Dr. Thor Bitterbaum is in Dallas in November 1963 when the mortally wounded President of the United States (strongly implied to be, but never named as, John F. Kennedy) is brought to the hospital at which he works. Bitterbaum, recalling recent research in cloning, saves some of the President's tissue. He arranges for its cloning and the implantation of an embryo into a surrogate mother, and the adoption of the infant by a wealthy businessman, Gerald K. Kellogg. Bitterbaum and Kellogg arrange for the child, Joshua Francis Kellogg, to have formative experiences similar to those of the late President so that he will develop a similar character and perhaps, in time, rise to leadership of the country. Eventually the clone learns of his origins and, after considerable soul-searching, decides to pursue his destiny.