The Gods Themselves - By Isaac Asimov

Chapter 1
The story starts with section 6. This is not a mistake. I have my own subtle reasoning. So just read and, I hope, enjoy.


Against stupidity . . .

"No good!" said Lamont, sharply. "I didn't get anywhere." He had a brooding look about him that went with his deep-set eyes and the slight asymmetry of his long chin. There was a brooding look about him at the best of times, and this was not the best of times. His second formal interview with Hallam had been a greater fiasco than the first.

"Don't be dramatic," said Myron Bronowski, placidly. "You didn't expect to. You told me that." He was tossing peanuts into the air and catching them in his plump-lipped mouth as they came down. He never missed. He was not very tall, not very thin.

"That doesn't make it pleasant. But you're right, it doesn't matter. There are other things I can do and intend to do and, besides that, I depend on you. If you could only find out - "

"Don't finish, Pete. I've heard it all before. All I have to do is decipher the thinking of a non-human intelligence."

"A better-than-human intelligence. Those creatures from the para-Universe are trying to make themselves understood."

"That may be," sighed Bronowski, "but they're trying to do it through my intelligence, which is better than human I sometimes think, but not much. Sometimes, in the dark of the night, I lie awake and wonder if different intelligences can communicate at all; or, if I've had a particularly bad day, whether the phrase 'different intelligences' has meaning at all."

"It does," said Lamont savagely, his hands clearly balling into fists within his lab coat pockets. "It means Hallam and me. It means that fool-hero, Dr. Frederick Hallam and me. We're different intelligences because when I talk to him he doesn't understand. His idiot face gets redder and his eyes bulge and his ears block. I'd say his mind stops functioning, but I lack the proof of any other state from which it might stop."

Bronowski murmured, "What a way to speak of the Father of the Electron Pump."

"That's it. Reputed Father of the Electron Pump. A bastard birth, if ever there was one. His contribution was least in substance. I know."

"I know, too. You've told me often," and Bronowski tossed another peanut into the air. He didn't miss.

It had happened thirty years before, Frederick Hallam was a radiochemist, with the print on his doctoral dissertation still wet and with no sign whatever of being a world-shaker.

What began the shaking of the world was the fact that a dusty reagent bottle marked "Tungsten Metal" stood on his desk. It wasn't his; he had never used it. It was a legacy from some dim day when some past inhabitant of the office had wanted tungsten for some long-forgotten reason. It wasn't even really tungsten any more. It consisted of small pellets of what was now heavily layered with oxide - gray and dusty. No use to anyone.

And one day Hallam entered the laboratory (well, it was October 3, 2070, to be exact), got to work, stopped shortly before 10 a.m., stared transfixed at the bottle, and lifted it. It was as dusty as ever, the label as faded, but he called out, "God damn it; who the hell has been tampering with this?"

That, at least, was the account of Denison, who overheard the remark and who told it to Lamont a generation later. The official tale of the discovery, as reported in the books, leaves out the phraseology. One gets the impression of a keen-eyed chemist, aware of change and instantly drawing deep-seated deductions.

Not so. Hallam had no use for the tungsten; it was of no earthly value to him and any tampering with it could be of no possible importance to him. However, he hated any interference with his desk (as so many do) and he suspected others of possessing keen desires to engage in such interference out of sheer malice.

No one at the time admitted to knowing anything about the matter. Benjamin Allan Denison, who overheard the initial remark, had an office immediately across the corridor and both doors were open. He looked up and met Hallam's accusatory eye.

He didn't particularly like Hallam (no one particularly did) and he had slept badly the night before. He was, as it happened and as he later recalled, rather pleased to have someone on whom to vent his spleen, and Hallam made the perfect candidate.

When Hallam held the bottle up