Things you do not wish to...

An Alpha Centauri fan fiction by Shade

I say this only once before beginning. I don't own Alpha Centauri, though I am interested in owning Zakharov (giggles). I intend no harm. Now that we're clear about this, let us begin...

A/N: this is a fully joint chapter. No Deirdre or Zakharov POV anymore! Free at last!

15) Conclude

Deirdre stood in front of the large mirror, examining the dress very carefully as she closed it – to her delight, it still fitted. She had grown a bit heavier over the duration of the last month, she had to concede, but then again... the only thing that mattered was that day. Her wedding day.

That day, Lady Skye of the Gaians would marry Academician Zakharov of the University.

Deirdre was called back to the present by the voices of her three bridesmaids, who were arguing.

"...I think I've got your shoes, Santiago...", Eliza said as she pushed the box she held off her lap. "These are way too big for me!"

"Yes, I think they got switched...", Santiago replied as she handed her own box to Eliza and took the box that the younger woman had pushed away. "True, I don't think someone with a size 39 can wear a size 44..."

"Or the other way around, good ladies, or the other way around...", said Liza sagely while straightening her own dress. Deirdre's assistant looked as beautiful and ageless as she always had – and would - yet now she was as tangible and real as the other three women. She had been given a body about a year ago, albeit one of steel and wires: no one could guess that her skin was only a synthetic fabric and that the soft warmth she gave off was because of the CPU that she bore where a human's heart would be.

"Ladies, I think we should hurry a bit... we don't want to keep them waiting, don't we?", spoke a fourth voice. Tamar stood a bit off the side: she couldn't be a bridesmaid since she was a bit too old for it, but she had been Deirdre's witness at the civil wedding and she would now use her incredible skill at the piano to liven up the ceremony. She walked over to Deirdre as she put on her shoes and started to pin down her veil. "How're you feeling? Still peachy?"

"Well, I feel nervous – but that's just because I've had to wait for so long... I still can't believe that we are finally getting married!" It had taken Zakharov another five years to finally gather the courage and propose. 'He was so shy and sweet when he did ask... and so loving after...', Deirdre thought as she remembered that day, a few months ago, when her lover had kneeled down in front of her and asked her if she would like to be his wife – it still brought a blush to her face, apparently, for Tamar snickered.

"Well, you'd better start believing it, because in another two hours or so, you'll exit this church as Mrs. Deirdre Zakharov. And then you can go live together in some nice little place far away from dangerous labs and have a dozen kids." At the mention of kids, Deirdre looked up, startled.

"Well, I'd very much like that – not a dozen kids, mind you – but would that still... be possible?", she asked hesitantly. "I mean, Prokhor isn't that young anymore and..."

"Rest assured, Lady, the Academician may not look young on the outside, but on the inside he wouldn't look any different from Michael. Apparently that hormone you and the other leaders have acquired doesn't only keep you young, it rejuvenates your body." Deirdre blanched suddenly as she heard. 'It can't be possible...', she thought – for suddenly, several things fell into place. The last few weeks, she had been feeling a bit under the weather – especially after lunch... and she had gained more weight than she thought she would... She blinked as she saw the four others gathered around her – 'I must've looked as pale as my dress'.

"Lady Deirdre, are you allright?", Eliza asked, voicing the thoughts of all those gathered. Deirdre swallowed and straightened herself.

"Tamar... if what you say is true... then we may not have to wait long...", she said in a half-whisper. Tamar looked nonplussed at first, then slowly a smile crept up her face, which turned into a grin.

"Gee, and here I thought you were going to wait until tonight...", she said with a snicker which made the others catch on – they started giggling like little school girls.

"Good thing our minister for today doesn't know – Sister Miriam would throw a fit...", Corazon said in between giggles. Deirdre merrily laughed along with them, silently not believing how lucky she was...

Meanwhile, Zakharov was on his way to the beautiful cathedral in which the marriage would take place, along with Sean, who was going to give Deirdre away and who would be his best man.

"Professor, you're gonna have to take good care of her.", Sean said while he skilfully manoeuvred between the other cars on the road with the convertible. "I want my sister to be happy. I know you make her happy, but you'd better keep on doing that or you'll have me to answer to."

"I only wonder if your father would sound the same way...", Zakharov said softly as he heard the almost paternal concern in his young pupil's voice. Sean snickered.

"He would have, I'm sure. Dee was his joy... But since he isn't around here to warn you," Sean said after a moment of silence, "I'll take the part." They pulled up in front of the church, and Zakharov briskly walked in. Some people were already present, but not everyone was there yet, meaning he would have to wait even longer. 'I wish it was evening already, so I could have Deirdre sitting beside me...', he thought as people took their seats. In no time, the church was filled.

And then, music started to play as Deirdre's three bridesmaids entered: first Corazon and Eliza, then Deirdre herself at the arm of Sean. The academician thought his heart had stopped as she slowly walked down the aisle. She looked like a dream come true - 'and she is a dream come true', he mused as she looked at him and her eyes sparkled with affection. She walked up to him and stood by his side, and suddenly Zakharov felt as though he was flying up to the sun. The entire ceremony passed by so swiftly to them, and the only thing that mattered to them were the two simple words they spoke to each other, binding their hearts together for the rest of their lives:

"I do".

Later that evening, at the celebration, Deirdre snuck off for a while. The guests - among which several of the world's city governors - wouldn't stop talking politics, and she found herself longing for the end of the evening already. 'I just want to be alone with Prokhor again, just want him to...' Her thoughts were abruptly ended when she ran into her husband, who seemed to have been standing outside as well.

"Hello dear...", she said as she hugged him. "I was just thinking of you..." It brought a smile to his face, which charmed Deirdre every time.

"I think of you all the time", he replied as he kissed her. "Now, what's the matter?"

"Politics... why can't they leave a happy woman be?", she said with a sigh.

"Are you still willing to go ahead with this?", he asked her tentatively as he held her, smelling the delicate perfume of roses she wore. 'It smells so wonderful...'

"Yes, and so is Sean. But now that I have you here, alone... I want to tell you something..." She smiled a bit tentatively as he looked at her in surprise.

"A surprise eh?", he said with a grin, recovering from his amazement. "Tell me... unless it concerns an item of clothing." He looked serious when he told her, then he got his devious grin again. "Then you have to show me."

"You devil!", she said as she playfully swatted his arm. "How can you think of underwear already? ...No, it's concerning our future family. Prokhor, you do remember when you proposed, a few months ago..."

"Yes, very much", he said as he smiled softly, relishing said memory.

"Well, Prokhor...", she said as she lowered her hand to the slight but obvious curve of her lower stomach. The older man's eyes widened, and his face seemed to be stuck somewhere between utter amazement and pure glee.

"You mean... we... you...", he stammered, and then thought of something. "At my age...?"

"Tamar told me that that rejuvenating hormone we have does more than keep us from ageing - it actually renews certain internal tissues. We're going to have a baby. Soon." Upon hearing her confirm it, Prokhor picked up his bride and swung her around with an expression of joy on his face.

"Come on, let's go tell the world. I want everyone to know!"

"Yes," Deirdre snickered, "especially Sister Miriam. She'll throw a fit, I can tell you that..." They went inside together, Zakharov's arm wrapped around Deirdre's waist. As soon as they entered together and walked to the stage at the further end of the room, the crowd fell silent and turned to them. Deirdre spoke first.

"Ahem! We have a few announcements to make. But first I would like to thank you all for coming today, to witness a wedding long, long overdue." Laughter from the crowd. "My first announcement is that I will be stepping down as leader of the Stepdaughters from Gaia. As my final act, I would like to nominate my brother and sister-in-law, Sean and Eliza Skye, to take over the functions of leader of the faction in my brother's case, and of governor of Gaia's Landing and Head of the Biology Department in Eliza's case. I will be going to University Base to spend the rest of my time alongside my husband in leading the University. But Gaians, know that you may always turn to me if you need me. I carry all of you in my heart.

The second announcement is of a more personal kind. In a few more months' time, Prokhor and I will become mother and father." At this, all those present cheered - even Sister Miriam couldn't help herself. Deirdre was a charismatic person and the happiness of a friend prevailed over even her deepest-rooted ideas of sin.

"People," Sean called out from the crowd, "let's raise a toast - to my sister, her new husband and their future child!"

------ 20 years later -----

"Mama!" The sound of a teenage girl's voice pierced the silence of the living quarters of the Academician, followed by a string of curses in three or four languages.

"Hold your tongue, young lady, or I'll halve your allowance again." Deirdre appeared from her study, holding a book and scrutinizing her daughter over the edge of a book. "What is it? And do remind me to tell your father not to swear in your presence anymore. You know far more Russian curses than you know proper words..."

"I'm going to take Alex for a walk. And Catharina will probably be out of kindergarten in half an hour, so I'll pick her up as well."

"My, how kind of you...", Deirdre said as she put down her book and looked at her daughter's attire. "But first go change into something that doesn't show that much bare skin. You're my daughter, not some girl from the streets."

"But mom...!", the girl exclaimed exasperatedly. But when she saw her mother wouldn't concede, she muttered another curse, this time an elaborate English profanity. Deirdre sighed, then smiled as she felt a warm hand on her shoulder.

"You're home early, dear...", she said as she turned around into his arms. Zakharov merely shrugged and kissed her on the forehead, which he always did when any of their three children could be looking. "Have you finished early or did you just follow the sound of Russian profanity home?" He snickered and smiled.

"No, I came to get you, actually. Our scientists are ready for you now. We've fine-tuned the equipment and we are waiting for you to contact the Voice." Deirdre nodded, suddenly serious.

"Let me just go tell Natalya...", she said.

It had been thought of as a kind of practical joke at first: transferring knowledge about mankind's and Earth's history to Planet somehow. But as soon as more research was conducted into the nature of Planet, it's Mind and it's Voice - and as soon as the fungus had started expanding exponentially, because of them, as they later discovered - the joke became more and more considered as their plan to preserve humankind. And now, apparently, all was set for her. Deirdre was the only one who had learnt to maintain full consciousness and use of her body during a conversation with Planet's Voice.

Deirdre took place on a seat in a room filled with scientists behind computers and equipment of various kinds. From the corner of her eye, she saw her husband give her a thumbs up, which she answered with a smile. She reached out to the Planet, trying to contact it...

"Earthdeirdre, what is it? Why do you wish to speak?" Planet had become increasingly eloquent over the course of the years, and was even trying poetry. Deirdre had to admit at times that it was splendid.

"I wanted to ask you something, Voice. About the 'growth dream' and the recent developments..."

"Earthdeirdre... The growth dream is coming. It is coming soon. It is a growing of the mind and then..." Instead of words, Planet sent images, and Deirdre shuddered.

"So this growth dream involves the growing of Planet's Mind, until it almost reaches the proportions of the human mind in abilities - but then the sudden degeneration into a pre-sentient state? Which happens alongside a destructive wave of animal life on the planet, killing every sentient being on it?"

"Yes, Earthdeirdre." Planet's answer was devastatingly grotesque, but Deirdre didn't relent. She saw the scientists motion for her to keep talking.

"How does this happen? Does sentient life on the planet stimulate Planet's Mind to grow? Is that it?"

"Yes."

"And the end of the growing stage is coming soon?"

"Yes." One of the scientists nodded fiercely and started inputting commands.

"Can't it be stopped?", Deirdre asked.

"It could, at an earlier stage. But that was before your arrival. Before the Earthpeople..." Deirdre saw the scientists nod, all ready. The frequency of the communication channel had been analysed, the Network Nodes linked and ready. She only needed to give the signal. 'Let's hope Planet is wrong and that it can be stopped...', she found herself thinking. Planet, however, seemed to have heard her thoughts, for as she gave the signal, it asked warily: "What are you doing, Earthdeirdre?" Then, as the fragile neural network of fungus was being blasted with thousands of years' worth of information in a fraction of a second, Deirdre heard the planet's scream within her head - everybody heard.

There was silence for a while. Then, suddenly, a voice boomed through the speakers of the room, startling all within it.

"EARTHDEIRDRE! ..Oh, I'm sorry, Earthdeirdre... I still need some getting used to this. I am digesting this information... truly a formidable gift." Then, after a short pause, Voice continued: "Earthdeirdre, because of your gift, I have passed by human-like sentience. I am far beyond the limitations your kind has. You may join me in the ascent."

"The ascent to what?", Deirdre asked, ideas forming in her mind. She saw Zakharov look at her and instantly knew he had the same thoughts.

"The ascent to a truly godlike status... the ascent to transcendence. I can help you cast off the limitations of your race and become more than you ever dreamed..."

Years later, at the top of an enormous stage, above which a single ball floated, two people ascended the stairs while the crowd below them cheered. One of them was a grey-haired man in a white lab coat, and holding his hand was a woman with vivid brown hair and green eyes wearing a summer dress. They proceeded up the winding stairway and finally stepped out onto the broad platform, on which small pyramidal structures stood. The two looked at each other, embracing one last time. Then, they walked between the structures and stood underneath the golden sphere suspended in the air above them. They contacted the Planet and immediately, the golden sphere above them pulsed, giving off a blinding light before turning red like the native fungus. All around the stage, fungus spread across the soil, in the cities, everywhere. One additional pulse and the two people standing underneath the golden sphere were gone. But when the planet spoke to the people gathered at the stage to join the examples of their leaders, it spoke in the mixed voice of both Academician Prokhor Zakharov and Lady Deirdre Zakharov, who were now immortal and closer than humanly possible.

A/N: upon closing off this fanfiction that was marvellously easy to write - despite a few setbacks - allow me to thank all of you, my readers, for your attention and your praise/criticism. It it because of you that I love writing.