"Bureaucracies hide their mistakes, because people's careers are tied to those mistakes. Therefore, bureaucracies are a perfect mechanism for perpetuating mistakes."
- Frank Herbert
||A system designed to capture intruders.
|Over his head was a hemisphere of metal plate and shiny metal bars wrapped around a transparent globe. Inside the globe, red-faced, furious, and hammering on the transparent surface with a calloused fist, was Sector Chief of Scouts Gregory MacIntyre.
He settled down comfortably in the control room and flipped through the instruction manual for the Model M1-X IntruGrab (medium). Connely hoped to find the instructions for his helmetóbut they weren't there. Scowling, he went back to the beginning of the manual, and carefully worked his way past diagrams and descriptions, noting a sentence here and a technical detail there, which gave him enough to go on so that he saw the purpose and general mode of operation of the device even before he read the final paragraph at the back of the manual:
"In brief, the M1-X IntruGrab (medium) is designed to prevent human or other intruders from gaining entrance to restricted localities. Once keyed to the physical characteristics of the personnel legitimately present, and activated to prevent entry of others, the IntruGrab will selectively remove unauthorized intruders, will imprison such intruders for an indefinite period, removing waste products and providing minimal nutritive requirements according to the specifications table on page 32. The IntruGrab (medium) will handle individuals from the size of a grasshopper to that of an adult male gorilla, and will signal capture by flashing light, tone alarm, or other standard warning mechanism.
CAUTION: The manufacturers do not warrant use of the M1-X IntruGrab (medium) for any purpose contrary to local statute or ordinance. Consult your lawyer or local lawenforcement agencies before installing."
Connely skimmed back through the manual to the instructions for releasing captured intruders. He discovered that there were two methods of release: permanent, and provisional. He decided he should not overburden his mind by studying too much at once, so he only learned how to release an intruder provisionally.
Armed with this information, he went back down the corridor, and looked up. MacIntyre was glaring down through the bars with a look that would have shriveled the self-confidence of almost any subordinate. Connely, however, had not gravitated into the Stellar Scouts by accident. and so as he looked back at MacIntyre, a grin gradually spread over his face. This brought MacIntyre to a state of boiling rage bordering on apoplexy. Connely, alarmed lest MacIntyre hurt himself, mentally reviewed the instructions, then raised his hand toward the globe. An orange light blinked on.
"Lower," said Connely.
The globe came down on a frame like a set of lazy tongs. A number of plastic tubes snapped loose from the globe and coiled up into the ceiling. "Release," said Connely. The transparent layer slid back, the bars came open, and MacIntyre stumbled out.
|From The Hunch,
by Christopher Anvil.
Published by Analog in 1961
Additional resources -
Compare to the tanglefoot field from The Star Beast (1954) by Robert Heinlein.
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