Juno knew this could get him killed. He went over his escape plan, rehearsing the steps in his head, just in case he needed it. Even though he had lost one of his hands years ago in a raid, he still couldn't help wringing its robotic replacement, when he was nervous. He'd given the same speech to the holo-mirror a million times, to get it just right. And he knew it would still be hard on them. They sat quietly at the ship's dining table like Juno asked. His dad held an expression of 'I don't have time for this' with lips clenched and brow furrowed, as clear as if he was holding a proton sign. His mother put a comforting hand on his dad's shoulder. She'd come to expect his temper. She knew what he was capable of and tried her best to quiet his storm.
The little robot that they had come to refer to as Freshie scurried over and poured them glasses of water then scurried away. The silence in the room seemed to amplify the little taps of its feet on the table.
“Don't keep us waiting, boy. Out with it. What do you have to tell us?” His dad demanded. Juno was a man now, by all measurements. But his dad had gotten accustomed to ordering him around like an employee since he was old enough to work in the business and never stopped.
“Whatever it is, son, you can tell us.” His mother added, still cooing in his dad's ear to soothe him. Though, she still wasn't sure how much good she could do if Juno was about to say what she expected him to. The old man might finally up and kill him, today.
Juno sat down at the chair across from his parents and took a breath. He knew there wouldn't be any going back, once he said the words. But he also knew that if he didn't, he would never be free from the family business. So he summoned up the courage that normally comes with drink and said what he'd been practicing. “Mom, Dad, I no longer want to be a space pirate.”
Juno's dad put his hand on the particle blaster that he carried, holstered on his belt. “I'm sorry. I didn't hear you.”
His mother put a hand to her lips. “Oh, son.”
“I didn't stutter. I want out. The life of a space pirate isn't for me.” Juno sat straight in his chair and puffed out his chest. “I didn't expect you to agree with my decision...”
“Son, you're talking gibberish.” Said his dad.
“Dad, I don't want to be a space pirate, anymore. How is that not clear?”
“It almost sounded like you said you don't want to be a space pirate, anymore.” He laughed. “And I think we all know that's just crazy.”
“Dad, I'm serious. I'm out. I can't do this, anymore. The pirate's life just isn't for me. I'm already missing a hand and an eye. Do you want me to look like you before I can quit?”
His mother asked, “But son, what will you do for money?”
“He'll do nothing.” Said his dad. “You can't leave the space pirate life. You come from three generations of pirates. Why, if it was good enough for your great grandmother, Capt. Augusta, it's damn well good enough for you!”
“Dad, Great Grandma was 'captain' of three people on a space schooner and was hanged on her second raid when she tried to take a space liner. How does that make me want to stay?”
“Because it was a glorious raid! People still talk about it, today!”
“Dad... Nobody talks about it. They stopped talking about it when her picture was put up on a list of customers to never sell tickets to.”
“You impudent wretch! Our family invented space so that we could pirate it!” His dad added, hand still on his particle blaster.
Juno shot his open palm out at his dad, as he pleaded to his mother. “You see? You see, right there! Nobody invented space, Dad. Space is like the woods. No one built it. It's just a place that you go.”
His dad drew his particle blaster and pointed it at Juno's face. “Take that back!”
His mother put her hands on his dad's arm that was holding the blaster. “Dear, he does have a point. You can't invent space.”
As he holstered his weapon, his dad asked, “But how can you leave this life, son? It's a good life. You owe that robot arm to the life. We got you the best robot arm that money can buy from space pirating.”
Juno said, “Yeah, but that meant killing, robbing and raping people. You really have to be a special kind of person to be okay with that.”
“Now, hold on right there.” Said Juno's mother. “That's how your father and I met.” She looked at Juno's father and smiled from the corner of her mouth. “He was really good at that third one.”
“Mom! God! Ew!” Juno put his hands to his ears. “Seriously, do you hear yourself when you talk?”
She laughed. “Oh, loosen up.”
“Look,” Said Juno. “I know this is a shock to you both, but I'm serious. I just can't be a space pirate, anymore. I'm tired of the cruelty. And I'm tired of looking over my shoulder every time we make port, because of it.” He swallowed and added, “I won't be at work, Monday morning.”
His parents both gasped at the same time.
“You heard me.”
“What about your little space pirate friends?” Asked his mother. “You were really hitting it off with that boy with the scar across his cheek. You know, the bald one, whatever his name is.”
“Mom, Death Bringer will understand.”
“But how can you leave such a lucrative vocation, son?” He leaned across the table and tapped it with his pointer finger as if pointing to his points. “Your future was done and paid for, with space pirating. How will you make money, without it? You know how expensive retirement is. How will you be able to save for it? What about a wife and kids? Did you think about those? Life is expensive, son.”
“You're right about all that stuff, Dad. I've been putting a lot of thought into how I'll make money. It's crazy, I know, but there is a lot of money in it if I'm good enough. You probably won't approve of it, but I have to try.”
“Son, we're a family of disreputable space pirates. There isn't much that isn't approved. What's your crazy idea?” He leaned back in his chair, expectantly.
“I'm going to be a writer.” Juno said.
His parents both laughed, like he just told them a good joke.
“A writer?” Asked his dad. “I'll keep your bunk warm, kid”
“You'll starve to death.” Said his mother. “Writing?”
“I can do this! I have real-life space pirating experience.” Juno said. “I'll write true-life stories, about it. I'll embellish to make everything seem grittier and always set the stakes at life or death. I'll always have the reader on the edge of their seat and...”
“And you'll starve to death.” Said his dad. “Look, son. I know you have talent. We all enjoyed that space pirate romance story you wrote, Stabby Stabby Stab Stab. It was beautiful and really touched my heart. But you just can't make money off this stuff.”
“What about Stephan Monarch? He's a zillionaire and he doesn't have to pirate anyone for his booty.”
“But you've read his books and you know how bad they are. People don't buy them because they're good. They buy them because they've heard of him. That's why his name is in such giant print on the cover. People buy a book, read half of it, throw it on their space coffee table and then they tell everyone around the space pirate water cooler how good the first half was, and how 'I really need to finish it'. But, they never seem to get around to it.”
“It's true.” Said his mother. “His books are horrible!”
Juno sighed. “But, I have to try. Every night, I'm in my cabin, writing for hours. I just know that will pay off, one day.”
“I know. We've been meaning to talk to you about that. It's been a while since we've seen you with a girl.”
“Leave me alone about that. Now, wouldn't it be great if I got paid for something that I do, anyway?” Trying to explain it exhausted Juno, but knew it would be a fight.
“Yeah, it would. I would like to see you succeed in life, doing what makes you happy, son.” His father said. For a moment, Juno thought he was winning him over, until he added, “And that should be space pirating.”
“It really is for the best.” Said his mother.
“Neither one of you is listening! I'll just have to show you.” Said Juno. “I'll be leaving the space ship. The next time you see me, I'll be a rich and famous writer.” Juno confidently walked out the automatic door, without another word.
“Do you think it's because he wasn't getting enough rum in his diet?” Asked his mother.
“Must be.” Said his father.