They wanted to keep him in the medical ward for the entire healing process.

"How long is that?" he'd asked.

The doctors, six of them, had exchanged glances. "One and a half rotations," said one.

It took Greg a moment to translate that into Earth time. "Six months? You want me to stay in bed for six months?"

"Your structure is compromised," said another doctor.

"No, no. Just give me some crutches and let me get back to work. I'm good, really!"

They said no.

"I want a second opinion."

They said he had six of them right there.

"I want a human opinion! Or someone who knows humans! Send my X-rays to a doctor on the Fantasia!"

They weren't happy, but relented when the Commander intervened. They were even more unhappy when the Fantasia doctors responded that it wasn't too serious a fracture, and that there was no need for him to be bedridden for six months as he'd be entirely cured in three. Just give him some crutches and let him do his job.

What about a wheelchair? The Prosperity doctors asked.

Unnecessary, the Fantasia doctors responded.

So they gave him crutches, but they also re-cast his leg in the largest, most ungainly, lumpy cast they could manage, one that would secure his leg for healing, but also make it near-impossible for him to walk anywhere, even with crutches.

"You guys are really petty," he said.

They were only concerned, they said.

Greg responded with some choice Earth words their translators didn't understand, but whose meaning they could guess.

* * * * *

Despite the cast, Greg did manage to walk. It was laborious and inconvenient, but he'd be damned if he was going to let anyone bully him into staying in bed forever. It was slow going getting to his room, not helped by the fact that on the way, groups of his fellow crew members, people he recognized and ones he didn't, stopped him to talk.

"Are you well? Have you been eating?"
"I am so glad to see you are walking!"
"Your blood was so red! It got everywhere!"
"Did they replace your bones with a sturdier material? I heard they were considering titanium."
"Could I assist you in any way? You seem to be struggling."
"Why aren't you in bed? Your leg's broken, right?"
"I mean, I had heard human blood was red, but I didn't think it was so red--"
"They put padded covering on the escalator steps in case it happens again."
"Human Greg, I saw you fall! Do you remember?"
"I do not know if you still need your blood, but I think Janitorial still has it."
"May we see your leg? We have never seen a broken bone before."
"Human Greg--"
"Human Greg?"
"Human Greg!

"Sorry guys!" he said to the last group. They had followed him to his room. He pointed at the door and said, "I've got to rest for a while. I'm feeling a little tired."

They left, some more understanding than others, and he went inside.

Gregory's living accommodations were unique compared to others on the ship. Like most of the other crew members, he had two rooms, one for sleeping, and one for general recreation. Unlike most others on the ship, he also had a personal restroom and a small hotel-style kitchenette.

And today, his room was full of deliveries. Every available surface was full of stuff, and when they'd run out of surfaces, whoever-it-was had started stacking stuff on the floor. Some of the stuff was recognizable; books bound in the Earth style-- some of which actually looked like Earth imports-- blankets, clothes, dolls and plushes, potted flowers and plants-- only some of which were from Earth. But then there were other things, colorful boxes full of what looked like glass, but rippled like water when touched and sent tingles up his arm. Metal balls that hummed comfortingly when he held them. Weird gizmos and doodads whose function he couldn't fathom.

The table in the middle of the room was piled high with cards. A few were Earth-style cards made out of paper or faux paper, but those were the minority. Most of them were silver disks that, when touched a certain way, projected little holograms chosen or recorded by the sender.

He picked one up and played it. An Andarian wearing the uniform of the Unintegrated Harmony ship appeared in miniature. "Human Greg!" it said. "This is Tazix from your sister ship, Harmony. I am a fan of your show, and I hope you are feeling better! Know that we on the Harmony are looking forward to obtaining our own Integration Clearance, and that the videos you and Technician X'melborp create are very educational!"

The hologram shut off. He picked up another disk.

A muscular reptilian alien of a species he didn't recognize appeared. "Human Greg," it rasped. "I am Xzzth from Greeblonk 9. I wish for your speedy recovery, and suggest you devour Andarian X'melborp to aid your recovery. As he is the one who wronged you, it is only right he serves as sustenance to fuel your healing. Xzzth out." The hologram gave a chest-pounding salute and flickered off.

He looked back at the table. There must've been about a hundred of them piled up haphazardly. After a few minutes, when he was sure the last of the crowd from earlier is gone, he went to the door to go find X'melborp.

It took him twenty minutes to waddle his way to X'melborp's workstation. On the way, crew mates, both those he knew and didn't know, stopped him to ask how he was feeling, if there was anything they could get him, and for him to explain how human biology worked that they should break so easily.

"I'm fine, thank you," he said for what felt like the millionth time. "Humans are complicated, I'll tell you later. Yes, all of our blood is red, that's normal. No, I'm fine. Thank you, though!"

When he finally reached X'melborp's station, he saw the Andarian talking to his computer's camera.

"Therefore," said X'melborp, "it is imperative that we further our understanding of the--"

Quietly, Greg crept inside, sneaking behind X'melborp into view of the camera. He grinned and leaned against the back wall.

X'melborp continued on, oblivious. "Only with extensive study can we hope to achieve--"

"Shouldn't you be working?" said Greg.

"Ahh!" X'melborp jumped in his seat and swiveled to face him. "Human Greg! You startled me! Should you not be in the medical ward?"

"Nah, I'm fine. I've got the next few cycles off, then I'm back in the saddle."

"I do not know that idiom, but I am glad you are apparently feeling well."

"Thanks. Hey, X'melborp, why is there a bunch of stuff in my room? Did you know about that?"

X'melborp beamed.

"Those are gifts from my compassionate viewers," he said. "They were very concerned about your well being! Many of them are from species like my own where physical damage to one's body is not easily incurred, and very difficult to recover from, and so when they saw how badly damaged you were-- well, you can imagine how upsetting that was."

Greg parsed that for a second. "Did... did you upload the video of me falling?"

"Yes. Once it became clear that you would recover. I thought it important that others know to care for their human companions better than I have, and also to inform those who might someday interact with humans that, despite the severe nature of the injury, humans can heal from structural damage."

Greg sighed. Privacy seemed to be one of those concepts X'melborp understood in theory, but not in practice.

"Are you going to stay here?" X'melborp said. "You are welcome to do so, but I warn you that you were correct, and I, in fact, do have work I should be attending--"

"Nah, nah, I'll head out said Greg. See you later."

X'melborp waved goodbye, and lacking anything else to do, Greg went back to his room.

* * * * *

The next cycle found Greg in his room, dying of boredom.
He tried rooting through all the hologram cards and gifts, but Even as they cheered him up, he still found himself pacing awkwardly around the room, unable to keep still.

It didn't help that what he normally did these days when he wasn't working was hanging out with X'melborp or coworker's from his own workstation, and they were all busy.

In the end, after cleaning his apartment twice over and failing to read three different books, he went sent a request to the Commander to let him work the next day. Then he put in a movie in some untranslated alienese language he didn't know and napped until X'melborp got off.

* * * * *

His coworkers were surprised to see him back.

"Human Greg," said Val'raex, an Andarian he worked with. "Shouldn't you be resting still?"

"Nah, I'm fine. Commander gave me clearance."

She looked uncertain, but didn't say anything more. Which made her the only one who didn't say more. Most of the day went smoothly, aside from the people on their breaks who kept coming over to talk to him. Normally he wouldn't mind, but it was like they were coming in shifts; anytime one group would be done, someone else would just start their break and come over, asking the same questions as everyone else. Several times, he caught X'melborp out of the corner of his eye hanging by the beverage dispensary, trying not look look like he was watching him.

They were just concerned, he told himself. Of course they were. And he appreciated it. God, he appreciated it! He'd spent so long feeling awkward and left out, trying to make friends, and now everyone was being so kind, it was wonderful.

Except. . . they wouldn't stop. They wouldn't give him an inch. He's wanted to get back to work, and in the several hours he'd been there, he'd only gotten five minutes worth of real work done. And still they kept coming.

"Human Greg, Do you need anything?"
"How's your leg?"
"You should go rest."
"I brought you a refreshment. Humans like fungus, right?"
"We don't need you here today, you should leave."
"Are you sure you don't need anything?"
"What does a broken leg look like?"
"Did the Commander make you come in?"
"I heard you were going back to Earth."
"Should you be accompanied by a medic?"
"Human Greg, would you like some refreshments? I will bring it to you. . . "

"Really," he said for what felt like the thousandth time. "You don't have to do that. Haha, I'm fine! Thanks, though."

He could feel his temper starting to fray, and took care to make sure he sounded polite and upbeat, trying to answer everyone's questions and thank them for stopping by, but inside he could feel himself starting to lose it. Several times, he'd had to waddle his way to the restroom to hide.

Just as it seemed like it was going to calm down, and the last gaggle of well wishers had left, Greg turned back to him computer, hoping to get some work done.

"Human Greg!" said someone at his cubicle. He turned to look, and found his coworker, Torvald the Tangalorian standing there.

Torvald was big, even for a Tangalorian. Seven feet of muscle beneath a thick layer of fur, and he always put Greg in mind of the Beast in Beauty and the Beast crossed with a purple grizzly bear. Behind him, still a ways away, but making a beeline for his cubicle were several other crew members. Greg grit his teeth.

"Human Greg," said Torvald again. "Here's the Tremaldian Jump research. I thought I'd save you the walk."

"Thank you," said Greg. "I appreciate it. But I was about to get up anyways--"

He started to pull himself out of the chair, and Torvald was immediately in front of him. He didn't touch Greg, but loomed directly in front of him close enough that Greg couldn't get up without bumping into him.

"There's no need for you to get up! Whatever you need, let me know and I'll go get it for you."

"Uh, thanks. But I actually have to use the facilities, so--"

"I will assist you," Torvald said.

"That's not necessary--"

With no visible effort whatsoever, Torvald plucked Greg up from the chair and carried him out of the cubicle, carrying him over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes, albeit with more caution so as not to bump his leg.

"Torvald!" said Greg. "This isn't necessary!"

Several other crew members were gathering around, walking with them as Torvald headed for the restrooms.

"Careful, Torvald!" said one, an Andarian Greg knew by sight, but not by name. "Don't drop him!"

"I won't."

"Put me down!" said Greg. "Torvald? Torvald!"

Technician Val'raex said, "Human Greg, please do not squirm. You will only increase the chance of inadvertently injuring yourself further, or causing Torvald to drop you."

"I'm not gonna drop him," Torvald said.

"You better not," said another Andarian-- Silviax or Silfaix, or something.

"Okay, enough!" Greg started to struggle, and Torvald almost dropped him, but managed to land him down safely.

"What is it, Human Greg?" said Torvald.

"See, Torvald!" said a Velorvian named Mayaz. "You did hurt him!"

"No!" shouted Greg. "I'm fine! I'm fine! But I can't handle three more months of this. I need some space." They all looked at him, startled and upset. He realized he was speaking too loudly, too aggressively, and tried to tone it down. "I really appreciate all the help you've been giving me! I do! Haha, but I can't take it anymore."

"I do not understand," said Torvald.

"Listen," he said. "I really really appreciate all theh help you're giving me. The concern all of you are giving me! But I am able to take care of myself."

"But human Greg--"
"I just wanted to help."
"Wait, what's going on? We just got here."
"Why is human Greg standing? Shouldn't he be seated right now?"
"Do you need assistance going back to your work station?"

"No," said Greg. "I don't need help! Or, I do, but not all the time! Please, let me just-- I just need to do stuff on my own, okay? You're smothering me!"

"Human Greg," said Silfiax, "We are just concerned."

"We don't want you to sustain any further injury," said ValRaex.

"You're the only human we have. If you break, they may not give us another," said the other Andarian.

"I understand," said Greg, "And I really appreciate it! But I'm not made of glass. I can still do stuff, and if I'm gonna get better, then I need to do some stuff on my own."

"Is that how humans work?" asked Torvald.

"It's how I work. And there are going to be times when I still do need your help, and I'll be sure to ask for it. But for little stuff like this, I can manage, okay?"

They didn't look happy.

"I understand, Human Greg," said Torvald. "I will be sure not to trouble you again."

Greg watched them go with a sinking feeling in his stomach. He sighed and stood there, one-legged, in the center of the hall, realizing that Torvald hadn't grabbed his crutches when he'd carried him off.

Great, he thought. After all this, the last thing he wanted to do was ask someone for help getting back. Everyone still there appeared to be carefully ignoring him, anyways. The idea of hopping over didn't appeal to him, either. The pain meds he has were good, but the thought of falling down made him wince.

"Human Greg!" said a familiar voice behind him.

"Hi X'melborp," he said, feeling relieved.

"I am now aware of your desire for independence during your recovery, but it appears that you may be in need of assis--"

"Get over here," he said.

X'melborp obliged, swooping under Greg's arm and allowing him to lean on him. The two hobbled back to Greg's desk.

"Thanks," said Greg.

"I heard about your outburst."


"Word travels fast."

Greg groaned. "It's gonna be like the Brev thing all over," he said.

"They mean well," X'melborp said cheerfully.

"I know," sighed Greg. They reached the cubicle, and he sat down heavily in his chair. "I really know. I'm the asshole here."

"You are forgiven," X'melborp said. "I mean by me, at least. Everyone else might need some time."


"You are welcome. My shift ends in an hour, would you like to 'hang out' then, or would you prefer to be alone?"

"Hanging out. That sounds good. Thanks."

X'melborp left. Greg looked around as saw his usual coworkers in their cubes, focusing on their work and not on him. He took a deep breath, then started on his own.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.