After the establishment of the theory of relativity by German-American physicist Albert Einstein in the early 20th century, Terran scientists were disappointed by the fact that conventional physics cannot allow normal objects to travel faster than light in TrueSpace. Even after the discoveries of FTL (faster-than-light) technology and HyperSpace travel (thanks to the aid of the Chenjesu), they again encountered a second stumbling block on the limit of power produced by an engine. "If only we could control inertia...," the scientists complained again and again. Enter the Arilou Lalee'lay Skiff.
Utilized mainly as a means of conveyance in TrueSpace and piloted by the pacifistic Arilou, the blue saucer-shaped Skiff is designed mainly for exploratory missions and boasts minimal offensive weaponry, but it has one envious quality: an inertialess drive.
When not travelling at FTL speeds, the Skiff flies, or rather glides, through TrueSpace at extremely fast speeds (though not as quickly as the nimble Spathi Eluder or Pkunk Fury). Its inertialess drive gives it the smallest turning radius in the galaxy — 0 m! — and of course the turning rate itself can't be beat. No inertia also means instant acceleration (and deceleration), as well as no gravitational effects from planetary objects or anything else for that matter! Surprisingly enough, the helm contains no physical controls at all; the captain telepathically controls the ship, thus requiring only a skeleton crew to operate it!
The Skiff's main and only true weapon is a ventral 360-degree short range auto-aiming laser. Meant to simply deter prowlers and pirates from seizing the ship and to surgically cease the roamings of stray space debris, it can be used as an offensive weapon with limited results. Damage is minimal and technique and timing are crucial. Two of the major drawbacks of the targeting system are that:
- it only tracks the ion trails from warp-drive capable exhaust systems thereby neglecting smaller craft such as Ur-Quan slave ships or Orz marines.
- it has a discrete firing pattern, limiting the direction in which it can fire.
Particular skillful captains are able to minimize the shortcomings of the limited weaponry with carefully-timed firing and cunning tactics.
Utilizing the power of the inertialess drive, the secondary armament is a short-range HyperSpace shunt transportation device allowing instantaneous teleportation. While extremely useful in making a quick exit from a heated sortie, the range is limited once again to a single yet significant factor. Range is determined using fourth-dimensional QuasiSpatial movement, which is heavily distorted by FTL sub-spatial harmonics, particularly near starship warp drives. Thus Skiffs hardly have the ability to attempt a long-range teleportation when even a FTL-capable ship as small as a Umgah Drone is nearby. Additionally, the shunt is nearly impossible to guide due to the relatively minute range (on a galactic scale) that the Skiff is able to teleport when such an object is close by. Because of this, undesirable results often occur and, in the small chance of materializing inside of a planetary object or even another ship, can prove to be fatal. However, such catastrophic occurences are still extremely rare.
Due to the difficulty in winning a dogfight through brute force, Arilou captains have been forced to take more clever methods of vanquishing foes. The following are three of the most commonly used tactics:
- Gun and run
- Agility and speed are the two strongest attributes of the Skiff. Why not exploit them? Heading directly into enemy fire can be effective if the opponent's barrage is slow enough and the Skiff's captain is nimble enough. Once close enough to the enemy ship, even the directionally-challenged auto-aiming laser can do its job without missing. Leave enough fuel for a quick jump, and the Skiff is out of harm's way before the enemy can bring its weapons to bear.
- Planetary ambush
- With no inertia, the Skiff is the only vehicle entirely immune to gravitational effects from nearby planets even when it is situated right next to it. Letting the bloodlust overcome an adversary's judgment, the perceptive Arilou captain can capitalize on such foolhardiness. Sitting on the far side of the planet as the enemy ship approaces, the opponent cannot simultaneously aim accurately and guide his ship to safe course (with some exceptions such as the Supox). Seizing such opportunities nets maximal damage to the opponent as he slingshots past the ambushing Skiff without ever having the ability to return accurate fire.
- Cyborg shimmy
- With the reactions of a well-timed computer, an expert Skiff captain can sometimes approach an enemy vessel in a direction that it can't fire. This feint requires split-second timing at the helm that no human could possibly match. It's even more devastating for the ship captain who can't quite catch his Arilou opponent off-guard
It is also worth noting that the Skiff is just about the worst match-up a Mycon Podship can expect. Skilled captains can easily steer the Mycon Plasmoids into the Podship itself, causing it considerable damage with each Plasmoid.