"Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today -- but the core of science fiction, its essence has become crucial to our salvation if we are to be saved at all."
- Isaac Asimov
||A display monitor.
|Within the maze, Muller studied his situation and contemplated his options. In the milky green recesses of the viewing tank he could see the ship and the plastic domes that had sprouted beside it, and the tiny figures of men moving about. He wished now that he had been able to find the fine control on the viewing tank; the images he received were badly out of focus. But he considered himself lucky to have the use of the tank at all. Many of the ancient instruments in this city had become useless long ago through the decay of some vital part. A surprising number had endured the eons unharmed, a tribute to the technical skill of their makers; but of these, Muller had been able to discover the function of only a few, and he operated those imperfectly.
He watched the blurred figures of his fellow humans working busily and wondered what new torment they were preparing for him.
He eyed the screens. He occupied a squat hexagonal cell—apparently one of the housing units in the inner city—which was equipped with a wall of viewing tanks. It had taken him more than a year to find out which parts of the maze corresponded to the images on the screens; but by patiently posting markers he had matched the dim images to the glossy reality. The six lowest screens along the wall showed him pictures of areas in Zones A through F; the cameras, or whatever they were, swiveled through 180° arcs, enabling the hidden mysterious eyes to patrol the entire region around each of the zone entrances. Since only one entrance provided safe access to the zone within, all others being lethal, the screens effectively allowed Muller to watch the inward progress of any prowler. It did not matter what was taking place at any of the false entrances. Those who persisted there would die.
Screens seven through ten, in the upper bank, relayed images that apparently came from Zones G and H, the outermost, largest and deadliest zones of the maze. Muller had not wanted to go to the trouble of returning to those zones to check his theory in detail; he was satisfied that the screens were pickups from points in the outer zones, and it was not worth risking those zones again to find out more accurately where the pickups were mounted. As for the eleventh and twelfth screens, they obviously showed views of the plain outside the maze altogether—the plain now occupied by a newly-arrived starship from Earth.
|From The Man in the Maze,
by Robert Silverberg.
Published by Avon Books in 1969
Additional resources -
Compare to the Telechart, from Edmond Hamilton's 1928 story Crashing Suns, the 3D tank from EE 'Doc' Smith's 1934 story Triplanetary and Heinlein's stereo tank in his 1961 novel Stranger in a Strange Land.
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