I realize that most, if not all, of you are here because you’re Black Ocean readers (for those who aren’t yet, it’s never too late!). So most of you have read Salvage Trouble, either in ebook or audio format, as a standalone or part of the Galaxy Outlaws collection. A select very of you may even have read A Pilot’s Pilot, which was Salvage Trouble’s original title before a cover designer pointed out that it sucked.
But what if I told you that wasn’t the first Black Ocean text that ever existed?
Originally, A Pilot’s Pilot was going to have a prologue. It informed the tone and setting of Black Ocean, but never made it into the finished book because it was all exposition and background that no one was going to care about, like the scrolling wall of text ahead of the Star Wars prequels.
But since this is the space where I talk about the stuff I don’t publish, I felt like maybe this was a good time to share it. So, without further ado:
The Lost Black Ocean Prologue
In the year 2254 gravity was officially declared to be magic; the scientists gave up trying to figure it out and handed it over to the wizards. Without the inherent respect for the laws of physics, the wizards poked and prodded at gravity, poring over all that science knew about the attraction of one object to the next, and dismissing it as poppycock. They discovered ways around the tired old limits, and gave birth to the first true starships. Some enlightened journalist, covering the maiden voyage of the Impossible, noted that the ship was shaped like a hand giving the middle finger to science.
Back in those days, every kid wanted to grow up to be the next Captain Stammek, zooming off to deep space to see what wonders lay waiting to be discovered. Who could blame them? The slick black uniform with shining gold buttons, name in the news every day with that billion-terra smile, speeches in front of the World Council [World Council = Earth Government]—he had it all. He was a living legend.
In 2258, the Convocation of Arcane Practitioners was officially recognized as the governing body of Earth’s wizards. They drifted from the darkness of myth and superstition into the faded grey shadows of rumors and conspiracy theorists.
By 2272 Earth had waged its first interstellar war, and things changed a bit. Humanity realized a number of important things. They had learned that we were not alone in the universe, which was a key factor in having a war out there in the Black Ocean. They learned that most sentient races did not send armed warships on exploration missions. They also learned—a bit too late—that Captain Miles Stammek [Historical Figure] had the diplomatic skills of a wild boar.
2290 saw the formation of ARGO, the Allied Races of the Galactic Ocean. As Earth made enemies, they realized the need for allies as well, and rounded up vassal races to shore up the mutual defenses of all members. Humanity also expanded their sphere of influence to include any habitable world that no one else was willing to park a battleship over. “Colonist” became a job title and breathed new life into the ancient credo: Manifest Destiny.
In 2319, Genevieve Laurent launched the first privately owned interstellar ship, the Minstrel. This created a rush of wealthy ship-owners, each looking to have the finest vessel money, science, and wizardry could conspire to fabricate. These pioneering crafts were individual works of art, no two alike. Capitalists with aspirations to greatness dreamed of the day when they could build their own ship and tour the galaxy on their own terms.
By the year 2350, space travel had gone corporate. Citizens of ARGO worlds could fly with Allesterne [German: all stars], TransGalactica, Wuxian [Simplified Chinese: Infinity], or any number of charter services. Space Unlimited and Nebulon built ships for commercial cargo transport, while MyStel, Honda, and Frontier Starworks vied for the emerging personal starship market.
With its citizens plunging headlong into the frenzy of non-governmental space travel, a new type of organization took form: the intragalactic corporation. Back in those days, every business school student wanted to become the next Hal Ladenburg [Historical (commercial) Figure], who turned his little home brewery into a quadrillion-terra trade empire by becoming Earth’s Preferred Beer. It didn’t matter whether it was true when he said it; he made it true everywhere outside the Sol System by being the first to lay claim to the market. By 2400, Earth’s Preferred was the human beverage of choice for more than thirty species.
Of course, the rest of the galaxy caught on eventually, and human traders had to scrape their way by just like all the other money-grubbers. Some did well enough for themselves, but exactly half did worse than average. The ones that fell far enough down either gave up or moved on. The galaxy was a big place, and once you got beyond ARGO’s reach, a lot fewer rules and regulations applied. That let a certain breed of underclass evolve, the sort that solved their own problems and did business with a gun in hand to keep things on the level.
Back in those days, men had visions of becoming outlaws and criminal kingpins, the next Jesse James or Al Capone. There wasn’t much to stop a determined sort from finding a ship, arming it to the teeth, and taking the life he wanted from the galaxy. Visions of boarding assaults on luxury cruisers and private yachts vied with dreams of private planets and exotic alien slaves.
By 2512, owning a starship was the same as any other business. You could buy them new, used, or pieced together from spare parts. They shipped cargo, ferried passengers, and generally got a person from one system to another. Ship owners still dreamed of hitting on something that would make them rich: an unexplored world ripe with precious metals, a utopian planet to turn into a resort, a cache of alien magical artifacts that would sell for billions back on Earth.
Nobody ever dreamed that they would be sailing the Black Ocean with a crew of castoffs, answering distress calls and hoping to arrive in time to get first pick of the salvage …