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My story takes place in the future with advanced technology and I have a torture scene where I need prisoners to be immobilized against a wall—-but not permanently. I’m wondering if it could be done through energy or some kind of force unseen by the naked eye. I originally had magnetized nanobots that would attach to the wall through the prisoners’ skin, but that’s probably not going to work.... What other technology could somewhat realistically immobilize someone against a wall?

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    $\begingroup$ You just need a strong opposing force. Wind would do it. It might not be ideal but literally a big fan could be enough. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Mar 5 '20 at 7:32
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    $\begingroup$ Glue...........? $\endgroup$ – user253751 Mar 5 '20 at 12:17
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    $\begingroup$ stargate sg-1 season 6 episode 6 $\endgroup$ – Richie Frame Mar 5 '20 at 17:51
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    $\begingroup$ At one of the Dupont plastic film plants, during certain humidity conditions it was impossible to walk forward (or turn) through a certain unobstructed path. You could walk backwards to leave, but no force could propel you forwards through it. Something to do with static electricity, and the thin sheets of plastic being rolled at high speeds (hundreds of feet per second?). So for your purposes, actual force fields aren't even out of bounds. $\endgroup$ – John O Mar 5 '20 at 20:02
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    $\begingroup$ @JohnO - say wut. Citation neeed! $\endgroup$ – Mazura Mar 6 '20 at 1:59

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Use tentacles. Lots of tentacles. You never go wrong with tentacles and there is never too much of them.

A prisoner dangling from tentacles slithering over their bodies has no leverage to free themselves regardless of how strong they are. They cannot tear apart the tentacles because the tentacles are constantly moving and can easily maintain their grip while avoiding the hands, teeth and feet of their prisoner. And even if they get lucky the tentacles are smooth and covered with lubricant so you cannot pull at them enough to break them. And a compact cylinder made of metal is hard to crush.

They cannot really gather their strength because the tentacles coiled around their bodies constrict their breathing and they are constantly out of breath. They cannot even talk unless you want them to because the tentacles can gag them or constrain their breathing.

And since they are dangling from constantly moving tentacles they are too disoriented to really focus or target anything. So even if could somehow free themselves they would have no knowledge which orientation they would end up. This is really paralysing to people evolved from monkeys who had to fear death by falling from a tree. People evolved from cats might of course just trust they will fall on their feet.

The prisoner will also be unable to hide nasty surprises. The tentacles will search every inch of their body, repeatedly. They will even search under any loose clothing. If you incorporate some ultrasound technology they will even efficiently search inside the body as well. You can even take samples to check for poisons and disease. And all of this is more or less automatic result of the random appearing movements of the tentacles on the prisoner.

You can even add some chemicals into the mix. Since the prisoners will get thoroughly covered in the lubricant on the tentacles any drugs added to it will make their way into the mouth, lungs, eyes and other places there they can be absorbed. Typically you would want to make prisoners more docile and cooperative but fear and pain would be fairly easy as well. Drugs to block any special abilities would be good too.

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    $\begingroup$ Sometimes, I see something and I wonder how horrified I would be if I saw their browsing history with no context. $\endgroup$ – IT Alex Mar 5 '20 at 13:47
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    $\begingroup$ @ITAlex How rude! And I even censored myself not to mention body cavity searches despite that being important to stopping prisoners from having things you do not want them to have. LOL $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Mar 5 '20 at 15:08
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    $\begingroup$ @ITAlex I know...it's a great answer but I need a shower... $\endgroup$ – ribs2spare Mar 5 '20 at 16:26
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    $\begingroup$ This completely fails the "unseen force" aspect of the OP's question. Don't get me wrong, there's a great psychological factor here, but I don't see how this fulfills the OP's requirements any better than good old fashioned rope or chains. $\endgroup$ – Nuclear Hoagie Mar 5 '20 at 17:13
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    $\begingroup$ @NuclearWang The question does not actually specify "unseen". He just "wonders" if it could be done by "energy" or "force unseen". It would be reasonable to assume that "unseen force" would be a bonus and he'd prefer that but it is not what was actually asked for. So I gave a physical solution that has most of the benefits of an energy field. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Mar 5 '20 at 17:23
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Magnets

Just make the shackles out of iron or some other metal, then place magnets inside / on the walls. Turn them on and off and there you have your "magically pinned to the wall" effect.

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    $\begingroup$ Like this (NSFW): media1.tenor.com/images/a87f48648b423483f4bc18ec3107a861/… $\endgroup$ – The Square-Cube Law Mar 5 '20 at 13:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Renan bonus points if you have Tom and Jerry conducting the torture. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Mar 5 '20 at 16:16
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    $\begingroup$ (@Renan 's link may be considered NSFW) $\endgroup$ – user253751 Mar 5 '20 at 16:56
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    $\begingroup$ No shackles needed - magnet fields can exert force on diamagnetic material, too. See Andre Geim’s work about levitating frogs. Website has video, and it is not a hoax. Has been tested with mice, too. $\endgroup$ – jvb Mar 7 '20 at 6:34
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks @tvb I’ll check that out. Magnetic fields have always been my favorite scify science explanation. $\endgroup$ – Jay Dee Mar 7 '20 at 18:17
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G-Force

The "room" is actually moving. It can be made to move very fast and will thus exert very strong force on anybody inside. Very likely pinning them to the opposite wall.

One way to do this is if you have the room attached to a spinning arm similar to ones used for testing pilots.

The problem might be that if you have anything else that's not very well attached, it will also fly in the same direction any people would go. Which might actually aid the effect. But if you need only people to be "pinned" then there shouldn't be any loose objects around - furniture would need to be bolted down or otherwise immovable.

The real problem might be if you want to have other people in the same room, as they'd be similarly affected. A solution is either to have

  • mobile robots who can withstand the g-forces and appear to be unaffected.
  • immobile robots like arms extending from the walls/ceiling. Those can rotate around and do whatever they are supposed to.
  • nobody else, just speakers and microphones to communicate with the people currently being partially crushed against a surface.
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    $\begingroup$ @CarlWitthoft hey, we don't refer them as "prisoners" - that is so negative. They are our guests. And guests require the very best! (also, generally, torturers aren't too concerned with the long-term well being of their subjects) $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Mar 5 '20 at 16:02
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    $\begingroup$ :-) :-) . Have you read some of Iian Banks' description of extreme sociopathic kingdom rulers? One of them caught an assassin, cut his head off & attached it to a survival system, then proceeded to taunt & abuse the head. $\endgroup$ – Carl Witthoft Mar 5 '20 at 16:08
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    $\begingroup$ @VLAZ I mean, artificial gravity doesn't actually exist in reality (other than the spin-the-whole-room kind), so if you're using it in your story you're already inventing fictional technology, and if you're doing that, you can define the rules however you want to. Can you angle it? Sure, this thing I just made up in my head can do that. Just so long as you keep the rules consistent within your universe. $\endgroup$ – Darrel Hoffman Mar 5 '20 at 16:30
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    $\begingroup$ Only in science fiction so far. Some fictional space stations have the whole station constantly spin to provide gravity (though this would make the outside of the station "down", so if they have windows on the outside, they'd be in the floor). Another possibility is if the station was constantly accelerating (down = back) or decelerating (down = front). Most scifi doesn't even bother explaining it. Artificial gravity of the type seen in Star Wars/Trek et al. where down = the bottom of the ship simply does not exist and there is no known means of creating it. $\endgroup$ – Darrel Hoffman Mar 5 '20 at 17:36
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    $\begingroup$ You can buy a Gravitron carnival ride second hand for around $50,000. Should be well within the budget of any respectable supervillain. $\endgroup$ – Robyn Mar 6 '20 at 1:47
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Programmable goop.

There is a class of polymer which is solid at room temperature which then is rendered liquid when activated by (eg) ultraviolet light:

Certain polymers, however, are permanently solid—even when exposed to extreme changes in temperature or pressure, they never become liquid. These materials, which are called covalently cross-linked polymers, can be modified so that an external stimulus such as light or heat causes them to switch from solid to liquid.

  • So, throw the prisoner at the wall, flick the light switch for a second or two, they melt into the wall - light off again - they're stuck there like flies on paper. (Han Solo in Carbamite).

  • Until that is you chose to "let there be light" again. (Gives you a shivver of that god-like feeling of omnipotence for just a second).

There's a nice article in Nature of the first such material made in 2018, refined to your specification by the time of your story though.

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  • $\begingroup$ This was a significant part of the setting for the game SOMA. A cross-linked polymer substance called "structure gel" was created and programmed by a rogue AI that was then routed around the various facilities. When it broke out of the walls, it could turn solid, trapping whatever object, creature, or human that was unlucky enough to be nearby. $\endgroup$ – Abion47 Mar 6 '20 at 19:26
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Coulombic Attraction

enter image description here

** $$F = k \times \frac{Q_1 \times Q_2}{d^2}$$ **

where k = Coulomb's constant. k's value depends on the medium around the charged objects. In air, k is approximately $9.0 x 10^9 \frac{N m^2}{C^2}$

where $Q_1$ and $Q_2$ are the respective charge on two objects in Coulombs (C)

and

where d is the distance between the objects.

Coulombic attraction is why you can rub a ballon against your hair or cloths and hold it against a wall and it will stick.

As a tool of torture, remove $1 \times 10^{-3} Coulombs$ from the victim and add the same charge to a plate under the victim — separated from the victim by 1 cm by a insulating plate made of a dielectric material like plastic or porcelain - and you’ll generate a pressure equivalent of approximately 20 atmospheres (assuming the human has an area of $2 m^2$

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ I considered adding static electricity to my answer, but I fear that Coulombic attraction strong enough to pin a person to the wall will be quite harmful. Plus, prisoners' hair will stand on end, making the attraction less than unseen. $\endgroup$ – Klaus Æ. Mogensen Mar 5 '20 at 9:58
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    $\begingroup$ @KlausÆ.Mogensen, as long as the victim is electrically isolated then there won’t be enough current flow or power transfer to cause any injury. The torture also has to be floating at the same potential. And his implements need to be insulated to avoid discharging the charge pinning the victim to the wall $\endgroup$ – EDL Mar 5 '20 at 14:35
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    $\begingroup$ This has actually sort of happened. At a 3M (3M makes tape) factory, a fast moving sheet of polypropelene picked up enough charge to create a static "force field". People could not pass through the invisible static wall, and couldn't turn near it either and had to walk backwards to get out of it. $\endgroup$ – jreese Mar 6 '20 at 15:00
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Shrinkwrap

A transparent (or not) flexible rubber or plastic membrane moves across the interrogation chamber a la the garbage compactor scene in Star Wars, pressing them against the wall. Any torture implements can be placed behind this membrane, which can serve to protect the interrogators themselves if eg. gas is used.

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I think that I have seen television scenes in some sort of play setting where children wear velcro covered clothing and throw themselves at velcro covered walls and sometimes stick to them.

I found an article with the history of velcro walls.

http://www.airfungames.com/party-rental-resources/velcro-walls-history1

This article says that heavier people don't stick to the walls:

Philip, not quite tall enough to jump on the wall by himself, was hoisted against the Velcro by Sportland's two wall attendants, Joe Laroche and Fernando Martinez, both 18.

"Little kids usually stick, but we have to hold older people because they weigh more," said Martinez, who calls himself "Velcro Man."

"This one guy weighed 200 pounds plus. His foot went right through the seam in the floor. . . . Usually at 150 pounds you stop sticking. It throws you right off. So when someone big comes along, I'll be sure to ask Jack {Goldstein} for my break."

After wall jumpers put on their suits and pay $3 for three jumps, Martinez and Laroche usually ask which way they want to hit the wall. Grabbing the participants by the bottom of the canvas suit, Martinez and Laroche help the jumpers gain momentum from the ground and make sure they stick to the wall. After the jumpers remain on the wall for a minute or two, they are peeled off and returned to the ground.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/1993/06/13/area-daredevils-newest-shtick-velcro-jumping/f50ab536-db2c-45de-a4d7-8c5f6f2a6a6b/2

And an improved and stronger velcro prison suit could stick prisoners to improved and stronger velcro walls so hard that the prisoners would be unable to free themselves from the walls until and unless the guards pulled them off. Apparently it is normal for the attendants to peel customers off the wall, not for them to free themselves from the wall, so with stronger velcro-like materials prisoners wouldn't be able to release themselves from the prison walls.

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Suction

Your wall has a lot of tiny holes with sensors that activate strong suction whenever a piece of body is near. Every bit that touches the wall get stuck there, but parts of the body that don't touch the wall will not feel any suction. The wall may be somewhat elastic to maximize contact surface.

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  • $\begingroup$ This will lead to permanent skin damage at every suction site. May not be desirable $\endgroup$ – Carl Witthoft Mar 5 '20 at 15:58
  • $\begingroup$ @CarlWitthoft, unless the wall has zillions of extremely tiny holes extremely close together, connecting to a low pressure chamber rather than individual tubes. $\endgroup$ – WGroleau Mar 5 '20 at 18:44
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    $\begingroup$ @WGroleau without individual tubes, you will have a hard time sucking the prisoner in instead of the surrounding air. Try drinking through two straws at once, of which one points upwards instead of into the liquid. $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak Mar 5 '20 at 19:17
  • $\begingroup$ Let me guess: you believed as totally realistic the scene in which an alien is sucked into space through a hole less than 2 inches in diameter. Just what's the percentage of the total area for those tiny holes that you plan for? Cause surely, can't be 100%, otherwise we are speaking about a nothing, not a wall. Then use the 1atm=10332 kgf/sqm and check whether or not one requires such a huge force to unstuck "every bit" one after another. Or at least the palm, then hand, then arm, then both arms - so that I might end having something to fight you off. $\endgroup$ – Adrian Colomitchi Mar 6 '20 at 13:48
  • $\begingroup$ Billions of short tiny tubes that only open up when something is pressing against them.... could work. The prisoners would need to be naked though. $\endgroup$ – fishinear Mar 6 '20 at 17:24
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Since you have some advanced technology, I'd consider going with an electrically activated adhesive. You stand the prisoners flat against the wall, then turn on the power and the adhesive holds them firmly. Turn off the power and they're released.

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Honey. I mean you might have to use perhaps use invisible honey from the future. Though it would be something most associate with getting stuck to walls.

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I read an IEEE article about how scientists managed to levitate a drop of water using sound. Maybe using a sound to propel someone against a wall could work.

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    $\begingroup$ Interesting. A phased array of powerful speakers (somewhere above 150db each) may work, but it is very likely they'll break the bones of the prisoner in the process. Just don't mind his ears, he won't be able to hear your questions during "enhanced interrogation" $\endgroup$ – Adrian Colomitchi Mar 6 '20 at 13:55
  • $\begingroup$ They can wear wireless headphones that listen to the interrogator. And they can answer with microphones implanted near their mouth. $\endgroup$ – CheetSheatOverlode Mar 8 '20 at 17:50
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Electric shocks Electric shocks propel people back. If your prisoner is throw against the wall from the first one, they could continuously be given electric shocks that keep them thrown against the wall, unable to move away. The electricity wouldn't necessarily even have to touch the prisoner. According to Wikipedia:

...physical contact with energized wiring or objects may not be necessary to cause electric shock, as the voltage may be sufficient to "jump" the air gap between the electrical device and the victim.

So, if your voltage was high enough, it could keep the prisoners "glued" to the wall, with no apparent reason. There will be some other side-effects though, that have to be taken into account, to your prisoner being electrocuted. And, depending on how long this torture lasts, your prisoners might not be so conscious, and very close to dead, by the end of it.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't think electric shocks physically push people back - as far as I know that's because they make you contract all your muscles and you throw yourself back. So continuous electric shocks will not keep pushing you. $\endgroup$ – user253751 Mar 6 '20 at 18:52
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A tree can grow around fences, incooporating the obsticle into itself.. if you have antiseptic bars (silver) such a thing could happen to a long time prisoner. The bars have grown into his back.. over the aeons..

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  • $\begingroup$ The OP specified non-permanent immobilization... this doesn't seem to fit. $\endgroup$ – Matthew Mar 9 '20 at 16:31
  • $\begingroup$ You can always sew the metal rods off and hammer them in as a second rib cage.. $\endgroup$ – Pica Mar 10 '20 at 13:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Pica Freaky and totally disturbing, which means I'll probably end up logging it away in my idea folder. lol Though for this particular instance, my characters are only around for about three weeks and they're sometimes moved around from one place to another. But it's not beyond my bad guys for having permanent structures infused with human beings in other instances. $\endgroup$ – Jay Dee Mar 10 '20 at 19:25

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