This article originally appeared in Jump Point 6.08.
Tumbril Land Systems was incorporated in 2536 on Saisei with the specific goal of producing exploratory ground vehicles to assist with humanity’s burgeoning stellar expansion. The company’s founders, Kavya Crosby and Aaron Douze, were lifelong homesteaders financed by the University of Saisei who believed that recent attempts to apply hover (HOV) technology to exploratory ground vehicles were the wrong tack. Their project took the slogan ‘Tough, Fast, Durable’ as the set of watchwords for creating their first wheeled design, the ‘DX20.’
The initial version of the DX20 was developed by Crosby and Douze. The specifications for the vehicle were planned in record time with a bespoke prototype following quickly. The DX20 was designed specifically to traverse the extreme environments of Yar’s Red Desert and intended to be capable of traversing environments ranging from sub-zero ice worlds to low marshes on aquatic planets. The pair spent years testing prototype after prototype ‘in the wild’, in order to build a true ‘rough and tumble’ craft.
The DX20 became available on the open market in 2537, following deliveries to initial investors late in the previous year. Initial sales were unremarkable but the DX20 proved itself popular among outbound colonial concerns, with end users praising the vehicle’s ability to traverse extreme environments and its relatively simple maintenance requirements. The design team, it seemed, had delivered exactly what they had promised: a tough, fast, and durable all-terrain vehicle. While sales remained low, Tumbril itself seemed to be earning a reputation as a quality supplier of frontier-capable goods. The DX20 seemed briefly set to be another symbolic vehicle of Humanity’s peaceful expansion into the stars.
The DX20 would not, however, go down in history as a revered explorer. Current events quickly caught up with Tumbril, namely the beginning of the First Tevarin War. With the coming of the war, the shape and tenor of the UPE changed overnight, with investment in colonization efforts ceasing immediately and with designers and manufacturers around the known galaxy being recruited to adapt their machines and factories for the war effort. Desperate to outfit their expeditionary forces for the first major interspecies war, the UPE Army turned to Tumbril to convert the DX20 into a tough, fast, and durable weapon of war. The DX20 design team set upon the task immediately and quickly turned out the first military version of the vehicle, formally named the Cyclone by the UPEA.
The vehicle’s first moment of glory occurred in early 2543 during fighting that would later be named the First Battle of the Argon Chain. A hastily equipped UPE Army unit operating armed Cyclones found themselves with the high ground to overtake a significantly stronger Tevarin tank division. Colonel A.J. Krate, who would be awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions, devised a strategy that allowed his limited forces to destroy or capture the entire enemy complement. Krate ordered a third of his Cyclones to the left and right flanks alongside the Argon range, making sure that they took care to make their position easily visible to the enemy. Meanwhile, he positioned another contingent of Cyclones armed with rockets along the ridge itself, allowing them to act as makeshift artillery firing into the divided Tevarin forces in the valley below. His third group of Cyclones remained camouflaged directly in the center of the battlefield, springing them and the rocket support only after the Tevarin seemed to believe they were assured victory. With one signal, Krate sprang the trap and engaged the Tevarin tanks in a close range, head-on battle. There, the handling of the Cyclone proved vital. While Tevarin tanks had trouble targeting at such close range, the Cyclones were able to maneuver through and around them during three hours of intense, almost face-to-face fighting. The battle was closely recorded by a group of embedded reporters and the outcome made for a major propaganda victory. Additionally, several Tevarin tanks were captured whole, allowing essential research into enemy weapons which helped turn the tide during the early days of the war.
For the rest of the war, Cyclones were everywhere. They served in every impacted system and heavily behind the lines. The UPE government bought additional allotments of them by the tens of thousands, with production by the war’s end encompassing 27 factories together capable of completing a Cyclone somewhere every 35 seconds.
In the years after the war, Tumbril divided their corporate energies between attempting to recapture the explorer market and to continuing to satisfy lucrative government contracts. The former proved to be something of a victim of the latter, as countless Cyclones produced for the war effort were now available on the open market as surplus equipment, reducing the overall need for newly-built explorer models. As time went on, Tumbril became fully reliant on government contracts and extended a great deal of effort attempting to capture the Cyclone’s success with more complex weaponry. While the company went on to create HOV weapon barges, tanks, artillery platforms, and other familiar weaponry for the Messer government, none proved as successful or emblematic as the Cyclone.
In the public sphere, the reputation of the Cyclone flourished. The ready availability of countless surplus vehicles, many never used in combat, meant that even the most cost-conscious homesteaders often had a Cyclone parked outside their prefab. The secondary market for parts and upgrade components flourished, while Tumbril Land Systems itself suffered alongside other military contractors of the era. Their one saving grace was that the nimble Cyclone itself never became strongly associated with the Messer regime. By the time it fell, the Cyclone was seen as an heroic veteran of a more noble war rather than a tool of oppression. A famous holograph showing a squad of Cyclones blockading outside Linton Messer XI’s palace also reinforced the idea that the design belonged to the people.
In 2862, Tumbril Land Systems shut down following a decline in interest in military vehicles. The company’s assets were sold off, with factories being converted to build spacecraft for companies like Argo and MISC. Intellectual property, including the overall design and mark of the Cyclone, was sold to a consortium of small-scale buyers as part of the bankruptcy process. The Cyclone story should have ended here… but it didn’t. In 2946, a joint venture by DevCo CEO Terrence Naban and a series of smaller investors surprised the Empire by announcing that they were bringing the Cyclone back, once again under the Tumbril branding. A small design team had spent four years modernizing the original DX20 with 30th century components, once again aiming to equip explorers with a reliable and iconic vehicle. There was also the familiar aim to secure lucrative government contracts to build weaponry for the increasingly large Vanduul conflict. Modern Cyclone factories were opened at Centauri, Terra, and Ellis with other locations already locked down for expected expansion.
Tumbril currently produces five distinct civilian variants of the Cyclone in addition to a military-only model built for the United Empire of Earth armed forces. The civilian models are based largely on aftermarket upgrades used by frontiersmen in the 28th century. They are:
- Cyclone: the base model. Almost identical to the military model aside from the removal of some armored plating and classified control surfaces.
- Cyclone-AA: the anti-aircraft model. The AA is armed with surface to air missiles and a set of countermeasures. It’s a nod to the makeshift artillery version used at the Argon Chain, though it is nominally equipped for light air defense rather than ground strikes.
- Cyclone-RC: the racing model. The RC is stripped down and has been given a modified intake system to improve speed and handling. It’s an attempt to modernize the sport of buggy racing, popular among colonists on distant worlds without access to more organized entertainment.
- Cyclone-RN: the light reconnaissance model. It’s intended for prospectors and other explorers who need access to fast and detailed in-person scans. It’s armed with additional sensors and is configured for beacon deployment.
- Cyclone-TR: the ‘heavy’ of the group. The Cyclone-TR includes upgraded armor and a civilianized human-controlled turret that can mount a small gun. The TR is primarily sold to frontier worlds facing the threat of Vanduul raids.
Today, the Cyclone is the best-selling wheeled vehicle in the galaxy, surpassing even the ubiquitous Greycat. The new Tumbril Land Systems is clearly ascendant, despite following in the footsteps of their predecessor and aiming for additional military contracts with the revived Nova tank. The company has stated that they intend to produce additional civilian variants of the Cyclone should the need arise, with badged updated versions of the existing range on a yearly basis.