The government’s leading telepath, John Doe, has a new Black Ops assignment: help mentor a beautiful test-tube woman whose powers exceed his.
Hassan’s novella feels DNA-linked to early pulp sci-fi that modernized the Pygmalion myth with a scientist or mad doctor creating a perfect woman on the workbench. Here, the bachelor protagonist is John Doe, a mutant with an extra bit of chromosome-protein that has endowed him with stupefying psychic powers. He’s able to infiltrate and control human minds, earning him recruitment from childhood onward as a U.S. government secret psi agent—but also making him a pariah, looked upon by his Black Ops handlers as a potential threat and less than (though more than) human. Now, the adult John is told a lab-grown woman, Sara, has been successfully modeled after his rogue genes (two previous male attempts went badly awry). With a lifetime of implanted false memories, she is to be carefully inserted into her “real” life as a beautiful co-ed at a sham setup of John Hopkins University in Baltimore, and among an army of imposters monitoring her, John is to masquerade as a classmate. His Jedi mind-tricks will let him pry into Sara’s subconscious and guide her along to accepting the status quo—or else. But Sara’s powers are already known to far surpass John’s. What if she’s a woman who can’t be fooled? Although nicely reminiscent of Rod Serling’s original Twilight Zone in its brevity and structure, the tale seems to wrap up too quickly, happily and conveniently; earlier details about regeneration and bizarre anti-psi countermeasures (genetically modified lizards, for example) are red herrings or nonstarters. But the most intriguing bits—like the notion that these two are the Adam and Eve of mankind’s next evolution—just make cameos or fall between the lines; hopefully, the author will springboard this into a series.
A scintillating tale that ends just as it gets going.