The Minaran Star System comprises several planets, at least two of which are known to be inhabited by pre-spaceflight civilisations.

The humanoid inhabitants of these planets possess some of the most extraordinary abilities ever encountered by the Federation. The Minarans are fully empathic; they are not only able to sense the feelings of others (as Betazoids can) but also possess the ability to absorb pain from another person and to heal injuries.

The process is quite straightforward. A Minaran makes physical contact with a wounded person, whose injuries instantly begin to disappear. Identical wounds then appear on the Minaran, and he or she is able to dissipate the absorbed injuries through their own body and then return to a normal healthy stare.

While they are absorbing pain, Minarans link their nervous system to the person they are helping, literally lending them their own strength. The Minarans can even cure serious injuries such as heart failure and kidney damage.

Minarans are capable of adapting after contact with other species. If exposed to passion and bravery, they will become passionate and brave. Perhaps because of their abilities, the Minarans are an extremely gentle people. They seem to possess an innate desire to help others; when confronted by pain, they naturally reach out and remove it.

In instances where the wounded person has suffered extensive injuries and is near death, the traumatic effect to the Minarans of using their empathic abilities could prove harmful, or even fatal. In these cases they do not need to make physical contact to absorb at least some of the wounds. It seems likely that the Minarans own instinct prevent them from placing themselves in too much danger.

The Minarans are totally mute. The lack of vocal cords is not a disability, but is physiologically normal for their race. Exactly how Minarans communicate is unknown, but almost all telepathic species are able to transmit mental messages as well as receive them. Minarans do use exaggerated body movements, which express at least a basic idea of their emotional state.

When the Minaran star becomes unstable, the Federation sends a solar research team of two scientists to observe the situation from the uninhabited second planet, Minara II.

In 2268, a nova is imminent and the USS Enterprise is sent to evacuate the scientists. The rescue team, led by Captain James T Kirk, discovers that they have been captured by two Vians, members of a previously unknown alien species who seem intent on torturing their human visitors.

Although their actions may seem pointless, the Vians are acting for the benefit of a Min aran female, whom Dr McCoy names Gem. The Vians intend to test the Minarans ability to absorb the `noble` instincts which are displayed by the captive Starfleet officers.

The Vians have the time and technology to transport the populace of one of the Minarans worlds to safety. They feel that this power must be used to relocate the species which is most worthy of being rescued.

They apparently believe the civilisation of empaths is best suited for survival.  But they are unwilling to act unless Gem can prove that she has developed an instinctive willingness to sacrifice herself.

Gem absorbs all of the best characteristics displayed  by Kirk`s crew, but is still afraid of sacrificing her own life to save a badly wounded Dr McCoy. It appears that although the Minarans have the ability to absorb instincts, their own desire for self-preservation is powerful enough to protect them. Gem eventually overcomes her fear, but when McCoy refuses to let her die for his sake, the Vians reject her attempts as inadequate. Kirk and his crew have to persuade the Vians that they have lost touch with the very attitudes they have been trying to instil in Gem.

Moved by Kirk`s words, the Vians restore Gem and McCoy to health and act to save gem`s people.