Due to an outbreak of botanical plague on Merak II, the Enterprise
travels to the planet Ardana. As a Federation member, Ardana is the only source of zenite, which is necessary to cure the plague. Upon arrival they are directed to the cloud city of Stratos and the planet's government. Kirk, puzzled, takes Spock and beams down directly to the mines to get the zenite, tendering his apologizes to Stratos. Upon arrival, Kirk and Spock find no trace of the zenite consignment or the miners. They go to the mine entrance but several miners take them prisoner.
It would seem the Troglytes have changed their minds about delivery.
Their leader, a woman named Vanna, tries to take them away and Kirk and Spock defend themselves. Plasus, the high advisor of Stratos, arrives with two sentinels. They capture one Troglyte and the others escape. Plasus apologizes for the incident and warns the attackers are Disruptors, a small group of miners (Troglytes) who rebel against the government. The Disruptors took the zenite and hoped to gain hostages. Plasus invites the officers to come to Stratos whie he takes steps to recover the zenite.
I would suggest that you and First Officer Spock be our guests on Stratos.
Very well. I do hope the search will be brief, Mr. Advisor.
Arriving in Stratos, they meet Plasus' daughter Droxine, who is intrigued by Spock. While showing off their collection of art, Plasus finds a statue damaged by a Troglyte mortae. Plasus and Droxine both insist that art means nothing to the Troglytes and that they mindlessly destroy anything they can't appreciate. Kirk and Spock are escorted to their quarters to await Plasus' reports while a Troglyte prisoner is brought to Plasus for interrogation. The prisoner insists he is a repairman but is missing his mortae and his travel pass. Plasus orders him taken to interrogation but the Troglyte leaps over the balcony and falls to his death, killing himself rather than reveal information.
Kirk is sleeping and Spock is contemplating the situation when he hears Droxine in the next room. As he talks to her about their respective intellectual superiority, Vanna sneaks into Kirk's chamber. Dressed as a serving girl, she prepares to kill him with a mortae. The captain wakes up and subdues her, and she dares him to call the guards. He refuses, preferring to get answers. She gives her word but then attacks him again. Spock and Droxine come in as Kirk subdues Vanna again and forces her to explain that she planned to take him hostage. She insists that the Enterprise
is there to subdue the Troglytes. Droxine knows her as a serving girl in her father's household on Stratos, and can't understand how the Troglytes could want or appreciate the sunlight and warmth they demand. The sentinels take Vanna away while Kirk and Spock wonder at Droxine's casual acceptance of the system with its underclass.
The caverns are warm and your eyes are not accustomed to light,
just as your minds are not accustomed to logic.
The civilized Plasus tortures Vanna for the names of her Disruptor conspirators and Kirk and Spock hear her screams. Disgusted by the brutality, Kirk insists that Plasus will have to torture him first before Vanna. Plasus insists that the Troglytes are incapable of any civilized behavior and that the few that they brought to Stratos for education, such as Vanna, have turned against them. Plasus orders them back to the ship, saying he'll get the zenite for them but they have no authority to interfere in a local government's affairs. Kirk and Spock reluctantly beam back to the Enterprise
, and Plasus tells the sentinels to kill Kirk on sight if he returns.
Why are you so concerned with this Disrupter's well-being?
Beyond plain humanitarianism, my orders are to get that zenite!
Then stop interfering, and I'll get it for you.
Back on board, McCoy reports that his medical tests confirm that the Troglytes are mentally inferior, just as Plasus claims. However, their condition is a result of exposure to unrefined zenite gas, which also heights negative emotional responses. The gas' effects aren't permanent and wear off once the subject is removed from exposure. Vanna and the other Disruptors are those who were taken to Stratos for additional training. McCoy creates a filter mask and Kirk tries to convince Plasus of the situation. The high advisor is unconcerned, insisting that he'll confirm the gas' effects when he has the opportunity. With ten hours left, Kirk beams down into Vanna's confinement chamber on his own responsibility. He shows her the mask and tries to convince her to help him obtain the zenite in return for his help making sure the Troglytes are treated fairly. Vanna is dubious but finally agrees, and Kirk stuns a guard so they can beam down to the surface of Ardana.
The zenite can be delivered in a few hours. You won't have long to wait now.
Hours can be centuries, Just as words can be lies.
Kirk puts on the mask to protect himself from the zenite when they enter the caves. However, Vanna has her Midro and Anka take the captain hostage, and plans to use him as a bargaining chip to gain concessions from Plasus. She removes his mask and his communicator and forces him to dig the zenite. Midro wants Kirk killed immediately but Vanna orders him away to secure the tunnels. Once her lieutenants are gone, Kirk disarms Vanna and then seals himself in with her using his phaser. He then contacts Spock and has him beam Plasus down into the mines with them.
But soon the atmosphere will go. We'll die!
Die from something that can't be seen? You astound me, Vanna.
Plasus is talking with his daughter Droxine, and Scotty is forced to wait until she leaves. Once she does, he beams Plasus into the mines where Kirk forces him to wait and see how the zenite affects them. After an hour, an angry Kirk tells Plasus and Vanna to start digging. Spock calls to get a status report but Kirk cuts him off. Vanna warns that the air is running out and an angry Plasus taunts Kirk into dropping his phaser and fighting hand-to-hand. As the two men struggle, Vanna realizes that Kirk is right. She grabs Kirk's communicator and contacts Spock. The first officer beams everyone up and Kirk recovers, although he's forced to subdue the still angry Plasus.
Are you as brave with mortae as you are with a phaser?
Both will kill.
Later, Kirk and Spock return to Stratos for the zenite. Droxine assures Spock that she plans to go to the planet's surface and live as the Troglytes, escaping her sheltered life. Vanna and Plasus are still bickering, as Vanna promises that the Troglytes will continue to press for equal treatment. When Kirk tries to intervene, Plasus threatens to report the incident to Kirk's superiors. Vanna ends up mediating, noting that Plasus plotted to kill Kirk and assaulted him. Plasus reluctantly drops the issues and Kirk and Spock beam up with the zenite.
I shall go to the mines.
I no longer wish to be limited to the clouds.