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Literature / Let's Get Together

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First published in Infinity Science Fiction (February 1957 issue) by Isaac Asimov. In the 1950s, Dr Asimov tried combining Mystery Fiction and Science Fiction. This is one such story, where he also pulled in Spy Fiction.

During the past hundred years of Cold War, the two sides of the conflict have maintained a delicate stalemate. However, one of "Our" spies has discovered that "They" have gained a frightening advantage over "Us"; they've built robots that can pass as human despite close proximity and they've infiltrated America and her allies with ten such robots.

Elias Lynn, Chief of the Bureau of Robotics, is expected to counter the problem. His department has developed robots that look somewhat human, but wouldn't be able to pass close inspection. He's rushed from meeting to meeting, each one placing expectations on him. He accepts, realizing that he's being set up as The Scapegoat in case this all goes wrong. His only escape is to figure out a way to stop/identify the humanoids before they can meet.

"Let's Get Together" has been republished several times; S-F: The Year's Greatest Science-Fiction and Fantasy: Third Annual Volume (1958), Escapade (August 1960 issue), Dodici Volte Domani (1964), The Rest of the Robots (1964), Van Jules Verne Tot Isaac Asimov: De vijftig beste science fiction-verhalen (1981), The Complete Robot (1982), De Dag Erna...: Het leven na de bom (1983), and The Complete Stories, Volume 2 (1992).

"Let's Get Together" contains examples of:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Taking place a century into the Cold War, when Deceptively Human Robots are used as weapons of infiltration equipped to explode, scientists are studying force-fields, hyperatomics, and mentalics.
  • Action Bomb: Each of the humanoid robots that have infiltrated "Us" is equipped with components for two types of bomb. One is a normal chemical explosive. The other is a Total Conversion bomb, which requires all ten of the robots to meet in-person.
  • Alternate Continuity: The story is included in The Rest of the Robots and The Complete Robot alongside Asimov's other robot stories. However the robots clearly aren't Three Laws-Compliant, and the political situation doesn't fit the One World Order described in stories like "The Evitable Conflict", so it's probably not intended to be in continuity with them.
  • Balance of Power: The two superpowers, "Us" and "Them", have been at war for over a hundred years. An uneasy truce exists, one that would be broken if either gained enough of an advantage.
  • The Big Board: Lynn taking a moment to look at a current world map on his wall is used by the narrative to explain the division of the world powers and their influence, describing how it used to be white for "Us" and red for "Them", but the colours had faded/changed to be a mild green against a light pink. Their stalemate is emphasized by telling the audience that the last exchange of territory was Formosa and East Germany some eighty years ago.
  • Capital Letters Are Magic: The narration points out that characters in this story unconsciously emphasize the "Us" and "Them" terms dividing the two world superpowers, because saying "East", "Reds", "Soviets", or "Russians" would be misleading/wrong, while "We" and "They" remain accurate.
    He was not particularly aware of his use of a slightly stressed pronoun in his reference to the enemy, the equivalent of capitalization in print. It was a cultural habit of this generation and the one preceding.
  • Deceptively Human Robots: Evidence has been presented that "They" have human-appearing robots, each one a copy of a person from our side, allowing them to infiltrate our society.
  • Failed Future Forecast: There are two superpowers who are usually referred to as "Us" and "Them", who maintain a delicate stalemate. It's supposed to be America against Russia despite being set decades into the future, where Deceptively Human Robots are used as weapons of infiltration designed to explode when they get together. As noted above, "They" are no longer necessarily East European or Communist, just, well, Them, but They are still centered in Moscow, while "We" are centered in Washington.
  • Fair-Play Whodunnit: The mystery puzzle in this story is in figuring out how to identify at least one humanoid robot before they can create their Total Conversion bomb. Lynn's realization indicates that all the clues have been presented to the reader.
  • Fictional Field of Science: Mentalics, as defined by this story, is "the name given to the biochemistry and biophysics of thought". It also mentions hyperatomics and force-field research.
  • Impersonation-Exclusive Character: One of the characters, Breckenridge, was replaced with a robot duplicate before the events of the story. They use Breckenridge's position to drive the events of the story, trying to eliminate "Our" experts.
  • Kill and Replace: The Deceptively Human Robots are all modelled on people from our side, allowing them to infiltrate our scientific experts. The story actually assumes that the original people aren't dead, merely kidnapped and imprisoned by "Them" to facilitate the duplication.
  • Lensman Arms Race: One of the things that keeps the Balance of Power between "Us" and "Them" is the continual exchange of scientific/engineering advances. Both sides have developed in several areas beyond modern-day; force-fields, solar power, insect control, mentalics, colonizing the Moon and Mars... However, "They" have been focusing on Robotics for the past decade, allowing them to create Deceptively Human Robots while "Our" scientists are far behind.
    For a hundred years each side had kept the struggle even. And in the process, peace had been maintained for a hundred years while, as byproducts of the continuously intensive research, force fields had been produced and solar energy and insect control and robots. Each side was making a beginning in the understanding of mentalics, which was the name given to the biochemistry and biophysics of thought. Each side had its outposts on the Moon and on Mars. Mankind was advancing in giant strides under forced draft.
  • The Mole: Breckenridge, a spy for "Our" side, has brought back evidence that "They" have Deceptively Human Robots who have been used to Kill and Replace ten of "Our" citizens. They have explosives inside that would allow them to take out part of a city if they're allowed to get together.
  • Mole in Charge: At the end of the story, Lynn reveals that Breckenridge is actually a spy for "Them". While he had assumed Breckenridge was a Double Agent, they had actually been replaced by an eleventh humanoid robot. The deception isn't completely explained until Lynn shoots Breckenridge.
  • Off with His Head!: When Lynn shoots Breckenridge, he hits the neck, causing The Mole's head to roll around on the floor.
  • Paranoia Gambit: Lynn guesses that the claim that ten Deceptively Human Robots have infiltrated America and her allies might be nothing more than a story designed to make them act in a paranoid fashion, causing small social disruptions and distracting from scientific research. He's overruled because if he's wrong, then when the average person found out about the threat, the leadership would be driven out of office.
  • Ridiculously Potent Explosive: Total Conversion, or TC, implies that 100% of some Unobtainium changes from matter into energy.
  • The Scapegoat: While speaking to the American leadership, Lynn realizes that the reason he had been summoned wasn't to discuss what could be done, but to make certain that when it went wrong, Lynn would be held responsible for it.
    And yet there was justice in it. It was in robotics that We had fallen short. And Lynn was not Lynn merely. He was Lynn of Robotics and the responsibility had to be his.
  • Title Drop: The title is spoken by Security officer Breckenridge, while planning a science conference focused on figuring out how "We" can counter "Their" Deceptively Human Robots. It clues Lynn in on the fact that Breckenridge is working for "Them".
    It was Breckenridge who, with cool efficiency, was handling the details of preparation. There had been a kind of confidence in the way he said, "Let's get together and we'll lick Them."
    Let's get together. It came to Lynn so quietly that anyone watching Lynn at that moment might have seen his eyes blink slowly twice-but surely nothing more.