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"My feeling is that the chance of our surviving into the twenty-first century as working civilization is less than fifty percent but greater than zero."
- Isaac Asimov

Mercy Rifle  
  Device fired slivers of anesthetic as darts.  

The goggled figure in front of the camp tent was cleaning a mercy rifle. By the time we were out of the car, he had closed it up and loaded it with inch-long slivers of anesthetic chemical. The slivers could be fired individually or in one-second bursts of twenty, and they dissolved instantly in anything that resembled blood. One type of sliver would usually fit all the lifeforms on a given world.
From Grendel, by Larry Niven.
Published by Ballantine in 1968
Additional resources -

Compare this idea to the needle pipe from the 1928 novel Beyond the Stars by Ray Cummings.

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