Ryan was born and lived on the freighter ECS North Star, along with his parents. Following a catastrophic disaster, which resulted in the loss of nearly the entire crew, including Ryan's parents, Ryan transferred to his new home aboard the ECS Fortunate. By 2151, Ryan served as the first officer aboard the Fortunate under Captain Jackson Keene.
When the Fortunate was attacked by the Nausicaans that year, Keene was injured and Ryan took command. He led the ship on a mission of revenge. When the Enterprise NX-01 answered a distress call, Ryan said it was a mistake. That they had been attacked by pirates, but were not in need of any help. Ryan wished to hide the fact that he had a captive Nausicaan, whom he was torturing to obtain information about the weapon systems of the Nausicaan ship. Ryan was forced to cooperate with Archer, as his captain was in need of medical attention. He was given a tour of the Enterprise by Travis Mayweather. He disliked Mayweather for having left his parents' cargo ship to join Starfleet. When Archer discovered that he had a prisoner, Ryan trapped him in a compartment and disconnected from the ship. He than fired on the Enterprise and escaped the Enterprise who had to rescue the crewmembers trapped in the compartment. Ryan led his ship into a firefight with three Nausicaan ships, and was on the verge of being destroyed until the Enterprise showed up. In a deal brokered by Archer, Ryan give up his hostage, and the Nausicaan ships retreat. Ryan was stripped of his rank by Captain Keene, and was reduced to able crewman. (ENT: "Fortunate Son")