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So, one of my characters was meant to be a Mr.Godcomplex type of guy, complete with the "Spare the child, spoil the rod" mentality towards his underlings and a penchant for making examples of people he hates by inflicting "XTREME PAIN" on them.

He doesn't like to be gory, as that takes away his appetite, plus people watching quickly become desensitized to it, except Mr.Godcomplex who has to excuse himself to the toilet for the purposes of evacuating today's breakfast through his mouth.

So, I wanted to come up with a scientifically plausible long-range weapon for him that:

  • only leaves minimal physical injuries
  • induces so much pain that it will reliably incapacitate people
  • can be sustained
  • and can go through regular armor, i.e: full-body riot police gear, as carrier vests only cover a part of your body anyway, so I should have gone for the head in that case.

But is such a weapon possible? If yes, what would it be?

Note: Mr.Godcomplex was supposed to use that weapon on non-underlings, so no shock-collars, please!

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Human nerve endings and most somatosensorial structures are vulnerable to several kinds of spoofing. I think the two most commons are the chemical spoofing of the vanillinoid and melastatin receptors, that signal heat and cold, but can be triggered by several substances like capsaicin (i.e. chili peppers) and menthols.

Now, chemical activation is out of the question since it is decidedly short ranged.

Electromagnetic activation is absolutely possible and is, indeed, commercially available (at least to the military) - it's the Raytheon Active Denial System. It employs nonpenetrating (well, almost) microwaves that activate surface TRP receptors, tricking the peripheral nervous system into believing the owner is burning alive. The illusion can be quite convincing, but the system has the potential of harming the sight and is easily disrupted by any conducting surface, like ordinary aluminum foil, and therefore is useless against armor.

The same kind of spoofing can be obtained mechanically, though, and there are several receptors (two simple ones are dubbed TRAAK and TRP/TREK1) that could easily be triggered by the appropriate microscopical shaking. To administer this, your villain needs a very fine control of (artificial) gravity - they need to send a precise train of high-frequency, carefully measured microscopic-amplitude gravity waves against the target.

Since gravity cannot be shielded against, an armor would avail nothing. Only a precisely tuned and oriented counter-field would be able to destructively interfere with the incoming ray, and even that requires too much precision and is too easily negated to be feasible.

The problem here, though, is that the same effect has the potential of causing significant and permanent damage should the amplitude be increased (brain tissue is especially sensitive to what would be diffuse axonal damage).

But given sufficient precision and power - and of course a plausible way of producing what would be for all intents and purposes a "gravity laser" - the method does exist.

(The same mechanical stimulation can be administered at shorter ranges through the use of acoustic waves, but a dense armor would negate it almost completely).

Another way, perfectly possible but requiring preparation and a suitable victim, would be direct stimulation of the pain centers in the dorsal posterior insula, or directly and more crudely of, say, the trigeminal nerve. That would require a receiver surgically implanted in the cranium, for example in the maxillary sinus.

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    $\begingroup$ I used to suffer from cluster headaches, so your suggestion of the trigeminal nerve as a pain source puts you firmly in the "evil genius, but not in a nice way" category. Kudos to you for your insight and I sincerely hope you never get near me with your receiver! $\endgroup$
    – Spratty
    Dec 29 '20 at 11:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Spratty it's the transmitter you need to fear :-) . Myself, I suffered for many years from intermittent referred trigeminal pain from a bad (and very badly cured) sinusitis. $\endgroup$
    – LSerni
    Dec 29 '20 at 15:33
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Theres electrodes in your underlings uniform

You did say they were underlings, they're employed by you and you can dress them how your please. I propose some existing tech.

NSFW:

This shock collar has a decent range, and is meant for use on humans in a BDSM role. That latch design allows for a padlock to secure it on so it cant be removed without the key. enter image description here They can be assigned to one of 64 frequencies so each collar is addressable. The amount of pain is controllable too; They can go up to quite powerful shocks that leave grown men on the floor shaking and crying for several minutes from a single shock. These can give people PTSD they're so powerful. Also fits around the thigh or ankle if you want something more discrete.

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    $\begingroup$ So your Underlings' Underwear Uphold their Understanding of your Authority? How Underhanded of you! $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Dec 29 '20 at 5:35
  • $\begingroup$ The weakness with the external approach is that you can simply short the terminals (a coin is more than enough). If you place a graphite pencil core against the terminals, as soon as the shock is administered the pencil will heat up (not much). With some luck and great acting abilities, you can realize you've been shocked and can fake the pain fast enough to be credible. Especially if you're not near the source, you might get away with that. $\endgroup$
    – LSerni
    Dec 29 '20 at 11:19
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Sonic weapon

The thing that looks like a drum is called LRAD. It is a weapon that shoots a focused sound beam. According to Live Science:

Its shrill warning tones can be heard at least 1,600 feet (500 meters) away and depending on the model of LRAD it can blast a maximum sound of 145 to 151 decibels — equal to a gunshot — within a 3-foot (one meter) range, according to American Technology. But there is a volume knob, so its output can be less than max, Putnam noted.

On the decibel scale, an increase of 10 (say, from 70 to 80) means that a sound is 10 times more intense. Normal traffic noise can reach 85 decibels.

For comparison, a jet engine sends out an ear-splitting 140 to 180 decibels of sound. Human conversation hovers at about 60 decibels. Permanent hearing loss can result from sounds at about 110 to 120 decibels in short bursts or even just 75 decibels if exposure lasts for long periods, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other sources.

Anything over 120 decibels is liable to be noticeably painful for some individuals, and 150 decibels would hurt anyone's ears. Such sounds damage small hair cells in the inner ear that convert sound energy into electrical signals that travel to the brain. "Once damaged, our hair cells cannot grow back," the NIH states.

But Putnam said under normal circumstances the LRAD is not harmful. "There's no way it can hurt you unless you have the ability to stand in front of it closely for several minutes," Putnam said in a telephone interview.

At the 120 db range, this will cause pain without causing too much injury. You can protect yourself with hardware such as this:

You gotta love 3M.

There is a way around that. Switch to a frequency that people cannot hear, then dial it up to over 230+ db. This is comparable to swimming close to a sperm whale, something which has been described as a stunning experience by some divers (pun intended):

In fact, as explained in the video below, divers have been known to report the side effects of these powerful clicks. The include partial paralysis as well as general body heating.

Some biologists believe that sperm whale stun their prey with sound alone, and we are talking about 20m long (~50 feet) giant squid. Replicating that is sure to be painful.

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In the real world, a heat ray has been developed as a crowd control measure that causes pain by heating up the skin. According to the wikipedia article, it has a range of 700 meters, can penetrate thick clothing, and is unlikely to cause severe or lasting damage.

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    $\begingroup$ Its actually a microwave device but I guess 'heat ray' is as good a description as any. Microwaves are tuned to frequencies that excite/heat water molecules under the surface of human skin generating a burning sensation through clothing. The idea was proposed for hostile crowd control and is more or less fully capable of being deployed were it not for legal/human rights objections. $\endgroup$
    – Mon
    Dec 29 '20 at 12:06

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