A company announces that they have perfected an invisibility cloak (or something like that) and that they will be selling protection to vulnerable older people. The people who have this service wear a two-way radio around their neck so they can talk to their protector, since the cloak interferes with sound transmission.

Demo units are given out, and the people with protectors are defended from muggers, dangerous situations, etc. People become healthier and more independent, since they can go out without fear, and even become friends with their protectors. Since people with the devices are safe from muggers, fake devices start appearing and lots of people start wearing them.

The reveal at the end of the story is that the protector isn't actually present, but remotely monitoring their clients, and assisting them using some kind of force beams.

This is definitely a short story, and I probably read it in Analog in the 1980s or early 1990s. (I used the Internet Archive to search through Asimov's and F&SF without finding any matches.)

  • 1
    Was this a futuristic society where something like this (invisibility, force beams, etc) was the norm, or was it set in modern day-ish (80s-90s)?
    – fez
    Commented Dec 21, 2022 at 17:40
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    I don't think it was very futuristic, more like 20 minutes into the future. The invisibility was a big new advance, not something expected (and it was fake anyway). I don't really remember about the beams, but the rest - old people feeling unsafe in the city, going to shops, television (or near equivalent), etc. felt nearly contemporary.
    – DavidW
    Commented Dec 21, 2022 at 19:42

1 Answer 1


This sounds like Tomothy Zahn's story "Guardian Angel" that I read in Distant Friends And Others .

The story starts by talking about a guy whose company invented the Kuntz-Sinn force beam. Then they announced their latest breakthrough - invisibility. From the announcement:

"We are also today setting up Guardian Angels, Incorporated, a business which will lease invisible bodyguards to members of the public.Each person employing one of our Angels, as our guards will be called, will need only to wear a lightweight communicator-sensor device--" he held up a dark-green choker-like neckband-- "and our Angel will do the rest. Naturally, we'll begin our operation with an extensive trial period. For this test, we'll be providing five hundred Angels, free of charge, to selected residents of New York City."

The story follows one elderly woman who is selected to get an Angel, and a reporter who is trying to figure out what's really going on. As you said, the lives of the people with Angels are improved, and fake neckbands can be bought on the street. The big secret is that the "Angels" are actually using the force beams from a remote location.

From the conversation with the reporter at the end:

"Of course there's no invisible men" Draut shrugged. ...

"You've got people somewhere in the city using phased force beans, right? Using the neckband sensors to aim the things?"

Draut nodded. "They operate from a handful of centers scattered throughout the area. With sophisticated military targeting equipment, of course, the beams can be most effective in simulating the actions of an 'invisible man.' "

The owner of the company had grown up in a bad neighborhood, and wanted to use his money to help others in a similar situation.

"The so-called 'testing phase' is all there is to Guardian Angels, Inc. The rest of the noise we've been making about it was just for publicity purposes, to make sure everyone knew about it. ... For decades the poor and elderly have been at the mercy of both criminals and those who simply want to take out their frustrations on someone else. No one's done anything about the problem because the government can't afford it and there's no profit in it for anyone else. So okay. I've got money I don't need, and I'm taking a crack at it."

  • Very nice, that definitely looks like it.
    – DavidW
    Commented Dec 27, 2022 at 16:23
  • Note that I have Far Frontiers VII, but it never would have occurred to me to look for this story in a collection with a snarling Kzin on the cover...
    – DavidW
    Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 3:26

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