Dr. Lawrence Angelo works for Virtual Space Industries, running experiments in increasing the intelligence of chimpanzees using drugs and virtual reality. One of the chimps escapes using warfare technology that he was being trained to use. Dr. Angelo is generally a pacifist, who would rather explore the intelligence-enhancing potential of his research without applying it for military purposes.
Jobe Smith, a local greenskeeper with an unspecified learning disability, lives in the garden shed owned by the local priest, Father Francis McKeen. McKeen's brother, Terry, is a local landscape gardener and employs Jobe to help him with odd jobs. Father McKeen punishes the challenged Jobe with a belt whenever he fails to complete his chores.
While Dr. Angelo records audio notes about needing a human subject, Jobe is mowing his lawn. Peter Parkette, the young son of Dr. Angelo's neighbors, is friends with Jobe. Dr. Angelo invites Peter and Jobe to play some virtual reality games. Learning more about Jobe, Angelo persuades Jobe to participate in his experiments, telling him that it will make him smarter. Jobe agrees and begins a program of accelerated learning. Dr. Angelo makes it a point to redesign all the intelligence-boosting treatments without the "aggression factors" used in the chimpanzee experiments.
Jobe soon becomes smarter, for example, learning Latin in two hours at the lab. Dr. Angelo starts taking Jobe to his lab at work to use the technology there. Jobe begins a sexual relationship with a young rich widow, Marnie. However, Jobe starts to have telepathic and hallucinatory experiences. He continues with the experiments at the lab, until an accident makes Dr. Angelo call a halt. The project director, Sebastian Timms, employed by a mysterious agency known as The Shop, keeps a secret watch on the progress of the experiment, and swaps the scientist's new medications for the old Project 5 "aggression factors".
Jobe acquires telekinetic and pyrokinetic powers and ...