"Are you sure you're ready for this?" Ratchet said.

"Ratchet, I'm as ready as I can be." Nonetheless, Charlotte Mearing's servo tightened around Optimus Prime's, and his tightened back.

"If I've gotten this wrong ..." Ratchet stared at the pair, who would both die if he had; he had felt their pump rates elevate, and knew them to be as nervous as he..

"Ratchet," said Optimus Prime, "I absolve you of all responsibility for this on my part."

Charlotte said, "I do too. Not your fault. And this isn't me any more. I haven't even been to see her for what, a quarter-vorn? And we have to know. She could die any day, Ratchet. So just ... pull the plug."

Charlotte's human body had in fact been neglected for that quarter-vorn. Having no one resident to take her for five-mile runs, Krav Maga training, or twice-weekly yoga classes, she had gotten slack, and malnourished in several separate ways since tube feeding isn't perfectly nutritious, which eventually resulted in a sort of thin, flabby grayness about her. She looked a lot older than her sixty-three years.

She had been harvested of everything that was useable. What was left was ... left.

Charlotte in her other body had been to the Moon, and to Mars. She was independent of the body in the bed, or at least Ratchet, muttering incantations under his breath, was as sure as he could be that she was. He powered down the life-support system.

Optimus, his digits twined about Charlotte's, squeezed a little. She squeezed back. If she and Ratchet were both wrong ... they'd find out shortly.

Ten minutes after the heart stopped, there were no brainwaves left.

Ten minutes after that, Charlotte smiled at Optimus. "I guess we're good to go," she said.

"Well, Charlotte, you have here a wonderful opportunity. You can attend your own funeral," Ratchet said, as they embraced.

"What would I want to do that for?" she asked. "I lived in that body for forty-some odd years. I've said good-bye to it. Why don't we just burn what's left, and not tell anyone?"

"Because the religious right, who tend to be neither," said Ratchet, who had learned a thing or six (and not just about transferring consciousness) in the last quarter-vorn, "would descend upon us crying murder and howling for blood. Tell you what, though, I'll put her into the fridge and get a crematory permit. That do you?"

"Ratchet," said Charlotte Mearing, "that would be perfect."

When the day came, she threw an "I'm Getting Fired" party for a select few whose sense of humor was as warped as her own.

Ratchet removed the monitors he had installed into her systems, and she and Optimus ... you don't even want to know.

Well, you probably do, but the writer doesn't want to tell you.

Initiate your imagination module, and have a good time.

Whatever you come up will be not-even-close to the truth, since either of them could enact any gender role to be found on Earth, and a couple that were known only to Cybertronians. —Let's just leave it at that.


"Well," said Ratchet, who had asked for a meeting among himself, Optimus Prime, and Charlotte Mearing, "you two continue to surprise me."

"How so, my friend?" asked Optimus.

"When we began this odyssey," the medic said, folding his arms and leaning his elbows on his desk, "I told you I thought such a relationship unnatural. It's not; I was wrong. And it's a good thing I can say that, because if I couldn't, these," he slid two printouts of their recent scans across to them, "would blow my little processor wide open."

They looked at them, picking up the flimsy sheets and turning them this way and that, looking for clues. Then two pairs of blue optics looked at him for explanation.

"Congratulations," Rachet said. "You're sparked. Both of you."