Mirage pushed himself to his peds from the austere berth in his compact cell. Servos creaked. He walked where he was shoved. He wasn't going to run. There was nowhere for him to run.

When the choice had been before him, he had chosen to return Cybertron rather than to flee. He had surrendered. There was no way he could dress it up as anything other than it was. He had excuses. He'd heard the jibes and slanders from his own comrades, who when given the bitter pill to swallow had spat it in the face-plates of the victors. They'd run.

The internment camp was rough though not more than the noble had expected. He was a Towerling, had been so long ago the memories seemed psychedelic. Swirling bright colours and experiences of such sweetness they ruined him for any sensation now.

The 'Con behind him shoved again.

Mirage hid a smirk. Not all sensation. Pain translated perfectly well without any muffling nostalgia. Short rations, no maintenance, casual abuse (but nothing too obvious because some officers noticed), and now this. Whatever this was.

The interview last shift had been unlike the routine interrogations. He mistrusted that. The treaty promised any Autobot who surrendered would not be summarily executed. There had been a few trials; burnt out Wreckers dragged in to face sentencing for war crimes their own comrades could not overlook. Their deaths had been efficient and televised. And archived. Rewind had been there for every one, flanked by Soundwave not Blaster.

The Decepticon Third-in-Command had been present at the unusual interview. Vortex had not. Mirage had been questioned by the Combaticon only once after there had been an escape attempt from the camp. He had submitted with what dignity the helicopter had allowed him. He wasn't a spy. Well, yes, he was a spy but he wasn't currently spying and had no plans to spy. He just wanted to go home.

Where he was going now was apparently into a transport. One last shove sent him stumbling inside. There were padded seats. Mirage sat in one as the doors slammed shut and the vehicle's engine spun up from idling. A shuttle, he realised, having seen no more than the entrance at the end of a long corridor.

Automatically, he buckled himself in. Soundwave had asked a few questions about his past. Mirage had given the truth damning himself by Decepticon viewpoint. He was high caste, created by two high caste to be their registered heir, reared in the glittering Towers of Iacon, and politically oblivious until the war had brought his world tumbling down.

Soundwave knew all that. The noble had undergone a deep scan as part of Prisoner Processing. Why his lineage matter now, Mirage had no idea. Perhaps it was for the archive, he thought and surprised himself with a wry chuckle. He didn't believe he was heading for his execution. Surely there would have been more gloating. Most Deceptions had Opinions about the aristocracy.

He stared out of the window.

Cybertron was not blooming. It would take vorn for that. But in places some of the rust had been scraped off. A bit of polish here and there. Some of the Autobot trusties had been seconded to work crews. Not for heavy labour chain gangs, too close to what many 'Cons had endured before the war, but for their skill sets. Grapple had been paroled instantly after Processing.

There was energon. Cybertron was in a stable orbit around an orange dwarf star at the expense of the space-bridge infrastructure even now likely being repaired by Autobot engineers. Megatron's desperate gambit had been spectacularly successful. He'd swaggered back to Earth to force-fuel his foes with a special brand of poison; their own longing for home.

Even on half-rations because he wasn't working, Mirage was better fuelled than he had been for much of the conflict. Their sojourn on Earth had garnered them a more-than-adequate supply of energon but it was lacking important trace minerals. Cybertonium deficiency was the most obvious though far from the only one. A lack of home.

Lost in thought, Mirage startled when the shuttle began descending. He braced himself for the landing then felt foolish as the vehicle touched down smoothly, taxiing without the need to avoid blast damage or incoming fire. They rolled to a stop with a hiss as lines (security? fuel? cargo tethers?) fastened to the chassis of what the spy was sure was a drone not a Cybertronian. Both factions had paid very close attention to how many space-capable mecha were still functional. He was confident he could name all of them in an orn.

The thus far silent pilot lit the safe/open light above the exit so Mirage exited. This hallway was clearly a concertina air-lock conduit, the creased walls semi-opaque and brightly lit beyond. It wasn't pressurised so this was for occupational safety, he presumed.

Or discretion, the noble amended as a mech unsealed the door at the other end of the conduit and beckoned him forward. There were many reasons why a Seeker might want to avail themselves of a lone, unguarded prisoner at an undisclosed location. Mirage couldn't align any of those nebulous 'whys' with an unarmed and harassed looking Thundercracker.

"I'll explain inside." The dark blue jet said as he led the way into a clearly domestic space. A nice foyer, actually. There was art on the walls in between full height windows with a scattering of tables to suggest airy luxury rather than post-war deprivation. None of the furniture matched but someone had contrived to make that look deliberate.

From the entrance, a wide hallway split into three. Thundercracker turned left into the newest part. Mirage could see the seam in the wall where the addition had been joined to the building, adapting what he guessed was an artillery emplacement into a Vosian-style apartment. All those windows had been embrasures. Enclosing the room had been a simple task of putting glass panes in the gun slits.

"These are my quarters." Thundercracker swiped a palm across a security panel then stepped aside with awkward courtesy to allow Mirage to see into the room. Not to enter first as he had not yet been invited to do so, but to inspect the setting to see if he wished to grace it with his presence.

"What do you expect me to do in them?" The unexpected show of manners threw Mirage. Among the Autobots only the Praxians had kept up with decent standards. Tracks had mimicked high caste manners, giving away his demimonde origins with his excessive sensibility.

"That's up to you." The Seeker said wearily. "I'll find a chaperone if you want one. I don't think there's a matchmaker still functioning so we'll have to ratify a binding ourselves but I can scrounge a lawyer. Neutrals are crawling back now we have a sun. One of them might have experience with bonding contracts."

"Are you asking me to be your conjunx?" Mirage's mental gyroscope spun as he decoded Thundercracker's glyphs. Perhaps one or both of them had glitched.

"Yeah." He vented exhaust despite not running hot. At least his engines weren't. His processor might be over-clocked. "Technically a secondary conjunx because of the trine bond. I can't spark bond without 'Screamer and 'Warp." He seemed about to say more then stopped abruptly. "I know that sounds like concubinage. I won't touch you, not if you don't want me. I don't have a thing for grounders."

"And yet I am here." Confused and unbound. Had Soundwave known? Of course he had. Thundercracker was only Command Trine by dint of Starscream's rank. He wasn't a loyalist or ambitious. If not for Air Commander's wake, the blue Seeker would likely have spent the war in a stasis bunker under Darkmount.

"Yeah." Thundercracker agreed eloquently. He reset his optics and straightened. "You don't have to be. I can't parole you without a contract. I got this far by going around my trine to Hook and Knock Out, and once I had something in writing I went to Soundwave. He helped me find an excuse that would work. You're a security risk but you're high caste too. You have the protocols."

"When did you last recharge?" Mirage didn't have enough idea of what was going on to be sympathetic. He defaulted to his Intelligence training. The Seeker wasn't swaying but he couldn't be assessed as coherent.

"Primus knows. He cries all the time even when we're spark to spark. It's worse when the others are around." He leaned heavily against the wall, the door still open between them.

"Who, Thundercracker?" The spy asked delicately.

"My sparkling." The Decepticon blinked as fluid began to leak from his optics. "Please. I need your help."