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Training Wheels

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TITLE: Training Wheels
AUTHOR: Tiffany Park
SPOILERS: References to "Bread and Circuses", "The Empath", "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky", "The Day of the Dove", "Plato's Stepchildren", "That Which Survives", and a whole lot of other episodes
CONTENT WARNINGS: Mild language, mild whumping
SUMMARY: Doctor McCoy decides his staff needs more experience on landing parties, which is not to Doctor M'Benga's liking at all.
STATUS: Complete
ARCHIVE: Please ask first.
DISCLAIMER: Star Trek and its characters belong to Paramount. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. This story may not be posted elsewhere without the consent of the author.

Training Wheels

by Tiffany Park

"I'm a doctor, not a planetary scout-surveyor." Flinging those words at his superior, M'Benga folded his arms across his chest defiantly.

"Isn't that my line?" McCoy responded with a smile. "Geoff, this'll be good for your career."

"My career," M'Benga said haughtily, "is space medicine and xenobiology. Which is exactly what I'm doing here."

"Your career in Starfleet," McCoy elaborated.

"I joined Starfleet to practice space medicine, Leonard, not to go gallivanting around on every uncharted planet we stumble across."

McCoy chuckled. "That's my line, too. Never works for me, either."

M'Benga grimaced. "We use techs for regular survey work, not MDs."

McCoy said, "Look, Geoff, I know that in theory the medical staff should stick to medical issues and emergencies. But trust me, Starfleet expects its personnel to be flexible. If you want to continue with starship duty and advance in the medical ranks, you need as much experience in all aspects of running a medical department as possible."

"I get plenty of experience running a medical department. This medical department," M'Benga pointed out. "I get that experience every time you go out with a landing party." He left unspoken that that was unusually often for a CMO.

McCoy picked up on M'Benga's insinuation and gave a nonchalant shrug. "Maybe that's not the way it works on most starships, but it is on this one. Besides, if you ship out on a smaller vessel you'll definitely be doing a lot more hands-on grunt work. You need to get that kind of experience if you plan to continue with space exploration. That means stepping outside your personal comfort zone once in a while, and doing some field work so you know what the regular survey folks are up against."

Well, that was true. One of the reasons M'Benga had been so pleased by his transfer to the Enterprise was because he had absolutely hated all the field work required on the smaller vessels he'd been on. And there was another problem he didn't want to deal with...

"In this case, they're up against Spock," M'Benga muttered.

"Oh, is that the problem? I thought you specialized in Vulcans," McCoy said with a grin.

"Only when they're sick or injured and motivated to actually cooperate with their physicians."

"Spock really got to you last month, didn't he? Is that still bothering you?"

M'Benga scowled. McCoy had been lost with the captain and the rest of the landing party on an artificial planetoid that turned out to be an ancient Calandan outpost. Abandoned, but not dead, the outpost's computer had shunted the Enterprise hundreds of light years away. Additionally, a projection of the long-dead Calandan commander had stalked through the ship, killing crew members and tampering with the engines. Tempers had not been at their best, to put it mildly. Even Vulcan tempers. At one point, Spock had made some caustic comments about how M'Benga should perform his duties, and M'Benga was still a bit touchy.

McCoy wasn't terribly concerned. "Don't worry about it. Spock had a lot on his mind, and probably just forgot for a minute that he wasn't bitching at me."

Spock, forget who he was bitching at? M'Benga doubted that. Although, if he wanted to be fair--and he didn't--it was likely that, in his preoccupation, Spock had simply fallen into an unconscious habit pattern. Unfortunately, M'Benga had been at the wrong end of that particular bad habit.

McCoy started packing a scarily overstocked field kit. "Anyhow, as you implied, I do go out with a lot of landing parties. Makes the captain more comfortable, since he's under the delusion that I know what I'm doing. That being the case, I think he should be comfortable with you, too, just in case I'm incapacitated for some reason."

"Just me?"

McCoy gave him a dazzling smile, and M'Benga was immediately suspicious. McCoy said, "Actually, no. I'm going to get as many of the Sickbay staff some experience on easy landing and survey parties as I can. I'm going through the doctors first, and alphabetically M'Benga comes before Sanchez. After that Christine gets a turn, then the other nurses."

M'Benga made a mental note to warn Sanchez and Chapel at the earliest possible opportunity.

McCoy handed M'Benga the field kit. "I really don't know why you're griping. The orbital surveys were extensive. The place is a garden. It'll be good for you to get some fresh air for a change."

M'Benga eyed McCoy dubiously. "A garden, huh?"

McCoy put his hands behind his back and bounced cheerfully. "From everything I've seen, it's gorgeous. The initial surveys indicate no dangerous predators or harmful environmental factors, but it's mandatory to take a more detailed look before the captain authorizes shore leave for the crew. You'll have a fine time. Just take your readings and enjoy the sunshine."

M'Benga could tell McCoy was dying to get down there himself, and was only denying himself because of this misguided training idea of his.

McCoy went on: "It looks to be a perfectly lovely place. You know I wouldn't send you down unless I was sure it was totally benign and harmless."

Benign. Harmless. M'Benga stared at him disbelievingly, well aware of McCoy's checkered history with landing parties. This man had the nerve to call landing party duty harmless.

In fewer than three years on the Enterprise, McCoy had been beaten, threatened, abducted, coerced, shot, infected, mind-controlled, imprisoned, tortured, and just plain scared out of his mind.

He'd even been killed once, M'Benga unhappily recalled from McCoy's medical records. Literally. On a benign, beautiful world that was supposedly perfect for shore leave--just like this one. He'd been dead as a doornail after being skewered by a lance held by a simulacrum of a medieval knight. McCoy was only alive and making M'Benga's life miserable now because of some incomprehensible alien technology that had regenerated his body and repaired what must have been extensive brain damage from oxygen deprivation.

Despite all that, McCoy had the nerve to complain that Kirk and Spock were the Enterprise's biggest problem children, and that he might not be able to put them back together again after a disastrous away mission. M'Benga thought it both ironic and ridiculous that the CMO never seemed to consider his own misadventures, especially since McCoy's own staff had the exact same misgivings about him whenever he went out with a landing party.

And now he wanted to share the wealth?

Clearly, McCoy was finally feeling his own mortality. The last few months had been tough on him, M'Benga had to admit. The xenopolycythemia, the Vians, and the Platonians, all in fairly quick succession. That would make anyone a bit insecure. McCoy usually dealt with such issues by overworking, but this time he seemed to be setting up potential replacements for himself. M'Benga didn't like the implicit psychology behind that, but recognized the practicality. No one lived forever. The other doctors and nurses should get some experience, and not just leave it all to the techs and the CMO.

But M'Benga didn't have to embrace it the way McCoy did. Sometimes he wondered if McCoy had a subconscious death wish. It wasn't like he had never volunteered for things that could have killed him, what, at least three or four times that M'Benga knew about...

McCoy was observing him now, and obviously divined some of M'Benga's mental and emotional upset. He got that annoyingly calm, reasonable look and drawled, "Now, Geoff, don't work yourself into a state. It's not good for your blood pressure." While M'Benga chewed on that, McCoy continued, "This is a perfectly nice little planet. It just needs to be checked out first for hidden surprises before the captain lets the crew take shore leave there. It's all perfectly routine."

"Hidden surprises like dangerous pathogens and environmental toxins that the ship's sensors might have missed?" M'Benga said sarcastically. "Fatal little routine things like that, Leonard?"

"Yes, exactly." Unfazed, McCoy got a field-hardened medical tricorder and looped it over M'Benga's head. "Just do your job, and everything will be fine. Now let's head to the transporter room. You don't want to be late, do you?"

M'Benga considered doing just that, then considered what Spock would have to say about such willful tardiness, and chose to keep his mouth shut.

* * * * * * *

McCoy walked M'Benga to the transporter room, chatting about inconsequentialities along the way. Probably, M'Benga reflected sourly, his CMO just wanted to prevent him from bolting. Not that M'Benga would do such a thing, but the idea made for a nice little fantasy.

When they arrived, the first group was already preparing to beam down. The survey party was composed of eighteen science, survey, and security specialists, divided evenly into three groups.

Spock's group was assembling near the transporter console. McCoy and M'Benga headed to them as the first landing party transported away. While McCoy went to talk to Spock, M'Benga picked up a communicator and a type one phaser.

He attached the communicator to his belt, then stared at the phaser in his hand. Type one phasers were innocuous-looking, box-like little devices. They looked a lot like the more benign communicators. Except, that was, for the firing stud, the emission point, and the intensity settings which ranged from light stun to disintegrate.

He repressed a shiver as memories of McCoy's various interesting experiences on landing parties crowded to the front of his brain and demanded attention. And those were just incidents that had occurred during the short six months since M'Benga had come on board. Of course, then he remembered that phasers weren't the only weapons McCoy had learned to use over the years. At some point, his boss had apparently decided he needed to know how to use a sword.

Not too long ago, that skill had come in handy. M'Benga recalled the only time Klingons had ever invaded the Enterprise, when they'd all been influenced by an alien energy being that fed on hostility. He hated the memory of McCoy, fighting with awful skill using an ugly, straight-bladed sword, leading the charge to rescue the captain from Kang.

Grimacing slightly, M'Benga holstered the phaser next to his communicator. Ridiculous thought, that. No one was asking him to use a sword. Heck, chances were he wouldn't even need to unholster the phaser. The weapons were purely routine. The fact that they were inconspicuous type one phasers, rather than type two pistols, told M'Benga that they were just a precaution and that no one anticipated any serious problems. Besides, a third of the party was composed of security specialists. Even if there was a nasty surprise, no one was going to ask a nervous MD with questionable targeting skills to shoot at anything.

Unless the situation got really dire.

He fiddled with the placement of the unaccustomed weapon, thinking glumly that shooting and fighting were just two more things he'd need to get better at doing if he was going to start spending more time on landing parties.

He knew McCoy was an excellent shot and a decent martial artist. The CMO spent more time than most starship doctors at the target range and at the gym. Not to mention that sword...

For some reason, that damned sword really, really bothered M'Benga.

The combat skills were all reasonable precautions, considering the scrapes the captain and Spock often got McCoy into. But those kinds of activities were more than a little unusual for a ship's physician. M'Benga unhappily wondered how much time he'd be expected to put into such pursuits in the future.

Probably too much. Way too much.

Sure, he could handle a phaser if necessary--they wouldn't have issued him one if he hadn't checked out in that skill--but he wasn't the crack shot McCoy was. And M'Benga's hand to hand combat skills were the bare minimum required for active duty. He figured McCoy would soon be addressing those inadequacies. At least M'Benga wouldn't be suffering alone; Sanchez and the nurses would also be sharing in the "fun." That vindictive thought made M'Benga feel a little better.

Spock and McCoy kept talking as M'Benga took his place on the transporter pad with the rest of his survey group. The two senior officers looked over at him once or twice, making him nervous, but they didn't say anything to him so he did his best to ignore them. After what seemed like an interminable length of time to M'Benga, but was in reality little more than half a minute, Spock took his place on the remaining pad.

"Beam us down, Mister Kyle," said Spock.

McCoy stood next to Kyle and mouthed "Have fun" to M'Benga before the nice, safe transporter room faded away.

* * * * * * *

When M'Benga materialized on the planet, he saw that it--or at least, this small area--was everything McCoy had promised it would be. A garden. The word didn't do it justice. He stood in the middle of a field of tall grasses, gloriously colored wildflowers, and sweetly scented air. The sky was purest blue, with puffy white clouds, and everything was covered in dew drops. He realized that the ground was somewhat squishy and the air smelled damp and fresh, as though it had just rained that morning. However, there was no sign of inclement weather now.

He took a deep breath, but there was no time to savor the beauty. Spock was already moving, calling out orders to the entire survey party. He noticed the Vulcan was heading his way, with a red-uniformed woman following him closely.

"Doctor M'Benga," Spock began peremptorily. "You will start your survey in the northeast section of the designated area. The coordinates have been downloaded to your tricorder. Security Specialist Chen," he added, nodding to the security woman, "will accompany you."

"Yes, sir," M'Benga replied. At least he had a guard. He started scanning, and set off with her to the location Spock had specified.

Chen followed him closely. She was a real beauty, he had to admit. She was a tiny little thing who barely came up to his chin. She couldn't have weighed more than a hundred pounds, fully clothed and soaking wet. Her straight black hair was cut in a bob that emphasized her delicate, china doll face. The utility belt which held her phaser and communicator emphasized her narrow waist.

M'Benga had no doubt at all that she could break him in half using just one hand. She was all business, and as humorless as every other security specialist he'd encountered.

He wondered if she knew how to use a sword.

M'Benga gave himself a mental shake. It kept coming back to swords, didn't it? He had swords on the brain. He worried he might be getting a trifle obsessed, but ever since he'd seen how many of the Enterprise's crew could handle one--images of McCoy with a sword flashed through his mind yet again--he'd been truly paranoid. No one had ever told him he'd need to learn to use such an archaic and ugly weapon when he'd been assigned to the Enterprise. He might not like phasers, but at least they were clean.

You'd think a surgeon wouldn't be so squeamish, he told himself. If he had to, he could do things the primitive way, with metal scalpels, sponges, needles, and thread. It wasn't like sharp implements designed to cut flesh held any horror for him. It was the intended purpose and the end results that made all the difference.

However, he admitted that McCoy had been right about this planet. And him. He was enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. So far, the scans were turning up perfectly benign, and he had a companion who, if not terribly talkative, was rather nice to look at. Even if she could kill him with her pinky.

* * * * * * *

This wasn't half bad, M'Benga thought as he scanned a flower-covered bush for allergens and pathogens. Not bad at all. In fact, it was pretty nice.

He finally believed he understood at least some of what McCoy saw in landing party duty. If only they were all like this. But they weren't. Images flooded his mind, crowding out the pleasant feelings he had about this planet: Memories of all the times he'd patched up various injured members of the more unfortunate landing parties--including McCoy. Especially McCoy. If the ship's CMO could get beaten up so often, what chance did the rest of the medical department have?

No wonder McCoy had gotten training in martial arts, and weapons...and swords. That damned sword...

A lovely insect with large, multicolored wings fluttered by, but M'Benga didn't notice.

He looked around, suddenly nervous again. But there were no threats. No large predators, no small ones either that he'd found. No hostile natives. No murder-minded computers. No malevolent alien energy beings. Just a very pretty meadow, damp from the earlier rainfall, fresh smelling and bordered by clumps of flowering bushes and thin trees with lacy, variegated leaves.

"Doctor?" Chen asked. "Is there a problem?" She had taken an alert stance.

She must've picked up on his sudden nervousness, M'Benga mused. Foolish of him to forget he had his very own security guard. Just another reason not to be so worried. Aloud, he said, "No, no problem. I was just thinking, that's all."

She relaxed. "Yes, if you're not careful, places like this can really put you off guard." She smiled, taking the sting out of the mild reprimand. "It happens to all of us at one time or another."

Huh. So she'd realized that he hadn't been paying as much attention to his surroundings as he should have been. Oh, well. That's why Spock had assigned her to him, after all. To keep an eye on the clueless medic. M'Benga wondered if she resented being stuck with babysitting detail.

Then again, there didn't seem to be a lot for a security specialist to do on this planet except babysit the scientists and technicians.

Chen seemed to be more amenable to conversation now, so he decided to satisfy his perverse curiosity. "Do you mind if I ask you a question?"

She looked curious. "Go ahead."

M'Benga pretended to be interested in his tricorder, as if this question hadn't been eating away at him for over an hour. "I'm just curious, but do you know how to use a sword?"

"Of course," she said matter-of-factly. "Everyone in Security can."


"Really," she confirmed with a smile. "And other primitive weapons, too, like bow and arrows, knife fighting... It's a necessity, considering how often we're in situations where those kinds of archaic weapons are all we've got. Why do you ask?"

"Oh," he drawled, making it seem like nothing more than an idle thought, "I was just remembering how Doctor McCoy used a sword a while back, and how strange it was to see swordplay on a starship."

"That time we had Kang's goons on board with that weird energy creature? Yes, I remember that." She grinned wolfishly. "Doctor McCoy is an excellent student. Almost never misses a class, unless there's a medical emergency, or landing party duty, or something like that."

"He learned from you?"

"From the classes on classical weaponry that Security runs," she corrected. "We all take turns teaching. I specialize in slings. I can bean a running rabbit with just a sling and a rock."

"Huh," M'Benga said, startled by her claim. "Weird."

That annoyed her. "There's nothing weird about it," she huffed. "Sometimes phasers just aren't an option. It's perfectly normal, practical, and reasonable--"

"For Security," M'Benga interrupted her. "Not for medics."

She took a breath and got hold of herself. "True, but Doctor McCoy is motivated. I don't know all the details, but he started attending the classes after a landing party gone really bad. I guess everyone had to fight with swords. Even medics," she added pointedly.

"But still--"

"Considering how often he's on landing parties, it's pretty smart of him, sir. I recall that he said something about how the captain's going to get him killed someday." She bristled slightly at this slur on her commanding officer.

M'Benga had heard that complaint many, many times before, and was inured to the insult towards Captain Kirk. Besides, he knew Kirk had also heard it many times before. McCoy still got assigned to dangerous landing parties, so obviously Kirk didn't pay McCoy's grumblings and insults any heed.

Chen said, "Anyway, it's not like he was totally unfamiliar with that kind of old-fashioned weaponry. He did spend a few months stationed on Capella IV. He already had pretty good aim and some skill with throwing weapons, like that kligat the tribesmen there like so much."

M'Benga boggled at that information.

Chen continued, "Most of the time he brings Mister Scott along. They're sparring partners."

"This certainly explains a lot," M'Benga said, remembering that the chief engineer also had some proficiency with swords.

Chen nodded. "It's a good precaution. Honestly, I think everyone on the ship should be required to get some regular training in primitive weapons," she said, enthusiastic about this subject. "You know, that's why Engineering was taken so easily by Kang and his Klingons."

Did she even realize she was feeding his paranoia on the subject? M'Benga wondered.

Clearly this was one of Chen's favorite soapboxes. "It was because those poor engineers barely knew which end of a sword to stick in a person. Only Mister Scott was capable of putting up a decent fight. It's no accident he was the only one who managed to get out of there."

Since M'Benga was painfully aware that he was just like 'those poor engineers' and also barely knew which end of a sword to stick in a person, he didn't say anything.

"Training, that's the ticket," Chen expounded. She slapped a fist into the palm of her hand for emphasis. "You never know what's going to happen in deep space. Training is the only way to survive." She looked purposefully at him. "Beginning classes in classical weapons are at eighteen-thirty on Mondays and oh-eight-hundred on Thursdays. In addition to swordplay, we also cover bow and arrow, spear and staff type weapons, throwing weapons, clubs, and, naturally, slings and stones. Also, improvisation with whatever tools are at hand. Which day can we expect to see you, sir?"

"What?" M'Benga actually gulped.

"You usually work second shift, right? Thursday it is," she stated conclusively. "I'll see you at the gym. Good decision, Doctor. You won't regret it."

He regretted it already. Not that he'd actually made any decision himself. And to think, just a short while ago he'd been wishing she'd talk a little more. He'd gotten his wish, and look where it had dumped him.

So much for worrying about whatever weird training McCoy might sign him up for. He'd managed to walk into the worst of it all on his own. Maybe a Sickbay emergency would come up on Thursday, and he could avoid that damned class. Yes, that was exactly what he needed: A medical emergency bright and early every Thursday morning for the rest of his tour of duty on the Enterprise...

* * * * * * *

After that aggravating little chat, M'Benga wanted some space. If he wasn't careful, he reasoned, he'd find himself signed up for hand to hand combat, too. Like Judo, karate, or--God forbid--something really brutal and horrible like kickboxing or krav maga. He actually shuddered.

"Are you all right, Doctor?" Chen asked.

"I'm fine," he said, glaring fiercely at his inoffensive tricorder.

Naturally, there'd be no personal space for him. Spock had assigned her as his bodyguard, and she took her job seriously. M'Benga couldn't manage to get more than fifteen feet away from her. Fortunately, now that she'd trapped him into a weapons class, she seemed content to go back to her taciturn ways.

Having learned his lesson, M'Benga didn't try to engage her in any more conversations.

Determinedly, he climbed up a rather tall hill, aware of Chen shadowing his every move. He pretended to be chasing down some tricorder readings, but really just wanted to keep moving. At the crest of the hill he stopped and looked down, dumbstruck.

The ledge fell away in a steep slope. At the bottom was another field, bordered by trees and bursting with flowers. The blooms looked like Terran lilies, and they were every color of the rainbow. The flowers and foliage glittered with moisture in the sunlight, sparkling like diamonds. The riotously colorful view was breathtaking. M'Benga took a step forward to get a better look.

"Careful, Doctor," Chen said from behind him.

M'Benga turned slightly, intending to tell her to come forward to have a look at the lovely scene. His foot slipped on the damp turf, and with a yelp he toppled over.

His world filled with grass and mud as he tumbled head over heels down the incline. There was a sickening crack and a splash of muddy water when he hit the bottom hard and wrong. At least I landed face up, he thought, right before the pain in his left leg kicked in, harsh and sharp and searing.

Must have broken it, he thought rather clinically.

Medical knowledge and training kicked in. It took a tremendous effort, but he forced himself to uncurl, stop trying to clutch his leg, and just lie still. Wouldn't do to make the break any worse, now, would it? Probably his tibia, from the way it felt. That would keep him down for a while. Oh, where was a bone-knitter when you really needed one? Or, lacking that, at least the good drugs.

That was when he noticed that his butt was soaking in the mud puddle.

Vaguely, through his mental rambling, he heard Chen calling his name and the sound of a controlled skid down the hill. Naturally, she'd get to him without any problems whatsoever. At the moment, he hated physically adept people.

Her worried face filled his vision. "Doctor M'Benga? Are you all right? Doctor?"

He tried to speak, he really did, but all he managed was a pathetic-sounding groan.

Next thing he knew, Chen was talking on her communicator. To Spock. Oh, joy.

Well, at least he'd get to go back to the ship. M'Benga closed his eyes and tried to ride out the pain.

* * * * * * *

M'Benga didn't know how much time had passed, but he finally noticed voices. Had he been unconscious? How unseemly. The pain in his leg still ground at him, but that early sharp edge had dulled somewhat. He knew that would change as he became more alert.

He opened his eyes and saw Spock running a medical Feinberger over him. Is that my scanner? M'Benga wondered. It must be. He was the doctor, after all. No one else carried one. Spock must've relieved him of it.

"Ah, you're awake, Doctor," Spock said.

M'Benga grimaced. "Unfortunately." He glanced around. "Where's Chen?"

"I have sent her back to join the rest of the landing party."

Of course, thought M'Benga. There was no logic in wasting two people just to babysit the injured doctor, and he rather doubted Chen could use a Feinberger. Spock always took his responsibilities seriously.

Spock checked the readings on the medical tricorder. It seemed he'd appropriated all of M'Benga's equipment. For once, M'Benga felt profound sympathy for McCoy's complaints about how often Spock practiced medicine without a license. It looked to him like the Vulcan didn't seem able to read the small, handheld scanner directly, and needed the tricorder to translate its output. That was something, at least.

Spock cocked an eyebrow and announced, "You have a broken left tibia, Doctor."

"Yes, Mister Spock," M'Benga gritted out, trying hard not to sound sarcastic. No one needed fancy medical equipment to diagnose that.

"It is a clean break, with minimal tissue damage involved. I have applied a rudimentary splint using the materials at hand."

M'Benga scowled. Translation: Spock had used a handy tree branch on M'Benga's poor, innocent leg. Not surprising, since M'Benga was only carrying a medikit. No splints in there for Spock to swipe.

Spock continued, "You will be pleased to know that, rather surprisingly, your fibula is intact. I have also contacted the ship to request a medical team. They should be here shortly."

At least Spock wasn't threatening to prescribe any drugs. McCoy had complained about that, as well. M'Benga ought to feel relieved that an amateur wasn't going to shoot him up with pharmaceuticals, but damn, he could use a painkiller.

Spock said, "In the meantime, I have been instructed not to move you, in order to prevent further injury. Please remain still."

More of that obnoxiously obvious advice. M'Benga wouldn't say anything nasty to the ship's first officer, but he couldn't hold back a displeased grumble about McCoy and his brilliant ideas. It was all McCoy's fault this had happened.

Spock tilted his head. "What about Doctor McCoy?"

"Nothing," M'Benga muttered irritably.

"On the contrary, I distinctly heard you mention Doctor McCoy's name."

M'Benga grumbled again.


M'Benga twitched. A bolt of pain ripped through his leg and shot up into his torso, and he burst out, "This is all his goddamn fault, damn him!"


M'Benga didn't have to open his eyes to know that Spock had lifted an eyebrow. The tone of voice said it all. M'Benga breathed through the pain, growling, "He should be here, not me. He's used to landing parties. I bet this wouldn't have happened to him."

"I would tend to agree," Spock stated benignly. "For all his faults, Doctor McCoy does at least watch his footing."

Now, that was completely uncalled for. M'Benga ground his teeth to keep from saying something he'd regret. The pain was not helping his temper.

Spock continued, "However, I fail to see how your current predicament is in any way his fault."

"He's trying to do me in, obviously," M'Benga snapped, temper frayed by pain and Vulcan literal-mindedness. "Why else would he send me to this deathtrap?"

Spock pointedly looked around at the field of flowers, the sunny blue skies, and the chirping birds. He said mildly, "That seems unlikely."

M'Benga snorted. "Why else would he decide Sanchez and I need more experience on landing parties? He claims it's because he might not always be available and that the captain should be comfortable with us, too. Hah!"

"That is quite probable. It is a highly pragmatic course of action, especially considering his professed dislike of landing party duty."

M'Benga uttered a bark of laughter, which he immediately regretted as he jostled his leg and sent another lightning bolt of pain through him. "Don't let him fool you. He loves gallivanting through space and poking around on brand new planets like this one. He thrives on this kind of thing."

"Indeed? I shall endeavor to keep that in mind."

"And that bit about how he's just a plain old country doctor? It's a complete load of bull. He adores fancy, high-end medical technology."

"I am well aware of these facts, Doctor M'Benga," Spock said with a glint in his eye.

M'Benga had been around plenty of Vulcans. He knew when one was entertained. He also knew when one was humoring him. He didn't care. He hurt, he had a broken leg, and he was stuck lying in the mud puddle because no one would move him for fear of damaging his leg further. It was clear he wasn't giving away any big secrets, so he might as well go for broke. McCoy deserved it, anyway, for sending him down here. M'Benga cheerfully threw his boss to the wolves, saying, "He's not as scared of the transporter as he claims, either."

Spock raised both brows. Definitely amused, M'Benga decided. He shifted carelessly, and despite the splint felt the broken ends of his tibia grind together. "Damn it," he growled. He should have known better than to move the leg. "And damn Leonard, too. It's all his fault I've got this broken leg. I'm only down here because he's feeling mortal."

Spock looked highly interested now. "Doctor McCoy is feeling mortal?"

Before M'Benga could reel off a full list of incriminating circumstantial evidence, McCoy's annoyingly cheerful voice yelled out: "Spock! Geoff!"

Spock called, "Over here, Doctor."

McCoy and Chapel reached the bottom of the slope and trotted over to them. They were each carrying large emergency field kits. McCoy knelt down and waved his own Feinberger at M'Benga. "Spock, you broke my doctor."

"Doctor McCoy, I assure you I had nothing to do with it," was Spock's unruffled reply. "Doctor M'Benga 'broke' himself."

McCoy tsked. "Now, Spock, I told you to take it easy on him."

"On the contrary, you merely requested that I keep an eye on him. As my duties prevented me from maintaining constant surveillance on Doctor M'Benga, I assigned a security guard to accompany him while he went about his assignment. Apparently, that was not enough to prevent one errant physician from breaking his own leg."

M'Benga ground his teeth at the conversation, both at Spock's latest insult and at the knowledge that McCoy had asked Spock to babysit him. Chapel hid her smile behind a hand. She tactfully moved away a few steps, M'Benga noted with approval and gratitude. He'd always liked her.

McCoy harrumphed and said, "Yeah, just exactly how did that happen? Look at him. He's covered with mud and grass and--yuck, what is that stuff, anyway?"

M'Benga broke in before Spock could regale McCoy with the unflattering tale. "I'm right here, you two," he growled with ill humor.

"Well, then, Geoff, tell me what happened," McCoy said reasonably. "What could possibly go wrong on a nice planet like this?"

M'Benga mumbled.

"Geoff?" McCoy asked again.

"I said I fell down that hill into this mud puddle that I'm still lying in," M'Benga gritted out, hearing Nurse Chapel unsuccessfully hold back a very unladylike snort. Maybe he didn't like her so much, after all. Still, she was better than the two jokers currently ganging up on him. "Now, if you two have had your fun, can I please go to Sickbay and get my leg fixed? My butt is soaked."

Spock raised that cursed eyebrow. "Fun, Doctor?"

McCoy shook his head, failing the keep the grin from his face. "All right, Geoff. We'll get you stabilized then beam you up. I want to put a better splint on you before we move you. By the way, nice branch, Spock. Very decorative with all those pretty flowers on it."

The Vulcan only inclined his head.

Great, thought M'Benga, it was a branch from a rotten, miserable, humiliating flowering tree. He couldn't take this anymore, and pleaded, "Can't I just go straight to the ship?" He really wanted to escape this dreadful situation, with its caustic Vulcan, overly-amused CMO, and equally diverted Head Nurse all entertaining themselves at his expense. He wanted to escape as soon as possible. Like, right now.

"Sorry, Geoff," said McCoy. "You know the drill. Stabilize then transport, unless it's a screaming emergency."

"A pity this isn't a screaming emergency," M'Benga sighed.

"Oh, trust me, you don't want to be in the middle of one of those. You're not ready for that yet."

Yet? Did he say "yet"? Dear God, that implied terrible things in store for M'Benga, like more landing parties. M'Benga closed his eyes, and felt a hypo hiss against his arm.

The world got warm and fuzzy, and the pain went away. That was nice. He barely noticed how McCoy and Chapel efficiently re-splinted his leg. M'Benga murmured hazily, "You should'a come down here in the first place," and closed his eyes.

"You know, I really didn't expect anything like this to happen," McCoy said.

"The odds were against such an implausible scenario," Spock agreed.

McCoy chuckled. "Poor Geoff."

For heaven's sake, M'Benga thought, did they have to jabber like he couldn't hear him? Of course, it was too much trouble to open his eyes, so they probably believed him asleep, and didn't realize he was listening to them.

Spock said, "He seems to believe you are trying to 'do him in.'"

"What?" McCoy sounded startled.

"He also referred to this planet as a deathtrap."

There was a moment of silence, then McCoy said, "I'll talk to him."

"That would be wise, Doctor."

M'Benga heard a communicator chirp, and listened as McCoy called the ship for transport. About time, M'Benga thought with no little exasperation right before the transporter beam carried him away.

* * * * * * *

M'Benga lay on a Sickbay bed, comfortably numb on the good drugs, and idly listening to the bone-knitter's hum. The sound and vibration would normally set his teeth on edge, but now it was a blessing among blessings. Besides, the good drugs could make almost anything tolerable, even the bone-knitter. He'd need some physical therapy, but if all went well he knew he'd be back on his feet in a day, two at most.

Best of all, his butt was dry.

"Doing okay, Geoff?" McCoy asked.

M'Benga had been happily drifting, and was annoyed to be roused into semi-lucidity. "No thanks to you and your brilliant ideas. Imagine, sending MDs on survey parties," he scoffed. "See how well that turned out?"

"Now, Geoff, you know this was just a freak accident."

"This," M'Benga proclaimed over the hum of the bone-knitter, "is why I do my best to stay in Sickbay where I belong."

"Yeah, and now I gotta send someone else down to that planet to finish the job you were supposed to do. This completely screws up the schedule I worked out."

"As long as it isn't me."

McCoy snorted. "Not much chance of that."


"Yeah, probably."

Dramatically, M'Benga sing-songed, "Don't do it, Jose. It's a deathtrap down there."

"Oh for heaven's sake. He's not even in here."

"No? Then I guess you'd better go. You want to, anyway. Just as long as I don't have to..." M'Benga let his eyelids droop closed. Nothing interesting to see, except McCoy's scowling face.

"Well, even if the Great Bird of the Galaxy showed up and magically fixed your leg, I wouldn't send you back," McCoy said lightly. "I don't think Spock's nerves could take it."

M'Benga snickered, feeling loopy. "Nice Vulcan. Gave me my very own bodyguard." Then he opened his eyes and frowned. "He insulted me."

"Spock?" McCoy said with false disbelief. "No!"

"Told me I was clumsy. Not right out, but I interned in a Vulcan ward. I know when a Vulcan is insulting me."

McCoy grinned and folded his arms. "Did you insult him back?"

"Mister Spock? Are you kidding? Not a chance," M'Benga said vehemently, briefly coming alert again. "He's your playmate, not mine."

McCoy guffawed. "I'm going to assume that's the drugs talking."

M'Benga eyed him with disfavor. "He insulted you, too, you know. More than once."

"That's not particularly unusual, Geoff," McCoy said, looking not the least bit offended.

"Hmmmm, that's true. He insults everyone, doesn't he? Even the captain. I'm happy as long as he's down there on that horrible killer planet of doom, and I'm nice and safe up here."

"It's not a horrible killer planet of doom," McCoy insisted. He sighed and gave up when M'Benga looked mulish. "You know, Geoff, you're going to have to go out with another landing party sometime."

"Just make sure it's one with training wheels," M'Benga said with feeling.

McCoy shook his head in amused exasperation. "This was one with training wheels, Geoff," he pointed out far too reasonably for M'Benga's taste.

"Unlike some people here, I do not have a death wish," M'Benga stated with great dignity. He spoiled it by cracking a jaw-splitting yawn.

"The drugs are definitely talking."

"I suppose I could go down on a really super easy mission, but I draw the line at swordsmanship."

McCoy stared at him. "What?" he asked, bewildered by this latest turn in the incoherency passing for a conversation.

"I will go on easy landing parties with a minimum of complaint, and survive the experience," M'Benga declared foggily. "To that end, I will practice my phaser skills, I will even brush up on hand to hand--but I absolutely, positively, totally and completely refuse to learn how to use a sword. No matter what Chen tells you. My Thursday mornings are mine and mine alone."

"What?" McCoy repeated, looking even more confused. "Ooookay," he finally said uncertainly.

Having won the most important battle--at least to him--M'Benga smiled, and happily surrendered to a nice, drug-induced sleep.


~ end ~

July 01, 2010