Starfleet Command orders the Enterprise on a long-range exploration mission. Kirk tells the crew to prepare for warp drive (Which all of them apparently dread!), and then orders Scotty to engage the engines. "And then it is an ascending shriek, shrilling at the ears, tearing at the innards... for the ship is now traveling at more than eight times the speed that Einstein had deemed impossible!" (This story treatment of the "horrors" of warp 2 travel is certainly not in line with the original television show, in which the crew travelled much faster than that with no discomfort!) When the ship exits warp, Spock uses the ship's computer to search for traces of life on nearby planets. "The projections on possible inhabited planets seem low!", says Kirk. "Yes!" replies Spock, "There's a LX3.510 ratio... quite low by previous standards!". The two men discover one planet that will support life, and learn that its sun is going nova!
Mr. Spock surveys the planet and finds a "2-B" civilization on the surface. He explains to the captain that this means the inhabitants have heavy industry and man-made radio activity. "They are advanced enough to realize that their sun is dying and that they must abandon that world soon!" says the Science Officer. Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Scotty beam down to the surface to try and lend assistance to the inhabitants of the planet. (They don't bother to try and contact the civilization by radio or other means first!)
On the surface, the landing party encounters a band of dwarf-like men wearing skins, and carrying spears.
There, the crew sees the same small beings who had captured them. This time, however, they are not dressed in animal skins and bone jewelry, but rather fine clothing. It has been a deception! The leader greets Spock and begins worshipping him, saying that he shall become their new "Wotam". He tells Spock that many other strangers have died without figuring out the puzzle of the cell.
Spock questions Riza, and discovers that his people have become completely dependent upon the computer for all their needs, and are unable to remember simple things any more by themselves. The entire culture of the planet is stored in the "Wotam"! Spock agrees to undergo surgery that will transfer the knowledge of the Wotam to his brain, in order that the inhabitants of the planet may leave the doomed world without sacrificing their culture. Some hours later, Riza performs the procedure on Spock with the assistance of a large automated surgical device. Spock emerges from the surgery with an enormous head. (Which looks extremely ridiculous - both in the comic, and on the cover.) Afterwards, Riza leads him away from the others to recover.
The other officers tour the great city. They discover abandoned vehicles and crumbling towers alongside magnificent examples of technology. "They don't have any technicians or repairmen" says Scotty, "so everything goes to Wotam for the answers! And a lot never gets done!". Later they return to the throne room to look in on Mr. Spock, who is now the "Wotan" incarnate. He promptly accuses them of wishing to enslave his people.
Riza One leads Spock into an ambush. Kirk, McCoy and Scotty quickly overpower him, and Riza One orders him to leave the planet.
Using an advanced form of the Vulcan mind-meld in conjunction with the Wotan computer equipment, Spock attempts to transfer the essence of Wotan from himself to three of the Riza leaders.