From John's point of view, the purpose of Project Managers was to cause other people to carry out tasks which, although both essential to the solution and challenging for the individual so assigned, were too boring and mundane for somebody of his intrinsic worth and inestimable intelligence to carry out. Of course the PMs didn't see it the same way at all: they know that the overall solution is always the sum of its parts. It doesn't matter what part of the ship has a hole in it - we're all sinking anyway.

So Project Managers are usually the classic Finisher-Completer types, worrying about the little fiddly bits around the edges, making sure that smart - ordinary-smart, not like John - people are assigned to the task, and given the time and resources to do their job, and then chased up if there is a possibility that they are not likely to finish the task in the allotted time.

The relationship between a Project Manager and a Lead Techie has been likened to a marriage: equal partners joined at the hip. This has its downsides, of course: screaming rows, occasionally; sulks and sullen silences, and worryingly frequent miscommunications, usually by omission - "Didn't I tell you about that?" But when it works, the relationship is immensely powerful: two people moving and thinking in close alignment, almost telepathic sometimes, identifying and fixing problems almost before anyone else is even aware of the issue. It is perhaps no surprise that almost all lead technicians are men and a surprising number of PMs are women.

A man like John was certainly capable of very rapid thought, when the mood took him, reacting with shocking speed to changes to his surroundings - especially when it was something displayed on one of the numerous computer screens. But I began to get worried when he started displaying what could only be described as genuine prescient abilities.

He was evidently entirely unconscious of this ability. He would pick up his mobile phone a few seconds before it rang, or call out "come in" in an absent-minded fashion just before someone knocked at his office door, all the while completing some particularly abstruse and detailed analysis or typing the last few sentences of his typically acerbic and always insightful emails.

I doubt that anyone else was close enough to John to even notice his behaviour. Unsurprisingly, he was not somebody blessed with close family or a wide circle of friends and, as far as I knew, lived alone in a flat in one of the better parts of the city. It was entirely possible that I was the only person to know of John’s abilities, including John himself.

For a long time, I was not absolutely sure that I was not just imagining things, misinterpreting his speed of reaction as something psychic. But all doubts were removed when, one morning, I was approaching his door when he emerged in a state of confusion, even panic, spinning around wildly and wide-eyed as if even he did not know what he was doing. Alarmed, I was about to ask what was the matter, but was interrupted by a loud bang and a cloud of choking white smoke filled his office.

It seemed that the power supply in one of the numerous computers under John's desk had exploded. His reaction was rapid and precise, his usual composure returning instantly. He grabbed a fire extinguisher from the corridor rack and, with one hand over his nose and mouth, sprayed the errant machine with non-conductive fire-retardant foam.

There was surprisingly little damage or disruption. Although the building was evacuated and the fire brigade called in, we were all back at work within the hour. John's rapid response had prevented a potentially dangerous fire from spreading, and I was able to arrange for a replacement computer with restored data to be in his office by lunchtime.

Part 3 Part 5