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"If I had to get a new Ph.D. now, I'd get it in polymer engineering - the manipulation of matter."
- Bart Kosko

Nerve Machine  
  A device that delivers pure pain via neural currents.  

These clothes were something else again. A single-piece overall made of soft and flexible plastic they provided protection and warmth for the wearer. Yet they were the ideal prison dress because they were completely transparent. This continual shielded-nakedness was certainly not morale building and I began to have even more respect for the gray men. And everything done in silence despite my attempts at conversation. The final sartorial touch was a metal collar that locked around my neck. A cable ran from the collar to a box one of the gray men held. All of this had a very ominous look to it. My suspicions were justified when the others left with all of the weapons and he faced me, box in hand.

"I can do this," he said in a voice as gray as his garb and pressed a button on the box.

The thing I experienced next was quite unexpected and singularly painful. In a single instant I was blinded by exploding lights of a color and fury I had never seen before. Sound greater than sound filled my ears and every square inch of my skin burned with fire as though I had been dropped into an acid bath. These interesting things went on for a longer time than I really appreciated and then suddenly vanished as quickly as they had begun. Sight and hearing returned and I found myself lying on the floor with a sore spot on the back of my head where I had cracked it when I fell. It felt rather good just to lie there. That little box must generate neural currents on selected frequencies. No need to torture the body when you can feed specific pain impulses into the nervous system.

From The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge, by Harry Harrison.
Published by Pyramid in 1970
Additional resources -

Compare to the pain box from Frank Herbert's 1965 novel Dune. For an earlier use of the same idea, see also the pain-producer from Edmund Hamilton's 1928 novel Crashing Suns, as well as the pain canopy from Fritz Lieber's 1943 novel Gather Darkness.

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  More Ideas and Technology from The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge
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  Tech news articles related to works by Harry Harrison

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