There were days when Clare Raymond thought she might like to kill her husband Donald, if only he were still alive.
The problem was that, if he were alive, she'd have no reason to kill him. If Donald were still alive, she wouldn't be stranded in the 24th century without a living soul from her past to keep her company. Such was the paradox of Clare Raymond's new life.
Her new life began when she woke up bewildered and disoriented in some sort of hospital suite. It was a shock to learn that the suite was part of a ship in outer space, and a still bigger shock to find out that the year was 2364.
Clare's last conscious memory was from Monday, October 10, 1994.
Donald was gone. Her two young sons, Tommy and Eddie, were gone. An entire planet as she knew it had vanished centuries ago, or overnight, from her perspective. She had survived all of them, ironically, because she had died first, after which Donald had had her body cryogenically preserved and launched into space.
"What's so strange," she said to Deanna Troi, "is that first they outlived me, and now I've outlived them. Somehow, it just doesn't seem fair that to any of us, does it?"
"No, it doesn't," Deanna replied with a shake of her head and a gentle smile. Even in Clare's sadness, she was drawn to Deanna's smiles; they seemed to express comfort, sympathy, and hope, all at once. And empathy—Like she knows just how I feel, Clare thought.
Not everyone in the 24th century was so sympathetic. Clare journeyed back to earth aboard a ship called the Charleston, along with Ralph Offenhouse and Sonny Clemonds, her fellow refugees from the cryogenic ship. When alone with each other, the three of them found morbid amusement in keeping score of how many patronizing remarks had been aimed at each of them that day. The high scorer for the trip would buy the first round of drinks once they set foot on earth. "We're presently about fifty-nine light years away from the Sol system," the Charleston's helmsan told her one day. "Sol is what we call the Earth's sun, in case you weren't aware. Of course, you may not realize that a light year is a measure of distance, not of time..."
As Clare confided to Ralph and Sonny, "Some of these Starfleet people act as if that Zefram Whatsisname character brought Earth out of the Dark Ages, single-handedly and overnight."
"I can go you one better," Sonny said. "People in this century treat me like I can't read or write, and have probably never seen indoor plumbing."
Their trip back to earth was long and roundabout, giving Clare time to accustom herself to the new technology. Getting accustomed to the idea that her own little family was gone forever, well, that was a different matter. She wondered sometimes if you ever got over the loss of your children. Nope, she concluded every time, you never do, even if you knew they had grown up and outlived you. The only bright spot was that Deanna Troi had stayed in touch with Clare throughout the journey home. It was Deanna who had helped Clare trace the whereabouts of one of her few known living descendants, her great-great-ten-generations-removed-great-grandson, Tom Raymond of Indianapolis.
As the Charleston neared earth, Sonny began making inquiries about bands that might need a guitarist, while Ralph was already in negotiations for a position at the Berlin branch of the Bank of Bolius. "What about you, Clare?" asked Sonny. "Got any plans, once you get to back to that big blue ball of water we call home?"
"Three things I'm going to do as soon as I get to earth," Clare said. "First, I'm going to track down every living descendant I can find, starting with Tom Raymond. Next, I'm going to find a job, whatever job I can, and try to make something of this new life I didn't ask for. I don't know what I can do in this century, but when I find it, I'll do it. And finally, I'm going to write and publish my memoirs. If Donald and my boys are gone, at least they won't be forgotten."
It seemed at first as if Clare might achieve all three goals without too great a struggle. Dr. Thomas Collin Raymond, Associate Professor of Sociology at Butler-Forrest University in Indianapolis, was amazed, then delighted, to meet his ancient ancestress—though not for the reasons Clare was hoping.
"This is extraordinary, meeting a contemporary of Khan Noonien Singh," he said. "Your era is one of my academic specialties, especially the social and political forces behind the rise of the Augments. To think, you're not just from Khan's era, but even your method of survival was similar to his."
"Khan? Survived? Khan is here?" This was not happy news. "I thought your generation eliminated war and dictators and all that."
"Oh, Khan's not here. He was revived from a sleeper ship about a hundred years ago, but he died a few years later. The Starfleet crew who found him didn't even take the time to interview him properly. What a loss to our understanding of your era." He shook his head. "But now that you're here, Clare, we can change all that. My colleagues are going to be green with envy. Having access to you is going to make me a very popular man at Butler-Forrest."
If that sounded mercenary, Clare was willing to overlook it. The comfort of finding someone she could call family was worth any shortcomings. To her relief, she even found a job before long. Her homemaking skills—cooking, decorating, needlework, and the like—were not in great commercial demand. But by sheer good luck, a local museum was seeking a docent with a working knowledge of pre-warp-era culture and artifacts. Clare was a natural fit.
It turned out that Clare was also good for business. As her story became more widely known, she became something of a museum attraction herself. Her favorite activity was giving tours to groups of schoolchildren, whose questions ran the gamut from, "How did people use the bathroom back then?" to "Did you ever meet Abraham Lincoln?" Or even, from the littlest visitors, "Did they have dinosaurs when you were still alive?"
But at the end of the day, when Clare returned alone to her little apartment, the laughter of the workday faded to quiet loneliness. There, keeping company with her own memories, she began writing the story of her life with Donald, Tommy, and Eddie. She was in no hurry to complete the work. Sometimes the right words just wouldn't come, and anyway, she wasn't sure what she would do with herself if she ever finished it.
What Clare missed was someone of her own to care about. She wasn't romantically lonely, since she still felt married to Donald sometimes; what she longed for was a connection to her vanished children. That's why, in spite of a few misgivings, Clare accepted when Professor Tom (as she called him in her own mind, to distinguish him from her son Tommy) invited her to move to a new house with him. Not only that, but Clare loved to cook, so she looked forward to having someone else to cook for occasionally. "Anyway,"said Tom, "having a housemate will qualify me for a bigger place to live, with more amenities. And it will make it more convenient to do my research. I can help you with that memoir of yours, too."
"I don't need help," Clare said, "but it would be wonderful to have someone to share it with sometimes. After all, it's your story too, in a way. It's part of where you came from."
The tension started almost as soon as she moved in. Tom seemed bemused that Clare still clung to some of her twentieth-century habits.
The two of them were sitting up late one discussing the latest chapter of Clare's memoir. Tom was nursing a glass of wine, as Clare sat knitting a sock, with a cup of mint tea nearby. Tom looked up from the PADD and scowled. "You know, you don't have to do that any more."
"Do what?" Clare asked.
"Knit things. If you need clothes, we have replicators for that."
"But I like to do it. It's creative and it relaxes me."
"Well, suit yourself," Tom replied in a skeptical tone of voice. "But you should finish up this autobiography so we can publish it."
"All in good time, Tom. When I'm ready."
"Then let's talk research," said Tom. "Tell me more about Khan. Why did so many people of your time flock to follow him?"
"He was very handsome," Clare explained, "very charismatic. I think most of the women who followed him were in love with him, and maybe half the men. He was a mesmerizing speaker. The problem is that people were so caught up by the way he said things, that they weren't paying careful attention to what he said."
Tom swirled the wine in his glass and then took a long drink of it. "So you don't think there was any substance to his claim that eugenics was an expression of faith in humanity's ability to improve itself?"
Clare shook her head. "Khan was a bully and a thug. Don't believe all the nonsense about how nonviolent he was. By the late 80's he was already starting to impose mandatory genetic screening and forced sterilization. There were rumors of infanticides at some of the hospitals under his control. He thought the Western world was deluded by our ideas of equality. He even called freedom a superstition."
"Yet people liked him," Tom insisted.
"But he didn't like people. When someone claims to love the human race, they don't prove it by trying to wipe out everything that makes us human."
Clare wished Professor Tom could spend a few years in her own century. That might cure him of his romantic illusions about Khan. However, she was starting to suspect that she had a few illusions of her own, such as the hope that she would ever truly feel like family with a career-obsessed descendant who happened to admire one of the most infamous tyrants of her era.