Author's Note: Happy birthday, kateydidnt! When I asked her what she wanted for her birthday, she requested an Autobot Introduction for a mech or femme who hadn't witnessed Optimus being reignited. I chose Mirage, who in our fanon arrives on Earth in Introductions: Annabelle Lennox (chapter 12). This fic also makes reference to Precursors: Foxhole Friends (chapter 4), The Tie That Binds (chapter 18). You should be able to understand it without having read those stories, but if you want to read more, now you know where to look. :) Hope you enjoy! ~ Eowyn77
Tedious. There was no other word for the inevitable mingling with a new contingent. At the height of the War, I reported directly to Jazz and he was gregarious enough for a dozen mechs. All I needed to do was stand in the same room with him and I would be as socially invisible as I could be physically. Now he was long gone, extinguished on this insignificant mud ball of a world, and I had to yet again try to interact with those who would never truly understand me.
Lesser mechs had accused me of thinking I was better than everyone else; what they didn't understand was that I am better than other mechs. Hound and Trailbreaker were kin to a commerce clan, so they have an inkling of what I gave up when I joined the Autobots, but only one mech still online had witnessed firsthand my life as the heir of Polyhex. I was born into immense wealth and privilege. I had the best upgrades credits could buy and entire cities called me 'lord.' Sages were my tutors and renowned artists detailed my finish.
However, it wasn't until I received my third frame that I met my first friend. I was well into that frame before I recognized him as such and understood that he was the only one I had. The mechs and femmes I interacted with were kin, vassals, or servants. Even kin were subservient to me, and my brothers were subordinate. Only my grandfather, father and mother were higher than me in the clan hierarchy. I was born to rule, and we all - greatest to least - knew my place.
That gradually began to change after a certain architect name Optimus came along. His patience was what drew me to him at first. He wasn't just tolerant like my parents or tutors, nor did he grovel like those who came seeking favor. He showed me the least deference honor would allow, and when we spoke he frankly met my gaze. Optimus saw me, not the heir of Polyhex. I began to wonder just what I would find in my spark if the All Spark had sent me to a different clan. When he held my gaze, what did he see within me that others did not? What did he not see that he felt no need to look away?
When his contract with my father was complete, Optimus moved on to his next engagement, but his influence continued to follow me. My father was displeased with what he saw as my rebellion, but each time he criticized Optimus, the distance between me and my creator grew. Both of us blocked our bonds almost continuously, and when my loyalty was finally tested, I was almost shocked at how easy it was to choose Optimus over my own father.
His followers called him Optimus Prime, and the title rang true. My service to him was natural, even to my noble sensibilities, for what is a prince compared to a Prime, even the heir of Polyhex? I disavowed my clan and swore to serve the Prime and his kin, and while the rough caves and even rougher mechs who joined us were alien to me, I'd never felt more at home in my life.
My Prime asked me to serve him as a spy and saboteur under Jazz, a mech as common as they come. For the sake of the oath and the amity that inspired it, I served a mech who, a few orbital cycles earlier, would have bowed low to me and called me 'Master Mirage.' I took orders from him, answered to him, and even endured his censure. Because I was removed from my Prime, it took longer than it probably should have for me to learn what it was Optimus saw in the spark of that spoiled youngling in Polyhex. It was the same thing that let him hold my gaze without fear or shame. Whether war captain or counselor, Optimus saw in each and every mech and femme his or her intrinsic worth. I was alive, I was sentient, I was a spark of life derived from the All Spark, and I was valuable for simply that. He also knew the same was true of him, and so he neither feared nor reverenced me. It was that insight, that simple and genuine belief in the worth and equality of sparks, that let me eventually integrate into the Autobots, despite our very divergent upbringing. It was undeniable that I was better than them – I had a venerable pedigree, more education, better upgrades, decent table manners – but I was not more valuable than them. Even Skids and Mudflap were worthy of my protection and respect simply because their sparks came from the same source as mine.
Once I had that epiphany, I found myself wishing for another friend, but by that point I'd alienated so many mechs that it almost didn't seem worth the effort. Hound and Trailbreaker were the first ones I awkwardly tried to befriend, and amidst the death and misery of war, I gradually grew to understand them and they me. It was only their presence on our assignment to assassinate Shockwave that made the other mechs bearable. Springer and Hot Rod had an abiding distrust of me, and Evac was simply disinterested in even speaking with any Towers mech, much less the former heir of Polyhex.
Just hours ago we had again joined the Prime, and while I was glad to the point of rejoicing to see him again, I had to somehow find a way to "fit in" with Jolt and Wheeljack, with Sunstreaker and Sideswipe. I was simply not designed nor programmed for such a thing, and with the younger twins, I wasn't sure if I was even capable of carrying on a civil conversation. Skids and Mudflap had belonged to a commerce clan before the Decepticons obliterated their city, and they were living proof of just how far our class had fallen.
We were gathered now in what the indigenous life forms called the "Autobot barracks," awaiting the arrival of the organic being Optimus had called a Prime. These humans had seemed repulsive at first, oil-oozing globules, but the one honored with an Autobot brand and the name Iron Will was so much like Ironhide that I quickly overcame that initial reaction. My Prime deigned to work with him, and I could do no less.
When the doors of our barracks opened, three humans entered and I straightened in surprise. The organic mech had a spark signature. I glanced at Optimus, bewildered, but he was already addressing the newcomers and deferring to the human who had taken a seat beside him. He must be Samuel, who was also called Prime by my fellow Autobots.
For the benefit of Iron Will's youngling femme, Samuel recounted the significance of the name of Prime and of the Matrix of Leadership. Then stooping, he picked up the Matrix and it flared to life in his servo. An electric thrill shot through my frame at the sight.
It was true. Every word of Optimus' transmissions was true.
I murmured in surprise, and I was not the only one. This being had killed Megatron, had destroyed the All Spark. He had found one of our race's the most sacred artifacts and used it to subdue death. Optimus not only owed a life-debt to this creature; we as a race owed him reverence for what he had done. This organic blob with a spark signature was a Prime.
The words I'd spoken long ago replayed through my processors, the oath that bound me in service to Optimus and his clan to the end of my functioning. Samuel's spark signature was practically a twin to Optimus' and my fealty was to all those who were Prime-bound. If the similarities in spark signature meant what I thought it did, I was sworn to serve this squishy Prime, this life form that was so low it used carbon instead of silicon to think.
Then Samuel turned and addressed us, inviting us to celebrate a day of gratitude and thanksgiving with Iron Will and his clan, adding, "We are all of us grateful for the arrival of four new friends and companions-in-arms."
Friends. For all my shock, my spark surged with an achingly eager hope. I knew nothing of these humans and their culture, and the words could simply be the empty niceties used among the commerce clans. It was also possible that this Prime saw and spoke as truly as Optimus.
My Prime left with Samuel, Iron Will, and Bumblebee. I would have to wait to speak with Optimus about all this. Instead, I drifted closer to Hound and Trailbreaker where they spoke with Jolt, hovering just close enough to their conversation to not be seen as standing alone but far enough away to not intrude.
Like Evac, Hound, and Trailbreaker, I began assimilating the packets Prowl had prepared for new arrivals to Earth. The more I learned, the more surprised I was at how similar our races were, despite our physical differences. My newly-recalibrated chronometer informed me it was 02:12 hours when Optimus pinged me. /Will you join me, Mirage?/
/Of course,/ I answered, following his signal to where he waited in alt-form on the tarmac.
He led out and we drove south to an area that, according to the posted "Welcome" notice, was restricted. We were waved through.
Once we were beyond the sight of the checkpoint, he transformed and I followed suit. We stood in the silence for a while, staring at the stars.
"It is good to see you, old friend," he finally said.
"I am pleased to serve at your side again," I answered.
He turned his helm slightly, humor in his optics, and said, "I see you, Mirage."
I smiled despite myself. "You always have. It has been a long time."
"A lifetime," he easily agreed. "You are troubled by Sam."
"I'd forgotten how clear your sight is," I admitted. "Yes. He is Prime-bound, is he not?"
"Yes, though it is not common knowledge. We share a brother bond."
"Then I am sworn to his service, too."
He didn't answer, and I was grateful for his silence. In the early days of the War, Optimus had been my sole anchor in the chaos of a society tearing itself apart. Now we were all adrift, more lost than wind-tossed, and I had been long cut off from our friendship. I'd missed the steadying presence of my Prime.
I had abased myself for Optimus, but could I do the same for Samuel Prime, whose mere existence was living proof that Primus has a very perverse sense of humor? As I searched my spark, I was disturbed that I couldn't find an answer. I'd seen Samuel hold the activated Matrix. His spark signature was undeniable. Optimus himself admitted they shared a brother bond. Were he a Cybertronian of any class, build, or rank, I could have humbled myself far enough to bow before him.
"When I died, you were released from your service to me," Optimus finally said. "Sam had no spark then, and I was severed from all my kin. There were none left to whom you owed a duty and you have honorably fulfilled your oath."
"As if that means anything," I archly answered. "I serve you out of amity, Optimus Prime. My fealty was freely given and was predicated on my death, not yours."
He solemnly nodded his head in acknowledgement.
My spark swelled with affection for my Prime when I realized he'd just given me a choice where I thought I'd had none. I was not trapped by my words into a servitude none of us could have ever imagined. I was truly under no obligation now, to him or to Samuel. Whatever pledge I gave to them would be of my own free will.
"Will you accept my fealty?" I suddenly wondered. I could guess the answer in my spark, but I wanted to hear it with my own audials. I'd made no secret of my initial disdain of the humans.
"Even if you cannot give your allegiance to Sam, I'll accept whatever you are willing to give me. I have long counted you among my friends, Mirage, and I do not require or expect any oath from you. I do not and never have questioned your loyalty."
Looking on him now, the Prime who stood where my father should have by right, I knew what my fate was because it was the only choice I could bring myself to make, and the knowledge filled me with peace. "I would speak the words in my spark."
Turning to face me, he solemnly bowed his helm in acceptance.
I knelt before him. "I, Mirage, Autobot and servant to Optimus Prime, do hereby swear to stand before you in war and beside you in peace and in all things to serve you and your kin as one brother to another until all are one."
The silence stretched long, then, and I didn't dare to look up. It was the oath he'd sworn to me those many eons ago when he'd accepted my allegiance the first time, and the longer he went without acknowledging me, the more I feared I'd spoken amiss. What was a prince compared to a Prime, even the heir of Polyhex? And yet with my oath, I'd raised myself to be his equal.
I almost flinched when his heavy hand rested on my shoulder, but his voice was thick with emotion when he answered, "I, Optimus Prime, do hear your vow of fealty, Autobot Mirage and oath-brother, and accept your allegiance, swearing to you in kind, that I and my kin will stand before you in war and beside you in peace and in all things serve you as one brother to another until all are one."
My pump froze at his words. He'd accepted my oath and given the same - with an upgrade. "Does Samuel Prime understand what that means?" I asked, still staring pointedly at the ground glass beneath us.
"He will. And he will honor it."