Four million years ago:
He should have been glad to see the seeker go down. It was one less Decepticon killer in the air, tearing up the Autobot ranks. But watching him plow into the side of an abandoned building, Trailbreaker couldn't muster any sense of triumph.
He hated war, he hated having to watch mechs die, most of them for causes they didn't even understand. Their planet was dying around them, and there was no end in sight.
With a sigh, Trailbreaker shook his head and started after the seeker, following the trail of wreckage. The impact had ripped a massive hole in the side of the building, and Trailbreaker gave the structure a wary look before ducking inside. Forcefields or not, having several thousand tons of metal and building materials collapse on him was not his idea of fun.
Trailbreaker scrambled over a fallen girder, shoving aside a fallen sheet of plating. It landed on pile of rubble with a crash.
An answering groan came from deeper in the ruined building, followed by the sound of someone transforming, so slowly that Trailbreaker couldn't help but wince. He ducked around a cracked wall and found the seeker slumped in the wreckage.
"Come to finish me off, Autobot?" the seeker rasped, lifting his head to look back at Trailbreaker.
Trailbreaker kept his weapon trained on the seeker, but he had a feeling that he needn't have bothered. The seeker was a mess, one wing bent back, the other missing entirely, energon oozing out of the ragged stump. One leg was twisted under him in a way that suggested that the seeker wasn't going to be using it anytime soon. He didn't look capable of standing, much less putting up a fight.
"No," Trailbreaker told him quietly. "No need to make a martyr out of you. Consider yourself my prisoner."
The seeker stared at him for a moment, then let his head drop and started to laugh.
That... hadn't been the reaction he'd expected. Trailbreaker's gun wavered.
"Far be it for me to argue for my own execution, but Decepticons don't have martyrs," the seeker told him finally. "Only Autobots think that dying can be 'glorious' or inspiring. So if you're going to shoot me, get it over with." Tremors ran down his body, whether from laughter or pain and exhaustion, Trailbreaker couldn't tell.
"I'm not going to shoot you." Trailbreaker kept his optics on the seeker as he radioed for backup. The seeker was obviously too damaged to walk out himself, and he was too large for Trailbreaker to carry by himself without injuring the jet further.
The seeker watched the proceedings with macabre amusement.
"You have a name?" Trailbreaker asked into the silence.
"Why do you care?"
"Common courtesy. It'd be nice to know what to call you." Trailbreaker picked his way across the rubble, edging towards the injured seeker.
The seeker snorted. "Autobots," he muttered, shifting away as Trailbreaker approached, only to stop short with a pained hiss.
"Hold still," Trailbreaker ordered, subspacing his gun. The seeker didn't seem particularly inclined towards violence at the moment – and frankly, if Trailbreaker had taken a nosedive through a building, he doubted he'd feel up to fighting, either.
But just to be safe... Despite his sensibilities screaming at him to tend the the injuries first, Trailbreaker reached for the seeker's guns, half-surprised when the Decepticon didn't resist. At least it looks like I won't have to worrying about cluster bombs or missiles anytime soon, he thought, eying the mangled remains of the seeker's wings.
The seeker shot him an unreadable look when he crouched down to get at the worst of the damage.
"Hold still," Trailbreaker said absently. "I'm no medic, but let's see if we can stop some of the leaking..." he trailed off, focusing on the energon and coolant seeping from under the seeker's plating.
"Thundercracker," the seeker said suddenly.
Trailbreaker looked up from his work, startled. "Huh?"
"You asked my name," the seeker said, avoiding Trailbreaker's optics. "It's Thundercracker."
"I'm Trailbreaker." Leaning back over his work, Trailbreaker hid a grin. He had a feeling the seeker wouldn't appreciate it. "I'd say nice to meet you, but under the circumstances..." He shrugged.
"Hn." Thundercracker slouched against the rubble and let Trailbreaker work in silence.
Trailbreaker turned to look at Ironhide in surprise. "What?"
Ironhide scowled across the room at where Ratchet was bent over the injured Thundercracker. "Waste o' resources, if ya ask me." He snorted. "Not like they're doin' anything of the sort for any of ours that they've got their filthy hands on."
"That's part of what makes us better than them," Trailbreaker said quietly. "Not stooping to their level."
"We can not stoop and not help the fraggers at the same time," Ironhide growled. "We're gonna end up tradin' that waste of scrap back to Megatron in exchange for some poor slagger who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He'll pick out the lowest-ranked, least militarily important mech in his prison-camps and gloat over how we're handing over one o' his elite for a nobody." Ironhide snorted. "Ain't nothin' we can do about it, but it puts a kink in my lines just thinkin' about the smug fragger sittin' up there and laughin' about it." He shook his head. "And then this slagger will be back up in the air, tryin' to kill us, courtesy of our own docs."
"We can't just let him die in our custody," Trailbreaker protested.
"Ain't sayin' let 'em die," Ironhide corrected. "Patch the leaks and toss 'em in a cell, I say. Let Megatron worry about fixin' 'em." He motioned towards where Ratchet was still bent over the prisoner. "This ain't necessary. It just puts 'em back in the air and shootin' at us that much faster. Frag it all, as horrible as it might sound, better if you'd just shot the fragger."
"Maybe..." Trailbreaker trailed off, not sure what he wanted to say.
Ironhide looked over at him and shook his head. "Eh, ignore me, kid. Just an old bitter mech grousin' about things he can't change." He patted Trailbreaker on the shoulder and ambled out of the repair bay.
"You did the right thing," Ratchet said suddenly, startling Trailbreaker. He hadn't thought the medic was listening. "We can't expect kindness or mercy unless we're willing to offer it first. And maybe someday, this one will see fit to return the favor."
"Maybe," Trailbreaker answered.
Ratchet looked up from his work, meeting his optics with a small sigh. "Maybe," he agreed.
Trailbreaker lingered a bit longer, watching the medic work and wondering.