In Kristyn Merbeth’s space opera Fortuna, she introduces the spider tank, a sturdy, four-legged machine that can carry a squad long distances over the treacherous, icy terrain of the planet Titan.
The novel alternates between chapters told by Portia, the pilot of the family’s spaceship, Fortuna, and chapters told by her brother, Corvus, who is finishing his three-year enlistment in the military on Titan.
Here, Corvus describes the spider tank:
“The spider tank is designed to travel through dangerous terrain, able to navigate across ice and up almost-vertical cliffs, but the four legs plod along in jerky motions that always sicken my stomach. Even after three years on Titan, I’m still not used to land vehicles, too accustomed to the smoother travel of hovercrafts that are common on every other planet. Here the extreme winds and unpredictable weather make them too dangerous to operate.”
Traditional tanks on earth travel on wheels or on caterpillar treads, like those on a bulldozer.
A tank can really be any heavily armored vehicle with weapons. If it doesn’t have serious weapons, it should probably just be called an armored personnel carrier. Merbeth does not tell us about the weaponry in the spider tank. But in a battle scene, she writes of hand-held blasters and pulse rifles that shoot laser-fire. So I’m imagining the spider tank has some heavy-duty lasers and maybe a few other tricks besides.
Design your own tank!
If you were an engineer of the future, what kind of tank would you build?
- Would it have wheels, treads, legs or hoverjets?
- Would it fire cannonballs, shells, missiles or lasers?
- Would soldiers ride in it, drive it remotely, or would it have artificial intelligence (AI) and drive itself?
Please post your comments below.