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"You're displeased, Decepticon."

Thundercracker gunned his engines. Yes, he was displeased, but he had no reason to confess that to a captured enemy.

The prisoner cocked his head, trying unsuccessfully to hide that he was wincing at the other's noise. "Well, it is rather obvious. And that little sonic assault didn't help you to cover it up."

Thundercracker scowled, flaring out his wings. "If you have something to say, save it for Vortex. I'm sure he would be fascinated by your observations, Autobot."

The other smirked. "Ah, I've hit a sensor."

Thundercracker's engines rumbled again. He permitted himself the small indulgence of snarling, "Shut up, Mirage," but quickly muted his vocalizer again. All he had to do was escort this one to interrogation. Surely he could manage that without getting drawn in to his prisoner's little games.

"I would think you would be pleased," the Autobot went on. "After all, it's all we ever heard before the war: how Decepticon culture is superior to ours -"

Thundercracker turned. Before the war? Back then, Mirage had been an upperclass mech back on Cybertron, at least among his kind. Was he really thinking that social status among the civilian classes made him worth listening to?

"- and yet here you are, one of the highest of the Decepticon elite. And you're unhappy."

Without warning, Thundercracker shoved his prisoner into the nearest wall. "What are you saying?" he growled, his turbines spinning.

The other's head lolled, his optics unfocused. Then he raised his head to stare imperiously at his captor. "Perhaps you're better off somewhere else, Thundercracker. It's obvious to anyone, whether your friend or your enemy, that you're tired of this rabble."

Thundercracker twitched his wings, trembling with rage. "And what are you saying? Go elsewhere? As if there is any 'elsewhere' but a base crawling with flightless vermin like you."

"Easy, easy," Mirage protested, cycling a heavy pant as he moved his bound arms in some vague approximation of a nonthreatening gesture. "I intended no insult -"

"I think I know when I'm being insulted." The fine gears controlling Thundercracker's mouthplates whined as they shifted into a sneer. "And as for the others, whatever I think, speaking like that is hardly your place, prisoner."

"Come now," Mirage answered, still panting. "I come from noble stock among my kind, as you do among yours. Is it so difficult to admit you're growing tired of a society of thugs?"

Thundercracker's engines roared. How could this fool say such things? Yes, he was tired of this planet. Tired of this war. Tired of the other Decepticons, so giddy for battle that they failed to ask themselves whether anything on this disgusting organic world was truly worthy of their fighting for it.

But to hear those thoughts coming out of the vocalizer of an Autobot, twisted and warped beyond recognition by an enemy who couldn't possibly understand what he was saying? That was so repulsive he felt a sudden and violent urge to scrub his audio receptors with something caustic until he was sure they were properly cleansed.

"We are a society of warriors, Mirage." Thundercracker pressed a hand to the Autobot symbol branded on the other's chest and curled his hand, digging his fingers hard into the paint there. "Something you and your kind know nothing about."

"You fancy yourself noble, Decepticon. A ruler of the skies. I, too, was noble once."

By whatever definition of "noble" a debased race uses, I suppose you were, Thundercracker thought, not deigning to say it aloud.

"Tell me, Decepticon. Are there not loftier goals than war?"

The walls and floor shook from the blast of sound that came from Thundercracker's engines. Unable to raise his hands to shield his audio receptors, the prisoner tossed his head wildly, desperate for some relief.

Thundercracker dragged his fingertips hard over the plate bearing his enemy's brand, the metal whining as his fingertips scratched through the paint and bit deep.

Then the sound stopped, replaced by a cold, long silence. Mirage's azure optics widened, and Thundercracker knew he was as unnerved by the quiet as he had been by the noise.

The Decepticon raised his arm, aiming his weapon directly at Mirage's throat.

"Say that again, Autobot, and I melt your vocalizer down right here. Say that again, and Vortex can spend the rest of the evening devising ways to get information out of a mute."

He smiled, an imperious grin devoid of any warmth. "I'm certain he won't have too much trouble."