Science to build a starship. Wizardry to take it past light speed. A crew to give it a soul.
The Mobius is a cobbled-together ship with a matching crew. Captain Carl Ramsey is an ex-Earth Navy pilot whose crew won't let him fly his own ship. The pilot is his ex-wife, the mechanic is a drunk, and the chief of security is from a predatory species. Instead of a star-drive to travel through the astral space between worlds, the ship's wizard does it by hand.
Mission 1: Salvage Trouble
A salvage mission turns into a rescue, and no good deed goes unpunished. With two refugees onboard, the Mobius crew is hounded by bounty hunters, border partols, and corporate enforcers.
Mission 2: A Smuggler's Conscience
"Don't open the package." It's the smuggler's credo for good reason. When the Mobius crew takes a peek at their illicit cargo, the entire job takes an about-face.
Mission 3: Poets and Piracy
The Mobius crew gets caught in a turf war between a pirate fleet and a galactic criminal syndicate. The trick is getting everyone out alive (and maybe getting paid in the process).
Mission 4: To Err is Azrin
Sometimes you can't go home again. When a job takes the crew to their security chief's homeworld, she gets dragged into a familial power struggle. Can the rest of the crew bail her out of an old feud gone horribly wrong?
Bonus Short Story: Guardian of the Plundered Tomes
Mordecai The Brown has been on the run from the Convocation for decades. How does a respectable wizard with a wife and two kids end up crisscrossing the galaxy in the company of outlaws?
Once an author has survived the IOD's 40-minute testing ground, I tend to check out the rest of their work to see just how deep the magic goes. J.S. Morin was the first one I actually followed into a different genre, and I'm glad I did. His fantasy work was meaty and dark, but sometimes I'm in the mood for something a bit more...rock and roll, and that's exactly what I got here. The premise itself is what first drew me in: Science to build the ship, a wizard to make it go, and a crew to give it a soul. Black Ocean is a clever blending of genres that gets around some of the limitations of both, and in doing so, delivers a world that feels both lived in and an awful lot of fun to visit. Just when the space hijinx start to feel familiar, the wizard drops in to kick the story on its ass. If you like your adventure quarrelsome, audacious, and unpredictable, then the good ship Mobius has got you covered. – Jefferson Smith
"This series is a delightful blend of Firefly and Fantasy. The relationships between the crew are real, often funny, and nothing is wasted in building and developing the characters. A flawed leader with an assortment of misanthropes trying to survive in a universe controlled by autocrats and wizards."– Amazon Review
"Morin has a great take on the sci-fi space jockey-gone-rogue. The missions are fast paced with fun story lines and quality characters. He has my wife and I laughing along with the characters."– Amazon Review
"With a captain/pilot who is not allowed to fly his own ship...enforced by his ex-wife who is the pilot, and a sentient cat, monkey for crew and a wizard to help navigate. These stories are wonderful. The interactions between the crew is comical. And their missions dangerous. You can't help but be entertained by these stories."– Amazon Review
"It's like Firefly with wizards. What else do you need?"– Amazon Review
Carl's eyes glazed over as the referee gave them instructions on both the battle setup and the basic controls of the simulator. He resisted the urge to tell the jumped-up waiter where he could shove his "new pilot tips," but he needed to keep his cool to let the odds drift up. Besides, Adam probably needed the help, possibly Mriy, too. Tanny would be fine. Piloting a marine transport wasn't like handling a starfighter, but she'd been through flight school—at least what the marines passed off as flight school.
As he climbed into the cockpit of the simulator labeled Blue Two, he felt a wave of nostalgia. Underneath the scent of beer and the rickety canopy whose hydraulics could have used an overhaul, it was still a Typhoon III simulator. It took Carl back to his academy days, not the first go-round as a cadet, but the second time, as a flight instructor teaching dirt-booted pilots how to fly the Typhoon IV. The differences between the two ships only mattered to sticklers and bureaucrats; it was even running the same UI and training programs.
Analog toggle switches were scattered across the inside of the cockpit. Without even giving it a second thought, Carl flipped through them in a standard pre-flight check. Most were stiff with disuse, a few sticky. It took Carl until he was halfway through the check before he noticed that none of them were functioning. Someone had dumbed down the simulator to diner-patron simplicity. The flight yoke was loose and free though, and had just the right amount of resistance to feel stable. Reaching behind him, he found the helm for Blue Two and plunked it down over his head with a grimace. He hadn't watched who had last flown in the unit, but now he smelled the foul chili-pepper concoction his predecessor had eaten prior to playing.
Once he had his helmet on, Carl was bombarded with comm noise.
This is great! We're going to win!
My ears are squashed against my head.
What'd she say?
All right, when we start, just follow my lead.
The comm was low-end and fuzzy and flattened the voices so badly that he could only tell the speakers by context. He should have realized that Adam wouldn't be able to understand Mriy. Mort could have loaned him his translator charm; the old wizard understood azrin well enough without it. In the end, of course, it didn't matter anyway. Let the diners laugh themselves silly until the fighting actually started.
Contrary to whatever instincts screamed in his head, Carl kept silent. The betting period would close once the simulated fighters launched. Hopefully Mort was letting the odds drift to their high point before placing his bet. It wouldn't have surprised him if Mort was the only one placing a bet on the Blue Squadron.
The heads-up display showed a countdown, starting thirty seconds out. Carl cracked his knuckles.
At twenty seconds, he tilted his neck back and forth, working loose any kinks.
At ten seconds, he took a long, slow breath.
Then the countdown hit zero. Carl punched the throttle to full and was first out of the simulated hangar. In flight school, it had always been a point to brag about. The simulators didn't accept any inputs before the countdown finished, so a partially opened throttle was a recipe for a slow start. His Typhoon III rocketed out into the hologlobe battlefield, which was different from the one the Mobius crew had just watched. Carl didn't need the nav display to know that it was Frontier Station Bravo, an unusual place for a dogfight. A working (albeit fictional) space station, Frontier Station Bravo was swarming with civilian traffic at the start of the simulation. In flight school runs, it was meant to be a defense against a raid, with the defense of the civilians paramount.
All right, everybody, you see them on radar? Let's get there before they know what hit them. Full throttle, and everyone aim for the guy on the far left. Adam's strategy was straight out of the pre-adolescent belief that heroes were bold and brave.
Mriy's ship followed as Adam continued to pour ions out of his thrusters, but Carl hung back, easing off his own throttle. Tanny was smart enough to follow suit. Shield flashes marked the opening salvos from both sides, Adam hitting several times from beyond his cannons' optimal range, and Mriy connecting once or twice with marginally effective shots. The Viper squad waited until they closed range with Adam and Mriy, and Blue Leader and Blue Four exploded in short order.
"Blue Two to Blue Three: Tanny, mind taking up position on my six. Let's show these guys some flying."
Roger Blue Two. Try not to get us both killed.
Carl laughed over the comm. "Don't worry; it's just a game." He opened the throttle and veered toward the civilian shipping lanes, where a thirty-four ship convoy was headed for the safety of the station's docking bays.
Carl, what are you doing?
The Viper Squadron turned to give chase, but their lines of fire were spoiled by congested ship traffic crossing between the two squads. Carl fought with an under-used switch on the side of the flight yoke, one not too many civilian sim-jockeys would bother with even if they realized it was there. He flicked it on and off, working the switch loose, the simulator's hydraulics bucking to mimic the shuddering that alternating the flight control assist on and off would cause. He left it in the "off" position and pivoted his typhoon to aim the guns back at Viper Squadron. Starfighters were complicated enough to fly without needing to perform advanced physics calculations on the go. The flight control system made the ship compensate for existing momentum in executing turns and rolls. With it turned off, Carl had the freedom to spin his ship and fire his lateral and vertical thrusters to angle in any direction he liked—but he had to worry about managing the ship's momentum himself.
Of course, now he was flying mostly backwards and a bit to port.
Tanny dove out of his way as Carl opened fire. He tracked one of the Viper Squad, shooting it just before it passed behind a medical evac ship, then again once it emerged on the far side. The target's shields sputtered and died out, as Carl's shot hit at the spot where the generator was most vulnerable. Tanny swung around and put in two quick shots to destroy it.
You're a fucking maniac!
Carl grinned, turning his flight controls back on and slinging his ship through the station traffic. He headed for the far side of the station, Tanny taking up position behind him.
Where are we going? They're the other way.
"I'm a good shot, but there's still three of them. Rather string 'em out and pick 'em off."
The station's defense cannons fired, but it was all for show. Unless someone had really monkeyed with the programming, they would never aim anywhere near the combatants. They were just meant to make cadets feel like they were in a live-fire situation. Avoiding a fleeing passenger liner, Carl swung through the interior of the ring-shaped station. Checking his radar, he saw that the three remaining members of Viper Squadron were closing in, spread wide to take up multiple firing angles.
As soon as he broke line-of-sight with them, Carl switched off the flight assist again and spun his typhoon.
Stop doing that!
Tanny looped around in a standard turn, but didn't have her guns around by the time Carl opened fire on the first of the Vipers to emerge from behind the station's bulk. Using his vertical thrusters and pitching downward simultaneously, he maneuvered his craft to keep its aim on the Vipers while backing out of the path of their turn to intercept him. One exploded in a hail of withering fire from Carl's cannons, but the other two changed tactics and focused their fire on Tanny. Her long, looping turn had left her exposed with nothing but her shields between her and the two Vipers. Twisting and rolling, she tried to keep them off target, but she was blasted out of space.
Carl found himself alone against two opponents. He breathed a sigh of relief, careful not to have his comm open. With a growing grin, he fired his directional thrusters and looped around to give chase.
There was any number of ways that flight school cadets would react to unexpectedly finding themselves on the defensive. Carl had seen them all. The ones destined to wash out just panicked and froze. Others would scatter for cover, which was always a low-percentage play in deep space; not many real battles would take place in congested regions like the simulator. The good ones regrouped with their squadron and adapted to the flow of the fight. Carl had found a pair that wanted to go out in a blaze of glory; they both turned to fix their plasma cannons on his typhoon.
Carl turned on his comm and laughed out loud. He knew they couldn't hear him inside their simulator cockpits, but he taunted them anyway. "You lunar ferrymen couldn't hit your own mouths with a toothbrush. What are you even aiming at? Are you trying to blow up the station or me?"
Frontier Station Bravo had innumerable contours, from sensor arrays to small ship docking arms, gun ports to reactor nacelles. Carl knew them all as if he had built the place with his own two hands—not that it actually ever existed. He wove his way along the surface of the station with his ship's momentum carrying him along backward, firing his guns at the pursuing Vipers and his thrusters to keep from crashing. It was a failing grade in any simulator run to splatter on an inanimate target, so he had always loved challenging cadets to chase him through the hazardous region.
"If you haven't already, can someone please set the display area to a quarter kilometer? You'll get to see what I'm flying through up here."
Carl spun around forward and pulled up, leaving the vicinity of the station and re-entering the traffic flow. The two Vipers were keeping a cautious pursuit, wary of Carl's free-form flying and reverse angling of his guns. He slowed to allow them to close the distance, and plowed head-on into the line of ships headed for the station. In his imagination, the two enemy pilots were swearing up a storm in their cockpits, and were probably to the point of blaming one another for their inability to finish off the lone survivor of Blue Squadron.
There was a point in the simulation coming up that was meant to test cadet reactions to unexpected turns of events. There was a corvette in the middle of the convoy that was supposed to get frustrated at the slower ships blocking its way to safe harbor. Carl angled his ship right into the impending path of the corvette, and … he passed through as the corvette veered … now. One of the two Vipers slammed into the corvette as its pilot swerved from the orderly line of fleeing ships. The trailing enemy ship flew through the debris field and right into Carl's gun sights as he spun again and hammered a full five volleys into the Viper ship before its pilot could bring its own guns to bear.
The simulator went quiet, and a humble "VICTOR" appeared on the heads-up display.