A cycle later, X'melborp found Human Greg in the ship Conservatory, sitting in a long bench beneath a some of the larger plant life. He was sitting slumped, with his head resting in his hands.
"Hello, Human Greg," X'melborp said timidly.
"Go away," Greg said without moving.
"I will, but first I have a gift for you." X'melborp took a piece of faux-paper from his bag. He had figured the similarity to Earth materials might help put Human Greg at ease. "I know it is not Brevity Quest anymore, and that my last entry upset you, but I would still like to submit this for your consideration."
"What is it?" said Human Greg irritably.
"Just read it."
List of Andarian Radar Technicians named X'melborp who do not regret hurting Human Greg's feelings:
List of Andarian Radar Technicians named X'melborp who are not deeply ashamed of their misconduct:
List of Andarians aboard Prosperity named X'melborp who do not wish to be friends with Human Greg--
"What is this?"
"Oh no," said X'melborp. "I made it too convoluted! It is meant to be an apology."
Human Greg said nothing.
"I realize now that in my efforts to recreate friendly human-like vitriolic bonding interactions, I may have overstepped into actual insult, which was not my intention. I am sorry."
"Friendly?" said Greg. "Are you kidding me? You've been a complete dick to me ever since I got here! You're bossy, you're nitpicky, you follow me around and insult me-- then you pulled that Brev Quest crap--"
"I did not mean to insult you!" said X'melborp. "Or, I did, but I thought that was how it was done! My research indicates that humans insult eachother to show affection! If I had known you were offended, I would have stopped!"
"But it's not just you, now, though! All I ever tried to do was get along with everyone, and now everyone on the ship hates me."
"They do not hate you!" said X'melborp. "Nobody hates you! We are all thrilled to have the honor of guiding and Uplifting a young species into the Galactic Federation!"
Human Greg snorted. X'melborp thought at first it might be because of an inhalant obstruction, but then recalled that snorting in many human cultures was used to indicate disbelief.
"It's true!" he said. "Everyone is looking forward to the human integration. We've been waiting for ages for integration clearance! The commander of the Prosperity personally fought very hard to get you here."
Human Greg looked up. "She did? She didn't say anything."
"Yes. Because Uplifting a new species is such a great responsibility, the Galactic Council do not typically let other recently Uplifted Species to guide them. Andarians were only Uplifted and Integrated about eight billion years ago." X'melborp smiled sheepishly. "We are your closest neighbors in age, and you are the first we have been permitted to guide. Did they not tell you this when they sent you?"
Greg shook his head. "Nobody told me that. They just said I had to do good and not embarrass us all in front of you guys. Didn't work, I guess, what with the whole ship parroting how shitty we are. If they're so happy to have me, then why are they all being such assholes?"
"Human Greg," said X'melborp seriously. "It was a very funny joke."
Human Greg glowered at him.
"I am sorry, Human Greg. You were uncomfortable because you are the only human," X'melborp said. "I wanted to alleviate that tension, because I believe I can understand that discomfort."
Sarcasm again. "It is true! Haven't you noticed? I am the only male Andarian on the whole ship."
Human Greg paused. "Wait, seriously?"
"Yes. Haven't you noticed?"
"I'm kinda unfamiliar with how to, uh, differentiate--"
X'melborp pointed to his forehead. "Look, I have three horns, and females only have two."
"Ohhhkay. Why aren't there any other--?"
"Because Andarians are hatched in clutches of about twenty, with a one-to-twenty male-to-female ratio."
"Oh," said Human Greg.
"So you see," said X'melborp, "I did not want another to experience the same sense of othering as I had. That's why I did so much research on humans before you got here, and why I tried to emulate fraternal human bonding rituals. I am deeply sorry that I've succeeded only in causing the very situation I wanted to avoid."
There was a tense moment of silence before Greg sighed, "fine."
"Fine, I forgive you."
X'melborp approached Human Greg and wrapped all four arms around him at once, then squeezed.
"Oof," said Greg. "What are you doing?"
X'melborp continued to hug him. "I have been told that full body compression is beneficial for human well being."
"That in your research?" gasped Greg. He started to wriggle. X'melborp took this to be a sign of joy and continued to hug.
"No. We learned it at the mandatory human integration training seminar before you were recruited."
Human Greg broke out of the hug and stumbled back onto the bench. "Seminar?" he wheezed.
X'melborp sat beside him. "Yes, Human Greg. Because your species is new to the Galactic Alliance, and so few in number, and so vulnerable, and because the Prosperity was not a human-integrated ship, we were all taught the basics of human interpersonal relationships and care."
"Really?" Greg said suspiciously. "Like what?"
"Like how humans urinate when they're afraid."
"What? No we don't."
"Yes you do," said X'melborp. "That's why we're instructed to never touch a frightened human, because they will urinate in defense."
"Maybe little kids or something! What else did they teach you?"
"That sometimes human brains chemically malfunction and make humans despair to the point of self destruction. That's why we are trained to bodily incapacitate and restrain any human who looks too sad."
Human Greg stared. "You're joking."
"What exactly is 'looks too sad'?"
"So if I came up to you tomorrow, bawling my eyes out because my cat died--"
"I would immediately tackle and restrain you," said X'melborp cheerfully. He rummaged through his pockets and pulled out several plastic strips. "Look, they even gave us all zip-ties!"
Human Greg stared another moment longer, then burst out laughing.
"What is so funny?" said X'melborp.
"You all don't know anything about humans!"
X'melborp wanted to argue, but this was the first indication of happiness Greg had displayed in a long time, and he didn't want to ruin it.
"Hello X'melborp! Hello Human Greg!"
X'melborp looked up and saw three staff members walking towards them.
"Hello, Torblix, X'axith, Mon'drax," he said. Human Greg was still chuckling too hard to answer.
"What are you laughing at?" said Torblix.
"Is it Human Greg's inadequacy?" said X'axith.
Greg stopped laughing.
"Hey, Torblax," said X'melborp. "You know how I am the only male Andarian aboard Prosperity?"
"Doesn't that mean that, by definition, I am also the worst male Andarian aboard?"
The three looked at X'melborp in shock. Then realization. Then they began to laugh.
"It is true!" said X'axith. "You are the worst, X'melborp!"
"Both of the worsts are companions!" said Mon'drax.
Torblix pulled out her comms device and began typing. "I have to share this joke with everyone!" They walked off, still laughing.
"Ugh," said Human Greg.
"Cheer up, Human Greg!" said X'melborp, wrapping an arm around him. "Now you are not the only one they will be mocking."
"Watch," said Greg. "You're gonna get sick of it real fast."
"I have heard that shared hardship is also a source of human bonding."
"You heard phooey," said Greg, but he did not sound mad. "Come on," he said, getting to his feet.
"What?" said X'melborp.
"An actually healthy bonding ritual," he said. "Dinner. I'm starved."
X'melborp followed him, smiling, to the mess hall.