Muphormosy, a disease not unlike leprosy, has ravaged the first settlers on the planet Tezcatl. Generations later, their similarly emaciated descendants live in a compound where they are isolated from the planet's normal inhabitants. The new kommissar of the compound, Lucian Yeardance, cares for his charges and alleviates their suffering with the narcotic heartsease. despite the open revulsion the normal inhabitants show for the maimed men and women, Luican determines to find out what the dread disease really is. Still, he is unprepared for the appalling discovery he makes: except for the open lesions and missing limbs and digits, not one of the muphormers shows a sign of any disease.