Originally designed as an inter-stellar cargo transport vessel, the Rayo Tomcat became most popular as a colonization ship, in part because of subsidies by the United States government encouraging citizens to settle the newly discovered worlds in the Colonial Star Cluster. However, the vessel found a significant after-market use in both the basic transport and illegal smuggling markets.
The latter use is credited to the ultra thick hull built onto the Tomcat. In the early days of space vehicle manufacturing, space vehicle manufacturers tended to err on the side of caution and plate their hulls with more shielding than was strictly necessary for re-entry. Rayo even more than other companies. As such, the Tomcat, followed by the Bengal were the ships of choice when attempting a hot entry.
But even without dangerous manuvers, the Tomcat was still considered an excellent vessel. With a crew capacity for six and a passenger capacity of up to twelve, the Tomcat could carry twenty tons of cargo to the colonies and back, far exceeding its nearest competitor and, by all reports, a more comfortable trip.
The original MKI Tomcat debuted on Earth in 2106 and was constructed at the Arizona production facility. The first year saw thirty-eight vessels built.
Construction of the MKII began the following year with the production lines from the MKI converted over. On Earth, almost 2,000 were built with an additional 700 built in the new Galileo facilities between 2121 and 2124.
By the time Rayo completed its move to the colonies in 2125, it already had a third version of the by now venerable Tomcat ready for production. Between 2125 and 2143, a total of almost 4,000 Tomcats had been constructed.
While it's impossible to know the total number still flying as many were bought and disassembled by colonists in the early years for raw materials and its power plant, it's believed that almost 50% of the total fleet remains flying because of the model's extreme reliability and exceptional features. And with almost 3,500 ships still in use, Rayo continues to do a brisk business in after market parts and upgrades.
More than a few Tomcats were disassembled for their power plants yet even these were salvaged after the fact by industrious collectors. And while the original power plants were no longer available, they were upgraded to the newest Rayo models and brought back into service.
While the early model Tomcats were used primarily for either shipping or colonization to the Colonial Star Cluster, the later models were used for shipping intra-cluster.
The Tomcats were built as dual use vessels, the primary use as a shipping vessel but secondarily as colony ships and thus easily deconstructed for reuse in whatever purpose needed to make a colony successful, primarily the reuse of the Ion-Plasma power plant to provide electricity to whatever settlement required it.
This secondary function was intended to entice governments such as the United States to subsidize purchases the vehicles for colonization purposes. By the time the MKIII debuted, this facet was removed though it retained the ease of maintenance that made it so popular among shippers within the Colonial Star Cluster.
Once the usefulness of the thick outer hull was discovered and the technique of hot entries was developed, the after-market value of any model Tomcat soared through the roof. A MKI vessel that might have sold for a list price of US$12.6 million in 2106 would have sold for over US$53.5 million in 2160, well over the value for a new one (had they been available) even in inflation adjusted dollars.
Thus, over time, the Tomcats became the smuggling vessel of choice. Not only were they easily modifiable but the thick outer hulls allowed for hot entries that allowed the crew to avoid blockades and inspection ships. To this day, this remains their primary use.
The Tomcat lives on in popular fiction as a symbol of independence, both from Earth and in general. Most fictional Tomcats are skippered by a roguish man with rakish good looks, trying to make ends meet while living a freewheeling lifestyle and bouncing from place to place. In many ways it was similar to the idea of motorcycle or RV in pre-colonization America.
The Central Bank of the Republic sealed the Tomcat's fate as a cultural icon when it depicted it on the $100 note in 2115. Though denying that it was actually a Tomcat on the bill, it cast a strong enough resemblance to the vessel that the general public referred to the note as a tomcat from then on. Even Rayo keeps an original series bill in its headquarters' lobby in College Park.
|Model||Production Years||Total Built||List Price|
|MKIII||2125-2143||3,919||US$24,486,000.00 - CD$40,810,000.00|
- Rugged Individualists - The Parker family traveled to Darwin aboard a Tomcat.
- A Tomcat was referred to in Iowa State Police as the kind of ship the Kilgore Trout was.