Mirage got a copy of the proposed bonding contract before he entered the room. Thundercracker's quarters were erratically decorated with scavenged couches and repurposed ship fittings, much more the look the Autobot had expected. The upholstery was new, imported from Earth he presumed. Optimus had fought as hard for the humans as he had for his own people.

The Towerling couldn't help but resent him for that.

"I would also like a copy of the parole criteria and strictures." Mirage seated himself demurely on the light blue sofa. The tone was a pleasing compliment to his drab plating. The Seeker subsided into the navy one too tired to keep the correct posture that would have been demanded of him way back when existence had made sense.

Thundercracker sent the file. He also sent a notarised, embossed with the seal of the Winglord no less, document detailing his lineage, caste status, and pre-war affiliations. As worthless as dross in Decepticon society, he didn't know a single Seeker who had discarded their pedigree. Mecha said it didn't matter but you checked before trining. Just in case. For tradition. You wouldn't want to tie your spark irrevocably to someone who wasn't really a Vosian would you?

The jet shut his optics as the race car read. Thundercracker was already mortified he had snivelled. He let that feeling simmer in sub-processing because he'd beg. He'd spit-shine the 'Bot's peds if it convinced him to help. Skywarp had mocked him when he'd raised the possibility of a concubine then had gone out and got cratered at Mixmaster's bar. Starscream had sneered and pretended he didn't care.

"I want Megatron to sign off on any bond contract before we formalise it." Mirage wasn't foolish enough to think that would guarantee anything. However, if the Slagmaker wanted the facade of a judicial system then he could put his glyph where his rhetoric was.

"He likes sparklings, you know." Thundercracker couldn't stop his vox-box spitting nonsense like static. "Megatron does. He was there when Tempest emerged. In the hall." His trine's messed up sire-coding hadn't let them have anyone but the medic in the room and Skywarp had hissed at Knock Out so often the racer had threatened to mute him.

"Where is your sparkling now?" He wouldn't be persuaded. The spy reminded himself Thundercracker was a killer. They all were. A pure Seeker-coded infant was not going to be a cuddly bitlet. And this wasn't about the sparkling. His own safety was the priority. If he were going to rebuild his life, he could not be sentimental.

"Hospital." He'd wanted to be there. He'd loitered and hung about and got under-ped and annoyed the nurses. Hook had banished him with brutal honesty; there was nothing he could do. So Thundercracker had gone home to pace and pester Soundwave with update requests. The Host had set an automated response with a countdown until the Autobot's arrival.

Soundwave liked sparklings too.

"Knock Out'll bring him back once the tests are done. They're going to try a new modulation technique if this doesn't work. There's a spark support machine that might help. Possibly." Thundercracker had listened to Scrapper's explanation of how the Constructicons could adapt the device for the tiny, unstable spark inside his bitlet. He'd listened but he wasn't a scientist or an engineer. Then again, the scientists and engineers and medics hadn't realised anything was wrong with Tempest until it was too late to modify the incipient spark.

"If I am going to open myself to your heir, I will have every respect due to me." Mirage was a first creation, groomed to fulfil his creators' social obligations. Any conjugal alliance he would have made would have most likely been as a primary conjunx. Of course, if a higher status Tower had proffered a particularly advantageous contact, there would have been negotiation. One of his carrier's siblings had been hetaira to the Prime.

What Thundercracker was offering was comparable. Whether an Iaconian Tower would have accepted a bond with a Vosian Tower for one of their scions to be the personal spouse of a third of a trine, Mirage couldn't say. They probably would have pushed for him to be the conjunx of the whole trine, though if one of the three was interested in an outside partner then there was obviously a conflict of desire among them.

"That's why I wanted a noble. So this would be official. Uncontestable." Thundercracker agreed. He wasn't pressuring an Autobot to open their panels. Anyone who did that was scum. Oh, it happened. It'd been a long war. But they were still scum. And Soundwave would never have helped him if this was about getting his spike wet. "No one can argue with innate protocols. We'll have the coding change verified medically."

Mirage read in silence. There was an artless simplicity to the new legal code. He could imagine a rabble of miners voting with a show of hands on these laws. There was an overlay of military regulations to add nuance, mostly concerning next of kin and inheritance in circumstances where there were no identifiable remains. The conjugal legislation was sparse. Decepticons had bonded during the war but for security reasons spark sharing had been discouraged.

The parole regulations had clearly been hammered out over the course of the war as a result of specific violations. The minutiae left Mirage with the impression he would've been sitting in the internment camp until the return of Primus. Unless specifically requested by Intelligence or the DJD, a prospect unlikely to lead to a serene civilian life.

"If I commit a felony, as my sponsor you will also be charged. Executed too, if I am convicted of a capital offence." The spy pointed this out as he was not confident Thundercracker had read the fine print. The Seeker's throttled field seeped out at the edges tingling near panic. Mirage didn't need to feel him to know the jet was jumping into this blind.

"So?" His wings didn't move when he shrugged, another hint at how tense he was. "If I ask if you're planning anything, you'll say no and I'll believe you because you're a trained liar. If you do something and you're caught, I'd be in the smelter anyway. If you do something and get away then what will you care what happens to me?"

Mirage didn't answer the question. He resumed reading while a parallel thought stream prickled across his processor. How desperate was he? Not enough to frag his way out of the camp. He could, if he had to. Spec Ops training had been thorough. Jazz had. But he'd never been in that situation himself. He'd been lucky to get away with tactical flirting and, yes, lies. He was a very good liar.

"Blast Off is high caste." Mirage remarked later, picking his way through the bonding contract. It was antique, formal language almost oxidised. He could step this dance even with the Vosian variations. Thundercracker had added few personalisations other than the big one.

"Gestalt, and he's a sulky fragger." An Autobot hadn't been his first choice. Thundercracker had made a list. "Hook says whoever I get can't be bonded already. The more mecha in the link, the less help they'll be. Trine are out too." He culled a whole suite of thought processes with a grimace. It stung but he wasn't going to let himself get stuck in that loop again. "Trine was what caused this problem."

"Spark instability." The noble referenced the sparse diagnosis on the form. Mirage had enough medical training and unfortunately enough experience with life-threatening injuries to understand how broad that condition was.

"Knock Out can give you all the nuts and bolts. As far as he knows." Thundercracker added bitterly. They (the medics) didn't know much. They (the surviving Cybertronian collected research trust) had a bit more theory. In theory. "Short report: my trine bond is lumpy slag. We didn't merge enough or there was battle damage or our sparks were never all that compatible but combat protocols filled in the gaps or some other fragging maybe."

The Seeker jerked to his peds, pacing the room in staccato circles while he vented in a too-familiar meditative pattern. Mirage rose and walked with him stride for stride, vent for vent. He'd done this for Jazz, for Sideswipe, for Bumblebee, so many times for Red Alert. Whenever he had been a conveniently accessible proxy for an over-worked medic needing to calm a patient without sedating them. Forward, forward, back, vent, forward, forward, back, vent and pause.

"Tempest wasn't big. I didn't have a great carry. Not bad. Nothing went wrong. We'd been cleared to start trying. All our levels were good." Thundercracker spoke in time with his vents, willing himself to calm. "I sparked quickly, which everyone said was a good sign. Coding spun up alright. Sire coding was a bit wonky. I was tired even on extra Cybertron rations. Purged a bit. Got horny. Got more tired. Everything was okay until Tempest initialised independently. He crashed when he unfurled."

As Mirage was a very good liar and a well trained spy and not a slag-sucker, he didn't say any of the first five things queued. He definitely didn't say anything on the theme of 'the Will of Primus' because if he had, he wouldn't blame Thundercracker for hitting him.

An early crash was not always lethal. It was always an indication of something seriously wrong with the newspark. Many of those serious wrongs ended unhappily. Mirage walked with the Decepticon as they both didn't say a lot of things. Neither of them had found their words before a jaunty ping from the front door interrupted them.