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.

3: Change your name.

Choose a name or handle that can be represented by a pictogram or other symbol. There are millions of languages and codes, and just as many programs for translating them between the different languages. Much of the communication is done via non-verbal transmission and it is easier to transmit an image of a Wrench than it is the pronunciation of the name Valerie. I don't know if people translate my name to Wrench, Spanner or Tool, but they know how to talk to me. This may seem like a small point but believe me, ships are more likely to invite a Yellow-Wing, a Keypad or Mug on board than they are a Arradaryl or a Shannon. What is a Shannon? And how do you represent Shannon via pictogram? Are you the kind of person that insists on being identified with some useless made up word?

4: Bring trade goods or hospitality gifts.

As a void drifter you are going to have to pack light, and it is a sad truth that when crewing a ship the technical skills and spacefaring experience often come in second to personality and charm. A small gift or a shared drink can do a lot to make you appear charming. Additionally, as an interstellar vagabond you will almost always be a guest or a visitor. On most planets it is consider good manners to offer something to your hosts, even small tokens. Packing a bottle of liquor to share, small gifts of fresh or dried fruits or bringing media files to distribute are all excellent ways to grease the wheels of social interaction. Small technological trinkets, esoteric drugs or keep sake souvenirs need to be handled with delicacy. These types of gifts can be seen as condescending, tacky or just plain criminal. In short, while gift giving is useful tool, it is not the whole answer. Ask yourself how far you can get on your charm and personality. If the answer is ‘not far enough', then it is best to pack a few extra ‘gifts'.

5: Keep up with your personal hygiene.

This includes exercise, grooming, diet but also regular medical care. It may be unglamorous and pedantic but take a dental kit, self-sanitizer, nutritional supplements, spare parts and backup software for your cybernetics and a personal waste recycler. There are few things worse than being 100 light years from the nearest medical office and somebody comes down with a staph infection of the skin, an abscessed tooth or starts suffering from malnutrution because of some esoteric micronutrient required by everyone on their home planet.

6: Have a goal and a destination.

I know that having a goal may seem anathema to the tenants of void drifting, but believe me you can't just wander around the galaxy. The goal doesn't need to be something big and your goal can change, but you need some reason to wake up each day. My most successful piece of media is 'Sanquhar to Solway by C-drive'. I didn't take that trip looking to write a book and I didn't take that trip randomly either. I wanted to see the ‘Fair of Steel' on Solway also called the ‘Festival of Swords'. I had heard about the Fair while working on construction on the 'Career's End' space station-70 parsecs from Solway. It took me seven lived years to reach Sanquhar, the closet navigable star to Solway. In those seven years I crewed on six different interstellar ships, surfed the global wave on Gamedyia 3, visited eleven different worlds and twice as many star systems, I negotiated the surrender of a hostile Skaa'rug tribe, learned to fly conventional aircraft, worked as a mining scow pilot, tutored the children of Dynastic Nobels and on Sanquhar I had my own child. The goal didn't keep me from doing any of these things but it kept me moving. A Void Drifter needs to keep moving. So what are you looking for out there?
Login or Register to Award axlerowes XP if you enjoyed the submission!
? axlerowes's Awards and Badges
Longest Comment 2010 Dungeons of the Year 2010 Most Comments 2012