"I’ll just take Sam’s brain to Momma Bosco’s lab,” Max said, while in the middle of putting it back in the jar. “Then maybe she can put it in the clone, and if she doesn’t know how, maybe she knows someone who does.”
Cocky shifted his weight uneasily. “Sounds like a plan,” he said. “Do you really think it’ll work?”
“It HAS to work,” Max mumbled. “It just has to. If it doesn’t, I don’t know what I’ll do.”
Cocky turned around to see his friends and wondered how he was going to formulate the question. He didn’t have to. Brock rubbed his nose and said “We’ll give you a ride on the ship there. If you want.” He turned to look at Des, nervously. “And if the captain’s okay with that.”
Desiree shook her head. “I guess we’re partially responsible for this, seeing as how we left this idiot running around your planet unchecked.” She looked at Cocky, who just looked away, embarrassed. “Yes, we’ll take you to the lab.”
Max looked up. He smiled briefly, too briefly. “I don’t know how to thank you guys. I’ll take you up on the offer, because who knows how long the brain will keep alive in this jar.”
“As far as I know, for a long time. But you have to change the contents of the jar every few days. Like a fish tank…” Cocky noticed everybody was giving him the dirty eye, so he simply snapped his mouth shut.
Max finished closing the lid. He paused for a second; then turned around to look at the group. “Could you guys give me a minute or two with Sam? I don’t know what’s going to happen. But still. I.” Max swallowed hard. “I need to say goodbye.”
The lagomorphs retreated respectfully to a reasonable distance. Max was kneeling next to Sam, and he seemed to be whispering something. Then they saw that Max was carefully untying Sam’s tie.
Cocky turned his back on the scene. “Don’t say anything,” Cocky said.
“I wasn’t gonna,” Brock commented.
Des ignored Cocky’s plea. “What I find incredible is that apparently you’re capable of feeling guilt.”
“Ugh,” Cocky groaned. He released the locks and took off his helmet. “This is giving me a headache. And I resent what you’re implying. I am not a monster.”
“Yet you did it without a second thought,” Desiree stated, merciless.
Cocky frowned. “I honestly had no idea they were this close! You know how it’s so rare for us to make strong bonds with someone out of… our kind. And you should have read the newspapers. I thought…” Cocky rubbed his temples. “I read a lot of stuff, and it never seemed to me they were actually good friends. In some of the interviews Max seemed actually resentful. I thought he was being treated unfairly. The only time I saw them together, they were fighting about something or other. Eh. I guess I was wrong.”
“Oh, Cocky,” Desiree sighed, “you’re always like that. When you win, you win big. When you lose, you lose big. There’s no middle ground with you, is that right?”
Cocky crossed his arms, exasperated.
“Can we pretend I already feel bad enough, without you guys railing against me about it?”
“Hey, I’m not saying anything. You already know,” Desiree said.
“Me neither,” Brock declared.
“Thanks, I appreciate it.”
“You’ll still have to live with it, though,” Brock mumbled.
“Et tu, Brock?” Cocky whimpered.
Brock shrugged. The whole thing was interrupted by Max, who was carrying the jar and Sam’s tie, tied loosely around his left upper arm.
“I’m ready. Let’s go, quick, before it gets slippery for me again.”
They walked to the ship in silence. Neither Brock nor Desiree understood what Max had meant with that cryptic phrase. But Cocky did understand it, perhaps too well.