Six Pieces of Advice For People Looking to Drift the Void
By Valerie "Wrench" Woolencraft
The term Void Drifter was coined to describe the millions of refugees and veterans that had been displaced by the Dynastic Invasions. (The Dynasty is the term we use for the Earth Centric government that attempted to unify all the human colonized star systems under a single government.) These people were displaced by the Dynasty's technology as much as by the Dynasty's war.
Prior to the Dynastic Invasions the most time-efficient form of interstellar travel was the C-drive. Ships with C-drives travelled between stars at just below the speed of light. The Dynasty’s interstellar transports used the D-jump drive, which can instantaneously move a ship up to 9.6 parsecs, (I know technically the ships don’t move, but rather space is folded. But I also know that pedantic technicalities miss the point). Millions of people left their homes to fight against the Dynasty’s attempt to conquer all human worlds. Millions more fled their homes rather than be conquered by the Dynasty. When the War ended the refugees and the veterans who had been traveling between the stars at near the speed of light found a galaxy that had moved on without them. Many of the displaced resettled but many took to wandering the galaxy.
This new class allegiantless and homeless interstellar vagabonds exposed (or created) a new niche in the post-D-drive economy. With the ability to rapidly move between stars the need for couriers increased, small-scale trade became more viable, there was greater demand for scouts, and media exploded because people wanted to know about all the formerly unconnected parts the humanity. If a Void Drifter had a ship they could fill one these roles, but more often Void Drifters were looked to as crew for ships that rarely visited the same planet twice. Space ports became more than commercial centers for the loading and unloading of goods, they became centers for social interaction as throngs of Void Drifters looking for work or a way to escape their past mingled with the freelance starship captains looking to crew an expedition.
The original generation of Void Drifters is passing. But the romantized stories of the Void Drifters' lifestyle- freedom, astonishing experiences, and a greater connection to humanity as a whole than one could get on a single world- inspired a new generation of people to leave home and wander the galaxy. I feel a bit responsible for seducing young people away from their home planets, because I have made a living selling accounts of my time Drifting the Void. While, I would never discourage anyone from seeking their freedom, I would advise against taking to the void without prepartion. I’ve known many would be drifters that fail to find freedom or worse make a fatal mistake while looking for it. Please, before you wander off to the spaceport to begin your life between the stars, take these following points advice to heart. You will live longer and freer if you do.
1: Own your own vacuum suit.
Know how to put on your vacuum suit, know how to take it off, know how to operate the EVA controls (if applicable), know where to attach a tether, learn how to use the patch kit, know where your vacuum suit is and make sure it fits you. If possible get a vacuum suit you can carry comfortably in 1g and put on with out assistance. Make sure that your suit has an ionizing radiation certification of at least 3000 rads/minute. Suits that are double rated as environmental suits or for high-pressure conditions are nice, but aren’t necessary. Start with something dependable and simple.
2: Don’t try to fly or make an unguided landing with your spaceship. Don’t crew on a ship with somebody who is trying to fly or make unguided landings. Know the difference between flying and operating your ship.
If you know difference between flying a spaceship and operating a spaceship you are already ahead of most would be void drifters. Almost every ship since the first migration has had a sophisticated attitude and vector control program if not an outright AI. When you pull back on the piloting orb and your ship decelerates do you know what is actually happening? Flying your ship means controlling (not directing) the propulsion system of your craft while being acted upon by a field of gravity that exceeds the strength of your ship’s gravity. A common mistake novice pilots makes is to assume that just because they are hundreds of millions of kilometers from a star they don’t need to consider the star’s gravity when plotting a vector (if they even plot a vector rather than pointing their ship in a direction engaging the ion drive).
Making an unguided landing on a planetary body is always a risk. Use the spaceports. Most human populated star systems have at least a Class E spaceport. A class E spaceport is just a landing beacon and a maybe clear flat piece of terra firma. The modern land beacon is not a repeating signal or lighthouse type beacon but a sophisticated system that works with your ship's software to carefully guide your ship to the landing zone. You may want to argue this point, because limiting your advetures to defined space ports doesn't fit your view of void drifting. And yes there are millions of pilots who make unguided landings all the time. But are you one of those pilots?
The Dynastic Navy’s dropship pilots are genetically screened, cybernetically enhanced, have to complete a hundred simulated drops and a hundred live drops with a training officer before they can make a solo drop, and they’re still shitty pilots. The Galactic Scouting guild has a ten-year piloting apprenticeship for terrestrial scouts that only 50% of applicants successfully complete. I have known more than one young void drifter to crash and burn because they believed their history of operating a mining scow over a 0.1g rock or the fact they have landed a ship off-beacon once or twice would allow them guide a spacecraft to the surface of planet. Use the landing beacons, that is what they are there for, you will live longer.
Plotting your own interstellar jumps instead of using established jump points and navigational points: it is not worth discussing.