd around him parted for Prime. Mirage was relieved to see he had survived the blast from the cruiser’s cannon, and the subsequent fall back to the planet. The Autobot leader’s almost supernatural resilience was part of his awe-inspiring persona. You couldn’t buy that kind of clout. Mirage had tried. “We knew you were anxious to get back to Cybertron,” Prime said, “but at least you could have waited for us.” Mirage smiled. At the end of this struggle, and after both of them beat such ludicrous odds, joking seemed appropriate. “Sorry, Prime. The ship was…full.” A chorus of laughter rose among his comrades as Optimus placed a heavy hand on his shoulder. “Well done, Mirage.” Looking at the faces of those cheering around him, Mirage felt a vibration down his spine shaft. Here it was: that public, long-overdue show of vindication that he’d desired for so long. Each metal face was grinning or cheering, expressions he never dreamed he’d receive from some of them. “Let’s get back to base. We have a ship of our own to repair,” Jazz said above the noise. An ache in his shoulder pulled Mirage’s attention from the conversation. The source of the pain was a brown scorch on his plating courtesy of Starscream. Ironhide stepped close and gave the back of Mirage’s neck a good-natured wallop. “Great job feeding the fish, pal. Hope they like the taste of Decepticreeps. Got a little memento on your shoulder there? Looks like something Ratchet can hammer out before you can say ‘wax 'n' buff.’” Mirage nodded and caught sight of the one Autobot he was hoping to talk to for reasons other than medical care. But before he could catch up to Ratchet, Prime ordered everyone to roll out. Mirage transformed and took his place in the convoy. After a mile or two, his personal pulsewave receiver chirped with a private signal. “Ironhide said you’re injured. Meet me at the repair bay first thing when we get to base,” said the chief Autobot medical officer. “It’s just a scratch. Nothing as involved as replacing a knee joint. Which still works beautifully after all these millennia, by the way. I have no complaints.” “Since you brought up old history, I have to ask the question. Is it done now? It looks like the ‘Cons laser cores are finally extinguished. Isn’t it time for this act to be over?” Ratchet asked. Mirage saw Prime’s exhaust trailing behind him at the front of the convoy. Optimus trusts me. Maybe he always has. But the others? Trailbreaker? Hound? Cliffjumper? Will crashing a Decepticon cruiser be enough to prove to everyone where my loyalties truly lie? Or, had he gone too deep to ever come back? “Mirage? Is it over?” Ratchet asked over the pulsewave, sounding uncharacteristically impatient. “I’ll let you know.” ****** Chapter Two ****** Cybertron, during the Third Cybertronian War “Now I know times are tough. Never thought I’d see a metal polisher like you in a place like this.” Mirage brushed filings and crumbs from a chair and sat down at the table across from a purple, fan-tailed female Autobot and the less sober scrutiny of Brazen, a blue-plated Cybertronian with too much currency and too little good taste. He was one of the few Autobots, along with Mirage, who was wealthy enough to afford the annual commutation fee and avoid military service. He was also much too wealthy to be drinking in a sour-smelling, dimly-lit palace of vice like this one. From the slurring of his vocal processor, Mirage guessed Brazen had already imbibed enough distilled energon to light the three of them up like rocket ships. Mirage tapped his finger on the full glass sitting in front of him. “I’ve never missed out on an opportunity because of geography.” “I know that. I know that because your shipping conglomerate is taking up all contracts along the Kaon border. I lost three bids just last week to those lousy, line-jumping pirates you call employees.” The female Autobot sitting across the table from Mirage watched him with a gaze that could have pierced through solid Cybertonium. Pulsing lights from the gambling games that lined the walls of the casino reflected in her face. He hadn’t seen her before, but Mirage knew her role in this venture. The Autobot tycoon did all the talking while she saw every weakness, every tell that Mirage might let slip. “It almost sounds like you are accusing me of a crime.” “Almost?! No ‘almost’ about it. Crossing into Kaon is illegal.” “So is knowingly selling defective goods. My sources tell me that you sold two thousand units of spent armament casings from my factories to Autobot Command last week, claiming they were brand new. And at cost, no less.” Brazen put his glass down and sat back. He obviously wasn’t expecting Mirage to know that bit of information. “So what? So what if I jettison my surplus to the ’Bots? You’ve got no love for Command. What do you care?” “Is that the point of this meeting in this shoddy excuse of a drinking establishment? Did you invite me to Kalis to make a deal, or to blackmail me?” “No, I’m…” Brazen trailed off and looked for moral support from his companion. Her expression softened a bit as she watched him try to recover some high ground in the conversation. His over-energized processor was in a complete fog. “I’m saying that the two of us ain’t enemies, but you make it hard to know some times. If you want a piece of the deal with Command, no problem. I’ll sign a percentage over to you right now.” The female lifted her fingers off the table, an obvious signal for Brazen to shut his mouth. Mirage gulped his drink and grimaced at the burn as it went down. “I'm a non-aligned pacifist. I don’t do business with the military.” “Right. Which military are we talking about?” Brazen muttered, putting his arm around the shoulders of the female. "And if I wasn’t a pacifist I would take violent offense at the comment.” “Calm down. He didn’t mean the ’Cons," the female spoke for the first time since the meeting began. “Then what did he mean?” “He means the council’s gone. The civilian authorities have either been assassinated or gone into hiding. No police force. No legal or political system. There is no such thing as dealing with the Autobots and not dealing with the military.” “There’s no money in peace, friend. No one is buying,” Brazen said after a long drink, slurring even more now. Mirage started to get up. “Are you both done? I don’t see how this meeting is worth any more of my time, and the smell in here isn’t encouraging me to linger.” The female tipped the bottle and filled both glasses. “We’re not going to hound you about your politics. Brazen’s complaint is the tight margins we've got trying to ship cargo through the border states. Fuel costs are through the roof. Plus, we’ve had to hire security details to cover our shipping fleets. Unescorted vehicles come under fire from gangs of ‘Cons, or they disappear altogether. You always underbid us for every job in the region. Your fleet vehicles never have security escorts and they have yet to get raided.” Mirage sat. “Obviously, you're the one watching Brazen's books. All that makes you conclude I’m working with the Decepticons?” “You have to admit, it looks more than suspicious.” “Maybe Decepticons aren’t interested in the goods I ship. No interest. No theft.” “How much does this ‘disinterest’ cost?” The female said with a crooked smile. The chime of his personal pulsewave rang in his audio receptors. Mirage excused himself from the table and walked to an empty corner past the rows of the empty gambling machines. It appeared no one had the energon or interest to risk on games any more. The real gambles of war were risk enough. “I’m in the middle of a meeting, Graft. Why the interruption?” “Stop everything,” croaked the nervous voice of his accountant over the pulsewave. “Cancel whatever deals you’re cooking up. You need to see me right now.” “What could possibly be that urgent?” “Altihex and Praxus just disappeared from the markets.” “Disappeared?” “The official statement from their regulator offices says that they’ve been 'liberated from the oppressive tyranny of free trade’ by Megatron. All commerce agreements with other city-states are now void.” Mirage forced any calculations from his mind on what this news meant to his personal net worth. "Any word from the firm?” “All accounts are frozen. I mean, I’ve never seen anything like it. Commodities markets, energon trading…all of it just dropped into the basement. I can't get any brokers to speak to me. All the pulsewaves into Altihex bounce back like I'm broadcasting into a mirror!” “Don't panic. My office in one hour.” Mirage walked back to the table and interrupted Brazen tickling his female under her chin. Caught in a moment of vulnerability, her smile disappeared. Mirage didn’t sit down. He emptied his glass and placed it down on the table forcefully. “I’ll share with you my little secret for getting through the border states unmolested if you agree to cut me 15 percent of your contracts in the region. And, you stop selling junk parts to Autobot Command.” Brazen and the female conferred softly as Mirage waited. “Four percent,” Brazen finally counteroffered, tipping his glass over. “Nine. That’s my last figure. Take it or I walk out of here right now.” Brazen’s smile nearly cracked his faceplate. “Deal!” Mirage put an energon slip on the table but the female pushed it back at him. “We’ll pay.” “We all will,” Mirage said and walked briskly to the exit. “What did he mean by that?” She asked, watching him leave.