Personal log: Lt. Kevin Thomas Riley, Stardate 2820.5
Well, it looks like I’m in hot water again. No surprises there. I swear, sometimes I think that if I didn’t have bad luck I wouldn’t have any at all.
At Starfleet Academy we were taught about how Einstein figured out a better way to balance the laws of the electromagnetic field with the laws of classical mechanics. Most of it’s still a puzzle to me, I was never very good at the theoretical sciences and history. But if there’s one law I wish Einstein had figured out, it would have been Murphy’s Law. That’s the one that seems to be the real constant in my life. I’ve even taken to calling it Riley’s Law.
I’ve been bounced around a few times since I’ve been on board. I thought that getting posted to the Enterprise would be the opportunity of a lifetime, and it has been. New life, new civilizations, those are all in a day’s work for us. But for Mrs. Riley’s boy Kevin it’s just been one problem after another. It wouldn’t make for good reading at Starfleet, I can tell you that. I just wish I had someone to talk to about it…
“Red alert! All hands on deck! Red alert! All hands on deck!”
Kevin Riley’s eyes slowly opened and he tried to focus. The alarm blared on until he leaned across the bed and slapped his hand down on it, cancelling the noise. He stared at the clock with annoyance and regretted the day that he had bought it. Like the Enterprise’s engines, he had acted on impulse when he had bought it from Harry Mudd.
While some of the crew had been keeping an eye on the women that Mudd had brought with him after their ship had exploded, Riley’s bad luck had held true, and he had been one of the less fortunate men on board who had been detailed to keep an eye on Mudd himself. He had found the trader to be charming, charismatic and flamboyant.
Riley had taken a liking to the man, although his mother had always warned him to be wary of any rogue who possessed the gift of the Blarney. One evening, however, Harry Mudd had produced an item from the folds of his jacket and had presented it to Riley. Riley had been dubious about accepting a gift from Mudd. Bribery of a Starfleet officer was still a punishable offence, and the officer involved was sure to receive a court-martial if it was discovered.
“You misunderstand me, brave fellow,” Mudd had told him. “This is no bribe, merely an honest trade. There are no regulations against such things. Why, the Federation encourages open and honest trading, does it not?”
Riley had scratched his head at the time and had thought about it. “What is it?” he had asked the merchant.
“An alarm clock. Antique, of course. Note the fine detail that went into it.”
“It looks like it’s made of plastic. And it says SONY…” Riley had pointed out.
Mudd had smiled widely at him. “Of course it does! All Master craftsmen emblazon their name upon their finest works. Why, Jonathan Sony was one of the twenty-first century’s most gifted clock-makers. His name is what Picasso was to painting, or Shakespeare to writing. And this fine specimen of vintage moulded plastic can be yours, if you could perhaps bring me some fine Alterian brandy with my evening meal…”
And so a deal had been struck. Riley had acquired the small alarm clock, which he had found amusing at first. The alarm on it could be reprogrammed to play whatever sounds he chose to wake him up, and he had thought it funny if he could set it with the ship’s warning alarm for Red Alert. It had been something that he had come to regret, and several times had been woken by it and raced down to engineering in a flat panic.
He had tried reprogramming it, but for some reason it always reverted back to the Red Alert alarm. It also seemed to malfunction on a fairly regular basis, with the time on the clock reverting back to the flashing red electronic digits of 00:00. Several times he had considered simply throwing it away, but remembered that it was still an antique.
Riley stared at the time on the clock and decided that he had to get up. He wasn’t expected on duty for another two hours, but he wanted to head down to the mess hall and have a bite to eat first. It wouldn’t take him that long to eat – he barely even felt hungry – but there was a young woman who had recently transferred over from the USS Exeter, and he had taken every opportunity to catch a glimpse of her.
He got dressed and left his quarters as quickly as possible, determined not to miss his opportunity to spot the delightfully attractive lieutenant Willoughby. He raced into the mess hall, and was disappointed to see that she hadn’t arrived yet. Nobody there paid him any attention as he wandered over to the dispensing units and selected several of the items on offer. He still felt somewhat upbeat though, and couldn’t resist ordering a glass of milk to wash his meal down with.
He picked up his tray and turned around to find an empty seat at one of the long tables in the hall. As he did so, he caught sight of Willoughby walking down the corridor outside, and instantly forgot what he was doing. His eyes followed her as she walked straight past the mess hall, and he felt a pang of loss.
Without looking at where he was going, he suddenly found himself accidentally crashing into another crewman and tumbling to his knees.
The tray fell and its contents fell to the floor in a mess, as several of the people seated nearby grinned and laughed at his misfortune. Riley shot them a quick stare, a look of embarrassment and helplessness on his face. One of the security officers leaning against a table clapped sarcastically, before suddenly falling silent. It had all happened so quickly that Riley hadn’t even realized what had transpired, and he drew his attention back to the person standing in front of him, gradually looking up.
It was a blue shirt, now covered in milk. Riley knew what that meant: Science and Medical. Riley’s eyes slowly raised, fearing the worst. After all, he was Kevin Riley and Riley’s Law said it had to be the worst luck possible.
“Lieutenant Riley, are you alright?”
Riley knew the clipped, formal voice automatically. Everyone on board did.
“I’m sorry, Commander,” Riley said as he looked at Spock nervously. He pulled himself back to his feet and stammered, “It… it was an accident. I, I…”
“I understand perfectly,” Spock replied. “Your peripheral vision failed to notice me as you turned, although you did seem quite distracted.”
Riley’s cheeks reddened as he blushed, and he felt envious of Spock’s Vulcan physiology which rarely showed a similar condition. “I was. I mean, I was looking at someone else. Something. Something else.”
“Mister Riley, you seem… unfocused and unsteady. Are you certain that you have recovered sufficiently from your accident?” Spock paused for a moment, studying Riley’s condition as he absently brushed at the stain on his uniform. “Your blood pressure appears to be elevated, and your responses seem lacking in clarity.”
“I’m fine, Mister Spock. Commander Spock,” Riley corrected himself with a gulp. He sat down at the nearest table quickly, hoping to avoid any more problems. He could never be certain which title to use whenever he addressed the Enterprise’s First Officer. He tried to make light of the situation. “I’m just a little embarrassed. You know, another one of those wasted human emotions.”
He cringed even as the words came out of his mouth, and instantly regretted saying them. To his surprise, Spock cocked his head upwards a little, mulling them over. He blinked, as if surprised, and then sat down opposite Riley. “That would appear to make sense, Mister Riley. Social embarrassment does seem to be a key factor in people’s behaviour, albeit a pointless one. Vulcans, as a rule, believe that to behave according to the perceptions of others is to ultimately deny oneself.”
“I wish it were that easy for the rest of us,” Riley mumbled.
“I beg your pardon, Lieutenant?”
Like a naughty schoolboy caught doing something wrong, Riley blushed again. He said sheepishly, “I’m sorry, sir. I just meant that not everybody’s so open minded about other people’s mistakes. I guess it gets easier when you’re in command, nobody laughs at you or questions you. Like that guy back there.” Riley gestured to the security officer who had mocked him. “He laughed at me, but he clammed up when he realised it was you.”
“I have never been in command,” Spock corrected him. “However, I am aware that if or when that time occurs I will be subject to criticism. While I must remain true to myself, even Vulcans are not immune from criticism. Nor are officers of any rank. All actions are subject to scrutiny from all sides. How an individual responds is a test of character.”
Spock looked down at his stained uniform and shrugged. “Accidents, Lieutenant, do happen. We must learn to take them in stride, and where possible learn from them to avoid recurrences.”
“I’m sorry, sir,” Riley apologised. “I’ll be more careful in future.”
“What’s all the commotion, Spock?” said a cheerful, upbeat voice behind the Vulcan. Riley looked over Spock’s shoulder and saw the approaching figure of Doctor Leonard McCoy, the Enterprise’s chief medical officer. McCoy, known to many of the crew as Bones, was smiling jovially in his usual high spirits.
Spock turned as patiently as he could and looked at his fellow officer. “There is no commotion, Doctor. We were merely engaged in a discussion about unnecessary human peer pressure.”
“Really?” McCoy asked with mock confusion, noting the state of Spock’s shirt. “’Cause it looks to me like you were in a good old-fashioned food fight.”
Spock stared stoically at the doctor.
“C’mon, Spock,” Bones added, needling him. “Didn’t your parents ever teach you not to play with your food? I could teach you…”
“I assure you, Doctor,” Spock replied, “that I needed no such lessons in etiquette. However, should anyone ever require them from you, I know that it shall be a productive use of your time.”
Bones grinned, enjoying the verbal sparring. “Well you’d better go and get changed. I know we’ve got a couple of days until we have to get to Makus III to deliver those medical supplies, but with Commissioner Ferris on board, the Captain wants us all looking our best.”
Spock nodded his agreement, got up and politely made his farewells to Riley.
“So what was all that about, Riley?” Bones asked as Spock left the mess hall, heading towards his quarters for a clean uniform. “Nothing serious, I hope.” He sat down where Spock had been.
“It was just an accident,” Riley replied. “I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, and I didn’t see him.”
“Well we can’t all be expected to have eyes in the back of our head. Not unless there’s some new medical condition I haven’t heard about,” Bones joked in his Southern drawl. Then, seriously, he asked, “Are you sure you’re okay? I was expecting you to come by and see me after that whole trouble with Kodos.”
Riley cast his mind back to the recent events concerning Kodos the Executioner. As one of the few surviving witnesses to the massacre on Tarsus IV, he had found himself a target of Kodos’ daughter. The young woman had tried to poison him, and he would have died had it not been for McCoy’s quick thinking. It had been tough to deal with, but he had been making progress.
“I’m fine. I made a full recovery,” Riley replied simply.
“You know,” Bones said, “the well-being of a crewman is about more than just being able to pass a physical. What makes people tick up here,” he gestured to his head, “is just as important as the rest of you. Still… you seem to have your love of milk back, so I guess that’s as good a start as any.”
Riley smiled, the doctor’s good mood always infectious. “Can I be honest with you?”
“Of course you can. Why, I’m the model of discretion.”
“It’s about a girl.” Riley said simply.
Bones rubbed at his forehead and nodded. “Oh, brother. Isn’t it always? What’s the problem, Riley? You’re a bit old for me to be having the birds-and-bees talk with you…”
“It isn’t that. It’s just that I’ve been thinking I’m a bit of a jinx. You know Murphy’s Law? I’m calling it Riley’s Law now. I can’t help but get the feeling that I’m cursed. Since I’ve been on board, it seems like we keep having problems. Then there’s the whole thing with me getting promoted from engineering to communications, and then I got bumped straight back down again.”
“That transfer back down to engineering was to keep you safe from Kodos!” Bones explained. “The Captain felt it would be best to have you somewhere safer than out in the open! I even argued with him about it, and about how you would view it as a step down.”
“I know, but that’s my point,” Riley said with frustration. “Instead I was nearly killed when I was on my own in engineering! I’m cursed with bad luck!”
Bones suddenly chuckled. “Is that what you call it?” he asked. “Because I don’t think you’re suffering from Murphy’s Law, but the opposite. You’re the luckiest fellow I’ve ever met, save for the Captain. He makes his own luck. But you, you’re something else.
“Look, you survived Kodos. You survived his daughter too, although I’d like to take some of the credit for that. You even survived not getting your neck wrung by half the crew, after singing that awful song over and over again through the ship’s broadcast system when we were all drunk on that lousy space virus. You’re living the life of Riley. If it weren’t for you being a good luck charm, this whole damn ship would probably explode!”
“So I’m not a jinx?” asked Riley, his spirits brightening.
“Not in my book,” Bones replied. “In fact, if this were a casino I’d lay odds on you being a sure thing. It’s just a matter of self-confidence. Now what’s this girl’s name?”
“Lieutenant Willoughby. She just transferred over. Do you know her? Maybe you could fix me up with her?”
Bones shook his head. “Sorry, Riley. I’m a doctor, not a matchmaker. Say, maybe Nurse Chapel knows her.”
At that moment, Willoughby walked in to the room. Riley saw her and his eyes lit up. Bones noticed the change come over him, and followed his gaze. He let out a short whistle, and he had to admit that Riley had excellent taste. “Go on, Riley,” Bones urged him in a low whisper. “Now’s your chance. Just remember, it’s all about self-confidence.”
Riley slowly got up from his seat and walked over to her. Spock’s words began to echo in his head, about being true to himself. That was what really mattered. He was Kevin Thomas Riley, and nothing could –
-almost instantly he slipped on the mixture of food cubes and milk that he had dropped on the floor, and his foot skidded out. He tumbled to the floor and thought again about how this was typical of him being true to himself. He also thought about Spock’s admission that accidents really did happen. Especially, it seemed, to him.
The figure of Lieutenant Willoughby appeared directly above him, concerned. She knelt down to check on him and Riley stared into her deep blue eyes. “Are you okay?” she asked sweetly. “That looked really nasty. Can you tell me your name?”
“Riley. Kevin Riley,” he responded, slightly dazed. He paused and then added, “What’s yours?”
Willoughby blushed. “Kathleen,” she said. “Kathleen Willoughby. Will you be okay? Maybe you need to go to sickbay and get checked out.”
McCoy leaned over, wielding his medical tricorder about in a relaxed fashion. “Trust me,” he said with a grumble. “He’s fine, he always is. There’s no need for a trip to sickbay, just get him back to his quarters and let him put his feet up. He’ll be alright, he’s got all the luck in the world.”
Lieutenant Willoughby helped Riley back to his feet, and he gazed at her with a smile.
“Take me home again, Kathleen,” he said, as she draped her arm around him.