The story of the second expedition to a far away planet. Only 2 are left of the original 180 men, and only minutes are left to live.
In flashback, the story is told. An epidemic has broken out, and the serum is years out of date. The last resupply ship has left, and the next is still two years out. What about the local natives? They never seem to fall prey to the plague that is now running rampant. The expedition party sees the natives as little more than cave rats, and a small party is sent to try to bully their way to a cure.
Though heroic in their own eyes, clear prejudice is on display as the earthmen are determined to preserve their own dignity at all costs, even in murdering the natives. A psychologist in the crew has discovered a rudimentary language to communicate. Questions are asked, and the native people hold the answer, but will the earth men lower their dignity, humble themselves, and actually go among the natives to learn what the cure is?
All it will take is a little mutual courtesy. The prideful erth men believe it’s all just a trap. The plague ravages the expeditionary force, then one man shows signs of recovering. What secret has the psychologist learned that the rest of the crew hasn’t? why does it make a difference?
Note: Though the captain dies believing the plague represents greed, and such traits, it’s more clear to me at least about respect, mutual courtesy, racism, and oppression. An interesting concept to come out in days before the Civil Rights movement of a decade later. I guess society was on the right track, just not moving very fast down it yet.