NOTE: All my stories are set in a vaguely G1-ish universe. They most heavily draw from the G1 universe, but they don't follow any particular continuity exactly. Privilege “Get out of our way, you worthless vagabond. I don’t give handouts to addicts,” the tall, royal purple robot snapped. Mirage cringed and felt his circuits heat up in embarrassment. If any one thing really drove home just how far he had fallen, it was the way that robots who would have been honored by his company only a week ago now treated him like scrap metal. “Have your circuit boosters fried your audio receptors or something, junkie? I told you to move aside!” With that, Mirage was shoved roughly to the ground and even further out of the way of the royal purple robot and his female companion. “Really, Opulentos, it’s a disgrace the way those derelicts are able to walk around. Doesn’t the Iaconian council realize how distasteful it is for hardworking, well-bred citizens to have to see such filthy beggars?” she sniffed. Mirage took the words like a blow, because he was filthy, and he knew it. He, a noblemech of the Towers District, was destitute. He didn’t even have access to a simple wash rack. Of course he was dirty! However, he couldn’t blame them for their sneers. A week ago, he would have reacted the same way to any impoverished mech unfortunate enough to get in his way. He was, after all, a noblemech, well-educated, raised in opulence and from a lineage of power and prestige. He was nothing like the beggars who pleaded for his charity-or so he had thought before the Decepticon Army drained his resources, destroyed almost the entirety of the Towers District, and left him a homeless, friendless pauper. Then he quickly discovered that it didn’t matter how educated you were when you had no proof of your educational attainment. Mirage, like all the nobles of the Towers, had been educated by the finest tutors credits could buy, but there was not an actual record of it, as it was understood that anyone of his breeding would be educated properly without needing any certificate. However, it seemed that this assumption did not hold true in Iacon, and, since he also had no previous record of employment, he had been unable to find a job. Luckily, his fuel levels had been relatively high when the Decepticons attacked, so he had been able to hold out for a week of humiliating, fruitless job hunting, but today his reserves had run out, and if he didn’t find a way to get fuel soon, he would die. “Please, sir, I’m starving,” he said in a voice that was little more than a whisper. “Then get a job,” Opulentos snapped. “I’ve tried. No one is hiring, and I’ve looked for a week,” Mirage replied. “Of course you did, junkie,” Opulentos said sarcastically, and Mirage’s temper flared. He was so tired of having this mech assume that his being dirty also automatically made him an untrustworthy addict. “How dare you accuse me of lying! Do you know who I am?” he exclaimed. Opulentos laughed. “I believe I do. You’re a derelict, apparently with delusions of grandeur,” he said coldly. Mirage’s anger drained away and was replaced by shame. As much as he hated to admit it, Opulentos had a point. He might have been created a wealthy noblemech, but right now he couldn’t even afford to fuel himself. If he wanted help, he was going to need to drop his attitude. “You ...you're right, sir. You have no reason to assume I’m telling you the truth, and I’m sorry I got angry. But please, sir, I’m so hungry,” Mirage said. Before he could continue, the female cut him off. “If I give you a few credits, will you go away?” she asked. “Of course, ma’am. I don’t want to be a bother.” “It’s too late for that. Here, take this and leave the decent members of society alone,” she said as she handed him a few credits. A week ago, he wouldn’t have even registered such a paltry amount, but now it was quite literally his entire net worth. He was still stunned by how drastically his life had changed. “Thank you, ma’am,” he replied quietly. “If I see you out here again, I will call the authorities and have you arrested. Do you understand?” Opulentos barked. “Yes, sir. I understand. Don’t worry, you won’t see me again,” Mirage said. He certainly wasn’t going to seek Opulentos out again after a threat like that! With that, he quickly walked away in the direction of the nearest fuel station, and arrived a few minutes later. His creators would have rolled over in their crypts if they knew that their heir was getting fuel from a place like this, but his only other option was starvation. He quickly purchased the cheapest fuel on the menu, in the hopes that he might be able to stretch out the credits that he had been given to cover more than one refueling, and then sat down at a table that was nearly as filthy as his plating and took a sip. It tasted so terrible that he almost gagged, and he had to force himself to swallow it. How did anyone live off of this swill? The growl from his empty fuel tanks answered that question. His disgust overcome by hunger, he started to refuel with the horrible-tasting liquid in earnest, and soon the container was empty and his tanks were a little over half full. Having finished refueling, Mirage deposited the empty container in an overflowing wastebasket and then slipped out of the station, not at all in the mood for being dragged into another conversation. He briefly entertained the idea of extending his job hunt, but quickly decided that it was too late in the day for anyone to be hiring, and instead ashamedly slunk off to the squalid, dead-end alleyway where he had been recharging for the last two nights. Much to Mirage’s relief, the alley was mostly empty when he arrived there. It was bad enough that he had to recharge in the streets. Having to share an alley with two other mechs, a female, and a sparkling, as he had had to do last night, was almost unbearable. Although the past week had forced him to accept, on a purely factual basis, that he was no different than the homeless who now surrounded him, there was a large part of him that was still very much opposed to being reminded that there was nothing special about him now that he was impoverished. He walked to the back of the alley, laid down under one of the buildings’ overhangs in the hopes that it would provide some meager form of shelter, and fell quickly into recharge, exhausted by the events of the day and of the past week. He was awoken at six o’clock the next morning by an extremely cross-looking individual. “If I catch you near my store again, I’ll have you arrested, you worthless bum! And that goes for all of your friends, too! The last thing I need is a bunch of junkies scaring off my customers,” he snapped. Mirage groaned, both because he wasn’t fully awake and because the ground he had recharged on had been anything but soft, and pulled himself to his feet. “But ...but I’m not doing anything to your store. I’m not ever here when it’s open, and I didn’t even know it was a store until you told me. I promise, all I do here is recharge,” he said quickly. He didn’t want to have to relocate again; not until he had a roof over his head. “Even if that’s true, which I doubt, I don’t need a bunch of junkies recharging near my store, either. What’s to stop you from breaking in and stealing stuff to feed your habit?” the store owner replied. Mirage frowned. He was getting very tired of all the groundless accusations. “The fact that I’m not an addict,” he snapped. That being said, he was starting to understand why homeless bots got addicted to circuit boosters and high-grade energon-it was a way to escape the pain of being ignored at best and insulted and threatened at worst. “Then you’re a lazy bum, living off the hard work of the rest of us. Either way, you’re driving down the value of all the stores on the block, and if you don’t leave, I’ll have you put in jail for disturbing the peace,” the store owner replied. Mirage felt his fuel pump skip a beat. He wasn’t sure if the store owner could back up his claim, but he definitely didn’t want to find out. The last thing he needed was to be labeled a criminal as well as a derelict. “I...I’ll leave right away, sir,” he said quietly. Was he going to spend the rest of his life being chased away like a stray turbohound? Then he remembered the way he had chased off the old mech who had stumbled, clearly disoriented, onto his turbofox hunting grounds, and he felt a pang of guilt. He had shown no mercy; perhaps it was unfair to expect others to show it to him. He quickly left the alleyway and, for lack of any other ideas, decided to return to the employment agency on the off chance that he might be able to get a job. On the way there, he came across the female with whom he had been forced to share the alleyway two nights before, and decided it was only fair to warn her that she was no longer welcome there. “Um, I don’t know if you remember me or not, but we recharged in the same alleyway a few nights ago, and I have some news that I think might concern you,” he said. The female looked at him for a few seconds, and then her optics lit up in recognition. “Oh, yeah! You’re the quiet guy who wouldn’t talk to the rest of us. Whaddaya need to tell me?” she asked. “I wanted to inform you that the alley which we shared is now off-limits to us. I was woken up this morning by a storekeeper who lives there, and he warned me in no uncertain terms that if he saw any homeless individuals by his store again, he would have them arrested. Since I happened upon you, I felt that I should warn you,” Mirage replied, still a bit uncomfortable with being addressed so casually by one of his (former) social inferiors. “I can’t say I’m surprised. Wouldn’t be the first time a “decent, law-abiding” street’s cracked down on a bunch of harmless bots, the creeps. But hey, thanks for the tip. The name’s Beacon. Who are you?” she asked. “It is a pleasure to formally make your acquaintance. I am Mirage.” Beacon looked at him oddly. “You ain’t never been homeless before, have you?” she asked, surprising him. “No, I haven’t. How could you tell?” “Easy. First, you’re real educated; I can tell from the way you talk. Most educated bots who end up on the streets don’t have much experience with them. Second, you just look super uncomfortable with everything. Nobody likes being homeless, but after awhile, you get used to it. The fact that you’re still surprised by what’s happenin’ means that this is new to you. Is there anything you need to know?” Beacon replied. “Actually, yes. Would the authorities actually have arrested me if I had not left the alleyway when the store’s owner told me to do so?” “It would depend on the cop, but a lot of them would believe him over any of us and arrest you. You were smart to get outta there. Jail’s no place for anyone, least of all a newbie like you.” “Thank you for explaining the situation to me,” Mirage replied. “No problem. Good luck finding another place to recharge.” With that, she walked away, and Mirage sighed wearily. Had it really only been a week since this whole ordeal started? It was starting to feel like a stellar cycle! He walked the rest of the way to the employment agency, and he spent the next two hours waiting for an interview, one that lasted all of two and a half minutes before he was told that he didn’t fulfill the requirements of the position. He, a noblemech, didn’t fulfill the requirements of a job that primarily consisted of bussing tables! This was why he hated job hunting. As there were no other new jobs that had opened up since the previous day, the end of the interview also put an end to the day’s job hunt, and he returned to the streets, scared, frustrated, and more than a little humiliated. Where was he going to go now? After wandering aimlessly for a bit, he eventually returned to the fuel station he had visited the night before and spent his remaining credits on some more cheap fuel, which filled his fuel tanks and bought him some time. If all went well, he might be able to find some way to support himself before his fuel levels ran low again and he was forced to beg for credits just to keep functioning. Once had been more than humiliating enough, thank you very much. When he had finished refueling, he left the station and, now that he was operating at full power, used his in-built cloaking mechanism to turn invisible. Before his home had been destroyed, it had been little more than a novelty device to show off at parties, but now it was his only source of protection. Unfortunately, it was so energy-consumptive that he would only be able to use it for two days, but, by this point, even two days of not being sneered at, ignored, or chased away seemed wonderful. Two days later, Mirage was still no closer to finding a job, and, since he now had to power down his cloaking device, he had once again lost his only real defense against his situation. However, his desperation to find a job was stronger than his fear of hostile passerbys, so, upon leaving the alley in which he had spent the previous two nights, he started heading back to the employment agency. On his way there, he caught a glimpse of his reflection in a store window, and he winced. He had known that he looked bad, but he hadn’t realized just how bad until he saw his reflection. His handsome blue-and-white plating, which he normally kept in pristine condition, was dented and covered in grime, and his optics were dim from exhaustion. No wonder he kept getting turned down for jobs….he looked absolutely horrendous. But what could he do? He couldn’t clean himself up until he got a roof over his head, and he couldn’t get a roof over his head until he got a job and earned some credits. How could he possibly get out of this situation? Now completely overwhelmed and utterly exhausted, Mirage collapsed to the ground in despair. Things like this weren’t supposed to happen to noblemechs of the Towers! About a minute later, he was approached by a dark green mech. Mirage braced himself for being insulted and chased off-only to be shocked when an enormous smile broke out on the green mech’s faceplates. “Hi there! My name’s Hound. Who are you?” he asked. “My name is Mirage. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.” Mirage had no idea why this “Hound” had decided to talk to him, but it would have been unspeakably rude to ignore him. “Nice to meet you, Mirage. Is something wrong?” Mirage was torn between a polite ‘no, I’m fine’ and a truthful ‘yes, my life is falling apart around me and I’m frightened out of my mind’. Desperation drove him to choose the latter. “Yes! I’m homeless and I’m so low on funds that I can’t even afford to fuel myself. I’ve been trying to find a job for over a week now, but no one’s hiring, and the fact that I’m filthy probably isn’t helping. My chances would undoubtedly improve if I could get access to a washrack, but I can’t get access to one without credits, and I can’t get credits if I don’t have employment. And on top of that, I’ve been insulted, threatened, and chased off by almost everyone I’ve met. I’ve lost everything, even my dignity, and I don’t know what to do.” “You could stay with me,” Hound replied. Mirage stared at him in shock. “You would let me do that? But why? I am a stranger to you.” “Simple. I was homeless at one point myself. I know what it’s like to feel hungry and dirty and worthless, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Somebody helped me out when I was homeless, so, now that I’ve got a job and a place to stay, I feel that I should help you,” Hound replied. “Thank you. I accept your invitation,” Mirage said. The humiliation of essentially being the charity case of a (former) social inferior still stung, but he knew that he needed assistance badly, and he couldn’t afford to reject such a generous offer. He stood up quickly, not wanting to be helped to his feet, and followed Hound to a small building a few blocks away. “This is the place. It’s not much to look at, but it’s a good home,” Hound said as he unlocked the door. Mirage wasn’t entirely sure what to think. The building seemed neat and well put-together, but it was still a far cry from the luxury in which he had been raised. He followed Hound into the building, noting that its interior matched its exterior very well. Everything was neat and well put-together, but there was so little of it. It was a simple home for a simple life; a life to which he was not at all accustomed. However, to express such a sentiment would be horribly churlish behavior, and so he simply said, “You have a very nice home, and I am flattered and grateful that you invited me here.” Hound smiled. “No problem. I’m just glad I was able to give you a place to stay until you get back on your feet,” he replied, shocking Mirage all over again with how generous he was. “I promise I will pay you back for your kindness,” Mirage said. “Pay my kindness forward to someone else, and I’ll call us even,” Hound replied, further puzzling his new houseguest. Hound clearly had very little to give, but he was giving it to a total stranger without any apparent expectation of being repaid. Why? “I will do so, but I will also repay you for any expenses you incur on my behalf. I make a point of repaying my debts,” Mirage said. He didn’t want to be indebted to anyone, even someone as kind as this commoner. “All right. I just wanted to let you know that you aren’t obligated to pay me back. Why don’t you go ahead and use the washracks, and then I’ll give you a tour of the place,” Hound replied. He directed Mirage to the washracks, and then left him alone to examine them. Hound’s washracks weren’t nearly as large or ornate as the ones his estate had had, but, much like the rest of the house, they were very well-kept, and he was so thrilled that he would finally be able to clean himself up that he couldn’t bring himself to care about how small they were. Twenty minutes later, he had managed to return his plating to a reasonably acceptable level of cleanliness, and he exited the washracks. Hound met up with him soon after. “Are you ready for me to show you the rest of the hou…,” Hound said, his voice trailing off as he stared at Mirage’s chest. Mirage promptly looked down at it himself, thinking that perhaps he had missed some dirt or that he had some injury that he had been previously unaware of, but he could see nothing. “Is something wrong?” he asked. Hound looked afraid, and he had no idea as to why. “You...you’re a noblemech!” Hound exclaimed, and Mirage realized that when Hound had found him, his family crest, which was printed on his chest, had been covered with grime. Now it was quite visible, and Hound was realizing for the first time just who he had invited into his home. No wonder he had been staring at his chest! “I am. My full name is Mirage of the Furtim Line, and I’m originally from the Towers District.” Hound kept staring at him. “Then how’d you end up in the streets of Iacon? I mean, nobody’s immune from a run of bad financial luck, but I can’t imagine that a noblemech like you could have a financial crisis severe enough to end up homeless, not when you probably inherited millions of credits.” “Four billion credits, actually, but you’re right. Financial problems alone could not have reduced me to such dire poverty.” “Then what did?” Mirage’s body was wracked with a spasm of grief as he was forcibly reminded of what had happened to his home, but he managed to answer the question anyway. “The Decepticons, that insurgent group from Kaon, leveled every estate in the Towers District….every estate, that is, but one. Before they launched their assault on the other estates, they invaded mine to use as a base of operations, completely drained my finances, reduced me to a servant in my own home, and then, after they had leveled the other estates, their leader said that he….that he wanted a Towers brat to learn what it was like to have nothing. They turned me out of my home without a credit to my name, and I ended up on the streets,” Mirage explained. “Wait a minute….Mirage of the Furtim Line… I know you! You’re the owner of the estate poor Voltage wandered onto! You had to have known that he was old and disoriented, but you...you had him dragged off of your estate like he was garbage, and then did nothing while your security guards beat him half to death!” Mirage was immediately swamped with guilt. True, he hadn’t ordered the guards to hurt the old mech, but he hadn’t shown him even a hint of kindness, either, and he certainly hadn’t done anything to protect him from the guards’ brutality. What they did to a vagabond was beneath his concern, he had thought. He knew how wrong he had been, now, having learned firsthand what being poor and powerless was really like, but that didn’t change what he had done to the old mech. “Yes, I am, but I didn’t know. I didn’t know what it was like to be impoverished,” he said, utterly ashamed. Hound frowned. “Voltage is a good friend of mine. It took him lunar cycles to recover from the beating he got-and you were complicit in it! I’m of half a mind to throw you out for the pain you caused him,” he said angrily. Mirage felt his spark constrict in fear. “Please don’t! I know I deserve it, but I really didn’t know! I was thoughtless and arrogant, but if I’d known how much homeless mechs suffer on a daily basis, I never would have hurt him the way I did, and I’m so sorry. Please, let me stay!” Mirage’s body shook so hard from fear that his plating rattled. He didn’t want to go back to the streets! Much to his surprise, Hound’s expression softened. “Mirage, calm down. I’m still angry about what you did, but I’m not going to throw you out, and I shouldn’t have implied that I was going to. You’ve already been punished more than enough by what’s happened to you; I’m not going to torture you more by dumping you back on the streets. You may have been a stuck-up creep, but you still need my help now. Nobody deserves what you’ve gone through,” he said. Mirage sighed in relief. “Thank you….for-for your mercy,” he stammered. “No need to thank me for doing what’s right,” Hound replied. “There is when you’re the only one doing it,” Mirage said. If their positions had been reversed, he doubted that he would have shown Hound mercy, and he couldn’t understand what motivated Hound to help someone who had once done him and his friends harm. “In that case, you’re welcome. Now as for that tour I promised…” Hound proceeded to give Mirage an effective, if somewhat terse, tour of his home, ending with his guest room. “And this is the guest room, where you’ll be recharging.” Mirage gave the room a quick examination. Like everything else in the house, it was smaller and much more unprepossessing than he was accustomed to, but after over a week of having to recharge on the streets of Iacon, having a room at all seemed almost too good to be true. “It’s very nice. Thank you for offering it to me,” he said. “I can’t imagine it’s up to your standards,” Hound replied, with just a hint of bitterness in his voice. Mirage winced, knowing what Hound was implying and that it wasn’t entirely wrong. In one sense, his standards were currently so low that any form of shelter would have been able to meet them, but he knew that there was a part of him which still firmly believed that he deserved something much better than what Hound could provide. By now, he was ashamed of that part, but it was definitely still influencing him. He had been bred to expect only the finest in life, and that wasn’t going away overnight, no matter how pompous and selfish it made him look. “As I said, I’ve been arrogant and self-centered for almost my entire life. It seems to be a harder habit to break than I might like to admit,” he said. Hound smiled weakly. “At least you’re willing to acknowledge it. A lot of guys in your place wouldn’t even do that. So, with that out of the way, is there anything else you need?” Mirage shook his head. After all Hound had already done for him, how could he possibly ask for more? “No, but thank you,” he replied. “In that case, make yourself comfortable. I’ll call you when it’s time to refuel.” With that, he left the room, and Mirage gingerly sat down on the room’s recharging center, still not quite believing what had happened to him. Not only was he-a noblemech!-dependent on the kindness of a pauper to stay off the streets, but the pauper had chosen to show him that kindness despite the harm that he had done to the mech’s friends. It just didn’t add up! A few hours, Mirage was awkwardly sipping some of Hound’s energon when there was a knock at the door. “Are you expecting a visitor?” he asked as Hound walked over to the door. “No,” Hound replied. Much to Mirage’s surprise, Hound opened the door anyway. On the other side stood a small red mech, with what appeared to be horns on his head. “Hi, Cliffjumper! Come in! It’s good to see you!” Hound exclaimed. Mirage was puzzled. His creators had taught him that it was dreadfully improper to visit someone’s estate without giving them advance notice, but it seemed that different rules applied here. “Good to see you too, Hound. What have you been up to?” the red mech, presumably Cliffjumper, replied as he walked inside. Mirage’s discomfort increased exponentially. Hound, despite his kindness, was all but a complete stranger to him, and it seemed less than polite to listen in on his conversation with another mech that Mirage didn’t know. “Oh, the usual,” Hound replied. “Still making maps and rescuing mechs like we used to be, then?” Cliffjumper asked. “You’ve got it,” Hound said. Cliffjumper laughed. “You’re such a bleeding spark, Hound. So, who’s your newest friend?” Mirage considered turning on his cloaking mechanism to avoid what he was fairly sure would quickly become an awkward situation, but decided that doing so would be unforgivably rude. He stayed put as Hound led Cliffjumper over to him. “Well, I’m not sure if I’d call us friends, but this is Mirage. Mirage, this is Cliffjumper,” Hound said. Mirage sighed. This was going to be incredibly uncomfortable. “It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Cliffjumper,” he said, painfully aware that he probably sounded terribly pretentious to this mech. “It’s nice to meet you, too, Mir-” Cliffjumper began. His voice trailed off, and, much like Hound had earlier, he stared at the crest on Mirage’s chest, then looked back up at him in a mixture of shock and fear. Mirage decided that it would probably be best to explain the situation before he was asked about it this time. “My full name is Mirage of the Furtim Line. I’m a noblemech, and if you’re a friend to Hound, I’m afraid that you’ve probably heard of me,” he said. Cliffjumper scowled and turned to Hound. “What’s he doing here? Isn’t he too good for a bunch of nobodies like us?” Mirage felt another pang of guilt, knowing all too well what he would have thought of Cliffjumper and Hound a few weeks ago. In response to Cliffjumper’s question, Hound gave a brief explanation of how Mirage had ended up in his home. “And you’re letting him stay here? After what he did to Voltage?” Cliffjumper demanded. “Yes. I don’t like what he did to Voltage, either, but I can’t just turn him out,” Hound replied. Cliffjumper scoffed. “Are you crazy, Hound? Even if he hadn’t had his guards almost kill an old mech, he’s a stuck-up snob. What’s so hard about kicking out a creep like him?” “Because it would be wrong. Even if he is a stuck-up snob, I’m going to help him. I have to-it’s the right thing to do,” Hound replied. “He doesn’t deserve your help! If I were you, I’d throw him out-let him learn what it’s like to be pushed around by someone with more power,” Cliffjumper said vindictively. Mirage personally felt that he had received a pretty effective crash course in what that was like already, but he kept his mouth shut on the subject. He really didn’t want to attract the attention of the angry little mech again. Unfortunately for him, Cliffjumper walked back over to him anyways. “You really think you’re all that, don’t you, Towers brat? I worked for your kind once, and you’re all the same. The only things you care about are your credits and your fancy mansions and your stupid parties. You lived in the lap of luxury while mechs like me and Hound were starving, and now you’ve got the nerve to ask him for help? You’re disgusting.” “But...but I….” “What? Don’t you dare tell me that a week on the streets means you understand what our lives are like, you pampered brat,” Cliffjumper spat. Mirage winced. As much as he disliked being shouted at, the smaller mech had a point. Although the past nine solar cycles had been an absolute nightmare, it probably didn’t compare to struggling to make ends meet for your entire life. “Cliffjumper, that’s enough! I understand that you don’t like him. I don’t particularly like him either, but it’s not right to insult him to his face,” Hound exclaimed. “Why are you defending him? His guards almost killed our friend, and he stood there and did nothing while they did it!” Mirage felt another spurt of guilt. That poor old mech…. “And he was wrong to do it-but Cliffjumper, he was practically raised to be arrogant and self-absorbed. Can you imagine what growing up surrounded by unimaginable luxury and knowing that you’re going to be the sole inheritor of four billion credits would do to someone? Like I said, that doesn’t make what he did to Voltage right, but it does put it into perspective. Noblemechs are usually raised to believe that they’re naturally superior to others by virtue of their programming. If I’d grown up in his place, I can’t say that I’d have been concerned about someone like Voltage either,” Hound said. “Well, if he’s staying, then I’m leaving. I’m not gonna help this Towers brat-not after what he did to Voltage. Call me when you come to your senses, Hound,” Cliffjumper replied. With that, he stormed out of the house and slammed the door behind him. “I apologize, Hound. I had no intention of driving a wedge between you and your friend,” Mirage said, utterly mystified at Hound’s willingness to defend a stranger he didn’t even like to a mech that he was clearly close friends with. “Don’t worry about it. Cliffjumper’s got a bit of a temper, but give him a week and he’ll be back here like nothing ever happened. He doesn’t always agree with me, but he never stays angry for more than a few solar cycles. We’re too close for anything to drive a wedge between us for very long ,” Hound replied. “I’m very thankful that you stood up for me, but I don’t understand! If I were you, I would hate me, and yet you’ve shown me nothing but kindness. Why?” “Because there’s too much hatred in the world. Somebody’s gotta break the cycle, and it might as well be me,” Hound replied. Mirage shook his head and decided to escape to something that he could understand. “Would it be all right if I went back to the employment agency? I do not wish to live off of your kindness for any longer than I must,” he asked. “You don’t have to ask me for permission to leave the house, you know. I’m not keeping you prisoner here. If you want to go find a job, that’s fine by me,” Hound replied. With that, Mirage engaged his cloaking mechanism and moved to leave. “On the other hand, maybe I could introduce you to my employer,” Hound said suddenly. Mirage disengaged his cloak and turned around in surprise. “Are you certain he would want me? I used to be so self-absorbed and cruel, and even if he doesn’t care about that, I don’t really have any job experience,” he said. Hound smiled. “Well, that’s the thing about Optimus Prime. He takes everybody...even ex-aristocrats like you, vengeful little mechs like Cliffjumper, and unemployed, homeless mapmakers like me. How do you think I got off the streets?” he replied. Mirage stared at Hound in shock. “You work for the Prime?” “Yeah. You want me to take you to him?” Hound replied. “Certainly...if you’re certain he’ll have me,” Mirage said. “I’m sure he will. After all, he needs everyone he can get to protect the planet from the aggression of the Decepticons….especially if they’ve really destroyed the Towers District like you said. Welcome to the Autobot Resistance, Mirage. I think this is going to be the start of a wonderful friendship,” Hound replied. Mirage smiled, feeling hopeful for the first time in what seemed like an eternity. “After what you’ve done for me? I should think so!” Mirage replied. “It was nothing,” Hound said. “For you, maybe. But for me, it was everything.” THE END!