DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Jacqueline Bielowicz and is copyright (c) 1975 by Jacqueline Bielowicz. Rated PG. Originally printed in Universal Translater #1.
The Irish Campaign
Riley was disgusted. He set up mock phaser firing plots on his board, punching the buttons viciously. Every fake target was Susan. She had already died in 18 perfect shots. But Riley wasn't getting any satisfaction out of it. "Damn women!" he muttered. "Of all the flighty, irresponsible mind-changin' creatures made, women were the worst. A man should never trust them!"
Hearing a chortle, he glanced over at Sulu. The navigator was grinning wide and trying, very unsuccessfully, to restrain his laughter. Riley mentally cursed all so-called friends who had no sense of loyalty for a pal's pain. Sulu saw Riley's glare and broke up laughing.
"Is there something humorous on your scanner, Mr. Sulu?" asked Mr. Spock dryly. He had had the conn on this very routine shift.
"No, sir," Sulu answered, stifling his laughter.
"Then I suggest you restrain yourself for the 15.08 minutes remaining of your watch and devote yourself to your work."
And 15.08 minutes later (could Mr. Spock be inaccurate?), Riley and Sulu turned over their stations to their reliefs and headed for the nearest available calories. As they passed along the food processor, picking out their dinner, Sulu said gleefully, "I take it that you and Susan Muellar no longer have an understanding?"
Seating himself, Riley shrugged. Sulu placed his tray down across from Riley, sat down and propped his elbows on the table. He continued as he counted off his fingers. "Keili Morsato, Penny Ralston, Janna Morton, and now Susan Muellar. This is four girls in five months, isn't it?" Sulu's grin stretched across his face again.
Riley glared at him but then his sense of humor got the best of him and he chuckled at the picture Sulu had given him. "Oh Lord, Sulu. Would you believe it? Look at me!" He tapped himself lightly on the chest with his fist. "I'm a fine figure of a man. Young, handsome, Irish. What more could a girl want?"
"I think it is your modesty that's your best feature,'' Sulu retorted.
With an angelic look on his face, Riley piously replied, "As Mr. Spock would say, one cannot deny facts."
Sulu snorted disrespectfully. "If you are so wonderful, what's your problem?"
"Age," Riley said glumly. Sulu looked startled and Riley nodded a woeful face. "According to Susan, 'A woman prefers an older man'. That's why she dumped me for Lt. Kenner. In fact, the other three are also dating, quote, older men, unquote. Though Mike Kelso, who is dating Janna, is only four years older than I am."
"Did you ever stop to think," Sulu mumbled around his salad, "that they might mean more maturity? After all, you do have a tendency to ... well, 'fall in love' a lot."
Riley looked hurt. "Since when is being a loving person a sign of immaturity? If anything, it should be just one more of my many attractions!"
Sulu shook his head in disbelief and they were silent as they ate. Soon Riley had a very thoughtful look on his face. "Sulu, me lad, perhaps it is time for me to prefer an older woman. I mean, someone who is experienced, settled, confident. Not one of these girls who is still playing college games."
Sulu looked at him distrustfully. "Who did you have in mind?"
Riley had his eyes fixed over Sulu's shoulder. ''Who do you know who is warm, sensitive, understanding, and yet unattached?"
Sulu was afraid to guess. He glanced over his shoulder and it took him a moment to see her. He jerked back around to face Riley. "You can't be serious! She could have anyone on this ship if she would just give the sign. Why, she would laugh at you."
He looked back over his shoulder at Christine Chapel, sitting a few tables from them. Her honey colored hair lay soft around her shoulders and her warm, mobile face had a soft smile that was somehow innocently sexy. As she talked to those around, her hands punctuated her words like graceful birds. She caught Sulu staring at her and smiled at him warmly though puzzled. Sulu smiled back weakly, feeling like an idiot, and turned back to Riley. "You'll never make it," he said bluntly.
Riley was finishing his pecan pie with gusto. "All it takes is good planning and a good understanding of the objective."
In spite of himself, Sulu was intrigued. "Come again?"
Riley cradled his coffee cup in his hands and, with great condescension, explained. "Every time any male has made an approach on Christine, he has been deterred by that professional air she puts on, right?" At Sulu's nod, he continued, "Well, it is my considered opinion that no one has tried long enough. After all. Christy is an extremely valuable jewel and no man could expect to win such a jewel without a little extra work."
He sat back, quite content with his thesis. Sulu felt a bit bewildered, but was game to hear the rest. So, feeling he was going to regret it, he wryly asked, "What about her? I mean, this isn't the 19th century. Has she given you even the slightest hint that she might be interested in you?"
Riley looked astounded. "When would she have a chance? We never really see each other except in the line of duty. I mean to change that."
"And what about her rumored attraction for Spock?"
"That's all it is, rumor. If she really put her mind to it, I don't think even a Vulcan could resist."
Sulu gave in to the inevitable. "What's your first move?"
Riley was watching as Christine left the room. "To convince her that I'm not interested in her except as a friend."
Sulu could only shake his head.
* * *
The following day was another bore. The crew had been on normal routine for 36 days with no change. Christine found herself wishing for an epidemic just for a change of pace. Then, lest she be tempting Fate, she specified in her mind that it be an epidemic of nothing worse than chicken pox. She was working on an inventory that didn't really have to be done, but kept her busy. She was absolutely relieved when the door whisked open and Riley came in. She gave him a big welcoming smile. "What can I do for you, Mr. Riley?"
"Well, Miss Chapel, I've been reading about the history of cubistic art, but I don't understand all of it. I've heard that you are the resident expert and I thought that, maybe, if you weren't too busy, you might discuss it with me. Perhaps over lunch?"
It was a masterful first stroke. Riley had picked a perfect time; Christine was in just the right frame of mind for a friendly, stimulating conversation on one of her favorite subjects, Riley presented the complete image of the novice cubist with nothing on his mind but art. The lunch they shared was sparked by brilliant conversation, even if it was over tuna fish sandwiches. Christine returned to her work with a satisfied feeling and a faint sense of surprise at Riley's astuteness. She, like most of the crew, had always liked Riley's bright personality, but she had never suspected that he had such sensitive depths.
She was still subconsciously mulling over this as she was telling Uhura about the incident later that day. Uhura was in Christine's quarters, waiting for her to change clothes before they went to the pinochle tournament they both were in.
"I tell you, Penda, I would never have believed it,"Christine said as she re-combed her hair. "I always thought of Riley as some kind of Irish playboy. But at lunch, he really showed depths I wouldn't have even guessed at."
Uhura looked doubtful. "I find it hard to accept Riley as an art lover." Before Christine could argue, her door chime rang.
At the door, holding small nosegay of Aldarian blossoms and wearing what Uhura secretly called his Oriental face, was Sulu. "These are for you, Miss Chapel," he said evenly.
Christine gave a little cry of surprise as she reached for her favorite flowers. Uhura looked at Sulu with suspicion, but he avoided her glance. She could hear the hidden laughter in his voice. Christine took a deep breath of the light, fragile fragrance and then looked at Sulu with bewilderment. "Why for me?"
"I believe there is a note,'' he answered. And formal to the end, he gave a slight bow and backed out the door.
Christine and Uhura looked blankly at each other a moment, then Christine searched the bouquet until she found a tiny folded piece of paper. She opened it, read, and then smiled. "Isn't that nice? Listen. 'To thank a lovely lady for sharing.' Signed Lt. Kevin Riley."
"Very nice," Uhura said politely, but now her curiosity was even higher than before. First chance she got, she intended to work on Sulu. He knew something highly amusing and she planned on finding out what it was.
* * *
Kevin Riley was a patient man. He waited two days before his next move. He brought Christine a cubist painting he had made, offering it to her, shy as a school-boy, for a critique. That earned him a dinner date so they could discuss his technique. Within two weeks, they were on a first name basis and met at least once a day, if for nothing but a few minutes of ship talk. Uhura had caught up with Sulu, but she was unable to get anymore out of him than an innocent "what-do-I-know?" look from him. Meanwhile, the Riley-Chapel relationship expanded to other areas than art.
At the beginning of the third week, Riley began the second phase of his operation. Without Christine ever really understanding it, somehow she and Riley were spending most of their off-time together. Every night they had dinner and then would share in one of the varied ship activities offered. Kevin was there to cheer her and Uhura in their pinochle and to console her when they lost the 17th match. She found herself in the gym cheering Kevin on in the ship-wide Olympics, even though she was not that fond of free-fall wrestling. Every few days, she would receive a gift from Kevin. It was not always flowers because Riley had had a near mutiny from his supportive troops, Sulu, over the threatened denuding of the herbarium. Uhura still hadn't been able to break down Sulu, but now others were beginning to notice the new duo and watch with fascination.
It wasn't until Ensign Ruth Carver, the "cat" of Engineering, asked Christine when the wedding was that she became aware that the relationship with Riley might appear to be more than it was. She liked Riley, enjoyed his company, but she wasn't serious about him. He honestly did not appeal to her as a lover. Christine decided perhaps she should see a. little less of Riley. But that was more easily decided than done. Riley's astuteness turned overnight into obtuseness. He didn't pick up a single hint. Christine decided that perhaps a direct confrontation might be more rewarding. One evening, as Kevin walked her back to her quarters, she took the plunge.
"Kevin, I feel that there might be a misunderstanding about us." She gave a nervous laugh. "I think that most of the ship thinks we are lovers."
Kevin never faltered a step, just calmly replied, "I know. I'm all for it."
Christine was stunned; she began on a new tack. "Kevin..."
But Riley didn't give her a chance to finish. He whirled toward her and held her elbows in his hands. Light and carefree, he continued, "Now, Christy love, I know this may be a little sudden, but I'm in no hurry."
Christine tried again, this time with a touch of panic. "But, Kevin..."
Riley lifted her right hand to his lips and mumbled through her fingers, "Don't worry, Christy. I won't pressure you. I know you love me, and I'm willing to give you time to find out for yourself. Did you read that article on Kolson that I told you about?"
His sudden change of subject completely disoriented Christine, and by the time she had re-oriented her thoughts, Riley had talked their way to her door. She made one more valiant effort. "Kevin, I..."
He lightly kissed her lips and, with a cheery wave of the hand, said, "Good night, love. See you at lunch." And then he was gone.
* * *
Christine felt swamped. She didn't lose that feeling in the next two weeks. She tried seeing less of Riley, even to the extent of breaking dates for "last minute rush work", but, no matter when she left the sickbay, Riley would be waiting to walk her to her quarters. Everyday she would resolve that she would not accept a date from Riley, no matter what, and everyday, somehow, she and Riley would end up at the same place, doing the same thing. His espionage system was phenomenal.
Riley never spoke of his love again, or even of his expectations from her. He remained patient, confident, and persistent. Once, when she had desperately accepted a date from someone else, her whole evening was spoiled by Riley hovering around her and her date. He didn't say anything, didn't reproach her; he was just there. Her date became so exasperated that he did not ask for another date. And he evidently spread the word because no one else asked her either.
She continued to get gifts, flowers, candy, hand-written poems and a large toy tribble, also handmade. The worst was his serenade directed to her during an impromptu amateur night. She couldn't decide which hurt more, his attention to her or his singing. When she tried to talk to him about breaking up, her soft heart shied away from being too harsh, and every time she hesitated, Riley moved into implant himself closer to her.
Uhura, once she understood what was happening, made Christine's life miserable by keeping track of each incident, every remark, and every gift that Riley gave to Christine. She also kept Christine up-to-date on the latest gossip and what Christine's odds were in the ship pools. Because she couldn't take the whole thing seriously, she was greatly enjoying Christine's discomfort. She needled her about "your Kevin" until Christine could have cheerfully throttled her.
By now the whole crew was watching them, and Christine found herself avoiding the more crowded areas, unable to face the stares and whispers. Riley was perfectly content with the more intimate meetings. At this time, he had firmly convinced himself that there was no other woman for him, and that in time, Christine would return his love. In fact, he was puzzled as to why it had taken him so long to recognize this great truth.
As with all situations, this one, too, reached a crisis point. For the first time in three months, the ship was orbiting a planet that offered a chance for liberty. True, it was a little primitive, about 20th century Earth, but still everyone in the crew welcomed the opportunity to get off the ship. Everyone except Christine, that is. Riley had big plans which included her, and she felt overjoyed when it turned out that she and Riley were on different liberty shifts. She held her breath until she learned that, try as he might, he couldn't get anyone to trade with him.
Christine was even enjoying her duty shift, knowing Riley was safely planetside, when Dr. McCoy came into the office, holding a tape, and with a coy smile on his face. "Nurse, there has to be a change in the schedule. Jamison's kidney went bad and will have to be replaced. I want you to assist. That means you will have to take your liberty now if you want it."
"What about Marty? She is already on liberty and will be back in time."
"I can't get a hold of her and I'm not risking that she might be hung over or otherwise out of condition to assist." He turned and walked to the door, throwing over his shoulder, "Besides, this way you can be with Riley."
Christine fumed as McCoy's laughter floated back to her. She couldn't believe her luck. For the first time in weeks, she had been free, and now it looked like she would be trapped again. Then her brain began to work like it was supposed to. After all, Riley was already gone and there was no reason why she had to join him. If anything, spending her liberty without making any effort to find him just might convince Kevin that she wasn't "falling" for him.
With a light heart, she changed her clothes, picked up her liberty pass, and headed planetward. The city was bustling and exciting. Christine felt the blood surging through her veins. Her eyes stung a little from the smog, but she felt this was one of the brightest days of her life. She wandered along the crowded sidewalks, window shopping. Suddenly, she heard a voice she knew and dreaded.
"Christy! Hey, Christy!"
Without hesitation, she plunged into an entrance of the planet's underground vehicle service. She pushed her way through the crowd, automatically picking up a payment token, and entering the first empty pod she came to. The pods were big enough for two people and ran on an electrified monorail. She lost a few minutes trying to figure out how the pod worked, randomly punching out a destination, any destination. The delay cost her; Riley caught up with her.
Bare seconds before the pod started speeding through the maze of lighted tunnels, he slipped into the empty seat, breathing hard. Christine tried to stop the pod, but she was too slow. Riley grabbed her hand, holding it tight.
"What a great surprise!" he declared. "How did you get off early?"
Christine had reached her limit. She was tired of feeling trapped, and she would be damned if she could see any reason to keep up this farce. She forcibly snatched her hand back and scowled at Riley.
"Now hear this, mister, 'cause I'm only going to say it once! We are no longer 'a thing'. I don't love you, and I have no intention of trying to. I no longer want to see you, except on ship's business. No lunch, no dinner, no art, nothing." Catching her breath in a gasp, she bulled right on, giving Riley his own tactics. "And no more gifts. If you ever give me anything else, I'll dump it straight into the disposal chute. I'm my own person, and I belong only to me." She had finished, and she felt heady. Kevin looked stunned.
"But ... but, Christy. Just give it some time and..."
"No, Riley," she said firmly. "I've had all I'm going to take. You are a nice guy, Riley, but you are too damn pushy."
As if to emphasize Christine's new freedom, the pod slid to a smooth stop, and the doors snapped open. Christine got out gracefully, and Riley scrambled out after her. She faced him and quietly said, "Enjoy your liberty, lieutenant." Then she disappeared into the crowd.
Riley moped around the streets, reviewing her words. He didn't even have the heart to give a wolf whistle to some of the lovelier local girls. Finally, he turned into a small, quiet place for lunch. He sat at a back table and brooded over a large whiskey.
"Hi, Riley. You sure look blue. Missing Christine?" He looked up and there stood Uhura, smiling down on him.
"She threw me over. What did I do wrong?" he asked plaintively.
Uhura slipped into the seat across from him. "You made assumptions you shouldn't have. You gave Christine no chance to know the real you. All she saw was a facade, an actor playing a role." Riley looked even more woebegone, and Uhura felt a stirring of pity. She continued, more kindly. "A woman likes to know she is attractive to a man, Kevin, but she also wants to know the real man. Not some ideal. After all, it's not like you aren't a handsome, interesting man."
"And Irish," laughed Riley, his spirits rising. "Thank you, Penda, you've given me a lot to think about."
* * *
Later that evening, Uhura and Christine were in Uhura's quarters, discussing the whole thing. "I hated to be crude about it, Penda, but I had had all I could take," Christine said defensively. "I just hated to hurt his feelings, though."
Uhura stretched leisurely on the bed. "Don't worry. When I saw him later, I think I convinced him it was for the best. You'll see. Knowing Riley, he has started on his new campaign. Poor girl."
They both started laughing. The door chimes rang, and Uhura went to answer it, still giggling. There stood Sulu, with roses in his hand and a laugh at the back of his eyes. Uhura took one look at the flowers, complete with a discrete note, and her eyes flew to Sulu's face. "No," she said. "It can't be..."
Sulu nodded and thrust the bouquet into her hands. "Compliments of Mr. Kevin Riley."
Uhura shook her head and backed away from Sulu, staring down at the roses as if they were snakes. Behind her, Christine started laughing again. "No, no, no..." Uhura whispered, horrified.