Tanker bug (missed opportunity)


When Rico encounters a napalm-spewing tanker, he performs an amazing act of bravery by jumping on to the thing, blowing a hole through its carapace with his weapon, plopping a hand grenade into the opening, and leaping off in time to watch it blow into a charred chunk of bug.


Sadly, this scene breaks believability. The tanker is bucking far too violently to believe that Rico can stand there, balanced on his two feet, and keep firing his weapon downward toward the same spot. But technology could have solved this problem. What interface can you imagine—that is simple to convey narratively—that could brace him to the spot instantly to let perform this awesome maneuver? How could he activate it without taking his hands off of his weapon? How could he deactivate it instantly to escape to safety?


Keep in mind that it’s not enough that he just toss a technology onto the bug that cuts the hole and delivers the payload. This scene is meant to convey why Rico gets a promotion and later takes command of the Roughnecks. He has to take a risk. It has to still let him be the hero. Bonus points for using any technology concept that was already evident in the film. Extra bonus points for a quick comp. Post ideas to the comments.

8 thoughts on “Tanker bug (missed opportunity)

  1. Pixel beat me to the Gecko boots, as well as the stabilized weapon and the tracking system. All three would let you do what Rico was doing.

    Of course we all know that he can do it because he has plot immunity, so he can have a moment of awesuuum!

  2. These are awesome (props for the narrative trope call out, kedamono), but many are a challenge to cinemagenics, e.g. How do you show the gecko grip, activation/deactivation? What do you show on screen to convey it?

  3. It would also have to be something that he has to use creatively — not something designed specifically for mounting people to bugs — otherwise he isn’t doing anything that special.

    Maybe something on the boots and knees that, when you take a knee can anchor you to the spot? That seems like it would be useful if you had to climb up something. When climbing you need your hands free to get to handholds, in this case his hands are free to fire his weapon. It would also be useful to help you fire from mobile platforms that aren’t bugs, like if you are riding on a troop transport — assuming it uses a technology.

    I’m not familiar with the full set of technology available to the designers of such a thing. Ideally it would have no moving parts… do they have artificial gravity in this universe? The gecko material noted by Pixel? Is it small enough that they could incorporate it into a set of climbing/mounting greaves (or boot + kneepad combo)? Maybe incorporate something to stabilize the knee during all this moving and shaking?

    Where could we mount a control like this? You wouldn’t want it to trigger very often (since sticking your feet to the floor under most circumstances would increase your risk of falling). If it’s meant for mobility, you have to be able to use it whether or not you’re holding a gun, so it can’t be on the gun, and it can’t be activated exclusively by your right hand. Ideally, you’d activate it with your foot in order to have the output near the input. Maybe you tap (double tap?) your toe on a hard surface? After that, wherever you plant it is where it stays? That would work pretty well for climbing too, since both your hands are in hand-holds. That feels a little too easy to accidentally trigger. Maybe you have to prime the system to listen for this input by pressing some activation toggle on the outside of the device (it would also be easy to expand this to let you set the type of attachment to use, whether gecko is fine, or if the surface is too dirty, maybe you’d have to use tiny hooked spikes?)

    How do you deactivate it, though? You can’t tap your foot again, since it’s stuck wherever you put it. Also, you don’t want to accidentally trigger this one, since it could mean falling to your death. Maybe you can use a foot gesture again (kicking the inside of your boot), but you can only unmoor one foot at a time unless you also have a hand free to press a release on the outside. That prevents catastrophic failure by only letting you fully disengage this safety system when you are safe enough to have a hand free, but still lets you (slowly) detach one foot at a time so you can “walk” up your climbing surface or otherwise reposition.

    I don’t think the gyro stabilized gun is necessary, he only has to shoot as far as his feet, any stabilization already in place is more than enough for this task. Also, there’s pretty much no reason for him to be standing. It makes his feat more dangerous but does not help him accomplish it any faster or more easily. Kneeling is the way to go.

  4. The geckos look awesome. Alternatively, I think there is a far easier way to deal with this. He could wear something like the exo-skeleton suit that the soldiers use in CoD. That combined with some jetpack or jetboots means that he can hover over the bug while shooting. That means you don´t need any gyro device or something to gain more grip on the surface, as he doensn´t need to be on top of the bug anymore. I think the only downside could be the recail of the gun, as that probbably creates more impulse upwards.

  5. I’m way late to the party here, but I think gecko boots wouldn’t fit with the Federation’s dedication to pointless cruelty. Instead, I’d suggest crampons, which would at least provide lateral grip and would be generally useful to elite troops who might have to fight in cold or mountainous terrain. Rico jumps onto the bug’s carapace (using the jumping skills we’ve already seen him display in Jump Ball matches), then we see a close-up of his boots, whose soles are surrounded by cruel-looking spikes in a retracted position. They spring down and embed into the bug’s carapace, and little spurts of ichor shoot up from the holes.

    I’m not sure how the crampons should be activated. Stamping hard? Too easy to activate by mistake, especially if the MI still goes in for parade drill. A switch on the boots, perhaps, but for this scene you’d want it to activate both boots at once. Knocking the boot-heels together, possibly. Crampon-activators can be less convenient than gecko-boot activators, since they don’t need to be activated and released for every foot movement, but only when entering and leaving slippery terrain.

    The Robert Heinlein book “Starship Troopers”, on which the movie is very loosely based, goes into quite a lot of detail about the user interface of the MI’s exoskeletons. There a key principle is “at all costs keep the soldier’s hands free for fighting”. A Heinlein interface would probably involve some combination of jaw-clenching and head-tossing.

    • What if the activation was mid jump—say chomping his teeth (has a semantic rhyme), and the crampons extend partway, then the moment each sole rests flat on a surface, the crampons dig in?

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