Kirk groaned. Many commanding officers wouldn't take such criticism from their men, but McCoy was also his friend. Besides, in this case, the criticism was deserved.
Captain James T. Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise had been accused many times of taking foolish risks on away missions, mostly by his ship's doctor and first officer. Thinking over the events of this particular away mission, Kirk had to admit that the word "foolish" definitely applied. Although he was quick to point out to the doctor that his foolishness had resulted in a very important discovery, the doctor argued that the discovery could have been made with less injury on the part of the captain and less worry on the part of the crew if only he'd been a little more careful.
"You tell him, Spock," McCoy said, turning to the Vulcan first officer, who sat at a nearby desk, turning something over in his hands, examining it from all sides. "He's not safe to be on these away missions! Every time he goes down to a new planet, something happens!"
Spock had to admit that Jim Kirk had an unusual capacity for attracting unusual problems. Spock never liked it when Jim wandered off alone on away missions. He resisted using McCoy's description, "Trouble Magnet," but he had to admit that it seemed as though Jim's capacity for getting himself into dangerous situations was only surpassed by his amazing knack for getting himself out of them again. For a moment, Spock pondered how to respond to McCoy's outburst, but it seemed as though his opinion wasn't really needed.
Without waiting for Spock to say anything, McCoy continued muttering, "A planet with no dangerous animals, no poisonous plants, and no hostile aliens, and you still manage to come back looking like you picked a fight with an Altarian hornbeast and lost!"
Nurse Chapel, who was assisting Dr. McCoy, hesitantly asked what the source of the captain's injuries was. She had not been present on the away mission, but when McCoy and Spock had led their bruised and bleeding captain into the sick bay, she naturally wanted to know what had happened, even at the possible risk of having the doctor bite her head off in reply.
"Why don't you tell her Jim?" McCoy asked sarcastically. "Tell her all about your amazing discovery."
Sheepishly, Kirk grinned at Nurse Chapel and began to tell the story.
It all started with a peaceful mission to investigate and survey a planet for possible colonization. The planet was uninhabited except for an interesting array of flora and fauna, none of which showed any sign of being hostile toward human habitation. Kirk had seen many worlds before that seemed like paradise (including a few that turned out to be anything but), however none of that dimmed his enjoyment of this particular world. So far, the only bar to colonization that he could see was that the soil did not have the proper mineral content to support Earth-like agriculture. The Enterprise's science department was investigating possible food sources on the planet and the possibility of terraforming certain areas of the planet for farmland.
Kirk had beamed down to the planet's surface with the first away team to direct each survey group to their appropriate positions. Once each team was busy with its task, Kirk felt that he had a little time to explore the area himself. Spock, as usual, was his shadow as he traveled from one team's area to the next. They wandered in a wooded area near the lake where Dr. McCoy was overseeing the team testing the quality of the water.
Although Kirk knew that Spock wouldn't admit it, Spock was clearly enjoying himself. For the last half hour, he had eagerly described several new species of edible ferns that had been discovered on the planet. While Spock stopped to collect plant samples, Kirk admired the scenery. It reminded him of places where he had been camping when he was young.
Spock paused to analyze the berries on a nearby bush, and Kirk wandered a little further, around a small, rocky hill. The rocks were gray and covered with greenish-blue lichen. Earlier, Kirk had noticed the tops of similar hills peeking over the tops of the trees in the distance. Near this particular hill was a long ditch. Curiously, Kirk stood beside it and looked down its length.
To his surprise, he saw something at the bottom of the ditch near the place where he was standing. Crouching at the edge of the ditch, he tried to decide if it was what he thought it was. The shape was familiar, but he couldn't be sure because it was covered with dirt. Logically, Spock later pointed out, Kirk should have called Spock over to see it, but Kirk decided to investigate for himself.
Carefully, he studied the sides of the ditch. It was about twice as deep as he was tall. The sides were rocky, and it looked like there were plenty of footholds. Kirk didn't think it would be difficult to climb down.
That was where he made his first mistake. As he lowered himself over the side of the ditch, the rock he had been using as a foothold gave out. In his attempt to catch himself, he reached for another outcropping of rock, lost his grip on the edge of the ditch, and fell. His head struck another rock on the way down, and he landed, senseless, at the bottom of the ditch.